HC Deb 01 July 1971 vol 820 cc558-60
7. Mr. Adam Butler

asked the Secretary of State for Employment what are his plans for ensuring the widest possible consultation on the Code of Industrial Relations Practice.

24. Mr. John Page

asked the Secretary of State for Employment what plans he now has to meet the Trades Union Congress in order to discuss the draft code of industrial practice.

51. Mrs. Castle

asked the Secretary of State for Employment whether he will make a statement about his consultative document on the Code of Industrial Relations Practice.

Mr. R. Carr

I am anxious to receive and consider views on the consultative document from all those concerned with the conduct of industrial relations and the problems of human relations in employment. The T.U.C. have not yet sent me their views but I am very ready to meet them and discuss any changes they would propose.

Mr. Butler

Will my right hon. Friend confirm whether there appears to have been any change in the attitude of Mr. Vic Feather from that which he expressed immediately after the Consultative Document was released? If there has not been, would my right hon. Friend not agree that the country's attitude at large will be one of suspicion that the movement is not really concerned to improve industrial relations through full cooperation?

Mr. Carr

I very much regret that the T.U.C., when sending out a copy of the Code to each of its affiliated unions, accompanied it with a recommendation that the unions should not enter into consultation with the Government on the proposals. [HON. MEMBERS: "Shame."] I believe that I express a general opinion when I say that the public expected a very different and more positive approach, and I certainly hope that it will be forth-coming.

Mr. Page

Will my right hon. Friend consider, in view of his last remarks, the possibility of a shortened version of the document which could be more widely circulated to get opinions?

Mr. Carr

I sympathise with my hon. Friend's purpose but I believe that at this consultative stage it would be wrong to circulate a shortened form. I think that when we have it in final form there should be the widest circulation and an explanatory and shortened leaflet might at that stage be advantageous.

Mrs. Castle

Is it not a little hypocritical of the right hon. Gentleman, having refused to consult the T.U.C. effectively about his legal provisions, now to complain because the T.U.C. is not prepared to discuss a Code which is presented to it in a legal framework which it totally rejects? Can the right hon. Gentleman tell the House when Parliament is going to be consulted in this matter, and whether, in view of the request pressed upon him in Committee on the Bill, Parliament will have the chance to amend this Code and that he will present the Consultative Document to Parliament in a form in which it can be amended?

Mr. Carr

It is not true of the right hon. Lady to say that I refused to consult the T.U.C. about the Bill. All I said to the T.U.C.—which it was only right and honest to say to it—was that this Government had been elected on a firm policy which was made clear and put in detail before the country over a long period and was a major part of our election manifesto, just as, for example, the nationalisation of steel was a major and firm commitment in the Labour Party's manifesto in a previous election. I thought it only right to make it quite clear to the T.U.C. that this was a firm commitment, and that while we would have maximum consultation about the manner of carrying out the commitment, we could not consult about the basic commitment itself. Therefore, I cannot accept the right hon. Lady's view. I still believe that the public will expect the T.U.C. to be more positive than so far it has been about the Code of Practice, and I believe that it will be, and I think that the great majority of trade union officials and members will see in this Code a great many things they have wanted for a long time.

Dame Irene Ward

May I ask whether the right hon. Lady is aware—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."]—that my right hon. Friend is never guilty of being hypocritical and may I ask her to take the mote out of her own eye?

Mrs. Castle

As the hon. Lady clearly recognises that I am the only effective Secretary of State for Employment, may I seize this opportunity—

Dame Irene Ward

I did not say that.

Mrs. Castle

—to ask the Shadow Secretary of State whether he will kindly reply to the second half of my supplementary question about the right of Parliament to be consulted, and our request that we should have a chance to amend this document?

Mr. Carr

If the right hon. Lady would be more soul-searching about her changes of attitude on this subject over the last few years, we might get things a little straighter. She knows as well as I do that the arrangement of parliamentary business is not for me but for the Leader of the House and must be discussed through the usual channels. That is true, as she knows, and Leaders of the House on her side as well as ours have always maintained that view—[HON. MEMBERS: "Too long."] I cannot help it if the right hon. Lady asks these questions. As to the form of the document, I am afraid that this is an Order which will be subject to affirmative Resolution procedure. The right hon. Lady knows as well as I do that unless and until parliamentary procedure is changed, this procedure does not allow the order to be amended.