HC Deb 29 June 1971 vol 820 cc244-55

5.30 p.m.

Mr. Mason

I beg to move, Amendment No. 21, in page 21, line 9, at end insert: (2) An application for the grant of an air transport licence shall include a statement by the applicant that he is in membership of the National Joint Council for Civil Air Transport or an undertaking that he will take up membershipj of that body in the event of his application being granted.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Miss Harvie Anderson)

With this Amendment it will be convenient to take Amendment No. 23, in page 22, line 48, at end insert: (3) It shall be the duty of the Authority to revoke a licence if the Authority is not or is no longer satisfied that the holder of the licence is in membership of the National Joint Council for Civil Air Transport.

Mr. Mason

From my experience of civil aviation I have always felt that the National Joint Council for Civil Air Transport could play a more important rôle than hitherto. One of the major difficulties is that it is not fully representative of the civil aviation industry. On Second Reading I drew the House's attention to our views on the C.A.A. and its relationship with the N.J.C.: I hope the Government will also take note of the Chapter on Human Relations in our White Paper and that when the Civil Aviation Authority is satisfying that an airline has adequate financial resources, competent management and the ability to operate safely before a licence is granted, it will also be satisfied about industrial relations and will not grant a licence unless there are also proper negotiating procedures and consultative machinery established. Once the Civil Aviation Authority is in being, it will be necessary to have a national trade union and management forum of equal importance. This should be the National Joint Council for Civil Air Transport. This, as we all know, is not fully representative of the industry at present. But, if we are to have planned orderly growth of all our civil aviation transport, then the Civil Aviation Authority should be advised at the outset to recognise the National Joint Council and decree that all its airlines become members of it."— [OFFICIAL REPORT, 29th March, 1971; Vol. 814, c. 1195.] Hence, the two Amendments we are discussing now.

Most hon. Members will recognise that the joint management-union forum which the Civil Aviation Authority should recognise at the outset is the N.J.C. as being the best organisation to promote the development of close consultative arrangements with everyone in the industry. We pressed this very strongly on Second Reading.

I am pleased that the Under-Secretary of State is now able to participate in the debate. He said on Second Reading: The Authority, as an expert professional body, separate from the Government, may be expected to develop close consultative arrangements with the industry which it will be regulating. That being so, why not the N.J.C? I was surprised that the hon. Gentleman did not go further and say that that would be the intention. He said, later: Caledonian/B.U.A. is now in full membership of the National Joint Council for Civil Air Transport and thus is a party to the same negotiating procedures as the air corporations. This brings employees of British airlines within the N.J.C. machinery … That is not true. Caledonian/B.U.A. may be members of the N.J.C, but there are many British airlines which are not members of it. The Under-Secretary of State went on: … and the Government see no justification for introducing statutory obligations bearing in mind the variations in rôle and scale of operations of different airlines. Indeed, that is one reason why they should all be in. Finally, the Under-Secretary of State said: Moreover employers who cannot afford proper standards for their staff, taking into account the scale and type of their operation are clearly unlikely to be the sort of employers who will succeed in persuading the C.A.A. that they have satisfied the requirement for entitlement to operate."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 29th March, 1971; Vol 814, c. 1274–5.] Do I take it from that comment that the hon. Gentleman is serious in saying that the C.A.A. is likely to refuse licences to operate to some of those operators? This is the nub of our argument. We are not satisfied how clear in the mind of the Minister is this question of the N.J.C. being recognised by the C.A.A.

We all know that initially the N.J.C. deals with terms of employment, wages and working conditions, but safety is involved, too. These matters are interlinked and cannot be separated. We therefore think it sensible that, as a prerequisite for a licence, all civil aviation operators who apply for a licence should at the outset be informed that they must become members of the N.J.C. It would then be incumbent upon the N.J.C. to see that a basic ground level of terms and conditions for all employees was initiated and then accepted.

We also say, that having been established, that if any operators left the N.J.C. they must be made aware that their licences would be in jeopardy. We fear that the C.A.A. may recognise and grant licences to shoestring operators and ignore the N.J.C., as will the small operators, and that this will result in industrial turmoil and a threat to civil aviation safety.

That is our case. We think that all this can be avoided by the joint management-union forum of the N.J.C. laying down minimum conditions, so that the industry could progress, and by the C.A.A. using the N.J.C. to ensure that safety is the paramount factor in the minds of all those who work within the industry.

Mr. Russell Kerr

As one who has not always seen eye to eye with my right hon. Friend the Member for Barnsley (Mr. Mason) on certain matters in the Bill, it is a great pleasure to me warmly to commend the Amendment to the House. It deals with the nub of the problem, and I sincerely compliment my right hon. Friend on the terms in which he has moved it.

As anyone experienced in the industry will confirm, the industry has, by and large, been fortunate in the way its affairs have been run and, in particular, in the successful rôle the N.J.C. for Civil Air Transport has played during the last 20 years. Both sides of the industry have found the N.J.C. to be extremely worth while, and it has been responsible for the relative lack of tensions and the good industrial relations within this great industry.

The N.J.C. has also played a big part in the undoubted esprit de corps of the industry. Certainly, until hon. Gentlemen opposite started to repay their political debts by one or two of the more contentious proposals contained in the Bill, it was an organisation to which the industry collectively owed a great deal. The N.J.C. has been responsible for the planned growth of the industry over the years and, until a new Government takes over and we are able to do a bit of sorting out, to put it politely, I hope that it will continue to play a large part.

So long as we have this bastard child amongst us I hope we shall not hesitate to make it a condition of its birth and upbringing that it shall be forced to play its full part in the industry and in the body which has effectively supervised the industry and made it successful over the years. I therefore warmly commend the Amendment to the House.

Mr. Warren

I have much sympathy with the Amendment, but from my experience of union negotiations in the airline industry I feel that the right hon. Member for Barnsley (Mr. Mason) is seeking to put forward something as a substitute for the absence of good leadership in the industry. I know that the hon. Member for Feltham (Mr. Russell Kerr) is conscious of these problems in the industry and he has rightly stressed esprit de corps, but we must remember that it is only by good leadership from management that esprit de corps will be realised in the practical way.

Many problems encountered in the last decade in certain airlines in this country have perhaps occurred because the management leadership has not been as good as it ought to have been. This has been particularly noticeable in respect of the problems facing pilots and crews. I would equate the need for a better relationship through the N.J.C. with the need for an even better standard of management in the leadership of the airlines. It may sound heretical when speaking from this side of the House, but I do not believe that we can get good human relations entirely by regulations. This is one reason why I support the Government's industrial relations proposals as opposed to the much more penal and severe proposals put forward by the previous Government.

I feel it is unnecessary to look to the National Joint Council to guard us in terms of the safety of operations in the airlines. This is the job of the Airworthiness Requirements Board rather rather than the N.J.C. By all means let us look to the N.J.C. to make sure nothing is overlooked, but let us not impose on it a duty which should be undertaken, and indeed will be undertaken, by other people. The problems of "shoe-string" operators are matters for the C.A.A. not for the N.J.C. This is the mistake that has been made in the Amendment, though I recognise that the Amendment has merits.

Mr. Kenneth Lewis (Rutland and Stamford)

I have sympathy with a good deal of the remarks made by the right hon. Member for Barnsley (Mr. Mason) and by the hon. Member for Feltham (Mr. Russell Kerr) on the contribution made by the N.J.C. to good relations in the aviation industry. We should make every effort to further its work. I believe that this can be better carried out inside the industry than imposed by Statute. I doubt whether my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State would be justified in writing into the Bill an obligation that there should be membership of the N.J.C.; this would fly in a contrary direction to what we have been seeking to do in recent weeks. Pressure of legislation on this subject could have an adverse effect. What is desirable is growth from inside by example rather than by precept.

There is something of a mixed record of labour relations in civil aviation. People who travel in these summer months feel rather surprised that it is often at this time of the year that trouble takes place in the industry. It is almost as though this period were selected to embarrass those who are going on holiday to make sure that they are put to the maximum inconvenience. This is not at times a very happy state of affairs. I would certainly support anything that can be done to prevent this happening in an industry where people are very well paid and where esprit de corps is very good.

Mr. Leslie Huckfield

Would the hon. Gentleman agree that those passengers who are going on holiday are often far more inconvenienced when they get to their destination and find that some of the hotel and bathroom facilities, which the hotel and tourist trade have said they would guarantee just do not exist?

Mr. Lewis

No, on the contrary. The truth is that the people who are inconvenienced when they get to their destination—as occasionally happens, and deplorably so—are the exceptions. The cases often get headlines in the newspapers because they are exceptional; they often happen once or twice in the course of a season. I hope the hon. Member will recognise that it is often due to lack of effort by a foreign hotelier who has nothing to do with the operator at this end. It is often something the operator cannot control. Nevertheless, tour operators must have regard to this matter and some are now giving absolute guarantees to cover the difficulties which are so often encountered with foreign hotels. However, in this Bill we are not dealing with foreign hoteliers or with foreign airlines; we are dealing with our own set-up. Therefore, we must try to get the best relations possible in our aviation industry, and I am sure that this is the desire on both sides of the House. However, it is not something that the House itself can achieve. This must be achieved outside of Acts of Parliament. Therefore, in so far as the National Joint Council has promoted good relations there is much to be said for it.

5.45 p.m.

Mr. Russell Kerr

Would not the hon. Gentleman agree that the principal function of the N.J.C. is as a consultative body so that the various people who are interested in providing a good service to the travelling public are at least able to talk about their common problems with a view to sorting them out?

Mr. Lewis

In so far as the N.J.C. brings the parties together, it can only be a good thing. I would support a proposal to seek to bring in airlines that do not belong to the N.J.C., but I would agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Hastings (Mr. Warren) that this is not a matter to be determined in this House. We should support any such move, but we should not legislate for it.

The Under-Secretary of State for Trade and Industry (Mr. Anthony Grant)

I agree with what was said by my hon. Friends the Members for Hastings (Mr. Warren) and Rutland and Stamford (Mr. Kenneth Lewis) about the need for improved management, although it does not apply only to this industry but applies everywhere. I also agree that good human relations are essential in the industry.

Amendment No. 21 is an improvement on the Amendment which was considered in Standing Committee. It recognises that it would not be right to impose terms and conditions without those concerned making their views known. It is clearly right that membership should precede and should lead to acceptance of agreement. Nevertheless, neither Amendment 21 nor Amendment 23 is, I fear, acceptable because both impose an unnecessary and undersirable rigidity into the present arrangements and would change the rôle of the N.J.C. I echo what has been said about the value of the N.J.C., but I feel that the Amendments would change its rôle and possibly undermine its success. The proposal that all airlines should be members of the Council was not recommended by the Edwards Committee and was not proposed by the Labour Government.

The Government agrees with the Edwards' view that the virtues of competition and profitability should not be achieved at the expense of those employed in the industry. The problem is to decide how this might best be achieved. We attach considerable importance to the continuing rôle of the N.J.C., but cannot accept the new rôle that is now being suggested.

The difficulty has nothing to do with the public or private ownership of an enterprise. It has to do with size. As the Edwards Committee pointed out, There is a clear danger (from the point of view of small private airlines) that the counsels of the big batallions will prevail in any central organisation of this sort and the special needs of the small operator will be ignored.

The Government propose that the interests of employees should be safeguarded, first, by not tinkering, as the previous Government proposed, with Section 15 of the Civil Aviation Act 1949, which deals specifically with the requirement that the terms and conditions of employment of employees of independent air transport undertakings shall not be less than those of the Corporations' employees; and, secondly, by providing through the Industrial Relations Bill a new and basic framework which will apply to all sectors of industry. This will enhance the power and status of the unions, so that a union or group of unions can be recognised as the sole bargaining agent of a group of employees, and it provides new and important remedies for refusal to recognise and negotiate properly.

These will be important and significant steps forward, and I see no reason for distinguishing the air transport industry from any other industry in this context. Therefore, I do not detract from the merits of the N.J.C. It will continue with its rôle. We accept that the interests of the employees in this new arrangement must be safeguarded, but we believe that the Amendment is the wrong way to do it. Therefore, I must advise the House to reject it.

Mr. Mason

Now that the hon. Gentleman has decided to intervene on Report, I hope that he will not keep quoting Edwards and at all times hiding behind it. While the Edwards Report is a guide, it cannot be the gospel.

As we said on Second Reading, no matter what the Edwards Report said, we felt strongly that, when an airline, small or large, was being examined for financial viability, strength and so on, the N.J.C. should be satisfied also about the wages and working conditions of its employees. We put in a long paragraph dealing with human relations in the industry. We felt that it should be incumbent upon the authority, when examining the financial viability and strength of airlines, especially the smaller operators in this fragmented industry, three of which have collapsed in the past 12 months, also to examine to what extent they had decent working conditions and wage levels. We felt that an operator should not be allowed a licence unless he complied with those requirements. If all operators are brought into the N.J.C., the Council will have that job. It will become the focal point for trying to secure levels of wages and working conditions equivalent to the best; in other words, the Corporations. That is our desire, and that is the aim of the Amendment.

Question put, That the Amendment be made: —

The House proceeded to a Division, and Mr. DEPUTY SPEAKER having directed that the doors be locked——

Mr. Gerald Kaufman(seated and covered) (Manchester, Ardwick)

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. A great many hon. Members from both sides of the House have been locked out of the Division Lobbies. Some of my hon. Friends, hon. Members of the Liberal Party and several hon. Members on the Government side have been locked out. I submit that perhaps the doors were closed rather earlier than they should have been.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Miss Harvie Anderson)

The doors were closed as the clock reported, but the Chair was aware that an unusually large number of hon. Members on both sides was locked out. The Chair will therefore be prepared to call the Division again.

Mr. Mason (seated and covered)

Further to that point of order. I noticed at least a dozen hon. Members being denied the vote This is unusual. Would it be possible to check again whether the doors were closed ahead of the appointed time?

Mr. Deputy Speaker

The Division was taken in accordance with the clock, but we shall make a double check on the next Division.

Mr. David Steel(seated and covered) (Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles)


to that point of order. Without in any way questioning what you have just said, Mr. Deputy Speaker, may I submit that it seemed to me, whilst waiting the swift arrival of some of my hon. Friends that the doors were closed unusually early. It is only a feeling, and I wonder whether that point can be checked.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

I appreciate the feeling of the House, and I assure hon Members that the Chair shares that feeling.

Question put, That the Amendment be made: —

The House divided: Ayes 154, Noes 180.

Division No. 399.] AYES [6.3 p.m.
Albu, Austen Golding, John Millan, Bruce
Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.) Gourlay, Harry Miller, Dr. M. S.
Allen, Scholefield Grant, George (Morpeth) Mitchell, R. C. (S'hampton, Itchen)
Armstrong, Ernest Grant, John D. (Islington, E.) Molloy, William
Atkinson, Norman Griffiths, Will (Exchange) Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe)
Bagier, Gordon A. T. Hamilton, William (Fife, W.) Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw)
Bamett, Joel Hamling, William Mulley, Rt. Hn. Frederick
Beaney, Alan Harman, William (G'gow, Maryhill) O'Malley, Brian
Bishop, E. S. Harrison, Walter (Wakefield) Orme, Stanley
Blenkinsop, Arthur Heffer, Eric S. Oswald, Thomas
Booth, Albert Hooson, Emlyn Palmer, Arthur
Brown, Hugh D. (G'gow, Provan) Houghton, Rt. Hn. Douglas Panned, Rt. Hn. Charles
Brown, Ronald (Shoreditch & F'bury) Huckfield, Leslie Pavitt, Laurie
Buchan, Norman Hughes, Mark (Durham) Portland, Norman
Cant, R. B. Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen, N.) Prescott, John
Carter, Ray (Birmingh'm, Northfield) Hughes, Roy (Newport) Price, J. T. (Westhoughton)
Carter-Jones, Lewis (Eccles) Jay, Rt. Hn. Douglas Price, William (Rugby)
Clark, David (Colne Valley) Jenkins, Hugh (Putney) Probert, Arthur
Cocks, Michael (Bristol, S.) John, Brynmor Rankin, John
Concannon, J. D. Johnson, James (K'ston-on-Hull, w.) Roberts, Albert (Normanton)
Conlan, Bernard Jones, Barry (Flint, E.) Robertson, John (Paisley)
Corbet, Mrs. Freda Jones, Gwynoro (Carmarthen) Roderick, Caerwyn E.(Br'c'n&R'dnor)
Dalyell, Tarn Jones, T. Alec (Rhondda, W.) Roper, John
Darling, Rt Hn. George Judd, Frank Sandelson, Neville
Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.) Kaufman, Gerald Sheldon, Robert (Ashton-under-Lyne)
Davies, Ifor (Gower) Kelley, Richard Short, Rt. Hn. Edward (N'c'tle-u-Ty ne)
Davis, Clinton (Hackney, C.) Kerr, Russell Short, Mrs. Renée (W'hampton. N. E.)
Davis, Terry (Bromsgrove) Kinnock, Neil Silkin, Rt. Hn. John (Deptford)
Deakins, Eric Lamond, James Sillars, James
de Freitas, Rt. Hn. Sir Geoffrey Latham, Arthur Silverman, Julius
Dell, Rt. Hn. Edmund Lawson, George Skinner, Dennis
Dempsey, James Leadbitter, Ted Spearing, Nigel
Doig, Peter Lee, Rt. Hn. Frederick Steel, David
Dormand, J. D. Leonard, Dick Stewart, Rt. Hn. Michael (Fulham)
Douglas-Mann, Bruce Lestor, Miss Joan Strang, Gavin
Driberg, Tom Lewis, Ron (Carlisle) Thomson, Rt. Hn. G. (Dundee, E.)
Duffy, A. E. P. Lipton, Marcus Tinn, James
Dunnett, Jack Loughlin, Charles Torney, Tom
Eadie, Alex Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson Tuck, Raphael
Edwards, William (Merioneth) McBride, Neil Urwin, T. W.
Ellis, Tom McCann, John
Evans, Fred McElhone, Frank Varley, Eric G.
Faulds, Andrew Mackenzie, Gregor Wainwright, Edwin
Fernyhough, Rt. Hn. E. Maclennan, Robert Weitzman, David
Fisher, Mrs. Doris (B'ham, Ladywood) McMillan, Tom (Glasgow, C.) Whitlock, William
Fletcher, Ted (Darlington) Marquand, David Willey, Rt. Hn. Frederick
Foley, Maurice Marsden, F. Williams, W. T. (Warrington)
Ford, Ben Marshall, Dr. Edmund Wilson, Alexander (Hamilton)
Forrester, John Mason, Rt. Hn. Roy Woof, Robert
Freeson, Reginald Mayhew, Christopher
Galpern, Sir Myer Meacher, Michael TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Gilbert, Dr. John Mellish, Rt. Hn. Robert Mr. Joseph Harper and
Ginsburg, David Mikardo, Ian Mr. Donald Coleman.
Adley, Robert Harrison, Brian (Maldon) Nabarro, Sir Gerald
Allason, James (Hemel Hempstead) Harrison, Col. Sir Harwood (Eye) Neave, Airey
Astor, John Haselhurst, Alan Noble, Rt. Hn. Michael
Atkins, Humphrey Hastings, Stephen Nort, John
Baker, Kenneth (St. Marylebone) Hawkins, Paul Onslow, Cranley
Baker, w. H. K. (Banff) Hayhoe, Barney Owen, Idris (Stockport, N.)
Batsford, Brian Hicks, Robert Page, Graham (Crosby)
Beamish, Col. Sir Tufton Hiley, Joseph Page, John (Harrow, W.)
Bonyon, W. Hill, James (Southampton, Test) Parkinson, Cecil (Enfield, W.)
Boardman, Tom (Leicester, S. W.) Holland, Philip Peel, John
Boscawen, Robert Hordern, Peter Pounder, Rafton
Bowden, Andrew Hornby, Richard Prior, Rt. Hn. J. M, L.
Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hn. John Hornsby-Smith, Rt. Hn. Dame Patricia Proudfoot, Wilfred
Bray, Ronald Howe, Hn. Sir Geoffrey (Reigate) Pym, Rt. Hn. Francis
Brewis, John Howell, David (Guildford) Quennell, Miss J. M.
Brocklebank-Fowler, Christopher Howell, Ralph (Norfolk, N.) Redmond, Robert
Brown, Sir Edward (Bath) Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye) Reed, Laurance (Bolton, E.)
Bullus, Sir Eric James, David Rees-Davies, W. R.
Carlisle, Mark Jopling, Michael Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon
Channon, Paul Kaberry, Sir Donald Ridley, Hn. Nicholas
Chapman, Sydney Kellett-Bowman, Mrs. Elaine Roberts, Michael (Cardiff, N.)
Chataway, Rt. Hn. Christopher Kershaw, Anthony Roberts, Wyn (Conway)
Churchill, W. S. Kilfedder, James Rost, Peter
Clark, William (Surrey, E.) King, Evelyn (Dorset, S.) Russell, Sir Ronald
Clegg, Walter King, Tom (Bridgwater) Scott-Hopkins, James
Cockeram, Eric Kinsey, J. R. Sharples, Richard
Cooke, Robert Kitson, Timothy Shaw, Michael (Sc'b'gh & Whitby)
Coombs, Derek Knight, Mrs. Jill Simeons, Charles
Cormack, Patrick Knox, David Sinclair, Sir George
Costain, A. P. Langford-Holt, Sir John Skeet, T. H. H.
Curran, Charles Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry Smith, Dudley (W'wick & L'mington)
d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry Le Marchant, Spencer Soref, Harold
d'Avlgdor-Goldsmid, MaJ.-Gen. James Lloyd, Rt. Hn. Geoffrey (Sut'nC'dfield) Speed, Keith
Douglas-Home, Rt. Hn. Sir Alec Longden, Gilbert Spence, John
Drayson, G. B. Loveridge, John Sproat, lain
Dykes, Hugh Luce, R. N. Stanbrook, Ivor
Eden, Sir John MacArthur, Ian Stewart-Smith, D. G. (Belper)
Edwards, Nicholas (Pembroke) McCrindle, R. A. Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir M.
Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton) McLaren, Martin Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)
Emery, Peter McMaster, Stanley Taylor, Edward M.(G'gow, Cathcart)
Eyre, Reginald McNair-Wilson, Michael Taylor, Frank (Moss Side)
Fell, Anthony Maginnis, John E. Tebbit, Norman
Fenner, Mrs. Peggy Marten, Neil Thatcher, Rt. Hn. Mrs. Margaret
Fidler, Michael Mather, Carol Thomas, Rt. Hn. Peter (Hendon, S.)
Finsberg, Geoffrey (Hampstead) Mawby, Ray Teney, John
Fisher, Nigel (Surbiton) Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J. Trafford, Dr. Anthony
Fookes, Miss Janet Meyer, Sir Anthony van Straubenzee, W. R.
Foster, Sir John Mills, Peter (Torrington) Waddington, David
Fox, Marcus Mills, Stratton (Belfast, N.) Walder, David (Clitheroe)
Gilmour, Ian (Norfolk, C.) Miscampbell, Norman Walters, Dennis
Glyn, Dr. Alan Mitchell, David (Basingstoke) Warren, Kenneth
Gorst, John Moate, Roger Wells, John (Maidstone)
Cower, Raymond Molyneaux, James Wilkinson, John
Grant, Anthony (Harrow, C.) Money, Ernle Wood, Rt. Hn. Richard
Gray, Hamish Monks, Mrs. Connie Woodhouse, Hn. Christopher
Green, Alan Monro, Hector Woodnutt, Mark
Grylls, Michael Montgomery, Fergus Worsley, Marcus
Gummer, Selwyn More, Jasper
Hall, Miss Joan (Keighley) Morgan, Geraint (Denbigh)
Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury) Morrison, Charles (Devizes) TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Hannam, John (Exeter) Mudd, David Mr. Tim Fortescue and
Murton, Oscar Mr. Victor Goodhew.

Amendment made: No. 22, in page 21, line 37, after 'territory', insert 'or an associated state'.—[Mr. Anthony Grant.]

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