HC Deb 23 March 1971 vol 814 cc345-55

(1) The registrar may at any time cancel the entry of an organisation in the provisional register, or the registration of an organisation under this Act as a trade union or as an employers' association,—

  1. (a) at the request of the organisation, evidenced in such manner as the registrar may direct, or
  2. 346
  3. (b) if the registrar is satisfied that the organisation has ceased to exist.

(2) Where the registrar exercises the power conferred by the preceding subsection, he shall cause notice of the cancellation to be published in the London and Edinburgh Gazettes.—[Mr. Dudley Smith.]

Brought up, and read the First and Second time.

Mr. Ronald King Murray (Edinburgh, Leith)

I beg to move Amendment (aaaaaa) to the proposed Clause, in line 4, leave out 'evidenced in such manner as the registrar may direct'. The views of both sides of the House have already been canvassed on this matter. The words which we propose to leave out may have been innocent enough in 1871 and could be introduced again. That is not our objection. They appear in Section 8 of the Trade Union Act Amendment Act, 1876, and it cannot be said that there is anything peculiarly sinister about them. But the situation concerning trade union law in 1876 was very different from what it is in 1971 and very different from what it will be when the Bill is enacted.

First, in 1876, the Registrar did not have the powers which the Registrar will have under Clauses 61 and 64 to determine to some extent what rules a trade union will have and to lay down conditions of a kind which we do not yet know and which a trade union will have to fulfil before it is permitted to register under the Bill. So the Registrar will have discretionary powers of interference and will be able to lay down conditions for the entry of trade unions. Such discretionary powers did not exist in the 1876 Act.

Second, the position of trade unions has completely altered since 1876. Nobody here today would be able to make a fair presentation of the powers, functions and limitations of trade unions without taking into account, for example, the vital 1906 Act, which in many ways transformed the unions and made it possible for them to function in the industrial sphere in the way in which they have done. Therefore, a pre-1906 union was an entirely different creature from a post-1906 union, as has been emphasised in many of our debates.

It follows that for these two reasons the registrar's power in 1876 was an entirely different power from the power the Registrar will get under the Bill in 1971. Not only will the Registrar under this Bill have powers and discretion altogether different from those which his colleague had in 1876, but by the same token the trade unions are losing powers; because, in so far as the Registrar can determine rules and lay down conditions, it necessarily follows that the union itself has not full sovereignty over its rules and must subject itself to some extent to conditions laid down by the Registrar. Therefore, the trade unions have lost some of their sovereignty—that is the point of the Bill as presented by the Government—and the Registrar has gained considerably in powers and discretion.

For these reasons alone, I am entitled to say that the words evidenced in such manner as the registrar may direct though perfectly innocuous and innocent in 1871 and 1876 may have an entirely different connotation and effect today. It is my firm view that those words, which were innocent and innocuous then, cannot be regarded in the same light today.

8.30 p.m.

Registration under the 1876 Act allowed for withdrawal by a union which was so registered. The provision, which is the same provision as that in new Clause 12(1)(a)— evidenced in such manner as the registrar may direct was followed after the 1876 Act by directions by the Registrar, under that Act and under the 1871 Act, as to how a union which was registered might withdraw and cancel its certificate of registry. There was a statutory form.

I have been fortunate enough to have been given a copy of this statutory form by an hon. Friend who did some research on the subject. I have here Form J, which is the appropriate statutory form under the Trade Union Acts, 1871 to 1964 providing for a request to withdraw or cancel a certificate of registry.

So, if we want to discover what is the practical effect of the words evidenced in such manner as the registrar may direct we can do no better than look at Form J for the appropriate steps under the Trade Union Acts, 1871 to 1964. The form provides, first, for the name of the trade union and its registered number. It then is addressed to the Chief Registrar of Friendly Societies or his Scottish counterpart.

The form proceeds: (1) The above-named Trade Union desires that its certificate of registry under the Trade Union Acts may be withdrawn [or cancelled] on the following ground. Here the person entering the form and filling it up is invited to State reason for desiring withdrawal or cancelling of certificate of registry. That knocks a hole in the presentation by the Government spokesman, because this is an additional factor. It is not simply a question of a trade union reaching the view that it should cancel its registration and then intimating that decision in an appropriate manner to the Registrar. It is a question of the Registrar being given reason or grounds. This goes far beyond a mere registration of a decision which the union reaches within its own rules and within the four corners of its own meetings.

The form proceeds: on the following ground … and at a general meeting … it was resolved as follows: (1) That the Trustees be authorised to request the Chief [or Assistant Registrar] to withdraw [or cancel] the certificate of registry of this Trade Union". So again we go beyond the office bearers of the union to a general meeting and beyond the general meeting and the office bearers to the trustees. That goes to show just how far a direction of this kind may extend.

Nobody on this side will accept the assurances which were given by the Government Front Bench that this is the innocuous provision that it appears to be.

However, I do not want to be taken as saying that there is something sinister or ulterior about that. I cannot say that. It is possible that this provision could be read by a Registrar in a perfectly reasonable way. I merely say that if the words evidenced in such manner as the registrar may direct remain they will allow the Registrar at least to follow the precedent of his predecessor under the 1871 to 1964 Acts. That is the best that can happen. At the worst, it would seem to me to be giving the Registrar an entirely free discretion, as far as I can see within the four corners of the Bill as amended by the new Clause, to give such directions as he may think fit to unions after the passing of the Act.

I conceive that this could go very far. The Registrar might require not merely a ballot but a certain majority. He might interfere in the most specific and direct way with the internal organisation of a union in this respect. That would not carry him into the sort of interference he can make under Clauses 61 and 64. This would be an additional interference. But it plainly would have this effect. It would make it more difficult for unions to contract out.

The Government have sought to present this provision in an attractive form. As one of my hon. Friends said, it has been done with honeyed words. However, behind those honeyed words the reality is that the provision will slow down, reduce or even take away the right of a trade union to get out of registration. Instead of a union contracting into registration, which is the way in which this was presented, this is a form of contracting out. What is more, it is a form of contracting out with obstacles. It is made difficult to contract out, and there is nothing to stop the Registrar increasing the obstacles at his discretion. For those reasons, we consider that the words should be deleted.

It may be that the Government will say that the words mean nothing sinister. Let us see the colour of their money. If all that they are after is that there should be a written request by an authorised person, why not make an Amendment to that effect instead of putting in words which seem to increase the power of the Registrar? I urge the Government to think again and, if they will not, I am afraid that I shall have to advise my hon. Friends to oppose the new Clause and to insist on our Amendment.

The Solicitor-General

The hon. and learned Gentleman invited the Government to allow the Opposition to see the colour of our money. I am proposing to enable right hon. and hon. Members opposite to do that.

The fears which the hon. and learned Gentleman has outlined and which are provoked by these words are, like so many of the fears and anxieties expressed from the benches opposite, without foundation and fanciful. When this matter was referred to in our previous debate, I explained that these words are intended to achieve no more than that the request to withdraw should be evidenced so that the Registrar may be satisfied that such a request has been made.

The hon. and learned Gentleman acknowledges that this is the form in which it has operated since 1876. He has drawn attention to Form J and suggested that this illustrates the sinister nature of the things which could be read into this provision. If one looks at Form J as it is printed in the Appendix to Citrine's Trade Union Law, the phrase which alarms the hon. and learned Gentleman, … and at a general meeting …", has a note attached to it, If not at a general meeting, state in what manner the request has been determined upon. The form makes it plain that the organisation can determine the request. It merely has to say on the form that that is what has happened.

The only intention of the provision in new Clause 12(1,a) is that the organisation should have requested cancellation. The hon. and learned Gentleman sought to suggest that the same form of words may have changed its meaning with the passage of time. However, it appears in the Building Societies Act, 1962, and in the Industrial and Provident Societies

Act, 1965, enacted by the last Government. No one sought to suggest anything sinister in those connotations.

There is nothing sinister at all. There is no scope for anything sinister. But, in order to assure the Opposition that this intention is indeed the Government's intention, I advise the House to accept the Amendment. We were challenged to show the colour of our money, and we show it. I do it seriously to assure the Opposition and the trade union movement that there are no sinister implications to be found lurking in this phraseology. The intention is to make it plain that, at the request of the organisation, it may have its registration cancelled. On that basis, and laying our money on the table, money which is as sound as a bell and as honest and well founded as money can be, I accept the hon. and learned Gentleman's challenge and invite the House to accept the Amendment.

Amendment to the proposed Clause agreed to.

Question put, That the Clause, as amended, be added to the Bill:—

The House divided: Ayes 267, Noes 234.

Division No. 274.] AYES [8.40 p.m.
Adley, Robert Chataway, Rt. Hn. Christopher Fookes, Miss Janet
Alison, Michael (Barkston Ash) Chichester-Clark, R. Fortescue, Tim
Allason, James (Hemel Hempstead) Churchill, W. S. Foster, Sir John
Amery, Rt. Hn. Julian Clark, William (Surrey, E.) Fowler, Norman
Archer, Jeffrey (Louth) Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe) Fox, Marcus
Astor, John CIegg, Walter Fraser, Rt. Hn. Hugh (St'fford & Stone)
Atkins, Humphrey Cockeram, Eric Fry, Peter
Awdry, Daniel Cooke, Robert Calbraith, Hn. T. G.
Baker, Kenneth (St. Marylebone) Coombs, Derek Gardner, Edward
Baker, W. H. K. (Banff) Cooper, A. E. Gibson-Watt, David
Batsford, Brian Corfield, Rt. Hn. Frederick Gilmour, Sir John (Fife, E.)
Bell, Ronald Cormack, Patrick Glyn, Dr. Alan
Bennett, Sir Frederic (Torquay) Costain, A. P. Godber, Rt. Hn. J. B.
Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gosport) Critchley, Julian Goodhart, Philip
Benyon, W. Crouch, David Gorst, John
Berry, Hn. Anthony Crowder, F. P. Gower, Raymond
Biffen, John Curran, Charles Gray, Hamish
Biggs-Davison, John d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, JamesMaJ.-Gen. Green, Alan
Blaker, Peter Dean, Paul Grieve, Percy
Boardman, Tom (Leicester, S.W.) Dixon, Piers Griffiths, Eldon (Bury St. Edmunds)
Body, Richard Dodds-Parker, Douglas Grylls, Michael
Boscawen, Robert Drayson, G. B. Gummer, Selwyn
Bossom, Sir Clive du Cann, Rt. Hn. Edward Halt, John (Wycombe)
Braine, Bernard Dykes, Hugh Hall-Davis, A. C. F.
Bray, Ronald Eden, Sir John Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury)
Brewis, John Edwards, Nicholas (Pembroke) Harmam, John (Exeter)
Brown, Sir Edward (Bath) Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton) Harrison, Brian (Maldon)
Bruce-Gardyne, J. Elliott, R. W. (N'c'tle-upon-Tyne. N.) Harrison, Col. Sir Harwood (Eye)
Bryan, Paul Emery, Pew Haselhurst, Alan
Buchanan-Smith, Alick(Angus,N&M) Eyre, Reginald Hastings, Stephen
Buck, Antony Farr, John Havers, Michael
Bullus, Sir Eric Fell, Anthony Hawkins, Paul
Burden, F. A. Fenner, Mrs. Peggy Hayhoe, Barney
Butler, Adam (Bosworth) Fidler, Michael Heath, Rt. Hn. Edward
Carr, Rt. Hn. Robert Finsberg, Geoffrey (Hampstead) Hicks, Robert
Cary, Sir Robert Fisher, Nigel (Surbiton) Higgins, Terence L.
Chapman, Sydney Fletcher-Cooke, Charles Hiley, Joseph
Hill, John E. B. (Norfolk, S.) Mitchell, David (Basingstoke) Sinclair, Sir George
Hill, James (Southampton, Test) Moate, Roger Sheet, T. H. H.
Holland, Philip Molyneaux, James Smith, Dudley (W'wick & L'mington)
Holt, Miss Mary Money, Ernie Soref, Harold
Hornby, Richard Monks, Mrs. Connie Speed, Keith
Homsby-Smith, Rt. Hn. Dame Patricia Monro, Hector Spence, John
Howe, Hn. Sir Geoffrey (Reigate) Montgomery, Fergus Sproat, Iain
Howell, David (Guildford) More, Jasper Stainton, Keith
Howell, Ralph (Norfolk, N.) Morgan, Geraint (Denbigh) Stanbrook, Ivor
Hunt, John Morgan-Giles, Rear-Adm. Stewart-Smith, D. G. (Belper)
Hutchison, Michael Clark Morrison, Charles (Devizes) Stodart, Anthony (Edinburgh, W.)
Iremonger, T. L. Mudd, David Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir M.
James, David Murton, Oscar Stokes, John
Jenkin, Patrick (Woodford) Nabarro, Sir Gerald Stuttaford, Dr. Tom
Jessel, Toby Nicholls, Sir Harmar Sutcliffe, John
Johnson Smith, G. (E. Grinstead) Normanton, Tom Tapsell, Peter
Jones, Arthur (Northants, S.) Nott, John Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)
Joplin, Michael Oppenheim, Mrs. Sally Taylor, Edward M. (G'gow, Cathcart)
Joseph, Rt. Hn. Sir Keith Orr, Capt, L. P. S. Taylor, Frank (Moss Side)
Owen, Idris (Stockport, N.) Taylor, Robert (Croydon, N.W.)
Kaberry, Sir Donald Parkinson, Cecil (Enfield, W.) Tebbit, Norman
Kellett, Mrs. Elaine Percival, Ian Thatcher, Rt. Hn. Mrs. Margaret
Kimball, Marcus Peyton, Rt. Hn. John Thomas, John Stradling (Monmouth)
King, Evelyn (Dorset, S.) Pike, Miss Mervyn Thompson, Sir Richard (Croydon, S.)
King, Tom (Bridgwater) Pink, R. Bonner Tilney, John
Kinsey, J. R. Pounder, Rafton Trafford, Dr. Anthony
Kirk, Peter Powell, Rt. Hn. J. Enoch Trew, Peter
Kitson, Timothy Prior, Rt. Hn. J. M. L. Tugendhat, Chirstopher
Knight, Mrs. Jill Proudfoot, Wilfred Turton, Rt. Hn. R. H.
Knox, David Pym, Rt. Hn. Francis van Straubenzee, W. R.
Lambton, Antony Quennell, Miss J. M. Vickers, Dame Joan
Lane, David Raison, Timothy Waddington, David
Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry Ramsden, Rt. Hn. James Walder, David (Clitheroe)
Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland) Rawlinson, Rt. Hn. Sir Peter Walker, Rt. Hn. Peter (Worcester)
Lloyd, Ian (P'tsmouth, Langstone) Reed, Laurance (Bolton, E.) Walters, Dennis
Longden, Gilbert Rees, Peter (Dover) Ward, Dame Irene
Loveridge, John Rees-Davies, W. R. Warren, Kenneth
McAdden, Sir Stephen Renton, Rt. Hn. Sir David Wells, John (Maidstone)
McLaren, Martin Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon White, Roger (Cravesend)
Mclean, Sir Fitzroy Ridley, Hn. Nicholas Whitelaw, Rt. Hn. William
McNair-Wilson, Patrick (NewForest) Ridsdale, Julian Wiggin, Jerry
Madel, David Rippon, Rt. Hn. Geoffrey Wilkinson, John
Maginnis, John E. Roberts, Michael (Cardiff, N.) Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick
Marples, Rt. Hn. Emest Roberts, Wyn (Conway) Wood, Rt. Hn. Richard
Marten, Neil Rodgers, Sir John (Sevenoaks) Woodhouee, Hn, Christopher
Mather, Carol Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey) Woodnutt, Mark
Maude, Angus Russell, Sir Ronald Worsley, Marcus
Mawby, Ray St. John-stevas, Norman Wylle, Rt. Hn. N. R.
Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J. Scott, Nicholas Younger, Hon. George
Meyer, Sir Anthony Scott-Hopkins, James
Mills, Peter (Torrington) Sharples, Richard TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Mills, Stratton (Belfast, N.) Shaw, Michael (Sc'b'gh & Whitby) Mr. Bernard Weatherill and
Miscampbell, Norman Shelton, William (Clapham) Mr. Victor Goodhew.
Mitchell, Lt.-Col. C. (Aberdeenshire, W) Simeons, Charles
Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.) Carmichael, Neil Douglas, Dick (Stirlingshire, E.)
Allen, Scholefield Carter, Ray (Birmingh'm, Northfield) Douglas-Mann, Bruce
Archer, Peter (Rowley Regis) Carter-Jones, Lewis (Eccles) Driberg, Tom
Ashley, Jack Castle, Rt. Hn. Barbara Duffy, A. E. P.
Ashton, Joe Clark, David (Colne Valley) Dunnett, Jack
Atkinson, Norman Cocks, Michael (Bristol, S.) Eadie, Alex
Bagier, Cordon A. T. Cohen, Stanley Edwards, William (Merioneth)
Barnes, Michael Coleman, Donald
Barnett, Joel Conlan, Bernard Ellis, Tom
Beaney, Alan Corbet, Mrs. Freda English, Michael
Benn, Rt. Hn. Anthony Wedgwood Cox, Thomas (Wandsworth, C.) Evans, Fred
Bennett, James (Glasgow, Bridgeton) Crawshaw, Richard Fernyhough, Rt. Hn. E.
Bidwell, Sydney Cronin, John Fisher, Mrs. Doris (B'ham, Ladywood)
Bishop, E. S. Crosland, Rt. Hn. Anthony Fletcher, Raymond (Ilkeston)
Blenkinsop, Arthur Cunningham, G. (Islington, S.W.) Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)
Boardman, H. (Leigh) Dalyell, Tam Foot, Michael
Booth, Albert Darling, Rt. Hn. George Ford, Ben
Boyden, James (Bishop Auckland) Davidson, Arthur Forrester, John
Brown, Bob (N'c'tle-upon-Tyne, W.) Davies, Denzil (Llanelly) Fraser, John (Norwood)
Brown, Hugh D. (G'gow, Provan) Davies, C. Elfed (Rhondda, E.) Garrett, W. E.
Brown, Ronald (Shoreditch & F'bury) Davies, Ifor (Gower) Gilbert, Dr. John
Buchan, Norman Davies, S. O. (Merthyr Tydvil) Ginsburg, David
Buchanan, Richard (C'gow, Sp'burn) Davis, Clinton (Hackney, C.) Golding, John
Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green) Deakins, Eric Gordon Walker, Rt. Hn. P. C.
Callaghan, Rt. Hn. James Dempsey, James Gourlay, Harry
Campbell, I. (Dunbartonshire, W.) Doig, Peter Grant, John D. (Islington, E.)
Cant, R. B. Dormand, J. D. Griffiths, Eddie (Brightside)
Griffiths, Will (Exchange) Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson Rhodes, Geoffrey
Hamilton, James (Bothwell) McBride, Neil Richard, Ivor
Hamilton, William (Fife, W.) McCartney, Hugh Roberts, Albert (Normanton)
Hamling, William McElhone, Frank Roberts, Rt. Hn. Goronwy (Caernarvon)
Hardy, Peter McGuire, Michael Robertson, John (Paisley)
Harrison, Walter (Wakefield) Mackenzie, Gregor Roderick, Caerwyn E.(Br'c'n&R'dnor)
Hart, Rt. Hn. Judith Mackie, John Roper, John
Hattersley, Roy Mackintosh, John P. Ross, Rt. Hn. William (Kilmarnock)
Heffer, Eric S. Maclennan, Robert Sheldon, Robert (Ashton-under-Lyne)
Hooson, Emlyn MacPherson, Malcolm Shore, Rt. Hn. Peter (Stepney)
Horam, John Mahon, Simon (Bootle) Silkin, Rt. Hn. John (Deptford)
Houghton, Rt. Hn. Douglas Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfield, E.) Sillars, James
Howell, Denis (Small Health) Marks, Kenneth Silverman, Julius
Huckfield, Leslie Marquand, David Skinner, Dennis
Hughes, Rt. Hn. Cledwyn (Anglesey) Mason, Rt. Hn. Roy Small, William
Hughes, Mark (Durham) Meacher, Michael Smith, John (Lanarkshire, N.)
Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen, N.) Mellish, Rt. Hn. Robert Spearing, Nigel
Hughes, Roy (Newport) Mendelson, John Spriggs, Leslie
Hunter, Adam Mikardo, Ian Stallard, A. W.
lrvine,Rt.Hn.SirArrhur(Edge Hill) Millan, Bruce Steel, David
Janner, Greville Miller, Dr. M. S. Stewart, Donald (Western Isles)
Jeger, Mrs. Lena (H'b'n&St.P'cras,S.) Milne, Edward (Blyth) Stoddart, David (Swindon)
Jenkins, Hugh (Putney) Morgan, Elystan (Cardiganshire) Strang, Gavin
John, Brynmor Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe) Summerskill, Hn. Dr. Shirley
Johnson, James (K'ston-on-Hull, W.) Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw) Swain, Thomas
Morris, Rt. Hn. John (Aberavon) Taverne, Dick
Johnson, Walter (Derby, S.) Moyle, Roland Thomas, Rt. Hn. George (Cardiff. W.)
Johnston, Russell (Inverness) Mulley, Rt. Hn. Frederick Thomas, Jeffrey (Abertillery)
Jones, Barry (Flint, E.) Murray, Ronald King
Jones, Dan, Burnley) Ogden, Eric Tinn, James
Jones, Rt.Hn.Elwyn(W. Ham, S.) O'Halloran, Michael Tomney, Frank
Jones, Gwynoro (Carmarthen) O'Malley, Brian Torney, Tom
Jones, T. Alec (Rhondda, W.) Oram, Bert Tuck, Raphael
Judd, Frank Orbach, Maurice Urwin, T. W.
Kaufman, Gerald Orme, Stanley Wainwright, Edwin
Kelley, Richard Oswald, Thomas Walker, Harold (Doncaster)
Kerr, Russell Owen, Dr. David (Plymouth, Sutton) Wallace, George
Kinnock, Neil Palmer, Arthur Watkins, David
Lambie, David Pardoe, John Weitzman, David
Lamond, James Parker, John (Dagenham) Wellbeloved, James
Latham, Arthur Parry, Robert (Liverpool, Exchange) Wells, William (Walsall, N.)
Lawson, George Pavitt, Laurie White, James (Glasgow, Pollok)
Leadbitter, Ted Peart, Rt. Hn, Fred Whitehead, Phillip
Lee, Rt. Hn. Frederick Pendry, Tom Whitlock, William
Leonard, Dick Pentland, Norman Willey, Rt. Hn. Frederick
Lester, Miss Joan Prentice, Rt. Hn. Reg. Williams, Alan (Swansea, W.)
Lewis, Arthur (W. Ham, N.) Prescott, John Williams, W. T. (Warrington)
Lewis, Kenneth (Carlisle) Price, J. T. (Westhoughton) Wilson, Alexander (Hamilton)
Lipton, Marcus Price, William (Rugby) Wilson, Rt. Hn. Harold (Huyton)
Lomas, Kenneth Probert, Arthur Wilson, William (Coventry, S.)
Loughlin, Charles Rankin, John TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Lyon, Alexander W. (York) Reed, D. (Sedgefield) Mr. J. D. Concannon and
Lyons, Edward (Bradford, E.) Rees, Merlyn (Leeds, S.) Mr. Joseph Harper.
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