HC Deb 25 March 1971 vol 814 cc856-9
9. Mr. Harold Walker

asked the Secretary of State for Employment if he will now make a statement about the future size and membership of the Commission for Industrial Relations.

Mr. R. Carr

It is my intention by new appointments to ensure that the Commission will be fully enabled to continue its work in the reform of industrial relations and to meet the important new tasks it will have in the future.

At the same time, I have to tell the House with regret that Mr. George Woodcock has today announced his intention of resigning as Chairman in the near future. I take this opportunity of paying tribute to the valuable work he has done.

Mr. Walker

Is it not now absolutely clear that the first victim of the Industrial Relations Bill is the C.I.R., to which the whole country was attaching so much hope as a valuable instrument for bringing about long-overdue improvements in our industrial relations? Is it not also clear, in view of the resignations, that the right hon. Gentleman has little hope of restoring the credibility of the C.I.R. so long as the Industrial Relations Bill is going through? Will not the C.I.R. now be a lame duck?

Mr. Carr

I note with some distress, as I think the country will, the pleasure and in fact the laughter with which the benches opposite received that news. I hardly think it a responsible reaction. Mr. Woodcock has said, in his statement accompanying his letter of resignation, that, although he had long made clear his disagreement with the proposed legislative approach to the reform of industrial relations—a disagreement which he had with the right hon. Lady's Government as much as with mine—he had felt—

An. Hon. Member

It is not in the letter.

Mr. Carr

I am not saying that it is.

An Hon. Member

You are dodging about.

Mr. Carr

If the hon. Gentleman thinks that what Mr. Woodcock has to say is dodging about, he is entitled to his opinion.

Mr. Carter

On a point of order—

Mr. Speaker

Order. There is a much earlier point of order. All remarks are directed to the Chair, and I am not aware that I was dodging about. I will not have that sort of thing said.

Mr. Carr

Mr. Woodcock made clear in his letter that, although he had long expressed his disagreement with the proposed legislative approach to the reform of industrial relations, he had felt that it would still be possible under the Bill for the Commission to pursue effectively its work for the voluntary improvement of industrial relations. He has, however, been forced to conclude that this will not be possible under the decision of the Special Congress of the T.U.C. which required all affiliated unions to withdraw their co-operation. Mr. Woodcock has made it quite clear that it is the decision of the T.U.C. and not the Bill which has been the cause of his decision.

Mr. Carter

On a point of order. Would it not have been far more appropriate for the Secretary of State to have made a statement after Question Time today instead of using up our Question Time in delivering it?

Mr. Speaker

I have no responsibility for answers.

Mrs. Castle

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that my hon. Friend has a valid point, and that the information extracted from the right hon. Gentleman by the Question is of great relevance, both to the debates and decisions of yesterday and to the implications of the future working of the Bill? Will the right hon. Gentleman tell the House when he received George Woodcock's letter, and when George Woodcock informed him that he wanted to resign?

Mr. Carr

I was informed this morning by Mr. Woodcock. The letter was sent by hand to the Prime Minister—the Commission being a Royal Commission, that is the proper form—with a copy to me, this morning. It seemed to me, as I had this Question to answer, that this was the first opportunity and the proper way of announcing it.

Mr. J. H. Osborn

Is my right hon. Friend aware that we on this side of the House regret the decision taken by Mr. George Woodcock to resign, and the reasons for it. Will he accept our assurance that we wish to see the Commission grow from strength to strength to bring about better industrial relations?

Mr. Can

I assure my hon. Friend that this is the case. He might also like to know that Mr. Woodcock in his statement has expressed his belief that eventually the C.I.R. will again be widely accepted as a body. It might also interest the right hon. Lady, her hon. Friends and the whole House to know that in his statement he says—

Hon. Members

Too long.

Mr. Freeson

On a point of order. Is it not an abuse of the procedure of the House for this information to be given by the Minister in this bedraggled "bits-and-pieces" fashion? Would it not have been far more appropriate for the Minister to have made a statement to the House in which he could have given us all the information he wished to give us on this point?

Mr. Speaker

These are not points of order. Things which hon. Members shout from sedentary positions are directed to the Chair, whatever they may think. I suggest that we can move on quickly to the next Question.

Mrs. Castle

Further to that point of order. Is there not a rule of the House that any document which is quoted must be laid before the House?

Mr. Speaker

I want to know exactly what the document is and to study the references made to it. I will certainly rule on it when I know what the document is and the circumstances, but I will not rule on it on the spur of the moment.

Mr. Carr

Should I be in order, Mr. Speaker, in making clear that Mr. Woodcock will make this document public—I believe that he is holding a Press conference later this afternoon, but that is his affair—and that he specifically gave me his permission to quote from it this afternoon if I were asked?