§ 4.2 p.m.
§ Mrs. Barbara Castle (Blackburn)
Mr. Speaker, you will be aware that as we were not able to table a written Amendment to the Motion which is about to be moved, because the House was not sitting, my right hon. and hon. Friends and I submitted to you today a manuscript Amendment, to add at the end of the Motion:but declines to entertain a code of industrial relations practice which forms an integral part of the Industrial Relations Act, 1971.May I ask, Mr. Speaker, whether you will call our Amendment?
§ Mr. Speaker
I have decided not to select that Amendment. I think it would be wrong of me to give my reasons on a specific Amendment, but I am prepared to deal with a matter of general principle. When the House resumes after a Recess and the business has been published, I think that for the Speaker to accept a manuscript Amendment is springing new business on the House. Hon. Members make their own assessment as to whether they should come here and whether there is the likelihood of a vote, and I do not think it is right to select a manuscript Amendment of such substance as this. In my experience, manuscript Amendments have usually been on small points. This is a major point, and I think it would be unfair to ordinary Members on both sides of the House to allow it to be moved. However, any argument which could be advanced in putting forward the Amendment will be absolutely in order in dealing with the main issue.
§ 4.4 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for Employment (Mr. Robert Carr)
I beg to move,That this House takes note of the Consultative Document on the Code of Industrial Relations Practice.The purpose of this debate today is to provide Parliament with a proper opportunity to participate in the consultative process about this draft code of practice. There has already been a debate in another place. That debate, I think it will generally be agreed, was well-informed, constructive and in principle welcoming, even though critical on some major points. I think that description of 386 "constructive and in principle welcoming, even though critical on some major points" applies to the contributions from the Opposition benches in another place as much as to those from any other part of the other place.
Having heard what the right hon. Lady had to say to you just now, Mr. Speaker, it would seem to me a pity if we were not able to have an equally valuable and constructive debate in this House today. I have stressed from an early stage that I would value and would want to consider seriously the views from all organisations and individuals with knowledge and interest in this subject.
The Consultative Document which is before the House today is meant to be a starting point and not a finishing point. I am ready to listen, and I am open to conviction about changes which would be improvements in the draft as we have it before us today. I feel no need, and nor do I feel in the mood, to defend every paragraph of the Consultative Document out of some false idea of pride or prestige. I emphasise that my only interest is to listen to views in order to make the code as good and effective as it possibly can be. The only vanity I have about it, if "vanity" be the right word, is that I believe that even in its present form, even without the improvement which I admit may well be possible, the provisions of the code as it stands today, if seriously put into practice, would bring about an enormous improvement in the general standards of industrial and human relations in this country to the benefit of the prosperity of the country, to industrial peace throughout employment in the country, and also, what ultimately perhaps is most important of all, to the satisfaction and opportunity which millions of people can find in their daily work.
Since the whole object of the debate is to give hon. Members the maximum opportunity to contribute their views, I shall, if I may, make my speech as short as possible, and in particular, since hon. Members have had plenty of time to read and study the Consultative Document, I shall not spend any time describing its contents.
There are, however, 10 general points that I ought to make in order to set the debate in what I believe is its proper context. The first deals with the relation 387 of the code to the Act. Although complementary, the code and the Act are two different things. The Act provides legal rights and imposes legal obligations, whereas the code is a statement of good practice which, in many respects, goes well beyond, and of course properly well beyond, legal rights and obligations which, in this field, as in most others, are usually directed to almost the minimum standards. However, as I have said, the code and the Act are complementary and mutually supporting. Thus the terms of the code are not in themselves legally enforceable, but the institutions and the procedures set up under the Act must take the provisions of the code into account when any matters come before them.
Perhaps I may add here that while this is not required by the Act, I would expect—and I would think it would almost be automatic—that any committees of inquiry of the old-fashioned type, which of course will still go on, would also pay regard to the code when considering cases which come before them. If I may use an analogy—and it is always difficult to get a good analogy—the Act seems to me to lay down the boundaries of the road on which we should drive. It imposes certain liabilities on any of us who deliberately drive off the road altogether, and it provides certain emergency procedures for dealing with accidents if they occur; whereas the code aims to provide positive standards, positive guidelines and advice designed to reduce the risk of conflict and accident to a minimum.
That, I believe, is the first important thing to keep in mind—this relationship between the Act and the code—and it is substantial. I think that the difference is substantial, as well as the relationship. I would ask the right hon. Lady and her hon. Friends opposite, however much they may dislike the Act—and they have made this absolutely clear—to realise that the code, although related to the Act, can stand on its own. We are convinced on this side of the House that the code would lack a great deal of the beneficent influence which we think it can have unless it was operating within a framework. But even those who take a different view of that surely can still judge the code on its own merits, and it is on those merits that I believe the 388 country expects it to be judged. [Interruption.] I said at my party's conference that the two were complementary, mutually reinforcing, and I added that I believed that, in the long run, the code might prove the more influential but that without the Act it would lack the necessary influence to have the effect which it ought to have and which, I am glad to say, it already is having throughout industry.
§ Mr. Ashton
I am much obliged. How would this code of conduct have prevented the sort of dispute now taking place in the Upper Clyde yards?
§ Mr. Carr
That is typical of the mistake which hon. Members opposite make, and which they made when the right hon. Lady the Member for Blackburn was trying to introduce basic reforms in this field. I have said over and over again that we are dealing essentially with preventive medicine rather than curative medicine. In talking about the rôle of the code and in giving the analogy which I used a few minutes ago, I have described how, if the code is in being, it will give positive advice, guide lines and standards which will reduce to a minimum the risk of accidents. I cannot guarantee—no one can guarantee—that it would have avoided any particular incident. But one can express the view that, if managers and trade union officials and employers' associations and trade unions consistently did their best to apply and to think in terms of the principles laid down in the code, the chance of the sort of difficulties to which the hon. Gentleman refers would not, of course, be removed altogether but would be substantially reduced. That, surely, is about the best, human nature being what it is, that one can hope to achieve—gradually to reduce and to minimise the risks of conflict and to provide conditions—
§ Mr. Carr
No, I shall not be drawn into giving way again. I want to leave as much time as possible for the general debate. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman would far rather make a speech than take up time with an intervention now.
The second general point which I make is that there are two basic considerations affecting the nature of the provisions in the code. The first of these is my belief that the most urgent real need is to bring the standards of the majority much nearer to those of the best. The trouble at the moment is that there is too big a gap between the small advance guard in industrial and human relations and the large and somewhat straggling rearguard among employment establishments in this country.
This emphasis on the practical nature of the code is fundamental. It is reflected in the drafting, which is meant to be clear and easy to understand, and it is reflected in the content. [Interruption.] If it is not clear, let us have examples. This is the object of the exercise. The code will be attempting to sum up the basic principles of a sound approach to human and industrial relations problems. It tries to set out the ways in which these principles can be effectively applied, and for this purpose it draws on the proven experience of companies which have a good record in this field.
The code does not attempt, and deliberately does not attempt, to break new ground. It advocates no new or experimental techniques. This may be unexciting, and some people have found the Consultative Document disappointing for that reason. But to make that criticism is to misunderstand the real purpose of the code, which is, as I said, to help the great bulk of British industry and commerce to bring their industrial and human relations practices nearer to the standards already achieved by the leaders. That the leaders themselves should progress further is highly desirable, of course, and I suggest that this will be made easier for them if the general standards are being brought up closer behind them all the time through the means of a practical code which does not seem out of the reach of the great majority of people on both sides of industry.
390 The second basic consideration affecting the nature of the provisions of the code is the fact, as I say in my foreword, that the code is to cover all sizes of establishment and all forms of employment, wherever people are at work and whether or not they are at present organised in trade unions. This facing of reality has led to some of the main criticisms which I have received from both unions and employers, and it leads me to two or three of the next general points which I wish to put to the House.
The third of my general points relates to the encouragement of trade unionism and collective bargaining. In my foreword to the code, I state:The fundamental principle underlying the code is that industrial relations in a free society with a complex industrial structure are best conducted by collective bargaining between employers and strong representative trade unions…".That is a fundamental statement of belief to which I hold. I know that it is objected that that is not fully reflected in all the provisions of the code itself. If that be so, I am very willing to listen and to consider amendments to see that my fundamental belief is properly reflected. But both those who put forward amendments and I myself must take into account the realities of the situation as they exist in 1971 and as they are certain to exist at least for some years to come.
It would not, for example, be productive to lay down that every employer must be an active recruiting agent for trade union membership. Even if that were acceptable in principle—one knows that it would cause great controversy if one were to lay it down as a general requirement in every form of employment—the hard fact is that trade unions themselves are not at this moment organised or staffed to deal with such a situation, and they have no chance of being so for at least some years to come.
I repeat that the code is to cover all forms of employment and all sizes of establishment. As at this moment, and as one can see it over the next few years, it is a reality of life that there are some types of employment and some scales of employment in which, for the time being at least, trade unionism and collective bargaining do not exist, are not practicable, or are not felt to be needed by the employees concerned.
391 What is practicable, what is necessary, and what is central to my theme is to state the fundamental general principle about the desirability of collective bargaining and the value of strong representative trade unions, and to create the conditions in which these are enabled and encouraged to develop freely and as far as all those concerned wish them to do.
That is what I want the code to do, and I repeat that I shall seriously consider any proposal to this end if it can be shown to be defective at the moment. Some of the points which I have already received do, I think, offer practical suggestions in this area.
The fourth general consideration which I put to the House is the problem of the small employer. I know from representations I have already received that this is causing some real concern. The House should not underestimate the great burden of work which will be placed on thousands of employers, not only the smallest, and also. I suppose, on unions, and not only the smallest, in adjusting to the needs and demands of the code. They will stretch managers and trade union officials to a great extent, and they are, indeed, meant to stretch them both to a considerable extent. But the practical judgment is how far ahead one can set one's objectives so that they seem to be sufficiently in reach to be attainable in practice and not so far ahead or so far removed from the realities of everyday life that the great majority cannot follow them and, as I suggested a few minutes ago, bring themselves up to the standards of the few leaders.
On the question of small establishments in particular, while I appreciate their difficulties, I feel that the universal applicability of the code is a fundamental feature of it which must be retained. If we once were to depart from that, much of the influence, much of the pressure and incentive of the code would be weakened. A too-easy gateway of excuse would be opened for people not prepared to enter into it. But what needs to be done in practice will vary according to the circumstances of different kinds and sizes of establishment. Therefore, the code must be a flexible instrument, and must not be allowed to become a straitjacket.
392 I realise that in many small establishments some of the detailed proposals of the code, dealing, for example, with employment policies and procedures, may seem extremely complicated and far removed from the reality of the world in which small establishments live. But, as I say in the foreword,Greater simplicity may well be possible and desirable in small units…".It is the objective and the principle which are universal. The methods for achieving them should always be as simple as possible.
Thus, taking as examples the planning and use of manpower and recruiting and selection policies, I think that it may be that in a small unit the various suggestions under those headings listed in the code will often with advantage be rolled together in a small unit and carried out in an highly informal manner. What we are saying in the code is that the manager, even of the smallest unit, needs to think consciously and in advance about his manpower needs and about the most appropriate methods of meeting them. I have just taken those headings as examples, but what I have said can apply under heading after heading.
My fifth general point concerns the charge I have heard that the code has a paternalistic ring. I hope that the House will accept from me that I certainly do not want it to be paternalistic. I do not want to understate the rôle of the trade unions. If the Consultative Document is genuinely open to criticism on those grounds I shall want to do all that I can to get the balance right. Of course, the document, like the Act, places emphasis on the responsibility of management for good industrial relations, and especially for taking the initiative to develop and maintain them. That recognition of management responsibilities, and the implication that goes with it that they are by no means fully discharged by all managements, is surely necessary and desirable. But what I think I may possibly have done in wishing to stress, as the Donovan Report stressed and as I think the right hon. Lady would admit she stressed when she held my position, the primary responsibility of management to take the initiative, is quite unwittingly to give the impression that the whole responsibility is that of management, and that the trade unions have just to tag along behind. I assure the House that 393 that is not so. If throughout the code we can bring out the joint responsibility, which is central to industrial relations, the joint part that must be played, I shall be very glad to do so, because I accept that we cannot expect trade unions and trade unionists to accept responsibility unless they are also given responsibility, and I should like the code to make that clear.
§ Mrs. Castle
Is not the right hon. Gentleman aware that if he tried to take the paternalistic overtones from the document he would have to re-write it from beginning to end as well as to reconsider his whole legislation policy? For example, has not he even grasped the smug superiority of the sections dealing with the principal aims of trade unions? Are not they matters for trade unions themselves to decide, and not for him to pronounce upon from his high altar?
§ Mr. Carr
They are matters that we should all discuss together. I find that trade unions and trade unionists expect me to say something about what should be the rôle, functions and methods of behaviour of managements, and it is not surprising or, I believe, wrong that managements and the country expect me to say something in the code about what should be the rôles, responsibilities and procedures of trade unions. They are only being treated on an equal footing. If the trade union movement would consult and negotiate, we might get this sort of thing into the right perspective. Anyway, we will listen to what the right hon. Lady and others have to say. I am sure that even if the right hon. Lady and her friends do not, large numbers of people in industry and the country will accept what I say, that there is no desire to make the code paternalistic. If we can alter it to remove any danger of that, I shall certainly do so, but it is my desire—rightly so, I believe—to stress the primary responsibility of management, starting at the very top, to take the initiative and responsibility for improving industrial relations. As I have said many times, if they do not lead, no one else can follow.
Now I should like to say something about my sixth general point, joint consultation. Encouragement of joint consultation is fundamental, as I believe is the need for some established consulta- 394 tive committee procedure in the larger establishments. Of course, I appreciate that the choice of a particular figure of size, such as the 250 mentioned in the code, is arbitrary. Here again, we need flexibility and initiative to suit particular circumstances, but in the absence of a rule of thumb such as the one provided in the document there is a danger that the machinery for consultation with employees as a whole might be neglected.
I have heard some fears expressed on the trade union side that when the code talks about joint consultation it is attempting to stimulate it as an alternative to strong trade union organisation. I deny that absolutely. There is room for both, and for trade unions to be as much involved in the machinery for consultation as in the machinery of collective bargaining. Indeed, in some cases the two can be brought together with advantage at company and local level. I want to encourage both consultation and negotiation on the widest range of subjects practicable.
My seventh general point concerns the very important question of status quo. There has naturally been comment on the fact that the document does not refer to that important question. The difficulty of the subject is proved by the fact that some commentators have strongly approved that silence while others have equally strongly criticised it. It is an immensely important matter. All that I should like to say today is that I want the final version of the code if possible to include something on the subject, and I shall be considering the matter very seriously in the light of the suggestions I have received and which I hope I may still receive.
My eighth main subject is the disclosure of information. What is said on that subject in paragraphs 27–30 of section D of the document is inevitably and deliberately rudimentary at this stage. Naturally, I should have preferred to give the fullest possible guidance on disclosure in the first version of the code. However, the subject was referred by the right hon. Lady to the Commission on Industrial Relations, and it would have been unwise of me to make recommendations on this difficult and delicate, but extremely important, subject before I had the advice of the Commission. Hence the stopgap nature of the paragraphs in the 395 document. When I have the C.I.R. report I shall consult the T.U.C. and C.B.I., as the Act requires, but I shall also make my ideas generally available, as I have done with the document we are discussing. I shall then proceed as quickly as possible, with full consultation, on an amendment of the code to deal more fully with the vital question of disclosure of information.
The ninth subject which I want to mention is the speed of implementation of the code. This point has been raised with me by many people. Obviously the code can only set objectives and in many cases those objectives will have to be approached in stages over a considerable period. Neither managements nor unions will be justified in demanding complete fulfilment in a single stage. What managements, unions, employees and the country as a whole will be justified in demanding is positive, continuous, progressive progress towards the fulfilment of the objectives.
My tenth and last point concerns the views I have already received since this document was published. I have been pleased both by the volume and the quality of the comments I have received. It has come from individual companies, from the C.B.I., from many employers associations and chambers of commerce, from organisations such as the Industrial Society, the Institute of Personnel Management, the British Institute of Management, from individual specialists, academic and otherwise, from some trade unionists and from individual trade unionists. These comments are clearly based on a great deal of work and thought, for which I am most grateful.
§ Mr. Stanley Orme (Salford, West)
From what unions has the right hon. Gentleman received comments? This is not a matter of national security and I think that we are entitled to know. From whom has the right hon. Gentleman received this advice? He slipped over this passage smoothly, referring to all sorts of people outside industrial relations. What about the trade unionists, who are directly concerned?
§ Mr. Carr
The hon. Gentleman says that it is not a matter of national security, and of course it is not, but the wishes of 396 those who have expressed their views must be taken into account. Before my hon. Friend the Minister of State replies to the debate tonight, I will have the letters from the unions looked at, and where I am satisfied that a union has no objection to being publicly named, I will ask my hon. Friend to name it. If such clearance cannot be obtained from the union concerned, however, I shall find some other opportunity. I have no wish to keep a secret, but I must respect the wishes of those who have submitted these comments on the document.
§ Mr. Carr
I am coming to that. All the comments I have had are clearly based on a great deal of work and thought, for which I am grateful. They will be seriously considered and many will be accepted in the final version.
Unfortunately, I have had nothing of a considered nature from the T.U.C. or from most of the largest unions. I regret this greatly. The T.U.C. saw fit to issue a Press release within minutes of the Consultative Document being published. I remember being handed a copy of its release as I was about to open my own Press conference launching publication of the document. Thus it was obvious that the T.U.C.'s comment must have been prepared before the document had been properly read, let alone studied or considered by the T.U.C., and I do not believe that this reaction was worthy of the responsibility which the T.U.C. should feel—both its responsibility to the country and, perhaps more important in its own eyes, its responsibility to the 10 million trade unionists for whom it claims to be spokesman. I regret this. I believe that the T.U.C. has in this respect seriously fallen below the standards of responsibility that this country has come to expect from it.
§ Mr. Harold Walker (Doncaster)
Did the Department follow what I believe is the normal practice by sending the T.U.C. an advance embargoed copy of the document?
§ Mr. Carr
Yes, indeed. Of course I do not deny that—it would be discourteous of me to do so. But the hon. Gentleman and the right hon. Lady know the time which the T.U.C. requires 397 normally in order to give a studied consideration to a document, and I simply do not believe that this can have been or was done in the few hours available before its statement was published. Nor do I believe that the country thinks so either.
I hope that the Parliamentary Labour Party today will take a different and more constructive attitude. I repeat that I want to hear the views of hon. Members on both sides of the House and that they will be taken into account. I realise that the Opposition wished to move an Amendment and I must not comment on that, but I ask them to think carefully before just carrying through blind opposition to the code of practice, which I believe, in its present form, already offers the trade unionists and not just the country help in getting many of the things which they would like and which they have struggled for many years to obtain. I believe that that is the sort of approach which the country and all those who work in industry want.
I ask the Parliamentary Labour Party to be constructive about this, to remember that Parliament today is not being asked to decide or approve anything. The time for approval or disapproval will come. What I want to do in the next two weeks is to consider all the comments received, including those made today. I shall consider them carefully with a view to publishing the code in a revised form to be put before Parliament for approval by Christmas or, if I cannot manage it by then, in the very early part of next year. In any case, it is a matter of urgency but not an urgency which does not allow for full and proper consideration.
I leave the House with this thought. The way we have adopted with this code—of introducing it and then changing it—deliberately offers flexibility. We shall need to learn by experience. We shall be able to take account of changing conditions in the procedure for amending the code. I believe that we must do all we can to make the code as good as possible to begin with. If we give it the effective and reasonable beginning it deserves, and then amend it as we find necessary in the light of practice and changing conditions, we shall have done something very important to make our industrial relations more stable and 398 peaceful, the country more prosperous and work more rewarding and satisfying.
§ 4.38 p.m.
§ Mrs. Barbara Castle (Blackburn)
As I informed the House earlier, had the procedure allowed it we would have tabled an Amendment to the Motion, adding the words, "but declines to entertain a code of industrial relations practice which forms an integral part of the Industrial Relations Act, 1971."
Although, therefore, I cannot technically move that Amendment, I shall certainly speak to it, and we shall vote to it in voting against the Motion. We shall be voting against the Motion for two main reasons. First, this code is the child of the Industrial Relations Act, and it is impossible to separate the two. The right hon. Gentleman tells us now, as he has told us before, that the code is more important than legal penalties. Then why did he produce the penalties first and the code afterwards? Why has he provided that the code shall be admissible in evidence when proceedings are brought against trade unionists? Secondly, whatever the right hon. Gentleman might have attempted to do to obscure the issue, the code reflects the Act's whole philosophy, and it is impossible to amend the code without amending the Act.
Today we have had a display of the right hon. Gentleman's ritual reasonableness combined with hypocrisy. He is extremely good—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."]; yes, I would cheer my own words on this, too—about speaking in the House and sounding as though butter would not melt in his mouth, as though all he wants to do is to win the consent of the trade unions, and strengthen their rôle in society.
I would say to the right hon. Gentleman that the time for this sort of language was before the introduction of the Industrial Relations Bill. In fact, there was then an opportunity for getting a voluntary response from the trade unions. It was typically mean of him when his reasonableness mask slipped towards the end of his speech and he could not resist stirring up the old smears against and antagonism towards the trade union movement and the T.U.C. He said, "How wicked of them not to have given their views! How wicked of them to rush out within 24 hours with comments on the code!". What did 399 he expect—discussions for a month before they pronounced on it?
What the right hon. Gentleman failed to read to the House was an extract from the comments issued by the T.U.C. when this code was published, when Victor Feather said:An official code of practice could play a useful part in bringing about improvements in the voluntary system of industrial relations by setting standards and providing guidance to employers and trade unions. It is a pity therefore that the Government rejected the T.U.C.'s proposal, made even before there was the Consultative Document on the Bill that the Government, and the employers and the T.U.C. should sit down together to examine ways in which further improvements could be brought about.That was the moment of maximum opportunity, and the right hon. Gentleman turned his back on it, deliberately preferring to embitter industrial relations as an ideological by-product of his Government's philosophy and then to resort typically to the smear that the comment must have been written before the T.U.C. had even read the code, again failing to draw the attention of the House to the item-by-item comments on the paragraphs in Mr. Victor Feather's document.
Now the right hon. Gentleman thinks that he can say, "I have rigged the rules the way I want them and you will be naughty, un-public-spirited boys if you do not come along and play my game my way". Indeed, the right hon. Gentleman's capacity for self-deception would be funny if it were not so frightening. The darker the clouds seem to everybody else the more confident he is in detecting a rosy lining in the impenetrable gloom, whether on unemployment, prices, or the prospects of peace within industry.
We had a most remarkable example of this in his own statement to his own party conference.
§ Mrs. Castle
I am sorry that the hon. Gentleman was not at our conference to hear my speech on the crime of unemployment under this Government.
§ Mrs. Castle
There was the right hon. Gentleman at his party conference, assuring the cheering ranks that now that the 400 Industrial Relations Act was on the Statute Book we were moving into a "far more hopeful environment". He said that apart from anything else the Government would now be free to distribute information about the Act on a "huge and widespread" scale which "we could not constitutionally" have done before. Did he clear that adverb with the Government Chief Whip? Do we now take it that the Government admit that the "huge and widespread" distribution of information on the Government's Common Market terms before Parliament has decided the policy is unconstitutional? Will the right hon. Gentleman say whether he thinks that it is? If he will not, why did he make just that one more Freudian slip by letting out the word "constitutionally"?
The purpose of this "huge and widespread" distribution of information will be to convince everyone that the industrial relations legislation is, in the right hon. Gentleman's words to his own conference, "an act of peace and not an act of war." That has been the language of the aggressor throughout the ages. Peaceful pacification it may be, but it is not peace. How could it be peace when every action of the right hon. Gentleman since he took office has been designed to make a scapegoat of the trade unions?
In his job the right hon. Gentleman has a unique responsibility in the Cabinet—to build bridges within industry; to nourish conciliation, not conflict; to secure fair treatment for Government employees; to fight inside the Cabinet against rising prices and unemployment, which do more than anything else to undermine workers' security and, therefore, to undermine industrial peace.
But, instead, from the moment of taking office he has done the exact opposite. As the voice of organised labour in the Government, the right hon. Gentleman is totally discredited. In all his actions and in all his Acts he has lent himself to the reversal of traditional Conservative policy—that Conservative Governments are very careful to maintain good relations with the trade unions. "Monckton is dead; long live Heath".
It is no use the right hon. Gentleman's coming along with his belated olive branch today, when everyone in the House knows that he has been a willing instrument of the Cabinet's economic and political strategy of declaring war on the 401 trade union movement. The Government have declared war on the trade unions for two reasons. First, they have decided to do nothing to hold prices down, indeed, they have decided to do everything to push them up. The Government are therefore in no position to ask the unions to co-operate about wage increases. Their only strategy for dealing with inflation is to reduce the bargaining power of the unions. As Samuel Brittain put it in the Financial Times not very long ago, when writing about the Industrial Relations Bill, if the Bill had succeeded in strengthening the trade unions, it would have failed in its economic purpose.
The Government have declared war on the trade unions secondly because the gut reaction of the right hon. Gentleman's party in the country is deeply and instinctively anti-trade union. It is a fascinating revelation that the only voice raised at the right hon. Gentleman's own party conference against the Act was that of Mr. Michael Orme of Northamptonshire, who complained that the Bill did not go far enough in helping the non-unionists. Surely the right hon. Gentleman does not think that he got that standing ovation at the conference because his Act helped the trade unions!
What courage has the right hon. Gentleman ever shown in standing up to this deep-seated and destructive prejudice? Did he not connive at making this divisive Industrial Relations Act the first and exclusive preoccupation of the Government? Did he not sit silent while one action of his Government after another forced up the cost of living, and then join in the chorus of condemnation of the trade unions for excessive wage demands?
Did he not put his Department's conciliation services in cold storage, to force a frontal collision with one union after another—in Fords, in the docks, and with the postal workers—so that in the first eight months of this year, under a Conservative Government pledged to bring us industrial peace, 11,600,000 working days were lost through strikes, compared with 7,600,000 in the first eight months of 1970 under a Labour Government? Did not the right hon. Gentleman personally dedicate himself to making an example of employees in the public services, in keeping with this 402 Government's arbitrary and inequitable form of incomes policy, and has he not been one of the prime propagandists in support of the canard that the present atrocious levels of unemployment were all due to excessive wage demands?
Is not the right hon. Gentleman increasingly proving my point? He has changed his tune from time to time on this matter. Last June he told us in a debate:…the immediate cause of the present crisis in both prices and unemployment is the excess level of pay settlements."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 28th June, 1971; Vol. 820, c. 156.]Last month, with an unemployment figure of over 900,000, he was in Birmingham, pleading with the trade unions to believe him when he said that he was shocked and surprised that unemployment had gone so high and assuring them that the Government would have taken steps to reflate the economy earlier if they had ever thought that the figure would go so high.
Last week, at his party's conference, he was at it again, applauding the Prime Minister and the Chancellor when they said that high unemployment was due to the workers having priced themselves out of a job. What excuse will he give us next Thursday, when his Department's latest figures are published, which, according to The Guardian, will show a further jump in unemployment—already perilously near the one million mark? All along the line, ever since he took office the right hon. Gentleman has soft-pedalled on the responsibility of Government and management and hard-pedalled on the responsibility of the trade unions. Only now, 16 months after he took office, has he even begun to talk about the other policies which ought to have been the priority, not only in fighting unemployment but in securing industrial peace.
"Let us nail the lie", he said at Brighton, "that this Government do not care about people's jobs." Why is he still waiting to place before Parliament the proposals that I left, fully worked out, for a radical improvement in our employment services? Why is he still talking about the long-promised and long-overdue massive expansion of training facilities? With any luck he thinks that we shall have them in the next few weeks. For any government less ideologically hostile to the trade unions 403 these measures would have been a priority, and not the Industrial Relations Act.
Now we are told to forget about all this and concentrate on this peacemaking, progressive Consultative Document. It is like asking a man to forget that a policeman and not a priest is hidden on the other side of the confessional. The right hon. Gentleman has forfeited his rôle as spiritual adviser and has become a cop. It is a warning that ought to be given to trade unions, and not a plea to co-operate, for by the terms of the Industrial Relations Act every word in this document can be used against them in the Industrial Relations Court.
§ Mr. R. Carr
In view of the homily that the right hon. Lady has delivered to me about the peace-keeping rôles of my Department and the wrongness of giving priority to industrial relations law reform, can she explain what she was doing in the Cabinet and in the country when she was first persuading people of the necessity of "In Place of Strife"?
§ Mrs. Castle
Yes. As the right hon. Gentleman knows, just before the General Election I introduced an Industrial Relations Bill based on the philosophy of Donovan. If the right hon. Gentleman had picked up my Bill and introduced it we might have had a different situation tonight. What he fails to realise when he asks us to agree that the code is something quite separate from the Act is that it is not possible to obtain good industrial relations by introducing coercion first and talking about winning consent to good practice afterwards. It is this confusion of aims which invalidates the whole document.
Of course there is a lot of good industrial relations practice to which the right hon. Gentleman would have got trade unionists to listen if he had followed the advice that Vic Feather gave him when he first took up his job. The T.U.C. and Mr. Feather have always admitted that there are problems in industry. The T.U.C. has always accepted the need for reforms, and that is why it is drawing up its own guidelines for trade unions and management which will be published in the next few weeks. How can the right hon. Gentleman expect unions to sit down amicably with management and 404 work out better practices when every breach of his one-sided code can be used against them in the Industrial Relations Court?
How can the right hon. Gentleman talk about preserving free trade unionism when this code and its parent Act threaten trade unions with a higher level of damages for any "unfair industrial practice" under the Act if they do not adopt procedures which up to now have been freely negotiable? Let us look at what the Act says. I turn to Section 4 which makes clear that any failure on the part of any person to observe a provision of the code of practice shall not of itself render him liable to any proceedings. It goes on to say:… but in any proceedings before the Industrial Court or an industrial tribunal under this Act—How can he expect us to co-operate in amending a code that is founded on that legal principle?
- (a) any such code of practice shall be admissible in evidence, and
- (b) any provision of such a code of practice which appears to the Court or tribunal to be relevant to any question arising in the proceedings shall be taken into account by the Court or tribunal in determining that question."
Let us look at one of the provisions of the code in this light. On page 8, paragraph 9a dealing with the aims of trade unions says:To secure these aims"—This is part of the paternalism which the right hon. Gentleman seems incapable of recognising—trade unions should:co-operate with employers' associations in establishing effective procedures at industry level for the negotiation of terms and conditions of employment and for the settlement of disputes.What are the implications of this? As the House knows, the engineering unions have recently repudiated the York procedure. They have spent many months trying to renegotiate it. Talks on a new national procedure have broken down because the employers will not accept the status quo procedure. The unions are now drawing up a model agreement which they are asking their local officers and shop stewards to use as a basis for discussion with individual plants including a status quo clause which the Employers' Federation at industry level has refused to accept nationally. If the words of 405 Section 4 of the Industrial Relations Act mean anything, will the engineering unions be held responsible before the Industrial Relations Court for the fact that there is no national peace-keeping machinery in their industry?
A similar point arises on page 21 in paragraph 25c, which lays down that unresolved disputes shall be referred to industry-wide disputes procedure. What if unions refused to reach such agreement on such procedures because it seemed to them that the employers' suggestions were inadequate?
Take the fixing of piecework prices and incentive bonuses. Paragraph 13d on page 11 says:piecework prices, incentive bonuses or similar payment systems should be determined by some form of work measurement.The paragraph does not even add "with the agreement of the union". Will the High Court judge faced with a complaint against a union "take into account" that in discussions on piecework prices a union is insisting on mutuality, which is the very essence of democratic freedom to particular trade unionists? The right hon. Gentleman tells us that the code places equivalent obligations on management. That is ironical when we remember that he even forgot to mention the responsibilities of management in Part I of his original Bill until we reminded him. So, the rectification of that omission in this code is a lame afterthought. By their afterthoughts ye shall know them.
We can see why there was this original omission when we read the code. Of course management should, to quote just a few of the right hon. Gentleman's examples, give an employee full information about his rights and obligations. Of course management should work out future manpower needs, giving industrial relations as high a status in its organisation as finance or marketing. Of course it should accept shop stewards as essential and see that they get proper facilities to do their job, although it is an illuminating commentary on the inadequacies of British management that this should still be ranked as "best practice" and not the norm. But all the right hon. Gentleman's efforts cannot hide the double-talk which impregnates the whole document.
How, for example, can the right hon. Gentleman, for very shame, call on man- 406 agement, as he does in paragraph 21, to make their factories as safe as possible and then call on employees and their representatives to take their share of responsibility in making their work safer, when under pressure from the C.B.I., he has decided to drop our measure providing for statutory safety representatives and statutory safety committees to do exactly that in practice? Once again the right hon. Gentleman is placing obligations on workers and trade unions while denying them the statutory rights to enable them to do the job properly.
This is the basic hypocrisy which runs through the whole document, for this is no charter for trade unionism, not even for what the right hon. Gentleman would call "responsible" trade unionism. That is why the T.U.C. will have nothing to do with it, for nowhere in this whole document do the Government say to management, "You ought to recognise trade unions". Every obligation of management towards trade unions in this document is qualified by the phrase "where trade unions are recognised". So this code, far from healing the breach between the Government's approach in their Act and the approach of Donovan, actually widens it. Nowhere in the body of the code—and the right hon. Gentleman has admitted this—is there an echo of the clarion call of Donovan, which was also in my White Paper, that collective bargaining is the most effective means available to us of giving workers the right of control over decisions that affect their working lives, and that one of the prime aims of an industrial relations policy should be, to quote Donovan, to promote "the organisation of workers" on which collective bargaining depends. There is no such clarion call in this document because this is not in the Government's philosophy.
The Government's philosophy, embodied in the Industrial Relations Act, is to give equal rights to the non-unionist; so one of the most revealing sections of the code is the provision it makes for two industrial relations systems to exist side by side, one where unions are recognised and one where unions are not recognised. In the passage on consultative machinery the right hon. Gentleman goes out of his way to provide for consultative arrangements for the representatives of employees who are not in unions, arrangements which can 407 only be designed to undermine trade unionism. It was too much, we know, to expect the right hon. Gentleman to believe in industrial democracy, too much to expect him to abandon the old out-of-date distinction between negotiation about wages on the one hand and mere "consultation" about everything else.
This document goes much further back even than that. In the section on consultative machinery it provides that any establishment with more than 250 employees should have a consultative committee with an elected membership representing all sections of employees, that everyone in the place should be entitled to vote for and to serve on it, and that the committee should discuss—the widest possible range of subjects of concern to employeesThe right hon. Gentleman referred in passing to this. He said that it would not be possible, and it would certainly be controversial, to expect every employer to become a recruiting agent for trade unionism. Does not the right hon. Gentleman recognise what he is doing here? Having taken away in the provisions of the Industrial Relations Act the right of a union to insist on a 100 per cent. union shop, he then creates an elaborate consultative machinery for non-unionists, giving us the embryo of company unionism in a non-union shop.
I repeat, it is not surprising that the T.U.C. will have nothing to do with this document, any more than that unions, whether or not they are forced by the right hon. Gentleman's force majeure to register, will have nothing to do with operating the Industrial Relations Act. This code is the true child of its parent, an Act designed to reduce the dignity, the status and the freedom of trade unionists, and that is why we shall vote against the Motion tonight.
§ 5.10 p.m.
§ Mr. John Page (Harrow, West)
We have had a very long sermon from the right hon. Lady the Member for Blackburn (Mrs. Castle), though it was not very close to the text which she gave herself; namely, the Amendment which was not called. We heard a lot about employment services, training and the Conservative Party Conference, but only 408 from two minutes to five until seven minutes past did we hear anything about the Consultative Document itself.
§ Mr. Heffer
If the hon. Gentleman is honest, he will admit that his right hon. Friend, from the word "go", said he was not going to discuss the contents of the document but merely talk about the background reasons for it. He never once said anything that was in the document.
§ Mr. Page
The hon. Gentleman should be grateful to my right hon. Friend for not going page by page through the document, because we have all had plenty of time to read it. It has been discussed a great deal. My right hon. Friend gave us his thinking on different points and a resumé of various criticisms he had received.
The right hon. Lady said that the Act and the code were impossible to separate. I do not agree. I feel they both easily stand on their own feet. Because of the clarity of the code, it is sad that the right hon. Lady, the Labour Party and the T.U.C. have refused to regard it as an entirely separate entity. The right hon. Lady is behaving rather like a theatre sister in a hospital who does not approve of the operation which is going to take place, makes a row with the doctor and, in high dudgeon, walks out of the operating theatre refusing to give her help, regardless of the effect of her actions on the patient for whom she is responsible.
§ Mr. J. T. Price (Westhoughton)rose—
§ Mr. Pricerose—
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir R. Grant-Ferris)
The hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. J. T. Price) must resume his seat.
§ Mr. Page
Of the few criticisms which the right hon. Lady made, she pointed to the passage in paragraph 9a on page 8 regarding co-operation by trade unions with employers' associations on conditions of employment, and so on, which, she said, acted unfairly against the trade unions. But what about page 7, paragraph 6a, where equal responsibility was placed on employers? Surely this is extremely sensible and fair.
As a major criticism of my right hon. Friend, the right hon. Lady said that on page 11, paragraph 13d there was no mention of trade unions included in that one sentence. It seems to me from reading the document that automatically, where appropriate, the trade unions would be consulted. If she had taken the trouble to consult my right hon. Friend, perhaps he would have agreed to add at the end:in agreement, where appropriate, with the recognised trade unions concerned.I am sure my right hon. Friend would not have the slightest awkwardness or worry about putting in those words.
We have before us the Consultative Document 26 pages stuffed with common sense—
§ Mr. Page
It is nice to see the hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. J. T. Price) so refreshed from his recess, bubbling over with jokes and repartee, all of which I hope we shall have the opportunity to hear later when he is standing up.
The code will be more influential than the Act because it will be read and used a great deal in industry. I hope that my right hon. Friend will consider producing a short version of the code which every employee and every manager can carry in his pocket.
It is a simple guide to good industrial relations, but it is not a child's guide. I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for not making it the "Whizz Kid's Way-Out Guide to New Ideas in Industrial Relations". Most of the ideas in the document have already been practised in many firms and factories throughout the country. So that in winding-up the Labour spokesman does not say "The speeches by Government back benchers were full of criticisms of the document", 410 let us make it plain that this is a "consultative" document. Therefore, I shall put forward to my right hon. Friend some of my own ideas, and ideas which have resulted from fairly wide discussions during the parliamentary recess. I wish to give my right hon. Friend and his Department three cheers for producing so good and concise a Consultative Document for us to start with.
I turn to the detailed suggestions I wish to make about the document. I turn first to Section A, paragraph 6c—and this was mentioned by the right hon. Lady, with my right hon. Friend taking a different view—which says that management should "encourage employees to join a recognised union". The right hon. Lady was extremely offended about that, because it mentions a "recognised union". Surely it is a great step forward for the trade union movement for this to be written into the document.
My right hon. Friend said that the document did not make employers recruiting agents for the trade union movement, and when this encouragement was inserted in an Amendment to the legislation when it was going through the House, I had my doubts about it. I wonder where encouragement ends and coercion begins. When does the friendly push by the elbow towards a certain union by the employer become a half-nelson that he must join a particular union? Management is wondering what exactly the word "encourage" means. How far is management expected to go in encouraging new employees to join a union? Should there be posters in the personnel office saying that such and such a union exists and that individual employees will be expected to join this union? If so, it should also be pointed out to the employee that he has rights and need not join the union; otherwise it would mean a closed shop in a new guise. This is an important point and I wonder whether the Under-Secretary will take note of it.
In Section A, paragraph 6c, should not the word "appropriate" be inserted, so that it would read:encourage employees to join an appropriate recognised union"?This should receive the support of Labour Members—if they were able to give any support to the document—because it would stop fragmentation of unions in different places of employment.
411 In passing, perhaps I might present a major bouquet to my right hon. Friend. I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for Tynemouth (Dame Irene Ward) will agree that paragraph 17 in Section A goes a substantial way to give protection to the professional man and woman about whom my hon. Friend spoke so eloquently in Committee.
Paragraph 15 of Section B says:Management should also, where practicable and where the undertaking is large enough…It occurs to me to ask whether my right hon. Friend had any inquiries about the meanings of the words "practicable" and(b) provide occupational pension and sick pay schemes to supplement the statutory arrangements.where the undertaking is large enough".Has my right hon. Friend been asked to define them a little more clearly? He does not give any indication of the size of undertaking which would be large enough to deal with the prospects of promotion, sick pay schemes and so on. Who is to be the judge of what is practicable? Since this document can be called in aid, I have the feeling that the wording is a bit loose and could lead to misunderstanding. I fully support the idea that occupational pension and sick pay schemes should be encouraged and enlarged as far as possible. However, I hope that the wording can be changed slightly.
Turning to paragraph 16 of Section B, I hope to hear the views of the hon. Gentleman opposite, who speaks so eloquently on behalf of A.S.T.M.S., about the harmonisation of facilities for white-collar and other employees. I take the view that, except for pay, terms of employment should be the same for all employees, whatever the colour of their collars. But when that kind of harmonisation takes place, usually it means the removal of certain differentials, and, once they are removed, people begin trying to put them back again. It will be interesting to hear whether representations have been received from trade unions about this paragraph and whether it is generally accepted in the trade union movement that it would be right and proper for differentials to disappear gradually, much as they are disappearing in terms of the status of employment of men and women.
§ Mr. Page
I get the idea. The hon. Gentleman agrees with the retention of differentials. If differentials are to be maintained, unless something is said about it in paragraph 16 employers will be put in some difficulty.
I come next to Section D, paragraph 6 of which says:Agreement on the appropriate bargaining unit is usually reached on a voluntary basis and this should be the first aim of management and unions.Could not this be stressed even further? Could not it be said that this will be the normal way in which bargaining will be carried out? Surely it is to the advantage of all employers, employees and trade unions that bargaining should take place on a voluntary basis and as near as possible to where the ultimate decision has to be made.
Paragraph 23 of the same section deals with the procedure for settling collective disputes. However, I wonder whether this paragraph and those which follow should not be combined with Section F to form a composite section dealing with the settlement of disputes. Section F sets out the way in which the individual should go about dealing with his own personal disputes. Surely it would be more logical to set out the contents of Section F first and then follow on with paragraphs 23 and 24 of Section D.
Then, in paragraph 25 of Section G we read:It should have the following stages: …(d) independent conciliation or arbitration or both are desirable as the final stage of any disputes procedure.Again, I wonder whether my right hon. Friend will consider the redrafting of the sentence. It gives the impression that there should be a final stage of arbitration in every disputes procedure, whereas surely it should be an optional extra and not an automatic longstop. In 1958, my right hon. Friend's predecessor, Iain Macleod, cancelled the 1951 Order which retained compulsory arbitration. It has been put to me that if this sentence stays as it is, the tendency will be, as it was until 1958, for negotiations about pay and so forth to go on much longer than would otherwise be necessary because the union or the employer may say, 413 "Let us string this out and go to arbitration in the end." Arbitration is valuable, but it should be used more on special occasions than just being automatically written into every procedure.
Last but one, I come to a hobby horse of mine which I have raised before with my right hon. Friend. I ask hon. Members to study paragraph 24 of section D. This says:A procedure for settling collective disputes should … define the appropriate levels for raising and settling different types of issue".It has always been a worry of mine that the Act made no provision for the emergency situation which can arise such as when a place of work is either too hot or too cold, when the shop floor representatives, who have asked for special heating provisions, find that nothing has been done, and the work people walk out. That kind of walk-out seems totally justified, but neither in the Act nor in the Consultative Document is there anything about an emergency procedure.
I would strongly welcome the addition at the end of 24b of the wordsparticular reference to procedures to be observed in unforeseen or sudden situations.This would put an obligation on employers, unions and work people to observe a kind of "fire brigade" procedure, which would be desirable.
Finally, on paragraphs 27 to 30 of Section D about disclosure of information, we all understand that my right hon. Friend wants to listen to the views of the C.I.R. about the disclosure of information. This could be outside this code of practice. It will be complicated. It indirectly affects the individuals on the shop floor, but more important is the disclosure of information between employers and unions.
I should think that my right hon. Friend is absolutely justified in waiting for the C.I.R. report and making it an addition to this code of practice. But if he does, I suggest that paragraphs 28 and 29 be excluded from the document. Let us leave just the generalities. If paragraphs 28 and 29 are included, this could lead to misunderstandings when the C.I.R. document is finally produced and my right hon. Friend frames his new proposals upon it.
Even if paragraph 30 says:This part of the code will be amended to give fuller guidance".414 It is a pity that the code has to be amended at all. It would be much simpler merely to say that disclosure of information will be dealt with in a separate document.
This has been rather a long jumble of different suggestions—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."]—but important ones, many of which should have been put forward by hon. Members opposite, in the interests of the unions and the work people whom they so often purport to represent. There must be a number of changes in the code. It is an excellent start and most valuable. In a year or two, to the ordinary person working in industry, either in management or on the shop floor, the Bill itself will be something in the background, but the code will be in everyday use, easily understandable, and could introduce a new and sensible backcloth to our industrial relations.
§ 5.35 p.m.
§ Mr. Emlyn Hooson (Montgomery)
The speech of the hon. Member for Harrow, West (Mr. John Page) illustrates the difficulty of making a meaningful contribution to this debate. Without any disrespect to the hon. Member, his points were largely Committee points, selected, as he said, at random, in response to the invitation of his right hon. Friend But if we are to discuss this document in this way, we shall have to go through every Clause and the whole thing will have to be rewritten.
When the right hon. Gentleman suggested that this code could virtually stand on its own apart from the Act, as it could, he was illustrating the very weakness of the code. Why do we need a code of industrial practice? Good employers follow good industrial practice anyway, as do good trade unionists. But we have been getting steadily worsening industrial relations because there are bad employers and there are people who use the power of the unions for ends other than those of their members. That is basically the reason. We are not dealing with good employers or necessarily with good unionists. Therefore, the code should not stand on its own, because it would not mean anything.
When I read this document, I was reminded of the story of the late Ernest Bevin who, when he was sitting in the seat which the right hon. Gentleman 415 occupies and listening to his first debate on foreign affairs, was heard to say in an aside to Mr. Attlee, then Prime Minister, about the leading Opposition Front Bench speech, "Nowt to worry about Clem: clitch after clitch." When one reads this code, one gets just that impression.
In Section b, paragraph 20 says:Good physical working conditions help to achieve good industrial relations.What an immense contribution to our understanding of industrial practice!The first need is to ensure that the standards laid down by law are fully complied with.I should jolly well hope they would be: otherwise, the employers would be prosecuted.But it is not enough by itself, for most workplaces could be made safer, healthier or pleasanter to work in if more care were taken about the working environment.That is all very worthy stuff which no one could dispute. It is a matter of astonishment to me that it is necessary to put that kind of stuff in this code. It is not necessary, and it weakens the code.
I am one of those who supported the idea of an Act dealing with industrial relations. The greatest weakness of the Labour Government is that they did not deal with industrial relations when they were better qualified to deal with it than anyone else. They shirked it. I have very little patience with much of their backbiting criticism; it has made very little impression on me. The last Labour Government will go down in history as a Government which, if they could have dealt with anything, could have dealt with industrial relations. They had an enormous background of experience. They ignored the fact that industrial relations have been getting steadily worse for years and that the public are all aware of it.
§ Mr. Heffer
I am amazed at the hon. and learned Gentleman. He seems to have completely forgotten, first, that the Labour Government established the Donovan Commission; second, that there was a paper—which many of us did not agree with, but there was a paper—and, finally, that there was an Industrial Relations Bill discussed with the trade unions and before this House at the time of the last General Election. For the hon. and learned Member to suggest that the 416 issue of industrial relations had not been discussed or considered by the Labour Party in government is completely untrue.
§ Mr. Hooson
If that is the best the hon. Gentleman can do in defence of his party, I do not think much of it.
§ Mr. Hooson
It is clear that the then Prime Minister, now the Leader of the Opposition, shirked the issue of industrial relations. That was a shame for the nation because the Labour Party, by its nature and background, knows a great deal about industrial relations and the then Government were in a better position than any other to introduce such a Bill.
§ Mr. Hefferrose—
§ Mr. Harold Walkerrose—
§ Mr. Hooson
Nor will I give way to the hon. Gentleman, who is getting beside himself, which is his favourite position in these matters.
I thought that an industrial relations Bill was necessary and that the most important part of it was an industrial relations code. I had in mind a proper code of practice, and I am greatly disappointed by the one that has appeared, much of which is a lot of footling nonsense. I might not object to any part of it, but how can it be a guide to any court which is asked to take the code into account when dealing with the various matters with which it will have to deal.
The sort of nonsense I have quoted from the code may not be nonsense in itself, but it is unnecessary for adult people. We need a precise guide for employers and trade unionists. Though I have disagreed with the right hon. Gentleman over many matters, I have admired his determination and tenacity to introduce the Bill. Unfortunately, however, he has not introduced a code which matches what he has said he is seeking to achieve by the Bill. He should have introduced a carefully considered code. Instead of recommending what should be done, he should have demanded certain action, so enabling the standards 417 of the poorest to be brought up to those of the best far more quickly than will be possible by the code which is before us.
At one point the code says that managements "should take" reasonable steps to do certain things. It should have said "must take", so acting as an absolute guideline. The whole document should be crisper. The right hon. Gentleman has missed a glorious opportunity to bring in properly constituted works councils so that workers would know their rights and responsibilities.
A stage has been reached in this country when a more precise code is needed in certain industries. The Government should have looked not at the United States, where there is a great deal of industrial strife, but at countries in Scandinavia, where there is less strife, and at West Germany, which has had a very good industrial relations record since the war. Many people could have contributed to the success of properly constituted works councils than will be possible as a result of the nebulous consultative works committees which the right hon. Gentleman suggests in this document.
§ Mr. Hooson
The hon. Gentleman makes the very point I was making, that if any party was in a position to institute an adequate industrial relations set-up it was the Labour Party with its experience of trade union affairs. If it did it for Germany, why not for Britain?
The most that can be said for the code that the right hon. Gentleman has introduced is that its sentiments are unexceptionable. It is simply a start. I hope that the next instalment will be a great improvement on what we have had so far, because what we want are real guidelines.
§ 5.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Adam Butler (Bosworth)
We have had some amusing asides from the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. Hooson), but one gathers generally 418 that he regards the code as a lot of "footling nonsense". That is in line with a report I read which described it as containing a "load of guff", though I am not certain of the proper interpretation one should put on that description.
Despite the remarks of the hon. and learned Gentleman and others, it is clear that this code presents some excellent practical guidelines to those companies, managements and unions which are not as far advanced in industrial relations practice as they should be, and this is precisely what my right hon. Friend pointed out. If that is what is achieved, if it will bring those unions and managements into line—and it is the majority of managements and unions which need bringing into line in this way—it will have achieved its purpose. I therefore give a general welcome to the code.
I have always pressed for as long a period of consultation as possible. My right hon. Friend has given four months and has spoken of the number of comments that he has received. It is a measure of great regret that the T.U.C. has not seen fit to consult over this, nor apparently have the majority of unions. This is not in the interests of their members and the nation.
§ Mr. David Mitchell (Basingstoke)
Would my hon. Friend agree that one must regard it as extraordinary that the T.U.C. generously gave its advice to the German nation after the war in the setting up of a modern trade union system but has refused to give it to this country?
§ Mr. Butler
I thank my hon. Friend for that wise remark.
I do not welcome the attitude of Her Majesty's Opposition to this issue. The Amendment, which we cannot discuss, has the flavour of saying, in effect, "We are not prepared to accept a code on Tory terms." That cannot be in the best interests of industrial relations. Hon. Gentlemen opposite should accept that whatever criticisms one may have of the code it is a fair and honest attempt to improve industrial relations. By their attitude hon. Gentlemen opposite are exposing themselves to the charge of not wanting to improve industrial relations. I have no doubt that the House will tonight vote to take note of the code, but by their attitude hon. Gentlemen opposite are telling the unions and their 419 colleagues "Do not take note. Behave as you please." This is a measure of irresponsibility which starts here but which I hope will stop here.
I wish to raise a number of points, and if some of them duplicate the remarks of my hon. Friend the Member for Harrow, West (Mr. John Page), then that will underline our feelings on particular matters.
First, concerning admissibility in evidence, we are not discussing whether this should be so. It is already on the Statute Book. Whatever appears in proposals or recommendations, whether or not they are followed or practised, will be taken into account by the N.I.R.C. or one of the I.Ts. But in view of this admissibility the code became immediately very difficult to write. It has to try to be specific but, on the other hand, it cannot afford to be too restricting. The fact that it is applying throughout the length and breadth of industry, and the fact that it has to apply to every size and type of industry, manufacturing and retailing, for instance, presents an enormous problem. These facts should be recognised in the main body of the code and not just in the introduction to it by the Secretary of State as at present.
I should like a first paragraph to the effect that in the event of a court action judgment should be given in the light of the circumstances and the size of plant, type of operation, etc. Secondly, the aspects of novelty and experimentation must not in any way be prevented. There must be encouragement to that effect.
My second general point is about responsibilities and rights. The code talks freely about responsibilities for management. I should say to the right hon. Member for Blackburn (Mrs. Castle) that if she considers this to be a one-sided code she should really read it, because the responsibilities for management are just as great as those suggested for trade unions. But they are generally confined to those two instead of the individual. The code establishes new rights, as did the Act, but generally it does not give enough emphasis to the responsibility of the individual along with those rights. If possible, I should like to see something written in to rectify that.
I have two other general points. On the question of overlapping with the 420 Act, I find this confusing. In some cases it is unavoidable. Would it be possible in the code itself, or in a guide to it which will doubtless be published after the code has been finalised, to see exactly what the Act says on a particular point? I should like to think that this will be possible because it would be helpful. There are a number of instances where there are statutory requirements laid down by the Act which seem to be repeated in the code and, therefore, there could be a possibility of misunderstanding about the wording or legal meaning.
§ Mr. Hugh Jenkins (Putney)
What will the hon. Gentleman do in the circumstances which he will no doubt illustrate to the House shortly, in which the code of practice contradicts the Act? How will he reconcile that situation?
§ Mr. Butler
I am hopeful that the hon. Gentleman will be fortunate enough to catch your eye, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and will then draw the attention of my right hon. Friend to any such cases.
My other general point is about commercial considerations. However admirable improvements in industrial relations are in their own right, it must be stressed that such improvements are aimed towards an improvement in the running of businesses and in maintaining and increasing the number of jobs. These are the commercial objectives of any enterprise to which improvement in industrial relations can contribute.
I should like to draw the attention of my right hon. Friend to a few details covering a number of points. My criticisms may tend possibly more towards the management side than the trade union side. Perhaps this is inevitable because I am experienced in that way. At the very beginning of the code, Section A paragraph 2 refers to the need… for management at the highest level to accept the same degree of responsibility for industrial relations".There are still too many companies which, if they do not have a personnel or industrial relations director on their boards, do have a person who is not sufficiently qualified or, in many cases, who is dealing with another subject as well. The attitude often is: "We have old Bill. He is involved in research. It is not keeping him very busy at present. We will give him personnel." Where that is the case, as I believe it to be so, it is 421 totally wrong and will be falling outside this particular requirement of the Act.
It is not just the stream of management that derives from that particular director which should have an understanding of industrial relations. I would suggest a small amendment here. Section A5 proposes thatAll members of management who have a major responsibility for collective bargaining should be given training".I would suggest that all members of management "especially those who have responsibility" for collective bargaining should be given training, saying, in effect, that all members of management—perhaps we should specifically say "production management" but possibly even the sales management and others—should have some training in industrial relations. In effect, this means that one of the guides to the Act—I do not ask them to read the Act itself—should become compulsory reading for all management throughout industry.
My second detailed point is about the responsibility of unions. I have spoken in the House before about this. Whilst the "principal aim of trade unions is to promote their members' interests"—I subscribe entirely to this—they have a responsibility for the success of the undertaking. This is simply a matter of unions seeing that the jobs and wages of their members depend on the future of the business, depend on the sales being achieved and on the production being carried out on time, and depend on profits being made. Those are unexceptional words, but the sooner our trade unions realise this simple and elementary fact, the sooner industrial relations will improve.
I must go through these points because this is the only opportunity that we have to make such detailed suggestions. I know that the Department will take into account what we say today in the same way as it will have done on receipt of the many representations made to it.
Page 9 of the code mentions the responsibilities of employers' associations. Surely their main aim, like that of the unions, is to promote the interests of their members, because if they do not do that they should not exist. That should certainly be written into the code.
Section B "Employment Policies", mentions planning and use of manpower. 422 This is a subject close to my heart because I have frequently had to try to identify the causes of and try to reduce absenteeism and labour turnover. I have struggled with attempts to persuade workers to transfer from one job to another or to be ready to do so, and this is a problem which does not always attract the full co-operation of the unions concerned. It is essential for people to be able to transfer from job to job, certainly in those areas of production to which I am used, in order to maintain production or to avoid sending home a particular section. But the logical outcome of reducing absenteeism and labour turnover is the reduction to a minimum or nil level. Some degree of labour turnover is always welcome because inevitably there are redundancy situations, and a drain-away through turnover is much the best way of making a cut in the labour force.
My hon. Friend the Member for Harrow, West referred to the question of occupational pension and sick pay schemes. I disagree with his view on this matter. It should not be part of the code. The code requests companies to accept an additional wage cost. It requires managements to run pension and sick pay schemes which will affect their total wage bill. [Interruption.] I assure hon. Members opposite that I am not against sick pay or occupational pension schemes, but I believe them to be a subject for negotiation between management and unions and that requirements about them should not be made in a code like this, because some unions will press for higher wages at the expense of sick pay schemes and others, looking for security for their members, will go for the latter. It would be quite wrong if an employer appearing before the N.I.R.C. was adjudged to have failed in this respect because the union preferred to press for higher wages at the expense of sick pay or possibly occupational pension schemes. I therefore suggest that the provisions in the code about such schemes should be excluded.
Lastly, I wish to deal with the question of the consultative committee. The right hon. Lady the Member for Blackburn talked about an "out-of-date distinction" between the negotiating committee and the consultative committee. I agree with her that in the ideal 423 situation a joint negotiation and consultative committee is the best, but she knows as well as I do that the ideal situation does not obtain in all industries. Where it does not exist, I entirely support the proposal in the code that a consultative committee should be established in companies of a certain size. I do not mind whether the size is 250. I believe that it could be as small as 100. Certainly there should be a two-way flow of information, and there must be avoidance of the inevitable lapsing, in many cases, into discussion about toilets and teas—the two T's which are a well known subject for discussion at works councils.
Consultative committees must be effective. I am not sure that the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery is right in saying that a precise code should be drawn up for them. If such a code is to be drawn up, it must be flexible and probably should not form part of a code such as this because the circumstances which operate in different companies vary widely.
I am glad that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State did not say that the code was similar to the Highway Code. We have heard a bit too much of that analogy. Nevertheless, I propose to use it! The Highway Code applies to a single driver at the wheel of a car. In this case at least dual controls will operate. Employers and unions must drive this vehicle successfully together with both hands on both wheels. For that reason, harmony between the two is essential! I welcome the code as being a major contribution towards achieving this harmony.
§ 6.5 p.m.
§ Mr. Thomas Swain (Derbyshire, North-East)
It is now five minutes past six. The debate started at about five minutes to four. I have listened to four speeches in favour of the code of practice and one against. I propose to say why I am 100 per cent. against accepting this code.
The main reason is that it is allied to the Act, which was the most vicious piece of legislation that I have seen passed in the 12 years that I have been a Member of the House. It was bulldozed through the House by the Secretary of State and his colleagues in spite of the voice of the 424 trade unions and hon. Members on this side, and in spite of the opinion throughout the country wherever working men gathered that it was wrong for it to be placed on the Statute Book. Nothing good can be said about the outside left in a very bad team.
I wish to deal with a situation in my constituency in which the code, or indeed any code of honest practice, is being completely disregarded by the employers, but before doing so I wish to take up one point made by the hon. Member for Harrow, West (Mr. John Page), who made an excellent case for the limitation of back bench speeches to two minutes, about the responsibility on the trade unions for the education of their members so that they may protect the interests of the membership. For some years every major trade union has been conducting a massive education programme. The National Union of Mineworkers in the Derbyshire area, one of the inaugurators of the scheme, educates 60 of its members every year at the Sheffield University extra-mural department on a two-day release course in the management, control and protection of the members of the trade unions and on the problems thrown up by the industry in which they work. The trade unions have set an example which has never been followed by the management.
In the National Coal Board the most important link between the management and the men is the personnel officer. However, nine out of ten of the personnel officer posts at pits have been filled by members of the management, who have failed miserably because of their lack of understanding in relations between management and men. This is a fundamental issue. Management has failed the industry by not training its personnel in industrial relations. The managers fathers have sent them to university and have educated them very well and they have obtained degrees. But there is no university degree on labour relations, because it is not a science. But, as a result of many years' experience in labour relations in the mining industry, I say that it is a science which must be understood and that it can be learned only through experience of the problems which are presented.
425 I should like to deal with paragraph I on management responsibilities. It says:Management has the primary responsibility for good industrial relations and should take the initiative in creating and maintaining them.Paragraph 6 states:Where trade unions are recognised, management should (a) take the initiative in seeking to establish, jointly with the trade unions concerned, effective procedures for negotiation, consultation, communication and the settlement of grievances and disputes; … (c) encourage employees to join a recognised union and to play an active part in its work.In my constituency 130 men have been on strike for the past 28 days. They have been on strike for one reason. The three items with which I have dealt in this code have been completely disregarded by the management of Ingram's, central heating engineers, of Clay Cross, Derbyshire. In the first place, it took us 11 years to get the firm to recognise the trade union, the A.E.U.W. Only three months ago the firm realising the implications of the Act, decided to recognise the trade union. Incidentally, the management of this firm had me forcibly ejected from the roadside when I was adressing the men at that firm during the General Election. I was not asked to go; I was ejected forcibly. One gentleman grabbed the microphone and wanted to speak through it. So I politely shoved it down his throat and let him squeal through it. That is the sort of firm that we are dealing with, the sort of firm that has been assisting the Government financially at election time to bring in such legislation as the Trade Union Act.
§ Mr. Swain
I apologise to the hon. Lady. Of course, I mean the Industrial Relations Act, and this code of practice. The hon. Lady has a wealth of experience, sitting there yapping. It is a waste of time talking to such people.
This firm recognised the trade union. The average wage in that firm prior to the recognition of the trade union worked out at £8 10s. per week. In three weeks, when the employees drew their holiday pay and one week's wages, the firm paid out to each male employee £22 10s. That included two weeks' holiday pay. 426 Immediately after the holidays the trade union made representations to the management and asked for a meeting to discuss the normal trade union practices in strict accordance with this code. It met with an agreed agenda on such matters as a meeting to discuss an established machinery for further discussion, the introduction of a code of practice within the factory and the instruction of shop stewards on their duties now that there was recognition within the factory.
At the end of the meeting the management summarily announced that there were 10 redundancies to be notified on that day, and the first two names on the list of redundancies were those of the senior shop steward and the next in line of the union which had been recognised. Was not this a contravention of any code of honest practice? Of course it was. It was a sin and a shame. Hon. Members opposite voted for this to happen. In fact, half of them have been practising it all their lives when they have been able to get away with it.
It is for this reason that Ingram's factory has been out on strike for a month. The district convenor of the trade union, a respected trade union in my part of the world, met the management and begged that, strictly in accordance with the national policy accepted by all good employers in this country, a system of work sharing should take place so that the 10 men could be kept for a minimum period on short time. In the central heating industry, particularly in a firm of this size, there are periods of boom and slump. The slump comes in the summer and the boom comes in the winter. It is expected that by the end of this month this firm will be advertising for men, but the management still insists that these 10 men, because they had the audacity to join a trade union, should be declared redundant, and the management is not prepared to discuss the question of work sharing.
I therefore ask the House: who are the people who are prepared to implement an honest-to-goodness code of practice in the interests not only of the members of the trade union but of the firm with which they were negotiating? If that firm had accepted the proposals of the trade union which all good employers have accepted, that firm would now be in production and the dispute 427 would be over. I am glad to say that by dint of negotiation with the management the men were able to get not a big increase but a slight increase in their wages.
I condemn the fact that this code of practice was not presented at the time of the presentation of the Bill. The Government were aware of it. If this idea was not ready for putting on paper after the all-night sitting on the Bill, they at least knew exactly what was going to be in it, and I accuse the Government of doing the same with this code of practice as they did with the Bill.
§ Mr. David Mitchell
Was the hon. Gentleman not aware that this draft of the code which he has in his hand was published in June before the House went into recess?
§ Mr. Swain
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that this House did not get an opportunity to debate this code of practice at any time up to the day that we went into recess? It is only on the Floor of the House that we can create a forum by which the country is made aware of the opinions of the official Opposition, and of the semi-official opposition, who I see are well represented in this House at the moment. We did not get an opportunity to debate it.
We have already reached a situation in this country where bad employers, particularly the smaller firms which the right hon. Gentleman mentioned, are refusing to obey any sections of this so-called code of practice. I would not support or move an amendment to the code of practice. I would not move an amendment to anything relating to the Industrial Relations Act. Every word, from the first to the last word, is as rotten as the pears which have lain on a greengrocer's table for three months.
The hon. Member for Harrow, West evidently did not know whether it was Tuesday or Thursday when he was talking about the code of practice. He was trying to amend it. Hon. Members who have spoken in support of this code apparently believe that it is so full of holes that they are not convinced that it will work in the interests of both sides of industry.
I hope that the House will defeat the Motion to take note of the code tonight, 428 and I hope that before we have any code of practice established further discussions will take place so that we may fully understand the implications not only of the code now before us but of the Act itself.
§ 6.20 p.m.
§ Mr. Geoffrey Finsberg (Hampstead)
I find the hon. Member for Derbyshire, North-East (Mr. Swain) a very strange person. I have had some experience of his part of the world, and I know about these matters. The hon. Gentleman complains about the code of practice now before us, and when my hon. Friend the Member for Basingstoke (Mr. David Mitchell) points out that it was published in June he says that we did not have time to debate it before the House adjourned for the recess. Had we debated it before the recess, of course, the hon. Gentleman would have been on his feet grumbling that there was not sufficient time for consultation to take place. He wants it both ways. He is satisfied neither way.
The hon. Gentleman told us about a company in his constituency and said that it had behaved badly. He fails to acknowledge or understand that only when this code of practice and the provisions of the Act are being operated will that sort of company not be able to get away with it. If he could prove his charge that men were made redundant because they had engaged in trade union activities, then, whether they had worked there for one day or 10 years, that would be an unfair practice and there would be severe penalties on the company.
The hon. Gentleman should remember also that the tribunals can operate and see that all sides are properly looked after only if the trade unions nominate their representatives as well. If the tribunals cannot operate, it will be the unions which will be responsible for creating a state of affairs in which members of trade unions unfairly dismissed cannot have a proper tribunal to go to.
§ Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover)
I, too, have been involved in a smaller way in the events which my hon. Friend the Member for Derbyshire, North-East (Mr. Swain) described. I have some constituents working there as well. That firm and its principal directors have made it 429 abundantly clear that every action which they have taken during the past few weeks has been in accord with the Industrial Relations Act and any code of practice which will ensue. As far as they are concerned, they are quite happy with the Act on the Statute Book, and, of course, there are others who will implement it in the same way.
§ Mr. Finsberg
That odd intervention merely reinforces one's impression that the hon. Gentleman has not read the Act or the code.
I greatly welcome the document before us, which merits careful examination. It has certainly given a welcome opportunity to the right hon. Lady the Member for Blackburn (Mrs. Castle), who was gagged at her own party conference and not allowed to reply or talk on this subject because she was a liability and lacked credibility. Now, having heard her speech today, I cannot believe that very much was missed. The right hon. Lady did not make much of a case. She said that we were in an odd situation, but all we had from her was a strange whining dissertation from a script probably supplied by those very people who forced her to climb down on "In Place of Strife". Of one thing we can be certain. The right hon. Lady's remarks today, which were fighting the battle of August over again, will not go down well in the country. They may go down well in certain newspapers, but they will not impress the general public much.
The code sets down what the best employers and the best trade union officials operate today. I have been professionally engaged for about 11 years in industrial relations. Also, I have had experience as a member of a trade union. In fact, I took part in an anti-Red revolution, helping to rid my branch of a trade union of Communist domination. So I can claim to know something of both sides—never mind about working at the coalface.
The code holds lessons for many. It holds lessons for the bad employer, and it holds lessons for the bad trade union official. The attitude of some employers, who say either that they know it all or that they want nothing to do with trade unions, is as archaic as that of the unions which will not discuss the code. It will be no good members of a trade union 430 saying at a branch meeting or conference that the code is not what they want since so far the T.U.C. has abdicated its responsibility and has refused to engage in meaningful consultation.
The public realise what the situation is. On another issue, the question of the Common Market, we hear many cries from hon. Members opposite calling for a referendum. If there were a referendum on the Industrial Relations Act and the code, well over 70 per cent. of the general public would thank this Government for introducing them and would condemn the T.U.C. for not being public spirited.
The hon. Member for Salford, West (Mr. Orme) is not in his place at the moment, but I must take up the point which he tried to make in an intervention during the Secretary of State's speech. My right hon. Friend was speaking of the comments and advice which he had received, and the hon. Member for Salford, West intervened to say that he had slipped in the names of organisations which had little to do with industrial relations. But did the hon. Member refer to the Industrial Society, or to the C.B.I., or to the British Institute of Management, or to the Institute of Personnel Management, to all of which my right hon. Friend referred, and all of which have claims as good as that of the T.U.C. to speak with knowledge on industrial relations problems? It was a cheap debating point which the hon. Gentleman tried to make in an effort to cloud the issue.
I make no apology now for raising one or two points on the code. There is no Committee stage, quite rightly, and this is the occasion when Members can raise points and have them noted by my right hon. Friend and his colleagues in the Department. I hope that they will be taken into account when the final code is put to the House for approval.
The points which I have to make are not critical of the concept of the code; they are part of an honest attempt to make something practical even better. If hon. Members opposite wish to waste their time talking about the badness of the code, they will miss an opportunity to make it a better code.
First, I feel that paragraph 17 on page 9 of the code runs the risk of proliferating professions. There are recognised professions—for example, solicitors, lawyers, 431 doctors, nurses—and I am worried lest this paragraph could in time be used by, say, public relations consultants or computer societies and at once draw in a whole new framework of professions of which the members, having adopted a code in their profession, would then find difficulty in complying with normal business requirements or normal trade union requirements in carrying out their day-to-day jobs. I hope that my right hon. Friend will consider this point and perhaps in the redrafting of the code try to tighten this paragraph so as to confine it to recognised professions.
Second, paragraph 10 on page 11 seems rather strange. Speaking of young people entering employment for the first time, it talks abouta general introduction to working lifeandbasic training in their general occupation".Surely that is stage two, and we have missed out a vital element? What about the educationists? What about the schools, which have a responsibility not to send their pupils out into the world knowing nothing about the general problems of employment. I hope that the redraft will make it clear that educational establishments have a responsibility at least to give basic training and a basic concept of what is involved. They cannot just shovel their pupils out into the wide world. They have a responsibility which I believe they would be happy to accept, and the code should mention it.
I wonder what paragraph 14b on page 12 means when it refers to:or other causes beyond their control.I can understand the reference toreasonable job security for employees absent through sicknessbut what does that final phrase mean? Those dangerously wide six words should be omitted. The phrase could open a floodgate to quibble and dispute, and I do not believe that it has any relevance to the paragraph.
Paragraph lb on page 15 says:their views are sought on existing practices and on proposed changes which would affect them.We are starting off in a world which is not perfect, an industrial world which 432 has existed for centuries. Therefore, is it not perhaps a mistake to seek views on existing practices? Clearly, they will have been hallowed by time; they will be age-old items used in trade union negotiations. I have taken part in them year in and year out, and I know that people say, "Well, it has always been done this way. We had better leave it." Would not it be wiser in a code of practice to confine those points to changes, and not have a formal suggestion that views should be sought on existing practices? Where we have good employers and good unions—which is what the code is all about, as it is showing us what the best already do—why start to question, and set out a section offering questioning on, existing practices? This is not wise. Quite a few leading officials of trade unions to whom I have spoken wonder why it was put in.
In paragraph 7 on page 16 there is the first mention of consultative machinery. What does the figure of 250 employees mean? My right hon. Friend rightly admitted that it was a flexible figure. But does it mean full-time or part-time employees? If we are giving general guidance in the code, we want to know the answer to that. I have assumed, as I think we must, that it is either 250 full-time employees or 500 part-time employees, which is the normal way of reckoning in industrial relations.
The last of my detailed points concerns the whole section on bargaining units on page 18. I am worried by the possible multiplication of bargaining units. I do not apologise for being a strong believer in having one union for each industry. Now that some general unions like U.S.D.A.W. and the T. & G.W.U. have supervisory sections I believe that we are nearer to achieving one union per industry. I am a little worried about the section. If it were accepted and implemented, it might make it more difficult where there are agreements in force between employers and particular unions if representation and negotiations are splintered. I should be much happier if we could find a better way, so that we can confine ourselves as much as possible to one union per industry.
There is nothing more frustrating, more valuable or interesting, than the human problems involved in industrial relations. Whenever one sits down at a table with 433 a trade union official for the annual round of wage negotiations, he will start off with a 20-minute or 30-minute speech laced with political facts and figures, and one has to reply in kind. After that old-fashioned ritual, one gets down to talking common sense, and it is that sort of common sense that is in the document. The code is a recipe for co-operation and partnership. I do not accept the arguments which we have heard this afternoon that all employers are bad and that all unions are good. I have met some rotten unions and some good employers. We have to learn to live with each other. If we do not, we shall cut each other's throats. That is what will happen in the sort of case about which we have been told by the hon. Members who sit for different parts of Derbyshire. Clearly, to judge by what they said—and they would not expect me to accept everything they said without knowing all the facts, as they do—the employer concerned is a bad employer. Equally, going by many things we have heard in the House from this side, they would agree that there are bad union officials or bad unions.
§ Mr. Finsberg
Fortunately, it is not only prehistoric man who resides on the Opposition side of the House. There are some members of the Labour Party who are living in 1970 and not behaving as if they were living in the days of the Tolpuddle Martyrs.
I am satisfied that the code is a genuine attempt to be helpful, and that it will be accepted as such by the general public. I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for explaining it and giving those firms not already engaged in the type of industrial relations with which it deals the opportunity to learn from the example of the past.
§ 6.39 p.m.
§ Mr. Hugh Jenkins (Putney)
This code is a very curious document. It is not the first Consultative Document to be issued during the lifetime of the Act. An earlier document was produced before we had the Bill. The hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. Hooson) was wrong to suggest that the code is separate from the Bill. On the contrary, one of the things that remain in the Bill 434 more or less as it began is the idea of a code.
This code consists of broad generalisations, which is odd, because the original forecast of what the Government would do included their statement that they intended in due course to lay before Parliament a code of industrial relations practice. The first four Sections of the Act all refer to the Government's intention to introduce the code. Therefore, the hon. and learned Gentleman was very wrong to suggest that it was nothing to do with the Act. I wish that it had nothing to do with the Act. But it is a very strange document.
Normally, in an Act of Parliament, the House determines some general propositions and then spells them out afterwards, sometimes in regulations made under the Act. In this case the situation is reversed. The hard stuff is in the Act and the waffle is in the code. That is why the code has been dealt with rather lightly—having been cast on one side—by most trade unions. Everyone knows that the emollient phrases in the document are not the substance of the Act. The hard stuff is in the Act itself.
When we try to assess the value of the code we run up against the problem that at all stages its bland statements are simply not in accord with the fact that in many cases the Act will not permit the operation of the principles laid down by the code. On page 8 of the Consultative Document, paragraph 9 says:To secure these aims"—that is, the promotion of members' interests by trade unions—trade unions should: co-operate with employers' associations in establishing effective procedures at industry level …and so on. In the entertainments industry that has been done. There exist procedures and agreements between employers and the appropriate unions. As a part of those agreements and procedures it is laid down that there shall be some limitation of entry into the industry. But the Act itself tells us that pre-entry closed shop agreements are void. So what the code says should be done—indeed, what has already been done—the Act will seek to render void. The Act destroys the proposition. The Act says that if people have agreed to co-operate in a certain way it is void.
435 One can point to the similar duty of employers' associations. Paragraph 13, on page 9 of the Consultative Document, says that they shouldco-operate with the trade unions concerned in establishing effective procedures at industry level for the negotiation of terms and conditions of employment …and so on. But where that has been done, and where it is part of an agreement that all employers in an industry shall conform to the agreement between the union and the employers' association, the teeth which the union needs to give effect to the agreement are to be drawn by the Act. So one can go on.
Then the Consultative Document deals with the question of individual employees.
Paragraph 15, on page 9, states that:The basic relationship between employer and employee is defined in the individual contract of employment.In some industries there is no individual contract of employment in a written sense. I believe that a contract of employment exists in one sense or another, oral or written, in every engagement or piece of employment, but in some industries there exist written agreements and contracts of employment in every case. Those existing agreements are not invalid at the moment. It is important for employers to understand that the Act is not yet in force in full, so that contracts of employment which exist in the entertainments industry are in force at the moment and cannot be abrogated by either side. But it is the intention of the Act that those contracts shall be rendered void, because they contain the type of clause which is invalidated by the Act.
So, all through, we come across broad propositions laid down in the code which the Act says shall be varied or changed, or in some cases made impossible of operation. To my surprise I found myself in agreement with one point made by the hon. Member for Hampstead (Mr. Geoffrey Finsberg). He drew attention to paragraph 17 on page 9. He referred to the sentence which says:An employee who belongs to a profession with a recognised code of conduct has an obligation to comply with that code.The hon. Gentleman was rather worried about that. I approach the question from a rather different angle. I believe that it is one thing in the code which might be of some value. It may be that pro- 436 fessions which at present have not organised themselves as professions will be forced to do so in order to give themselves some powers under the code, so I regard that sentence as something which may bring about a search for what has hitherto defied human ingenuity—that is, to define what is an actor, to try to discover whether it is possible to devise some qualification.
The industry may be forced to do something which it has hitherto set its face against—the idea of creating a standard; of saying, "You can act but this other person cannot". This it has never done. It has always taken the view that only one person shall say who shall take the stage or go before the camera, and that is the employer. Admittedly, when a new face comes in he has to join the union, and agreement limits the numbers entitled to enter. Equity has never attempted to lay down who the person admitted shall be, or with what qualification. The Act may well force the union to try to do the sort of thing that it has avoided doing—to lay down a professional qualification and replace in some other way what is to be taken from the organisation by this Act—its ability to limit the numbers coming in.
On page 10, under the heading "Employment Policies", paragraph 7 saysManagement should therefore: a define the qualifications and experience needed to do the job to be filled;If the qualification which the management defines is that the person to be engaged shall already be a member of the trade union at the time of engagement, then that qualification is prohibited from fulfilment under the Act. It might limit the people whom the management employs to existing members of the trade union. If the employer does that, he may well become guilty of an unfair practice under the Act. So once again the Act will prevent from being carried out precisely what the code says should be carried out.
On page 11 of the Consultative Document there is a section dealing with training. The hon. Member for Hampstead touched upon this and referred to the words:To be successful an undertaking needs adequately trained employees.That is true, but the hon. Gentleman might have gone on to say that to be 437 successful an industry does not need too many employees, trained or untrained; he could have drawn attention to the fact that public money is being spent on turning out large numbers of people who cannot get employment in the entertainment industry. In many cases they never do get it, or get it for only a short period. Under the Act it is rendered impossible for any control to be exercised, or relationship to be laid down, in regard to the number of people coming in. It will no longer be possible even to try to relate the number of entrants to the number which the industry can reasonably absorb.
That is to be made impossible, but it is precisely what Equity, in association with the best employers, has been trying to do; drawing up casting agreements in an attempt to draw the initial cast from existing union members. The management does not go further afield until it has exhausted the possibilities of casting from within the union. Such agreements are not invalid at the moment, but the intention of the Act is that they shall be rendered invalid.
In spite of difficulties and problems, the British Actors Equity Association has, absolutely rightly in my view, obeyed the instructions of the Trades Union Congress. It has already deregistered in order to conform with the views of the rest of the trade union movement. Nevertheless, it should be recognised that grave difficulties will be involved either way. At the moment no inducement of any real substance is offered to this union to register, because the propositions advanced in the code are negatived by the Act.
In page 12, which deals with the status and security of employees, managements are called upon to provide… the greatest possible stability of employment and earnings …They should also provide "reasonable job security". But if management tries to provide those things in the only way that has been found possible in this industry it runs against the Act itself. The Act seeks to render management incapable of operating the practices which experience on both sides has shown to be the only way of limiting entry in this particularly difficult business.
438 Working conditions are dealt with in page 13. I do not think that the Minister of State, this evening, can offer us one possibility of fundamental changes in the code which will enable the things to which I have referred to be dealt with, because that would need changes not in the code but in the Act. It would be optimistic to suppose that in this debate the hon. Gentleman will be able to say that he intends to advise his right hon. Friend to make the changes in the Act which I seek.
Under the heading "Working Conditions" we read:Good physical working conditions help to achieve good industrial relations.Perhaps the Minister can tell us that it is the Government's intention to extend the provisions of the Factories Acts, or of the Offices, Shops and Railway Premises Act, to the entertainment industry, so that at long last decent working conditions can be provided backstage and elsewhere. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will take this opportunity to tell us that.
The Act threatens to take away some of the protections that have been erected over the years in a peculiarly difficult, problematical and uncertain industry. At its highest levels we are dealing with an art and a craft, but those levels can be reached only if they have a firm industrial basis. It is not by accident that the British entertainment world has reached such an extraordinarily high level. The reason is a firm organisational base, and if the Government intend to undermine that base they must provide a replacement for it.
I hope that the hon. Gentleman will also be able to say that it is the Government's intention to look again at the Theatrical Employers' Registration Act. At the moment that is a pretty useless piece of legislation, of no great value, but if the Government were so minded they could bring in entertainment employers registration legislation which had teeth, and which would require such employers to conform to reasonable standards of conduct. It could provide, for example, that an agent might not at the same time be an employer to whom a man pays 10 per cent. of his earnings. That practice is rife at present, and legislation to prevent it would be welcomed.
If the Minister finds himself unable to agree to the other things for which I have 439 asked I hope that he will at least be able to give us some hope in respect of those last two points, and so throw a ray of light in an area which at present looks very dark.
§ 6.57 p.m.
§ Mr. David Mitchell (Basingstoke)
The central theme of the Industrial Relations Act is that of raising the standard of conduct of employers and trade unions, and also of providing machinery which will operate in the case of a breakdown. In the code we have the natural corollary to the Act. It follows that same theme, and the more successful it is and the more use that is made of it the less the likelihood of breakdown in industry, and the less need to use the machinery provided in the Act.
That being so, I should have expected hon. Members opposite, and more particularly the T.U.C., to have wished to enter into full consultation with the Government on the terms of the code. I join with other hon. Members—outspokenly on this side and, I suspect, silently on the other side—who regret this rather petty and narrow attitude of the T.U.C., which organisation could have played a part in shaping the code and fulfil the objective of peaceful industrial relations which it believes to be in the national interest.
The code makes clear that industrial relations is the responsibility of top management. It provides a check list of good practices and procedure and stresses the importance of communication. Far too many companies have no company industrial relations policy. Far too many have no senior management at director level specifically charged with responsibility in this field. Oh yes, they have a sales director, a production director, a finance director, but many companies have no industrial relations director; no one in the boardroom with prime responsibility in this connection?
One understands how it has happened that many companies have given no priority here. They have grown from the one-man business; from the time when the working proprietor knew all his employees by their Christian names, and knew that if ever a problem arose they would approach him and chat it over with him. But as that working proprietor gets 440 older his idea that the door is always open—"The men can always come in to see me"—although a reality to him may no longer be a reality on the workshop floor. For new employees there is a hidden barrier, and an overwhelming need to have some sort of machinery for communication, and the part that the code plays in bringing that about is of great importance.
Companies lacking a policy in this respect leave an area of uncertainty, and an area of uncertainty invites probing. If there is a wildcat strike, what will the management do? Nobody knows. What procedure the management will follow has not been set out beforehand, and so trouble is invited. When trouble comes a so-called policy has to be evolved, in the face of a strike and with the production manager or sales director shouting that he must have orders completed. That is not a policy; that is a reaction.
I welcome the code because, among other reasons, it will make managements work out a policy for industrial relations. Indeed, the code is better than most books on the subject. I would call it the Everyman's Guide, or the Do-It-Yourself way to good industrial relations.
I turn to some of its defects—for this is an opportunity for the House to draw the attention of the Secretary of State to some features which cause concern. Paragraph 16, on page 12, is concerned with conditions of work and the status of certain employees—that is, employees who are not white-collar workers. However, it is not the purpose of the code to concern itself with conditions of work or with the status of groups of employees. Those are matters for negotiation.
I turn to a matter about which I am much concerned and about which I strongly urge the Government to make a change. Paragraph 23, on page 20, refers to arbitration. It says:Disputes are broadly of two kinds: disputes of right, which relate to the application or interpretation of existing agreements or contracts of employment; disputes of interest, which relate to claims by employees or proposals by management affecting terms and conditions of employment.It is highly desirable that there should be arbitration in disputes of right and the interpretation of agreements. Indeed, I would go so far as to say that wherever possible there ought to be a voluntary 441 agreement that in disputes about the application or interpretation of an agreement there should be arbitration, and that that arbitration should be accepted by both sides.
But it is totally wrong to suggest that the two sides should be propelled towards arbitration in the other sort of dispute—about rates or amounts of pay, which is a dispute of interest. Such arbitration almost inevitably results in a splitting of the difference, and thus to an inflationary settlement. When arbitration is used in such cases a union will generally put in a larger claim, knowing that the arbitration will split the difference, and so the employees will get a little more.
Paragraph 25d, on page 21 says:independent conciliation or arbitration or both are desirable as the final stage of any disputes procedure.For the reason that I have just indicated, that practice would be disastrous if it became widespread. The next subsection says:Arbitration can be used to settle all types of dispute. …So it could, but I hope that it will not be, because that would be inflationary and damaging.
I agree, however, that arbitrationis particularly suitable for settling disputes of right and its wider use for that purpose is desirable.I would cut out the rest of the beginning of that paragraph with its dangerous overtones about the use of arbitration for settling disputes of interest or the size of wage claims.
Paragraph 12, on page 9, says that trade unionists should be prepared to provide the resources necessary for the unions to carry out their functions. That is the understatement of the year. If trade unionists are to secure the right service and are to bargain on equal terms with management they must expect to pay considerably more in subscriptions. The sooner that that is known and recognised the better. Raising trade union standards and the ability of trade unions to recruit personnel of the high calibre required to serve them are immensely important.
There are two reasons. First, unions are enabled to be sure of extracting as much as possible in practical terms from 442 employers. Secondly, it is important that a union should know how far it can go without endangering the employment of its members. Because of the relationship of the capital equipment in a factory to employment within that factory, unions have immense power, because resisting a strike may cost an employer a fantastic sum. If it uses that power without responsibility, without knowing what damage it is doing to the employment prospects of its members, a union serves its members ill.
Trade unionists should expect to pay higher subscriptions, and trade unions should seek to secure men of the highest calibre not only in order to push up wages but to know when not to push them up and so damage employment prospects, as has happened on far too many occasions in the past year. The right hon. Member for Blackburn (Mrs. Castle) compared the number of working days lost in certain months of 1970 with those lost in the corresponding months of this year. Working days are not lost if employers give in to every strike or to every proposal for a wage increase, but that is to sow the dragon's teeth, and we have been reaping the results during this year.
My right hon. Friend spoke of making industrial relations more peaceful. The code and the Act taken together provide the means and the machinery for men of good will on both sides of industry to achieve progress and peaceful industrial relations. Let us hope that the good will will begin to show itself to the benefit of industrial relations as well as to the workers in industry during the rest of this debate.
§ 7.9 p.m.
§ Mr. Stanley Orme (Salford, West)
I will not comment on the dissertation by the hon. Member for Basingstoke (Mr. David Mitchell) on how the trade unions should look after their own affairs, and how they should pay more money to highly paid people to tell them how not to ask for wage increases. The trade unions see themselves in a rather different light. There are many low-paid workers in our society. What we need is a high wage—high investment economy, and the Government's actions have retarded our progress towards that goal. The observations made about the code today 443 have no part to play in the real industrial society in which we live and work.
It is interesting to observe how the mood of the Secretary of State has changed. What a different person he is from when he introduced the Industrial Relations Act! Then we were told that the trade unions had to be restricted, their powers were too great, the balance in industry had gone too much in favour of the workers, and whether we liked it or not the Act had to be put on to the Statute Book. The right hon. Gentleman was not interested in whether the trade unions negotiated with him. He told us at the beginning that he would not consult the T.U.C.
§ Mr. R. Carr
The hon. Gentleman is claiming to tell the House a lot of things he says I have said. Would he give a single reference to where I have said any of those things?
§ Mr. Orme
The right hon. Gentleman knows that what I am saying is true. When we asked for more time so that the T.U.C. could be consulted over the Consultative Document the right hon. Gentleman said "Of course I will consult the T.U.C., but not about the basic tenents of the proposals". In other words, he said, "I am prepared to listen to peripheral arguments but not to fundamental changes."
§ Mr. Carr
When the Labour Party has been elected to Government and proposes to nationalise the steel industry, for example, does it consult the industry about whether it should nationalise it? It does not consult about the principle on which it was elected; it is prepared to consult about how to do it.
§ Mr. Orme
We are talking about industrial and human relations. That is what the right hon. Gentleman had already slammed the door on. It was a very different Secretary of State who went to the Conservative Party Conference last week and made, at the end of his peroration—which I and many others saw on television—an appeal to the trade unions to co-operate, after the Government have dealt with the unions in this fashion. The Prime Minister made the same appeal. This is from a Government that have created unemployment, that have seen a deterioration in industrial relations, that 444 have seen children of 7 deprived of milk, and have introduced many other social measures. They then ask the trade unions for co-operation, saying, "We would like you to co-operate. We have a Code of Industrial Relations Practice and we would like you to be partners. We would like your observations."
The people on our side of the House rightly refuse to go into detailed discussions about the document because we believe that it is a platitudinous document, written with the help of Mrs. Mary Whitehouse. It is full of godliness, goodness and cleanliness, but has nothing to do with industrial relations. The central part deals with such issues as mutuality and the status quo in industry, but what does the right hon. Gentleman have to say about giving workers the chance to be on an even footing with management? Not a thing. What relevance has this to the current industrial relations situation, where the engineering unions and the employers are at odds over the York Memorandum, forced upon the unions in 1922 as a result of a lock-out?
The unions say that they are not prepared to go any further because the employers will not negotiate a status quo agreement. Does the Minister turn to the engineering employers, tell them that he wants good industrial relations and does not want to see the end of the York Memorandum, and ask them to meet the unions on the point? The unions ask that while a dispute goes through a short negotiating procedure the status quo should operate. The employers' side has always operated it. Why cannot the unions have the same right? The Minister is not prepared to say that.
On the question of piece-work agreements he says that there should be an agreement, but the engineering unions and those in the manufacturing industries have a basis of mutuality. That means that they are not prepared to have forced upon them wages or conditions that are not mutually agreed. It is surely the right of a worker in the atmosphere of today's industry, with its conglomerates, to assert his bargaining right with the employer. What does the document say about that? Not a thing. The Minister knows that on the real issues it pontificates about godliness, cleanliness and everything else.
445 More important, the code is tied to the Industrial Relations Act. The Minister attacks the T.U.C. for not co-operating, and hon. Members opposite are delighted to have his permission to fire their arrows at Vic Feather and the T.U.C. How can the T.U.C. discuss a document based on an Act, based on legal sanctions? How can the T.U.C. consult about a document which can be quoted before the Industrial Court, not for a breach of the code, but which can be used in evidence against any union?
§ Mr. John Page
The hon. Gentleman asks "How?". Does he not agree that the life of this Act—however much he dislikes it and however unlikely is the return of a Labour Government after the next election may be—will be four or five years at his most optimistic estimate? Is it not wrong, therefore, that Mr. Feather and others should not try to make the life of their members better during the next five years?
§ Mr. Orme
The hon. Gentleman is echoing observations that I have seen coming from the industrial society. I think that The Times this morning made the suggestion that these will become the accepted practices in industry—part of everyday industrial relations. I do not think that that is true. The Minister is dismayed at the opposition to the Act because he realises that if it is rejected along with the code its chances of implementation are small.
We are moving into an atmosphere of industrial relations when the Act and the code are irrelevant. What have they got to do with the situation on the Upper Clyde, with the rejection of the York Memorandum, and the Coventry toolmakers' dispute affecting 30,000 engineers? What part will they play in dealing with the miners, who will possibly ballot for strike action? I believe they have no relevance. The hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. Hooson) made one or two jibes at the Labour Party and spoke about the German trade unions and the part the T.U.C. had played in setting them up. The most democratic trade union movement in the world played a part in helping the German trade unions. We do not claim that the trade union move-meant is perfect—we recognise its weaknesses—but we say that we do not 446 need legislation to improve it. Industrial relations are about human relations, and until we work on that basis we shall not resolve the difficulties.
I think the Minister would agree that if the York memorandum is cancelled every factory and plant will be thrown back on its own resources. Some intelligent firms are already making agreements with the trade union movement, but many others will be thrown into chaos and at the end of the day the Industrial Court, under the Industrial Relations Act, will be able to impose an agreement. We went into this when we discussed the Bill, and it would be possible for the Industrial Court to impose recommendations about procedural agreements which would be binding.
§ Mr. Orme
But it can in certain cases impose procedural agreements on large companies. It can impose agreements on sections of the engineering industry. I am not saying that it can substitute another York memorandum for the present one.
The Coventry toolroom agreement is a classic case. It was arrived at during the war to stop toolmakers going on to less skilled work where they could earn more money. In consequence, the Coventry rate has progressed, and that rate is assessed on a certain number of firms in the Coventry area where high earnings are allowed. With those high earnings in Coventry have come high production and low unit costs, but the employers see a chance of getting out of this agreement and want to change it. They have cancelled it officially on their side, industrial action is now taking place on a one-day strike basis, and the employers are threatening a lock-out. At the end of the day the dispute has to be resolved by hard bargaining, and this code has about as much relevance as a child's fairy-tale book to the negotiations which are needed in Coventry.
The Minister has come smooth-tongued, hoping to make the code play a major 447 part in the operation of the Act, but always using the Act in the background if the unions do not come into line. He is wrong about this. The pattern of industrial relations is rapidly changing. It has changed considerably since I left industry seven years ago. I am still president of my trade union branch and take the chair at most meetings. I listen to the people I have worked with and whom I have known all my life. I see the mergers and the technological changes in industry, and these are the reasons why unemployment is becoming endemic. Real measures will be needed to get rid of it. We shall not get rid of it by trying to impose a legal framework and by the Secretary of State introducing with soft and smooth words a code of industrial practice.
The best industrial relations between workers and management have been arrived at by joint negotiations, with no outside help and nothing imposed by the Government. The Government are directly involved in industrial relations through the Act. This code is a catchpenny which has basically nothing to say about industrial relations as long as the Act remains on the Statute Book. The workers will not be kidded into accepting it. The Labour Party wants to see good industrial relations, but based on strengthened trade union membership.
It is interesting that the Minister mentions improving trade union membership in his preface but has nothing to say in the code about workers joining a union. He made it clear in his speech this afternoon that he is so concerned about the large number who are non-trade unionists that he wants to fight to see that they are represented. The Liberal Party thinks that the answer to all our problems is works councils, composed of nonunionists—paternalistic works councils and trade unions discouraged. This is one of the weaknesses in West Germany. The works council movement has undermined the trade union movement. A worker has a statutory right to become a member of a works council and be represented, but not to be a member of a trade union.
The Minister will not resolve the difficulties in the way outlined in the Consultative Document. We could pick holes in 448 it from beginning to end. As the Minister has admitted, the T.U.C. will not play at that game and neither will the major unions. They want to see an end of the Act and an end of the code, and they want to see industrial relations on a sane footing. For that reason I hope that my hon. Friends will be unanimous in their vote tonight.
§ 7.27 p.m.
Mr. Charles Simons (Luton)
I remind the hon. Member for Salford, West (Mr. Orme) that on page 7 the Code of Practice reminds all members of management that they have a responsibility to encourage employees to join a recognised union and play an active part in its work. I am sure it is an oversight on his part that he forgot that. I also remind him that the distressing levels of unemployment, which cause immense concern to everyone, began with the credit squeeze of 1966, when unemployment stood at 350,000. By 1970 the figure had reached 600,000—
§ Mr. Simeons
It is up to 950,000, but I am not nearly as pleased as the hon. Gentleman is. Do not look so happy about it—
§ Mr. Simeons
Of course it is; I am in total agreement. Let us move to get it down, not to glorify it. Despite the reduction of £1,400 million—
§ Mr. Harold Walker
Is the hon. Gentleman not aware that one of the Under-Secretaries at the Department of Trade and Industry last week went to Sheffield and advised unemployed people and the trade unions to put aside their obsession with unemployment?
§ Mr. Simeons
I was not present at Sheffield and did not hear what my hon. Friend said. I agree that anybody who is unemployed has a right to be worried, and I hope that the hon. Member for Doncaster (Mr. Harold Walker) will have an equal concern. It is all very well to sit back and be smug about these things, but they are a national tragedy, and the sooner we realise this and stop laughing about it the better. Despite the fact that some £1,400 million in taxation annually 449 has been taken off our bill, the trend is still going upwards, and there is plenty to answer for in the six years of Labour rule which started off the trend.
The hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. Hooson) tended to brush off the code of practice. Whatever its ultimate form, whatever it may be used for, it has already served an immensely useful purpose because it has begun discussion. Those who have been talking to companies during the recess will realise that they have been looking at themselves. Every day in the newspapers we see that conferences have been held by management. I attended one at which the Secretary of State spoke, and what struck me more than anything was the fact that out of some 600 people present only 15 were women, and of those only one was married. That lady came from Marks and Spencer and, bearing in mind that company's industrial relations, I was not at all surprised.
§ Mr. Sydney Bidwell (Southall)
Perhaps the explanation for such a small attendance of women at that conference is the fact that housewives are totally out of sympathy with this Government.
§ Mr. Simeons
The point I am making is that we want more women to be connected with industrial relations, and I am certain that every housewife will agree. It is the housewives who are the bosses, not the unions. The husbands do as the housewives tell them. [Interruption.] If the hon. Member does not agree, he should get back to his missus and then he will find out.
The best companies have found that their present practice coincides with the broad suggestion set out in the code of practice; others have had their eyes opened. Others, I regret to say, have simply been flabbergasted by the whole document, have clutched it in their trembling hands and said "Thank goodness we have something to go on". I believe that the document has shown what is expected of all of us and that it will enable many companies to put their house in order.
I agree with the hon. Member for Salford, West that industrial relations are really human relations. How true this is. Perhaps without realising it, he may well have supported the reasons for an industrial relations Bill. If we look at 450 the pattern of human relations, the way we behave towards each other, the things we say about each other, the things we write about each other, we see that we have legislation to cover such conduct. There is, on the one hand, legislation to bring us together, and then we have more legislation to enable us to be separated if we so wish. If the force of law is brought into our very homes, why should there not be the same approach at the place of work? Surely it is logical that our behaviour at the place where we work should receive some guidance.
The hon. Member for Derbyshire. North-East (Mr. Swain) said that he considered industrial relations to be a science. I agree with his sentiments, though it must be remembered that scientific matters can be analysed, and I doubt whether many people would like their human relationships to be analysed. Certainly if many of our thoughts were analysed here we might not be pleased with the results. I consider industrial relations to be an art in much the same way as marriage is an art. If this House has spent long hours drawing up a grievance procedure for marriage, is it so unreasonable that we should spend time on discussing the grievance procedure at our place of work? If ever there was a reason for T.U.C. participation in arriving at the best form for a code of practice, then I believe that the hon. Member for Midlothian (Mr. Eadie) gave it, because the T.U.C. has already given the benefit of its advice to the German industrialists and they benefited enormously from it.
The discussions which I have heard show that most people would like to see certain changes in the code of practice, mainly minor changes which I am certain my right hon. Friend would welcome. It has been said that there has been little mention of the no-man's land in respect of the company which at the moment does not recognise a trade union but will soon have to do so because of the Industrial Relations Act, and it has been suggested that there should be some guidance as to what they should tell recruits about future policy. I believe this to be totally right. Others felt that there was insufficient distinction between unions—and I mean unions in the widest sense—which do not register by choice and those which may well be disqualified 451 from registration because they are not independent, and it was felt that this matter should be stressed.
The Secretary of State emphasised the joint responsibility between management and unions in their activities. We see that in Section A, paragraph 6, managements are exhorted to cause the respective sides to observe agreements and procedures. They must see that the people who come within their immediate sphere keep to agreements. In the same way the unions should be exhorted to do the same with their members. But there are people who believe that it is equally a management responsibility to create such a climate among their employees, and I am sure this is right.
The question of dismissal is implied in the code, but one sees in the Bill four specific grounds, the underlying theme of which is that if any one of the grounds is involved any action must he reasonable. An employer would have to show that the reason for dismissing somebody was well based. I would remind the Secretary of State of the Irishman in the building industry who said that for an Irishman to be drunk on St. Patrick's Day would be an unreasonable ground for dismissal. At the same time the employer should be given guidance to tell him that where warnings are given records should be kept, partly because this would make the matter clear if the case were to come before a tribunal. Furthermore, if records are made this would encourage the employer to take steps to see that something is done to encourage the man to move from the course on which he originally embarked.
Perhaps the most important section in the document is that on disclosure of information. Companies hope that their obligations will be clearly defined. They are happy that this should be stated, but if there is ambiguity they believe—and I am sure trade union leaders will agree—that this will cause more trouble than if nothing at all is laid down. For example, confidentiality for commercial reasons is a matter which could well result in days of argument. While I have no wish to be given the task of defining it, it is easy to tell someone else to do it. In its present form, the section has a number of pitfalls.
452 Most companies believe that the basis should be that of the international company which has factories in other parts of the world and a number in this country. They believe that one should divulge information based on the undertaking rather than on specific factories. Many factories are interdependent. Certain factories will make goods not necessarily in a profitable way because they may be in areas where there are problems of effluent discharge and there are high effluent charges, or they may be in areas where they have high transport costs affecting the profitability of the unit. However, when the product is used by another factory which may be a big profit maker, the position is different. Therefore, if the undertaking as such is taken—in other words, the result of the whole business in this country—it will produce a fairer result.
Similarly, they believe that wage comparisons are difficult. There are higher wages in, say, France, but the cost of living is higher. There are much lower wages in say, Pakistan, but the cost of living there is very much lower. Therefore, to try to propose to employers that international comparisons should be made at this stage could lead to problems, though I do not suggest that the section might not be amended later in the light of experience.
Many companies believe that information should be up to date and that wage negotiations should not be based on forecasts. They cite the difficulty which all Governments have in economic forecasting. In addition, in certain instances, as happened in the 1969 Budget, an industry which has had no purchase tax levied on it at all may suddenly find that 55 per cent. is placed on certain of its goods, with the result that, almost overnight, it stops making them. Companies appreciate the difficulty in drawing up these codes, and, as I have said, I should not wish to do it. However, I hope that I have illustrated some of the pitfalls which they foresee.
Lastly, I offer my right hon. Friend a lament from the church. At one meeting, there was a clergyman present who commented that, whatever the Act may say, he has to join a closed shop and, what is more, he cannot opt out on religious grounds.
§ 7.44 p.m.
§ Mr. Ronald King Murray (Edinburgh, Leith)
During the short time that the Liberal benches were manned by the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. Hooson), he made one comment with which I agreed, although I disagreed with almost everything else that he said. The hon. and learned Gentleman pointed out that this code of industrial relations practice would give rise to some difficulty if a court of law tried to use it like the Highway Code.
I wish to point to two difficulties. If one takes the wording of paragraph 4d in Section A, it enjoins management to… take all reasonable steps to ensure that … d work is organised so that the individual employee has the chance to achieve a sense of satisfaction in his job.That is quite typical of many of the provisions of the code, and it is difficult to see how a court of law could give effect to that kind of pious exhortation.
A more serious effect occurs in page 8, just before paragraph 8 which deals with trade unions. Beside the heading "Trade Unions", there is an asterisk, and that is defined at the bottom of the page as follows:For the sake of simplicity the term 'trade unions' is used in this code to describe both registered and unregistered workers' organisations.What was the point in the Industrial Relations Act of taking pages to make a distinction between registered and unregistered organisations of workers, the effect of which is to drive unregistered organisations of workers underground and to make them underground trade unions without full recognition?
Those are two examples of deficiencies in the code. To that extent, I agree with the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery. However, he made one attack on the Labour Government which should be answered. He indicated that my right hon. and hon. Friends had not tackled the problem of industrial relations. That is an unfair criticism. At least the last Labour Government got down to a dialogue with the trade unions, and it was an abrasive one. If criticism is due, it is that they did not realise the need for these discussions to be bilateral, and that is the fallacy of the Government's procedure in this case. They have failed to take this step. As a result, they are left with an 454 empty Act and with an empty code of practice.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn (Mrs. Castle) rightly pointed out that this code is the true offspring of its parents. It is a Code of Industrial Relations Practice: in other words, C.I.R.P. by N.I.R.C. out of I.R.B. Like its parents, it fails in the same essential points. Its stress is an inhuman one. It is a stress of the industrial relations function, and it fails to go behind it to see that one is dealing with human relations. One is dealing with human beings, not with ciphers in a commercial calculation.
One sees this deficiency clearly when one compares the foreword on page 3 with the words of the code which is to be operated. However much the Secretary of State expresses good will in his foreword, it is not binding and, unlike the Highway Code, it is not usable by a court.
On page 7 there is not a word about human relations. One hon. Member opposite suggested that the code was like a textbook on industrial relations. However, it fails that test. Any test of industrial relations would point out that industrial relations are a part of human relations. Unless that is recognised, one falls at the first hurdle.
I ask hon. Members to look at page 7. The second paragraph says:The first need is for management at the highest level to accept the same degree of responsibility for industrial relations as for marketing and production.There is not a word to indicate that human beings are more than commodities or accounts in industrial bookkeeping.
Paragraph 3 says:Management's task is to conduct its business efficiently. Good industrial relations need to be developed within that framework and will in turn help management to carry out its task successfully.There is not a word about the need to base those industrial relations on sound human relations, and without sound human relations one cannot begin. Efficiency is not the test. The test is whether human relations are such that industrial efficiency can stem from them. That is a measure of the failure of this code. It is vitiated by its inability to surmount the first hurdle, which is the recognition that industrial relations are merely a part of human relations.
455 My right hon. Friend pointed out that the Secretary of State appeared reasonable in many of his pronouncements. In his foreword he makes reference to human relations. He recognises that the conduct of industrial relations and the development of policies to improve human relations in all types of employment is a necessity. But why is his urbane mask allowed to slip away when it comes to the code itself? The answer can only be not that the Secretary of State does not know but that he does not mean to introduce humanity into the code of practice. But, as I have said, the code is a non-starter for the same reason as its progenitors—because it fails to recognise the base of industrial life in ordinary humanity, in fairness.
After all, this is what lies behind it. It is no use issuing platitudinous remarks about joint action and agreement, because if one is to base industrial life upon joint action one must start open-handed and recognise that this situation calls for two sides. This is a field in which there has to be bipolarity, employers and employees, at least: there may be more involved. If one does not start by recognising these two sides, one will not get anywhere. This is not a field for unilateral action by the employers.
For these reasons, the Government have failed in this legislation and in this code of practice. In this situation, it is right for us to divide on this Motion.
§ 7.53 p.m.
§ Mr. Robert Redmond (Bolton, West)
Having heard most of this debate I am glad not to have missed the speech of the hon. Member for Derbyshire, North-East (Mr. Swain). His speech was the best argument for adopting this code of practice.
I was interested in the comments of the hon. Member for Salford, West (Mr. Orme), whom I am sorry has left. I should like to know more about the Coventry dispute to which he referred. If he suggests that the Coventry employers are trying to get out of low costs, I should have thought that there was more to it than that. I have the feeling that in a case like that it is probably too late merely to apply this code—but if it had been applied when that agreement first operated, we could probably have avoided what appears to be a disastrous position.
456 When the U.C.S. situation was mentioned I had the feeling—just as when I was reading and re-reading the code over the past few months—that if only such a code had been in operation on the Clyde years ago the U.C.S. situation might never have arisen, because U.C.S. itself might never have come into existence. The individual companies might have been prospering, and rather fewer shipping orders would have gone to the yards in Japan.
§ Mr. Redmond
I am glad to be able to clear up a misunderstanding. I think that the hon. Member will agree that the U.C.S. consortium came into existence because of the difficulties of the individual companies. He is a much greater expert on the Clyde than I am, obviously, but I was making the point that if the individual companies had been prospering they would not have come together in the consortium. I suggest that they might have prospered better with a code like this—
§ Mr. Redmond
The hon. and learned Member for Edinburgh, Leith (Mr. Ronald King Murray) seemed to miss this point, and my next point, when he said that marketing was to be on the same level as industrial relations. I am firmly convinced that every business, whether it be a vast international corporation or a small retail shop, requires four things—capital, sales, production, including movement of goods and co-ordination of services, and, above all, people. If a company is to function at all those four components must work in harmony to serve the customer. Without his good will, the business will fail.
I agree completely with my hon. Friend the Member for Bosworth (Mr. Adam Butler). I have long detested the term "both sides of industry". I have always maintained that there is only one side to industry, and that all the people in the industry or the firm are on the same side. If they can work together without 457 becoming at loggerheads they are far more likely to give the customer satisfaction, which will bring them continuity and security of employment.
Surely that is axiomatic. All too often, however, we have the attitude—we have heard it today—of "us and them". It is an attitude which hon. Members opposite seem to want to foster. Their ideas are way back in the nineteenth century. Today, even in quite small firms—and pretty well all my industrial experience, which is not inconsiderable, has been with small firms—
§ Mr. Harold Walker
Since the hon. Member talks about his side's wanting to perpetuate what he sees as an outdated attitude, he may be interested to know that as recently as 1956 one of the largest engineering employers in the country sacked me, after 16 years' service, from a senior staff post because of my political and trade union views. I was subsequently blacklisted, and could obtain a job only by moving 200 miles from my home.
§ Mr. Redmond
It sounds as if it might have been a good idea to have had the Industrial Relations Act then, so that that case could have been tested in the courts—or the hon. Member's union, if it had been registered, could have brought a case against the employers and settled the matter. I was not saying that the employers are always right—despite the contention of the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) that the unions are always right. I would never say that everybody was perfect. That would be asking for Utopia. But I recommend the hon. Gentleman to examine the Act which he has opposed so strongly to see how it would have helped him in those days.
In these days, often in quite small firms, capital, ownership and management are not always in the same hands as they were in the nineteenth century. Management, even the top management of small companies, often consists of employees, like the most newly appointed apprentice. The point was forcibly made to me during the Recess that management is as keen to get a pay rise as is anyone on the shop floor. Listening to the debate today and to those on the Bill 458 I have often thought that I must have been living in a very strange world in the past—
§ Mr. Redmond
Let me tell the hon. Member something of the world in which I have lived. Something that has been said about disputes procedures, and this code makes me feel that the unions and shop stewards with whom I deal must have been unusual, because they were quite nice chaps—and in at least one case a very nice woman. But people like this apparently did not exist elsewhere, according to the arguments that we have heard. They were not lacking in plain good British Common sense and I hope that they would say the same of me. They were typical of the people in industry, with all their fears, hopes, needs and desires. That is why, because of my background, I was glad to hear my right hon. Friend speak of the problems of small employers and small firms. That is where I belong.
During the Recess I spent six weeks' concentrated effort in discussing our entry to the Common Market with various firms in Bolton. I do not want to tread on dangerous ground, but in the process of doing that I was able to ask firms what they thought of this document, and most of the managements with whom I spoke wondered why it was necessary to produce it at all.
§ Mr. Redmond
They saw nothing new in it simply because we in Bolton have a very good industrial relations record. In other words, they have been operating this code for a long time. The managing director of one small company thought the document tried to teach grandmothers how to suck eggs. He said, "My firm has been operating more or less this code for a long time". He added, however, "I realise, of course, that we have not had a strike in this company in living memory. Perhaps it would be a good idea if some other grandmothers started to learn how to suck eggs".
§ Mr. Spriggs
The hon. Gentleman talks of firms in Bolton having good industrial relations records. Will he take it from me that at the basis of all good industrial relations are good wage agreements?
§ Mr. Redmond
That is not necessarily the whole story. Wages are only part of good industrial relations. Indeed, some companies which pay the highest wages have the worst industrial relations records, though I agree that everybody who works wants to get as much out of it as he can.
If one can trace industrial disputes to their roots, one sees that in nearly every case dispute arises because of a lack of trust between management and the shop floor. This lack of trust often arises from a lack of understanding as to who is responsible for what, and it seems to me that the most important task of management in any field—and particularly in industrial relations—is to see that everyone has a clearly defined job specification.
That specification should define five things; what the man—or woman, as the case may be—is expected to do, how he is meant to do it, for what he is responsible, for whom he is responsible, and to whom he is responsible. If every job specification contained those five basic elements—and a specification should exist right the way through, from the managing director to the young girl who makes up the post in the evening—everybody would know where he stood.
Paragraph 7 on page 7 of the code refers to "supervisors". I would like to see that definition amended. What is a supervisor? Speaking from not a little experience of the past few years in the preparation of job specifications, I suggest that there are dangers in using specific titles in documents such as this. There is no universally accepted definition for any job title. I know of one factory in Lancashire—not in my constituency—where the site supervisor is more usually called the general manager. In another factory not many miles away the person with the same title is responsible for cleanliness and sanitation.
I would like the paragraph amended to provide that all levels of management should be technically proficient and adequately trained, and should possess the personal qualities required to exercise supervision over, and have charge of, groups who can be adequately supervised. It appears from what was said by the hon. Member for Derbyshire, North-East that this is particularly necessary among the personnel officers of the N.C.B. This applies just as much to the 460 managing director as to the man in charge of the smallest section of direct or indirect operatives.
In industrial relations it is important that all levels of management are fully briefed about what is going on. Troubles have occurred in the past in a number of factories, certainly in the North-West, because discussions have taken place at board room level, decisions have been taken, these have been communicated to the shop stewards and thereby to the rank and file workers, but somehow the foremen and charge hands have been bypassed. Trouble has arisen because people have expected the men in charge of their section to know, at least as well as they do, what is going on.
Just as it is vitally important that job specification for management should be clear, precise, and, above all, concise, so it is vital that shop stewards should know what they are meant to do and how they are meant to do it. I know from experience that all too often firms like mine receive letters from unions saying, "Mr., Miss or Mrs. So-and-so has been appointed a shop steward. We hope you will grant him or her full facilities to carry out his or her functions." What functions? Have these functions ever been clearly defined in an agreement between a union branch and the management concerned? Much trouble may arise from the fact that no job specification exists for the shop steward. Indeed, the fact that the shop steward system works at all is a tribute to the exercise of common sense by shop stewards and managements in factories throughout the country. There would be much less trouble if managements and unions could get together and sort out this point, and if the question of job specification for shop stewards appeared in this code of practice, without necessarily defining it. This is a matter for the unions and managements to get together to define, because the duties and responsibilities of shop stewards vary tremendously from firm to firm and industry to industry.
The very fact that Section E appears in this document on page 22 is important. I commend that Section to all concerned. I have suggested one improvement in the code, and other of my hon. Friends have suggested further improvements. It is a good document 461 in principle. It cannot be too precise. I cannot agree with the hon. Member for Derbyshire, North-East that industrial relations is a science. It is not. In Lancashire we have a saying that "There is nowt so queer as folk". This document is about folk in industry. If everyone follows the common sense contained in this document the folk in Lancashire and the rest of the country will be a lot better off.
§ 8.7 p.m.
§ Mr. J. T. Price (Westhoughton)
I am glad to see the Secretary of State adorning the Government Front Bench because it is obvious to me and the few others who have taken the trouble to attend this debate that he attaches great importance to this Code of Industrial Relations Practice.
It is equally obvious, if one looks at the state of this honourable House at this honourable moment, that the pious faith in the importance of this document that the right hon. Gentleman holds is not shared by many other hon. Members. The state of the Government benches is not exactly an advertisement for British democracy on such an important issue. [Interruption.] Hon. Gentlemen opposite have no need to point to these benches. The sight of the empty Opposition benches is not pleasant to me, though one must bear in mind that my colleagues do not take this document seriously.
I am reminded of the many occasions earlier in the Session, before the Summer Recess, when we went through elaborate charades in this House listening to the Secretary of State speaking in a patient, tolerant, though unyielding, fashion about his inflexible purpose. He appeared like Sir Galahad handing down some charter of industrial emancipation to the trade union movement. This has been totally rejected by the whole of the British trade union movement.
If the right hon. Gentleman will allow me to say so without malice—in the House I try to speak without malice—this document is full of good intentions. It reminds me of a famous cryptic saying of the great German philosopher, Nietsche, in one of his principal works, "Thus Spake Zarathustra", which I read many years ago and have never forgotten. I am making a serious point. I am not being flippant. In one of the most preg- 462 nant passages he put a simple aphorism, "All men mean well". Then he went on to discuss what motivations lie behind that "meaning well". Every great figure in history, from his own premises, has appeared in shining armour as a giver of freedom, a shedder of light in dark corners. But it is the motivations that matter.
Rightly or wrongly, the British trade union movement, from its experience of life and its relationships with ordinary people on the workshop floor in industry, is convinced that its own state of trade union organisation is not perfect. I should be the first to admit that. By origin, I stand as a trade union official of one of the great unions before I came to the House many years ago. Very often I have been critical about some of the practices that need bringing up to date. But no one will ever convince me, least of all the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State, who has sat through hours and nights of this sort of debate, in which I rarely intervene, that the mere imposition of a code of practice, legislation or legal enforcements in such delicate matters as industrial relations will ever succeed.
It is the motivation that matters. As British subjects and representatives of British electorates in the House, we are all proud of the great British nation. I am proud of it. It is always boasted, and on many occasions it has been repeated from the Government side of the House over and over again ad nauseam, that the strength of this great country has been its capacity to dispense with a written constitution. We have never believed in reducing every dot and comma of our practices into some code of law like so many other advanced nations. We have left freedom to ourselves to deal with matters on the basis of common sense and give and take on both sides, in labour or other spheres of our social activities. Nevertheless, I say seriously to the right hon. Gentleman, as a matter of deep philosophic importance, that the imposition of some artificial, synthetically-produced public relations officers or some group of consultants who have no real knowledge of ordinary people and how their minds react will not make it possible to get that kind of code accepted by people who have relied more solidly on human relationships and in using common sense in a given situation.
463 In my early days in the Labour Party, which goes further back than my entrance to the House over 20 years ago, it used to be said that the Tory Party was a party of hard-faced business men. The great economist Keynes, who wrote his "Economic Consequences of the Peace" after the First World War, a classic in his sphere, referred to the Government of which Sir Robert Horne was a member as being a lot of Tories who were very hard men. He said that he looked down from the public gallery to the Tory benches one night and thought that they looked like a lot of men who had done rather well out of the war. The kind of men who occupied those benches in those days lent themselves to the label of hard-faced businessmen. It was unfair to some, but it fitted many others.
We have a different Tory Party today. I have been intrigued by the new intake of Tory Members. In one of the Sunday newspapers a few months ago I thought that a writer reflected the common view of the right hon. Gentleman's party very correctly. He said that it was quite wrong to regard the Tory Party any longer as a party of hard-faced businessmen and that they were nothing of the kind. I agree with him. They are not hard-faced businessmen. They have become a party of soft-faced public relations experts, of soft-voiced unit trust experts and executives.
§ Mr. Price
I am putting the point modestly. If anyone is sensitive on a sensitive spot, I assure him that I have been in the rough and tumble of the House for 20 years and if anyone wishes to come back on me I am willing for them to try. I stand my ground. This is true, and in spite of all the piety that is so often vouchsafed from the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for Employment and his hon. Friends who are the authors of this Act of Parliament which gives great offence to the trade union movement of which I am a member, they have only themselves to blame because they wrongly think that they are able to persuade the British working man that they know all about it and will lay down a code, put it into a computer and have another cog in the machine. I would not expect the right 464 hon. Gentleman to swallow that, but I put it to him as a genuine point of view.
It has been said in my presence tonight, several times from the Government side of the House, that the British T.U.C., rightly or wrongly, has dug its heels in and refuses to give any kind of support to this legislation that the right hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friends have forced on to the Statute Book, to which his code of practice is only the line supplying the power to the electric chair before it is put into use. The right hon. Gentleman has only himself to blame about this. The T.U.C. is entitled to take this line, and it is rational and expected that it would do so.
Someone who has been in the House for only five minutes tried to make a party point and a very poor debating point. But it is quite wrong to say that the British T.U.C. set up the German trade union movement when Germany was in ruins after the war. It did nothing of the kind. It might be of interest if I put on record what happened. The German trade union movement, which has become a very powerful instrument within Germany in its renewed form of life after the war and in the reconstruction of German industry, was set up not by the T.U.C. but by the British Government of those days, which sent Sir Paul Chambers, one-time chairman of I.C.I., to do the job. What I am about to say is on the record. I have said it now and it will appear in HANSARD. If I am wrong I will be proved wrong. My knowledge of history leads me to the conclusion that the German structure, with all its perfections and imperfections, was primarily the work of Sir Paul Chambers, then then head of I.C.I., who later occupied many eminent positions in the industrial life of Britain. Let us have that canard out of the way.
I have listened to much of the debate with amusement and charity and to a lot of it with increasing impatience. Another serious point is that it is assumed in the code of practice that every industrial plant employing a substantial number of men will have set up this machinery and the methods that are advised in this consultative document. In other words, there will be works councils, and there are all kinds of obiter dicta and advice given in this document as to how those bodies shall be conducted.
465 My right hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn (Mrs. Castle) referred to "some of her friends"—and I am included among them, in a political sense, anyhow. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] I am being as honest with the House as I always try to be. My use of a conventional term like "my right hon. Friend" in this House is not used in the sense that a simpleton outside would use it; but let me get on. My right hon. Friend said that his code was regarded by many trade unionists as an active incitement to the formation of company unions. I share that view.
Industrial relations in America—and the Minister and his colleagues in the Government have copied the American pattern—have completely failed because the codes in America were designed for company unions, which are rampant there. Many American companies are based in this country with large industrial activities financed by American capital, to which I do not object. It is often most difficult for genuine and authentic trade union organisations to break into them because they have behind them a tradition and structure of industrial relations based on the works council, the shop committee and the internal structure of a company union.
That is not good enough for us. We are far too old an industrial country to be led astray into that sort of set-up, and we do not propose to be led astray. Company unions are no solution to the problem of achieving good industrial relations. I stand for good industrial relations, for a sense of responsibility and for not doing anything which cannot be defended in logic, equity or common decency. If industrial relations are bad, we must do other than put the blame at the door of the trade unions which have perhaps left too much power in the hands of the shop stewards.
I do not propose to waste time by going through the code line by line. I do not want to make committee points; I want to make points of principle. However, the code says on page 14:It is important for efficiency and for good industrial relations that employees should feel that:That is an admirable precept. However, the one thing about which they are not 466 to be kept informed and which I regard as crucial and basic to any good industrial relationship is a proper revelation of the financial state of the company in which they work, what has happened in the last year, and the prospects for the coming year, given good industrial relations.
- (a) they are kept informed on matters which concern them."
In my experience of industry and contact with industrialists of good integrity, nothing has appealed more strongly than the company which gives a little bit of a party to its workers and says, "We have done this this year. This is the state of our balance sheet. We have not done as well as we expected. With your co-operation we expect to do better next year." Not enough of that sort of thing is done, but it is not lack of good will which prevents it from being done.
The Minister and his colleagues forget what is happening in British industry. My hon. Friend the Member for Salford, West (Mr. Orme) referred to the conglomerates. This is a term of art used to refer to the vast complexes of interlocking and overlapping companies run by remote control from some financial centre in London, New York, Brussels or anywhere other than the place where the job is being done. This is perhaps inevitable. I am not a medievalist who wants to rub out all the history of this country and go back to square one. But this process has gone too far.
Industrial executives—and I have the pleasure of knowing many people doing important work in industry who do not always share my political beliefs—tell me that their companies are simply offshoots of some big empire with financial control reposing in London or some other place in Europe. They do not know what their company's policy is. How is it possible to set up industrial relations machinery if the executives responsible for the works, factories and industrial processes on the spot have no means of knowing what is in the minds of their directors and superiors in the nerve centres of Europe?
This is the world in which we are living. No one will convince me—and I ask the House to recognise that I still have some charity left in me and, I hope, a liberal spirit in many ways—
§ Mr. Price
My hon. Friend says "Not much charity". He can make his point later. No one will ever convince me that there is any sense in making pious exhortations in an industrial structure which is full of policy practices which have nothing to do with the men on the shop floor and the managers.
Do not let us leave this debate, which has the atmosphere of a charade about it, feeling that we have improved industrial relations. Many of us on this side of the House claim to be responsible spokesmen for the party and the trade union movement. We are not irresponsible. But we are not "kidded", and we do not intend to be "kidded", by this kind of piety resulting from political relations exercises carried out in the inner recesses of the Tory Party. I assure the Government that the Labour Movement will go on fighting for better industrial relations on the basis of a common trust in the production of all the facts of industrial life and will not shelter behind the secrecy referred to in paragraph 27 of the code of practice. I shall therefore be happy to support the Amendment.
§ 8.26 p.m.
§ Mr. Tom King (Bridgwater)
The hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. J. T. Price) made certain criticisms of the Conservative Party and said that he could take anything which came back at him from this side of the House. I know that he will take it in that spirit if I make a few comments on his speech.
The hon. Gentleman is somewhat out of touch with the code of practice and the debate. There is no Amendment on the Order Paper, and I thought that his last remark was indicative of his lack of contact with some of the matters under discussion. I do not say that in an offensive sense, but the hon. Gentleman made some cracks at us and I think that we are entitled to make some back at him. I make my remarks not as a unit trust manager or public relations expert but as someone who has worked closely in industry and rather more recently than many hon. Members opposite. If the hard faces which used to appear on these benches have changed, then they have also changed among right hon. and hon. Members opposite. There are perhaps many Members opposite who have not been so close to the working 468 face of industry as might traditionally have been the case. Lecturers, researchers and theoreticians have not been entirely absent from our debates on industrial relations.
I was also surprised by a remark that the hon. Member made because it seemed to contradict the claims that had been made by other hon. Members opposite to some justifiable pride in the part that the trade union movement had played in the reconstruction on much improved lines of the German trade union movement, which the hon. Member went out of his way to deny categorically. He attributed this to one eminent industrialist, which is not my reading of the situation.
§ Mr. J. T. Price
May I intervene to make this simple point? I was not dealing with the merits of who did it. I was only getting the record historically accurate when I said that it was not done by the T.U.C. It was, in fact, done in the way that I indicated. If that is wrong, the hon. Gentleman had better tell me where it is wrong.
§ Mr. King
I think that on some occasion today when he had to be absent from the Chamber the hon. Gentleman may not have heard hon. Members on his side of the House taking some pride in the part that the T.U.C. played in the reconstruction. His argument is not with me; it is with some of his hon. Friends, as he will see if he reads HANSARD tomorrow.
One last comment on the speech of the hon. Member. It saddened me. I thought it was a very sad speech because it seemed to find difficulties in everything, problems everywhere and solutions nowhere. We have dwelt considerably on the problems of the conglomerates and the need for proper consultation where true control may be vested outside one country. Of course, this is a problem which needs careful attention and which faces all Governments in all countries. Conglomerates have considerable spread and scope within British industry, but this is no reason to deny effective consultation and effective disclosure procedures to the whole mass of British industry. There is certainly a problem in the conglomerates.
The hon. Gentleman's speech was very conservative—I am sure he would wish 469 me to emphasise, with the smallest possible "c"—and one in which I saw very little indication of progress and of how we might advance. The theme was: "We have always worked this way; things are going very well, and I see no grounds for change". The hon. Member for Salford, West (Mr. Orme) has already quoted from The Times of this morning. There was another interesting statement in The Times this morning from a Harvard professor on the subject of British industry, in which he said that if one looked at the 100 best managed firms in the world one could probably claim that half of them were British, but if one looked at the 500 worst one could probably claim that half of those were British as well. That was perhaps a very sweeping but quite illuminating comment on the subject of British industry.
My right hon. Friend and others have made the point that if the standards of the best were common practice we probably would not need to be here today. It is precisely because what are described as platitudes and what have been described as "guff" and self-evident observations are not self-evident and are not platitudinous to so many areas of British industry that these proposals are necessary. If they do nothing else, through the action of the Government and Parliament they focus the attention of industry to the importance of industrial relations.
I make no apologies for endorsing what many of my hon. Friends have said, and I do not want to draw on the American parellel, but in one respect they exceed us. So often on American boards one will find a vice-president responsible for personnel, and if one looks at British companies one finds that they have their sales directors and production directors on the boards, and somewhere down the line one has to find out to whom the personnel manager is responsible. This is one of the great failings. It is simply not something which gets right on to the top table for regular consideration. It is considered when it becomes a problem, but it is not part of the daily diet of management consumption. This is becoming increasingly recognised.
This has been a very sad debate, and I have found that the contributions from the other side of the House have been particularly sad. Hon. Members opposite are Her Majesty's Opposition. They have 470 got to oppose all the way down the line, but they have got to stay with the scene as well. How can they still oppose something which has moved on? The Government have put their proposals forward. Those proposals are now in the form of an Act. They are before the country, and industry and the trade unions are sitting down now to consider them and whatever be the public face of the unions, decide how they will be worked. How much longer will the Labour Party be left at the last lap still arguing about whether this should or should not have been done?
It is my experience—hon. Members on both sides who have any contact with industry may know it as well—that both sides of industry are setting about it. Albeit that, tragically, there has been no official representation by the T.U.C., individual unions, individual branches and individual officials are in discussion with companies about points in the code and the ways in which the Act can be considered.
I do not want to be accused of sounding patronising again, but it seems to me that if hon. Members opposite feel that they have a part in leading the Labour movement in this country they would be far better employed giving leadership on how to interpret these provisions and how, to the advantage of so many of their colleagues and supporters, recognition can be given to the benefits under the Act and the code than in carrying on their opposition in a battle long since finished.
The hon. Member for Salford, West quoted the report of the Industrial Society. He quoted it to disagree with it. I refer to it in order to agree, for its findings show that industry is now recognising the situation. Management and unions have to live in the circumstances of industry, and they are sitting down and seeing how these things can be worked.
It is quite certain that in sitting down and considering what should be done they are not finding this a one-sided document, as the right hon. Lady the Member for Blackburn (Mrs. Castle) called it in that throwaway line; or, if they are, it is much more likely to be regarded as one-sided in a direction opposite to the one which the right hon. Lady implied. If hon. Members have had the amount 471 of comment and complaint from employers which I have had, they will realise that there is considerable opinion that the document places undue responsibility on them and puts them in an entirely new situation in which trade unions have considerable new advantages, which seems to me completely to kill the right hon. Lady's suggestion that it is one-sided in favour of management and against unions.
There will be allegations on various points, and I have a number of comments to put to my right hon. Friend. We have already had a request for a booklet on the code. I add my endorsement and encouragement to the suggestion that some means should be found to produce a simplified publication. I acknowledge that the code is in far more readable form than the Act. One might add, in parenthesis, that it could hardly have been in less readable form than the Act, but that was a problem which we recognise as implicit in all legislation. The code is much more readable, but I still feel that a simplified booklet could be of great benefit.
Now a comment on paragraph 11c in Section A. "Responsibilities". This subparagraph refers to the encouragement of membersto attend union meetings and to hold branch meetings at times and places convenient to the majority".This raises certain terrifying prospects in the mind of management, with the thought of meetings being convened for the convenience of the majority though not necessarily to the great convenience of management, and I wonder whether my right hon. Friend could clarify that.
Now, a point regarding safety and the opportunity here presented to make some advance in the code. I should like to see an additional paragraph—it would be paragraph 23 on page 13—making clear that the first responsibility for safety is on the individual employee. There is considerable emphasis here on the responsibilities of management and of trade unions. Hon. Members know, however, that, no matter how often someone is advised on the safety precautions to be used, those precautions are still neglected. How often does one hear of cases in which all the guards are thrown off and an employee deliberately neglects or 472 ignores arrangements, machinery or equipment provided for his own safety?
§ Mr. J. T. Price
There are certain aspects of the Factories Acts which control industrial safety, giving the employer an absolute duty to fence prime movers and to allow people to take off the guards of certain parts of machinery only if they have a licensed machinery certificate to do so. Therefore, the hon. Gentleman is not correct in trying to have the responsibility shared. In many leading cases on these matters the decision was that it is the prime and sole duty of the employer to provide an adequate safety system where there are prime movers and dangerous parts of moving machinery.
§ Mr. King
I take the hon. Gentleman's point entirely. It is obviously the first responsibility of management, and also a responsibility for unions is indicated in the code. Paragraphs 8, 9 and 10 of section B, to do with new employees, should state that they should be properly instructed in the safety procedures relevant to their employment.
I am also concerned about the question of information, and I do not think that the code clarifies the Government's view sufficiently on the vexed question of consultation. We often hear the traditional argument, "We were not consulted; we were told." It is a difficult question whether there can always be consultation or whether there are instances when it is impossible to consult, for commercial or other reasons, before a decision has to be taken. The code could amplify what it has to say on this.
On disclosure, some of my hon. Friends are concerned about the blanket reference to the C.I.R. They are concerned that at the end of the day whatever the C.I.R. recommends in conjunction with my right hon. Friend will suddenly appear as an addendum to the code. The question of disclosure is viewed with the greatest possible concern by many companies, and we should consider it carefully. Having made attempts to play a part in obtaining some disclosure and full consultation, I have always believed in the widest possible consultation. Rather like some so-called official secrets, things are a lot less secret in industry than might be supposed. The benefits of disclosure can be considerable, but there is a great problem over security and understanding. I often 473 wonder whether managements understand much of the information themselves. If they are to pass it on to unions, it is very important that the unions are properly trained and equipped to appreciate its significance.
Having made those few points, I commend the code to the House as a noteworthy start to what is certainly a long and important road.
§ 8.44 p.m.
§ Mr. Alex Eadie (Midlothian)
The hon. Member for Bridgwater (Mr. Tom King), in trying to make a debating point, said that his association with industry was very recent. May I say, in the kindest possible way, that he gave the impression to my hon. Friends and I that it certainly will not be of very long duration?
The Secretary of State cannot have been satisfied with the way in which the debate has ranged. I have listened to the whole debate. He cannot be happy about the way the debate has gone, in the sense that my right hon. and hon. Friends have spoken for the trade union movement while his hon. Friends have quite blatantly spoken for management. One may say that that is not a bad idea, but it does not provide an exchange of debating points, and shows quite clearly the vested interests of hon. Members opposite when we discuss the code and industrial relations. We may not claim to be paragons of virtue about industrial relations, but hon. Members opposite must concede that they neither know all the answers nor are themselves paragons of virtue about industrial relations.
The right hon. Gentleman is not present. I do not blame him, because he has sat through most of the debate. But he chastised the T.U.C. for not entering into consultation with him. His failure to get the T.U.C. into consultation with him is one of his defeats on the whole question of industrial relations. That defeat has arisen because of the stand he himself took from the beginning. He told the T.U.C., "We cannot have positive, specific debates about industrial relations. We have laid down the framework and we shall only discuss it within that framework." What he said then was rhetorical, and to some extent riddled with hypocrisy. He knows that he has the responsibility for the fact that there was no real consultation.
§ Mr. Tom King rose—474
§ Mr. Eadie
No, I shall not give way. The hon. Gentleman spoke for too long and cut some people out. I want to curtail my remarks in order to allow some of my hon. Friends and some hon. Members opposite to speak.
The issue of industrial relations and the code has misfired politically. The Conservative Party thought that it would be a winner. It thought that it would sweep the country with the Industrial Relations Act. The right hon. Gentleman rather took my breath away when he said that the country wanted it. But the Act and the code are a joke to the country. They have failed to get home to the people. There has been no political mileage in industrial relations for the Conservative Party.
Today, a new Conservative Member was sworn. Had there been political mileage in the Industrial Relations Act he would surely have been returned with an overwhelming majority, but he scraped in by the skin of his teeth in a seat which the Conservative Party has held since 1918. To some extent that gives the lie to what the right hon. Gentleman said about the country's waiting for the industrial relations legislation.
In the hard industrial world, what would the Act and the code have done about U.C.S.? How could they have solved the problem of Plessey's, in Scotland? How could they have solved the problem of Rolls-Royce? The Conservative Party promised that the Industrial Relations Act would be a panacea which would solve our industrial problems. Now the people realise that once again they have been tricked.
The hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. Hooson) made a speech that was very witty but not of the calibre one would expect from a leading Liberal spokesman. He is not now present, but I wish he had remained. When I pointed out that our trade union movement had to some extent helped in the building up of a new post-war industrial relations set-up in Germany—though it is true that another personality also contributed—the hon. and learned Gentleman made the snide remark that though the T.U.C. had been able to help in Germany it had not been able to help 475 very much here. That was a deplorable remark, and showed gross ignorance on his part.
It is true that there are faults in our trade union structure—if we were building it now we would build differently—but we have a very good and powerful movement. No Government, whether Labour or Conservative, can afford to ignore our trade union movement when discussing the affairs of the nation. Its representatives are given ready access to all Prime Ministers because it is recognised to be powerful and influential, and knowledgeable on the whole subject of industrial relations. The fact that in the Common Market countries there are 6½ million trade unionists while we in Great Britain have nearly 11 million indicates the strength of our trade union movement.
The Secretary of State sought to argue that the code would stand on its own, and could be divorced from the Industrial Relations Act. That cannot be true; the right hon. Gentleman cannot have read the code. Paragraph 11, on page 16, makes it clear that the code is framed to some extent to take into consideration the provisions of the Act for licensing non-unionism. The right hon. Gentleman should read his own code before asserting that it is not born of the Act.
Page 26 deals with disciplinary procedures, but the phrasing rather astonishishingly suggests that only management should ensure that an effective disciplinary procedure exists. Discipline in industry does not just mean discipline in relation to production: it can mean discipline in relation to safety. In the coal mining industry we would never consider discipline to be just the responsibility of management. We believe that it is also the responsibility of the trade union movement. Although we have certain reservations about how a man should be treated by management, in mining we actively intervene in safety matters to assist with discipline, because the indisciplined individual in mining could be responsible for the loss of the lives of others. The right hon. Gentleman said that he wanted amendments to and discussion of the code. I hope that he will re-examine its provisions on disciplinary procedure.
476 I should have liked time to say more about the code. Some of its phrases are laughable. For example, it is said that management is responsible for safety and trade unions for the physical well-being of workers. I do not know who thought out that absurdity.
The Government cannot be proud of this document, how it arrived, or how it has been framed. I do not know how many amendments the right hon. Gentleman will make to it, but the Opposition regard this code, allied to the obnoxious Industrial Relations Act, as unacceptable, and we shall certainly vote against it tonight.
§ 8.56 p.m.
§ Mr. Robert Adley (Bristol, North-East)
The hon. Member for Midlothian (Mr. Eadie) reminds me very much of those who, in a phrase which is certainly not mine, are determined to learn nothing and to forget nothing. His comment that one side of the House spoke for management and the other for the trade union movement was neither true nor constructive.
The hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. J. T. Price), who is now having his well-earned dinner, chided my hon. Friends, whom he described as being public relations men or unit trust manipulators. I can honestly claim to be neither. I owe my allegiance neither to a public relations company nor to a unit trust organisation. Nor, may I add, do I owe it to a trade union. I can say what I think right and I have no one standing behind me to prod me and to tell me what he thinks I should say. If there is any question of speakers on one side taking one line, the hon. Member for Midlothian must examine his own soul and decide to which side of the Chamber his remark really applies.
I should like to make a few comments based on some negotiations which I attended specifically at the request of the Transport and General Workers' Union during a recent dispute in Bristol. That union's action in calling in Members of Parliament regardless of party was an indication that it at least realised that all sides—if one has to use the word "side"—have constructive parts to play, or could play constructive parts, in industrial relations. The only trouble is that I am now being called on by the Bristol 477 Trades Council to settle every other dispute coming before its members! Perhaps the right hon. Member for Bristol, South-East (Mr. Benn) and I should set up a public relations company specialising in industrial relations; it is a thought!
The situation facing B.A.C. at Bristol is not untypical of that in many British companies. It is a situation which does not reflect great credit on either the management or the unions. So long as there are companies and unions which appear not to have read publications such as the code of practice, so long will we find our industrial relations bedevilled. There are 17 trade unions at B.A.C., Filton. There are two groups of shop stewards. It is very difficult for the management to know just to whom it is talking and with whom it is negotiating. On the other side, there have been recent changes in the management which have resulted in literally months passing between the appearance of new directors and their meeting the unions. With that sort of situation it is not surprising that there is an awful gap between management and unions.
Bad industrial relations at B.A.C. resulted in a few militants who were well-known at the factory being given the opportunity to exploit the difficulties which would certainly not have arisen if the management and the unions had got together regularly over the months in an undramatic way. There was a larger number of redundancies at Filton which the company, working hard and quietly, whittled down considerably without telling anyone what it was doing. If it had gone to the union at the beginning and said "Look, we have a problem; can we talk about it?" it might have saved all the heartache and industrial unrest which took place over the four-week period before the two parties came together.
One point which I have not seen referred to in the code and which is not dealt with in detail in the Act has to do with amalgamations and take-overs. This causes genuine hardship and difficulty in communication between the trade union leaders and management at plant level. Some attention should be paid to this point. The words "faceless men" were used at Filton, and it is a phrase which is not without some justification. There are two "musts"; management must get 478 together with the men and the men must appoint representatives with whom management can deal.
The day the Act came into force I heard on the 7 o'clock news bulletin Mr. Vic Feather quoted as saying that the unions and management must unite to defeat it. If unions and management can unite, with whatever objective, surely the objective of the Act and code of practice has been achieved.
§ 9.2 p.m.
§ Mr. Harold Walker (Doncaster)
For all the disclaimers with which the hon. Member for Bristol, North-East (Mr. Adley) opened his brief speech I note that none the less he is listed in The Times book as a company director. Of course his speech, brief as it was, was none the worse for that. The Secretary of State opening the debate, said that he wanted to hear criticism and advice so that he could amend the code if necessary. He has had sufficient advice and criticism cascading down on him to make his code look about as substantial as a lace curtain. I hope that before I have sat down I will have given him more advice and perhaps a little criticism.
There are a couple of points I would like to raise first, which have been thrown up during the debate. The first is to set right the record following the comments of the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. Hooson), who I regret is not in his place. I do not apologise for speaking in his absence. I think it is the height of discourtesy to this House, and something regularly experienced from the Liberal Party, for members of that party to take advantage of their numbers to be called early in the debate and then we see nothing of them subsequently. The hon. and learned Gentleman said that the Labour Government had wasted its period of office doing nothing about industrial relations. I look upon industrial relations as affecting all those factors entering into a man's relations with his work, the relationship between a man and his employer, his terms and conditions of employment and so on.
I am entitled to draw the attention of the House and the hon. and learned Member that almost the first thing we did on taking office was to pass the Trade Disputes Act reversing the Rookes 479 v. Barnard decision. I am glad to see the hon. and learned Gentleman has joined us because I can refresh his memory. I was saying that far from having neglected industrial relations, the Labour Government did more in terms of governmental action and legislation than was done in the preceding 15-odd years.
In addition to the Trade Disputes Act, we carried through the long-overdue reform of the Merchant Shipping Act. We passed the Redundancy Payments Act, a major piece of long-overdue social legislation. My right hon. Friend took through the House one of the major reforms connected with the employment of women—the Equal Pay Act. At the time of the Dissolution, we had before the House the Health and Safety Bill which was given rather less than a welcome by the hon. and learned Gentleman's hon. Friends. We had also before the House a Bill to control labour-only sub-contracting. We implemented the Devlin Report, and we tried, admittedly with limited success, to grapple with the problem of wage and salary settlements. I hope that the hon. and learned Gentleman will acknowledge that he was unjust in his criticism of the Labour Government.
The Secretary of State in his introduction said that their Lordships in another place had already debated the code and had expressed a welcome, albeit a muted one. I noted from the HANSARD report of that debate that some of their Lordships from both sides of the House expressed words of welcome but, more significantly, noble Lords who had previously had direct experience of industrial relations in a trade union capacity had without exception levelled some severe and astringent criticisms at the code.
Turning to the code, my belief is that in itself a code of good practice is a sound and welcome concept. A set of mutually acceptable guidelines which lay down a voluntary pattern of standards of behaviour can play a beneficial and constructive rôle in the overdue and necessary reform of our industrial relations.
I am sorry to dissent from the views expressed by my hon. Friend the Member for Westhoughton (Mr. J. T. Price) in 480 a rich and philosophical speech but, as has been said so frequently throughout the debate, the document before the House, contrary to what the right hon. Gentleman tried to lead the House into believing, does not stand by itself. It is not just that it is a projection of the Industrial Relations Act; it is, as my right hon. Friend said, an integral part of that detested Industrial Relations Act, a Measure which has not only aroused the most bitter hostility that has ever been expressed by the whole united British trade union movement but which has poisoned the atmosphere of industrial relations.
My right hon. Friend said that this year we had lost more than 11 million days' production because of strikes. That is the statistical compilation of the Department. She left out the 2½ million days which had been lost as a direct consequence of the introduction of the Industrial Relations Bill. In the first quarter of this year, as a consequence of the introduction of the Bill, we had already lost a number of days' production equivalent to the number lost as a result of strikes in any reasonably good year.
My right hon. Friend was right to express regret that the right hon. Gentleman had not seen his priorities the other way round. Had the code been tried before the right hon. Gentleman felt it necessary to introduce his Bill, there would have been a much more ready and sympathetic response from the trade unions. Instead, the code has now to carry the stigma of its big brother, and that relationship has destroyed the hope of a constructive attitude by the workers towards the code. That is not to say that the code will be a dead letter, in so far as much of it applies to management, the people to whom the Secretary of State looks for new initiatives and attitudes, irrespective of the responsibility of others, and it is bound to have an influence on industrial relations.
It is interesting to note that, while the trade unions have largely ignored the existence of the Consultative Document—and I hope that the Minister of State will tell us those unions which have not ignored it—the response from management could hardly be described as sympathetic. The Institute of Personnel Management, the Edinburgh Group of 481 Personnel Managers and others have all levelled some severe criticisms at the Government's proposals, some of it quite unpredictably.
The code is attacked not only for its paternalism but for its timidity and excess of caution. It is criticised for not being sufficiently imaginative and for failing to set sufficiently high standards for management. There are personnel managers within these groups who have publicly deplored the confusion created by the document in that certain matters are presented as advice on good industrial relations practice which are already statutory requirements. For example, we see that selection and training should not be restricted by arbitrary conditions, some of which are listed. We find there the question of the applicant's race—a matter which is already covered by the Race Relations Act.
The same lack of clarity applies to the section dealing with disclosure of information, which in the document is a matter of advice to management about good practice but which under the Secretary of State's Act is a statutory requirement. I understand it when the right hon. Gentleman says he is waiting for the C.I.R. That is fair enough, but it does not alter my point that to introduce as advice to managements factors which are already the subject of statutory requirements will tend, unnecessarily in my view, to create confusion.
The right hon. Gentleman says in the forewordThe fundamental principle underlying the code is that industrial relations in a free society with a complex industrial structure are best conducted by collective bargaining between employers and strong representative trade unions.That is wholly unexceptionable. Indeed, it is admirable and carries with it an echo of words I myself have used in the past from the Government Dispatch Box. But when we turn to the section which deals with the responsibilities of management we see right away what an insincere sham those words are. Paragraph 6 opens with the words "Where trade unions are recognised …", yet nowhere in the section is management advised that the recognition of trade unions is a major step to ordinary good industrial relations.
482 Equally bad in that section is the indication that managements which do not recognise unions need not establish effective procedures, and so on. The section dealing with the responsibility of trade unions takes us right back into the inequitable philosophy of the Act itself. In the first paragraph we find spelt out for the first but not the only time in the document the responsibility of trade unions for the success of the undertaking. Yet nowhere in the code is there as much as a hint that trade unions or employees should participate in making and taking of management decisions. Responsibility without power is something the trade unions have carried for too long. Today they see it as an inequitable burden.
§ Mr. Walker
The hon. Member for Bristol, North-East sniggers. There are many hon. Members on the Conservative Benches who are company directors and chairmen of boards and have no direct experience of the trade union movement. I am trying to educate them about what is felt by the trade unions. The unions have felt for far too long that they have carried the responsibility without the power, and this is an inequitable burden which they are not prepared to carry indefinitely.
Nor can I pass without comment the bald assertion that the principal aim of trade unions is to promote their members' interests. It is undeniably true that the major part of the day-to-day work of the trade unions is the protection of the interests of members, but to describe this as their principal job is to reveal a fundamental ignorance of the driving spirit of trade unionism.
I will tell the House what is set out as the first objective of my own union. Its first objective is nothing to do with the terms and conditions of employment, wages and interests of members. The first objective of the Amalgamated Union of Engineering Workers is the control of industry in the interests of the community. [Laughter.] The hon. Lady the Member for Tynemouth (Dame Irene Ward) sniggers at that remark. I am telling the hon. Lady the facts. I can well understand that it is a matter which gives rise to deep distaste among right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite.
483 I remember that when I joined my union the curious old ritual was followed—and it is observed to this day with every new member—whereby an address was read which set out the principles of the union. Some of the words made such a powerful impact upon me that I can recall them today. The passage which I have in mind and which better than anything in the code expresses the real spirit of British trade unionism occurs when it is said to the new member:May you live to see the day when the unity of the workers becomes so strong that we can end the system which creates unemployment and poverty in the midst of plenty and replace it with a more just and equitable one.More than anything else that expresses the true spirit of British trade unionism.
I turn to the section of the code which deals with the rôle of the individual employee. It has called for very little effort on the part of the right hon. Gentleman. Three brief paragraphs suffice, one of which I understand was inserted at the request of the B.M.A.
Paragraph 17 on page 9 says that a professional worker should not be called upon to act in conflict with a recognised code of professional conduct. That is fair enough. But we on this side of the House cannot understand why that should be confined to professionals. Have not ordinary workers principles, too? The print workers objected to being compelled to print savage attacks on their fellow trade unionists and vicious cartoons branding their own members. Hon. Members will also remember the dockers in the "Jolly George" incident, and the nineteenth century Lancashire textile workers.
More important is the attitude of mind revealed by paragraph 16, where we find that the basic relationship between employer and employee is defined in the individual contract of employment. Then follows a piece about the employee's obligation to understand and adhere to the contract. However, I ask hon. Members to consider the reality of the situation in which a worker enters into a contract. He does not do it as an employee. He does it as an applicant for a job. He does it not as a free and equal partner engaging in a negotiable transaction but as a supplicant confronted with a "take it or leave it" proposal. Usually, he is given the barest information about the 484 task, the rate of pay, the hours and the meal breaks. He learns about the small print later, when it is too late. If he jibs, he is branded as a mindless militant. If one of my unemployed workers in Doncaster seeks to negotiate a contract at a works entrance and either is refused or cannot reach a satisfactory settlement, on returning to the employment exchange with his green card the first thing that happens is that he is struck off benefit. The individual worker has less freedom to negotiate his contract than I have to live like the Shah of Persia and dine on peacock sandwiches.
While accepting that where collective bargaining prevails at least the major features of the contract are made on a worker's behalf by his trade union, still there are large areas of employment where collective bargaining does not apply and where trade unions are not recognised. There is nothing in the section on the individual employee which even implies that the individual has any rights within the establishment that are remotely comparable with the rights enjoyed by shareholders. In fact, the relationship between the employer and the employee, left unimpaired by the right hon. Gentleman's proposals, in substance is barely an improvement on the relationship between the "proles" and patricians at the time of Servius Tullius.
The Consultative Document has been attacked for its omissions in the course of the debate, especially for its failure to concede any rôle to trade unions in policy decisions bearing on industrial relations. Nowhere is this defect more starkly exposed than in the section dealing with employment policies. Are workers to be denied absolutely any say about the qualifications and experience of those with whom they are to work? The closed shop and questions of trade union membership apart, a man's output, earnings especially where group payment by results applies, safety and even his life may be crucially dependent on his workmate's qualifications and ability. But the sole arbiter of a man's ability will be managerial decision. Are the unions to have neither voice nor influence in training, particularly induction training or manpower training? Surely contemporary experience makes it absolutely clear that the unions will not and cannot be left out.
The mobility of workers which the right hon. Gentleman seeks will not be 485 achieved either without the involvement of the unions. We cannot ignore the contradiction between the need for this mobility and the creation of the agency shops as provided for in the Act. We pointed out that this will undoubtedly prove a most serious impediment to the free movement of labour within any establishment.
There has been reference already to the omission from the section dealing with piecework prices and other payments by results schemes of provision for mutual agreement. Surely the right hon. Gentleman knows that this question is at the hard core of so many of the disputes which have so seriously damaged production in the engineering industry. Surely good industrial practice should require mutual agreement about these matters as about so many others.
But for real flabbiness it would be difficult to surpass the remarks about the status and security of employees. The passage that deals with these matters opens with the sentenceInsecurity of employment and fear of the consequences of redundancy, sickness and retirement have a major influence on attitudes to work and good industrial relations.I agree: very true. But when one hears that from the Secretary of State, who in his brief stewardship of his Ministry has presided over the most massive increase in unemployment since the hungry thirties, one is bound to wonder about the sincerity behind those words.
Almost every step that the right hon. Gentleman suggests to ward off the insecurity and fear has built into it a ready-made fire escape for employers. We see that things should be done where they are "consistent with operational efficiency" or "where practicable" or "where the undertaking is large enough". When redundancy becomes necessary, management are told that they should give not as much warning as "possible" but as much warning as "practicable". Managements are advised to do what they can to mitigate the effects of redundancy. Surely managements should be told that they should do their utmost to bring in such measures.
The document says that differences in treatment between white collar workers and others should be related to the responsibilities of the job. But surely it should depend on the needs of the job. 486 The same deliberate vagueness marks the section dealing with working conditions.
Nor am I at all happy with the fact that managements are to be advised that they should take all reasonable steps to ensure that work is done as safely as possible. Surely the Government should say straightforwardly: "Management should ensure that work is done safely". At least that would bring the code into line with the requirements of the Factories Acts.
On the same subject, as my right hon. Friend has already said, if the right hon. Gentleman were sincere about the responsibilities of trade unions, at least he might look again at the Employed Persons (Safety) Bill, which the Government made clear earlier this year they are not prepared to accept. It is all very well for the Government to say that the employers' representatives should ensure that protective equipment is used. It would sound a lot more convincing if the right hon. Gentleman recognised the other more difficult and more frequent problem of getting employers to provide the equipment in the first place. But there is not a word about that.
The document is riddled through and through with examples like this of woolly and flaccid thinking and the inbred, subconscious bias of those who drafted this inequitable document. I could draw attention to so many more examples, such as the thinking revealed by the opening phrases on page 19. Instead of saying that employees should be kept informed of matters which concern them, we find that it is sufficient that they should feel that they have been informed.
Why, as we find later in the document, should the appointment, qualifications and training of shop stewards have anything to do with management? If this is to be the case, then for the sake of equity and parity of treatment, reciprocal rights vis-à-vis management should be given to unions. But of course, understandably, that would be rejected by hon. Gentlemen opposite as absurd.
We see from the document that the structure of the bargaining unit should be taken into account by management in considering a claim for recognition. That appears on page 18. But on page 17 we have already read the sound advice that the bargaining unit ought to be discussed 487 and voluntarily agreed upon between management and union. That is, of course, consistent with the Act. But how can management take into account, in considering a claim for recognition, the bargaining unit which it is going to discuss and voluntarily agree with the union if it grants it recognition? This is nonsense.
On the basis of direct personal experience, I am bound to say that the idea of having, within the same establishment, completely separate bodies for consultation and negotiation is a nonsense and a recipe for conflict and strife.
It is clear why it is included. Indeed, the document makes the overt admission that it is to accommodate the non-unionist. It is equally clear from the document that the Secretary of State recognises the dangers, and that is why he says that systematic communication between the two is essential. But to believe that there can be a dialogue between non-unionists and unionists on any industrial issue, let alone on one as sensitive as this, is to betray a complete lack of understanding and awareness of the spirit of the trade union movement.
About what would the negotiators be asked to communicate with the consultants other than about what slice of their scope they would concede? To ask trade unionists to dilute their rôle and authority by delegating some of it to non-unionists is not on. The right hon. Gentleman might as well ask the lion to lie down with the lamb.
Then there is the Government's failure to face up to the status quo issue or, to put it more properly, the status quo ante—that is, the position as it was before the dispute arose. The Government believe that, wherever possible, matters in dispute should be resolved by the agreed procedure and that strike action should not be resorted to until the procedure has been exhausted. Save in the most exceptional cases, I share that belief. Equally, I am sure that the Secretary of State and I share common ground in accepting the Royal Commission's view that procedures should be speedy, effective and equitable.
There are some, though not many, who fail to match up to those criteria. I doubt, however, whether we can start to think of any procedure as being equitable 488 unless it lays the same obligations on the one side as on the other. That means to me that if we are telling the unions to desist from action until they have gone through the procedure, we should say exactly the same to any management contemplating taking or actually taking any action which is likely to provoke a dispute.
I conclude as I began, by reiterating my support for the concept of a code of good industrial relations practice—but I have made it clear beyond doubt that the proposals that we have been debating fall far short of the good practices that I would like to see introduced into our industrial relations.
Not that the document is devoid of all merit. Far from it. I agree with the hon. Gentleman opposite who said that if it is only providing a check list against which employers may compare their standards so that those who fall below can pull themselves up to at least this standard, then there would be an improvement. But that is only another way of saying that the standards of many managements are abysmally low.
If I have spent some time criticising this document and identifying the defects in the proposed code, this has not been done in a negative and destructive spirit. I am anxious to see an improvement in our industrial relations. But it is important to ferret out the weaknesses because the shortcomings of the document are, in instance after instance, the shortcomings of our industrial relations system itself. I assure the right hon. Gentleman that I have far from exhausted my criticisms of the code It has been described as platitudinous and paternalistic, and certainly that view has come through in the debate. It is vague in expression and in parts often inconsistent, and occasionally the parts are incompatible with each other. Certainly it is not reconcilable with, nor does it live up to, the fine phraseology of the Secretary of State's foreword.
Towards management the code is too often faltering where it should have been firm. Towards the trade unions it projects the attitude enshrined in the notorious preamble to the York Memorandum—"Management have the right to manage." The affirmation of managerial rights running through the 489 document, contrasting with its expression of trade union responsibilities, reveals the Government's inability to attune themselves with the prevailing and strengthening mood and temper of industrial relations.
Nowhere in the document is there any recognition of the spirit that has asserted itself at Upper Clyde and is finding growing expression throughout industry—the demand of ordinary people to have a say in the crucial decisions that affect their lives.
For these reasons alone we are bound to say to the Secretary of State, "Back to the drawing board." But overriding all else is our constant knowledge that the code that we have before the House is not a document that stands alone but is one that stems from and is an integral part of that noxious Industrial Relations Act. For those reasons, we shall vote against it tonight.
§ 9.31 p.m.
§ The Minister of State, Department of Employment (Mr. Paul Bryan)
The debate is the final act in the consultative process. This is the first draft of the code of practice. For the Government, this has been a valuable debate. My speech will take a form somewhat different from that of the normal winding-up speech, in that I am here tonight not to defend to the last ditch decisions taken by the Government but more to comment on the criticisms and suggestions that we have had, and to explain, where necessary, the thinking behind the various parts of the document.
I am surprised at the attitude of right hon. and hon. Members opposite—particularly the attitude of the right hon. Member for Blackburn (Mrs. Castle)—to this code. On a parallel occasion only about four months ago, in another place, her Front Bench counterpart welcomed the document, and not merely in general terms. The noble Lord, Lord Diamond welcomed it as a guide to assist voluntary co-operation rather than compulsion. He welcomed it because it avoided the distinction between registered and unregistered unions. He even went as far as to say that the foreword was written by someone who really knew what he was talking about concerning industrial relations. I can reveal to the House that 490 the someone who wrote the foreword also played a large part in the writing of the main code, and he certainly showed that he knew what he was talking about.
Many other speakers in another place picked out specific passages in the document for favourable comment. All of them, favouring or not favouring, took a constructive view, and a most valuable debate took place. The hon. Member for Doncaster (Mr. Harold Walker) gets out of this difficulty by saying that the Front Bench speakers in another place do not know anything about industry, or words to that effect. That is not a very powerful argument.
§ Mr. Harold Walker
I apologise for interrupting the hon. Gentleman, but he really must not misrepresent me. I did not say that the Front Bench speakers did not have experience of industrial relations. I understand that the Front Bench spokesman who wound up for the Opposition in the other place is a serving full-time trade union official. To put the picture in perspective, if the hon. Gentleman will look at his speech he will see that he was extremely astringent about the code.
§ Mr. Bryan
I acknowledge the qualifications of various speakers, but that does not take away the fact that the Front Bench spokesman for the Opposition welcomed the code.
What has happened over the last three months to reverse the party line—to turn a welcome into a three-line refusal? It surely cannot be the reaction of the public. The code could hardly have been better received by the Press. Much of the Press paid it the compliment of reproducing the text in full.
I am equally surprised at the tactics of the right hon. Member for Blackburn (Mrs. Castle) this afternoon. Faced with a real opportunity to influence a code which, whether she likes it or not, will be a real power for good, she decided to devote half her speech to a personal attack on my right hon. Friend. He always looked a very unpromising target. Members on both sides will admit that few Members are more highly respected in the House and in the country. Not surprisingly, the right hon. Lady was sadly wide of the mark.
491 As hon. Members may or may not have noticed, I did not take part in the discussions on the Industrial Relations Bill. One of my duties in the Department at the time was the very interesting one of supervising the composition of the code of practice. When we set about constructing the code we decided that it should not be a code for industry alone but should apply to people at work, wherever that work might be. Inevitably, that implied a general document. Even if it was general, it was important that it should be realistic.
It was no good producing a document applicable to, say, a large engineering concern, which meant absolutely nothing to a small worsted spinner in Halifax. We received plenty of advice from large concerns. It was the small concern about which we were worried. I spent most of my industrial life as a director and chairman of a small clothing firm employing about 200 people. As we thought about the various clauses and phrases in the document, we kept asking, "What will it look like in a small firm?" At the end of it all we have a document which is not equally applicable to every place of work but, if properly applied, can be equally helpful.
In constructing the code we drew advice from a wide field of experience. The experience could never be wide enough and we have, therefore, very much valued the criticisms that we have received during the consultative period, and genuinely welcome those that we have heard today. I repeat the words of my right hon. Friend when he said, "I am ready to listen. I am open to conviction and to suggestions about the code." We shall certainly take genuine note of the constructive criticisms that have been made.
May I answer the criticism, rare outside the House but implied from the benches opposite, which comes under the heading of general scorn—the allegation that the code is too platitudinous, too general, unrealistic, and so on? The hon. and learned Member for Mortgomery (Mr. Hooson) said that it was footling nonsense. It is easy to pick out phrases and to say that sort of thing. But that does not indicate the reception that the code has had outside the House. The right hon. Member for Blackburn 492 will know that we in the Department can draw on a good deal of knowledge. We have as many direct contacts with industry and elsewhere as we choose to have.
The verdict of the professionals is the opposite to that which we have heard today. There is plenty of disagreement on points of detail, but few have said that this is an unrealistic document. Nor have I met anyone bold enough to say that, using the code as a yardstick, he could not find ways of improving industrial relations practices in his concern.
The code, preceded by the Consultative Document, has stimulated real interest. Many organisations and firms have submitted lengthy comments on it. Some have taken the trouble to compose a code of their own. In short, the general reception has not merely been favourable; there has been active interest in the code in general and in detail.
We have had the sort of comments which the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery made. Some say that the code is too long, some that it is too short, too concise, and so on. In composing the code, we have gone through all these stages: Mark I was too long and Mark II was too short. We think that we now have it about right, but we are still open to advice.
I turn to the rather one-sided account given by the right hon. Lady regarding trade union membership and the encouragement or otherwise by employers. As I say, hers was a one-sided account. We have to stand in the middle and judge what is fair. The document says that where trade unions are recognised management should encourage employees to join a recognised union and play an active part in its work. This provision has been criticised both for going too far and for not going far enough. On the one hand, many employers feel that it is for trade unions to do their own recruiting and that employers should not be put under any obligation to assist them; on the other hand, it has been strongly urged that employers should encourage trade union membership among their employees before as well as after recognition, and that not to require this is inconsistent with what is said in the foreword to the document about collective bargaining being the best way of conducting industrial relations.
493 This was one of the main criticisms made by the T.U.C. when the Consultative Document was first published. There is some truth in the point that recognition is often a prerequisite of strong, representative trade unions. Also, when a trade union is seeking to establish itself among a firm's employees a positive and constructive attitude by the management can help to provide the basis for future good relationships. At the same time, it is surely right that trade unions should retain primary responsibility for convincing individual employees of the advantages of membership.
Moreover, the Industrial Relations Act gives unions, for the first time, a legal basis for establishing claims of recognition. Although the significance of this is underrated by hon. Members opposite, I do not think that it is underrated by trade union leaders. This is an important and difficult question, which we shall be thinking about again when we reconsider the code. But we must remember that without the help of the Act and the code the trade unions have, after all, succeeded in recruiting on a grand scale and building up a pretty big organisation, so there is no particular reason for the right hon. Lady to fume or whimper in this regard. The trade unions will look after themselves. They will be well placed to do so under our new legislation, and our forecast is that there will be more trade union members five years hence than there are now.
I now want to talk about the relationship between the code and the Act, to which the right hon. Lady and the hon. Member for Doncaster referred. The right hon. Lady called the code the offspring of the Act. That is quite a compliment to the Act. What is the position? The code and the Act are complementary. Each has an important part to play in the reform of industrial relations. The Act imposes legal obligations. The code sets out what is good practice, and is not itself legally enforceable, although under Section 4 of the Act the relevant provisions can be referred to in proceedings before the Industrial Court or the industrial tribunals.
The right hon. Lady said that the code could therefore be used against the unions, but it is at least as likely to be used against employers by the unions. That is possible. If an employer com- 494 plains about an unfair industrial practice by a union the union can state in mitigation the relevant respect in which the employer is falling short of his duties in accordance with the code. This is a very real power. Therefore, it is wrong to see the code only as a weapon to be used to the trade unions' disadvantage. In fact, the code lays many more obligations on employers than it does on trade unions.
I now want to refer to some of the comments made by hon. Members. My hon. Friend the Member for Harrow, West (Mr. John Page) said that he had a long jumble of suggestions to make. I can only say that we regard them as a very useful jumble of suggestions. We regard as important his comments regarding the white-collar worker, as also his comments about arbitration and the emergency procedure, and we shall take all those into account.
I mean no disrespect to the hon. Member for Derbyshire, North-East (Mr. Swain) when I say that his comments may not take us quite so long. He gave us an instance of had industrial relations in his constituency. I can only say, judging from what the hon. Gentleman said, that what is needed in that case is the active practice of the code, and I suggest that with the code in his hand he preaches the gospel in his constituency.
§ Mr. Bryan
My hon. Friend the Member for Hampstead (Mr. Geoffrey Finsberg) made a useful point about educating children for industrial life, and we shall bear that in mind. He also raised the question of professional workers. The provision in the code dealing with the professional worker is to be found in Section A, paragraph 17. The point made there is that the worker in a profession with a recognised code of conduct has an obligation to comply with that code and should not be called upon to take action which is contrary to it. What we were anxious to ensure in the paragraph was that the professional man or woman should not be called upon to take action contrary to his or her professional ethic. That was our aim.
The paragraph has now been criticised on the ground that professional or quasi-professional groups might adopt codes of conduct which might, for example, 495 explicitly rule out strike action and thereby seriously prejudice the position of the trade unions concerned. That criticism needs careful consideration. As I said, our intention in drafting paragraph 17 was simply to protect professional ethics. If the effect of the paragraph seemed likely to lead professional bodies to introduce rules into their codes of conduct which went right outside the question of professional ethics the position would obviously have to be looked at again. We are not out to create a privileged class of trade union members or to undermine trade union discipline or control over members.
My hon. Friend the Member for Bridgwater (Mr. Tom King) and the hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. J. T. Price) both talked about conglomerates and the problem that they present. Here is yet another test of the broad effectiveness of the code. This is a case in which it would be extremely useful. The trouble about conglomerates is that it is impossible for them to control their units from the centre in detail. However, I can readily imagine that under the new arrangement the management from the centre would almost certainly ask for a report on the extent to which the code was observed in its units. Moreover, foreign-owned firms, which are often conglomerates, are usually particularly attentive to Government policy in the countries in which they operate, so they, too, would probably be very interested in the code, and in using it as a guide to their own operations.
My hon. Friend the Member for Bridgwater also spoke about the question of information and consultation, and about disclosure, in particular. On the question of disclosure, as my right hon. Friend pointed out, we have put in only an interim paragraph, but we are not passing the buck to the C.I.R. We do not imagine that the C.I.R. will give us a ready-made reply which we can put straight in here. There will be lots of difficult decisions to be made, and we shall face them when the time comes.
Now I should like to say a word or two about the criticism of what is said under the heading of "Communication and Consultation". Some people have said that the document's approach to this subject is old-fashioned, especially the 496 consultative committee proposal. It is argued that there is no recognition of the growth of joint decision-making through productivity bargaining and later developments, and that the consultative committee proposal is a means of undermining the unions' position. There will be no disagreement in the House that with an increasingly educated population people rightly want an increasing say in the running of the establishment in which they spend their working days. Decisions which 10 years ago were regarded as management decisions tend more to be shared with those that they affect. Enlightened employers have realised that the old authoritarian management must give way to a type of management which carries the employees along with it.
Every country is meeting the changing situation in a different way. In Germany there are statutory provisions for consultative committees and worker representatives on the boards of their companies. In section C of the code we detail practices which are typical of what takes place in the better-run firms of this country. If all firms followed this guidance I would judge that a large proportion of our working population would be happier in their working life and certainly get more satisfaction from it. This is an immensely important part of the code, and we shall certainly revise it very carefully and see what can be done to improve it further.
The hon. and learned Member for Montgomery mentioned the way in which foreign countries have tackled the question. He said that we should specify in much more concise terms what we have in mind. It is true that it is laid down by law in Belgium that all firms with more than 150 employees shall have a works council. In France the figure is 50, in Italy it is 40, and so on. We believe that consultation is likely to be more effective when the arrangements for it fit naturally into the operational needs of the establishment, and when it is concerned with problems of vital interest to management and employees. But it will not take place, except in very small undertakings, unless arrangements are made specifically for it to do so.
§ Mr. Hugh Jenkins
Before the hon. Gentleman travels further afield, will he return home and deal briefly with my point, that the code is defective in certain respects and that the Act denies the 497 code. In particular, will he deal with my suggestion of fresh legislation?
§ Mr. Bryan
I am rather late in my speech, and I have no time to deal with all those points. I have taken careful note of what the hon. Gentleman has said.
I wish to finish now on the question of paternalism, which has apparently disturbed hon. Members opposite almost more than anything else. My right hon. Friend has already commented at some length and promised to take notice in the final draft of what has been said. It seems to me that the first complaint is of the general tone of the draft allegedly giving the impression that the trade unions have a lesser part to play in industrial relations than management. It is said that the code underplays the rôle of the unions. That is somewhat ironical in that the emphasis on the duty of management to initiate steps to improve industrial relations was meant to give reassurance to trade unions. Clearly, it has not succeeded in doing that. I draw attention to paragraph 2 of section A, on management responsibilities, which says:The first need is for management at the highest level to accept the same degree of responsibility for industrial relations as for other essential functions such as finance, marketing and production.There I think we underline the duty of management not merely to initiate action but to give industrial relations a high priority amongst its essential functions. If that paragraph is observed by management, surely it is bound to be for the benefit of the trade unions and for everyone else in employment.
My hon. Friend the Member for Bosworth (Mr. Adam Butler) pointed out that had we treated the trade unions in the script as we have treated the management, it is doubtful whether they would have appreciated it. Reading it through again, one is bound to see it said that management should do this and management should do that. I doubt whether the trade unions would have accepted these terms had we included them in such harness. But I think that there is some substance in this criticism and I agree with the hon. Member for Doncaster that it is worth thinking about whether the trade unions can be brought to a greater extent into the paragraphs on the use of 498 manpower, policy, training, induction training and so on. We accept that the maintenance of good industrial relations must be a joint responsibility. But the emphasis on management responsibility is heavy, and we will look at this point again.
I want to finish on the question of trade union consultation. This has possibly been debated almost to its limit here. But I remind hon. Members opposite that Lady Gaitskell pointed out in another place that it was time that the trade unions did some discussing with the Government. Hon. Members opposite have spent much of this year opposing the Act as best they could. Time is needed to show that we were right and they were wrong. But the code is already a success even in its consultative form. The foreword of the code says that its purpose is:to set standards and give practical guidance on the conduct of industrial relations".The setting of standards is exactly what is happening now. A vast variety of courses to study the code are being held throughout the country by organisations and firms. Thousands of people in responsible positions, many of them trade unionists, are examining the code and comparing it with their own practice, exactly as we hoped they would do. Trade unionists who may have disagreed with the Act are willing to discuss this practical document with management. Trade union officials will certainly by now recognise that the code can be a powerful level to bring about changes they have wanted for years.
It must be to the advantage of every individual, wherever his place of work, that those in charge should be actively striving to improve the conditions and atmosphere where he works. Yet this is a situation from which trade union leaders wish to opt out and against which the Parliamentary Labour Party elects to protest with a three-line whip. This is a "take note" Motion. By their vote tonight the Opposition say "We refuse to take note. We do not want to know." Opposition to the Bill was mistaken but at least understandable. To vote against the code is beyond belief. Hon. Members opposite who have not followed this debate know that they are being led into the Lobby to vote against a code whose avowed objective, and patently 499 obvious objective, is to give guidance on the establishment of policies to improve the human relations.
§ Question put:—
§ The House divided: Ayes 274, Noes 252.503
|Division No. 478.]||AYES||[10.00 p.m.|
|Adley, Robert||Finsberg, Geoffrey (Hampstead)||Loveridge, John|
|Amery, Rt. Hn. Julian||Fisher, Nigel (Surbiton)||Luce, R. N.|
|Archer, Jeffrey (Louth)||Fletcher-Cooke, Charles||McAdden, Sir Stephen|
|Astor, John||Fookes, Miss Janet||MacArthur, Ian|
|Atkins, Humphrey||Fortescue, Tim||McCrindle, R. A.|
|Awdry, Daniel||Foster, Sir John||McLaren, Martin|
|Baker, Kenneth (St. Marylebone)||Fowler, Norman||Maclean, Sir Fitzroy|
|Balniel, Lord||Fox, Marcus||McMaster, Stanley|
|Barber, Rt. Hn. Anthony||Fry, Peter||Macmillan, Maurice (Farnham)|
|Batsford, Brian||Galbraith, Hn. T. G.||McNair-Wilson, Michael|
|Beamish, Col. Sir Tufton||Gardner, Edward||McNair-Wilson, Patrick (NewForest)|
|Bennett, Sir Frederic (Torquay)||Gibson-Watt, David||Maddan, Martin|
|Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gosport)||Gilmour, Ian (Norfolk, C.)||Maginnis, John E.|
|Benyon, W.||Gilmour, Sir John (Fife, E.)||Marten, Neil|
|Berry, Hn. Anthony||Glyn, Dr. Alan||Maude, Angus|
|Biffen, John||Goodhart, Philip||Mawby, Ray|
|Biggs-Davison, John||Gorst, John||Maxwell-Kyslop, R. J.|
|Blaker, Peter||Gower, Raymond||Meyer, Sir Anthony|
|Boardman, Tom (Leicester, S.W.)||Grant, Anthony (Harrow, C.)||Mills, Peter (Torrington)|
|Body, Richard||Green, Alan||Miscampbell, Norman|
|Boscawen, Robert||Griffiths, Eldon (Bury St. Edmunds)||Mitchell, Lt.Col.C.(Aberdeenshire,W)|
|Bossom, Sir Clive||Grylls, Michael||Mitchell, David (Basingstoke)|
|Bowden, Andrew||Gummer, Selwyn||Moate, Roger|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hn. John||Hall, Miss Joan (Keighley)||Monro, Hector|
|Braine, Bernard||Hall, John (Wycombe)||More, Jasper|
|Bray, Ronald||Hall-Davis, A. G. F.||Morgan-Giles, Rear-Adm.|
|Brewis, John||Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury)||Morrison, Charles|
|Brinton, Sir Tatton||Harrison, Brian (Maldon)||Mudd, David|
|Brocklebank-Fowler, Christopher||Harrison, Col. Sir Harwood (Eye)||Murton, Oscar|
|Brown, Sir Edward (Bath)||Haselhurst, Alan||Nabarro, Sir Gerald|
|Bryan, Paul||Havers, Michael|
|Buchanan-Smith, Alick(Angus,N & M)||Hawkins, Paul||Neave, Airey|
|Buck, Antony||Hayhoe, Barney||Noble, Rt. Hn. Michael|
|Bullus, Sir Eric||Heath, Rt. Hn. Edward||Normanton, Tom|
|Burden, F. A.||Hicks, Robert||Nott, John|
|Butler, Adam (Bosworth)||Higgins, Terence L.||Onslow, Cranley|
|Campbell, Rt.Hn.G.(Moray & Nairn)||Hiley, Joseph||Oppenheim, Mrs. Sally|
|Carlisle, Mark||Hill, John E. B. (Norfolk, S.)||Osborn, John|
|Carr, Rt. Hn. Robert||Hill, James (Southampton, Test)||Owen, Idris (Stockport, N.)|
|Chapman, Sydney||Holt, Miss Mary||Page, Graham (Crosby)|
|Chataway, Rt. Hn. Christopher||Hooson, Emlyn||Page, John (Harrow, W.)|
|Chichester-Clark, R.||Hordern, Peter||Parkinson, Cecil|
|Clark, William (Surrey, E.)||Hornby, Richard||Peel, John|
|Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe)||Hornsby-Smith. Rt. Kn. Dame Patricia||Percival, Ian|
|Clegg, Walter||Howe, Hn. Sir Geoffrey (Reigate)||Peyton, Rt. Hn. John|
|Cockeram, Eric||Howell, David (Guildford)||Pink, R. Bonner|
|Cooke, Robert||Howell, Ralph (Norfolk, N.)||Pounder, Rafton|
|Coombs, Derek||Hunt, John||Price, David (Eastleigh)|
|Cooper, A. E.||Hutchison, Michael Clark||Prior, Rt. Hn. J. M. L.|
|Cordle, John||Iremonger, T. L.||Proudfoot, Wilfred|
|Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)||Pym, Rt. Hn. Francis|
|Corfield, Rt. Hn. Frederick||James, David||Quennell, Miss J. M.|
|Cormack, Patrick||Jenkin, Patrick (Woodford)||Raison, Timothy|
|Critchley, Julian||Jennings, J. C. (Burton)||Rawlinson, Rt. Hn. Sir Peter|
|Crowder, F. P.||Jessel, Toby||Redmond, Robert|
|Curran, Charles||Jones, Arthur (Northants, S.)||Reed, Laurance (Bolton, E.)|
|Davies, Rt. Hn. John (Knutsford)||Jopling, Michael||Rees, Peter (Dover)|
|d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry||Joseph, Rt. Hn. Sir Keith||Renton, Rt. Hn. Sir David|
|d'Avigdor-Goldsmid,Maj.-Gen.James||Kaberry, Sir Donald||Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon|
|Dean, Paul||Kellett-Bowman, Mrs. Elaine||Ridley, Hn. Nicholas|
|Deedes, Rt. Hn. W. F.||Kimball, Marcus||Ridsdale, Julian|
|Digby, Simon Wingfield||King, Evelyn (Dorset, S.)||Rippon, Rt. Hn. Geoffrey|
|Dixon, Piers||King, Tom (Bridgwater)||Roberts, Michael (Cardiff, N.)|
|Dodds-Parker, Douglas||Kinsey, J. R.||Roberts, Wyn (Conway)|
|Douglas-Home, Rt. Hn. Sir Alec||Kirk, Peter||Rodgers, Sir John (Sevenoaks)|
|Eden, Sir John||Kitson, Timothy||Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey)|
|Edwards, Nicholas (Pembroke)||Knight, Mrs. Jill||Rost, Peter|
|Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton)||Knox, David||Royle, Anthony|
|Elliott, R. W. (N'ctle-upon-Tyne, N.)||Lambton, Antony||Russell, Sir Ronald|
|Emery, Peter||Lane, David||Sandys, Rt. Hn. D.|
|Eyre, Reginald||Langford-Holt, Sir John||Scott, Nicholas|
|Farr, John||Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry||Scott-Hopkins, James|
|Fell, Anthony||Le Marchant, Spencer||Sharpies, Richard|
|Fenner, Mrs. Peggy||Lloyd, Rt. Hn. Geoffrey (Sut'nC'dfield)||Shaw, Michael (Sc'b'gh & Whitby)|
|Fidler, Michael||Longden, Gilbert||Shelton, William (Clapham)|
|Simeons, Charles||Taylor, Robert (Croydon, N.W.)||Walters, Dennis|
|Sinclair, Sir George||Tebbit, Norman||Ward, Dame Irene|
|Skeet, T. H. H.||Thatcher, Rt. Hn. Mrs. Margaret||Warren, Kenneth|
|Smith, Dudley (W'wick & L'mington)||Thomas, John Stradling (Monmouth)||Weatherill, Bernard|
|Soref, Harold||Thomas, Rt. Hn. Peter (Hendon, S.)||Wells, John (Maidstone)|
|Spence, John||Thompson, Sir Richard (Croydon, S.)||White, Roger (Gravesend)|
|Sproat, Iain||Tilney, John||Wiggin, Jerry|
|Stainton, Keith||Trafford, Dr. Anthony||Wilkinson, John|
|Stanbrook, Ivor||Trew, Peter||Winterton, Nicholas|
|Stewart-Smith, Geoffrey (Belper)||Tugendhat, Christopher||Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick|
|Stodart, Anthony (Edinburgh, W.)||Turton, Rt. Hn. Sir Robin||Wood, Rt. Hn. Richard|
|Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir M.||van Straubenzee, W. R.||Woodnutt, Mark|
|Stokes, John||Vaughan, Dr. Gerard||Worsley, Marcus|
|Stuttaford, Dr. Tom||Vickers, Dame Joan||Wylie, Rt. Hn. N. R.|
|Sutcliffe, John||Waddington, David|
|Tapsell, Peter||Walder, David (Clitheroe)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)||Walker, Rt. Hn. Peter (Worcester)||Mr. Victor Goodhew and|
|Taylor, Edward M.(G'gow,Cathcart)||Wall, Patrick||Mr. Keith Speed.|
|Taylor, Frank (Moss Side)|
|Abse, Leo||Edelman, Maurice||Lambie, David|
|Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.)||Edwards, Robert (Bilston)||Lamond, James|
|Archer, Peter (Rowley Regis)||Edwards, William (Merioneth)||Latham, Arthur|
|Ashley, Jack||Evans, Fred||Lawson, George|
|Ashton, Joe||Ewing, Henry||Leadbitter, Ted|
|Atkinson, Norman||Fernyhough, Rt. Hn. E.||Lee, Rt. Hn. Frederick|
|Bagler, Gordon A. T.||Fisher, Mrs. Doris(B'ham,Ladywood)||Leonard, Dick|
|Barnett, Guy (Greenwich)||Fitch, Alan (Wigan)||Lestor, Miss Joan|
|Barnett, Joel (Heywood and Royton)||Fletcher, Raymond (Ilkeston)||Lever, Rt. Hn. Harold|
|Beaney, Alan||Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)||Lewis, Arthur (W. Ham, N.)|
|Benn, Rt. Hn. Anthony Wedgwood||Foley, Maurice||Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)|
|Bennett, James (Glasgow, Bridgeton)||Foot, Michael||Lipton, Marcus|
|Bidwell, Sydney||Ford, Ben||Lomas, Kenneth|
|Bishop, E. S.||Forrester, John||Loughlin, Charles|
|Blenkinsop, Arthur||Fraser, John (Norwood)||Lyon, Alexander W. (York)|
|Booth, Albert||Freeson, Reginald||Lyons, Edward (Bradford, E.)|
|Bottomley, Rt. Hn. Arthur||Galpern, Sir Myer||McBride, Neil|
|Boyden, James (Bishop Auckland)||Garrett, W. E.||McCann, John|
|Brown, Ronald (Shoreditch & F'bury)||Gilbert, Dr. John||McCartney, Hugh|
|Buchan, Norman||Ginsburg, David (Dewbury)||McElhone, Frank|
|Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green)||Golding, John||McGuire, Michael|
|Callaghan, Rt. Hn. James||Gordon Walker, Rt. Hn. P. C.||Mackenzie, Gregor|
|Campbell, R. (Dunbartonshire, W.)||Gourlay, Harry||Mackie, John|
|Cant, R. B.||Grant, George (Morpeth)||Mackintosh, John P.|
|Carmichael, Neil||Grant, John D. (Islington, E.)||McMillan, Tom (Glasgow, C.)|
|Carter, Ray (Birmingh'm, Northfield)||Griffiths, Eddie (Brightside)||McNamara, J. Kevin|
|Carter-Jones, Lewis (Eccles)||Hamilton, James (Bothwell)||Mahon, Simon (Bootle)|
|Castle, Rt. Hn. Barbara||Hamilton, William (Fife, W.)||Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)|
|Clark, David (Colne Valley)||Hamling, William||Mallalieu, J.P.W. (Huddersfield, E.)|
|Cocks, Michael (Bristol, S.)||Hannan, William (G'gow, Maryhill)||Marks, Kenneth|
|Cohen, Stanley||Hardy, Peter||Marsden, F.|
|Coleman, Donald||Harrison, Walter (Wakefield)||Marshall, Dr. Edmund|
|Concannon, J. D.||Hart, Rt. Hn. Judith||Mason, Rt. Hn. Roy|
|Conlan, Bernard||Hattersley, Roy||Mayhew, Christopher|
|Corbet, Mrs. Freda||Heffer, Eric S.||Meacher, Michael|
|Cox, Thomas (Wandsworth, C.)||Hilton, W. S.||Mellish, Rt. Hn. Robert|
|Crawshaw, Richard||Horam, John||Mendelson, John|
|Cronin, John||Houghton, Rt. Hn. Douglas||Millan, Bruce|
|Crosland, Rt. Hn. Anthony||Howell, Denis (Small Health)||Milne, Edward|
|Cunningham, G. (Islington, S.W.)||Hughes, Rt. Hn. Cledwyn (Anglesey)||Mitchell, R. C. (S'hampton, Itchen)|
|Cunningham, Dr. J. A. (Whitehaven)||Hughes, Mark (Durham)||Molloy, William|
|Dalyell, Tam||Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen, N.)||Morgan, Elystan (Cardiganshire)|
|Darling, Rt. Hn. George||Hughes, Roy (Newport)||Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe)|
|Davies, Ifor (Gower)||Hunter, Adam||Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw)|
|Davies, S. O. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Irvine, Rt. Hn. SirArthur (Edge Hill)||Morris, Rt. Hn. John (Aberavon)|
|Davis, Clinton (Hackney, C.)||Janner, Greville||Moyle, Roland|
|Jay, Rt. Hn. Douglas||Mulley, Rt. Hn. Frederick|
|Davis, Terry (Bromsgrove)||Jenkins, Hugh (Putney)||Murray, Ronald King|
|Deakins, Eric||Jenkins, Rt. Hn. Roy (Stechford)||Oakes, Gordon|
|de Freitas, Rt. Hn. Sir Geoffrey||John, Brynmor||Ogden, Eric|
|Delargy, H. J.||Johnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.)||O'Halloran, Michael|
|Dell, Rt. Hn. Edmund||Johnson, James (K'ston-on-Hull, W.)||O'Malley, Brian|
|Dempsey, James||Johnson, Walter (Derby, S.)||Oram, Bert|
|Doig, Peter||Jones, Barry (Flint, E.)||Orbach, Maurice|
|Dormand, J. D.||Jones, Dan (Burnley)||Orme, Stanley|
|Douglas, Dick (Stirlingshire, E.)||Jones, Gwynoro (Carmarthen)||Oswald, Thomas|
|Douglas-Mann, Bruce||Judd, Frank||Owen, Dr. David (Plymouth, Sutton)|
|Driberg, Tom||Kaufman, Gerald||Padley, Walter|
|Duffy, A. E. P.||Kelley, Richard||Paget, R. T.|
|Dunn, James A.||Kerr, Russell||Palmer, Arthur|
|Eadie, Alex||Kinnock, Neil||Panned, Rt. Hn. Charles|
|Parker, John (Dagenham)||Sheldon, Robert (Ashton-under-Lyne)||Urwin, T. W.|
|Parry, Robert (Liverpool, Exchange)||Shore, Rt. Hn. Peter (Stepney)||Varley, Eric G.|
|Pavitt Laurie||Short,Rt.Hn.Edward(N'c'tle-u-Tyne)||Wainwright, Edwin|
|Pendry, Tom||Silkin, Rt Hn. John (Deptford)||Walden, Brian (B'm'ham, All Saints)|
|Pentland, Norman||Sillars, James||Walker, Harold (Doncaster)|
|Perry, Ernest Q.||Silverman, Julius||Watkins, David|
|Prentice, Rt. Hn. Reg.||Skinner, Dennis||Weitzman, David|
|Prescott, John||Small, William||Wellbeloved, James|
|Price, J. T. (Westhoughton)||Smith, John (Lanarkshire, N.)||Wells, William (Walsall, N.)|
|Price, William (Rugby)||Spearing, Nigel||White, James (Glasgow, Pollok)|
|Probert, Arthur||Spriggs, Leslie||Whitehead, Phillip|
|Rankin, John||Stallard, A. W.||Whitlock, William|
|Reed, D. (Sedgefield)||Stewart, Rt. Hn. Michael (Fulham)||Willey, Rt. Hn. Frederick|
|Rees, Merlyn (Leeds, S.)||Stoddart, David (Swindon)||Williams, Alan (Swansea, W.)|
|Rhodes, Geoffrey||Stonehouse, Rt. Hn. John||Williams, Mrs. Shirley (Hitchin)|
|Richard, Ivor||Strauss, Rt. Hn. G. R.||Williams, W. T. (Warrington)|
|Roberts, Albert (Normanton)||Summerskill, Hn. Dr. Shirley||Wilson, Alexander (Hamilton)|
|Roberts,Rt.Hn.Goronwy( Caernarvon)||Swain, Thomas||Wilson, Rt. Hn. Harold (Huyton)|
|Robertson, John (Paisley)||Taverne, Dick||Wilson, William (Coventry, S.)|
|Roderick,CaerwenE.(Br'c'n&R'dnor)||Thomas, Jeffrey (Abertillery)||Woof, Robert|
|Rodgers, William (Stockton-on-Tees)||Thomson, Rt. Hn. G. (Dundee, E.)|
|Roper, John||Tinn, James||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Rose, Paul B.||Tomney, Frank||Mr. Ernest Armstrong and|
|Ross, Rt. Hn. William (Kilmarnock)||Torney, Tom||Mr. Joseph Harper.|
|Sandelson, Neville||Tuck, Raphael|
That this House takes note of the Consultative Document on the Code of Industrial Relations Practice.