HC Deb 26 July 1972 vol 841 cc1952-4

9.45 p.m.

The Under-Secretary of State for Home Affairs and Agriculture, Scottish Office (Mr. Alick Buchanan-Smith)

I beg to move Amendment No. 1, in page 3, line 18, at end insert: '(3) This section shall not apply to any form of arbitration relating to a trade dispute within the meaning of the Industrial Courts Act 1919 or relating to an industrial dispute within the meaning of the Industrial Relations Act 1971; to any other arbitration arising from a collective agreement within the meaning of the said Act of 1971; or to proceedings before the Industrial Arbitration Board described in section 124 of that Act'. This Amendment, which I hope will be acceptable to the House, has been tabled by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State in response to an Amendment which was tabled by the Opposition in Committee and which sought to provide that the provisions of Clause 3, which provides that an arbiter may state a case on a question of law for the opinion of the Court of Session, shall not apply to arbitration relating to an industrial dispute.

The Government fully support the intention of the original Amendment because adequate machinery already exists under the Industrial Courts Act, 1919, and the Industrial Relations Act, 1971, for settlement of such disputes. The clear intention of the 1971 Act, with this aspect of which at least the Opposition will not disagree, is that industrial disputes should not be the subject of litigation before the ordinary civil courts such as the Court of Session in Scotland. As the House knows, arbitration may arise in industrial relations in many different ways. It can consist simply of a voluntary arrangement to submit disputes to arbitration, which are usually within the context of a collective agreement, or, alternatively, it may consist of a more firm type of arbitration under the Industrial Courts Act, 1919, as amended by the Industrial Relations Act, 1971.

Under Section 2 of the 1919 Act, the Secretary of State may refer a trade dispute for settlement by the Industrial Arbitration Board, which was formerly called the Industrial Court, by the arbitration of persons appointed by him or by a board of arbitration selected by the parties and by the Secretary of State. Arbitration may also arise in the context of a collective agreement where it is desired to obtain a decision on the construction or effect of an agreement, whether or not an industrial or trade dispute is in being.

The new subsection is intended to ensure that in all these situations the existing machinery is preserved and no additional right of recourse to the court of session is conferred. I could go through some of the details of the effect of the Amendment, but I am sure they are even better understood and better known by the hon. and learned Member for Edinburgh, Leith (Mr. Ronald King Murray) than they are to myself. I confess that over the past few hours I have understood the subject in a way I have not understood it before. If the hon. and learned Member for Leith has any point he wishes to raise, I should be glad to seek to answer it.

We are grateful to the hon. and learned Gentleman for drawing attention to this matter. He is certainly right to have raised it in Committee. My right hon. and learned Friend is sorry that he cannot be here tonight. As the hon. and learned Gentleman knows, my right hon. and learned Friend would have liked to express his thanks to the hon. and learned Gentleman for having raised the matter.

Mr. Ronald King Murray (Edinburgh, Leith)

I must express regret at the absence of the Lord Advocate. We sym- pathise with him and understand the reason. I thank the Under-Secretary of State for the kind words he said on behalf of his right hon. and learned Friend.

The Opposition welcome the Amendment. It is an excellent Amendment which exactly in drafting terms reflects the point I sought to raise in Committee. For my part, I am grateful to the Government for coming forward with such an excellent Amendment. It is perhaps a measure of what the future may hold. I think we have demonstrated perfectly satisfactorily to the Government that the Labour Party is in at least one respect right on industrial relations. Perhaps they could follow that logic a little further. I certainly commend the Amendment to the House.

Amendment agreed to.

Motion made, That the Bill be now read the Third time. [Queen's Consent on behalf of the Crown signified.]

Question put forthwith pursuant to Standing Order No. 56 (Third Reading), and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read the Third time and passed, with Amendments.

Back to