HC Deb 12 June 1973 vol 857 cc1183-5
7. Mr. Haselhurst

asked the Secretary of State for Employment whether, in any amendment of the Industrial Relations Act, he will propose that employees as well as shareholders are members of their company and should be provided with the directors' report including a survey of the company's industrial relations.

31. Mr. Kinsey

asked the Secretary of State for Employment whether, in any amendment of the Industrial Relations Act, he will propose making it mandatory for companies to report annually to their employees and shareholders about their implementation of the Code of Industrial Relations Practice.

Mr. Maurice Macmillan

I have some sympathy with the thoughts underlying these suggestions as regards employees. I will certainly consider them in the course of our current study of worker participation. Suggestions regarding a company's obligations to its shareholders are, of course, for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry.

Mr. Haselhurst

I thank my right hon. Friend for that answer. Would this not be a useful start towards a fuller programme of participation by employees in a company? Surely it is about time that at least a small step was taken in this direction so that employees may feel that they have as much say as the shareholders in their company.

Mr. Macmillian

Yes, I think that this is very much the thinking behind our commitment, not least at the European summit and in the proposals which we discussed in the Council of Ministers at Brussels the other day. It is important that steps should be taken in this direction, but it is equally important that the proposals should be properly discussed with those concerned. We should not necessarily slavishly follow the European pattern. We may decide on a pattern of development to suit our own particular needs.

Mr. Cant

Will the right hon. Gentleman ensure that when a registered union, such as the Steel Industry Management Association, approaches the NIRC for financial information about cost, profits and prices of plant in the steel industry, it will be given that information?

Mr. Macmillan

It would be improper for me to say one way or the other what will happen when anyone approaches a court.

Mr. Selwyn Gummer

Will my right hon. Friend take some action while discussing worker participation by encouraging firms to give this information freely, because many firms do not do so and could give it if my right hon. Friend reminded them forcibly that this is part of their job as decent employers?

Mr. Macmillan

This is very much part of the Code of Industrial Relations Practice, and I hope that both sides of industry will do all they can to implement the code.

Mr. Prentice

Will the right hon Gentleman confirm that the Government have on their agenda at least three possible ways, if they choose, of promoting the extension of worker participation? One is the possible amendment of the Industrial Relations Act. The second is the proposed new Companies Act. The third is the initiative emanating from the Commission in Brussels Can the right hon. Gentleman give us some idea of the Government's timetable of policy-making under those three heads? Are we likely to have a statement of Government policy before the Summer Recess, since it would be useful for the promotion of discussion throughout the country?

Mr. Macmillan

I agree, not least because of the demand for a European timetable, that it is necessary for ideas to be discussed quickly with those concerned and for the Government's position to be set out. This is a matter for consultation between the unions and employers. I should not like it to be thought that we were putting forward ideas without consultation.

I confirm that there are three aspects: the Code of Industrial Relations Practice under the Industrial Relations Act, company law, and the action being taken in the European context.

Mr. Scott-Hopkins

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the legislation emanating from the Commission in Brussels is fairly far advanced and has been discussed in working papers of the European Assembly and its committees? In framing his policy, will my right hon. Friend ensure that there is co-ordination with those proposals so that there is no clash of interest between our legislation and that proposed by the Commission?

Mr. Macmillan

I take that point. However, the ideas put forward by the Commission are not wholly acceptable to sonic of the other countries involved in the Community. It is important to remember that we are discussing in general terms employee participation, and it must be recognised that this extends to white-collar and staff workers as well as to manual workers on the shop floor.