HC Deb 23 October 1973 vol 861 cc967-8
19. Mr. Barnes

asked the Secretary of State for Employment what conclusions he has reached about the EEC draft directive concerning employee and shareholder representation on the boards of companies.

Mr. Maurice Macmillan

I must ask the hon. Member to await the publication of the Green Paper on Employee Participation.

Mr. Barnes

Is it not the case that the power of top management in private industry, and the highly privileged and self-perpetuating existence which they often lead, is something which, in today's climate of opinion, is more and more being called into question? Does not the right hon. Gentleman think that we need supervisory boards of the kind contained in this proposal in order to manage the managers and make them more responsible to all those who have a stake in any particular firm?

Mr. Macmillan

The hon. Gentleman has taken the matter slightly wider than employee participation by involving the fiduciary obligation of directors of boards to shareholders and their obligation to employees. Those matters will be covered partly in the proposals to be put forward by my right hon. and learned Friend on company law, and they will also be discussed in some detail in the Green Paper on Employee Participation. I do not think that the two-tier board is necessarily the only system of remedying the type of situation which the hon. Gentleman has in mind.

Mr. Prentice

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the most important way to advance worker participation is to strengthen the trade union movement and extend the scope of collective bargaining, and that we shall not be in favour of the importation of a system of works councils which is divorced from trade union structure and which would have the effect of separating the worker from his trade union?

Mr. Macmillan

If the right hon. Gentleman had paid close attention to the proceedings at Blackpool, he would have realised that I made it plain that I did not regard the importation of methods lock, stock and barrel from other countries as being wholly suitable for this country. I also made it plain that, to be effective, any form of employee participation must be based upon the great body of consultation and negotiation which has been built up in the course of our industrial relations history.