§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ 4.20 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for Employment (Mr. Michael Foot)
I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.
The purpose of the Bill is to carry out effectively one of the clearest pledges made by the Labour Party in the last two General Elections, to repeal effectively all the offensive parts of the Industrial Relations Act 1971. We had hoped to achieve that result in the last Parliament with our previous Bill—the Trade Union and Labour Relations Act 1974—to which I refer for purposes of abbreviation as repeal Bill No. 1. Owing to the events which occurred in the dying days of July, the intervention from another place, and an embryo but impermanent coalition in this House, we were deprived of that objective. Parts of our repeal Bill No. 1 were thereby mutilated. Dangers were created on this account. Therefore, we introduced the present Bill—repeal Bill No. 2—to remove those dangers and to accomplish our original objectives.
Our objective all along has been to remove the offensive and dangerous parts of the Industrial Relations Act 1971. It has always been understood by those engaged in our debates that some parts of the Bill have been inherited from the previous Bill prepared by the Labour Government, especially those dealing with unfair dismissals, which we always sought to retain and still seek to retain. They give rise to some of the amendments with which we deal in repeal Bill No. 2.
I see on the Opposition benches some of those who participated in our debates on repeal Bill No. 1. Contrary to the poet, "the old familiar faces" have not gone. They are in full frontal array, if that is a proper way of describing them. No doubt we shall again have discussions over several weeks. I am the last to complain about that because I believe that that is the way to deal with the laws of this country. They should be properly discussed in this place.
1372 We shall have an opportunity to discuss again all the aspects of this Bill to which hon. Members opposite took objection during July. I thought that the most useful purpose I could serve in this Second Reading speech was not to try to cover all the details of each proposed amendment but to concentrate on the two aspects of the matter which have given rise to the widest discussion in recent weeks. I refer to the two aspects of our repeal Bill which touch, first, upon the safeguards against arbitrary exclusion or expulsion from trade unions, a matter dealt with in section 5 of repeal Bill No. 1, and, second, the general questions touching upon the freedom of the Press and the effect which this Bill might have on the newspaper and communications industries. Those are the topics that have given rise to most attention recently. I shall concentrate my remarks upon those aspects of the matter, seeking to explain the Government's attitude towards them.
That does not mean that we do not attach great importance to other proposals which we include in repeal Bill No. 2 for correcting some of the errors which were made in the latter days of the last Parliament. The Minister of State will deal with many of those matters, for example, concerning multinational companies or immunity of commercial contracts. Those are extremely important questions. Although I concentrate on the two special matters to which I have referred, I hope that that will not be taken by anybody during our later discussions as suggesting that we do not attach great importance to the other amendments.
Concerning the safeguards clause, as we have called it in most of our discussions, one of the intentions of our repeal Bill No. 1 was to remove the ban on closed shops which was incorporated in the 1971 Act. That Act sought to outlaw closed shops. One intention of some importance in our repeal Bill, though not a supreme intention, was to ensure that that ban was lifted. The first reason why we sought to lift it was one which I thought for a while commanded even the support of hon. Members opposite, because they supported it in Committee at one period. I thought they appreciated that it was effectively impossible for us to abolish the closed shop by law.
One of the reasons why we came to that conclusion was illustrated very well 1373 by Sir John Donaldson, of all people. I quoted this in Committee. I quote it again because I think it is the best way of illustrating the matter. If Sir John Donaldson, in his capacity as the head of the NIRC—now abolished and never to be restored—came to the conclusion that it was impossible to operate that part of the 1971 Act, I should have thought it fairly conclusive evidence for almost everyone else.
The Langston case was heard in Sir John Donaldson's court in May of this year. Mr. Langston appeared. Sir John Donaldson said to him:We understand your feelings very well but the plain fact is, in our view, no industrial tribunal will exercise (and we are exercising industrial tribunal powers for this purpose) could possibly, in the general climate which exists, recommend that Chrysler as good employers ought to take you back. You will say that they ought in order to uphold the principle but industrial tribunals do not make an order merely to uphold a principle, they also make orders also to try and produce good industrial relations and whatever else happens if you were to go back to Chrysler in the current climate, it could not improve industrial relations, could it?In reply to Sir John, Mr. Langston said:Well, on the face of your statement you are inferring that a closed shop can be operated irrespective of the law.Sir John Donaldson replied:That may be the fact.Very few closed shops were abolished even though the 1971 Act had said that they were to be no longer legal. That was one reason though not the only one, why we included in our repeal Bill No. 1 a proposal to legalise the closed shop. We did it partly because we saw, as had Sir John Donaldson, that it was in practice impractical and partly also because we did not want to perpetuate the situation creating a permanent invitation for a clash between the law and industrial realities.
Having reached that conclusion, however, we have always claimed and said in all our debates that if we were to reinstitute the legality of the closed shop, it would be necessary to have some kind of special further safeguard over and above the common law. We are not interfering with any common law rights in any sense. We said that it would be 1374 necessary to have some further protection. The Opposition sought to write in a form of particulars which was included in repeal Bill No. 1 as Section 5. For reasons which I shall not go into now, when that clause came back from the House of Lords, we said that we thought that it was ineffective and highly dangerous. If Section 5 were to stay on the statute book, it might at any moment lead to a renewal of the kind of industrial clashes which caused such difficulties while the 1971 Act was in operation.
As we made clear when that clause came back from another place in July, it was always our determination to remove it, for the reasons that I have stated. But we always agreed that there should be some form of further safeguard. If a person is dismissed in a closed shop situation, his livelihood may be at stake. Therefore we have always said, "Let us see whether we can devise some kind of further safeguard which works."
We looked at the Donovan proposals on this matter. The Donovan Committee's proposal was in a sense a halfway house between a statutory provision and a provision operated by the TUC. It involved a statute, but it involved also an arrangement whereby the independent review body to be established would have been operated almost entirely by the TUC—by the General Council of the TUC or by some body approved by it to carry through the operation. That was one possibility. We also looked at the possibility of including it in a code of practice, as the hon. Member for Rochdale (Mr. Smith) will remember.
We also promised to have discussions with the General Council of the TUC on the matter. That is what we have done. The General Council, in response to the discussions that we have had with it over many weeks, has produced what I believe is an extremely important proposal. I dare say that most right hon. and hon. Members who are especially interested in industrial relations will have seen the announcement, but I think it right to put it on the record, and therefore I read the document which the General Council of the TUC has issued on the subject because it is a document of historic importance.
1375 This is the General Council's statement:As a result of discussions with Secretary of State for Employment the TUC General Council have decided to set up an independent review committee to consider appeals from individuals who have been dismissed from their jobs as a consequence of being expelled or having been refused admission to a union in a situation where trade union membership is a condition of employment.The review committee will have an independent person with legal qualifications as chairman and two other members, all three to be appointed by the General Council in consultation with the Secretary of State for Employment and the Chairman of the Conciliation and Arbitration Service. The review commitee will be completely independent in reaching its decisions, and the intention is for it to be in operation early in 1975.The following procedures would apply:
- (i) the independent review committee would have to be satisfied before considering an appeal that the individual who had been dismissed had exhausted all internal union procedures;
- (ii) the review committee would discuss the case with the union and the individual concerned and would try to resolve the matter by agreement;
- (iii) if agreement could not be reached the review committee would make a recommendation about whether or not the individual should be admitted to the union, or, in the case of a member who had been expelled, whether or not he should be taken back into the union and, if so, upon what conditions. There would then be a clear responsibility on the part of the union concerned to act upon such a recommendation;
- (iv) the union concerned would take such steps as were necessary to ensure that individuals expelled or refused admission in circumstances covered by the procedure are made aware of their rights both within the union and in respect of the TUC review committee."
§ Mr. Cyril Smith (Rochdale)
The Secretary of State has referred to the fact that we have been able to read about this document in the Press. We have also read in the Press that, prior to that document being published, it was the right hon. Gentleman's intention that he should be responsible for the appointment of such a tribunal. Is that Press story true? If it is, why did he give way to the TUC?
§ Mr. Foot
No. It was never the proposition that I should appoint the tribunal. We considered a statutory provision for achieving this result. We considered the Donovan proposal for achieving the result. But also we were always seeking a method of achieving this result which 1376 would work. That meant the full and eager co-operation of the General Council of the TUC. But the Donovan proposal would have required that, too. It involved the appointment of a body in which the TUC had participated fully. If we had decided by statute to appoint a Donovan-type committee and the TUC had said that it would not participate in it, such a proposal would have been ineffective.
I hope that right hon. and hon. Members will consider this carefully. I agree with all those who recognise the importance of the subject. I believe that the TUC's proposal has many advantages.
The existence of a review committee of this kind will assist in ensuring that the rules of individual unions are brought up to a very good standard. That has happened already in many cases because of the Donovan Committee's recommendation. In cases where unions have not produced rules which are satisfactory, this proposal will greatly encourage them to do so.
The TUC proposal will also mean that individuals will have the chance of having their cases looked at independently, because the person in charge of the tribunal will be independent. Moreover, there will be a further element of independence arising from the fact that the General Council of the TUC will be taking powers which it has never taken before to try to assist in this respect.
For all those reasons, I believe that it would be very wise for this House to welcome this proposal. It is one which the Government welcome. If it were discovered that this form of tribunal and its protection did not work, we should have to see what other form of protection could be secured. But if the House is really eager to ensure effective protection for individuals who might otherwise be misused in this sense, it should welcome what we have achieved and see that in many respects it is a preferable proposal to trying to do by statute something which perhaps cannot effectively be done by statute.
In any event, what we propose is infinitely preferable to Section 5 of repeal Bill No. 1, as it finally ended its proceedings, which we are removing in this legislation.
§ Mr. James Prior (Lowestoft)
This raises a very important point in the Bill, and I think that it would be convenient to clear up one or two other matters at this stage. Let us suppose that an individual goes before a tribunal and is upheld by it. What powers are there to see that the tribunal's finding is enforced? Secondly, should not the powers and the mode of operation of this tribunal be scrutinised by the Council on Tribunals, as was the case recommended in the Franks Report? Will the right hon. Gentleman consider that?
§ Mr. Foot
First, the right hon. Gentleman asks what will happen if an individual union offends against the finding of the tribunal. As the document says, it would be the clear responsibility of the individual union to carry out the recommendations of the review body. I believe that the unions associated with the TUC would be eager to carry out such recommendations. Of course, it is a voluntary body. The whole process is done by a voluntary method. No one is denying that. Indeed, it has the virtue that it is much more likely to work that way than it is by some legal provision.—[An HON. MEMBER: "Bridlington."] Yes, that is one possibility. That deals with a somewhat different aspect of the matter. Certainly the Bridlington Agreement works, and the recommendations of Croydon work. A variation of these could work.
Anyone who has studied trade union history, and particularly the history of the development of the General Council of the TUC, will see that this is an important step forward. It is an important step in the direction of trying to achieve the result—that is, ensuring that in the operation of the closed shop injustices are not done to individuals. May I also add——
§ Mr. Barney Hayhoe (Brentford and Isleworth) rose——
§ Mr. Foot
Possibly this is the point in the hon. Gentleman's mind. I do not claim to be a mind reader, of course—and not in such dark caverns as that. But nothing in this procedure interrupts or interferes with common law rights, which are there all the time—quite contrary, incidentally, to the suggestions which have been made in the Press to the effect that in 1378 some way we are interfering with common law rights.
I ask the House to consider this. If the review body had given a finding and the union had refused to take any action about it, and if thereafter the individual concerned took the matter to the High Court under the common law—as he would still have the right to do on grounds of natural justice—it stands to reason that that individual's case would be a near certain case—although I do not say an open-and-shut case. Therefore, I believe that the House should treat this whole proposal seriously. The House will appreciate that it is a genuine attempt, both by the Government and, even more, by the General Council of the TUC, to ensure that injustice is not done to individuals in this matter.
§ Mr. Hayhoe
I am grateful for the courtesy of the right hon. Gentleman's silence, in contrast to when he was speaking a moment ago. The point I want to raise is about independence. The right hon. Gentleman referred to the tribunal as being an independent body and said that when it was appointed by the General Council of the TUC it would be in consultation with the Secretary of State, I think—the right hon. Gentleman was reading—and the chairman of the CAS. Will the right hon. Gentleman, as Secretary of State, and the chairman of the CAS, have a veto on this matter? What is the form of the consultation? Will their agreement be essential on the common law point to which the right hon. Gentleman was referring? That applies to expulsion. It does not apply at all to exclusion.
§ Mr. Foot
We have discussed the last point many times. I am not denying what the hon. Gentleman says. That is the common law situation at present. We are not altering that in any way.
On the question of independence, what the TUC says in its statement is that it should be independent in its finding. Regarding the appointment of the members of the body, we do not claim that the words mean that we have a veto. We do not say that the CAS has a veto. That is not the situation. Strangely enough, the words mean what they say:in consultation with the Secretary of State for Employment and the … Conciliation and Arbitration Service.1379 it will be completely independent in reaching its findings. I believe that the method of appointment helps to ensure the independence of those who will make the findings. As I have said, we shall have time to discuss the matter. I am sure that hon. Members on all sides of the House are seriously interested in trying to ensure that injustices shall not be done to individuals in this situation. I believe that this is a genuine and far-reaching attempt by the General Council of the TUC to meet that situation.
§ Mr. Ian Percival (Southport)
The right hon. Gentleman is, of course, right in saying that we all have a genuine concern to see that the objectives he has mentioned are achieved, and he is right in saying that this is a step forward which warrants serious consideration. But will he not enlarge on this? If the body is to be really independent, that is a step forward. The TUC has accepted that, and all credit to it for doing so. However, is it not but a very short and desirable step from that to say, "All right. If it is to be independent, let it be appointed independently, and let the TUC play its full part in nominating representatives on it. Let it be appointed independently and applicable to all trade unionists, because there are a million trade unionists who are not members of the TUC"?
§ Mr. Foot
What the TUC has done is to put forward this proposal on how it would wish to deal with the situation. I recall that some other bodies have often been jealous about protecting any institutions which are set up to look at their affairs. I am not for a moment referring to the legal profession. I was referring to a much more sensitive group in our community than that—the Press. When the Press Council was established some years ago, it was certainly much less independent than will be the body which the General Council of the TUC is proposing to deal with this situation.
Let us take the proposal that has been made. I am very grateful to the hon. and learned Member for Southport (Mr. Percival) for the welcome that he has given to it. I think that the whole House has given it a welcome. I hope that we may thereby help to lay at rest some of the stronger arguments that were heard 1380 when the previous repealing Bill was passing through the House, or failing to pass through it particularly on this clause.
Combined with the advantage of this proposal is the fact we are removing a section of the Act which still has explosive dangers in it and in relation to which already there are some cases which may be operating and could be highly dangerous.
Let me turn to the other main point that I said I wished to discuss. In doing so, I hope that the House will not think me egotistical if I make a rather elaborate declaration of interest. I am a life-long member—not "life-long" but a member in adult life—of the National Union of Journalists. Perhaps it is because I have been a member since 1934 or 1935, or whenever it was, and have seen no examples in my experience of the kind of tyrannical acts which have been suggested and attributed to the union in the recent controversy that I am prejudiced in its favour. Apart from the fact that I am a fully paid-up member of the union, I am also prejudiced in the sense that some of the gloomiest days of my life were spent in newspaper offices when there was a strike. I understand very well the sense of frustration felt by journalists and editors particularly— perhaps it is shared as much by journalists as by editors—when a strike occurs, whether in the editorial section or, as has happened much more frequently, in the printing shop and other parts of the works.
I believe that there are great dangers in the community at large in such strike action whatever may be the cause of it and whether it is provoked by the action of the employers or by the determination of the unions. I think that the unrestrained exercise of trade union power in the newspaper industry could strangle that industry. That would be a tragedy, not only for the people who would lose their jobs but also for the community at large. The printed word occupies a place of pre-eminence in our society and in any democratic society. Television and radio are pitiful and pallid substitutes for what is printed on newspaper sheets and on other sheets.
I hope that I shall not be accused of flippancy in this respect, but I was rather surprised when I heard such extraordinary expessions of alarm at the possible 1381 removal of editors, because the removal of editors, in one form or another, has formed the commonest topic of conversation in the places in which journalists congregate that I can remember during all my journalistic life. On all the occasions that I can recall, the removal of an editor had not been done by some tyrannical trade union, but from some other quarter. During my conversations in Fleet Street, when we talked about the appointment of editors, we compared this with the coronations of the czars in which the newly appointed autocrat would march in procession preceded by his father's murderers and followed by his own. That is the way in which for many long years, editors have held office in Fleet Street. Therefore, it is very strange that people should now be so alarmed about the situation regarding editors.
William Hazlitt said that regicide was quite a respectable affair as long as it was only done by kings and queens but it was when the common people took a hand that a different view was taken of it. The same principle seems to be applicable to the alarm now spread about the conceivable removal of editors and the interference with editorial freedom by the operations of the union. I am not saying that it is not a matter to be seriously discussed, but those who raise it must not talk as if editors have never suffered assassination from other quarters, or as if there has never been interference with editorial freedom from other quarters.
I am told by some newspapers that this is all old stuff, that tyrannical measures were operated in the days of Northcliffe or Beaverbrook but not in these enlightened days. Therefore, when we see the standards of the News of the World dragged a little lower into the gutter— not always an easy thing to detect—or when we see almost at the same moment the Sun debasing journalism, as it has done in my opinion, we must assume, I suppose, that it is all due to the divine inspiration of the editors concerned and has nothing whatsoever to do with the appearance of Keith Murdoch on the scene—[HON. MEMBERS: "Rupert Murdoch."] Indeed, Rupert Murdoch. I apologise to Keith Murdoch. I am not suggesting that the sins of the son should be visited on the father. That would be most improper. But the suggestion that editors are impregnable to any attack 1382 from any quarter, except that of mischievous journalists, does not bear any relation to the facts.
Let me come to the immediate proposition and to the immediate problems that appear to arise. I believe that the way in which some of the newspapers, some of the most respectable newspapers, have sought to describe the Government's intention in this matter has been quite misleading—indeed, completely misleading. There have been many serious offenders in this respect. They have given a false impression to the people of what is in the Bill. I suppose that the worst offender has been the Editor of The Guardian. He wrote a leading article the other day entitledThe Press and the closed shop.In part of the article he stated:The right to appeal to the courts against a breach of natural justice will ostensibly remain, but the chances of doing so successfully will have been sharply reduced.There is not a word of truth in any such suggestion. If the Editor of The Guardian had troubled to discover the previous debates we have had on this matter he could never have made such an accusation.
When the editors came to see me on this matter I said that what I was doing was restoring the situation to the pre-1971 position. Editors, under the Bill, will not be any worse off in this respect than they were before 1971. It is true that there is provision concerning union membership agreements in that part of the Bill dealing with unfair dismissal. That is necessary to make the unfair dismissal part of the Bill conform with the realities of the closed shop. But before 1971 there were no such unfair dismissal provisions, and the dismissal of an editor in that sense would have been neither fair nor unfair.
Therefore, we are not altering the position of the editor in this sense whatsoever. I say once again that when the Editor of The Guardian, in his leading article suggested that we were doing so, while he was not misleading people consciously he was nevertheless misleading them on an essential part of the Bill——
§ Mr. Hayhoe
An important point arises here from the right hon. Gentleman's attack on the Editor of The Guardian. Can he explain in a little more 1383 detail why he believes the phrase he read out from the editor's leading article to be totally untrue? If it was referring to rights under common law one could understand it, but there were rights built into the legislation that we passed in the last Session of Parliament and these will be changed if the Bill we are now discussing becomes law.
§ Mr. Foot
I cannot see that the passage that I read out could refer to anything else—since it talks of a breach of natural justice—other than the common law rights which existed under the first repeal Bill and which still exist under the second repeal Bill, and which existed under previous legislation.
If the editor was referring at that point in the article to something different from the general provisions of Section 5 which we are expunging—there was an earlier reference in the article to the matter—he is not talking about a breach of natural justice. He should not have spread the idea that we were in any way seeking to interfere with common law rights. We are not doing anything of the sort.
Let me try to remove some other anxieties which cause trouble. We are not imposing a closed shop, as some people say. We are neutral about the closed shop. The Government are not encouraging people to form closed shops, but they are not forbidding them to form closed shops, because we believe that it would be an impossibility to do that if anybody so wished. I think that the editors might have taken the trouble to discover the accurate facts. I will not read the whole article, but I recommend to The Guardian, The Times, the Daily Telegraph and all the other newspapers concerned, an article by John Elliott, Labour editor of the Financial Times, in which the legal situation is clearly set out, and all the accusations against us in the wild attacks by the other newspapers are disproved. I recommend that article to everyone in the House. It shows what could be done by a reporter who went out to get the facts, instead of jumping to conclusions in advance.
I say to The Guardian—I know that it has changed in this sense since C. P. Scott—that news stories on the front page are often interlarded with comments, but I do not see why facts in leading articles 1384 should not be accurate, if not sacred. They should be. It would have been much better for the controversy if that had been the case. We are not seeking to impose a closed shop.
I have listened most carefully to what the editors suggested to me as being a way of solving the problem. They came forward with suggestions. We looked most carefully at what they were proposing, to see whether it would be workable, but I still think that what they suggested is unworkable. It is unworkable partly for the general closed shop reasons, but also because if we seek to write into the Bill a clause which says that editors should be excluded because of their managerial functions or for some other reason, quite a number of people in other professions, jobs, trades and industries would have a comparable right and we should soon be back to the situation of trying to settle by legal enactment matters which ought not to be dealt with by a legal enactment.
§ Mr. Nigel Lawson (Blaby)
Is the Secretary of State not contradicting himself? A few moments ago he was saying that the Press is special, that the printed word is special and that the freedom of the Press is different. Now he is saying that it is impossible to make a special case of the Press.
§ Mr. Foot
I am not contradicting myself in any way. Precisely because I believe that protection of the printed word is of special importance for our democracy, I want to get a satisfactory cure. The cure proposed to me by the editors was in my opinion crude and unworkable. What the editors proposed was a simple right not to belong—and that was one of the provisions of the 1971 Act. Moreover, the editors are claiming that not only for themselves but for a considerable number of the editorial staffs. If the NUJ is invested with such large groups of belligerents, the method suggested by the editors for protection would be an invitation to those groups to try to impose a closed shop by the most rigid methods, so that it is not the best way to solve the problem.
This is not a new question or one confined only to the editors or the Press, important though that area is. It is a question of the clash between professional 1385 ethics, professional standards or professional requirements and the union discipline in some form or another. Do the Conservatives say that that is a problem to be settled by the law? Have they applied their minds to it and reached a conclusion that that is the correct answer? When the editors came to see me they had not applied their minds to it. But some people have applied their minds precisely to this problem before.
None of the hon. and right hon. Members who were chiefly responsible for the introduction of the 1971 Act is here today. It is a matter of some interest that when they introduced the Act—they did not try to settle this question by law—even though they were inspired by the belief that they could settle many things by law. I was interested to read the Code of Practice on industrial relations which was drawn up by the Opposition in connection with their 1971 Act. We intend to reform that Code of Practice at a later stage, but it is still in the first repeal Bill.
I hope that the editors will apply their minds to it. This is the way in which not a wicked member of the NUJ like myself but responsible statesmen from the Conservative Party sought to deal with the problem when it faced them. I direct the attention of the House to paragraphs 21, 22 and 23 of the Code of Practice. They recommended in paragraph 21:Some employees have special obligations arising from membership of a profession and are liable to incur penalties if they disregard them. These may include obligations, for example, in regard to health, safety and welfare, over and above those which are shared by the community as a whole.They went on to discuss what these obligations might be, how they might be reconciled and how they proposed to reconcile them—and not by the law. In paragraph 23 the Code recommends how to deal with the matter. It saysProfessional associations, employers and trade unions should co-operate in preventing and resolving any conflicts which may occur between obligations arising from membership of a profession and those which the professional employee owes to his employer and to his trade union if he belongs to one.Those Conservative statesmen recommended that the question should be settled by intelligent negotiations. We are in favour of that and always have been in favour of it when it comes to dealing with 1386 this problem. That is what I put to the editors. They appeared to scorn that, but I hope that they will not continue to scorn it when they appreciate the respectable ancestry of the proposal. It is in the Code of Practice precisely because it was difficult for a Government which wanted to deal with everything by legal means to find a legal means of doing it.
I said that we would try to discover solutions to the problem. We want to protect editorial freedom and the freedom of journalists. But we want to do it by a method which will work and not introduce one which will lead to prolonged and bitter confrontations in the newspaper industry about the closed shop, whether it should operate, where to draw the line and whether the law is operating successfully. What the editors proposed to me is, in my opinion, a recipe for adding to the already severe industrial difficulties of the newspaper industry. I believe that we have a better way of dealing with it.
That is why we have discussed the matter with the NUJ and with its General Secretary, Mr. Ken Morgan. He has written a letter to the proprietors and the editors taking the initiative on behalf of the NUJ to try to deal with the problem. I said at the beginning of the debate that I was proud to be a member of the NUJ and I am proud that the initiative for dealing with this problem in a sensible freedom-loving way has come from that union. The letter reads:I am sure you will not be surprised that the NUJ has noted the anxieties expressed by editors about the provisions of the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Amendment) Bill on unfair dismissals. It fully shares the concern of editors for the safeguarding of free expression and indeed this concern is fully reflected in the Union's Code of Professional ConductEditors' expressed anxieties appear to centre round closed shop agreements. The Union believes that these anxieties are misplaced, but it would welcome discussion with the other organisations concerned about what safeguards might be embodied in any such agreements and the principles which should govern the application of such agreements to editors.In particular the Union would propose adoption of a model clause for such agreements which might provide that the parties subscribe to the principles of the freedom of the Press and other media in relation to the collection of information and the expression of comment and criticism, the need to eliminate distortion, news suppression and censorship, and to ensure that dissemination is fair and accurate, avoiding any expression of comment 1387 and conjecture as established fact and falsification by distortion, selection or misrepresentation; and that the parties should undertake to observe these principles fully in the conduct of their relations with all editorial staff.I feel sure that your organisation and others involved, to whom I have written, would similarly welcome discussion on these lines. I would appreciate your comments.I hope that that proposal by the NUJ for dealing with this problem in a way better than could be done by any law, a proposal which involves intelligent negotiation and which incorporates the provisions in the union membership agreements, will be properly welcomed by the proprietors and the editors. I hope that they will appreciate that that is a better way of dealing with the matter than by some legal enactment which, as I have sought to argue, would not work.
May I conclude by referring to another meeting I have had with representatives of the newspaper industry in recent times. It touches on the whole of the Bill, on the reason we are determined to get the second repeal Bill through as well as the first and to remove the 1971 Act altogether.
When we came into office in March this year, my most desperate anxiety resulting from the 1971 Act was about a flagrant clash between the court and some of the unions over the operation of the Act. That was a serious danger. We knew the possibility, because of the refusal of one of the leading unions to appear before the courts, of a proposal to sequestrate the union's funds. We knew weeks before that if that happened it was likely to lead to a dangerous clash.
We did what we could to prevent such a clash. I went to the National Committee of the Amalgamated Union of Engineering Workers to see whether we could assist in avoiding the clash by trying to get the union to go to the court. I knew that it would be particularly difficult, because of the commitment made by many of its leaders that they would not go to the court in any circumstances. We were all alarmed, faced with the danger of what would happen if the sequestration took place. We always knew that there was a possibility of mass strike action throughout the country, which could have inflicted enormous damage on our industrial life. We knew of that danger long before 1388 it developed on the weekend of 4th–5th May.
It so happened that on 7th May, the very day when I made my Second Reading speech on the Trade Union and Labour Relations Bill, there was a strike, because the sequestration had been proposed by the judge. The union had said that it would call on its members to take strike action throughout the country to protest against the sequestration. Nobody knew how long that strike would last.
On the morning of 8th May the newspaper proprietors came to me en masse pleading for something to be done to deal with the situation, because they were threatened with disaster. If the engineers' strike went on for several days, or possibly longer, the whole of Fleet Street could have been brought to financial collapse. Therefore, the proprietors asked, "Can't you do something?" We had already been trying to do something, not that we were the agents who provided the money for someone to go to the court to pay the fine and thus relieve the tension. We did not provide the money, and I still do not know who did. But when we heard of it, being sane, we gave every encouragement to the proposition.
Nobody was more gratified than the newspaper proprietors when they discovered a day or so later that that operation has been successful. It did not prevent their editors from denouncing me a day or two later for surrender to blackmail, but that is a different question which we do not worry about.
In those discussions, the proprietors also explained to me how many millions of pounds Fleet Street had already lost because of strike action arising from the 1971 Act. Therefore, so far from people in Fleet Street—proprietors, editors or anyone else—having any right to make an accusation against the Government in general or me in particular, we saved them. We saved Fleet Street from catastrophe on 8th May. [Interruption.] Yes, we did. The hon. Gentleman is a bit late in getting in on it. I said that we did our best to encourage them. If that encouragement had not been forthcoming, the whole operation—[Interruption.] The hon. Gentleman thinks he knows the facts, but he was not there, and I was. The representatives of the 1389 newspapers were there, and knew what happened. We saved them then.
I hope that the editors will think over what has been proposed. I hope that they will realise that the 1971 Act which we repealed was a disaster for Fleet Street, as it was for so many other sections of the community. The association's representatives told me at that meeting that they had already lost millions of pounds because of the operation of the Act. But for what happened in the day or so after 8th May, they would have lost even more millions.
I am sorry that Fleet Street still faces other industrial difficulties. I shall do everything in my power to assist in overcoming them, along with my hon. Friend the Minister of State, who has had to bear the brunt of the operation, as have so many others in the Department. We have probably spent more time trying to deal with problems in the newspaper industry than in any other industry, and have helped to solve them in the interests of the workers and employers. We have sought to assist the newspaper industry in that sense for the very reasons that I described earlier. Therefore, we do not believe that any accusation can be made against the Government in this respect.
What we propose is a way of dealing with the problem that we think will work much better than anything proposed by the editors. Therefore, we hope that they will take the offer from the NUJ with both hands and will also recognise that they, with the rest of the community, have an interest in the removal of the 1971 Act.
My hon. Friends may wonder why I spend so much time arguing with Fleet Street and the Press. We do so because we are interested in dealing with the problem in the fairest possible way. But it is impossible for the Labour movement to talk about freedom without recognising the tradition of the trade union movement. To have freedom, working people had to have the right to combine effectively. That is why we say that the Bill, together with the Act repealing the Industrial Relations Act, has a great deal to do with freedom, not only for those who produce newspapers but for the whole community. Anyone who knows the true industrial history of this country will vote with us enthusiastically for the Second Reading.
§ 5.17 p.m.
§ Mr. James Prior (Lowestoft)
What the Secretary of State said about having saved the Fleet Street proprietors by his action in the spring was most extraordinary. He started by saying that there had been a grave danger that the funds of a union would be sequestrated, and added that it was pretty well due to his efforts that the money was found and that they were not sequestrated. I do not follow how the right hon. Gentleman can take any credit for that. If he is saying that he managed to find the money, perhaps with help from one or two people outside, he was helping to destroy the law then in operation, which he, as a Minister of the Crown, had a duty to uphold. It is not surprising that other people try to break the law and hope to get away with it if the right hon. Gentleman sets the example that he does.
I turn to one or two of the points of the Bill outlined by the right hon. Gentleman. I start from a short sentence which appeared in the Sun, a newspaper that the right hon. Gentleman does not seem to care for a great deal. Discussing the amendments made by their Lordships, and then confirmed by this House, in a debate in July on the Trade Union and Labour Relations Bill, it said that rarely, if ever, had Parliament offered so unconditional a surrender. For hon. Members of my party, and, I believe, of the Liberal Party and other parties, that just about sums up what happened in that Act and now in the Bill.
It is a sad day for Parliament. It is also a sad day for the many friends of the right hon. Gentleman, who thought that he knew better than to introduce this sort of measure. It is a matter of great regret to many hon. Members on both sides of the House who felt that the Trade Union and Labour Relations Act, as it was amended and as it came on to the statute book, could have formed the basis of industrial relations law without party division for a number of years. That would have been a prize for which it would have been well worth fighting, and it would have been very much worth having from the point of view of industrial relations.
If the right hon. Gentleman argues that there were drafting deficiencies in our amendments, I can only say that 1391 there were meetings after the Bill left this House—particularly on the so-called Lever amendments—which could have enabled those deficiencies to be put right. We would have co-operated in putting right any drafting deficiencies. I wrote to the General Secretary of the TUC offering a meeting between my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Southport (Mr. Percival) and the legal advisers to the TUC so that if there were any deficiencies we would be able to put them right at a later stage. That meeting did not take place because of the General Election campaign. If there were drafting deficiencies there was nothing to prevent them being put right.
I now turn to the right hon. Gentleman's remarks about the closed shop. He is trying to make out that all he has done and that all the proposed amendments do is to restore the position to pre-1971 status. Before 1971 there were no laws which made it fair to dismiss employees for not joining a closed shop union. That should be put firmly on the record. It makes a great deal of difference to the attitude of the House and of the country towards the closed shop.
I must take the right hon. Gentleman up on what he had to say about the amendments to Section 5. We welcome the fact that the tribunal which is to be set up is to be independent to the extent that it is to have an independent chairman. As I understand it, there will be an independent chairman appointed by the TUC, with two other members of the TUC comprising the tribunal. I do not know what definition of independence the right hon. Gentleman may take but that does not seem to me to be a very independent state of affairs.
In a letter which Mr. Farmer, the General Secretary of the Institute of Journalists, wrote to The Times, he said:It may be, as foreshadowed, that the Government will seek to meet the problem"—that is, the problem of the closed shop—by providing an appeal procedure outside union control. This, though comforting in theory, will give little assurance to those immediately concerned. Is it fair that a journalist's only alternative to accepting trade union censorship is to gamble his whole professional future on the uncertainties of a tribunal's findings? Even if the tribunal supports him, should he have to face the unhappiness and damage to his career that could follow from the antagonism which might 1392 pursue him for the rest of his working life of a monopolistic trade union?We face the imminent threat that the maintenance of a free Press will depend, not as now, solely on the integrity of those who work in it. Instead, it will have to depend on those willing to face martyrdom. This is to be expected in a dictatorship; it is intolerable while Britain remains a parliamentary democracy.The right hon. Gentleman has not done justice to the amendments that we tabled on expulsion or exclusion from a trade union by agreeing to the sort of tribunal which he has now agreed to set up. The Donovan Report at paragraph 612 says:right of complaint to a new and independent review body. He should be entitled to ask that body for a declaration that, upon his undertaking to abide by the rules of the union affecting existing members, he should notwithstanding any absolute discretion vested in the union or in any committee of the union, become and remain a member.The individual should have his rights safeguarded in a way that is not necessarily or reasonably anticipated from the tribunal which the right hon. Gentleman is suggesting. What does the right hon. Gentleman intend to do about the rules, the mode of operation and the powers of the tribunal that he proposes? Will it be scrutinised by the Council of Tribunals? Should it not be scrutinised by the Council of Tribunals? Will the proceedings be in private or in public? What will be the method of enforcement? Will there be some method of enforcement by the High Court? Presumably there will not. We would like to have the answers to all those questions before the end of the debate.
I now turn to the vexed question of the NUJ and the complaints made by the editors. Is it right that the right hon. Gentleman should dismiss so lightly what the editors have had to say? He has said that there is not in this measure or elsewhere the statutory requirement of a closed shop. Maybe there is not in so many words, but the implication is clear enough. As we pointed out in Committee and on Report when the House passed an amendment which would have prevented unfair dismissal without payment of compensation, it is clear that the pressure and emphasis of what the right hon. Gentleman is trying to do is leading to the closed shop.
I make it clear that I am not mounting a frontal attack on the closed shop principle. I recognise the pressures that arise in its favour. I accept in many instances 1393 that it may be seen by management and unions alike to be the sensible thing to do. I am drawing attention to the situation in which a union's right to pursue a closed shop sets it on a collision course with other important rights and freedoms. I quote from a letter written by Mr. Paul Nicolson, the General Secretary of the Confederation of Employee Organisations. There is within the letter a quotation from Donovan. The letter reads:'The battle for the right to organise unions was won a long time ago. We now need recruits, not conscripts. We can survive and prosper without asking Parliament to legalise the highwayman's cry, "Your subscription or your job"'.The three individual rights to join, not to join and to choose which union to join should be the starting point for any balanced legislation about union membership.That is a view that will be shared by all of my right hon. and hon. Friends.
The most serious illustration is being provided by the NUJ. Its objective is unambiguous—namely, an immediate campaign for a 100 per cent. union shop covering all journalistic jobs and for any work performed by non-union members to be blacked with the full backing of the printing unions. I understand that the NUJ should seek the protection of a closed shop but we must ask ourselves whether in the widest sense that is a desirable development. There are many people who are taking a serious view of what has happened. Mr. Frank Owen, of the Guild of British Newspaper Editors, in his Press statement said:It is the principle that has spilled over into the dispute that should concern everyone who believes that truth and the freedom to tell it as you honestly believe it to be should not be stiffled by any organisation or pressure group with sectional interests to advance. It is my belief that recent events have raised perhaps the greatest threat to Press freedom that I have known in more than 40 years of journalism. I find it somewhat odd that in his statement in the House yesterday Mr. Foot made no reference to the fact that as long ago as 24th October, I wrote to him expressing the fears of 429 members of my Guild who are editors of regional and provincial daily, evening, Sunday and weekly newspapers throughout the country. When I implied those fears in a lengthy statement to the Minister of State on 12th November I had the support of virtually every national newspaper editor—an occasion without precedent in the newspaper industry. So let there be no misunderstanding about the consensus of opinion among British newspaper editors about the threat implicit in Mr. Foot's proposed legislation.1394In that document, and this was before the present sanctions were imposed, I said that the NUJ would be in the unique position of being the one body whose sectional interests could determine what the public should be told.Here, I suggested, was a direct conflict with the public's right to be informed fully and freely without censorship or concern for sectional advantage.I think my fears were regarded as exaggerated. Within a few days they had become fact.To the document I submitted, and the possible remedies we put forward to protect editorial freedom and independence, I have received no answer.That is the statement of Mr. Frank Owen on the subject.
We know that the effect of the Bill is undoubtedly to encourage the formation of closed shops. But the closed shop in journalism has serious implications for the freedom of the Press. I do not want to make a judgment about the degree of militancy in the NUJ, although I know that it concerns many people. But the point is simple; if the power is there, how can we assume that it will not be exploited? The over-powerful proprietor is a known phenomenon, as the Secretary of State has pointed out, but surely we should be equally wary of the over-powerful union. We must look at what can happen and at what will be encouraged to happen if we pass the Bill. It is not good enough to say that no one intends that it should happen. Parliament in such an important matter must surely ensure that it cannot happen.
§ Mr. James Sillars (South Ayrshire)
The right hon. Gentleman has been telling us about the over-powerful union—at least, that is his allegation. Does he intend to table an amendment to deal with the over-powerful proprietor he has identified? Is not the over-powerful proprietor a danger to the freedom of the Press?
§ Mr. Philip Goodhart (Beckenham)
Is not the point at issue the fact that the single proprietor, however much he might like to, could not possibly control the entire Press, whereas one union can?
§ Mr. Prior
That is the complete answer to the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Sillars), and I am grateful to my hon. Friend.
Having followed the public debate and observed what has occurred in recent disputes, I do not believe that it is an exaggerated claim that the freedom of the Press is in danger. The freedom of the Press means something more than independence of the Press from the Government. I think that it has always been understood to be the freedom of editors and the freedom of journalists and contributors. We do not wish to encourage a situation in which editors might be expected to show obeisance to union power in contrast with the independence they are expected to show in face of proprietors, political parties, advertisers and other pressure groups.
Editors also have responsibility in law which might conflict with union demands. In the case of non-union contributors to newspapers, in many cases local newspapers survive through their ability to get reports submitted by a host of voluntary organisations which they could not gather otherwise. This should not be discouraged. It would be hitting at the nature of a local paper.
Then we have the outside contributions to national journals. The Secretary of State himself has made contributions over the years in this way, as have many other right hon. and hon. Members. I am not convinced that it would be in the public interest to limit these contributions in number to a norm determined by the NUJ.
The attraction of the closed shop to journalists is obvious enough. They feel that their bargaining power has been insufficient to secure them the adequate remuneration they think they deserve. It is in some cases another example of middle-class militancy, to which I shall refer later.
But I am reluctant to believe that the solution to this difficulty can be found only in a way which, apart from its other disadvantages, could be said to hit against the independence and judgment which is considered to be the essence of good journalism.
I am sure that it is not disregard for the principle of the freedom of the Press 1396 which has caused the Government to bring forward this Bill. Rather, the Government believe that they are honouring a pledge to the TUC, made in the context of the social contract. When we raised the issue of the freedom of the Press in Committee on the Trade Union and Labour Relations Bill in the last Parliament, the Government discounted it, but enough has happened since to give them ground for thinking again, and giving serious weight to the issue of whether freedom of the Press is endangered can hardly be seen as action sufficient to vitiate the social contract. We ask that reasonable measures be taken to protect a freedom long thought precious to our way of life.
It is not enough for the Secretary of State to say that the Editor of The Guardian must have been thinking in terms of the common law right because it is obvious that the editor knew that he still had the common law right. What the editor was thinking about was what will be created by the Bill when an all-powerful union can say, "If you do not belong to the union, you are not in a position to write or say what you like." That was what the Editor of The Guardian was getting at, and the right hon. Gentleman knows it.
Why, if that was not what the editor was getting at, was there no fuss before the publication of the Bill? The right hon. Gentleman cannot answer that. He knows very well the point that the editor was making. We are asking that reasonable measures be taken to protect a freedom which has long been thought precious to our way of life, and I am sure that it can be done without prejudice to the legitimate interests of journalists themselves.
§ Mr. Ron Thomas (Bristol, North-West)
At what stage in the building up of the membership of the union does the freedom of the Press come into jeopardy? The NUJ has a large membership at the moment. If the union, irrespective of legislation, were to build up its membership to 100 per cent., at what stage would the freedom of the Press come into jeopardy?
§ Mr. Prior
The freedom of the Press comes into jeopardy when the union is strong enough to be able to say to an editor, first, "If you do not join, we 1397 shall not allow you to carry out your duties", and, secondly, "If you do join, you will do what we tell you to do". That is when freedom of the Press becomes involved, and that is precisely what has happened in a number of cases in recent weeks, as the Secretary of State knows.
In considering journalists, the NUJ and the closed shop, it is not good enough to exclude editors. To do so would not go anything like far enough. Again I quote from what Mr. Farmer, of the Institute of Journalists, said:A successful career pattern for a journalist is not necessarily a progress by degrees to an editorship which is held until retirement. It is far more usual for an able man to become the editor of a provincial weekly at an early stage than to become an assistant editor or departmental head of a provincial daily then become editor of a daily and then to take a senior position short of editor on a national newspaper with an ambition of becoming editor.Is it reasonable to expect such a man while holding one of his intermediate editorships to take full advantage of his freedom from the NUJ's discipline when his next move may place him in their virtually unlimited power? This apart, it will be almost impossible save on the tiniest newspapers for the editor's own freedom to be sufficient to enable him to produce the paper he wants unless he can employ staff and contributors free to follow his instructions rather than only those the union will let him have.That confirms a point I made earlier. I do not believe that any amendment to this Bill is sufficient if it just excludes editors. I cannot understand why the right hon. Gentleman cannot agree to allow this matter to be referred to the Royal Commission on the Press, which is now sitting. It could produce a quick interim report, and the Bill could be deferred until this has been received.
This is an important matter. There cannot conceivably be any hurry about the passage of this Bill. The right hon. Gentleman might find that he would get the Bill a good deal quicker if this point could be cleared up.
§ Mr. Foot
I meant to refer to the Royal Commission in my remarks and forgot to do so. I am glad to take this opportunity of commenting upon what the right hon. Gentleman has said. Of course, the question of editorial freedom generally falls within the terms of reference of the Royal Commission on the Press. If it wishes to make a report upon it we will 1398 take account of what it says. My belief is that once it begins to examine the question fully it will come to the same conclusion; namely, that we can deal with this matter intelligently in the way we are proposing but we cannot deal with it effectively by the law. We will certainly take account of what the Royal Commission says. If it were to come out with a view different from ours we would take that into account. I must point out to the right hon. Gentleman that it will take considerably longer for the Royal Commission to examine the whole question of editorial freedom than he suggests. I do not think that is something that can be done in a matter of a few weeks. This Bill is urgent because as long as the Act remains unamended it can give rise to highly explosive and dangerous industrial situations.
§ Mr. Prior
What the right hon. Gentleman has said is, in one respect, complete nonsense. There is not a single Member in this House who genuinely believes that the Trade Union and Labour Relations Act is having the slightest effect on industrial relations in Britain.
§ Mr. Foot
The right hon. Gentleman has apparently understood nothing about the 1974 Act. There could perfectly well arise from Section 5 of that Act—the politically and industrially illiterate section inserted by the right hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friends—a court case which could lead to the same kind of industrial troubles as we had earlier. Conservative right hon. and hon. Members have apparently learned nothing about industrial affairs.
§ Mr. Prior
Nor has the right hon. Gentleman learned anything about industrial affairs. If he really believes, as he tried to make out yesterday in the course of an exchange, that the present bad state of industrial relations owes anything to the Trade Union and Labour Relations Act he is living in a world which is so far removed from reality as not to exist in anyone's mind except his own. The right hon. Gentleman now says that the Royal Commission can look at this and if it says that there is a restriction on editorial freedom he will take some action. What is the good of saying that after he has put on the statute book the very thing which we are trying to avoid?
§ Mr. Foot
If the Royal Commission has a statement to make on the subject we will consider it. That is what any Government do with a Royal Commission. This Government set up the Royal Commission to examine these questions. If the right hon. Gentleman imagines that the whole question of editorial freedom, with all its ramifications, can be dealt with in a few weeks, that is a very flippant way to tackle the problem. I do not believe it can be dealt with in that way. If the Royal Commission has got something of interest to say that carries the matter further, or any suggestions to make, we will take account of it. In the meantime we will not take industrial risks by leaving this explosive section on the statute book.
§ Mr. Prior
In other words, we are to have a Royal Commission on the Press but it is not to be in time to have any effect on the passage of this Bill, which can do more damage to the freedom of the Press than anything in the 40 years' experience of most of the editors. We now know exactly where the right hon. Gentleman stands. We can have a Royal Commission set up to inquire into certain other activties of the Press when it suits the Government to do so, but on a vital issue like this the Royal Commission is not to be allowed to report before the Bill goes through. There is no reason why this Bill could not be delayed for several months, until nearer the end of the Session. This would give the Royal Commission the chance to present its views.
We know very well that this Bill— which we consider to be damaging, unnecessary and vindictive as it affects individuals and their rights in society—is part of the price which the Secretary of State wishes to pay for his so-called social contract. I say "so-called" because as it is operating it is not a social contract with the nation as a whole. It is, as was said in the Labour Party manifesto, a social contract between the Government and the trade unions. While we have this measure before us the pace of inflation gathers momentum. Fear of the future is stoking up wage demands, which in turn add to our problems.
Militancy is no longer confined to a few. This is one of the problems with the NUJ at the moment. White-collar 1400 workers are now just as militant as some others. Yesterday in the House the Secretary of State for Scotland was defending the Government's attitude towards Scottish teachers against his hon. Friends. We know, and the Government know, that their attitude towards Rolls-Royce workers or Scottish lorry drivers was to say nothing and do nothing. Yet if they are to make anything out of the social contract they feel that they have to take a firm line with Scottish teachers. While all this is taking place, while the fear of unemployment is growing, we have the right hon. Gentleman messing about with this paltry little Bill. That is our main objection. Even now, while all this is going on, Ministers are travelling round the country echoing the speeches we made a few weeks ago about the fear of inflation leading to higher unemployment. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will think again before he pushes through the Bill.
This legislation is totally irrelevant to the needs of the nation at present. It is not as though strife and industrial unrest started with the Industrial Relations Act. After all, the White Paper "In Place of Strife" was published way back in 1969, so, presumably, there was a good deal of strife at that time. That was before the Industrial Relations Act. The strife was there, and it has grown, regardless of industrial relations legislation and any other legislation which the House may have passed. What a tragedy it is that the Labour Government did not proceed with their Bill in 1969–70, and what a tragedy it is that they did not give the Conservative Government more support when they introduced their Bill in 1970–71.
§ Mr. Prior
No, it is not a question of putting workers in gaol. They were not put into gaol as a result of the Industrial Relations Act. They were put into gaol by the court.
These problems will not go away. They may not be capable of solution by the law alone, but the law has a part to play. We do not, and we cannot, have a situation in Britain in which one section of the community is above the law and everyone else is expected to obey the law.
1401 So we must have some industrial legislation. The tragedy is that the right hon. Gentleman, for misplaced reasons, is seeking to remove from the statute book even the protection that the Conservative Government wrote in for individual people and their individual liberty.
The Bill is said to be the result of an obligation in the social contract, but it will not help to bring prosperity to workers or to improve their standard of living. All it will do is to take away certain rights from the individual. The Government are getting nothing in exchange. They are not getting the wage restraint which the social contract lays down. That obligation is not being kept, and I know that it is a disappointment to certain trade union leaders, such as Mr. Murray, Mr. Jones and some others who have done their best. The fact remains that settlements are not being kept within the social contract—a few have, but not many—as the right hon. Gentleman knows, and in the meantime the country faces disaster.
Reports from industry all over the country, as hon. Members know from their own constituencies, are extremely bad. The standard of living will quickly be eroded as unemployment mounts along with the rate of inflation. The time will come when the Labour Government will need the help of the Opposition if catastrophe is to be avoided. The Government will have to act. They must impose their will and their power to enforce the wage restraint conditions of the social contract. If they do, we shall give them our support. If they do not, there will be a period of hyper-inflation——
§ Mr. Foot
The right hon. Gentleman is straying considerably wide of the Bill. I am not complaining of that, but I hope he will allow me to intervene to say that the Government have no intention of introducing statutory control of wages. When the right hon. Gentleman spreads the tale that that is what will happen he does infinite damage to the economic situation, just as the Leader of the Liberal Party did when he spread that tale during the General Election campaign. The Government view has been made abundantly clear. The awkward and evil factor is persistent talk of that nature from the right hon. Gentleman, which adds to the difficulties and dangers of the situation.
§ Mr. Prior
That is why I chose my words particularly carefully. I said that the Government should enforce the wage restraint conditions of the social contract. That does not mean statutory control, and I have never said that it did. If the wage restraint conditions of the social contract are enforced, and if the Government speak out for them and impose their will, we shall give the Government our support in that. If they do not, in a period of hyper-inflation, low investment and depression such as we have not seen since the war, the Government and the right hon. Gentleman must take the full blame.
To those disasters which face our country is added this disreputable Bill which conflicts with the long-established rights and freedom of the individual. It takes more power away from the House and puts a certain section of society above the law. I hope that all hon. and right hon. Opposition Members, regardless of party, will vote tonight to throw out the Bill.
§ 5.56 p.m.
§ Mr. Eric Moonman (Basildon)
The right hon. Member for Lowestoft (Mr. Prior) suggested that the Bill might await an interim report from the Royal Commission on the Press. For many years I advocated the setting up of a Royal Commission on the Press. I am keenly aware of its terms of reference, and in my view that suggestion is not on. The Bill may have certain disadvantages, but its aims and content have no relationship to the Royal Commission on the Press. The Royal Commission has already a wide-ranging brief to consider the organisation, structure and development of the industry, and it is not concerned with the matter referred to by the right hon. Gentleman.
My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State made a fine speech, but I should like him to take account of two matters about which editors are worried. First, at the meeting which my right hon. Friend described, and which was reported in the Press, the impression was given that my right hon. Friend would put forward proposals to deal with the problems that the editors raised with him. Does not my right hon. Friend feel it right that he should be in touch with the editors? Secondly, at that meeting the editors said that they would welcome 1403 the offer that my right hon. Friend apparently made of a further meeting.
Although the Bill must go through for the reasons given by my right hon. Friend, which I support, I am anxious that the Government should avoid a collision course with the Press. These two matters should be cleared up tonight.
§ Mr. Foot
I wrote to Mr. Denis Hamilton yesterday referring to the suggestion I made of a further meeting and saying that I should be glad to have a further meeting. I set out the reasons why I do not believe that the matter could be best dealt with by the law, and some of those reasons I put forward to the House today. In my opinion, the proposal made by the National Union of Journalists is the best way to approach the matter. That does not mean that I oppose the idea of a further meeting. I said at the end of my letter that I should be prepared to have a further discussion with the editors before the Bill becomes law.
§ Mr. Moonman
I thank my right hon. Friend for that explanation. Perhaps the editors will want to look at the NUJ initiative first with the NUJ and then with my right hon. Friend.
The right hon. Member for Lowestoft spoke of the needs of the nation. Clearly, this is a small Bill and we know what it is about. It is necessary to look beyond it, as the right hon. Gentleman has suggested, to the needs of the nation.
I maintain that good industrial relations and the social contract are virtually synonymous. We cannot have one without the other. How far the Bill measures us to the social contract is a matter on which I should like to expand.
There is no doubt that the social contract has been widely derided because it is not a binding, legal document tied up with red tape. Indeed, the right hon. Member for Lowestoft pointed to some of the weaknesses in the social contract. If this is its weakness, it is also its strength. Before hon. Gentleman jeer at the structure of the social contract, I should remind the House that it is the only viable policy that we have, because so much else has failed. There is no point in making a virtue of an industrial relations policy which has to depend so much on the law. Indeed, no intelligent manager or shop 1404 steward is helped by having to turn to the law for help in resolving so many of the day-to-day, hour-by-hour problems that arise on the shop floor or in the office.
The social contract is not concerned solely with wages. I think that is an error that hon. Members are inclined to make. The social contract is the basis agreed between the Labour Party and the TUC to define a common purpose which includes the safeguarding of employment and the fairer sharing of the nation's resources through voluntary restraint and social policy.
We cannot expect management, nor the public in general, even though they have received some of the benefits by way of welfare benefits and continued price restraint, to consider themselves bound by a contract to which they were not parties.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that now is the time for the Government to spell out the personal involvement in the social contract of every member of society? I suggest that it is also time to reassure management as to how it can become involved in the social contract. That means not merely having a dialogue with the CBI but talking to management bodies which are deeply concerned and want to be involved.
This matter raises serious questions which were overlooked by the right hon. Member for Lowestoft in deriding the social contract. The Bill is an attempt to underpin the way that the Government relate to industry and the way that an effective industrial relations policy can be established. It is also essential to widen the social contract.
There is an obvious logical weakness in the way that the social contract was developed between the TUC and the Labour Party. However, I suggest that now is the time, after a second General Election which should have given the Labour Government sufficient confidence, to point out to management and the general public the obligations that are expected of them.
What has been done to obtain a similar set of procedures for management? What have my right hon. Friend and his colleagues attempted to obtain from, say, the British Institute of Management? Yesterday Philip Churchill, 1405 the Director-General of the BIM, in a constructive way, said that in industry today there was a will to work harder than at any time, but we needed confidence, and only the Government could provide it. This seems to be an attempt to try to establish a dialogue, and I suggest that the proposal is worth taking up.
At the same time, the social contract needs to be spelt out on the shop floor. Many workers do not appreciate what the TUC's understanding with the Government is all about. At least one union has refused to distribute the broadsheet prepared by the TUC because of its wage restraint aspects, however voluntary they may be. That again emphasises the importance of the Government spelling out the involvement of everybody on an individual basis in the social contract. Only in that way can we avoid the contract foundering on the cynicism of trade union negotiators and company managements who are concerned only with their corners of industry, not the needs of the nation as a whole.
I hope that, in removing from the prin-pal Act the sections wished upon this House by hon. Members whose knowledge of the working world outside is distinctly limited, my right hon. Friend will keep in mind some safeguards for the independence of newspaper editors and their deputies. I fully appreciate his desire not to create a special class. My right hon. Friend has spelt this out in terms not only of the newspaper industry, but of industry generally. If there were to be any alteration, it would be absurd to suggest that it could only be for the newspaper industry. That is an untenable suggestion.
I appreciate the expressed fears of the newspaper editors about their future. I doubt, however, whether a closed NUJ shop would do anything to jeopardise the freedom of the Press.
I return to the point that has already been made, but needs to be strongly emphasised, about the real threat to the Press. For many years I have been a member of the National Graphical Association and the Labour Newspaper Group. Therefore, I know and appreciate the expressions about the way that the whole character of the industry has changed.
1406 There are men in the newspaper industry taking decisions who have no associations or interests in it. They see it as part of an on-going strategy which ranges from selling general merchandise to newspapers. Surely the real threat to editorial freedom comes from the newspaper owners, particularly when a new paper becomes part of a large conglomerate of assorted industries whose only criterion is profit and whose enterprises do not even have the virtue of commitment to the idea of the Press, which was the saving grace of the old newspaper barons.
I hope that an arrangement can be reached between the editors and the NUJ. I welcome the initiative that has been taken. I think it will go some way towards meeting the fears that I have heard expressed in Fleet Street. It is conceivable that the Minister might want to maintain at least a monitoring of the correspondence or of any meetings which take place between the NUJ and the newspaper editors. I am sure that before the end of the debate my right hon. Friend or his colleague might want to give some sign that they want to proceed in that way. In short, my right hon. Friend should be involved.
The Press is a special case. Many of us are anxious about the deteriorating relationship between the Press and the Government. It would be tragic for both the public and the Labour Party if the Government and the Press were engaged in a continual confrontation, which would do nothing but damage to both these important institutions.
§ 6.8 p.m.
§ Mr. Cyril Smith (Rochdale)
For the second time we are having a bite at the same cherry. The Bill has been cleverly described by the Secretary of State as repeal Bill No. 2. In fact, the Bill and the explanatory memorandum make it clear that it is repealing not the 1971 Act but the 1974 Act or those sections of it that the Minister does not like. For the right hon. Gentleman to keep pretending that this is a repeal of the 1971 Act and is part of the pledge that his great Labour movement made to the trade union movement in the 1974 elections, and so on, is a little hypocritical. We are debating the Bill because the Minister is unable to take a licking. He lost the battle and the match in July, so he now seeks to replay the match.
§ Mr. Smith
I am willing to debate the issue of replaying the match on the basis of the election result, because a party which obtained 39 per cent. of the total votes cast can hardly claim to have won the election. If one likes to consider the matter in terms of the percentage of votes cast, it is interesting to reflect that, as the Liberal Party's attitude to the Bill is similar to that of the Conservatives, 61 per cent. of the electorate voted against the Bill.
If the right hon. Gentleman is the great upholder of democracy that he so often pleads from the Dispatch Box that he is—he did it on this occasion, and he has done it on many occasions in the past— why cannot he accept the will of the people in this matter? The majority of people are totally opposed to the closed shop principle. One may concede, as I have always done, that, to be practical, one has to accept a closed shop situation whether one likes it or not, but it is not becoming of a man who pretends to be the great upholder of democracy to say that he will not protect the individual in that situation.
The Minister made some reference to what we have read in the Press about what the TUC proposes. Indeed, the right hon. Gentleman kindly read in detail the proposals that had been put forward by the TUC. He gave way to me at that stage to allow me to make a point, and I appreciated that. But the situation is strange. We are being asked to accept a situation in which the defendant at a trial appoints the judge and jury. The Minister shakes his head, but that is the situation.
When the right hon. Gentleman was pressed on this matter by the right hon. Member for Lowestoft (Mr. Prior), he made it clear that consultation with himself and the CAS did not mean that he had any right of appointment. He will be asked what he thinks and what his views are, but if at the end the TUC says that it will not accept his view and will appoint to the tribunal anyone it wants, it will go ahead and do so.
I accept that the Minister may be an excellent journalist. I have never heard 1408 it claimed for him that he was a brilliant mathematician, so I hope that he will forgive me if I make a small point. Two is greater than one, and if in a tribunal of three only the chairman is an independent lawyer while the two other members are representatives of the TUC, irrespective of what he thinks there will be two votes to one at the end. All that the chairman will be able to seek to do is to persuade his collagues that his view is the right one, and if he fails to do that, his view will not prevail.
To suggest that the tribunal is independent or is some kind of great concession from the TUC is wrong. If my memory serves me aright, the Minister referred to the TUC's proposals as some kind of historic document. If that is what history is all about, my respect for history diminishes as a consequence.
It is a widely held belief that the Minister wanted to be able to appoint the members of this tribunal.
§ Mr. Foot indicated dissent.
§ Mr. Smith
I must accept the right hon. Gentleman's word for that, although one finds it difficult to know when one can accept the Minister's view, because earlier this afternoon he made the point that he did not know who put up the money for the trade union let-off earlier this year and then he said that he influenced the matter. How he could influence the matter without knowing whom he was trying to influence is a little perplexing. However, I accept the right hon. Gentleman's word for that.
If the Minister did not attempt to press on the TUC that he should appoint the 1409 independent tribunal and give it some sort of statutory power, he is less of a man than I thought he was, because it is my view and that of my colleagues that that is the view that he should have been pressing. Unless the tribunal has some sort of statutory power and is independently appointed, Liberals cannot regard what is proposed as an acceptable solution to the problem that we have posed on so many occasions.
The Bill proposes to repeal many of the amendments that the Liberal Party, not only here but in the other place, helped to carry through. If the right hon. Gentleman were prepared to concede, even at this late hour or guarantee that in Committee an amendment would be made to ensure that an individual in a closed shop situation who was either excluded or expelled from a trade union should have a right of appeal to a statutory tribunal appointed by the Secretary of State, we should be prepared to concede on every other issue even though we believed that the clauses and amendments that were made to the Bill were good. We are prepared even now to concede every point on which we voted in July in return for this one major protection for the liberty of the individual, because we believe that it is vital.
There comes a point at which one has to decide whether one intends to be concerned directly with the rights of trade unions, or with the rights of individuals. If this great House of Commons has any real purpose, it ought to be able to protect the individual against the big battalions. That should be a major function of the House, and all I am appealing to the Minister to do—and I say in self-defence that this is all I have ever appealed to him to do—is to protect the individual in a closed shop situation.
At no point in the history of the Bill or the Act that it seeks to amend has the Minister conceded anything to the Opposition. On this clause in particular he has never made the slightest concession to the views put to him. The appeal that I have just made for a tribunal is not new. As he Minister knows, I met him in April before his original Bill was drafted and at that stage I put to him the proposition that the measure should contain some sort of tribunal procedure in a closed shop situation. This; is not something that we have just dreamed of, or a 1410 situation at which we have just arrived. This has always been the view of the Liberal Party, and unless the Minister is prepared tonight to concede something on this issue, other than some sort of TUC committee that will solve all the problems that arise, it is inevitable that the tribunal will be considering cases of the individual versus the union. It can have no other function. That is what it is for. In the cases that it considers, those who are likely to be the defendants will appoint the judge and jury.
I concede that most, if not all, of those appointed to such a tribunal by the TUC will be worthy people whose judgment may be trusted. But in the end, when talking about justice in law, we know that it has not only to be done, but to be seen to be done. However independent the tribunal was, and however upstanding its members, in the end, if the decision went against the appellant, he would always suspect that it was not really independent because it had been appointed by the TUC.
So the Secretary of State's solution is no solution at all. I am sorry that on this issue he is not prepared to stand up to the TUC. It is vital that he should. Unless the country sees evidence soon, not merely on this but on many other matters, of his willingness to stand firm against certain trade union demands, he will go down in history as "Mr. Pussy Foot". That would be a tragedy for his reputation and not a fair description of the man we know in the House.
I will not enter at great length the controversy about the Press. In arguing the closed shop, one also, almost automatically, argues the principle that bothers the editors. I could not go along with a closed shop in journalism. That is not to say that we believe that journalists and editors should not belong to a union, but to create a closed shop in which one union only deals with the whole of the Press creates serious dangers for the freedom of the Press, dangers that my party could not accept.
For example, the concession of a statutory tribunal would not solve the problem for the Press, but it would help to ensure that a man could not be unreasonably expelled or excluded from a union. I hope that we shall be able in Committee to get even greater safeguards for the Press. I accept what the Secretary of 1411 State said, that the threats to the freedom of the Press have not come only from the trade union movement over the years. The powers and influence of the proprietors and Press lords can be and have been just as dangerous. I could give the House examples of editors, of provincial as well as national papers, who have been sacked within hours of writing editorials that were not in accordance with the views of the proprietors.
Since the General Election, one can hardly imagine that Liberal Members have been very enamoured of the strict independence of the Press, considering how they have reported Liberal Party activities since then. We have had great problems in getting them to report us at all. I should not be prepared to vouch for what is described as the "independence" of the Press.
However, much as one would like to deal with that situation, the House cannot do so when considering this Bill. We are at liberty to deal only with the other half of the coin, the closed shop in journalism, and the threat that that represents to the freedom of the Press. We accept the existence of the other problem, but, because of our procedure—on this matter, I believe, the correct procedure— we can deal only with the matter before us. That means concentrating on the attempt in the Bill to take away from a man his protection against being compelled to join a particular union in the Press.
The Liberal Party is bound to vote against Second Reading. We have had no guarantee that the liberty of the individual will be protected in the closed shop situation. That we regard as para-mount. Second, although in itself we should not consider it a reason for voting against the Bill, we are not happy about the effect on the freedom of the Press. We believe that a concession on the first point would go a long way to relieving our doubts on the second.
If, in Committee, the Government can agree to amendments that we shall move, we should reserve the right to change our minds on Third Reading. I make that point in view of the outcry that there has been about Liberals changing their minds between Second Reading and Third Reading on the other Bills, as though there were something strange or illogical 1412 about that. There is not. Naturally, one deals on Second Reading with the Bill as it is then. If it has changed by Third Reading, a different position arises.
As it now is, the Bill is not satisfactory or acceptable to the Liberal Party. It will aid and abet a direct infringement of the liberty of the individual. For those reasons, we shall vote against its Second Reading.
§ 6.27 p.m.
§ Mr. Maurice Edelman (Coventry, North-West)
I have often heard the hon. Member for Rochdale (Mr. Smith) speak on industrial relations, but, having heard him today, I am still no clearer whether he is in favour of the closed shop. He has sat on the fence for so long that I cannot help feeling that it is beginning to crack under the strain.
§ Mr. Cyril Smith
The position is quite simple. Although we are opposed to closed shops in principle, we realise that, where they exist, one has to accept them. That is our situation. It is perfectly clear.
§ Mr. Edelman
If he will permit me to say so, I regard that comment by the hon. Gentleman as a characteristic ambiguity of the Liberal Party. But I will deal with that later.
I should first like to declare an interest. I have been a member of the National Union of Journalists for more than 30 years and I am still a working journalist. But tonight I speak in my personal capacity, not as a spokesman for the NUJ and certainly not as a spokesman for the proprietors or the editors. Contrary to what the right hon. Member for Lowestoft (Mr. Prior) said, this is not a paltry debate. It is a debate about a major principle, the principle of freedom and of the liberty of the Press. It is to that subject that I propose to address myself.
I regard the closed shop certainly not as an infringement of liberty, but rather as a means by which a combination of men, sometimes of women, who have got together to defend their rates of pay and working conditions, seek to exclude from the benefits of their negotiations with the employers those who have made no contribution to their outcome. It is clearly equitable that those who combine to produce such ends should say, "We are entitled to exclude those who are not 1413 prepared to participate with us in seeking these benefits."
It is true, as the Secretary of State said, that some employers recognise the advantages of the closed shop as a means of promoting regotiations and producing peace in industry. As for Mr. Langston, his case was an example of an individual who was unwilling to make any contribution to the union that had secured benefits for the commalty of workers. That case caused more industrial disruption than perhaps any strike by workers acting in concert through a union.
Today we must consider the editors position which has been discussed very forcibly with my right hon. Friend and in the House of Commons. The editors have panicked in reaction to the possibility of a closed shop in the Press. What do the editors fear? Their fears are twofold. First, they are afraid that if they are obliged to join the NUJ, they may find themselves subordinate to the direction of that union and thus lose their editorial authority. They are afraid that young journalists in their early 20s might march into their offices, give them orders, or even give them the sack. They are afraid that in an industrial dispute, if they were obliged to become members of the NUJ, they would have to be answerable to the union and not to the proprietors. Their second fear is that if they were obliged to join the NUJ, they would lost their legal right to compensation for unfair dismissal. Those are the two major fears of the editors.
Before speaking about the validity of those fears, I should like to say how very curious it is that some editors, who are so apprehensive of the pressure that their fellow journalists might put on them, have never shown any resistance or resentment collectively to the pressures of the Press lords and boards who have sacked them and bowled them over like ninepins even in the last 10 years. Many have been dismissed without so much as a cheep from their fellow editors.
Instead of the bold united front represented by the deputation that Mr. Hetherington has been leading to the Secretary of State, the editors have cowered supinely in their bunkers when one of their numbers has been dismissed. The hon. Member for Rochdale mentioned 1414 that. When one of their fellow editors has found himself out on the street, perhaps with the title of editor emeritus, editorial director, or some such fancy title as compensation, none of them has made any sort of demarche to protect the interests of their fellow editor who has been fired.
My criticism of the manner in which editors have been sacked in this way is not directed against the proprietors. Looking back over the past 10 years, I think that proprietors and proprietorial boards have on the whole been fairly generous. Dismissed editors have gone away with their golden handshakes jingling in their pockets. They have withdrawn with a sort of quiet satisfaction at the compensation, and that has been paralleled by the quiet satisfaction of those who have hoped to become, or who have succeeded in becoming, their successors.
No editors have ever protested collectively against the Newspaper Proprietors' Association. Not one editor has been defended by the editors getting together to protect their interests against the proprietors and proprietorial boards. Suddenly we see this alarm among editors at the prospect of being judged by their fellow journalists. Most editors have at some time been working journalists. I cannot understand their curious apprehension that their fellow journalists and workers will be more tyrannical in their treatment of them than the proprietors or business directors of the boards who run the Press.
We have spoken a great deal about the freedom of the Press. The right hon. Member for Lowestoft (Mr. Prior) mentioned the Royal Commission on the Press. I wish that he had addressed himself to some of the other abuses in Fleet Street that the Royal Commission might consider, perhaps even to the demand, which the editors are now making, that their editorial independence should be protected. For example, I refer to the occult pressures to publish or not to publish. I refer to the relationship of the writ factories and the Press. I refer to the disgraceful abuses that occur in the Press today by means of hidden subsidies in the form of the promotion of supplements. Those are the real dangers that threaten the freedom of the Press. I am 1415 astonished that the right hon. Gentleman did not address himself to those features.
Here, I part company from my right hon. Friend, whose Bill in general I support, because I wish to speak about the principle of the function of the editor. The editor, in a sense, is a hybrid, neither one thing nor another. He is an employee and an administrator. He is the agent of the management, but also a kind of worker-priest whose duty it is to act as an intermediary between the chapel, the management and the proprietors.
Most editors who began life as working journalists, still maintain their trade union membership. That has never conflicted with their right and opportunity of exercising their editorial function, although I can see that the change in their status from that of associate membership of the NUJ to full membership might qualify the work that they were doing.
In general editors have an interest in a strong NUJ. I accept that the editorial function is such that if an editor were to become a full member of the NUJ and in an industrial conflict he was subordinate to the rules of his union, he might be put in a position that conflicted with his intermediate position as I have just described it. His editorial authority, which is concerned with the negotiation of wages and so on, makes him in that sense an administrator. Therefore, it would be extremely difficult, if he were a full member of the NUJ, for him to be subordinate to the very body that was in conflict at that point with the management or the administration. Because of the unique situation of the Press and because of its unique function, editors should have a special status.
If my hon. Friend the Minister of State says that the definition of editor is open to question because there are so many different kinds of individuals who describe themselves as editors, ranging from sub-editors to managing editors, deputy editors, assistant editors, regional editors—a chain of people who use the word "editor" in their title—I say that in this connection the definition of "editor" should be that of the editor-in-chief of any newspaper, whose editorial function is well known and clearly definable. The fancy titles containing the 1416 word "editor", which complicate the issue, can be put aside, and there is no reason why editors should not be encouraged to join the NUJ, or whatever union is appropriate to their task.
It is important that the editors should be allowed a special status to carry out their function, which is to defend the free flow of ideas. Blacking during a strike, or even when there is no industrial dispute, is a delicate and complicated matter. If my hon. Friend prefers the word "exclusion" to "blacking"—
§ The Minister of State, Department of Employment (Mr. Albert Booth)
The question of blacking, otherwise than in industrial disputes, has not been raised with us by editors. It may help us if my hon. Friend makes clear the thought behind his remark.
§ Mr. Edelman
I am obliged to my hon. Friend. It is true that the issue of blacking has arisen because of a recent dispute, and it is not my purpose to comment on the merits of that dispute, although my sympathies naturally are with those of the NUJ. Nevertheless, the word "blacking" is a metaphor. It can apply to the exclusion of those who want access to the Press.
In a closed shop situation, careful consideration must be given to the extent to which the right of those who are not members of the union to appear in the newspapers should be tolerated. For example, a Member of Parliament may wish to make a contribution to a newspaper. A doctor who specialises in some disease of public concern at a given moment may wish to make a contribution. I know that the union has said that a certain percentage should be fixed for such contributions. But these are matters for negotiation between the editor and the union. There are two sides to that negotiation about the free flow of ideas.
But if the editor is to be in a position to negotiate with the union, it must be recognised that his function stands outside that of the union, which is concerned with working journalists and defending their interests. It is important to identify the status of the editor so that the dialogue may continue between the working journalist and the editor as the intermediary.
Journalists are craftsmen. They must have the power to defend their craft and 1417 their pay and conditions. They have a difficult job in which they need a talent and experience that often require them to serve long apprenticeships. It is not a matter of suddenly deciding one day to be a journalist and the next day being in full production as a journalist. It is a specialist craft, and journalists are entitled to defend their conditions and to combine to arrange for their pay, and so on.
Although I am strongly in favour of workers' participation, which is an essential development that must take place in the Press so that the voice of the worker can be heard, I am opposed to the concept of workers' control inside the Press along the lines advocated last Sunday in The Observer by one who, I imagine, was writing on behalf of the Free Communications Group.
§ Mr. Jonathan Aitken (Thanet, East)
Surely the hon. Gentleman is aware that worker control is exactly what a closed shop will mean. If he is against that, he is against the Bill.
The hon. Member for Thanet, East (Mr. Aitken) has been in Fleet Street for a long time. He ought to realise that what I am talking about is the communication of ideas. I hope that he will have sympathy with my views. I do not believe that any group or caucus should arrogate to itself the right to control the free flow of ideas. I am opposed to syndicalism in journalism, just as I am opposed to syndicalism in industry generally. There is a public outside the group that seeks to control communications in the Press, and the syndicalist who claims solely to enjoy the benefit of his group in production has to be aware that there is a wider public interest beyond that.
I was about to quote the letter that appeared last Sunday in the Observer. The writer says:Independent elected staff committees, with the right to confirm or veto the appointment of a new editor and oppose any drastic change in 'weight' or policy would enormously strengthen an editor's hand.I oppose that. If there is editorial rule by caucus or by individual groups inside any kind of newspaper organisation, the result is not only patronage, just as there is on the proprietorial side, but a counterpart of patronage that can be only damaging to the interests of the Press generally.
1418 As the Press Commission will show, there are many abuses in the Press today by proprietors and by editors that I hope will be eliminated. But nothing in the Bill will do anything to protect the interests of workers in the newspaper industry. There is nothing that will safeguard their rights. There is nothing that in any way will damage the free flow of communication.
My hon. Friend the Minister of State should recognise that the status of editor is unique. Although my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State spoke of comparable instances, no one has yet quoted anything comparable. The position of an editor is unique, and we shall have to be very careful. Today, it may be the Press that is concerned with its structure: tomorrow, it may be the BBC.
We have to consider carefully the exclusion of contributions from outside contributors because, despite the fact that we can have a closed shop to protect pay and conditions, we must make sure in the interests of liberty that the free flow of communication is not impeded.
In supporting the Bill and in seeking its partial amendment, I am sure that we serve not only the basic purposes of the Bill, which I support fully, but also the intentions in the mind of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State.
§ 6.45 p.m.
§ Mr. George Gardiner (Reigate)
I agree with a great number of the points made by the hon. Member for Coventry, North-West (Mr. Edelman), but I ask him to forgive me if I do not immediately develop those with which I disagree. I shall touch upon them later in my remarks.
We are all grateful to the Secretary of State for devoting a substantial part of his speech to how the Press and Press freedom is affected by the Bill. This is undoubtedly the aspect which has caused the greatest public anxiety of late, and this is reflected by the fact that so many speeches today have concentrated upon it. I intend to do the same.
I do not wish to create an impression that the debate should become a closed shop operated by members of the National Union of Journalists, although I ought to declare that, like the Secretary of State, I have been a member throughout my adult 1419 life. Thankfully, I have not been an editor, but for a period I served on a branch committee of my union.
I do not intend to dwell at length on Whether there should be closed shops in newspapers. As other hon. Members have said, there are closed shops. Instead, I wish to concentrate on whether there should still be some special safeguards in a closed shop situation in journalism.
To the extent that it affects journalism the Bill undoubtedly raises issues affecting journalists, working editors and the general public. In his speech today the Secretary of State repeated what he has said on a number of earlier occasions, that his Bill did nothing more than restore the pre-1971 situation. However, that is not so in the case of newspapers. In the right hon. Gentleman's view, the Bill may restore the law to that situation, but the effect of that law will now be very different.
A great deal has happened in the newspaper world since 1971, nothing more significant than the shift which has taken place in official NUJ attitudes. Instructions have been issued by the annual delegate meeting of the NUJ, which is the equivalent of an annual conference for any other union, that the NEC should… launch an immediate campaign for 100 per cent. union shop covering all journalistic jobs. Any work performed by non-Union members to be blacked and the full backing of the print unions to be sought for any such blacking.Again, with respect to the Minister of State's remarks just now, it is not true to say that the blacking issue has never been raised outside an industrial dispute. I agree that we have seen it operating recently in an industrial dispute, but the blacking issue is raised very clearly in that resolution passed at the NUJ annual conference this year. Furthermore, it is worth pointing out that this resolution was passed in the knowledge that a Labour Government would seek to repeal the whole of the Conservative Government's Industrial Relations Act. So we have had that considerable change in the official NUJ approach and attitude since 1971. We have also had a great strengthening of the disciplinary procedures adopted by my union. A few years ago transgressions by members in one dispute in which I was involved were 1420 punished by suspension. This year we have seen expulsions from the union. We have had a hardening of attitude there as well.
Overlying all this is the issue to which the hon. Member for Coventry, North-West referred, the issue of the growing advocacy in a section of this union of increased workers' control over the content of newspapers. One might say that that is a move which has had some encouragement from some of his right hon. Friends —but we shall not go into that matter today.
§ Mr. Edelman
I should like to put it to the hon. Gentleman that there is a fundamental distinction between workers' participation and so-called—I believe it is bogus—workers' control. It is a completely different function of journalistic activity.
§ Mr. Gardiner
In a sense, of course, there is workers' participation at present. All editors consult their staff on a great variety of things. A good editor is guided by the advice and information which come up to him.
It is the issue of workers' control which has very largely been ventilated in the columns of the Journalist, for example, in recent months. So we have this issue overlaid on those others which have been hardened considerably by the recent resolution at the annual conference of the NUJ. We have had some illustration of this in the recent dispute, the merits of which I do not want to go into now, either, but we have seen, as the Minister of State acknowledged, the use of this blacking device.
At one level it is a perfectly understandable protective device. Journalists who are in dispute with their employer naturally do not want to see substitute material brought in for the material which they would have been writing. It is natural that they would take some steps to exclude that material. I would not quarrel with that, but it is being carried a good deal further than that when it comes to blacking the contributions of outside, non-union people and the contributions of those belonging to other unions. It becomes very hard to argue that a considerable element of censorship is not involved in that kind of blacking. The opinion of a great 1421 many working journalists is that the use of that device has inflicted more harm on the professional standing of journalists than it has bestowed any protection upon them.
The present leaders of the NUJ assert that they do not want powers of censorship, and, of course, it is contrary to the rules of the union that they should. In practice, however, that is what in certain situations it can work out to be. I would simply reinforce the point made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Lowestoft (Mr. Prior)—if the leaders of the NUJ are saying that they do not want those powers and do not intend to use them in that way, why on earth give those powers to them? That is a serious point which has to be answered. By withdrawing the sort of safeguards which have existed hitherto, the Bill undoubtedly changes the situation in that respect.
The Secretary of State mentioned and commended the offer which has been made to editors by the NUJ to join in negotiations on these matters. Any negotiations and discussions of this kind are to be welcomed, but that does not get the Secretary of State off this hook. It does answer the arguments that we are putting, because this legislation will tip the scales very much in favour of one party to those negotiations. I do not think that we can claim that those negotiations will be in any sense freely conducted if they are conducted against the background of the Bill which is now passing through Parliament without any serious proposition for amendment.
I shall not this evening deal very much with the position of the editors. I believe that the hon. Member for Coventry, North-West, despite his initial qualifying remarks, expressed their unique position and difficulties very well. I endorse a great deal of what he said, but I believe that the Secretary of State must realise the strength of the view that is being put to him by the editors. He was visited, as he has said and as we know, by 21 national newspaper editors. It was a unique assembly. They had never been brought together like that previously. No machinery existed to bring them together. They had to be brought together by Mr. Denis Hamilton, as chairman of the 1422 International Press Institute, a body which has been concerned with Press freedom throughout the world.
Even prior to that meeting more than 60 provincial and regional newspaper editors signed a declaration expressing very similar fears. There again, they were brought together not initially under the umbrella of the Guild of Newspaper Editors but as a spontaneous movement among a number of them who wished to do something separately from the guild because of the guild's built-in connection with the Newspaper Society. Although the guild has taken up and developed the argument, the inspiration and the impetus for that came from outside it before it could ever consider that question.
The hon. Member for Coventry, North-West seemed to find it a little surprising that editors have never come together in this way previously to stand up to the undoubted threats which are made to them periodically by proprietors and to stand up to certain dangers. The lesson of this is that they have never before felt themselves to be threatened in this way by legislation. That is why they have come together. They have been forced together on this issue. I would agree that it is quite conceivable that in other situations they might come together again, but that we wait to see.
A second range of objections to this legislation must be voiced on behalf of working journalists. Working journalists other than editors are in a bit of a quandary in this situation. That fact must be faced. As has been said earlier today, they are in the situation in which they have watched other unions in the newspaper industry, the print unions, getting very substantial increases in pay as a result of employing fairly militant methods. Working journalists are feeling that they have been left way behind in this process. There is a great deal of justice and weight to this feeling. One must add, too, that if journalists are behaving with greater militancy at present a share of the blame must attach to the employers, who hitherto have often been only too easily pushed over by the pressures from the print and craft unions and, in the process, have often not given the proper weight and regard to the efforts of those who write the words which they print.
1423 Against that there is undoubtedly among working journalists at the moment considerable concern over certain aspects of the more militant approach which has been adopted by their official leaders, particularly when reinforced by this piece of legislation. This applies in many newspaper centres in this country.
I would not argue very strongly against the closed shop in individual newspaper centres. I say straight away that in the past 10 years of my working journalistic life I worked in a closed-shop situation, and there is no doubt that that confers certain advantages both on employers and on journalists, particularly when it comes to negotiating house agreements and similar matters.
On the other hand, speaking from my own experience, there is no doubt that those journalists already in a closed-shop situation have felt increasing anxiety in recent months over the way that they, as members of a closed shop, are being required to implement the rather more militant instructions handed down to them by officers of their union. I have had personal experience of a situation in which members of a closed shop here in London—working for a group of provincial papers—were instructed to take industrial action in support of a dispute in some other part of the country involving a totally different employer, and. indeed, in support of a dispute with which closed shop members were totally out of sympathy.
There is a growing fear among many working journalists that their membership of a closed-shop situation could be used to compromise their journalistic integrity. Many, therefore, are hoping for some safeguards to be written into the Bill, not only for editors but to extend the principle involved to journalists as well.
Another group to which I wish to refer, and which has a major interest in the issue, includes the readers of the newspapers, who often tend to be overlooked. As the UK Press Gazette remarked recently there is a natural temptation for the journalist to think of thefreedom of the Press as a series of rights he enjoys and exercises on his own behalf, because he is a journalist. There are no such rights. The freedom a journalist exercises when he works, or wishes to suspend when he does not, are the rights of the public.1424 For example, it is the right of a public to know what is happening nationally and locally, to know about particular decisions which have been taken affecting their whole lives, whether those decisions are taken in this Chamber or in the chambers of local councils.
I appeal to the Secretary of State to open his mind much more in Committee than he appeared to do today and at least to accept substantial amendments which will admit, and protect, the real element of public interest involved here. The very phrase "freedom of the Press" embraces far more meaning than there is in the "right to withdraw labour", whether in the newspaper industry or in any other industry—even with respect to the Minister of State, in the process of sewerage. There is a qualitative difference, for example, between the public being robbed for ever of a report of a local council debate on an issue of great importance in their locality and being forced to go without bread on Monday, or perhaps for the whole week. There is a deep difference, involving the public interest, between closing the columns of a newspaper to the opinions of an outside contributor, whether he be an MP, a trade union leader or anyone else, and barring employment in the docks to anyone who is not a member of the Transport and General Workers' Union. It is this which makes a free Press, and, to a lesser extent, television, which is also involved here, different from almost all other industries in the country, because the kind of public interest involved is totally different——
§ Mr. Bob Cryer (Keighley)
The hon. Gentleman has shown much concern and interest in the freedom of the Press, which is refreshing from the Opposition benches. Can he say what he or his hon. Friends did in relation to the Paul Foot case in which the law of contempt was extended and in which the freedom of the Press was clearly limited? What concern did the hon. Gentleman express at that time?
§ Mr. Gardiner
I do not propose to enter into that argument now, but if I did the hon. Gentleman might find that I agree a little more with his approach to it than he might imagine. I agree that in the case he mentioned issues of Press freedom were involved, and the 1425 Press has shown some concern about this, but I shall not digress on it now because this is not a debate on the Press, although it might begin to sound like such.
I urge the Secretary of State, with his personal history not just as a former newspaper editor but as a great dissenter —a man who, in the past, has been prepared to argue unpopular views— either to accept the proposition put forward by my right hon. Friend the Member for Lowestoft and defer the Bill altogether till an interim report can be obtained from the Royal Commission on the Press, or, failing that—this is probably the more likely alternative—at least to amend the Bill sufficiently broadly to leave the Press aspects of his proposals open-ended till the Royal Commission has reported.
§ 7.7 p.m.
§ Mr. Ted Fletcher (Darlington)
I shall be very brief, for I realise that a number of my hon. Friends wish to catch your eye, Mr. Deputy Speaker. One might imagine that this was a debate about the Press, about whether newspaper editors should be members of the NUJ, and whether, if they were, their freedom would be eroded.
But the debate is not about the 25,000 or 30,000 members of the NUJ. It affects millions of people who work in, for instance, factories and mines, and who are members of the trade union movement. The debate is a response to the rejection, in fact the repeal of the Industrial Relations Act by the last Government. Because of the minority position of the Government at that time, it was impossible for them to reject the whole of the Act. The Bill is therefore a tidying-up operation to get rid of the last vestiges of the hated Industrial Relations Act.
When we debated the closed-shop question in 1971, many of us put forward the view that it would be impossible for the law to be implemented in a closed-shop situation. The speeches are on the record and thus we can prove that we were correct. No single employer to my knowledge took advantage of the Industrial Relations Act to end a closed-shop situation, although many individuals, eccentric individuals, took their unions to the National Industrial Relations Court and were instrumental in getting fines imposed against their unions. That 1426 caused industrial chaos and cost millions of pounds to industry, due to the operation of the closed-shop provisions.
We are talking not about a narrow issue of the right of journalists' unions to admit editors, but an issue that affects the day-to-day workings in our factories. Unless some attitude is struck by the Government and unless these provisions are abolished, we shall have the same explosive situation in the future that arose two or three years ago after the Industrial Relations Act became law.
The Opposition have argued this issue as involving the rights of trade unions against the rights of individuals. Trade unions, however, also have rights and trade unions are a combination of individuals who organise together to get the best terms and conditions they can. It is right and just that they should organise in their interests in a closed-shop situation, because that gives them a powerful bargaining base. I know of no instance where a closed shop has been based on intolerance, and I speak from a great deal of experience as an industrial worker and a trade union official.
I have known situations in which a closed shop operated yet individuals had strong religious objections to joining the union. Unions are tolerant if such people do not come out on strike. They do not force people to join a trade union if that is contrary to a man's religious convictions, but they take a stand against the man who joins the union, who gets into arrears with his contributions, who is warned by his branch and who is given notice that if he does not improve, he will be expelled. If, in spite of that, such a man continues not to pay his union dues, the other members might take the view that he was contracting out of his obligation to building up a strong union that could negotiate the best terms and conditions of employment for its members. They might feel that a person who did not pay contributions had no right to hold out his hand for increases when negotiated, and they might refuse to work with him.
It is in that situation that the individual goes to the Press and talks about intolerance and Communist-dominated unions and all the other fantasies that appear in the newspapers. Under the Conservative Government, such people took action 1427 against the unions in the Industrial Relations Court. It is in that intolerable situation that resentment springs up and leads to industrial strife between management and men, strife that is deliberately avoided by employers who are anxious to get smooth relations with the unions. As far as I know, not one member of management has intervened to take advantage of these provisions in the Industrial Relations Act.
We should not imagine that the closed shop applies only to industrial workers. It applies also to professional organisations. Examples are members of the Law Society and the doctors, who are unable to carry on their profession unless they are members of the oppropriate organisation. In NALGO executives and town clerks are members of the same union as administrative personnel employed in local government. Yet there does not seem to be any difficulty in organising the executive grades, and there is no reason why that situation should not apply to journalists.
I speak with little knowledge of the newspaper industry, but I imagine that editors would need the same protection against their employers in the event of dismissal—even though accompanied in most cases by a golden handshake. I would have thought that it was in their interests to unite with their colleagues in order to safeguard their position, but that is a matter for them and for negotiation between the editors and the management. The Bill does not force anyone to operate a closed shop. It says only that no one will be able to take legal action to curtail a situation in which a closed shop exists.
It has been suggested that this whole matter has something to do with the social contract, but these injustices were being committed under the previous Government under the Industrial Relations Act long before the social contract was even thought of. It is in the interests of justice that we are asking the House completely to repeal that Act. I therefore believe, as we promised in the two General Elections this year, that we should do that. I do not mean repeal part of it, but the whole Act. I am glad that the Government have a majority in the House. When the Bill is law, we shall once more have fulfilled one of the promises that we made during the election—in this case to consign 1428 to the dustbin of history the hated Industrial Relations Act.
§ 7.16 p.m.
§ Mr. Jonathan Aitken (Thanet, East)
The hon. Member for Darlington (Mr. Fletcher) said that the Bill was nothing more than a tidying-up operation. If it had been that, the voices of protest from the Opposition would have been much more muted. In fact it goes far beyond being a tidying-up operation. It is a sweeping-away operation of certain important freedoms, and the reason that the debate this afternoon has seemed to turn into an NUJ branch meeting is that members of the union and anyone concerned with the Press feel deeply that certain freedoms are in jeopardy as a result of the legislation.
In common with most hon. Members who have spoken, I declare an interest in that I have been a member of the NUJ for some years. The division of opinion which exists in the House is reflected in the union's membership at large. There is a wide split in the union over the Bill, particularly over those provisions concerning the closed shop.
Two main freedoms are threatened by this legislation. The first was, extraordinarily, not even mentioned by the Secretary of State. It is the freedom of the reader of the newspapers to read the most expert, well-informed articles from outside contributors who are not members of the NUJ. The second freedom which is threatened is the freedom of minority views to be expressed in newspapers by readers who are not necessarily NUJ members.
The union has made it clear that no one other than a member of the union will be able to write in a national or local newspaper more than twice a year, and that means that a whole range of outside contributors—specialist book reviewers, academic commentators, clergymen, countrymen writing nature spotters' diaries and even politicians—will be excluded from writing in newspapers. It is all right for the Secretary of State because he is a member of the union. He should spare a thought for the Home Secretary——
§ Mr. Aitken
I am a member. I am all right, Jack, but that is not the kind of attitude we want to encourage. Supposing that the Home Secretary wishes to contribute half-a-dozen of his distinguished profiles of statesmen to a national newspaper. What is his position? I put this to an official of the NUJ and he said that the right hon. Gentleman might be able to do it by using the formula "Roy Jenkins talking to Lunch-time O'Booze".
§ Mr. W. R. Rees-Davies (Thanet, West)
Has my hon. Friend appreciated that while he may be able to write for the local Press in Thanet, East I would not be in the same fortunate position in Thanet, West?
§ Mr. Aitken
That is clearly a great tragedy for the citizens of Thanet. I am grateful to my hon. and learned Friend for pointing that out. A closed shop will impoverish the quality of contributions in local newspapers. Even the article in The Observer on Sunday advocating workers' control of the Press said that it would be intellectual suicide for newspapers to exclude all non-NUJ contributors. The only argument that I have heard supporting the closed shop as being beneficial for newspapers is reported to have come from the Secretary of State in his discussions with the editors when he said that the Daily Herald got along fine for years with a closed shop. The Secretary of State must be reminded, first, that the Daily Herald, no doubt thanks partly to its being a closed shop for journalists, attracted such a loyal and devoted number of readers that it went bust quite quickly. Secondly, the Secretary of State himself, in his distinguished biography of Nye Bevan, said:The Daily Herald has all the intellectual astringency of a parish magazine. How can the mental sinews of our people tauten to the challenge of the modern world if it is fed on such childish rubbish?Does that intellectual impoverishment of the national Press arise without a closed shop for journalists who are members only of the NUJ?
I should like to touch on just two other points raised by the Secretary of State. First, he was very unfair in his attack on the Editor of The Guardian. I do not believe that The Guardian has in any way misrepresented or misquoted the 1430 editors' case. The right hon. Gentleman introduced a red herring about the removal of editors. The issue is not whether they will or will not be removed as a result of the Bill, or whether removal is unfair. They have been removed in the past. We are not talking about their removal. It is true that editors, like Cabinet Ministers, have not enjoyed the greatest security of tenure. But it is not into jeopardy of removal that the Bill brings them.
We are talking about the control of editors. They are in real danger. That is why they have united in an unprecedented manner to protest against the Bill, against having to accept a whole range of union instructions, having suddenly to be subordinate to union penalties, running the risk of being expelled without compensation, something which has never happened to an editor when expelled by a proprietor. There is a whole range of other interference—interference with editorial appointments, and even the blacking of certain material. No editor worth his salt can accept those limitations on his freedom. That is why the editors feel so strongly, and why the Editor of The Guardian has spoken out so clearly in his columns.
Editors will be castrated. They will become editorial eunuchs, impotent to make those key decisions and appointments necessary for the efficient running of a newspaper. If I were asked to choose between being removed or being castrated, I should take the choice of being removed, and I think that most editors would do the same.
The only antidote to the limitations on freedom of editors, hitherto unchallenged, that the Secretary of State held out in the debate was the letter from Ken Morgan, General Secretary of the NUJ. The right hon. Gentleman read the letter in full. I have a healthy respect for Mr. Morgan and his views, although anyone with any knowledge of NUJ internal politics knows that his position as General Secretary is somewhat precarious and that his words, however sincerely written today, may not be able to be implemented by his successor tomorrow, or that his successor may not wish to implement them.
If ever there were an example of the undoubted fact that power is rapidly passing outside Parliament, it was today's example of the Secretary of State refusing 1431 to write into the Bill legal safeguards for the position of editors, and instead, in true Neville Chamberlain-style, waving a piece of paper and saying in effect, "This letter means that there will be peace in our time between the editors and the NUJ militants." The Secretary of State is living in cloud cuckoo land if he believes that. It will not mean that.
The Bill is a charter for militants. It is a sad blow to the freedom of editors and the freedom of readers to have access to the best possible contributions.
The whole attitude to the Press in the Bill sterns from a basic misunderstanding about journalism. Whatever the Secretary of State may feel about the ability of the Press to manufacture news, journalism is not a manufacturing industry. The hon. Member for Darlington pointed out that in some circumstances closed shops can be beneficial in manufacturing industry, but, on the editorial side, journalism has much more in common with the arts, politics and the whole world of information. The essential freedoms should prevail. That is why we should vote against the Bill.
§ 7.24 p.m.
§ Mr. Ron Thomas (Bristol, North-West)
I immediately declare an interest in that I am a member of the Association of Scientific, Technical and Managerial Staffs, whose general secretary was once described as the leader of the Welsh Mafia. We had a bit of that kind of thing in the speech of the hon. Member for Rochdale (Mr. Smith), in which once again the image was presented of the trade union as a great monopoly facing the little individual fighting for his freedom. It was almost like some of the horror films we have seen of late.
I hope that the hon. Member for Thanet, East (Mr. Aitken) will forgive me if I do not continue along his lines. We have had more than our fair share of hearing about the problems faced by the Press. Time and again during the debate I have felt that it was simply a debate on the Press, rather than on certain important industrial relation issues that affect the Press, but that also affect 25 million other working people.
I agree with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State that the intention of the Bill is to bury once and for all the Industrial Relations Act, which did more 1432 harm to industrial relations than any legislation we have ever had. That is the essence of the Bill. Sections 5, 6 and 8 of the Trade Union and Labour Relations Act 1974, which are to be repealed, were an integral and essential part of that authoritarian, divisive and class-oriented legislation, the 1971 Act. Section 5 continues the theme of the so-called guiding principles in that Act. Those guiding principles inevitably led to the Goad case, and just as inevitably led to a major confrontation between a leading trade union and the National Industrial Relations Court. As my right hon. Friend made clear, the way is still wide open for a similar confrontation at any time. Another Mr. Goad could appear at any time, become a television personality overnight and cause a confrontation between the High Court and a major trade union.
Section 5, like Section 65 of the Industrial Relations Act, also cuts right across the Bridlington Agreement. I have heard a great deal of scepticism and scorn about the trade union proposals to try to deal with problems, but there has been little mention of the fact that at a similar level, under the Bridlington Agreement, the trade union movement resolves membership problems day in, day out. Section 5 is a charter for those individuals who want, at a stroke, to opt in or out of their obligations on the factory floor or in the office.
This is where I disagree with some of my hon. Friends. I do not believe that a closed shop should be assessed simply on the basis that because a worker is enjoying the benefits, he should make contributions. It is not like that at all.
What it means is that painstakingly and over many decades we have built up a complex and detailed basis of machinery. This has involved unions and employers. We have a representative system of shop stewards and staff representatives. Such individuals, unlike the Goads who want to opt in and out as it suits them and who refuse to accept the obligations that are essential to good industrial relations, are part of the system.
It is not just a matter of saying, "I shall not pay my 25p a week". Many progressive employers say that in this day and age, with continual changes and problems coming to light, it is essential for good industrial and human relations 1433 to have a closed shop. Employers say that it is essential to have their employees as members of an organisation. That enables them to hammer out solutions with the employees' representatives. It is no good Fords of Dagenham inviting 38,000 people on to a football pitch and thinking that they can come to some kind of agreement. It is necessary to use the procedures and the machinery that are so important to good industrial relations.
All kinds of estimates have been made of the number of workers now covered by closed shops. There have been estimates ranging from 8 million to 12 million. It is right to say that no employers under the Industrial Relations Act scrapped their closed-shop provisions. I met many employers who said that if at the end of the day they had to pay £5,000 in compensation for sacking someone, they would rather pay that sum than disturb the relationship that they had painstakingly built up to achieve good industrial relations.
At the same time, there are those who believe that these complex issues can be resolved by an independent tribunal. We have heard a lot about independent tribunals this afternoon. The hon. Member for Rochdale (Mr. Smith) told us that the majority of people did not agree with the closed shop. I do not know from where the independent tribunal will come. I have not much time for the tribunals that have been operating under the Industrial Relations Act. I have not much time for those that may come into being. Tribunals are usually composed of a lawyer, an employer representative and a representative of the trade unions. It is usually obvious which side of the fence the lawyer is on when he is asked about industrial relations and about the closed shop. I do not believe that the tribunals can resolve complex issues that are more often than not unique to the establishment involved.
The Explanatory Memorandum mentions Section 6 of the principal Act. That part of the Act is rather like Schedule 4 of the Industrial Relations Act. We all know that that schedule played a main supporting role in the most vindictive and offensive parts of the Industrial Relations Act, namely, so-called unfair industrial practices. For example, in Schedule 4 the unions were told that they had to define the scope and authority 1434 of their shop stewards and other representatives. That was not because the registrar wanted to know, but because the NIRC or the tribunals wanted to know whom to clobber under Sections 96, 97 and 98. It is true that under the present Section 6 trade unions do not have to define the scope and authority of their shop stewards, but the section is still indicative of the philosophy that there needs to be an authoritarian strait-jacket imposed on trade unions and that it must be spelt out in their rule books.
The section is nonsensical to those who know anything about industrial relations. I quote a few examples. It refers to the requirement that the rules must make provision for the election of a governing body when talking to groups of trade unionists and discussing the Industrial Relations Act the question of the governing body has been raised. Invariably I have received the assurance that the membership is the governing body of the union. There are other unions in which I understand learned lawyers are still arguing about the identity of the governing body.
Further, it is required that a union's rules must provide a specific description of persons eligible for membership. What nonsense. What should the Transport and General Workers' Union put in its rule book? Should it provide that everyone and everybody is eligible or has it drawn up a long list? To demand that trade unions should provide a specific description places improper restrictions in the sense that jobs are continually changing and new jobs are continually being introduced. Why should trade unions have to say exactly what they are in business to look after? That is an unacceptable restriction.
The amendments to the Trade Union and Labour Relations Act which are contained in the Bill leave the Act's provision on the closed shop confused and contradictory. It has been said by some hon. Members that the Act needs only slight amendment. In my judgment what is at stake is the whole question whether we can legislate to deal with the closed shop situation. In my judgment we cannot do so. Following the amendments that were made at a time when I was not a Member, the Act was left confused and full of contradictions. In the original Bill, the definition of a union 1435 membership agreement corresponded to industrial reality. When the wordsother appropriate independent trade unionsare added, the result was a complete nonsense. That description was left unamended.
On this subject an industrial journal, Incomes Data Services, which I am assured is not printed either in Peking or in Moscow, said:In the light of all this confusion, our advice to management and unions can only be—to carry on for the present with their own arrangements. It is certainly not worth signing a 'union membership agreement' merely for the sake of complying with the new TU Act, certainly not unless its confusions are clarified or rewritten.I now turn to the Press. I must admit that I know very little about the Press. I have tried to understand the fears that some hon. Members have expressed this afternoon. When most of the newspapers are faced with any kind of situation which seems to involve their profitability or circulation, they immediately start shouting about the freedom of the Press. It seems whenever there is a dispute of any kind—for example, the railways—the freedom of the Press is involved. If there is a railway dispute, it is said that the papers will not be distributed. If there is a dispute in the paper industry, again it is claimed that the freedom of the Press is involved. I could go on ad infinitum.
I do not know what is so special about the Press. I suppose that if we talk about the Press, we need to bring in publishing, broadcasting and radio. I suppose that education can also be included. Would it be wrong to have a closed shop in education, or in the production of books and periodicals?
Enough has been said to show that this matter will have to be resolved by the employers and the unions concerned. Judging by what my right hon. Friend said, it seems that in all probability that will be done. But I am still not clear about the issue. It seems to me that things are being confused. If the union achieves 90 per cent. membership, it could still propose to restrict the amount of space that any non-union member could have in the Press. It does not seem logical to argue, therefore, that getting 1436 100 per cent. union membership would make any difference in that respect.
One hon. Member has already said that he once worked in a closed-shop situation and that it did not make any difference. I do not think that it makes any difference in terms of collective bargaining. For example, more and more managers, including personnel managers, are joining NALGO and my own union. It could be said that they therefore negotiate with themselves, but situations are resolved quite happily.
The editors have had the benefit of a considerable pressure group here today. But their fears can be wrong. As I recall, most of the British Press, with one or two honourable exceptions, supported the Industrial Relations Act, but within a few months they were saying that it should be scrapped.
The Conservative Opposition have had a lot to say about the closed shop. When they began their industrial relations legislation, they did not want anything to do with the closed shop. They said in effect "You can either join or not join a union, and if you do join, you are free to join a union of your choice." I understand that examples were then given of individuals going to work in an aircraft factory and saying "I want to join the National Union of Seamen." The reply was "We do not mean that. You have to join a union that is on a list."
The Conservative Government then brought in the approved closed-shop provisions. At the risk of being thought facetious, I recommend to some of those employed on newspapers, or to their defenders, that if we still had the Industrial Relations Act on the statute book, there might have been a request for a closed shop under the approved closed-shop provisions, because the request could have been lodged in termsof maintaining reasonable terms ond conditions of employment and reasonable prospects of continued employment for those workers".With so many newspapers closing down and so many workers in the industry becoming unemployed, it is pertinent to remind the workers concerned of the approved closed-shop provisions in the Industrial Relations Act.
I want an assurance from my right hon. Friend that he will not bow to those pressures that insist that somehow 1437 or other the Press is a unique area for the law. I do not believe that we can distinguish its area from others. Nor do I believe that the Bill—which does not legislate or otherwise in terms of the closed shop—will affect the freedom of the Press. The editors who have made representations and the Conservative Opposition have not succeeded in sustaining their case.
§ 7.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Maurice Macmillan (Farnham)
If it is in order, I shall not make any reference to the Press whatever. That must be almost unique today. At one time, I thought I was at a branch meeting of the NUJ. There are other issues, as the hon. Member for Bristol, North-West (Mr. Thomas) has reminded us. The hon. Member for Darlington (Mr. Fletcher) also referred to matters other than the freedom of the Press.
The Secretary of State, who has introduced this nasty, rather silly little Bill, is a great parliamentarian, a great and genuine democrat and a great and genuine libertarian who really does believe in the freedom of the individual. That is why I want to talk about his betrayal in practice of those principles which he holds so genuinely and yet is damaging so severely in the Bill.
The Bill does great damage to parliamentary democracy, to the rule of law and to the freedom of the individual —all matters which we are sent here by our constituents to defend and not to oppress. For example, the provisions about what may or may not be done in this country about trades disputes overseas gives unions a freedom beyond that of any other of Her Majesty's subjects to damage the interests and override the rights of other citizens; not only to protect their own interests and rights, whether directly or indirectly, but also for political or other causes totally beyond anything to do with themselves, their industry or indeed this country.
The Bill gives immunities to trade unions and employers' associations for breaking contracts, other than contracts of employment, with very little limitation. The Bill is giving them a licence in dealing with their fellow citizens not enjoyed by any other section of our 1438 people. It gives them a special privileged position.
We have heard a great deal today about the side effects of the proposed changes in arrangements for the close shop, changes in the methods of exclusion or expulsion from trade unions, changes in the definition of a union membership agreement and the arrangements for compensation. I have little doubt that in these changes the Bill damages the rights of the individual.
The right hon. Gentleman by implication half accepted that fact. He talked about the possibility of a tribunal. He said that the individual did need to be protected and that the TUC would find a method of doing it. We are to leave the protection of the individual trade union member, in terms of the Bill, to an independent court set up by the trade unions—a court like the courts of the medieval barons judging their subjects in their own way. Let us hope that they are more merciful.
On top of all this, the definition of a trade union and the definition of the scope of its organisation has been taken out—in other words, the definition of whether a man shall be able to earn his living at his own trade. This is important. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Bristol, North West, said that one could not define such matters in law. But it is necessary to have some definition in law about what makes up a union and what its scope and activities are, because under the closed shop arrangements a union can determine whether a man is or is not able to exercise his skill freely.
In some ways hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite are going further in this Bill than they have ever gone before. It is not necessary for the protection of individual workers or trade unions generally. As the present Act stands, there are ample safeguards. I know that there are occasions when there will be conflict between tiresome, awkward individuals and the organisation to which they belong. What Labour Members are saying is that in all cases the dice must be loaded in favour of the organisation. However tiresome and difficult an individual is, he deserves better than that; and it is our business to protect the awkward customer, the man who is wrong as well as the man who is right.
1439 These measures are necessary for only one purpose—to increase the political power of the unions and their leaders, to give them power to take action outside Parliament to effect policies that should be decided in Parliament. That is the element that I find most objectionable. I was not reassured by the Secretary of State's speech which could be summed up in three words—"Might is Right". Of course there is room for legislation, more legislation in my view. In some ways the Secretary of State did not go nearly far enough. He made no move towards real industrial democracy.
Instead of this tatty little Bill I would like to see proper legislation dealing with how working people can individually take a greater part in the conduct of their firms and how they can collectively bring influence to bear upon important decisions, together with Government, management and those responsible for investment.
It is not a new idea. In the 1945 General Election I put up an alternative to the plan for nationalising the coal industry, namely that it should be divided into three, the National Union of Mine-workers, the colliery owners and the State. That idea has been translated into the "tri-partism" under which my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition discussed the arrangement of the economy so exhaustively and successfully with representatives of employers and unions. It was not a new idea in 1945. It was Sir Winston Churchill, in 1930, who put up the idea of a Council of Industry.
These are the matters with which I would like to see legislation dealing—how to get management, investors and work people taking part in the decision making in their own firms and in the affairs of the country. If we are to have people from the shop floor, the drawing office and management taking part—say as "members" of a company, members not in the same sense but in a parallel sense to the rôle played by the shareholders—then such people have to be bound by the rule of law as are the shareholders. Their power must be limited in the same way as other monopolies.
The trade unions now have great power. It is just and proper that we should recognise that in the rights we give them. 1440 But they must recognise that they have a. great responsibility. All those concerned in any true industrial partnership, investors, management and workers, must match their responsibilities to their rights and must finally be accountable to Parliament. This legislation is taking away some of the safeguards that will be necessary if we are to move towards a better concept of industrial democracy, not superseding Parliament but accountable to the people through Parliament and its Members.
§ 7.55 p.m.
§ Mr. James Sillars (South Ayrshire)
I am tempted to follow the arguments of the right hon. Member for Farnham (Mr. Macmillan) but I might be taken somewhat wide of the Bill if I did. If the right hon. Gentleman and I are selected to serve on the Committee dealing with this matter, perhaps we might engage in a debate about the nature of society and whether we can proceed on the national unity basis he outlined in his excellent speech. My view is that unless we progress rapidly towards a Socialist system of society we shall make no significant progress with the standard of living of ordinary people.
I understand that the right hon. Gentleman is one of the most advanced thinkers, one of the people on the liberal wing of the Conservative Party. I accept that he goes much further than do many right hon. and hon. Gentlemen on the Conservative benches. But he has many a league to go before he reaches even the Right wing of the Labour Party and a long way to go before he can embrace the Socialist concepts which I embrace.
Like the right hon. Gentleman, I thought on some occasions today that I was attending a meeting of the NUJ. Anyone who thinks that the NUJ is about to impose a Left-wing Marxist dictatorship upon the Press ought to have listened to the case which came from the Conservative benches today. It struck me that there was many a member of the NUJ who took an entirely different view of the world from Karl Marx or Lenin.
I welcome the amendment to Section 29(3) of the principal Act. That is the amendment of the provisions relating to overseas disputes. As the provision was originally drafted in the Bill presented 1441 by the minority Labour Government, it would have allowed trade unions to take international action when faced by international capital, as manifest by the multinational companies. That Bill was amended by the "short Parliament", if I may call it that—although in relation to industrial relations it was sometimes the "crazy Parliament"—to hamper the trade union movement in this activity.
During the years I have been a Member of this House I have heard hon. Members in various parts of it taunt the Parliamentary Labour Party, saying that they could not understand why we would not enter the EEC because our internationalism should have shown us that in the day of the multinationals there had to be a greater degree of co-operation between States to overcome the power wielded by such multinationals. Through this Bill my right hon. Friend is giving to working people, not only in this country but in co-operation with working people in many other countries, a positive method of dealing with multinationals. The amendment meets a growing need. It is a recognition of the growing need for action on an international basis by working people when they face the multinational giants.
Let us take, for example, the grape pickers in California. Under the Industrial Relations Act, if the British trade union movement wants to defend those people, who are paid the most miserly wages in the United States, and if it happens to engage in breaking, or the consequence of its action is the breaking, of a contract which is not a contract of employment, it is subject to damages. If the Act is amended according to the Bill, we can properly take action to strengthen the hand of the Californian grape pickers. That will go a long way towards ending the dispute and will lend a great deal of weight to the improvement of conditions for many working people here and elsewhere.
If the amendment is accepted, and if the international trade union movement takes action—sometimes strike action— and strikes penetratingly and deeply at the multinational companies, we shall be doing far more for the ordinary man and woman in the street, whether it be in Tokyo, Bonn, Rome. Manchester or Dundee, than will 1,000 regulations and directives from the EEC Commission.
1442 I also welcome the amendment to paragraph 6(5) of Schedule 1, which I do not see in the same light as does the hon. Member for Rochdale (Mr. Smith), the spokesman for the Liberal Party. [HON. MEMBERS: "Where are they?"] I am almost taken back to the days of the 1971 Industrial Relations Bill, when the Liberals did not attend after 11 p.m. I have always thought that the reason why they voted for the Second Reading and against the Third Reading of the Bill was that they missed what happened in between. I have some advantages over the Liberals, one of which is that I have been engaged in the operation of the Brid-lington Agreement and have seen how it works in practice.
The Bridlington Agreement was agreed by the TUC, it is operated by the TUC, and the decisions of the committee which was set up under the Bridlington Agreement are accepted by the affiliated organisations, even when those decisions go against them. I am convinced that the independent review machinery of the TUC to which the Secretary of State referred will work just as successfully as has the Bridlington Agreement. My right hon. Friend was correct in saying that it was an historical development inside the trade union movement.
The amendment to Schedule 1 gets rid of the free rider, it gets him off the back of the ordinary working trade unionist. I do not agree that to get the free rider off our backs is not important. If we get the free rider off we shall clear some of the obstacles in the machinery.
I remember that in 1961 when a man called Selwyn Lloyd was Chancellor of the Exchequer he introduced the first wages policy. At that time I was a working fireman. It took all the working firemen in the United Kingdom between six and nine months to campaign for an increase in wages. That campaign took a lot of money out of trade union funds. We finally received what was in those days a very substantial increase in wages, despite the wages policy of the then Tory Government. I always remember the bitterness among the men in my shift in Kilmarnock fire station when one nonunion member held out his hand and took what we had worked for in those six to nine months and what we had paid for out of our trade union funds.
1443 Conservatives and Liberals often paint the non-unionist as a hero, an individual who is larger than life with more spirit than anyone else. In my experience non-unionists are mean, they do not want to pay the union contribution and are unwilling to accept their communal obligation to their fellow working men. They are happy to take the benefits in cash and in kind but they are not prepared to make any contribution. That is one reason why I believe that we must get the free rider off our backs.
Genuine non-unionists whose religious point of view prevents them from joining a trade union or any other organisation have never had a day's problem in the trade union movement. We deal with them simply. We accept that they hold a genuine viewpoint and suggest that if they cannot for conscience reasons contribute to trade union funds they should contribute to a charity. That is good enough for us as long as we know that they are part of the community. That is how it has always worked in practice.
I am delighted to see that the amendment wipes off the statute book the blacklegs' and free-riders' charter. The Bill puts a few deft finishing touches to the demolition of the 1971 Act. We look forward to the Employment Protection Bill which will advance the rights of ordinary working-class people.
There were times today when I thought the debate was concerned not with the British Press but with some other Press, especially in the arguments about editorial freedom. I accept that there is a problem here, as there is in other parts of industry and in society, but those problems can be resolved. The National Union of Journalists is not a monolith. There are chapels at the Morning Star that do not correspond in political, industrial and journalistic attitudes to chapels at the Daily Telegraph. Let no one tell me that the national executive of the NUJ at 10 o'clock one night before the presses roll will take a decision in relation to political journalism and impose that decision on every newspaper in the country. It does not work that way in practice and is never likely to do so. Although I recognise that there is a problem, the nightmares that were depicted were imaginary.
1444 Some hon. Members confused editorial freedom with the freedom of the proprietor to dictate editorial policy to his editor. We should direct our attention to the proprietors' grip on the British Press rather than to the hypothetical grip of the NUJ. Editors of school magazines sometimes have far more editorial freedom than do journalists in our so-called national dailies.
The hon. Member for Thanet, East (Mr. Aitken) spoke of the importance of getting the intellectual quality right. Where is the intellectual quality in some of the stuff that is churned out by Fleet Street? Where is intellectual judgment shown in putting a good news item in the middle page of a tabloid newspaper alongside a photograph of a luscious piece of flesh depicting a bathing beauty contest? The decision where to place a particular item is made on the basis of what will sell most newspapers in a certain market.
§ Mr. Aitken
The hon. Gentleman uses an argument which advances my point. If we are interested in improving the intellectual quality of newspapers—and goodness knows many newspapers need it—one way of doing that is by not excluding contributors whose only sin is that they are not members of the NUJ.
§ Mr. Sillars
I said earlier, and I accept, that there is a problem. However, in stating the problem hon. Gentlemen opposite overstated the benefits of the so-called freedom of our so-called free Press. I would go a long way with the hon. Gentleman if he would say that, in addition to this problem, there is the greater and much more fundamental problem of how our Press is funded and controlled. If the Conservative Party were to say, "Let us have a comprehensive and fundamental look at the British Press and let us change its power structure so that poor old editors do not have to worry about someone phoning in and saying, 'Replace those four or five column inches with a photograph that might sell the paper better tomorrow morning'", we could have a sensible dialogue and discussion about it. But there is a great deal of humbug talked about the freedom of the Press and the benefits that it gives to us.
Earlier, one of my hon. Friends talked about the importance of the social contract and noted that the Bill made a 1445 contribution to the Government's commitment to the social contract—because the Labour Government has a commitment to it just as much as have trade unionists and working people.
If a man had come in at Question Time today he would believe, if he believed all that he heard, that the social contract was about wage restraint only. However, the Government have a part in that contract as well. If we are to make the social contract work in practice, the Government must understand that it is subject to enormous pressure from two points. If we do not take cognisance of that pressure the social contract could crack and break before the winter is over. If the social contract goes, so does the Labour Government.
The first point is the constant attack and the argument that we need a wage freeze, which emanates from a number of important hon. Gentlemen opposite.
The second point is the pressure of inflation on the pay packets and living standards of ordinary working families. There is no point in lecturing Scottish lorry drivers about the social contract if we are not capable of understanding what it is like to live on a wage of less than £1 an hour at the present rate of inflation.
We must work very hard indeed during the winter to secure the success of the social contract. It is not enough for Labour Ministers to meet general secretaries of unions or the General Council of the TUC. The argument about not only the responsibilites of workers but the contribution being made by the Labour Government must be conveyed at grass roots level. It is important to get out to the grass roots. Ministers should go into canteens to meet workers and to listen as well as to talk to them. My right hon. and hon. Friends should be very careful, when dealing with the social contract, not to get too far from the psychological reality of working people.
I am glad that the debate is to be wound up by a Minister from the Department of Employment. I put down a Question this week about the guide lines used to assess the pay of the chairman of the Royal Commission on the Distribution of Income and Wealth, Jack Diamond, now called Lord Diamond, who 1446 receives £16,350 a year, plus threshold payments, for doing that job. I was informed by the Minister of State, Department of Employment, that the salary was paid on the basis of comparability. We must be very careful when we bandy about words like "comparability". If any Scottish bus driver decides that his pay should be comparable with that of a lawyer, an editor, or a judge for that matter, we shall be in serious trouble.
I beg my right hon. and hon. Friends to take heed of the fact that we shall have to campaign not only for the social contract but to get our priorities right. That means less cash to some people on higher incomes and more cash to some people on lower incomes.
§ 8.15 p.m.
§ Mr. Leon Brittan (Cleveland and Whitby)
I am tempted after hearing the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Sillars), to try to explain what we regard as questionable about the social contract, but to do that would be to digress a long way from the subject matter of this debate—the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Amendment) Bill.
However difficult it may be for many hon. Members on this side of the House to understand it, however misguided we may have considered it, the storm of resentment that arose over the Industrial Relations Act 1971 was real in the trade union movement and the hostility that that Act aroused was deep and lasting. We ignore that fact at our peril.
During the last Parliament it was therefore natural that the Government, albeit a minority Government, should have made it a first priority to repeal what they regarded as an objectionable Act. In the course of doing so, on a number of important but limited points the Opposition were successful and had their way. Since then, not only has the Labour Party won another election victory but the Opposition, during their election campaign, made it clear that they had no intention of reintroducing the 1971 Act.
§ Mr. John Tomlinson (Meriden)
Will the hon. Gentleman confirm that the statement by the then Leader of the Opposition—I suppose that he is still the Leader of the Opposition—was made 1447 while the Bill was still in Committee? The hon. Gentleman said that the Opposition attached weight to that fact during the General Election, but the Bill was in Committee when the Leader of the Opposition promised this—before any of the subsequent amendments were made to it by this House.
§ Mr. Brittan
That is right, but that is not the point that I was making. I was pointing out that, recognising the depth of feeling in the Labour Party and among its supporters about the Industrial Relations Act, it was subsequently repealed. At the same time, whether in Committee or during the election, a commitment was made by the Conservative Party that the Act would not be reintroduced in its old form.
In that context surely passions can now be allowed to die down and tempers to cool. The right question to ask is not whether the Opposition amendments which were passed in July this year are or are not to be regarded as legacies of the 1971 Act, but whether the changes brought about by those amendments in the legislation are in themselves unreasonable and unacceptable limitations on trade union powers. I believe that those changes did no more than to provide individuals with the barest and most narrowly limited protection against the abuse of power.
It is important, if we are analysing those amendments and seeing whether they should be repealed as well, to see just how limited that protection was. The 1974 Act clearly permits closed shop, or an agreement euphemistically described as a union membership agreement. Such an agreement in an industrial context can be obtained either by genuinely voluntary agreement with managements or as a result of industrial action. However it is obtained, it is clear that it was permissible under the 1974 Act before any amendments were introduced. Under that Act the only limitation on the closed shop, as the Act was originally phrased, was that a man who was sacked for refusing to join a union could bring a claim for unfair dismissal if he had a religious objection to joining a trade union. The Opposition amendment that was passed extended that provision so that he could bring a claim if he objected on 1448 any reasonable ground to being a member of a particular trade union.
If we imagine a situation in which the union disagrees with a person who is refusing to join, takes a different view, and says that he is unreasonable, we can soon see how limited was the protection that our amendments gave him, because in a situation where the union disagrees with a person who does not want to join it there is nothing to stop the union from exerting the maximum pressure on the employer and using every form of coercion and industrial action to persuade the employer to sack the employee. It is lawful to do so despite all the amendments that were made by the Opposition, and if the union is strong enough and resolute enough in that aim the pristine principle will remain inviolate and the man will be sacked. And not only will the man be sacked, but there will be no sanction against the union.
Because of the protections that are being sought to be taken away, the only consequence will be that the man sacked can obtain compensation for wrongful dismissal if it is subsequently found that he was right and the union was wrong and that his objection to joining was on reasonable grounds. But that is a sanction on the employer, and if he dismisses an employee in those circumstances he may have to pay damages. It is, therefore, an extremely limited sanction because, faced with the threat of major industrial action, many employers would much rather pay the odd individual the limited compensation for unfair dismissal than risk standing up to the union that is seeking to impose a closed shop.
Therefore, the only circumstances in which the amendments which it is sought to repeal give any sort of real protection are those in which the employer ignores purely commercial considerations and feels that it would be wrong to sack the man because the law regards it as in the circumstances unfair, even though the penalties for doing so are so limited.
If, as I have been arguing, the protection granted to those qualified for it after the Opposition had done their best with the Bill are still so weak, and if the union can, if it feels strongly enough about it, still get its way, it is surely reasonable that the limited protection should at least 1449 be afforded on a generous basis and not by applying as narrow a criterion as possible.
§ Mr. Ivor Clemitson (Luton, East)
The hon. Gentleman has produced a great deal of theory which seeks to deal with all sorts of hypothetical cases. His difficulty lies in having to show the need for remedies such as these. What need is there for them? Can he produce examples of injustice?
§ Mr. Brittan
I have not produced any hypothetical situations. The situation that I have envisaged is reasonable. It would be possible—and the hon. Gentleman knows that it can be done—to give numerous examples that were cited in Committee, on which both the hon. Gentleman and I served. I do not think that it would be valuable to repeat the examples that were given then, but I shall come to an example in a slightly different context. What I was saying was that if the protection is as limited as I have been arguing that it is, surely it is particularly important that it should be extended on as generous a basis as possible and not just by applying a narrow criterion of religious objection to joining a trade union.
It is fantastic, as I argued during the debate on the previous Bill, that the objections to serving one's country in time of war that are allowed are on a conscientious basis and not merely on a religious one, and someone can say that he will not serve in the Army because he has a conscientious objection, but not a religious one, yet he is to be allowed to get out of a trade union in a closed shop situation only if his objection is a religious one.
That is far too narrow a criterion, and the provisions of the Act as passed, and which we would seek to defend, go further in one sense, but only in one sense, because they do not cover objections to joining unions altogether, but only an objection to joining a particular union. The objection has to be on reasonable grounds, determined by an industrial tribunal, and then it must not be an arbitrary objection. The mere fact that someone was not prepared to pay —and this was the point raised so forcefully by the hon. Member for South Ayrshire—would not be a sufficient objection 1450 to enable him to get out of joining a union in a situation of that kind.
If a person refuses to join a union which seeks to make him behave in a way which he reasonably regards as contrary to his professional duty, that would be a sufficient ground, and it is in that situation that he requires protection and where the previous Act gave it, and this would cover the example that I shall give—it is the example that we have heard so often today—of the editor.
This is a concrete case, to which I have referred elsewhere, of an editor who got into difficulties because of his refusal to follow the line dictated by the NUJ. In a closed-shop situation that editor would, if he were expelled from the union or was not a member of it, possibly no longer be able to carry on his newspaper activities at all. That example illustrates the threat that is posed by the legislation.
Hon. Members will be familiar with the example that I raised before of Ian Nimmo, editor of the Evening Gazette of Middlesbrough, who was fined £50 by the NUJ for trying to bring his paper out during a strike. His appeal was dismissed and he subsequently resigned from the union. If the union had a closed shop, and if he did that, he would no longer be able to carry on editing the paper.
What was his crime? What was his attitude that led to his getting into trouble? It was in line with the best traditions of journalism throughout the world. When his appeal was dismissed, he said:An editor, as the custodian of a free press, is expected to produce his newspaper in spite of fire, flood, war, violence or intimidation. If the Russians or Martians invaded tomorrow, even with the presses out of action, most editors would still be trying to find some way of keeping people informed, even if it was only by duplicated hand-outs. That has always been the great press tradition. Now it would appear, however, at least according to the NUJ, that the only circumstances in which an editor is not expected to publish is when the union says so. There will be many editors throughout the country who will be unable to accept such a dictate.As it is, Ian Nimmo is able to survive, but if there were a closed shop, he would not have the option to resign but would have to submit to the dictates of the union against his professional traditions, or give up his editorship. That is 1451 just one illustration of the grave threat to a free Press afforded by the Bill. It is not just a theoretical affair; I have cited a real example.
That does not mean that there are not situations in which a closed shop is necessary, only that there must be the most careful safeguards against abuse. One of the most important safeguards is to ensure that, if a man's livelihood depends on his being a member of a union, there should not be arbitrary or unreasonable expulsion or exclusion. Almost everyone on this side of the House will regard the Secretary of State's proposals as providing no protection against arbitrary expulsion or exclusion.
Why does this have to be some private domestic tribunal and not the industrial tribunals? When the Industrial Relations Act was in force, the industrial tribunals were unfortunately boycotted by the trade union movement. This is no longer so. The trade union representatives have come back to the tribunals, which are independent bodies with experience of industry. There is absolutely no reason why they should not carry out the functions of an appeal body against unfair exclusion and expulsion.
The suggestion that they are not capable of fulfilling that rôle is absurd. If it is claimed that the trade union should set up its own tribuntal to consider unfair exclusions or expulsions, why should not unfair dismissals be considered by a tribunal appointed by the CBI? That is an exact comparison, and shows how absurd the situation is.
Why is there this pussyfooting by the Secretary of State? Why is he allowing his libertarian instincts to be squeezed out of him? He has given the trade union movement everything that it can legitimately want, and a lot more, too. Can he not for once realise that charm and evasive oratory are no substitute for a firm stand on a matter of principle? Can he not for once appreciate that a worthy concern with high-flown notions of liberty is no substitute for action when that liberty is under threat? The Bill should never have been introduced, and it should be rejected by the House with the contempt it deserves.
§ Several Hon. Members rose——1452
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Myer Galpern)
Order. I remind hon. Members that the debate must be concluded by ten o'clock and that it is proposed that the winding-up speeches should start at nine o'clock.
§ 8.32 p.m.
§ Mr. Sydney Tierney (Birmingham, Yardley)
I will be relatively brief, Mr. Deputy Speaker, in order to give other hon. Members the chance to speak before nine o'clock.
§ Mr. Tierney
I know nothing of editors' problems, but I can describe how some of these matters are received on the shop floor. In my view, the history of industrial relations in this country shows an attitude of indifference. Industry has never afforded the time or the money or had the will to work for a major development of industrial relations. Industrial relations have become the target of knockers and have received little positive general support. Too often, we hear about the days that are lost, but we never hear about the days that are saved. We hear about disputes, but never about the disputes that are avoided. We hear about industrial war, but never much about industrial peace or the peacemakers.
Since the war, the basic pattern of industrial relations has been one of annual reviews of wages, of unions constantly having to put unsatisfactory compromise settlements to their members and of employers who settle in the hope that they will not be troubled by the unions again for at least another 12 months. Apart from some employers who recognise the positive influence and stable contribution of the trade union movement, most look upon industrial relations as a necessary evil.
The situation is changing fast, as it must if we are to make up the leeway and make industrial relations a positive and continuous development. Most of us who try to understand simple basic economics have not failed to notice the emphasis and the influence applied to persuade us to accept that there is nothing as important as capital investment and consequently the so-called management techniques that follow from it in such 1453 matters as production, productivity, planning, manpower requirements and administration.
Although labour has always played the important and essential rôle in the economy, good industrial relations, which are necessary for the best use of labour within that economy, have never received their due importance. One of the good things arising from the three-day working week episode last February was the realisation by the British people of the importance of industrial relations. For the first time they accepted as fact what good trade unionists have always known —that there is nothing more important than good industrial relations in our industrial life.
The Royal Commission on Trade Unions and Employers Associations, which sat under Lord Donovan from 1965 to 1968, pointed the way in industrial relations. One of its basic findings was that the collective bargaining system ought to be improved and extended. The House is doing that today with the introduction of this Bill.
The Donovan Commission also gave its support to the closed-shop principle. In that connection, I refer to the provision in the 1974 Act mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Sillars). Paragraph 6(5) of Schedule 1 reads:Dismissal of an employee by an employer shall be regarded as fair for the purposes of this Schedule. … unless the employee genuinely objects on grounds of religious belief or on any reasonable grounds".I am very pleased that the passage relating to "reasonable grounds" is now to be deleted.
Those with any experience in these matters will know that the sincere individual who makes the claim on religious grounds will, generally speaking, accept the consequences, as difficult as they sometimes are, as part of the cross he has to bear. But there are many who would make a claim on "reasonable grounds" and act most unreasonably in pushing it. Comments were made about the "free riders" and the subject of contributions. Sometimes it concerns the shop steward's face. Very often these people tell us that they are self-made men who are always proud of their creator.
1454 There is no shop steward nor workers' representative as disruptive as the non-unionist on the shop floor who boasts of his freedom and his independence of the trade union, whereas the trade unionists believe the non-unionist is dependent upon the trade union for his standard of wages and conditions, for which he makes no contribution. In a situation like this, harmony, teamwork, production, prosperity and good industrial relations all fall short. This is a situation in which employers usually find reasonable grounds for dismissal.
It is not easy to deal with a situation in which persons are dismissed from their jobs in such places. There will be many borderline cases and many difficulties, but I am sure that the proper procedures will be available and that rules, provisions and protections will prevail.
The independent review committee must be welcomed. It is imperative to establish good collective bargaining procedures. The involvement of the total work force is essential, and anything that assists in that should be welcomed.
Section 30 of the 1974 Act speaks of a "union membership agreement", which has the effect of requiring the terms and conditions of employment of every employee of a given class to includea condition that he must be or become a member of the union or one of the unions which is or are parties to the agreement or arrangementmade with the employers. I welcome the substitution of the word "specified" for "appropriate", because the situation needs controlling in this way.
I remind the many critics of the trade union movement that they cannot say that there are too many trade unions involved at a single plant, factory or workshop levels while they openly encourage and invite the activity of other trade unions at the same plant, factory or workshop level when it is against the wishes of both the employers and the trade unions. In this situation, the proposed change will be welcomed by employers and trade unionists alike.
In this life, much is said about the protection of minorities, and I respect that as a principle. It is also said that the power of the trade unions is too great. As the right hon. Member for Farnham (Mr. Macmillan) pointed out, 1455 might is right. However, there are situations in British industry today where non-unionist minorities are able to exploit majorities in ways that are not in the best interests of industry, of employers or of the work force and where those who are wrong are dangerously wrong.
There are also millions of low-paid workers who have no power, no trade union and no genuine right to get one. It is generally agreed that the need to improve industrial relations in British industry is an urgent and pressing priority. It is also generally agreed that, in order to bring that about, the collective bargaining system ought to be improved and extended. I am convinced that this amending Bill will do much in that direction. It will be a step forward in strengthening collective bargaining systems within a voluntary framework of planned production and income growth. I welcome the changes that are to be made.
§ 8.42 p.m.
§ Mr. Philip Goodhart (Beckenham)
Like other recent contributors to this debate, the hon. Member for Birmingham, Yardley (Mr. Tierney) led us out of the newspaper offices of Fleet Street into the wider field of industrial relations. I intend to return to journalism, though not to Fleet Street but to the editorial offices of the Kentish Times where recently some 66 members of the National Union of Journalists were dismissed following industrial action which they took.
The Kentish Times is distributed in my constituency. I am a contributor to it and I am also a member of the NUJ—
§ Mr. Goodhart
—so none of my copy has been blacked. But I can readily understand the enthusiasm of a large number of members of the NUJ to have a closed shop.
The hon. Member for Coventry, North-West (Mr. Edelman) said that journalism was a difficult craft to learn. In my view, the problem is that it is too easy a craft to learn. Too many people who have a feeling for words and an intuition of what the public want can very quickly become competent journalists, and the introduction of long and elaborate apprenticeship schemes does not alter the situation.
1456 We are currently celebrating the centenary of Winston Churchill's birth. He was a distinguished journalist. He became a distinguished war correspondent without any previous knowledge of journalism. He knew something of war and something of writing. He knew nothing of journalism when he went off to become a war correspondent. Nowadays he would no doubt have to spend two years in an apprenticeship scheme on the Blenheim Gazette.
But very little real training is needed, so the journalist rightly feels that he is vulnerable to the outsider and vulnerable to the outside contributor. He has the example readily at hand in his own office of what prizes a closed shop can bring when he sees that the strides that the print unions and, indeed, SOGAT, have made in recent years have been rather faster than those made by the National Union of Journalists. So it is not surprising at all that a very large number of members of the NUJ should want a closed shop.
At the same time, it is not at all surprising that a number of editors should fear this development and should feel that it carries within it a potential threat to the freedom of the Press. We have had examples in recent months of efforts by the print unions to exercise some form of editorial control. There have been examples of anti-union cartoons that have not appeared because the print unions objected to them. We also know of the small domestic issue—which is, however very much in the minds of editors—that editors have no real freedom to choose their secretaries and that they have to go to SOGAT and to look at what SOGAT is prepared to offer in the way of a secretary.
§ Mr. Goodhart
When one newspaper tried to investigate this practice and to print a story about it, it was telephoned by that union and told that if it wished to continue with the inquiry the newspaper was unlikely to come out. There have, therefore, been pressures put on by unions which editors rightly feel infringe editorial freedom.
We have had an example in the House. That was a matter which was brought before the House by the former Liberal Member for Bodmin, who, like a number of hon. Members on the Opposition side of the House, was a member of the NUJ 1457 and voted against the provision in the Finance Act to restore some £10 million to union funds. An obscure member of the NUJ in Scotland said that this was anti-union activity. There is a clause in the constitution of the NUJ which says that anyone who acts against the interest of the union is liable to be disciplined. We know that Mr. Morgan says that there will be no attempt by the NUJ to influence editorial freedom.
§ Mr. Goodhart
Mr. Morgan has written a letter which has been published in The Times. He has written a letter to the Secretary of State, which the right hon. Gentleman read out to us this afternoon. I accept fully that Mr. Morgan has no intention of trying to influence adversely Press freedom. But can one say that of all the branches? Are we not likely to find harassment of members of the union by branches of the sort that happened to myself and to other members of the NUJ in this House? Of course, a Member of Parliament has protection and privilege and the union retreated in the case to which I refer, and abject apologies were made to the House. But what would be the position with a member of the NUJ living far away from Parliament, far away from Fleet Street, whose case would not be likely to attract so much attention? I wonder whether such a person might not feel harassed and would trim his sails accordingly.
I believe that the fears of the editors are justified. The Ministers have been too casual in their dismissal of the editors' argument. We have asked that the Bill should be postponed until there can be an interim report from the Royal Commission on the Press. We have been told that the TUC is to set up a commission to look into the matter. Surely we could postpone the Bill until this commission set up by the TUC has reported, so as to ensure that safeguards are considered adequately, at least by the Ministers. I see no reason that we should rush forward in this way, because this is the wrong Bill at the wrong time.
§ 8.52 p.m.
§ Mr. Ivor Clemitson (Luton, East)
I follow the hon. Member for Beckenham (Mr. Goodhart) in one respect in that, 1458 like him, I have little new to say on this subject. I want to comment briefly on four major issues dealt with in the Bill. The first concerns the rights of the individual over the trade union and the regulation of the internal affairs of trade unions. The second deals with trade disputes relating to matters outside Great Britain. The third is concerned with protection against actions in tort in respect of breaking contracts. The fourth relates to the question of conscientious objection.
In relation to the first point, about the rights of the individual against the trade union and the regulation of the internal affairs of trade unions, several matters need to be reiterated. In the first place trade unions are democratic bodies and have therefore a basic right to regulate the running of their own affairs, just as the Conservative Party, the Labour Party and many other democratic organisations, or organisations which claim to be democratic, have that right.
It has previously been pointed out in Committee, on many occasions, that the number of cases of genuine injustice in the treatment of individuals by trade unions is very small. This is common ground between both sides of the House. It is also common ground that the number of cases of individuals being unjustly treated by employers is considerably greater—and that point needs to be stressed. It also needs to be repeated that there is a contrast in the different legal treatment of the rights of the individual in relation to trade unions, on the one hand, and to employers, on the other.
As far as I am aware, there is no general right for a person to be employed by a particular employer, nor is a person able to object to unreasonable exclusion from any particular employment by any particular employer. Further, in regard to the rights relating to unfair dismissal, even with a certain tightening up previously done in Committee, it is still extremely easy for employers to argue, and to argue successfully, that a particular dismissal was fair. The unfair dismissal provisions of the Bill are hedged about as they were in the 1971 Act with all kinds of qualifications. Trade unions, unlike employers, are democratic organisations—unless, that is, we regard the Companies Acts as in some ways models of democratic government, and I would find that difficult to argue.
1459 Next, there is the question of a dispute involving matters outside Great Britain. The growth of multinational companies was referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Sillars). I prefer to call them supranational companies because they operate over and above nation States and are not simply companies which appear to trade in different nation States. There is an increasing diversification of the operations of these companies. As human life becomes more and more interwoven and complex, it becomes more and more difficult to draw lines and to say that at that point a particular responsibility on a particular matter finishes.
We have been over the argument of contracts of employment as against contracts many times. We could go into the question whether we are reverting to the 1971 situation, yet I believe we clearly are not doing so in this case. But we must remember what the 1906 Act developed from, and I believe that by substituting the word "contract" for the term "contract of employment" we should be going back to the spirit if not the letter of the 1906 Act.
We could try to approach the question of conscientious objection from the point of view of theory and try to deal with it as a question of principle, as if we were dealing with the Luther situation,Here I stand, I can do no other.How can that situation be legislated for? Clearly it is not legislated for in the Bill as it stands. The expression "any reasonable grounds" is as wide and woolly as one could wish. As my hon. Friends have said, this is indeed a charter for the free rider. In what circumstances can the Luther position truly be said to describe the situation of anyone in relation to his or her membership of a trade union? To attempt to approach the question of conscientious objection from the point of view of principle, therefore, is a non-starter.
We come back inevitably to the practicalities of the situation. In practice, we are talking about the religious conscientious objector, and he is treated tolerantly and with great understanding by all trade unions, certainly in my experience and that of my hon. Friends.
1460 The Bill completes the job of the Trade Union and Labour Relations Act, which is to clear the ground. I hope that we shall do the job quickly, so that we can get on to the positive and constructive work that we all want to do, that of enabling working men and women to play a fuller part in the affairs of industry and to be treated as what they already are, mature human beings, instead of being treated as children, with little or no right to determine matters affecting not only their livelihood but their lives.
In that development the trade unions have the central rôle. They cannot play it fully as long as any of the shackles of the Industrial Relations Act remain.
§ 9.1 p.m.
§ Mr. Barney Hayhoe (Brentford and Isleworth)
I am grateful to the hon. Member for Luton, East (Mr. Clemitson), who, with his customary clarity, made his four points so briefly.
The general mood of the debate, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Farnham (Mr. Macmillan) commented, was such as to make it sound at times as though we were at a branch meeting of the National Union of Journalists. We are grateful to the hon. Member for Luton, East for widening the debate, because in some ways there is a sense of unreality about it. The House has been spending the whole day debating a sordid and nasty little Bill at a time when the nation confronts major problems that need the attention, discussion and collective wisdom of the House brought to bear upon them. But so be it. The Government, who control the business of the House, have decreed that the Bill shall have priority over other matters.
For some of us this is the fifth time that the arguments on many of these topics have been deployed in a little over six months, but it has not been such a boring debate as might have been expected. It has, however, had the same result as our previous debates. Ministers and their supporters are as unconvincing as ever, just as deeply in hock to the trade union leaders on these matters as they ever seemed to be, just as willing to demolish the individual safeguards that the House built into the legislation as ever they were, and just as willing to ride roughshod over moderate opinion both in the House and outside.
1461 The Government are just as shortsighted and obstinate now as ever they were in rejecting a chance to achieve broad general agreement about industrial relations legislation. My right hon. Friend the Member for Lowestoft (Mr. Prior) said in his opening speech that there was still an opportunity to get the general basis of our industrial relations legislation in an agreed form. If the Government persist in pushing the Bill through, they will destroy that possibility.
There has been great concentration upon the aspects of the Bill concerning the freedom of the Press, as the hon. Member for Darlington (Mr. Fletcher) remarked before he talked of other issues. But the Bill is much more damaging than merely in its effect on Press freedom. The Secretary of State said that it was his intention to repeal the offensive parts of the 1971 Act. His objective is to repeal those parts of the Act that he does not like, but the Bill goes much further than the restoration of the pre-1971 position. It widens and extends the privileges and amenities of those involved in trade disputes far beyond anything that has ever existed before, as the hon. Member for Luton, East reminded us.
I remind the House of the effect of these provisions. They were vividly described by Mr. Campbell Adamson in his letter to The Times on 11th June of this year. He was writing about the Trade Union and Labour Relations Bill, but his letter equally applies to the present Bill. He wrote:If the Bill is passed as at present drafted, unions, their officials and shop stewards will be free in law to strike or indulge in other industrial action or to 'black', blockade or boycott, or threaten to do so whenever they like, officially or unofficially, constitutionally or in breach of procedure, in respect of a trade dispute anywhere in Great Britain or in the rest of the world. Secondly, it will be lawful to use the picket line for the purpose of establishing boycotts or blockades whether against an employer in dispute or against employers, companies, public corporations or any other bodies which have nothing to do with the dispute in question.That is not restoring the pre-1971 position. It is taking matters very much further than ever before.
It is extraordinary that the Secretary of State should act in this fashion at this time. Those involved in trades disputes, industrial action, or in strikes do not need further privileges and protection. 1462 It is the community that requires some protection against the activities of those within the trade union movement who are using their industrial power in selfish ways. Any Secretary of State who gives them additional privileges and immunities would, I presume, if he had been living at the time of the Luddites, have gone round distributing bigger and better sledgehammers.
The hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Sillars) dealt with another aspect of overseas immunities when he said that he approved of the legislation that was extending such immunities for anything concerned with a dispute overseas. When we were discussing these matters towards the end of the previous Parliament, the Under-Secretary of State said that the sort of disputes he thought it right to be involved in were disputes of Ford workers in this country striking or engaging in industrial action in support of Ford workers in Spain, or action in support of Greek seamen, or South African workers.
We have another gem and jewel from the hon. Member for South Ayrshire. He apparently believes that we should provide immunities and encourage strikes in favour of Californian grape-pickers. Those who think that I am indulging in flights of fantasy should have been here to listen to the hon. Gentleman. He was seriously advancing the proposition that, given our present economic circumstances, it would be right for the Bill to provide immunities for workers in this country to damage our economy— I think that he will admit that industrial action would be likely to do that—in support of pickers of grapes in California.
When the Secretary of State had gone a little beyond his broad objectives, he referred to safeguards. He dealt at some length with that matter. He said that his purpose—he earlier said this in answer to a Private Notice Question about the situation in the newspaper industry—was to restore the pre-1971 situation. As my hon. Friend the Member for Reigate (Mr. Gardiner) made clear, that is not so.
My hon. Friend spoke of the way in which the situation within the NUJ had changed over the years, in that a chapel exercising authority was meting out now 1463 not the punishment of suspension but the punishment of expulsion. That, as he described it, was a significant change.
The legal position has also changed, and in a highly significant way. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman does not fully understand his own Act. One understood that he was not au fait with some of the details when we were considering it in Standing Committee, but one would have thought that by now he would understand its implications. One of those implications is that statutory backing will be given to the closed shop and to some of the nastiest aspects of the closed shop for the first time.
Only on the narrowest of religious grounds will people be allowed to refuse union membership because of conscientious objection if they are to try to claim compensation before an industrial tribunal for unfair dismissal. Jehovah's Witnesses have been named as a possible exception, and one has yet to hear of any other group of people who would fall into the narrow band of exceptions.
The clear and explicit recommendations of the Donovan Commission are totally rejected. Paragraphs 563, 564 and 614 of the Report made it clear that, to the Donovan Commission, unfair dismissal could be claimed by those who did not want to be members of a trade union because of religious, conscientious, or other reasonable grounds. My hon. Friend the Member for Cleveland and Whitby (Mr. Brittan) put the position correctly about the phrase "reasonable grounds". It is an important part of the safeguards of legal rights. It was inserted in the Trade Union and Labour Relations Act as a result of a Liberal amendment. It is surprising that the Secretary of State did not deal with this aspect of the legislation, although he spoke for 57 minutes. Perhaps the Minister of State will say something about it.
The Secretary of State concentrated upon the so-called independent tribunal when discussing the question of safeguards. The hon. Member for Rochdale (Mr. Smith) blew that one out of the water. It is bending the English language in a way untypical of even the Secretary of State to call a body appointed by one of the parties to a dispute—as far as one can judge, it would be appointed by the 1464 TUC General Council—an independent body. Of course we welcome the TUC's action. It is little enough and it has taken long enough for the TUC to bring forward this proposal, which was discussed at the time of the Donovan Commission's investigations. It is something, but it is not enough.
The Secretary of State led us to expect that he would be doing something. In his statement of 22nd March he spoke of legislation. He said then:Consideration is being given to providing, either in this Bill or a later one, safeguards against arbitrary exclusion or expulsion from union membership."—[OFFICIAL REPORT. 22nd March 1974; Vol. 871, c. 1488.]I move on to 30th July—although the right hon. Gentleman spoke on these matters at many other times in Committee and on the Floor of the House. In his comment on 30th July, I think the last time on which he spoke on this aspect, he said:I repeat all the undertakings that we certainly intend to proceed to deal with it"——that is the question of safeguards——in some form or other, either in a code of practice or by some other means, but following consultations with the General Council of the TUC, when we introduce the next Bill in the autumn—the Employment Protection Bill."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 30th July 1974; Vol. 878, c. 503.]If those words meant anything, it was clear that legislation would be coming.
Why on earth did the right hon. Gentleman talk of the Employment Protection Bill in this context? Was it to deceive? That surely would not have been the role of the right hon. Gentleman. In his own heart and mind he must have believed that he would be bringing forward proposals in the context of the Employment Protection Bill.
§ Mr. Foot
What the hon. Gentleman has read out is a fair representation of what I said and I think that it conforms exactly with what we are doing, except in the sense that we brought it forward earlier because we discovered that the Employment Protection Bill would take several more months to introduce. We wanted to go ahead and repeal these explosive and dangerous amendments much more quickly. That is what we are doing. I am carrying out the rest of the proposition whereby I said that either by legislation or by other means we would 1465 have discussions with the TUC. That is what we have brought forward. Right hon. and hon. Gentlemen should show a little generosity of spirit in welcoming this proposal. If they really had any liberalism in their hearts, they would be throwing their hats in the air and rejoicing.
§ Mr. Hayhoe
The right hon. Gentleman has got it wrong again, because he said in his statement of March that he would bring forward legislation. He said again in July—and I am taking his first and his last words on this subject—that there would be legislation. Now he comes forward with these weasel words about other means outside legislation. There was none of that when he was seeking to persuade the House on these matters.
The right hon. Gentleman has reneged on his past undertakings and has ratted on what he said he would do. His reputation as a great parliamentarian grows increasingly tarnished because of this. Hon. Members may well ask where the defender of individual liberties is to be found. Certainly the answer now, with the Secretary of State, is "Under the skirts of Auntie TUC". The right hon. Gentleman is not prepared to do anything himself.
Press freedom has been a dominant part of the debate. My hon. Friends the Members for Thanet, East (Mr. Aitken) and Reigate (Mr. Gardiner) dealt effectively with these matters. The Secretary of State sought to deal with the whole issue of Press freedom merely within the context of the position of the editors. As he knows only too well, the implications of the Bill go much wider than just editors.
Representations that have been made to him have gone wider than the position of the editors. There is the position of journalists and other additional staff. Although one accepts that the majority of the members of the NUJ. Ken Morgan and others, do not want censorship, indeed abhor it, can this equally be said about the International Socialists on the NUJ Executive? Can anyone who has met or heard the Editor of the Journalist, or who has read the Journalist, (fail to have grave doubts, at least about the attitude of a significant group of people with some power within the NUJ, towards censorship?
1466 Then there is the freedom for outside contributors. Although I welcome the NUJ code of conduct proposals, they are not enough for real protection. It is not good enough that this matter should have been dealt with in such a superficial fashion by the Secretary of State, even though he spent a long time whirling around the point.
The Secretary of State ended his speech as he began it with references to the Industrial Relations Act. He used to argue that the Industrial Relations Act had caused widespread industrial unrest. In a curiously inaccurate comment on that, when he moved the Second Reading of the Health and Safety at Work, Etc., Bill, he tried to ascribe all the days that had been lost through strikes in 1972 to the operation of the Industrial Relations Act. At roughly the same time, in answer to a Question, his Department said that only one-sixtieth of the days lost during that year could be ascribed to the Industrial Relations Act.
The Secretary of State did not follow that line today, but he came forward with curious comments about the action of the AUEW on 8th May this year and the role that he had, apparently, played. We had not heard before that the Secretary of State had come like a magic fairy and somehow ushered that money towards the National Industrial Relations Court. It is not quite clear how he did that, and we should welcome a further exposition of the facts. But the Secretary of State should look at his Department's facts and figures, which totally destroy his charge that the Industrial Relations Act and the Pay Board were the villains of the piece in relation to days lost through strikes.
Let us look at the comparison between this year and last year. Let us take April, which is the first full month of the minority Labour Government, the month when both the Industrial Relations Act and the Pay Board were in operation, so it should be a bad month. In 1973, the days lost were 641,000 and in 1974, 664,000—about the same. By May, the Bill repealing the Industrial Relations Act had been published. That should have resulted in a reduction in the number of days lost through strikes. In May 1973, just under 500,000 days were lost but, glory be, in May 1974 the figure was 844,000. In June 1974, more days were lost than in June 1973. In July 1973, 1467 276,000 days were lost and in July 1974, 500,000.
Now by then the Pay Board has been done away with and the Industrial Relations Act has been repealed, so the two villains are off the scene and we should expect to see a great improvement in August, September and October. What do we find? In each month the number of days lost in 1974 is higher than it was in 1973, and in October, the latest month for which figures are available, the number of days lost is over 1½ million—more than double the number of days lost in the same month last year.
Those figures destroy the credibility of the charges made by the Secretary of State, who smears his argument and his own inadequacies in support of this tawdry Bill by distorting the industrial relations record. Perhaps he has forgotten, but he might have claimed in aid that the real reason for the substantial increase in the number of days lost lies in the activities of Mr. Scanlon who, I suppose, is the most famous blackleg in the business— we saw him march across the picket lines. Mr. Scanlon, writing in August, stated:The implications for industrial relations"—that is, of the amendments to the Trade Union and Labour Relations Bill—are enormous and we now look set for almost as much industrial unrest as that caused by the old Industrial Relations Act.Perhaps the alibi, though there is not a jot of evidence to support it, is that the safeguards for industrial freedom caused this great upsurge in days lost. If so, why does not the Department of Employment produce the evidence? In replies to Questions that I have put down I find no sign at all that anything regarding days lost in industrial disputes in the last three months has been due to causes other than the normal causes—largely pay demands, but a limited number for other reasons. This piece of legislation could be described as one of the unacceptable faces or facets of the social contract. It is certainly unacceptable to a very large number—I hope the overwhelming majority—of hon. Members on the Opposition side of the House.
The hon. Member for Basildon (Mr. Moonman) talked of the social contract and asked why the Government could not try now to put it on a more formal footing by having discussions with other 1468 parties concerned, not just the discussions that were held in the past between the Labour Party and leaders of the Trades Union Congress. Why cannot the social contract be produced as a White Paper, after consultation with the people concerned, and debated in the House? I suspect that the reason it is not, and the reason it is called in aid in all its vagueness so often by right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite, is that it is not even the Socialist contract that my right hon. Friend the Member for Lowestoft called it, but is no more and no less than a Socialist con trick which—I give right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite whatever dusty credit they deserve—has helped them to get votes in two General Elections. That is about all that can be said for it.
This mean and tatty little measure that we have before us tonight diminishes still further the reputation of the Secretary of State. It does nothing at all to help solve the problems of inflation. It could well make them worse. What a commentary on the situation that one of the most loyal supporters of the Secretary of State should say that the great value of this Bill at present, the great contribution that it makes to solving the problems of inflation in this country, is that it will make it possible for people here to strike in support of grape pickers in California. This dusty little measure should be thrown out by this House. I hope that it will be.
§ 9.28 p.m.
§ The Minister of State, Department of Employment (Mr. Albert Booth)
The debate tonight has inevitably been a continuation of some of the debates that we had in the last Parliament on the Trade Union and Labour Relations Act. But it is notably different in that it has not contained a contribution by the hon. and learned Member for Southport (Mr. Percival). I think that, without any disrespect to other hon. Members who have contributed to the debate, it has been the poorer for that.
The Government came to power in March committed to a Bill to repeal the Industrial Relations Act, followed by an Employment Protection Bill. The repeal of the Act was, however, altered in so many respects in its passage through Parliament as to make it a much less effective measure than that put forward 1469 originally by the Government. It was less effective not only because some of the amendments left much to be desired technically but, above all, because of the rôle which those amendments assigned to the law in industrial relations.
We have already repealed much of the Industrial Relations Act. Many of the concepts as well as the machinery have gone. The unfair industrial practice and the National Industrial Relations Court have gone. It is, however, clear that some of the amendments which the Opposition succeeded in passing in the summer inserted into the repeal Act not so much the language of the Industrial Relations Act as a continuation of its philosophy. Above all, they imported a reliance on the law and the view that the most satisfactory way of dealing with several industrial relations problems was to spell out the rights of the parties and to enable them to take action.
That overlooks two basic factors: first, the Industrial Relations Act was often largely ignored because a legal solution was inappropriate. Secondly, when it was used it often added to industrial relations problems rather than reduced them. The basic test that one must apply to any industrial relations legislation—as to some other legislation—is, "Will it work?", and underlying our attitude to most of the amendments carried by the Opposition in the summer is the opinion that they will not work. That is a test which not only the Government or trade unions apply to industrial relations legislation, but which managers, too, apply.
Managers in industry and in services must, if they are to make those industries and services work effectively, seek to minimise the effect of industrial relations disputes on working relationships, and while negotiations are going on— sometimes hard and tough negotiations on wages, pensions and working conditions —they have a job to do of keeping the industry or the service running.
Even when those negotiations break down and a strike takes place, the time comes, in most cases, when there has to be a return to work and a return to working arrangements. If there has been recourse to legal action, that may inhibit and restrict the scope for the re-establishment of a proper working relationship in the industry or service. Legal action may 1470 suppress the problem for some time but it cannot of itself promote good industrial relations, and legal action on industrial issues frequently leaves behind a residue of bitterness that can be catastrophic for good industrial relations.
Some of the legal actions that have been taken on industrial relations issues have left deep scars upon those who were involved. The memory of trade unionists and the history of trade unionism are marked with the names of people and firms who were involved when an attempt was made to solve by legal action what was basically an industrial relations problem. The names of Goad, Langston and Con-Mech have figured in court actions rather than in discussions across the negotiating table where the problems should have been solved.
The right hon. Member for Lowestoft (Mr. Prior) described the Bill simultaneously as a paltry little measure and as the greatest threat to Press freedom in the past 40 years. The right hon. Gentleman misrepresented the Bill in a number of ways and it might, therefore, be worth while if I spell out some of the things that the Bill does and does not do.
First, the Bill withdraws certain obstacles to the formation of a closed shop —obstacles that came about as a result of amendments to the provision for unfair dismissal compensation—and that is all. The Bill does not affect the formation or non-formation of a closed shop in any other way.
The Bill does not give a union the right to establish a closed shop. It leaves the matter as it should be left, namely, for negotiation between trade unions and employers. The Bill does not say that a closed shop in journalism has to apply to editors. A union membership agreement as defined by the Bill can apply to any identifiable class of workers or groups of classes of workers.
It would be completely conceivable within the scope of this legislation to have a union membership agreement in a firm or service which embodies 10 different grades or categories of workers and which could specify that nine of the ten were covered and one was not. The Bill gives the necessary flexibility and scope to those who will determine whether there is a closed shop, so as to enable them to frame the terms of the membership agreement to meet the circumstances as they 1471 know them, in the way that they judge the circumstances require.
The House should have some humility in discussing what is the most appropriate form of membership agreement. Legislative efforts have had no notable success in this regard. The closed shops which have been eminently successful are those which have been worked out in free negotiation between trade unions and employers without regard to any Act of Parliament.
The Bill does not mean that a membership agreement with one union has to require membership of that union by all those covered by the agreement. In fact, it will now make a specific provision to enable a membership agreement to specify another union, rather than the unions which are signatory to the agreement, to which certain types of workers can belong.
The Sunday Times editorial on 10th November said:The closed shop works well in several industries, but it can only come about by negotiation.What we are seeking to do is legislate the view of The Sunday Times. I realise that this might not commend itself to some of my hon. Friends, but when I think how the Secretary of State and I have offended the editors and when I listened this afternoon to him saying that radio and TV were pallid substitutes and thought how that might offend them, I must admit to my hon. Friends that I am worried whether the Department of Employment will ever get any favourable publicity from Press, radio or TV in future.
My only consolation lies in the knowledge that the NUJ has tried to uphold the freedom of the Press and has in no way relaxed that view in recent years. I have had discussions with executive members of the NUJ in which I was encouraged to learn that they are seeking to improve and update their code of practice in a way which will make the safeguards of the practice of the NUJ more effective.
The editors have represented to us a fear that the ending of the associate membership class within the NUJ will make them liable to instructions by the union. Perhaps I have read the union rule book 1472 more carefully than they, but, on any reasonable reading of that rule book, it seems to me that they were every bit as liable to instructions of the union as associate members as they will be as full members.
There is a difference, of course, in that as full members they can attend branch meetings and play a part in deciding such instructions as may apply to them. However, I should be less than frank with the House if I did not refer to one complaint they make, that there could be a decision by the chapel to exclude them at a certain point on the agenda. Presumably that will be used when matters are decided which would be an embarrassment to the editor and which could possibly affect his function.
But no evidence whatever has been submitted to us that any editor has been expelled from the NUJ for refusing an instruction which would deny him his right to carry out his normal professional duties. Had such an example been given during the discussions, it would have been put before us. Therefore, I contend that some of those fears—
§ Mr. Brittan
I do not know whether the Minister was present when I gave the examples, as I did during the debate on the earlier Bill, of the editor of the Middlesbrough Evening Gazette who was not expelled but was fined £50 for bringing out that newspaper during an industrial dispute as part of his ordinary duties. He might very well have been expelled. Does not the Minister agree that in those circumstances, if there had been a closed shop, the future of the newspaper would have been jeopardised?
§ Mr. Booth
I chose my words very carefully. I shall reiterate them because we are discussing a very important point. I said that no evidence had been adduced or laid before us of any editor having been expelled from the NUJ for refusing to comply with any instruction in any way inhibiting his right to carry out his professional duties.
I have looked into the cases of the Middlesbrough and Cambridge editors. The Middlesbrough editor was disciplined because he exceeded his normal duties during a strike. There are reasons why I believe that the NUJ has a right to be sensitive on that issue.
1473 The hon. Member for Thanet, East (Mr. Aitken) sought to persuade the House that journalists as trade unionists were different from those people who worked at other jobs in industry. He said the role of the journalist was more akin to that of someone practising in the arts than someone involved in manufacture. One might agree with him. It is worth while considering that if one can make that fair comparison and say that the role of an editor is analogous for the purpose of trade union legislation to the role of the artist, this House considered that point at some length in the 1971 Act. At that time we were urged to consider the case of a group of artists, namely those who earn their living on the stage. Members of Equity and hon. Members on both sides of the House said it was most important that the closed shop should be protected and allowed in the case of those artists. It is very hard to make the distinction on that ground.
§ Mr. Aitken
Surely the hon. Member is not making a valid comparison between Equity and the NUJ. Membership of Equity implies participation in an acting company in which everyone has to work full time. It is different if one says that no one can contribute to a newspaper, even an occasional part-time expertise special article, if he is not a member of the NUJ.
§ Mr. Booth
I hope that an Equity member who has been unemployed for about 50 per cent. of his working life reads that intervention. To say one has to work full time in that area is to ignore one of the grave realities of trade unionism. Trade unionists in general recognise that they must balance the question of job protection, in terms of the number of people coming into the trade, against the right of somebody who has a particular skill, aptitude, talent or vocation to earn his living in that way.
The point concerning the editor's role was raised most forcibly in the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, North-West (Mr. Edelman). I agree that there is a sense in which the editor's role is a special one because he is responsible not only for the writing of those journalists directly employed within his office but for the contributions of a number of other writers and journalists 1474 who contribute to his paper, many of whom may have no trade union connections. In normal times the editor is recognised by the union as having a duty to choose between the contributions of those outside and those within the office. In that sense he is different from those who manage in many other areas of industry and service.
But a problem arises when there is an industrial dispute. This puts the editor in a unique position to organise work to substitute for the work of the trade unionists who otherwise would be employed in the office. To use a trade union expression, the editor is in a position to organise blackleg contributions on a massive scale which could render the strike action taken by members of the NUJ totally ineffective.
We have to recognise, therefore, that when the NUJ includes in its rule book a provision allowing editors to carry on their normal duties when the rest of the members are involved in an industrial dispute, the union understandably will be extremely sensitive if certain editors or other people who were previously covered by the associate membership rules organise other contributions designed to keep their papers going. This is a perfectly natural reaction on the part of any group of trade unionists, and it would happen in any other area of trade union organisation.
It has been implied even if it has not been said today that it is NUJ policy to restrict the contributions of non-NUJ members at times other than those when the NUJ is in dispute. Again, no evidence has been laid before us that this occurs on any scale. The only example that we have found of an agreement limiting the right of people to contribute lies in the concordat drawn up between the NPA and the NUJ. That concordat applied only to sports writers, and it did not limit the contributions only to those of NUJ members. It required editors who wanted reports on sports matters to offer the opportunity to write those sports reports first to professional journalists, if there were professional journalists available, and those professional journalists could be non-union members, or they could be members of the NUJ or of the Institute of Journalists.
1475 The only other restriction in the concordat related to ghostwriting in the Provinces. It applied a restriction on contributions rejoicing in the name of someone who might be very good on the sports field but who could not be imagined to be the person who wrote the beautiful prose appearing under his name.
§ Mr. Aitken
The hon. Gentleman is right to say that at the moment there are no major restrictions on contributions from people who are not members of the NUJ. However, there will be such restrictions. The NUJ has made it clear that they will be limited to two a year as soon as this legislation goes through. It will be a closed shop. That is what this argument is about.
§ Mr. Booth
I understand the hon. Gentleman's point, and his intervention illustrates it admirably. It is said that all these matters raised as fears at the moment will become reality as soon as the Bill becomes an Act. That contains one presumption which I like very much. It is that the Bill will become an Act. But if it were the intention of the NUJ suddenly to switch its practices over a great many years on the Bill becoming an Act, the union would not have talked with the Secretary of State and myself in the way that it did. It would not have shown the concern that it did to improve the code of practice in journalism. Certainly it would not have offered to the editors and to the newspaper proprietors, as it has now, to seek to devise a form of membership agreement which would protect editors and remove the cause of those fears.
Perhaps I might finish what I was saying about editors by pointing out that anyone who has said or implied today that my right hon. Friend and I have been unwilling to meet the editors and to discuss this problem with them is not aware of the true situation. It might interest the House to know that I have twice met the Institute of Journalists. I have met the Newspaper Society twice. I have met the Guild of British Newspaper Editors. I have met the NUJ. There have been other occasions when my right hon. Friend has met them. With my right hon. Friend, I have recently met the Fleet Street editors.
1476 Whatever other complaint may be laid at our door, one cannot sustain the complaint that we are not prepared to consider matters carefully and to meet the newspaper editors. Our difference with them is not one of whether we believe in the freedom of the Press. That is a belief which we share. It is a difference as to what is the most effective way of achieving it. I believe that the way that we suggest, through voluntary agreement, is the most effective way.
I turn quickly to some other parts of the Bill. My hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, North-West (Mr. Thomas), in a very interesting and wide-ranging speech very much to the point of the Bill, referred to the change which the Bill proposes in the requirement for union rules. I can add little to what he said other than to draw the attention of the House to the fact that the report of the Chief Registrar of Trade Unions and Employers' Associations makes some very telling comments on the difficulties that one faces when one tries to make union rule books comply with the requirements of an Act of Parliament.
In paragraph 50 of the Chief Registrar's report for the year 1973, he describes how he went about his task under the 1971 Act. He did this by a series of informal discussions, first with union officials as to the requirements of the Act compared with the union's existing rules and its general circumstances, and later of the union's draft amendments to meet the deficiencies identified by the registrar's interpretation of the Act. He said:As many as six or seven exchanges might be needed, meetings and drafts and consultations before the amended rules reached the stage of agreement in draft with the union's legal advisers. Up to that point the exercise might cost RTUEA as much as 200 man-hours for a substantial rule-book. Thereafter the proposals had to go to the union's rule-making authority at which decisive point RTUEA had to drop out of the scene.The registrar goes no to say that he decided against making a set of model rules on the ground that in his experience model rules covering so wide a field as that covered by trade union rule books might be more likely to confuse than to help. He follows that by saying that the opposition to the principles of the Act in fact retarded the implementation of 1477 the rules-revision purposes. But, speaking of his examination with hindsight, he said:These indications did not seem to support the belief that there might be an interest of public policy so vital as to justify statutory enforcement of the Schedule 4 provisions, particularly those relating to constitution and management in respect of registered unions.In other words, the official body charged with the job of examining unions and union rule books to bring them into compliance with the requirements of the 1971 Act came to the conclusion, after careful and assiduous work to achieve the aim of that Act, that the game was not worth the candle, that it was not the right way to proceed and was not in the public interest.
§ Mr. Percival
I understand that the hon. Gentleman very courteously said something nice about me. I am sorry to have missed it and I look forward to reading it tomorrow. I hope that he will not think it ungracious of me to ask what is intended to be an unfriendly question. Is it not a fact that under the 1971 Act the provisions to which the registrar was referring were infinitely more detailed than the provisions which were inserted in the 1974 Act? Is it not also a fact that ever since 1871 there have been statutory provisions as to rules and they have presented no difficulty, and that the provisions of this Bill are far nearer to the 1871 provisions and much simpler than the 1971 provisions?
§ Mr. Booth
I must agree that the requirements of the Act that we are seeking to amend by the Bill are less complex than those of 1971. There have been requirements within statute law regarding the rules of unions since 1871, but the requirements at that time were comparatively simple. Those we seek to amend now, or those for which there are provisions which we seek to amend now within our law, still leave us with the objection found by the Chief Registrar of Trade Unions and Employers' Associations.
Questions were asked by the right hon. Member for Lowestoft and by the hon. Member for Rochdale about the independence of the review body. The right hon. Gentleman questioned whether the review committee of the TUC could be 1478 independent. The hon. Member for Rochdale is correct here in his arithmetic. There would be two trade unionists and one legal chairman, but the review body which the Donovan Committee proposed would have consisted of three members, two of whom would have been chosen from independent trade unionists and would have been appointed by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State after consultation with the TUC. One would have been a lawyer who would have acted as chairman. There is therefore much in what the TUC is proposing which accords with points made by Donovan. In this case appointments would be made by the General Council in consultation with the Secretary of State for Employment and the chairman of the CAS.
Independence will not depend on who initiates the appointments. There are within the trade union movement people eminently suited for undertaking the role foreseen by Donovan and by the General Council of the TUC. What is required is not that they should be independent by virtue of a lack of experience or knowledge of trade unions, but that they should be independent to the extent that they will not be members of the particular trade union against which a complaint was made. The procedure of the tribunal is a matter for the General Council of the TUC itself.
With regard to the Council of Tribunals, the main function of this council is to keep under review and consideration the working of tribunals as specified under Schedule 1 of the Tribunals and Inquiries Act. There are a number of examples of tribunals outside the purview of the council, for instance the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board, the Industrial Injuries Arbitration Board and, if I dare say so, the Press Council. Therefore this tribunal with which we are concerned might be in rather eminent company.
We need in this important area of industrial relations to see the rule of law in balance. In a modern democratic country wages and working conditions are determined partly by bargaining between trade unions and employers and partly by legislation. Among the conditions determined by legislation are health and safety, wages council machinery, contracts of employment and 1479 equal pay, and shortly the House will be considering a major Employment Protection Bill.
It is not conceivable that every aspect of working conditions should be determined by Parliament, nor is it conceivable that every aspect of working conditions should be controlled by industrial negotiations. If we are to achieve better working conditions and a better industrial relations situation in this country we
§ must not only ensure protection of minimum rights by law, but ensure that those who organise to protect investment and capital do so on a parity with those who organise to protect those who sell their labour. The Bill we are debating tonight seeks to achieve this, and it is on that basis that I commend it to the House.
§ Question put:—
§ The House divided: Ayes 293, Noes 257.1483
|Division No. 21.]||AYES||[10.0 p.m.|
|Abse, Leo||de Freitas, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey||Hunter, Adam|
|Allaun, Frank||Delargy, Hugh||Irvine, Rt Hon Sir A. (L'pool)|
|Anderson, Donald||Dell, Rt Hon Edmund||Irving, Rt Hon S. (Dartford)|
|Archer, Peter||Dempsey, James||Jackson, Colin (Brighouse)|
|Armstrong, Ernest||Doig, Peter||Jackson, Miss Margaret (Lincoln)|
|Ashley, Jack||Dormand, Jack||Janner, Greville|
|Ashton, Joe||Douglas-Mann, Bruce||Jay, Rt Hon Douglas|
|Atkins, Ronald (Preston N)||Duffy, A. E. P.||Jeger, Mrs Lena|
|Atkinson, Norman||Dunn, James A.||Jenkins, Hugh (Wands worth)|
|Bagier, Gordon A. T.||Dunnett, Jack||Jenkins, Rt Hon Roy (B'ham, St)|
|Bain, Mrs Margaret||Dunwoody, Mrs. Gwyneth||John, Brynmor|
|Barnett, Guy (Greenwich)||Eadie, Alex||Johnson, James (Kingston, W.)|
|Barnett, Joel (Heywood)||Edelman, Maurice||Johnson, Walter (Derby S)|
|Bates, Alt||Edge, Geoffrey||Jones, Barry (East Flint)|
|Bean, Robert E.||Edwards, Robert (Wolv. S.E.)||Jones, Dan (Burnley)|
|Benn, Rt Hn Anthony Wedgwood||Ellis, Tom (Wrexham)||Jones, Alec (Rhondda)|
|Bennett, Andrew (Stockport N)||English, Michael||Judd, Frank|
|Bidwell, Sydney||Ennals, David||Kaufman, Gerald|
|Bishop, Edward||Evans, Fred (Caerphilly)||Kelley, Richard|
|Blenkinsop, Arthur||Evans, Gwynfor (Carmarthen)||Kerr, Russell|
|Boardman, H.||Evans, loan L. (Aberdare)||Kilroy-Silk, Robert|
|Booth, Albert||Evans, John (Newton)||Kinnock, Neil|
|Boothroyd, Miss Betty||Ewing, Harry (Stirling)||Lamborn, Harry|
|Bottomley, Rt Hon Arthur||Ewing, Mrs Winifred (Moray)||Lamond, James|
|Boyden, James (Bish Auck.)||Fernyhough, Rt Hon E.||Latham, Arthur (Paddington)|
|Bradley, Tom||Fitch, Alan (Wigan)||Leadbitter, Ted|
|Bray, Dr Jeremy||Flannery, Martin||Lee, John|
|Broughton, Sir Alfred||Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)||Lestor, Miss Joan (Eton & Slough)|
|Brown, Hugh D. (Glasgow Pr.)||Foot, Rt Hon Michael||Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)|
|Brown, Robert C. (Newcastle)||Ford, Ben T.||Lipton, Marcus|
|Buchan, Norman||Forrester, John||Litterick, Tom|
|Buchanan, Richard||Fowler, Gerald (The Wrekin)||Lomas, Kenneth|
|Butler, Mrs Joyce (Haringey)||Fraser, John (Lambeth, N)||Loyden, Eddie|
|Callaghan, Jim (Middleton & P.)||Freeson, Reginald||Luard, Evan|
|Campbell, Ian||Garrett, John (Norwich S.)||Lyon, Alexander (York)|
|Canavan, Dennis||Garrett, W. E. (Wallsend)||Lyons, Edward (Bradford W)|
|Cant, R. B.||George, Bruce||McCartney, Hugh|
|Carmichael, Neil||Gilbert, Dr John||MacCormick, lain|
|Carter-Jones, Lewis||Ginsburg, David||McElhone, Frank|
|Cartwright, John||Golding, John||MacFarquhar, R.|
|Castle, Rt Hon Barbara||Gould, Bryan||Mackenzie, Gregor|
|Clemitson, I. M.||Gourlay, Harry||Mackintosh, John P.|
|Cocks, Michael (Bristol S.)||Graham, Ted||Maclennan, Robert|
|Coleman, Donald||Grant, George (Morpeth)||McMillan, Tom (Glasgow C.)|
|Colquhoun, Mrs Maureen||Grocott, Bruce||McNamara, Kevin|
|Conlan, Bernard||Hamilton, James (Bothwell)||Madden, Max|
|Cook, Robin F. (Edin C)||Hamilton, W. W. (Central Fife)||Magee, Bryan|
|Corbett, Robin||Hamling, William||Mahon, Simon|
|Cox, Thomas (Wands, Toot)||Hardy, Peter||Mallalieu, J. P. W.|
|Craigen, J. M. (Glasgow M.)||Harrison, Walter (Wakefield)||Marks, Ken|
|Crawford, Douglas||Hart, Rt Hon Judith||Marquand, David|
|Crawshaw, Richard||Hattersley, Roy||Marshall, Dr Edmund (Goole)|
|Crosland, Rt Hon Anthony||Hatton, Frank||Marshall, Jim (Leicester)|
|Cryer, Bob||Hayman, Mrs Helene||Mason, Rt Hon Roy|
|Cunningham, G. (Islington S.)||Healey, Rt Hon Denis||Maynard, Miss Joan|
|Cunningham, Dr J. (Whiten.)||Heffer, Eric S.||Meacher, Michael|
|Dalyell, Tarn||Henderson, Douglas||Mellish, Rt Hon Robert|
|Davidson, Arthur||Hooley, Frank||Mikardo, Ian|
|Davies, Bryan (Enfield N.)||Horam, John||Millan, Bruce|
|Davies, Denzll (Llanelli)||Howell, Denis (B'ham, Sm H)||Miller, Dr M. (E. Kilbride)|
|Davies, Ifor (Gower)||Hoyle, Douglas (Neison)||Miller, Mrs Millie (Redbridge)|
|Davis, S. Clinton (Hackney C.)||Huckfield, Leslie||Mitchell, R. C. (Soton, Itchen)|
|Deakins, Eric||Hughes, Rt Hon C. (Anglesey)||Molloy, William|
|Dean, Joseph (Leeds West)||Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N.)||Moonman, Eric|
|Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe)||Ryman, John||Tomlinson, John|
|Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw)||Sandelson, Neville||Torney, Tom|
|Morris, Rt Hon John (Aberavon)||Sedgemore, B.||Tuck, Raphael|
|Murray, Ronald King||Selby Harry||Varley, Rt Hon Eric G.|
|Newens, Stanley||Shaw, Arnold, (Redbridge, Ilf.)||Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne V.)|
|Noble, Mike||Sheldon, Robert (Ashton-u-Lyne)||Walden, Brian (B'ham, L'dyw'd)|
|Oakes, Gordon||Shore, Rt Hon Peter||Walker, Harold (Doncaster)|
|Ogden, Eric||Short, Rt Hon Edward (Newcastle C)||Walker, Terry (Kingswood)|
|O'Halloran, Michael||Short, Mrs Renée (Wolv NE)||Ward, Michael|
|O'Maliey, Brian||Silkin, Rt Hn John (Lewlsh.)||Watkins, David|
|Orbach, Maurice||Silkin, Rt Hn S. C. (Southwk.)||Watkinson, John|
|Orme, Rt Hon Stanley||Sillars, James||Weetch, Ken|
|Ovenden, John||Silverman, Julius||Weitzman, David|
|Owen, Dr David||Skinner, Dennis||Wellbeloved, James|
|Padley, Walter||Smith, John (N. Lanarkshire)||Welsh, Andrew|
|Palmer, Arthur||Snape, Peter||White, Frank R. (Bury)|
|Park, George||Spearing, Nigel||White, James (Glasgow, P)|
|Parker, John||Spriggs, Leslie||Whitehead, Phillip|
|Parry, Robert||Stallard, A. W.||Wigley, Dafydd (Caernarvon)|
|Pavltt, Laurie||Stewart, Donald (Western Isles)||Willey, Rt Hon Frederick|
|Peart, Rt Hon Fred||Stewart, Rt Hn Michael (H'smith, F)||Williams, Alan (Swansea)|
|Perry, Ernest||Stoddart, David||Williams, Alan, Lea (Haver'g)|
|Phipps, Dr Colin||Stott, Roger||Williams, W. T. (Warrington)|
|Prentice, Rt Hon Reg||Strang, Gavin||Wilson, Alexander (Hamilton)|
|Radice, Giles||Strauss, Rt Hon G. R.||Wilson, Gordon (Dundee E.)|
|Rees, Rt Hon Merlyn (Leeds S.)||Summerskill, Hon Dr Shirley||Wilson, William (Coventry S.E.)|
|Reid, George||Swain, Thomas||Wise, Mrs Audrey|
|Richardson, Miss Jo||Taylor, Mrs Ann (Bolton W)||Woodall, Alec|
|Roberts, Albert (Normanton)||Thomas, Jeffrey (Abertillery)||Woof, Robert|
|Roberts, Gwilym (Cannock)||Thomas, Mike (Newcastle)||Wrigglesworth, Ian|
|Rodgers, George (Chorley)||Thomas, Ron (Bristol NW)||Young, David (Bolton E.)|
|Rodgers, William (Teesslde)||Thompson, George|
|Rooker, J. W.||Thorne, Stan (Preston)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Ross, Rt Hon W. (Kllm'nock)||Tierney, Sydney||Mr. Joseph Harper and|
|Rowlands, Ted||Tinn, James||Mr. John Ellis.|
|Adley, Robert||Davies, Rt Hon J. (Knutsford)||Hannam, John|
|Altken, J. W. P.||Dodsworth, Geoffrey||Hastings, Stephen|
|Alison, Michael||Doug las-Hamilton, Lord James||Havers, Sir Michael|
|Amery, Rt Hon Julian||du Cann, Rt Hon Edward||Hawkins, Paul|
|Arnold, Tom||Dunlop, J.||Hayhoe, Barney|
|Atkins, Rt Hon H. (Spelthorne)||Durant, Tony||Heath, Rt Hon Edward|
|Awdry, Daniel||Dykes, Hugh||Heseltine, Michael|
|Banks, Robert||Eden, Rt Hon Sir John||Hicks, Robert|
|Beith, A. J.||Edwards, Nicholas (Pembroke)||Higgins, Terence L.|
|Bell, Ronald||Elliott, Sir William||Holland, Philip|
|Bennett, Dr Reginald (Fareham)||Emery, Peter||Hooson, Emlyn|
|Benyon, W. R.||Eyre, Reginald||Hordern, Peter|
|Berry, Hon Anthony||Falrbairn, Nicholas||Howe, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey|
|Biffen, John||Fairgrleve, Russell||Howell, David (Gulldford)|
|Biggs-Davison, John||Fell, Anthony||Howell, Ralph (North Norfolk)|
|Blaker, Peter||Finsberg, Geoffrey||Howells, Geralnt (Cardigan)|
|Boscawen, Hon Robert||Fisher, Sir Nigel||Hurd, Douglas|
|Bowden, Andrew (Brighton)||Fletcher, Alex (Edinburgh N.)||Hutchison, Michael Clark|
|Boyson, Dr Rhodes (Brent)||Fletcher-Cooke, Charles||Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)|
|Bradford, Rev Robert||Fookes, Miss Janet||Irving, Charles (Cheltenham)|
|Braine, Sir Bernard||Fowler, Norman (Sutton C.)||James, David|
|Brittan, Leon||Fox, Marcus||Jenkin, Rt Hon Patrick (Redbr.)|
|Brotherton, Michael||Fraser, Rt Hon H. (Stafford & St.)||Jessel, Toby|
|Brown, Sir Edward (Bath)||Freud, Clement||Johnson Smith, G. (E. Grinstead)|
|Bryan, Sir Paul||Galbraith, Hon T. G. D.||Johnston, Russell (Inverness)|
|Buchanan-Smith, Alick||Gardiner, George (Reigate)||Jones, Arthur (Daventry)|
|Buck, Antony||Gardner, Edward (S. Fylde)||Joseph, Rt Hon Sir Keith|
|Budgen, Nick||Gilmour, Rt Hon Ian (Chesham)||Kaberry, Sir Donald|
|Bulmer, Esmond||Gilmour, Sir John (East Fife)||Kellett-Bowman, Mrs Elaine|
|Burden, F. A.||Glyn, Dr Alan||Kershaw, Anthony|
|Carlisle, Mark||Godber, Rt Hon Joseph||Kimball, Marcus|
|Carr, Rt Hon Robert||Goodhart, Philip||King, Evelyn (South Dorset)|
|Chalker, Mrs Lynda||Goodhew, Victor||King, Tom (Bridgwater)|
|Channon, Paul||Goodlad, A.||Kitson, Sir Timothy|
|Clark, Alan (Plymouth, S)||Gorst, John||Knight, Mrs Jill|
|Clark, William (Croydon, S.)||Gow, I. (Eastbourne)||Knox, David|
|Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe)||Gower, Sir Raymond (Barry)||Lamont, Norman|
|Clegg, Walter||Gray, Hamish||Lane, David|
|Cockcroft, John||Griffiths, Eldon||Langford-Holt, Sir John|
|Cooke, Robert (Bristol W)||Grimond, Rt Hon J.||Latham, Michael (Melton)|
|Cope, John||Grist, Ian||Lawrence, Ivan|
|Cormack, Patrick||Grylls, Michael||Lawson, Nigel|
|Corrie, John||Hall, Sir John||Le Merchant, Spencer|
|Costain, A. P.||Hall-Davis, A. G. F.||Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)|
|Crouch, David||Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury)||Lloyd, Ian (Havant)|
|Crowder, F. P.||Hampson, Dr Keith||Loveridge, John|
|Luce, Richard||Penhaligon, David||Spence, John|
|McCrindle, Robert||Percival, Ian||Spicer, James (W. Dorset)|
|Macfarlane, Neil||Peyton, Rt Hon John||Spicer, Michael (S. Worcester)|
|MacGregor, John||Pink, R. Bonner||Sproat, lain|
|Macmillan, Rt Hon M. (Farnham)||Powell, Rt Hon J. Enoch||Stainton, Keith|
|McNair-Wilson, M. (Newbury)||Price, David (Eastleigh)||Stanbrook, Ivor|
|McNair-Wilson, P. (New Forest)||Prior, Rt Hon Jamea||Stanley, John|
|Madel, David||Pym, Rt Hon Francis||Steen, Anthony (Liverpool)|
|Marshall, Michael (Arundel)||Raison, Timothy||Stewart, Ian (Hitchin)|
|Mates, Michael||Rathbone, Tim||Stokes, John|
|Mather, Carol||Rawlinson, Rt Hon Sir Peter||Tapsell, Peter|
|Maude, Angus||Rees, Peter (Dover & Deal)||Taylor, R. (Croydon NW)|
|Mawby, Ray||Rees-Davies, W. R.||Tebbit, Norman|
|Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin||Renton, Rt Hn Sir D. (Hunts.)||Temple-Morris, P.|
|Mayhew, Patrick||Renton, Tim (Mid-Sussex)||Thatcher, Rt Hon M.|
|Meyer, Sir Anthony||Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon||Thomas, Rt Hon P. (Barnet)|
|Mills, Peter||Ridley, Hon Nicholas||Thorpe, Rt Hon Jeremy (Devon)|
|Miscampbell, Norman||Ridsdale, Julian||Townsend, Cyril D.|
|Mitchell, David (Basingstoke)||Rifkind, Malcolm||Trotter, Neville|
|Molyneaux, James||Rippon, Rt Hon Geoffrey||Tugendhat, Christopher|
|Monro, Hector||Roberts, Michael (Cardiff N.W.)||van Straubenzee, W. R.|
|Montgomery, Fergus||Roberts, Wyn (Conway)||Vaughan, Dr Gerard|
|Moore, John (Croydon C)||Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight)||Viggers, P. J.|
|More, Jasper (Ludlow)||Ross, William (Londonderry)||Wainwright, Richard (Colne V)|
|Morgan, Geraint||Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey)||Wakeham, John|
|Morgan-Giles, Rear-Admiral||Rost, Peter (SE Derbyshire)||Walder, David (Clitheroe)|
|Morris, Michael (Northants)||Royle, Sir Anthony||Walker, Rt Hon P. (Worcester)|
|Morrison, Charles (Devizes)||Sainsbury, Tim||Walker-Smith, Rt Hon Sir Derek|
|Morrison, Peter (Chester)||St. John-Stevas, Norman||Walters, Dennis|
|Mudd, David||Scott, Nicholas||Weatherill, Bernard|
|Neave, Airey||Shaw, Giles (Pudsey)||Wells, John|
|Nelson, Anthony||Shaw Michael (Scarborough)||Whitelaw, Rt Hon William|
|Neubert, Michael||Shelton, William (Lambeth St.)||Wiggin, Jerry (Weston-s-Mare)|
|Newton, Tony||Shepherd, Colin||Winterton, Nicholas|
|Normanton, Tom||Shersby, Michael||Wood Rt Hon Richard|
|Nott, John||Silvester, Fred||Young, Sir George (Ealing)|
|Onslow, Cranley||Sims, Roger||Younger, Hon George|
|Oppenheim, Mrs Sally||Sinclair, Sir George|
|Pardoe, John||Smith, Cyril (Rochdale)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Parkinson, Cecil||Smith, Dudley (Warwick)||Mr. John stradling Thomas and|
|Pattie, Geoffrey||Speed, Keith||Mr. Adam Butler.|
§ Question accordingly agreed to.
§ Bill read a Second time.
§ Bill committed to a Standing Committee pursuant to Standing Order No. 40 (Committal of Bills).