HC Deb 15 October 1975 vol 897 cc1413-512

  1. 1. Where a union membership agreement has been made as defined in section 30 of this Act and any independent trade union, being neither a party to the agreement nor specified for the purposes of or in relation to the agreement, claims that it should reasonably have been so specified, then the independent trade union may refer the matter to the Secretary of State in accordance with the subsequent provisions of this Schedule.
  2. 2. Upon a reference to the Secretary of State under the preceding paragraph then—
    1. (a) the union membership agreement shall cease to be effective in relation to any employee who is for the time being in membership of the independent trade union which referred the matter to the Secretary of State until the conclusion of the proceedings on the reference; and
    2. (b) the Secretary of State may after consulting with the parties thereto vary the terms of the union membership agreement and may also specify for the purposes of or in relation to the agreement the independent trade union who referred the matter to him.
  3. 3. The Secretary of State may make regulations governing the procedure to be followed on a reference to him under this Schedule and such regulations may contain such supplementary and consequential provisions as appear to him to be necessary or expedient.
  4. 4. Regulations made under this Schedule may provide for the Secretary of State to refer the matter in dispute or any part thereof to any person or body appointed under any other enactment dealing with industrial relations whether passed before or after this Act on such terms as the Secretary of State considers 1414 necessary or expedient and before exercising any power in paragraph 2(b) hereof the Secretary of State shall consider the report of the person or body to whom the matter was so referred.""

Mr. Booth

I beg to move, That this House doth disagree with the Lords in the said amendment.

This amendment repeats in substance an amendment moved by the Opposition in Committee. At that stage I expressed some sympathy with the aims of the amendment, but rejected it on the grounds that it would create serious practical difficulties and also because I thought at that time that the real problem to which the amendment was addressed could be solved by an amendment to the Employment Protection Bill, rather than along the lines suggested in the amendment at that time.

The amendment arises from fears that some small, independent unions, particularly in local government, might not be specified in union membership agreements and their members might, therefore, be pressed to join a specified union within the membership agreement. The amendment would enable such unions to appeal to the Secretary of State asking him to vary the terms of the union membership agreement.

6.0 p.m.

The union membership agreement under the procedure outlined in the amendment would cease to have effect while the Secretary of State was considering such an application. We are opposed to this way of dealing with the problem because it would enable unrecognised splinter unions to make complaints against membership agreements, appeal to the Secretary of State and prevent those union membership agreements from operating while consideration was being given to their complaint or application.

This is even more serious than it seems because such unions could do this without having to establish in any way that they were seeking the right to recognition. I hope that I am not stretching the terms of the debate in Committee when I say that the Opposition spoke fairly as if they were concerned about unions that would normally have a right to establish recognition for their members and would intend to do so. This amendment, as it was presented in Committee and as it is now presented, is a useful vehicle for the discussion of the issue. But our real concern is with the position of unions that properly seek recognition on behalf of their members.

We have discussed this matter with a number of the small professional unions affected. We have examined their views and considered in the light of them the difficulty that could arise if this amendment were carried. Problems might arise in a way which would conflict with the recognition provisions of the Employment Protection Bill. We have met this by amending the Employment Protection Bill to safeguard those unions recognised under the Bill's recognition procedure or those seeking recognition under it. This is achieved by deeming a union recognition, or, a union having applied for recognition to ACAS, for it then to be specified in a union membership agreement for the purpose of any unfair dismissal proceedings.

If ACAS recommends recognition the protection automatically continues while the recognition stands. There are provisions in the Employment Protection Bill for the variation of recognition. If ACAS does not recommend recognition the protection ceases. By this means of dealing with the problem there will be no conflict between this safeguard and the recognition responsibilities which will rest on ACAS. This method of dealing with the problem meets the substance of the Lords amendment without breaching collective bargaining arrangements or conflicting with the rôle of ACAS in determining recognition issues. I hope that in asking the House to disagree with the Lords it will be understood that it is not because we take the view that the amendment does not address itself to a problem. It is because we feel that we have been able to solve the problem in another and more effective manner

Mr. Hayhoe

When we discussed a similar amendment earlier in our proceedings it was clear that the Government took the view that something should be done at least to deal with that part of the point being raised which concerned the fears of some small unions over their negotiating rights. They were fearful that if a union membership agreement was negotiated their rights might be overturned in the process. We saw something of this in the Press comment from some of the small craft unions involved in the current negotiations for a union membership agreement at Chryslers. I am delighted that their fears were unfounded and that proper regard is being taken of their position in the draft membership agreements now being discussed.

When the Lords made this amendment they were right to push their views to a vote. As the Minister of State said, however, the amendments which have now been moved and agreed in another place go a long way towards covering the points at issue and devising a procedure whereby the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service will have a rôle to play. These amendments also go a long way, if not all the way, to alleviating the fears held by some.

In this debate it is right that we should express the fears of some of the small professional unions which are worried that they may be eaten up by the great blue-collar unions in a closed shop situation. That is a justifiable fear. The changes made to the Employment Protection Bill will help to meet that fear. It is a good thing that the changes have been made. I believe that if the Lords have a chance to reconsider this amendment they may not, as a result of the decisions made concerning the Employment Protection Bill, wish to pursue the matter. At any rate, that is now a matter for another place so long as we do not agree with the amendment. It seems right that the Lords should have that second chance.

Not all fears will be alleviated following the changes in the Employment Protection Bill. I note that UKAPE is worried about what happened in the water supply industry. It feels that proper regard has not been paid to its position there. Some of the professional staff in local government will feel that the amendments made meet their fears. The Bridlington and Croydon agreements have often been put forward as the magic answer to this sort of problem. They have been blown sky-high by the speech made by a former deputy leader of the Labour Party during the passage of this Bill through the Lords. His speech rather lifted the curtain on how the big boys operate under Bridlington.

We should not be too sanguine about the difficulties that can occur. Members

New Clause B
Lords Amendment: No. 7, after Clause 2, in page 3, line 9, at end insert—
"B. After section 1 of the principal Act there shall be inserted the following section:—" Charter on freedom of the press—
1A.—(1) If, before the end of the period of six
months beginning with the passing of the Trade
5 Union and Labour Relations (Amendment) Act 1975,
there is agreed among parties including employers of
journalists, or employers' associations representing
such employers, editors or editors' organisations, and
trade unions representing journalists, a charter containing
10 rules of conduct for employers, trade unions,
editors and other journalists on matters relating to
the freedom of the press, the Secretary of State shall
lay before both Houses of Parliament a draft of that
15 (2) For the purposes of subsection (1) above,
matters relating to the freedom of the press include
(a) the rights of editors and other persons
exercising editorial responsibilities to discharge
their duties free from any obligation
20 to join a trade union;
(b) the rights of journalists to join a trade union
of their choice;
(c) the rights of editors to commission, publish
or not to publish any article free from
25 pressure by industrial action;
(d) the rights of journalists not to be arbitrarily
or unreasonably excluded or expelled from
membership of a trade union.
(3) If no such charter has been agreed as mentioned
30 in subsection (1) above, the Secretary of State shall,
after consultation with the Press Council and such
of the parties referred to in that subsection, such
organisations representing workers, and such organisations
representing employers, as he thinks fit,
35 prepare in draft a charter containing rules of conduct
designed to secure the rights mentioned in subsection
(2) above together with such other matters as may
have been agreed among the parties mentioned in
subsection (1) hereof, and shall lay a draft before
40 both Houses of Parliament.
(4) If a draft laid under subsection (1) or (3) above
is approved by resolution of each House of Parliament
the Secretary of State shall issue the charter
in the form of the draft.
45 (5) A charter agreed as mentioned in subsection
(1) above, or prepared by the Secretary of State in
accordance with subsection (3) above, may be revised
from time to time by agreement between such parties

of unions can sometimes be treated as a parcel in bargaining between one union and another. Their rights are not always fully taken into account. The procedure being built into the Employment Protection Bill on this narrow issue of recognition will help even in that situation. Accordingly, I welcome it. In giving that welcome I must say that of necessity it means that we must not push support for the Lords. We should allow them to reflect on the matter in the light of the changes that have been made to the Employment Protection Bill. We shall not, therefore, seek to dissent from the Minister of State's proposition.

Question put and agreed to.

as are referred to in subsection (1) above, and the
50 Secretary of State shall lay a draft of the revised
charter before both Houses of Parliament.
(6) If a draft laid under subsection (5) above is
approved by resolution of each House of Parliament.
the Secretary of State shall issue the revised charter
55 in the form of the draft.
(7) On issuing a charter or revised charter under
subsection (4) or (6) above the Secretary of State shall
make by statutory instrument an order specifying the
date on which the charter or revised charter is to
60 come into effect.
(8) No criminal proceedings shall lie against any
person on account of a contravention of the charter
but the obligation to comply with the charter is a
duty owed to any person who may be affected by a
65 contravention of it and any breach of that duty by
industrial action or otherwise is actionable accordingly
subject to the defences and other incidents
applying to actions for breach of statutory duty.
(9) In this section—
70 "article" means any matter printed or intended
for printing or broadcast or intended for
broadcasting by television or radio:
"industrial action" means—
(a) a concerted stoppage of work by a
75 group of workers, whether (in the case of
all or any of those workers) the stoppage
is or is not in breach of their terms and
conditions of employment and whether it
is carried on during or on the termination
80 of their employment, or
(b) any concerted course of conduct
(i) is carried on by a group of
workers with the intention of
85 preventing, reducing or otherwise
interfering with the production
of goods or the
provision of services, and
(ii) in the case of some or all of
90 them, is carried on in breach of
their contracts of employment
or (where they are not employees)
in breach of their terms
and conditions of service.""

Read a Second time.

Mr. Foot

I beg to move, as an amendment to the Lords Amendment, in line 3, leave out 'six' and insert 'twelve'.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. George Thomas)

I shall explain to the House the procedure it is proposed that we shall follow.

'such matters as the avoidance of improper pressure to distort or suppress news, comment, or criticism, the application of union membership agreements to journalists (and in particular the position of editors) and the question of access for contributors.'.

together with sub-amendments (a), in line 3, leave out 'position of editors) and the question of access for contributors' and insert: 'right of editors to discharge their duties free from any obligation to join a trade union)

First, there will be a debate on the amendment in line 3, followed by the main block debate on the amendment in line 10, leave out 'rules of conduct' and insert 'practical guidance'.

With that we shall take the amendment in line 17, leave out from beginning to end of line 28 and insert:

and the right of editors to commission and publish any article'.

and (b), in line 3, leave out 'position of editors)' and insert: 'right of editors to discharge their duties and to commission and pubish any article)'.

and the amendments, in line 35, leave out from 'containing' to 'and' in line 39 and insert:

'( ) A failure on the part of any person to observe any provision of a charter
which is for the time being in force under this section shall not of itself render him
liable to any proceedings, but in any proceedings for breach of contract in any
court between a journalist and his employer or between a member of a trade union
5 representing journalists and that trade union, or in any proceedings before an
industrial tribunal under Schedule 1 to this Act or section 45 of the Employment
Protection Act 1975
(a) any such charter shall be admissible in evidence, and
(b) any provision of such a charter which appears to the court or tribunal to be
10 relevant to any question arising in those proceedings shall be taken into
account by the court or tribunal in determining that question.'.

and sub-amendment (a), in line 3, leave out from second 'proceedings 'to end of line 7.

There will be a separate debate on line 40, at end insert: '( ) A charter agreed as mentioned in subsection (1) above, or prepared by the Secretary of State in accordance with subsection (3) above, shall define its field of operation.'.

If the House wishes, there will be a debate on whether the House agrees or disagrees with the proposed amendments.

Mr. Foot

We are grateful to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and the Officers of the House for that guidance about the way in which we should deal with this complicated series of amendments proposed to Lords amendments. I am sure that what you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, propose will be of general assistance to the House.

Perhaps I could underline what you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, said about the immediate debate on the amendment to line 3. Under your procedure the amendment in line 3 will be moved, debated and decided.

It is true that this amendment, which deals with the question of the Press, has attracted some notice in various quarters of the House and may lead to some later discussion. However, the major debate on that subject can much more conveniently take place when we come to the next amendment, in line 10, as you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, have suggested. I hope that the House will be prepared—I do not say not to agree without debate—not to have the main debate on this preliminary matter, to avoid duplication.

The question whether there should be a charter, the form it should take, and its status, I should have thought would have arisen within the next amendment rather

'such practical guidance as is referred to in that subsection'.

and in line 61, leave out subsections (8) and (9) and insert:

than this one, which is solely concerned with increasing the period during which there shall be an opportunity for the charter to be devised by the parties concerned from six months to 12 months to allow the parties in the industry 12 months rather than six to draw up a charter.

The point of this amendment is to give the industry more chance to resolve internal differences and to draw up a charter, and thus to lessen the likelihood of the Secretary of State's having to intervene. There has been some criticism. This point may emerge in the later debate on the question whether there should be any arrangement for the Secretary of State to intervene in any circumstances whatsoever. I understand the argument, but I do not believe it is right that we should have that main argument on this amendment. This amendment aims to reduce the likelihood of any involvement of the Secretary of State by ensuring that the parties have a longer time in which to reach their agreement.

Even if the Secretary of State had to intervene after a year he would still have to consult the two sides of industry. He would be in the position, not formally, perhaps, of some form of arbitrator on disputed points rather than in the position of drawing up his own code—that is, if the parties had come near to reaching agreement, as we might hope they would. But whoever produces the code or charter, it must be acceptable to Parliament. That is the essential safeguard. If the Secretary of State were not able to intervene after the extended period the result might be that no charter will be devised.

It is part of our argument that the Government think that the charter is a better way of dealing with these matters

than by legal intervention. That issue will arise in our later discussions.

I hope that the House will be prepared to accept the amendment. It does not prejudice our later discussions. Further arguments will be put forward. This is merely saying that if there is to be a charter, the House must still decide whether that will be the case and what form it will take, and, if there is a charter, whether the intervention of the Secretary of State should take place after 12 rather than six months.

6.15 p.m.

Mr. Hayhoe

I think that the House would be wise, and that it would be for the convenience of hon. Members in all parts of the House, to accept the Secretary of State's advice and to take this amendment, as he sugested, without prejudice to the discussion that follows. It means that we shall have a proper debate on the important broad issues involved in this matter. I therefore commend his advice to the House.

Mr. Foot

I am sure that the spirit in which the hon. Gentleman has accepted my suggestion is a good augury for the way in which the rest of the proceedings will be conducted. I am therefore hopeful that as a result of the reasoned attitude which has prevailed in those quarters so readily in the past few minutes we shall make excellent progress.

Amendment to the Lords amendment agreed to.

Mr. Foot

I beg to move as an amendment to the Lords Amendment in line 10, leave out 'rules of conduct' and insert 'practical guidance'.

This amendment may not appear to be a revolutionary proposition. A number of amendments were moved by some of my hon. Friends and others to this proposition and to the other propositions included in our general proposals for amendments to Lords Amendment No. 7.

The discussion raises the central questions of principle which have been debated fully in the country and the House for a number of months.

Perhaps I might indicate the way in which I should like to present my first remarks. There may be some remarks to reply to later. However, I should like to set out the reasons why the Government disagree with the House of Lords in its propositions, or the so-called "Goodman" amendments. I shall indicate how the Government think that we should deal with these matters and the Government's attitude to the amendments put down by my hon. Friends. In my first speech I shall indicate our attitude towards them, with this reservation. I shall listen to the case put by my hon. Friends on each of the amendments. I am open to persuasion on the different amendments. We have made no final decisions about them. I hope that my preliminary remarks about the amendments will assist in the discussion. However, as I promised, I shall not make any decisions as to what attitude we should take about their amendments until they have presented their case in the way they wish. First, I shall make a few comments which will possibly assist the debate. I shall come to their amendments later on.

I should like to make one or two other general declarations so that nobody else nips in to make them for me.

First, I should like to declare my interest. I have declared it before but it is only proper that I should underline it. I have been a member of the National Union of Journalists for 40 years. That makes me obviously strongly prejudiced in favour of freedom, and especially the freedom of the Press. In that sense I have approached this controversy throughout. I repudiate any suggestion that the Government, myself or my hon. Friends who are associated with me in the Department of Employment have in any sense approached this matter in an attempt to undermine or injure the freedom of the Press. Indeed, the very opposite.

I believe that if the country and Parliament accept our advice genuine freedom of the Press can be strengthened. That has been our purpose. If the charter we envisage is brought into operation with the support of different parts of the industry, so far from freedom of the Press having been injured, there will be support for freedom of the Press, and those who must operate it, of a stronger nature than we have had before. I repudiate entirely the suggestion that the Bill in any way threatens or is intended to threaten the freedom of the Press. Having said that, it would be absurd for me, having listened to the arguments in Parliament, from editors and all those who have engaged in the controversy, to dismiss their arguments as having been brought forward for factitious or reprehensible motives. I certainly do not say that. I believe that overwhelmingly those who have engaged in the controversy against what we are proposing are also actuated by what they gauge to be the interests of the freedom of the Press.

I have known Lord Goodman for many years in other connections. He has shown a special interest in this subject. He has associations with the Press, through the Newspaper Proprietors' Association, the editors and various other bodies in the newspaper world. But I am sure that his passionate interest in this subject is not derived from any of those associations. I am sure that it derives from a genuine belief that something wrong is being done which he wishes to resist. I have never questioned his good faith.

It is on that basis that I seek to refute what Lord Goodman claims, because it is of great importance that the argument should be properly presented. In many cases, the argument, particularly in some of the newspapers which themselves have an interest in the matter, has not been as wisely and rightly put as it might have been. Let us approach the argument, therefore, on a proper presentation.

I shall not cover the whole ground, for it is familiar to the House. I will merely give a brief retrospect of the background. I shall then underline the reason why the Government regard the Goodman amendments as being imposible for us to accept—indeed, impossible for any Government to accept if they are concerned about the proper management of industrial relations.

Some people have said that the cause of the trouble is the passionate interest I have in the closed shop. I am not a passionate supporter of the closed shop at all. I was a passionate opponent of the Industrial Relations Act 1971. I thought it was very foolish, under that Act, to try to impose upon industry generally the idea that closed shops could be banned. That is not to say that I am in favour of closed shops in particular instances. I think that people should be able to choose. I am opposed to the idea that Parliament can think it wise to lay down rigid rules against closed shops. So far from that assisting the people who want to achieve such an object, there is the opposite result, as experience of the Industrial Relations Act reveals.

My interest is not a passionate interest in closed shops but that we should put behind us the whole of the unhappy, miserable episode of the 1971 Act. What is being proposed to us in this context is that the Government should retain in the newspaper industry, or at any rate one section of it—the NUJ—and keep applying to it, the kind of provisions applied to industry generally by the 1971 Act, which have now been removed. That is why I am so opposed to the prescriptions from some quarters to deal with these matters.

It was natural, when controversy arose over the matter, that concern should be expressed about the way in which closed shops or union membership agreements might operate within the newspaper industry once the repeal of the 1971 Act made closed shops legal once again. It is natural that such questions should have been raised. We did our best, in a series of approaches, to ensure that the union membership agreements under our legislation should be as liberal and tolerant and varied as could be arranged. I do not believe that any hon. Member who sat through the discussions with my hon. Friend the Minister of State in Committee on this Bill would deny that the Government have sought in every sensible way they could to make the definition of union membership agreements the best that the country could have in order to assist in our industrial relations.

I understand also that people might ask, "Are there not special problems associated with the Press with which we should deal in some way or the other? Are there not special fears about closed shops in the journalistic trade?" From such people, proposals came for some form of legislation for dealing with the matter, and this is what we are presented with in the so-called Goodman amendments.

But the more the Government looked at it, the more they came to the conclusion that it would be most unwise in the newspaper industry, as elsewhere, to try to solve this problem by resort to the law. It was out of that kind of discussion that the proposal for a charter arose—that is to say, instead of Parliament laying down the law as to how to settle these intricate problems, the industry itself should settle them. An initiative in that respect was taken by the NUJ, greatly encouraged by us in the House of Commons, going back to and including the discussion we had on Second Reading—which seems like an epoch ago.

We encouraged these proposals towards a charter as much as we could. I shall not go into details of what happened subsequently, because most hon. Members are aware of it, but at least, as a result of the discussions in this House and the work by the NUJ for the establishment of some kind of charter, the failure of that first initiative was at any rate postponed.

In the House of Lords, my noble Friend Lord Houghton applied his ingenious mind to the problem and proposed a charter or code—"charter" is the better word—which could be incorporated in any legislation for legal enactment with no powers of enforcement, such as the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service is drawing up in other sectors, and which could be of assistance in dealing with these matters. This would not be a charter laid down by Parliament, but the parties concerned would have the encouragement of Parliament to go ahead with it. That proposal by Lord Houghton was thrown out or overborne by the amendments moved by Lord Goodman, which said, in effect, that such a charter without powers of enforcement was quite insufficient.

I want to indicate to the House some of the legal reasons—although they touch on other aspects, including political matters—why the Government think that Lord Goodman's amendments are so defective, quite apart even from the main principle. The Government have a number of objections to subsection (8) and subsection (9) of Lords Amendment No. 7 which I must emphasise. These subsections would be deleted if our amendment were adopted.

Subsection (8) starts with the entirely acceptable statement that No criminal proceedings should lie against any person on account of a contravention of the charter… But the sting is in the rest of these two subsections: …the obligation to comply with the charter is a duty owed to any person who may be affected by a contravention of it and any breach of that duty…is actionable…for breach of statutory duty. The Government are in any case opposed to the use of legal sanctions in these matters. Apart from that, it is a very wide-ranging provision with a number of serious consequences which are difficult to analyse and weigh up at first sight but which would be dangerous. The proposal is that any breach of the charter would be actionable, but the contents of that charter are as yet unknown. Statutory duties, possibly extensive and onerous, would be imposed not by Parliament but by the parties to the charter. That is the proposal not of a wicked Labour Government but of the House of Lords.

Although Parliament would need to approve the charter in its final state, in certain circumstances it could have little practical control over the contents. It is quite indefensible that the party concerned should be enabled to draw up its own code which would include statutory offences which could be enforceable without Parliament's having detailed scrutiny over them. A charter drawn up for use by industry might well contain provisions in relation to an industrial agreement, but those provisions would not necessarily be suitable for enforcement in the courts.

6.30 p.m.

Subsection (8) in Lord Goodman's amendment produces no limitation on the ability of any person who may be affected by a contravention to bring an action for breach of statutory duty. No doubt the courts would take a commonsense approach on some of the more outrageous claims by those affected by breach of the charter. The whole subsection leaves the subject far too vague, and it is not a proper way for the House of Commons to legislate.

These objections to subsection (8) are strengthened by an examination of subsection (9), in particular of the definition of "industrial action". This is an extremely far-reaching provision. It would seem to deal not only with industrial action in journalism—and action in the courts is not the right answer there—but with action that interferes with the production of goods and services wherever this might occur, provided that the action leads to an infringement of the charter. This means that the provision could well have repercussions in industries outside the Press, or even printing.

It is entirely wrong to introduce by a side wind provisions which are quite contrary to the Government's policy on industrial relations for industry generally. However, that would be the consequence of Lord Goodman's amendments, if they were placed on the statute book.

Whatever variations of view my hon. Friends and I may have on other matters, I hope that we can agree that these Lords amendments must be rejected on these grounds. If they were to be accepted we should have written into the legislation something which their Lordships did not intend and which even Lord Goodman did not intend. As I have indicated. Lord Goodman is a remarkable man. He engages in many sophisticated negotiations, but in some matters he is a babe in arms. [Interruption.] He has tabled an amendment which is quite impossible for the House of Commons to accept. Some people may argue whether the House of Lords should retain powers of revision. I am glad that the House of Commons still retains powers of revision. It would be a great error for anyone concerned with industrial relations to believe that Lord Goodman's amendment is acceptable in any way whatever. I hope that there will be no doubt about that.

I turn to our approach to some of the other matters. In general, the Government's amendments seek, with one or two additions which I shall underline—they are important because they are matters touched upon in the amendments tabled by some of my hon. Friends—to re-establish and reassert the general charter provision originally proposed in the House of Lords by Lord Houghton. In the main, we have not changed the charter. We have sought to make amendments to it. They are complicated amendments in the way they are set out on the Amendment Paper, but they add up to an acceptance of Lord Houghton's proposed code or charter. We have added two or three items to the circumstances in which the charter should be drawn up, which we believe assist the situation and help to alleviate the anxieties expressed in the House by some of my hon. Friends—anxieties which we share. Therefore, there is no objection to incorporating these further suggestions in the amendment that we are making.

I turn to the circumstances in which the charter should be established. The general terms of the charter should indicate to parties outside Parliament the matters that should be embraced by it. They are set out in the amendment that we have tabled. We have added to the themes and discussions which Lord Houghton specified and which were understood to be embraced in any previous charter. We have added two items which figure in the main charter devised by Mr. Alastair Hetherington of The Guardian.

The first deals with the position of editors, because there has been much dispute and argument on the question whether editors should be forced to be in unions or closed shops. Secondly, there is the question of contributors' access to the Press, of trying to ensure that there is no interference with the access that contributors, not members of any journalistic union, should have to the Press. Those are the two matters on which considerable concern has been expressed throughout the country and which were raised in previous debates on this subject.

Under our proposal those two matters would have to be covered in the charter to be drawn up by the parties concerned. Our amendment shows how we have stated that proposition. It is the best way for the House to proceed in order to tackle the matter. Some of my hon. Friends have suggested that we should make those provisions more specific.

The third amendment deals with the way in which the charter could be cited in evidence and the kind of cases which could be involved. In our amendment to the Lords amendment we considered the kind of cases in which the charter might be cited and we have listed them in the way circumstances have demanded. We have given all the circumstances in which the charter could be so invoked. Some of my hon. Friends believed that by specifying the circumstances in which the charter might be cited in evidence in court we were in some way restricting the way in which it could be cited. That is not our intention. We were seeking to specify and illustrate the ways in which it could operate. We still believe that our words are best, because they indicate the purpose of the operation. However, some of my hon. Friends believe that if we carried their amendments, which cut out the specification of individual instances, and agreed that the charter could be cited in all proceedings, a great change would be brought about. We do not believe that it would make any great change to the proposition. The charter, even without specification, could be cited in other proceedings. I am quite prepared to listen to any arguments that my hon. Friends advance, but if we were to accept their amendment, it would not make much difference to the proposition. However, we are prepared to consider it.

I turn to the amendment tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Gateshead, West (Mr. Horam) and others. Although the amendment seeks to clarify or specify the circumstances which should be taken into account when the charter is drawn up, it is carried rather wide. I do not think that it would be possible for the Government to accept the words in sub-amendment (a). The sub-amendment reads: Line 3, leave out 'position of editors) and the question of access for contributors' and insert: right of editors to discharge their duties free from any obligation to join a trade union) and the right of editors to commission and publish any article". We think that that amendment is not acceptable, for the following reasons. First, although my hon. Friends who have tabled it are very concerned with seeking to protect contributors by knocking out our reference to contributors we believe that their amendment weakens the position of contributors rather than strengthens it.

Secondly, we believe that to write into the charter the words the right of editors to commission and publish any article would carry the matter very wide.

I am all in favour of trying to protect the legitimate rights of editors, but I do not think that the House of Commons should seek to lay down what may be regarded as a law about the right of editors to commission and publish any article". [HON. MEMBERS: "Why not?"] Let us think about it. [HON. MEMBERS: "Then answer."] I shall answer.

I do not want to utter any word of dissent about proprietors. The last time I mentoned proprietors in the House I was told not to drag them into a debate about the freedom of the Press, that it was reprehensible of me to do so, and that it was trying to introduce a note of bias into the discussions. Even the proprietors, whom we want to get to sign the charter and who must be parties to the charter if we are to have the freedom of the Press properly protected, may have some objection to the right of editors to commission and publish any article". Certainly it is a novel concept to me. I do not think that Mr. Murdoch gives that power to his editors.

One of the things that I want to secure—I do not know whether hon. Members opposite want to also—is the charter. We need all the different parties to that. There have been some cases in which the editor is fully protected against the proprietor. In most of those cases the editor is also the proprietor. As far as I know, there has not been much dispute between the proprietor and the editor of the Observer for years. Disputes may crop up again in years to come.

I do not believe that the words in my hon. Friend's amendment have been thought out very carefully. On second thoughts, I do not think that anyone will think that we could put such a concept into the form that is suggested here.

I come to another serious objection to the words as they stand. I repeat that what we are seeking to secure is a charter to be agreed between all the parties. So far, one party that has been quite prepared to come forward for such discussions is the National Union of Journalists. There was a period when it looked as if the NUJ or some sections of it would oppose that view. I am glad to see that the ballot which was conducted by the NUJ approved the union's come forward and being prepared to agree to a charter. I hope that the other parties will be prepared to do likewise.

I do not believe that the best way of ensuring that all the parties come forward to agree to such a charter is by insisting upon these rights in advance, when others have rights, too. Editors certainly have rights. Even proprietors have rights, although I know that the Opposition hate to have it suggested that they should have rights. I am diffident enough to suggest that journalists have rights.

6.45 p.m.

To write into the charter at the very beginning that the position of editors is absolutely protected in some way, before we have even had discussions about what the rest of the charter is to contain, is not the best way to go about it if we want to get the charter. All of my hon. Friends want to get a charter. This is the great thing which I hope the Liberal Party is in favour of, too. I hope that some hon. Members opposite will want to have the charter. This is the real distinction between the two sides of the House. Whatever differences may arise in the debate, I hope that nobody will lose sight of the central point, that we want to get a charter.

My hon. Friend the Member for Derby, North (Mr. Whitehead) and others of my hon. Friends have tabled another amendment on the same subject. Although I do not want to cause any divisions in such a happy band, I am bound to say that it is an improvement on the amendment tabled by my hon. Friends the Member for Gateshead, West (Mr. Horam) and others.

We considered the amendment tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Gateshead, West and others very seriously, of course, but we have to give even more serious consideration to the amendment tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Derby, North and others. As I said at the beginning, I shall not give a final view about it until the amendment has been moved and I have heard the debate.

If we were to move in this direction, I still think that there would have to be some alteration in the wording, because it has implications that we should write into the charter in advance the particular requirements of editors and that that should not be on all fours with the requirements of other people. In this amendment, too, the position of contributors is not even put on the same basis as that of editors.

I agree that my hon. Friends have made a genuine effort to ensure that they improved on the previous wording and to assist us in getting the charter started, so I shall listen to the speeches in favour of their amendment in that light. We shall have another opportunity. The House of Lords has its uses. Despite all the difficulties that it may have caused, we have another opportunity and we shall consider the matter after the end of the debate, when I have heard what my hon. Friends have to say about it.

I stress the central facts of the situation. The amendments bring out these facts. One central fact is the difference between the Government and the official Opposition, Lord Goodman and other Members of the House of Lords in their amendments. We do not believe that the complicated problem of the way in which the freedom of the Press is to be protected can be dealt with satisfactorily by legal provisions, particularly when we are asked to introduce into the law of the land legal provisions directed particularly against one trade union and saying that it is to be selected from all the others as the one to which we deny rights that other unions have.

I do not believe that that is a tolerable way in which to proceed. The more people think about it the wiser they will believe that the Government have been in their approach. There are a number of people throughout the country who do not believe in the freedom of the Press and who would try to throttle it. There are some in the newspaper profession itself who show scant respect for the freedom of the Press, whether they are proprietors or 57 varieties of Trotskyites, or whatever they may be. There are such people who do not have much interest in the freedom of the Press. If we believe in it genuinely, we must encourage those who are fighting for it and who are determined to sustain it. Contrary to the accusations which have been made against us, that is what we have been trying to do all along. What is more, we are succeeding.

Mr. Jonathan Aitken (Thanet, East)

You have not convinced anyone.

Mr. Foot

Some of the people who have been convinced are those who are the most important of all—namely, those who work in the newspapers. If we are to have freedom of the Press, that freedom will not be laid down by Parliament, by Conservatives or even by the infallible Lord Goodman. In fact, it will be fought for and sustained by those who work in the Press. That is what we want, and we want to give them every assistance possible by receiving support for our proposals. We shall give assistance to all those in the Press—including proprietors, editors and journalists—who want to sustain such freedom to the full.

Mr. Hayhoe

I hope that the House will reject the Secretary of State's advice. The freedom of the Press is one of the most important of our basic freedoms, and tonight, by supporting what are called the Goodman amendments, we help to buttress that vital freedom. To vote against the Goodman amendments—that is, in effect, what the right hon. Gentleman is asking for—will undermine Press freedom. The Opposition will well know their duty when it comes to a Division.

I do not think anyone in the House would challenge the sincerity of the Secretary of State or his deep concern for Press freedom. He felt it necessary to reiterate it this evening, but we accept it. We do not challenge his sincerity or deep concern about unemployment, but it has doubled from approximately 600,000 to 1¼ million during the 18 months of his office. We do not question his sincerity or deep concern over collective bargaining or his comments that a statutory wages policy would be one of disaster and despair, yet in 18 months collective bargaining has at least been partially suspended. Only a political theologian of the right hon. Gentleman's ingenuity can still argue that there is no trace of a statutory policy in the Government's attitude towards incomes and wages.

We do not question the right hon. Gentleman's sincerity or concern about Press freedom, but with that track record the more he protests his concern the more we fear for the precious and vital freedom of the Press which underpins individual liberty and toleration in our free society.

It is not the right hon. Gentleman's intentions which are at fault, which he spent some time in defending. We criticise the results that we are sure will flow from the actions which he supports.

Mr. Eric S. Heffer (Liverpool, Walton)

Does the hon. Gentleman not accept that there are many people in the House who passionately believe in Press freedom who find it difficult to equate that freedom with the fact that most of our daily and Sunday newspapers are owned by millionaires, who have usurped the freedom of the Press and distorted the matter in such a way that it is difficult for the ordinary person to get any rights in relation to the Press?

Mr. Hayhoe

I accept that some Labour Members hold that view. I have heard it expressed before, but I believe that they are mistaken in expressing it in that form. I hope that the debate will demonstrate the fallacy of that point of view.

I turn first to the question of whether any legislation on this matter is necessary. Last December, on Second Reading of the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Amendment) Bill, the Secretary of State said "no" in response to that question. He maintained that absurd position throughout Committee and Report. Many will recall the inelegant and somewhat uncharacteristic phrase that he used—namely, that those in another place should keep their "lordly noses out of this matter".

However, the right hon. Gentleman now commends to us a provision in the Bill which was inserted in Committee by Lord Houghton and his friends—namely, provision for a charter on matters relating to the freedom of the Press. It appears that he has changed his mind and that some progress has been made from a do-nothing-at-all and leave-it-to-others position to an attitude of "Well, let us do something". But before we congratulate him too much on that score, let us remember that what he has in mind is little more than a pious hope, or a wishful think. The Manifesto Group's amendments would make little difference.

Mr. Foot

Let us get the history of the matter right. As I said, we are extremely grateful to Lord Houghton for the form in which he put the proposition in another place, which advanced the whole matter. But I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will recall that on the occasion of Second Reading the proposition emerged from the National Union of Journalists that there should be a meeting with a view to drawing up a charter, to which we gave full backing. There was no question of doing nothing at any stage.

Mr. Hayhoe

If the right hon. Gentleman reads what he said in all stages of the Bill to which I have referred—I have had to undertake that depressing task myself—he will find that he said that this was not a matter to be deal with by legislation. Of course, there was talk of a charter, but why make that silly intervention about it now? It is well known that in the early stages of the Bill the point at issue was the Secretary of State's total opposition to any legislation, but he has now come round a bit. It seems that he is happy to have some legislation as long as it is merely a pious hope and is ineffective. Perhaps with a little more time he will be able to consider these matters further and take the next vital step, and agree that some effective action must be taken.

I listened fascinated to the right hon. Gentleman's arguments about the Manifesto Group's amendments, the nice balance of wording between versions (a) and (b) and the differences between them. It is very largely a phoney business. There is no backing or sanction. There is no statutory enforcement of any kind available. It is all a pious expression of hope. It means no more and no less than that. I believe that Press freedom is far too precious not to deserve adequate defences. Words alone, be they the words of Houghton or the Manifesto Group, are not enough.

Mr. Phillip Whitehead (Derby, North)

Does the hon. Gentleman not agree that a sign of tangible progress can be seen to have been made already in terms of the special delegate meeting of the NUJ and its result? Will the hon. Gentleman tell the House whether that result would have been more or less likely if the Goodman amendments, about which he is so keen, had been on the statute book?

Mr. Hayhoe

I shall have something to say about the meeting at Cardiff and the ballot. I shall cover both points. I have been giving way reasonably frequently and I think it might be wiser now to make some progress as the points that are being raised by Labour Members are points that I intend to cover. I turn to an important matter to which the Secretary of State gave great attention on Second Reading. He said that there was immense urgency attached to this matter. He said on Second Reading on 3rd December, I do not think that this is something that can be done in a matter of a few weeks". That was in response to a suggestion from this side of the House that we wait until the Royal Commission considered the matter. The right hon. Gentleman continued: This Bill is urgent because as long as the Act remains unamended it can give rise to highly explosive and dangerous industrial situations."—[Official Report, 3rd December 1974, Vol. 882, 1398.] That was the right hon. Gentleman's forecast last December. That, too, has been proved to be quite phoney.

We have now gone on for 11 months and none of the highly dangerous and explosive situations to which he referred has occurred. What absolute nonsense he was then talking about urgency. The Bill left another place six months ago on 15th April. It is clear that all that he was saying to the House about urgency at the turn of the year was a load of bilge. Clearly he has paid no attention to that. The Bill has been rightly held up to allow for further consultations in an attempt to achieve an agreed solution. I am sorry that this has not been achieved. But it shows that the Opposition were right in counselling earlier that there should be delay for further consultations and that the Secretary of State was wrong in talking about urgency.

7.0 p.m.

A great deal has happened since Second Reading. I am sure that it is common ground between us that the issue itself has greatly broadened. It started as a rather limited, although very important, issue concerned with what constitutes fair or unfair dismissal in a closed shop situation and how that would affect the Press. It was also concerned with possibility of compensation upon dismissal for editors and the like. However, it has gradually broadened and because of the curious rules of procedure that exist in another place an amendment was able to be added to the Bill, which would have been totally out of order in this House, and which has made it a Bill concerned with amendments to trade union legislation, and also about a charter on Press freedom. The other place has been able to do that and now we must deal with this much wider situation.

Many hon. Members are aware that Press freedom could be endangered by a combination of events which have occurred over the past 12 or 18 months. The changes in the law affecting closed shops was obviously the trigger for this, but the declared policy of the NUJ in the past to go for 100 per cent. membership has helped to worry people about what would happen. Other aspects of NUJ policy at that time, some of the articles in the Journalist and some of the comments made by leading members of the NUJ, created fear and worry as to what might happen if a closed shop situation was permitted by law and used by small groups of people within the NUJ who did not follow the point of view, which I think all hon. Members would agree is the point of view of the majority of the NUJ, namely, a great concern about Press freedom.

Growing concern about these developments was expressed by a formidable coalition of people. I believe that for the first time the London editors joined with the Guild of British Newspaper Editors to express concern. The Newspaper Society, the Institute of Journalists, many distinguished contributors and those concerned with magazines and printed periodicals all began expressing concern about the developing situation. The most recent manifestation is the evidence given by the Press Council to the Royal Commission. I should like to quote a small part of that on the specific question of the closed shop. The Council says: if the 'appearance of a closed shop' is intended to mean or does mean a development by which the newspaper and magazine Press of this country was no longer open to receive the contributions of members of the public solely on the grounds that they were not enrolled in membership of a particular trade union, the Council would regard this as a totally unacceptable assault upon freedom of expression as hitherto enjoyed by the people of this country. I hope that all hon. Members would regard it as a totally unacceptable assault if that consequence—I make that proviso—flowed from a closed shop in the newspaper and associated parts of the industry.

A single union closed shop for journalists is the fear of people who are worried about these developments. Of course, one accepts that a single union closed shop for journalists would much increase the bargaining powers of the members and of the union concerned. One recognises that not having a closed shop, especially in the newspaper industry, even having some people excluded from the operation of the closed shop such as editors and perhaps other senior personnel, puts a limitation upon the effectiveness of industrial action which may be taken to advance a wage claim or indeed for any other purpose. However, that increase in bargaining power which would flow from a single union closed shop for journalists would have to come at a tremendous price and at a price damaging to Press freedom.

Mr. Robert Adley (Christchurch and Lymington)

Does my hon. Friend also agree that the danger which could continue beyond the single union closed shop would be the ultimate difficulty of people who wanted to join the union being prevented from doing so?

Mr. Hayhoe

Yes, because it would give the NUJ, or the people running the NUJ—the single union—power to say who would or would not be able to contribute to the Press of this country. I am not saying that they would necessarily use that power in an arbitrary fashion, but it would exist because the union, if the closed shop existed, would really be able to give, to use an emotive term, licences to those who were to contribute and to take licences from those who were not.

Mr. Ron Thomas


Mr. Hayhoe

If the NUJ came under the control of what the Prime Minister has called a highly motivated group of extremists, the danger would occur. If this can happen in constituency Labour Party associations, if the local units of the Labour Party are being taken over in this way, why could not something similar happen within chapels of the NUJ?

If we consider what is on record from the International Socialist, its view would probably be that the NUJ was rather an easier apple to pluck off the tree than many of the constituency associations of the Labour Party. If it can happen to those associations, what magic has the NUJ to prevent it happening to it?

An Hon. Member

Women's institutes!

Mr. Ron Thomas

I should like the hon. Gentleman to go back to the point he made about contributors. The union membership agreement makes it quite clear that it is between employers and employees. The contributor whether he be Michael Foot or yourself, with all due respect—

Mr. Speaker

Order. I do not come into this at all.

Mr. Hayhoe

I think I heard an intervention about women's institutes. I do not know how the hon. Member's constituency association works, but if in his area it would be in the interests of the extreme left, the broad left, or the International Socialists to attempt to take over the women's institutes, which I doubt—[Laughter.] The laughter should be directed at the stupid and absurd observation made by the hon. Member, about women's institutes, because it is stupid to think that the left would want to take them over. However, I suspect they might find the task more difficult than taking over some of the chapels of the NUJ.

However, turning to the point raised by the hon. Member for Bristol, North-West (Mr. Thomas) about contributors, a closed shop agreement, or a union membership agreement, can be written—indeed the standard one is written—in terms which do not impinge upon contributors. However, at the time of the industrial dispute in the provincial newspaper industry we saw action taken against small outside contributors.

There were indications at earlier meetings—at the ADM in 1974, if I remember rightly—and there had been articles in the Journalist to the effect that some members of the NUJ would like to achieve a situation where there would be a very severe limit upon the number of contributions which could come from outside people. [Interruption.] Yes, a very severe limit and then going down to zero would not be that much of a move. This is the danger. We on this side of the House are not arguing, nor has anyone who has participated in the debate argued, that this is likely to happen in the next year or so. There is a remote possibility that it can happen. We should be concerned with guarding against that remote possibility.

Mr. Robin Corbett (Hemel Hempstead)

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the NUJ is on public record as stating: The National Executive Council states its commitment to free access to the Press for any person consonant with the protection of the employment of NUJ members. I urge the hon. Gentleman not to misinterpret the position of the NUJ over this matter.

Mr. Hayhoe

I hope that I am not misinterpreting it. I have tried all along to make it clear that I am not suggesting this is likely to happen. Indeed, the hon. Gentleman's intervention followed the sentence in which I said I was not suggesting that it was likely to happen. I am saying that it is a remote possibility against which we must guard. The hon. Gentleman's intervention in no way indicated how he could be certain that this could never happen. And we cannot be certain. That is why we are concerned.

My purpose is not to attack the NUJ. I pay tribute now to its general secretary, Mr. Morgan, who has served the cause of the freedom of the Press extremely well over the years, as have most of the members of the National Executive Council and as unquestionably has the bulk of the members of the NUJ itself. But let us look at what has happened recently.

I turn to what happened about the ballot this year. The Secretary of State referred to the NUJ's proposals for a charter, which were broadly welcomed in all parts of the House. There was a wide welcome for those proposals as a useful initiative. There might have been differences as to how successful or effective such a charter was likely to be, but it was not seen as a damaging contribution to this whole affair. Earlier this year the NEC came forward with reasonable, though ineffective, proposals for a charter. They were repudiated by the annual delegates meeting at Cardiff last April on a very narrow vote. Let us be clear on that. The voting was 159 to 154. At that stage the ADM sabotaged the efforts then being made to create a climate of opinion in favour of some voluntary charter.

I will not trouble to read from The Guardian leader of 26th April which makes this point very clear. This has been "one in the eye", was the expression, or something like that, "for Michael"—I must not use his name. It had been "one in the eye" for the Secretary of State and Lord Houghton. The article went on to say that, since the NUJ's annual conference had demonstrated its militant intention, the case for Goodman was greatly reinforced. That conclusion was perfectly valid and remains so.

I think that most of us were astonished that the ADM should have voted in that way in view of all the public interest. If it had been a little cleverer, it surely would have held back for a year or two and used its voting power later. It chose not to do that. Instead, it chose to exert its power at that time in a way which damaged the discussions and the climate of opinion which had been and was being created by Lord Houghton and others for a voluntary charter.

As a result of that vote there was great public concern and a ballot of all the members was held. The appropriate number of branches asked for the ballot and a postal ballot was taken. That postal ballot largely undid the decision taken at the annual delegate meeting. Members voted against the repudiation of that meeting of the NEC's statement regarding 100 per cent. membership and the rights of editors. They dealt with the 100 per cent. membership and repudiated the view expressed at the annual delegate meeting.

7.15 p.m.

I will not go through the whole list. Broadly speaking, one could say that the postal ballot rejected the narrow vote victories of the militant element at that meeting in Cardiff. It showed that when a large number of people take part, often a more responsible and moderate—if I may use that word in the presence of the Secretary of State—result ensues. That is a lesson which has wider implications for much of the voting for union officers in this country.

The complete opposition to any charter of Press freedom which had been declared was reversed by the postal ballot. Therefore, the official policy of the NUJ is presumably in favour of the voluntary approach.

Mr. Whitehead


Mr. Hayhoe

I should like to finish this point. The repudiation was damaging to the Houghton amendments, but the ballot result gave them a fresh impetus. The more responsible elements in the union had achieved a useful result.

I now want to look at what happened on another issue, because on this issue the ADM was overturned by postal ballot. Let us go back to what happened in the NUJ regarding the dispute over registration under the Industrial Relations Act. The NEC of the NUJ voted 21 to 9 in favour of holding a ballot on the issue of registration. A ballot was held. A total of 6,384 voted, "Yes, we will register under the Industrial Relations Act", and 3,807 voted against. There was a substantial majority in favour of registration. It was a much greater majority than was achieved on most issues in the recent postal ballot.

What happened? The next annual delegates meeting overturned the ballot decision. It took a decision, by 298 votes to 82, not to register. What help was the ballot? There was a great row over that ADM decision. Therefore, a re-run followed, at which the voting was 171 to 160. With these great oscillations of opinion and the enormous changes which are taking place, it would be unwise for us to rely on, though we welcome wholeheartedly, the result of that ballot by the members of the NUJ.

Mr. Whitehead

Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will now answer my question. Would that ballot and the ADM have taken place with the results we know if the Goodman amendments had been on the statute book within the framework of law which poisoned industrial relations in 1971? That was why we had the situation with the ADM at that time.

Mr. Hayhoe

I find it difficult to accept that industrial relations were poisoned in 1971, having just read the voting. I will read it again. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman misheard me. The voting in favour of registration under the Industrial Relations Act was 6,384 to 3,807—a majority of about two to one. If that kind of approach had been followed by other unions we would have had a very different and better climate of industrial relations today. It is highly questionable as to what would have happened if the Goodman amendments had been accepted by the Government and been accepted widely in the House. I do not think that there would have been any great change in the result of the ballot.

I do not know what would have happened if the Goodman amendments had been carried in a different way but I am not sure whether, on an issue as important as this, the rather transitory result of one postal ballot in the NUJ should be the talisman by which we judge this issue. Are not more vital and long-lasting matters at stake when we are considering the freedom of the Press?

Dr. J. Dickson Mabon (Greenock and Port Glasgow)

If the hon. Gentleman welcomes wholeheartedly, as he said, the change of policy in the NUJ, why does he not give a fair wind to the idea of a charter? Why not try it and see what happens? It may be that the so-called moderate members of the NUJ who overwhelmingly want a charter—and I do not think the hon. Gentleman would argue otherwise—and do not want Goodman would sustain the position and sustain the charter.

Why does the hon. Gentleman not tell us a little more about editors and their attitude to a charter? Is it not true that some of the editors have deserted the idea of a charter being a bad thing and are now prepared to discuss it? If the hon. Gentleman would lend his weight to this idea, would it not be reasonable to try to get the charter, overturn the proprietors, and get the editors and journalists together?

Mr. Hayhoe

I do not believe that a charter, expressing a pious hope, representing wishful thinking about general objectives without any back-up of any kind, would be a sufficient defence of this vital issue of the freedom of the Press.

The Secretary of State said that the Goodman amendment was a defective way of dealing with this issue and he was horrified at the thought of some document which had been agreed by people outside being annexed to a statute and then being used in actions before the courts. What an incredibly short memory the right hon. Gentleman has. What about this document, "The Attack on Inflation"," which had an annex not agreed between different people but issued by the TUC and which became the law of the land? The right hon. Gentleman sat up all night and we thought that he was listening to the debate, but obviously he was not because all that he said about the defectiveness of the Goodman approach is totally destroyed because the Government chose this very approach in a more extreme form when they introduced this Remuneration, Charges and Grants Bill. There is nothing in his argument, and so I come to the essence of the whole matter.

Parliament has to choose between two different and important principles—the sanctity of the closed shop and the freedom of the Press. I believe the reason, and the only reason, why the Secretary of State opposes the legal provisions of the Bill is because they would in a narrow way strike at the principle of the closed shop.

I remember the brilliant speech made by the hon. Member for Birmingham, Ladywood (Mr. Walden) during the debates on this issue in 1971. The closed shop is an important and vital principle—I accept that—though perhaps some of my hon. Friends would not give it as much support or understand its importance in the way I do. Enthusiasm for the closed shop runs through the fears, views and development of ideas of so many people within the Labour and trade union movement.

Mr. Raphael Tuck (Watford)


Mr. Hayhoe

No. I am trying to put my argument to the House as fairly as I can.

I accept the importance of the closed shop. It is an important principle to many people. I accept that it is more important to Labour Members than it is to my hon. Friends on this side of the House, but the freedom of the Press is the other principle that is at stake, and I believe that a choice has to be made tonight between the one and the other. We are not asked to say that the one must always offend against the other, though that is what the Press Council implied in taking an extreme view. But we are asked to recognise that there is a possibility of conflict between a single union closed shop for journalists and the freedom of the Press. I accept that some Government Members do not agree with what I am saying, for this is the very issue that is dividing us, and if the hon. Member for Watford (Mr. Tuck) thinks that at this stage in the proceedings a bit of paper from the Department of Employment will make much difference he has little understanding of this debate.

There is a straight choice to be made, and I am sorry that members of the Manifesto Group have not followed the logic of their concern over this matter. As far as I can see, they have played with words. I am not sure which amendment they are supporting. It may be that they are supporting both, and it will be interesting to see what happens. It seems that this is largely a private semantic squabble between hon. Members on the Government benches and we should leave them to it, because it is sheer cosmetics which set of words is used. It would not surprise me if, during the last minute or two or his reply to the debate, the Secretary of State makes a concession which will sweep the boys into the Lobby once more. We have seen this happen in the past, and all that is going on now leads one to think that there will be a theatrical gesture such as that.

We believe that the Government amendments, even if they are cosmetically modified by one or more of the amendments proposed by the Manifesto Group, fall far short of what is required in the defence of the freedom of the Press. If we are to have a proper, effective and adequate defence of Press freedom we need more than is contained in the Government amendments. That is why we shall oppose and vote against them whether or not they are modified by the Manifesto Group amendments.

The Goodman amendments do not, of course, guarantee Press freedom. Neither he nor anyone else, as far as I know, has ever suggested that they would. Press freedom depends on very much wider considerations than those involved in the issues that we are dealing with tonight. It is readily accepted, if I may quote from a leader in The Times, that the freedom of the Press rests not on statute but on diversity of publication and diversity of access to publication It is not perfect, but it is rare, and it needs to be supported and defended; statute did not create it, but at least we must see that statute does not take it away. I think that when we have to make our decision later tonight the duty of the Opposition will be clear, and our choice will be in favour of the defence of the freedom of the Press.

Mr. Raphael Tuck

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. In proposing the Question earlier you said that it was "That this House doth disagree with the Lords in the said amendment" and not "That the amendment be made".

Mr. Speaker

I was about to say that the Question before the House is whether the amendment to line 10 be made. I shall call the hon. Member for Gateshead, West (Mr. Horam) next, but he cannot now formally move his amendment. The time to do that will come later. The hon. Member can take part in the general debate on all the amendments before the House.

Mr. John Horam (Gateshead, West)

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State said that he had been a member of the NUJ for 40 years. I cannot match that, having been a member of that union for only eight years, but I share the concern of my right hon. Friend, which I know is real, for the working journalist and also for the freedom of the Press. As my right hon. Friend said, these two matters are inextricably mixed. Those who have worked in the industry are most concerned about the freedom of the Press, and it is remarkable how little understanding the hon. Member for Brentford and Isleworth (Mr. Hayhoe) showed of the position of the NUJ in this matter.

The Lords amendments have always seemed to me to be the wrong approach, and I am sure that virtually all my right hon. and hon. Friends share that feeling. The amendments are wrong because they are phrased in an extremely anti-trade union manner. They are virtually a proprietors' charter. In addition, they drag the law back in industrial relations in a way which we have known for so long to be so dangerous and provocative.

7.30 p.m.

It is for these two combined reasons that I have always rejected, and still emphatically reject, the Goodman approach to this problem, and strongly support, and always have done, the general approach followed by my right hon. Friend. Indeed, I think that he has shown great patience. This subject appears to require great patience. It seems an epoch ago since it raised its head. Rather belatedly the editors reacted to the situation. This was astonishing, as the Bill had been before the House and almost passed. Only at the last moment did it strike home to these watchers of our freedom that there was something really important at stake here.

Not only has my right hon. Friend shown great patience. He has also, in what he has said tonight, been very flexible. I hope that we can be rewarded with even greater flexibility when he winds up. I was delighted with what he said about how the charter will be invoked in an industrial tribunal or in law, but I will leave comment on that to my hon. Friend the Member for Ashfield (Mr. Marquand) whose name is appended to amendment (b).

What should go into the charter, which I believe to be an absolutely valid approach to this problem? My right hon. Friend's wording has three clear elements in it. First, there is the question of improper pressure on the media or critics. On this point, we are entirely in agreement, and it seems to me that my right hon. Friend's phrasing of this is a considerable improvement on Lord Goodman's phrasing, because it also protects freedom of the Press, not only from what can happen from trade union pressure but also from proprietorial pressure.

We must be absolutely even-handed in our approach to this problem, and it is the lack of this that disfigures the Goodman approach. I find cause for concern in relation to the other two aspects of what should be in the charter. The first of these is the position of the editors and the second is the access of contributors. My right hon. Friend says that both these points should be covered. I believe that we should not only say that they should be covered but to some extent how they should be covered, for unless we have guaranteed the fact that an editor can pursue his duties and discharge his functions in a perfectly normal manner, and unless also we have guaranteed access to the media by non-journalists, we do not have a free Press. In my opinion the definition of a free Press would revolve around these two pillars.

I would add, reflecting what was said by my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer), that we also need a multiplicity of newspapers. I regret the tendency to concentration that we have seen over the years.

Those three matters would guarantee us a free Press and two of them are covered, I hope, by my amendment. Incidentally, one of them is not a matter of controversy at all, for the NUJ has conceded the position of the editors. This was backed by the ballot, in which my right hon. Friend and I voted—I imagine on the right side. It was decided that the editor need not be a member of the NUJ, so this is beyond dispute, It is only on the question of access that there is still some room for negotiation and disagreement.

Aside from his particular criticisms of the wording, my right hon. Friend had one basic disagreement with the approach contained in the two amendments, (a) and (b), on the content of the charter. I think he was basically saying, "I agree with your aims and I want a charter, but what you are doing will make it more difficult to achieve." The question of how difficult this is to achieve is a very open one. I do not know whether there will be agreement on this charter within 12 months. My right hon. Friend does not know whether there will be agreement. We do not know how valuable such an agreement will be. It is a difficult matter and there is an area of uncertainty about it. It may possibly cause certain greater difficulty to my right hon. Friend in negotiating the charter, but how otherwise is Parliament to state its view?

Surely we have a right—indeed a duty—to set out the framework within which to discuss the question of freedom of the Press. It is at this point of time, when we are debating it in the House of Commons, that we should insert our view as to how these negotiations should be conducted. We are only talking about the irreducible minimum. We are forgetting the position of the Institute of Journalists and who should be considered as an editor. All these matters should be considered, rightly, by the other parties to this debate. But we are also parties to the debate, and it is at this point in time, when we are setting the framework for these negotiations, that we should insert our own view. I can see no other way of inserting the sort of framework we should have.

My right hon. Friend may say that there will be another opportunity when he has to consider this, when these negotiations are completed, at the end of 12 months. He may say that certainly it falls short of these two essential matters—access for contributors and the position of the editors, who should have the right to do their job without pressure. Why not have it in the Bill, so that the negotiations may be conducted in an open and clear manner? Then everyone will know where Parliament stands on this and we can discuss all the other important matters within that framework.

My right hon. Friend used the argument, in dismissing the Goodman point, that there is some danger in saying that a charter can be invoked as evidence in an industrial tribunal or court of law, and yet left totally open as to what it contains. There is some danger in adopting that sort of posture, and we should therefore say as a Parliament that we are setting certain minimum standards—which is all we are doing—to which the participants in the negotiations should adhere.

I believe that Parliament must set the framework for this vitally important debate, even if—and I concede the point—it makes it possibly more complicated to conduct these negotiations.

My right hon. Friend said that my particular formulation, which happens to have my name at the head of it, would cause him some difficulty, so perhaps I may explain how it comes about that there are alternative versions on the Order Paper. It arises from the fact that we only came back to the House on Monday. An amendment of some kind had to be put down then so that the subject could be debated today. Therefore we simply put down literally what we thought of in the first couple of hours spent in discussing the question. Subsequently there were second thoughts and these are expressed in the second amendment. We had an opportunity of discussion with some of the parties concerned, including my right hon. Friend, and we thought it was a better way of phrasing it. I put my name to the second amendment—as a matter of chance it also happens to appear at the head of the first amendment—and I feel that the second is preferable in its phraseology to the first. The substance is very similar.

I agree that the semantics are lost on most people and may not have much influence on what happens, but I feel that there must be some substance in these two points in the charter before it goes out to be negotiated. There is, first, the protection for the position of the editor. Second, there is the right of any person to have his article printed, if requested by the editor, in a newspaper. Those two points must be guaranteed in some way which satisfies me before I can feel that Parliament has really fulfilled its obligation to meet the public interest in regard to freedom of the Press. I do not think Parliament should stand aside on this issue.

Mr. J. Grimond (Orkney and Shetland)

I wish to declare an interest in this matter. I shall speak briefly because most of the arguments and the fears aroused by these proceedings have been gone over repeatedly.

There are now three issues. I am in favour of a charter. The first issue is whether it should have sanctions behind it or not, and I think that it should. The other two points are whether the two vital issues which exercise the House are sufficiently emphasised without the amendments. I am glad to follow the hon. Member for Gateshead, West (Mr. Horam). I agree that the two vital points are the freedom of editors and access for contributors. I agree also that we are showing our usual predilection which has been obvious over the last two years of putting the cart before the horse. It would probably be better to debate this matter a year hence when the Royal Commission on the Press will have reported. However, as with the Royal Commission on Local Government in Scotland, under the Conservatives we chose to set up a Scottish Assembly before that report was received, and this sort of practice now seems to be a parliamentary habit. We are discussing the freedom of the Press. I dissent from the peroration of the Secretary of State in which he seemed to imply that it would be wrong for Parliament to deal on a selective basis with the Press as against other industrial relationships and that to invoke the law is wrong and would cause trouble. On this matter we are entitled to treat this provision selectively and to invoke the law if that were appropriate.

It would be a foolish proprietor who did not take account of the NUJ. On the Guardian and the Manchester Evening News they have been co-operative on the whole. They fight their corner, but so do we all. I do not regard these amendments as being aimed at any particular situation concerned with the present behaviour of the NUJ. They are legitimate steps which Parliament is seeking to take to safeguard the freedom of the Press against possible future threats, and one must concede that a closed shop could be a threat, whether enforced by the NUJ or anyone else, and that there could be threats to access for contributors to the Press and the freedom of editors.

I believe that our society is in danger of shutting out criticism and doing too much in secret. Clearly, if public opinion, the House of Commons, the universities and other centres of criticism are to be effective we must guarantee the freedom of the Press. There are many specialist contributors, and I am thinking particularly of the local Press, who clearly should be guaranteed freedom if the editors wish to employ them.

The Secretary of State made several valid points of criticism about the drafting of the amendments. I am in favour of a charter and I hope that it will be drawn up and will be successful. However, I take the point that it would be useful for those who are considering the charter to have some indication of the views of the House of Commons, and what it feels is vital in this situation. Therefore, we are entitled to sharpen up somewhat these two points. I have a great deal of sympathy with the two amendments to line 3. However, the phrase: the question of access for contributors is not definite enough. The words the right of editors to commission and publish any article may possibly go rather far. The position of proprietors is a difficult one. It is a long-standing tradition on The Guardian that we the trustees would not dream of interfering with the editor, but I would resent a proprietor who took up a Pontius Pilate attitude about what his paper did. The proprietor cannot always plead to the freedom of the editor. It cuts both ways. If these words are not precisely what is wanted perhaps we could, since this is a vital point, find the words which would make it clear.

Mr. Foot

The right hon. Gentleman is underlining the fact that he does not agree with the words in either of the amendments. He referred to the words: the right of editors to…publish any article", and an offence against that provision would be a breach of the charter. What about cheque-book journalism, for example? There are many examples which could be given. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will agree that the words I have referred to do not express what he wants or what many other people want.

Mr. Grimond

I am trying to be reasonable. I have fairly given the right hon. Gentleman the credit for making a valid point. I agree with him and I hope that some amendment to the amendment might be possible, but I maintain that something along the lines of the amendment would improve the Bill and would give a more definite indication as to what the House of Commons would like to see written into it.

I have, therefore, these three points. We are justified in writing in sanctions and we must be sharper about the freedom of editors and access for contributors.

7.45 p.m.

Mr. Whitehead

It is a pleasure to follow the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond), particularly when he is speaking, as he is here, in part as a representative of the Guardian Trust, a very enlightened body of proprietors. Like my hon. Friend the Member for Gateshead, West (Mr. Horam), I declare an interest in my membership of the NUJ. It is becoming something of an auction among my hon. Friends as to who has been a member longest. I have been a member for 12 years and I intend to remain so for the rest of my professional life. It is as a member of the NUJ that I wish to speak to the amendment which stands in my name and those of my hon. Friends. I do so as a clear supporter of the general position that the Secretary of State has taken in this Bill and as an absolute opponent to all the amendments introduced in another place by Lord Goodman.

We have moved a long way since February of this year in our discussions and arguments about the Bill. I think that the hon. Member for Brentwood and Isleworth (Mr. Hayhoe) was somewhat grudging in his acceptance of that fact. There was the point concerning his exposition of what had gone on in the NUJ. It seemed to me that he was unclear about the difference between the ADM and the SDM, and the situation which had brought about the special meeting.

Then there was the question of ballots. The hon. Gentleman was prepared to talk about the ballot in 1971. But what happened after that? The ballot on this issue in the NUJ produced a conclusive result. He is to be excused for not knowing all these facts because very few column inches and very little editorial comment were devoted to it. Many column inches were devoted to the decision of the ADM in Cardiff, to what happened there, to the terrible danger that this conspiracy posed to the freedom of the Press.

However, through its own democratic institutions, the union overturned that decision through a proportion of its members and their branches, through a ballot properly conducted. A somewhat complex form had to be filled in with a result which most of us here would welcome, and about which there were very few comments in the newspapers.

I have been trying to find out how much newspaper comment there was welcoming this decision by the NUJ compared to the amount of condemnation of the NUJ resulting from the earlier decision. The answer is, in proportionate terms, about one to 10. That demonstrates something about the crocodile tears which have been shed over the issue of Press freedom by those who seized upon the decision of the ADM in Cardiff as being something of a miraculous vindication of Lord Goodman. However, the contrary is the case. The situation at Cardiff might not have happened without Lord Goodman. I do not say that Lord Goodman wishes consciously to do harm in these matters. Quite the contrary. But he cannot practically do good because he is what he is—chairman of the NPA. Every working journalist knows only too well that the newspaper publishers and proprietors have never been interested in behaviour, codes of conduct and the protection of editors in the past.

There are still proprietors in that small group in Fleet Street to this day who think no more of changing their editor than they do of changing their socks. These people have never been interested in the protection of editors and we look with some scepticism on their pronouncements now.

I take the view that the Goodman amendments in toto would have been disastrous if added to the legislation—precisely because they would have brought about, as we saw with the Industrial Relations Act 1971, that atmosphere of hostility, bitterness and friction in which all kinds of views would have come to the surface which would have been quite against the charter, collaboration and the general recognition of those essential categories of freedom of the Press and the uninterrupted right of access to which we would all subscribe.

That is the difference and that is why I think that the hon. Member for Brentford and Isleworth has been ungracious in his attitude to the NUJ—although I echo entirely what he said about the present general secretary, Ken Morgan. Perhaps a word of praise from me for Ken Morgan would not do him as much harm as a word from the hon. Member.

I now turn quickly to the two amendments (a) and (b) in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Gateshead, West and me. The reason for the difference in wording, which is far from semantic, as it was dismissed by hon. Members opposite, essentially is that I feel, in contradistinction to my hon. Friend, that his wording would be widely misunderstood, that it would appear to carry the overtones of Lords Amendment No. 7 as moved by Lord Goodman in another place and would, therefore, be counter-productive in the arguments and discussions which must now go on with and for the NUJ and the other parties to this argument.

The NUJ, quite unlike some of the other parties, has welcomed and accepted the idea of a charter. Not all the others were very forthcoming in this matter. That is the case up to this moment and that is why my right hon. Friend is probably right, in his first amendment, to ask for more time so that we can stand back to allow these discussions to take place. I do not believe that the amendment in the wording of my hon. Friends would be particularly helpful, because it would suggest that here again there is that anti-trade union element in what is being proposed. That is shot through all of Lords Amendment No. 7. If it were to come to a vote on that amendment, I would vote against it and with the Government.

We have to consider the position of editors and the special privileges and protection that they may have in the context of the privileges and protection that others have to have. The Secretary of State is right about that. That is why, in my amendment, I would strongly favour keeping, and have in fact retained, the question of access to contributors, because that is equally important. We would not elevate the editor and say that he is without sin or that there have never been bad editors or editors who have abused their position. That is not so: there have been editors who have abused their position.

Equally, there might be editors who for some reason could abuse their right, if they were given a general and uninhibited right, to publish any material they liked. That may be the main point that my right hon. Friend would address to those of us who support the amendment. What about the editor who will not publish material from trade unions, the editor who will publish only salacious material or who publishes too much of it?

The answers to those two questions are slightly different. Taking the second first, if, as my right hon. Friend said in an intervention to the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond), the editor decides that he will go in totally for cheque book journalism and will publish that sort of disgraceful material, as most of us would see it, that is covered in the earlier part of my right hon. Friend's amendment from which none of us would dissent. We support and applaud it and would follow him to the death in introducing it into the legislation. That, and the follow-up procedures of the Press Council and whatever in its wisdom the Royal Commission on the Press may later recommend, is the safeguard we need in that respect.

Mr. Foot

I understand that, but the difficulty is that there might be a contradiction between the clause that says that under the charter they must oppose all forms of distortion and this clause which says that the editor must have an absolute right to publish anything he wants. That is one of the contradictions that we must try to overcome.

Mr. Whitehead

Yes, there is something absolutely specific about the phraseology concerning improper pressure to distort or suppress news, comment or criticism, because "suppression" and "distortion" could, I think, cover matters of that kind. But I see the point about contradiction and I do not think that, in the time scale that we have had to consider this matter—48 hours—this drafting, any more than that of any other amendment, including perhaps even those of my right hon. Friend, is the alpha and omega of parliamentary draftsman's wisdom.

I am prepared, if my right hon. Friend accepts this principle because it enshrines, in what seems to me a sensible way which would be acceptable to the NUJ, the two essential points on which my hon. Friend the Member for Gateshead, West has touched, to say, "Yes, that is one of the uses of the House of Lords. A properly drafted form of words which perhaps looks at the freedom to publish any article and covers this possible contradiction is what we need and what I certainly would find acceptable." I do not suggest that we have got absolutely everything in the amendment in precisely the form in which it must emerge in the legislation. What worries me is that if we do not have it in the legislation we are giving another hostage to fortune, a powerful armament in the hands of those in the House of Lords who are out to wreck the Bill entirely. I have no doubt that there are those elements in another place who would be prepared if they could, even at the cost of some constitutional confrontation, to wreck this legislation altogether. I do not wish to see them using any argument in the House of Lords to the effect that we have been dismissive of fundamental rights, such as these are, which would be enshrined in the charter.

The arguments about the charter must go on between the parties concerned, and Parliament is right to have its viewpoint, but we have to be certain that as this goes through the arguments in another place, we can carry a majority there. If we get into a constitutional situation in which they are trying to wreck the Bill altogether, we on this side will all be of one mind. There will be no argument then about the small print of the Bill. It will be a straight argument, peers versus people.

Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover)

Do not be too sure of that.

Mr. Whitehead

My hon. Friend may be a greater expert than I, but if the House of Lords were to chuck out the Bill under the inspiration of Lord Goodman or anyone else, the argument would be different.

This is essentially, therefore, our last effective chance in this place to get the drafting as right as we can. I hope we will. When my hon. Friends and I have been trying to do is introduce into the charter and to reinforce for all of those who may be parties to the forthcoming discussions and who would wish it the classical freedoms concerning the Press and entry and access and the functions of newspaper editors.

I hope that my right hon. Friend will be at the very least as persuaded by this and as warm in principle towards it as he was in his introductory remarks.

8.0 p.m.

Mr. Aitken

I very much accept the theme of the speech of the hon. Member for Derby, North (Mr. Whitehead) and that of the hon. Member for Gateshead, West (Mr. Horam) that the amendment which they have discussed is an important contribution to ensuring that Parliament has a say in what should be done in preserving the vital rights of access and the vital editorial independence in this whole controversy. This is a praiseworthy attempt which should have been made long ago.

At this eleventh hour, the Secretary of State still has not recognised the two elephantine errors of judgment that he has been making throughout the interminable passage of the Bill. The first is that in all the arguments about the closed shop he has failed to realise the profound difference between those unions engaged in the mechanical processes of manufacturing industry and those engaged in the creative process of public communications.

If only the Government had recognised from the start that the media is a unique case and that the question of preserving access to it requires special safeguards, much of the controversy about this Bill could have been avoided as could the absurd humbug from those who suggest that we who wish to see safeguards written in are anti-trade union or anti-NUJ or are trying to bring back the Industrial Relations Act. These thoughts have not been in the minds of any of my colleagues or in the minds of their Lordships.

The Secretary of State has made a fundamental error in always championing the interests of the NUJ in this debate. It would not matter if it was just a case of championing the interests of the NUJ against the interest of the proprietors at whose expense he has naturally had a little innocent fun. But there is a third, much more important interest involved—the public interest. Readers have rights in this matter too. They will be deprived if a closed shop in journalism is created and, as a result, newspapers are deprived of outside contributions, or the independence of editors is threatened.

It is very important to realise that this threat is real. I have here a recent edition of the Financial Times. In the sporting columns there is the unusual sight of a completely blank space containing only the words We had intended to publish in this space a report by Mr. Peter Robbins, our Rugby correspondent for the past nine years. The report does not appear because certain members of the National Union of Journalists, on instructions from their union, refused to handle it. I understand the distinguished rugby correspondent of the Financial Times was suddenly faced with this challenge and was told he could not contribute any longer because he was not a member of the NUJ. He said he would like to become a member, but was told he could not join because less than one-third of his total income was derived from journalism. This kind of infringement of the basic right of access to the media must be stopped.

Mr. Whitehead

Could the hon. Member tell us whether he has ever seen a blank space in the Financial Times where the articles of Mr. C. Gordon Tether should have been?

Mr. Aitken

That is an interesting point. Mr. Gordon Tether's articles which have not been published by the Financial Times as a result of a dispute between him and the editor, have not been banned, as might happen in the case of a closed shop, from all newspapers throughout the country. They have been immediately republished in The Spectator.

In the case of a quarrel between an editor and an individual journalist, the journalist has other options, painful though they might be. He could work for any of the other 12 national newspapers or the 1,300 provincial newspapers. That is 1,312 times beter than having a quarrel with the monopoly union, the NUJ, which, if it enforced a ban, could put a journalist out of work throughout the country. It is not valid for the hon. Member for Derby, North to try to equate the two circumstances.

Mr. Robin Corbett (Hemel Hempstead)

I know that the hon. Member is trying to be fair in the matter of sports writers, but he would be fairer if he recognised that the issue of contributions by non-journalistic sports writers has been going on between the NUJ and the NPA for many years. It is an extremely difficult problem and, in times of industrial pressure, things happen which are not normal or run-of-the-mill. This problem is being discussed by the union and proprietors.

Mr. Aitken

The hon. Member makes a perfectly valid point when he refers to the question of distinguished sportsmen who just talk to a journalist and then have articles credited to them and not to the journalist. I concede his point, but that has no validity in the C. Gordon Tether argument.

Throughout these debates the Secretary of State has consistently championed and been prejudiced in favour of the NUJ and turned a Nelsonian blind eye to arguments from almost every other quarter. He has tried to pretend, in his usual verbal conjuring trick style, that the only people against the NUJ in the present situation are those nasty people, the tyrannical proprietors. The real situation is very different. For some reason, proprietors are being rather silent throughout the debates and the voices expressing the loudest alarm about the prospect of a closed shop in the media have come from such well-known Conservative supporters as Mr. J. B. Priestley, Professor Bernard Crick, Mr. Peter Jenkins of The Guardian, Mr. Larry Lamb of the Sun and Professor A. J. Ayer. Even Sir Dingle Foot has attacked the Bill in the sort of newspaper article Cain might have written about Abel in Biblical days. Socialist peers in another place accepted the Secretary of State's invitation to "poke their lordly noses" into this matter. The Secretary of State has turned his back on all this fraternal, comradely and lordly advice and retained throughout a touching faith in the NUJ.

Several hon. Members have sounded complacent notes about the NUJ tonight as a result of the postal ballot result. As a member of the NUJ for about 10 years, I voted in that ballot and I welcome the result as a great improvement on the deplorable ADM decision, but the NUJ cannot be entrusted as the sole guardian of what does or does not get into the media. Anyone who knows the first thing about the NUJ must realise that, politically, it is a very schizophrenic organisation, with members whose views range from the right of General Franco to the left of Chairman Mao. As a result of this bizarre mixture and chiefly because of the latter element, there is a considerable amount of volatility and instability in the handling of NUJ affairs. One symptom is that decisions reached in postal ballots are liable to be overturned suddenly by ADM, which is the real powerhouse of the NUJ. The Secretary of State wishes us to believe that, following the postal ballot, the NUJ will now guarantee to support the liberties enshrined in that vote. Such a belief would be a triumph of hope over experience. Twice in the last four years, the ADM has overturned the vote of a postal ballot of the whole membership. In 1971 the mass membership voted to register under the Industrial Relations Act and the ADM overturned the decision. Later the same year, the membership voted for a ballot on a merger with the smaller union, the Institute of Journalists. That decision was also overturned. Put not your faith in NUJ postal ballots.

Mr. Foot

I am sure that in his search for accuracy the hon. Member would wish to bring the story up to date and make clear that the NUJ has changed the rules, requiring now that a ballot decision can only be overturned by a ballot. I am sure he will give a proper welcome to it. Perhaps I interrupted him just as he was about to tell us about this action. It will be an improvement.

Mr. Aitken

Unfortunately the ADM can even overturn that provision. The basic volatility point remains true. It is unwise to have complete faith in the NUJ as the sole guardian of what does or does not appear in the media. Safeguards are needed. What kind of safeguard should apply. Here we come to the Lords amendments. In my view they insert adequate safeguards. They are sensible. They define various rights and responsibilities and legal enforceability with admirable clarity. The trouble with the Secretary of State's amendments to the Lords amendments is that they deliberately set out to dilute and weaken the safeguards which the Lords amendment requires. They have done this by re-wording the Lords amendment into what I believe to be almost meaningless gobbledygook.

The one contribution made by the amendment tabled by the Manifesto Group is that it at least makes some linguistic and semantic sense. In line 10 of the Lords amendment it is said that this charter must contain rules of conduct. The Secretary of State wants to have this altered for the charter only to contain "practical guidance." I believe that emasculation to be typical of the Secretary of State's attitude.

Will all these tough customers in the newspaper business—be they these tyrannical proprietors, union militants or these strong editors—when they are in dispute and sit down with this charter to find out what is in it and see how they should act, take any notice of "practical guidance?" Of course not. What they want is rules of conduct. Imagine if instead of rules of procedure in this House there was practical guidance. The place would be bedlam in no time. This is an indication of how useless are the words "practical guidance". We may as well have "girl guidance" or "good food guidance". It is absolutely meaningless.

Lines 17 to 28 of the Lords amendment spell out exactly what the charter must do to preserve editors' independence and that of their deputies. The most important right is that of journalists to join a trade union of their choice. That is an important measure when we think of the Institute of Journalists which has not come much into our discussions but which in my view is a totally admirable and small union. An increasing number of journalists are joining it. There is the right of editors to publish articles free of pressure resulting from industrial action. Look at what happened in the recent dispute at Birmingham when the National Graphical Association blacked copy which was handed in by members of the Institute who had recently changed over from the NUJ because they were fed up with the militancy of the NUJ.

That is an example of the kind of industrial action which might be summed up in the Secretary of State's language by saying to the print unions, "Keep your print union noses out of this kind of business". We need some sort of safeguard against this kind of action. There is also the right of journalists not to be arbitrarily expelled or excluded from their union. All of these will be swept away by the Secretary of State's amendments because as far as I can see he wants this charter to be outlined in the vaguest possible language.

The right hon. Gentleman refers to "the position of editors." What position? He does not refer to their deputies or those exercising editorial functions and rights. That is an important omission. All he refers to is this question of access for contributors which is again a vague phrase. The result of this vagueness is that the charter might well end up saying that contributors should have no access and the editor should have no independence. The wording is so vague that that could be so. I am not suggesting that is what the Secretary of State wants.

The advantage of the amendment tabled by the Manifesto Group is that it at least puts in specific terms what is required and what those responsibilities are. Although it is a weak step, it is a step in the right direction and I will support it.

Finally we come to the matter of enforceability of the charter. The Secretary of State wishes to see subsections 8 and 9 deleted. As far as I can see the point is that these two subsections would make an action actionable at law. The right hon. Gentleman's amendment would water down the Lords amendment to complete legal uselessness and futility by maintaining that contravention of the charter is not actionable. The right hon. Gentleman says in his amendment that matters of the charter may be admissible in evidence. What on earth does that mean? I am no lawyer, but as I understand it it means something like this—and I will take an absurd example to illustrate the point. Supposing at the end of this debate my hon. Friend the Member for Cleveland and Whitby (Mr. Brittan) got so carried away and so angry—in a House of Commons governed by a charter containing rules of practical guidance—that he loses his temper and strikes the Secretary of State on the nose. There is uproar and a scene. Under the Secretary of State's rules the action my hon. Friend has taken is admissible as evidence but there is no action which can be taken. There are no legal teeth. There is nothing to be done about it. It is merely admissible as evidence. This legal futility is an indication of how, if we throw out the Goodman amendments in toto, we will end up with no safeguards at all.

8.15 p.m.

Mr. Brian Walden (Birmingham, Ladywood)

I know that the hon. Member is trying to present this absolutely fairly. In the interests of so doing he ought to make it clear that what he has said is not right. In no sense are common law rights breached. What the Secretary of State is saying is that if a man chose to exercise those common law rights he could plead and have admissible as evidence any charter subsequently agreed. That is very different from a situation in which a man can do "nothing about it".

Mr. Aitken

I am no lawyer and nor is the hon. Member for Ladywood. I am advised that my hon. Friend the Member for Cleveland and Whitby, who is a lawyer, hopes to take up this point and show that the effect of the Goodman amendments is to put legal teeth into the Bill and make this action actionable. Without these amendments it is a wishy-washy Bill.

Mr. Brian Walden

I am not saying that Lord Goodman will not have the whole matter settled by law. That would be the effect of accepting the Lords amendment. I am saying that that is not the only law involved. In no sense has a man forfeited his common law rights if we strike out the Lords amendment.

Mr. Aitken

If I may I will leave that point. I am pleased to concede a lack of legal expertise.

The real loser in this situation, if this Bill goes through with the Secretary of State's amendments, are the readers. They are the people who will be hurt most. Above all, this Bill is destroying the concept that Parliament has an obligation and indeed a duty to protect the individual's right to work, to free speech and to free access to the media. These rights can so easily be eroded if, by the passage of this Bill, one union can gain a monopoly position in the area of public communication.

The risk is great yet the safeguards required are relatively small. If this House is quite unable to put into this legislation some clause which properly protects the freedom of expression of British people we might as well all go home and shut up shop. Perhaps the best we can hope for is that those much-maligned lordly noses will do our job for us in another place.

Mr. Heffer

I do not want to keep the House long but I feel that I want to say something about this situation as one who has from time to time contributed to various journals in this country. I have not always found it easy to gain access to some of these journals, especially some of our national newspapers. There has been quite a bit of argument or discussion or cajoling on occasions before I managed to get a piece in.

I should like to take up the argument that the losers will be the readers. That implies that the readers have a say on what goes into our national newspapers. That is a remarkable argument. Neither the newspaper readers nor I have ever understood that they have any say about the contents of a newspaper. The only way for readers to deal with the situation is to stop buying the newspapers. As national newspapers are in the hands of a small and select group, if readers stop buying one newspaper and start purchasing another, they are still not offered much choice.

Press freedom is important. I accept that. No Government supporter wants to see the Press controlled by any tyrannical force. I do not want to see the newspapers leaving the hands of their present millionaire owners and coming into the hands of the State or for all newspapers to be run by the State. I cannot read Russian but I am sure that the Soviet newspapers must be the most boring in the world. I should not like to see that situation in the United Kingdom.

No one suggests that we should move from one unfortunate situation to another. We must keep a balance. The situation is difficult and this debate has clearly indicated its complications. We all desire Press freedom. Many Government supporters recognise that that freedom is now extremely limited. Yet at the same time we do not want to move from that position to another which might be worse. That is our dilemma.

I do not think anyone has produced the final answer to the question of Press freedom. We must think about the ways of ensuring genuine Press freedom. For instance I should like the CBI and the TUC to own newspapers with which to put forward their views and beliefs. I should like to see the TUC owning a good national newspaper. I should like to see an official newspaper attached to the Conservative Party and another attached to the Liberal Party.

The political parties and other organisations should all have national daily newspapers so that readers have a free choice in the newspaper they wish to buy. Even then there must be editorial freedom. We understand that. However, I believe that we are taking the matter much too far.

This evening one Front Bench spokesman was floored by the Secretary of State, who pointed out that the rules of the NUJ had been changed. When that union holds a ballot, the decision can only be overturned by another ballot. The Opposition case was destroyed. Since the NUJ must hold a ballot to overturn the decision of a previous ballot, the safeguard lies in the decision taken by the membership of the NUJ. Suppose that the majority of the NUJ decided by ballot on a certain policy, which was objected to by the Opposition. Ballots do not necessarily give the answers we want. There is another side to the ballot argument. The railwaymen's case is a case in point. Even under the Tory Industrial Relations Act 1971 the workers in different industries could hold ballots to decide whether they should belong to one union or another. We objected to the process, but that was part of the philosophy. The journalists as a profession could have taken a ballot to decide whether they should belong to the Institute of Journalists or the NUJ. That could have been done under the Tory legislation.

This is the nub of the argument. Journalists are not being forced to join trade unions. Obviously the matter must be considered, but I do not think that editors should be frightened of that. The terrible crisis foreseen by the Opposition is a remote possibility. It is never likely to occur. If I thought that contributors to magazines, national newspapers and local newspapers were to be excluded as a result of this Bill no one would have the right to express their point of view in a newspaper, I could not agree to the measure. I have written for newspapers ranging from the Catholic Herald to the Morning Star. As long as no editor says what I must write, or censors what I write, I shall continue to write for those newspapers.

Nothing in this legislation affects the question of the independent contributors. This is a bogy. It has been built up out of all proportion. Even some of my hon. Friends are infected by the fear mistakenly emanating from the Opposition and the editors.

I think that the Secretary of State has fallen over backwards in order to placate the editors, hon. Members opposite and some of my hon. Friends. I say to him "Do not go any further." I think that he and the Government have gone far enough and that they should not give any further concessions. Indeed, in some respects they have gone too far and this is the end of the road. I am willing to support the Government tonight, but I hope that they will not go any further. We must not succumb to the bogy man fears which have been developed by hon. Members opposite.

8.30 p.m.

Mr. George Reid (Clackmannan and East Stirlingshire)

After the acres of type and hours of debate devoted to the subject of Press freedom over the past year, it was a relief to see on the Notice Paper the amendment put down by the hon. Member for Gateshead, West (Mr. Horam). It goes straight to the heart of the matter—freedom for editors and access for contributors, steering a sensible middle course between the excessive legalism of the Lords amendment and the rather grudging concessions of the Secretary of State. Essentially, the hon. Member for Gateshead's amendment recognises the editor's delicate position, the fact that in journalism the buck has to stop somewhere, and that in the editor's chair is a man who is dealing not only with his staff but with his proprietor and public while simultaneously coping with the legal demands made on him. For that reason I believe that the hon. Gentleman's amendment would be welcomed by a majority of members of my union, the National Union of Journalists.

We have heard a lot of talk tonight about threats to the Press and to Press freedom. But freedom of the Press is a public freedom. It does not belong to those who work in the Press—to the proprietors, the editors, the journalists or the compositors—it belongs to the public who have a fundamental interest in knowing that what they read is the product of free minds not restrained by any exterior forces.

That freedom has been abused by plenty of proprietors—Northcliffe and Beaverbrook and some today. My concern as a member of the NUJ, however, is the increasing number of ideologues in the union who are seeking consciously to take control of their chapel, to gain editorial control over their publications and to determine what appears where, when and why. Many hon. Members have referred to the reasonable and responsible attitude of the vast majority of the 30,000 members of the NUJ, and of its general secretary, and I agree. But times are changing.

When I entered journalism, there was such a thing as the "associate member's card" which covered the position of the editor perfectly—the man who had gone through the ranks of the union and was now in the editorial chair. As an associate, he had a foot in the union, but his external legal position was recognised by the union. That situation no longer applies.

Recently, the Journalist, which carries the imprimatur of the NUJ as its house magazine, had an editorial calling for nationalisation of the Press. We have seen the blacking of non-union copy. In Scotland and England we have seen disciplinary action against editors. The London Freelance Branch issued a circular earlier this year containing the following note: While these managements and editors control the Press and access to it, we can expect such access to be almost exclusively restricted to those 'experts' whose views are antagonistic to the Labour movement and the interests of the working people. I may add that I have sympathy for that point of view both in regard to the Scottish National Party and the Labour Party. The motion went on: When the columns of the Press and air waves are open to the Labour movement, we will obviously reconsider the matter. That suggests a fair degree of penetration by ideologies. Surely the interests of the newspapers are primarily the interests of their readers. The job of Parliament in this situation is to defend the interests of the public and to hold the ring.

I turn now to the right of access by external contributors. It is fairly obvious that democratic life demands the widest dissemination of information and ideas as possible. We have seen examples already of local newspapers, threatened by the fact that only a union member could contribute, virtually going to the wall. Lots of people who have been sending in notes about gardening or chess or shinty or whatever have been told that now the job can only be done by NUJ members, and the papers they have contributed to have been threatened with closure as a result. The same applies to specialist magazines taking articles from, for example, educationists, psychologists or psychiatrists, who can never be members of the NUJ as such. We need the widest access possible.

I turn to the amendments from the House of Lords in the name of Lord Goodman. These would not bring about a situation of liberty in chapels but they could well bring about a situation of licence. I sympathise with members of the National Union of Journalists who see contained in them a veiled threat to the union. It is not only editors who are to be covered by their wording but other persons "exercising editorial responsibility". Where does that responsibility stop in a chapel? Does it stop with the teaboy? Clearly the women's feature editor, the picture editor, the letter page editor and the crossword editor have editorial functions. If all these people were to be free of any obligation to join the union, the NUJ would lose strength. Few of us in the current situation appertaining to chapels would wish that to happen.

Finally, I come to the crunch of the matter. The guardians of the freedom of the Press are the editors. They have a privileged and at the same time rather burdensome position. To do their job they have to be free men. Naturally they are constrained by the need of their papers to survive and by considerations of law, but they must remain free from hidden influences of the type to which I have referred, and free from any threat to their own job security. They have a unique relationship with their staff. Their job is a unique two-way process. They carry legal responsibility for a group product. At the end of the day the editor is the guarantor of the freedom of all his collective workers to get on with their jobs without political or proprietorial interference. Free editors are essential to free journalism.

Mr. Bryan Magee (Leyton)

I am not a member of the National Union of Journalists, and under the rules of that union I am not eligible to join. But in case any hon. Member is under the impression that the following constitutes an interest, perhaps I should mention that I write a monthly column for The Times, and contribute occasional articles to other papers. I am also a council member of the Critics's Circle, the long-established body in this country which represents critics of the performing arts. I mention in passing that some of the most distinguished and famous of the critics in this country are also not members of the NUJ, and not eligible to become members.

Those of us who have been concerned with this controversy have throughout agreed on one or two basic issues. We have agreed that the two key issues are editorial freedom and freedom of access. We have also agreed all along—and I am at one with the Secretary of State on this—that freedom of access is extraordinarily difficult even to define, let alone to guarantee. Because no one would be so foolish as to say that any individual, having written any article he likes on any subject he likes, ought to have the right to submit that article to any editor he likes and demand that the editor should publish it. That is an absurdity, and anyone who gives thought to this matter would agree that in material respects the editor must, in order to perform his function, have the right to reject articles.

Therefore, one problem that is central to this whole issue is how we can make freedom of access a reality while at the same time preserving the genuine freedom of the editor to pursue his editorial function. We can have freedom of access, and a free Press, only when we have an enormous multiplicity of newspapers, so that the individual who sends his article to one editor and has it turned down can send it to another. The same applies to the journalist who works on one newspaper and is sacked, for he can go and work on another.

These are not just theoretical considerations. They are everyday realities for hundreds of journalists and for everyone who writes for newspapers. This freedom can be threatened—indeed, in most societies of the world it is not only threatened but obviated—by the existence of any body of people that has the power to say that only what it approves of—or, to put it at its weakest, only what it does not disapprove of—can be published. That is the case in most societies throughout the world. It behoves the House to remember that. It is not the case in this country. There is nobody who seriously regards the British Government as constituting a threat to the freedom of the Press in anything like that sense.

There is only one body in Britain which is so placed that it is within reach of getting into that situation; that is the National Union of Journalists. To say that is not to make an anti-union point. It is to state a fact. Interference with editorial freedom can and does come from proprietors. It comes also from advertisers, and from pressure groups of many other kinds. However, the proprietors are not members of a single national organisation that has the power to make and to implement a united policy. Neither are the advertisers, nor the other pressure groups. However, the National Union of Journalists is.

Those who are alarmed about this situation are not just enemies of the trade unions, sitting on the Opposition benches. As the hon. Member for Clackmannan and East Stirlingshire (Mr. Reid) rightly said, large numbers of members of the NUJ are alarmed about it. The hon. Member is a member of the NUJ, and I was pleased to hear him say that he thinks that many members of that union would support with enthusiasm the amendment on this question in the names of my hon. Friends and myself.

In recent months not one but dozens of members of the NUJ, who are also Labour voters, have written to or have visited me and expressed their concern on precisely this question. So let not my hon. Friends continue with the idea that only enemies of trade unionism, or enemies of the NUJ, or only people with Right-wing political or social views, are frightened about the possible power that could be put into the hands of the NUJ by the Bill.

Mr. Corbett

Would my hon. Friend agree that the biggest threat to the freedom of the Press comes not from any possibility of a closed shop but from closed publications?

Mr. Magee

I agree. The situation in this country is imperfect and very unsatisfactory. The freedom of the Press must depend on a multiplicity of papers. In this country we have nothing like that. I should like to see far more newspapers. and a far wider spread of journals representing political views of all kinds, religious views of all kinds, if you like anti-religious views of all kinds. The greater the multiplicity, the better it is for freedom of expression.

The greatest threat to freedom of expression and the freedom of the Press in any society is to have one body, however benevolent it may be and however much we may agree with its views, getting into the position where it can exclude from publication expressions of view with which it does not agree.

The Secretary of State's amendment would put this power into the hands of the NUJ, his attitude being "We can trust it not to use that power." That is folly. If we are confident that the union will not use the power, why give the power to the union? The value of the amendment standing in the names of hon. Members and myself is that it would make it impossible for the union to exercise such a power.

There is general agreement that the two key requirements to maintain freedom of the Press are editorial independence and freedom of access. The whole point of what we might call "the Horam amendment" as against "the Goodman amendment" is that it lays down the guarantee of these two freedoms as the minimum conditions which any charter will have to satisfy if it is to meet the requirements of this House. We are not legislating. We are saying what we regard as being the fundamental, irreducible requirements that any charter must meet. If it does not have those two requirements in it, the charter will not be worth having, as it will not do the job of guaranteeing fundamental Press freedoms. If my hon. Friends take the view that those freedoms are not threatened, I cannot see why they should not go along with the amendment.

8.45 p.m.

I do not support the Goodman amendments as they stand. The trouble is that they are framed as if the only threat to Press freedom comes from the trade unions. That is plainly not so. The trouble with the Secretary of State's amendment to the Goodman amendments is that it would have the effect of guaranteeing Press freedom only to trade union members. It is the mirror image of the same mistake.

We want a situation which is open to all members of society whether or not they are members of a union. I recognise the enormous service that my right hon. Friend has provided for the policies of this Government by helping to forge links with the trade union movement, and especially in recent weeks. Those links will be of enormous importance to the Government over the next few years. However, the good relations with the trade union movement on which effective government should be based, and is now effectively being based, must not be reached by our always giving way to union demands. The way to have good relations with the unions is not to say "Yes" to everything they ask for. After all, the unions are bargaining organisations. That is what they exist for, that is their function in life. Like all bargainers, they never start by asking for what they expect to get. They never start by asking for what they are prepared to settle for in the end. When my right hon. Friend agrees to their first demands I sometimes suspect that no one is more astounded than they are. They probably wonder what he is up to when he adopts that approach.

Some of my hon. Friends sitting near me may claim that my right hon. Friend has not done what I have suggested. Indeed, he has not, he has done something worse. The NUJ has not asked for what he proposes to give it. He is proposing to give it powers which it is not in the interests of our society to give it, and which it has not demanded.

Mr. Ron Thomas

Will my hon. Friend define the powers that my right hon. Friend proposes to give to the NUJ as against the whole of the trade union movement?

Mr. Magee

If the Bill is passed in its existing form it will empower the NUJ, if it so chooses, to insist on having editors in the closed shop. It has been fundamental to my speech that no single body should be put in a position of being able to achieve monopoly control of what goes into newspapers—namely, monopoly control of the editorial function. So my view is that we should not accept the Goodman amendments, but also that the Secretary of State's amendment as it stands will not do. I hope, therefore, that the House will pass the amendment standing in the name of my hon. Friends and myself. If that amendment is not accepted, I hope that as a second best we shall pass the amendment of my hon. Friend the Member for Derby, North (Mr. Whitehead).

Mr. Adley

I almost hesitate to take part in the continuing debate between the various factions in the Labour Party on this issue as on so many others. I am speaking briefly in response to requests by working journalists of my acquaintance who have asked that the Goodman amendments be upheld as the best option that appears to be available at this rather late stage in what has been a long, complicated and technical argument on quite a simple matter.

The hon. Member for Leyton (Mr. Magee), from where he stood in the Chamber, courageously stated that even this Government should not always give way to the trade unions. It is the demands of a few people in the trades unions, whom I do not believe are representative at all of the rank and file of the trades unions, which are behind this continuing debate. The remarks that the hon. Member for Leyton has just made, about a charter, illustrate this point well.

It seems that we are to have a charter only when the Government decide that the law is not to be used to protect society against those from whom the Government, in their judgment, think society does not need protection. Rather than simply having the Community Land Bill why do we not have a Community Land charter? We are told by the Minister for Planning and Local Government that the Community Land Bill is merely a Bill to give local authorities certain powers. Of course, he says, they have not got to use those powers—they merely have them. If availability of power is enough, why have we spent so much time hammering that piece of legislation through against a great deal of informed criticism from outside?

The issue tonight in my view is a simple one, namely, will the Bill increase or decrease the freedom of the Press? I am not aware—I may be wrong—that there is a universal feeling among the people of this country, especially those who buy newspapers, that at present the freedom of the Press is seriously in jeopardy. I do not believe that the Government have put forward any basic reasons for the need to shove this piece of legislation down the throats of the House and of the newspaper industry. I should have thought that if the Government were looking for a target, the laws of libel, for instance, might well be a better target on which they could concentrate their efforts than the target at which this Bill has been aimed.

I should like to stress the point made by the hon. Member for Leyton and, before him, the hon. Member for Clackmannan and East Stirlingshire (Mr. Reid), about the possibility of the National Union of Journalists at some stage deciding who should or should not write for newspapers. I agree and accept that at present that may be a remote possibility.

I have tried to join two unions in the past year and I have been rejected by both.

Mr. Heffer

One has to have qualifications.

Mr. Adley

The hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) from a sedentary position, says that one has to have qualifications. I tried to join Clive Jenkins' union. He recently said that he would like to represent Members of Parliament. However, he would not take me as a member of his union, although I understand that the hon. Member for Feltham and Heston (Mr. Kerr) thought that Mr. Clive Jenkins was wrong in refusing my application for membership.

I applied for membership of the GMWU, and that was also turned down. Never let it be said that those two rejections had anything to do with politics—or did they? Of course, they did. They did not want a Conservative Member of Parliament in either of those trade unions.

Mrs. Lena Jeger (Holborn and St. Pancras, South)

Hear, hear.

Mr. Adley

The hon. Lady says "Hear, hear". She thinks it is funny. I put it to her that the situation of contributors to newspapers, who might at some future date find themselves barred from membership of the NUJ because of their membership of a political party, is not a laughing matter. That is a situation which could well arise. The hon. Lady would do well occasionally not to sneer at comments from Conservative Members who, in spite of the remarks of the hon. Member for Leyton and his ridiculous charge that the Conservative Party is anti-trade union, may well only be opposed to the imposition of militant views, by a minority, on the trade union movement.

Mrs. Jeger


Mr. Adley

I shall give way when I have finished my point. I earnestly request hon. Members opposite to understand that trade unions in this country bring themselves into disrepute if they seek to deny to people who are not members of certain political parties membership of trade unions, and for no other good reason.

Mrs. Jeger

I was not laughing at what the hon. Gentleman said. What he said was very serious. The question of membership of a trade union has nothing to do with political parties. However, it has to do with training, experience, work and skills within the particular craft of the union one is seeking to join. I can say that as a member of the NUJ. I have been a working reporter for many years. It is unfair of the hon. Gentleman to suggest that one can simply apply to join the trade union of one's fancy without having been through that apprenticeship, training, work and the acquisition of the necessary skills. That is all I was trying to convey to him.

Mr. Adley

How many more years than five must one serve in this House to qualify for membership of the ASTMS, Mr. Clive Jenkins having said that he would like it to act as the trade union for Members of Parliament? I recognise that the hon. Lady has been in this House a great deal longer than I have. My five years "apprenticeship" may not be long enough to qualify me to apply for membership of a trade union. But is she seriously suggesting that anybody who has been in a job for less than five years is not eligible to join a trade union which, in the words of its general secretary, has set itself up as the union to represent a given craft or trade—in this instance, Members of Parliament? There is political bias in certain unions and the hon. Lady would do well to recognise that fact. The point of the whole discussion about the NUJ is the possibility that at some time members who hold views unacceptable to the NUJ might find themselves excluded from writing articles. It was not many months ago that we saw large blank spaces in newspapers throughout the country because the NUJ was blacking the contributions by certain people who were not members of that union.

The hon. Member for Walton has made one of his usual impassioned pleas about the evils of newspapers owned by millionaires, be they former members of the Parliamentary Labour Party or be they not. Many people own newspapers, and some of them are exceedingly wealthy. I do not have that detestation of people who have progressed in life, which seems to be the hallmark of the hon. Gentleman, who I might—

Mr. Heffer

The hon. Gentleman should refrain from making such statements about detestation of people because they are millionaires. I have never taken that view in my life, and never will. The argument is not about them being milionaires, but the fact that they are obviously trying to use the newspapers which they own to sustain a system of society in which they believe. The point is that they do not advocate another system of society or give unfettered access to those who do. There is no detestation of such people as individuals.

Mr. Adley

If the word "detestation" upsets the hon. Gentleman, I withdraw it. Perhaps a better way of describing him is as the obersturmbahnfurhrer of the envy and jealousy brigade on the benches opposite.

The hon. Member for Leyton wants more new newspapers built up. He wants more journals of specialist types started. The Scottish Daily News has not had a happy start, perhaps indicating that there is a lack of motivation, drive and special interest behind the newspaper to make it successful. What is needed if we are to have more newspapers is the creation of new enterprises by people who have the initiative, the determination and the drive to set them up, and if they make a lot of money jolly good luck to them. I recognise that there is a fairly wide gulf between the views of the hon. Member for Walton and those which I hold. There is a fairly wide gulf between his views and those of many of his hon. Friends, but that is another matter.

9.0 p.m.

There is no perfect answer to life's problems. The hon. Gentleman admitted that he did not think much of Pravda. He imagined that Russian newspapers were fairly stodgy and he did not want a system of State control. In life we have somehow to find a compromise, but I do not believe that the deliberate shackling of editors is the sort of compromise that will help to ensure the freedom of the Press.

The hon. Gentleman complained that he could not get access to newspapers by which I presume he means that the fact that he could not get articles placed in certain newspapers had nothing to do with talent and everything to do with politics. He may, or may not, be right! I do not believe that in this country we have too many newspapers which deliberately present a totally one-sided view of life. But if we do, and if one is asked to choose, shall we say, between the Daily Telegraph and the Morning Star, I know which newspaper I should prefer, which freedom I should prefer.

The Secretary of State is, I believe, a sad figure, a man who used to be master of the House of Commons but is now the slave of a Government which I rather suspect he wishes at times he had not joined. I do not believe that this measure is worthy of him. It may be that the Goodman amendments are imperfect, but I hope that the House will accept them. If they are not accepted here tonight I hope that in another place they will be adhered to rigorously.

Mr. Ron Thomas

I rise to attempt to make it clear to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State that there are a number of hon. Members on this side of the House who feel that he has gone much too far in the amendment that he has put forward this evening.

I think we would agree that a good deal of nonsense has been talked, tonight, throughout the Committee stage, on Second Reading and on Report, about the whole question of the freedom of the Press. If we consider the recent referendum campaign, can anyone seriously suggest that in the debate on this great issue we had a free Press in Britain which looked objectively at the arguments and gave every opportunity for every point of view to be expressed? My local newspaper said more or less in one of its editorials that the anti-Marketeers suggest that they ought to be given equal space in this debate. "But why should they?", it went on to ask.

My right hon. Friend has no doubt seen the Labour Party document on the Press and what it had to say. The working party made it clear, as I think others have, that In effect, three large corporations now produce 80 per cent. of all national daily and Sunday newspapers sold in the United Kingdom and, in the overwhelming majority of cities, there is an effective local monopoly of news, sometimes in the same hands as the national Press. The report went on to say: A free Press, therefore, in the sense of a varied or a balanced Press is fast disappearing", and many of us on this side of the House would support that view.

The document then lists those Members of the House of Lords, referred to this evening, who have considerable control over the Press. It has been suggested from the Opposition benches that we should look to them to defend our freedoms. No one with even a smattering of knowledge of this country's political history could seriously suggest that we should look to that other Chamber to defend the freedoms of the British people. Therefore we rebut this idea that we have a free Press. Nevertheless, at the same time we have to discuss what all these arguments about a free Press have to do with the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Amendment) Bill.

Those who have not done so should look at the proposed charter that my right hon. Friend is asking us to support this evening. It is, it is true, an amendment of the House of Lords position, but, nevertheless, the Secretary of State says that, while hoping there will be an agreement between the trades unions and the employers in the newspaper industry on a charter, if no such charter has been agreed, he will, if he gets a vote in the House of Commons, impose a charter on the parties concerned in 12 months' time or so.

It also goes on to suggest that this will be admissible as evidence. I know that there are many on the Opposition benches who would like it to be much tougher in terms of admissibility of evidence and so on. Throughout the Committee stage I understood the Secretary of State to be saying clearly that he would welcome a charter freely negotiated between the trade unions and the employers in the newspaper industry, but he did not accept that it would be possible, practicable or acceptable to have a clause in the legislation or a code of practice or whatever it might be.

I should like to remind my right hon. Friend of what he said in the Committee: That is why the Government were strongly in favour of the initiative taken by the National Union of Journalists whereby discussions should take place; discussions directed at devising not a law—not even a clause to be inserted, because that is not a satisfactory way of doing it but terms that could be put into the union membership agreement."—[Official Report, Standing Committee E, 17th December, 1974; c. 98.] I have not heard any justification from anyone this evening or in any previous debate as to why those in the Press should be isolated from normal collective bargaining, or why an exception must be made of this group because they happen to work for newspapers. It is not thought to matter that they are monopoly newspapers. What about television, radio and the whole field of education? Could not we have some alarming stories of the possibility of ASTMS or the Association of University Teachers being taken over by the Maoists or Trotskyists and demanding a closed shop in our universities, laying down that all they will teach is the "Words of Chairman Mao", or something like that? Is not that a possibility? It has not been mentioned.

What about Equity? What about the theatre and all the arts? Let us suppose that Equity starts laying down that actors must have a social conscience or inject social realism into Hamlet, or something like that. This is what my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State hammered, and rightly so: if we make these exceptions, where do we draw the line? Why should the line be drawn at this particular point?

Mr. Whitehead

It is a dangerous line of argument to pray in aid the situation of radio and television, because they are controlled by statutory organisations and if there were any form of take-over of any kind of the form of the BBC Licence and Agreement the Television Act, now the Sound Broadcasting Act, would make that impossible, whether or not that would be defined by some people as interference with the rights of collective bargaining, if collective bargaining is defined as exclusivity.

Mr. Thomas

If there was a closed shop in radio and television I would have to be convinced that they would be able to use a quite separate charter which was not attached by any provision to this legislation and that the charter could be used to define their position.

My right hon. Friend insisted that if he took the line of action suggested he would be making an exception and the question would then arise as to where the line should be drawn. It is wrong to say to a group of trade unionists that just because they work for a particular category of employers they have to be isolated from the rest of the working class and trade union movement in terms of collective bargaining.

Let me move on to the definition of a union membership agreement. I fear that during our discussion hon. Members on both sides of the House have not taken account of the actual definition. The 1974 Act says 'union membership agreement' means an agreement or arrangement which—

  1. (a) is made by or on behalf of, or otherwise exists between, one or more independent trade unions and one or more employers or employers' associations; and
  2. (b) relates to employees of an identifiable class".
Earlier we passed an amendment to clarify what was meant by "an identifiable class ".We have heard that the NUJ has made it clear—although its policy might, of course, change—that it would not demand that editors should join the NUJ, although editors are members and there are many closed shop situations such as on The Guardian and many other newspapers. The definition of a union membership agreement is expressly set out so that if it relates to employees of an identifiable class ipso facto it can identify those who are excluded from the agreement. There is no difficulty at all if the newspaper industry wants to identify editors as not being covered by the closed shop agreement. However, one or two hon. Members on the Opposition side have made it clear that that is not what they want. They want to extend the exemption to sub-editors, to sports editors and to gardening editors. The pressures from the employers are aimed to provide the opportunity to give job descriptions to a whole range of jobs and to try to free those doing the jobs from pressure to join a trade union.

Mr. Adley

In view of the hon. Member's constituency will he answer one particular question? A few months ago Blackboy's Diary in the Bristol Evening Post contained large white gaps because many of the contributions were from people who were not members of the NUJ, although they were members of the IOJ. Does the hon. Member support or reject that situation?

9.15 p.m.

Mr. Thomas

Every trade union has the right to adopt a policy in respect of the work for which its members have been trained and in respect of those who take that work from their members or where the employer gives it to outside workers. That is a legitimate part of collective bargaining. The NUJ has every right to have a policy about contributions. I hope that the hon. Gentleman is not seriously suggesting that it should allow the number of outside contributors to rise to the point at which its members become redundant. Many have become unemployed—I am not saying because of outside contributors.

I understand that, in the case to which the hon. Gentleman refers—one of my hon. Friends will be taking up another case on which we disagree—there was a dispute. In a dispute, a union can use whatever weapons are available—

Mr. Adley

It was an inter-union dispute.

Mr. Thomas

I do not care whether a dispute is an inter-union one or between union and employer: it is, in my judgement, a legitimate form of trade union industrial action and has nothing to do with a union membership agreement.

Mr. Adley

It has everything to do with it.

Mr. Thomas

It has not. If the NUJ has 50 per cent., 60 per cent., or 70 per cent. membership, it could still take that action. A closed shop is not necessary. Plenty of unions take such action even with a minority membership. It is no good pretending that this is linked with the closed shop. It happened before there was one and would happen if there were no closed shop.

Mr. Ronald Bell (Beaconsfield)

Is the hon. Gentleman arguing—he seems to be—that the National Union of Journalists would have the right to decide what level of outside contributions it would prohibit? If it decided, for example, that The Times must not publish articles from Members of Parliament on its left centre page, would he defend its enforcing that decision against the will of the editor and possibly against the public interest?

Mr. Thomas

I do not know what is meant by the public interest in this connection. We are told the public have an interest but it seems they have no rights, that only editors, outside contributors and proprietors have rights. To answer the question: yes, I believe that a union would be failing its membership if it did not have a policy about the amount of work, presumably for its members, which was going to others. That is not to say that one would go from that to argue that it would decide how much and discriminate among individuals. On the other hand—some of my hon. Friends may not like this—the Labour Party document also called for more industrial democracy for the Press and more involvement of workers in decision-making. This may cut across the question of outside contributions and where they come from.

I appeal to the Secretary of State, as did my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer), not to go further than he has gone. A number of my hon. Friends put down an amendment to reject the whole of Lords Amendment No. 7 which was not called. The Secretary of State convinced me that the best approach was for the unions and the employers to try for a voluntary charter. It should not be part of the Act, whether as a clause or as a code of practice. It would be quite wrong for those working in the newspaper industry to be isolated from the general stream of the working class and trade union movement and denied rights of free collective bargaining which even this charter denies them to some extent.

The Deputy Speaker (Mr. George Thomas)

May I appeal to the House for shorter speeches if possible? The debate has already been going on for more than three hours.

Sir David Renton (Huntingdonshire)

In view of what you have said, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I shall detain the House for only a very short time, and I hope that the hon. Member for Bristol, North-West (Mr. Thomas) will forgive me if I do not follow him.

We find ourselves in a paradoxical position. On one hand we are supposed to be the great protectors of the liberties of the people. Sometimes we succeed in being so with Acts like the Habeas Corpus Act, but on the other hand we find that most of the liberties of the people have been handed down through common law and custom, and, when we have legislated, it has been by means of interference with liberty. There has been a good deal of interference with liberty in legislation in recent years, sometimes justified, sometimes not.

Tonight we find ourselves in a habeas corpus position. It has been admitted and agreed on both sides that, if there is a threat to the freedom of the Press, it can come most easily from those working in trade unions of Press employees. This is the stark reality of the situation. We suffered in this way in my own constituency not long ago with the Sharman dispute. By refusing to accept advertisements for their local papers some employees interfered with the freedom of the Press and did so simply because their union had ordered them not to accept those advertisements. This is the sort of thing that should warn us. Fortunately the unions concerned took stock of public opinion and what was said in this House.

The Secretary of State has put us in the position of having to make a very stark choice tonight. He has said he does not want Parliament to pass an enforceable law to ensure the freedom of the Press. He wants a law that merely acknowledges that a charter, the contents of which are unknown to us, may one day be made, and may one day, after inter-union discussions, do something to preserve the freedom of the Press. I do not find that a satisfatcory situation. I much prefer the solution proposed in another place by Lord Goodman, which, as the Secretary of State has said, was put forward for the best of motives and with complete sincerity. The Secretary of State, while prepared to use the Goodman amendment as a framework or skeleton in order to have something on which to hang his idea about a charter, has withdrawn from the amendment any teeth which would make it an enforceable law. This admirable effort on the part of Lord Goodman, supported by a good majority in the other place—from both sides—is to become merely a tooth-les skeleton. That is the way in which the right hon. Gentleman proposes on this occasion to pretend to protect the liberties of the people. It is not good enough.

Mr. David Marquand (Ashfield)

Most of the speeches so far have been concerned with the first two amendments tabled by my hon. Friends and myself. I want to concern myself solely with the third, dealing with the applicability of the charter rather than its contents. Before doing so there are one or two general comments I wish to make about the considerations which make it necessary to widen the applicability of the charter in the way we seek to do.

We are discussing a quite revolutionary departure in this country's history. Most countries of the western world—I think I am right in saying all countries with written constitutions—have got legal safeguards for the freedom of the Press. This country has not. If this Bill is passed into law it will be the first time in the history of this country that Parliament has taken any view as to what constitutes freedom of the Press and what are the necessary conditions for that freedom. We are therefore talking about a revolutionary, valuable and healthy development in British history.

One of the reasons why I could not possibly support the so-called Goodman amendments is that the criteria contained in them for what should count as freedom of the Press are ludicrously narrowly drawn and appear to be directed solely against possible threats to freedom from the journalists' unions. This is only one possible source of interference with the freedom of the Press. The amendment my right hon. Friend is moving to the contents of the charter in which he seeks to state that the charter shall have to include such matters as the offence of: improper pressure to distort or suppress news, comment, or criticism is a remarkable and important step forward.

Those of my hon. Friends who believe that my right hon. Friend has gone too far should think twice before saying that. My right hon. Friend is saying, for the first time in our history, that it is an infringement of the freedom of the Press for there to be: improper pressure to distort or suppress news, comment, or criticism". This is an important step forward and there should not be any difference of opinion on the Labour benches about the desirability of inserting that amendment.

Mr. Tom Litterick (Birmingham, Selly Oak)

I follow the significance of my hon. Friend's remarks. I hope he will accept criticism in the spirit in which it is offered. The operative phrase needed to make his judgment of this Bill significant would be pressure from any source at all. That phrase is not present. The phrases which crop up again and again in the Lords amendment give the game away. The amendment is aimed at trade unions which are defined as the only possible threat. If the phrase I suggest were to be incorporated we might be talking about the real issue. At the moment we are doing nothing like that.

Mr. Marquand

I do not want to be led too far astray. If my hon. Friend will listen to my speech I hope to be able to persuade him that the amendment dealing with the applicability of the charter will deal with pressure from proprietors.

We have to ask whether the amendments put forward by my right hon. Friend go far enough to meet the ends he seeks to achieve. He has gone a long way. If the Bill finally results in an agreed charter with these principles incorporated in it my right hon. Friend will deserve a great amount of credit. 9.30 p.m.

Those of us who have been involved in negotiations with the Minister should pay tribute to the way in which he responded to our point of view and sought to meet the representations from different quarters. I do not think that he has gone far enough to protect one of the central issues in the argument. I refer to the question of access by outside contributors who are not journalists, who are not eligible to be members of a journalists' union, and who do not have any contract of employment with a newspaper, but who are simply outside contributors. The protection of their interests is a vital matter of public concern, for the reasons put forward by my hon. Friend the Member for Leyton (Mr. Magee) and my hon. Friend the Member for Gateshead, West (Mr. Horam). I do not think that the amendments dealing with the ways in which the charter can be quoted go far enough to protect outside contributors' interests.

I strongly object to the Goodman approach to enforceability. That approach will lead us down a disastrous blind alley. It is an attempt to do for Press freedom what the Conservative Party tried to do for industrial relations generally in its ill-fated 1971 Act. The lesson of history is that that Act was a disastrous failure. If we try the Goodman approach we shall poison and embitter relations in the newspaper industry between the journalists' union and the other parties in the industry and the print unions and the rest of the industry.

The only safeguard of the freedom of the Press is the actions of those engaged in it. If we poison and embitter relations in the industry we shall not protect the freedom of the Press. On the contrary, we shall undermine the freedom of the Press.

I do not accept the Goodman approach that the right way to secure the enforceability of the charter is to make it an offence to break the charter, or to make it possible for someone to take action against another party for breaking it.

The Minister laid down the ways in which the charter can be used in legal proceedings too narrowly. He said that the charter could be quoted in evidence and could be taken into account by a tribunal or a court of law in only three ways. It can be taken into account or quoted in evidence if a professional journalist, not an outside contributor, takes action against an employer for breach of contract. Secondly, it can be quoted in evidence and taken into account by the courts if a member of the union takes action against the union. Thirdly, it can be quoted in evidence if an editor has been wrongfully dismissed and takes action before an industrial tribunal. That does nothing to help the outside contributor who does not have a contract with his employer. The outside contributor is not a member of the union. The provision about possible actions between members of a union does not concern the outside contributor and does not offer him protection. I suppose the right of editors to quote the charter if they have been unfairly dismissed might occasionally involve what the Minister has attempted to do about the use of outside contributors, but that will not occur very often. Outside contributors are not protected by that provision.

Our amendment seeks to give the protection of the charter to the outside contributor in so far as the law allows the outside contributor to have any recourse to the courts, as well as giving it to the classes laid down in my right hon. Friend's amendment. I emphasise that it is not a question of giving anyone new rights of action against the union which they did not possess before. People can already take common law action against a union for all sorts of reasons. If an outside contributor is maliciously denied the right to have his article printed in the paper by an NUJ chapel, he now has the common law right to take action against the union. But my right hon. Friend's amendment makes it impossible for that person to use the charter as part of the ground for his action and to have the court take the charter into account. Our amendment does not give new rights. It is saying that if anyone uses his common law rights in any of the areas the Bill covers, it will be possible for him to quote the charter in evidence and for the court to take the charter into account.

Mr. George Cunningham (Islington, South and Finsbury)

What possible common law right would an outside contributor have against a union for taking some action, so long as that action was not a criminal offence or a tort?

Mr. Marquand

If the union were actuated by malice of some kind against a contributor, he would be able to take action against that union, but under our amendment he would be able in his action also to quote the charter in evidence and have it taken into account by the court when the issue was decided.

Mrs. Renée Short (Wolverhampton, North-East)

It might, of course, be a rotten article.

Mr. Marquand

It might be, but the court could decide whether that was the motive.

Mr. Lee

Is not my hon. Friend trying to invent a new tort?

Mr. Marquand

No. I am merely saying that the charter could be quoted. There have been a number of cases in our legal history in which people have taken action against others who have tried to exclude them arbitrarily or unfairly from membership of a union, and the judges have had the duty to decide whether the action complained of was against public policy. Our amendment gives guidance to the judges in such a case as to what constitutes public policy. We say, "This is Parliament's view of what constitutes public policy".

This is not an anti-union amendment. It does not create any danger of new actions being taken against the NUJ which cannot be taken at the moment. All it says is that, where common law rights already exist, a person who feels he has ground for action under that common law against, perhaps, a proprietor who maliciously and frivolously tries to prevent his article from appearing in the Press, or against the NUJ for trying to interfere with his copy, will be able to quote the charter in evidence.

As far as I understand it, my right hon. Friend said that there was really no point in our amendment because it was already covered, that the three limiting cases which he puts forward in his amendment are simply examples of the sort of thing that might arise and do not exclude anything else. I am not a lawyer any more than he is, but I am told that normally if a statute lays down three sorts of proceedings to which its provisions apply, it is understood by the courts that it is not intended to apply to other proceedings. Otherwise why define them in that way? Why not simply leave it as we would leave it under our amendment, that in any proceedings that can be brought in this matter the charter can be quoted in evidence? If my right hon. Friend is right that our amendment, as it were, is unnecessary, at the very least it is harmless and he should be able to accept it. If it is not the case that it is unnecessary and if there are other proceedings in which it might be relevant to quote the charter, why should it not be quoted? If there are any other such proceedings in which my right hon. Friend believes that the charter should not be quoted, what are they?

My right hon. Friend has to resolve this dilemma. Either our amendment is harmless or it is necessary. I hope that he will accept this as a useful and constructive step forward in making the charter, which all Labour Members agree is the right solution to the problem, more effective than it is in the amendment which he has tabled. I also hope that those Conservative Members who believe that the right way to give teeth to the charter is to go down the Goodman path and make it possible for people to be sued in the courts for breaking the charter will think twice before they take that road.

The lesson of the history of the past few years is that that course will do more harm than good. There is no need for it. Existing common law remedies cover the matter and our amendment offers a solution to the problem which should be acceptable to all hon. Members.

Mr. Raphael Tuck

It is with great regret that I find myself at odds this evening with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, for whom I have the greatest respect and regard. I hope that I have the reputation in this House for being independent enough to speak my mind when need warrants it. I shall do so this evening and vote accordingly, if necessary. It will depend on what my right hon. Friend does.

Freedom of speech and expression, which includes freedom of the Press, is an essential pillar of our democratic society. If it is eroded, we shall go down the slippery path to authoritarianism—the sad slippery path. I want to guard against that at all costs. First, I shall put a spoke in the wheel of the hon. Member for Brentford and Isleworth (Mr. Hayhoe) who opened the debate for the Opposition. He is afraid, as many people are afraid that the Bill as it stands will force editors to become members of the union; that is, a closed shop.

I am interested in the National Federation of Business and Professional Women's Clubs of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. I have no special interest; I am just interested in it. That federation recently wrote to my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary rather than to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State. In its letter it said that: Editors are regarded as the guardians of the free press, and to fulfil their rôle they must be free to do so without political or proprietorial interference. If they are compelled to become full union members, and act in any manner which displeases the union, they could be expelled and become unemployable in the profession. I agree with that entirely. However, my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary wrote back saying: The legislation will not require that editors, or anyone else who writes for the media, should be union members, and no union is given the right to demand that a closed shop should be established. 9.45 p.m.

If that is so, why not embody it in the Bill and ensure that there is no necessity for a closed shop? That is exactly what the amendment in the names of my hon. Friends the Members for Gateshead, West (Mr. Horam) and others does. It says: right of editors to discharge their duties free from any obligation to join a trade union". That is why I have come down absolutely in favour of that amendment rather than in favour of the amendment in the names of my hon. Friends the Members for Derby, North (Mr. Whitehead) and others, which does not include that. There is no reason why that provision should not be included. It would safeguard editors against having to join a trade union and form a closed shop.

I come next to the question of freedom of access. My right hon. Friend's amendment to line 17 is pure waffle. It does nothing to preserve freedom of access. Freedom of access must be preserved. I appreciate that there is a fear that the right of editors to commission and publish any article might be misused. I suggest an alternative. For the words the right of editors to commission and publish any article there should be substituted the words to commission and publish articles from non-union contributors". That would fit the Bill. It would at least allay the fears of those who feel that contributors who are non-union members would be excluded from contributing their articles to a paper. I ask my hon. Friend to consider that, perhaps as an amendment to an amendment, and to yield to the strong feeling of hon. Members on this side.

Mr. Raymond Fletcher (Ilkeston)

I support the amendment standing in the names of my hon. Friends the Member for Derby, North (Mr. Whitehead) and others.

You, Mr. Deputy Speaker, will realise that in an earlier manifestation you had occasion to take very critical action against me as I was the editor of a journal in which you were mentioned by an anonymous contributor in the most defamatory way. I have forgotten the name of the contributor. I did not give his name to you, but you took very vigorous action against me.

I am not a member of the National Union of Journalists, although I contribute to newspapers both in Britain and in other countries—in ever-increasing numbers, I am glad to say. The question which was presented most ably and vigorously by my hon. Friend the Member for Leyton (Mr. Magee) concerned a hypothetical situation; namely, that in a situation of social crisis the members of the NUJ, by virtue of their position within the media of information, would have a power totally disproportionate to their numerical strength and could exercise that power to seek to impose a totalitarian system upon the country.

Most of the authoritarian Socialist systems that have been imposed upon reluctant people in the last decade have not been imposed by—to use the words used by my right hon. Friend—57 varities of Trotskyites, Maoists or whatever else it may be. They have been imposed by soldiers, by armies. So, if we are to shiver with fear, let us, in the light of history, shiver with fear whenever we see a uniformed soldier and not whenever we confront a fully-paid-up member of the NUJ.

I have no reason to love the National Union of Journalists. I was kicked out of that union in circumstances which were certainly not to its credit but entirely within its rules. As a result of being ill I had neglected to pay my subscription. There were certain other accounts that I neglected to pay. The Midland Bank, bless and preserve it, was far more generous to me than the NUJ. When I attempted to rejoin the union it was decided that I was not eligible. Let us make no mistake about it; that was entirely within the rights of the members of that union. Although I have every reason to have a strong prejudice against the NUJ, I cannot take seriously the view that the union is about to be captured by the enemies of democracy with intent to destroy the freedom of the Press and to liquidate outside contributors such as myself.

I speak as a fairly well known and fairly widely read outside contributor. Judging by my correspondence, I am read mostly by Conservative Members and not by my hon. Friends. I must point out that there are certain responsibilities which cannot be written into a charter which outside contributors must accept as a kind of self-denying ordinance. I would never in any circumstances, even if I obtained real hard news—and occasionally I stumble into it—use the column that I am privileged to occupy once a month in The Times to purvey such news. In so doing I would be depriving a craftsman of work. I do not think that outside contributors should do that.

We are entitled to give our opinion on what is already in the public domain. We are entitled, as most of us are expected to do, to entertain the public rather than to inform them. I do not believe that the NUJ is wrong in any sense if it registers an objection if some of us in a position to receive hard news incorporate it in columns which are supposed to be columns of opinion. We should not be in business to deprive craftsmen of any part of their jobs. I do not believe that members of the NUJ who have decided by ballot—the Secretary of State has shown that the ballot can be reversed only by another ballot—to take a reasonable course of action should now be indicted because at some future time, in a future hypothetical situation, they might be captured by about 27 thugs. I do not think that we should talk about the Bill or the dangers to Press freedoms in those terms.

In making my final point, I speak as someone who has not only disagreed rather vigorously with my right hon. Friend before but who has actually worked for him. I believe that I was the biggest nuisance he ever had in his employ. However, that is past history. I emphasise that the amendment proposed by my hon. Friend the Member for Derby, North takes complete care of all the objections that have been raised as to the operation of the Bill and the charter that will emerge from the discussions that have taken place during the Bill's passage. It takes complete care of the special position of editors. If anyone associated with me in a union or in my party pointed the pistol at the head of any editor to force him to join any union I would repudiate such action. My hon. Friend's amendment takes complete care of that possible situation.

The amendment also protects the interests of outside contributors, although I expect such contributors to observe certain self-imposed ground rules as I do myself. I think that it is a constructive amendment to what is already a constructive amendment. Those who imagine that by trying to bring the law into this sort of situation they are protecting the freedom of the Press should understand that if the situation in journalism is as potentially dangerous as they imagine it to be, there will be no law passed in this House that can stop it from escalating. There is no charter that will not be torn up by the revolutionaries, if they exist in sufficient quantities to be able to do that. I do not believe that they exist in such numbers in the NUJ. Whilst I have no reason to have great affection for that union, I believe in what it stands for in the light of the ballot decision it has recently taken.

Mr. John P. Mackintosh (Berwick and East Lothian)

Like the hon. Member for Ilkeston (Mr. Fletcher), I do not think that there is a band of men spread throughout the NUJ who deliberately intend to subvert the newspaper industry. No one imagines that. I believe that from various sources in varying degrees our Press is in some danger of having its freedom eroded. If I had to list the most important single source I should say it was the closure of newspapers due to economic pressure. Indeed, I wish that we were talking about that and about a Bill for the freedom of the media. I wish that we did not have this Bill, but had a different Bill in a different situation.

Let us recognise that although there is the danger of closure and of financial strangulation and some danger, sometimes, from proprietors—I think greater in the past than now, because economic forces grip them also—there is some danger, in certain situations, from journalists' unions acting in their own defence, cutting people out of contributions or trying to influence the policy of the paper. It does not happen often. It is not prevalent, but the danger exists.

My hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, North-West (Mr. Thomas) put his finger on the matter when he pointed out that in a declining industry he would support a policy by the NUJ, if it agreed to it, in a particular chapel, to have, if necessary, no outside contributions whatever. If that happened it would limit the freedom of the Press and it would constitute a danger.

If there was no danger my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State would not have told us that he intends to set up a charter. If there was no danger he would not be saying that. However, he says that we have to have a charter. We are not in disagreement about this or about the nature of freedom, which is to have many newspapers able to put their own free editorial point of view. We are in agreement that it can be threatened in one or two ways, one of which we are trying to combat by this measure.

The only issue remaining is whether the House should give some indication of what the charter should or should not include. As far as I can see, that is the only issue that remains before us.

I should have thought that the charter would be a difficult thing to draw up, but, as my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, I am sure, will agree, if it does not contain some defence of editorial freedom and access it is not worth having as a charter. I am sure that my right hon. Friend would want it to include those things, and would not accept it as a charter if it did not. In the circumstances, all that he is saying is, "I think that the charter should include the same points as are in your amendment, but do not say it. Do not put it in the Bill. Do not write it down." Why not? When I have listened to him speak in the House on other occasions his only argument has been, "If you write it in you make it more difficult to negotiate You upset them. You frighten or annoy them." If anything would upset or worry me about the freedom of the Press it would be if that were true. If it were true that the NUJ were so teetering on the verge of rejecting these principles that it would be frightened by the House making any point of this kind, I believe that the danger would be greater than is the case.

I am surprised that my right hon. Friend should tell the House "The two sides will negotiate a charter, but, hush, do not let the House of Commons say what it regards as the minimum requirements of the charter." I cannot understand him when he say that. I can think of him in a previous incarnation of only a few years back when he would have stood in the Chamber and said, "Is it to be said to us, the sovereign legislature of this country, that we are not to pronounce on this matter? Is it that we are to go to outside parties and say 'Protect the freedom of our Press, protect your rights, come together, because we have to make the commitment.'"? All we are asking in our two amendments is that this House shall exercise its normal right of representing the public, the readers of the Press. The charter will be worthless unless it contains these two points.

It being Ten o'clock, the debate stood adjourned.

Ordered, That the consideration of Lords Amendments to the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Amendment) Bill may be proceeded with at this day's sitting, though opposed, until any hour.—[Mr. Thomas Cox.]

Question again proposed.

Mr. Foot

My hon. Friend the Member for Berwick and East Lothian (Mr. Mackintosh) finished so suddenly that he left me speechless. I will try to sustain that position as nearly as I can and still discharge the duties which I suppose I must perform at the end of this debate. I will speak as briefly as possible and comment upon what has been said. This debate is a refutation of the view which my hon. Friend was attributing to me—that in some way or other I am not in favour of the House of Commons pronouncing on these matters.

The House of Commons has done very well today. That is one reason why I believe in the House of Commons. Debates of this character, when we are not subject to a Government who have closed their minds in advance—[Interruption.] I have always believed in the proposition that as often as possible—of course, it cannot be done all the time—Ministers should listen to a debate and reply to it taking into account what has been said.

Sir David Renton


Mr. Foot

I will give way, but I want to get a word in first.

At the beginning of the debate I said, although it may have been a most extraordinary utterance, that I would listen to the debate and make up my mind, or that of the Government, in view of what was said. I have done that and I propose to reveal it to the House as soon as the right hon. and learned Gentleman will allow me to do so.

Sir David Renton

The right hon. Gentleman claims to have an open mind. Will he bear in mind that the House is waiting for him to show his open-minded-ness on the closed shop?

Mr. Foot

I have already expressed my view on that matter. I have tried to disabuse hon. Members of the idea that I have some passion in favour of the closed shop. That is not so. As I said earlier, I have a passion to try to get rid of the Industrial Relations Act, but that is a different matter.

I turn first to the speech made by my hon. Friend the Member for Ashfield (Mr. Marquand) and his amendment on the subject of the admissibility of evidence. Admissibility is a very different matter from enforceability, as he acknowledged

My hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, North-West (Mr. Thomas) expressed his doubts, suspicions and qualms about the charter being admissible in evidence in any form. I will come later to his general proposition about having a charter included in the Bill in any form whatsoever. I shall seek to reply to that point.

I do not think that anyone in any quarter of the House should have any qualms about the charter, once it is established, being admissible in evidence. But I think it is a reasonable thing to happen. That is what happens with highway codes and other codes which may be established under different Acts of Parliament. They are admissible in different forms. Indeed, as I understand it—I am no lawyer, like many others who have spoken—they are admissible if they are relevant.

It is partly because of the general admissibility of such evidence that I believe my hon. Friend the Member for Ashfield over-rated the significance of his amendment. I do not believe that it has the full significance that he suggests. However, it is true that some contributors might be embraced in his amendment who might conceivably be excluded under these provisions, although we have racked our brains to discover circumstances in which that might be the position. We have not found any circumstances that indicated that, but it is conceivable. Therefore, he says, his amendment is harmless on my reckoning or it is necessary, and which is it? I think that it is harmless, and so I shall take it. But I take it subject to what I have said about its harmlessness, and I am sure that the courts will pay due attention to what I say. I believe that the charter could be invoked in all proceedings where it is relevant, whether or not we have stated it in the Bill.

On that basis, if the House will permit my hon. Friend's amendment to be carried the Government will accept it. I do not think that it makes a vast improvement to the Bill. I do not think that it alters it greatly. It does not alter the Bill from our intention, and in some respects I think the fact that we have spelled out in the Bill the occasions when the charter could be invoked and its admissibility could be invoked is of assistance to the general debate.

Now I come to the amendments of my hon. Friends the Members for Gateshead, West (Mr. Horam) and Derby, North (Mr. Whitehead). It has been suggested that there is not much difference between these two amendments, but I think that there is a considerable difference between them as was illustrated by the debate, particularly when my hon. Friend the Member for Berwick and East Lothian laid stress on the rights of contributors, and that is a theme that has run through all these debates.

The amendment tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Gateshead, West leaves out any recognition of or reference to contributors, and if he were to vote for that amendment he would vote for one that did not deal with that subject. Although the matter may be partly dealt with in the harmless amendment that I have accepted, it would be an extraordinary state of affairs if my hon. Friends, and particularly my hon. Friend the Member for Berwick and East Lothian, who always sees these matters so much more clearly than the rest of us, decided that they would go slap into the Lobby to vote for an amendment which specifically does not carry out what my hon. Friend has been complaining about. I do not think that that is a very good reason for voting for the Gateshead amendment.

I am not saying this in a fiercely critical sense, because I appreciate that my hon. Friend, like other hon. Members, has not had a great deal of time in which to put down the amendment. I do not think that that is a complaint against the Government, or against anybody, and by having discussed these matters in the House today we have been able to clear up many of these points.

I say to my hon. Friend the Member for Gateshead that, partly because it leaves out contributors, partly for the other reasons that I stressed earlier, partly because the reference to editors is made in an unqualified manner, partly because, if passed in that form, it would greatly injure the prospect of securing any charter, I hope that he will not move his amendment. I think that that is the best solution, but if he does move it, I shall have to ask the House to reject it for the reasons that I have stated.

Now I come to the amendment in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Derby, North. His amendment is very different from that put down by my hon. Friend the Member for Gateshead, for the reasons that he said. First, it does not have the overtones of anti-unionism which one finds in the Gateshead amendment. I am sure that that was not done on purpose, but the amendment has that inference, as my hon. Friend the Member for Derby, North insisted. Also, as he emphasised, there are many other differences between his amendment and that of my hon. Friend the Member for Gateshead, West.

We believe that his amendment is a very considerable improvement and goes near to solving the problem, but we should like to look at the wording carefully.

In some respects we do not think that the amendment quite carries through everything that is intended, because it is qualified in another sense; the rights of the editors stated there are qualified by reference to the agreement itself. We shall look at the amendment and see whether it is satisfactory in the present form or whether we wish, while still retaining the principle of it as now stated, to qualify it or to frame the words in a somewhat different way when it goes to another place.

Subject to that, we shall accept the amendment in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Derby, North, if he moves it, and ask the House to support it and add it to the other amendments that we shall then be proposing.

I believe that that is a sensible approach. I hope it will not cause any trouble to any of my hon. Friends in any quarter, though certainly I hope that it will cause great trouble to the Opposition. By adopting this sensible approach I believe that we shall be carrying out more skilfully and more purposefully what had already been intended by the Government. Indeed, when it is suggested that we must have an arrangement whereby the charter, whatever else it deals with, covers two specific subjects—the position of editors and the question of access—that is quite right. But that is all in our original amendment. In accepting the amendment of the hon. Member for Derby, North we are, therefore, fulfilling what we had originally intended—subject, as I have already said, to the fact that we wish to look at it in the House of Lords a bit later. Turning to the speech made by my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, North-West, I fully accept the view he expressed about the charter, in the sense that he quoted remarks that I had made earlier about the way in which this question should be approached, and how we wished to keep the law out of this battle.

My hon. Friend said that the charter might, in some form or another, be an interference with free collective bargaining. I do not accept that view, and certainly that is not the view of the National Union of Journalists. The union has been strongly in favour of the charter all along. Part of the reason for their being strongly in favour of it is that their own code of conduct—which they had before any of this arose—embraces most of the ideas in the charter itself. It does not embrace them all, because there are some matters, such as the position of the editors, that were not dealt with in the code of the journalists. That was one of the specific matters referred to the journalists in the ballot that they have recently held.

I am sure that the National Union of Journalists does not regard the charter approach to this subject as one that interferes with its rights as a trade union. If the charter were to be made enforceable by legal means, I would entirely agree with what has been suggested, but the Government have resisted this throughout. We have had major pressure from all other quarters, sustained from the Opposition benches tonight, although with wilting effect, because there has not been a very powerful assault from them. It rather seems that they have given up. If that is so, I think they are very wise, because more and more as the debate has proceeded, we have seen how unwise it is to think that problems such as these can be solved by the cumbrous and awkward legisative apparatus that Lord Goodman has served up to us.

The first thing we should be doing tonight in accepting the Government's amendments is to reject the whole of that apparatus. In that sense I believe that we are fulfilling the wishes of my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, North-West.

10.15 p.m.

Mr. Lee

May we take it as an assurance that if an attempt is made by a majority in another place to reverse our decision the Government will then deal with the other place?

Mr. Foot

Do not tempt me too far. Let us get this Bill through the House of Lords and then consider these questions in the proper way. I want to see this Bill on the statute book as speedily as possible, not only in the interests of the journalists but because the Bill is the final measure for wiping out the 1971 Act. Already many months have passed during which the Bill should have been on the statute book.

The hon. Member for Brentford and Isleworth (Mr. Hayhoe) said that nothing much had happened and that we need not worry. All the dire prophesies that I had made of what might occur if that measure had stayed on the statute book had not come to pass, he said. Maybe it is because we have been improving the industrial climate in other spheres too. As long as the arbitrary exclusion clause, on which the Government had such a good majority earlier today, remains the law of the land of course there are dangers asociated with the kind of actions which spring from the 1971 Act, and for that reason I eagerly await the time when this Bill will be carried into effect.

The House of Commons has illustrated that whatever the differing shades of emphasis there may be between us none of us can accept the Goodman method of dealing with this problem. We are all determined to vote against that method, and whatever hesitations and reservations we may have we believe that the charter method is the right way to proceed. Therefore when we vote for these Government amendments the House will be giving all the encouragement it can to the NUJ, to the editors and to the others concerned to come together to try to secure the charter we have always wanted. When that objective is achieved we shall in some respects have a better protection for the freedom of the Press than has ever existed in this country. The Opposition asked about this appalling fear, this idea that the NUJ would exercise its mammoth monopoly and deny complete access to the newspapers. The hon. Member for Brentford and Isleworth was wise enough to say that this was a very remote possibility. That was not the frenzied way in which the situation has been portrayed in the newspapers. There have been no leading articles in the Daily Express, The Times and other newspapers referring to a remote possibility. They have almost been talking about Hitler marching down Fleet Street.

If we carry through the Government's proposals for dealing with this problem and if we can sustain support for the freedom of the Press generally and, in particular, among journalists and editors, if we can sustain the kind of momentum which has been displayed on this subject over the last few months, we shall remove that remote possibility from the horizon altogether. I hope that the House will not be guided by those hobgoblins, but will accept that we have made progress in securing protections for the freedom of the Press which do not involve the dilemma which the hon. Member for Brentford and Isleworth presented. He said that we have to choose between the freedom of the Press and the principles of trade unionism.

Mr. Hayhoe


Mr. Foot

No, I know that the hon. Member said that we have to choose between freedom of the Press and the closed shop—

Mr. Hayhoe

The sanctity of the closed shop.

Mr. Foot

Yes, "the sanctity of the closed shop" is a phrase in the mouths of Conservative Members which they use to try to reassert the 1971 Act ideas. Nothing could be more dangerous than to say to people, especially trade unionists, that the freedom of the Press is opposed to their interests. Trade unionists have as much interest in the freedom of the Press as anyone else and they have shown a better spirit in sustaining it than many other sections of the community.

So for hon. Members opposite or the House of Lords to try to draw a distinction between freedom of the Press and the interests of trade unionists, two freeddoms—the freedom to write and speak freely and the freedom to combine—which have had to be fought for mainly by trade unionists is to seek to damage the cause of trade unionism and that of the freedom of the Press. We on this side stand for both.

Mr. Brittan

After many hours of debating the freedom of the Press it is easy to forget the context of the debate and how the anxieties of the freedom of the Press arose in the first place. The Bill is not fundamentally about the Press but about industrial relations. One of its effects was to encourage the spread of the closed shop. It was at that point—late in the day, it has been said—that the Press realised that the Bill was likely to encourage the closed shop and those concerned with the Press woke up and realised that if the closed shop was enforced by the NUJ there was a risk—not necessarily overwhelming but some risk—that the union would abuse its position as a monopoly supplier of labour to the Press and restrict Press freedom in some way.

We can debate whether the danger of that happening is great or small, but we believe that if that is a danger at all it must be dealt with. It was made clear by my hon. Friend the Member for Thanet, East (Mr. Aitken) and supported by the hon. Members for Leyton (Mr. Magee) and Berwick and East Lothian (Mr. Mackintosh) that the threat may not be imminent but is one that we ignore at our peril.

The question then arose, if that is the situation, whether one should and could protect Press freedom from that threat and specifically from that threat alone. It is important to remember that the Bill is about industrial relations and the impact of the closed shop. It is not a Bill about the Press generally. It is therefore no answer to what we say for Labour Members to say that there are other risks to Press freedom which should be dealt with. That is the answer to the points made about the influence of proprietors.

I do not agree with everything said about proprietors, but even if some of it were right, and even if some of what was said about access to the Press were right, it does not follow that we could or should try to deal with that problem in the Bill. A Royal Commission is sitting and when it has reported it may or may not be appropriate to introduce much more general legislation to meet the points of hon. Members opposite.

At the moment, we are concerned with one particular potential threat to Press freedom—that posed by a closed shop. It is that threat alone we seek to meet in the Bill. Some hon. Members have said that the threat is so negligible that it ought not to be regarded; others have said that, even if it was not negligible and had been a reality, it had been adequately dealt with by the votes of the NUJ. We have had a thorough-going history of votes at NUJ meetings and in postal ballots. Whatever the constitutional position within that organisation, to rely for the protection of our freedom of speech on votes which can change from week to week and month to month is to base the most precious of our freedoms on shifting sands. Although the hon. Member for Derby, North (Mr. Whitehead) told us we should be grateful to the NUJ, the right attitude for this House is not to be grateful or ungrateful to the union. It is for this House to take the steps necessary to protect our freedoms rather than wait for the NUJ to be good enough to take an attitude we can approve.

Is it right to intervene in the encouragement of closed shops of the kind provided by this legislation? The Secretary of State and the hon. Member for Bristol, North-West (Mr. Thomas) asked why the NUJ should be singled out and why it should be more difficult for that union to impose a closed shop than it is for other unions in industry. They asked whether that was not unfair.

The answer is that producing a newspaper is not the same as manufacturing ball-bearings, and anybody who falls into the error of thinking that there is nothing we should do to protect the freedom of the Press, as opposed to dealing with a closed shop situation where freedom of expression is not concerned, is making a fundamental error which we reject. However important the closed shop may be to some people in industry, freedom of speech is more important for us, and if anyone is to protect freedom of speech, it should be this House. We should never be party to a protection which is false and illusory. It would be better not to make an attempt to protect Press freedom than to be a party to protecting it in a way which is a snare and a delusion. The Secretary of State's proposed amendments to the Goodman amendments are a snare and a delusion and are not worth the paper they are written on. That is why I shall advise my hon. and right hon. Friends that the Goodman amendments should be supported and the Secretary of State's amendments should be rejected.

Much of the debate has taken place against a background of internecine strife, with a greater or lesser degree of politeness, between the Manifesto Group and other members of the Labour Party. The Secretary of State graciously conceded much to the Manifesto Group, exactly as we predicted at the outset. The charade has been played through. It is a charade because it does not make a halfpenny-worth of difference whether the Manifesto Group's amendments are passed or the Secretary of State's amendments go through. None provide adequate protection. I was astonished to hear the hon. Member for Gateshead, West (Mr. Horam) claim that his amendment would guarantee Press freedom. How can it guarantee Press freedom when it is only a charter which is, at most, admissible and can be referred to, but has no effect and does not bite? My hon. Friend the Member for Thanet, East was devastating in his analysis of why a charter would have no effect and would not bite. My right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Huntingdonshire (Sir D. Renton) showed that it was deprived of all force and had no effect because it merely provided something which could be looked at by the courts.

10.30 p.m.

At one point the hon. Member for Birmingham, Ladywood (Mr. Walden) intervened and said that the Bill did not deprive the journalist of his common law rights. He is correct. But the point is not that it does not deprive the journalist of his common law rights but that, in the form in which the Secretary of State would have it, it adds nothing to those rights and does not assist him one jot or tittle to enforce those rights and to have those rights. It would be quite wrong for us, on the basis of a charter which contained a lot of illusory hot air, to surrender our undoubted duty of providing real protection for the freedom of the Press in the area in which it is most threatened.

There is only one sure protection for the freedom of the Press when it is threatened in a particular way as it is in this Bill. It is for us in this House to have the courage to say to the country that we cannot guarantee Press freedom. The hon. Member for Ilkeston (Mr. Fletcher) was right in that sense. But we can give some measure of protection against a particular threat. That is what we propose to do, and that is why we support the Goodman amendment.

Question put, That the amendment to the Lords Amendments be made:—

The House divided: Ayes 290, Noes 257.

Division No. 337.] AYES [5.46 p.m.
Abse, Leo Fitch, Alan (Wigan) Maclennan, Robert
Allaun, Frank Flannery, Martin McMillan, Tom (Glasgow C)
Anderson, Donald Fletcher, Raymond (Ilkeston) McNamara, Kevin
Archer, Peter Fletcher, Ted (Darlington) Madden, Max
Armstrong, Ernest Foot, Rt Hon Michael Magee, Bryan
Ashley, Jack Ford, Ben Maguire, Frank (Fermanagh)
Atkins, Ronald (Preston N) Forrester, John Mahon, Simon
Atkinson, Norman Fowler, Gerald (The Wrekin) Mallalieu, J. P. W.
Bain, Mrs Margaret Fraser, John (Lambeth, N'w'd) Marks, Kenneth
Barnett, Rt Hon Joel (Heywood) Freeson, Reginald Marquand, David
Bates, Alf Garrett, W. E. (Wallsend) Marshall, Dr. Edmund (Goole)
Bean, R. E. George, Bruce Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)
Benn, Rt Hon Anthony Wedgwood Ginsburg, David Mason, Rt Hon Roy
Bennett, Andrew (Stockport N) Gould, Bryan Maynard, Miss Joan
Bidwell, Sydney Gourlay, Harry Meacher, Michael
Bishop, E. S. Graham, Ted Mellish, Rt Hon Robert
Blenkinsop, Arthur Grant, George (Morpeth) Mikardo, Ian
Boardman, H. Grant, John (Islington C) Millan, Bruce
Booth, Albert Grocott, Bruce Miller, Dr M. S. (E. Kilbride)
Bottomley, Rt Hon Arthur Hamilton, James (Bothwell) Miller, Mrs Millie (Ilford N)
Boyden, James (Bish Auck) Hardy, Peter Molloy, William
Bradley, Tom Harper, Joseph Moonman, Eric
Bray, Dr Jeremy Harrison, Walter (Wakefield) Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe)
Brown, Hugh D. (Provan) Hart, Rt Hon Judith Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw)
Brown, Robert C. (Newcastle W) Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon)
Brown, Ronald (Hackney S) Hatton, Frank Mulley, Rt Hon Frederick
Buchan, Norman Hayman, Mrs Helene Murray, Rt Hon Ronald King
Butler, Mrs Joyce (Wood Green) Healey, Rt Hon Denis Newens, Stanley
Callaghan, Rt Hon J. (Cardiff SE) Heffer, Eric S. Noble, Mike
Campbell, Ian Henderson, Douglas Oakes, Gordon
Canavan, Dennis Hooley, Frank Ogden, Eric
Cant, R. B. Horam, John O'Halloran, Michael
Carmichael, Neil Hoyle, Doug (Nelson) O'Malley, Rt Hon Brian
Carter, Ray Huckfield, Les Orbach, Maurice
Carter-Jones, Lewis Hughes, Rt Hon C. (Anglesey) Orme, Rt Hon Stanley
Cartwright, John Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen, N) Ovenden, John
Castle, Rt Hon Barbara Hughes, Roy (Newport) Owen, Dr David
Clemitson, Ivor Hunter, Adam Padley, Walter
Cocks, Michael (Bristol S) Irvine, Rt Hon Sir A. (Edge Hill) Palmer, Arthur
Cohen, Stanley Irving, Rt Hon S. (Dartford) Park, George
Colquhoun, Mrs Maureen Jackson, Colin (Brighouse) Parker, John
Concannon, J. D. Janner, Greville Parry, Robert
Conlan, Bernard Jay, Rt Hon Douglas Pavitt, Laurie
Cook, Robin F. (Edin C) Jeger, Mrs Lena Peart, Rt Hon Fred
Corbett, Robin Jenkins, Hugh (Putney) Perry, Ernest
Cox, Thomas (Tooting) Jenkins, Rt Hon Roy (Stechford) Phipps, Dr Colin
Craigen, J. M. (Maryhill) John, Brynmor Prentice, Rt Hon Reg
Crawshaw, Richard Johnson, James (Hull West) Price, C. (Lewisham W)
Cronin. John Johnson, Walter (Derby S) Price, William (Rugby)
Crosland, Rt Hon Anthony Jones, Alec (Rhondda) Radice, Giles
Cryer, Bob Jones, Barry (East Flint) Rees, Rt Hon Merlyn (Leeds S)
Cunningham, G. (Islington S) Jones, Dan (Burnley) Reid, George
Cunningham, Dr J. (Whiten) Judd, Frank Richardson, Miss Jo
Davidson, Arthur Kaufman, Gerald Roberts, Albert (Normanton)
Davies, Bryan (Enfield N) Kelley, Richard Roberts, Gwilym (Cannock)
Davies, Denzil (Llanelli) Kilroy-Silk, Robert Robertson, John (Paisley)
Davies, Ifor (Gower) Kinnock, Neil Roderick, Caerwyn
Davis, Clinton (Hackney C) Lambie, David Rodgers, George (Chorley)
Deakins, Eric Lamborn, Harry Rodgers, William (Stockton)
Dean, Joseph (Leeds West) Lamond, James Rooker, J. W.
Delargy, Hugh Latham, Arthur (Paddington) Roper, John
Dell, Rt Hon Edmund Leadbitter, Ted Rose, Paul B.
Dempsey, James Lee, John Ross, Rt Hon W. (Kilmarnock)
Doig, Peter Lestor, Miss Joan (Eton & Slough) Rowlands, Ted
Dormand, J. D. Lever, Rt Hon Harold Ryman, John
Douglas-Mann, Bruce Lewis, Arthur (Newham N) Sandelson, Neville
Duffy, A. E. P. Lewis, Ron (Carlisle) Sedgemore, Brian
Dunn, James A. Lipton, Marcus Shaw, Arnold (Ilford South)
Dunnett, Jack Litterick, Tom Sheldon, Robert (Ashton-u-Lyne)
Eadie, Alex Lomas, Kenneth Shore, Rt Hon Peter
Edelman, Maurice Loyden, Eddie Short, Mrs Renée (Wolv NE)
Edge, Geoff Luard, Evan Silkin, Rt Hon John (Deptford)
Edwards, Robert (Wolv SE) Lyon, Alexander (York) Silkin, Rt Hon S. C. (Dulwich)
Ellis, John (Brigg & Scun) Lyons, Edward (Bradford W) Sillars, James
English, Michael Mabon, Dr J. Dickson Silverman, Julius
Ennals, David MacCormick, Iain Skinner, Dennis
Evans, Fred (Caerphilly) McElhone, Frank Small, William
Evans, Gwynfor (Carmarthen) MacFarquhar, Roderick Smith, John (N Lanarkshire)
Evans, Ioan (Aberdare) McGuire, Michael(Ince) Snape, Peter
Ewing, Harry (Stirling) Mackintosh, John P. Spearing, Nigel
Fernyhough, Rt Hon E.
Spriggs, Leslie Tuck, Raphael Whitlock, William
Stallard, A. W Urwin, T W. Wigley, Dafydd
Stewart, Donald (Western Isles) Varley, Rt Hon Eric G. Willey, Rt Hon Frederick
Stoddart, David Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne V) Williams, Alan (Swansea W)
Stott, Roger Walden, Brian (B ham, L'dyw'd) Williams, Alan Lee (Hornch'ch)
Strang, Gavin Walker, Harold (Doncaster) Williams, Rt Hon Shirley (Hertford)
Strauss, Rt Hon G. R. Walker, Terry (Kingswood) Williams, W. T. (Warrington)
Summerskill, Hon Dr Shirley Ward, Michael Wilson, Alexander (Hamilton)
Swain, Thomas Watkins, David Wilson, Gordon (Dundee E)
Taylor, Mrs Ann (Bolton W) Watkinson, John Wilson, Rt Hon H. (Huyton)
Thomas, Dafydd (Merioneth) Watt, Hamish Wise, Mrs. Audrey
Thomas, Jeffrey (Abertillery) Weetch, Ken Woof, Robert
Thomas, Ron (Bristol NW) Weitzman, David Wrigglesworth, Ian
Thompson, George Wellbeloved, James Young, David (Bolton E)
Thome, Stan (Preston South) Welsh, Andrew
Tierney, Sydney White, Frank R. (Bury) TELLERS FOR THE AYES
Tinn, James White, James (Pollok) Mr. Tom Pendry and
Tomlinson, John Whitehead, Phillip Miss Margaret Jackson
Torney, Tom
Adley, Robert Fell, Anthony Kitson, Sir Timothy
Aitken, Jonathan Finsberg, Geoffrey Knight, Mrs. Jill
Alison, Michael Fisher, Sir Nigel Knox, David
Amery, Rt Hon Julian Fletcher, Alex (Edinburgh N) Lamont, Norman
Arnold, Tom Fletcher-Cooke, Charles Lane, David
Atkins, Rt Hon H. (Spelthorne) Fookes, Miss Janet Langford-Holt, Sir John
Awdry, Daniel Fowler, Norman (Sutton C'f'd) Latham, Michael (Melton)
Baker, Kenneth Fox, Marcus Lawrence, Ivan
Banks, Robert Fraser, Rt Hon H. (Stafford & St) Lawson, Nigel
Beith, A. J. Freud, Clement Lester Jim (Beeston)
Bell, Ronald Fry, Peter Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)
Bennett, Sir Frederic (Torbay) Galbraith, Hon. T. G. D. Lloyd, Ian
Bennett, Dr Reginald (Fareham) Gardiner, George (Reigate) Loveridge, John
Berry, Hon Anthony Gardner, Edward (S Fylda) Luce, Richard
Biffen, John Gilmour, Sir John (East Fife) McAdden, Sir Stephen
Biggs-Davison, John Glyn, Dr Alan McCrindle, Robert
Blaker, Peter Godber, Rt Hon Joseph Macfarlane, Neil
Body, Richard Goodhart, Philip MacGregor, John
Boscawen, Hon Robert Goodhew, Victor Macmillan, Rt Hon M. (Farnham)
Bottomley, Peter Goodlad, Alastair McNair-Wilson, M. (Newbury)
Bowden, A. (Brighton, Kemptown) Gorst, John McNair-Wilson, P. (New Forest)
Boyson, Dr Rhodes (Brent) Gower, Sir Raymond (Barry) Madel, David
Braine, Sir Bernard Grant Anthony (Harrow C) Marshall, Michael (Arundel)
Brittan, Leon Gray, Hamish Marten, Neil
Brocklebank-Fowler, C. Grieve, Percy Mates, Michael
Brown, Sir Edward (Bath) Grimond, Rt Hon J Mather, Carol
Bryan, Sir Paul Grist, Ian Maude, Angus
Buchanan-Smith, Alick Grylls, Michael Maudling, Rt Hon Reginald
Buck, Antony Hall, Sir John Mawby, Ray
Budgen, Nick Hall-Davis, A. G. F. Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin
Bulmer, Esmond Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury) Mayhew, Patrick
Burden, F. A. Hampson, Dr Keith Meyer, Sir Anthony
Carlisle, Mark Hannam, John Miller, Hal (Bromsgrove)
Carr, Rt Hon Robert Harrison, Col Sir Harwood (Eye) Mills, Peter
Chalker, Mrs Lynda Harvie Anderson, Rt Hon Miss Miscampbell, Norman
Channon, Paul Hastings, Stephen Mitchell, David (Basingstoke)
Churchill, W. S. Havers, Sir Michael Moate, Roger
Clark, Alan (Plymouth, Sutton) Hawkins, Paul Molyneaux, James
Clark, William (Croydon S) Hayhoe, Barney Montgomery, Fergus
Clegg, Walter Heseltine, Michael Moore, John (Croydon C)
Cockcroft, John Hicks, Robert More, Jasper (Ludlow)
Cooke, Robert (Bristol W) Higgins, Terence L. Morgan-Giles, Rear-Admiral
Cope, John Hordern, Peter Morris, Michael (Northampton S)
Cordle, John H Howe, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey Morrison, Charles (Devizes)
Costain, A. P. Howell, David (Guildford) Morrison, Hon Peter (Chester)
Critchley, Julian Howells, Geraint (Cardigan) Mudd, David
Crouch, David Hunt, John Neave, Airey
Crowder, F. P. Hurd, Douglas Nelson, Anthony
Davies, Rt Hon J. (Knutsford) Hutchison, Michael Clark Neubert, Michael
Dean, Paul (N Somerset) Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye) Newton, Tony
Dodsworth, Geoffrey Irving, Charles (Cheltenham) Nott, John
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James James, David Onslow, Cranley
Drayson, Burnaby Jenkin, Rt Hon P. (Wanst'd & W'df'd) Oppenheim, Mrs Sally
du Cann, Rt Hon Edward Jessel, Toby Page, John (Harrow West)
Durant, Tony Johnson Smith, G. (E Grinstead) Page, Rt Hon R. Graham (Crosby)
Eden, Rt Hon Sir John Johnston, Russell (Inverness) Pardoe, John
Edwards, Nicholas (Pembroke) Jones, Arthur (Daventry) Pattle, Geoffrey
Elliott, Sir William Jopling, Michael Penhaligon, David
Emery, Peter Joseph, Rt Hon Sir Keith Percival, Ian
Eyre, Reginald Kershaw, Anthony Peyton, Rt Hon John
Fairbairn, Nicholas Kilfedder, James Pink, R. Bonner
Fairgrieve, Russell Kimball, Marcus Price, David (Eastleigh)
Farr, John King, Tom (Bridgwater) Pym, Rt Hon Francis
Raison, Timothy Sinclair, Sir George Townsend, Cyril D.
Rathbone, Tim Skeet, T. H. H. Trotter, Neville
Rawlinson, Rt Hon Sir Peter Smith, Cyril (Rochdale) Tugendhat, Christopher
Rees, Peter (Dover & Deal) Smith, Dudley (Warwick) van Straubenzee, W. R.
Rees-Davies, W. R. Speed, Keith Vaughan, Dr Gerard
Renton, Rt Hon Sir D. (Hunts) Spicer, Michael (S Worcester) Viggers, Peter
Ridley, Hon Nicholas Sproat, Iain Wainwright, Richard (Coine V)
Ridsdale, Julian Stainton, Keith Wakeham, John
Rifkind Malcolm Stanbrook, Ivor Walder, David (Clitheroe)
Roberts, Michael (Cardiff NW) Steel, David (Roxburgh) Wall, Patrick
Roberts, Wyn (Conway) Steen, Anthony (Wavertree) Walters, Dennis
Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight) Stewart, Ian (Hitchin) Warren, Kenneth
Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey) Stokes, John Weatherill, Bernard
Rost, Peter (SE Derbyshire) Storehouse, Rt Hon John Wells, John
Sainsbury, Tim Stradling Thomas, J. Whitelaw, Rt Hon William
St. John-Stevas, Norman Tapsell, Peter Wiggin, Jerry
Scott, Nicholas Taylor, R. (Croydon NW) Winterton Nicholas
Shaw, Giles (Pudsey) Taylor, Teddy (Cathcart) Wood, Rt Hon Richard
Shelton, William (Streatham) Tebbit, Norman Young, Sir G. (Ealing, Acton)
Shepherd, Colin Temple-Morris, Peter
Shersby, Michael Thatcher, Rt Hon Margaret TELLERS FOR THE NOES
Silvester, Fred Thomas, Rt Hon P. (Hendon S) Mr. William Benyon and
Sims, Roger Thorpe, Rt Hon Jeremy (N Devon) Mr. Cecil Parkinson.

Question accordingly agreed to.

[For Division List 338 see col. 1541.]

Amendment to Lords Amendment No. 7 proposed, in line 17, leave out from beginning to end of line 28 and insert: 'such matters as the avoidance of improper pressure to distort or suppress news, comment, or criticism, the application of union membership agreements to journalists (and in particular the position of editors) and the question of access for contributors. '.—[Mr. Foot.]

Amendment proposed to the proposed amendment to the Lords Amendment (a), in line 3, leave out the words after "particular the" and insert instead thereof: 'right of editors to discharge their duties free from any obligation to join a trade union) and the right of editors to commission and publish any article '.—[Mr. George Reid.]

Question put, That amendment (a) to the proposed Lords amendment be made:—

The House divided: Ayes 31, Noes 275.

Question accordingly negatived.

[For Division List 399 see col. 1545.]

Amendment to the proposed amendment made to the Lords Amendment (b), leave out "position of editors)" and insert: right of editors to discharge their duties and to commission and publish any article)".—[Mr. Whitehead.]

Question put, That the amendment to Lords Amendments No. 7, as amended, be made:—

The House divided: Ayes 281, Noes 265.

Question accordingly agreed to.

[For Division List 340 see col. 1547.]

Further amendments made to Lords Amendment No. 7:

In line 35, leave out from "containing" to "and" in line 39 and insert such practical guidance as is referred to in that subsection". In line 40, at end insert— ( ) A charter agreed as mentioned in subsection (1) above, or prepared by the Secretary of State in accordance with subsection (3) above, shall define its field of operation."—[Mr. Foot.]

Amendment proposed to Lords Amendment No. 7, leave out subsections (8) and (9) and insert— '( ) A failure on the part of any person to observe any provision of a charter which is for the time being in force under this section shall not of itself render him liable to any proceedings, but in any proceedings for breach of contract in any court between a journalist and his employer or between a member of a trade union representing journalists and that trade union, or in any proceedings before an industrial tribunal under Schedule 1 to this Act or section 45 of the Employment Protection Act 1975

  1. (a)any such charter shall be admissible in evidence, and
  2. (b)any provision of such a charter which appears to the court or tribunal to be relevant to any question arising in those proceedings shall be taken into account by the court or tribunal in determining that question. '.—[Mr. Foot.]

Amendment to proposed amendment to Lords Amendment No. 7 made:

(a) leave out from second "proceedings" to "Employment Protection Act 1975."—[Mr. Marquand.]

Question put, That the proposed amendment, as amended, to Lords Amendment No. 7 be made:—

The House divided: Ayes 289, Noes 256.

Question accordingly agreed to.

[For Division List 341 see col. 1551.]

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House doth agree with Lords Amendment No. 7, as amended.—[Mr. Booth.]

Mr. Hayhoe

We have had a somewhat involved series of Divisions and although I know that the Conservative Party have known what they have been doing, I am not at all sure that others did know. The effect of what we have done is to emasculate the Goodman amendments. We are now back, as Labour Members wanted us to be, at Houghton, slightly modified with slight tinges of Manifesto attached to the Houghton amendments, which, as the Secretary of State made clear, were hardly worth mentioning.

These discussions on the Manifesto amendments have tended to obscure the main issue, which is whether or not we are prepared to support the defence of the freedom of the Press with effective measures backed by sanctions. We shall, therefore, vote against the whole package of amendments to Goodman, for we believe that proper enforcement provisions are vital.

The shadow boxing we have seen tonight between the Secretary of State and the Manifesto Group and the rather curious involvements of the Liberals and the Scottish Nationals and their ritualistic performances must not be allowed to draw attention away from what the House has done.

We shall, therefore, vote against this whole package of amendments because we do not think that they provide an effective defence for the freedom of the Press. I ask my hon. Friends now to register that view, and by so doing I hope that another place will take the message—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."]—that at least there is a substantial number of hon. Members in this House who support their view that the freedom of the Press is something worth defending with effective action.

Question put:

The House divided: Ayes, 280; Noes, 260.

Question accordingly agreed to.

[For Division List 342 see col. 1557.]

Remaining Lords amendment agreed to.

Committee appointed to draw up Reasons to be assigned to the Lords for disagreeing to certain of their amendments to the Bill: Mr. Booth, Mr. Brittan, Mr. Secretary Foot, Mr. Hayhoe and Mr. Thomas Cox; Three to be the quorum.—[Mr. Booth.]

To withdraw immediately.

Reasons for disagreeing to certain of the Lords amendments reported, and agreed to; to be communicated to the Lords.