§ 6.39 p.m.
§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.
§ LORD SHEPHERD
My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be read a second time. On July 5 your Lordships' House approved the draft of an Order which will activate Part II of the Prices and Incomes Act. The House had then before it, in the form of a House of 1324 Lords' Paper, details of the Bill which is now before the House, and we also had an opportunity of discussing in general the prices and incomes policy. I should therefore think that on this occasion I could be brief.
The only difference of any significance between the Paper that was before the House and the Bill lies in Clause 5 (page 7, line 23), where we have left out the words, "two months" and have inserted, "one month". Clause 5, subsection (7), provides that judgments in breach of contract cases instituted on or after June 5, 1967, may be set aside on the application of the employer, provided that they have not been satisfied in whole or in part. The subsection as originally 1325 introduced provided that such application must be made by the employer within a period of two months from the Bill's enactment. The Amendment substituted a period of one month for the period of two months. The original period of two months was chosen in order to allow the employer time to examine the situation and to make arrangements to lodge his application. The Amendment was tabled in recognition of the fact that so long a period of uncertainty might well prejudice industrial relations, and that the period should be as short as possible. Therefore we have decided that the period should be one month.
There is only one other word I should wish to say. On July 5 I expressed the Government's great regret at the necessity for such legislation and the deep reluctance with which we had to ask employers on July 20 last to break contractual agreements. We believe that the circumstances then demanded it, and I believe that the country as a whole, and the vast majority of our working people, recognise that to be so. The fact that we were required to make only some 14 orders under Part IV covering some 36,000 workers gives an indication of that, when you relate it to the 23 million workers of this country. I believe we have seen economic gain from the periods of standstill and restraint. We are now moving forward to a period when restraint must still be there but does not need to be quite so rigid. I think most people on both sides of industry recognise that if the sums which were held back voluntarily, in the most part, were now to be paid, it could have serious effects, and that much of the good that we have obtained could be lost. I would express the hope that workers and management will agree that the sums which were held back should not be pressed for now.
Clause 5 of the Bill is there to give protection to employers. It relieves them from the contractual duty that was there before the passing of this Bill. This protection is now quite strong and complete. As I have said, we very much regret the necessity to introduce the Bill, but we believe it is necessary in the circumstances, and we all look forward very 1326 much to the day when negotiations between employees and employers are on such a basis that there will be a recognition of the national interest. My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a second time.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(Lord Shepherd.)
§ THE EARL OF DUNDEE
My Lords, I had rather understood that this Bill was going through "on the nod". All I want to say is that I think my noble friend Lord Erroll of Hale and I sufficiently expressed our views on the Bill on July 5, so I do not want to add anything now, except to repeat, in view of what the noble Lord has said, that in our belief the success of this prices and incomes policy will depend on having more competition, on putting an end to restrictive practices and, most of all, on increasing our production, none of which things has yet been achieved.
§ On Question, Bill read 2a, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House forthwith.
§ Then, Standing Order No. 41 having been dispensed with (pursuant to the Resolution of July 11, 1967), House in Committee accordingly.
§ House resumed: Bill reported without amendment; Report received; and Bill read 3a.
§ LORD SHEPHERD
My Lords, in rising to move, That this Bill do now pass, I apologise to the noble Earl that I spoke without his realising that I intended to say a few words, but I thought I should at least explain to the House the one significant difference between the Paper and the Bill which is now before the House. Perhaps I may say, in conclusion, how grateful I am to noble Lords on all sides of the House who have made it possible for this Bill to be passed so quickly through your Lordships' House, and that it should now soon be put upon the Statute Book. I beg to move that this Bill do now pass.
§ Moved, That the Bill do now pass.—(Lord Shepherd.)