§ 2.48 p.m.
§ LORD SIEFF rose to call attention to the need for better human relations in industry; and to move for Papers. The noble Lord said: My Lords, almost exactly a year ago the noble Lord, Lord Byers, called the attention of the House to the need for improving the use of manpower in Britain. Much has happened since then. A year ago industry was faced with a scarcity of manpower, which was sometimes more apparent than real. To-day, whilst in many trades skilled people are still scarce, large numbers are out of work and thousands of young men and women are regrettably given the sense 984 of frustration which comes with unemployment. The old suspicions and fears are again awakening. If they get hold of people, it will become even more difficult for us to get out of the vicious circle of restrictive practices, overmanning, inflation, strikes, and "Stop"-"Go".
§ During last year, the House has debated many aspects of our economic problems. There has been, however, one factor common to all—namely, the human factor. One cannot begin to debate quality and reliability in production, productivity or technology, without visualising these problems in human terms. Better human relations, I think, would bring our economic difficulties nearer to a solution: and to give the House an opportunity to debate the scope for improvement in human relations in industry I have placed in my name on the Order Paper this afternoon the Motion which I now have pleasure in moving.
§ There are some who maintain that economic efficiency can be achieved only when there is unemployment, or fear of unemployment. But this is a high price to pay. This fear reawakens historical hostility and insecurity which have their roots in the pre-war days of scarcity. On the one hand, we must not forget the past and, on the other, set our sights on the future. The opportunities are greater than ever if we can only succeed in directing our minds into the proper channels.
§ There are others who think that the answer to our economic predicament is more Government control and direction of prices, wages and investment, and perhaps even employment. I am convinced that this is not true. The sensitive human inter-relationships cannot be fitted into an impersonal mechanism of control. I believe the only real answer is in the improvement of human relations, not only between management and the unions, but between the different groups of employees and their shop stewards, and between shop stewards and the unions.
§ I can tell your Lordships from experience that this can be done. It requires an educational programme, of course, even where it concerns a particular section of industry or only one business. The problem is how to make people at work drop their defensive attitudes, and how to make them work together with 985 management in friendly co-operation; and, finally, how to make them adopt a new and positive attitude towards the industry in which they are working. To this I attach tremendous importance.
§ This may sound Utopian to your Lordships. The real question is how this attitude of mutual trust can be built up. First, all people at work must have a feeling of self-respect which comes from doing a worthwhile job and being treated with consideration by the management. Secondly, they must be trusted, and must have a sense of being trusted. Thirdly, they must be fairly rewarded for their efforts, and be able to share the gains resulting from higher productivity. Fourthly, they must be able to identify themselves with the success of the business which employs them.
§ I am sure your Lordships will agree that, in the first instance, management itself must be efficient and must make a conscious effort to get its employees involved and interested. This is a matter of effective communications, sound training and an efficient organisation. You cannot expect all the employees to appreciate the significance of their efforts if management itself is vague about its objectives. The most successful firm is not the one which drives its workers hard, but the one which can create a common purpose, on the basis of common interest, and so harness the energies and enthusiasm of its employees. To treat labour as a commodity is not conducive to self-respect. This is because for the management, as much as for the workers and the unions, an important element is job satisfaction; and this can be effectively encouraged by the knowledge that one is working for a successful undertaking which may itself stand high in public and national esteem.
§ Management shows its respect for the people it employs by creating good working conditions. These are still often grossly inadequate. Moreover, they often introduce rigid divisions and standards between grades of employment, thus sowing the seeds of discontent. You cannot expect people to turn out first-class work if you treat them as second-class and third-class employees. I am sure that employers should provide not only for the material needs of their em- 986 ployees, but also some kind of answer to the problem of alienation. In an impersonal urban environment a working group is the nearest thing to a family. It is important, therefore, that where possible the organisation should be moulded around the human group. Is this too much to ask when a great proportion of a person's conscious life, and for many a great proportion of their active years, is spent on the same job? The person's attitude to the job depends on this social organisation.
§ I remember when the organisation with which I am associated first introduced staff dining rooms in their stores a great many years before the war. A wholesome and attractive meal was served at nominal prices in pleasant staff dining rooms. I hope your Lordships will note that I use the words "staff dining rooms" and not "canteens". If I were to give the figures of its success, I ought to say that 98 per cent. of the staff of this organisation feed in the dining rooms. I think that is very much above the average.
§ Clearly, in some industries it is not always possible to provide the same standard of catering, rest rooms and other facilities. But management should aim to do as much as it can. Our own suppliers, in whatever industry they may be—textiles, metal or any other industry—attempt to adopt this attitude to their staff, as we have done, and have been eminently successful in achieving their objectives. For example, even in such an industry as the building industry, our contractors provided their men with freshly painted mess huts, no longer having to work in teeming rain coming down in torrents, getting wet through and suffering as a result of it. We have included rest rooms and standard dining rooms; they have drying and changing rooms and foreman's offices, with the result—and this is important, because it makes for cheaper cost of building—that the turnover of their casual labour, which in some measure still has to be trained, has been much reduced.
§ I am glad, therefore, that this question has been considered by the "Little Neddy" for civil engineering, and the Civil Engineering Conciliation Board have set up a sub-committee to reconsider the minimum welfare facilities on sites on which buildings are being erected. This 987 is indeed a step forward of great importance. Our society provides nationally a quite big range of welfare services covering sickness and retirement. But these of necessity are limited, and must unavoidably be somewhat impersonal. I believe that employees have a right to additional care and help from the employers in times of adversity and old age, on top of their national entitlement. These benefits should be administered in a generous and humane manner, treating each person as a worthwhile individual and assisting him or her over difficulties and personal problems.
§ These services include advice from company doctors or dentists, as well as from general practitioners and hospitals. They include chiropodists even, an important consideration in some industries and in some services. Where a large number of women are employed the provision of cervical cancer tests is an important new welfare service. All these amenities show the employers' interest and concern for the wellbeing of their staff. It is in serious sickness, as in pensioners or in old age, that the employers' concern with their staff is tested. The knowledge and certainty of generous treatment at the end of their working life adds to the general sense of security. The problems of pensioners are not only material ones, though the basic income is important. It is equally important that contact should be maintained with them, adequate help given in their particular problems of old age, and that the loneliness which often goes with old age should be dispersed.
§ To many people it is only retirement which brings the realisation of the social ties which bind them during their working life. They welcome visits from their colleagues as much for the human contact they provide as for the material benefits they may derive from their pensions. For the first time, perhaps, the two worlds of work and of home life meet on home ground. Otherwise, during their working life it is very exceptional—I say this with great regret—that management take an interest in the life of their staff away from the place of work.
§ It is often said about senior management that they are married to their work and that their home life suffers accordingly. This, regrettably, may be so in 988 some circumstances. But this problem is not limited to the senior staff. How much more does family life suffer if members of the family come home from work tired, worn out and frustrated! This also operates in reverse. When there is un-happiness at home, where there is sickness, where there are problems, problems beyond people's control, work suffers and some of the unhappiness and frustration overspill on to other people at work. How many industrial problems have snowballed from such beginnings, never having been diagnosed or understood correctly?
§ On all these matters there is a clear limit on what can be done by management. One cannot run people's lives for them, and they would not want it. This is a delicate relationship which calls for skilled social workers who can be available on call when required. Many of the problems can be helped by impartial, professional advice; sometimes by material help to find accommodation, or to obtain medical or legal advice; sometimes by just giving a sympathetic hearing. How much do we really know about the persons who work for us, however long they may have been there? Often we learn most when it is too late. Should not some kind of social counsel service be a basic ingredient in the occupational welfare service run by the employers? In all this the attitude of the department concerned with personnel and welfare is crucial. I stress that these two aspects of human management must go together.
§ The whole area of recruitment, training, selection, promotion, retirement, wage negotiations, and the parallel area of welfare, must be placed on a professional basis. What is needed is professionalism in the understanding of human problems, as well as sympathy and an innate generosity of feeling in the execution of the duties. This is a rare combination of skill and ability, and a challenging opportunity to those men and women who can undertake these important tasks.
§ My Lords, of course people mostly work for money. The material basis of the whole relationship must be a fair reward; that is to say, a reward which the recipients consider fair and which their employers can afford. Where the organisation is prosperous because of those who work in it, these two criteria should not be very far apart. There is, of course, 989 room for argument and bargaining, but with good sense on both sides a constructive policy can be worked out. We are concerned here with a working relationship, and this implies an involvement, a give-and-take. Only thus are human relations put to the test. A certain amount of heat is bound to result from a dynamic and creative process, but excessive friction is clearly damaging to our economic growth. A complete deadlock lasting for any period of time will benefit no one but our competitors.
§ And, talking about economics or business management, we sometimes tend to overlook the human aspect. The economy grows, not because we try to increase the gross domestic product, or because of some other theoretical law of behaviour, but because people want to be better off and happier. The purpose of large business, as I see it, is to produce wealth and happiness for all concerned: the customers, the suppliers, the staff, the shareholders, and the community at large. These aims are not contradictory; indeed, I consider them to be complementary. Only if the business is profitable can customers benefit from higher quality and lower prices. Staff get better wages and better welfare amenities; suppliers enjoy large and continuing orders, and shareholders participate in the progressive, profitable enterprise which can provide funds for its future development.
§ My Lords, I now come to perhaps the most important condition on which the mutual trust at work is dependent. As I have said before, money is not everything: there must also be a sense of identity. The worker at the bench, the sales assistant, the clerk—they all have the same need of identifying themselves with their work, and their employer maybe, as a designer or manager, or even the chairman of the company. That they should feel able to do so is important. The best plans and designs will fail if things go wrong in the factory, office or shop. The successful enterprise depends on the willing co-operation of every person involved in the chain of production and distribution.
§ I have given much thought to this. I have had in my business life opportunity to think about (the problem of human relations, and fortunately also the opportunity to do something about them within the scope of my responsibilities as an 990 employer. A chairman is in a very favourable position to speak of human relations as he is literally surrounded by human beings: his customers, his staff and his suppliers. The unions, too, have come up against the same problem of human relations of which I had been speaking. They too must assist. They must look at their own organisation, as we look at ours, and see what can be done: how can the lines of communication be improved; how can the language in which they are writing be simplified; how can be bureaucratic mechanism inherent in any large organisation be simplified; how can the contact with the grass roots of collaboration be strengthened.
§ The unions must have a relationship of trust with all their members so that they can count on their undivided loyalty, not only when it comes to a strike, but also when it comes to constructive bargaining to achieve better productivity, better pay and lower costs. There must be adequate communication between the shop floor, where the problem arises, and the leadership where the obligations are undertaken on behalf of the whole membership. This calls for clear thinking about the objectives: simple organisation structure, professionalism and ruthless-ness in cutting out bureacracy. Human contact is always better than writing a long letter. These problems mirror exactly those which one encounters on the employers' side.
§ My Lords, the unions have a very long history in the improvement of working conditions as well as in the achievement of greater productivity. No one can deny this. They can, and should, use their influence to further these aims. There may be cases where they can spur the management towards greater efficiency, and certainly they can call for improvements in the standard of accommodation and welfare provided. In some circumstances the unions could even initiate some of these services themselves, or do so jointly with managament. In this way they would get closer contact with their membership. This would enable them to get a much deeper understanding of their members' individual problems and difficulties than the limited and necessarily shallow glimpse gained at the meetings, which are so little attended. This would open up new vistas for co-operation between 991 all the parties involved, to work with a real community of interest.
§ This is not as far-fetched as it seems. There is more to human relations in industry than disputes and strikes. The starting point already exists in many cases where a satisfactory co-operation has been built up, though these cases seldom steal the headlines. Much has been done, but I think everyone will agree that not enough has been done.
§ In conclusion, I would say that I do not pretend that my observations can deal with a vast and complex problem such as human relations in industry easily. To achieve the objectives which I have mentioned needs intense and dedicated study. It is always difficult to reconcile human objectives which affect not only the individual but also large organisations. Nevertheless, I believe that some day solutions to the many human problems in industry and commerce will have to be found; and it is useful and proper that your Lordships should put your minds to a serious discussion on the phenomena which affect the lives of all the human beings in industry. My Lords, I beg to move for Papers.
§ 3.12 p.m.
§ LORD DRUMALBYN
My Lords, from time to time your Lordships' House has the privilege of debating great issues of far-reaching importance though not necessarily controversial issues. To-day we are debating such an issue. Nobody is better qualified or more entitled to give advice on the subject of his Motion than the noble Lord, Lord Sieff. He is certainly one who practises what he preaches. In the flourishing organisation to the success of which he has personally contributed so much by patient and imaginative work, he has taken great care over human relations. His company has an enviable reputation for the treatment of its staff, both in employment and in retirement. He has clothed the beliefs to which he has given expression to-day with reality and effect in his own business.
It would be presumptious on my part if I were to attempt to emulate the noble Lord or to detain your Lordships for too long when I am to be followed in the debate by so many noble Lords who have spent most of their lives wrestling with the problem we are discussing and who can give your Lordships the benefit of 992 their advice, based on long and up-to-date experience. What I hope to do is rather to suggest the ways in which the Government should play their part in improving the whole climate of human relations in industry, and in particular in encouraging the right attitude and efficient communications within industry.
The Government can affect the climate in several ways: by practical steps within their statutory powers; by introducing appropriate legislation, and by setting the tone by example and encouragement. Certainly there is no one nostrum, no Morrison's pill by swallowing which we, as a nation, could purge ourselves of what is evil in our heritage of industrial relations, and the antagonisms and fears arising from the past. People sometimes say "You can never change attitudes". Of course we can—and we must. If we are to survive as a great nation, somehow the winds of change must blow all the chaff of evil away and leave the good grain. But there is no one remedy.
There is at least one basic prescription for success in any human enterprise—one to which the noble Lord, Lord Sieff, has given great prominence—namely. that however diverse and even conflicting the interests, opinions and individual hopes and fears of the participants may be. one and all should be conscious of a common interest and be inspired by a common purpose. In other words, however modern the equipment, however good the layout, the plans, the investment, the welfare arrangements, the pension and sickness schemes, all will be devalued, if not frustrated, unless the right spirit is there. It is the spirit that quickeneth.
How are we to get that spirit? How is that spirit to permeate the whole organisation, the whole country? It must, of course, start from the top—I shall come to that. But I believe it should also start from the bottom—start not just from the beginning, but before the beginning—before starting on a job. Of course it is true that any company that does not try to enlist the hearts of its new entrants as well as their services is losing an opportunity which will never come again. Just as the Fighting Services are careful to inculcate pride in the regiment or the Service from the moment of recruitment, together with an understanding of its history, its aims and its ideals, so, I believe, should companies, however large 993 or small, explain to the new recruit the value of the service the company gives to the community, and impress on him that the company cares for him and that he has a worthwhile part to play in the success of the undertaking—and that he has someone to whom he can take his problems and troubles.
But I believe the ground should be prepared even before the young person finishes his formal education. I believe that education and industry must work much more closely together, not only in further education but in secondary schools. Only people with experience of management in industry can really prepare young people before they start in industry for what lies before them—not merely for the skills they have to acquire but for the responsibilities, the routine, the risks, the pitfalls and the opportunities of industry. The extra school year offers an opportunity to develop this co-operation which should not be missed; and here the Government can certainly play their part. Much more can be done than has so far tentatively been tried in this sphere.
Foreigners are wont to say that we in Britain have not got the right attitude to work. There is perhaps more in this than we care to admit. A team was sent by Imperial Chemical Industries, Limited, to America to find out why it was that, taking all differences into account, American companies in the chemical industry obtained 50 per cent. better results in efficiency in the use of manpower than the I.C.I. in Great Britain. The difference was summed up in one word "attitudes". The report said:Work was started promptly on arrival, meal-breaks and tea-breaks were short, and times were observed without close and direct supervision from the foremen … more actual hours were spent working"—although the normal working week was the same. In America there was very little overtime working. This was partly due to organisation, partly due to the fact that in America "a higher premium is placed on leisure" Communications at all levels were better. There was much more informality.
Perhaps most important of all, much more responsibility was laid on the individual.Workers",994 the report says,did not expect to have their individual work closely supervised or checked".There were therefore fewer supervisors, but there were also fewer process workers, many fewer maintenance workers and fewer clerks. The report went on to say:This general saving in the number of people employed resulted from the successful delegation of responsibility, from the acceptance of greater responsibility, by workers, from the flexibility in allocating work between different trades, from a sense of involvement with the fortunes of the company and from a general desire for self-improvement at all levels.It is said that in America management often arrives on the job before the men—and this happens in some American firms in this country. I wonder whether it is so common in British firms.
The Institute of Directors recently carried out a very interesting survey covering some 700 trade unionists and 160 companies. They were asked which of eight factors caused strikes or poor labour relations. Trade unionists gave wage differentials, wage scales, fear of unemployment and lack of communications as the main causes, in that order. Hostility to the employer came next. The companies put the same four highest, but put lack of communications before wage differentials, and put the introduction of incentive schemes before hostility to the employer.
Attitudes on wage differentials are notoriously difficult to change. It is a matter of national policy to convince the country that we cannot at one and the same time raise the wages of the lowest paid workers and maintain the differentials of the highest paid workers. I shall not pursue this point in detail, but one thing that can be said is that arbitrary interference by Government, in my view, will never be acceptable. However good the intention, it is likely to do more harm than good—witness the state of the dispute at Fairfields, a company where a fresh start was made and "no-strike guarantees" were given. Fear of unemployment is ever present, greatly exaggerated by memories of thirty to forty years ago. But redundancy is still feared because it means displacement and possibly unemployment. That fear can never be wholly eliminated, but it can be mitigated if Government provides adequate 995 and acceptable opportunities for retraining and adequate transfer payments. That I regard as the second field in which the Government should do much more than it is doing. As Mr. Iain Stewart, the Chairman of Fairfields, said the other day:Until redundancy and unemployment have been replaced by retraining and re-employment, we shall always have this kind of trouble on the Clyde …Before I leave this point I should like to refer to the prodigious change that has taken place in the attitude of employers and management in general towards their responsibilities in regard to employment, due very largely to the excellent lead that has been given by the leaders in industry. In 1959 the noble Viscount, Lord Chandos, in the course of a memorable address as President of the Institute of Directors, said:The first duty of a board of directors is to look towards the continuity of employment of everyone on the company's books".This is, of course, plain common sense in the interests of the company, which may have invested thousands of pounds in the training of the employee. But it implies much more: it implies a recognition of the obligation which an employer assumes in taking a man on to continue to find him employment within the firm if at all possible, provided—and I think this is a reasonable proviso to make—that the employee not only makes the grade but accepts a measure of reciprocal duty to the company. Where redundancy cannot be avoided, the employee must be assured of reasonable treatment by the employer and adequate retraining facilities by the Government.
The third responsibility of Government is to ensure that the law is brought up to date. In the 'sixties a good deal has been done—the Contracts of Employment Act, the Industrial Training Boards Act, the Redundancy Payments Act and the Act providing for wage-related unemployment and sickness benefit. These Acts have done something to bring even the least progressive employers some way up towards the level of the best employers in their treatment of employees. But good human relations can only be founded on mutual trust. I would ask, does anyone suppose that there would be as much mutual trust, as much busi- 996 ness confidence, in industry and commerce as there is to-day if there were no law of contract? We shall never get mutual trust, in my view, between company and employees until there is a secure basis of contractual agreement between them and a clear definition of the rights of employees vis-à-vis both the employer and their own trade union. You will never get mutual trust if you know that there is a risk that the other chap will not keep his part of the bargain or will not keep his side in order, and that if he does not there is nothing whatever you can do about it. Employee, trade union and company alike should have the ordinary general right to hold the other to his bargain. If all such bargains were always observed there would be no need perhaps to buttress them with the civil law. As regrettably they are not, it is only fair to allow the injured party his legal remedy if he desires to take it.
It would be inappropriate in this debate to go into detail about the kind of reform of trade union law I believe to be needed. Let me only remind your Lordships that under the Trade Union Act 1871 associations of employers as well as those of employees are trade unions. May I simply say that, in my view, human relations in industry could not fail to benefit if there were some special legal machinery in existence for hearing employees who thought they had been unjustly dismissed by their employer or had been unfairly penalised or coerced by their trade union or fellow members. I sympathise with those who want to keep individual and collective employer-employee relations out of the ordinary courts. But in the last thirty years other tribunals have proved their worth, subject to the ultimate authority of the courts on points of law.
Before I close I should like, very respectfully, to commend two documents. One is the report of a committee of the Institute of Directors under the chairmanship of the noble Lord, Lord Tangley, which in 1961 defined what should be the aims of directors in settling their employment policies in these words:(1) continuity of employment;(2) recognition of the individuality and status of each employee;(3) the clear establishment of opportunities and avenues for promotion;"—997 something which is much needed, and—(4) the best working conditions—and this covers safety as well as comfort—which the resources of the company allow: the statutory minimum is only a basis on which to build.The second document is the statement of principles and aims of the Marlow Conference in 1963, known as the Marlow Declaration, signed by 18 people. At least seven of the signatories are Members of your Lordships' House, including the Lord Bishop of Birmingham, the noble Lords, Lord Cooper of Stockton Heath, Lord Collison, Lord Fleck and the noble Viscount, Lord Slim.The purpose of industry",they said,is the fulfilment of human needs".And they listed the responsibilities which that purpose imposed on the employer, the shareholder, the consumer, the local community and the nation. Perhaps I may end by quoting the third of their aims so far as industry is concerned:To remind those concerned with industry, and the general public, that the most valuable asset of a company or other organisation is measured, not in financial terms, nor in capital equipment, but in the skill, knowledge, loyalty, enthusiasm and good will of the people which it employs and with which it does business".As a coda, may I sum up the three points I have made for Government action: first, to promote greater co-operation between education and industry, not only for management and personnel management courses and in further education generally, but in secondary schools; secondly, to accelerate the provision of retraining and refresher courses and see that transfer payments are adequate; and thirdly, to introduce as soon as possible legislation to reform trade union law so as to reinforce mutual trust, both individually and collectively, in industry.
§ 3.30 p.m.
§ THE PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY, BOARD OF TRADE (LORD WALSTON)
My Lords, I must at the outset make two apologies, first to the noble Lord, Lord Sieff, for not being in my place at the beginning of his admirable and stimulating speech. I had to reply to the toast to the guests at a Government lunch, and I am afraid I could not run away before I had completed that job. My second apology is that unfortunately I have a meeting which I must attend shortly, but not for long, and so I may be debarred from the pleasure 998 of listening to the noble Lord, Lord Rochester, and the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, both of whose speeches I had looked forward to greatly. I hope I shall be back in time for at least a part of those speeches. I shall certainly read them with great interest.
First of all, I know that the House is with me in thanking the noble Lord, Lord Sieff, on two accounts: first, for introducing for general debate this subject of such enormous importance and wide range; and also for doing it in such an altogether admirable and magnificent fashion. One of the great arguments in favour of this House is that we have among us people of great experience in so many walks of life, and it is a real privilege to be able to share in this way in the experience of such men as Lord Sieff, who has not only these fine ideas and ideals but also the ability himself to put them into practice. Nothing I shall say will in any way he contradictory to those sentiments which the noble Lord has expressed. I think that we all go along wholeheartedly with him in them.
I would suggest that perhaps we can summarise our objectives in this whole subject by saying that what we want to do is to give people a full and happy and satisfactory life, and not merely a good wage (a good wage is of course an essential part, but it is far from being the only part) and, secondly, by so doing ensure that they are helped to become not only good workers, not only good employees, not only good craftsmen or technicians, or whatever it may be, but also good citizens. As a result of that, in so far as we succeed in achieving these objectives, so will they produce more in whatever job they are doing. And following upon that the country as a whole will benefit, because the happier a man is, the more satisfied he is in his work, the more he will produce.
Undoubtedly there is a great need to increase the output per man in this country. The noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, mentioned the Report of the I.C.I. investigation, which said that there was 50 per cent. higher output in the chemical industries in the United States than this country. I do not dispute that at all, and I am quite certain that we can learn from other countries, just as certain industries in this country and certain businesses 999 here can learn from their competitors or their colleagues here. But we must not—and I am sure the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, did not want to give this impression—ourselves have the idea, or allow others outside to have the idea, that inevitably and invariably it is the foreign business, the foreign firm, the foreign worker who produces more.
As I say, I do not argue with the figures that the noble Lord has quoted. But may I give him two personal experiences of the last few days. I have come across one tractor-producing firm in this country with associations in America that actually makes components here and sends them over to the United States because they are cheaper and better made here. I have to-day come across a manufacturer of printing machinery associated with an American firm, who similarly makes certain machines over here and exports them to the United States, because our workmanship, our design, our technical know-how, and our costs are superior. So although one can produce examples where other countries are superior to us, let us remember that in certain respects we are superior to them.
That does not in any way detract from our need to increase the efficiency and the output per man in this country. After all, from 1954 to 1964 our working population increased at an average annual rate of only 0-6 per cent. That is something like 150,000 people per year. That is not a large number in order to produce the increased wealth which we need and which we demand here. The estimates are that between 1964 and 1970—and we are already half-way through that period—the increase will be no more than one quarter of 1 per cent. Therefore, it is quite clear that on those grounds alone, if on no other, we must ensure that all workers, as well as being happy, as well as being contented, are also efficient and produce more.
How do we set about this? Again, let me summarise some of my ideas which have already been put forward by the other noble Lords who have spoken. Of course industrial unrest must be reduced. We must ensure that the workers remain at their job and do their job instead of being absent for short or long periods of time, through the odd day lost, through 1000 official or unofficial strikes, absenteeism and go-slows, and things of that kind. They are all sapping our efficiency, and they must all be attacked. The quality of work must be improved, the pride in work must be improved, up to the highest standards that exist already. Such matters as demarcation disputes must disappear, and it must become easier to introduce new methods and new techniques so that old-fashioned and inefficient ways are not persisted with simply because there is resistance on the part of the workers through fear, through lack of understanding, or whatever it may be.
None of this can be achieved unless there are good human relations at all levels. No matter how understanding, how sympathetic and how helpful management may be—that is essential in these matters—there can never be the right spirit in an undertaking unless all those who are concerned in it realise and believe that their business is being well run. Of course the business must be generous and just to its employees, but it must not be soft to them. Generosity must not be an excuse for slack management.
I believe that the people will work happily—this, I know, is what the noble Lord, Lord Sieff, feels and himself puts into practice—only if they are confident, not only that they themselves are doing a good job, but that the firm for which they are working is itself doing a good job and is not wasteful of materials or of men or of any other of its assets. They must be confident also that they will receive just treatment throughout; if they do good work, that it will be appreciated, and that they will not be able to get away with shoddy work. So good human relations in industry are not simply a matter of unconsidered generosity, but go hand in hand with efficient management, even tough management.
I feel that in all this there is one danger against which we must be on our guard. It is what can loosely be described as paternalism. Of course workers must be happy: they must feel that the job is worth doing; and the firm must ensure that during, their working hours their conditions are right, that they have the right sort of treatment, that they have their dining rooms, recreation halls, medical services and so on. I am not in any way saying that these things are unimportant, for they are of enormous importance.
1001 But the firm, however good its intentions, must not encroach on the private lives of its workers. When they leave the factory they must realise that they are citizens of a wider community. The worker must not become so identified with his firm that he looks to it as being the be-all and end-all of his existence. He must not become so identified with his firm that, because of all the amenities and the way of life that goes with working in that factory, he almost fears to leave.
We talk about mobility of labour, which we must have, and we must be careful that by developing good human relations in industry we do not destroy the independent spirit of the worker and the desire to go off elsewhere to something which he may find more interesting, more of a challenge or simply more profitable. We must not, for instance, destroy the sense of living in a community which has nothing whatsoever to do with the world of industry in which the man is employed. I think that one can possibly draw some parallel by mentioning the situation in the farming industry in the old days. Then, the large farmer so embraced the lives of the people who worked for him, with his tied cottages, and all the rest of it, that the man—for personal reasons, not because of any victimisation, or anything of that sort—was too frightened of the outside world to leave to go and look for something else.
Another danger which is tied up with this matter of undue paternalism is the fact that even more important than the need to be a good worker is the need to be a good citizen. The worker must not look on his firm as being the ultimate aim of his loyalty. Of course he must be loyal to his employer and to his job; but he has a wider loyalty, which must not be drained away by the firm's encroaching in any way on these wider responsibilities. I know certain cases where a very progressive, well-meaning and well-run factory has destroyed almost entirely the life of the village or small town in which it is situated by having its own social club, its own dramatic group, its own football club, or whatever it may be, to the detriment of that town or village, so that it has no social life outside that which is provided for it, for the employees of the factory, by the factory itself.
1002 I turn from that matter to another danger—and when I talk of "dangers" I do not wish to give the impression, and I hope that I have not done so, that I am in any way opposed to the general sentiments of the Motion. But there is, in my view, a danger of too much professionalism. Of course it is right that we should have our attention drawn to all these problems which exist, and of course it is right that there should be professionals to deal with them. But, just as in medicine there is a danger that the general practitioner may cease to know his patients as human beings and, if they have problems, may refer them to the specialist, the psychiatrist or whoever it may be, I believe there is a danger that the technical factory manager, when he is confronted with a human problem, may say "This is nothing to do with me. Let us call in the professional, the personnel manager; this is his job." That cannot be a good thing. It must be the responsibility of everybody who has any man or woman working under him, whether it be the chargehand or the managing director, to take personal responsibility, not only for the quality of the work of that man or woman, but also for his or her happiness, and contentment as a human being.
Of course, experts are needed in all forms by business; and the bigger the business the more one must have experts. Nobody can be expert in all branches. There must be experts in production, research, selling, accounts, and in personnel management; and I am not in any way denigrating the importance of the personnel manager in relation to these problems. All I want to emphasise is that the use of a specialist in personnel matters in no way relieves managements from the responsibilities for the human beings who work for them. And where there are personnel managers, personnel experts, they must be part of the whole management team. They must have a voice in all management decisions; they must sit on the board or committee which is dealing with whatever general problems arise, and not simply sit in isolation in an office, to be called in only when there are personnel problems.
I will go on from this to endorse very emphatically what the noble Lord, Lord Sieff, has said: that workers at all levels in any industry must know the aims of 1003 that particular industry, the aims of the firm for which they are working, its plans for the future, its successes and its failures. I may say here, in parenthesis, that I believe that the Queen's Award for Industry is a small but valuable weapon in this fight. It is something in which all the workers in a firm can share and something in which they take pride. When going around the factories I have noticed the excitement of all the workers in an undertaking which has received this Award, as also I have noted the disappointment of workers when they have failed to get it. Even those whose job it is to sweep floors or to make tea must also realise what they are helping to produce and realise that by their simple jobs they are actually helping the production of a firm; they must be made to feel an essential part of the whole outfit. This can be achieved only if at all times and at all levels there are consultations through the unions, shop stewards and all the organisations which exist to bring about this understanding and this sense of participation.
This process is fairly easy in small businesses, and to illustrate this matter I should like once again to refer to farming. One of the reasons for the remarkable record of agriculture in labour disputes, in the quality of work, and in increased efficiency, is the farm worker's essential participation in the job, and the understanding that every single act that he does will be reflected in the finished product. If ploughing or drilling are done badly, or are done well, these matters can be seen by the farm worker and his colleagues, and they will either take pride in them or be ashamed of them. Although in the smaller business this is not such a difficult matter, the larger the business the harder this is to achieve. But records show that good relations exist in the biggest businesses just as much as, and possibly even more than, in some of the smaller ones. It is therefore not a question of size that conditions this situation. All I am saying is that it is easier to achieve in the smaller business and very much harder to achieve in the larger business.
Let me turn to what was very much the theme of the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn—that is, the role of Government. It is true that the right 1004 relationship is primarily a responsibility of management working with the unions, working with all employees at all levels; but Government can play a part and, as the noble Lord has pointed out, does play a part. I do not say that it plays as big a part as it might, or as big a part as I hope it will, but it has a record—and I speak for previous Administrations, too, if I may—which shows that Governments of both Parties have been conscious of this task. As the noble Lord said, there must be reasonable security of employment and protection from arbitrary dismissal; reasonable payments for redundancy, retraining facilities and all that sort of thing. The noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, has told us some of the things which have been done, and I am glad that both the Government of which he was a member and the Government of which I am a member have put on the Statute Book various Acts which help in this direction.
The Government have also set up inquiries into industry so that we may gain more knowledge and profit from their recommendations. There was the Devlin Committee on Docks, the Geddes Report on Shipbuilding, the Pearson Inquiry into Shipping, the Cameron Inquiry into the Printing Industries, and the Motor Industry Joint Labour Council under Mr. Jack Scamp. These are just examples of the type of action which the Government are taking. The Government also give financial grants to research institutes and to other bodies which are carrying out research into all these wide matters of human relations. Let me just mention the Tavistock Institute of Human Relations and the Social Science Research Council; and, of course, various universities are carrying out similar research. I would draw your Lordships' attention, too, to the very valuable work which is done by the Industrial Relations Service of the Ministry of Labour. Those are all specific activities of the Government, showing our interest in these matters and our determination to do what we can without undue interference.
I am far from complacent, and I do not think any of us here can be complacent and sit back and say, "Because we have done this, because we have set up that inquiry, because we have given a grant to such-and-such a university we need do no more." Of course, there is 1005 much more to be done. But the record is not all that bad, and it is not half so bad as many people in this country and elsewhere seem to think it is. For instance, over the past ten years we in this country have lost an average of 294 days per year per thousand persons employed. If you compare that with the figures for other countries you will find that Germany beat us very comfortably with only 52 days lost. But France has an average of 301 days compared with our 294, Japan has 391, Italy has 885 and the United States has 1,044. So compared with the main industrial countries our record is not one to be ashamed of. Perhaps more encouraging than that is the fact that we have shown a steady improvement, and whereas, as I said, over the past ten years the average has been 294 days lost per thousand workers, in 1965 the average dropped to 220 days. The measures which I have described, and, above all, full employment, which we had virtually without a break since the end of the war, have gone a long way to quell the old fear of unemployment and fear of the boss, and the antagonism which that built up between master and man, capital and labour.
Having made very great progress towards abolishing this old attitude, we are now entering on to the second and far more exciting constructive phase—the phase of co-operation. What we need now to replace the master and man relationship is a completely integrated production team all the way up, horizontal and vertical, throughout the whole complicated process of production and distribution. The team is obviously a variegated one, comprising people with all sorts of skills and abilities; some harder to acquire, some of them relatively easy, some rarely found, some very common, some highly paid, some less well-paid. Progressive management and progressive labour, helped by progressive unions, have for long recognised this and have for long worked towards it, and in many cases have achieved remarkable success. What is needed now is for these leaders in this new spirit of production to stimulate their more backward and slow-moving colleagues to follow their example. The measure of our success, the measure of the success of labour, of management and of Government, will be shown in increased industrial efficiency, in greater 1006 national well-being and, above all, in greater human happiness.
§ 3.56 p.m.
§ LORD ROCHESTER
My Lords, when just twelve months ago we had a debate on the use of manpower in industry, to which the noble Lord, Lord Sieff, has already referred, I well remember the contribution which he himself then made and, particularly, the simple, lucid way in which he gave us the benefit of his long experience in the management of people. I should now like to join the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, and the noble Lord, Lord Walston, in thanking him from these Benches for the way in which he has introduced to-day's debate.
On the occasion of our discussion a year ago, I was bold enough to offer your Lordships some observations on the subject of the motivation of people in the industrial field. To-day I should like to take that point a little further, for, speaking as one who is occupied all the time with the management of people in large-scale industry, I am sure it is highly relevant to any consideration of human relations in industry. In the present precarious state of our economy one question which urgently needs answering, as the noble Lord, Lord Sieff, has already said, is: how can we most effectively encourage in people positive attitudes to work? I do not want for a moment to minimise the importance of that concern for people which shows itself in good pay and working conditions, in security of employment and so-called fringe benefits, pension schemes and so on. A similar concern for human relations is evidenced by the attention very properly paid to improved selection procedures, to training methods, to communication and so on, and I should like to support all that has so far been said on these matters.
Indeed, I would stress that ever since the renowned "Hawthorne experiments", carried out in the United States nearly forty years ago, it has been demonstrably clear that management concern and interest have an effect on productivity. This interest should show itself in actual contact with the people. It implies awareness of their needs and therefore the willingness to listen and also, as the noble and gallant Viscount, Lord Montgomery of Alamein, used to say in the 1007 last war, "to put them in the picture". Only last Monday I came across a line manager in my own organisation who was so concerned with the need to discipline himself on this point that he told me he kept a little notebook in which were recorded the names of all the people on the plant for whom he was responsible. He said that it was his aim to put a tick against the name of every one of them to indicate that at least once a week he spoke to them all on some subject or other, it did not matter what.
All these things, then, have their effect, and yet based on our experience over the last twenty years or so it certainly cannot be claimed that, taking them by themselves, they have provided an altogether satisfactory or lasting solution to the problem of how, under conditions of full employment, men can be motivated to work to the best of their ability. Of course, it may be that as fallible human beings we shall never find a complete answer. I should like to point, if I may, to one finding in recent behavioural scientific research which seems particularly relevant to this question. It is that for the great majority of people, in all types of job and at all levels, personal satisfaction and the motivation for improved performance come not from good conditions and paternal supervision, but from the challenge and achievement inherent in the job itself.
The significance of this finding lies in the disclosure that traditional personnel policies in industry which place emphasis on improvement in environmental conditions and security at work merely serve to prevent dissatisfaction. It seems that we shall evoke more positive attitudes only when we start asking ourselves precisely what kind of work it is that we are requiring people to do and what opportunities there are for achievement and personal development in the content of the jobs we offer them. No amount of manipulation of the environment can disguise what is actually in a job. Management cannot, by some kind of artificial insemination, induce interest, enthusiasm and a sense of responsibility in people, but a man may be able to develop these characteristics for himself if his work allows him to.
My Lords, on this showing it appears that a vital task for management to-day 1008 is to examine and, where possible, to alter the content of jobs so as to provide the people doing them with opportunities for greater achievement (and, just as important, recognition of that achievement), for assuming increased responsibility, for taking on more demanding tasks and for improving their ability to do things. I well know that there are many dull, repetitive jobs in British industry to-day where there is scarcely any scope at all for making such changes. I know, too, that there are obstacles in the way of change of this kind, some of them imposed by trade union demarcations and restrictive practices, others resulting from narrow and defensive attitudes among the men involved. But certain restrictions are created by management through the form of organisation it has developed and maintained, and these at least can be eliminated without reference to trade unions. Anyway, where, in the course of controlled experiments, this approach to change in the content of jobs has been tried, particularly in the United States, the claims for it in terms of improved productivity and morale are striking indeed.
The only other point I want to make is that in its practical application to industry, much of the thinking of modern behavioural scientists is, as I understand it, perfectly straightforward; for example, that if a person is to give of his best he needs to know only a few simple things. He needs to know what his job amounts to, what standard of of achievement is expected of him, and how he is getting on. He should be clear as the noble Lord, Lord Sieff, emphasised, as to the basic purpose of his job, the main areas of his responsibility and the limits of his authority in exercising that responsibility. The progress he makes should so far as possible be measured by reference to specific tasks to be achieved over a relatively short period of time.
In the setting of these tasks he should himself be consulted wherever practicable, and his performance should be assessed on the basis of how far he has succeeded in them rather than by reference to abstract qualities or personal characteristics that he may be thought by his bosses to possess. Because in this way he will have helped to determine the standard of performance expected of him, 1009 he will be more ready to be judged on how far he has achieved the required standard. These principles are sometimes dressed up with a lot of verbiage, but in essence this is what they amount to. There is nothing startling or novel about them, and they have been practised by enlightened management for years. Yet there is need for them to have much wider application, and if we are honest many of us must confess that when it comes to ourselves we do not always practise them as we should.
My Lords, I can boast of no special knowledge of theory or practice in the field of behavioural scientific research. But I have learned enough to feel that we in industry are still far too conservative in our attitude to it. At least with the introduction of the Industrial Training Act, and particularly the rise in influence of the new business schools, a closer association is at last developing in this country between the academic and industrial worlds. Now we must take this process further, as has already been suggested, so that we lose no opportunity of applying the sociological knowledge gained in our great educational establishments to everyday situations in our factories. And, of course, the same need for exchange of experience applies also in the reverse direction. In conclusion, I should like to suggest that this is one way at least in which a very considerable contribution can be made to the betterment of human relations in industry.
§ 4.10 p.m.
§ LORD HUNT
My Lords, in rising to speak for the first time I ask for the indulgence of the House. I must confess to your Lordships that when, the other day, the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, reminded the House of the many precedents for sustained silence, I was very tempted to provide him, or any successor of his as a student of the history of this House, with another example; and I greatly envied the noble Lord, Lord Vivian, his excellent alibi for delaying his debut for 27 years. I do not have his alibi; but I have learned from experience in another field the value of slow acclimatisation in a rarefied atmosphere.
I should like to add my thanks to my noble friend Lord Sieff for giving us the chance to discuss this very important subject, and to add my tribute to that of other noble Lords who have spoken of 1010 his great work in this field. If I may say so, without any personal interest other than my wife's enthusiasm for shopping in the noble Lord's establishments, he sets an example of happy work relationships and happy customer relationships from which we all have a lot to learn. This is not to say that there are not other shining examples of this kind; but "example" is a very important word when we are discussing human relations. I agree with Lord Sieff that the common factor in human relations in industry is the human factor. I should like to add the thought that the job situation—indeed, the noble Lord brought out this point—should be a social situation. As such, it needs to be seen in relation to the other social situations in which people live. This is not in any way to contradict what the noble Lord, Lord Walston, said about not interfering with the private lives of people outside their working time. I think that the relationship of all these social situations should be seen in context.
My Lords, I speak without personal experience of working within industry; so my only excuse for intervening in this debate is this need to look outside the industrial situation for some of the solutions to relations within it. I want to draw attention (or perhaps I should say to follow the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, in drawing further attention) to the young workers, and to speak briefly—and possibly a little more in depth than he had time to do—about their preparation, both before starting their work and in the transition stage, and in the early years after they have started work.
I think it would hardly be possible to exaggerate the importance of these young workers to the subject we are discussing. It is not so much a statistical matter. There are, I believe, 1,600,000 young workers under the age of 18; but this is not really the point. It is not also a matter simply of economics or finance, although it could be put, as I have heard it put, that young men entering industry (and I shall have a word to say about the girls later), each having a work span of some 40 years, represent an investment value at least as important as a great deal of plant or equipment which, after all, would have to be replaced within that 1011 span of time. But neither of these things is the real point. The real point is the tremendous potential of young people to bring about change. Their urge is towards the future. They are much less concerned—and in this context it is a healthy attitude—to what has gone on in the past. I would say with emphasis that if we are going to bring about a change in attitude and relationships this is one place where we must start.
May I remind your Lordships that 600,000 young people under the age of 18 enter industry each year, and more than half of these start work straight from school, at around the age of 15. For all of them, particularly the 16-year.olds, the change from school to work is a great and momentous step. They do not just have to learn a trade; they need a great deal of help in the business of learning to live in the world of adults. I should like to pay a tribute to what is being done in a great many of our secondary schools in this business of preparing young people for life beyond school. I have seen a great deal of this in the last twelve years. In that span of time a great deal has happened, and most of it in the desired direction. We have had a series of Reports, starting with the Report by the King George's Jubilee Trust in 1955, a Report from a National Study Conference on the Young Worker, in Oxford in 1956; and we have had Crowther, Newsom and Brunton. All these have made their contribution to this vital business of social education.
But, my Lords, it remains a disturbing fact that large numbers of boys and girls leave school either with high hopes, and suffer disillusion and a tendency to drift when they start work, or with little or no ambition because they lave achieved no academic success at school. We have the frustration of some (I have heard the proportion put as high as one-third of those who are apprenticed) and the apathy of others—and I would guess these to be at least as high a proportion of the rest. For a good many, in both categories I have mentioned, there is the fact that they find adult codes of behaviour and adult relationships at work very different from the adult precepts they have had impressed upon them at school. Here is another cause of dis- 1012 illusion and I do not know which state of mind is the more to be regretted.
My concern, therefore, is not so much about the quality of this contribution by the secondary schools, and other organisations in the transition stage, as about the lack of quantity. I am convinced that a great deal more is needed. I am concerned that the proposals of Newsom and Brunton should be far more widely spread through our secondary schools. I would say that at present they are not adopted by even a majority of our secondary schools; and it is very important that they should be adopted by 1971, when, as we all know, our young people will be spending an extra year at school.
I am concerned, too, about continuity, about the extent of further education for all young workers under 18, and particularly those from the small firms in which the vast majority of young people are employed. No one who has seen something of the provision of liberal studies in some of our further education establishments could fail to be impressed by its breadth, by the adult approach to study and by the extra-curricula and social provision. But only 19 per cent. of all young people at work take part in day-release classes, and these are mainly the male apprentices. I cannot speak with knowledge about apprenticeship training; I can only observe, in passing, that it seems to me that in the case of some apprenticeships they are frustratingly long.
I am particularly concerned, however, about the 50 to 60 per cent. whose academic attainments limit them to the less skilled and routine types of work and who have no opportunity through further education or training to improve their skills and to advance their status. Yet I am certain that it is among these Newsom youngsters, some of who are still styled in that depressingly negative term, "non-apprentices" that one key to the future improvement of industrial relations lies.
I do not wish to exaggerate youthful frustration and apathy, but I think we need to know more about the reasons that lie behind these. There have been a number of local and unofficial studies and surveys in the past few years. But it is now 1I years since the last national 1013 study took place—the one I mentioned at Oxford, which produced the Report, The Young Worker. I wonder whether the time is not ripe for a review of progress since that report was written, or even whether a fresh inquiry might be opened by the Minister of Labour or some independent, industrial body, such as the Industrial Society, to look into this business.
My Lords, if I might presume to do so, I should like to raise three questions which I regard as worthy of examination in any inquiry that takes place. First, is there the possibility of giving more responsibility and status to the young workers? Cannot the system of junior worker councils, junior shop stewards' committees, be extended to more companies? Could not some juniors be co-opted on to senior works committees? Is it possible to attach youngsters to appropriate adults, not on a craft basis, but in order to establish a personal relationship between them? Secondly, could not more social and recreational opportunities be made available, particularly for the young operatives, in which every age and grade of worker can share leisure activities? Thirdly, on the same point, is it not possible for more joint initiative by the smaller firms who could pool their resources to provide social and recreational schemes, in the same way as some do for apprenticeship training in the engineering industry?
My Lords, I will speak only very briefly on my second point, which I am convinced can go some way to compensate for the dullness of some of the more routine kinds of work. I have been immensely impressed by the results of residential experience, by the courses run by a number of organisations; the Adjustment to Industry courses by the boys' club movement; the longer National Endeavour courses by the National Association of Youth Clubs; the courses for young operatives in the coal industry run by the Y.M.C.A., and by the outdoor activity courses run by the C.C.P.R., Outward Bound and other similar organisations—and here, with an obvious interest to declare, I should like to include the Duke of Edinburgh's Award Scheme. I would not deny that some firms themselves organise most valuable extra-curricular facilities and that some include them in work-time. I 1014 also believe that there is tremendous value in the local voluntary community work which some companies encourage their youngsters to undertake.
My Lords, what is needed is a great deal more of this kind of education, more voluntary service opportunities and participation by more of the young operatives, I very much hope that industrial training boards will soon recognise this kind of provision for rebate of the training levy. I believe that at present only one board does so. I am convinced that it would have a profound effect on the improvement of relationships both inside and outside the factory.
I said that I would put in a word about the working girls, and I hope that here I shall have the support of all the noble Baronesses present, if of no one else. The fact is that the young male workers have the lion's share of day-release (the figure for girls is only 7 per cent.) and of other opportunities. As we all know, there are reasons for this, one of which is the well-known fact that girls make a habit of getting married and leaving the job. But if we accept that the social aspect is the inseparable complement of the functional one, this policy of discrimination between the sexes is short-sighted. We all know that the attitude of some parents towards education tends to be short-sighted, but if we want to have more enlightened parents who recognise the value of liberal education as well as job training, we should remember that the girls who go off and get married also make a habit of becoming the mothers of future workers.
My Lords, I wish to say a very brief word about the young coloured workers and their desire to be accepted by their workmates, as they generally are at school. Their numbers are not large at present, but they are going to increase up to three-fold within the next 10 years as the considerable number now in primary schools finish their secondary schooling and look for jobs. I hope that your Lordships will forgive me if I speak with strength of feeling on this matter because in the last 15 months I have been engaged in writing a report on the subject of young coloured immigrants. I think that the evidence of discrimination which was recently revealed by the P.E.P. Report and other reports is a stain on our reputation for fair play. I would ask 1015 whether the young coloured Englishmen, the second and future generations who will he educated fully and many of them born in this country, will be accepted when they look for jobs. Will those who will comprise this "bulge", which will occur within eight years, be accepted on their intrinsic merits and welcomed by management and their comrades at the work bench 'as their white colleagues and contemporaries will be? I think this an absolutely crucial question.
Finally—I am almost at my last gasp—I should like to paraphrase the words of a trades union official to whom I listened some years ago. He was speaking to young workers in the steel industry. I did not keep a record of his actual words but what he said was, in effect, that in the current second industrial revolution the greatest problems are not those in the realm of further advances in science and technology, but those of preserving the human virtues and enabling people to be their best selves, despite and because of the inevitable advances in science and technology. My Lords, I suggest that this is a challenge which we face as we debate this important subject to-night.
§ 4.25 p.m.
§ LORD PEDDIE
My Lords, it is a pleasant tradition of this House to congratulate a maiden speaker and to welcome a new voice, but on this occasion I think that your Lordships would wish me to go further and say that we welcome the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, as a man whose personal achievements and sense of leadership have won him distinction and honour for his country. I was interested to hear him comment that he learned the lesson of acclimatisation on the road to Everest. It served him well in the preparation of his maiden speech. I hope that that lesson so well learned will tempi him to make more speeches in this House and give noble Lords the benefits of listening to them.
May I also thank the noble Lord, Lord Sieff, for introducing this debate? I may say that he was listened to with particular interest because we like to listen to speeches where we know that the words have been backed by deeds. Your Lordships are well aware, as previous speakers have indicated, that the reputation of the noble Lord, Lord Sieff, has been well 1016 and truly established in the field of human relations in industry.
If one is not careful, one may indulge in a lot of platitudes on the subject of human relations and give voice to expressions of various kinds that sound well but mean so little. I think that your Lordships recognise the enormous importance of the subject; and we also recognise, as has been evidenced in many a debate in this House, that we feel that the pace of industrial advancement should be far faster. To achieve this we need more rapid application of technological processes and the employment of more capital. But, my Lords, it is seldom appreciated that the most important single factor in determining the pace of industrial progress is the human element. It is the attitude of mind of the individual and of the group worker (perhaps in this connection the group is more important than the individual), and the attitude of mind of management and labour that time and again has been demonstrated to be the greatest single obstacle to industrial change. Therefore good industrial relations are tremendously important, and I agree that human relations are the core of industrial relations.
This is a wide topic, and I intend to confine myself to one aspect. There is no doubt that the recognition of the worker as an individual is a matter of human dignity, and this recognition should certainly not be restricted to the factory floor. I believe that an increasing number of employers, particularly large-scale employers, are coming to recognise its importance by the appointment of personnel officers. But I find from personal experience that as yet there is little recognition of the precise responsibilities of the personnel officer. The emphasis is still far too much on welfare. It is welfare which has secured prominence in the debate so far.
I welcome the extension of welfare facilities in factory, mine and shop, but there is something more important than improvement in the relations between employer and employee, though we have seen tremendous changes in this regard. The harsh, intolerant and sometimes patronising attitude of the employer has come to an end. That attitude was symbolised by the sign that one used to see outside a factory when things were booming—"Hands Wanted"—not minds or 1017 persons, but hands. That was an indication of an attitude which is now changing, and to-day employers are more tolerant and intelligent in their approach. Perhaps the latter word is more apt, because the attitudes of the past would not be tolerated to-day in an era of relatively full employment. It was bad human relations and the sense of insecurity which they produced that in the past created the antipathy and fear which bedevilled industrial relations for generations and helped to create an attitude of mind which to-day is resentful of change.
But better human relations, though important, are in themselves not enough to deal with the entire problem of industrial relations. We have to differentiate between the individual worker and the group of workers. Industrial paternalism may provide good human relations, but group problems can emerge in industry and find no solution in the welfare services provided, no matter how good they may be. Workers do not act solely as individuals but as members of groups, and a group within a factory or workshop may express its fears and prejudices collectively though they do not necessarily relate to every individual within the group. Almost every wildcat strike that has taken place illustrates the truth of this statement.
Industrial disputes often have causes that are obscure. My noble friend on the Front Bench gave a list of the causes of industrial discontent, but I would not agree with the degree of importance which was attached to the various causes. Frequently what appears to be an irrational attitude on the part of a group of workers towards what seems a reasonable proposition owes its origin to things that management has considered to be completely trivial. A succession of minor grievances ultimately erupt into a major dispute.
Although the most important and justifiable claim of labour is for adequate pay—and there can be a lot of argument about what that means—I very much doubt whether pay is the greatest single factor in causing disputes and stoppages. If the pay factor was the principal cause, one would expect the low paid industries to provide the area for the majority of industrial disputes. But that is not the case. The motor car industry is evidence of the 1018 truth of what I am saying. There the rate of wages is high and there is a great number of strikes. My noble friend referred to agriculture. In agriculture the average wage is low and there is an absence of strikes. Wages, important though they are, cannot be considered as the main cause of industrial disputes.
I believe that boredom and frustration are among the basic causes of industrial discord. This is a factor which has not been sufficiently taken into account. I accept a measure of responsibility because, during long years in management, I did not always take these things into account when I felt damnably annoyed with what I considered to be an impossible attitude on the part of labour. I looked only at the first demands they were making, and not beyond them to see the causes. I believe that this factor will have increasing significance. The industrial dispute becomes the unconscious vehicle for the self-expression of workers who are bored and frustrated. It is easy to define this problem, but it is not easy to tackle it and it will become more difficult to deal with it with the development of British industry as a result of our entry into the Common Market. This will provide more incentive to large scale enterprise, to destroying old skills, changing methods of work, and employing a greater number of workers on automated processes.
Therefore, this question of industrial relations is far more significant than we think. It has to be a factor in the very design of future industry, and work must be organised, particularly in large-scale industry, to meet the psychological pressures of automated industry. There are many things that can be done. First, workers need a better understanding of what processes are about and what their individual contribution can be. Secondly, there should not be a sense of inevitable continuity in the job. We talk about security of employment, but we must not exaggerate its importance. If security for the individual means the perpetual and permanent working on one particular job that unconsciously reduces the attraction of the continuity of such employment. Then there should be far better communication within the plant. Job satisfaction is an important element—one that has to be associated with willingness to accept 1019 change. There should be real opportunities for promotion in firms, and firms should provide more facilities for training: opportunities for people working on humdrum, repetitive jobs; opportunities to provide means to get out and do some other particular task.
Communications in industry are of great importance, and the value increases with the size of the business. I believe that management must be determined to tell employees what they are doing, and why they are doing it. All this involves something which I believe is part of the whole question of industrial relations; that is, joint consultation. Joint consultation is one facet of communications. It is impossible to have communications in an industry of a character of which some noble Lords have spoken unless there is joint consultation. Management, of course, needs to give advice to employees, and except in the very small concerns this cannot be done by direct approach. Only consultation with employees' representatives is adequate.
The machinery for joint consultation in industry is not as widely spread as is supposed. A few years ago, I believe, the Minister of Labour conducted a survey of the firms employing more than 500 work people. Sixty five per cent. of those firms had no machinery for joint consultation. I am sure that the position has improved over that period, but not, I think, very much. I believe, also, that the purpose of joint consultation is grossly misunderstood, both by the workers and by management. One thing is certain: it must not be used merely as a vehicle for conveying management decisions or by-passing trade union negotiations. Those are the twin perils that have to be avoided—the Scylla and Charybdis of this whole problem. All too frequently one finds that management, with the best will in the world, introduce joint consultations, only to founder as a result of one or both of those perils.
Nor does it mean workers directing management. What it does mean is that through joint consultation it is possible for the employer to have a better assessment of what is in the best long-term interests not only of the worker but also of the firm itself. Perhaps I may quote a personal experience that I had in an organisation of which I was a director 1020 a good many years ago. It concerned redundancy payments, a field in which we were pioneers. I remember very clearly a decision made by the board. They thought they could earn some kudos for themselves if they indicated to the staff, without joint consultation and without even referring to the trade union, that they would make available redundancy payments, if a person lost his employment. It was intended as a concession, but the result was catastrophic, and some of my colleagues could not understand why. But I did.
This new idea was presented as something wonderful. There was actually no possibility of employees losing their jobs, but I could imagine "Bill" going home to his wife and saying: "I have some wonderful news for you, my dear. If I get the sack next week, I am going to have six months' or twelve months' money". This created in their minds the fear that there was the possibility they would get the sack. Yet the whole idea was put forward as a concession, intended to improve relations. But there was no consultation. We learned from that mistake, and there was the development of sensible joint consultation. Then it was possible for both sides to discuss matters—not about what sort of paint should be used in the toilet, whether there were hard buns in the canteen or dining room, and so on, but more fundamental things, with the basic recognition that each side had its own responsibility: management to manage, and the worker to make his contribution.
I believe it is in this particular field that there must be full recognition of the group responsibility: not merely seeking through the process of welfare to win the allegiance of the individual—you can never do that. There is a group loyalty among workers which will never be destroyed. There must be recognition of that group loyalty, and, at the same time, a building up in the workers of the feeling that it is a team operation. There may appear to be a permanent clash, with no possibility of reconciliation between the one side wishing to secure the highest possible wage, and the other side, the management, wishing to make the maximum profit. But this is not so. There is no question that better teamwork between the two can bring a new incentive and urge to industry, and I believe 1021 that it can be done through a better understanding of what industrial relations are all about.
§ 4.46 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT ECCLES
My Lords, like the noble Lord, Lord Rochester, I well remember our debate about a year ago in which the noble Lord, Lord Sieff, impressed the House with his wisdom and his humanity when he spoke about industrial relations. Therefore it was with keen anticipation that I looked forward to this debate, and I wish to thank the noble Lord for giving us another chapter of his experience. We have to thank him, also, for giving us the opportunity to hear the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, make his maiden speech. I thought it was a remarkable speech. I should like to pay my tribute to the quite unrivalled work which the noble Lord has done for the physique and character of such an enormous number of boys and girls in this country. I shall have a word to say about his reference to secondary schools. I hope that the noble Lord will join in our debates on this subject, of which he is such a master, or on any other subject, because we shall be pleased to hear him.
Listening to the noble Lord, Lord Sieff, and the noble Lord, Lord Rochester, I thought that if we put their speeches together we should get a complete message, which it seems to me really amounts to this: that employers must get to know their employees better than they do, and they must trust their employees with more responsibility—both define it and delegate it with great care—than they do at present. I think this is advice with which all your Lordships would agree; but you would also be very conscious that it is extremely difficult to apply in the differing circumstances of different industries.
Here the noble Lord, Lord Sieff, starts with a considerable advantage, because in a retail business like Marks and Spencer it is easier than in manufacturing to delegate responsibility and to trust the people on the shop floor. The retail store has one immense advantage: it sells exactly what it buys. The control of its operation is, therefore, comparatively simple. At the end of the day the stock can be counted and the cash added up, and what has been sold can be checked against the money in the till. 1022 Within that simple control, as the noble Lord, Lord Sieff, has shown us on other occasions, it pays to trust the shop assistant. But, my Lords, the manufacturer does not sell what he buys. He takes in raw material and he processes that raw material in many different ways according to many different timetables. and at the end of each day he cannot know exactly what has happened to his work in progress, and he has no simple financial check to tell him. As a result of these more complicated forms of work a rather different kind of control is needed, and it has to be, I fear, significantly more complicated than that in a retail store.
Although those complications are quite inevitable, it in no way alters the essence of Lord Sieff's formula, as I understand it, which holds good for everybody. That is to say, we ought to know by now that it is more difficult to trust a stranger than to trust someone you know. So the employer should do all he can to know his employees, to know their hopes and fears, their capacities to climb the ladder, and their blind spots and their weaknesses which must be accounted for; and he should realise that these characteristics change with the changing social scene. And, vice versa, I think it is time employees knew a bit more about their employers. Therefore I ask the question: What are the prospects for the cultivation of this mutual knowledge?
In industry to-day two powerful forces are pulling in opposite directions, one making it much harder for managers and men to get to know each other, and the other offering fruitful new opportunities for doing so. It may be of some interest to speculate on which of these forces is winning. In the first place, the growing size of modern industrial units presents us with a difficulty. Most of our leading firms are expanding in one way or another, and as they grow bigger it becomes harder for anyone at any level to know directly or with any intimacy more than a tiny fraction of the people employed in the firm. I realised that some years ago—how in Whitehall short-lived Ministers are put in charge of enormous Departments of State, not 1 per cent. of the personnel of which do they ever know at all; 99 per cent. remain complete strangers to them.
1023 Nowadays I am more familiar with industry, where the growth in size compels the executive directors to lay down rules for settling such things as negotiations for salaries and wages, holidays, promotion, joint consultation, and so on; rules which middle management then has to apply. In greater or less degree, middle managements are scared stiff of those at the top. They stick slavishly to the rules, and the result is that in large organisations forces build up which inevitably make for rigidity in human relations. Yet your Lordships may think that even on the strictest criteria of profitability, a measure of authority should be delegated to set aside the rules in cases where the circumstances appear to the manager responsible to be exceptional. That is a human way to conduct any large organisation. But it often meets with opposition from the men themselves. And here I come to the point admirably put by the noble Lord, Lord Peddie, because once you organise men in groups, they develop resistance to the individual treatment of one of their members. This is a matter which the noble Lord, Lord Peddie, brought to our attention; and it has not been studied as it should be. Managers often have great difficulty in being human because the group has inside itself something which develops inhumanity.
Then, one noble Lord (I think it was Lord Walston, when he was speaking about agriculture) talked about the days when businesses were small. It is no good pining for those days, because the fact is that businesses are going to grow larger. Perhaps we can take comfort from this: that the old face-to-face relations, which were often quoted as the valuable element in the small business, could not be re-created to-day. Most of those relationships were not between men who felt each other their equals; they were more the old style "master and man" relationship which distinguished every good Victorian household. We cannot re-create that kind of relationship in big industry.
Nevertheless, the problem remains that always a few people will give the orders, and many people will have to obey. I see our task as to reconcile this fact of life with the new forces that make for equality. The most important of these new forces is the spread of better educa- 1024 tion in the maintained schools, with more children staying on after 15 and more going on to further education. The noble Lord, Lord Hunt, very rightly reminded us that there was a tremendous lot still to do in our secondary schools. I should be the first to agree with him about that. But, at the same time, the change that has already taken place since the 1944 Act is something which we really must now take into our calculations. By that I mean that year by year the educational gap between managers and workers is being closed. This process is accelerated by radio and T.V., by holidays abroad, by the spread of the family motor car, and by the great range of consumer goods which appeal to people of all classes and are sold by the noble Lord, Lord Sieff, himself.
All this means a very rapid levelling up, and it is bound to cause strains in the traditional social and industrial relations. The older men in industry are finding it hard to adjust themselves to the new ferment that is coming up from below. They began work when the wage-earner did what he was told. But to-day the younger wage-earner thinks for himself what he would prefer to do. His work is still part of himself, in which he takes pride, but his view of himself is larger now and more demanding. And those with the education and the self-confidence to think in this new way become a larger proportion of the total labour force year by year, as fresh age groups leave school or technical college and enter industry.
I have noticed, for example, the number of young people who now bear the mark of having been taught in their primary or secondary school something about the Arts. One of the great postwar discoveries is the number of children who are potential artists of one kind or another. When the boy's creative talent has been awakened in school, he feels the need for further opportunities of self-expression afterwards. If he then goes into industry and finds that no one cares about his talent or has the slightest wish to see him use his imagination, the let down is very serious indeed.
I return to my main contention which is that, in spite of the increasing size of industrial firms, the forces making for more equal and better human relationships are going to win. I know that this 1025 is a very optimistic judgment—or would be thought so by many people close to industry. There is no disguising the fact that the structures and techniques which to-day govern more or less the whole range of relationships between top management and workers are based on the assumption that the two parties are different species of humanity—different animals, if you like to put it that way: "We", the under-educated, militantly organised, and "They", the over-privileged directors and managers.
That was true in the not distant past. The man who started with a good education and all his life was fed with inside information about his job and about the world around him could not help being a very different person from the elementary schoolboy who went out to work at 14 and had little or no chance to acquire any further knowledge. It is interesting that in the United States of America these two distinct species of humanity have never existed. The employees have never felt that they were locked in a cage, glaring at the employers strolling around outside, with the result that there has never been—as there has been here—an ideological barrier between American managements and American trade unions. Both sides believe in profits; both sides grasp their common interests; both want to live in an open society in which success is attainable by all with talent and persistence, and in which success is respected by all.
We did not start that way. When our Industrial Revolution began the educational and social gap between management and workers was far too wide to create a structure of partnership. Instead, we built up our system of collective bargaining in which the inferior status of the worker is explicitly recognised and the relationship is concentrated into a struggle between opponents, to see who can get most cash out of the firm. The assumption underlying that structure still remains. If we look at the opposition to the prices and incomes policy put up by some unions, in spite of the Government gestures towards their worn-out attitudes in respect of profits and capital formation; and if we look at the attitudes taken up towards this policy by certain employers—although they are more discreet—we see how much we are now paying for having maintained the educational gap for 1026 so long after universal suffrage became the law of the land.
At this time of the day, as other noble Lords have said, both sides in industry ought to be making common cause in holding the growth in demand at a level which matches the growth in production. But they are not. It is all very well for us to single out the good cases, but in general effect they are not. They are still too suspicious of the other man—and a great number of the men are organised expressly to maintain these suspicions. But, my Lords, I see a ray of hope. The younger workers, whom I know, seem to me to be ready to abandon the old divisions, provided that they are well led, and provided that each one feels he will be treated as an equal, as a man, with anyone else in the firm. This desire of the rank and file, which I note quite strongly in the younger workers and the younger managers—the desire to be treated more equally—has quite suddenly become apparent in some, at any rate, of our most ancient institutions.
One remembers what happened the other day at the London School of Economics—the students suddenly asking (almost as though they came from the Continent) for a share in the management of the school. But look at the House of Commons or at the Christian Churches. For centuries these institutions were ruled—and ruled with little dissent—by the Government and the clergy respectively. These superior people were looked up to, and they were accepted as the rightful masters by their supporters and congregations. But what is happening now? The Government are hard pressed by their own Back Benchers, and the clergy are hard pressed by the laity, to share the secrets of policy and the exercise of power. Who, in his heart of hearts, doubts that these pressures ought to succeed and will succeed?
At all levels of industry the same sort of pressures are there (perhaps not quite so obviously seen), and we are told that the Government are thinking about a second Companies Bill, in which some of these aspirations will find expression. We must be careful about the principle upon which these company structures are reformed. We might make a great mistake. We might try to mend, or patch, 1027 on the assumption that there are still two irreconcilable sides in industry.
To give an example, I think it would be a grievous error if we followed the advice of those people who want to see a certain number of places on the board of every company reserved for employees. Why reserved? Because they assume that employees are different in kind from other normal candidates for the boards; reserved because they think that at the board meeting there ought to be voices to speak for the special interests of employees, which they hold to be at variance with those of the management and shareholders. The result of that would be either that the employee directors were nobbled and made accomplices in running the businesses exactly as before, or a debilitating struggle would arise in the boardroom. The whole concept would be wrong—wrong because it is out of date.
We shall reform well company structures and the techniques of industrial relations only if we first take a resolution to look upon management and workers as not two distinct species of humanity but the same kind of men and women. This is really a case where the first step, that is to say a change of heart and outlook, is what will count. Are men equal? In one sense, they are; in another sense they are not. But at different stages in the educational and social development of a country their inequalities bulk larger, and as social development takes place, as is happening now, their equalities can, and should, rise to the top.
The burden of my remarks to your Lordships is that to-day the claim to greater equality within the whole range of the employees of a great business is justified, as it would not have been ten years ago—still less thirty years ago—and should now come first when we think of reforming the structures of industry and the relations within that structure. How do we ensure that every man knows that he starts work on an equal footing as regards promotion and that he will be treated as an individual, and as well as any other individual in the company, whatever his place and prospects for the future? It is questions of that sort which anyone framing new company structures, and the new Bill which I hope will come before us, must answer.
1028 In the industrial field we have no other answer to the Communists but working out this new pattern of equality in industrial relations. Communism is the logical expression of a belief that in a free enterprise system managers and their employees can never make peace: one side must be defeated by the other and wiped out. We can do better than that; and now, when, as we hope, we are going to join the European Community and the real strength of our economy will be put to the test, the time is ripe to revive our British genius in redesigning our institutions both economic and political.
§ 5.11 p.m.
THE LORD BISHOP OF LEICESTER
My Lords, I consider it a very humbling task to follow immediately upon the profound and sometimes chastening words of the noble Viscount, Lord Eccles, but, coming as I do from Leicester, a great hosiery town, I am well aware of the great contribution to our welfare that has been made by the organisation presided over by the noble Lord, Lord Sieff, and I listened with special interest to his description of the way in which that great organisation was carried forward with the minimum of friction. If one wanted to give a flippant title to his speech we might call it "Marks without Sparks". But I have to apologise to him for not being able to stay to the end of this debate. The Bishops are engaged to-night in a dinner to honour Archbishop Lord Fisher of Lambeth on the occasion of his eightieth birthday, and on this occasion I think the trade union solidarity among the Bishops will have to take precedence over other responsibilities.
It is also a great piece of fortune to me to be speaking in the debate in which the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, has made his maiden speech. He has long held the great respect and affection and admiration of the whole country, and one of the notable features of his speech was the way in which we so soon forgot that it was a maiden speech and found ourselves entirely engaged in listening to the challenge which he had to put before us with his great experience among the youth of our country.
I do not think it is necessary at this stage of the debate to go over all the ground that other speakers have investigated. But I do feel considerable 1029 sympathy with the noble Lord, Lord Peddie, in this respect at least: that human relationships, however good and well intentioned they may be, are in fact very largely coloured by the group loyalties and the political realities of any particular period in history. And I think this is particularly clear to-day. When one surveys the social and political scene one sometimes thinks that our country is like a car engine whose timing has broken down. Everything seems to be happening at the wrong time and in the wrong order. We have, for instance, a Labour Government that has been carried to power on the wines of the workers' movement, largely inspired throughout its history by the kind of motivation which has governed the trade union movement. It has fallen to the lot of the Labour Government in office to carry out a policy which must seem at first very difficult for the ordinary worker to identify as the policy of the Party which he had helped to reach office. And this itself is one of the factors that creates a certain attitude of hesitation and confusion in the minds of ordinary people.
We know that family firms, small firms, can much more easily keep a happy spirit of personal relationships between managers and employees, but we live in a time, as the noble Viscount has just emphasised, when the decline of the family firm and the increase of the great business organisation is inevitable. And so at the particular time when we need the best personal relationships we find ourselves confronted with a situation where it is very difficult to achieve them.
There never was a time, perhaps, when the trade unions were recognised so universally as one of the great estates of the realm, with great responsibilities and immense power. But this is the very time when these powerful institutions are themselves threatened both from above and from below: from above because the needs of the whole community, expressed for the most part through Government, do not always make it possible for the trade unions to pursue in an unrestricted way the kind of policy which it is their whole historical tradition to pursue. But they are also threatened from below because the very size and vastness of the trade unions has left an enormous number of local situations, workshop situations, which cannot be, or at any rate 1030 cannot be felt to be, fully cared for by the great national trade unions. So, it seems that in all these ways the ordinary worker finds himself living in a period where many of his accepted milestones and signposts seem to have been removed.
The noble Lord, Lord Walston, spoke about the dangers of an excessively paternalistic attitude on the part of management and the possible harm that that might do in the restriction of other social opportunities for villages and towns where these factories or firms were situated. But, quite apart from that, there has also to be faced the resistance among workers to anything that savours of paternalism because, as the noble Lord, Lord Peddie, made so clear, it is often thought to be a way of evading some of the rightful claims of trade unions or of workers. In spite of all this much has been achieved, and we ought not to shut our eyes to the degree of co-operation that has been achieved in the last few years between Government, managements and trade unions in wage restraint, and the considerable success in the economic field which has rewarded those efforts. I think that gratitude from the whole community is due to all those who, with many grumbles and complaints, have nevertheless accepted the inevitable.
I feel that we have to stick to the system of voluntary bargaining as the basic foundation of our industrial relations, but that we must put on top of the ordinary, so to speak, horizontal negotiations between management and trade unions, a tier above, represented by the Government, and a tier below, represented by the local workshop organisations. I think it will be a great challenge to the statesmanship of all concerned to find a way in which, within the voluntary system, these new elements in the total situation can in some way be geared in to what we already have. We all fully agree that somehow we have to develop among our ordinary people at all levels a sense of identity with the undertaking and a sense of personal responsibility.
I thought the noble Lord, Lord Rochester, had much truth behind him when he stressed the importance of everyone knowing what was expected of him. I felt it was very much a doctrine of 1031 justification by work, but in this particular matter I think that can be justified. I believe that the competitive spirit in a right way can do a great deal. I have had an illustration of this in a field quite divorced from that which we are discussing. In my own diocese I was concerned a few years ago about the state of the country churchyards. We offered a small prize for the best kept country churchyard. The transformation of a large number of Leicestershire churchyards as a result of that simple expedient was really quite amazing.
It is true that we have to devise ways of drawing out the enthusiasm and the interest of all those who are concerned, but in the last resort it all turns on team work. On this point I was a little puzzled by the final words of the noble Lord, Lord Peddie. If I heard him rightly, he said that we had to develop a true sense of team work between management and employees, and that this had to be accepted. But somehow, in the particular way in which he presented it, it seemed to me that he contemplated at best a kind of hard and almost hostile bargaining between the parties, as if this were something that can never be changed. I feel that we have to look for a change in fundamental relationships and attitudes on the lines that the noble Viscount, Lord Eccles, enunciated in his speech.
It is hard to undo the effects of long history. The noble Lord, Lord Peddie, contrasted farms and factories. As he was speaking I thought that perhaps the reason for it was that in the subconscious mind of the farmworker there is almost an ancestral memory of a community belonging together and mutually supporting each other, perhaps in the face of hostile elements in other villages or tribes, and that there is still some vestigial sense of this community feeling; whereas our modern factories have grown up since all the embittered relationships of the early years of the Industrial Revolution, and it is extremely hard to produce a state of affairs where people can really forget the past and look at the present and the future with new eyes and with new understanding.
I should like to end by quoting some words from a pamphlet that I am sure 1032 is well known to many. It is Industrial Relations by Alan Flanders. It is produced by the Institute of Personnel Management. and it seems to me to have a great deal of wisdom to contribute to this matter. Towards the end of his pamphlet, quoting another writer, he says:The real barrier to an agreement on divergent interests which would make cooperation possible is a fear of co-operation itself. Managements fear loss of their authority, unions fear lessening of their function and appeal, employees fear increased insecurity resulting from improved efficiency. Given good will, none of these fears need materialiseBut, as the noble Viscount, Lord Eccles, said in other contexts, how are we to find the good will? It would be my hope, and I know the hope of my fellow Bishops on these Benches, that the spiritual forces of the nation, considered in their widest aspect, might still have something to contribute to the release from these binding and restricting fears.
§ 5.27 p.m.
§ LORD POPPLEWELL
My Lords, I should like first to add my tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, on his maiden speech. I think that probably his visits to the rarified atmosphere from time to time have well equipped him, both in tone and texture, for what might take place at any time in this House. I am certain that the texture of his speech, particularly referring to the young and what is designed for them in regard to industry, has opened up a wide field. That theme itself indicated the tremendous steps forward that are now being taken in this important topic that Lord Sieff has thought fit to call to our attention, the need for better human relations in industry. In my opinion this is indeed a vital factor in this development.
The question that naturally poses itself is: are we satisfied that industrial relations are such that they enable the most efficient use to be made of men, materials, machines and technical knowledge in accordance with the needs of our social and economic requirements of to-day and the future? This, I think, is the important question which is posed to the nation. Those of us who have had considerable experience in the industrial field know how essential it is to remove suspicion from both sides of industry if we are to obtain maximum co-operation in the 1033 search for a formula to obtain the efficiency that is so necessary to increase our productivity to the degree that we so desire.
When we pose this question we must realise that we are dealing with not only one of the most difficult problems but a most urgent matter having regard to the present structure of industry, and indeed society. It would be wrong of us if we did not at once acknowledge the many improvements which have taken place in this direction covering a wide range of industries, particularly the nationalised industries. We must not limit our approach to this subject only to the questions of additional health safeguards, additional wealth safeguards, or additional fringe benefits on the part of employees. It is right that in regard to these factors those employees should be brought into line with salaried staff and other employees in large-scale industry, and that there should be no differentiation at all in this matter. Any difference which exists—and this is the case in many areas at present—at once highlights any differences which may exist between the two different types of employee, and this situation must be put right.
I have paid tribute to the nationalised industries and the way in which they were approaching this problem. I will quote in aid a recent status agreement entered into in the electricity industry, for I consider it to be outstanding. Its pattern may well form a criterion for study and for application in many other spheres. I think that in its approach to welfare, fringe benefits and status it is absolutely first-class. The net effect has been to increase productivity on the generating side of the electricity industry, and consequently to bring about a considerable reduction in hours of employment and the elimination of overtime. This is a very good step forward.
Individual private ownership of industry, as we knew it in past generations, has given way to the power being put in the hands of boards of directors and share ownership. This changed pattern has given very wide powers to executives and higher management, who are now the privileged class of society in the industrial field. The old private individual owner in a given industry was able in the main to be on good terms with his employees, and they were able to 1034 talk over the problems of the industry and to understand each other much better than is possible to-day in the existing industrial structure. Having regard to the vast technical knowledge on the part of management in harnessing scientific development to their particular product, in the research which they have conducted into marketing trends, and in the study which they have given to traditional and alternative supplies of raw material and to organisational productivity methods, it is understandable that with this tremendous knowledge behind them they feel it their prerogative to take policy decisions to which other employees must adapt themselves. This is a very understandable feature. It is the present-day version of the past. The difference is that it is now the executives and not the owners who take the decisions.
The trade union structure was built up to safeguard the interests of its members as a result of any changes made and following on arbitrary decisions laid down by employers of the past. That structure still remains to safeguard their members' interest about what they feel arc attacks upon their conditions of membership. These often lead to disagreements and, if they do not reveal themselves in stoppages, they lead to protracted negotiations which ultimately become a festering sore and a ready background for any trouble that may arise on minor matters. Often both sides of industry are very conservative in their approach to any change in traditional attitudes. Often management rejects out of hand any effort by the trade unions or organised labour which they feel might impinge upon their authority.
In is equally true, on the other hand, that many trade unions are equally determined to keep clear of anything approaching managerial functions. This is a real diemma. They fear that if they align themselves with or take part in, any managerial questions, it will considerably limit their freedom of action to negotiate on behalf of their members. I suggest that the problem which really faces the nation is to bridge this gap set by these two apparently conflicting views, and to make them realise that more cooperation in the initial stages of any given project within industry would often remove conflict in the late stages, and 1035 would result in improved efficiency and a more evenly balanced share of the benefits consequential upon increased productivity. This, in my opinion, is a very important consideration.
As my noble friend Lord Peddle rightly pointed out, it is not to-day sufficient just to dwell on conditions of employment and fringe benefits. The higher state of education has meant that we are able to bring into industry young people with inquiring minds. They are not content to use the old rule-of-thumb methods. They want to know the objectives; they want to become partners in the firm's thinking. They want to know exactly what their part is, and the., want to know the general direction of policy, which is laid down by the directors but afterwards to be applied by executives. They feel that it is necessary to know these things, and this feeling will develop all the more with the fruits of a higher level of education.
Unlike the noble Viscount, Lord Eccles, who disagreed with the idea of workers' being co-opted on to boards, I want to compliment the Minister of Power on his approach to workers' participating in management—I refer to his decision to appoint workers in the steel industry as part-time members of the various boards. Of necessity this will he an experiment, but it is progressive in outlook and it will be interesting to see how it works out. It is a breakthrough to which I give my blessing, and perhaps from it we shall be able to develop still further along the lines of seeing that workers not only share in discussions on wages and conditions but are real partners in the policy followed by their undertaking.
We often hear a cry for some revision of the trade union law. I very much regret that it was repeated this afternoon by the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, and I thought there was a similar note in the speech of the noble Viscount, Lord Eccles. We ought to get away completely from that idea in this day and age. It is like King Canute trying to hold back the waters. Organised labour is a living force, and it will not stand for a curbing of its powers. It would be much more beneficial if we looked at the present difficulties of the trade union movement. It is an organised force in our society which will not be stifled.
1036 No one deplores unofficial lightning strikes more than a parent trade union. They are an irritant which do harm to the organised labour movement, and the solid trade unionist, who is prepared to honour the contract which he has made even when it is to his disadvantage, also deeply deplores them. But we must all realise that often there are certain reasons for such action. I do not want to develop this theme in detail, but I would point out that delay in settling on the shop floor what is a very minor matter—delay either on the trade union side or on the management side—ultimately creates an atmosphere which often leads to unofficial action.
The trade unions have proved themselves to be very able statesmen in the post-war years. Opportunity was there for them, and they could have used their powers and held the nation to ransom. It is difficult for the unions to accept a wage freeze under the prices and incomes policy while they see prices continually rising in greater or lesser degree, and to hold the balance. The General Council of the Trades Union Congress have backed the Prices and Incomes policy, as has a mass meeting of trade union executives. That is a tremendous step forward and indicates that the trade unions are well to be trusted; and trusted they must be.
I seek now to outline some of the changes which I should like to see the trade union movement make. There is no question of legislating to curb and cripple their powers. I should like the individual trade unions to take note of the large empires which industrialists have built up, and try to do the same. According to the Central Office of Information's booklet, Labour Relations and Conditions of Work in Britain, membership of the trade unions at the end of 1962, which is the latest date for which figures are available, was 9,872,000, in 623 unions. Two-thirds of the members are in 18 unions, and half of them are in 8 unions. There are something like 180 organisations in membership of the Trades Union Congress, of which about a dozen are federations of 150 separate unions, and there are something like 350 affiliated unions with about 8,500,000 workers. This in itself indicates the great weakness on the trade union side. It is nonsense in this 1037 day and age that there should be so many small unions still preserving the pattern of the past when industry was in small units, and preserving the status of small numbers of key personnel. It is not in their interests that this state of affairs should continue.
We are greatly indebted to George Woodcock, of the T.U.C., and other members of the General Council, including some of my noble friends, like Lord Williamson, who was a very important member, who have realised how nonsensical the position is. That body has given a lead to try to get the individual unions to forgo their sovereignty and to amalgamate. I regret that progress in this direction in the last three years has not been as rapid as I should have hoped. But there are hopeful signs, such as the massed executives of trade unions agreeing to support the General Council on the Prices and Incomes policy. The General Council know full well that there may be some dissident unions who will kick against this policy, but the majority obtained indicates that the General Council ultimately will have to find a voluntary way of dealing with these people. It will not be an easy task. It will be very difficult to break down the traditions that these people have built up through the generations, to bring them into line, and to persuade them to hand over sovereignty to a different body. It is something which can be accomplished only slowly and by degrees, and it will call for remarkable statesmanship from the leaders of organised labour. I am certain that they are working in this direction.
Perhaps I may quote the outstanding example of the railways, in which your Lordships will realise I have some interest. It is an absolute disgrace to-day—and I say this as a member of one of the unions—that there should be the National Union of Railwaymen, the Amalgamated Society of Locomotive Engineers and Firemen and the Transport Salaried Staffs' Association, all dealing with railwaymen. In my opinion, to have three unions dealing with railwaymen is to-day too archaic for words. In addition, there are the 37 unions (I think the number is) attached to the Federation, which also comes into negotiations which concern the railways. No wonder there is delay and frustration when so many of these individual trade unions have to be taken into account, and 1038 when the preservation of their status is, to each of them, a considerable factor. This structure ought to be done away with completely. The irritation it causes plays a big part in creating a climate ripe for unofficial dispute, as I previously indicated.
This structure is also delaying considerably the taking of a new look at the part which trade unions can play in better industrial relations. So long as this pattern remains, negotiations will continue to be centred chiefly around an improvement of status for their members or fringe benefits, whatever they may be. If the trade unions adopt a more realistic attitude in connection with this, they will then be able to discuss with management general lines of policy and how new working techniques can be applied without having to look over their shoulders the whole of the time as to the possible effects of any new technique, as was the case in the past. I played my part in resisting some of these techniques in days gone by, when the alternative was to see some of my colleagues placed on the street. Those days have passed, in the main because of the more enlightened approach to-day in allowing wastage of manpower, and such like, to take up the slack without requiring immediate results.
This is a big change, and we must work to encourage this approach with real consideration being given to more efficient methods of production by both management and the trade unions. Instead of management saying, "We know what to do; you do as you are told", the trade unions should be brought in on the discussions when a new technique or a new development is being thought out. I realise in full the difficulties in bringing about this changed pattern and in convincing the trade union executives, who must in turn obtain the good will of their members. The trade union executives have to be convinced that this is right. When they are convinced, they will have the tremendous job of handing it down to shop-floor level. The question of relations, and just how this can apply, requires a tremendous amount of good will from the individual member, far-removed from the centre. It will be a question of talking over this line of approach in the districts and in the groups within the factories themselves.
1039 I feel that tremendous loyalty will be required to back up any representatives of the trade unions. For shop stewards to enter into discussion with management on these managerial questions demands, and will demand, a tremendous amount of loyalty from their colleagues. This can be accomplished only by the necessary educational groundwork being provided beforehand. It cannot be done quickly; but I feel that in this day and age, in this industrial revolution and technical age through which we are passing, this line should be followed in order to get this new approach in an effort to harness the good will on both sides. Not only is this necessary for our productive effort: it is necessary to establish and maintain human relationships within our industry.
§ 5.56 p.m.
§ LORD AMPTHILL
My Lords, with other noble Lords I should like to express my feeling that we are deeply indebted to the noble Lord, Lord Sieff, for putting this Motion on the Paper. The speech with which he introduced it was a marvel of clarity and completeness, and really leaves little to be said by anybody else who is interested in this subject. As I expected, the Motion has produced a series of interesting and thought-provoking speeches, and in the course of my few remarks I may make one or two comments on some of them. But I am sure that I shall be forgiven by the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, if I do not follow him into the question of revision of trade union law; by my noble friend Lord Eccles if I do not follow him into the question of revision of Company Law; and by the noble Lord, Lord Popplewell, if I do not follow him into the question of the reorganisation of the trade unions. I hold views on all these subjects. I see, in particular, that the trade unions have a human relations problem within their own organisations. But I do not want to speak for long, and therefore I hope that these noble Lords will forgive me if I do not pursue them down the very interesting avenues they have opened.
There is no doubt—it is beyond question—that any improvement we could bring about in human relations in industry would have an astonishing effect on efficiency, productivity, and, last but by no means least, of course, on the 1040 happiness and contentment of those at work. I speak as a former chairman of the Industrial Society, which until last year was known as the Industrial Welfare Society. Here I take up a point made by the noble Lord, Lord Peddie, who, to put his remarks very briefly, thought the word "welfare" was outmoded. That, of course, is the conclusion we in the Industrial Society reached last year. After much cogitation we changed our name to the Industrial Society. But, whatever its name, this Society has done a great deal of pioneer work in this field, dating back to the very early 1920s.
Under our new name and under our new Chairman, who I am glad to say is Sir Peter Runge, we are starting to develop our work in further ways and in wider fields. We are not confined to manufacturing industry; we are working among shipping, in the docks, in the shipyards, in the offices in the City and so on. All these are now coming within the scope of our activities, and the Society, I may as well tell your Lordships now, is assisting many of the newly-independent countries with their problems in this field of human relations.
I could give an interesting account of all that happens in the day-to-day work of the Society, but I will confine myself to a very few remarks on the very narrow front of the vital importance of good communications in industry and their effect in improving human relations. I think that the word "communications" is well understood in the industrial world, and certainly it is well understood by all noble Lords here to-night. Therefore I will not attempt any definition of it. However, I can say that some industries have not yet found the ideal way of maintaining good communications with their work people. The best method of all, in my view, is that of personal contact. But, as the noble Viscount, Lord Eccles, mentioned, companies grow into groups; groups grow into larger groups; everything gets larger and larger, and locations are spread all over the country, and even all over the world. This makes the problem of communication ever more difficult, although something, of course, can be done by magazines, news-sheets and the like. But this expansion from companies into groups, and from groups into larger groups, is one 1041 of the main tests of the skill of management because it is up to management to solve this problem.
I think it was the noble Lord, Lord Walston, who referred to personnel managers or personnel directors. I agree that these are necessary people; but management cannot brush aside their responsibilities by saying: "Oh, this is the personnel manager's job." This business of communication is a matter in which everybody, from top management downwards, must involve himself deeply. Top management, as I have already said, has to involve itself very deeply in this question of communications; and it must have a feeling about it. It must feel deeply in heart and spirit that this thing is necessary—not only in the people who sit round the board table, or who are in top positions of the company, but right down the line of management. In fact, all junior managers, foremen, forewomen, chargehands and charge-women must have this spirit and see this necessity; but it is for top management to see that they are trained in the subject, for it does not necessarily come quite naturally.
My Society recently had the privilege of inviting Mr. Jack Scamp, a well known "trouble-shooter" for the motor industry—not the gentleman of the same name who operates in the docks, as Mr. Scamp was careful to explain when he stood up before us—to a "New Thinking" luncheon. As a result of his most interesting speech, and the subsequent discussions and questions, I came upon a striking fact. We learned that at one location, which shall be nameless, the organisation was such that one foreman was in charge of no fewer than 235 people. A record had been kept of the number of incidents, of complaints, real or fancied, and of potential trouble with which this foreman had had to deal. The figure was 300 to 400 in one month—ten a day. I do not myself see how that man could do his job properly: it was too much.
At another location, where, it is true, a different process was involved, a similar analysis was made and it was found that the general supervisory staff were each responsible, on average, for about 30 to 40 people—and the result was that there were comparatively few incidents 1042 to deal with. I was struck by these facts last week at this discussion, and I remembered that many years ago I was taking one of my directors around one of the factories for which I was then responsible. When we had finished the tour I asked him what he thought of it, and he replied: "I think you have too many foremen and supervisors." During the next few days I had an analysis made at all eight factories concerned—they were in different parts of the country, had different types of buildings, and not precisely the same process was carried out in each—and the average came out at 33 to 35 persons per supervisor.
I do not think one can be dogmatic about the Tightness of this number, for so much depends on the process, on the shape and size of the building and on a thousand and one things well known to all who have experience in industry. But I think it is a point which anybody concerned in industrial management should bear in mind; and—dare I say it?—anybody concerned in trade union matters. Junior management must not be given too many "bodies" to look after; for this may result in a breakdown of communications. Finally, apart from the number of supervisors and the number of people for whom they are responsible, it is the job of top management to see that junior management are trained properly, not only in their purely technical duties but in their duties in the matter of communications and human relations.
My Lords, may I say that any executive who reads the few remarks that I have ventured to make to your Lordships in this debate is at liberty to telephone Robert Hyde House, the headquarters of the Industrial Society. I am sure that if he does so he will find assistance there, for the Society runs many different courses, nearly every one of which I have recognised, from remarks that have fallen from noble Lords to-day, as fulfilling a need. The subject is vitally important to our workpeople and managements, and to the country as a whole. I make no apology for giving a slight "puff" to the Industrial Society. We are not a profit-making unit. We do not draw any funds from the Government. We are entirely self-supporting. We exist to serve industry and, in particular, human relations in industry.
§ 6.11 p.m.
§ LORD WILLIAMSON
My Lords, first I should like to offer the noble Lord, Lord Sieff, my congratulations on putting his Motion on the Order Paper and affording an opportunity for your Lordships to discuss this very important matter. I should like also to congratulate the noble Lord on his very forthright speech. May I also associate myself with those noble Lords who paid a tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, for his magnificent maiden speech? I am sure that those who were privileged to hear it will look forward to reading it in Hansard.
I listened carefully to what was said by the noble Lord, Lord Ampthill, about widening the work of the Industrial Society which has been operating so well for so long. I wish the noble Lord and his colleagues in the Society every success in their work. Since there are many speakers wishing to take part in this debate who have not yet spoken so I shall try not to go over ground already traversed by other noble Lords or take too long in what I have to say to your Lordships.
Whatever may be said in this debate about our shortcomings in the sphere of human relations in industry, I think it right to put on record what is at any rate my experience, and I think it is generally accepted: that no country in the world has built up a system of industrial relations which is an improvement on ours. This system is outlined in the splendid publication provided by the Central Office of Information. While it is true that some industries, to their shame, have had to rely on a statutory legal settlement of wages and conditions through the wages boards, because of lack of organisation on the part of both employer and trade union, in the rest of British industry there are hundreds of national and area joint industrial councils which operate very efficiently. Many of them have a history going back to the First World War. Some of these industries have never experienced major strikes. Most of them operate in a climate of mutual confidence which frees them from the irritating stoppages which, unfortunately, cost some industries so much. Our progress in voluntary methods of negotiating is recognised all over the world, and industrialists and 1044 trade unionists from overseas welcome any opportunity to come to this country to study our methods and procedures.
But while our system of industrial progress is well in advance of any others, our record in respect of human relations in industry leaves very much to be desired. It is often said that our methods of communication are at fault. In recent years growth in the size of firms and processes, which is still going on, has called for an efficient and workable communication system between the boardroom and the shop floor to counterbalance the loss of ready and easy contact between management and employees which is a characteristic of many smaller firms. It is comparatively easy for an employer to maintain close contact with, say, 50 or 100 employees. A good manager in a small firm would know the names of all his employees and a great deal about their families and their homes. He would also take an interest in their troubles and difficulties. This intimate relationship is a valuable asset to any firm, but it is lost to a large enterprise which may employ anything up to 20,000 people. In those circumstances it is impossible to have individual contacts, and therefore a much more elaborate system of contact and communication at all levels must be worked out and maintained.
In addition to this growth of firms there has been a growth in mass production methods which has often accompanied the increase in the size of a firm. Production is broken down into separate parts, which results in the complete divorce of a worker from the end product. Repetitive processes bring boredom, and it is no wonder that where no action is taken by management to alleviate these depressing conditions a worker becomes sullen, dispirited, suspicious and even hostile. In circumstances where people feel entitled to more dignified status, but where better conditions are conceded only under pressure and with bad grace, the workers react accordingly. There are, of course, those elements which regard with suspicion a cordial relationship between management and trade unions. There are those (fortunately they are in a minority, but nevertheless they are capable of mischief) who believe that the only relationship should be a constant battle between the bosses and the 1045 workers. They believe that every negotiation should start on a war basis and that every concession offered by management should be suspected as a trap. These elements see cordial industrial relationships as another nail in the coffin of the so-called class struggle, and consequently for much of the time they are looking for problems and difficulties where none exist.
Noble Lords may well ask what is being done about all this. Wider educational facilities, and especially the marked extension of trade union education schemes, have provided many workers with the means to take a closer and more informed interest in industrial affairs such as were denied to earlier generations of workers. This process is all the time changing the views of workers about their rights and status in industry and society. They are no longer content to accept the abject position of the hired hand. As a result of all this, employers would do well to employ workers not only for their strength and their skills but for their good will—yes, their good will; their willingness to work in the team, with the team and for the team. The noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, put it another way when he said that the employers should recruit the hearts of the workers as well as their strength. I appreciate that much of this may appear to be "airy-fairy", but there are significant signs that what young people entering industry are increasingly expecting is not still higher pay and shorter hours but interesting work and a chance to get on.
There is much criticism of the trade unions being out of touch with their members. I should like to read to your Lord-ships an extract from an article in the Observer last year, entitled, "Can we stop strikes?". It says:The vast majority of our strikes, 95 per cent. in the period 1960–1964, were unofficial, and nearly two-thirds of the days lost. The trouble then is not that Britain's trade unions are too militant and strike-prone. Far from it. It is that Britain's trade unions are often out of touch with their rank and file.It is true that the attendance of members at branch meetings is very low, and this is one of the fundamental problems of trade union democracy. It is the keystone to our whole argument this afternoon. Fifty years or so ago workers lived mostly in close proximity to the mine, the docks 1046 and the workshop. Since then, because of better transport facilities, the motor car and the motor cycle, workers have become used to travelling many miles to and from their work. In the old days it was no problem to secure good attendance at a branch meeting. Members mostly lived near the place of employment and the trade union meeting place was as much a part of the locality as the church or the pub.
The trade union branch is the only organ of the union in which a member can exercise his rights and the only channel of communication ordinary members can have with higher union authorities. Now, when workpeople leave the place of work, they set off in all directions, sometimes many miles to their homes and it is unrealistic to expect them to come all the way back to the centre for a meeting. Investigation records that the average attendance at the branch meetings of one union is from 1 to 13 per cent. "Often it is the faithful few, and often, too, the few not so faithful, who attend.
What is the answer? If the lines of communication are to work and workpeople are to be kept fully informed on what is going on, and if workpeople are to have a reasonable opportunity of taking an intelligent interest and of making suggestions, it is essential that trade union branch meetings should be held regularly and that they should be well attended. It may be suggested, and no doubt it may be in the minds of noble Lords, that perhaps meetings could take place immediately on the finishing time of work. But this is no solution, because workers do not always finish work at the same time. Some carry on after normal hours on overtime. A more important consideration is that the buses which usually wait outside large works to take the workers away cannot be expected to wait until the meeting is finished in an hour and a half. It is not sensible to expect the transport authorities to arrange a timetable to accommodate trade union meetings.
I have come round more and more to the view that to have good relationships and a well-informed workpeople, all leading to better production, it would be in the interests of a firm if management provided facilities for their employees to hold their branch meetings. It seems to me that the only possibility for well-attended trade union meetings is for the meetings to take place on the works 1047 premises, say, in the canteen—the noble Lord, Lord Sieff, would say, in the staff dining room—and the meeting to be held in working hours. It would be a profitable investment for management, say, once a month or at whatever interval is appropriate, to allow employees to finish work an hour or an hour and a half before normal finishing time to have their trade union meeting, and for that time to be paid for by the firm or the trade union, or both. Where only fractional attendance at trade union meetings takes place, time and again unofficial strikes take place and a substantial proportion of the people in the firm do not know what it is about, but go on strike just because there is a strike. One difficulty about my suggestion—and I appreciate that there are others—would be where there is more than one trade union involved. We have heard from my noble friend Lord Popplewell the number of unions operating, and we should all wish that the T.U.C. would get them down to some reasonable proportion. But I think that two or three unions in a factory would not be an insurmountable difficulty.
The stark fact is that trade union branch meetings have a low level of attendance for the reasons I have stated, and this can be a very serious matter for the trade unions, for firms, for industry and for the nation generally. For trade unions to deteriorate into instruments of power manipulated by a dedicated few could be very serious in a much wider field than that affecting working conditions or domestic trade union policies. Trade unions can, and do, exercise a powerful influence on national, social, economic and political questions, and it is essential that their influence should be broadly representative of the whole trade union movement and not of a minority, but nevertheless powerful, caucus. The incidence of strikes, unofficial or official, slacking and bad workmanship represent for one reason or another the failure of industrial and human relations. The Marlow Declaration of 1963, drawn up by a group of men of good will and high purpose, put the responsibility squarely on the shoulders of the individual, whether in the boardroom or on the factory floor; and in the last resort this is where responsibility lies.
§ 6.29 p.m.
THE MARQUESS OF ABERDEEN AND TEMAIR
. My Lords, as one who has had a good deal to do with human relations in industry, I venture to take part in this debate, so brilliantly commenced by the noble Lord, Lord Sieff, to whom we are all extremely grateful. I commenced my working life as an apprentice in a shipyard and as a member of the trade union, and I continued to work for several years on the shop floor. I learned to take my orders from the foreman and to make the shop steward content. I must say that I was once hauled up by the shop steward for over-production; but that was a great many years ago.
We frequently read in the newspapers about strikes that are taking place, the amount of delay that they cause, and the disruption to people who have nothing whatever to do with them—and in many cases there is really not much reason for their taking place. They are given publicity in the newspapers and on the wireless, and the news is distributed to our competitors overseas. The noble Lord, Lord Walston, made it quite clear that the number of lost hours per thousand employees is no higher than in other countries. But this fact is largely ignored in those other countries, who think we are a decadent race and are quite useless compared to them.
I have always felt that it is a great pity that so much is said about the "two sides of industry", as though they must necessarily be opposed to one another. I should like to recount a conversation that I had not long ago with a foreman in the works in which I was engaged for so many years. I know him quite well. He had just been appointed foreman when I was paying a visit to my old friends. I said how pleased I was about it, and he replied: "I will tell you what someone said to me who has nothing to do with our works. He asked: 'How do you manage now that you have had to change sides?'." The foreman said to me: "My reply was: 'I have not changed sides. We have only one side here, and I am on that side all the time doing a different job'."
Your Lordships will realise from what I have said that there are extremely happy relations in that factory. All the amenities to which the noble Lord, Lord Sieff, referred are there, such as canteens, dining 1049 rooms and so on. But there is one amenity which the noble Lord did not mention, because he could not possibly know about it. Adjoining the factory there is a building which belongs to the company. About two years ago it was fitted up as a nursery, with an outside garden to be used in the summer time. It is staffed by most experienced ladies, who look after the children under age—that is, less than 5 years old—whose mothers are at work in the factory. Many of these ladies had worked in the factory and had got married. They have had their children, and have come back to the place of which they are so fond. This solves a difficult problem for women with children who want to earn more money, and who either have to try to find someone to "sit in" or put the children with people who are willing to look after them. This is a valuable asset which could well be made use of in other places; and I hope that it will be.
The noble Lord referred also to the matter of looking after the veterans. I feel quite ashamed that I am not wearing my 50 years' veterans badge, which I usually keep in my pocket, but which I have not with me this afternoon. Another thing that I have always found most important is the question of proper relations with shop stewards. I have spent my working life in a company where each day the working day commences with the managing director seeing the chairman and convenor of the shop stewards' committee. This is a most useful start to the day, and is so important in maintaining these happy relations. The prime achievement in a factory run in that way means that there is peace all the time, because everybody feels that he is part of something in which achievement is worth while.
I should like to say something about an incident which happened a good many years ago. A few shop stewards asked the managing director if they could come and see him at his house, near the works, on a Sunday afternoon when no-one was about. The reason for their visit was that they saw that something was working up which might possibly lead to a stoppage. They went to their friend, the managing director, and he was able to help them to stop anything of the sort happening. There again, it was good relations which kept everybody happy.
1050 I have mentioned two or three companies which I suppose are on the small side—I am thinking of something less than 10,000. There is constant pressure for larger and larger units. The National Plan issued by the Government, and the White Papers following, Investment Incentives and Industrial Reorganisation Co-operation, stressed the importance of amalgamating a number of units and making them work together for increased output. It is difficult, because many of these large conglomerations are of people who do not know each other. Men come in from somewhere; they know nothing about the particular organisation and are apt to feel that they are something separate. I feel that many of these disturbances and strikes that take place are organised from outside by ill-wishers.
One thing which can help in a large works is the encouragement of visiting parties of families at the week-end. They can go and see where the "old man" works, and see why he is so proud of what he is doing. I was interested, many year ago, to visit the Ford factory at Dagenham. While I was being taken round, I saw here and there a few young men walking about munching sandwiches. They were just roaming about the works. I said, "What on earth is this all about?" I was told that they worked in a different part of the works, and they were encouraged in their lunch-hour, which is staggered, to go round and see what was being done in other parts, and in this way really to get to know why they were there. This, too, is something which can be done to improve human relations.
I was pleased, also, to hear the noble Lord say that the conglomeration of factories in the nationalised section of the steel industry have arranged that men from the furnaces should come and take part in the management. That is a further example of how those in the steel industry, of which I was proud to be a member for many years, are so devoted to their industry, so determined to keep it going, that, although many of them do not approve of nationalisation, they are prepared to take part. They are determined that our steel production should be the best in the world, and that there should not be any recession simply because some of us think it might have been done in a different way.
1051 It is very encouraging that in quite recent years the Confederation of British Industry and the Trades Union Congress have established such a close association and can encourage the best human relations. But I repeat, all that must start from the shop floor.
§ 6.41 p.m.
§ LORD MOYLE
My Lords, I was very impressed with the point that was made by the noble Marquess and which indeed has been made by a number of your Lordships in this discussion this afternoon, namely, about the importance of communications and the propagation of knowledge concerning the economy of the industry or firm in which the employee is engaged. The other day I addressed a conference in the Midlands of executives, supervisors and under-managers on the subject of industrial relations. I emphasised in the course of my talk the importance of knowledge as the basis of good industrial relations. I was absolutely astounded, to say the least, to hear speaker after speaker, notwithstanding the fact that they held executive, under-managerial and supervisory posts, engaged as they were in heavy engineering, tell me that they were kept in almost complete ignorance of the policy of the board of directors as to any change in the processes of production, any change in capital development and, in short—even though they were highly placed people in relation to the manual worker—were kept ignorant of what was going on in the industry with which, of course, they would have a life-time's connection.
This is, I think, derived from a mistaken notion of the sanctity of the managerial function. Frankly, I cannot myself see any possible hope of getting the kind of good industrial relations we need unless everybody in the undertaking is treated as an intelligent being, a person of flesh and blood, with a personality, who can contribute intelligently to the economy of the undertaking as well as any highly placed director. I thought that that experience of mine was worth referring to in a discussion of this kind.
I was very interested and pleased that my noble friend Lord Williamson referred to our system of industrial rela- 1052 tions. This needs to be emphasised, when we think that here in this country we have evolved over the years a system of industrial relations which provides for about 20 million of our workpeople who are covered by the machinery of ordered negotiation. In spite of the difficulties that arise from time to time, the facts are that the reference of a dispute even to outside arbitration is regarded as a weakness and not as a source of strength, and, indeed, the lawyer is regarded as a menace to good industrial relations; and the less the law and lawyers are exercised in the process of good industrial relations, the better we in industry think we are making of the job.
I should like to make this suggestion. I think we ought to have a look at the joint industrial machinery we now have to deal with. Also, I think we ought to look at the existing terms of reference. I suggest that the terms of reference of these bodies should be broad. The information as to finance and capital development should be made available to the employee in the workshop, as it is to the shareholder. He must know something about the problems of management if he is expected to understand them. The workpeople give their lives to the industry, even if the shareholder has the risk involved of contributing his capital. And both the shareholder and the workpeople are essential to the economy of the industry in which they are engaged.
I heard one noble Lord—I think it was Lord Drumalbyn—refer to the superior efficiency of the American worker. Well, it is understandable. The reason why the American worker is superior to the British worker is that he is provided with more efficient tools of production; and because the capital investment per American employee is much higher than that involved for each worker in British industry. Improve the tools of production in this country and we shall match, not only the American worker, but any other worker in any country, either in Europe or elsewhere.
There is one point that is essential to promote good industrial relations, and it is this. How on earth can we expect to get the kind of good industrial relations that we need if, for example, there is a kind of economic apartheid operating in the factory? Is there any justice, equity, or economic common sense in a 1053 skilled craftsman, who has been employed for perhaps thirty years, having only a fortnight's holiday with pay, and less sick pay and an inferior pension scheme compared with other members of the staff? I came across a case where a skilled electrician, with thirty years' service, had a fortnight's holiday with pay, while his daughter, a typist of 18, was getting three weeks' holiday with pay. Everybody says that that is an injustice, but nothing is done about it. I would say to those who are leaders of industry in this noble House that one of the greatest contributions that can be made to the promotion of good industrial relations is to get rid of that disparity, get rid of that economic discrimination, and equalise the position of the manual and the staff employees in the undertaking in which they are engaged.
§ 6.50 p.m.
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Sieff, for introducing this debate on better human relations in industry and affording me an opportunity to make my maiden speech in your Lordships' House on a subject very close to my heart. It was on this theme that my father made his maiden speech in your Lordships' House 15 years ago.
As a Scot, I hope that Ian Stewart's Fairfield experiment succeeds. It is a brave attempt to improve human relations in an industry which has, until now, suffered more than others from a shortage of boss—worker understanding. But if it fails, do not let us suppose that this Holy Grail of success and harmony in industry can never be achieved if real effort is made. When Stewart addressed his workers at a meeting in Govan, Glasgow, and told them what the problems were, and gave them his ideas for surmounting them, he set in motion what was probably the biggest ever effort to improve human relations in the shipbuilding industry. Because direct management—worker contact has been attempted and, perhaps, failed, it does not mean that it cannot, in different circumstances, be the basis of a radical reorganisation of approach to industrial problems of this type.
The importance of the Fairfield venture vis-à-vis industrial relations is less in its result that in its approach. If it fails the temptation will be to dismiss this part 1054 of the scheme is being valueless. The pity of it is that there has to be a crisis before management is prompted to try to establish a personal relationship with the men. The fact that there was a crisis must make us chary of drawing general conclusions from this particular case. The variables involved here were much more complex than in the normally healthy industrial set-up. It is in the latter kind of situation that we must apply the principle and give it a chance to prove its utility. Let us put the same amount of honest effort into a similar scheme in a healthy industry and see what the results are. Let us see what new loyalties are forged and what increased targets are achieved.
How does the man on the shop floor learn of to-day's output requirements, or next month's target? Usually down the chain from director to works manager, to foreman, to the bench or machine. How often is he told by someone who matters in the company about the new export order, or the new jig-borers that will be delivered next month? Many firms take the trouble to print news sheets in an honest endeavour to establish and maintain the essential contact with their workers, but a word from the managing director occasionally in the canteen would be well worth the five minutes of his time.
Most executives in Britain work hard. I was one, and I know. The same is true of their opposite numbers on the Continent and in the United States of America. Although the tempo and the duration of the day's work in the United States and on the Continent is about the same, the British tradition has so far demanded that the bosses arrive at work after the men have clocked on. In most cases this results in poor human relations, and a slow start to the day's work.
To suggest that all management is "ivory tower" management would be wrong, but it seems that few—and this is why the Fairfield experiment is crucial—realise the full importance of human relations in our industries. It may seem to make little difference whether a man is told what he will do to-day or next month by his foreman or by the works director. He still has to do the job. Yet the way he does that job, and the importance he feels it has in the general scheme, can be the basis of the success or failure of that scheme. Team spirit may well 1055 be an essential which is lacking in industry, as labour disputes and wild-cat strikes seem to show, but notice board directives and impersonal production graphs displayed in the workshop only go a little way to promote it. Human relations involve groups of people, and the people in industry, management and men, must be given a chance of coming closer to each other and understanding more clearly each other's tasks and problems.
§ 6.55 p.m.
§ LORD RITCHIE-CALDER
My Lords I want to thank the noble Lord, Lord Sieff, for initiating this debate and for the inspiration to better human relations which he has given us, not only in his speech to-day but in the practice of his firm for decades past, practices with which I am glad to say I am most familiar. I am also glad that to-day we have had the maiden speech of the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, who expressed sentiments to which I completely subscribe. I am also very pleased that I am following the noble Lord, Lord Kirkwood. I should like to congratulate him on his maiden speech and to tell him that I am sure his father, whom I knew very well, would have appreciated his speech. I hope we shall hear far more from the noble Lord in future.
On a man to man or a woman to woman basis we have considerably humanised our industrial relationships. We have heard references to our failures and to our weaknesses, but, on the whole, to our successes, where it is in fact the direct relationship. But I want to deal with the impersonal, non-human forces which are transforming industry. Those forces of change, imperfectly understood and bewildering, are inevitably producing frictions and resistances. We have heard from the noble Lord, Lord Moyle, and the noble Lord, Lord Williamson, of the difficulties of communication as between management and men, but there are also great imponderables which both management and men find it difficult to convey. A lot of what is happening between unions and management appears to be stupid or just "bloody-minded". On the other hand, we see, in these circumstances, changes produced by the results of science and technology which it is difficult to persuade workpeople are to their advant- 1056 age. I sympathise with the unions to a large extent, because there has been a failure in industrial relationships when technological changes have been made bringing the productivity for which we bringing the productivity for which are looking, but which are thrust upon them without foresight in making adjustments.
I have had a long experience of this failure of communications, because as a young journalist on the Daily Herald, then part-owned by the T.U.C., I wrote a series of articles on "How Science can help us". I suppose nowadays we should call it "Productivity", but I do not think that word appeared in the Daily Herald glossary of terms in those days. At that time I was enthusiastically looking at the future which was being born on the laboratory benches and how, if only industry would use them, we could get rid of drudgery and increase output. One industry I dealt with, from the point of view of what science could do for it, was the coal industry, then in the depths of the depression. In some coalfields, 80 per cent. of the miners were out of work, and my articles appearing in a Labour journal caused an outcry from the miners. Ernest Bevin was then the vice-chairman of the Daily Herald. He sent for me and said, "Boy, you've got some explaining to do, and it had better be good". So I went into the coal fields, I addressed miners' lodges, and I do not know whether I "explained good" but certainly that experience taught me a lot about labour relations. The miners were fighting then for jobs they had not got, and what I was suggesting, all of it completely commonplace to-day, was robbing them of their future pay packets. Men were fighting the machine for their livelihoods and for their bairns' bread.
On another occasion, a crowd of unemployed workers was standing on the edge of a cutting at Park Royal—the underground was pushing out to Osterley—and they were watching a huge muck-shifter scooping up tons of rubble at a bite. One unemployed man said bitterly, "If it were not for that damn machine there would be hundreds of jobs for men with picks and shovels." "Yes, mate," said another unemployed man, "or for millions of men with tea spoons". The second man was right, of course. Efficiency, which means more jobs eventually, cannot be served by merely inventing 1057 pretexts for work or encouraging what we now call redundancy. But one could sympathise with the first chap who wanted his self-respect in the form of a pick or a shovel.
In 1937, when Ernest Bevin was Chairman of the T.U.C. and my noble friend Lord Citrine was General Secretary, there was formed a joint committee of the British Association and the T.U.C. It was not a scientific committee of the T.U.C. and it was not a labour committee of the British Association; it was a joint committee of scientists and trade unionists—a prevision committee. The scientists on that committee were the most eminent in the country—and I say that without qualification—and all volunteers, and behind them were hundreds more scientists, volunteers, prepared to help. Our intention—I was from the British Association side at that time—was to keep unions informed of what was happening in science, of things which were bound to have an impact upon industry. If the unions were not prepared there was bound to be industrial friction, demarcation problems, resistance to changes which were bound to come eventually, and an interminable lot of human misery.
We were foreseeing in a scientific sense many of the changes; we even had premonitions of automation, or cybernetics, which had to wait for the miniaturisation of electronic equipment, servo-motors, calculators (which we now call computers) and the system of feed-backs, all of which came out of the war. Indeed, the war overtook that joint committee and it succumbed, but it was a very helpful and I think a very proper attempt to instruct both sides of industry—because industry, in the capitalist sense, could buy the information, and scientists from their side were volunteering the guidance and the insight which might have helped the trade unions to put their own house in order. I regret to say that it is not yet in order, as the noble Lord, Lord Popplewell, has pointed out. We have somehow to come to terms with what are the new forces, which are not just a conflict of capitalism and labour but these great technological forces.
We emerged from the war into the atomic age and the age of computers. Anyone who says that automation is evolution and not revolution just cannot 1058 understand the implications of automation. The machine—mechanisation—emerged as a series of processes replacing muscle effort and multiplying the effectiveness of human limbs or human fingers. As we have heard to-day, we hired hands. Its culmination as a machine process, a mechanisation process, can be regarded as Henry Ford's production line, massing and mobilising parts, with human beings still assembling them. And man was built into that process, the manipulators, the helpless manipulators, as it were, of Bolt Thirteen—and your Lord-ships remember that Bolt Thirteen satirised in Charlie Chaplin's Modern Times. But automation is different. This is not a substitution for muscle. It is the machine adaptation of the human senses. We have produced electronic substitutes for our senses—all our senses except taste and smell; but I can certainly foresee telegustation and teleolfaction, and then we shall not only see and hear those television commercials, we shall smell them, and taste them as well.
The microphone is more sensitive and more tireless than the human ear; the photo-electric cell is more sensitive and tireless than the human eye, and we have devices far more sensitive than the human touch: machines which can manipulate tools with precisions of millionths of an inch—far beyond the finger skills of the finest craftsman. We have the computer, the brainbox of automation which has taken over at least part of the faculties of the human brain—at least, the logical and memory processes. It is theoretically possible, and therefore, under the crash programmes of to-day, imminently practicable, to store in a casket, an electronic cranium, no bigger than a cigar box, all the knowledge in all the libraries of the world. And the machine now has a central nervous system, the feedbacks which make the necessary responses and the necessary adjustment.
My Lords, this is our age, the age in which Britain has to compete for a living; the age in which skilled men are in competition with machines which are no longer just an extension of their skills but a substitution for them. The biggest problem is how to establish human relations, have a regard for human pride and human self-respect, in industries which 1059 must—I repeat, must—adapt to those changes. This is not just an industrial problem; it is a tremendous social problem and a profound philosophical problem.
Secretary of Labour Wirtz, of the United States, has said that modern machines and computers in the United States now have the qualifications, the abilities and the skills of any high school graduate. Consider what that means: millions of a new generation competing—and losing the competition—with the machine. A Negro graduate, down and out, in the long hot summer night of Watts, in Los Angeles, said to me that he would never get a job—not just by colour discrimination; he could not get a job as a dishwasher because of dishwashing machines; nor as a shoeshine because there were nickel slot machines or just silicon pads; not even as a shop assistant because of the automat.
I want to address your Lordships' attention to the problem of the human cassette. Your Lordships know what a cassette is: a cartridge of film you slip into a camera, or a cartridge of tape you slip into a recorder. You use it and discard it, like throwing away a used typewriter ribbon. I heard the phrase "human cassette" used by a professor in the United States. He was programming and equipping with electronic devices—with £50 million with which to do it—the Job Programme. This is directed to salvaging the "drop-outs"—those who never finish their schooling—though even if they had they would still be competing with the machine.
He described in a very solemn assembly how they were studying the job specification, the kind of work which might be available in American industry. Then they tested the jobless. It was not a question of testing their intelligence—in fact, intelligence was an embarrassment: they were testing aptitudes as one would test the reflexes of animals. So, with computerised training, with the "student" in a cubicle, like a battery-fed chicken in a hutch, they developed that aptitude, no more, no less, which would fit the job specification—the job specification laid down by the industrial requirements which were temporarily foreseeable; and that job specification was usually the missing circuit in an automation system, 1060 something the designers had not yet got around to fitting in, and where a human being had to be used for want of something better. There you see, my Lords, what the professor meant by the human cassette, the bit you fitted in temporarily and then discarded.
My noble friend Lord Hunt, and others, have reminded us that one of the great problems to-day is that of the 600,000 youngsters who are coming into industry each year, people who are faced with this kind of world, with no measure of satisfaction before them; with no means whatever of knowing that the job into which they are going is not a dead-end job, a dead end created by the machine. And they are in fact beset by boredom and frustration.
Here I want to follow the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, in saying that we have a tremendous challenge. It is a challenge in which many of us are involved: how we can provide for the young people of to-day the inspirations and the incentives and, above all, the wish to do the right sort of thing—and, believe me, they have it—and to make something of their lives; to reassure them somehow that in our industrial relations, in the relations of their generation to the machine which is now confronting them, we will in fact provide some imagination. We are, we hope, providing imagination, adventure with a purpose, and so on, by sending people abroad. And here I would say to industry that it would be highly profitable, a great investment, if industry itself would promote the sending abroad of young people coming into industry so that they could get the experience of this wider world and the realisation of human values.
In considering human relations in industry, I hope that we shall never become so obsessed with technological efficiency as to treat a fellow human being as a human cassette, or fail to come to a decent understanding with those whose livelihoods are involved in adjustments which, however industrially necessary, will produce great stress movements from one place to another, adaptation, and the acknowledgement that what they regard as their arts, their crafts and skills are now, in fact, taken over by the machine. We must, in this day and age, apply to industrial relations a great deal more imagination than has ever been given to it before, not only in the admirable 1061 terms as presented by the noble Lord, Lord Sieff, and in the whole of that scale of human understanding, of relations of people to people, but, above all, the relations now of the system which we are creating and which has virtually taken us over, we have somehow to understand the meaning of the machine, which is not going, we hope, to be our master.
§ LORD STRANGE
My Lords, I should like for the Record to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, on his most charming speech. As he was speaking, out of the sunlit shadows of the past, of my youth, came a classical quotation which I translate roughly as:Out of the strong came forth sweetness".I hope that we shall hear him often in your Lordships' House.
I had something to say on this subject, as I have a long relationship with labour, but I had to leave the Chamber fairly early on and I missed a great deal of the first part of the debate in which some most important speeches were made, by the noble Viscount, Lord Eccles, and others. Therefore, if I tried to make a speech I should feel that what I was saying had been much better said by somebody else before me, and when I read Hansard I should die of shame. I should like to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Sieff. I think the greatest compliment you can have in this life is to have a nickname. I had a great friend once who was called, "Homespun Harry". Everybody liked him, and I think it was a good description of him. I should like to congratulate the impresario of "Marks and Sparks".
§ 7.15 p.m.
§ LORD HUGHES
My Lords, in replying to this debate I expected to be given an exceedingly difficult task. It has in fact proved to be a more pleasant one than I had anticipated. Because of the subject I thought that it would inevitably have been the reverse of a discussion on sin, when one would have expected everyone to profess to be against it and then, when we came to a debate on the need for improved human relations in industry, to find that everyone had expressed himself as being in favour of it, and that there would not be a great deal said except in platitudes.
1062 In replying to the debate I propose to refer to only three noble Lords by name. Perhaps in due course I may be justified in confining it in that way. Those to whom I wish to refer by name are the initiator of the debate and the two maiden speakers. The noble Lord, Lord Hunt, must by this time be almost regretting that he had made his maiden speech. He has been so frequently embarrassed by the eulogies that have been poured on his speech that I should think he would almost wish someone to say that it was not a good maiden speech, just for variation. But of course I cannot say that, because it was so much an excellent maiden speech, and so much fitted into the tenor of this discussion.
The thought occurred to me in the early part of his remarks that on reading it some people, if they had not known who had said it, might well say: "This is all very well, but it is sentimental stuff and does not really have its place in industry". Then one realised that once they knew who was speaking they could not possibly think in that way. The noble Lord spoke about the need for having regard to what is done in schools and the need to follow it up in industry, and one hopes that the young people affected could have some opportunity of knowing that these things were said; because I imagine that there are few people in this country who stand higher in the esteem of our young people than the noble Lord, Lord Hunt. Because of that, what he said could have so much greater influence.
It was also a pleasure that the noble Lord, Lord Kirkwood, should have broken his long silence. He cannot of course touch the record of the noble Lord, Lord Vivian, but I am told that Lord Kirkwood has been a Member of your Lordships' House now for some twelve years. It is good that he has decided to take the plunge after this fairly long period of silence, during which he has left your Lordships in ignorance of what they have been missing all this time. It is a pity that he was so modest that he did not put down his name on the list of speakers, and thus ensure for himself a better placing on that list which would have enabled more of your Lordships to hear his maiden speech. I must therefore on behalf of your Lordships ask him 1063 to remedy this deficiency by speaking again soon, so that those who have been deprived of the opportunity of hearing him, by what we in this House are accustomed to call the lateness of the hour, will have another chance.
The reason why I do not propose to refer to what has been said by individual noble Lords is because, to my surprise, from a tremendous variety of speakers, the thread of the discussion was remarkably sustained. We had people all of whom were talking from one variety of experience or another. We had former Ministers from the Board of Trade and a former Minister of Education, and shining quite clearly through the remarks one could see the experience in these Ministries. We had the initiator of the debate—if I may use the expression in its kindest terms—a tycoon of the retail trade. We have had those associated with industry in an executive capacity in a personal relations sphere. We have had those associated with society working for an improvement in industry; and we have had those who have been concerned on the trade union side of industry. It is remarkable how from all these diverse contributors the same sort of principles emerged.
May I briefly attempt to sum these up? There was, first of all, the need for recognising the importance of the individual. There was the need for education to be the starting point. There was the need to make the job as interesting as possible. There was the need for adjusting attitudes to the changing size of organisation, both in regard to the industry and to the trade unions. These all merged into the need—a need which was stated time and again—for an improvement in communications. More than one noble Lord referred to the fact that the set-up of the old small family firm was such that the boss knew by name and by quality everyone employed. It was almost implied that in those days everything was perfectly happy. But it was not. If the individual employer was a good employer, he instinctively knew what good human relationships meant and things went well. But for a bad employer, things went badly.
What we must seek to achieve if we are to get these principles working, and what has come out of this debate, is the recognition of the need to transplant 1064 into the mass industrial organisation and into the mass trade unions the principles which were instinctively recognised by the small good employer. It is no good the chairman or managing director of an organisation employing 20,000 or 100,000 people sitting at the top making a decision, which he feels instinctively is the right one, and then expecting it to be conveyed to everyone else down below. It is no good for 10,000 people on the shop floor instinctively to feel that what is being done at the top is wrong. What is needed is complete communication both ways. It is just as important that the man on the shop floor should know what is going on in the board room as for the people in the board room to know what is going on on the shop floor.
And it is just as important that this should be happening inside the trade unions. The criticism has been made just as repeatedly that the trade unions have become so big that their leaders are out of touch with their membership. These are two facets of the same problem. More than one noble Lord referred to the personnel officer. One of the difficulties is that big industry tends to think big. The board look round, find a first-class personnel officer and give him authority to get on with the job, and think that that is the end of it. But it is not. Everyone concerned in the chain has a responsibility for these matters. The chairman ought to be a personnel officer; the managing director should be one; and so should the group manager, the works manager, the foreman, the charge hand, the man on the machine. Each has his own responsibility for seeing that information goes both ways.
I was particularly impressed—I am almost tempted to break the rule which I set myself of not naming individuals—by one thing that was said about the middle grade of management being terrified of those at the top; that they tended to stick by the rules, and that this was the source of a great deal of trouble. My first thought when I heard that was that it was only the Civil Service which was accused of this sort of rigidity, and I wondered whether industry was creating, in its middle management, its own sort of civil service who regarded themselves only as transmitters of rules and as a mechanism for seeing that the rules should be obeyed. If this is becoming 1065 general, it is one of the things which industry must set itself to clear. There ought not to be any point in an organisation where people are not capable of explaining to those with whom they are immediately concerned exactly what is going on. It has been said that the success of the. noble and gallant Viscount, Lord Montgomery of Alamein, in his war-time operations was that he had mastered the technique of getting down to everybody under his command what was intended, and that, because this was done, what might have been an impossible operation became one which almost certainly guaranteed success. I am quite certain that if this attitude were accepted in industry—and it must be accepted—a good deal of the problems would in time disappear.
What was said towards the end of the debate about the problems which will face us in an age of automation make it clearer than ever that we have to remember that industry consists of a whole series of individuals—not pairs of hands, not some people who are mere cogs and others who are kingpins. We have increasingly to accept that everyone has an important part to play. Again, the point was made that it was a pity that the gap in education between top management and the people on the shop floor has continued to be so wide. This, I feel, is changing rapidly, and people now recognise that they are not just cogs but are human beings with rights.
The noble Lord, Lord Sieff, must feel very satisfied that he initiated this debate in your Lordships' House to-day. It is unfortunate that this is not the sort of debate which will hit the headlines. If I were to predict a headline the only one I could possibly suggest would be the expression, "The Human Cassette". It might be picked up because, so far as I know, it has never been used in this country before, and it certainly has not been used in your Lordships' House. Yet the regrettable thing is that those in industry and in the trade unions who could most benefit from so many of the things which have been said in this debate will never have the opportunity to read them or to hear of them.
We have, however, the satisfaction of knowing that there will be many people in your Lordships' House who are in a position to take advantage of what has 1066 been said in this debate. I am certain that if those who have that opportunity of using their influence in industry, in trade and in the trade unions make use of that influence, the debate in your Lordships' House to-day will have served an exceedingly useful purpose. On behalf of Her Majesty's Government I tender our most sincere thanks to the noble Lord, Lord Sieff, for having introduced this debate, for the tone which he set and for the experience which lay behind his contribution. Although it is always interesting to listen to people who say, "Don't do as I do, do as I tell you", it is much more satisfactory to listen to people advising you to do good things which they themselves have had the will, the ability, and the courage to carry out in their own experience.
§ 7.30 p.m.
§ LORD SIEFF
My Lords, I am not going to occupy a great deal of your time in ending this discussion. For me it has been an immense pleasure to listen to the debate, and I have learned a great deal from the various points of view which have been put forward. In our business we live in a kind of ivory tower. We have a philosophy of business from which principles emerge, and we act in accordance with those principles.
In addition to that, of course, we have men—and a great many women, too—who supply us with goods which we have to sell, and those goods must respond to the principles of our philosophy—value, honesty of design, quality and so on. We have entry into the mills, and there are over 100,000 people—workers, managers, foremen, shop stewards—who are learning, because of the trouble that we take in trying to teach our manufacturers and all those who work in those factories which deliver goods to us, to exercise restraint and a sort of self-discipline, and to recognise that the business in which they are working is working for them as well as for the owners of the business. I must say that that policy has succeeded.
I had a twofold purpose in setting down this Motion to-day. First, it might strike a chord in somebody's mind to say, "Perhaps I can try a similar set of ideas in what I am doing." The other purpose was that I felt that I myself should have something to learn from the discussion which followed, because wisdom does not reside in one man alone. Those of us 1067 who have a certain sense of humility, and who thank the Lord that we are where we are, and that we have done what we have done, feel that such a debate is of immense value not only to those who have heard it, or who will read it, but even to the one who has initiated the discussion.
The second point which I want to make is that there has been a great deal of talk about communications. Communications is a discipline. It is just an ordinary word, used in everyday conversation, but it is a discipline, because communications deals with words and one has to get across to the person to whom one is talking the meaning one wants. I am absolutely convinced, although I have no evidence of any kind, that most of the trouble in this country where there is a quarrel between unions, bosses, managers, shop stewards and workers, is due to the fact that when one of them speaks the other person does not know exactly what is meant.
It is a very difficult problem, I agree, because the word is only a symbol. It expresses an idea, and that idea has an emotional quality. There is so much quarrelling and excitement because this emotional injection is either used well or badly, as the case may be. So when we talk of communications let us have—and we have this in your Lordships' House—a sense of the significance of the word which we are using. We use words freely in private conversations, without any real chance of studying what they signify and connotate to the other fellow to whom we are talking. I think it is of very great importance that, in a House of this nature, which has such tradition and such a noble existence, in our discussions and debates we should try to think of what we mean when we talk about communications.
The third point I wish to make, and then I shall conclude, is that when one generalises in the way I did in my opening speech, one does not go into details, and one leaves a lot of things unsaid. The discussion was very satisfactory and profitable for me, because many of the details which I omitted were omitted partly out of ignorance and partly because I should not have had time to express them; and some of the speeches were of a formidable nature. Having said that, I want to thank all those who have spoken and made this discussion possible.
1068 I should also like to express my gratitude to your Lordships for the way in which you have received my Motion. I thank your Lordships, and I beg leave to withdraw it.
§ Motion for Papers, by leave, with-drawn.