§ .41 p.m.
§ THE MINISTER WITHOUT PORTFOLIO (LORD DRUMALBYN)
My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a second time. My Lords, this is an important Bill and a long one. I see that there is a long list of Members who have put their names down to speak—40, in fact, although I do not suppose there is any special significance in that number—but I should like to say right away how sorry we are on this side of the House are that the noble Lord the Leader of the Opposition is not present with us this afternoon. I am sorry for the reason, and hope that he will be with us to-morrow.
I hope that your Lordships will forgive me if, in attempting to describe the purposes and the provisions of the Bill to you, I speak for rather longer than your Lordships consider to be normally appropriate. This is a Bill which has been discussed very widely, even if it has been very much less widely read. What I shall try to do is to explain as many of the salient issues as I can without, I trust, exhausting your Lordships' patience and tolerance. I cannot hope to cover everything in the Bill or to describe in detail any single part of it. As your Lordships will have seen, it contains some legal niceties, especially in Part VII, which your Lordships would very rightly prefer my noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor to deal with. What I shall do is to try to convey the broad tenor of the Bill and to sketch out the major provisions.
There are not many proposals that have come before Parliament that have been so much the subject of such profound and prolonged study and such 5 widespread public examination. And yet this Bill is probably as widely misunderstood as any measure which has ever come before this House; for it has been dogged and befogged by the rather quaint myth that the law should have no place in industrial relations. My Lords, it has had for a century; it has now; and it ought to have. That myth reveals a profound misconception of a function of law in a civilised free society: the function of arriving at—and holding—a fair balance between the rights of the individual and the necessary constraints of belonging to a community.
This concept has long been part of our British way of life. The law exists to protect both personal liberty and public interest in all aspects of our society. Because public interests may encroach on individual freedoms, and because personal liberty can degenerate into licence, the balance is delicate. It is the duty of Parliament to try to hold it fairly through laws that are just and appropriate to the times and circumstances. For society is never static. To survive, a civilised society must continually develop and progress. And so Governments and Parliament have from time to time to review the laws which govern the different needs and activities of the community. As the structure of our society has grown more complex, the tendency has been for legislation to become wider in scope and more complex in content. In the last twenty-five years we in Britain have seen a steady flow of reforming legislation initiated by Governments, both Tory and Labour, systematically bringing up to date our statutory controls over activities of our industry and commerce and other sources of employment.
For example, there have been two Companies Acts, two major measures regulating sale of goods, three limiting monopolies and restrictive trade practices and two in the field of safety, health and welfare. In the employment field, there have been three Wages Councils Acts, the Terms and Conditions of Employment Act and the Contracts of Employment Act in all of which this Bill will make changes. There have also been the Industrial Training Act 1964 and the Redundancy Payments Act 1965. 6 All these Acts in the employment field affect directly, or indirectly, the terms and conditions of employment.
But in the vitally important sphere of general industrial relations there has been no permanent major change in legislation for half a century; and there has been no comparable comprehensive legislation in the field at all. That is not because industrial relations have been the one area where all was well. Nobody really thinks that—though it is of course true that wide areas of our economy have had histories of unbroken industrial peace—and thank goodness for that! It is something in which we can take pride. Without such histories we could not have held our own among the world's trading nations. But the evidence around us compels us also to acknowledge that the areas of harmony have shrunk of late, and that the character of the prevalent forms of industrial action in Britain today are peculiarly damaging to industrial morale and economic efficiency. For many years some 95 per cent. of all our strikes have been unofficial, and most of them in breach of agreements. In advanced economies like ours, for which stability of production is so important and the effects of its disturbance so widespread, even a small lightning strike can do damage out of all proportion to the number of man-hours lost. In the 1950s, strikes, excluding those in coal mining, rose from an average of under 600 a year to over 2,000 in 1968, almost 3,000 in 1969 and nearly 4,000 last year.
My Lords, no responsible Government dare ignore a trend like that. The last Administration were well aware of this. They quickly set up the Royal Commission, which devoted three years to studying our industrial relations in depth. Their Report in 1968 pointed to a range of problems and defects as main causes of the trouble. The Donovan Report stated flatly:
An Industrial Relations Bill should be passed".The then Government recognised that legislation was needed. Their proposals were published as the White Paper,In Place of Strife. We did not agree with all that they proposed; but at least they thereby acknowledged that the law has a role in improving industrial relations.
Later they were prevailed upon to let the T.U.C. show what it could do to secure 7 the changes that the Donovan Report had advised. We all know what happened. Despite the solemn and binding undertaking the T.U.C. gave—and the very real efforts of its General Secretary and his staff—there is little evidence of improvement. We here know it; and public opinion showed that it knew it, too. For it returned us in last year's General Election with a specific mandate to reform industrial relations on lines that we had been advocating publicly since 1965. The electorate preferred the Party which boldly and explicitly pledged itself to face the issues and deal with them forth-with.
What do we seek to achieve by legislation? The Donovan Report attributed the country's industrial relations ills in large measure to the confusion and uncertainty of our collective bargaining patterns and practices. It advocated further safeguards for the individual in his dealings with both his employer and his union. It pointed to ways in which employers' associations and trade unions each might better serve their members' interests. It recommended certain changes in the existing law on industrial relations. In broad terms we agree with the Commission's diagnosis. But what about the remedies and the priorities?
Let me first outline our aims. They are wholly constructive: to preserve all that is best in our industrial relations—and there is very much of which we as a nation can be justly proud—and to extend it so as to bring the levels everywhere up to the best. The Bill rests on four basic principles; collective bargaining freely and responsibly conducted; the development and maintenance of orderly procedures for the peaceful settlement of disputes by negotiation, conciliation or arbitration, with due regard to the general interests of the community; free association in independent trade unions and employers' associations which are representative, responsible and effective bodies; and freedom and security for workers, with protection against unfair practices, whether from employers or others. Those principles are placed in the forefront of the Bill—in the very first clause, which also lays a duty on all who have functions under the Bill to abide by these principles.
8 Those bound include the Secretary of State himself, the Commission on Industrial Relations, which have been doing most valuable work and is to be established as a statutory body, as Donovan recommended, the Registrar, the industrial tribunals and the National Industrial Relations Court—a new body which is called throughout the Bill the Industrial Court; not to be confused with the existing Industrial Court, which is to be re-named Industrial Arbitration Board. Besides this, the Secretary of State must prepare a code of practice to amplify the principles and give practical guidance to managements, unions and their officials about how to apply them. The aim of the code will be to promote their wider understanding and observance and a better grasp of their importance. There will be full consultation on the code and it will have to be approved by both Houses of Parliament. The code is to be admissible in evidence and where relevant taken into account in any proceedings under the Bill, in very much the same way as the Highway Code.
My Lords, I come to the safeguards for the individual. A large part of the Bill is devoted to establishing and strengthening workers' rights. It gives us the most comprehensive and progressive code of workers' rights in our history. The Bill establishes without equivocation the right of every worker as between himself and his employer to be a member of the union of his own choice—where there is a choice—and to take part in trade union activities. Infringement of this right by an employer will entitle the worker concerned to take his complaint to an industrial tribunal; and to compensation for any loss he may have suffered as a result of such unfair discrimination. The Bill also secures the right of any worker not to belong to a union or to any organisation of workers. An employer will be able to encourage a worker to join the appropriate union, and bind himself to use his best endeavours to encourage his workers to join the union or unions which he recognises; but he may not compel a worker to join.
Some say that the right not to belong to a union will undermine the position of strength built up over many years by unions in many industries. Some unions contend that the outlawing of the closed 9 shop as such will threaten solidarity by encouraging anyone dissatisfied with their union to withdraw support. Many employers take a similar view. Both sides are genuinely concerned that the removal of the discipline and control which a closed shop agreement enables unions to impose on members will intensify the problems that the Government are trying to solve. My Lords, I do not share those views. If I did, I should not be recommending these provisions to the House to-day. For in the "agency shop" proposals I believe that we have struck a fair and reasonable balance between an individual's right to elect not to belong to a union and his social responsibility to contribute toward the support of union negotiations from which he benefits.
One or more employers and one or more trade unions will be able to enter freely into an agency shop agreement, under which every employee will be required either to become a member of a union which is party to the agreement; or to pay an equivalent financial contribution to union funds; or, if he has genuine conscientious grounds for doing neither, to contribute an equivalent amount to an agreed charity. Since the employee will have to pay his contribution anyway, he is mach more likely than not to join the union and participate in its activities. Surely effective union organisation and responsible and constructive union leadership should be materially assisted by arrangements under which a union has exclusive bargaining rights in respect of employees in an undertaking, or part of an undertaking, and is financially supported by virtually all those employees.
My Lords, the Government believe that a high degree of union membership improves and maintains stable and responsible collective bargaining; but they stand on the principle that union membership must be achieved through voluntary action. They believe, as many trade union leaders have believed and do believe, that a union with a high percentage of voluntary support—support which it must win and retain—is the stronger for not compelling a tiny minority of employees into membership against their will. With the measures which the Bill provides to assist trade unions and their members to establish 10 their rights, there can be no need and no justification for compulsory membership. The Government attach great importance to ensuring that an individual's livelihood is not dependent upon the discretion of a union, however enlightened, and that a man with the necessary skill and qualifications to pursue an occupation should not be prevented from doing so because he is unwilling or unable to belong to a union, or to a particular union.
Nevertheless, my Lords, the Government have recognised that in a few special cases the "agency shop" provisions may not be adequate to safeguard collective bargaining and the integrity of collective agreements. Possible examples are actors and seafarers. For the very limited number of exceptions, where certain carefully drawn criteria are satisfied, employers and trade unions who are free and willing parties to a post-entry closed shop agreement may apply to the Industrial Court to have their agreement approved. We believe it to be right and proper that any registered trade union which is recognised by the employer as having negotiating rights and enjoys substantial support in a company, should be able to secure an "agency shop agreement"; if it cannot get it by consent, then through application to the Industrial Court. Failing voluntary agreement, any union so recognised will be able to apply for a statutory ballot to determine whether the employees on whose behalf it negotiates want to have "an agency shop agreement".
The Bill also strengthens security of employment. It entitles long-service employees to longer notice and shortens the qualifying period for others. In addition, for the first time it provides protection against unfair dismissal. I do not say that it is the first Bill to do so, because the last Government's Bill provided it; but when it becomes an Act it will be the first Act. I think, therefore, our proposals here need not prove controversial, even though they differ in detail from those of the earlier Bill. When we come to the Committee stage, we hope to convince any critics that we have not in fact tilted the burden of proof against the employee. Moreover, the Bill provides a higher maximum compensation for the employee than the previous Bill provided. Under the Bill, a dismissal is to be regarded as unfair unless the 11 employer can show a good reason for it, such as redundancy, or a reason connected with conduct or capability—this is as recommended by the Donovan Report. And even if the employer does show that he dismissed the man on one of those grounds, he still has to show that he did not act unreasonably—and that covers unfairly—in doing so. The tribunal will award such compensation as is just and equitable in all the circumstances, including any denial of reinstatement which it had recommended.
My Lords, I come to registration. It is said that the Bill is intended to weaken the position of trade unions. In fact it will strengthen and secure their position in important respects. In return, the Government ask the unions to accept two things: first of all to accept registration, and secondly, to accept that some kinds of industrial action are unfair to the community at large, and in consequence that those responsible for unfair actions must accept liability for the harm they inflict. The Donovan Report laid great stress on the importance of unions registering and of their complying with certain standards as to their rules. Those principles are spelt out in the Bill.
There have been so many misleading statements made about our registration proposals that again I feel that I must explain what is and what is not involved. In the first place, there is nothing in our proposals that interferes with the basic right of workers to associate, whether they choose to register their association or not. The existing immunities in respect of conspiracy are preserved. The crucial change is that the immunity for inducing breach of a contract of employment will no longer be available to unregistered associations, who will not be protected for breach of any other contract either. We believe that this statutory privilege should be enjoyed only by a body that is prepared to accept the status and obligations of registration. The same goes for the new positive rights created by this Bill—the right to statutory recognition and the like. We are confident that once the heat of the present controversy has cooled down, once our provisions are in force, trade unions will quickly come to recognise that this right should be confined to properly established independent bodies like themselves and 12 should not be available to anyad hocsplinter groups of workers.
What, then, are the obligations of registration? They are essentially fair, moderate and reasonable; no union that conducts itself in a democratic, constitutional way should find them inconsistent with basic trade union principles; nor will it have much difficulty in complying with them. The Bill sets out certain guiding principles—principles of democratic right and constitutional process with which the rules of trade unions, and employers' associations, must conform. In addition rules must meet certain statutory requirements. It is not true that the Bill prescribes the precise terms of any union's rules. Unions are voluntary bodies and it is for them to frame the rules to meet their own circumstances. The Bill merely requires that their rule books shall contain clear rules about certain things, such as which committees or officials within the union have authority to organise industrial action and in what circumstances.
§ LORD DAVIES OF LEEK
My Lords, may I interrupt the noble Lord? The phrase "unions are voluntary bodies" will no longer be true if this Bill becomes an Act.
§ LORD DRUMALBYN
My Lords, there are any number of voluntary bodies in this country and all are subject to rule, one way or another.
I do not say that it is easy to ensure that the rules are comprehensive, but I do say that it is both practicable and essential. The rules must also cover important matters like the election of officials, conduct of meetings and the procedure for altering the rules themselves.
These principles and requirements apply in three ways. The Registrar first has to satisfy himself that an organisation of workers is independent and has power to alter its own rules and control its own property and funds; next to issue a certificate of registration which will confer corporate status. He has then to examine its rules and to give it an opportunity to bring them into line with the principles and requirements within a reasonable time if registration is to continue. Of course, that time can be extended. Secondly the Bill gives any 13 member the right to complain if the rules or guiding principles are contravened. Finally, the Registrar may himself look into serious or persistent contraventions. The Registrar is throughout the custodian of the rules, but he will not interfere in the day-to-day affairs of unions. He will intervene to protect individual members against unlawful and autocratic treatment. But he does not act by administrative fiat. He cannot himself penalise a union or employers' association. If a union persistently disregarded its own rules, he would have to apply to the Industrial Court for a judicial order directing the cancellation of registration. Where any contravention of the rules is brought to his attention and he cannot settle the matter amicably, he must bring it to the Industrial Court or industrial tribunal, who may make an appropriate order determining rights, awarding compensation or requiring the offending party to take or refrain from taking action specified in the order.
I now come to collective bargaining. Part III of the Bill contains the Government's major proposals relating to the development of collective bargaining and the improvement of collective agreements—and in particular, procedure agreements. First, under Clause 32, every collective agreement which is made in writing after—I stress, after—the coming into effect of the Act will be conclusively presumed to have been intended by the parties to be a legally enforceable contract, unless the agreement contains a specific provision to the contrary. I shall come hack to this in a moment. Secondly, there may be a complete breakdown in orderly industrial relations, whether because procedures are non-existent, or because they are defective, or because procedure agreements have been flagrantly disregarded. If so, it will be possible for one side or the other to seek the help and advice of the Commission on Industrial Relations to improve procedures, and, if the improvements recommended are not voluntarily adopted, to apply as a last resort to the Industrial Court. Bat, first, notice must be given to the Secretary of State, who must try to bring about an agreement and may ask the Commission to help. So, there are both the conciliation officers of his Department and the Commission. If they fail, the Court will ask the Corn- 14 mission to seek the agreement of the parties to new or revised proposals.
Thirdly, where an unsolved recognition problem seriously threatens to undermine or prevent the establishment of a satisfactory bargaining structure, and leads to disorder, the problem can be referred to the Commission, and their recommendations if necessary made enforceable, provided they are endorsed by a majority of the employees. Finally, there will be a statutory requirement on employers to disclose to unions with whom they negotiate, information which is essential to the conduct of effective collective bargaining. Practical guidance on this is to be given in the code. The sharing of information about the performance and prospects of an enterprise is particularly important in establishing in the long run the right attitude of shared responsibility for success of the enterprise. This is the essence of participation.
Let me now briefly summarise the legal status of collective agreements. The Bill does no more than create a presumption that, in the future, when parties enter into a collective agreement they intend that it shall be binding at law. It does not require that collective agreements should be enforceable willy-nilly where neither party wants to be legally bound. The purpose is very different. It is, first, to secure greater certainty about the legal status of collective agreements. Secondly, it is to encourage greater clarity and comprehensiveness in collective agreements, and particularly in relation to their procedural aspects. And, thirdly, it is to engender a due sense of responsibility on both sides in honouring agreements into which they have entered voluntarily, and in using their best endeavours to see that they are honoured. We believe that the knowledge that procedure agreements need to be re-examined and improved, on the one hand, and that in future procedure agreements will have the backing of the law unless the parties contract out, on the other hand, will exert a strong influence on the parties to treat collective agreements as binding. At the very least, this change in the law will also encourage both sides to consider how best to secure compliance with rules which they have agreed upon.
15 What is to be done where a procedure agreement does not exist or is defective? The underlying thought is that, as the Donovan Report implied, where industrial relations are disorderly, the fault most commonly lies not so much with either side but with the inadequacy of the procedural arrangements for settling disputes or grievances promptly and fairly. First, the provisions are to be invoked only in exceptional circumstances where a company or plant—or it may be two or more units of the same group of companies—has a history of unconstitutional industrial action or where a procedure agreement was defective or non-existent. But the provisions could not be applied across a whole industry. Secondly, it is not intended that anyone should be able to get the Court to enforce an existing procedure agreement as it stands. It would first need to include whatever improvements the Commission had recommended after a thorough examination. Thirdly, before an application is even considered by the Industrial Court, the Secretary of State must have an opportunity of offering advice and assistance to the parties and of referring any question about it to the Commission for examination. Fourthly, the outcome will not necessarily—I would hope, not often—be an enforceable order. It is only if the Commission have failed to get the parties to agree to their recommendations that a trade union or the employer concerned is likely to apply for one. Even then the Industrial Court may make the order only where it is satisfied that an order is necessary to ensure that the recommendations are implemented and observed and may revoke it on the application of any party to the reference, if the Court considers it no longer necessary to secure observance of the order.
So these provisions for remedying procedural shortcomings should be seen not as antithesis or denial of free collective bargaining, but as a means whereby collective bargaining which has degenerated into a chronic state of conflict can, by expert help, be given the chance to make a fresh start on a new and sounder basis. We want procedures to be revised by agreement. Mr. Jack Jones recently declared his union's resolve to sort out its procedures with companies and management, so that he will not need 16 to use the Bill. This is splendid. We hope he succeeds. The Bill is starting to have the effect we want it to have even before it becomes law.
I turn now to trade union recognition and collective bargaining structures, to which Clauses 42 to 53 relate. Their purpose is to help in difficult cases to establish a single negotiating agent for a single defined group of workers—an objective to which the Donovan Report attached importance. The issues which under these provisions the Commission may be asked to examine will all involve, in one form or another, two basic questions: First, what should be the bargaining unit or units? Secondly, what organisation, if any, should be the sole bargaining agent for this unit, or those units? These are the major questions the Commission have to answer in every "recognition" case.
Recognition problems may be of several kinds. First, there is the claim by a union for recognition by an employer who is unwilling to concede negotiating rights to the union. Then there is a variety of inter-union disputes about which union should be recognised in respect of which workers—in most such cases the employer is prepared to negotiate with one or more unions, if only they can agree among themselves which it is to be. Thirdly, there are situations where a union is already recognised in respect of one group of workers but seeks similar recognition in respect of other groups. Clause 43 deals with cases of all these kinds. It permits an application to the Court by either one or more of the unions concerned, by the employer or by the Secretary of State.
Where a recognition problem is referred to the Commission, they will be able to recommend that one union should become sole bargaining agent for a given unit; or they can recommend that several unions should together form a joint negotiating panel which would be the sole bargaining agent. Provided such a panel is properly mandated by the constituent unions and reflects the preferences of the workers involved, it should often provide a better basis for orderly negotiation than the alternative of giving only one union recognition to the exclusion of all its rivals. This is a peculiarly British solution, to a problem not confined to Britain.
17 To discover what the workers really want, the Bill requires that in two situations the Commission shall put their proposed solutions to a ballot. In the first, for which Clause 47 provides, the employees will vote on whether the union, or panel of unions, recommended by the Commission, shall become their sole bargaining agent. A majority of those voting will decide the issue, and the employer will be obliged to accept their decision whichever way the ballot goes. If it goes in favour of the sole bargaining agent, the Industrial Court will direct the employer to recognise it as sole bargaining agent. Failure on the part of an employer to bargain with it, will be a breach of duty and will lead to an order of the Court referring the union's claim to the Industrial Arbitration Board.
The other situation arises where employees become dissatisfied with the union which is the sole bargaining agent, and no longer want it to negotiate for them. This is something which many of your Lordships find difficult to accept. Here it is important to the future stability of the unit's industrial relations to distinguish passing disgruntlement, fomented perhaps by a chronic moaner or a congenital agitator, from a more deeply-rooted and lasting loss of confidence. The Bill therefore applies safeguards. At least one-fifth of those affected must support the application for a ballot where a sole bargaining agent has been set up by agreement (or two-fifths where it has been set up by order). After that, the Commission must first try to resolve the issue by conciliation. Only where that fails to bring a settlement may a ballot be authorised. Not all unions may relish these provisions, but they are, after all, essentially democratic. They will enable a union to secure negotiating rights where that is the majority wish, however reluctant the employer. On the other hand, subject to sensible safeguards, a union which has forfeited the support of the shop floor will not be able to override the considered wish of the majority that it should be superseded.
I turn now to the concept of responsibility. We are convinced that orderly industrial relations are achieved only by the proper exercise of responsibility on both sides—by managements quite as much as trade unions. Indeed, the Bill recognises the primary responsibility of 18 management for the promotion of good industrial relations. We believe it to be the duty of any democratic Government to ensure that those who act responsibly are protected from harm at the hands of others who do not. We have reviewed the protections and immunities which the existing industrial relations law affords, and in the Bill we propose a number of changes.
Trade unions which register under the Bill will continue to enjoy the full protection now provided by Section 3 of the Trade Disputes Act 1906, for an act done in contemplation or furtherance of an industrial dispute to induce another person to break a contract or prevent him from performing a contract, except where they behave unfairly towards individuals or unfairly influence collective bargaining. These unfair industrial practices include violations of the principles laid down in Clauses 63 and 67 or to threatening, instigating or financing lock-outs, strikes and other forms of irregular industrial action for unfair purposes. Unregistered unions and individuals acting without their union's authority will no longer be protected, if they induce, or threaten to induce, a breach of contract in contemplation or furtherance of an industrial dispute. We believe this is right. If a union wants such protection, it should be prepared to accept the responsibilities of registration. In the case of individuals, the restriction will discourage unconstitutional action which undermines the free collective bargaining system, weakens union authority and involves individual workers in breaches of the law of contract. But it is not intended in any way to affect freedom of speech.
The Bill will also make it unfair to enforce a secondary boycott against an innocent third party. What this means is that it will be an unfair industrial practice to call a strike with a clear intention of forcing a supplier or customer who has nothing to do with a dispute to break a commercial contract with a party to the dispute and a remedy against such strike action may be sought before the Industrial Court. It does not mean that any sympathetic strike will be unfair. The Bill does not say that; nor is that the Government's intention. Where sympathetic action is not deliberately intended to break commercial contracts or is not in support of a strike which is itself 19 unfair, a registered union will not be at risk by engaging in a sympathetic strike. We do not believe that a secondary boycott which deliberately damages innocent third parties is a justifiable form of industrial action in our complex modern society.
§ LORD DIAMOND
My Lords, I hesitate to interrupt the noble Lord, but we are all trying to follow what is an extremely complex part of his speech which he is finding it difficult to put in simple terms. I do not know whether or not it was an aside, but he referred to "freedom of speech". He said that nothing that he had said was intended to be a limitation of freedom of speech. Can the noble Lord expand on that a little? Does "speech" include things like an editorial in a newspaper, or is it limited to spoken words? To what extent is speech free when a person is seeking to make an argument as a result of which he would induce another person to take a certain course of conduct?
§ LORD DRUMALBYN
My Lords, I should prefer to leave this highly technical point to my noble and learned friend. At this stage I would only say that there is no intention on the part of the Government to interfere with freedom of speech, and that there is a distinction between comment and inducement. I prefer to leave it there at the present time.
On the other hand, the Bill will continue the protection now afforded to groups of workers by the 1871 and 1906 Acts from civil and criminal actions for conspiracy and from actions in tort for interfering in another person's trade or business. And the Bill preserves explicitly the right of an individual to take part in a strike; and prevents a court ordering anyone to remain at work or return to work.
One of the problems which has most exercised the country is this: what is to be done where a strike is likely to cause serious damage to the economy or to endanger life or health? The Bill provides that in such an emergency the Secretary of State can apply to the Industrial Court for an order requiring those responsible for organising the industrial action to defer it, or desist from it, for a specified and limited period not exceeding 60 days, either to enable negotiations 20 to take place to achieve a settlement, or to allow a ballot to be held to determine whether the industrial action is supported by the workers concerned. The Secretary of State will use his right of application to the Court only in the most exceptional circumstances and for a specific purpose. It will be for the Court to decide whether or not the emergency is of a nature as to justify a restraint order or a strike ballot order.
The White PaperIn Place of Strifewould have given the Secretary of State power to make the orders. We thought then and think now that it is better to entrust it to a body whose impartiality nobody can reasonably challenge. Where two parties both think their cause is just, someone must decide between them where truth and justice lies. The bodies which are to decide under the Bill are the National Industrial Relations Court—perhaps the most important innovation—and the industrial tribunals. The Industrial Court is there to guarantee that the Bill's provisions shall be implemented—not at the whim of the current Secretary of State, but by the rule of law. The Court itself will be something new in British justice. It will have the same status as the High Court, but it will consist not only of lawyers but also of laymen who have special knowledge or experience in industrial relations. This pattern has already proved its worth in the industrial tribunals set up under the Industrial Training Act. I have already indicated what the role of the Court will be in regard to applications for an agency shop, for recognition of sole bargaining agents, and in connection with collective agreements. It will determine rights, but it will not itself propound solutions. It will consider whether applications comply with the statutory requirements and will give effect, where appropriate, to the recommendations of the Commission.
The Court will be informal and readily accessible. It will be able to sit anywhere in the country, and litigants may appear in person or he represented by their trade union 'or employers' association. Nevertheless, it is not intended to encourage litigation. On the contrary, it will be bound by the four basic principles underlying the whole Bill. That means that when cases come to it, the Court must where appropriate be satisfied that all the possibilities of negotiation, conciliation or voluntary arbitration have 21 first been exhausted. The Court may also call upon Government conciliation services where opportunity offers.
The jurisdiction of the existing industrial tribunals will be extended to provide the lower tier of this new system of industrial relations adjudication. Broadly speaking, they will deal with individual cases and the Industrial Court with collective issues. There will be a right of appeal from tribunals to the Court of points of law. The remedies which may be granted by both the Industrial Court and the Industrial Tribunals are definition of the rights of the parties and award of compensation. The Court alone may make "cease and desist" orders. Where a Court or tribunal decides that there has been an unfair industrial practice on the part of the respondent, it cannot order a fine or imprisonment. The remedies are normal civil remedies where the complainant is suffering or has suffered detriment unfairly. If the civil remedies are defined, they are the normal remedies. Both Court and tribunals are given latitude to do what is just and equitable in the circumstances of each case.
This Bill is about older and industrial relations. But it is also about justice in industrial relations—justice for the individual worker; justice between employer and trade union; justice between one group of workers and another; justice as between sectional and national interests. We all want to see order in our industrial relations—all, that is, except those few who are bent on destroying them, or those who simply do not understand the effect of what they are doing. This Bill will provide the framework of justice—of fair dealing—within which industrial relations can be conducted in greater freedom and greater harmony, to the benefit not only of workers and employers but of us all. I commend the Bill to the House. It is a good Bill, and I hope that in the course of our discussion of it we shall make it a still better Act, an Act of which the British people will say: "We have had to wait a long time for this; but it was worth waiting for". My Lords, the nation can wait no longer. I beg to move.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read 2ª.—(Lord Drumalbyn.)22
§ 3.28 p.m.
§ LORD DELACOURT-SMITHrose to move, That as the proceedings on the Bill have been curtailed in such a way that many of its clauses have not even been debated in the elected Chamber and the Bill is already causing grave division within industry and the nation, the debate on the Second Reading be adjourned in order that Her Majesty's Government may now enter into negotiations with both sides of industry free from the conditions on which the Government have so far insisted with a view to seeking agreed solutions to problems of industrial relations and the publication of a workable code of industrial practice. The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg to move the Amendment standing in the name of my noble friend Lord Shackleton. I am grateful to the noble Lord opposite for the reference which he made to my noble friend. We are all extremely sorry that illness prevents him from being with us at the moment. He tenders his apologies to the House, and hopes to be with us during the course of the debate.
§ The Amendment that I am moving appeared to my noble friends to be a siutable course on this Bill, because many of them, however strong their feelings of opposition to the Bill, would not consider it consistent with practice to divide against it on Second Reading. The noble Lord who moved the Second Reading put before the House a piece of legislation of great length and complexity. There are many points in the noble Lord's speech which I am tempted to take up, and in the event that this Amendment is not adopted by your Lordships' House it may be that, subsequent opportunity will offer itself for discussion of some of the detailed points that he made.
§ The essence of the Bill now before us, which is felt by so many with knowledge of the realities of industry to be likely to have effects so very different from those which the noble Lord persuasively put before us, is to import from the United States of America a system, new to us, of applying legal regulation in an extreme degree to industrial relations. In doing so the Bill transforms completely the legal basis on which the trade union movement in this country has rested. Apart from other important statutes which it modifies, it completely 23 repeals the Trade Union Act 1871 and the Trade Disputes Act 1906, the two principal pieces of legislation on which the position of trade unions has been based for many years, and also the Trade Disputes Act 1965.
§ High claims have been made for the effects which this legislation will produce. It has been implied many times, before the Election and since, that legislation upon these lines will produce a dramatic improvement in the industrial atmosphere—at a stroke, if I may coin a phrase—a great improvement in the reliability of deliveries in industry and in international competitiveness. But as the Bill has proceeded and some of its effects have become more widely appreciated, not only have more and more people become opposed to it, but the claims of its supporters have tended to become more modest. One can find this in the Report of the proceedings on Third Reading in another place.
I see that very recently in the Press the Minister of State at the Department of Employment was quoted as saying that
The Government did not regard the Industrial Relations Bill as a cure for all strikes or as a recipe for happiness at work, …".
It is an intelligent and well-prepared offer by the Government to do all that a Government can do to try to create conditions under which responsible management, responsible trade unions and responsible individuals can more easily work together in harmony.
My Lords, those are admirable sentiments, but we have to ask ourselves whether this is the framework which is required for these admirable purposes.
§ This Bill is legalism run mad. It is the wrong way to tackle our important and serious problems in the field of industrial relations. These can be tackled only by recognising that strikes and disputes are not the heart of the problem; they are the symptoms; and what is needed is to get at the causes of industrial disputes and inadequate industrial relations. This is not a job for lawyers, nor are lawyers the best people to provide so detailed a framework for that work to be done. A singular fact has been the little enthusiasm shown publicly, even by employers, for this Bill. They 24 have cast their expectations consistently lower than the supporters of the Government have done. Of the unanimous opposition of the trade unions to the proposals of the Bill, there is no doubt. There may be differences of opinion about the way in which opposition should be expressed, or about the timing of its expression, but there is no difference of opinion in the trade union movement about the quality and intensity of the opposition. Even theEconomist, the Bill's most constant and vociferous champion, says that the Bill may well lead to more days being lost in industrial disputes, rather than fewer. This would be hardly surprising in view of the experience of the United States of America, where they have had this legislation for many years and where the days lost in industrial disputes have consistently run at a level four times as high as ours.
§ It is said that after the passage of this Bill strikes will be official rather than unofficial. I must confess that I should not want to enter into a long discussion of the relative merits of official and unofficial strikes if the official ones, in particular, are to be on a larger scale. It seems to me a gloomy prospect if this is the type of case which the realists among the supporters of the Bill, put for it. As I quoted earlier, more and more we are being told that the Bill will achieve a better framework for individuals, trade unions and employers to work together. Therefore if the Government are not prepared to accept this Amendment, the first question that I want to put to any noble Lord who is to speak on the Government's behalf is this: what is now claimed for this Bill in terms of improving industrial relations and reducing the incidence of disputes—not in terms of generalised statements about bringing a framework of law into industry, but in terms of what in the reasonably near future the Government believes the country will gain? If the Government's answer to that is still the happy cliché that it will provide a framework within which men can work, then I ask: what do the Government expect from this framework when one side, the employers, seem so lukewarm, and the other side, the trade unions, so hostile?
§ It is common ground in this House, and in this discussion, that there is need to improve industrial relations in this 25 country. It is common ground that there are some matters in this Bill which ought to be the subject of legislation. I was surprised that the noble Lord seemed to speak as though some of us were altogether opposed to any kind of legal framework for trade union activity. There is need for better protection against unfair dismissals; there is need for employers to give employees more information; and it is arguable that legislation is necessary for both these purposes. That is not to say that the present Bill deals with the subjects in an ideal fashion, but if this were the total subject matter of the Bill it would not have aroused the intense resentment that it has done. The good things in the Bill, such as they are, are lost in the bad and are prejudiced by them.
§ The issue, then, is not that no action is needed to improve industrial relations; nor that there are not some matters, such as those I have mentioned, which can properly be dealt with by legislation. The issue is whether industrial relations, and the utilisation of men and women, are going to be improved in industry, and the number of days lost in disputes reduced by a Bill which is framed and conceived as this is, and which imports the intense degree of legal intervention and regulation into industry that this Bill proposes, and which has had the effect, as we all know, of arousing such deep resentment, at any rate on the trade union side.
§ This Bill comes to your Lordships' House in a most extraordinary condition. It is admittedly complex and contentious; it sets up, as the noble Lord said, new courts and is regarded as having a constitutional significance because of that. Yet the arrangement of Government business in another place has been such that, out of the original 150 clauses and 8 Schedules, only 39 clauses were discussed in Committee and none of the Schedules. The Report stage was almost entirely absorbed by discussion of Government new clauses. The Bill now has 160 clauses and 9 Schedules, and between two-thirds and three-quarters of the Bill has not been subjected to detailed discussion in another place at all. I think I am right in saying that indeed even the clause which establishes the National Industrial Relations Court, to which the noble Lord referred as being of particular importance—perhaps the most important 26 measure in the Bill—was not subjected to detailed consideration in another place. And at the Report stage there came forward a shoal of Government Amendments. Many of them were voted upon without debate. Forty-two of them were not moved at all and will no doubt appear for consideration in your Lordships' House.
§ If indeed the House rejects the Amendment which I am privileged to move, and the Government proceed with this Bill, a very heavy responsibility will rest upon this House for its detailed examination. I would make quite clear—and I have the full support of my noble friends in doing so—that we on this side have no intention of obstructing the passage of this Bill for obstruction's sake. And, as in the other place, there will be no attempt at a filibuster. But, my Lords, we do expect the most full, considered and serious response to the very large number of points of substance and of detail which are bound to arise in any responsible consideration of such a Bill as this, which has come to this House in the condition that this Bill has come to it. I believe we shall find many uncertainties, many inadequacies, many injustices and many sheer impracticabilities in the course of our detailed examination. But we urge the House at this stage not to proceed further, but to take the wiser course set out in our Amendment. The present situation which we have reached has indeed been the climax of a process of failure by the Government to take any serious account of any views other than their own.
On March 22 the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, was good enough to give me, in a Written Answer, some information about the genesis of this Bill. There was of course not a White Paper preceding it but a Consultative Document. This was issued on October 5; it was available generally on the 8th, and 127,000 copies of it were issued. It stated:
It would be helpful if comments were available before the end of October and it might not be possible to take account of views received after the 13th November.
This was in respect of a document of great length and complexity, made available on October 8 and said to be the presage of the most important Industrial Relations Bill in this country for at least a century.
Moreover, the trade unions were told that, while during this period or subsequently they might express views on detail, the Minister's mind was closed on what he called the principles of the Bill. With so short a time for consideration and, if I may say so, so cavalier an attitude at any rate towards the trade unions, it is perhaps not surprising that the Bill as tabled in another place was virtually identical with the Consultative Document. The process of consultation before the tabling of the Bill was a sham, and that is why so much has needed to be done later in the much more difficult circumstances which apply when a Bill is already part way through the legislative process and everyone is naturally under pressure. But, despite this, in his reply to me on March 22, the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, insisted that the Government were:
fully satisfied that the time allowed for the preparation and consideration of comments was adequate."—[OFFICIAL REPORT; 22/3/71, col. 762.]
He went on to explain why. He said:
The substance of the Government's policy was already well known, and this policy and a wide range of proposals for the reform of industrial relations (many of them similar in form or intent to those outlined in the Consultative Document) has been under intense debate for at least two years." (col. 762.)
I hear expressions of assent from the other side of the House.
§ It is so important an argument that it requires detailed examination, because in fact the sequence of events was that in 1968 the Conservative Party produced a publication,Fair Deal at Work. It was after the publication of that document that the Donovan Commission reported. The Donovan Commission's findings were not available whenFair Deal at Workwas compiled. The Donovan Commission were a widely-based body with a great range of expert knowledge and experience divided among their members. They carried out their own research programme. One might have thought that the Government would have modified, or that the Conservative Party would have modified, their pamphlet and their policies to take account of the Donovan recommendations.
The present Bill shows little, if any, sign of this. Any major divergencies between the present Bill andFair Deal
at Work, as I shall try to show, are certainly not the result of having taken account of the Donovan Report. Indeed, on major points, the present proposals run quite counter to Donovan. As one of the members of the Donovan Commission said, in writing inThe Timeson November 24:
In spite of what they have in common, the Government proposals and the Donovan Report represent the main conflicting trends of opinion as to how to deal with Britain's labour troubles.
There are marked differences between the Bill and the Donovan Report on a range of issues—on sympathetic strikes; on cooling-off periods; on compulsory ballots; on recognition disputes. But let me mention two particular points of difference. A central feature of the Government proposals, as the noble Lord has made clear, is to build a new framework of law with obligations upon the trade unions. The Donovan Commission examined proposals of that character and concluded either that they could not be operated or that they would do more harm than good.
Then there is the assertion in the present Bill that every individual should have a right not to join a trade union and that the "closed shop" should be prohibited. The Donovan Commission had a very clear view on the "closed shop". Again I quote:
In our view prohibition of the closed shop must be rejected. It is better to recognise that under proper safeguards a closed shop can serve a useful purpose and to devise alternative means of overcoming the disadvantages.
It is indeed no secret that concern about the proposals in the present Bill on this point are by no means confined to the trade union side of industry.
§ However, to return to the reply which the noble Lord gave me on March 22, can it be said that, even though the Donovan recommendations have been taken so little into account, the public and industry knew what they were in for because they had learnt of the proposals fromFair Deal at Work?There are many differences even between the present proposals andFair Deal at Work—not, I emphasise, as a result of their being modified, so far as I can see, to any serious degree by consideration of Donovan, but for quite other reasons. For example, there is the concept of an unfair industrial practice which does not 29 appear inFair Deal at Work; the right to be a non-unionist, with all the complexities and difficulties which arise from the desire to assert that principle, is far more emphatic in the Bill than it is inFair Deal at Work, and the whole elaborate procedure for securing recognition for determining bargaining units, for enabling workers to pay contributions to unions without being members. I was really astonished that the noble Lord in his reference to this did not seem to realise the difficulties and problems to which that incredible suggestion would give rise. None of these, so far as I am aware and so far as I can see, were inFair Deal at Work.
§ Further, the Bill proposes—and this is regarded by some people as its most objectionable characteristic—the concept of an enforceable procedure agreement (agreement so-called) imposed without the agreement of the parties. The Donovan Report did not of course favour legal enforceability even of agreed procedural arrangements, but the Bill proposes that the National Industrial Relations Court should be given the power to force unions to accept at least the procedural parts of an agreement drawn up by the Commission on Industrial Relations in default of agreement between the parties. In other words, the situation would not be an agreement but an imposition.
On this issue the Donovan Report said:
A disputes procedure must be operated by the two sides of industry working together. They work together if they have accepted the procedures. They cannot be expected to make the procedure work unless they have freely agreed to do so.
Later on, the Report went on to say that to seek to compel the parties to co-operate in the settlement of grievances and to do so through the force of law is one of the things no law can do. It cannot make people co-operate if they do not want to do so. When one looks at the divergence between the present proposals and the Donovan Report, and when one looks at how much is new in the proposals in the Consultative Document which did not appear even inFair Deal at Work, the claim that there was adequate prior consultation, because in fact people knew what was going to
be in the Consultative Document, is a completely unconvincing claim.
§ This inadequacy of consultation is brought into high relief if one looks at the Government's proposals on the code of practice. We have all been told how important this code is, and I understand that the Minister originally indicated that he would begin discussions with the T.U.C., the C.B.I., the Industrial Society, the Institution of Personnel Management and with other bodies in the spring, with a view to presenting the code to Parliament in the autumn of the present year—he would in fact do much better than the time limits laid down in the Bill would suggest. Is this still the plan? If so, how far has it got? That is the second question which I should like to put specifically to noble Lords opposite who will be contributing to the debate.
I particularly want to recall what the Secretary of State himself said on the Report stage in another place. I suggest that by implication he criticises severely his own handling of his own Consultative Document, for this is what he said about consultations on the code:
… we certainly hope to provide months not weeks for the code to be thought about and consulted about. I stress that the document will be open for genuine consultation and views by honourable Members and other people and bodies outside the House for a period of months, not weeks."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Commons, 23/3/71, col. 410.]
§ It would be helpful if somebody would comment upon the strange contrast between the handling of the code and the handling of the Consultative Document. We are suffering—or perhaps the Government are suffering and we are suffering with them—from the fact that the Conservative Party have for a number of years over-simplified the industrial relations problems of this country. They have over-simplified them by presenting them always in terms of strikes, taking a situation in a few fields as though they were typical of the whole of industry (which they are not), and implying that the blame rests always on the trade unions and the workers, which it does not. Ministers indeed have repeatedly referred to anarchy and chaos in our industrial relations. Of course it is true that in some industries the loss of working days in disputes is high. This is true over a period of years of three industries—the 31 car industry, the docks, the shipbuilding and ship repair industry. Together these cover less than a million men, and the figures of days lost in them are high because of problems peculiar to those industries which changes in the law are most unlikely to resolve. They are circumstances that would be much better dealt with by detailed examination by the Commission on Industrial Relations.
§ But if one looks at the whole of the rest of industry, even in 1970, which was a bad year, our loss of time through industrial disputes was one-third of one day per worker per year. That was, and is, at a time when, while in a year on an average there is a loss of a third of a day's work by a worker, on every day of that year two men are killed and a thousand men are injured in industry. There is something a little out of proportion in the way in which the emphasis is always upon strikes and so little upon some other very important aspect of the daily life of industry.
§ The Bill and the attitudes associated with it are already doing harm from the point of view of improving industrial relations. The Bill is bound to hamper, as it is already hampering, the constructive work of the Trades Union Congress. The Conservative Party have never given credit to the Trades Union Congress for its constructive work. They have occasionally made a reference to it, as the noble Lord did in the course of introducing this Bill to the House, but the Trades Union Congress has not got, has never had and has not under the present Bill any place in their plans, despite the great value of the work which the Trades Union Congress can do in developing better attitudes and better relationships in industry.
§ Under this Bill the Government are now going to make the Commission for Industrial Relations a permanent statutory body. They had better be quick about it, while there is still a Commission for Industrial Relations to have a statutory basis; for they are changing its character and its purpose, and they appear to me to be coming already within an ace of killing the Commission for Industrial Relations, which was so fruitfully developed from the Donovan Report. Trade union members have resigned; the Chairman has resigned. It was reported in the Press that academic people held in respect have 32 declined invitations to join. In these circumstances, while normally we should welcome the proposal to put a Commission for Industrial Relations, as originally conceived, on a statutory basis, the third question which I must put is: what are the intentions of the Government? What really is the Government's view of the future of the Commission?
§ Let me conclude by saying that to many of us the Bill before us seems to be a profound mistake. Nobody can predict the full consequences which it will have, and the proceedings in another place suggest that sometimes even the Law Officers for the Government have difficulty in finding their way through some of the complexities which it has already developed. Although, no doubt, the Government will deny it, what they are doing is creating the impression of a desire to weaken the trade union movement and to shift the balance of power even more decisively in favour of the employers. Fewer and fewer people outside the ranks of the Government believe that the Bill will contribute usefully to solving our industrial relations problems. More and more people are viewing it with resentment or with hostility, or in some cases with alarmed bewilderment. I have spent my working life in the trade union movement, and I do not believe that the Government have yet fully grasped the depth or the extent of trade union opposition, or the degree of non-co-operation to which the trade union movement may find itself forced.
§ This country has benefited in peace and in war from the breadth of mind, from the public spirit and from the maturity of the trade union movement, and I do not believe that the Government have yet understood that the trade union movement feels itself demeaned and feels the country demeaned by the course which is being followed. When I speak of the trade union movement, I speak not only of national representatives and national officials; I speak of the hundreds of thousands of voluntary workers in the trade union movement who render constructive service to industry, often so little appreciated, and who in many respects often render service to the community as well, outside their industrial work.
§ This Bill largely ignores the recommendations of the Donovan Commission, certainly where they conflict with Party 33 doctrine. It contains many new principles on which both the time and the basis for consultation have been inadequate. It has passed through another place two-thirds or three-quarters of it undiscussed. Above all, it is a measure which, if pursued, may prove to be a socially divisive one. There are other countries, wealthy and powerful, which present to-day a spectacle of classes and groups, and generations sometimes, which appear to be in danger to an increasing degree of losing communication with one another. We are, thank God! far from that situation in this country; but I believe that this Bill and the attitudes associated with it could take us upon that road. I believe it would be the course of wisdom and the course of statesmanship at this stage to recognise the goodwill and the constructive abilities of both sides of industry, and to take the course which this Amendment suggests. I commend the Amendment to your Lordships.
§ Moved, That, as the proceedings on the Bill have been curtailed in such a way that many of its clauses have not even been debated in the elected Chamber and the Bill is already causing grave division within industry and the nation, the debate on the Second Reading be adjourned in order that Her Majesty's Government may now enter into negotiations with both sides of industry free from the conditions on which the Government have so far insisted with a view to seeking agreed solutions to problems of industrial relations and the publication of a workable code of industrial practice.—(Lord Delacourt-Smith.)
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR (LORD HAILSHAM OF ST. MARYLEBONE)
My Lords, the original Question was that this Bill be now read a second time. On that Motion the noble Lord has now moved—he described it as an Amendment, but. I think it is a fresh Motion:
"That, as the proceedings on the Bill have been curtailed in such a way that many of its clauses have not even been debated in the elected Chamber and the Bill is already causing grave division within industry and the nation, the debate on the Second Reading be adjourned in order that Her Majesty's Government may now enter into negotiations with both sides of industry free from the conditions on which the Government have so far 34 insisted with a view to seeking agreed solutions to problems of industrial relations and the publication of a workable code of industrial practice."
In these circumstances I understand that the Question which I have to address to the House is, That the fresh Motion be agreed to; and that is the Question which I therefore put to the House.
§ 4.5 p.m.
§ LORD ROCHESTER
My Lords, in the enforced absence abroad of my noble friend Lord Byers, I should like from these Benches to offer general support for much of what is being aimed at in this Bill and for a good many of its provisions. Your Lordships' House will have noted that in the Division on Third Reading in another place Liberals voted against the Bill. That was because the opportunity for debate in Committee was not considered adequate, and in this respect we sympathise with the view expressed in the first part of the Amendment, or Motion, moved just now by the noble Lord, Lord Delacourt-Smith. On the other hand—and I hope that the noble Lord will not think this discourteous of me, as someone who is seldom able to attend your Lordships' debates—I do not see for myself how some of the nocturnal activities of the Labour Party in another place in recent weeks can be said to have contributed to the more detailed debate that they now seem to wish there had been. However that may be, we hope that the deficiency in this respect will be made good in your Lordships' House, for it is most important that the Bill, when it is enacted, should be made to work as well as possible in the interests of all concerned.
We on these Benches see no future in the kind of negotiations proposed in the Amendment, if I may continue to call it such. Noble Lords on the Labour Benches must surely know this too, in the light of the experience of the Labour Government less than two years ago. It is understandable that they should feel that advocacy of these negotiations is to be preferred to outright opposition to the Bill, when there are so many points of similarity between the Bill and the Labour Government's own proposals in the White PaperIn Place of Strife, but that is not sufficient reason for us on these Benches to go along with them.
35 Like many others who will be taking part in this debate, I have to declare an interest. For the last 25 years or so I have been engaged in the management of people in a large-scale manufacturing industry, for much of that time negotiating with trade unions on behalf of my company and playing an active part in many of the operations referred to in this Bill. In previous debates in this House on industrial relations I have spoken from first-hand experience of what might be called the technicalities of the subject. On this occasion I should like first to speak rather more in political terms. I looked at the OFFICIAL REPORT of our debate onIn Place of Strife, and I must say that it has a familiar ring about it. For one thing, there was a strike on at Ford's at the time. For another, if your Lordships will forgive a personal reference, I found that in referring to the activities of certain trade unions I had said that if there was one kind of conduct that the British people would not indefinitely tolerate it was that of the bully, that we had seen too much bullying lately, and it was evident that an increasing number of people, including trade unionists, were not prepared to put up with it much longer—they could hardly be blamed for feeling that if there was no other way in which it could be brought under control there would have to be further legislation. I said I was sorry about that. I continue to feel sorry, but since then things have gone from bad to worse and, like many others who hoped that it would not be necessary to have further recourse to the law, I have come to feel that we cannot afford to carry on any longer without giving it a chance. It is true that management and trade unions will continue to have to solve the problems. The question is whether, on balance, the provisions of this Bill will make it easier or harder for them to do so.
I was much impressed by what I understood the noble and learned Lord, Lord Devlin, to say recently in his summing-up at the end of the so-called trial of the Bill in an Independent Television programme. It was to the effect that at the heart of the matter there was the question of power; that those who thought that our trade unions or their representatives now had too much power would vote for the Bill, and those who 36 thought otherwise would vote against it. I have reached the conclusion that in the last few years certain trade unions, some of whom claim to be the representatives of trade unions, have exercised their power in a way such as to justify the community in seeking to curb it.
The strike which took place on two days last month may be cited in evidence. We had the two largest unions in the land—and those, moreover, which make considerable play about how questions affecting industrial relations should be decided at the lowest possible level—pressing their members from the top to engage in a strike which was political in nature, damaging to the economy and illegal, and then allowing those who refused to take part in that strike to be fined for their pains. We shall give differing replies to the question whether, on balance, there is more to be said for or against this Bill. But in the last resort there is something that we should all care more about than the answer to that question; namely, as I see it, whether sovereign power is to be exercised by Parliament or by the unions, and on that Point my view is clear.
I have given reasons for supporting the Government in placing a Bill of this kind before us, and I should like next specifically to comment on some of its features. First, I should like to commend the provisions for the registration of trade unions; the principles governing the conduct of workers' organisations in relation to their members; Clause 92, making it an unfair industrial practice for anyone not so authorised to induce or threaten to induce a breach of contract, and also the conditions under which ballots can be ordered in relation to industrial action. I welcome also some of the requirements to which management will have to pay more attention, such as the need to see that employees are better informed than they may have been in the past, and the proposals in the Bill relating to unfair dismissal.
There are other features of the Bill that I view with less enthusiasm. One of these has already been referred to and concerns the legal enforceability of collective agreements. There are a number of reasons why, in my view, this part of the Bill is likely to prove rather 37 ineffective. Once the Government took the basic decision, I think very sensibly, that such an agreement would not be regarded as legally enforceable if this were contrary to the expressed wish of the parties to it, the lion, as it were, became a mouse. The unions show every sign of seeing that these agreements are so framed that they are incapable: of enforcement, and even when they become enforceable I do not see employers generally hurrying to law to enforce them.
The second point concerns the vexed question of the closed shop. Any fair-minded person must acknowledge that in this matter the Government faced a very difficult problem in trying to weigh the freedom of the individual against the exigencies of everyday industrial life. I understand how the concept of the agency shop has arisen from the desire to achieve a balance in these matters, but I am also aware at first hand that the post-entry closed shop (providing always that people may contract out of it on grounds of conscience) provides certain benefits for employers and for trade unions. These include the point on which great stress has been placed by Mr. Garnett, director of the Industrial Society, that in this way employees generally are best encouraged to play a full part in the affairs of their union. At least the post-entry closed shop has the virtue that it has been operating smoothly in large parts of industry for some time, whereas the agency shop is necessarily untried and, as an unwanted child by many people on both sides of industry, its birth pangs are bound to be somewhat poignant. Now that the new Schedule has been introduced permitting closed shops under certain conditions, I wonder whether with appropriate safeguards, post-entry closed shops should not be made negotiable between employers and trade unions on a wider basis. I do not want to strike an attitude on this point, but rather would suggest that the whole question calls for a great deal more debate in Committee in your Lordships' House before the Bill is finally enacted.
I should like to end on as constructive a note as possible. I realise that there are cogent political reasons why the Government want to have this legislation passed during the first year or so of 38 office, but to us on these Benches it is cause for regret that the Bill is not accompanied by the code of practice that it promised in Clause 2; and on this point we have sympathy with the last few words of the Amendment which has just been moved by the noble Lord, Lord Delacourt-Smith. This is because as the Secretary of State readily acknowledges, the Bill itself will not solve our major industrial problems, and, in his own words (and I should like to quote from col. 986 of the OFFICIAL REPORT of the debate on Second Reading on December 14, 1970 in another place):It"—that is the law,will he judged by the extent to which it supports the constructive evolution of the voluntary system of industrial relations in British industry. That is the test we set, and that is the test we shall be judged by.I think that is a very fair test. If remedies for our troubles are to be found, as they must be, it will not be within the clauses of a Bill such as this; but I very much hope that they will feature prominently in the promised code, and they must not go unmentioned in this debate. The remedies I have in mind require a change in the behaviour of people; that managers should gain a better understanding of the effect of their behaviour on those whom they manage; that in keeping with developments in society generally people at all levels in industry should have more say in the making of decisions that affect them. Work must be directed towards objectives that are clearly defined, understood, and accepted, and communications have to be improved up and down the line. Managers have to be trained in leadership and negotiating skills and in how to solve problems and work together in groups. The role of supervisors has to be defined much more clearly than it sometimes is at present, and employers and trade unions need to join forces in the training of shop stewards. Eventually, if there is to be real improvement in our industrial relations, management and unions will together have to agree on objectives that they hold sufficiently in common to enable supervisors and shop stewards to be trained together.
I am sure that this joint approach will have to come, because it is plain from my experience recently in helping to give training in the management of 39 people that the problems which keep cropping up are those concerned with communications and relationships between people representing different levels in an organisation. It follows, as I see it, that these problems can be solved only if the people between whom the problems lie face them together. In all these matters it is of course management who must take the lead, and I hope that when the code of practice is eventually published it will clearly say as much. I am sorry that I shall not personally be able to play much part in the discussions at the Committee stage of the Bill. But I should like to say, in conclusion, that we on these Benches support the Bill in principle, and we hone that in the national interest all will now do their best to see that it works as well as it possibly can.
§ 4.22 p.m.
§ LORD DONOVAN
My Lords, Britain needs an Industrial Relations Act. So far in our history we have not had one. All we have had is a succession of Statutes dealing piecemeal with problems as they arose. We have never had a comprehensive code. Economic developments, economic difficulties and great social changes now require one. The question is whether this Bill will successfully fulfil that need. In other words, the problem is not one of ends, but means.
The Royal Commission itself recommended the passage of an Industrial Relations Act, and it specified certain matters which should be included in it. A number of those are implemented in this Bill, so we did not labour entirely in vain. There are also numerous items in this Bill which we did not recommend, or at least did not recommend for immediate enactment. This does not mean that we were right and the Government are wrong. Neither my colleagues nor I would claim any monopoly of wisdom for the Commission. If the Executive prefer measures, however draconian, either because they are thought to be better, or because they are thought to be imperative in the light of events during the last three years since the Commission reported, then it is obviously both the right and the duty of the Executive to proceed in accordance 40 with its own opinion. But there is one overriding principle to which all legislation of this kind, if it is to be successful, must conform. It must be such as to offer the best hope of co-operation from both sides of industry. Not only does common sense require it, but all our industrial history proclaims it.
So far as workers are concerned, that history includes some 600 years during which wages were fixed by justices of the peace pursuant to Statute, and combinations of workers to do the job for themselves—which is what trade unions largely are—were criminal conspiracies. When to this situation were added the abuses of the Industrial Revolution, workers could not look to their own representatives in Parliament for help because they had none. The Representation of the People Act 1867 first gave the franchise to adult male workers in the towns, and the Act of 1884 gave it to male workers in the countryside and the mines. Two consequences have inevitably followed: first, that workers came to regard the law as their natural enemy; secondly, that if they were to improve their conditions they could not rely upon the law being changed in Parliament; they had to rely upon their own industrial strength expressed in combinations.
These inheritances are, I believe, unique to this country and they go far to explain how our industrial relations system has come about. They raise a big question mark over the relevance of the comparisons frequently drawn between our own and other systems in other countries, which developed later and differently; and also over the argument based on these comparisons: "If there, why not here?" Because these inherited attitudes do, not die; they crystallise into traditions, the force of which is immense. They are with us today, despite all the improvements in conditions which have come about, and they are implicit in the myriad of banners bearing the device "Kill the Bill!", borne by thousands who have never read it.
So far as the employers are concerned, their history over the past 60 years exhibits among other things, an almost invincible, though understandable, determination not to invoke the law in the conduct of industrial relations if they 41 can help it. The quick injunction, yes, in the few cases where it can be obtained; but beyond that, no. There has been no prosecution for breaches of Section 4 of the 1875 Act, dealing with gas, electricity and water; no prosecution for any breach of Section 5 of the same Act, although breaches of both of those sections have occurred recently; no civil action for damages for conspiracy arising out of the recent one-day stoppages, although such action may well have been competent and, if so, could have resulted in immense damages against the leaders. The reason for this of course is that the remedy would only make matters worse, and for like reason the Government seem to share the same reluctance.
Two conclusions emerge which are relevant here to-day: first, that if we are to give ourselves the best hope of co-operation, this legislation must he made as fair as we can make it; secondly, that so far as the sanctions of the Act are concerned, then if they are to be made credible few hopes can be pinned on employer enforcement. In order to attract worker co-operation, the Bill could do more than it does at present. I could give several examples; I content myself with one. It declares that everyone should have the right to join a trade union and also the right not to join one. Put simply in that way, the proposition sounds absolutely right and unexceptionable. It is, however, now expressly conceded by the Minister that the equation of the one right with the other is unsound and, in consequence, he is making provision for a post-entry closed shop, subject to very strict conditions.
But this is not the limit of fair and desirable concession, for the trade unionist quite understandably sees in the right, at any rate, of free secession the risk of gradual erosion of trade union strength to a point where it ceases to count, and he regards that prospect with much more concern than the loss of a few pounds of dues each year because of the presence of a handful of free-riders. The breakaway union formed by seceded dissidents is still a menace, and we could do something to reduce it by copying part of the industrial legislation of Australia and New Zealand. There it is provided by Statute (or was when I last looked at their laws) that the Registrar of Trade Unions is to refuse to register 42 any trade union if he is satisfied that the workers concerned are already catered for adequately by some existing union. If such a provision could be introduced into this Bill, it would serve two useful purposes: first, it would allay to some extent trade union fears about breakaway unions, the risk of which is implicit in the Bill at the moment; and, second, it would provide a curb on the proliferation of trade unions, of which there are still too many.
There are a number of other matters in the Bill which I think should be looked at again with a view to improving it. A defendant who is taken before the ordinary courts of this country by an employer seeking damages for inducement of a breach of contract of employment is entitled as of right to be absolved if he can prove justification, but before the new Industrial Court in like circumstances he must, under the Bill, rely upon the court's discretion as to what is just and equitable. The end result may be the same, but not necessarily so; and it is this which makes the muchcriticised advertisement of the T.U.C.—"Shut up and keep working"—as a matter of words literally true when it refers to the possibility of fines. The remedy is to provide in this Bill that any defence which would be open on the same facts before the ordinary courts should be available before the Industrial Court.
Then under Clause 54 of the Bill it is the duty of employers to supply relevant information to a trade union for the purposes of collective bargaining, but under Clause 151(1)(e) the employer can refuse to do so if disclosure would be seriously prejudicial to the interests of the undertaking. It would seem that under the Bill the opinion of the employer on this point is conclusive. If so, should it not he capable of challenge? Otherwise, the value of this provision may be seriously diminished. Incidentally, something seems to have gone wrong with the Bill in this connection. Clause 98 indicates that a complaint under Section 54 of the Act can be made the subject of a claim to the Industrial Arbitration Board under Section 122. But on turning to Section 122 you find that it relates to terms and conditions of employment, and not to the withholding of information at all.
43 Again, under Clause 135 of the Bill the Industrial Court can make an order that during the cooling off period no person is to take industrial action, and that he shall call off any already taken. The sanction for disobedience is to be found not in the clause itself but in paragraph 25 of the Third Schedule, and includes imprisonment for contempt. But returning to Clause 135(3) one finds that a trade union official acting within the scope of his duty is exempt from committal for contempt. By contrast, under Clause 139 the Industrial Court can make an order for a compulsory ballot, and again order any person not to take industrial action meanwhile and call off any already begun. But in this case there is no provision exempting the trade union official acting within the scope of his duty from imprisonment for contempt, and it is difficult to see any rationality in the distinction.
Here, may I interpose what may be a word of comfort for Fleet Street? If an industrial correspondent says to workers, "Come out on strike", he does not thereby induce a breach of contract, because if the workers take this advice they can do so simply by giving the appropriate notice and so no breach of contract is involved or has been induced. One cannot assert that the reporter or industrial correspondent in such a case has advised the unlawful means rather than the lawful. Clauses 108 and 145 give the Minister power, among other things, to alter an existing Act of Parliament without laying the Statutory Instrument before both Houses for Affirmative approval. I hope that omission can be remedied.
Coming back now to matters of principle, I am heartened to see that the Bill does nothing to endorse the fiction that to make collective agreements legally enforceable is the solution to all our worries. So far as concerns the substantive agreement laying down terms and conditions of employment, trade unions do not themselves agree to man the machines or work the hours. As the lawyers say, there is no real privity of contract between the employer and the union; and if a union thinks that the time has come for their members to get a rise, they give reasonable notice to end the agreement and start new negotiations; 44 and that is precisely the position which would obtain if the agreement were legally enforceable. If we could have an agreement with a "no strike" clause in it and binding for two years, then indeed a significant contribution to industrial peace might well result, but this Bill does not aim that high.
As regards procedure agreements laying down the procedures to be gone through before there is resort to industrial action, again trade unions seldom break them, though there have been a few regrettable exceptions. It is the members who habitually break procedure agreements, not the unions; but the members are not bound by these agreements because trade unions do not enter into them as agents for their members. And it is strictly inaccurate to speak of these members breaking procedure agreements: they simply ignore them. This is the reason why the Bill imposes no sanction upon them for doing so, apart altogether from the impossibility of prosecuting masses of workers.
The presumption of enforceability in certain circumstances is therefore being used in this Bill simply as the foundation of action against a union if it does not use its best endeavours to see that the agreement is observed by others who are not bound by it. But for this purpose legal enforceability is surely an irrelevance. If there has to be legislation on these lines, one would expect the Bill to say that trade unions should use their best endeavours to see that a procedure agreement was observed by its members, whether that agreement were legally enforceable or not. All that the present Bill ensures is that almost no such agreement will be legally binding; and that situation is worse than the situation which exists at present where the parties acknowledge, either explicitly or by implication, an obligation in honour.
In truth, the teeth of this Bill are in the unfair industrial practice and the penalties which it attracts. The term "unfair industrial practice" tends to conjure up an idea of something which is not quite cricket—like bowling too many bumpers. What is really connotes is a new kind of tort attracting a heavy fine. And if one takes the trouble to count up the number which the Bill creates, he will arrive at the figure of at least 179. If these provisions turn out 45 in practice to be unjustly repressive they will fail, just as all legislation in this field having that effect has failed before.
Industrial peace cannot come that way. Industrial relations are a domain where peace comes only by willing co-operation. In other walks of life, where people disagree they can simply part; but if management and employees disagree they cannot just pick up their marbles and go home. They still have to learn to live together if the enterprise to to continue and to prosper. To a large extent they must forge their own law of association and forget contracts and tort and ether legal chains. They must, in a word, evolve the common law of the shop. They cannot do that by fighting each other in the courts—nor do I think they will spend much time in doing so. Indeed, when the dust settles it may be found that those who feel the impact of this Bill most will be the dedicated minority who have less interest in industrial peace than in the substitution of a new order of society and regard industrial unrest as one road to that goal.
As I have mentioned the courts, it would be wrong not to express the anxieties that some of us feel about the proposed permanent intrusion of the High Court into this sensitive field where all its decisions of fact will be final. I know that the experiment will be carefully watched, for no analogy drawn from the success of the Restrictive Practices Court can be relied upon; the field is too dissimilar. In general terms, the big difference between this Bill and the kind envisaged by the Royal Commission is the priority which we accorded to the treatment of causes rather than symptoms. But it would be wrong to say that in this respect the Bill reflects nothing of our thinking. The Commission on Industrial Relations is there. It could do much lasting good and. I hope that it will be able to do so. The "yellow dog" contract is gone. An impartial tribunal for trade union grievances is established. Unfair dismissals, a chronic cause of trouble, are to be compensated. An attempt is made to deal with multi-unionism; non-recognition is now justiciable.
I wish that I could include, in this catalogue of efforts, a cooling-off period for prices. That really would do some good. Nevertheless, if I were once again a trade 46 unionist my vote in these circumstances would not be cast for a policy of total non-co-operation. My argument would be that to do so would be to risk getting the worst of both worlds: the loss of advantages in the Bill and the inability to prove the failure of the Bill by experiment. Nor is it either advantageous or realistic to demand now from those who may form an alternative Government in the future an unqualified undertaking that they will then repeal the Bill, lock, stock and barrel. It will never be wholly and finally repealed. After all, it implements some eight recommendations of the Royal Commission favourable to trade unionists. But in that context it is reasonable to recall that trade unionists in this country number some 10 million; the total work force, some 26 million; the whole population over 50 million. All that 50 million have a stake in the creation and maintenance of good industrial relations.
Statesmanship surely therefore requires that those who may take over power in the future should say, "When that time comes we will examine the working of this Bill with strict objectivity. We will retain those parts of it which have improved industrial relations, even if they have done so contrary to our expectations; but we will repeal or amend those which have done the opposite or which have worked unjustly; and throughout the operation we shall bear in mind not merely the interests of one section of the community but the welfare of the country as a whole."
§ 4.57 p.m.
§ LORD THOMAS
My Lords, it is clear from the list of speakers that this is my maiden speech. I should be unhappy in conscience if I did not here and now pay tribute to the courtesy extended me on my entrance into your Lordships' House. I should like to convey this sense of sincere thanks to all concerned.
As an industrialist, I believe that this Bill is one of the most important documents that has ever been drafted in the industrial life of this nation. I have been in industry all my life, starting immediately after school as an apprentice in an engineering factory in Birmingham, where I worked on the shop floor for the noble sum of 4s. a week. This occupation was interrupted by a tribal dispute between Britain and Germany that took me away to foreign parts and other occupations for 47 a number of years. When I returned to "Civvy street", I went back immediately to the lowly paths of industry, and since then I have had my nose kept to the grindstone by the simple pressures of appetite, ambition and cupidity.
My Lords, I have worked for men, with men, and I have had men working in large numbers for me, in both private enterprise and nationalised industries—and in this sense man embraces woman. During 55 years I have witnessed with sorrow the degration of relations between the men who receive wages and the men who pay them. If one looks analytically at the whole complex of industrial relations one sees that it boils down simply to the fact that the employer wants to get as much work done for as little money as he can afford; the employee wants to get as much money as he can for as little effort as he comfortably and continuously afford. Let me say at once that I am an ardent believer in trade unionism: I think that it is a great pillar of our economic structure. But even essential pillars can become distorted and be subjected to side forces that defeat their original purposes.
There is no doubt that the economic health of any nation depends on the units of monetary value paid for the units of productive effort that are exchanged for them; and anything that disturbs the economic balance more than strikes do I have yet to come across. A strike is the culminating point of a difference of opinion between the man who pays the wages and the men who receive them. In my judgment that disagreement, if it becomes accepted as a major philosophical policy in a community, leads to ill-health; it worries the community, it causes discomfort and diseased conditions all round.
It is to control the development of strikes for vastly increased wages that this Industrial Relations Bill—to me, at any rate—is all about. As I read it, the Bill does not impose any one-sided pressures. It seems to me to bring about, in general, a far better balance of power. A former Minister of Labour said in another place, that "Power is on the shop floor". Those words are absolutely true. But they should, I think, be heard in the context of the old adage, that "Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely."
48 My Lords, I have a distinct feeling that the excessive exercise of shop floor power has begun seriously to corrupt our industrial relations and our economic well-being.
Let me give a practical example. Between the wars the British motor industry flourished exceedingly, gradually building up a great business—with the benefits of growing employment and higher earnings—and increasing export trade. That increase, was based on what is known as the piecework system. If a part had to be machined, or stamped, or press-forged and whatever raw material was changed in size, shape or quality, a price was fixed for doing that operation. The more of those operations the worker carried out, the more he earned. That involved a rate-fixing system; and so long as the relationship between the employer and the employee was good that rate fixing was reasonable. It resulted in increased output and better earnings for the worker; and, incidentally, a better price to the consumer.
But after the 1939–45 war men on the machine shop floor who had been—let us face it—earning very good money indeed making munitions naturally wanted to have the same take-home pay for making motor cars, civil aeroplanes and farm machinery, or any other consumer goods that were then, of course, in great demand. And so the piecework system began to break down because the price per unit had to be set very high to achieve a big take-home wage on a low production rate. There was shortage of raw material, and so there was upset all round. As soon as materials began to get flowing again the piecework prices multiplied by the quantities produced, and the wages became relatively very high indeed. That my Lords, was the start of our post-war inflation. The useful scheme of piecework had to be abandoned and a "leapfrog" system of day rates became inevitable.
My Lords, inflation is nothing new; indeed, it has been going on for dozens of centuries in this and other countries. It is manageable so long as it retains reasonable proportions; but when it becomes a galloping runaway inflation something has to be done about it. I put it to your Lordships that over the last two decades inflation has been stampeding away at a rate that makes the 49 Guadarene swine look like a traffic block on Ludgate Hill. In the early postwar years the demands for wage increases could be expected, understood and contained. When I was Chairman of B.O.A.C. it was quite understood that if an increase of 5 per cent. in wages was needed by the workers, a claim was put in for 10 per cent. We went into negotiation, and cut the claimed figure by half; the workers got the 5 per cent. that they wanted and everybody was quite happy. But of more recent years, claims for 40 per cent., 35 per cent., and other quite impracticable figures have been made. The resulting industrial action, as it is euphemistically called—because it really is industrial inaction—has resulted in massive disruption of service to the public, quite frankly, has given rise to lowering standards of living.
I believe that the accelerated rate of claims and strikes of the past two or three years has been brought about by the alarm of monetary inflation. It was triggered off by devaluation. It fed on the prolonged squeeze, freeze, high taxation, growing unemployment, stagnant production and falling standards of living for many people; and that led to the avalanche of unprecedented wage claims. This Industrial Relations Bill is a well-designed and carefully erected barrier against that avalanche. I think it very important that this Bill should be looked at not in isolation hut as part of a carefully balanced policy. Taken alone, comprehensive as it is in the areas to which it particularly applies, it is only one instrument; a part of a larger system.
It seems clear to me that the recent Budget, last week's change in the bank rate and changes in subsidies and allowances, are all part of an integrated, interlocking policy. This is not "instant government"; it is what we in industry call planning for progress along a critical path—and we all know how very critical that path is to-day. And, in their practical approach to this philosophy, how heartening and emboldening it is to see a still new Government fulfilling their Election pledges!
My Lords, we have heard a great deal in the past about the failures of management. Well, no management is perfect, any more than any other branch of industry is perfect. But I can assure your Lordships from my own experience that 50 management is the most fluid element in industry. If there is any body of men who have less security of long-term employment than the management and executive class, I have not met them. Management can be changed overnight, whereas the bulk of the workers on the shop floor or in the offices are far more static and immobile. I believe that this Bill will go a long way to iron out many of the difficulties that I have described. It has been prepared with great care. Politically, it seems to me to have the great virtue that it is, in broad philosophy, the almost identical twin of the Bill which was presented by the previous Government but which did not get the backing it deserved.
The particular aim of the present Bill is to get better understanding between the shop floor and the management. Long and loud are the railings by disgruntled strikers against the board, the bosses and the executives. Clearly, the strikers do not understand, or are not allowed to understand, that a business cannot live and cannot provide employment and wages unless it gets orders from customers. How often do we hear of a union leader proudly proclaiming that he and his mates have gone out into the market and brought in an order for tens of thousands of pounds worth of the product they make? When do they ever sell? I have never heard of any of them actually generating any business. What I have experienced is the opposite—business being lost through prices being forced up by wage demands backed by threats of strikes.
My Lords, we have severe unemployment on our hands at the moment. My honest belief is that militant labour is creating its own redundancies by pricing its products out of both export and home markets by these trigger-happy strikes. I repeat, inflation starts on the shop floor. In my view, this Bill has deliberately avoided embellishments and coat-trailing gimmickry. Indeed, to my mind an omission is that it does not declaim on bargaining methods. There is a body of opinion in industry that holds that if an offer of a wage rise is rejected, and industrial action ensues, that offer should be withdrawn. Then talks would start afresh from the original square one, so to speak, and not take off from a higher base. But in their wisdom the sponsors of this Bill 51 have not gone into what might be highly controversial details of executive procedures. They appreciate the need for quick adoption of broad principles.
The antipathy that exists in many factories nowadays is illustrated by the wide prevalence of what is known as "ringing." If the workers in a machine shop see a comparative stranger come into the shop—he might be a visitor from headquarters, an efficiency consultant or a time-and-motion study man—they heat on some handy, resonant piece of material with a spanner or such-like, using a repetitive rhythm rather like the V for Victory cadence that was common during the last war. It is to-day an ominous, subversive noise, the sound of war drums through the industrial jungle. It is indicative of the abrogated right of some workers, even when at work, to show their right of rebellion against authority and discipline. Therefore I do not believe that industrial reorganisation can be left to wholly voluntary action. It is not in the nature of the human animal to adhere to loosely drawn understandings, especially when they refer to the fundamentals of making a livelihood. There have already been solemn undertakings to observe certain rules. In the 16 months following the solemn and binding undertaking made after the capitulation of June 18, 1969, there were 6,707 disputes—over 30 per cent. more than during the 16 months preceding that undertaking.
My Lords, in this my first speech I am sure that your Lordships would prefer me to have brief maiden modesty rather than attempt a meandering of marathon proportions. That would be, to my mind, completely out of place when there are so many experienced and more important speakers in this discussion. But I should like to make it abundantly clear, in conclusion, that I earnestly want to see this Industrial Relations Bill become law.
§ 5.3 p.m.
§ LORD WILLIAMSON
My Lords, first, I should like to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Thomas, on his maiden speech. I am very pleased that I am able to do so, because the noble Lord and I were close friends in British industry for many years. We worked together and I think that he and I made some 52 contribution in various fields towards industrial peace and efficiency. I am sure that the House will join me in offering the noble Lord hearty congratulations. We sincerely trust that he will give us the benefit of his great wealth of experience on many occasions in the future.
This Bill originally consisted of 150 clauses and it has reached this House with 160 clauses. After listening to the brilliant and masterly exposition of the Bill by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Donovan, I sincerely hope that some help can he given to ordinary, intelligent trade unionists to understand this massive, complicated and involved Bill. These proposals have raised a storm of protest and opposition on all sides. Because of this, I shall willingly support the Motion for the adjournment of this debate so that another look can be given to many of the clauses. I believe that this Bill intends to put the whole trade union movement in a straitjacket because of the strike-happy actions of a small minority. In 80 per cent. or more of British industry there are harmonious industrial relations, good working agreements and negotiations without stoppages of work and there is no need at all for any intervention by the Government, either in the form of this Bill or in any other way.
I think of all the great British industries which have joint industrial councils under the Act of 1919, industries which have never had a stoppage of work, or at any rate a major stoppage of work, and which in 1971 are to be subjected to a great deal of interference while both sides, trade unionists and employers, are working together with good working agreements and industrial efficiency. The trouble is that a small minority, a small section of industry, has been indulging in unofficial action. I quote the statement in the appendix toIn Place of Strife, which identified the industries where this was taking place in the main as docks, motor vehicles, shipbuilding and ship repairing.
There is absolutely no justification for a massive Bill of this description to cover the whole of British industry. If legislation is necessary or warranted at all, it is legislation not to deal with the exaggerated trade union tyranny of the closed shop or of resentful membership. It is legislation which could be short, sharp and simple, to deal with the outstanding 53 curse of the industrial scene—the unofficial strike. Such a Bill would have been accepted on all sides and would have been law by now. This is the one damaging factor in our affairs and all the rest seem to pale into insignificance. Here then is a lost opportunity to deal effectively with unofficial strikes, very often in breach of contract.
I back the noble and learned Lord, Lord Donovan, in what he said on this question. Where workpeople, whether trade unionists or not, are engaged, it is usually under an agreement, or it is inferred, that there shall be seven days' notice on either side, either for dismissal or when the worker wishes to give up his job. Therefore, where unofficial strikes take place suddenly without notice, I say that that is a clear breach of contract with the employer. Of the days lost through strikes in 1970, 95 per cent. were lost through unofficial strikes. We heard to-day of the number of days that had been lost through strikes, but that figure is not the real one. The only days calculated officially are those that have been lost by strikers. The days lost by the thousands thrown out of work in consequence of strikes is not included in the figure. Therefore, if we have a figure of 10 million days lost, would say that the true figure is more like 20 million days, if all the time lost through the consequences of the strike are taken into consideration.
I will not abuse the privilege of the House, because there is a long list of speakers. I will make only two references to two parts of the Bill. The first is on the closed shop. I was pleased to hear the noble Lord, Lord Rochester, give qualified approval to the closed shop in certain circumstances. The Bill makes heavy weather of the alleged trade union policy of the closed shop. It alleges, by inference, the tyranny of trade unions forcing workers against their will into trade union membership. What justification is there for legislation on that question? There are some 20 million work-people (the noble and learned Lord, Lord Donovan, gave the figures as 26 million), and there are now 91½to 10 million trade unionists. For a hundred years or more trade unions have been following the policy of the closed shop, thereby forcing, so it is alleged, workers into trade unions against their will. My Lords, if after 54 a hundred years of coercion, the trade unions have succeeded only in securing less than 50 per cent. of the workpeople of this country, then I say that the allegation is a myth. The allegation that there is trade union tyranny in regard to the closed shop in this country is a myth, otherwise in the T.U.C. there would be 18, 19 or 20 million trade unionists. Certainly this hullabaloo about the widespread injustice of the closed shop is nothing more than eyewash.
The noble and learned Lord, Lord Donovan, referred to there being too many unions in this country. With this I agree. For many years a criticism of the trade union movement in this country has been that there ought to be a smaller number of unions. Until quite recently there were about 190. Now, due to the T.U.C.'s taking action in suggesting mergers and amalgamations, there are about 130; so that substantial progress has been made to reduce the number of unions. But not enough has been done.
§ LORD DONOVAN
My Lords, may I ask the noble Lord whether his figures are really right? The total number of trade unions is 574: the number of trade unions affiliated to the T.U.C. is 174.
§ LORD WILLIAMSON
I thank the noble and learned Lord for that correction. I should make it clear that the number of unions affiliated to the T.U.C. was 180, and is now down to about 130; so there has been a substantial reduction. The large unions of the country are affiliated to the T.U.C. But many unions outside the T.U.C. are small, and they ought to be able to amalgamate and make larger units.
It is sometimes said in this connection that we ought to follow the German method, and have some 16 unions. If in a factory, or in a particular industry there is one union, it is axiomatic that there must be some method of preventing workpeople in that factory from joining some other union. This Bill provides that any trade unionist may leave his union and join another union. There are many instances in this country of employers having good harmonious relations with one union and they make membership of that union a condition of employment. If this Bill becomes an Act a disruptionist inside that factory will be allowed to suggest to the rest of the workpeople that 55 the union which is making agreements is in the hands of the bosses, and that they ought not to accept an increase of £1 or £2 a week but ought to be going for £10 or £15 a week. Disruptionists can create this incitement, and they have the right under this Bill if it becomes an Act to leave the union; and if they can get a sufficient number of their fellow workers to join they can form another union and have it registered inside that factory, so creating the disharmony that we have been trying to do away with over the years. I regard this as one of the serious aspects of the proposed legislation, and sincerely trust that at this late stage it can be looked at a little more closely.
§ 5.15 p.m.
THE LORD BISHOP OF SOUTHWARK
My Lords, I should like from this Bench to join the previous speakers congratulating the noble Lord, Lord Thomas, on his maiden speech. We are delighted to have him as a Member of this House and to have him speak to us with such brevity and clarity. Brevity and clarity I hope will be my guide as I try to speak to your Lordships.
For some of us who are not in the trade union world or the industrial world this must be one of the most difficult Bills we have ever had before us. Speaking for myself, never have I had to do so much homework or to consult so many people—with or without result is for your Lordships to determine rather than myself. There is a part of me which would like to agree with the Amendment. I should like time for reflection. Yet there is another part of me which says, "Well, the other side"—though here I speak as an Independent and I mean the other side of the House geographically—"were in power for a number of years. Surely there was more than enough time to bring the two sides together and to have produced something then". Whatever one's views may be on that question, one must be a realist. I should have thought that almost certainly, no matter what we may do, the Bill is going to become law. Not only will it become law, but it is most unlikely, as the noble and learned Lord, Lord Donovan, said, that any subsequent Government will completely repeal it. Would it not be wiser to fulfil our 56 function as a revising Chamber, and do our best to improve the Bill so that we shall send it back to the other House a better Bill than it was when it reached us?
Here are the reasons why I find that I can support the Bill. First, my political views are well known to your Lordships. I was not delighted with the result of the last Election. Be that as it may, the electors determined that we should have a Conservative Government and it was quite clear what their mandate was. They had a mandate to do something about trade unions. Secondly, the Opposition, when in power, frankly admitted that the position was serious and that something had to be done. I must say that one of the most difficult exercises in my homework, which I know has been shared by some other noble Lords because they have told me so, is to put side by side the proposals and the Bill, and see exactly how they differ one from the other. They differ on some important points, but I cannot help feeling that there are many more things common than there are opposed. Then another reason is that all of us know that something must be done. Those of your Lordships who have to commute to-day and are faced with difficulties on the railway, those who were faced with problems in the recent electrical work to rule, all know that something has to be done. It is not only that the Government say that something must be done. So do the Opposition; so do most of us.
Another reason why I can support the Bill is that it declares an intention which I should think would be acceptable to most people. Let me explain what I mean. It is declaratory in the same sort of way as the Race Relations Act. That Act makes it perfectly clear that as a country, whether we are Conservatives, Socialists, or whatever we are, we take our stand on race relationships with regard to certain values and priorities, no matter what difficulties we may experience in implementing that Act in some respects. It is a declaration of intent. Similarly, I think that this Bill is declaratory in that it states that certain agreements which are entered into must be respected.
Then I agree with the declared general purposes of the Bill, which seem to me 57 to he quite simple and come under four heads: first, the principle of collective bargaining, freely and responsibly conducted; secondly, the principle of developing and maintaining orderly procedures in industry for the peaceful settlement of disputes by negotiation, with regard to the general interests of the community; thirdly, the principle of free association of workers, independent trade unions and of employers in employers' organisations so organised as to be representative, responsible and effective bodies for regulating the relations between employers and workers; and fourthly, freedom and security for workers, protected by adequate safeguards against unfair industrial practices, whether on the part of employers or others. Those are the four principal purposes and, in so far as they are principal purposes, I should have thought that most of us could agree with them.
Why then are they opposed? This is where I have a good deal of sympathy with what has been said by noble Lords on the other side of the House, and I hope that the Government, perhaps reflecting upon this debate, will take into consideration these points that will help to improve the Bill as a result. The first matter relates to the old people. I am thinking of those trade unionists whom I meet in South London, who are often the people who help absolutely to maintain the very framework of our society; faithful men, but men who have very long memories.
We have been reminded of the history of trade unionism. We have a great deal to live down in this country, not merely in the recent past but in the more distant past. Our trade unionists, perhaps like some of us in your Lordships' House, can remember the pre-war miners and pre-war railwaymen, to say nothing of the shipyard workers in Jarrow. It is easy for us to become irritated with people who are always harking back to those days, but I am sure that those fears are still very real to an older generation. However unfair we may think their judgment may be, they really feel that this Bill is an attempt to "clobber" the unions. That is something that we must face, and I hope we can remove those suspicions, perhaps by certain improvements that we can make to the Bill during the Committee stage.
58 Then there are other trade unionists, certainly of the younger generation as well as the old one, who think that this Bill seems to attach too much blame to them and too little to management. That may be just a wrong reading of the Bill —I do not know—but it is a very real grievance: that the managers get away too easily, whereas they are held too much responsible for what occurs. There are others who wonder whether these legal penalties really will help. Once one goes to the court, is it not possible that the position will get worse? One has only to envisage the collection of damages from the funds of a trade union, or the possible gaoling of a trade union leader, to see how easily an explosion could be sparked off.
Another criticism of the Bill, which from my experience is perhaps the one most widely shared, is the misunderstanding with regard to what is meant by a legally binding collective agreement. I must say that, with my lack of technical knowledge, I find it difficult to know exactly what is implied by that. I hope that the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack will be able to clear up this point for most of us who have not quite the expert knowledge that others have. Am I right in thinking that what these clauses do is merely to introduce a legal presumption that a contract is binding unless it says otherwise? As every union will insist, I assume, on writing such an escape clause into the agreement as the price of signing, then this section of the Bill would seem to be to be almost meaningless. It would appear to be little more than a political gesture. For, if I understand it aright, as things stand, even to-day there is nothing to stop unions and individual employers from signing legally binding agreements, although they seldom do. It is not the law that stops them; it is just that they do not want binding deals. Those, I believe, are the main difficulties that occur in the minds of the critics, some of whom are really friendly critics and want to see an improvement.
I pass from those criticisms to what I hope will be helpful suggestions in regard to improvements. First, I should like the Bill, in its amended form, to attach a greater importance to voluntarism. I want it more obviously to encourage voluntarism. British trade unions and 59 employers do not have ideological objection to each other, however much they differ on practical issues. They accept each other as equals in negotiation, and respect each other's right to exist, realising of course that they seek their own interests in industry. They accept that, saving their autonomy in the right to strike or the refusal to employ, they can, through collective negotiation, agree on wages, hours and conditions which are mutually satisfactory. On this basis they ought to be able to build up a fully integrated system of organisation and agreements from shop floor to national level so that matters can be dealt with at the required level.
That is why I hope the Government will perhaps look again at that part of the Donovan Report which emphasises the need for discussion concerning the improvement of voluntarism. The only way to improve industrial relations ultimately, surely, in any industry is by strong organisation for collective bargaining based on mutual trust and extending to all matters about which the parties wish to negotiate. Once we part from voluntarism and place our trust in legal sanctions, one is moved to doubt how far the very complicated legal framework of this Bill will serve to stop or deal with the spontaneous disputes which arise on the factory floor and which trigger off so many strikes. The remedy, surely, is for better communications between management and men. Secondly, what is important, surely, is a greater influence on the development of more coherent factory-based agreements. What the Bill seems to ignore is the dramatic change that has taken place in the distribution of bargaining power in favour of bargaining units based on the plant or work place.
Then, thirdly—and this has come out already more than once in the debate this afternoon—the Government should have another look at the closed shop. Much has been said about the reality of making union membership a condition of employment. Much of it has been adverse criticism, but surely there are two sides to the question. Even if a man has to pay the equivalent to union dues, a non-union man gets the benefits without sharing in the responsibility of making the sacrifices which union member 60 ship entails. In so many walks of life we have a closed shop. Many of us here, I am sure, have organisations and clubs to which we belong which are closed shops.
Speaking from these Benches, I may say that no clergyman may officiate in my diocese unless he joins a closed shop; in short, he has to have a licence or the equivalent. If you were to go to a man who did not have one and were married by him, then your marriage would, presumably, be declared null and void, because he would have had no right to officiate. We in the Church are accustomed to a closed shop, and a great many professions and industries have the equivalent. I think that this has become rather a bogey. While I have tried very hard to understand the opposition to the closed shop, and have tried to read all that has been put forward by the Government, I think it is a subject which it might be well to look at, because I hope that this debate, and the debate in the other place and, with humility, perhaps what I have said to-day, will, to use ecclesiastical terms, help to exorcise this ghost from our thinking.
Fourthly, the Government would have less difficulty in persuading the trade unions to accept the Bill if they had not abolished the Prices and Incomes Board and the Consumer Council. That was a most inept action. Surely the Board and the Council needed to be strengthened, not abolished.
The passing of the Bill is, in my judgment, certain. Therefore the right approach is to accept it and improve it during our Committee stage; to look at each clause and say, "Will this clause, and this clause, help to bring about reconciliation?". It should not be done in the spirit of Party politics, but of a constructive approach to see what we can do to bring about an improvement. I cannot help feeling, especially as I agree so wholeheartedly with the noble and learned Lord, Lord Donovan, that no matter what Government may come in the future, this Bill will never be wholly repealed; that we shall look back upon all the rows and furies of this present dispute in much the same way as we look back upon the rows and disputes of the Peerage Act some years ago, when some people thought it threatened the Constitution. Now we wonder what all 61 the fuss was about. It will be much the same with regard to this Bill in ten years' time. It is going to pass; we shall all ultimately accept it, and as the years go by I hope it will be greatly improved.
I hope it will pass, with improvements, for two reasons. First, I am well aware of what has been said about the divisions in the country. That this Bill may be divisive is possible. It is also true that there is a division in this country between trade unionists and those who are not trade unionists which is getting deeper. One had only to go about, as we all did, at the time of the recent strikes, and now there are the present difficulties with regard to transport, to know how bitter people can become. It is a tragedy if a division of that sort should deepen in our country. The second reason is that when I first became interested in politics and studied Marx, I found he was so clear that social democracy could never work. He said that class interests, on all sides, will always be such that together we should join in digging our graves and we should lay social democracy to rest. I believe we are faced at this time—and I do not want to be in the least dramatic about it—with a really serious challenge to our whole way of living. I hope that, granted our rightful differences of opinion and the right to fight these fiercely, one against another, yet together we shall try to combine to work for something which will safeguard our democracy and give to our industrial workers, and to management, a fair Bill.
§ 5.35 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT BLAKENHAM
My Lords, my noble friend Lord Amory has kindly agreed that I should intervene in the debate at this time, and I am hoping that he will be speaking to your Lordships to-morrow. We agree with what the right reverend Prelate, the Bishop of Southwark, has said, and with what was pointed out by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Donovan, that every thinking person in this country knows that something has to be done about industrial relations. Mr. Wilson and Mrs. Castle recognised that, and I think it was with very real regret that they were forced to abandon their own proposals, which in some ways were more punitive than proposals contained in this Bill. They had to abandon them because of the pressure 62 that the trade unions brought to bear on the Parliamentary Labour Party.
The noble Lord, Lord Williamson, made the point very strongly that there are those who want to see something done about industrial relations, those who know that something must be done; and there are the militants, who wish to destroy our existing institutions, and build anew from the wreckage of the foundations. I was interested in the point that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Donovan, made, and I hope your Lordships noted it. He felt that, despite certain criticisms of the Bill, those who would feel the effect of it would be the militants. So it was something of a tragedy that the opposition to this Bill in another place was often so hypocritical. We all know that much valuable time has been lost in purely doctrinaire argument and sheer obstruction. How different was the attitude of the noble Lord, Lord Delacourt-Smith, who made it clear right at the beginning of his speech that so far as this noble House was concerned he wished to see neither obstruction nor filibustering. So it has been left to your Lordships' House to give this Bill the cool, critical and unbiased examination which it should have received in another place. I am sure that the calmer atmosphere of this House will prevail. Great credit should be given to the noble Lord, Lord Delacourt-Smith, for the well-reasoned, reasonable and persuasive tone of the speech he gave to the House.
I agree with the right reverend Prelate that there has been much talk about this being a Bill to "clobber" the unions. In our debate last November, both the noble Lords, Lord Brown, and Lord Byers, went out of their way to say that they considered that this was not a "union-bashing" Bill. I am sure we all agree with that. If I remember correctly, my noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor in winding up our debate last November gave perhaps rather scant justice to what I thought was a helpful speech from the noble Lord, Lord Brown, who opened from the Front Bench in that debate. The truth is that much of the Bill is designed to strengthen official trade union leadership and, at the same time, place heavy further responsibilities on employers, chiefly on dismissals procedure and in the duty to provide more detailed 63 information to their workpeople concerning the financial position of the individual business.
The noble Lord, Lord Thomas, in his excellent maiden speech, said that he felt there was little chance of our industrial relations system or set-up being improved voluntarily at this stage. I personally regret that I believe what he said is right: because the sad truth is that the trade union movement has missed the opportunity which has long been open to it to modernise its structure. I made this point when I spoke in this House in November. But I must repeat it because few people seem to remember that in 1962 the Trades Union Congress General Council never acted on their Congress resolution of that year when they were asked:to examine and report on the possibility of reorganising the structure of both the T.U.C. and the British trade union movement, with a view to making it better fitted to meet modern industrial conditions".The noble Lord, Lord Douglass of Cleveland, will remember that resolution, I know. Unfortunately no action was taken on it. No report ever came back to Congress, and I am afraid that as a result the chance of voluntary reform within the union movement was lost.
§ LORD DOUGLASS OF CLEVELAND
My Lords, if I may interrupt the noble Viscount I would say that quite a lot of action was taken. The General Council had a number of meetings in order to get the structure of trade unions modified and the number of unions reduced. As my noble friend Lord Williamson pointed out, this was actually done. If it was not done with waving of flags, that does not alter the fact that it was done.
§ VISCOUNT BLAKENHAM
My Lords, I know the constructive attitude that the noble Lord, Lord Douglass of Cleveland, has always taken on this question. But the truth is that a report never went back to Congress. Only certain isolated action was taken within the T.U.C. General Council itself.
Again, none of us argues about the fact that to-day we have this highly dangerous position. It was no use the noble Lord, Lord Delacourt-Smith, trying 64 to argue against this in very persuasive tones. Quite frankly, we are losing more days, we have lost more days through unofficial strikes last year, than has ever been known in our history. This is not a tolerable position for a great trading nation such as ours. Therefore there is this urgent need for action now.
I notice that one of the criticisms of the noble Lord, Lord Delacourt-Smith, was that Her Majesty's Government are copying in this Bill many of the labour laws of the United States where, it is true, strike figures normally compare unfavourably with our own. But I do not think this accusation, if I may say so with respect to the noble Lord, Lord Delacourt-Smith, is quite fair, because of the modifications that are being made in the British proposals. I will give your Lordships three examples of this. First, in America labour contract interpretation is in the hands of judges who are not necessarily specialists in industrial relations, whereas under this Bill, as your Lordships know, a specialised tribunal, the National Industrial Relations Court, will in fact be set up. That is the first difference.
The second difference is that in the United States the law imposes an 80-day cooling-off period where a strike endangers national health or safety. This Bill provides for a 60-day cooling-off period, but we have a broader application of it; namely, where the stoppage may be grievously injurious to the national economy or where there is a serious risk of public disorder. This broader application is quite definitely an improvement on the American procedure.
Thirdly, and perhaps most important, there is a difference also in the provision of the ballot. Here I am sure Her Majesty's Government's proposals are right and are a great improvement on the U.S.A. procedure. In America a ballot is required automatically as part of the cooling-off period, whereas in this country it is proposed that a ballot may be called for at the discretion of the Secretary of State, but it has to be approved and agreed by the Industrial Relations Court itself. I am sure that the rigid application of a ballot as we have seen in America has been a real weakness in their system. I am told that the impact of the ballot in the United States has, if 65 anything, hotted up the dispute rather than cooled it down, and automatically workers have always voted to support their union leadership. So I am glad that there are these differences, and I think that what I have said meets some of the points made by the noble Lord, Lord Delacourt-Smith.
We have heard of the threats by some trade union leaders that they will endeavour to boycott the Bill when it becomes law. Again, I think the wise advice of the noble and learned Lord. Lord Donovan, and also that of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Southwark, should be considered. How foolish to boycott when in fact their best interests will be served by co-operation! And, in any event, to endeavour to thwart a law for which an Election mandate was granted less than a year ago is not a democratic way of proceeding. I do not think the unions have any more right than any other section of the community to put themselves above the law.
The Labour Party itself must also, surely, think carefully about how they act once this Bill becomes law. In the emotional atmosphere of to-day there is, I understand, talk of repealing this Bill when the Labour Party are returned one day to power. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Donovan. I do not believe this for one second. Nothing is going to persuade me to believe that the Labour Party would not be forced in the national interest to replace this Bill with something not dissimilar. Therefore, how much more sensible to learn lessons from the successes or failures of the various ingredients embodied in this measure! Surely it is only common sense to watch and see how all this works out over a period of years. Nobody has claimed that this Bill is going suddenly to produce some short-term spectacular successes. By all means therefore, I suggest to your Lordships, improve where necessary; but it must be wise for the Opposition, if they ever come back to power, to amend through experience and not through prejudice.
I spent three and a half years as Minister of Labour, and during that time I became more and more aware of the difficulties which trade union leaders have to contend with. I remember that in those days I saw a great deal of the noble Lord, Lord Douglass of Cleveland, 66 the noble Lord, Lord Williamson, who has just spoken, and the noble Lord, Lord Cooper of Stockton Heath, who are all in the House this afternoon. I had great sympathy for them in many of the real difficulties they had to face. In all too many cases, not through the fault of the leaders, leadership came from behind and not from the front. All too often it was these militant shop stewards about whom we have spoken, and not the officials of the union concerned, who dictated policy. Here, management must take some share of the blame for not stimulating better relations with their workpeople in the individual factories concerned. Where they have done so (and Lord Williamson has already made this point) there has generally been far less trouble than has occurred where no action has been taken.
The truth is, unfortunately, that all too many of the strikes we have seen over the last years have been in breach of contracts entered into by the unions. And, alas, many of these strikes have been against the public interest and have greatly damaged our economy. I think this Bill will establish what in the public interest are the basic rights and matching obligations of employers and trade unions. Above all, the new machinery to be set up has one main purpose in mind, and that is to encourage a stable and effective collective bargaining without Government interference. This of course must strengthen official union leadership.
In ending, I should like to say just one or two words to my trade union friends. First, if the General Council of the T.U.C. is to speak with real authority, individual unions must be prepared to delegate some of their present powers to the Council. First George Woodcock and now Vic Feather have both struggled—and in my opinion have struggled valiantly in their time—to get the General Council to speak with one voice; but all too often they failed because individual unions have reserved their right to act unilaterally and not support the collective view of the General Council. Only recently we have had the most misguided examples of the one-day strikes, where certain unions acted quite contrary to the policy of the General Council, and indeed now of the Trades Union Congress itself. This failure to preserve unity is in my opinion a danger to the trade union 67 movement as a whole, and the unions will continue to fail to attract public support and respect—which I think they deserve—until they can show that they are prepared, as individual unions, to act together.
Secondly, I would say this. Surely the time has come when individual trade union leaders and their officials, right down the line, should be entitled to a proper wage. It would be interesting to know what the rise in the wage of the average trade union member has been over the last twenty years and to compare it with the salaries of the officials of the unions who have been largely responsible for securing extra benefits for the individual members of the union. The fact that most union officials are grossly underpaid in relation to their very great responsibilities. More effort should be made to recruit bright young men and women, from the universities and elsewhere; and union members should not expect their movement to be run on the cheap. I am not suggesting that there should be the sort of level of salaries that are paid, I understand, to many union officials in the United States of America: what I am saying is that a trade union official to-day has a right to a salary which will permit him to give his wife and family a reasonable security and a decent standard of living.
My Lords, I support this Bill because I believe that Robert Carr, for whom I have a deep admiration, has produced a measure which, to use his own words, is "fair and reasonable" to all whom it will affect. Therefore, although there are many improvements that must be made before this Bill becomes law, I congratulate the Government on their courage and determination in pressing ahead with a measure which they are convinced, and I am convinced, can do much to revitalise our future.
§ 5.54 p.m.
§ LORD SOPER
My Lords, may I first felicitate the noble Lord, Lord Thomas, on his maiden speech. If his ideas of original sin went rather further than is required, I am sure he indicated his fellowship of controversy in your Lordships' House, and we shall listen to him with interest when he speaks again.
In a controversial matter of this kind it is a great advantage if a speaker can 68 polarise his attitude and can see things in black and white. Any speaker at a temperance rally who regards alcohol as the devil in solution gets off to a splendid start, and I wish in one way I could regard this Bill as the devil in statute form. But, unfortunately, I have two difficulties in this regard. The first is that, as your Lordships have already heard from many speakers, there is ample need for a readjustment and reappraisal of, and indeed an improvement in, industrial relations. That is beyond question. Furthermore, there is ample evidence, at least in the approach to this Bill of those who have endeavoured in various ways to meet these needs, to secure these reappraisals and to secure these improvements.
The other affliction to my wholeheartedness is that I have a certain unease at the somewhat synthetic indignation of some members of my own Party at this Bill when, although there are manifest differences between it and that which was in the pipeline of the previous Government. there are also manifest matters on which the two are congruent. Therefore I repaired myself to the Bill itself. and it is rather on some kind of an inquiry into the Bill and an attempt to understand it that I find myself wholeheartedly opposed to it and equally wholeheartedly in support of the Motion standing in the name of my noble friend Lord Delacourt-Smith.
In the first instance, having read the Bill continuously and assiduously. I find it a most complicated and difficult document, and it is no surprise to me that the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, says that it has been widely misunderstood. Of course it has. In many cases it is inconceivably complex, and when the noble and learned Lord, Lord Donovan, points out obvious mistakes in its drafting, which apparently the Government have not already seen, it persuades me that there must be a great deal more in it that is obscure. In any case it is such a labyrinth of legal and other matters that I speculate that if we in the Methodist Church endeavoured to arrange our ecclesiastical affairs on the basis of such a document the Kingdom of Heaven would be indefinitely postponed.
My Lords, as it is, this is no Bill which can either find acceptance or understanding among the vast majority of 69 people who will be required, if it goes into law, to seek to operate it, or indeed to contract out of it. But I do not believe that it is capable of suitable amendment, for reasons which lie beneath the individual clauses of the Bill. I do not believe that there is such a thing as a good curate's egg, for whatever ecclesiastical benediction you have on an egg that is partially bad, in principle it is inedible; and I believe that this Bill, although it contains certain admirable concepts and quite trustworthy attempts to secure better treatment both for employer and for labourer within the framework of industrial relations, in fact is corrupted at its source. It is corrupted, in my judgment, because it transfers the entire voluntary system away from an arrangement by which that "voluntarism" is supported by legislation. to a principle in which, as it says, legislative activities form the main framework of the Bill itself. I believe that that is bad, and it somewhat surprises me that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Donovan, did not in fact point out how resolutely—and he will correct me if I am in error—his Royal Commission was opposed to this total transfer. I believe that there is an innate inability to work a principle of legality within the framework of industrial relations, for reasons which I will postpone for a moment but will come back to later.
In the second place, having read the Bill with considerable care, although I do not believe that it is a wholehearted and malevolent attempt to "clobber" the unions, yet I find on page after page that the emphasis is against the unions. The main emphasis is still a residual legatee of that principle by which it is assumed that on general terms the employer is right, and that on general terms he is wise to regard the other side with suspicion. For instance, in the collective arrangements for bargaining, I am quite sure that the closed shop is in fact a necessary part of any system which will work in present day industrial relations. That closed shop is eroded and the curious creature called the "agency shop" is assumed to take its place. I do not believe it can.
Again, on the question of unfair industrial practices, they are spelled out with great care in the matter of the worker 70 and what he will not be able to do unless he comes within the framework of legal penalties; but there is nothing on the other side as to the innumerable unfair practices that an employer can operate, short of dismissal.
Finally, it seems to me that in the whole area of organisation this Bill will encourage the "scab" union. I am no trade unionist, and I do not even belong to as close a society as my ecclesiastical friends across this Chamber. Nevertheless, I am perfectly well persuaded that, on balance, although this is not a Bill to "clobber" the unions it is a Bill which affects them as if they are the supposed culprits and it is for them to behave, in that admirable proposition of the late General Eisenhower, who once said, "If only the Russians would behave themselves what a happy world it would be!", which is asimplisteover-simplification and certainly not true.
The reasons for which ultimately I believe this Bill is unacceptable go a lot deeper. I was not particularly impressed with the great rally three or four Sundays ago. I was in the middle of it. I thought there was a great deal of enthusiasm, and that a great deal more heat than light was generated. What impresses me is that some of my most respected friends, those whom I trust, are resolutely and implacably hostile to this Bill. I have tried to ask myself why, because I am sure they are reasonable people and not merely victims of prejudice. I think that the explanation—and this has ultimately changed my mind from a certain flaccidity in this matter to resolution—is that the reason behind this Bill goes deeper into the very roots of the political situation and the social situation which we have inherited and which still persists with us.
How interested I was when the noble and learned Lord, Lord Donovan, remarked upon the suspicion that working people have of the law! They have that suspicion of the law because, under a capitalist system, whatever changes are made in the law, the presumption will always be that it will be in the interests of those who possess rather than those who do not. I make this witness. I am a Socialist and I see no reason why, in a debate like this, I should not confess it or declare it. I believe that the political background of this Bill is a capitalist 71 background, and I remind myself, and dare remind your Lordships, that we are presently thinking of a Bill which emphasises individual liberty; and over against it the trade unions believe in collective solidarity. And why? Because they have not much use as individuals for the so-called virtues of liberty; they have not enjoyed them; they cannot make much use of them. Their only strength lies in their collective ability to scaffold and buttress their individual feebleness by the majority vote or corporate activity.
These are precious things that belong to the trade union movement, and I see that it is precisely for these reasons that some of my friends in the trade unions have taken this resolute attitude of implacable hatred of this Bill. I believe they are right, and I confess my conviction that ultimately this Bill cannot contribute to peace in industry, because politically it is rooted in a system that needs to be replaced. It is for that reason that I support the Motion. I support it, of course, practically, because this Bill at the moment is a "shambles". It has not been properly discussed, and many clauses have not been discussed at all, I think there ought to be much mole time for discussion, for instance, of some of the matters raised by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Southwark. I am quite sure that there is ample opportunity for accommodation in some of the matters, provided that that accommodation does not come within the framework of the Bill but obeys the second part of this Motion, that we adjourn the matter in order that we may turn again to the possibilities of such voluntary agreements, buttressed in places by legislation, as will bring together those who in the present state of society are manifestly at loggerheads, to their own discredit, in some cases to their own disadvantage, and to the disadvantage of the community in general.
Lastly, I do not subscribe to the inevitability of this Bill becoming law. I believe in miracles, and if a miracle is that which creates faith, I would endeavour to create a little faith in this House now that if we obey the proposition of this Motion we are serving the best interests of the community, and not jeopardising or sabotaging the true 72 interests of those who are responsible for this Bill.
§ 6.5 p.m.
§ LORD REDCLIFFE-MAUD
My Lords, I rise as a Cross-Bencher and my first and simple task is to say how delighted we all were by the breezy introduction of the noble Lord, Lord Thomas, into our debates. We shall hope to hear him speaking very often from his wide experience. That is an easy thing for a Cross-Bencher to do. Nor is it too difficult a thing for a Cross-Bencher to intervene in a matter which transcends the normal Party lines of division, such as capital punishment or even local government reform. But it is a rather different question for a Cross-Bencher when the matter before the House is something which so deeply divides the Parties and indeed the country as that which we have before us to-day. We Cross-Benchers must ask ourselves whether we should heed the rather abrasive comment of a noble Lord last July in the debate on the Queen's Speech, who asked what should the House think of those Memberswho skulk on the Cross-Benches, only to dart out from the ivory tower to deliver themselves of crassly partisan political nonsense, shyly wrapped in the white garments of a neutral vestal virgin.I asked that question before coming into this Chamber and I answered it quite emphatically: I was not going to be deterred by that kind of warning, however ill-informed though well-meaning a Cross-Bencher I might be, from saying something in this historic debate. If I still had any doubts they were completely dispersed by the astonishing speech which another Cross-Bencher, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Donovan, delighted us with some time ago. Here was a perfect example, it seemed to me, of the rightness of my own conclusion: that independence of Party political attachment does not require neutrality on great political questions. It certainly is a complex Bill; but I must admit, though I am not a lawyer and I dislike legal language, that in giving this Bill my own personal second reading I found it astonishingly light reading. Many have criticised its language and I should not of course myself like to explain it to anyone else. But I was left at the end with a very clear impression of what it 73 was trying to do; and what it was trying to do, it seemed to me, was to extend the rule of law—to extend the rule of law which in my history books goes back to 1215 and Magna Charta, when at last our ancestors were able to find some protection from their stronger neighbour and from the Government.
Over the last 750 years the rule of law has, in my opinion, most beneficently been extended not only to protect us from arbitrary power but as a positive help to generate good things: the Education Acts of 1870 and 1944, giving children through a Statute the chance of education, the Labour Exchange Act of 1909, and many others. The Statute Book since 1215 has many examples of a bold breakout into new country, efforts to adapt the law so that it became an instrument whereby neighbours could better serve each other and men of different types live rather more easily in harmony. As I read the Bill, its intention is precisely that: to make it rather more likely that the rights and duties of men at work will be reconciled with the rights and duties of their fellow citizens. This, surely, is something that everyone in the House can willingly support.
And as this Bill comes to us with the sanction of a majority in another place, it seems to me that we could not easily throw it out even if all the things the noble Lord, Lord Soper, said against it were true. We cannot throw it out. But if ever the House of Lords had a chance of proving its value as part of the Legislature, surely it has it to-day and to-morrow and at the later stages in considering this Bill. When I last counted there were 111 clauses that had not been debated in another place. Even if that were not so, after hearing the speech of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Donovan, there is every possible reason for us to believe that we could, and must, improve the Bill. I greatly hope that is what the House will succeed in doing.
There are two conditions of success. First, that Her Majesty's Government will listen with intelligence and sympathy to what is said constructively from the other side. The speech of the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, made me hopeful that that would be their attitude. Secondly, that those representing Her Majesty's Opposition will address themselves to the improvement of the Bill in the same con- 74 structive way as the noble Lord, Lord Delacourt-Smith, with the one aim of making it more like the sort of measure that it ought to be.
§ 6.12 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT WATKINSON
My Lords, I support this Bill, but rather as one who stands outside it, and certainly not with any pride of authorship in it. Therefore, perhaps it is easier for me to say that this measure, complicated as we all agree, and controversial and highly contested in another place, has become for many of us much more than the sum of its parts. I think we would all agree that it is a kind of watershed in industrial relations, something which perhaps one never envisaged when I was in the Ministry of Labour many years ago. Yet the point I want to make is that because of this fact perhaps its importance has been overinflated and somewhat misrepresented. I think argument about it in the country in particular has been elevated at times to a point when some might really fear, or pretend to fear, that we are about to witness a kind of bloody revolution in the day-to-day conduct of industrial relations between management and employees on the shop floors of Britain. Frankly, I do not think we are going to witness anything of the sort, because, on the whole, the good sense of the people involved will triumph over even these sort of problems.
I must say I was much encouraged by the approach to this matter of the noble Lord, Lord Delacourt-Smith, when he moved his Motion—I think it is a Motion now, not an Amendment. I should like to say in regard to that Motion, that to ask for delay now is not a realistic thing to do. Just on the noble Lord's point about lack of consultation and all the rest, whatever one may say about that document calledFair Deal at Work—I read it very carefully at the time and I have read it since—I think it set out plainly and clearly what the Conservative Party intended to do if they won the Election.
Why nobody took very much notice of it was that nobody conceived at that point that the Government would have the courage to legislate on the basis of this document if they were returned to power. That is perhaps one of the reasons why there was inadequate discussion and consideration of what was 75 there set down. There is not any doubt (and I think we ought to take account of it in your Lordships' House) that the reform of industrial relations was clearly a very important part of the Government's programme at the last Election. I think it is equally fair to say that there is still a large and unfulfilled expectation in the country, and I suspect a majority view—rightly or wrongly, I am not arguing about that—that industrial relations need reforming and should be reformed.
As one who, I hope, has always supported the trade unions since I was first really taught about them many years ago under a great Minister of Labour, and a great Permanent Secretary in those days, and as one who came under the tutelage of another great man, Mr. Arthur Deakin, and others, and learned about the hard facts of industrial life, I find it very sad that almost every time I open a newspaper now I see the whole fabric of British industrial relations is represented as "erupting" and being "bitter" and all the rest of it. It is very sad; but one has to take account of the influence that this has on the ordinary people in this country, and I think that influence has been deep.
I raise this point because the Motion in front of us is really to withdraw this Bill, and I want to put it to your Lordships that this is a somewhat academic argument. The Government, as I see it—and as I have said before, I played no part in this measure in any way—are committed to passing this Bill. They have a clear mandate for it. I do not believe the Government would have a shred of authority left if they now withdraw the Bill, or indeed modified it in any very material way. I think that is a plain statement of fact. Therefore, may I address my remarks shortly to what, if anything, your Lordships' House might do in this whole complex and difficult matter.
I think the noble and learned Lord, Lord Donovan, with his great experience, has made it plain to us this afternoon how extremely complicated this Bill is and how much work there is probably to be done on it to refine it and to try to make it as understandable as possible. I think that this House is the right place to perform that task. We have wider 76 experience here; we have almost every kind of experience, from the shop floor, management, politics, the law and from the church. I would suggest that it is our responsibility to try to see that a Bill which is certain to become an Act is as workable a proposition as we can present to the nation.
After all, what is the situation against which it is set? Whether we have more strikes than other countries is irrelevant. We have clearly too many strikes for a nation that is still fighting for its economic life, and whose customers abroad would rather like to have their goods delivered when they want them and not when we think they should have them. Nor am I with those apologists who claim that our industrial relations are still the best in the world. I think in some ways they are. But would anyone in your Lordships' House stand up to-day and say that the total deployment of our human resources is the best we could manage, is the most effective or perhaps even the most human that we could achieve? I do not think anybody can maintain that principle; and if they cannot, then, despite what the noble Lord, Lord Soper, said, reform is necessary and inevitable.
Therefore, is it not our primary responsibility to try to make this Bill as workable an instrument as we can? This is not the place to go into great detail, but I hope that my noble friends on the Government Front Bench will have listened carefully to what the noble and learned Lord, Lord Donovan, said. Perhaps I may also express some of the difficulties in my own company, where we have a number of closed shops. We can manage under the pre-entry shop, and we have looked very carefully at it.
On the whole, I am not sure that we should not like the Government to go a little further towards the post-entry closed shop. They have conceded the principle now in a very limited form, and if they felt they could broaden this out a little more it would do no great damage to the Bill. It might ease some difficult friction points, because I agree with the noble and learned Lord, Lord Donovan, that in the end this Bill is going to stand or fall on its human relations. It is not going to work any miracles. I do not think the Government have ever said that 77 it would. The day the Bill is law is not somehow going to be a quite different day in industry from the one that went before. We shall still have the same problems, and we shall still be the same people facing one another and trying to work together. So this is not an argument that in any way imputes that this Bill is not necessary. As I said, I believe it is inevitable, and the sooner it becomes law and the sooner we can get on and cope with it, the better.
Equally, I do not believe many noble Lords here could challenge the necessity for the Bill. Most of them would feel that we in this House have a duty to try to make it as workable as we can, and I am sure that my noble friends on the Front Bench will listen carefully to points made, from wherever in this House they come, in this debate. If we can strip the subject of some of its emotion, if we can get this rather more balanced consideration, then surely we can make it rather easier for trade unions and for management to cope with this new framework, when it comes to them with all the force of law and the backing of Parliament. Frankly, that is what I am interested in, because I am on the receiving end, as are some other noble Lords. The policy for my own company, with the 30,000 people who work with us, is to try to do all we can now to make this Bill completely unnecessary; and I am glad to hear that Mr. Jack Jones is trying to do the same. I agree with my noble friend Lord Drumalbyn that if that is what we are doing, it is presumably what the Government wanted us to do. So the Bill is already beginning to work as one hoped it would.
But there is one matter here to which I should like to refer. I think the noble Lord, Lord Soper, said that although this is not a "union bashing" Bill it still seems to be aimed rather more at unions than at management. Many noble Lords may take a different view when they see the code of industrial relations practice, because I suspect that that code will bear very hard on management—and so it should, because many bad industrial relations are the fault of management. I hope that the Government will speed up their consultations on this matter and bring the code forward as quickly as is humanly possible. I know that they will want to have full consultations, and I 78 very much hope that they will, because that will make the total understanding of the Bill by those who have to work it much plainer and much more acceptable. I am assuming that the code of industrial relations practice will be very mandatory on management, and I hope that it will. So far as my company is concerned, all I can say is that we will still try to be ahead of the code if we possibly can. But we should like to see it and know what it asks us to do, and then the Bill will be a total package, instead of per-haps a slightly one-sided one as it is, quite inevitably, at the moment.
This will be a long debate, and those of us who come now should not stand in the way of those who have still to come. But may I sum up by saying that I still think this measure is going to become the law of the land and, hopefully, we may do something to improve it here. I believe that in the course of these debates our primary responsibility is to try to give it a chance of working as its authors hoped it would work: to improve the general pattern of relationships, and to try to put a spur on both management and trade unions to take their jobs more seriously.
If I may add my support to the point made by my noble friend Lord Blakenham—it is not really relevant to the Bill—I certainly hope that one of the things which will come out of the greater professionalism that will follow the passing and implementation of this Bill is that the management of the trade unions will get the sort of conditions and pay that they have long deserved and have never yet had. That is not being polite to the trade unions. One has only to study the management pattern—and one could go to the British Institute of Management and ask them to do a study—to find that, in simple terms, the present union leadership are not paid a due reward for the responsibilities they bear. Strangely enough, I think this will be easier to achieve when this Bill becomes an Act, when we have this greater professionalism.
But the main point I want to reiterate, if it is not too pretentious a statement to make, is that I believe it is the sense of the nation that your Lordships' House should try to turn this Bill into an Act that will do what I believe the majority of the nation wants; that is, to see a greater professionalism, a higher standard 79 of behaviourism and, in total, a better deployment of our human relationships, not for the sake of the Government but for the better job satisfaction of all of us who have to work in industry to-day.
§ 6.25 p.m.
§ LORD BROWN
My Lords, this is a bad Bill—not in all its parts, but bad because it will not work. I submit that it will not work because those who sired it and their advisers have failed to recognise the real causes of wage inflation. Let us be in no doubt, though few have mentioned it, that the fundamental purpose of this Bill is to tackle wage inflation—at any rate, I hope so. Everybody will agree that one does not prescribe a dangerous drug for a disease which has not been properly diagnosed, yet that is exactly what the Government are doing. They are prescribing drastic treatment for a problem which they think they have identified, but which I do not think they have. If fact, they have fallen into the same trap as other Administrations before them.
The reason for this lies in economic and political dogma which has coloured the thinking of various Governments since Keynes. The world has changed, yet Keynes's theories on how it should be managed still apply. Even 2,000-year old religions are taking note of modern problems and requirements, but not modern economic theory. Government after Government have been relying, almost blindly, on the cures and the placebos prescribed by their economic advisers. These 20th century sages remind me of semi-extinct volcanoes: they produce smoke from time to time, but very little lava. Whatever their particular beliefs, they have come up time and again with the same answers to this problem. Their answers have not solved the problems, and yet they go on presenting them just the same and fail to produce any fresh ideas to solve this great problem of inflation.
Most of them continue to assume that the cost of labour is a function of the level of demand for labour, as though wages and salaries behaved, pricewise, like a commodity on the market. They seem to be incapable of accepting that wage inflation stems mainly from a growing number of trade unions which to-day exercise almost uninhibited power. They 80 cling to the notion that wages and salaries ought to be the result of quite uncoordinated individual bargains between different groups of employers and trade unions or shop stewards, and all at different times. This Bill is based on precisely that thinking. The Government's economic advisers, like other sane people, must surely desire to see the importance of individuals' work reflected in the level of the wages or salaries which they earn. That is surely axiomatic. But they cling to the idea of employee/employer bargained wages which is now producing a situation where ever higher earnings go to the powerful, and the already poor, the weak and the aged are slowly being driven to the wall. We in this House all know this too well already. Even the present position of maximum post-war unemployment coinciding with maximum post-war inflation—evidence which runs completely counter to the dogma of most economists to-day—seems to leave them quite unmoved.
A great Lord Chancellor once wrote these words:From a few examples and particulars (with the addition of common notions … and received opinions which have been most popular) they flew at once to the most general conclusions … taking the truth of these as fixed and immovable. They proceeded … to reduce and prove from them the inferior conclusions. After that if any new particulars or examples repugnant to their dogmas were mooted … (they) coarsely got rid of them by exceptions".My Lords, those words were written by Sir Francis Bacon in the year 1620, and he was concerned then about the attitude of alchemists, astrologers and quasi-scientists of his time. It is beginning to look like fair comment on many of our economists to-day: they are behaving like the astrologers of old.
The continuous attempt since the war to tackle inflation by slowing down the economy has failed. Had we earlier discovered other means of preventing wage inflation, then to-day our standard of living might well have been 30 to 40 per cent. higher than it is. Wage differentials are the key to the situation. It has long been axiomatic that people's earnings, from managing directors to machine operators, should reflect the importance of the work they do; and somehow we must ditch the idea that wages based on power bargaining will do. We 81 must move towards equitable differentials based on a national sense of fairness; and we cannot continue to let the weak go to the wall and the strong exploit the rest of the community, as is happening on a continually increasing scale now. An equitable pattern of wage differentials is one which must be acceptable to the representatives of all occupations. It is subjective and not an objective thing, and it cannot therefore be decided for people by arbitrators or tribunals, or even by fashionable job-evaluation techniques.
I propose a method which would end power bargaining. I have put this briefly before the House before: I dare to do it again. It would gradually lead to equitable differential earnings for all over a number of years; it would allow us to run the economy at full blast without wage inflation; and it would materially assist our balance of payments, eliminate unemployment and, perhaps most important of all, increase people's opportunity to find for themselves jobs which fulfilled their own creative and work capacity—and it is the failure to do this, I think, that is responsible for a great deal of unrest in industry. But the method I propose involves such large changes in our thinking and practices that I believe it would have to be imposed by Parliament. It would probably also need the agreement of the two major Parties. We may not be prepared to accept changes of this magnitude now, but as the current crisis over inflation deepens, and the standard of living of all of us becomes more and more threatened, changes of this magnitude may become acceptable.
As a first step, Parliament must set up a body. I would call it the National Council for the Regulation of Differential Wages, N.C.R.D. Elected representatives of every trade union would make up its membership. Every occupation wanting to take part in setting the new differential wage pattern would have to form a trade union to obtain that right. Council members would be full-time and paid accordingly. The Council would have a substantial secretariat of economists, research workers and others of experience in trade union and industrial affairs. The Government, assisted by perhaps the National Economic Development Council, would each year decide by how much the total national wage could be in- creased. Within that limit, the function 82 of the N.C.R.D. would be to recommend to Parliament how the total cake was to be distributed differentially between the different occupations. If Parliament accepted the proposal, it would make it law.
The N.C.R.D. would be, in effect, a mass bargaining session between representatives of all occupations, and, as in all bargaining between different associations of people, every party would have the right of veto over proposals put forward by others. This means that by constitution it would have to agree virtually unanimously on the new pattern. For practical purposes, 95 per cent. unanimity would prevent the possibility of a small number of representatives combining to prevent agreement. Parliament would insist that unless 95 per cent. unanimity was achieved then no change at all to the total wages bill of the country would be permitted.
During the first year of the Council's existence a wage freeze of a limited sort would, I think, have to be applied, and in each subsequent year wage changes would take place only in accordance with the new pattern of differentials worked out by the Council and approved by Parliament. The use of power bargaining would be eliminated by removing employers from the process of charting the pattern of wages (they would have to pay the going rate as decided by law), and by making union representatives reach near-unanimous decisions as a body. As a process I think it would be much more in tune with democracy than the one which is in current use to-day, or, indeed, the processes that will emerge if the Bill before us becomes law. A wages court would have to be set up, not to decide pay but to arbitrate on the interpretation of the new wage laws. Parliament would have the power to use sanctions against those who sought to reject the new wage pattern by striking. Sanctions against strikers is a horrible phrase, but law without ultimate sanctions is not effective law. It is the existence of sanctions rather than their actual use that prevents the law from being broken.
My Lords, it is one thing to strike in order to Force an employer to give a better bargain; it is quite another thing to strike in defiance of the law, especially a law founded on agreements between all the trade unions of the country. But 83 sanctions, I believe, would be little used, despite their existence. Any sanction which could ultimately mean taking a large body of men into a court, as we all know in this House, is not viable. Therefore sanctions would penalise any employer or trade union official who paid money to strikers against the new legal differential wage adjustments. They would also deprive such strikers of back pay, income tax refunds and, in the last resort, supplementary benefits until they returned to work. This is not an attack on the family, because any wage-earner could safeguard his dependants from hardship simply by returning to work. Sanctions against strikers to-day are rightly regarded as immoral because they interfere with an ostensibly free bargaining situation between two parties. But a strike against law based on this Council's agreement and approved by Parliament is not against a hard-bargaining employer, but against the differential wage rights of every other type of employee, and against the law.
Many, my Lords, will doubt whether near-unanimous agreement would ever be obtained by the Council that I propose, but industrial experience shows that such proceedings can work. The essential conditions would be as follows: a first-class secretariat to assist the Council; an independent chairman; full-time salaried members; a complete year to work out the differential wage pattern for the following year; a procedure which allows continuous straw voting on one proposition or another to discover the extent of agreement; a realisation on the part of Council members that, through them, their membership—now over 90 per cent. of the population of this country; that is to say, over 90 per cent. of this country are now employees—have for the first time been given the task of shaping the differential wage pattern of this country. The membership would also have to face the fact that if they were not prepared by an extended series of compromises to agree this, then for the following year there would be no increase of wages by law. Finally, there would have to be a degree of economic discussion in this Council which would enable members to realise that a solution to wage inflation would for the first time unleash the full productive potential 84 of Britain, with all its immense beneficial consequences.
My Lords, this is no easy solution—indeed, there are secondary problems which time does not permit me to mention now—but the push of a deepening crisis and the pull of a fuller realisation of the benefits that would flow from controlling wage inflation could generate the courage required to initiate these radical changes. The alternatives look very frightening indeed.
A majority vote for the Amendment proposed by my noble friend Lord Delacourt-Smith would provide the country with time to consider these great issues. Let us delay going ahead with this Bill, which will plunge our industrial relations (I regret to feel this) into a jungle of legal complexities, will not solve the problems of wage inflation and will not provide us with solutions to some of the most pressing problems that we face in our society to-day. Let us face the fact that until we have the economic mechanisms capable of beginning to move us towards equitable wage distribution, we shall never get rid of the current hate, strike and envy which are the real source of our problems in industry.
§ 6.40 p.m.
§ LORD PLOWDEN
My Lords, may I first congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Thomas, on his maiden speech. I am sure that from his great experience in industry he will be able to make many valuable contributions to our deliberations. Perhaps I should declare an interest as I am the chairman of an industrial group which employs some 70,000 men and women in this country and 8,000 to 10.000 overseas. I have an interest, a very real interest, in the success or failure of this Bill when it becomes an Act. In my group we are proud of our labour relations, and even over the past two difficult years we have had little labour trouble except in one or two places.
Since the war there have been great changes in the industrial scene, the most important of which is that we have had full employment for all of that time. No one who worked in industry or in commerce before the war would want to change that situation in any way. As 85 a consequence of that full employment the power of the trade unions has been greatly increased—although many people in and out of Parliament speak as if they are still as weak as they were between the wars, when men were waiting at the factory gate to be hired.
As the noble Lord, Lord Redcliffe-Maud, said earlier, when individuals or organisations arrogate to themselves or have thrust upon them power which the people as a whole consider to be too great in relation to the interests of the people as a whole, they have to be brought within the rule of law. It is not necessary to go back more than 100 or 150 years to know of the many Acts that have been passed to curb the power of industrialists: hours of work, employment of women and children, safety, restrictive practices, monopolies and resale price maintenance in the last decade. All these Acts have, rightly, been passed in the interests of the people as a whole. Because of the great power that the trade unions now have as a result of full employment, and because of the great power to very small groups of men as a result of modern technology to disrupt the work of many tens of thousands of men and the way in which some of those small groups have used that power, I support this Bill.
But I support it even more strongly than I otherwise would because the last Government introduced a Bill very similar to this one, a Bill perhaps in some ways even tougher. They declared it to be essential to their economic policy to get it passed: but because of the opposition of the trade unions they withdrew it. The present Government—and I speak as a Cross Bencher—in their Election programme asked for a mandate to bring industrial relations within the law. That may have been right or wrong: but they were elected and that was in their programme. So I believe that if this Bill were to be dropped now because of the opposition of a section of the community, it would be the very negation of democracy.
As an industrialist I accept that the main responsibility for industrial relations rests with management. But here the trade unions and the shop stewards have a great part to play. Management cannot successfully play its part unless the trade unions are enabled to ensure that the bargains into which they enter can 86 be carried out. It will be in the minds of all of us that quite recently we have had industrial disputes which have been in contravention of agreements entered into by the trade unions: the electricity supply workers, the Post Office workers and, recently, the workers of the Ford Motor Company. The trade unions say that they cannot control their members; but, as the noble Lord, Lord Rochester, pointed out, in the last month we have had two political strikes and the unions who called out their members did not hesitate—at least at local level—to levy fines on those people not willing to strike. Whether they will be confirmed by the National Executive is another matter. This shows that when it suits them the unions can discipline their members.
As the noble Lord, Lord Redcliffe-Maud, said, this House can do much to amend this Bill, and I feel that there are many places in which it does require amendment. For me, I think, a great loss is the suggestion in the Bill that the post-entry closed shop is no longer permitted. I am in agreement with the noble Lord, Lord Williamson, on this point. We have certain works where the post-entry closed shop is operating, and is operating to the advantage of management and workers. I hope that the Government will think again on this and will not think in doctrinaire terms. I suspect that there is some doctrinaire thinking in this particular matter. If they do not agree to permit the post-entry closed shop, I think that consideration of the definition of "bargaining unit" and "sole bargaining agent" in the Bill will require amendment if it is not to lead to fragmentation of bargaining, thus vitiating one of the major recommendations of the Donovan Report: that companies should negotiate, so far as possible, at factory or company level.
Balloting is something to be supervised by the C.I.R. I suggest that it should be made mandatory upon employers that they should provide facilities for balloting at the place of work. Disclosure of information is one of the most important features of the Bill. The general obligation on employers to disclose information about matters under negotiation is very far-reaching. I do not quarrel with that, but the Bill as it stands is unclear about the nature of the information to be disclosed. It 87 appears that this is to be specified in the code of good industrial practice. I suggest that the guidelines to be incorporated in the code must rest on the principle that the nature and scope of the information to be disclosed must be decided according to its relevance to a particular case in all its aspects. Any rigid obligation to disclose a standard range of information might—and I suggest would—promote misunderstanding suspicion and conflict, thus militating against the aims of the Bill.
Since the interpretation of the code on this point appears to rest with the N.I.R.C., which will, presumably, create its own case law, it seems very important to establish that the criteria applied at the outset are sound and realistic. It would, in my opinion, be quite wrong if the Government's natural desire to make swift progress with the preparation of the code were to preclude full consultation with the employers and unions at the draft stage of this and other matters to be embodied in it.
My Lords, the purpose of the Bill is to promote good industrial relations, but no law can by itself put this aim into practical effect. On the side of management there needs to be positive initiatives towards improving procedures and towards better understanding through joint consultation—and I emphasise "joint consultation"—and better communications generally; for instance, in relation to disclosure, by involving employees and their representatives in an understanding of the company's financial structure and of the relationship between the company's commercial environment and its ability to provide employment and pay wages.
Experience in some of our companies has shown that this process of employee involvement and education, which underlies the development of constructive and responsible relationships, is a progressive one which may extend over several years, and demands a continuous commitment of management attention. A comprehensive training programme is called for, so that management is fully equipped at plant level with the necessary expertise to operate the whole system effectively. On the trade union side, there is a need to train shop stewards, both in the provisions of the Bill and also in the field 88 of better industrial relation practices and procedures. It is important, most important, that industrial training boards should make such training eligible for grant, as this would provide a direct incentive to employers to carry out such training.
My Lords, I think that the Bill is a fair and realistic framework for improving industrial relations. I recognise that there is a very general feeling among trade unionists that it is a device to "clobber" the unions. But I think it is a fair framework, provided that we recognise, and it is seen as, the opportunity for constructive initiative by employers and unions and not as an excuse to abdicate their responsibilities. The establishment of a set of ground rules to regulate collective bargaining is long overdue; and (I say this with deference to noble Lords who have spoken before) the voluntary system has clearly failed to supply those in the conditions that prevail to-day. The definition of rights and obligations is of equal value to employers, unions and employees in pursuing their recognised and respective interests. The controversy aroused by the Bill, both inside and outside Parliament, has, perhaps paradoxically, involved the public in the realities and implications of industrial relations problems in a way that is quite unprecedented and, I believe, wholly beneficial. For the reasons I have given, I support this Bill.
§ 6.55 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT CALDECOTE
My Lords, I must also declare an interest in an engineering group with some 20,000 employees as a full-time director. I listened very carefully to the sincere, moving and persuasive speech of the noble Lord, Lord Delacourt-Smith, but I think he over-simplified the position. The gist of what he was saying seemed to me to be something like this: that too much was being made of the troubles caused by industrial disputes; that trade unions are excellent organisations—as indeed they are—and that they resented, and were deeply hurt by, the Bill before your Lordships' House; that the employers were lukewarm about it, and, therefore, the obvious solution was to abandon it all and return to consultation and use of the good offices of the T.U.C.
It is always attractive to proceed by consent, but that has been attempted, as 89 has already been pointed out, for the last ten years; and the outcome was more strikes in 1970 than any year since 1926. The last Government knew that action was necessary but, sadly, they lost their nerve. This Government know that action is necessary, but they will not lose their nerve. It is not an easy problem. This Bill is about people, the most difficult, the most unpredictable and important factor in any organisation; it is about relations between people in industry and commerce—the owners, managers, trade union officials, trade union members and the other employees. In order to keep this in perspective, I think it is necessary to look back a little into history to remind ourselves how these groups developed, what are their objectives and their responsibilities.
My Lords, 150 years ago all combinations of workers were illegal and the power of the owner-manager reigned supreme. Through the repeal of the Combination Act, and later by the Trade Disputes Acts—the first one enacted exactly 100 years ago—the trades unions were given rights and made into effective institutions. Since then there has been a steady shift of the balance of power from the employers to the employees, but the balance of power continued well into this century firmly on the side of the employer.
Of course there were many good and enlightened employers, but there were others who, in a seller's market for labour, widely abused their powers to retain for owners an unjustifiably large share of the wealth produced. That was the issue; how the wealth should be shared. It was the issue up to some 25 years ago. Over that period of some hundreds of years the unions have fought a hard and often bitter fight, with much sincerity and courage, for power to give the employees, their members, a fairer share of the wealth produced. So far as any war is ever won that fight is won. No doubt, as Mr. Victor Feather has said, the power they have won is still necessary to protect their members' interests. But, my Lords, it is a tragedy that, like the generals of old—and surprisingly enough, like the noble Lord, Lord Soper, too—they are still fighting the last war.
While the trade unions have fought, conditions have changed. No longer is 90 Britain the workshop of the world and way out ahead of competition. No longer do we have captive markets in a widespread Empire. Now we have to fight in very tough world competitive markets, and the main issue now in industry is how to create more wealth in Britain; not principally how to share it fairly, though that of course is still important. The purpose of this Bill is "to amend the law relating to employers and workers" for the purpose of promoting good industrial relations. Its objective is to reduce destructive conflict in industry which prevents the creation of wealth. It is not to emasculate the trade unions nor to oppress their members. It is to help all the unions and managements to achieve the standards already achieved by the best.
My Lords, let us for a moment look at the people involved; the owners who provide resources and money to buy buildings, plant and materials; the managers whom they employ to optimise the use of those resources and earn the rewards for their investment, and the other employees who work with their hands or brains within the system organised by the management. Each class is dependent on the others for the creation of wealth and rewards for their services. A number of years ago managers were much closer to owners than they are now. Very often they were the same people. The manager's job was to obtain both physical and human resources at a minimum cost. They obtained their labour in a seller's market and their results by the fear of sacking and starvation.
The outlook to-day is totally changed, not only because of the shift of power. Most managers know quite well that the best results are obtained from consent or, failing that, after discussion and consultation and before a decision is taken. In that sense only managers can fairly claim the right to manage. The vast majority of managers in industry want to see high pay for good work, but the limit is set by what the job will stand and what the market will pay. No longer is it set by the greed of the owner. To a great extent the interests of the managers and the employees are the same—the prosperity of the business. And prosperity requires competitive prices to attract customers and good 91 profits to provide capital to run the business. The Rolls-Royce affair has emphasised an often forgotten truth: it is only the lack of money that will put us all out of business—managers, trade unionists and employees of all kinds. That happens when more money goes out than comes in.
Why, then, if it is so simple, is there so much destructive conflict and such damaging strikes? I believe that there are too many managers and too many union leaders who are still living in the past. And I have no doubt that there are at least as many bad managers as there are bad union leaders in industry, and a few who are selfish or hungry for power, have no interest in the men whom they are representing. They are all fighting old battles over irrelevant issues and in the process doing great damage to the community.
The Bill is aimed against those people in industry—the managers who want to keep the workers in their place and the union leaders who want to teach the employers a lesson. May I give your Lordships a few short examples of the kind of thing I mean. Not long ago some directors were discussing the building and re-equipment plan for a works. The plan included improvements in washing and lavatory facilities for their employees. That part of the plan was deleted, because the managers said that the men had never had these facilities before and they did not need them now; they could use the roadway.
A docker I know set himself to improve his position by going to night school, where he won a prize at the City and Guilds Institute, which he was due to be given by the Lord Mayor. He asked for a day off and was told that he certainly could have it but he would lose his job. Then there is a type of shop steward convenor who is only interested in his own future and not in the men whom he represents. I heard the other day of one shop steward who took no interest in the prosperity of the company or of the union members and was only interested in getting elected to the position of district secretary.
I heard recently of the behaviour of union leaders in a factory threatened with closure, because of the indiscipline of union members. After many warnings 92 two men were suspended by the management. The rest of the work force went on strike. After further warnings that if this went on the factory would close, and everyone would be out of a job, they still did not call off the strike, and the factory was closed. The men came to the managers and said they never thought that the managers would carry out what they said they would do—because the trade union leaders had persuaded them that the management were talking through their hats. These are not fairy tales, my Lords. I have spoken first-hand with those who have knowledge of each case I have quoted. But it is just as well to remember that there is another side. There are progressive union leaders who travel long distances to fight for their men and sometimes are involved in disciplining their own members. I heard the story the other day of the head of one great national union who went quickly to the scene of a dispute in a Midlands factory, where he found that three union officials had flouted the regulations of the union. They were brought to London, given a fair hearing and dismissed, and the dispute was settled—not a very happy thing for the head of that union to do; but he did it.
There are conscientious managers, too, with big responsibilities for many people; who work long hours, perhaps battling against militant shop stewards with no interest in the company or the people they represent. These union leaders and managers get no headlines and little thanks, and far more kicks than ha'pence. They provide the reason why much of industry runs smoothly, why our exportsper capitaare the third highest in the world and nearly double those of the United States. This Bill is aimed at strengthening their influence.
But, my Lords, we must understand that many of these union leaders sincerely and genuinely believe that this Bill is wrong. They are sincerely concerned with the basis of at least part of it, and with the practical working of other parts. I hope that we can reach more common ground when the Bill is passed, when there is a better understanding of what it is trying to do. I make no apology for drawing attention to the background of this Bill, even at this late hour, for I believe that there is a real danger of misunderstanding its purpose.
93 How does it seek to effect its purpose of promoting good industrial relations? First, through strengthening the basis for friendly and responsibly conducted collective bargaining. It is not true, as the General Council of the Trades Union Congress has stated, that one of the central purposes of the Bill is to limit the right to strike. That sort of statement is neither helpful nor enlightening. It is totally misleading. Nowhere in this Bill is that stated or implied. Indeed, Clause 124 specifically prevents the courts from compelling an employee to do any work. The Bill sets out the rights of employees in many ways, with the purpose of ensuring that the standards of bad and reactionary employers will come much nearer to those of the best.
There are two provisions which have caused particular trouble and opposition. First, there is the closed shop, which has been mentioned many times to-day. In principle, it is highly objectionable and a denial of freedom to insist on membership of a particular union before a man can work. In practice, as those who work in industry know, especially when reasonably applied, there is much in favour of the discipline and simplicity of negotiating with one union, representing all employees.
The agency shop is an attempt to meet divergent views, but we cannot help being concerned at the detailed implications of it. As an example, in one works where there are perhaps two unions, we may be faced with conscientious objectors paying to charity, other non-union members paying to the agency union, non-agency union members paying to the agency union and members of the agency union paying their own dues. It is going to be a complicated and difficult tangle to sort out. Such arrangements are perhaps better than a rigidly applied closed shop, and certainly they are a better balance between the freedom of the individual and conformity with majority opinion. But they are much less satisfactory than many existing councils and less formal arrangements at national, company and works level.
Such arrangements could lead to appalling complications in practice, and I implore the Government to look again at this part of the Bill. It does need further study, particularly in relation to bargain- 94 ing units, mentioned in Part III of the Bill, and particularly as to its effect on professional people in industry. I hope that we shall look at this Part of the Bill very carefully on Committee stage, and that the Government will be prepared to look at it again and be responsive to constructive Amendments that are put forward.
My Lords, the second question that I want to touch on is the registration of unions and employers' associations, but this matter was so well dealt with by my noble friend Lord Drumalbyn that I will pass quickly over it. The fact is that there is much emotion and apparent opposition to it in the unions. I say "apparent" because, from talks and discussions which I have had with a good many people I do not believe that there is so much opposition to it as appears on the surface. There is very little logical basis for the opposition, though I accept that the opposition is sincerely based. Why should not unions be accountable in law to the community, as many other similar organisations are? The fact is that the existing framework of law gives to unions many privileges but few obligations to the community. The provisions of this Bill will help to restore the balance and strengthen the influence of fair dealing and common sense. It is not surprising that power seekers, the militants in the unions who are the beneficiaries of the present situation, oppose these changes. In times past employers similarly opposed changes which took away from them the unbridled power that they then had to oppress their fellow men.
My Lords, am confident of the need for change and the soundness of the principles behind this Bill. It is clear that to make the changes needed requires Parliament to act and amend the law, and every day shows the danger of further delay, but the Bill is complex and many clauses have not even been discussed; I have no doubt that it can be improved and we can improve it here. I hope we shall have the fullest possible chance to amend it and get the full co-operation from the Government to accept constructive Amendments. Surely, to-day, from the Opposition point of view, is very like the times in the 1945 to 1951 Parliament when many nationalisation measures came before your 95 Lordships' House to which many of us intensely objected. We did not try to oppose them, but we did try, and I believe we succeeded, in improving them.
I am delighted to hear the noble Lord, Lord Delacourt-Smith, promise the full co-operation of noble Lords opposite in constructive debate and in improving this Bill on the Committee stage. The Bill is no panacea, it is no substitute for good management or wise union leadership, and it is certainly no let-out for management. It will not end conflict, but the hope is that it will help to end destructive conflict, for whatever the T.U.C. may say, it is no fiction that the British economy is being threatened by industrial disputes. I only wish that more members of the General Council and more union members could travel abroad, as many of us do, and hear the comments of our many friends in other countries who want to trade with Britain and who observe with sorrow the delays and dislocations that follow industrial disputes here.
My Lords, I support this Bill because it will help to restore the balance of power between those anywhere in industry, in trade unions or in management, who seek the interests of their neighbours in the community and those who, through selfishness, greed or anarchy are working for the destruction of the whole British way of life. Above all, I support it because it will help to create conditions where conflicts in collective bargaining will no longer impede the creation of wealth and of jobs which will give greater satisfaction to everyone in industry—perhaps the most important achievement of all.
§ 7.15 p.m.
§ Lord BROCKWAY
My Lords, I listened with great interest, but also great disagreement, to the speech which has just been delivered by the noble Viscount, Lord Caldecote. I was specially interested in the opening part of his speech when he dealt with the history of the trade union movement. He spoke of its beginnings 150 years ago. I was very interested, after some research, to find that the earliest organisation of workers dates back to the period of Cromwell when the Levellers in a feudal society organised the peasants. My dear old friend H. N. 96 Brailsford has written a good hook about their story. Perhaps I should add, to be fair, that I recognise that in the growth of trade unionism in the last century the Party opposite was more tolerant to the workers' organisations than the Whig Party, representing the new industrialists, used to be, and that it was the Party opposite which introduced the first factory legislation. What the noble Viscount said towards the end of his speech I found superficial and failing to deal with the real, deep causes of industrial conflict to-day; but to that I will refer later in my speech.
My Lords, I am a little disappointed this evening, because I thought that among all the Members of this House I had the longest membership of a trade union—I joined my union in 1910—but only this week I learned that the noble Lord, Lord Taylor of Mansfield, joined his union in the year 1908. But may I say to the noble Lord that I have since investigated my own history and I find that I joined a previous union in the year 1907 and only transferred to my own union in 1910. So, after all, I probably am the oldest trade union member in this House to-day.
I regard this Bill as absolutely disastrous. I do not propose to deal with it in detail, because that can take place at the Committee stage. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Donovan, delivered a devastating analysis of the details of the Bill. Noble Lords who supported the Bill have indicated that they will propose Amendments during the Committee stage, and I can promise the House that on these Benches we will go through every clause of the Bill, however long it may take, and seek to remove the limitations on trade union activity which are now engaged in this measure. I therefore do not propose to deal with the details of the Bill, but, like the noble Viscount, Lord Caldecote, though in a very different way, I propose to deal with the background and its principles.
There are not many reasons why I appreciate the Government on the opposite Benches, but one of those reasons is that they are very honest in their actions. They are not so honest in their speech, but they are honest in their actions, because they believe in the present capitalist system of society; they 97 believe in free enterprise, which is really free enterprise for the great monopolies against the majority of our people. They believe in those things.
§ VISCOUNT CALDECOTE
My Lords, would the noble Lord like to expand on that a little? To talk about the great monopolies as being against the majority of our people is not, I think, very accurate.
§ LORD BROCKWAY
I am sorry, but I think it is. I think that one of the facts of life which we are now failing to realise is that the economy is increasingly passing into the hands of great monopolies. To suggest that we are now living in a society where the individual has free enterprise to make progress, when in fact industry after industry is now passing into the hands of monopolies which control our economy and give little opportunity for individual effort and enterprise, is an inaccurate description of our present society.
§ VISCOUNT MASSEREENE AND FERRARD
My Lords, what does the noble Lord say about the State monopolies, which are far greater than any private monopolies, and invariably show a loss, to the detriment of the standard of living of the public?
§ LORD BROCKWAY
My Lords, in a sense, I feel encouraged that I appear to be delivering a provocative speech and encouraging noble Lords opposite to intervene. There is a great difference between a private monopoly, representing a section of the community, making itself profitable, and a public enterprise representing the whole nation and seeking to serve the whole nation. That difference in monopoly is very great.
§ LORD BROCKWAY
My Lords, I was saying that we appreciate the fact that we now have a Government very different from past Governments. They are different from our own Labour Governments, which said that they were Socialists but did not carry out Socialist policies. We now have a Government which is carrying out capitalist policies, of which this Bill is a reflection. They introduce a Budget to give presents to the rich. They hive off the profitable elements in public industry 98 for profit for private industry. They are intransigent to the workers in public industries. Now, in the steel industry, they do all they can to dismember another public industry. I welcome the fact that the conflict between the Government and the Opposition is now clear. The Government stand for the present system of society, and this Bill, which is limiting the power of trade unions, is another reflection of that attitude.
I do not congratulate the Government upon their speech. The speech of the Prime Minister last Saturday favoured national unity in this country, at a time when the Government are introducing this Industrial Relations Bill, which is, in effect, a declaration of war upon the organised workers of this country.
If we were really seeking national unity at this time, the Amendment which was so ably moved from our Front Bench to-day would be accepted. That Amendment proposes that this Bill, which has so divided our nation, should be adjourned so that there may be discussions to seek a solution of this problem. I have been amazed at the way in which the Government have rejected the constructive contribution which the Trades Union Congress are now making to help solve the difficulties of our economy. It has been the one hope of recent years that the Trades Union Congress, representing the trade union movement, have come forward with constructive proposals for the expansion of the economy, for the absorption of the 700,000 unemployed and for the use of the machinery of production in our society for great development.
Those proposals have been heard almost with indifference by the Government. If they were really seeking national unity at this stage, and seeking to secure the co-operation of the trade union movement in the development of our economy, they would not be proceeding with a Bill which is a challenge to the whole of the trade union movement, but would be inviting them to discussion and consultation with a view to the advancement of our whole economy.
It is difficult to describe the seriousness of the national division which this Bill has occasioned. I think, for the first lime in history, we now have the trade union movement declaring in favour of a policy of non-co-operation with legislation carried by Parliament. This is a 99 terribly serious situation. We have national unity on Saturday. On Monday, in this House, there is introduced a Bill which means national division, and which is so repugnant to a main partner in our economy, the trade union movement, that they say that if this legislation is carried they will even adopt an attitude of non-co-operation.
I hope therefore that this House will accept the moderate Amendment which has been moved from our Front Bench. I hope that even at this late hour a majority in this House will accept the view that this Bill is not only a danger to the trade union movement and to the organised workers, but that it is a danger to our country, to the expansion of our economy, and to the whole reputation of our society. I hope that the majority of noble Lords in this House will accept the Amendment that has been moved, and that Her Majesty's Government will be willing, in order to gain the national unity which they declare is their purpose, to put this Bill on one side for the time being while discussions take place for some co-operation with a great element in our economy, the trade union movement.
§ 7.28 p.m.
§ LORD BOURNE
My Lords. I was not able to be here at the beginning of this debate when the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, introduced it and the noble Lord, Lord Delacourt-Smith, moved his Amendment. So if I cover the same ground, I apologise. My remarks will be quite short. I speak not as an industrialist but as one who has lived under discipline all his life and was not allowed to strike, although I was totally dissatisfied with the conditions and pay—which, when I started happened to be 10s. 6d. a day. Nor were the gunners or the drivers allowed to strike. That is the introduction to my remarks.
I have three points to make. In 1969, when the Government of the day were defeated by the trade unions and told that it would be better to employ the voluntary system to reduce the number of strikes, I think that many of us hoped—certainly I did—that they were right. Unfortunately, they were not: and, as many noble Lords have said in this House, 1970 was the worst year for strikes, of one kind and another, that we 100 have ever had: the result was worse than ever. Comparisons with other countries are to my mind totally irrelevant. I entirely agree with the noble Viscount Lord Blakenham, when he says that the United Kingdom cannot afford these strikes.
I come to my second point, the question of law. When I was talking with Mr. Feather not very long ago I asked him whether a set of Queen's Regulations would be a good idea for industrial relations. He said that it would be a splendid idea so long as it applied to management as well as to the shop floor. I said that of course that would be the case: under Queen's Regulations, a General cannot hit a corporal, any more than a corporal can hit a private. If he does, he is up under the same law. So we agreed about that. I noticed on reading this Bill that under Clause 2 the Secretary of State has to produce, not a set of Queen's Regulations but something called a code of practice. He has to do it within a year of the Bill's being passed. Contrary to what the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, has just told your Lordships, when he said that this Bill was against the unions, the shop floor, Clause 2(2) says that:… the Secretary of State shall have regard to—(a)the need for those who manage undertakings to accept the primary responsibility for the promotion of good industrial relations …It could not be put better. I am longing for the day when that code of practice it written, published and accepted.
Turning to America, I shall never forget going round a Ford engine factory in Cleveland, Ohio. A fellow, who was an expert, was inspecting Ford V8 engines before they went out of the shop. I said to him: "Are you satisfied with your pay and conditions?" He said: "Good heavens! no. I think they are terrible." So I said, "In that case why don't you go on strike?" This was in August 1959. He replied: "I am not allowed to go on strike by law until next May, when the end of our three-year contract comes up, and my union will negotiate a fresh contract." In other words, that Ford V8 engine factory, and all the other Ford factories, had a perfectly good agreement which meant industrial peace for three years. I know that the noble and learned 101 Lord, Lord Donovan, in his magnificent speech at the beginning of this debate, said that this Bill does not aim so high. The fact remains that if we can get even a two-year agreement between the workers and the management, and industrial peace during that time, it will be a very good thing.
My last point is the quotation which has often been made: "Power has moved to the shop floor." We all realise that. But with power goes responsibility. Power means absolutely nothing if you do not accept the responsibility at the same time. Why do not the British workers accept the offer, when they are invited to sit on the boards of their companies? I do not understand that. Volkswagen, one of the biggest companies in the world, have three shop floor workers on the board. The Ford Cologne factory have one worker on the board. This principle was introduced (and I am sorry to take his name in vain) by a fellow Cross-Bencher, the noble Lord, Lord Roberston of Oakridge. He was advised by officials from the Ministry of Labour not only to do this, to put shop workers on the boards so that they could have the same information as the board members— in fact they would be dead level with the shareholders—but also to organise the unions in such a way that a works had only one union to deal with—that is to say, a chemical union, a steel and iron union, et cetera. That is a very good system and it would be a good idea to move towards that here.
My conclusion is, first, that I see no harm in living under the law. We all do it. Why should the unions be excepted? Secondly, the day-to-day business should be covered by the code of practice, or Queen's Regulations, whichever you prefer. These are the reasons why I support the Bill.
§ 7.35 p.m.
§ BARONESS EMMET OF AMBERLEY
My Lords, after a long list of expert speakers who have gone into the details of this Bill much more ably than I can, I should like to speak on rather a different general line—not on the line of the noble Lord. Lord Brockway, who, I am sorry to say, has brought the first bit of anger and bitterness into this debate, although one recognises that he is immensely sincere. I am neither an industrial tycoon nor a member of a trade 102 union, unless one can call grandfathers and grandmothers members of a rather special trade union. Perhaps in this mature House, after this Bill has gone through, we might register in that trade union, and I should be willing to offer myself as a shop steward. At three score years and ten I can, I suppose, after a long time of experience, claim to have distilled a little wisdom, rather like old wine, to be taken in little sips.
I have recently had rather an interesting experience. I, used to paint quite a lot when I was young, and I had great difficulty with my perspective—those lines which should all meet on a focal point but which seemed to escape in all directions. In my old age I have taken to painting again and I find that to pinpoint the focal point and to converge the lines does not now present the same difficulty. This conjured up a train of thought in my mind with regard to this Bill. My contemporaries here who remember the First World War, the subsequent desolation of unemployment in the 1920s, the exhaustion of the seven years of the Second World War and the slow rehabilitation of our people, and now the industrial unrest, increasing violence in crime, the taking of drugs and the widespread, money-spinning pornography, will, like me, sometimes wonder how this country has survived and will survive.
I can see a focal point to which all the saving qualities of our nation converge, one which has pulled our country through and will do so again. There is in our race, I am certain, a sense of fairness and justice, a respect for law and order and a dogged determination to see it through. That is why this Bill is now before the House as a mandate from the country. I think my noble and learned friend on the Woolsack will bear me out that Aristotle said:The rule of law, is the rule of Reason, unaffected by desire.Could we regard this Bill in that way—without bitterness and anger, as an honest attempt to put the industrial life of our country into a. framework, not a straitjacket, of law and order, unaffected by the presumption of the trade unions to dictate from time to time to the nation, unaffected by the employers to use labour as they wish instead of taking them into partnership, unaffected by the interference of Government which will inevitably 103 seem to be partisan on one side or the other?
As the right reverend Prelate, the Lord Bishop of Southwark, said, there is an important measure of agreement on this Bill. I personally would take off my hat, if I had one, to a certain lady in another place who had the courage to say that something needed to be done, only to be overruled; to those trade union leaders who have lately, in the Press and in speeches, also been quite blunt in their statements that something needs to be done; and also to the good management which exists in this country, alongside the indifferent and the bad; as, for instance, in agriculture where there has been the greatest productivity and no strikes, and where the master and his men work side by side. The nation showed at the General Election that it expected Parliament to act, and this is why we are now discussing this Bill. And I think the nation also expects that in this House, this very wise and mature House, the discussions will be conducted with dignity and in the tone set by the noble Lord, Lord Delacourt-Smith, at the beginning of this debate. After all, this House is mature; it has no axe to grind, no voters to consider, and we can examine this Bill, surely, without any bitterness, taking as our focal point the country's interest as a whole.
I should like to leave with your Lordships a quotation which I am very fond of. I do not know the author—if anybody knows who it is I shall be very glad to hear. It seems to be apposite to our present work. It is this:It is not in our power to master the tides of the world but to do that which is in us for succouring the years wherein we are set. Uprooting evil in the fields which we know so that those who live after may have clean earth to till, what weather they may have is not ours to rule.My Lords, in this spirit, and appealing to the great sense of law and order of this House and of our people, I hope we shall proceed with this Bill.
§ 7.42 p.m.
§ BARONESS LEE OF ASHERIDGE
My Lords, I have agreed to disagree with the noble Baroness, Lady Emmet of Amberley, in another place for a good many years, but I am very conscious that, although our views have been dia- 104 metrically opposite, she has always spoken with great personal kindness and immense sincerity. I am afraid that the gap between our philosophies and our views of the world is as wide as it has ever been. Here we are discussing basically whether the trade union movement of our country has gone too far; whether it now has too much power and must be curbed. Of course the trade union movement has gone a very long way; it has travelled a long distance since the time when trade union leaders were sent to Botany Bay. Indeed, looking round these Benches we see that the fate of our most distinguished trade union leaders these days is to be sent to your Lordships' House.
In looking at fellow members on this side of the House I observe that almost all of our great trade unions are represented. In their personal histories, in their memories, in their life-long struggles, they know what it has taken to build up the unions of the labourers, of the miners, of the seamen—indeed, the whole world of trade unionism. But I do not think there is a single shop steward on our Benches. I stand to be corrected, but I believe that is so. Yet the whole tenor of speeches from the opposite side of the House has seemed to assume that there were the shop stewards, the rank and file leader, on one side, and that there was also the mature, serious, responsible, elderly trade union leader; and that never the twain shall meet.
If it was the ambition of Members opposite to encourage a division between the shop steward, the rank and file leader, and the top tycoons, the top bosses, of the trade union movement, they certainly could not have gone about it in a worse way than by this Bill. I have certainly never seen the bottom and the top—the shop stewards and the national leaders of our unions—more closely united. I think anyone present would agree—never. So I want courteously to suggest that, when we are talking about trade unions, there is ample experience on this side that can warn your Lordships' House of the dangers of going ahead with this Bill. It will unite our trade union movement more solidly than it has ever been united. But, unfortunately, it can divide the 105 nation. And I still cling to the optimistic hope that, just as our union leaders have progressed from Botany Bay to your Lordships' Benches, so we may be able in the years ahead to solve the problems that must be solved in the unions and in industry by peaceful methods and not by violence, by constitutional methods and not by setting aside the rule of law. The most precious thing we have gained from generations, indeed centuries, of struggle is that we thought we had developed constitutional methods in this country that could help us to keep moving forward towards greater measures of social justice. But this Bill, which our trade union members—and I, too, am one—from top to bottom, of every kind, every point of view, are agreed in opposing, is being debated at a time when the divisions in the nation are being dangerously enlarged.
I do not want to repeat what has been said already, but there is no denying the fact that when a working man is looking at this Bill he is also looking at the recent Budget statements. Once he gets over the brainwashing of Press headlines and comes down to an exact examination of how he is going to be affected, it is going to be very hard to explain to him why the surtax payer is going to have his taxes reduced; why the children of the well-to-do are going to be made better off. And bless them all! I want to see every child given a good education and good opportunities of health, but it is a strange atmosphere when the children of the well-to-do are being made better oil and the children of the poor are being made worse off. The fathers are becoming increasingly aware that, although a e grandparent generation may get £1 on its pension, it is the middle generation that is going to have to pay for that increase; that in all kinds of ways the division is becoming sharper. We ought to be using both the machinery of industry and the machinery of the trade union movement to solve grievances, to make it easier to give men a sense of fair play. That, I believe, is the way to increase production. But, instead of that, on every side we are going in the opposite direction.
Of course, all sorts of objections may seem illogical. For instance, if we were speaking in terms of abstract concepts we should be against the closed shop; we 106 should say, "Let every man and woman do exactly as he or she pleases". But we are not speaking in abstract concepts; we are talking in terms of a social situation where it is one thing to face the world with a comfortable, independent income, and something else to face the world if all you have is your labour power. Through the years, solidarity for ever, standing together, has been the armour of the working man and woman. They have known that alone they were helpless and powerless. They have known that if they stood together they could advance together—and surely it is a wonderful concept that people should seek to advance together, instead of advancing at one another's expense.
Of course our unions have a great deal wrong with them. Talk to any trade union leader, or rank and file member, and you will find we are all agreed that there is a great deal to put right. There is a great deal wrong with some differentials within unions, and there is a great deal wrong with some differentials between one type of job and another. I hope that we shall address ourselves to those problems. It is a good thing that the power of the General Secretary is increasing—and I think we shall all agree that it is not increasing enough. In the end we may be grateful to noble Lords on the opposite Benches, because it is the experience of legislation such as this which teaches the individual unions, however powerful they may be as individual unions, that they are not powerful enough. Therefore we can see not only a closing of the ranks from top to bottom within the unions but also a much closer coming together of the various unions.
It is because we feel so strongly on this matter that many of us on these Benches are utterly opposed to this measure, and when we have the opportunity to-morrow of course we shall vote for the Motion that has been so ably moved from our Front Bench. There is just one other thing that I want to say. I am in a dilemma when it comes to the Second Reading of this Bill. I could not he more opposed to the philosophy and the surrounding circumstances of the Bill, but what I have to keen in mind is that there will never be a Labour majority in your Lordships' House. And there will certainly never be a Liberal 107 majority—although I do not want to hurt the feelings of any noble Lords on the Liberal Benches.
§ LORD DIAMOND
My Lords, if my noble friend would forgive me for intervening just this once, there was another occasion when it was said that never is a very long time.
§ BARONESS LEE OF ASHERIDGE
My Lords, I accept that; and, like the noble Lord, Lord Soper, I am prepared to believe in miracles. But I think that, in any foreseeable future, for historical reasons, there will be an overwhelming Conservative majority in your Lordships' House. When we have had a Labour Government we have assumed that your Lordships' House would not vote against the Second Reading of important measures. There have been exceptions, but that has been the assumption; and I believe it is a very important assumption.
The other House consists of the elected representatives of the people of this country. We here are not elected; we are selected, and in the way that history has a habit of turning into its opposite I think it might even be said that we are the "Mary Anns" of the Constitution and it is at the other end of the building that one finds the "Queen Annes". As the elected representatives they must have the major power. I do not want to see your Lordships' House ever seeking to become a Second House of Commons. I think that would create confusion; indeed I think it would be the end of your Lordships' House. Of course I consider—and noble Lords will forgive me for saying this—that if the world had been sane and adult it might have managed to dispense with the services that your Lordships' House has been able to give. But in the present circumstances we here have a job to do in amending legislation.
In recent years there has been humanist legislation dealt with at a very high level indeed in your Lordships' House. We can listen to speeches of very great distinction from the world of medicine, of science, of the arts and of business. There can be leisure to discuss problems of education, of the arts and of humanistic values, the opportunity for which is not available to the same extent in the other place. But your Lordships are not 108 going to have a situation such as you had in the early days of Lloyd George, when he threatened to swamp your Lordships' House because it was overruling the elected Chamber.
In my view, it is most unwise to set the precedent of voting against the Second Reading of a major Bill, although I know how strongly some of my noble friends and colleagues feel about it. Their answer would be, "Why not?", because if we have a Labour Government, as we hope and expect to have (and that will not be a miracle; it will just be plain progress and common sense) in the near future, I know that some of my colleagues will say that whatever we do now will not prevent noble Lords opposite, if need be, from voting against Labour measures. I hope that is not true. I hope that we shall try, in our own, sometimes illogical, sometimes indirect, way, to make constitutional government work in this country, and that there will be a clear acceptance of the different functions that have to be carried out by the elected Chamber and by the selected Chamber. And we shall have an opportunity—and I believe a very important opportunity—at the Committee stage to go through this Bill with the greatest possible care.
I have been greatly encouraged, not only by comments that I have heard today from the Benches opposite but by other comments that I have heard from very distinguished Cross-Bench Members, and indeed Members in all parts of the House, who have said, "We will have a real look at this Bill; we will look at it clause by clause." And, after all, as the noble Baroness, Lady Emmet of Amberley, said, we do not have to look over our shoulder. Unfortunately one cannot expect any Chamber to be made up entirely of saints, and there are always some people in the elected Chamber who will say to themselves, "What will my constituents think about this?" We in this Chamber really are free—free to give our best thoughts to this legislation; and I hope that your Lordships who disagree strongly with a point of view which some of us are putting forward will please consider very carefully not only what we are saying but why we are saying it.
What is it we are trying to achieve? We are trying to hold the progress that has been so dearly bought by the struggles 109 of the past centuries. We know that we have an old industry, much of it needing to be brought up to date. We know that we have an old trade union movement. We did not lose the last war; we won it. The Germans lost it, and they got a brand new trade union movement as one of their prizes. It is not easy to move men; it is not easy to move institutions from where they are to where we want them to be. We have a whole world of constructive work waiting to be done if we will do it in that sense. But any attempt to coerce the trade union movement of this country by punitive legislation will mean not only that an attack on anyone will be resented by all, but that we shall be endangering more than the gains of the past: we shall be putting in jeopardy our dearest hope, which is that we shall continue to make progress by peaceful constitutional methods.
§ 7.58 p.m.
THE EARL OF HALSBURY
My Lords, in rising to address your Lordships' House this evening I would add my plea to that of my noble friend Lord Redcliffe-Maud that we should labour to make this Bill a better Bill. It may mean a lot of hard work; if all its critics are right we shall have a lot of hard work to do. I do not suppose for one moment that this will be the last word on this subject but it may be a useful contribution. I should like to speak very briefly because the hour is late and there are still over half the speakers on the list to follow. I wish to speak on one aspect of the Bill only; namely, its potential impact on the professional classes, among whom it has caused much dismay.
The words "professional" and "amateur" discriminate between men or women who do things for gain as opposed to those who do things for fun. However, I am not concerned with professionalism in this sense, but with its other meaning. To me, a professional man is a member of a corporate body, admission to which is by examination to university degree standard, followed by the incumbency of a responsible position. The body publishes a code of conduct protecting the public from malpractices, and also possesses a disciplinary apparatus for enforcing that code. That is what I mean by a professional man—a member of such a body.
110 Professional men in this sense fear that the agency shop and the sole bargaining positions of this Bill will place them between two fires: that of conformity with the regulations of some union into which they have been unwillingly dragged, and the responsibility to clients and employers required by their code of professional conduct. This, generally speaking, in one form or another, requires them to identify themselves with their employers' or clients' interests in a number of contexts where membership of a union might require them to do the opposite. In many cases they are the management to whom the employers entrust the conduct of union negotiations. How can they be members of the body against whom they are bargaining? Who is the employer? Presumably, a corporate body. Who does the bargaining? The management They therefore search the Act for means of emancipating themselves from this situation, but they discover no protection of a sufficiently positive character.
A great deal of whatever protection, or the lack of it, will prevail turns upon the interpretation of the words in Clause 10(l) of the Act, "in respect of workers of one or more descriptions". What is a description? A description is presumably classificatory. My Lords, I should be perfectly prepared to classify porcupines with peanuts, on the grounds that they both begin with "P", but this would not be a classification of biological relevance. A solicitor, a member of the Law Society, may work in an office, but he is not in the ordinarily accepted sense an office worker and would greatly resent being inspanned into an office workers' union dominated by non-professional members of that union.
The Bill in its original form did not contain adequate safeguards to protect small minorities and groups of workers, with different interests from those of larger groups, from being forced to take part in collective bargaining arrangements designed to meet the needs and wishes of the larger groups, but quite unsuitable and unacceptable to the small professional minority. The amendments to the original Bill relating to sole bargaining put forward in another place go some way towards meeting this. What we need is similar safeguards in respect of agency shop agreements. I think it essential, therefore, so to amend the Bill 111 as to impose on both unions and employers a legal obligation to devise homogeneous descriptions of workers; and the C.I.R. should have a duty to look closely at such descriptions before following the procedures with regard to ballots as laid down in the Bill.
I know that the professional institutions have made representations to the Ministries and to the Law Officers of the Crown, and have been told that all this should be put into the code of practice. But they are not content with this; they are just as uneasy about it as the noble Baroness, Lady Lee, is about the effects on the unions, and we cannot regard the world as divided into the unions and the others; there are the professional men as well.
Chartered engineers involved in collective bargaining must have separate representation to their satisfaction in any agency shop arrangement. There must be a medium within the context of the Bill to enable chartered engineers to be represented so that the chartered engineers can establish their requirements to the appropriate statutory agencies; and there must be satisfactory provision in the Bill for a category of workers, as exemplified by the chartered engineers, who have special obligations to the public and in the public interest, which they must discharge according to their conscience—and their professional conscience at that.
Apart from the chartered engineers, there is the Council of Scientific and Technological Institutions who must have the same sort of protection. They must be classified according to their training, qualifications, experience and duties. They must not be overridden by such bodies as A.S.T.M.S. and D.A.T.A. because they work in a laboratory where they are in a permanent minority in relation to their unqualified laboratory assistants.
I have referred to the close connection between professionalism and higher education, The educational system of this country is, mercifully, a transparent one. One can begin almost anywhere, and, if one is prepared to work hard enough and possibly by a circuitous route, get to the top in due time. Thus, a man in mid-career can acquire professional status after he has involved himself in trade union activities during the earlier pant of it. He 112 should at this point be free to emancipate himself and declare himself a member of the management when he feels the time appropriate, and he should be the sole judge of that, the management consenting.
I will not allow any third party to come between myself and a client, trade union movement or no trade union movement. I will not be told on what terms I may work for someone. Such a man should at this point be free to emancipate himself, as I have said. But where does management come into this Bill? Is it to have separate representation? Because there are very often members of the professional classes who are members of the management, but the converse proposition is not true; managers are not necessarily members of the professional classes. You cannot "run with the hare and hunt with the hounds." You cannot belong to the body you are bargaining against; you cannot bargain against yourself.
I shall not pursue this matter further. A more detailed examination of these matters belongs to the Committee stage of this Bill; but my remarks will serve to give notice in general terms of the Amendments I hope to see. Subject to that, were I able to attend to-morrow, I should vote for the Second Reading of this Bill against the Amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, which merely returns us to talk of which we have had far too much. Unfortunately, this will not be possible, and therefore brevity demands that I should say no more this evening.
§ 8.7 p.m.
§ LORD TEVIOT
My Lords, in such an important and prominent debate as this one, and with so many speakers, it is difficult to offer much originality of thought, like the noble Earl who has just spoken, and easy to run into the usual pitfalls of repetition. However, in my short intervention I should like to dwell on certain aspects of the rights of workers which has been one of the biggest bones of contention here this afternoon. The worker, in my opinion, up to now has been grossly misled on the facts of this Bill. The impression that he has been given, that the Bill is an employers' charter and sets out further to crush the working man, is entirely wrong. I am repeating a view shared by other 113 noble Lords to-day. Although I admired greatly the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Delacourt-Smith, I wholeheartedly disagree with his view that the Conservative Party traditionally disagrees with trade unions and sides with employers. Of the two great Parties, I would say that the Conservative Party is the most impartial.
Many working men are aware that certain conditions and rights are now afforded to them that there have never been in history before. I will quote only two out of the eight. One is that the employee will now have the chance to appeal to the industrial tribunal if he feels that he has been unfairly dismissed. Admittedly, he can only do so if he has served two years with his firm, but that is to be extended at a later date. This is a significant breakthrough for workers' emancipation. Another very important factor is the code of industrial relations practice, by which the union has the right to information from employers. So often in the past many hours have been lost due to ineffective communications between management and employees. Workers are often—and probably very inadvertently on the part of management —regarded as of little intelligence and they would not have been outraged if the facts of the matter or dispute had been explained properly beforehand.
I now come to the main argument of my speech; that is, the right of joining or not joining a trade union. I do not mind admitting that this part of the Bill has given rise to considerable doubts and thoughts in my mind. On the face of it, one can come easily to the conclusion that if a man works for an organisation where the conditions of employment and wages are negotiated by the trade union, he is morally bound to belong to that union because he receives all the benefits that are gained by those negotiations. In many cases where there has been a dispute, the man who does not belong to the union and who does not go on strike is hailed as a hero and a man who is a conscientious worker and stands by his principles by not going on strike. If one goes deeply into the matter, very often this fellow does not have these splendid attributes at all. One will probably find that he has had some domestic upset over not paying his dues, or does not belong 114 because he does not want to pay. He exclaims, "What have they done for me?".
What has not been covered here this afternoon is the question of where a man's duty lies—and I go into this moral aspect with great trepidation—when he makes a decision in trade union matters. We have surely to realise that a man has a duty to himself and his family, to his fellow workers and his employers. A man sometimes neglects his family when he agrees to take part in unofficial actions. It is so easy to be gullible in the heat of the argument and to agree to a persuasive but wholly irresponsible strike.
In spite of all this, I still believe that a man has the right not to belong to a union apart from conscientious grounds. When I was a union member, I was fortunate in having a branch chairman who at times, in spite of great pressure, resisted all attempts to enforce a closed shop. He rightly held the view of striving towards 100 per cent. membership, although not by enforcement but he thought that every encouragment should be given to men to join the union.
The analogy of a professional man having to belong to an association does not hold much water. It has been said that barristers and solicitors have to pay their subscriptions and that the same should apply to workers and the unions. But the difference here, surely, is that a barrister has to obtain certain laid-down qualifications before he can call himself a barrister, and he has to maintain a certain code of discipline when he is called to the Bar. This also applies to the medical profession and engineering profession.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
My Lords, the only trade union among barristers is the Bar Council, and it has only 80 per cent. membership among practising barristers.
§ LORD TEVIOT
My Lords, I thank my noble and learned friend. A man who belongs to a union does not have to hold any particular qualification, and I believe that even in some craft unions it is not necessary for men to have served an apprenticeship. I hope that my noble and learned friend will agree with me on the analogy which is so often drawn on this point.
115 Noble Lords opposite have given the impression that they distrust this new agency shop. I have a feeling that they are being rather conservative because they do not know anything about it, and want to resist it. I think it is a good idea that a man will have to pay willy-nilly. I forecast a big increase in union membership. Whereas there has been great apathy in a union in the past, members will vote for an agency shop where there has not been a closed shop before. The noble Lord, Lord Rochester, explained a right, which was expressed at the Report stage in the other place, that a post-entry closed shop may be used in some cases. I think we should be very careful on this point, although we must realise that this will be possible. A man is more likely to pay into a union than into a charity, and he will become a more active member and express his approval and disapproval more than he has done in the past. I do not share the view of the noble Lord. Lord Williamson, that excessive splintering will cause great dissension, but that is another thing that we shall have to discuss in Committee. I do not think it is so dangerous as he supposed.
People have given great bouquets to management and supervisors, and some to shop stewards. But from this side of the House I want to go into this question, as I think it is important. The role of the shop steward or union committee member is not easy, neither is it very enviable. Frequently it means a man's giving up his leisure hours and disrupting family life, as well as being rarely appreciated. He must be a diplomat at all times, be ready to listen, and try to understand everyone's point of view. When he has to negotiate a wage claim, or represent a union member on a dismissal charge or a complaint of victimisation, or whatever, he must have the attributes of a lawyer. To sum up, this man must be a thoroughly dedicated, conscientious and worldly man, ready to make decisions and be firm on one side or the other.
Here I should like to make one comment or suggestion, rather than a direct criticism, about some trade union officials. I sometimes wonder whether they really represent the true interests of the working 116 man, or whether they do not become rather out of touch. In most cases it is true that they probably started off as working men and then became trade union officials, and in all probability they then removed themselves from their former environment. Managing unions, after all, is management. Surely one suggestion is that union officials should go back incognito on to the shop floor for a specified time every year, to reassess their feelings and the present and future needs of the members.
The Socialist view of reducing working hours and thus giving more leisure time does not seem to work out in practice. Of course I am not suggesting anything longer than 40 or 42 hours as a basic week of five days or five and a half days. I used to work six days, and sometimes it was very unpleasant. The Socialists always seemed shocked, and basically disapproved of people doing overtime, but the fact of the matter is that people should be allowed to do what they want. I see no harm in people becoming materialistic if they want to be; and if a young man with a young family wishes to work all the hours he can to buy a house, a car, a washing machine, or expensive holidays and whatever he chooses, let him do so. The Government have properly reduced the level of income tax, which will give a man more incentive to earn. Surely the criterion of democracy should be a free society.
I sincerely mean what I am going to say now; that is, that I should hate to be an operative in any non-union firm. I have worked for both types of firm, and I had excellent personal service from the union when I worked on the buses. The unions have a great future, and I am sure we shall see a great transformation in them shortly. Another point of comment rather than criticism is the sometimes offhand and brusque manner in which union officials speak to their members. I am quite sure that an employee would not accept that kind of language from an employer. It would be nice if some union officials in future were a little more paternal, and even avuncular, rather than the elderly fraternal bully.
Before I close, I should like to reiterate what other noble Lords from this side have said. This Bill will do more for the working man than ever before, 117 by improving working conditions and giving greater security and greater freedom of choice before striking. A Conservative Government, by making greater all-round incentives (as shown by the last Budget), gives the working man a better and a fairer deal than he ever receives under socialism.
§ 8.19 p.m.
§ LORD LLOYD OF HAMPSTEAD
My Lords, I intend to concentrate, as briefly as I can, on one or two of the legal aspects of this Bill. First, I should like to deal briefly with the suggestion which has frequently been put forward that what is now needed for industrial relations is to put them on some sort of legal framework. It is really rather absurd to suggest, as this argument does, that at the present moment we have no legal framework, and that what we want is to put a legal framework on to a situation of anarchy. In fact, if we look at the position generally, we see that up until 1871 there was a disarmingly simple legal framework; it consisted simply that trade unions were totally unlawful and proscribed unless in fact they were prepared to confine themselves to the activities of mere friendly societies. Then in 1871 we had the great Trade Union Act which recognised their legality. I would recommend anybody who doubts that we have a legal framework for our unions at the present time to have a look at the 800 pages of Citrine's monumental treatise on the subject, Trade Union Law. I think that anyone who does so will see from the many hundreds of reported cases that there is a very considerable legal framework.
In fact, what has been consistently rejected by every qualified official body and Royal Commission, from the great Commission of 1869 right up to Donovan in our own recent times, is the imposition of a comprehensive and minute régime of legal regulations. Despite the mythology of the recent months, the fact is that if one looks at the matter in perspective one finds that we have really done quite well without any such minute régime of legal regulation. It is not true that our industrial relations are in such a mess that only minute legal regulations can rescue us. Of course great improvements are needed, and the Donovan Commission pointed the way towards such improvements. But this 118 does not mean to say that what we must do is to introduce a minute system of regulation, such as this Bill proposes. As we all know, we have recently had a series of major strikes backed by the unions, due primarily no doubt to the inflationary situation in which we all find ourselves. One of the results of the present legislation, as United States experience shows, would very probably be a movement towards just this kind of strike on a yet more extensive scale.
We hear a great deal of talk to-day about the experience of other countries under a closely regulated legal system. But it is idle to draw an analogy between this country and the countries of Western Europe, such as Sweden, Western Germany, France, Italy and so on; for the conditions and the historical background of those countries are so completely different from our own. In fact, some of those countries do worse than ourselves; and even those, like Sweden, which do markedly better are still faced with very acute problems, as indeed those of your Lordships who saw an article on March 30, in The Times Business Supplement, will have seen very exhaustively discussed. If we wish to compare our system with closely regulated systems, a far better analogy is with the United States and the Commonwealth countries, such as Australia. If the test is to be the incidence of strikes, I think your Lordships will find that there the regulated systems come out a good deal worse than our own. If you doubt that, I would commend to your attention paragraph 363 of the Donovan Report, and Appendix 17 of the Ministry of Labour's evidence submitted to the Royal Commission.
What is now proposed is to move from the traditional system of this country, which since 1871 has been primarily one of flexibility and voluntary regulation, to an extreme of legal intervention which can only be likened to clothing our industrial relations in a spider's web of rigid legislation. It is in many ways strange, for a Government who propound the philosophy of laissez faire and non-intervention, that in the sphere of industrial relations their aim is seemingly almost to eliminate room for freedom of choice or action. I venture to think that the process is particularly ill-judged when it results not from industrial agreement, as it did, historically speaking, in the case 119 of Sweden, but from being forced upon the unions in the teeth of their deeply felt sense of outrage and hostility.
What is the reason for this extraordinary volte-face? We are told, disarmingly, that the Bill is aimed at strengthening the unions, making them masters in their own home. We are assured that if only unions would consider the position dispassionately they would really welcome this measure with open arms. Despite this, the unions turn aside from the poisoned chalice and decline what they consider to be the kiss of death. Might we perhaps test this situation in relation to one or two of the key provisions of this Bill? First, let us take the question of legally binding collective agreements. Of course, as your Lordships are aware, it is perfectly possible now, under the existing law, to bargain for a binding collective agreement, provided that both sides agree; indeed, this is sometimes done. On the face of it, therefore, it seems extremely odd to have a provision that it is to be conclusively—I emphasise the word "conclusively"—presumed that the intention is for the agreement to be legally enforceable unless there is express provision to the contrary. What is the point of this strange provision?
One significant fact is that under the Clause 35 procedure, even when the parties have an express agreement, an express term, excluding enforceability, the Industrial Court may still direct by its order under Clause 39, that it,… shall have effect as a legally enforceable contract as if a contract consisting of those provisions had been made between those parties.In other words, what the union has to be thankful for under this legislation is the privilege of having a contract made for it by duress, against its consent, and then having it made enforceable under threat of severe sanctions. This process is perhaps not totally unknown in our legal history. Hitherto, however, so far as my researches go, it has been confined to such cases as labourers after the outbreak of the Black Death in the 14th century, under the Statute of Labourers; or, to take a more recent example, Lascars under the Merchant Shipping Act of 1894, under which, as I understand it, a superintendent used to write out what he thought was a 120 proper contract and the so-called party went to gaol if he broke the terms of the contract. Your Lordships may well think that they do not provide very promising examples.
Then, my Lords, what are the consequences of a legally enforceable contract under the Bill? Clause 34 makes it an unfair industrial practice to break a legally enforceable contract. It then goes on to make it an unfair industrial practice for the unionnot to take all such steps as are reasonably practicable"—those are the words in the Bill—to do one of two things: to prevent persons acting or purporting to act on its behalf from taking any action in breach of such agreement; or, secondly, to prevent any members taking any such action. In other words, the union is apparently to be responsible, without any agency whatsoever, for its members breaking an agreement to which those members are not themselves parties. What an extraordinary provision! What does it mean? What sort of action is the union supposed to take?
So far as I can make out, what this provision is trying to do is to make the unions responsible for the acts of other people, which acts might have been in breach if the unions themselves had committed the acts. And what is the union supposed to do? Is it supposed to threaten those other people, assuming they are members—and they may not be—with fines or expulsion, under risk of being held liable for compensation to the tune of £100,000? When the Government speak of strengthening unions, one can only hope they have not in mind trying to create the sort of autocracy hitherto associated with the corporate State, where a union is not even in name a voluntary body but is simply a means of exerting control through its executive. If this is legislation for a free society, then it seems a curious method of trying to promote industrial harmony.
Then, my Lords, there is the question of legal immunities. The Donovan Report recommended that the immunity conferred by Section 4 of the 1906 Act should be limited to cases in furtherance of a trade dispute—a proposal which I think was generally regarded as extremely reasonable and sensible and which for my own part I entirely applaud. What 121 the present Bill does, however, is first to abolish this immunity altogether. Then it goes on to make it an unfair industrial practice to induce another person to break a contract unless the inducer was a trade union or was somebody acting within the scope of his authority on behalf of a trade union. Then we have Section 93, which makes it an unfair industrial practice to call any strike, or to "aid and abet" (I draw attention to those words) another person in doing anything—and again I draw attention to these words—which by virtue of this Act is an unfair industrial practice on the part of that other person".So far as I am aware, the words "aid and abet" have never been used hitherto save in a criminal context. It is a concept which is peculiar to the criminal law and it adumbrates the sort of thinking which underlies this kind of provision.
As for the words themselves, these are so wide that no one can at this stage, at any rate, even guess where liability might end. If it turns out that the other person in question has somewhere, somehow, committed an unfair industrial practice—and there are about twenty different forms of such practice set out in the Bill—then the union is liable. To take an example, suppose a union in London receives a message from Leeds that employers are denying recognition to a union in Leeds—a typical trade union type of situation—and there is a request to "black" supplies. How is anyone to know whether someone, somewhere in Leeds, or anywhere else for that matter, has been guilty of an unfair practice within this farrago of obscurities? It does not end there, because Section 94 then goes on, within exceedingly ill-defined limits which may take years of litigation to expound, to render unlawful most kinds of sympathetic strike.
What it really boils down to, as I see it, is this: that under this legislation, which we are told is so beneficial to the unions, the only strike which you will be able safely to call is a strike which, first, is confined to your own place of work; secondly, is confined to issues which actually arise in your own place of work; thirdly, is called by a registered trade union or by an official to whom express authority is accorded in the rule book; and, fourthly, is not in breach of a bind- 122 ing or an imposed collective agreement. So the so-called right to strike, which has hitherto been regarded as the very basis of our labour law, has assumed, I think one must concede, the most shadowy proportions.
Lastly, ray Lords—and I apologise if I have encroached unduly on your Lordships' time, but these matters are a little difficult to expound as they are embedded in highly technical provisions—I should like to draw your Lordships' attention to the fact that we are told that, whatever the Bill may do to restrict union rights, nevertheless in return it confers great boons upon them. I should like to conclude by analysing as briefly as I can one of these notable boons which the trade unions are to welcome enthusiastically, with open arms. This is the provision in Clause 54 imposing on employers the duty to disclose information. The more one scrutinises this section the more one is baffled as to whether to describe it as humbug or sheer effrontery. In the first place, the unionist has to show two things: first, that without the information he is seeking he would to a material extent be impeded in carrying on collective bargaining; secondly, that it would be in accordance with good industrial relations practice that the employer should disclose the particular information for the purpose of collective bargaining.
My Lords, how on earth does the wretched unionist establish whether non-disclosure of material is going to impede him in carrying out collective bargaining when he has no idea what the information is until he gets it? As for what is or is not good industrial practice, the scope for argument about that is, of course, absolutely endless. But that is not the end—indeed, it is only the beginning. Because if one looks at Clause 151, it is there provided that even if a union official is entitled to information there are still no fewer than five escape routes which are provided behind which an employer may take refuge and avoid having to give the information. These include such matters as information conveyed in confidence, information relating specifically to individuals and—a very delightful long-stop—information where disclosure will seriously prejudice the interests of the employer. What conceivable hope has the unionist of getting any relevant information pending urgent negotiations or, indeed, at all?
123 Nor, indeed, does the matter end there, because even if the official gets his information he is not allowed, under the provisions of Section 54, the production or even the inspection of any document. Nor is he allowed to make copies or extracts of any document. All he must do is just take whatever the employer tells him at its face value, with no means whatsoever of checking it. Suppose, then, the employer refuses to supply the information. What remedy has the unionist got? This, again, is a delightful puzzle under the clause. He may complain to the Industrial Court, which has a discretion to order disclosure after, presumably, a lapse of time, by which time the information is either totally out of date or is useless. In addition, there is an alternative. The matter may be referred to the Industrial Arbitration Board under Section 122. This provides a piece of chicanery which is almost unbelievable, because if the matter is referred to the Board, what can the Board do? The Board operates under Clause 123, under which it can make an award specifying terms to be implied in a contract. This seems to lead one into a total procedural jungle, because so far as I can see all that can happen then is that you are left with an action in the ordinary courts to enforce the terms which have been implied into your contract. Then in due course, presumably, you apply for discovery in the action, and by this means you get sight of a document. But how long this process will take I leave it to your Lordships to assess.
One could, of course, go on at length about this matter, and I apologise to your Lordships for having spoken for so long as I have. I do not intend to say another word more about it. All I venture to suggest is that I have shown enough at least to indicate that the hostility of the unions to this legislation is indeed well founded; that the legislation, quite apart from the underlying philosophy, which is an arguable matter, is based on extremely muddled thinking. Although, for my part, I share the view of my noble friend Lady Lee that on the constitutional situation it is not appropriate for this side of the House to vote against the Second Reading of a Bill, an important Bill, which has been passed by the other place, nevertheless I warmly 124 support the Motion in the name of my noble friend Lord Shackleton, and I propose, therefore, to give my vote for that Motion.
§ 8.40 p.m.
§ LORD MILFORD
My Lords, under the present social system there will always be conflict of interests between employers and employees. At one time, the employers had all the power. During the last hundred years the working class fought for and legally gained their present organisations. The voluntary system of bargaining evolved and was accepted by both sides. Between the wars there was mass unemployment, and this weakened the unions' bargaining powers. There was so much unemployment and people seeking jobs that the whole bargaining business became very difficult. But after the last war we had a period of full employment, and the working class became very strong, because they could always bargain and because there was such a shortage of labour. It was during this period, when the working class were really strong under full employment, that the idea of bringing in laws to curb the powers of the unions began to rumble; because this situation, in which, under full employment, the trade unions were very strong, was a threat to our whole capitalist system here. So it is from that history of full employment in this country and the strength of the unions that this Bill was born.
This Bill will never improve industrial relations. But that is not its real aim. This Bill is a declaration of war against the trade unions. It is designed to cut them down; and however cleverly and smilingly the Front Bench opposite deny this, that is the fundamental object. It is a Bill to cut down the trade unions. It is an open class Bill, and as soon as it appeared it brought the class war right out into the open, up and down the country, in a way that has not happened for years. Of course this Tory Government, by its very composition, is on the side of the employers. The Budget has explained to everyone that Tory philosophy is to enrich the already well-off so that they have more surplus to invest to make even more surplus. This being the solution to our economy, the Government think that anything which even slows down this movement is against the national interest. Of course, any increases 125 in wages eats into this privately owned surplus.
In the last eighteeen months the workers have increased their share of the national cake by a minute crumb, thus reducing by a very little the gross inequality in our society. But this is dangerous: it must be stopped; for it will slow down investment and economic expansion. That is the attitude. This Bill starts straight off with its attack on the trade unions, blaming them for all the difficulties that this country is in. It makes no attempt whatever to analyse the problem of the stresses and strains in our society now or any of the fundamental problems of society. No: it is all the fault of the trade unions.
The whole face of industry is altering so fast, causing upheavals and restlessness. From my own experience in Gloucestershire, I know that huge, remote firms and combines have taken over local, intimate, often long-established businesses. Management has become more impersonal, distant, faceless. The workers have become more alienated and feel more dehumanised; just a number on a computer card, no longer human beings to the employer. This has led to a tremendous feeling of frustration and bewilderment. "Things must be altered. What is life about?" ask the younger generation. We must all be aware that this feeling is running through a large section of our society, through the youth who are the next generation of the blue-or white-collared workers. Surely the only way to counteract this frightening alienation is by more democracy in industry, more discussion at all levels, treating the workers as highly intelligent knowledgeable people. The way to make matters worse is to push them further away through the law, the courts, the judges, fines and legal proceedings.
Modern industry, with modern techniques, has needed and caused to be needed a completely new kind of shop floor worker and white collar worker. They have to be highly educated, quick in understanding; and they cannot be prevented from questioning the things they see around them. Something is wrong with a society which produces three-quarters of a million unemployed. What is it? Why is there such inequality in wealth? Is it true that the rich have to get richer to make the economy turn 126 over? Why does the increased technical skill which should increase production per head not mean far higher real wages? Why do prices have to go up? This is the sort of discussion that goes on in the Labour club and in the pub on the housing estate. These people cannot be dismissed as irresponsible militants. By doing so, Mr. Carr insults them. They feel that things could be changed. They are not being swayed by a few "wild cat" demagogues; they are frustrated by things to-day.
Look at what happened at Rolls-Royce! The workers, proud of their work and skill, were never allowed a hint of the problems and of the situation dangerous for them all. They were never consulted at any level. Suddenly out of the blue, they found themselves redundant. Or take Fords. An American comes here for cheap labour; runs his factory on foreign lines; makes colossal profits from each worker and refuses to pay them the equivalent of what other British workers get to do the same job in other British factories. Of course there is fury.
The Government openly declare that it is the trade unions, the workers, who are the cause of the mess in the British economy; and the Government claim that they have a mandate to curb their powers. They have no such mandate. The public fell for their promises to reduce prices and unemployment—promises they never intended to fulfil. The Government want to get us into the Common Market, They know that if we go into the Common Market, prices will soar, and that it will be better if we have prices going up now so that the Common Market does not look so expensive to the British public.
Are the trade unions responsible for rising prices? It is an absolute fact that prices really started to go up because of the devaluation of 1967, which led to a rise in the cost of imports and basic materials for manufacture. Secondly, rising prices are due to increased taxation imposed to keep down consumption and divert resources to exports. Thirdly, the bank rate was raised from 6½ per cent. to 8 per cent. in 1967, which led to increasing loan charges, causing higher rents and rates. Fourthly, according to the Economic Committee of the T.U.C. 127 wages account for one-third of the increase in prices. The Government hold down wages and raise the cost of living, and then call the trade unions the culprits responsible for any unrest. We are about to have cuts in school meals and welfare milk, increased prescription charges and travelling fares. Only a strong trade union movement can fight this reduction in the standard of living—hence this Bill to weaken the trade unions, and hence Keith Joseph's proposed further kick in the groin for anyone attempting to halt this policy.
Toryism has always shouted for less Government interference in the affairs of the employers. The slightest whiff of public control is anathema to them. At elections they wave the banner of more personal freedom; yet for the working class they demand more and more Government interference in all the internal and external aspects of their organisation. The very speed with which they are pushing through this Bill reflects their hostility to the trade unions. On such an important issue, affecting the whole nation and the intimate lives of millions of families, this Government have refused to debate 111 clauses in the elected Chamber of Parliament, and have left 14 pages of Amendments undiscussed. What contempt for the working classes! What contempt of Parliament!
In recent discussions that I have had with union organisers and shop stewards it has been pointed out to me that it took many months of negotiation to get agreement about the wages of one man They compared this patient trade union procedure with the Government's treatment of this Bill. It is said that the national interest demands this Bill against trade unions, and the Government, the Judiciary, must strictly interfere in their rules, organisation and procedure of negotiation. But are not unemployment, increased prices, the cutting of social services and sickness and health payments, mismanagement, vast export of capital and foreign economic penetration also against the national interest? Why are not the Government moving with speed to fight these running sores? Why is there nothing in this Bill about the acts of employers which cause strikes? Not negotiating seriously; ignoring procedure; sudden redundancy; altering 128 conditions of work—where is the big stick against those matters? These should be classified as unfair acts liable to high fines.
The penalties in this Bill are far more severe on the workers' organisations than on the employers. It takes two to make a quarrel. Workers and management are fully aware of the causes of conflicts, and nine-tenths of them are settled peacefully; the other one-tenth may require action. Without being free to strike, or to take other action as needed, the workers will be reduced to being serfs. The present era has many new problems. There is unrest and strife. These are growing pains; I think there is a tremendous amount of growing pains as industry moves into the computer-automation-electronic age. The whole field of labour is going to change out of all recognition, and there will be needed more highly educated and skilled blue and white collar employees, which calls for a new relationship—even a new society.
To attempt to solve these problems by putting the clock back a hundred years, when things were completely different in industry, is not only lacking in vision but will also produce greater strife, sullenness and non-co-operation. We have to find a way to reverse this trend of increasing dehumanisation of the workers to reduce democracy at all levels in industry. In fact, my Lords, somehow we have to find a new relationship leading to a new society. That is what is needed. You cannot go on pushing. You cannot push this much needed new wine into an old bottle; the bottle will burst.
§ 8.56 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT MASSEREENE AND FERRARD
My Lords, I understand that the noble Lord, Lord Milford, is a member of the Communist Party. He will forgive me if I do not go into great lengths on his speech, but I would just say two things. I would suggest first (perhaps he has already done so) that when he next goes on holiday he should go behind the Iron Curtain and compare the standard of living of the workers behind the Iron Curtain with the standard of living of the workers in Britain. The other thing I would say to him is that no one, and certainly not the Conservative Party, objects to powerful unions: we want very powerful unions. All we 129 ask is that the unions use their power with responsibility.
Having said that, my Lords, I turn to the Motion moved by the noble Lord, Lord Delacourt-Smith. I cannot support it, and I will explain why. I agree that another place has not discussed this Bill in Committee as it ought to have done: it did not have the time. But surely this House is even better qualified to discuss the Bill; because on the Benches opposite we have noble Lords who in their day were extremely responsible trade union leaders, and I think that the majority of them have been members of a trade union. So on the Benches opposite we have a great fount of knowledge of trade unions and on both sides of the House we have a great fount of knowledge as employers. So it seems to me that your Lordships' House is particularly qualified to judge this Bill.
The Amendment asks whether the Government can go back to "negotiations with both sides of industry free from the conditions", and so on. My Lords, we have for years, under various Governments, been discussing with both sides of industry, and we have got nowhere. This Bill is at least an attempt to get somewhere, and I cannot understand the tremendous hullabaloo that it has caused in the country. We are told that the Bill will victimise the workers. But who is speaking, my Lords? Is it not a case of the pot calling the kettle black? We think of the "kangaroo courts" for example. The last thing this Bill will do will be to victimise the workers, or the employees, as I prefer to call them.
One thing that the noble Lord, Lord Delacourt-Smith, said amused me, and I was tempted to interrupt him. He said that in his opinion (I hope that I quote him correctly) the law could never make people work in co-operation. It would be very interesting to know whether the noble Lord applies that principle to the Race Relations Act. I should like to have his answer to that. Of course, the law gives a lead to people. We can have no liberty without law.
The present Bill has been compared in one newspaper to the great Reform Bill of the 1830s, but we cannot compare them, because the Reform Bill had a lot of teeth and this Bill has no teeth— 130 well, I cannot find them. It is the mildest of Bills. It is completely voluntary. The Government are setting an example, are laying down a code of behaviour for industrial relations. Compulsion is conspicuous by its absence. I cannot understand all this row. If this measure is entered into by the unions in the right spirit, it may well usher in a new era of industrial relations. Take, for example, the registration of unions. They do not have to register, but if they do they are fully protected under the trade union Acts. If they co-operate in the Bill, it will bring great benefits. It will strengthen the authority of the unions. Noble Lords opposite may not agree with that statement, but I believe that the Bill will strengthen the unions against "wildcatters". I have had some experience of those people and I can assure noble Lords that it will.
It will also be of great help to employers with their costing problems. It is impossible for an employer to do accurate costing if he makes a wage agreement and before he knows where he is it is broken. All his costing goes to hell, and before he knows it he is broke, but he still has to pay wages. Nobody likes sacking people. If only the unions will co-operate with us, it will be of inestimable help to working people. It will increase the purchasing power of their wages. It will benefit them immeasurably. I implore the Party opposite to think again. I know in my heart that many of them really want this Bill.
§ LORD DIAMOND
My Lords, I do not want to interrupt the noble Viscount, but I know full well that he is most anxious to support us against the Bill, by the same logic that he has provided.
§ VISCOUNT MASSEREENE AND FERRARD
No, my Lords, the noble Lord is off the rail there a bit. I saw the Prime Minister quoted in a Sunday newspaper as saying that some unions pressed their claims to such an extent that they forced firms into bankruptcy and themselves into unemployment. That does not surprise me. I have frequently brought the matter up in your Lordships' House and likened the people of this country to the Gadarene swine rushing to their doom. But we cannot blame the 131 workers. In my opinion, we should blame certain shop stewards, certain managements and certain professional politicians. For years politicians of both Parties have been telling people that they will get more and more by doing less, if only they will vote for them. Naturally the average man, who has been so used to being told by politicians that he can get more for less, thinks that his employer has a bottomless purse. He is also urged on by the militant shop stewards. It is a pity, when we think of the £2,500 million spent on education, that we cannot get basic economic facts into people's heads; it would then be a much happier country. I wish to heaven that we could get more of them into the head of the noble Lord, Lord Milford, but I am afraid that is too much to hope for.
May I now turn to the Bill. I welcome Clauses 54 and 55 regarding information to employees. I have often advocated this policy in your Lordships' House. With small firms it is comparatively easy, but it could also be done by big firms. Some of them already do give their employees information, by news sheets and other means. It is difficult for the average man to understand a balance sheet. There may even be one or two Members of this House who may not understand a balance sheet. It is quite a difficult thing to do.
Then there are Clauses 20 to 31, the clauses on unfair dismissals. I quite agree with what is proposed, except that the compensation of £4,000 maximum may for many small businesses be a rather big sum; but presumably the maximum would not be given. It seems rather illogical that there should be maximum compensation of £4,000 for unfair dismissal of an employee sacked by I.C.I., and the same compensation for an employee wrongfully dismissed by a man employing four people. That does not seem quite logical. Of course a great number of farmers would come under this, too, and I hope that when we come to the Committee stage we may make some alteration here.
May I just say about the closed shop that I appreciate the argument on the other side, but I had hoped that we might get away from the closed shop from the 132 point of view of the freedom of the individual. I appreciate that as the unions have sought to better the wage conditions of their members it might be rather unfair in some respects if they did not have a closed shop. But I was rather interested to see that the noble Lord, Lord Diamond, roared with laughter when my noble friend Lord Drumalbyn said that a man would not be forced to joint a union but that would be made up for by the fact that he had to contribute to the union or some charity. The noble Lord seemed to think that quite impossible, but I cannot think why. After all, the unions will get the money. They will not get the support of the member, but they will get the money and that would be some comfort, I should have thought.
My Lords, there is another clause about which I am not very happy—Clause 16. Under that clause sailors, and I think actors, are to be completely protected by the closed shop. Under "actors" would presumably come "musicians". The history of the Musicians' Union, as regards their behaviour to some people, is not very good, and I know one or two members in the Musicians' Union who have been very victimised by the closed shop. Victimisation is a very nasty thing. I presume that we shall have a number of Amendments on the closed shop.
There are very many conundrums in the Bill, and I must say that I think it is going to be rather a bonanza for the lawyers. I must say that I should not like to be a lawyer and have to understand it. Take sympathetic strikes. How are you going to define a sympathetic strike? That is up to the lawyers, but I can see no concrete definition in the Bill of a sympathetic strike. Thank heavens! that will not be my job. But, my Lords, I support the Bill, as it does give a lead. It is at least an attempt; it is a framework of law. The noble Lord, Lord Delacourt-Smith, said that it is impossible to make individuals co-operate by law, but I do not agree with him. Other countries have done so. It is said to-day that our traditions are so different that it cannot work here. But, for heaven's sake! let us try. After all, your Lordships opposite always hold up Sweden, the most socialist country in the world, as the Utopia. I am not of course 133 talking about Communist countries, because they are beyond the pale. The noble Lord, Lord Milford, was talking about this Bill turning the workers of this country into serfs. He should go behind the Iron Curtain to see serfs. There they have no unions in practice: they are told to work, where to work, and what wages to work for; and if they do not comply they are shot.
I will end by saying that I support the Bill. As I was saying, in Sweden they have much stronger legislation than this, and noble Lords opposite love Sweden. For heaven's sake! co-operate on this Bill. As I say, I support the Bill; I wish it every success, and I am extremely glad that it has come to this House in its present form, because it will give us great opportunities to improve it, as I am sure we shall.
§ LORD MILFORD
My Lords, before the noble Viscount sits down, he mentioned trade unions behind what he calls the Iron Curtain. I have been there several times, and the trade unions are very powerful. They have a tremendous say, and are in the Government in everything.
§ VISCOUNT MASSEREENE AND FERRARD
Of course they are in the Government; they are the rulers. But the individual worker has no power at all. I, too, have been behind the Iron Curtain.
§ 9.16 p.m.
§ LORD TAYLOR OF MANSFIELD
My Lords, the noble -Viscount who has just sat clown poses a problem for me. I do not know whether lie is serious or joking. To take one of his statements, he said that the Party opposite him want this Bill. He surely must be joking about that, after listening to the many speeches that we have heard to-day. It seems to me that two things have emerged from the speeches that have been made. First, on both sides there has been unanimity on the need to improve our system of industrial relations. The Trades Union Congress have been saying that for a long time, and not only that, but trey have made every effort they can to bring it about. As against that, there has been a noticeable conflict of opinion in the speeches to-day. From the other side 134 of the House we have heard it said by many noble Lords that this Bill is the right way to improve our system of industrial relations. On this side of the House every speaker whom I have heard—and I echo their sentiments—has said that by no stretch of the imagination is this Bill the way to sweeten our system of industrial relations.
On this point I would say that industrial relations are not out of the nursery class yet; or, to use another metaphor, they are a very tender plant indeed. I am not absolutely sure, but I think the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, gave me the accolade of being the oldest serving trade union member in this House. It is only within recent times—actually at the beginning of the last war, and 30 years is not a great time in the life of a nation—that opinion was focused on this idea of industrial relations. That is really when the birth of this plant, this child, whatever you like to call it, took place. After all the customs and traditions in our industrial life over the past 150 or 200 years, we should be foolish to expect miracles overnight in this field. This plant of industrial relations needs nurturing; it needs care and proper attention, so that in due course it will grow up to be something of which we in this country can be extremely proud. All my trade union life this has been my policy, this has been the path that I have sought to tread, and I shall continue to do so, so that industrial relations in our complex, modern and sophisticated society shall become sweeter. I say this to the noble Viscount. We on this side sincerely believe that this Bill is not the way to achieve the object which we all have in mind.
I know that the time is getting late. In my lifetime I have worked days, afternoons and nights, but, quite frankly, I do not like working all the three shifts at one time. I got up fairly early to get here; there are many speakers after me, and there are quite a lot of things that I should like to say.
§ LORD TAYLOR OF MANSFIELD
This field of industrial relations cannot be dismissed in a ten-minute speech when the Donovan Commission took three years 135 to consider it. They met people representing 420 organisations. To cover the subject in a ten-minute speech is too fantastic to think about. I want to say one or two words on behalf of the men and women who comprise all branches of our industrial system, manual, administrative and management. I do not rule out anybody, because all of them have had, still have, and are likely to have, a big contribution to make in the industrial and economic life of our nation. I think of the men and women who work in our fields, pits and factories, in offices and shops. As I am standing here in your Lordships' House I have all of them in my mind. The older I become, the one thing I feel certain about is that we are not sufficiently articulate in the recognition of the service that all these people render to the nation. Personally speaking—and I should like it on the record that I am saying it to your Lordships—I pay my debt of gratitude to the many millions of people in every department who are running our industrial life. Let us not forget one thing—and I think we are inclined to overlook this important fact—that without the labour of miners, farm-workers, those in our factories, in our transport industries, the folk in government, our teachers and our administrative workers, life in this 20th century would be a very dismal business indeed.
What is the position? What are we really considering to-day, as distinct from, say, a hundred years ago? The noble and learned Lord, Lord Donovan, I think said that 10 million people are organised in their respective trade unions. Why is that? There must be some reason for it. I will state it as I see it, as I have understood it and still understand it. It is simply this: to protect their hard won rights; to improve their standards materially and culturally, and to participate in the pleasure of a fellowship wherein an injury to one is an injustice to all. That is the purpose of the trade union movement. It is as simple as that.
These things have been the right of individuals and of organisations certainly for the past hundred years. Prior to the 1871 Act, unions had no legal recognition. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Donovan, particularly spelt out this point. Between that time and now there have been many legal judgments, and some of 136 them have not been very helpful to the trade unions. I think of one in particular: the Taff Valejudgment of 1901. Then that spiteful piece of legislation of 1927 was enacted: one cannot describe it otherwise than as a penalty for 1926. However, in spite of those things, trade unions have now been legally recognised, with certain prohibitions, for at least a century.
To-day we have this Bill. I have seen it described in the following language—and personally I subscribe to the description; I will not conceal my feelings about it at all:It is the most industrially disruptive piece of legislation by any post-war Government. It is the new reactionary philosophy which the Tories are now committed to.I wanted to say one or two words on the question of trade unions and industrial relations in historical perspective. I feel I cannot leave this one out; it should go on the Record. As I read history—and I know we can all put our different interpretations upon it, but I am giving my view now—the Tory Party never wanted the trade unions. At the first sign of any movement to combine, steps were taken to prevent it. The best known instance, of course, is the story of the Dorchester labourers. The Dorset landowner magistrates had no compunction at that time in having those Methodist Nonconformists banished to Botany Bay. But those people sowed the seeds of combination and, in spite of the chilly winds of oppression and persecution since that time, the tree of trade unionism has grown. What we see to-day in the trade union movement is a tribute to the memory of those Dorchester labourers.
If I had time to-night I would describe one most moving thing that has happened to me, when that grand old lady of the stage, Dame Sybil Thorndike, came into Nottinghamshire during one of the bitterest disputes we have had and there, on the only parcel of ground available in the open air, she gave to the striking miners episodes from that book,Six Men of Dorset. When it became apparent that it was impossible to prevent the will to combine from erupting, the technique changed to toleration and the combination laws were repealed. But even to-day there are unenlightened employers who refuse to allow trade unionists near their premises; and there are some who are 137 so 18th century-minded that they even apply the sanction of the sack to those who make an effort to form a trade union. Now this Government are proposing a new technique in this field, the purpose of which, in my view, is to hamstring and shackle the trade union movement by importing from America the proposals of the Taft-Hartley Acts. One has not time to go into that matter.
I have given some thought and time to the study of the process of thinking of the Tory Party during the last ten years, and my conclusion is that this Bill is the culmination of a process of thinking in this very important and delicate field in industrial relations which started way back in the 'sixties in the Tory Central Office. I wonder how many of the "back-room boys", if any, had experience in industry, either in management or in the trade unions? It is quite possible that most of them were either lawyers or academics—able people, I have no doubt, in their own field, but I have grave doubts whether they had experience on the shop floor, at the pit or on the farm.
These back room boys produced a pamphlet Fair Deal at Work, and this was published before the Donovan Commission was set up. I need only say, in a word, how much I appreciate the work done by those 11 men and one woman on the Commission in giving their time to this important question of industrial relations. But what happened? The Tory Party were so impetuous that they were in no mood of contentment to wait for the Report. Into the arena they rushed like a tornado and, pre-Donovan, this pamphlet, Fair Deal at Work,was published on the bookstalls. It is the un-thought-out conclusions in this pamphlet that were spelled out, first in the document of List October which we debated the following month, and which are now embodied in the Bill.
In this respect I must quote the statement of the T.U.C.:Members of the Government seem to have learned nothing. First, they were indifferent to the fact that a major Royal Commission was nearing the end of its work, and secondly, they have cast aside an agreed report on the reform of Britain's industrial relations.So one could go on, but I will say only this. In the interim, particularly since the publication of this Bill, what have the Government been doing? They 138 have been hawking it round to Tory Party Conferences and, like the fishmonger, they have not been crying "stinking fish" about it, either. That would be too much to expect. No pedlar denigrates his wares, but for an exercise in salesmanship the Secretary of State, Mr. Carr, as reported in the Press last Saturday, takes the prize. I quote the words as reported in the Guardian. He said:I am convinced that the time will come when the unions will be the staunchest supporters of this Bill.All right, he is entitled to his opinion. He is entitled to say that at a Tory Party Conference in Cardiff. But the most charitable thing you can say about it is this: it is based not on facts but on hope, and hope deferred makes the heart sink. He may be a simple optimist to-day but he could be a very disappointed man to-morrow. The unions at no time have changed their mind about the 1927 legislation. They campaigned for its repeal, as they have done about this Bill even before it becomes law, and all the evidence that we have in no way supports the prophetic statement of Mr. Carr last Saturday.
There is a great deal more that I should like to say, but there are so many speakers to come, and therefore I will begin to conclude. This is a Second Reading debate, and discussion centres on general principles: the detailed examination will come during the Committee Stage. But I would summarise this Bill as I see it. In operation it will be an El Dorado for the legal profession. Secondly, it provides for the opportunity for the rise of company unions; and thirdly, instead of sweetening it will sour relationships in the industrial field. I should have liked to make some observations about all those three points.
May I say this one thing, at any rate? This Bill is a paradise for legal ambiguity. All the lawyers who have spoken to-day indicate that to me; it is as ambiguous as it can be. I have seen an estimate this week-end that it will give employment to scores of solicitors and lawyers, and 11,000 civil servants. What about the creation of the N.I.R.C., with status of the High Court, with a member of the Judiciary as President? The industrial tribunals will have new and greater powers. The whole new pattern emerging 139 is this: that those who know the most about the business of industrial relations are going to be out, and the legal profession, who know very little from a practical angle, are going to be in. In addition to this, I have an estimate that it is going to cost £5 million annually to operate—and this at a time when cuts are being made in the social services.
May I quote from Professor Wedderburn? He is a Professor of Law at London University, so he cannot be a "mug", can he? This is what he says:The Bill is at least an irrelevance. At worst it is a legal nightmare. It is the biggest piece of public mystification of this century. It will not deal with any of the causes of industrial disputes. It will restrict trade union rights and run labour relations into a swamp of legal squabbling.Would I not like to say something about the opportunity that is likely to be created by the rise of company unions! However, I would say this to the Government, very seriously. Have you heard of or read about Harworth, in Nottinghamshire? Have you any knowledge of what took place in Bedwas in the South Wales coalfield, between 1926 and 1937? I would ask noble Lords to acquaint themselves with that. If what I say is possible about the rights of company unions, and the same bitterness is engendered nationwide as was prevalent in the Nottinghamshire coalfield during the period that I have mentioned, it will be a sad thing for this nation.
I want to give one quotation. It is an important quotation, from an important man. This is what he said:It is not good for trade unions that they should be brought into contact with the courts, and it is not good for the courts either.Who said this? I was somewhat amazed when I read it, but it was said by a man who occupied a place at the front of the political and Parliamentary stage. At the time he said it he was not the darling of the Tory Party; he was a thorn in their flesh. If noble Lords will read the Report of the debates in the House of Commons on May 30, 1911, they will find that it was Mr. Winston Churchill who made that statement.
In conclusion (and I apologise for going on for so long: I could go on all night if you like, because this has been my life), I want to say that this Bill in the field of industrial relations will be a 140 stumbling block, a hindrance, not a help. Legally it is complicated; industrially and socially it is undesirable; and, apart from two of its proposals, on unfair dismissal and extension of notice, with which I agree, my irrevocable conclusion about this Bill, in contradistinction to what was said by the noble Lord who opened the debate, is that it is indeed a very bad Bill. I cannot support it. In fact, to me it is so unsatisfactory that I am reminded of a statement in the other place, some few years ago, by (I think I am right in quoting the name of the author again) Sir Winston Churchill. He was commenting on a Bill that he did not like. He thought it was a very bad Bill, and to-day on this Bill I re-echo his words:Take it away. Take it outside and cut its dirty throat.I shall vote for the Amendment, and when it comes to Second Reading I shall be among the "Not-Contents".
§ 9.44 p.m.
THE LORD BISHOP OF BLACKBURN
My Lords, as the noble Lord, Lord Taylor of Mansfield, has said, time is passing on and this is an occasion when we should abbreviate anything that we have to say, because we all have our eyes on the clock and there are still 12 more speakers. Therefore, let me follow his example by cutting out some of the things that I had intended to say. I should like to start with a question which may be in some of your Lordships' minds, as to what all this has to do with Bishops.
In the first place, I should declare myself to be a member of the Municipal and General Workers' Union, as I have been for a number of years because I find it gets me the most valuable contacts with those engaged in industry. For the last 25 years, I have worked as a Bishop in two industrial dioceses where my great concern has been to promote good relationships in industry between management and unions. It is, I suppose, understandable, but I hope that it is not inevitable, that there should be this continual talk about two sides in industry. Unfortunately, the reaction to this present Bill has been a hardening of this division, until we are almost approaching the Tweedledum and Tweedledee situation, with the plaintive cry, "You have spoilt 141 my nice new rattle." Our chief concern is to establish a proper and tolerant situation, where the two sides can work effectively together to promote the common good of all concerned, and of the community in general which they serve.
I think we are all agreed—even the noble Lord, Lord Taylor of Mansfield, will probably agree—that Clause 1 sets forth in admirable terms what should be the common objective, to which general consent can surely be given. But to that introduction might be added a further clause, laying upon management a direct responsibility for the promotion of good relations in industry. I am bound to confess that what is spelled out so clearly in the introduction is then obscured by the minutia' of detail, the mass of clauses and subsections, so that we can scarcely see the wood for the trees. Nevertheless, the primary aim is sound and commendable, and I hope that it will hold our attention as we debate the details.
There is a further reason why the Church, in the person of the Prelates in your Lordships' House, has a valid contribution to make. The Church can speak as a whole in an unprejudiced manner: I will not say in a disinterested way, because we are interested in the promotion of human relations—and I so often want to call them "human relations"—in industry. In this field the Church is in a position which is denied, for example, to the Government, to management or to trade unions, who when they speak are suspect and can be accused of vested interests. This cannot be said in the same way of the Church. So I believe that the Church really has a considerable contribution to make. May I then, as quickly as possible make certain observations concerning the Bill, in what I hope is a constructive manner, on what are mostly controversial points.
First, there is the question of membership of a trade union. The Bill rightly states that every person shall have an opportunity, if he so desires, to be a member of such trade union as he may choose. That is good and it is a great gain. But the next clause reveals the other side of the coin; that every person shall have a right, if he so desires, to be a member of no trade union. At its face value, this is a case of "what is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander", but it has appeared to some as 142 a direct attack upon the trade unions. I do not believe it.
At a recent meeting of trade union branch secretaries in my town of Blackburn—and it is interesting that the only time the trade union branch secretaries were brought together was when it was done by the Church—it was this provision, that people need not be members of a trade union, which deeply troubled them, since they feared they would lose a lot of members. Human nature being what it is, they may very well do so. There is a good deal of disenchantment with trade unions, and complaints about the rising dues of membership. However, it has to be accepted that the principle of collective bargaining, upon which good industrial relations and the Bill itself rests, depends upon good, responsible and efficient trade unions. We must have them: they are essential to the proper working of industrial relations. I suggest, my Lords, that the weakness of this clause is in the words, "if he so desires", since selfish or individual desire can enter here.
The United Nations Declaration of Human Rights has been quoted in support of the right not to belong to a union, but in actual fact the United Nations Declaration has a different wording. It lays down the right "not to be compelled to join a union", which is a different emphasis altogether in that it implies that a man should join a union but that he cannot be forced to do so; it is not left to his whim or fancy. I hope that when we reach the Committee stage the words, "on the grounds of conscience" can be substituted for the words "if he so desires".
Secondly, let me pass to the register and the Registrar, concerning which we are glad to see that an amendment has been made which prevents the Registrar from making up his own rules. It is surely essential that there should be, as there is now, a register of recognised unions; and, if they are to be recognised, what fair objections can there be to the submission and inspection of their constitution, including their rules and regulations? The fear has been expressed that the general freedom to leave a union if a man so desires could lead to a rash of breakaway unions—"scab" unions, they were called just now. These could 143 not be effective unless they were registered, and, in registering, their bona fides would surely be inspected. I find myself in favour of the register and the Registrar, and can see no useful purpose in withdrawing from the register. To threaten to do so, as I regret some unions have, can only in the long run adversely affect their members and penalise the trade union concerned.
Thirdly—and I now come to the main cause of objection, as has come out again and again in this debate—there is the whole question of legal enforcement of agreements. The ill-fated In Place of Strife, which in my opinion was an admirable document, said that agreements would not be legally enforceable unless provision was so made. In the Bill, your Lordships will be aware, the position is reversed: they shall be legally enforceable unless it is expressly stated to the contrary. Now I am well aware of the hazards and problems of which we have been reminded: the bogies that can be raised of war regulations, and what is happening in the United States of America. But some method must be found to enforce agreements in the face of any unprincipled persons who, in a permissive age, are not prepared to be bound by solemn promises, and who openly flout those set in authority over them. It is the hope of most people, and I should like to say all, that the courts will not be used, but they are there in the background, as the magistrates' courts exist in other spheres and are available to us. Most of us order our affairs so that we can keep out of those courts. That is the hope of what will happen here.
Particular care and attention must then be given to the drawing up of agreements—which has not always been the case in the past. There is the opportunity, of which we have been reminded, to exclude these agreements from legal enforcement if desired. The law, if flouted, comes down very heavily on employers and employees in other fields. Why should this matter of industrial agreements be excluded from the protection that the law can afford?
Let me conclude by saying something about the Commission on Industrial Relations and industrial tribunals. We are familiar with these already. They 144 are doing good work and are an integral part of the machinery of conciliation as envisaged in this Bill. The Trades Union Congress at its recent Conference apparently took the decision to advise—I doubt that they can require—trade unionists not to sit upon tribunals or on commissions. I cannot follow that reasoning. To me it is non-sense—I mean that: "non sense"—to retreat from a position where you are needed to defend your comrades; to abdicate and to leave the enemy in possession. Such action will not stop the Commission on Industrial Relations from doing its work; there are enough volunteers to be found without having to press-gang people. I have never been able to understand this attitude, which I often find also in the Church: that when you do not approve of some action and cannot get your own way in stopping it, you resign from a committee. It may salve your conscience but can betray a cause.
I am convinced that the voice of the trade unions must be heard in these tribunals. A straight, honest trade union official is respected, and the employers who are straight and honourable are respected, too, by the trade unions. Having said that, I believe that the trade unions at the present time need a new strategy and a different approach. There are some trade unionists who are living in the past. The battles that they fought so magnificently then and won so hardly are not the same battles that they have to fight to-day. Then, they were engaged in establishing the rights of workers and and in taming their employers. Now, it seems to me, their problem and duty consist in no small measure in taming their own members.
The late Leslie Cannon, in a posthumous broadcast saidThe Trade Union Movement has lost its way. It has lost its sense of mission. The sense of brotherhood has no meaning. The powerful get what they can and they leave the weak to get what they can.The aim must surely be to build up confidence between the two sides in industry: confidence in themselves as well as confidence in one another; confidence in their ability to make good. For the issues behind the Bill, with its many clauses, run deep; and, as we have been reminded, it stirs up memories of the past without breaking hopefully, as 145 yet, into the future. I say "as yet" because if this Bill can be made to work then it can help to revolutionise in the right way the industrial situation; but if it does not work it could be overthrown by a different kind of revolution which would destroy the peace and the greatness of our nation.
The need is not so much to find the right words to interpret a variety of clauses; the basic need is to secure the right attitudes to life and to work, and to be able both to practise them and to commend them to others. A recurring question in the past has been: who is to be master? I do not mean this in the actual sense, but who is to win in the struggle which is taking place and which, unfortunately, is emphasised by this Bill? That question is wrong. The question we need to ask is: how can we find that real spirit of trust and cooperation that will enable us to work together for the common good? This Bill, if it is approached in the right way, can be a charter for the stabilising and improvement of industrial relations. But there must first be a willing mind to make it work. With that, all things are possible; without it, my Lords, the situation can only grow worse.
§ 10.0 p.m.
§ BARONESS GAITSKELL
My Lords, it is a pleasure to follow the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Blackburn, particularly as I agree with some of the essential parts of his speech, though not with all. I have always been grateful for the knowledge I gained during the many years when I accompanied my husband on his visits to factories, steelworks and coal mines, and every kind of industry and institution where manual and other workers are employed. Without that knowledge, I should not feel entitled to speak to-day. I cannot help feeling that this Bill is one written by lawyers exclusively for lawyers, and I confess that for a layman to follow it is just hard labour. However, when I surfaced after struggling through its nine Parts and 150 clauses, I had a pretty shrewd idea of its intentions.
I wonder, my Lords, why lawyers do not draft Bills with the same clarity as we heard in the speech of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Donovan, this afternoon. He made an absolutely magnifi- 146 cent speech which was full of wisdom. That is not surprising, when one comes to think of it, because it was his Report that sired both In Place of Strife and also this Bill, though the Report and the White Paper differ from this Bill in various respects. As many people have said, the Bill seeks to establish a framework of law within which industrial relations can develop. This sounds so simple and innocuous, but it seemed to me that it was less a legal framework than a legal cage.
As the noble and learned Lord, Lord Donovan, said, the Conservatives have always over-simplified industrial relations, though a Bill of this gargantuan complexity does not reflect that simplicity. As the Government's Bill has been compared with the Labour Government's White Paper, In Place of Strife, I refreshed my memory by reading it again. I found it a model of clarity and conciseness. It borrows much more from the recommendations of the Donovan Report than does this Conservative Bill, though there are some similar recommendations. But, my Lords, the philosophy that permeates these two documents could not be more different.
The Government's Bill is very authoritarian and rests mainly on new judicial machinery. No one could deny that this Bill is biased against the trade unions, but, even though the unions rejected the White Paper, In Place of Strife, the Labour Government could not be accused of that bias. I supported the Labour Government's White Paper, except for the penal clauses, when it was debated in your Lordships' Chamber. I would mention only one or two respects in which I think that this Bill differs from In Place of Strife. The sections on workers' rights are deliberately weaker than in the Labour Bill. Management is liable for fewer unfair industrial practices. The contracting out and agency shop provisions are designed to weaken the trade union movement, whereas the objective should be to make the trade unions stronger and more responsible. The registration provisions, it seems to me, are a form of State licensing by encroaching excessively upon the freedom of association as guaranteed by the I.L.O. conventions and the European Social Charter.
I should have been in favour of this Industrial Relations Bill if it had made 147 a take over of the White Paper,In Place of Strife, if it had strengthened the Labour Party's recommendations. The trade unions rejected In Place of Strife, helped by one or two strategic errors by the Labour Government in putting it across, and now, it seems to me, they are landed with a much more punitive Bill, really a Bill of distilled Tory dogma. Les Cannon, whose death was a great loss to this country, in a Sunday Times article described the T.U.C.'s defeat of the Government's White Paper as a "pyrrhic victory". I myself would emphasise this. It was no victory, but a great missed opportunity for the trade unions and the Labour Party to put forward a policy which could be welcomed by many people in this country.
My Lords, labour relations, when pared down to the bone, are based on collective bargaining between employers and employees. The Tory view of industrial problems reminds me a little of the now out-dated idea of the guilty party in divorce proceedings. Faults are usually to be found on both sides in the breakdown of human relationships, but the Tory Party have somehow made one feel that the trade unions are the guilty party. The problems of labour relations are a joint one, for the trade unions and management, and there has to be a joint solution.
It is obvious that our bargaining institutions are not effective enough and have to be strengthened, especially at this time in our history when workers are demanding a share of power in industry. The fury of the trade union movement against this Bill is quite understandable, as the noble and learned Lord, Lord Donovan, has pointed out, when we consider that after a century of hard-won rights—won against the suspicion and hostility of judges—the trade unions now find in this Bill that the voluntary system they have evolved is to be handed over to the law, with some power for their rules to be altered and imposed.
We are told that the Bill is modelled on the American laws. I wonder whether noble Lords noticed an article in The Times, when the Consultative Document was published, by Mr. Theodore Kheel, a famous presidential mediator and arbitrator in labour disputes and an 148 expert on labour relations, in which he analysed the Government's Bill. He wrote the article, I may say, during the strike at General Motors and in an industrial climate of wage and price increases and inflation strikingly similar to our own—and "strikingly" is the operative word. I should like to mention a few of Mr. Kheel's comments on this Industrial Relations Bill. He thought that the Bill eliminated the legal immunity of trade unions which has existed for a hundred years in this country. He was especially enlightening about the enforceability of agreements by law. He said that it was a mistake to assume that in the United States, where they are enforceable at law, agreements are observed merely because they are legally enforceable. He claimed that it was not their enforceability but the wish of the unions and employers to see to it that they are enforced. He added that they wanted them enforced, not because they were more law-abiding than others, but because of the positive advantages in the agreements made for them. This underlines the importance of cooperation, and I think we are back again in what has been called "Donovan country".
Mr. Kheel said that the most important contribution American labour relations had made was the grievance procedure in all contracts, but it was the unions which dealt with this and not the Government. In fact, the Government in this country are much more involved in this field than the American Government. He was simply scathing about the Tory idea of individual freedom not to join a trade union and the way it was equated with the right to join. He compared it with the refusal of a man to pay his taxes if the political Party he voted for was not returned; and paying a contribution to charity was absolute nonsense. It was the union, not the charity, that provided the services and he said that the trade unionists in this country pay far too little for their services. Theodore Kheel states categorically that the enforceability of industrial procedure agreements will not by itself restrict strikes.
My Lords, I do not think that this Bill will achieve what it has set out to do, for all the reasons given in the absolutely brilliant speech of my noble friend 149 Lord Delacourt-Smith, in the measured speech he made this afternoon and in his trenchant analysis of the Bill. The many big changes in British industry in the last thirty or forty years which have resulted in many chaotic wage structures cannot be dealt with by any of the numerous clauses. Litigation, my Lords, is poison in industrial relations and it can only cause bitterness and endanger labour relations. On the other hand, my Lords, a small number of extremists encourage anarchy and cause chaos, and the image of the trade union movement in this country is stamped with irresponsibility as a result.
This Conservative Industrial Relations Bill is a challenge to the whole of the Labour Movement. Opposition and protest are emotional releases, but they can 150 generate hostility in the public mind, as they have done. The public has not any idea of the real cause of strikes. Both the trade unions and the Labour Party must take a hard intellectual hold of the problems we are facing and work out together in co-operation a policy—a constructive alternative policy—for dealing with the economic and social problems in our society to-day.
Finally, my Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, said that a code of practice would be drawn up and presented, rather like the Highway Code. I do not wish to push this comparison too far, but only to say that in this Bill the Government are driving on the wrong side of the road, and driving dangerously, and I support the Motion of the Opposition.
§ 10.15 p.m.
§ LORD FERRIER
My Lards, the noble Baroness, Lady Gaitskell, said that no-one can deny that this is an anti-trade union Bill. With due respect to the noble Baroness, I can. I take the view that the Bill as it stands is nicely balanced, but I believe it is the duty of your Lordships' House, and indeed our intention, that when it leaves this place it will be an even better Bill than it is now. I was much impressed by the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Rochester. When the noble Lord, Lard Milford, said that this was a class Bill and an anti-worker Bill, I remembered that the noble Lord, Lord Rochester, said that if it was anti anything, this Bill was anti-bullies. I believe that it is anti-bullies, not only among the militant labour, but among management, and that that is the intention of the Government. The noble Lord, Lord Thomas, made a maiden speech which we all greatly enjoyed, and he pointed to the corruption that stems from absolute power.
I believe that in picking up the threads of the debate in this way I can save my time and your Lordships' time by leading on to the single, rather narrow issue to which I wish to refer; and ultimately I will refer your Lordships to Clause 134 of the Bill. The issue, as I see it, and as has been made clear in the debate hitherto, is twofold. First, who is to govern? Is it to be the Government or militant labour? Secondly, if the answer is the Government, then what are the rules? The rules, of course, are to be worked out on the Committee stage.
It is, however, upon the first point that I propose to concentrate, as to who is to govern, and when is that Government to begin. In the spring of 1969 trouble with the printing unions (who are gradually throttling their own industry) resulted in the business of Parliament being adversely affected, if not frustrated, for several weeks. On 8th May of that year my noble friend Lord Carrington, who was then the Leader of the Opposition, said:It is the duty of Government so to arrange things that Parliament can conduct its business properly."—[OFFICIAL. REPORT, 8/5/69, col. 1288.]On December 8 last year printing union trouble again struck at the conduct of the 152 business of your Lordships' House, though for a shorter period than in 1969. In the early part of this year industrial action by the Post Office workers—which a number of people, including myself, believe need never have become so serious had there been a ballot—resulted in a shocking condition of affairs so far as the conduct of Parliament was concerned. Not only the public, but Members of your Lordships' House were prevented from obtaining copies of Hansard from Her Majesty's Stationery Office depots. This was the case, to my personal knowledge, in Edinburgh. I will not weary your Lordships with details, but an important Committee of Inquiry was to sit in the North of Scotland, and the Scottish Council for Development and Industry were unable to obtain a copy of the Hansard containing the debate on that subject in this House. I gave the Council my copy and went to Her Majesty's Stationery Office and was denied one, quite courteously. But I have reason to believe that the Hansards were there; it was just that the people in the Office had declared them "black".
This leads me to my point in regard to Section 134. It is clear from what my noble friend Lord Drumalbyn said in his opening speech that it is the intention of the Government to use Clause 134 only in most exceptional circumstances. The point I am making is this: if we are to agree that the process of Parliament should not be interfered with except in the absolute ultimate stage of any industrial dispute, then Clause 134(2) should be strengthened in Committee so as to make it capable of being brought into effect in the event of such a happening recurring as occured this Spring.
However, your Lordships will gather that I personally oppose the Amendment, or the counter-Motion, whatever it is, and in doing so I am reinforced by having been deeply impressed by some of the speeches that we have heard from the Cross-Benches. I refer to the speeches of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Donovan, and the noble Lords, Lord Redcliffe-Maud, and Lord Plowden. It appears to me from the guidance that they have given us and the opinions that they have expressed that, as a whole, this House wants to give the Bill a Second Reading. I go further in expressing my own implacable resolve to do all 153 in my power, little though that may be, to see to it that this Bill finds itself upon the Statute Book in a properly balanced form, and that as soon as may be.
§ 10.22 p.m.
THE EARL OF LYTTON
My Lords, at this time of night the speaker has only one interest: to try to say something new. Those who listen to him have only one interest: that his remarks, whether new or old, should be brief. I will try to achieve both. I will take as my text "Workers of all countries unite", the concluding words of the Communist Manifesto of 1848, which I often read and have by me. The purpose of this unity was to create power for the workers. I have always been in favour of unity and power for the workers. My complaint about the present situation is that the trade unions are neither united nor do they exercise power. I oppose the Motion before the House, and support the Bill on the grounds that it is going to have an influence towards strengthening the trade union movement.
Let me illustrate what I mean by the loss of power on the part of trade unions, which I think I can do in about a minute. The population in 1966 was about 53 million. Of those, 26 million were working—and that includes every kind of worker, as I read the Donovan Report. Of the total number of workers, 23¾ million were what might be called employees, the people we call the workers, the people Marx called the working men. That is 91 per cent. If you take their dependence on the whole population, we are talking about the interests of nine men and women out of every ten in this country. Of those 23¾ million, 10 million only belong to trade unions according to the Donovan Report—42 per cent. Of those 10 million, 1 million, or 4.2 per cent., attend any branch meeting at all. Those 4.2 per cent. who do attend branch meetings produce a hierarchy; and this official body, as you might call it, is responsible for only 5 out of 100 strikes that take place.
I suggest we must infer from these statistics that power has passed from the trade unions and is being exercised somewhere else. It is my hope that this Bill will restore the authority which the trade unions should have but do not 154 exercise, and remove it from whatever you like to call them—wildcats, militants, troublemakers, who should not be allowed to exercise this power. The situation whereby the people who are not authorised to exercise power nevertheless do so has reached such tremendous proportions that one is reminded of Shakespeare's famous dictum about treason—it is a treason against the workers, the trade unions, the public. Shakespeare said:Treason doth never prosper: what's the reason? For if it prosper, none dare call it treason.I have a feeling that the trade unions do not like to call the thing that has usurped their power a treason—which it is.
That is my reason for supporting this Bill, which has minor defects all over the place, which I hope will be corrected. To those who object to the introduction of law into this field, I feel that I really must call attention to the laws which they introduced to the field of industry to which I belong. I thought that the noble Lord, Lord Delacourt-Smith, gave the most persuasive speech, on lines with which I did not agree, that I have heard for a very long time. But I want to bring to the notice of the people who object to this Bill the Agriculture Act 1947 which they introduced, and on which I have congratulated them at least three times in this House as the first step to reinstate British agriculture on the line of prosperity which it has pursued ever since. It is the last thing one expected of those who had promised to expropriate people on the land.
The Agriculture Act 1947 has 111 Sections, with 13 Schedules, and considering that it deals with one little industry only it bears, if one talks about ponderous Acts, a certain proportion to the present Bill. It is a very big Act of Parliament. It intrudes very much in a field where the law had never been before, and in an extraordinary manner. It chooses the agricultural industry, where people work, say, 80 hours a week, as the only industry in this country in which people, if not efficient, can be dispossessed of home and work for inefficiency. At the time many of us said, "This demeans us very much. We are perhaps the most hardworking lot, and 155 if we are inefficient it is due to all kinds of historical pressures—the workshop of the world and cheap food from abroad, dumping, and so forth." But we took it in our stride. However, I want to call attention to the kind of things we had to deal with. In the Agricultural Land Tribunal, where I served for a number of years, one had to judge what was good husbandry and bad husbandry; what was good estate management and bad estate management. Let me read the kind of provision we had to deal with, which was laid before us in Section 11(2)(a). We had to examine and be certain, in considering whether the husbandry is good or bad, whether:permanent pasture is being properly mown or grazed and maintained in a good state of cultivation and fertility and in good condition".What is the legal connotation of these sundry words? As to "permanent pasture" the word "permanent" was already obsolete in those days, and the discoveries during the war of Sir George Stapleton regarding the growing of grass revealed that grass is not permanent; it is a crop which, like any other, expires and wears out and has to be renewed. In the phrase "maintained in a good state", what is the definition of "good"? How are you on the ground, when you visit yonder 10 acres, to say what is good and what is bad? In practice, what you do is to go out in the pouring rain with your mackintosh on, you stagger through a lot of mud and yonder 10 acres is presented to you.
One person, a representative of the village estate agents and surveyors (who never have a surveyor on their staff) declares that the ground is filthy, and another person, representing the other side in the same village, declares that it is clean. Now "filthy" and "clean" are not legal words and they are not clear in the Act, or in any guidance to the Act. We on the ground have to decide how many plantains make it filthy, and whether thistles without copses make it filthy; and, after copsing, does it cease to be filthy.
If you wish to deride legislation by introducing illustrations of this kind, this particular Act is open to all sorts of derisions. All sorts of nasty things were done between landlords and their tenants 156 which came to light, and many more dirty things were done behind their backs. I tried to operate this, and I do not think it was too unsuccessful. I never protested against it; I served on it. But I do wish that people who complain at the introduction of law into the great field of other kinds of industry would bear in mind what they have done to the agricultural industry; how, in a sense, they demeaned it, and how we have survived the legislation, and how it has done us all a great deal of good.
There is one thing I should like to say about the Bill itself. I think it presents the worst possible image of itself. I looked at the rights of workers, and expected to find a kind of Magna Charta. And it was a fearful anti-climax to see that the first and, apparently, only right was the right to join a trade union, at a time when it is not what one might call the last word in excitement to join. That is the only right. But a great many other rights are hidden elsewhere in the Bill. For instance, in Clause 124 and on page xii of the Explanatory Memorandum, the greatest of all rights is conceded, and I think we ought to put it in the forefront. It is the right of a man to take part in gainful labour—the right to work. We have in practice recognised it during the last 50 years. All round Exmoor, where I live, are the memorials of labour working without reward (I could show them to anybody), because that right was not then recognised.
We have that right today, so why not put it in the forefront: the right to work, the right to compensation for having no work through no fault of his own? That right is hidden away at the end, under the heading, "Restrictions on Legal Proceedings". I read the whole of the Bill five or six times, searching for something of this kind before even knowing that it was there. It is such a glorious declaration to make. Could it not be put right in the front? Also, if we are to improve this Bill, there is one thing I have long hoped to add, and that is the right of a pensioner to a pension protected from price erosion. We had such an excellent debate on a Motion moved by the noble Baroness, Lady Phillips, that I wonder whether that could be added. It would be such a tremendous improvement to 157 this Bill if we were to crown the evening of a working man's life with a pension that does not waste away so that he stays in bed half the day in an effort to keep warm.
§ 10.35 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT MILLS
My Lords, in my contribution this evening I wish to reflect the views of industrial management. We have heard many others talk about the historical, academic, legalistic and ethical sides of the problem, but I want to begin by talking about the efforts of the previous Government and the General Council of the Trades Union Congress. I think it has been made abundantly clear that their efforts have not succeeded in achieving what was desired. I think what has happened is that we have reached the position of lack of control; and when things are out of control they do not stand still; they go backwards and the situation becomes worse.
I was reminded by a colleague the other day of a prominent industrialist who had placed on the walls of his engineering shop, in letters 6 feet high, the following quotation:Evil triumphs when good men do nothing".I want to say that I think this is the position. The noble Lord, Lord Taylor of Mansfield, to whom I listened with great respect, talked about the tender plant of the trade union. But what he missed (and I am sorry he is not here at this moment), it seems to me, is that that tender plant is surrounded by tares and thistles. And, as I see it, what we now have to do is to get rid of the tares and thistles—the situation in which a minority of militants, who are sometimes subversive, exercise an undue influence on the fortunes of this country. I feel that the influence cannot be counteracted by a moderate majority, even where this is a combination of the management and the unions. The proposed legislation relies on the law as the ultimate sanction.
I do not want to go into some of the arguments which have been put forward to-night, apart from saying that I regard the legal framework as a fail-safe device. We are used to these legal constraints on our behaviour in many other fields, and I can see no reason why we should not have these constraints in this particu- 158 lar field. Society has the right to protect itself, in the last analysis, and I consider that the point has been reached when we have got to the last analysis. Responsible trade unions and management concentrate on keeping industrial relations on course. They have always done so; I think they will always do so. But the fundamental thing we must get at is the root cause. At the present moment men can down tools at the first rather than at the last resort.
I want to talk for a few minutes about the area that I consider is the area of greatest difficulty: engineering, the car industry and the docks. If my information is correct, the people working in these particular industries number about 4 million out of 26 million. It is a small proportion of industry, but it is one where the economy can be hit hardest by unofficial and unconstitutional strikes; and, of course, it is the exports that are hit particularly hard.
Like my noble friend Lord Rochester, I listened recently to the I.T.V. debate on the question of the Industrial Relations Bill, and I particularly listened to remarks made by Mr. Hugh Scanlon. He dealt with two particular matters, the first, which he called the "crazy wages structure" in the engineering industry; and the second, the need for new procedural agreements when three to eighteen months at the present time were taken to solve any difficulties. He said also that there had been talks with the Engineering Employers' Federation, over the last two years, and they had not achieved resolution of the problems. He could see no reason for legislation in order to achieve solution of the problems.
I decided to talk to the Director of the Engineering Employers' Federation. I remembered that my father was President of this Federation way back in the 1950s. He agreed that there was some truth in what Mr. Scanlon had said. This was always the case in any industrial matter, but it was not quite so black and white as had been made out in the I.T.V. presentation. Efforts were being made to strengthen procedures, but they had been met with union opposition, and progress was at present hampered, awaiting the outcome of the proposed legislation. His own views were that he felt very strongly that legislation would help to create an 159 orderly and sensible system of bargaining, and would help to outlaw the unofficial troublemaker. If your Lordships read the Federation's recently issued booklet you will see that this view is reinforced. He also said that parts of the legislation dealing with the sole bargaining agents would assist in lessening the competitive bargaining which took place in the small fragmentation unions under the control of the Federation.
I want to talk for a moment about the motor industry. In the first half of 1966 Mr. Jack Scamp (as he then was), the car industry's troubleshooter, reported to the then Minister of Labour, Mr. Gunter, In his report he said that all but five out of 600 stoppages in the half year had been unofficial. He further remarked that anarchy appeared to be imminent in some of the factories. He went on to say:Some way must be found to restrain minority groups of men from selfish purposes of immediate sectional advantage.When I was reflecting on this my thoughts turned towards the present official Ford strike—at least, we do not know whether it is finished or not. I was thinking about it this week-end, and particularly about Halewood and Swansea.
I read in the papers that at Swansea, in a secret ballot, 703 voted to go back to work, and 339 voted to stay out. However, the convenors were not satisfied with this position; they said that the men "did not understand the position". They therefore held a meeting and had what they called a "democratic show of hands". The ultimate result then was: for staying out, 537; for going back to work, 440. Do those convenors really think that they can fool the public? We have been talking about this plant, but this is the sort of problem that we face. In this particular case it seemed to me perfectly democratic and correct that there should be this way of settling it by a secret ballot, but immediately it had to be reversed by a "democratic show of hands".
My experience in industry lies in the part that management has to play. I consider that all competent management will carry out its statutory duties under the legislation quite willingly enough, but my experience in management training, particularly in teaching negotiating and 160 problem solving skills, makes me aware that management has a major part to play outside the law. The message I want particularly to get over tonight is that managements must not sit back and expect the law to do their work. If this Bill becomes law—and I am sure it will—there will be a need for management to redouble their efforts to improve their management styles, to improve management relationships with the group on the shop floor, and to increase the process of involvement and consultation over decisions which affect the shop floor. This is an essential prerequisite for a change of attitude.
There must be a creation of jobs in which people find meaningful satisfaction and not boredom. I need not tell your Lordships that one of the greatest causes of strikes and industrial unrest is boredom and lack of satisfaction. Certain industries are fortunate, in that the disease of continual unofficial and unconstitutional strikes has not yet spread to them. Whether this is due to circumstances or to management's sustained effort to see that the ground is not contaminated, is difficult to tell. But in some industries the activities of a few unofficial leaders with great power have made it impossible for management to concentrate on their proper job—the improvement of relations with their work-people.
When the noble Lord opposite was talking about the agricultural side of industry, I was thinking how I regard the difficulties which the industry faces at the moment. I thought of a farmer who wants to tend and improve his land, but who is in the dilemma that he knows his haystacks are likely to be fired at any moment. What does he do? He concentrates on protecting his haystacks and thinks afterwards about tending and improving his fields.
To sum up, I believe that unions will eventually respond to the need to police their side of industry. After all, the Trades Union Congress believed—and we have heard the Opposition say so to-night—when the last Government were in power, that that should have been done on a voluntary basis, but they did not succeed. I believe that this legislation can be used to create the right climate to stop unofficial and unconstitutional 161 strikes, and to provide a framework for management and unions to have greater confidence in themselves to improve their procedures and their bargaining.
§ 10.47 p.m.
§ LORD POPPLEWELL
My Lords, as the noble Earl, Lord Lytton, said, at this late hour it is very difficult to find something new to say on this Bill. After some thirty speakers, most points have already been covered. However, Clause 1 states quite clearly that the object of the Bill is to lay down a code of conduct for the purpose of promoting good industrial relations. The right reverend Prelates usually use a text when they speak; that is the text which I shall use.
Most speakers have referred to the difficulties of industry, and there seems to be an acceptance that they are not one-sided: there are difficulties of management as well as of workpeople, through the trade unions. We want to find a way to overcome those difficulties. What is disturbing our minds is not so much the number of official strikes, but the phenomenal growth in the number of unofficial strikes since 1951–52. The Labour Government recognised that steady, cancerous growth when they came into office, and in 1965 they established the Donovan Commission. Lord Justice Donovan and his colleagues took some three years to try to establish the facts behind the industrial troubles. According to the records, they interviewed no less than 430 different organisations and various representatives of one type or another.
The Donovan Commission consisted of experienced men and an experienced lady used to dealing with the problems of human relations in industry, and as such they were able to ask the right type of questions. They were able really to get down to what were the facts which revealed themselves as being the causes and effects of these troubles. I suggest that it is rather regrettable that in this Bill the Government have not paid more attention to the Donovan Report than they have. They have certainly paid attention to some parts of it, but the important parts they seem to have neglected. I think it is also very regrettable indeed that, instead of waiting for the Donovan Report to come out, they issued a Tory pamphlet called A Fair Deal, which was evidently thought up more 162 by politicians than by people actually engaged in industry.
I think the basis of this particular doctrinaire policy, and the philosophy revealed, is of a most reactionary kind. It seems to me that, to commence with, that policy document of the Tory Party has not got away from realising the change that has taken place in industry and in our industrial life today. The old days of owner-management of firms and industries have gone, and we now have these new powers vested in management and executives. It is natural that they cling to power and do not care too much for any interference coming from the workpeople below them. They think their right is that of management, and that such management must say and workpeople must obey.
§ VISCOUNT CALDECOTE
My Lords, does not the noble Lord think that that is really rather out of date? As I said in my speech, he is fighting the battles of years ago. That is not the attitude of management today. Surely he will accept that.
§ LORD POPPLEWELL
Perhaps I may deploy my argument, and then we shall see how far that is so. To me, this appears to be a battle of power more than a question of industrial relations. It is a battle of power and of who is going to give the orders. The noble Viscount shakes his head. My experience—a vast experience in industry—indicates that this is a line that I know very well.
I accept that there are certain very enlightened forms of management, and I may have been a little too sweeping in including all. When I refer to the more enlightened forms of management, I have in mind particularly the publicly-owned undertakings. I think that in the publicly-owned undertakings one can find some of the most enlightened management.
As the Donovan Commission rightly pointed out, this Bill will be a lawyer's paradise. In my opinion, it would be wrong to give a Second Reading to a Bill relying upon the publication of so many regulations that have yet to be thought out and eventually approved by Parliament. The trades unions as a whole are united in their opposition to it. There is no use in the noble Lord shaking his head. It is a fact that the trades 163 unions as a whole, their General Council and their executive are opposed to it. They have established their seven principal points of opposition to the Bill; they have decided that it is unworkable and should be opposed in all its stages.
It is to be regretted that the Government have failed to realise that the affairs of this nation cannot be successfully carried out without the fullest co-operation of the organised workers. In times of war and of crisis, the workers' organisations have been brought into joint consultation with the Government and it is regrettable that this has not happened on this occasion. It must be said that the trades union movement has never utilised such circumstances to seek self-aggrandisement. Had the Government brought the trades unions into discussions about the weaknesses of industrial relations and then tried to hammer out a formula in the way that has been done in times of war and crisis, then this Bill, or the objectives behind it, would have had a much better reception than has been the case.
The trades unions have been aware of these weaknesses for a long time; they have pinpointed the difficulties, and their Bridlington agreement was a milestone on the way to eradicating many of them. Some noble Lords have taunted the trades unions with not having moved quickly enough. But, my Lords, it is a Herculean task to require these freely-organised bodies of men, based on the old craft unions with their long history, to sink their identities and hand over sovereignty to a bigger structure. But much progress has been made in the past few years since the Bridlington agreement. One of my noble friends referred to the reduction in the numbers of trade unions affiliated to the T.U.C. from 192 to 132. This is a great step forward. The Government have fallen down badly, in my opinion, in not fostering that type of progress.
Over the week-end, I was reading George Bernard Shaw's Major Barbara. Probably noble Lords will remember the quotation better than I do. Undershaft is saying to Stephen, who fancies himself as a politician:Do you think you and others, sitting in a gabble shop, can govern? No, my friend, you 164 will do what pays us as industrialists. You will make war when it suits us, keep peace when it doesn't. You will find out that trade requires certain measures, when we have decided on those measures. When I want anything to keep my dividends up, you will discover that my want is the national need. When other people want something to keep my dividends down, you will call out the police and military; and in return you shall have the support and applause of my newspapers and the delight of imagining that you are great statesmen".My Lords, there is a world of wisdom in that observation. Do we, in the "gabble shop" of Parliament, think that by what we pass here we can impose good relations on industry—just by passing an Act of Parliament? Good relations are something that has to be fostered and developed.
Noble Lords opposite have said that the trade unions claim to be above the law; but that is absolute nonsense. Trade unions have always been subject to the law. Differences arise, but it has been felt that it is better for both sides of industry that there should be voluntary arrangements which both sides should honour. This Bill would have served a more useful purpose had it been designed to try to probe and discover the real trouble behind the unofficial strikes which so bedevil the nation. As was said by a noble Lord opposite, boredom features in many of these troubles. Militants are rampant in the motor car industry. They seize upon a situation in which individuals are working on an assembly line, a continuous belt, doing the same job hour after hour, day after day, month after month. The job does not require the worker to think, his actions are automatic, and his mind can wander in other directions. His grievances, imaginary or real, are fostered. The boredom of his work provides a useful opportunity for the militants to foster strife and stir up trouble. It would have been much more useful had there been an attempt to deal with this problem instead of imposing restrictions on the trade union movement as the Bill does.
This Bill has been launched during a bad period; a time when steep increases in remuneration have been given to Service personnel. We see £4,500 advanced to the field marshal and so on, down the scale to the lieutenant. Top civil servants have received advances approaching £5,000. We see the Government 165 yielding to a demand for an increase for the doctors but resisting the demands of postmen, dustmen and other lower paid sections of the community. That is the atmosphere in which this Bill has been launched. We had the mini-Budget, with increases in social service charges, and the last Budget, with easement of taxation. Then we have the Government saying to the workers that they must confine their applications to 8 per cent. The Government and industry are asking the trade unions and the workpeople to enter into productivity agreements for as long a period as possible. If that is possible, I think it is an excellent idea, but with the steep increases in prices taking place all the time, can we expect organised workers to accept this philosophy?
That is the background against which the Bill reaches this House. I was interested to observe how many noble Lords said they wished to make massive amendments to this Bill. I sincerely hope that that will come about. In Committee stage there is time to argue. I hope that noble Lords who made these suggestions will ultimately support us in the various Amendments we shall press to the utmost of our endeavour to secure a better Bill. It is a bad Bill and we cannot make it into a good one; but if we can repair some of the damage it will do, this House will have performed a useful service.
§ 11.7 p.m.
§ LORD CLIFFORD OF CHUDLEIGH
My Lords, in spite of statistics to the contrary, during the last decade or so those of us who care for the reputation of this country and have travelled abroad have had constantly to put up with references to what is now known as the "English sickness". One cartoon, either German or Swiss, which may have been brought to your Lordships' attention shows a simulated travel advertisement which says "Come to Italy for a hundred kinds of cheese; come to France for a hundred kinds of wine; come to England for a hundred kinds of strike." It is too depressing. I am not sure that this Bill is the right answer, but perhaps it is a step in the right direction.
The previous Administration, I had rather hoped, would proceed with a Bill to follow In Place of Strife. I think 166 that everybody knows why they did not do so. The fundamental fact is that where powers and responsibility are separated, it is very easy for chaos to develop. Nowaday, the unions—and I use the word as a generic term, and not as meaning particularly the Trades Union Congress—have the reputation of having the power without the responsibility, and they give their opinions on economics, foreign affairs and other aspects of government.
It seems to me that it would be a way out of the difficulty if we gave to the unions the power and the responsibility on two basic grounds; first if you cannot beat them, join them; and secondly, by reductio ad absurdum, end all government; abolish Parliament and so avoid a wasteful duplication of effort. That is on the principle that if you give responsible people responsibility they will behave as responsible citizens. Does the Bill deal with the real culprits? I picked up the Evening Standard this evening and noted a comment by a man who was turned away by the pickets at the Hale-wood Ford plant—and I quote:I don't know why the Government and unions argue about who is running the country; we all know it's these bloody shop stewards.I think that expresses the doubt that is in my mind as to whether we are attacking the right problem.
My Lords, I have an interest to declare, and all else I have to say is on that particular interest. As a small employer—there are nine on my payroll—I view parts of this Bill with serious misgivings, and unless the Government are prepared to exempt the small employer from some of its provisions I, for one, am uncertain which way I shall cast my vote. Clause 2 is irrelevant, so far as the small employer is concerned. It must be patently obvious that those in agriculture are put in an impossible position, or could be if I read the Bill aright, by Clauses 20 to 27; and when it comes to compensation, under Clause 113, the small employer would be bankrupt. Paragraph (b) of Clause 113 mentions the sum of £4,160. If I make that much profit in one year I think I am doing well—it is generally that much loss—but if I had to pay that sort of compensation, or anything near it, I should go to the wall.
167 The small employer is not like the big employer who can call on hundreds or thousands of shareholders and their capital, and if the reported statement of the young Mr. Cousins is anything to go by—that he would rather see firms go out of business than forgo pay rises—we shall not need the Bill to send us to the wall. Surely it was not the Government's intention to pre-empt the small employer. It is possible to reinstate a man in a big business or factory, when there are hundreds or thousands among whom he can get lost, but it is psychologically impossible when there are only two or three men working on the farm or woodland together. You cannot live and work with a person when you come to that position that he has had to be dismissed. The exemption clause for small employers should be widely extended to include those with 10 employees or under (your Lordships will notice I say 10, because I have nine), and a higher figure for seasonal workers. My Lords, we need something to halt the power of the irresponsible to ruin the country. The trouble is that I cannot see that this Bill will achieve it.
§ 11.14 p.m.
My Lords, at this hour the House will be pleased to know that the sight of me a short while ago, working in the Princes Chamber, did mean I was shortening my speech. When one reflects that we in this Kingdom are the inheritors and trustees of Parliamentary and judicial systems respected and envied the world over, it cannot but be with a measure of sadness that we have to admit in 1971 to a state of affairs in industrial relations that appears so often out of step with the good sense with which we are reputed to be endowed, and so out of step with the technological age in which we live. The present situation and our difficulty in agreeing on how to resolve it are born in part out of attitudes which owe much to emotion and to respect for liberties and freedoms in which we take pride.
This may be a reason, but it is certainly not a fit excuse for not legislating to secure improvements which, for years past, one and all who can claim to speak for responsible opinion have said we must secure. It is no excuse, either, that custom and practice which have in such 168 large measure been allowed to dominate the scene can be made to continue to serve the interests of both sides. Nor do I think that experience should encourage us to adopt an alternative such as is proposed in Lord Shackleton's Amendment.
No-one denies the proposition that it is through continuing and progressive reform of collective bargaining that the path to industrial peace must lie, or that out of willing co-operation such will be born. But I submit that a pre-requisite is certain guarantees, with force in law, such as are provided by this Bill: guarantees to those who make the efforts on both sides, that the fruits of such co-operation are given a status that protects them from abuse and from the worst effects of unofficial or unconstitutional action.
I also see as essential acceptance of that identity of interest between investment and labour, employers and employees, which, although frequently recognised and often acknowledged, is all too seldom acted upon. In the last analysis, profitable identity of interest lies between the individual employee and his employer. I believe that by emphasising and spelling out in statute form the rights and duties of each to the other, this Bill affords a basis upon which such identity of interest can be better founded for the benefit of the individual and cumulatively of the nation.
The Bill should be welcomed for its proposals designed to tackle unofficial and unconstitutional strikes alone—forms of strike of which the noble Lord, Lord Popplewell, and others have spoken; forms of strike which I think In Place of Strife characterised as the typically British strike; forms of strike that do more economic harm and damage than can ever be properly measured, and, what is more, damage to the image at large of trade unions and trade unionists, and which provide a happy stamping ground for those whose motives have little to do with the interests of their fellows, but owe more to idealogies that find no reflection in Parliament nor sympathy with the majority of our people.
This Bill has certainly been misconstrued and mis-interpreted. Its very length and relative complexity make it 169 vulnerable. I hope that we in this House particularly ensure that those sections which specifically spell out the rights and duties of an individual shall be clearer than in some cases they are now, and that we shall be relentless in pressing the claims of clarity against those of the legal niceties of Parliamentary drafting. I urge the House to give this Bill a Second Reading in the belief that it is necessary, and in the belief that through our debates we can achieve an Act which will strengthen responsible trade unions and management, that they may be better enabled to tackle the problems, infinitely more complex than anything they have yet had to face, which lie in the years ahead.
§ 11.20 p.m.
§ LORD SLATER
My Lords, having listened to many of the speeches that have given support to the Government in regard to this Bill, I still hold to the opinion that we are two nations. This may not be accepted by the present Government, which is understandable, or by the Prime Minister, because of the statements that he made during the course of the last Election and since he came into office. It is understandable because the Government's policy has been, and still is, to keep control, and whatever action is taken it must keep intact such beliefs. The Prime Minister says that we are one nation; I say that we are two. There is an old saying that I have never forgotten since I was a youngster, that "actions speak louder than words". There is another saying, "By their actions ye shall know them" And so it is becoming more exemplified throughout the country with the policies that are being pursued by this Government, and what they are doing to this nation.
Many of us cannot eliminate from our minds the suffering and hardship imposed upon us by previous Governments. The anxiety and frustration for change was ever with us, while on the other hand those who were not so positioned as we were clung desperately to their power and used every device that they could to bring to their command to upset any kind of change. It was only by constant agitation—we have been reminded of it by my noble friend Lord Popplewell—by the men and women of the past, who suffered tremendously from the indig- 170 nities imposed upon them by such people who held the reins of power, that find ourselves in a position today when our people can express themselves against policies which, if adopted, could bring untold hardship once more to millions of people in the land. The type of legislation as set out in this Bill will not achieve what its sponsors hope to achieve. It has already been stated that if the Government are successful in winning the day by putting this Bill on the Statute book they will be praised by many for so doing. While on the other hand a former belief has' been' propounded and is still being propounded, that such legislation will go down in history as another piece of legislation providing the legal profession of this country with a lawyers' paradise.
One matter that this Government have overlooked is that people like me who came from heavy industry were constantly reminded by our employers that we were not there to think but to produce. Some noble Lords may have heard me make a statement in the other place that I was a coal face worker before I went to the House of Commons, and about what I was doing at that particular time. But even what happened during that particular period did not stop the laying of the foundation whereby the younger generation of today are not prepared to be pushed around, whether by employers or by Government. What this Bill does—and I hope that noble Lords will take note of this—is to insult the intelligence of the millions of young people who are engaged in industry today. If such were not the case, we should not have seen the demonstrations that have taken place up and down the country since the Bill was introduced and spoken about.
I do not need to tell noble Lords that no Tory Government have ever been the friends of the trade unions of this country. This Bill, as I and others see it, is designed to do what? If it ever becomes law, this Bill is designed to wreck the trade unions. What will it do? It will deform, and not encourage, the voluntary system of industrial relationship. The White Paper was produced and followed up by the publication of the Bill. After reading it, and the many speeches made in its support and against it, I began to wonder to myself how many of the present Government had ever worked on 171 the shop floor. I believe I am right in saying that the present Minister responsible for the Bill did in his early days spend some time doing so—I well remember his making a statement to this effect in the other place as far back as 1950. He had done so before taking part in the administration of industry.
But even that has not changed my opinion that those responsible for the drafting of this Bill, irrespective of what some of them have had to say, have not the foggiest idea of industrial relationships. I should very much like to know how many of them have worked in the shipyards or on the shop floor or, for that matter, down a mine. The more I think about it the more I am led to the belief that they have depended too much upon textbook theory and accepted that as authentic in regard to industrial relations. But some of us have spent the greater part of our lives in this field.
May I say, in passing, that no one was more pleased than I was that a formula was found in regard to the Post Office dispute. That is understandable, as I served for five years as Assistant Postmaster General in the last Administration. In that capacity I had to negotiate with no fewer than 21 trade unions attached to and associated with that Department. I travelled up and down the whole country in the various regions, meeting the directors and their boards and talking with them on their policies, and after meeting these boards I was prepared to meet the trade union representatives on my own.
In some of the areas I went to—Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool, and some of the other great industrial centres in this country—there were meetings with trade union representatives who had never before had the privilege of meeting a Minister who was prepared to meet them on their own ground, listen to their complaints and get to know from them how the Whitley machinery was working inside their industry. There were 420,000 people attached to that great organisation, and that work had to be done. I will tell your Lordships the reason why it had to be done. It had to be done because the previous Administration were responsible for breaking down the good relationship that had existed be- 172 tween the Post Office and the Ministers responsible for the day-to-day administration.
Because of the success of this policy of approach, I asked the Prime Minister not to move me but to let me stay, because it was like being associated with a great family. They were a grand people. They were giving a service to this nation which no other section of society has been able to give, and I often wonder how many people in this country have ever thought about those people, occupying offices of trust, going into every house-hold and every industrial hereditament within this country, giving of their services and signing on the dotted line to that office of trust. Having made these references I should like to add that I am pleased that the representatives of the two sides are to meet. I believe that the talks commence tomorrow, and I hope they will be successful. I hope they will arrive at a good conclusion, not only for themselves but for the benefit of the nation as a whole.
My Lords, it leaves me with a fear that when we are faced with this type of Bill, if it goes through in its present setting and becomes an Act, it will turn the clock back beyond 1927. Some are apt to overlook things—they talk about 1926. I know some noble Lords on the opposite side of the House have been saying that we should not talk about 1926, or about the past, but should talk about the present and the future. But we lived through this period; we lived through 1921, which is never mentioned, and we also lived through 1926. It is easy for someone to say, "Well, all that is past and it will not happen again." I want to pose this question to the Government: if it will not happen again, why are they so persistent in seeking to get this Bill through?
It is well to remember that it was the present Prime Minister who, when he was Leader of the Opposition in another place, with his colleagues, was constantly complaining about the dire consequences of inflation, and attacking what they said were large increases in wages and salaries. That is what they said. Read the debates, read the Questions that were being asked on the Tuesdays and the Thursdays by the Leader of the Opposition, as he was at that time. And now 173 they are pledging themselves to reduce prices. Well, we are still waiting. Not only are we still waiting for this to happen, but what about their comments in regard to unemployment when we were in Government? Ever since they took over it has been rising, and the policies that they are pursuing will not offset it. It is now nearer the million mark; and when they maintain that they are making progress in Government and that their policies are working, it is just not true. They oppose for the sake of opposing when they are in Opposition, but when they become the Government they have no policies to bring about the recovery of our economic situation which they have talked about so much, not only when they were in Opposition but when they traversed this country during the last General Election.
Now the country is having to pay for its mistake in electing them to office. In the consultative document on this Bill, paragraph 12 (1), what does it say? It gives equal rights on not to join a union. To me this seems quite fair, but when you read further on you find that the contents are a direct negation of everything that the document and the Bill purports to be about; and it is silly and most dangerous to legislate for legal penalties on trade unionists.
I pose this question to noble Lords opposite: what is a trade union leader's power? Whether he be full-time or pan-time, or even a shop steward (I know that some criticism has been directed against the poor shop steward; he has been kicked around a tremendous amount, unfortunately) in many ways, his power lies in the fact that he speaks for the members of his union. That is the power that the leader of a trade union has. He has no other power. His control over the implementation of an agreement is as strong or as weak as the number of people over whom he has control. To set out deliberately to spread and encourage non-unionism is to encourage a bitterness among trade unionists who have won agreements, and threaten them with legal penalties will inevitably cause trouble.
What is the position of the non-unionist in regard to the fixing of wages in regard to this Bill? I have given much thought to this. On the one hand, you have organised labour negotiating with 174 management on behalf of their members and arriving at an agreement. What about the non-unionist if he has no one representing him? A non-unionist may find himself in the situation, if the management is so inclined, that he either receives the same terms and conditions agreed with the trade union negotiation, or is offered less or more than has already been agreed with the union. Let no one try to tell me that it cannot happen: I have seen it happen. I know that someone will say that this Bill is trying to put this right. It has happened in the past, and all hell has been let loose. I can see nothing more inflammatory than a situation in which there is no bargaining agent and non-unionists in a factory are left to negotiate on their own behalf. But the Government do not seem to have caught up with the knowledge that industry is changing. New ideas and new techniques have been introduced. Management and employers are faced with a new situation.
I was very interested in what the noble Viscount, Lord Mills, had to say in regard to these particular points, and about the shop floor and so on. I think my line of thought ran parallel more or less with something he has said in his later remarks.
Much time and study has to be given to formulate policies in regard to engagement of labour and conditions. This is not something that can be worked out in a period of 24 hours. Men have to be trained to meet these new innovations. Even management have to seek to form an assessment on the labouring involved, and the unions have to measure, in the interests of their members, the rate for the job. Anyone who has had experience of such knows that the task confronting both sides of industry is not an easy one.
If anyone has been "kicked around" when strikes have been the subject for discussion, it is, I repeat, the shop steward. So many do not seem to understand the duties that fall even upon the shop steward, which are many. In many agreements that are negotiated with management, one can always guarantee that within the terms of a proposed agreement such words would appear "where practicable". Management have tried to have this inserted within their terms of agreement, with the result that negotiations might be held up for weeks and weeks 175 until a new form of words could be found, while, on the other hand, the shop steward, seeking to put his interpretation upon an agreement, did not meet with the management's approval. We have all been guilty of this, both management and men.
It has been most interesting reading the two day's debate in the other place on this Bill. A member of the legal profession drew the attention of the House to Clauses 32 to 40, stating that he had had conversations with four other learned Members, and he established the interesting point that what he thought was a simple matter was something on which all five of them disagreed. This example can be found at column 1052 of that debate. If such an admission from the legal profession can arise on this Bill, surely there is every reason for excuse when management and men fail to agree on interpretation.
The provisions of this Bill are an invitation to industrial anarchy. Look at Clauses 48 to 50. There you have an open invitation to workers to leave trade unions which do not serve their purpose, and to join others which promise so to do. Workers will always be tempted to join the most militant of the unions, and these clauses are in themselves an invitation to militancy.
It is common sense that any law will work only if it has the general acceptance of the majority affected by it. This Bill, as I see it, lays down a law that is unacceptable not only to the majority of, but to all, trade unionists. I do not believe that such a Bill can be acceptable until it is fitted into a framework of social justice recognised by those affected by it to be just. This Bill has to be seen against the background of policies introduced by this Government. Looking back, I think of the attitude of the Government and of the promises that they made in the General Election. I am afraid that by pursuing policies such as are to be found in this Bill we could be drifting back to the bad old days which so many of us remember.
In conclusion, I say to the Government tonight that the best thing they can do is to scrap this Bill. If they do not, they will find that as time goes on they will never be able to enforce it when so many 176 reject its authority, and it will do nothing to solve the real problems which face the nation at present. The whole basis behind this Bill is to undermine the solidarity of the trade unions in this country; but this the Government will not do, and well they know it.
§ 11.43 p.m.
§ LORD GORE-BOOTH
My Lords, I always address your Lordships with some trepidation, but I usually try to address the House on something which is my subject. On this occasion I am aware that I am not doing so. But I rise because I think in a case of this kind it is perhaps the duty of those sitting on these Benches to try, if they can, to give something of the view of the ordinary, uncommitted citizen. I am also rather incited to speak by some of the imagery that has been used this evening. We have had spiders, and, on the part of the noble Lord, Lord Soper, the "Kingdom of Heaven postponed". We have also heard a lot about the Bill being a "Paradise for lawyers". That, at least, should give the noble and learned Lord who sits on the Woolsack a comfortable sensation of "paradise regained".
I have few qualifications to speak on this subject, but there are just a few. One is that I have had the privilege of helping people both from the C.B.I. and from the T.U.C. in various operations abroad. I have also taken the trouble to keep in touch with foreign opinion on our industrial affairs. I shall come back to this in a minute. Thirdly, for the first 17 years of my life my home was in South Yorkshire. I shall not try to humbug your Lordships into thinking that I was active in the matters that we are discussing, but you cannot live in South Yorkshire for 17 years without getting something of the feeling of these things. The fact that I have commemorated that period of my life in the title with which I had the honour to come into your Lordships' House shows that it means a great deal to me. One fact of which I should like to assure the noble Lord, Lord Slater, is that it means to me that I belong to one nation and not to more than one.
I should like quickly to refer back to a very notable speech by the noble Lord, Lord Stokes, when this matter was last discussed in your Lordships' House on 177 November 4. The noble Lord first castigated management for its deficiencies in the past—and rightly—for not giving this subject what he called "higher priority". He might have added a point which has always impressed itself on me; that is, the feebleness and the almost complete absence, sometimes, of management public relations. I think that the public needs more instruction from management on what this is all about. I know that it is structurally difficult, but public relations are structurally difficult for Government as well and Government do at least try.
The noble Lord then went on to speak about the other side, and he used a phrase which I think is so important to this argument that I must quote a few words to your Lordships verbatim. He spoke of the influence that had been taken over by,… unofficial elements … motivated by ideological issues rather than by economic motivations for the benefit of their colleagues."—[OFFICIAL. REPORT, 4/11/70; col. 374.]That is a very important phrase, because what it means is that in the opinion of the noble Lord—who ought to know—there are dotted about in industry, probably not in the front row, people who, if you complained to them, "You are ruining our economy", would reply, if they replied frankly, which they would not, "Of course we are ruining your economy, and we are ruining it because we want to set up a monolithic State of our own in our image; a monolithic polity and a one doctrine system." It is because there is this dimension to this problem, that it has become so intractable, and this is the one flaw I found in the very thorough exposition by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Donovan. This problem is not simply a problem of trade unions and management working out how to live together; it is working it out in a scenario where there are powerful elements seeking to prevent its being worked out at all.
If I may now go back for a moment into history—and some of my colleagues on these Benches did—I think if you stand back from this argument you have a feeling that, at this moment, we are going through one of those national agonies about a question which I would call by the polite phrase, "a readjustment of vested interests". This goes 178 right back 900 years in our history. The Monarchy readjusted the interests of the Barons and then, as the noble Lord, Lord Redcliffe-Maud, said, the Barons readjusted back again with the Magna Carta. In the felicitous words of Mr. Michael Flanders, the Monarchy "nationalised the monasteries" 300 years later and, subsequently, you had similar readjustments of power in our community; in particular, the powers of landowners, of the ruthless early industrialists, and of financiers were similarly readjusted.
Towards the end of this process, at the end of the last century and the beginning of this one, to the great credit of various Liberal Governments, there was a certain exemption granted to the trade union movement. The trade union movement was not put above the law. This is a silly cliché which people should not use. But certain immunities and privileges were given in recompense for the political and economic weakness of organised labour; and also in the methods than were considered legitimate for labour to use in order to make progress.
But latterly, as the noble Lord, Lord Plowden, explained from these Benches, in the framework of organised labour there have suddenly been great accretions of power. I will not go over his analysis again, but I will just tell your Lordships one startling instance of how this hit the public. A few months ago a particular union disliked very much something which the Government were proposing to do, and a prominent official from that union, interviewed on television, said, "We are going to stop this". The interviewer, for once taken aback, said. "How are you going to do that?", to which the reply was, "We have the power and we are going to use it". This was an exaggeration: they had not and they did not. But anybody watching that felt a hit of a shudder. It may even have been said with the tongue in the cheek, but noble Lords can imagine that through our community—and I am now speaking as the ordinary citizen—that sent a little bit of a chill. Of course, this is over-simplification, and an unfair one, of the position, because the difficulty is not so much, or not only, accretions of power; it is that there is power, but that that power then tends to get lost to 179 these other elements of whom the noble Lord, Lord Stokes, spoke. That is why we have now the touchy and tense and difficult situations with which this legislation is no doubt intended to deal.
The previous Government anticipated that this situation might well develop, and they had a very right instinct that something would have to be done about it in the way of legislation. So one comes to the question: what sort of legislation should this be? Here, of course, I must refrain from trespassing on the ground of the experts, but I might say one or two things. The first is that I found myself very much in sympathy with what was said by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Southwark. It seemed to me that there were asperities (if I might put it this way) in this Bill to which serious attention should be paid, and in particular I should like to associate myself with those many noble Lords who would beg the Government to look again at the clauses on the closed shop. I am sure that this is a more complicated question than the simple one of doctrine, and that there are very good reasons why the matter should be re-examined to try to identify those cases in which the closed shop is in fact of benefit to both sides in the argument, and therefore to industry and the community as a whole.
There are two popularly discussed points on the Bill to which I must quickly allude. I should not like anywhere and in any case to be caught arguing against the cooling off period, and I would suggest to noble Lords on the Opposition side that if they argue against this, on whatever good intellectual grounds, they will appear to the public—and, again, your ordinary citizen is addressing you—to be advocating a quicker "hotting up" period. This is not a fair judgment, but it would be the judgment. Similarly, I should not wish to be caught arguing against the use of a secret ballot in certain circumstances, because if you argue that, then the irrevocable end of your argument must be that you wish to abolish the Reform Bills and return to the rotten borough. I put that as a serious intellectual proposition.
What, then, would I have the temerity to advise? I think I should like to urge 180 on the Government that they take very seriously the human argument about this Bill which comes so very strongly from the trade union side and which was also put so eloquently by the noble Baroness, Lady Gaitskell. What I have said about the absence of management public relations in some degree translates itself into management government. I think that it would be wise and might help the deliberations if the Government were to look at the whole presentation on those lines.
The Bill cannot help being long—one cannot complain of that—and I also think that the complaint that it is all slanted one way is not well founded. In my own reading of the Bill, I feel that whoever had drafted it had tried to be fair and if he has not been successful—well, it was not for want of trying. What I would suggest is the reading of one particular passage from the debate in another place. I found extremely clear and moving the concluding passage of a speech, I think on Third Reading, of Mr. Ronald King Murray, Member for Edinburgh (Leith) who, in a sensitive, graphic way, described the process we are trying to achieve as the marriage between the claims of the individual and the whole history and emotion of people who have won their dignity by collective action. This is a very difficult marriage to achieve, yet it must be achieved if we are to achieve one nationhood in this particular and difficult area.
Finally, like other noble Lords, I welcome very much the assurance by the noble Lord, Lord Delacourt-Smith, that there will not be obstruction for obstruction's sake. There will be strong disagreement but I join forces with noble Lords particularly on these Benches who have pointed out that when we have finished complaining about the time not spent in another place on this Bill, we welcome the fact that another place's extremity is your Lordships' opportunity.
I spoke of keeping in touch with opinion abroad If at this point the country were to reverse and say they will not proceed with this Bill it can be taken that a number of countries friendly to us who might order goods from our industries would scratch us from their books, saying, "The British are not going to take their industrial relations seriously after all".
181 This may be unfair; but that is what they will do. In this spirit of, I hope, humanity as well as efficiency, I find myself compelled to vote against the Motion and to vote in favour of the Second Reading of this Bill.
§ 11.57 p.m.
§ THE EARL OF LAUDERDALE
My Lords, to the historical allusions of the distinguished Cross Bencher who has just sat down I shall be returning; but first be it noted that more than two-thirds of the noble Lords who have spoken so far, and nearly all, I think, who spoke from the Cross-Benches, the Liberal or the Bishops' Benches would seem to have been briefed by a pamphlet, The Trimmer, published in 1684 by the first Lord Halifax, who wrote:There is a natural reason of State, an un-definable thing grounded upon the common good of mankind, which is immortal, and in all changes and revolutions still preserveth its original right of saving a nation.All parts of the House agree, I am sure, with the moderate and acceptable promise of the noble Lord, Lord Delacourt-Smith, in opening the debate for the Opposition to look seriously at the serious points of a very serious Bill. We have to relate the Bill to the hard facts of industrial life and to distinguish reality from pretence. The hard facts include the concentration of capital in ever-larger undertakings when the spread as well as the abstraction of shareholding ownerships is matched by a concentration of trade union power; and when full employment and the Welfare State, coupled with the high-gearing of capital per job, have put such a premium on union power and such rewards for plant level pressure that the pot at plant level is now forever on the boil. The hard fact is that at factory level work depends both on the innovations of a new race of professional managers, to whom the noble Lord, Lord Popplewell, referred, not, I thought, with a great sense of appreciation of their worth—but let that pass; but also on the reaction of the work force (I stress the word "reaction"), the work force being protected by a baffling forest of tacit local understandings made with some thousands of unpaid shop stewards on whom, according to the Donovan Report, some 80 per cent. of managers have come to rely in fact for the efficient working of their plants.
182 My Lords, the hard realities include rights and freedoms in conflict. As the noble Lord, Lord Gore-Booth, said just now, the rights of the single worker are sometimes at odds with his mates' claims to solidarity, and these beget such tensions in some unions that all that is not compulsory is forbidden, or else is in the fashion that recalls the behaviour of the kings of France "who in practice used their laws pretty familiarly." Only the other day the Transport and General Workers' Union shop stewards at one plant accused their executive of going way beyond their mandate in calling a political strike. Elsewhere, two men promoting a petition against the political strike were hauled before their district union committee; and at Harwell some 50 A.U.E.W. men were fined for ignoring the political strike.
Then there is the mass meeting, at which we have seen an example of the Ford bullies, only to-day and over the weekend, seeking to reverse, by a show of hands, the verdict of a secret ballot.Their pride is as loud a beggar as want, and a great deal more saucy.My Lords,All irregularity is catching. It hath a contagion in it, especially in an age so much more inclined to follow ill patterns than good ones.And so such pressures spill over outside; and five times in the last six months we have had trade union pressure blocking the fair comment of the Press.
In a fragmented society the Government bespeak the consensus when they express that consensus demand both for law and for reform. We find two broad approaches: first, that of the Donovan Commission, broadly behaviourist, which argues, "Put right the organisational defects, register agreements and behaviour will improve." Or you have the individualist philosophy of the present Administration which replies, "Set standards and limits with a whiff of sanctions in the distance (what the noble Viscount, Lord Mills, called a fail-safe device) and behaviour will answer wonderfully."
My Lords, reconstruction and industrial relations, as the Donovan Report reminded us, is a continuous process, and so, whichever our approach, be it behaviourist or individualist, most noble Lords will wish to ensure that this Bill sets sufficiently workable limits within a 183 realistically understood situation to provide the foundations for a settlement that in its main lines will be worked by both the great Parties of State in the years to come. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Donovan, and indeed the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Southwark in, if I may say so with respect, most remarkable speeches, both pointed this particular moral: that the Bill will not be repealed by the next Government, but any Government which follows will naturally want to look at its working objectively.
This Bill is indicative in object, as have been all the settlements in the great ideological social confrontations of the past, whether the Book of Common Prayer in 1662; whether the Hanoverian succession: whether Parliamentary reform from 1832 onwards or whether the Welfare State 25 years back. Those, with the exception of the Hanoverian succession, were all indicative rather than definitive settlements, but they marked a pattern which subsequent Governments of either Party found it prudent broadly to continue.
The public at large wants a legal framework, and I have been struck by the quotations of the noble Lord, Lord Delacourt-Smith, and other noble Lords from American experience, seemingly ignoring that to be had from Australia, to which no reference has been made. Since the hour is late. I must beg your Lordships' indulgence to draw attention to an article entitled Industrial Relations and the Law: Lessons of Australian Experience in the latest issue of the Three Banks Review by E. H. Phelps Brown, Emeritus Professor of Economics of Labour, University of London. I quote two short passages.'The law,' as Professor John Wood has written recently, is going to play a more central part in the structure of British industrial relations. If this is to mean, as it should, a clearer statement of rules, of objectives and agreements made, this itself will be a great gain. But the real gain will be in self-discipline; not as some would have it in the discipline of the law, and rules of enforcement.' Australian experience shows what a mistake it is to judge the effectiveness of laws concerning industrial relations solely by the effectiveness of enforcement in case of defiance.Later, Profesor Phelps Brown concludes:The need that the United Kingdom has sought to meet by improvising a succession 184 of institutions is met in Australia by an institution of long standing and wide acceptance.We are told that these thousands of local factory level agreements can only be made more complicated if lawyers are brought in. But in everyday life all of us make agreements, usually on the basis of standard models which we can buy from a stationery shop to cover the ordinary situations of life. In like fashion model terms for procedural and other factory agreements are readily to hand now from the Industrial Society, under the joint patronage, your Lordships will be interested to know, not only of His Royal Highness Prince Philip but also of Mr. Jack Jones.
The legal framework at least requires a neat system of checks and balances. It seems to me that, given the closed shop, we must ask: under what safeguards should union power extend to the expulsion of a member and with it the power to drive a man from his job? I refer, of course, to Clause 63 (2). Are the Government quite sure that the democratic rights of minorities are sufficiently protected by the conscientious objection clause (Clause 8), especially in the light of the union veto in Section 2? What of the man who approves of his union representation in the battle on wages and terms but deplores its political aims, such as those aiming at the socialisation of industry, which are in the forefront of the purposes of some unions? I ask whether the Government will look again closely at these clauses Nos 8, and 63, together.
Then a fine balance is needed between judicial but authoritarian remoteness, on the one hand, and Parliamentary influence, on the other. Mr. Carr is rather like women in politics, who are said to be either too old or too young. He is open to the charge of doing both too much and too little. It is for the Minister under Clause 2 to bring his code of practice to Parliament for approval. Are we not then in danger of making this a political shuttlecock? On the other hand, in Clause 134 the Government lay on the N.I.R.C. the onus, which Mrs. Castle was going to keep to herself, of authorising emergency cooling-off ballot arrangements. But if the Minister were directly responsible himself, instead of going through N.I.R.C. would he not be more 185 amenable to Parliamentary influence? This, too, we must look at with care.
But I believe that the Government were right to bring in their Bill, with all its obscurities. And for a non-elected Chamber to seek to adjourn the Second Reading, only eleven months after the General Election, would be to affront a clear popular mandate. All the same, spared the guillotine, all parts of your Lordships' House are entitled to hope that the usual channels will so arrange our business that the Bill is brought forward and debated in intelligibly coherent chunks. The Bill is worth having for its code of fair practice and for its supporting court structures alone; but noble Lords in most parts of the House, if not all, will surely want these to induce the highest respect for respectable standards amid the hard facts of industrial life, remembering that with or without the guillotine you can never force reality to comply with pretence.
§ 12.11 a.m.
§ LORD MOTTISTONE
My Lords, it is late and I shall not detain you long. What I have to say is very much in complement to what the noble Lord, Lord Gore-Booth, said recently. In fact, at one stage I thought that he was going to steal all my clothes instead of just my trousers.
Your Lordships will remember that he made the point in this country we have this adjustment of power repeatedly through our history. The only point I would make is that this, unquestionably, is an adjustment of power.
It is quite clear from what has been said from the Benches opposite that several noble Lords, particularly those with trade union backgrounds, see it as a direct affront to such power as the trade union may be said to have.
I question that, and shall elaborate on it shortly. If that is so, it is perhaps worth bearing in mind that in this country, where we have had adjustments of power like the dissolution of the monastories, it did not lead to the dissolution of Christianity in this land. The clerics of the time staggered a bit between what sort of Christianity they wanted, as the Vicar of Bray commemorates for us, but we then went on to chop off the head of Charles I, and 186 happily got the monarchy back shortly afterwards. And of more recent date, some sixty years ago your Lordships' House gracefully gave away its own ultimate power but is still here.
This implacable hatred of this Bill, as it has been put, of the trade union members of your Lordships' House rather indicates to me that they are seemingly outside the main stream of action in this country, following all the Bourbons who, I believe, were said to say they neither forgot nor forgave, and who have not ruled in France for some 150 years. So it might be as well if thought was given to the fact that, as the noble Lord, Lord Gore-Booth, and many others have said, this Bill represents a feeling in the country that there is a need for power adjustment and that it would be as well for those who are most closely affected by it to work with it rather than against it.
Now what the power is that it seeks to redress is rather difficult to identify. It stems, as your Lordships know, from a document known as Fair Deal at Work, which was presumably a fair deal for the worker. The worker is subject to various sorts of power: he is subject to the power of the management, which indeed in past days was the main cause for the development of the trade unions, and the power of the management is in many cases perhaps still too great. The discipline of the sack, my Lords, is a very fierce one. If you have never been subjected to it perhaps that is not realised, and so it is perhaps as well that this Bill includes some mitigation on those lines. But there is power of management. It is right in many respects that it should be there, but care needs to be taken that it does not become too great. As noble Lords have said, management is learning fast, and it is probably right to say that the adjustments that are required are coming about by natural processes.
The other powers are those of the immediate trade union with which the worker is concerned, and in particular the shop steward. The degree to which this Bill will deal with the shop steward is perhaps doubtful. It is also perhaps doubtful the degree to which it is necessary to deal with the trade unions. I suggest to your Lordships that the important thing is that the trade unions 187 should deal with the shop steward. This may be said to be impracticable in this day and age. It may be that that sort of discipline is not possible, but I think it is something that this will help us to work for.
Finally, the power which is hitting the individual worker is the distant power of the strike in the services which supply him and his wife, or the strike in the other factory or by the other union which has nothing to do with him and which causes his work to stop—one hopes temporarily. Those sort of things, surely, are power centres which need to be modified. The power of the strike is so terribly great these days, because we work with machines, and the stoppage of one or two people can have such tremendous effect. That is why it is powerful.
Having identified what I believe this Bill to be all about, and why I believe it should go through for all its probable imperfections, I think we may have an opportunity in our Committee stage to try to iron out some of them. I also believe that, even if we do our best, we shall find that the application of this will be different from what most people expect. This seems so often to be the case with legislation these days, and perhaps it always was so. Therefore, with all these imperfections, I believe this Bill to be a thoroughly sound one, working in the right direction.
But I implore the Government that when it is passed the most immense trouble should be taken to communicate what it tries to say to the worker for whom it is intended. It is quite possible to say, for example, that to-day and this evening in this House noble Lords opposite were speaking about a totally different document from the document that we on this side of the House have been talking about, because we were each able to pick out this bit or that bit, and this probable consequence and that probable consequence, which might be true or might not be true, but there was a different theme behind us both. I therefore implore the Government not just to get the sort of people who produced their Consultative Document, or the sort of people who produced Fair Deal at Work, which was slightly more imaginative in its presentation, but somebody really expert to present the main features 188 of this when it has gone through Parliament.
This brings me finally (I cannot remember which noble Lord it was who mentioned this earlier) to the code of practice. I believe it is terribly important that this is not only a sensible document, covering the right sort of practices, but that it is particularly well phrased so that it may be readily understood. It has been compared to the Highway Code. I do not know how long ago your Lordships passed your driving tests, but I have a daughter who is about to take the test. I read the Highway Code the other day, and though it is very good in that it tries to be bright in its presentation and that sort of thing, it is desperately long and it is extremely difficult to remember all parts of it. So let us have a code of practice which is easy for the ordinary chap to understand. This Bill is terrifying. I can understand the problem of trying to turn it into something manageable and readable. That will require the best brains in the country, and I implore the Government to do their best. I wish the Bill well and I hope that as it goes through the Committee stage we shall give it our best attention to produce the best result.
§ 12.20 a.m.
§ LORD DONALDSON OF KINGS-BRIDGE
My Lords, I hope that the noble Lord will forgive me if I do not follow his most interesting speech. I have sat up so late to take part in this most important debate in order to represent a point of view which is marginally different from that expressed by most of my noble friends who have spoken from these Benches. I speak as a member of the Labour Party since 1930, a private citizen, neither employed nor employer; in part a small-scale rentier, and one who is looking forward to his old-age pension. I speak as a member of the oppressed public. Whether the unions strike or settle; whether the employers are tough or permissive; whether the Government act or, as seems to be the case at the moment, does not act, we the oppressed public, seem to get the thick end of it each time. I feel like my noble friend Lord Brown: I am in despair about the idiocy of events. I doubt whether we are ready for his solution. But nobody else has put forward 189 anything that looks like working, and I find it terribly depressing.
In my Party there have always been two elements, vaguely described as the trade unionists and the intellectuals. I have always belonged to the intellectuals, not through any intellectual merit but through the lack of a union card. The Labour movement could not exist, or have existed, except through its roots in the manual working class. It would be disingenuous to deny that the financial contributions of the trade unions are an essential part of our movement. So it took real courage when my right honourable friends Mrs. Castle and Mr. Wilson made a determined attempt to take action, which they thought necessary and which they knew very well would bring the wrath of the unions down upon them. They finally flinched and gave way, but not before Mrs. Castle had been subjected to some nasty abuse.
Too many of their colleagues thought that the proposed legislation would not really work, at least without a written-in prices and incomes policy, and it was politically absurd to split the Party down the middle for a Bill which was not really sound. In spite of these reasons—some of which were good—I regretted that retreat, and still regret it. I approved of Mrs. Castle's Bill with reservations, and I still approve of it. So it would be difficult for me to vote flatly against this Bill, even though it contains features which were not in Mrs. Castle's Bill, although I hold myself free to make such alterations with my colleagues as we can effect in Committee.
However, I am not being asked to vote against it; I am being asked to vote for a second Motion which seems to be the first constructive attempt to produce a real solution to the industrial relations dilemma since Mrs. Castle dropped her Bill under duress. I am extremely grateful to my noble friends on the Front Bench who have turned a sterile confrontation of two implacably opposed Parties into the possibility of a constructive debate. I am a good deal disappointed that no one, except a few colleagues, seemed to treat the second Motion very seriously. We seemed to be arguing against the Bill rather than for the Motion. Even the noble and learned Lord, Lord Donovan, whose speech was 190 a landmark in this debate and will be read as a classic for years to come, exercised the lawyer's privilege of not making it quite clear what he was going to do, either.
Our friends and opponents in the other place have tried the other way, to the embarrassment and distress of the innocent public, who have looked on aghast at the histrionics and time-wasting rigmarole in which both sides have indulged for the past few months. I am thankful that if we fail in our Motion we in this House may, nevertheless, be able to make some positive contribution, instead of the negative example we have been given, to this problem, which is reaching crisis in every advanced State in the Western World. I should like to add that the tone of this debate gives me great hope that this will be possible.
For forty years now I have, in the words of the song, been faithful to my Party "in my fashion". In the thirties, with 2 million unemployed, railwaymen earning 50 "bob" a week, agricultural labourers earning 30s., I was inclined to think the striker was always right. He was striking for bread for his wife and children and he was, it seemed to me, justified in going to extreme measures, whatever harm he might do incidentally to his neighbour. That situation has changed. Strikes are no longer for bread; they are for butter and often for jam, jam which many neighbours cannot afford. I find myself restless under this pressure. I know that men do not strike lightly and I defend the right to strike, but I question to what extent it is one's right to damage innocent people for jam rather than bread.
I believe that if my Party had been returned to power we should have been obliged to try to curb inflationary wage claims and at the same time to impose a framework of law on the unions. I think we should now be nearly as unpopular with them as are the present Government today. But not quite. We should not have blocked all chances of conciliation by provocative statements; by refusing to consult the T.U.C. before the Bill; by rejecting contemptuously their economic proposals; by making personal attacks on Mr. Jack Scamp because he did not propose the settlement the Government wanted. Nor should we have chosen this 191 moment of national crisis to make major concessions to the rich by the undeniably class legislation of the two Budgets. These things cannot but make conciliation more difficult.
So we really have a situation not unlike the strike situation which all the talk is about. There is the greatest ill-will between the Government and the unions. No solution other than compulsion of some kind is likely to resolve the present impasse. Yet it is most unlikely that any solution imposed by compulsion will last. In the long run, you cannot make people work if they do not want to and do not like you. I remember the late Ted Hill saying in this House: "If you push us too far we shall ask for our cards." No law can stop that. A solution must come from a recognition of the facts by all Parties, by an agreement, a bargain, to restrain wage demands in return for a determined effort to produce growth. My noble friend Lord George-Brown tried this, but he was wrecked on the rock of the balance of payments. He failed to produce growth. We are now, thanks to the persistent and courageous efforts of my right honourable friend Mr. Roy Jenkins, in an entirely different position, and the possibilities of a voluntary incomes policy are really here at last. But not with ill will all round That is why I think my noble friend's Motion is so important, and why I hope that this debate cannot be on the positive or negative of the Second Reading but on the possibility of constructive action to avoid a head-on collision—which, my Lords, we are heading for, and make no mistake about it!
The Trades Union Congress has just made a hugely significant and conciliatory gesture by rejecting the extremist counsels of Messrs. Scanlon and Jones. This is surely the moment to respond. This Motion provides a specific opportunity which should not be missed. Whether the Bill really deserves the extravagant epithets many of my friends have applied to it or not is not the point. No one claims that it will stop strikes. It seems to me that the Government should seize the chance offered by this Motion to see whether they cannot agree with the unions and employers upon 192 something which will stop strikes. All the union leaders believe in the sanctity of contract. I heard Mr. Vic Feather the other day say exactly those words: that he believed in the sanctity of contract. The truth is that the leaders cannot enforce it on their followers when on the shop floor they become for an instant resentful, and the leaders think the Bill will make it even more difficult for them to lead the men whose paid representatives they inevitably are. This has been discussed before and it is a dilemma which it is not easy to solve. But if ever there was a moment in history which required statesmanship, this is it. My Lords, I believe we have the size of man in the T.U.C. and in the Labour Party to react generously to a generous gesture. Is there a statesman on the other side of such a calibre? I wait anxiously to see.
§ Moved accordingly and, on Question, Motion agreed to.