§ 4.8 p.m.
§ House again in Committee.
§ LORD SLATER
I rise to give support to my noble friend the Leader of the Opposition who so ably introduced this Amendment. One of the most important steps that the Government will have to take on this Bill, as I see it, is to explain and define its terms. It is important to note that when in the other place the Minister of State, Mr. Carr, was asked material questions, he refused to answer. His only way out was to say that his right honourable friend in winding up the debate would deal with the legal points. But, strange to relate, there were, as I gather, no replies to that debate: and I have taken the opportunity, as no doubt your Lordships have, of reading it. This was brought out in the first day's debate on January 18, and is to be found in column 580 ofHansardof the other place.
We know that in your Lordships' House we are not graced with the Solicitor General or the Attorney General. In view of this, do I take it that the responsibility for answering questions on the legal aspects of the Bill will be left to the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor?
THE LORD CHANCELLOR (LORD HAILSITAM OF ST. MARYLEBONE)
If the noble Lord will allow me to answer, I am available to answer any legal questions, although I apprehend that there are none on this particular Amendment.
§ LORD SLATER
I am grateful to the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor. I hope that noble Lords remember the reference I made during the course of my speech during the Second Reading of this Bill to the important matter of legal interpretation (OFFICIAL REPORT, 5/4/71, col. 175). One of the most important factors in industrial unrest in the past few years has been the frustration among working people at the delay in reaching settlements. Every time a delay occurs an employer is buying time at the expense of the workers or employees. It may be that some of the supporters of this Bill consider that negotiations are not responsibly conducted. That proves only too well how little they 946 know of trade union negotiations. I have yet to meet any leader going into the conference room in favour of irresponsible negotiation. Therefore, I believe that the word "responsibly", as set out in the Bill, is an insult to both sides of industry—the trade unions and the responsible employers. I have no doubt that if they were charged with irresponsibility they would be quick to deny it. The working people do not accept that the purpose of the Government is to make unions strong and free and strengthen trade union leadership because of the delay to which I have referred in reaching settlements.
In studying this clause I am left with the impression that the Government thought that they were producing something which meant that the principle of collective bargaining, freely and responsibly conducted, was coming into industrial relations for the first time. This country has led the world in the sphere of industrial relations One need look only at the problems of the past few months to see that the Government are conducting a discriminating incomes policy without coming to Parliament and getting any consent at all. During the course of the debate in the other place, the Minister made no bones about his belief that the rule should be written into the law of the land. That is what we laid down in our policies, which the Conservative Party condemned, and it is precisely what the present Government are not doing in this legislation. It is no secret that when an agreement was arrived at by the workers of the Electricity Council, and both sides were satisfied at the settlement, the then Prime Minister, Mr. Harold Macmillan, criticised the Chairman of the Council for making an agreement which was out of line with Government policy.
It is no use the Government pretending that they are not interfering with collective bargaining in any way. We know that they are, and one wonders why, knowing that collective bargaining has been with us for a very long time and has been freely arid responsibly conducted on a voluntary basis.
We are told by the Government that they do not object to collective bargaining, although they will not guarantee the results obtained from such bargaining. This is what the debate is about. The 947 Government have not the slightest intention of permitting without challenge bargaining which produces results that they do not like. I believe that their insistence on this Industrial Relations Bill will breed suspicion such as we have never seen before. If the Government were wise they would delete this particular clause, and allow those responsible for negotiations to get on with their job without fear of hindrance from any quarter.
The purpose of the Industrial Relations Bill is to curb wages. It has nothing to do with people being free, responsible and equal. It may be that there is a wages problem at the moment, but to suggest that what is intended here is not to curb wages is well out of line with reality. I sincerely hope that the Government, and the Minister responsible for presenting the Bill on behalf of the Government to your Lordships, will seek to accept the Amendment so ably presented by my noble Leader on this issue.
§ 4.19 p.m.
§ LORD POPPLEWELL
I hope that we may have some assurance from the Government in connection with this first Amendment. The opening words of this particular clause read:… for the purpose of promoting good industrial relations.The interpretation of how these good industrial relations are going to be achieved is the subject of great difference between the two sides of the Committee. We suggest in our Amendment that it would be much better if we inserted the words:Orderly and freely conducted collective bargaining on a voluntary basis.We are very reasonable in asking for this. Over the weekend certain Ministers have been paying tribute to the trade union movement in this country by saying, in effect, that some of our unions are the best in the world. That being so, surely it is reasonable to accept the words in this Amendment with a view to establishing good relations. These words should be accepted on the basis of the precedents of our trade union movement—that is, "on a voluntary basis". No evidence can be produced to show that when this nation has been in a critical condition the trade union movement has 948 not been prepared to sit down and talk and find reasonable ways out of the difficulty.
At the present time the nation has rather been stampeded by unofficial strikes and suchlike, which are being caused by certain militant actions. One sees the Government's readiness to deal with a situation of this kind by imposing on the trade union movement, by way of this Bill, certain restrictions before undertaking full, voluntary negotiations. To impose a measure of this description, without first establishing the good will of the collective organisation of workers, is action which does not leave a good impression; it does not establish a good jumping-off ground for whatever action should be taken. We all know that the situation is extremely difficult, but it should not be approached purely on the basis of what has been achieved by the organised power workers. Their achievements have been made only in the spirit of great opposition. The objective of the trade union movement is to increase the standards of life of people engaged in industry; and achievements in this direction have been made only by hard slogging, with the trade union movement itself accepting responsibility. Before we can talk of establishing good relations, the trade union movement as a whole must be consulted. The words of Government spokesmen, and ministerial utterances on several occasions, to the effect that we have unions which are among the best in the world ought to be acted upon by acceptance of the suggestion we make in this Amendment—by entry into voluntary arrangements.
We have for some time had these insurgents in industry. I, as an old trade unionist, strongly condemn any body of organised workers who do not honour a verbal agreement. Verbal agreements in our trade unions should be sacrosanct. They should be as sacrosanct as any written legal document can possibly be. But if every agreement has to be a legal document, it is going to bedevil relationships, and this will destroy good relations between management and workers. I think management themselves would be among the first to deplore it if all agreements had to be in the form of a written legal document. All kinds of snags would arise from the procedure. Therefore, I 949 sincerely hope that the Government will not be obdurate about this matter but will accept our Amendments. I agree that there is a big difference of principle between us. It is a code of procedure stipulating negotiations on both sides which is going to be so important if we want to obtain the best from both sides of industry. If we impose measures, may I humbly warn the Government that, in my opinion, instead of achieving action that will prevent inflationary tendencies I am afraid the Government will be storing up a legacy of difficulty which will not be in the best interest of the nation. So I hope the Government will accept our suggestion and will try to achieve a voluntary basis before this clause is passed.
§ 4.27 p.m.
§ LORD TAYLOR OF MANSFIELD
I support the Amendment moved by my noble friend Lord Shackleton because the words in the Amendment are clearly understood and are less ambiguous than the words in the clause. The Amendment refers to:orderly and freely conducted collective bargaining on a voluntary basis".These words continue a tradition in collective bargaining which has stood the test of time for many years. This Committee would be well advised, for the sake of clarity, to accept this Amendment.
May I say this to noble Lords on the Front Bench opposite. I should like them to explain, in a much clearer fashion than is demonstrated in the Bill, what is meant by the word "responsibly". That word can mean all things to all people—one thing to one individual and something else to another person. The questions I should like to put to the noble Lord who is to reply for the Government are these. To whom is the responsibility due? Responsible in what kind of way? Responsible for what? Can we read into this particular word in this clause that to act responsibly means acting in a certain way towards those who have authorised action? The meaning is unclear to me. The matter is very serious and I certainly should like to have a better explanation from the Government than the one which can be ascertained from the Bill. Does this word "responsibly" mean responsibility in negotiations to the community? If this word means all I 950 have suggested, then in different circumstances involving different people we may obtain different results. Does the word "responsibly" mean that those at the negotiating table should act with responsibility? Can we draw from that the inference that in the past negotiations have not been conducted in a responsible manner? I should like some indication from the Government in regard to the clarity and unambiguity of this clause. For those reasons I support the Amendment.
§ LORD DAVIES OF LEEK
I have listened carefully to this debate and I hope I can make a small but useful contribution to the cogent arguments already put forward by the Front Bench and my other noble friends who have spoken. In my view, there are aspects of this Amendment that have been missed, and it is important to reiterate for a moment what we are asking. We are asking that there shall be inserted the wordsorderly and freely conducted collective bargaining on a voluntary basis".That is why, in a supplementary question the other day. I said to the noble Lord who was replying for the Government that in future the definition of a trade union will have to be changed because it can no longer be called a voluntary organisation.
Irrespective of the fact that one person has one idea of responsibility and another person has another idea, the words "freely" and "responsible" are very difficult to define; furthermore, when they are bandied about (as they will be) by a group of young lawyers who want to earn a living—and this will be a lawyers' paradise in the courts—the purpose of the Bill will be completely lost.
In the first place, the Bill will never work; secondly, it is the fact, as can be seen in a letter published in theObserverof November 29, 1970, to Mr. Victor Feather from Joe Meany, the head of A.F.L. and C.I.O. that Joe Meany believed the law on British trade unions had now gone further to the right than had the United States under the Taft-Hartley Acts. I happened to be in America talking and lecturing at the time of the Taft-Hartley Acts. It is rather sad that a powerful American trade union leader should comment that he considers that we in Britain have gone further to the right. Undoubtedly, part 951 of it is due to the introductory phraseology in Clause 1 of the Bill.
The Bill has four main objectives. First, it is hoped that the new legal bodies that it creates will deal with all the problems (with minor exceptions) of industrial relations. One of the first problems is to decide whether a thing is freely and responsibly conducted. That is an almost impossible task, as all religions throughout the world have proved. Second, how will the proposals change the day-to-day relations between the workers and the employers? Here is the rub! As I hope to prove in a moment or two, this phrase is of the utmost importance in day-to-day relationships between the workers and the employers.
Third, in its proposals the Bill affects the individual's rights of work. What is to happen at work when a strike is being discussed or is in process? And how does a worker act freely and responsibly at the bench or on the office stool, or wherever he may be? Fourth, the regulations in the Bill change the job of the trade union official. They change his status, his rights and also the relations between the workers and the unions. Once again there will arise the case of whether the trade union leader himself is acting freely and responsibly.
Later in the Bill there are proposals which make it an offence for anyone in a registered union, an unregistered union, a shop stewards' committee or an individual to organise or threaten a strike. If I were a member on a shop floor and I was discussing, even during the lunch time—as I know happened in a foundry in South Wales—whether the temperature was too high or too low, I should be covered by this Act. In that foundry in South Wales the temperature was 10 degrees below freezing point. The men were on vital work for a submarine and one man at the bench, who had to use calipers and compasses said, "We cannot work in this temperature; we cannot make accurate measurements. We will have a one day strike to bring the men to their senses". In such a case who will decide whether the man was acting freely and responsibly? I would say that he was so acting because he wanted to turn out first-class workman- 952 ship. In that particular case, if the plates had been wrongly made the submarine could have been placed in jeopardy. But by the time the lawyers had argued about this we should, as usual, be behind with export orders.
Then the National Industrial Relations Court would ultimately come in, because the Bill defines certain actions as being unfair industrial practices. If an employer or anyone else feels that he has been injured by any of these unfair industrial practices he can put his case before the National Industrial Relations Court or a tribunal. (Glory be to the Lord that this Government are going to keep the lawyers off the breadline while 800,000 other people are unemployed!) They will grant a remedy if it is proved to be an unfair industrial practice.
Further, we have to ask whether it is an unfair industrial practice to organise a strike for a particular purpose. Is it a breach of the procedure agreements? Is it unfair, and is it conducting oneself irresponsibly to take industrial action in support of a colleague? Is it unfair and acting irresponsibly, for instance—and I took the trouble to get some information on this—to call on colleagues to make a collection so that we can send one fellow to another part of the country and pay his third class fare? Incidentally, I notice this week that our fares have gone up 30s. or so, at a stroke. Is it illegal to "black" a firm? Yes, it is; and in this unfair practices clause we straightaway have the trade unions almost (to use a wrestling term, which used to be one of my sports years ago) in an Indian deathlock.
I do not want to use language that is too colourful and exaggerated, but I sincerely believe that when it comes to the sticking point, this Bill will not work. It was introduced when there was a phrenetic fear that had been created by propaganda. I will quote theEconomist,which is supposed to be an erudite—
§ LORD BYERS
May I interrupt the noble Lord? Are we back on the Second Reading, because this Amendment is limited to collective bargaining freely carried out?
§ LORD DAVIES OF LEEK
I do not know whether the noble Lord had legal training or not, but if he did he will 953 understand that there has not been a single syllable or comma in my speech which is out of order in another place, because it is directly related to what are considered free and responsible actions.
§ LORD DAVIES OF LEEK
Then why is the noble Lord interrupting me? This is the amazing thing. Many noble Lords and people who do not go into this subject in depth do not know what they are talking about, or the implications of it. I have spoken long enough, because I promised not to be frivolous. I could go on quite easily, but that is not the point. I have tried to keep myself, as we would say in another place, in order, without irritating noble Lords, and to put the case fairly. As I have stated it, one can see that the breadth and depth of this phrase is almost unlimited, so far as accurate interpretation is concerned.
§ VISCOUNT MASSEREENE AND FERRARD)
May I say something in 30 seconds? Noble Lords opposite appear to think that the voluntary basis between employers and unions is now always going to be legally enforceable, but the fact is that things will go on as before; probably 90 per cent. of agreements will still be completely voluntary agreements between employers arid unions. I have never personally known an agreement between employers and unions that was not voluntary. But what the Bill is trying to cure is what happens if the bargaining breaks down, if it is ineffective. It is only trying to cure that. It will be in the case of perhaps 5 per cent. of the agreements, if as much as that. We have had voluntary bargaining between unions and employers for the whole of the 20th century, at any rate since the Trade Disputes Act. We have seen how in the last few years we have fallen to the lowest productivity record among Western industrialised nations. Surely noble Lords opposite cannot object to this very mild word. You appear to object to the word "responsibly". I have always thought that 954 responsibility meant keeping your word and not making highly inflated demands.
I hesitate to interrupt my noble friend; with the burden of what he was saying in large part I agree. But I think we should be very careful how we conduct our debate, as it may be a longish one. My noble friend in addressing noble Lords opposite referred to them as "you". I hone we shall always remember that when we are addressing your Lordships' House on this or other matters we are addressing your Lordships as a whole.
§ VISCOUNT MASSEREENE AND FERRARD
I apologise to noble Lords opposite for calling them "you"; it was completely a slip of the tongue. I have finished.
§ LORD DAVIES OF LEEK
Out of fairness, I am going to sit down in 30 seconds. If the noble Viscount is right in saying that everything is going to go on as before, why should we have the House of Commons and the House of Lords staying up all night? There is an ulterior motive in this Bill; let us face it.
§ 4.44 p.m.
§ LORD STOW HILL
I am sure the whole House was glad to hear that the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor is going to be so kind as to make himself available to give advice on what the meaning is of the very complicated context, as it is, in this very important Bill. If I may, in intervening for a short time, address my observations particularly to the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor—
THE LORD CHANCELLOR
What I said was that I was available to answer legal questions, not the meaning of language.
§ LORD STOW HILL
In the course of my modest career at the Bar I had always been given to understand that the meaning of a word in a Statute in the context in which it was to be found was always recognised and described and dealt with as a point of law. One noble and learned Lord, Lord Donovan, a Lord of Appeal for whom we all have the greatest respect, is present. Perhaps he will disagree with 955 me, but I should be very much surprised if he did. The meaning of a Statute is a question of law, and I should have thought that we were entitled to expect from the noble and learned Lord, the Lord Chancellor, in view of his very kind indication, that when we were discusing what a word in this particular context meant he would be prepared to treat it as a question of law and advise the House on it, giving advice not binding on any court, because he speaks as a Member of your Lordships' House not sitting on judicial business; but his advice would be very helpful and we always listen with great pleasure and elation to the magnificent speeches he makes.
We were rather disappointed to hear from him in an aside that he did not think that this particular Amendment raised a question of law. I venture to differ. The wording of Clause I taken as a whole is of great importance. It is true it is descriptive of purpose, but we are all agreed that the code of conduct we are most anxious to see in its first form as soon as possible is fundamental to this Bill. If one looks at Clause 2(1) one sees that the Secretary of State, in formulating that code, is to have regard to the purposes which are set out in Clause 1 of the Bill, and it is therefore important to us to know what it is that Clause 1 of the Bill is putting before the Secretary of State for him to have in mind when he formulates his code of conduct, which is so vital in our assessment of this Bill.
What the Amendment we are discussing now would achieve would be in substance the omission of the word "responsibly". It is obvious, from the speeches that have been made from this side of the House, that the reasoning behind that Amendment is anxiety as to precisely what is connoted by the term "responsibly" used in that context. The word "responsible" is again used in line 20. If one reads it in its context there it is perfectly obvious what it means: having an obligation of material importance to those who are concerned in the particular negotiations there referred to. There is no difficulty in interpreting it there. But the word "responsibly" in line 10 is used without any qualification, without any indication of what is meant. Unless I am very much mistaken, in ordinary parlance 956 the word "responsible" can have more than one significance. One can use it in a general, what I might call "good boy", sense. The nursemaid may say to her charge "act responsibly"; that means, act decorously, do not be silly, do not run about too much, do not cause too much nuisance. Sometimes one can use it of a grown-up, saying that he should act in a generally decorous manner, not go to excess, restrain himself. That is another meaning well recognised in the English language.
What my noble friends are rather suspicious about is that here it may go further than that. There is a third meaning one can attribute to it. One can use it as connoting that the person about whom the term is used is under some obligation to some other person or body of persons or to observe some criterion or standard. What my noble friends are asking—and I should have thought that this is precisely the kind of point of law on which we would value the advice of the noble and learned Lord —is whether, in his view, that third meaning is the one intended in this context. I see that he shakes his head. I hope he will give further consideration before he gets up—as I hope he will at some time during the course of the debate on this Amendment—to offer advice to the Committee. Does it mean responsible in the sense that there is an obligation to conform to certain standards? If so, what are those standards? Who is to lay them down? Is the word "responsible" to be understood as meaning that the standards are those to be laid down by the Secretary of State? Is he the person to formulate the criteria by which the word "responsible" is to be judged in that context? It is that sort of thing that noble Lords who have spoken from this side of the House are most anxious to know. There is an acute difference between the two sides, in this House and in another place, as to what are the proper criteria for the conduct of the affairs of this nation. This is a democracy, and there is sharp conflict between the two sides of the House. Which side of the House—if it is to be a side of the House—is to lay down what are to be the criteria to be observed in the construction of the word "responsible"?
The noble and learned Lord looks a little bored—I hope he is not, because I 957 really mean what I say. When I say that we would all value his advice I am perfectly sincere, because his advice is always extremely valuable. I hope that, his attention having been drawn to the fact that we are really anxious about precisely what is the function of that word "responsible" in that particular context, he will address his mind and give his impression as to the proper interpretation to be attributed to that word in this context.
As I have said, it is important that we should know, because the code of conduct which we are subsequently to see will presumably reflect what the Government intend that word in that context to have as its meaning. As we are very concerned about the form in which the code of conduct will appear, it is perfectly right and proper that the Opposition should put down an Amendment at this early stage to leave out that word of rather dubious connotation, which may lead to a form wholly unacceptable in the code of conduct when it subsequently emerges.
Although I am not the noble and learned Lord, the Lord Chancellor, perhaps it is appropriate that I should come in at this stage to explain the Government's point of view on this particular clause, and on the Amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
If I may interrupt the noble Earl, it is probably useful to have a Government statement at this point, although a number of my noble friends will want to pursue this further. We shall regard it as very important that the noble and learned Lord who normally sits on the Woolsack—and who seems to be suffering so sitting on the Government Front Bench—should be prepared to answer my noble friend Lord Stow Hill at some stage. It may be that the noble Earl has some means of communicating with his noble and learned friend, and that we shall have some fascinating reply. Meanwhile, it probably is right that the noble Earl should speak. However, there is no doubt that my noble friend Lord Blyton, and others, will want to speak because I doubt whether the noble Earl will satisfy us.
§ 4.55 p.m.
I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, for making it possible for me to speak. Of course he did not see it, but may I say that his noble friend Lord Blyton had already made it possible for me to reply. Before I turn to the arguments which have been advanced—and perhaps I may say that they have been advanced very moderately, and for that reason all the more persuasively—by noble Lords opposite, I feel that I should first of all explain the intention behind the subsection we are now discussing.
The intention of the Government is to set out in this subsection as plainly as possible the principles which the Government see as basic to good industrial relations, and the principles which have informed the drafting of the Bill. The noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, said that this matter was discussed fairly fully at Committee in another place. Like him, I have read the Committee discussion. I should have thought that 70 columns on a Committee point was rather more than "fairly fully"; I should have thought that that was "very fully". From the point of view of the tenor of our discussions over these coming days, I hope that we shall not necessarily go over all the ground which has been covered by the Committee in another place.
That said, the principle of Clause 1(1) is to state the Bill's aim in respect of collective bargaining. That aim is "freedom consistent with a sense of responsibility". We are aiming in this legislation at a balanced package fair to employees and fair to management. On one side of the balance there are the provisions about legally enforceable contracts and unfair industrial practices which aim to promote a due sense of responsibility. On the other side of the balance—and there is a real balance here—there is the freedom of collective bargaining, which is promoted by the provisions for trade union recognition, and by the very closely defined circumstances in which any third party, including the Government, can intervene, for example, in a national emergency. The Amendment which the noble Lord has moved seeks to delete from this clause all reference to the concept of responsibility in this subsection, and surely we all recognise that a sense 959 of responsibility is now more than ever necessary in collective bargaining.
I must say straight away that I am not able to accept this Amendment on behalf of the Government. I feel it only right to make that clear, because I feel that there is a great deal more involved here—I think this discussion has probably shown that—than just semantics. In answer to the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, and others, I think it right that I should seek to explain what we mean by "responsibility" in this context. First, we mean that collective bargaining should be conducted by those who are properly authorised to do so; in other words, by the officials who have been given this responsibility by managements and unions. To this end we have provided later in the Bill, at Clause 92, that when a strike is called by an official of a registered union who is authorised to do so by the union's rules, the resulting inducement to breach of contract will not constitute an unfair industrial practice. Even where a union official takes action which constitutes an unfair industrial practice, so long as the official has acted within the scope of his authority there will be no personal liability.
In these ways, the Bill seeks to ensure that collective bargaining is conducted by those who have the necessary mandate and the appropriate authority, and not by those who bear no real responsibility for what they may seek to do. That is one side of "responsibility". Secondly, we mean that those who engage in collective bargaining must bear some responsibility not just to themselves and those they represent but to the community as a whole. I really do not believe that there is anything sinister in this. It is not a denial of freedom; it is one of the means of achieving it. It seems axiomatic to me that in a free society in whatever capacity we act, we must accept that our freedom must be circumscribed in some measure in the interests of others and of the community.
The noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, said that this phrase had an authoritarian ring about it. I really wonder whether that is so. Surely our whole concept of democracy is based upon this balance between freedom and responsibility. I do not wish to preach a sermon about this, but surely all your Lordships must 960 admit that with all of us in all aspects of our lives our freedom is circumscribed in this way. For example, our freedom in our private lives is circumscribed by the interests of others and of the community. Our perfect freedom in your Lordships' House is circumscribed by our knowledge—and I suspect that we may have to draw on that knowledge a bit in the weeks to come—that we could have perfect anarchy in this House, were it not for consideration of others and of the House as a whole. Furthermore, to take the subject wider, our freedom as a nation is circumscribed by the interests of other nations and of the world community.
I recognise that in the context of this Bill that may not be a principle which noble Lords opposite will necessarily be prepared to concede, but they undoubtedly acted upon that principle when they were in Government. It was surely the thought behindIn Place of Strifeand the Prices and Incomes Act. They were not measures with which we necessarily agreed, but we did not quarrel with the notion that certainly animated them; that the process of collective bargaining and the settlements which result from it are of concern not only to the direct participants in the bargaining, but also in some measure—sometimes very directly—to the nation as a whole. I do not see how this can be denied when we look at some of the big bargains which have been struck in recent times—be it Ford or others in the motor industry, in the electricity industry or elsewhere. In this respect the Bill does not break new ground. What it does is to define more precisely than is done at present the legal conditions which govern collective bargaining, and to write into the law those limitations which must, in the interest of us all, be placed on the freedom of the negotiators.
I think our discussions this afternoon have pointed to one dilemma, and that is that when we try to make—as we are trying to make in this first clause of the Bill—some fundamental statements of principle, it is very hard to employ terms which cannot possibly be construed in more than one sense. This may apply to the terms which we have introduced into the Bill. I think it applies also to the terms of the Opposition's Amendment. Put let me say that the words which 961 noble Lords opposite appear to object to seem to me perfectly clear and unambiguous, and not, as the noble Lord, Lord Taylor of Mansfield, suggested, the precise opposite. "Responsibly" has a perfectly clear dictionary definition. One can see what it means by a moment's reflection on its opposite, the word "irresponsibly". That is the sense in which it is used here. I cannot accept—and I find it very hard that the noble Lord, Lord Slater, put it in this way—that by importing these words into the Bill there is in any sense a slander upon or injustice to the trade unions. I cannot see why he should think that the use of the word "responsibly"should mean that. To adopt his own line of argument, words such as "voluntary" or "democratically" would be just as much a slur on the trade unions.
§ LORD SLATER
Will the noble Earl not agree that by introducing this type of argument he is issuing a form of challenge to the intelligence of the people who, over the years, have responsibly carried out negotiations on behalf of their members?
I really do not think so—no more than that to introduce the word "democratically" would be to challenge the fact that there is a movement towards more democratic trade unionism. I really cannot accept the noble Lord's argument here. That said, it is my belief that the Amendment which the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, has moved is as superfluous as it is misconceived. Take, for example, the phrase "on a voluntary basis" which is in his Amendment. I am advised that the phrase could certainly be held to imply that Government and the law should withdraw entirely from the sphere of collective bargaining, and that would have some very interesting and highly undesirable implications. It could, for example, imply the repeal of the Terms and Conditions of Employment Act 1959, together with other legislation which exists to protect workers from exploitation. The result of totally unregulated bargaining is easy to predict. It is a situation—
§ LORD SHACKLETON
May I interrupt the noble Earl? How on earth can he suggest that this can have any bearing whatsoever on the Contracts of 962 Employment Act? I do not know where the noble Earl is getting his advice. Those of us who worked on that Bill—and I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, will agree—believe that collective bargaining has nothing at all to do with contracts.
That Act lays down certain conditions by which, as the noble Lord well knows, the employer must abide; for example, there is the period of notice. If the words "on a voluntary basis" were taken literally, they would mean taking out of the area of statutory control and bringing into the area of voluntary collective bargaining all that part which is covered by this legislation. The noble Lord may query that, but that is certainly my advice and I have not imparted or forwarded that advice without due consideration. What we envisage is a system of law which should govern collective bargaining, but also a system of law within which employers and trade unions bargain freely and responsibly. I would readily concede—and here I entirely agree with my noble friend Lord Massereene and Ferrard—that voluntary procedures here, as elsewhere, are in normal circumstances much to be preferred to any others. Nevertheless, there are circumstances, notably where procedure agreements may be defective or non-existent, in which we may have to look to other procedures, and they are provided for by the clauses in Part III of the Bill which deal with the selective enforceability of procedure agreements. If the Opposition's Amendment carries the implication that voluntary procedures are in all circumstances to be preferred to any others, then I must say straight away that that is a notion which we would reject. Those are the reasons why, if the noble Lord presses this Amendment, I shall urge your Lordships to resist it.
I would say straight away, at the outset of what is going to be a long discussion, that for many reasons I should have been very prepared, if I could, to accept an Amendment of this sort. I looked at this Amendment with particular care because I had that in mind, if only for tactical considerations. Maybe I am being too frank with your Lordships. But in resisting this Amendment, and since we are at the outset of our discussion, may I congratulate noble Lords opposite—and I hope I do not 963 appear pompous or sanctimonious—on the way in which they have moved and supported this Amendment, the first swallow in what looks to-day like being a long, cold summer. I hope that the time will come, before too many weeks and too many late nights have passed, when I shall be able to congratulate the noble Lord opposite on moving his last Amendment. That said, I should very much like at the outset of our Committee stage to express the hope that, despite the divisions or clashes of opinion which we may have on this Bill—and I know that opinions are not only strongly held, but maybe even more strongly expressed at times—we shall be able to continue our discussion on this important legislation in the sort of spirit which has informed our discussion this afternoon.
§ LORD BLYTON
The noble Earl said that the purpose of Clause 1 of the Bill is to promote a basis of good labour relations. We fundamentally disagree with him on that. We think the guiding principles of this Bill will cause more chaos and more unrest than they will solve. The noble Earl referred to community responsibility in relation to wages negotiations. I hope I shall have something to say about that before I have finished my few remarks. It must be understood that Clause 1 contains the guiding principles setting out the objects of this Bill which are to be regarded as the principles for persons and institutions who will operate this Bill, including the N. I. R. C. In supporting the Amendment, I must say that the Minister knows that the courts will have to interpret this measure. We must have a clear definition of its terms, but we got no definition to-day from the noble Earl the Leader of the House who has just sat down.
This Amendment cuts out the word "responsibly". The Bill raises the question, as Lord Taylor put it: who are the trade unions to be responsible to? Are they to be responsible to their members? And responsible for what? Does it mean responsible to the trade union which authorised them to act, to the other bargaining party, to the Government or to the community generally? Each of these meanings would give different results. In the debate in another place, Mrs. Castle gave one view, Mr. Paget another, Mr. Gower another and the Secretary of State 964 another. Legal authorities like Professor Wedderburn, a professor of industrial law who specialises in this field, say that in this Bill there is being introduced a legal straitjacket in the form of provisions designed to reduce the bargaining power of the trade union movement, and I think the Government must address themselves to that charge. That is why we regard the word "voluntary" not as merely academic.
A man like George Woodcock, who has great experience in the trade union field, could not stomach this Bill and got out, but he has always said that what makes the trade union movement work effectively is its voluntary nature. I cannot understand at all why we have this wording unless there is something sinister about it, and that is what we believe. When I read the debate in another place and how the Secretary of State tried to explain it, I thought he conveyed the idea that this was something new coming into our industrial relations for the first time; and I thought the noble Earl the Leader of the House tried to convey the same view. Since when has the principle of "freely and responsibly conducted" trade union negotiations not been followed; and is this not a device in the long run to destroy the shop stewards? If this is the case, then it will be a bad day for British industry. The employers have learned to work with the shop stewards in many industries, and are doing a good job to maintain and improve industrial relations. Whatever many noble Lords opposite may think in their anti-trade union attitude, they must know that the British trade union movement has led the world in the realm of industrial relations.
There have been some Conservatives who have contrasted this Bill with Labour's prices and incomes policy. I was never too happy about that as it seemed to control wages rather than prices; but in fairness it must be said that at least they got the consent of both Houses of Parliament for that wages policy. But here to-day we have a Government conducting a most discriminatory policy on incomes without coming to the House at all and getting consent for that kind of policy—and that is what is involved in the Amendment we are dealing with to-day. The 965 Tories say that the rules for trade unions should be proclaimed in the law of the land. That is what we did in our policies on prices and incomes, and the Tories attacked us right and left. On incomes, the present Government have a policy of interference in the wages field, but are not doing it by way of legislation. What they say is, "Where there is a dispute involving lower-paid workers, particularly in the public sector, we will appoint a High Court judge, with over £15,000 a year, to pass judgment on workers about whom he knows nothing from practical experience".
The Government are operating an incomes policy, though they told the electorate they were not in favour of one. The Government have allowed large increases in judges' salaries and solicitors to put up their fees, and increases in air pilots' wages, while at the same time, not being able to control wages in the private sector, people in the public sector like the railway workers and the Post Office workers are beaten down to 8 per cent. and 10 per cent. We now have a double standard, and that it what we are worried about in this particular part of the Bill. The Government pick out the poorest section and say, "If we can hold back that section and make an example of it we shall be able to hold back the level of wage claims"; and we are invited to ignore the increases for professional people, increased dividends and profits. That is the double standard of to-day that we envisage in this Bill.
There have been many cases over the years when Tory Governments have gone to great lengths, after collective bargaining has produced a result, 10 interfere with the result which has been achieved between employers and trade unions. As Lord Slater has said, this was done by Mr. Harold Macmillan in 1961 with the power workers; it was done with the nurses; and it has been done in another way with Jack Scamp and Professor Clegg. In the light of this, it must be understood that we are very suspicious of the general principles laid down in the Bill. This interference was carried out when collective bargaining was freely and responsibly being conducted. Why do we argue about something that has been going on for over 70 years? It is because the Government's reasons are 966 different from the words in Clause 1(1)(a). They do not object to collective bargaining under the rules in their Bill, but what they will not guarantee is that the results of collective bargaining responsibly conducted will be allowed to stand—and that is the kernel of the case to-day.
Will all negotiations in arbitrations or conciliations always have to take into consideration the national interest, with the Government using all their forces behind them to influence arbitrators, as they did in the power case when the Treasury, on behalf of the Government, tried to load the dice against the workers? What has happened to Jack Scamp and Professor Clegg does not augur well for lower-paid people. When the Labour Government asked both Houses for power to defer an increase in wages, we were told by the Tories that we had no right to do so, regardless of the national interest; and in another place the Tory votes are on record. They did this on the ground that trade unions could not negotiate freely. That is what the Tories are now doing, and introducing. They exploited our incomes and prices policy, which was unpopular. They were able to get more political popularity on the strength of attacking that policy, and they did it very unfairly. Even during the General Election they attacked Labour for refusing to give the doctors the whole amount of the award at once, and got a few miserable votes by it. Even in policy the Tories are talking double-talk.
It was the Prime Minister who said on Thames Television on April 30, 1970, in the context of wages negotiations,I think you are being unfair to the unions in saying that price explosion under Labour is due to wage explosions. You cannot blame workers for asking for wage increases".I do not object to that, but the Government to-day had another tune to play. In the power men's case before the Wilberforce Committee, a report inThe Timessaid that the Treasury had submitted the following evidence, and we want to know what is going to happen to us under this principle:The Treasury Memorandum submitted to the Court of Inquiry into the electrical pay dispute argues that the current inflationary spiral can only he broken by reducing the level of wage settlementsThey produced this evidence on the basis I of "national interests". Are the words 967 "only be broken", what the Government mean by "collective bargaining" and ""responsibly conducted" in this clause? The Chancellor of the Exchequer is constantly saying that the level of wage settlements is the only cause of inflation. To him prices have nothing to do with it, nor taxation policies nor increases in social welfare charges.
We are seeking to amend this clause because the Government are riding two horses. I believe that the Government will define the word "responsibly" in a way that will increase strikes and the threat of strikes. There will not be collective bargaining freely in the public sector. The Government should recognise that a big change has taken place in the trade union movement. Power has been given to the shop floor more so than in the past and this Bill is no doubt intended to kill the shop stewards or make them ineffective. National or industry-wide negotiations have in practice now become less important. The Donovan Commission saw this, and the failure of the institutions concerned to adapt to it, as the key to much industrial unrest in strike prone industries. The Tory Bill entirely ignores this development which is not confined to this country, yet to attempt, as the Bill does, to reverse this movement, will surely spell trouble, both in terms of industrial peace and in terms of preventing the development of improved methods of using manpower.
The word "responsibly" means what people want it to mean, and I suspect that that is what the Government want. They want it to mean what they want it to mean. It is one thing to make an agreement with an employer and to conduct oneself in the spirit and intention of an agreement, but it is different when it is converted into Statutes. The courts will say, "We are concerned not with the spirit and the intention, but with the law." Judges often tell us that it does not matter what Parliament said or intended; they have to decide the law. It is because of all these things, and because it frames the principles of the Bill, that it is necessary to define "responsibly", especially in the light of all that follows in the Bill. The trades unions are responsible bodies, and always have been so, but in the light of the Tory "trade union bashing" it is vital 968 to know how they define this subsection. Knowing the contents of this Bill with all its legal sanctions and penalties on the trade unions, it is essential that the principles which guide the Bill should be fully explained to the House as to how collective bargaining can be freeely and responsibly done with all the disabilities which they will face under this Bill. It is to maintain the voluntary basis of the unions that I support the Amendment.
THE LORD CHANCELLOR
I was passing to the Leader of the Opposition a note to explain my position, but perhaps this is a convenient moment to do so. I have in fact been suddenly summoned elsewhere for a short time, but I hope to be back shortly. The only advice I can give to the House is that there is no possible legal point here. The courts would, in my opinion, interpret the word "responsibly" in its dictionary sense—in the sense in which it was used so capably by the noble Lord, Lord Slater, on several occasions in his two interventions—and that meaning has been correctly and exhaustively and plainly explained by the Leader of the House. That is the only advice I can give on this clause. There is no legal point that I can see which could conceivably arise.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
I am grateful to the noble and learned Lord. He has been most helpful. We can continue the debate after he has gone. This is a matter that has obviously caused a great deal of interest, and a number of lawyers have taken this view and my noble friend Lord Stow Hill has expressed his view. I take it that the principles as contained in this clause are those that will be taken into account by the courts. He is saying that this comes under subsection (2)(b), as well as under (2)(a). In talking about the jurisdiction of the National Industrial Relations Court he is stating categorically that the meaning is as stated by the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe; that there is no possibility of any ambiguity. He is quite satisfied that the courts will not give the sort of meaning which other people are afraid that it might have. Obviously, in a sense, he cannot answer what the courts will do; nevertheless he is convinced in his position that the only meaning this phrase can bear is the one 969 Which has been given to it by the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe.
THE LORD CHANCELLOR
I think the Leader of the Opposition has correctly stated what my opinion is. Of course the courts are constantly using ordinary language, and I cannot think, out of my stock of legal knowledge, of any sense which I can attach to the words "responsible", "responsibility", "responsibly" in this context which is not that which my noble friend has already given. The dictionary meaning, I notice from this large volume which I have in front of me, which is most likely to be applied is "morally accountable for one's actions", and the example given is:the great God has treated us as responsible beings
Is it not true that there are two sorts of responsibilities? I wonder if the noble Lord, Lord Stow Hill and his noble friend have not got a point. Surely you are responsible to somebody. On one side, if you are an officer you are responsible to your commanding officer; if you are a managing director, you are responsible to your shareholders; if you are a trade union shop steward—and this is perhaps where the difficulty is—you are responsible to whom? I suppose the secretary or the officials of the union. The other sort of responsibility is where you are responsible for something or somebody. An officer is responsible for his men; the managing director is responsible for the progress of his factory and its work; the trade union shop steward or the trade union leader is responsible, quite obviously, for the interest and welfare of his men who are members of that union. But can that trade union leader or shop steward be responsible both to and for the same people? I wonder whether "responsibly conducted" is the right way of using "responsibly" in this particular line.
When we come to the next paragraph, paragraph (b), we see that it uses the words:with due regard to the general interests of the community".Cannot this responsibility—both the "to" and the "for"—be shown in some way? If the noble Earl the Leader of the House, or his colleague the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor, could 970 help noble Lords opposite with these two different types of responsibility, perhaps their fears arid the fears of many people in the country, and in particular the fears of the trade unionists, would quickly disappear and this very long, marathon debate might be considerably shortened. I wonder if it is worth looking at "responsibly conducted".
THE LORD CHANCELLOR
I endeavoured to give my opinion, as I was invited to do so. I can only repeat what I have said. I think that my noble friend has himself given the answer to his question. Obviously, in certain contexts the word "responsible" is used in conjunction with "to" and "for"; but it is not so used in this sentence. I can only repeat that in my opinion, for what it is worth—and it was only my opinion that was asked for, not somebody else's—the courts would interpret it in the sense in which my noble friend the Leader of the House gave it and in no other. There is no other possibility when it is used in this context. But I am not infallible. I gave my opinion only because it was asked for.
§ 5.32 p.m.
§ LORD STONHAM
I think there is general agreement in the Committee that this clause is the crux of the whole Bill. We are here deciding the principles of industrial relations, and even in the principles as set out in the Bill it is obvious that there is considerable disagreement in all parts of the House. The noble Earl, Lord Bathurst, honestly expressed his doubts and we shall come again and again in the course of our discussions to doubts of this kind. What do the words mean? Having heard the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, I am afraid that the answer we shall get is that they mean what he says they mean. This is what is disturbing not only trade unions but also the greater part of the people of this country. If we are adumbrating principles, if we are deciding principles on which the whole Bill will depend, then not only have we to get them right but we have to get them short. It is almost as if we were deciding on a new set of Commandments. They would have to be brief and to the point; and they ought to be the subject of general agreement, something that could be put in a Preamble to the Bill.
971 Let us take the one we are now discussing: the principle of collective bargaining. What we are concerned about is that the Government add the words, "freely and responsibly conducted"—in a matter where for a hundred years collective bargaining has been freely and responsibly conducted without any laws, without any compulsion. One of the Ten Commandments is: "Thou shalt not commit adultery." It does not say "…except with the agreement of your wife freely and responsibly conducted."
The essence of what I am seeking is simplicity; so that everybody knows what the principle means, so that we do not need to have a discussion such as this which has lasted for about an hour, a three-cornered discussion between my noble friend Lord Stow Hill, a former Home Secretary and an eminent lawyer whose opinions on these matters ranks very high, and the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor and the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe. And at the end of that hour's discussion we had the noble Earl, Lord Bathurst, coming in and expressing his puzzlement and suggesting yet another solution. This is not the way to conduct our affairs over one of the most important Bills we have ever had to decide.
When I read Part I of the Bill I was inclined to think that it was possible to give the Government the benefit of the doubt, to judge them by their intentions as they have expressed them. But my noble friend Lord Blyton rightly said that any legal action arising from this Bill when it becomes an Act will not be decided by the Government's intentions as expressed in Ministerial statements but by the letter of the law. The noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, in attempting to justify the words, "bargaining freely and responsibly conducted" appeared to me to underline and confirm all the fears that have been expressed on this side, fears which have been expressed continuously throughout the discussion in the Bill. It is of no use, in endeavouring to reassure people who are seriously disturbed about prospective legislation, to say, "Our words do not mean what you think they mean." Indeed, they will mean what responsible people who have to administer the law decide they mean.
972 It is therefore right that we should spend all this time discussing the exact wording of this very small section. We cannot get over the use of the words "responsibly conducted" by sophistries. It is a very real question, one that has not yet been answered but one that must be answered. Who decides what is "responsible"? —and remember that we are talking about people who for scores of years have been considered responsible. In our view, the alternative words,orderly and freely conducted collective bargaining on a voluntary basisunderline correctly and properly what this paragraph should mean. I am not an expert on these matters, as your Lordships will already have gathered. My only knowledge of industrial relations is that gained over some 40 years as an employer. I have conducted industrial relations, and have also done so on behalf on an employers' organisation. My feeling is that this whole concept is utterly wrong. I have never found any necessity to put down any words and to argue: "This is the law by which you must abide. "My industrial relations have not been entirely without success, because they have been in an industry which has never had a strike or lost a day's work in 40 years. Real industrial relations do not depend on matters of this kind.
I am convinced that those noble Lords sitting behind the Government Front Bench who have listened to these discussions have become increasingly uneasy about the words which are being used; about the methods which are being employed. I respect the opinions of noble Lords opposite, but if they support the Government on this Amendment, I do not think that they can do so with a clear conscience. The noble Earl has said that he cannot accept this Amendment. I hope that he will look at it again. He asured us that, as a matter of tactics, he had toyed with the idea of giving. us a "sweetener" by accepting the Amendment, so as to give us the right impression from the word go. I am glad that the noble Earl finally decided to eschew that method of progress, which would not have been worthy of him.
I must intervene, although I hesitate to interrupt the noble Lord, Lord Stonham. I think that he is 973 being a little unfair. Surely what I said was perfectly clear. If, at the outset of a very long discussion, I had felt able to accept this Amendment, I would obviously have wished to do so. This does not seem to me in any way immoral, or overtactical, or anything else; and I think that the noble Lord is making very heavy weather of it.
§ LORD STONHAM
I have no wish to be unfair to the noble Earl or to misrepresent him. I have never tried to misrepresent anyone. But that was the impression that he gave to me. He used the word "tactical". If he consultsHansardin the morning he will find that what I said fairly represented. I think, what he had to say. He said, "Perhaps I have spoken too frankly"—but I will leave noble Lords who heard the discussion to decide. In any case, the noble Earl indicated that he had considered accepting the Amendment and that it might be tactically desirable to do so. Whether or not it would have been good tactics, it would not have been in accordance with his usual practice. But the Government cannot "kid" us in that way—accepting one Amendment and thinking that it would be all right over the other 300. The very fact that he toyed with this idea—
§ LORD BROWN
I wonder whether my noble friend would excuse my interrupting him. I know of no way more conducive to getting a Minister—who has obviously been giving thought to accepting an Amendment—not to accept an Amendment than to criticise the basis on which he has spoken of his thoughts. I think that we are being unfair about it. I still hope that the Government will accept this Amendment which is important; but, with great respect to my noble friend, I do not think that he is improving the chances of the Government reconsidering their current attitude by speaking in this way.
§ LORD STONHAM
I think that this is a very good Amendment and a very considerable improvement on the words in the Bill. It would make a first principle that we need not be ashamed of. I hope that the noble Earl will reconsider, and will accept the Amendment.
§ 5.45 p.m.
§ LORD BEAUMONT OF WHITLEY
I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, in one respect: that this clause is one of the most vital in the Bill, and is one of the most essential parts of the Bill. But I cannot go along with him in his belief that the amount of time we are spending on the detailed wording, and the amount we seem likely to spend on it (and the amount of time which was spent in another place), is really worth while. Although there are one or two among the Amendments put forward by his noble friends which seem to me worth supporting, they do not seem to me to be of very great intrinsic importance.
As it stands, the clause seems to me a perfectly sensible and straightforward declaration of intent which should claim the respect of any independent person who had not already been immersed in the rather murky psychology which is going into this particular debate at the moment. I think we must not be frightened of words. If I may take an example which is slightly off the point, I would refer to law and order. I am in favour of law and order, and the fact that some Right-Wing people misuse it in an authoritarian way, and that therefore some Left-Wing people refuse to use them and regard law and order as "dirty" words—
§ LORD SHACKLETON
May I interrupt the noble Lord? He referred to some Right-Wing people"—I am sorry; he was going on to refer to his Young Liberals, was he? I beg his pardon.
§ LORD BEAUMONT OF WHITLEY
Why not indeed! Some Left-Wing people, therefore, regard law and order as "dirty" words and will not use them. I do not think that this should put people off—it certainly will not with me—regarding law and order as a very good thing which we should have. Responsibility is also a very good thing that we should have. For the noble Lord the Leader of the Opposition to say that "responsibility" has an authoritarian tone seems as surprising to me as it does to the noble Earl the Leader of the House.
§ LORD BEAUMONT OF WHITLEY
Prefectorial it may be, but really nothing to run away from. Nor do I accept that to put in the first clause of this Bill words as to what should happen in industrial relations is to imply that these words have not been applicable to practice in the past. That again seems to me to be oversensitive and not looking at the clause as it is written down. Responsibly, as was said by the noble Earl, the Leader of the House, is understood by the Government in two ways: in the sense that the people conducting the negotiations have been responsibly elected or appointed representatives of their various bodies, and responsible to the community.
The Liberal Party has always strongly upheld the idea of responsibility to the community as part of the industrial network. Indeed, a distinguished Liberal, Mr. George Goyder, has written a book calledThe Responsible Company, which takes up this particular point: bringing in the idea of employees having a share of management, but also bringing in the idea that any industrial organisation must be responsible to the community as well as to just its own self. If I thought that "responsibly" would be interpreted by any independent body as meaning the kind of behaviour which the noble Lord, Lord Blyton, has so rightly castigated—that of holding down the pay of the really poorly paid workers while letting the pay of others rip—I would be against the use of the word. But responsibly means what it says; that is, responsible by any standards. I am for responsibility. And therefore I shall certainly support the Government, and I shall advise my noble friends to do the same.
§ LORD PARGITER
There is one point that I should like to make. It is on the question of what is compulsory and what is freely conducted. All law is compulsory—let us be clear about that. If it is a law, it is compulsory. If it is free, it is free. You cannot marry the two together. You cannot have the one and the other; you have to have one or the other. In so far as the Government require that it shall be reasonably conducted and not on a voluntary basis, it embraces the rule of law. I am not arguing whether or not there should be a rule of law. But the answer is that it should be freely conducted, and still there should be the rule of law. But 976 we cannot have it both ways. The Government have decided that they want it one way: that negotiations should be freely and reasonably conducted, but on the rule of law. I am not arguing it either way. But if the Government really want that they must of necessity accept the Amendment, because otherwise negotiations are no longer on a voluntary basis. The ultimate is a basis of the rule of law and it can be arrived at in the last analysis only by the law. If the Government do not want that, then for Heaven's sake! why do they not say so, instead of all this claptrap and nonsense about it being a voluntary basis?
I can imagine all sorts of circumstances in which voluntary agreements could be arrived at but which would necessarily be against the law. They are voluntarily arrived at, but one might say that they have not been arrived at in accordance with the principles involved here and therefore they ought not to be operative. If we are going to argue in favour of shop floor bargaining it would be a very difficult problem to apply these principles from the point of view of being freely and responsibly conducted. If they are freely and responsibly conducted within the basis of a voluntary arrangement, that is all right, because after all it has no force in law but as soon as we begin to apply the force of law to it, we immediately take away the voluntary basis. We cannot have one and the other at the same time. The Government have made up their minds they want the one. We think that the other is the appropriate way—the voluntary way of arriving at an agreement. The way people come to an agreement has nothing to do with the Government at all. And that is where I should like to leave it.
§ LORD SILKIN
My Lords, I hesitate to intervene at this late stage in the discussion—at least, I hope it is a late stage—but I am worried about the words in the clause as it stands. I admit freely that I started off thinking that there was little difference between the Amendment and the clause as it stands, but the more I have listened to the discussion, the more I am worried about the clause. I want to refer particularly to the words "negotiations responsibly conducted". Who is to judge whether negotiations are responsibly conducted? Let me take, for 977 example, a trade union leader who enters a discussion and says, "These are my terms; take them or leave them". Is that responsible conduct of a negotiation? If it is not, is he committing a breach of this provision? Or suppose that a trade union leader enters into a negotialion and says, "I want an increase of 200 per cent. on the present wage and I am not prepared to come clown on that". Is he responsible, and can he be hauled up for it?
I would have thought that these difficulties could be avoided by not using this expression at all. Whether we use the term of the Amendment is another matter. But surely the sensible way in a matter of this kind, where we are all trying to get the best possible words in this provision, would be to think about them again in the light of this discussion and see whether there can be inserted in the clause words which would not be open to the objections which so many of my noble friends on this side feel, and always will feel. I have no doubt that we could find a form of words which would do what noble Lords opposite want and what we want. I suggest that it might be worth while for the noble Earl the Leader of the House to say he will give further consideration to these words and to the Amendment at a later stage.
§ 5.57 p.m.
§ LORD SHINWELL
The noble Earl the Leader of the House deployed his objection to the Amendment with characteristic moderation. Indeed, I find myself in some difficulty because of the entertaining and delightful method of persuasion adopted by the noble Earl. Therefore, I hope he will forgive me if I venture to cross swords with him. It would seem a somewhat futile exercise to engage for a long period of time in discussing a particular word—in this connection the word "responsibly"—but we have to ask ourselves: For what reason was that word inserted in this paragraph of the clause? The noble Earl seemed to me to inject something in the nature of philosophy into the case. But there was no reason for this at all, because in so far as philosophy can be integrated with a set of principles—and I suppose that is a reasonable interpretation of the term "philosophy" and of the term "set of principles"—all he asked for, and indeed all the Government seem to request 978 from the trade unions or the employers organisations (as the case may be) in the process of negotiations is contained in the next paragraph of this subsection of Clause 1, which says:the principle of developing and maintaining orderly procedures in industry for the peaceful and expeditious settlement of disputes by negotiation, conciliation or arbitration, with due regard to the interests of the community.I ventured to read that paragraph because much of the argument we have heard in the course of the debate this afternoon, and indeed much of the prolonged argument that took place at the end of the corridor in another place, dealt principally with the points embodied in that paragraph to which I have drawn attention.
Let me explain. When questions were asked by Members on the Opposition Benches as to the interpretation of the word under discussion, the answers, some evasive, some ambiguous and some vague, but some occasionally with some measure of relevance, indicated the following: that the Government were concerned, and rightly concerned, that in negotiations the interests of the community, while not paramount, should be predominant in the consideration. After all, that is what one would expect from any Government. It is true that that argument was countered by some of the legal fraternity in another place, on the ground that the representatives of the trade unions or indeed the F. B. I., an employers' organisation, were bound in the circumstances, within their responsibility and discretion, to represent their constituents without regard to the interests of the community. There is something to be said for that point of view. After all, if one is engaged in negotiations on a matter of wages or conditions, one must represent the interests of one's constituents without regard to extraneous affairs. I would reject that, but it is a point of view. But the concept of regard to the interests of the community is contained in the paragraph to which I have directed attention. If that is accepted, then there can be no denial; and here it is. Then I think I am justified in asking the question: why insert the word "responsibly" in the previous paragraph? There must be some reason for it. It cannot be in order to concern those engaged in negotiation with the interests of the community, because that is in the next paragraph, and there 979 is no reason for repetition. The Government have all they want.
Then there is something more. When there was a discussion in the other place there was a varying interpretation of what is meant by the word under discussion; and to some extent that has happened here this afternoon. Some speakers have suggested that it means that negotiations must be conducted in an orderly fashion; that that represents responsibility on the part of those engaged in negotiations. But again I direct noble Lords' attention to the next paragraph, to which I have already referred, because there are to be found the words—and perhaps I should read them again:the principle of developing and maintaining orderly procedures in industry …So the Government not only have the interests of the community tied up beyond doubt in the paragraph to which I have referred, but they also have "orderly", which could be interpreted as "responsibly".
It may be suggested that what I have said is embodied in the paragraph could be amended. But there is a remarkable fact that cannot be disregarded; namely (and, so far, none of my noble friends on this side, certainly no noble Lord on the other side, and not even the noble Earl the Leader of the House, has paid attention to this), that in this respect paragraph (b), to which I have referred, is not the subject of any Amendment. Why is this? It is true, as my noble friend sitting beside me says, that there is an Amendment which refers to "association". But I repeat that the word "orderly" is not to be amended. Nobody is asking for that. So the Government have all that they want. I wonder, therefore, why they want the word "responsibly" in the first paragraph. What can possibly be the purpose of it?
This would tempt one to engage in a Second Reading speech—and I have heard some this afternoon. It might be possible to argue at some length when we come to the Question, That the clause stand part, but at the present time we are dealing exclusively (anyway, I think we are, apart from the speech delivered by the noble Lord on the Liberal Benches, who introduced a great deal of extraneous matter, and the attempts 980 made by some of my noble friends to do precisely the same) with the Amendment.
§ LORD SHINWELL
That is precisely what I am doing. It is true that I have referred to paragraph (b), but I had to do that in order to deploy my argument. I am anxious to avoid repetition—I am not in the mood for it, and I do not suppose anybody else is, because we shall have plenty of it before we are finished with this Bill—and I address myself again, not to my noble friends, who are converted (even if they do not accept what I say, they are converted; they are against the Government), to noble Lords on the opposite Benches. I want to help the Government out of a dilemma which they have created for themselves: they are likely to be impaled on their own horns, if I may indulge in a cliché which can be well understood.
I put the point again, and I ask noble Lords on the opposite Benches, before they come to a decision on this matter and seek to reject the Amendment—and I ask the noble Earl the Leader of the House particularly to address himself to this point: What is it that the Government want? They want to ensure that in the process of negotiations everything should be conducted in an orderly fashion. They have it set out in paragraph (b). They want to ensure that in the process of negotiations as between responsible employers (and there are such) and responsible trade union leaders (and there are many) the interests of the community should not be disregarded. I accept both of those things: orderly discussion freely conducted—nobody is arguing against that; it is agreed on both sides; the interests of the community, which is what we want the Government have already. Therefore I would ask noble Lords on the opposite Benches, having taken note of that—unless my arguments can be disposed of and rejected—to try to bring (I am not sure that I should use this term, but I cannot think of any other in my impoverished state of mind, so far as language is concerned) persuasion (I was about to say pressure, but I do not want to be offensive or abrasive in any way) to bear upon the noble Earl.
981 I know that it may be difficult. There have been long debates in the other place on this issue. All kinds of arguments have been deployed. The Minister has replied; and not only the Minister, but the legal luminary, the Solicitor General. Sometimes he was a little confused in his mind, but that does sometimes happen to people associated with the legal profession. I hope they will forgive me for saying that; I have no other objection to them. I can understand that when a decision has been reached in the other place there is a reluctance in your Lordships' House to change it. Indeed, I was reminded of this, not by noble Lords on the opposite Benches but by my noble friends on this side before we came to the Second Reading, in which, due to circumstances out of my control, I was unable to take part. I discovered that my noble friends here thought that when a decision has been reached in the other place it is quite improper, injudicious, not to say unwise, to seem to flout it. We are engaged now for what reason? We are trying to improve the Bill. That is our task. I want to help to improve the Bill.
I am not going to deploy all the arguments used about the difficulties, or to indulge in forecasts or astrology about the future, about the situation in which the country will find itself when this Bill is implemented—if it ever is. Astrologists do not count for much nowadays: nearly all the forecasts, even the weather forecasts, are never accurately implemented. The Leader of the House might, for the moment, tell your Lordships that he has not fully made up his mind but has listened patiently, earnestly and sincerely to the arguments. As I have said, he will reply entertainingly and delightfully but I hope that, having heard what I have had to say (I say that with characteristic modesty), and directed his attention to paragraph (b), which gives him all he wants, and the Government all they want, he will ask us to leave the matter in his hands and give it due consideration.
§ BARONESS GAITSKELL
May I add three sentences in support of this Amendment? We on this side object to the political implications behind this word "responsibly". As there has been no legal definition, we think about the political implication. May I give noble 982 Lords an example of what I mean? There has recently been a tragic case of a child mauled by two guard dogs. How we judge this tragic accident could reveal different attitudes in us. Some people might pin the responsibility on the owners of the property; some people might pin the responsibility on the community. Some other people in the community might feel that there was a need to guard the property because of the prevalence of theft. Others might say that we put far more stress on property than on the danger to human life. The word "responsibility" can he applied and interpreted in many different ways. It means one thing to a meeting of Conservative ladies, another to a meeting of trade unionists. We on this side are rightly suspicious of its meaning in this clause. If anyone had given a legal definition we could have judged it. As it stands, it means all things to all men, and therefore I support this Amendment.
§ 6.13 p.m.
§ LORD DIAMOND
I hope it will be convenient if I intervene fairly shortly—but not all that shortly—in this important debate. I should like to express gratitude to all my noble friends who have made such excellent contributions, and who have brought out so clearly and so well the points which are at the heart of this Amendment. I am grateful to the noble Earl the Leader of the House for what he said in recognising the restraint with which these speeches have been made. Although these speeches are made with restraint, the feelings we have about the heart of this Amendment are very strong indeed.
I am sure your Lordships will not complain if we devote a fair amount of time to the consideration of this Amendment and to this introductory clause. We recognise, as the Secretary of State recognised, the importance of the clause, when he said: "We ask that the whole Bill should be judged by Clause 1." Those are not his precise words, but they are his words, slightly out of order. It could not have been put more clearly than that. We are in the unusual position where, instead of considering the legal provisions of a Bill and deducing the philosophy from them, we are trying to state the philosophy in the first clause and then to devise legal provisions which will give it effect. It is of the utmost 983 importance that we should get these right. As my noble friend Lady Gaitskell said, it is most important we should get them right because of their political importance.
I hope that the Government will be in a position to confirm or deny that, although this clause is of such enormous political importance it has no legislative effect whatsoever. This is going to affect everything we have to say on other clauses. It is perfectly clear that I am no lawyer, but I reached that conclusion from reading the opening words of Clause 1:The provisions of this Act shall have effect for the purpose of promoting good industrial relations…Suppose the Act does not—as we fear it will not—promote good industrial relations, but is seen to be promoting bad industrial relations. Suppose the position becomes worse, as judged by strikes or other appropriate yardsticks. Notwith-standing that industrial relations worsen instead of improve, all the provisions of this Bill, if then enacted, will remain law. So, although the Bill sets out what it is hoped to achieve, it is purely a statement of general principles of considerable importance and of no legislative effect.
We have had a longish discussion. I do not know how many columns inHansardit will fill. In another place, they had an even longer discussion. It is not our desire unnecessarily to repeat a single discussion in another place if one can fully understand the purposes of the Government by reading what their spokesmen have said. The debate that we have had to-day has demonstrated the need for airing these difficulties, because they are not solved, even now, as I speak, to the satisfaction of noble Lords on this side of the House and at least one noble Lord on the other side of the House—the noble Earl, Lord Bathurst. He made a most relevant comment, with obvious sincerity, on coming to a difficulty—it seemed to me unrehearsed—which was being made plain by the discussion. Some of us who earlier had gone into the matter more fully had reached this difficulty. In the other place no clear legal answer was given. It is going to be difficult if we are going to be placed in this position throughout our discussions.
The noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, will recollect that I was discourteous enough 984 to intervene on his Second Reading speech when he referred to free speech. I do not think anybody here would expect me to apologise for asking for clarification on a matter as important as free speech. It seemed to me that what the noble Lord said during his opening comments on the Second Reading of the Bill was something of extreme importance and required immediate clarification. The noble Lord took my point, as he always courteously does, and recognised the importance of it immediately to such an extent as to say that he would prefer this matter to be dealt with by his noble and learned friend.
Therefore it was with considerable care and interest that I listened to what the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack said in his opening speech the following day, when there was no restriction as to time—it was a full and an interesting speech, a very entertaining speech, and as usual one which was both stimulating and irritating, in the noble and learned Lord's manner. But the point was that there was not one word about the important issue of free speech. Of course, we shall be able to come back to it on Committee stage, Report, and so on; but I am saying to your Lordships that in the other House the whole of the long discussion elicited no clear view as to the legal position of those words which were sought to be removed—particularly of the word "responsibly"—and we seem to be getting into a similar position, because all that the noble and learned Lord who normally sits on the Woolsack told us to-day was, not what the words meant but that what his noble friend had said was right. What his noble friend had said was not what the single meaning of the word was, but what two meanings of the word might be.
§ 6.22 p.m.
I wonder whether the noble Lord, Lord Diamond, would allow me to intervene. We used to be neighbours in Gloucestershire not so long ago, and I hope we still are. I have looked up this word "responsibly". In your Lordships' Library, inMurray's, Volume 8, at page 542, full detail is given about the word "responsible" and the word "responsibility". "Responsibly" is of course the adjective. A quotation from Kipling, dated 1891, is given. I am very sorry that the noble Lord, Lord Stow 985 Hill, is not in his seat because he would no doubt have a different version from this, but this is the quote:Mr. Beckwith stood by with the air of an ambassador and breathed responsibly.If that isMurray'sexplanation of this word, I cannot believe that it is what we on this side of the Committee want to put into this Bill; and I do believe a difficulty is involved. Nor do we in any way wish to have the Amendments which noble Lords on that side of the Committee are putting forward. I wonder whether the difficulty is that the word is wrong. After looking through Webster'sNew Dictionary of Synonyms, it seems to me that "answerable" or "accountable"—"amenable" is obviously not right; "liable" is not right in this case—or similar words, would fulfil what this Bill intends. Back to Murray's:answerable or accountable to another for something liable to be called to account".I suspect that noble Lords on that side are wondering how a shop steward or a "wildcat" strike—
I intervene purely in the interests of good Order in your Lordships' House. My noble friend's observations are rather lengthy for an interjection in somebody else's speech.
I take that point, but we still do not know what "responsibly" means and I was trying to bring the dictionary definition to your Lordships' notice.
§ LORD DIAMOND
I am grateful to the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, and understand his point very well. He will understand that I listened most acceptably and pleasurably to what the noble Earl, Lord Bathurst, was saying. Whereas I was dealing with the matter in my usual heavy and ponderous way, he was dealing with it in a lighthearted and cutting way, and we are both driving at the same point. The word "responsible" can have its natural meaning from its Latin derivation of being answerable; and in that sense no trade unionist would ever dream of objecting to it because every trade union officer acts on behalf of his members—that is his function—and he has no right to do anything different from that. He is instructed by his members through whatever machinery exists. But there is 986 the further and separate meaning which the Government tell us to believe means, "having regard to the general interests of the community" or words to that effect in this context. It is perfectly clear that if one had the words, "the principle of collective bargaining freely conducted" they would mean something different from the words "freely and responsibly conducted ". The question therefore is: Does the word "responsibly" add to, or detract from, the freedom. The noble Earl has made it clear that the intention is that it should detract from the freedom because, as he says, freedom is limited; it turns into licence—we know all the arguments—and it is essential therefore that when collective bargaining takes place it should be not wholly free but free subject to consideration for other than the members of the association concerned, be it employers, be it employees, but subject to the overriding interests of the community. That is what the Government would have.
The noble Earl, Lord Bathurst, was on solid ground also when he indicated that there might be words other than the words in the Amendment and the words in the clause itself which are required. This is a Committee stage and we will listen with great interest to what the noble Earl has to say after I have sat down. It may be that there are words which are not wholly acceptable but can be adjusted, and we may be able to find words acceptable to both sides. But the word "responsibly", so far as we have clarified what the Government mean, meaning a limitation of the freedom within which collective bargaining takes place, is not acceptable to this side of the Committee and not acceptable to trade unions. We do not accept that the function of conducting collective bargaining should be anything other than free; we do not believe it would work if it is other than free.
Why do the Government want this interpretation put upon these words? I am going to spell out the answer in short sentences. The arguments of the Conservatives run as follows: "Wage settlements are too high. The level of wage settlements therefore must be reduced. We, the Tories, are opposed to a statutory incomes policy. We have said so so many times that we cannot possibly be heard saying anything other than that. The 987 Tory present so-called policy is not working. What causes excessive wage settlements is the excessive power of the trade unions, and therefore the power of the unions must be curbed". That is the argument. I do not have to satisfy your Lordships about it because it was said time and time again during the Second Reading. What has gone wrong, said many of your Lordships from many parts of the House, was that the balance of power had switched excessively in favour of the unions, and their power had to be curbed.
With respect, the Government are confusing the function of bargaining (which should be conducted on such a basis that the bargain sticks: that is what bargaining is about; that is what the method is about) with the results of bargaining which they wish were at the present time and in the present state of inflation settled at a lower level. The Government cannot get out of their lack of policy on prices and incomes, which is the proper method for a Government to tackle inflation and inflationary wage settlements, if so they be. They cannot get out of their lack of policy on that—in which they are in considerable difficulty, as we can all see—by riding off on the method of wage settlement. I distinguish between the method of settling wage difficulties and conditions and a variety of other things, and the result, while this clause confuses the two and results in an attempt which every one of us has seen to be a bad and unsuccessful attempt to try to define satisfactorily the method by which collective bargaining should be conducted.
We all know that collective bargaining must be conducted on such a basis that the bargain, once made, is felt to be a bargain, be it at a high level or a low level; be it more or less than one side or the other expected. That is what we want to achieve. All the evidence in the Donovan Report and all the evidence in the speech of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Donovan, which I have read many times and can quote, but I am sure your Lordships will have read it as many times as I have (and he speaks, I imagine, with greater authority than anyone else in this House on this topic) all lead to the same conclusion, which is that for a bargain to stick it must be 988 freely and voluntarily entered into. If one is seeking something else one can use different words for a different purpose; but if one is seeking to establish the principle of what is the best method of conducting wage negotiations through collective bargaining, in such a way that those who have taken part on both sides will feel involved and will feel a commitment towards the result because they have themselves participated, then the first and most important condition of the whole thing is that it should be freely and voluntarily entered into.
Now the noble Earl the Leader of the House will see why we cannot move on this Amendment. It goes to the heart of the Bill and to the heart of the problem. I am as conscious as the noble Earl of the economic problems; I have lived with them as long as he has. I cannot claim to be as good a patriot, but I am no mean patriot and I would want to help in every way I can; but the first condition is to get voluntarily and freely agreed bargains that will stick. So I say that the present words are wholly unsatisfactory. The words "and responsibly" must come out. The word "freely" is all right and it might be satisfactory (I am only saying that it "might" be satisfactory) to say "collective bargaining freely conducted." I should not have thought it would hurt the Government much to accept such an Amendment, for example. It might be satisfactory, or it might be a compromise if we could get some other words should the words in the Amendment not entirely suit the Government. I agree that "freely conducted … on a voluntary basis" is fractionally tautological. "Freely" and "voluntary" add to one another, and to some extent one might say that one is included in the other; but at all events I want to make absolutely clear why we are wholly opposed to the words "and responsible".
May I detain your Lordships for just a further five minutes, to give an example of what might work out to be the case if we had the word "responsibly" left and if we imposed on an arbitration board, for example, or a board which was considering a wages dispute, the injunction to take into account the national interest—not as the Government define it but as the individual has always thought it to be. Imagine, for example, 989 that there is a dispute at Fords, and that the workers at Fords are asking for £10 and the employers are offering £5. The dispute goes to some kind of arbitration, and the arbitrator thinks about it carefully and says, "I am bound to take into account the national interest. What is the position round here?" The answer is, "The position is one of severe unemployment". "Oh", says the arbitrator, "Where is the unemployment?" The answer is, "In particular it is in the building industry"—(it often is)— "There are large numbers of builders unemployed. What they need are houses to build". "Well," says the arbitrator, "why are they not building houses?" "Oh", says his informant, "the trouble is that the level of wages at Fords is such that they cannot qualify for building society mortgages because the percentage is not right". "Oh", says the arbitrator, "Would this be solved if we were to put the wages up by £5?" "No" "By £10?" "No" "By £12?" "Yes, we could just get in then." "What would be the position if we were to put up the wages by £12?"His advisers would say, "Then there would be building society facilities which exist but which are not being used. There would be building society facilities galore, and all those who wanted to be able to buy their own house would be able to do so because they would not be precluded by the building society percentage limitation. They would be able to put down a deposit and to enter into a contract for a house, and the building society would give their usual advance to the builders; the builders would get cracking and unemployment in the building industry would be much reduced—and, incidentally, the people who are employed on the building sites who needed a motor car would go to Fords to buy a motor car." Therefore, the conclusion is that, taking into account the national interest, as the particular body saw it they would not limit the increase to £5 or to £10 but would propose more than either side wanted.
If your Lordships think this example a little far-fetched, may I give one further reason why I pick on Fords? A few of your Lordships will be old enough to recollect that whenever Henry Ford No. 1 found sales sagging he said, "The way to increase the sales of Ford motor cars is 990 to put up the wages of workers". This was rough economics, but it was economics of a kind.
So I am saying that not only are these words impossible for us to accept, not only do they discolour the whole aspect of this Bill—and we are asked to judge it by that—but they really would not necessarily achieve the purpose which the Government want to achieve. If the Government want to have a wages policy let them say what that wages policy is. This is not a Bill for a wages policy; this is a Bill to improve industrial relations, the essential trouble of which is that local bargains do not stick. We want to help industrial relations forward, and I hope, therefore, that the noble Earl will give very careful further thought to what can be done to meet our point of view.
May I first pick a little bone with the noble Lord, Lord Stonham? He said one thing in the course of his speech which I very much disagreed with. He said, or he implied, that this was not the way in which we should conduct this important discussion on a very important clause of a very important Bill. I do not quite see how we could have conducted the discussion other than as we have. It has gone on a long lime, admittedly, but I think the whole of this discussion has been conducted, if I may coin a phrase, both freely and responsibly or, to coin another phrase, in an orderly and voluntary way, although given the number of Lord Shackleton's supporters on this Amendment I am not certain that the voluntary principle was applied 100 per cent.
The noble Lord, Lord Diamond, put a question to me at the start of his concluding remarks; that was, whether it was true that the clause we are discussing has no legislative effect—and I think he implied that he felt this was true. The answer is that the noble Lord, Lord Diamond, as so often, is almost completely right but not quite right. By reason of Clause 1(2) the principles in Clause 1(1) cannot be said to have no legislative effect whatsoever, but it remains quite true, as the noble Lord has said, that the later provisions of the Bill would remain operative without Clause 1, with the exception that this is also caught by subsection (1) of Clause 2. I think that is the position as precisely stated as I can state it.
991 Most of this long discussion—and some of it, I must confess, has had something of a Second Reading character, but I am not quarrelling with that at the present time—has centred on the suggestion that there is no clear definition of the word "responsibly". All I can say is that I am perfectly clear in my mind what "responsibly" means and what it means in this Bill—pacemy noble friend Lord Bathurst, who I hope will allow me to continue as he has had quite a long innings. "Responsibly" to me is just as clear and unambiguous in this Bill as the word "voluntary". "Responsibly" to me is just as clear and unambiguous as the word "orderly", and, funnily enough the Opposition are now keen on the word "orderly", a word they objected to in another context at Second Reading.
It is the words "responsibly conducted" that are giving the difficulty. With the greatest respect to the noble and learned lawyers in this House, just imagine the confusion outside. If the noble Earl could help by using a synonym or in some other way, to remove that unclarity, I feel that it would be a very great help to this Bill and the principles that those of us who sit on this side of the House would like to see carried forward.
I listened very attentively to my noble friend, and I usually go along with him. Although it may have caused some difficulty to some lawyers in your Lordships' House, this particular adverb causes no difficulty to me and it causes no difficulty to my noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor. He said that I endeavoured to the best of my ability to explain what to me and to the Government "responsibly" means in the context of this Bill, and to the best of my recollection my noble and learned friend said that I had stated this correctly, exhaustively and plainly, and I am afraid I am prepared to rest on that.
Some noble Lords, including the noble Lord, Lord Shinwell, in his usual mellifluous and honeyed tones, have done their best to help us out of the difficulty on which the noble Lord sought to impale us. All I can say is that I listened carefully to the noble Lord, and I think 992 the short answer to the point he was making is that "collective bargaining" goes a great deal wider than the "settlement of disputes". He thought that what we are after would be covered by paragraph (b) of subsection (1) of Clause 1, because "orderly" "with due regard to the general interests of the community", features in that paragraph. All I would say is that collective bargaining is defined in Clause 158 at the end of this Bill. The procedures agreements are hitched to that—that is also defined there—and "collective bargaining" goes a great deal wider than the "orderly settlement of disputes". Therefore, I am quite certain that while the noble Lord, Lord Shinwell, was trying his level best to be helpful, in fact he was not really being all that helpful to me or the Government.
§ LORD SHINWELL
It seems to me that what the noble Earl the Leader of the House has done is to create another problem of semantics. If noble Lords will look at the two paragraphs—the one under review and the one to which I made reference—they will observe the words, "the principle of collective bargaining". This is what the argument is about. Then if they take paragraph (b), to which I referred it says:… maintaining orderly procedures in industry for the peaceful and expeditious settlement of disputes by negotiation, conciliation or arbitration, with due regard to the general interests of the community".What more do you want? In fact I do not know why you want the first paragraph at all; it is all in paragraph (b).
I sought to explain that. By definition in this Bill "collective bargaining" goes a great deal wider than "settlement of disputes". One glance at Clause 158 would make that perfectly clear to the noble Lord. The fact that it is covered in (b)—or if it might be "responsibly", that is imported into (b)—does not mean that it is not also needed in (a).
§ LORD SHINWELL
Will the noble Earl say why the term "collective bargaining" differs fundamentally from "negotiation"?
It certainly embraces negotiation, but "negotiation" in paragraph (b) refers to negotiation in the 993 settlement of disputes. It is a more restricted point.
§ LORD PARGITER
I should like to be clear. If an employer says, "I can offer so much", and the trade union says, "We want so much", is that not a dispute between the two? They might arrive at a settlement, but surely there is a point of dispute between the two. Not to put too fine a point on it, it is a dispute; one wants one thing and one wants another. Therefore, there is a dispute between the two. It is very simple.
It is perfectly clear, and I am sure the noble Lord will see that if he refreshes his memory with a glance at Clause 158. This goes a great deal wider than the definition of "collective bargaining". I am rather loath to make a Second Reading speech towards what I hope is the conclusion of a fairly long discussion. I must say that I have listened very carefully to the points put by noble Lords opposite. I listened not least, and very carefully, to what was said by the noble Lord, Lord Silkin. I think he said that the more he listened to the discussion, the more worried he was about the clause as it stands. I must confess that the more I have listened to this discussion the more worried I would be if the clause were amended as the Opposition would wish to amend it.
The noble Lord, Lord Diamond, said that this would mean that by importing "responsibility" we are detracting from freedom. We view this as a balance of freedom and responsibility. I would say that the importation of the concept of responsibility does not detract from the freedom of collective bargaining, save in the sense that the freedom of both management and labour to bargain collectively should be conducted responsibly. On that I am perfectly content to rest.
I am also content to rest on the straightforward words used by the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont of Whitley. He said that he thought that this Part of the Bill represented a perfectly sensible and straightforward declaration of intent. It is my belief that this Part of the Bill, unamended, represents a perfectly sensible, straightforward and reasonable declaration of intent. It is for those reasons—though I gave considerable consideration to this matter before this discussion, and I have listened very carefully 994 to the discussion—that I am afraid I cannot advise my noble friends to accept this Amendment.
§ 6.53 p.m.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
Whatever else I may be accused of. I cannot be accused of having made a Second Reading speech in this debate so far. I am not sure that the noble Earl can be free of that charge—at least on his first speech. I think this is a key clause; the Government say that it is a key clause in the Bill. I believe it has been right to deploy the arguments fully, and I am glad that the noble Earl thinks that this has been done moderately and well.
I do not understand why the Government at this stage want to stick to the word "responsibly". The noble and learned Lord helpfully wakes up for the occasion and gives us an answer, and I am glad to see him back in good form. However, it does not seem to have settled the peace of mind of the noble Earl, Lord Bathurst, who proceeds to debate, in an interesting and, from our point of view, helpful way by the form of intervention in the middle of speeches. I suppose this is what might be called "intervening responsibly". You always have to sit down, and somebody else continues the speech.
It must be apparent to some noble Lords on that side of the Committee, as on this side, that there is anxiety; and one of the mistakes the Government are consistently making with regard to the Bill is to underrate the deep suspicions that exist. This word "responsibly"—and after all, we all accept that people ought to behave responsibly—has been imported into the Bill in a way in which it is attached specifically to legal processes. Although the noble Earl suggested to my noble friend that it made very little legal difference (I cannot remember the exact phrase; indeed, most of the specific provisions for particular behaviour come later in the Bill), the fact is that, as he said, subsection (2) is governed, and this relates to the action of the National Industrial Relations Court and Industrial Tribunals.
Many people may think that it is absurd on both our sides that we are splitting hairs over the one word "responsibly", but I think the case has been put fairly both by the Government and 995 by the Opposition. I would have hoped that even at this stage the Government would be willing to think again. I am prepared to acquit the noble Earl of undue tactical manœuvring. I think perhaps he was a little dangerously frank. I have usually managed to get away with these frank remarks in the House, but I am not sure that it is entirely safe.
There are other aspects of his remarks which give me grave doubt as to whether the Government have thought properly about this. What he said in relation to our Amendment was that if we carried in the words,orderly and freely conducted collective bargainingit would interfere with, and possibly make it impossible to operate, the Contracts of Employment Act. Or perhaps he objects to the addition of the words, "on a voluntary basis". If I may say to him and his legal advisers—perhaps I should not say it to them, but to him—this really must be nonsense. I cannot see in this respect much difference between "freely conducted collective bargaining" and "collective bargaining freely conducted". The two expressions seem to me to be the same. These are the key phrases. The addition of the word "orderly" does not seem to weaken it, and "on a voluntary basis "relates only to the collective bargaining. I cannot accept that his is a valid argument against our Amendment, and because it is used I am of the opinion that the Government have not fully thought out this point.
Our Amendment follows exactly what the Secretary of State for Employment, Mr. Carr, said in another place on November 26, namely,We are saying orderly and freely conducted collective bargaining on a voluntary basis.
The Consultative Document says,
The first fundamental belief is that the best, and probably the only way of determining pay and conditions of work in a free society is by a voluntary system of negotiation free from State control.
That seems to me to follow almost precisely the words of our Amendment.
§ The Government want their Bill to succeed. It is the view of the great majority on this side of the Committee, and the view of some on the noble Earl's side, that the Bill will never work. I will tell them that it will never work until they are prepared to make real concessions to genuinely held anxieties. And this anxiety is genuinely held. There is no suggestion that what we are trying to say in this Amendment is something just "cooked up" to waste time; it is a genuinely held anxiety. Therefore, I would only ask, even at this late stage, whether the Government will consider what we have to say. Whereas the noble Earl gave an answer to my noble friend Lord Shinwell, I am bound to point out that we fully accept what is contained in subsection 1(b). It seems to me to cover the issue well enough.
§ On the definition of collective bargaining, which arguably goes wider, we are not objecting to the use of the words "With due regard to the general interests of the community"; but I shall be very disappointed if we are to proceed through this Bill, in this way, without the Government's making some effort to show a willingness to meet the anxieties in industry. In the circumstances, we have no option but to divide the Committee.
§ 7.0 p.m.
§ On Question, Whether the said Amendment (No. 1) shall be agreed to?
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 59; Not-Contents, 156.997
|Archibald, L.||Diamond, L.||Hughes, L.|
|Bacon, Bs.||Donaldson of Kingsbridge, L.||Jacques, L.|
|Balogh, L.||Douglass of Cleveland, L.||Janner, L.|
|Bernstein, L.||Fiske, L.||Leatherland, L.|
|Beswick, L.||Gaitskell, Bs.||Lindgren, L.|
|Blyton, L.||Gardiner, L.||Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe, Bs.|
|Brockway, L.||Garnsworthy, L.||Longford, E.|
|Brown, L.||Greenwood of Rossendale, L.||McLeavy, L.|
|Buckinghamshire, E.||Hall, V.||Maelor, L.|
|Champion, L.||Henderson, L.||Nunburnholme, L.|
|Chorley, L.||Hilton of Upton, L.||Pargiter, L.|
|Collison, L.||Hoy, L.||Phillips, Bs, [Teller.]|
|Platt, L.||Shackleton, L.||Strabolgi, L.[Teller.]|
|Plummer, Bs.||Shinwell, L.||Summerskill, Bs.|
|Popplewell, L.||Silkin, L.||Taylor of Mansfield, L.|
|Royle, L.||Slater, L.||Wells-Pestell, L.|
|Rusholme, L.||Snow, L.||White, Bs.|
|Sainsbury, L.||Stocks, Bs.||Williamson, L.|
|St. Davids, V.||Stonham, L.||Wynne-Jones, L.|
|Aberdare, L.||Emmet of Amberley, Bs.||Molson, L.|
|Ailsa, M.||Essex, E.||Monck, V.|
|Ailwyn, L.||Falkland, V.||Monckton of Brenchley, V.|
|Allerton, L.||Falmouth, V.||Mottistone, L.|
|Alport, L.||Ferrers, E.||Mowbray and Stourton, L.|
|Amherst, E.||Ferrier, L.||Napier and Ettrick, L.|
|Amherst of Hackney, L.||Fortescue, E.||Nelson of Stafford, L.|
|Amory, V.||Fraser of Lonsdale, L.||Netherthorpe, L.|
|Ashbourne, L.||Gage, V.||Northchurch, Bs.|
|Balfour, E.||Gainsborough, E.||Nugent of Guildford, L.|
|Barrington, V.||Glasgow, E.||Oakshott, L.|
|Bathurst, E.||Glendevon, L.||O'Neill of the Maine, L.|
|Beaumont of Whitley, L.||Goschen, V.[Teller.]||Pender, L.|
|Belstead, L.||Gowrie, E.||Penrhyn, L.|
|Berkeley, Bs.||Gray, L.||Poole, L.|
|Blackburn, L.Bp.||Greenway, L.||Powis, E.|
|Blakenham, V.||Grenfell, L.||Rankeillour, L.|
|Boston, L.||Gridley, L.||Rathcavan, L.|
|Brabazon of Tara, L.||Grimston of Westbury, L.||Reay, L.|
|Brecon, L.||Hailes, L.||Redmayne, L.|
|Brooke of Cumnor, L.||Hailsham of St. Marylebone, L. (L. Chancellor)||Rockley, L.|
|Brooke of Ystradfellte, Bs.||Rothermere, V.|
|Brougham and Vaux, L.||Hankey, L.||Rothes, E.|
|Burton, L.||Hanworth, V.||Ruthven of Freeland, Ly.|
|Byers, L.||Harcourt, V.||Sackville, L.|
|Caldecote, V.||Harris, L.||St. Aldwyn, E.|
|Carrick, E.||Harvey of Tasburgh, L.||St. Helens, L.|
|Chesham, L.||Hawke, L.||Sandford, L.|
|Clitheroe, L.||Hives, L.||Sandys, L.|
|Clwyd, L.||Hood, V.||Savile, L.|
|Coleridge, L.||Howard of Glossop, L.||Selsdon, L.|
|Colville of Culross, V.||Hylton-Foster, Bs.||Sempill, Ly.|
|Colyton, L.||Ilford, L.||Somers, L.|
|Conesford, L.||Inglewood, L.||Stamp, L.|
|Cork and Orrery, E.||Jellicoe, E. (L.Privy Seal)||Stonehaven, V.|
|Cottesloe, L.||Jessel, L.||Strange, L.|
|Cowley, E.||Kemsley, V.||Strange of Knokin, Bs.|
|Craigavon, V.||Kilmarnock, L.||Strathclyde, L.|
|Crathorne, L.||Lansdowne, M.||Stratheden and Campbell, L.|
|Crawshaw, L.||Latymer, L.||Teviot, L.|
|Cromartie, E.||Lauderdale, E.||Thorneycroft, L.|
|Cullen of Ashbourne, L.||Lothian, M.||Thurlow, L.|
|Daventry, V.||Loudoun, C.||Thurso, V.|
|De L'Isle, V.||Luke, L.||Tweedsmuir, L.|
|Denham, L. [Teller.]||MacAndrew, L.||Tweedsmuir of Belhelvie, Bs.|
|Derwent, L.||McFadzean, L.||Verulam, E.|
|Digby, L.||Malmesbury, E.||Vivian, L.|
|Drumalbyn, L.||Mansfield, E.||Waldegrave, E.|
|Dudley, E.||Margadale, L.||Wigram, L.|
|Dundee, E.||Massereene and Ferrard, V.||Windlesham, L.|
|Eccles, V.||Merrivale, L.||Wolverton, L.|
|Effingham, E.||Milverton, L.||Yarborough, E.|
|Elliot of Harwood, Bs.|
Resolved in the negative, and Amendment disagreed to accordingly.
§ 7.11 p.m.
LORD DIAMOND moved Amendment No. 2:
Page 1, line 10, after ("freely") insert ("democratically").
The noble Lord said: After that democratic and intelligent Vote, I am sure that your Lordships will be willing to listen to the reasons why the words which we sought to remove from the Bill but which still remain could be further improved by the insertion of the word "democratically", after the word
"freely". Paragraph (a) would then read:
the principle of collective bargaining freely, democratically and responsibly conducted ".
May I explain to your Lordships why I think it right that the word "democratically" should be added, and the extent to which it improves the method of conducting collective bargaining?
I have already had an opportunity on the previous Amendment to say that what we all seek out of collective bargaining is a bargain which will stick. There are two ways to approach this. One way is to have a bargain which is legally enforceable, with sanctions against nonobservance of the bargain. Another way is to have the method of collective bargaining conducted in such a way that those who are involved will fully participate in the negotiations, will feel involved in the bargain, will thereby develop a sense of obligation and may even develop a sense of moral and emotional commitment as well. If we can achieve that, we shall have a likelihood, far greater than the likelihood in legal enforceability, of the bargain sticking. May I remind your Lordships of what the noble and learned Lord, Lord Donovan, said during the course of our Second Reading debate? At column 44 on April 5 he said:
…if one takes the trouble to count up the number which the Bill creates"—
that is the number of new kinds of tort—
he will arrive at the figure of at least 179. If these provisions turn out 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".
I thought, with respect to the noble and learned Lord, that that was put with great clarity and force. Those represent precisely the views of my noble friends and myself; and it is because a bargain is likely to have some force if the process of arriving at it is shared and participated in by those concerned, and not likely to have much force if it depends purely on legal enforceability, that I am hoping that the Government will look kindly on the word that the Amendment proposes to add, namely "democratically", which
means all these things—taking a share in it.
§ But it is not only that in general terms: it is also in particular terms that I put this Amendment forward, because we know from the Donovan Report that the main cause of the trouble which we seek to remove arises from the difficulties at local level, and the solution therefore is to strengthen bargaining at the local level. What could do that better than by having the greatest possible participation at the local level of those affected on both sides? Indeed, if the local level is sufficiently local and limited, "democratically" could really come back to its Athenian meaning, and all those concerned could really take part in the bargain. But whether it is all those concerned or representatives of those concerned, the more that they feel involved and the smaller the group, and the more it is a local group, the more likelihood there is of the bargain sticking.
§ It is necessary in my view that these words should be included, because, as we all know, the Bill seeks to do precisely the opposite from what we are proposing and what Donovan proposed. The Bill seeks to centralise power rather than to delegate it down to the local branches. The Bill, by insisting on the authority of those who are going to negotiate, by insisting on the authority being formulated and clearly and formally described, will result in complete centralisation of all the negotiations. Therefore it is essential to make it clear that the Bill adopts the Donovan remedy based on the Donovan analysis. The trouble is that at local areas the solution is the strengthening of local bargaining, and it is for these reasons that I hope that the Government will feel disposed towards the words which can have only one meaning. They will have the effect of engaging the interest of those for whom the bargain is made, and make them feel involved in and responsible for maintaining the bargain. I beg to move.
§ 7.22 p.m.
§ LORD DRUMALBYN
I agree with almost everything the noble Lord has said, except his conclusions. We certainly want to see—it is one of the main objectives set out in the Donovan Report, and in subsequent documents—much more factory and plant bargaining. There 1001 is nothing in this Bill that would prevent that; indeed, there is a great deal in the Bill that will encourage it. On the one hand, in cases like that, you will have the employer; on the other, you will have the trade union or joint negotiating panel of the trade union. I also fully agree that it is extremely important that everybody should feel involved in the undertaking of which he is a member, and to that extent also in the collective bargaining that takes place. In that respect, we should all like to see the collective bargaining conducted in the same manner as the Athenians conducted their politics. That would perhaps be a bit rowdy, and I am sure it would he necessary to commit the negotiations to representatives. The point is—
§ LORD DRUMALBYN
Just slaves—yes, indeed. About half Athens are slaves, too. I think the point we have to bear in mind and the question we have to ask ourselves is: does the word "democratically" fit in this particular context? The noble Lord says that it has a clear clear meaning. I should have thought it has meant different things at different times in different countries to different people. I looked in the dictionary and I found no very clear definition except in terms of running a country. Democratic institutions also vary from time to time; people's concepts of democratic institutions have varied, but they have to be shaped to the needs of the times and the circumstances of the country in which they are.
I put this to the noble Lord. He has all along been stressing the structure of one side of bargaining. Democratic processes take place within institutions and within countries, not between institutions and between countries. Here we are talking of negotiations. The very words "collective bargaining" are defined as "negotiations" in Clause 115. "Collective bargaining" means "negotiations" with respect to this, that and the next thing. I put it to the Committee that negotiations between this country and Russia or China, or wherever it may be, 1002 or between an employer and a trade union can be described as democratic.
§ LORD SHINWELL
I am sorry to interrupt the noble Lord. In the previous debate we had, when I suggested to his noble friend Earl Jellicoe that "collective bargaining" was synonymous with "negotiation" he rejected it. Now the noble Lord says that it is all right.
§ LORD DRUMALBYN
I think we had better not back-track on this. I think we were talking at that point of the difference between collective bargaining and procedure agreements. Collective bargaining goes a good deal wider than the noble Lord was referring to, which related to paragraph (b). Perhaps we had better not go too far on that; I take the noble Lord's point.
This is the thought that I must put to your Lordships. Obviously, it is highly desirable that within the trade unions, and, for that matter, within employers' associations, democracy should prevail, but when they get to collective bargaining between them it is a little difficult to see the significance of the word "democratic" in that case. Because the word does not seem to be appropriate in that context; because it seems to have a different meaning for different people at different times, and also because I am informed—and I am prepared to be challenged on this—that the word does not occur in our law at the present time, I think that it would be difficult to interpret in any kind of legislative context. Indeed, it would be difficult for the various bodies who have to use subsection (1) as guiding principles to interpret, so I do not think this would improve the Bill.
§ LORD POPPLEWELL
I am still rather uncertain about the noble Lord's meaning. He clearly said that the object of this particular clause would be to get more factory and plant bargaining. That is a very sweeping statement to make, because if you get this factory and plant bargaining in certain industries, in the way indicated, what is the ultimate outcome? It is that one factory, one plant, in one part of the country is competing to gain conditions prevailing in a similar plant or factory in another part of the country. This is particularly so in the motor car industry. What will 1003 be the position if the words "democratically elected" are not accepted? The noble Lord opposite wanted more plant and factory bargaining. Will there not be even more unofficial strikes unless there is a defining of the type of procedure that the negotiating bodies must go through before they are eligible to conduct the negotiations?
This indicates how unwholesome this Bill really is. Its political ideology is thought out without consultation with the C.B.I. or the T.U.C. I make no bones about saying that some of our major troubles are through unofficial strikes: the Government are utilising these as an excuse for bringing in this Bill. But unless we accept something along the lines of what my noble friend has suggested, to ensure that the people conducting the negotiations have to go through a certain democratic procedure, the Government are opening the door to further unofficial strikes. I thought it odd that the Minister should bring in the question of interpretation of democratic procedures in various other countries. Surely we are not concerned with that in this particular Bill.
§ LORD DRUMALBYN
I was not talking about democratic procedures in different countries but about the interpretation given in different countries to the word "democratically".
§ LORD POPPLEWELL
I think that the Government would be well advised to have another look at this. It is creating so much disturbance and heart-searching among responsible trade union leaders. There should be an acceptance of this word "democratically". The various unions have various forms of selection of negotiating machinery and officers. Some do it by a show of hands; some by individual votes, and some by branch votes. Unless there is a defining of the procedure by which people have to accept responsibility, unless there is an attempt to make it less vague than at present, we shall not do away with unofficial disputes but accentuate them. I hope that the Government will look again at this Amendment.
§ LORD BROWN
I hope that I am not going to embarrass my noble friends on the Front Bench, but I feel that this 1004 Amendment is ill-advised. I have been a chief executive for many years and I have often been accused of being an industrial democrat. I rejected this because nobody could give the words a meaning. If we regard democracy as the mechanism of an association of citizens, we are all certain what it means; if we use the term "democratic" in relation to the procedure of election of representatives we all know what it means. But when we apply the word "democratic" to collective bargaining I think that it becomes meaningless. Bargaining is a meeting of representatives of different associations, very often conditioned by the relative power of each group—and anything further removed from democracy than a power struggle in collective bargaining in industry I cannot think of. This is a tortuous use of the term. We on this side should reserve the use of the word "democratic"—which we shall no doubt have to use in many places where it has been omitted—to its proper context. We should not use it in such a way as to divorce it from all substantial meaning.
§ LORD SHINWELL
I am surprised at my noble friend. I should have thought that the word under review is far from being meaningless. It is fundamental. It is regarded by the trade union movement as of very great importance. There may be collective bargaining in the course of which on the trade union side there may be a number of ill-assorted people who are not democratic in character at all. That is just what the Government want to avoid.
§ LORD BROWN
I agree with my noble friend. But he is applying the word "democratic" to the process of the selection of representatives. I was speaking about the use of the word as applied to bargaining.
§ LORD SHINWELL
It is not merely a question of election of representatives. Let us take a situation in collective bargaining where on one side there is a responsible body of employers, representing the C. B. I. or another organisation, and on the other side, instead of a democratically elected and democratically minded group of people, ready to engage in the process of collective bargaining, there is a group of ill-assorted 1005 people. This situation is quite conceivable, and it is what the Government are trying to avoid. In that I agree with them 100 per cent. I agree with the Government that this is not the sort of bargaining they want.
Let us consider what has happened in the debate on the preceding Amendment. The Government got their way by a 2 to 1 majority. In other words, the word "responsibly" is accepted by a decision of your Lordships. All we are now asking for is that the word "democratically" should be accepted. This is a process of collective bargaining. This is what we are engaged in. The Government got their way on the last Amendment; we are asking that the Government should give way on this. My noble friend said that the word was meaningless, but that was not the view of the noble Lord, Lord Drumaibyn, for he questioned its meaning. I cannot understand why the noble Lord, in the course of his short speech, said that democracy means all sorts of things to all sorts of people. When we discussed the word "responsibly" the Government would not accept that there were several meanings attached to it; they said that there was only one. What it was we never got to know; but they said that there was only one meaning to that word. Now, when it comes to "democratically" they discover that there are variations in the meaning and interpretation of that term. It just will not do. This is not the way to improve the Bill.
I am largely with the Government in this matter. I know the history of this industrial relations business; I was much involved in it during the previous Administration—not as a member of the Government but on the sidelines. I largely agree with the purpose of the Government here, although I do not think they have gone the right way about it. I do not want to indulge in a Second Reading speech. But if they want to improve the Bill they must make some kind of concession. Here is something that the trade union movement regards as important. The Government thought that "responsibly" was important. They got their way. Now we are talking about collective bargaining, and this discussion is an example of collective bargaining in this House. I do not know whether we can appoint somebody as an arbiter. The 1006 noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor is out of the question. He does not participate, except as a legal luminary interpreting the law. And the law is not in question at the moment. We cannot ask him; we have no Chairman; we have no Mr. Speaker; what can we do? I suggest we do it just by consent—a consensus; that, just by consent, we agree that this is a very useful term. Let us proceed to agree in order to satisfy the trade union movement, now that the Government are appeased because of what happened in the preceding debate when they had a huge majority.
§ 7.40 p.m.
§ LORD CONESFORD
I hope that it will not embarrass the noble Lord, Lord Brown, if, in a few words, I support him. The noble Lord, Lord Shinwell, in a characteristic speech, said we should insert this word because the trade unions demand it. I wonder whether they do. I will tell your Lordships the reason for my doubt. I would avoid using the word "democratically" here for a very simple reason: it will throw the greatest doubt on what is meant. That was the reason advanced by the noble Lord, Lord Brown, and. I will say why he was right. Let me remind the Committee of what happened only a week or two ago. There was a settlement brought about by a ballot. Many people think that a secret ballot is a more democratic method of deciding something than people holding up hands, where a lot of people are present in order to overawe what may he either a majority or a minority by the threat of the use of force.
But what happened? The process of the ballot having resulted in a recommendation to return to work, this was at once denounced on the ground that it was "undemocratic". Of course, the people who so denounced it were perfectly sincere, because they were using the word "democratic" in the way that the Communists use it. The Communists use the word "democratic" to describe any system of government in which only the Communists decide what is to be done. It is on this principle that the Communist tyranny in East Germany is called the German Democratic Republic. If we want to introduce complete confusion into the meaning of this clause, by all means let us introduce the word "democratically".
§ VISCOUNT MASSEREENE AND FERRARD
Noble Lords have taken the words out of my mouth. I think "democratically" would be quite meaningless in this context. I heartily agree with the noble Lord, Lord Brown, who I hope will not be embarrassed by my agreeing with him. If your Lordships consider the union leadership, which I have always understood is voted on by about 10 per cent. of the union members, you could argue that that leadership is not democratic. I am surprised that the noble Lord, Lord Diamond, should use the word "democratically" in his Amendment. It seems to me to be sailing close to the wind. I wanted to make the point that I think it a very stupid word to use in this context, but I will not say any more because I do not want to bring a feeling of acrimony into the discussion.
§ LORD BROWN
May I say a word to my noble friend Lord Shinwell? He has described this getting together here this afternoon as collective bargaining. In the course of trying to improve this Bill we shall have to be extremely disciplined about the way we discuss social institutions. May I remind the noble Lord that this is a committee meeting in the truest and most definite sense of the word. It is where a decision is taken by a majority vote. The noble Lord, Lord Shinwell, knows perfectly well that collective bargaining is not a question of a majority vote, but of a clash of groups who, if they disagree, can separate without arriving at an agreement; or if an agreement must be come to, the one with the most power will win. If we start off a debate on the Amendment in complete confusion about the various institutions referred to in the clause we shall indeed get into a mess. I am interested in the subject of social institutions, and I am going to stick to such disciplines as I know throughout the discussions on this Bill—Party or no Party—because I believe in the necessity for discipline in regard to those institutions.
§ LORD SHINWELL
May I satisfy my noble friend Lord Brown? —I still call him "my noble friend". May I say that I would be the last person in the world to deny him the right to express his opinion; just as I justify my own expression of opinion, even though it 1008 may not be acceptable to many people. It is a matter of argument. My noble friend expresses one point of view; he said that the word was meaningless. I said that in the opinion of the trade union movement it is important. When it comes to a question of operating as a committee, I agree that we have to accept the opinion of the majority. But I have a suspicion, indeed, it is even more than a suspicion, that what is going to happen all the time during our debates, however protracted or argumentative they may be, is that at the end of the day the forces on the other side of the Committee, whipped from all quarters (quite rightly so; for, after all, in battle you are entitled to bring up reinforcements) will win. I accept that. But we have got to argue the case, and there is no objection to that. My noble friend will argue one point and some of us will argue the other, and often we shall agree.
§ LORD SLATER
I was very interested in the observations of my noble friend Lord Brown. Had he been batting on the trade union side and not the business side in an election of officials and committee members for a trade union branch, he would have seen that things were carried out democratically. What is the argument about? As I see it, it concerns free people entering freely into discussions about their own future work and wages; about their having a say in the type of agreement to be arrived at. I think the Donovan Committee recognised this position. It may be that a certain amount of power regarding the drafting of agreements has to be diverted from the central office of a trade union to its districts.
Take my own union, the National Union of Mineworkers, which has districts, and a central office which negotiates on a national basis. A certain amount of autonomy is transferred to the districts, where agents and officials, and members of the executive, are allowed to enter into negotiations with National Coal Board representatives. But the executive members and the agents have been democratically elected to negotiate on behalf of the membership, and that is what we mean by "democratically".
Many noble Lords have fought General Elections. I have fought six, and Heaven knows how many elections my noble friend Lord Shinwell has fought! But 1009 we are supposed to be living in a democratic country. When we take parties round the Houses of Parliament we say that this is the Mother of Parliaments; that this is the place from which democracy sprang. But we find there is a form of restraint on the part of the present Government, or the Party from which it was elected, in case too much freedom is granted to associations representing the working people who produce by hand and brain, in case they get too much liberty and so on. I support this Amendment, that "democratically" should be inserted in the clause.
My noble friends are to be congratulated upon introducing this Amendment. I stand most definitely against what the noble Lord, Lord Conesford, had to say with regard to the Communist countries. I have been to the Soviet Union and met Krushchev and Kosygin and other Communist leaders, and I know how democracy works in that country. In this country democracy is part of our upbringing, and our unions will not allow anyone to hold office in the union unless he has been democratically elected by the members of the union. Therefore we place great importance on the word "democracy". I hope that the Government will give great consideration to this Amendment with a view to accepting it. I cannot see what they have to lose by doing so.
§ VISCOUNT CALDECOTE
In discussing the first Amendment, noble Lords opposite laid great stress on maintaining the freedom of procedure in collective bargaining. Here we have an Amendment to put in the word "democratically" which surely restricts the freedom of collective bargaining. If democracy in this context means anything at all, to the majority of people it will mean that a vote has to be taken on every decision put forward by the negotiators. This is surely removing the authority of the negotiators. Are the Opposition going to insist on the employers' associations having a vote after their representatives have reached agreement with the unions? Surely they do not want that. Yet that is the way in which I think this would be interpreted by many. Apart: from the difficulty of interpretation, it introduces a restriction on procedure, and I believe that we should be much better without this word. We are in grave danger of 1010 introducing a conception which might be useful in some cases but quite unsuitable in others. I would ask the noble Lord to withdraw his Amendment on this ground alone, that it introduces a restriction on the conception of collective bargaining.
§ LORD BEAUMONT OF WHITLEY
If I thought that this clause was actually going to be the subject of detailed analysis in the courts, as apparently a number of noble Lords seem to think, I should share the worry shown by the noble Earl, Lord Bathurst, and I should have come down against it. I would have worked myself tip about democracy, and agree with the noble Lord, Lord Brown. I would have gone through the whole clause and removed every single adverb. But I do not think this is what the first clause is about. I supported the Government's use of the word "responsibly" in the first Amendment because I thought that this clause was a broad sensible statement of aims, and it is for the same reason that I also support the insertion of the word "democratically". If it is not in our law, so much the worse. It is a good word to go into our law, and there has to be a first time.
We in the Liberal Party believe in industrial democracy. We believe that people in their places of work should have a say in what goes on there. I know that we go much further in this way than the official Labour Party do. We shall be supporting them, I imagine, in their Amendment No. 6 about the workers' share in management, though it is not put in exactly the form I should like to see. We believe that this is important, and our main accusation against the Bill is that it does not move towards real democracy in industry. We think that this is a major flaw. Regarding as I do, the whole of the first clause as a broad, sweeping declaration of intent, and not as something that will have to be considered word for word by the courts as to its meaning, I do not think that this is of world shattering importance. Nevertheless, I shall vote for the word "democratically" and I hope that my noble friends will vote with me.
§ LORD GOODMAN
I find this Amendment puzzling. It seems to me that both sides are right in one way or another, and I would invite the Government to 1011 consider the use of this word more seriously than on just the linguistic and legalistic considerations that have been advanced. The proclaimed purpose of this legislation—how it is going to be achieved will be a matter of important discussion in the ensuing days—is that the Government believe that the trade union organisations are not working democratically; that there is not sufficient liaison between leaders and members, and that it is vitally necessary to restore democracy to trade union decisions. Therefore it is extremely puzzling that they should resist the insertion of this word in the opening clause of the Bill which proclaims this purpose. I think it unwise to resist the Amendment on these grounds. I should have thought that the insertion of the word "democratically" was consistent with the Government's professed intention, and that it might create some areas of suspicion if they resisted its insertion.
Similar objections could be made to the whole of this clause. The word "reasonably" could have been challenged, as being difficult to give it a total literal meaning. It would have been enough simply to say in general the principle of collective bargaining, but "democratically", as a qualification, is designed to define more clearly the nature of collective bargaining. It seems to me that the Government should think twice before, at this early stage, rejecting a word which is broadly consistent with the whole of their professed policy and intention.
May I say a word about my noble friend Lord Conesford's objection to the use of the word "democratic". I do not think that we should abandon the word because it is abused in Eastern Germany. It seems to me absolutely wrong that a splendid, important and healthy word should be discarded because it is misused in those parts of the world where they have absolutely no understanding of its value.
§ LORD CONESFORD
That was not exactly my objection. It is that it is interpreted in two ways in this country and by trade union leaders engaged in negotiations. I gave the concrete example of a ballot. If a ballot is regarded by one set of people as democratic and by an- 1012 other set as undemocratic, to put it in the Bill will cause confusion.
§ LORD GOODMAN
If I may say so, we have had very uncharacteristically from my noble friend Lord Conesford, an unconvincing argument. It seems to me no reason for rejecting a noble conception just because some people have a distorted understanding of it. The notion of democracy is imminent in the whole structure of this country. That we should be prepared to abandon the word because there are a few misguided persons who have a mistaken notion of its quality and believe a ballot to be undemocratic to my mind is an argument of hopeless futility and despair, an argument I would not normally have associated with my noble friend. I do not want to keep noble Lords too long on this point but it is important. The Government should think again. This Amendment does not raise any issue on the interpretation of the Bill, but a very important issue as to the intention of the Bill. At this early stage the more clear that intention can be made, the more evidence there is that the intention is consistent with the professed and proclaimed purpose of the Government, the more easily the Bill will be introduced and the less unnecessary controversy will arise on account of it.
§ LORD DIAMOND
May I say how grateful I am to all noble Lords who have taken part in the debate and how much helped I have been by the persuasive arguments put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Goodman. I would say, in particular, to my noble friend Lord Brown, that I was not embarrassed at all by his intervention. I always listen to what my noble friend says with great care and respect. I only hope I do not embarrass him by saying that I sing his praises regularly to friends of mine; and the particular reason for doing so is that I make it clear to everybody that I meet and with whom I discuss industrial relations that there is nobody that I know who conducts his industrial relations as democratically as my noble friend. I am hoping therefore that he will understand the reason why I want others to follow the lead which he has shown over the years in his own firm in the matter of industrial relations.
I come back to the rather familiar answer that I received from the noble 1013 Lord, Lord Drumalbyn. The first part of his answer tends to be (I do not claim that it is always so) that he agrees more or less with everything that I have said. The second part of his answer is that, therefore, he cannot accept the Amendment. We had a lot of this on a Bill to which I need not refer, when we spent some happy hours together, but I am sure that this is not a foreboding of what is going to happen on this Bill.
Perhaps I may make one or two minor points on the reasons why I do not think that some of his arguments are all that persuasive. With the noble Lord, Lord Goodman, I do not think that the definition of "democracy" in foreign countries is very important. I am bound to apologise to your Lordships for not having looked up the meaning either in Sanskrit or Urdu before I came to the House.
§ LORD DIAMOND
The noble and learned Lord says, "There was not such a thing". I have not looked it up, but I am prepared to bet a new 2½p that there is a Sanskrit derivation for "demos". We shall see who is right.
THE LORD CHANCELLOR
The noble Lord is changing his ground. I said there was not such a thing as democracy when Sanskrit was a spoken language, not that there was not an equivalent to demos.
§ LORD DIAMOND
Well, we shall see. Anyway, we are both making the same point really: that you cannot attempt to interpret a British Statute by reference to a language other than English. Therefore I do not think that is a very valid complaint. The noble Lord's second complaint was that it is a new word to our Statutes. I dare say there are many words which are new to our Statutes. For aught I know an "agency shop" is new to our Statutes. Unless I am told to the contrary, I would aver that it is new to our Statutes.
§ LORD DRUMALBYN
It is a term of art, whereas "democratically" is supposed to be descriptive in the common sense that everyone will understand.
§ LORD DIAMOND
So we are agreed on the fact that "agency shop" is a phrase new to our Statutes, and appa- 1014 rently there seems to be no objection on that score by the Government to bringing it forward. I have no doubt that it is in some definition clause. So I do not think either of those points is very telling.
To the noble Lord who thought that democracy is exclusively a method of putting things to the test by counting votes, I would say I do not think that that includes the whole of democracy. It was no part of my suggestion that collective bargaining should take place on the basis that where there was one employer and 8,000 employees, and there was any dispute as to the level of wages, it should be settled by taking a vote. That would be a happy arrangement if it could be arrived at, but I am being converted gradually to the view that votes do not always mean that the argument is on the side of the majority. Nor do I think that the number of votes is relevant.
The noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, was good enough to say that he agreed with practically everything I said. What I was driving at, and what the noble Lord, Lord Goodman, has underlined more powerfully and more clearly, is that there is a great deal more to be said in achieving satisfactory collective bargaining than has been said in subsection (1)(a). The concepts which I illustrated are concepts which the Government accept. If the noble Lord does not think that the word "democratically" is the most important single word likely to give that meaning and to help people to understand it, then I shall be glad to listen to any other suggestion that he has to make for achieving our common purpose of making the subsection describe a method of conducting collective bargaining under which those who take part in it will feel involved, and will have a possibility of participation.
These are all the arguments which I used when I moved the Amendment. It is much easier—and I say this with apology to those noble Lords who were only critical—to criticise a form of words than to create another form. So far as I am concerned, "democratic" means something which of all things in this country we value most. We all understand the general democratic process; 1015 and we all understand that the great virtue of it is that those who are governed democratically are satisfied with the Government because they themselves have taken part in creating that Government. That is the whole process. In the same way, we want people to feel involved in collective bargaining, because they feel that they have taken part in it. It is not denied in any part of the House that these are wholesome suggestions. I should not think it is a matter of life and death whether we use the word "democratically".
I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont of Whitley, for what he has said. I understand his view, and of course there are Liberal overtones in connection with this word in this context. He was thinking perhaps that we ought to divide the House on the Amendment. At this stage, if the noble Lord agrees, I would far rather invite the Government to think about it a little more. The noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, has been good enough to say that the arguments that I have put forward are arguments that he shares. The difficulty perhaps is, if "democratically" is not the right word, to find a better one. As this is not a legislative clause, but one which describes purposes and which is intended, among other things, to get the co-operation of all parties concerned, it seems to me that the use of the word "democratically", even though it is a little less than 100 per cent. precise (I take the point of noble Lords who mentioned this), would serve its purpose very well; and I feel that this is what the noble Lord, Lord Goodman, also was indicating. In these circumstances, I do not think this is a case where I should invite your Lordships to divide, particularly at an inconvenient hour. But I hope the noble Lord will feel able to say that he will read the debate, give thought to it, and see whether, at a later stage in the Bill, he can put forward a word or words which will incorporate some of the thinking which, even if the present suggested Amendment is not precisely apposite, we share.
§ LORD DRUMALBYN
The noble Lord has made a persuasive approach, and I willingly give him the undertaking 1016 that we will look at the debate on the clause as a whole. One of the main points I was making was that not only did the word itself seem to be vague, but it seemed to be misplaced. I think we should look at the debate as a whole before the next stage. On those terms, I hope that the noble Lord will not press the Amendment.
§ LORD DIAMOND
The noble Lord's hopes are immediately realised. I am grateful to him for what he has said. I accept his point that we have to look at the clause as a whole: indeed, it would be nonsense to do otherwise, especially as there are many Amendments which affect it, some of which we have still to discuss. In the circumstances, with the leave of your Lordships, I will withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ 8.10 p.m.
LORD DIAMOND moved Amendment No. 3:
Page 1, line 12, after ("orderly") insert ("voluntarily agreed").
The noble Lord said: This refers to Clause 1(1) (b). With the Amendment it would read:
The principle of developing and maintaining orderly voluntarily agreed procedures in industry for the peaceful and expeditious settlement of disputes…
In this case I believe the Amendment is on common ground with what both the Secretary of State has said and with the Donovan Report. I will quote the Secretary of State, Mr. Carr, at column 658 ofHansardduring the Committee Stage in another place on January 18, where he said:
We certainly want procedures for the peaceful settlement of disputes to be voluntarily agreed. That is how it should come about, and that is why we stress in the principle that we want settlement to come about by negotiation, by conciliation or by arbitration. In doing so we are making crystal clear that we believe that the proper way to arrive at procedures for the peaceful settlement of disputes is by voluntary agreement assisted, where necessary, by conciliation and arbitration.
There could not be a clearer or more authoritative statement:
…voluntary agreement assisted, where necessary, by conciliation and arbitration.
The word "voluntary" is the word which we are seeking to have inserted.
At paragraph 1054 of the Donovan Report the same thought is authoritatively expressed:
The implications of making collective agreements into binding legal contracts are examined. A measure which had the effect of putting on unions a legal obligation to use their best endeavours to secure the observance of procedure agreements would be more likely to lead to internal union disruption than to fewer unofficial strikes. In present circumstances, no proposal to impose legal sanctions on individuals who strike in breach of procedure agreements is practicable if it relies on enforcement by the employer.
That is slightly tangentially connected with the point I am making, but it still applies. The clause as it is now drafted is inadequate, in that it does not refer in this particular place to the voluntary element. Because of the debate that has taken place I do not think I need to persuade your Lordships that this is common ground between us all. What we are all seeking to do is improve: a voluntary industrial relations system. On this side we accept that such systems are capable of improvement, but we are satisfied, and so are all who have taken the trouble to inform themselves fully and thoroughly of this aspect, that this improvement can take place only on a voluntary basis.
§ The Government will no doubt say: "That is fine, but we need a long-stop of some form of enforceability". The presence of a long-stop would be damaging, would be counter-productive and would be avoided by both sides. Once you have an agreement which is based on a sense of enforceability you destroy the one thing which union members feel obligated by: the sense of a bargain, voluntarily undertaken, upon which they feel an obligation and commitment. There is not additionally a sense of desire to abide by a legally enforceable contract or agreement. That sense of honour is destroyed by the knowledge that there is a legally enforceable agreement and sanctions in the background.
§ LORD DRUMALBYN
May I interrupt? No doubt we shall be debating this point at length throughout the Bill. Is the noble Lord really saying that even if the two parties agree that a collective agreement should be enforceable they will still have those feelings to which he is referring?
§ LORD DIAMOND
I am saying that the agreement must be a voluntary one. The noble Lord must accept that, in my view, the ground has been sullied by the way the Government are treating the whole problem by the assumption of legal enforceability if it is not demonstrated and agreed to be the opposite. So immediately "legal enforceability" are bad words. I cannot join mind with the noble Lord in trying to visualise what would happen if the two sides had, under this Bill, an agreement that the document should be legally enforceable.
So far as the ordinary man or woman is concerned, the ordinary member of the trade union, an agreement voluntarily entered into by them—especially if they have participated in a thoroughly democratic way—is an agreement which brings a sense of obligation which is likely in the event to be more binding than any clause involving legal enforceability. This is a question of individual morality and how the individual looks at it. In my view, that is the way in which he looks at it. There is a long history, which the Donovan Report makes clear, showing why the average trade unionist is anxious about the law, about legal luminaries, the way the courts function and the results of going through the courts. You cannot wash out that history over-night or in a short time.
There are a number of things which contribute to this. What I am saying is this: If the words "voluntarily agreed" were inserted it would show that what the Government are after is what the unions are after, too. I am sure that far more progress would be made and the unions would find this description of the general purpose of the Government far more acceptable. Without the words "voluntarily agreed", especially having regard to some of the things that have been said by spokesmen in the consultative document and in the Bill, and the general propaganda made all round, it is going to be difficult to get a minimum cooperation which would make this Bill of any use at all. Therefore it is extremely important that words of this kind should be introduced.
§ 8.20 p.m.
§ LORD BELSTEAD
The noble Lord, Lord Diamond, in moving this Amendment, began by quoting the Secretary of 1019 State for Employment. Certainly at first glance the words "voluntarily agreed", which the Amendment would insert into paragraph (b), appear consistent with the Secretary of State's stated conviction that procedures for the peaceful settlement of disputes should, wherever possible, be voluntarily agreed—if necessary, with the assistance of conciliation or arbitration. By this means, an agreement may draw on the knowledge and experience of all the parties who will help to implement it; and this sentiment certainly is Common—
§ LORD DIAMOND
I am sorry to interrupt the noble Lord. I am sure he was not intending that those listening to him should take the view that the condition which he added into his speech was in the Secretary of State's comment. The Secretary of State did not say anything about "wherever possible". The Secretary of State did not include that reservation at all.
§ LORD BELSTEAD
Subsequently the Secretary of State made the position clear, which is that we unfortunately are not on all fours with this Amendment.
I was saying a moment ago that the general sentiment is common to both sides. Indeed, one has only to look at the general wording of this paragraph (b)—bearing in mind the second principle in the Bill, "for good industrial relations"—which refers to:the principle of…orderly procedures…for the peaceful…settlement of disputes by negotiation, conciliation or arbitrationto appreciate that the principle of the Bill is voluntary agreement. But I must add now "wherever possible".
The reason for this is that in some cases employers and unions have been unable to reach agreement on a procedure. This is largely a symptom of bad industrial relations—yes. But it is fair to claim that the Donovan Commission pointed out that the absence of satisfactory procedure itself sometimes exacerbates the situation. One then has to ask: What is to be done when voluntarism has failed?
The C.I.R. is well equipped, and will be well equipped, to examine a difficult situation and to advise on how satisfactory procedures can be reached. It has already clone so on a number of occa- 1020 sions. But there are situations where even the C.I.R. 's expertise and persuasion just will not suffice. It is our view—and in the light of the noble Lord's intervention just now I wish to make this quite clear—embodied in Part III of the Bill, that where there is no adequate agreement, and little likelihood of reaching one by voluntary means, the law must provide means for protecting the community's interests. Hence the machinery we are setting up for the National Industrial Relations Court—only when it has satisfied itself that voluntary agreement cannot be reached—to make an order enforcing procedures recommended by the C.I.R. This will not be a common occurrence, but for certain otherwise intractable cases it will be the only solution.
May I try to prove to the Committee the sincerity of what is being said by pointing to the detailed provisions of the Bill. May I stress that in the use of the reserve power of the law, it really is true that great stress is still being laid on voluntary acceptance. If the Court agrees that a procedure agreement is nonexistent or defective, then under Clause 35 the Court may refer it to the Corn-mission on Industrial Relations, which in turn is specifically charged to try to gain voluntary agreement between the two sides under Clause 37. Therefore, by the terms of those two clauses, the Bill agrees with what the noble Lord, Lord Diamond, has said, which should be the principle in an ideal world. Indeed, throughout this process the part of the Secretary of State as an applicant to the Court is also to consult the other parties and to offer such advice and assistance as may promote agreement.
It has however been declared by the noble Lord, Lord Diamond, that where the parties cannot agree on procedure, where the advice of the Commission on Industrial Relations is disregarded, then it is counter-productive to require the parties to agree. But, surely, are there not examples of the need for this in other walks of life? I am not a lawyer, but surely is not the monopolies legislation something which contains legal redress to ensure that a monopoly is not continued against the interests of the community?
Your Lordships will see that the words "the general interests of the community" remain in this paragraph under this 1021 Amendment; those are words which are not touched by this Amendment. The Bill holds that it is in the interests of the community not to give the Secretary of State arbitrary powers, but to rely first on consultation; and then only as a last resort to have an order from the N.I.R.C. giving effect to the recommendations of the Commission. In the small minority of cases where orderly procedures are faced with intractable obstacles, it was (I think I am right in saying) the opinion of the Donovan Commission, it has certainly been the opinion of the Trades Union Congress, and it is I am sure the opinion of both sides of your Lordships' House, that then a grave situation is reached. And then there are only two alternatives: either to do nothing more or, alternatively, to give effect to the Commission's recommendations.
I suggest most seriously that the former course must open the way to the rule of the strongest—not, so far as I know, a course which has ever found favour in ibis country, and not a course which I believe the trade union movement favours. The latter way provides a fair gateway, through the Court, which must be satisfied on certain specific tests, to the Commission, which by consultation, advice and conciliation will try to give expert recommendations. I would ask your Lordships to judge which is the fairer procedure in the general interests of the community. And I would ask the Committee to agree that, closely as we shall all want to debate procedure agreements subsequently, this second principle for orderly procedure is something to which in principle at this stage of the Bill your Lordships could agree.
§ 8.27 p.m.
§ LORD SLATER
The noble Lord in replying to my noble friend Lord Diamond stated that he was not a lawyer. Certain agreements are arrived at with different types of conciliation machinery by different trade unions up and down this country. In how many cases did the draftsman who was responsible for the drafting of this Bill have inquiries made of these trade unions to find out whether, within their conciliation machinery, there were such words as those now proposed by Lord Diamond's Amendment?
I remember that many years ago in the industry with which I was connected we had what were known as "customary" 1022 agreements. They were accepted for years so that people believed that nothing could interfere with the customs of procedure which were created. But then an area general manager came into the district and pointed out that custom was not law. He went into the legal aspects of the position—and he was right. We were able to agree with management certain things which had become custom, but in certain instances this general manager proved that something which was customary did not necessarily have legal force. I refer to arrangements which have operated for many years inside an industry, without difficulty or problems at all, as between management and men. By the insertion of the words that are recommended by my noble friend Lord Diamond we could, in my opinion, obviate positions arising like that which I have endeavoured to depict as to what really arose because of the customary procedure operating within an industry between the two parties.
§ 8.30 p.m.
§ LORD STONHAM
The noble Lord, Lord Belstead, found it impossible to understand how we on this side of the Committee could not appreciate that where procedures could not be agreed voluntarily the Government had to insist and to fix the procedures. What I cannot understand is how the noble Lord can think that such a procedure—the compelling of agreement—is going to amount to any kind of agreement at all. In this field, agreement must be voluntarily and willingly arrived at, or it is nothing. That is one of our great difficulties in dealing with this clause, a difficulty that noble Lords who have had no intimate experience of industry cannot understand.
The noble Lord referred to the Monopolies Commission and said there was comparable working there. He did not mention, as an example of what he meant, any kind of procedure in the field discussed by the Bill. He did not mention it because no such compulsory procedure agreement exists. It has to be agreed voluntarily. To me this seems not only to be correct but also abundantly self-evident. It has already been said several times to-day that this Bill will not work, but as we go on and as the Government insist on maintaining that their words, and only their words, will 1023 be right, they make it ever more certain that the Bill, when it becomes an Act, will not work. The noble Lord has not given any convincing, or indeed reasonable, argument for refusing this Amendment, and I ask him to realise that such procedure agreements as are arrived at in future have got to be voluntary or they are nothing at all. I hope he will accept the Amendment.
§ LORD DIAMOND
I am most grateful to my noble friends who have helped me with the case I am seeking to make. With respect to the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, I thought he did not answer my case at all. In the first place, I do not agree with what he said, and in the second place, if I did agree with every single word, it would not to any extent at all diminish the necessity for putting in here the word "voluntary".
Let me say first why I did not agree at all with what he said. We are back on the old principle, not of how you get an agreement but of how you get it working and accepted. I do not want to put it in such terms as taking horses to the water and making them drink, because that is an insulting parallel. But if the noble Lord thinks that, because there is machinery whereby you can compel the entering into of an agreement you have therefore succeeded in achieving the co-operation of human beings, I would reply that that is a totally different thing. What we are saying to the Government is that the Secretary of State described the situation adequately and fully in the paragraph which I read out, which was wholly related to voluntary agreement. He said nothing there about a limitation, or about the condition that if you could not get a voluntary agreement then you had to have an enforced one. There was not one syllable about it. He described the philosophy perfectly, and all we are doing in this particular clause is to describe the philosophy. But the noble Lord says that subsequently the Secretary of State thought further about it, and that when he had considered all the detail he decided that there might be a case where —notwithstanding conciliation and an attempt though the good offices of the C.I.R. to get an agreement entered into voluntarily by the two sides—if you could not achieve that, it was essential that 1024 there should be a legally enforced agreement.
I do not accept that, first because it would not work. The only agreement that works is one entered into voluntarily. If the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, will not be persuaded by my words may I repeat the words of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Donovan, at col. 45 of the OFFICIAL REPORT for April 5:Industrial peace cannot come that way. Industrial relations are a domain where peace comes only by willing co-operation.He did not say that it was only by willing co-operation plus a "longstop" of the courts; he said "only by willing cooperation". My view is that the work of the C.I.R. would be assisted by the removal of the legal "longstop", and the work of the C.I.R. would be embarrassed by the knowledge that if they were not able to persuade people voluntarily to enter into agreements they could be forced to do so at gunpoint. That is not the way to get a satisfactory agreement that will stick. Therefore I say to the noble Lord that he has not persuaded me at all that the exception to which he referred is a justification for a legal "longstop".
Then I turn to the second point, and I say: Supposing the noble Lord were absolutely right; supposing in particular he were absolutely right in saying that the Government intend to use this "long-stop" in the rarest case; that in the normality of cases they intend to use conciliation, persuasion and agreements entered into voluntarily. If that is the case why on earth do they not say so in this particular clause?
This is a clause of principles: it is not a clause to describe what may happen in the one per cent. case; it is a clause to describe what happens in 99 per cent. of the cases. It says that the provisions of this Act shall have effect "in accordance with the following general principles". It is not even a principle; it is a general principle, and the noble Lord is trying to say that because there is a one per cent. exception to the general principle, the general principle should not be put into the Bill. The general principle is voluntary agreement—that is what we are talking about. I have read out what the Secretary of State has said, namely, that this is something we all 1025 want—voluntary agreement, without exception. There is not one reference in paragraph (b) to "voluntarily". It refers to:the principle of developing and maintaining orderly procedures for the peaceful and expeditious settlement of disputes by negotiation, conciliation or arbitration.If that is the main principle, if the Secretary of State has stated that it is the main principle, why on earth should not a reference to that principle be made in the Bill?
If, in addition, the noble Lord wants to say that notwithstanding this general principle "please see the footnote" and then put in a footnote saying "In one per cent. of the cases we reserve our right to do so"—well, he can do that. But I should have thought he would not want to burden the Bill with that kind of language. I should have thought he would be persuaded by the fact that this is a statement only of general principles; that the important general principle is voluntary agreement; that we differ completely over whether an enforced agreement would have any value, but this his view, the Government's view and the Secretary of State's view is that this should be used only in the last resort. I am saying one per cent. only because I do not think it would be helpful to say one-eighth of one per cent., but I should imagine that it would be less than one in a hundred. I hope the noble Lord will have further thoughts about this.
I have indicated by the way I dealt with the previous Amendment that where an Amendment is not an absolutely solid one, and could perhaps be looked at again by both sides, I should be perfectly willing to do that. But nothing have heard so far, nothing my noble friends have heard, gives us the slightest doubt that what the Secretary of State said was right; that it is not in the Bill, that it should be in the Bill and that it would be sheer obstinacy on the part of the Government if they were not prepared to put it in. I hope the noble Lord will recognise that on this occasion we are on very solid ground; we are on common ground, and it is very important when we are on common ground to put something in to show that we are. We shall not be on common ground throughout, but here we are. I therefore hope that the noble Lord will accept this Amendment. I 1026 never threaten anybody, but I am bound to say to the Government that it must be perfectly clear from what I have said, and from the feelings I have and the thought I have given to this, and from everything my noble friends have said, that this is a matter on which we could not possibly do other than divide. However, I do not want to get to that stage.
§ 8.42 p.m.
§ LORD DRUMALBYN
I wonder whether I can try to clarify the thought here. The noble Lord has been talking about agreements and voluntary agreements, but what his Amendment says, as I read it. is this. We are talking here about the principle of developing and maintaining orderly voluntarily agreed procedures in industry. I wonder whether we have devoted sufficient attention to that point. What we are doing under Clause 1 is to lay on the Secretary of State, the Commission on Industrial Relations, the Chief Registrar, and others, a duty to have regard to these as guiding principles. May I put this point to the noble Lord? I suggest that it is very difficult for us to reach a decision on this point until we have considered the rest of the Bill.
To take an example, what is the Industrial Relations Court to do, having an injunction to have regard to the principle of developing and maintaining orderly and voluntarily agreed procedures in industry, when it is faced with an application from a trade union for an agency shop agreement? This is going to be the procedure, and if there is a ballot then the employer is going to be under a duty to accept this as an agreement; he is going to be under a duty to enter into an agency shop agreement. One cannot say that this is a "voluntarily agreed" agreement, can one? When we come to the approved closed shop procedures, the employer and the union can there enter into agreement to make an application. The other case is the remedial action when procedure agreements are non-existent or defective. I think we ought to have a look at this point because this is a case where either the Secretary of State, after consulting the unions, may make an application, or the employer may make an application, or the trade union may make an application, and the end result of that may be 1027 an order for the procedure agreement. These are things we have to have a look at before we decide to put these words into the Bill at this stage. Quite plainly in regard to these agreements which are to be regarded as if they had been reached by voluntary agreement it would be very difficult for the Industrial Court to give a direction of that kind if we included these words in this place.
I am not sure that I have made myself clear. I am saying that we are here concerned with the procedures. The Bill itself deals very largely with procedures. Some provision is made for examples of agreements being imposed, as it were, on one side or the other, as a result of a ballot, or whatever it may be; and, that being so, it would be unwise at this stage to put these words into the Bill. There may be other cases that I have not covered, but I instance these to illustrate that we are not actually dealing here with the agreements; we are dealing with the procedures and the way in which these procedures are arrived at, whether by voluntary agreement or by procedures under the Bill.
§ LORD SLATER
Could the noble Lord give an answer to the question I posed in regard to the drafting of this Bill? What inquiries were made of the various trade unions up and down the country in which the conciliation machinery in which this particular reference that is being moved as an Amendment is in operation?
§ LORD DRUMALBYN
Where there are procedures in existence and they are working well, there is nothing in this Bill that will interfere with those. This Bill is designed to encourage and promote agreements and to encourage the promotion of procedures when they do not exist. All we are saying here is that it would be unwise to put these particular words in because of the "longstop" arrangements in the Bill.
§ LORD BLYTON
Is the Minister not aware that we are here dealing with the guiding principles of this Bill, arriving at the principles on which the courts decide the imposition of penal sanctions and everything? Why should we not put this in here, in the guiding principles, so that the courts can be guided that they should be voluntary, not imposed?
§ LORD DRUMALBYN
I think it would be a mistake to anticipate the Bill by putting this in here. We are not considering at the moment the sanctions but the procedures. Indeed, there are no penal sanctions under the Bill except for failure to send in returns in the usual way, or for sending false returns.
§ LORD BLYTON
But surely the Minister agrees that Clause 1 is the guiding principle for everything that follows. All we are saying is: take away sanctions; take away all this threatening, and let us have it done voluntarily. That is the simple issue at stake.
§ LORD LEATHERLAND
Before the noble Lord sits down (if I may use a technicality) he referred to agreements being imposed. I wonder what is the logical or semantic explanation of imposing agreements. One hears of armies surrendering and terms imposed; one hears of "shotgun weddings". But in neither case is it what we understand by agreement.
§ LORD DRUMALBYN
The procedures are imposed, and the Bill at one point says that they will be treated as if they were.
§ 8.50 p.m.
§ LORD HANKEY
I should like to say a word from these Benches on this subject. I think that the introduction of the words "voluntarily agreed" at this point would be rather seriously misleading. The importance of this clause is in the word "orderly", and I do not think that word ought to be weakened in any way. Nobody regrets more than I do the total failure in recent months of the voluntary system, and I hope that the effect of this Bill will be to re-establish many more voluntary agreements. The re-establishment of effective voluntary procedures does not depend on inserting the words "voluntarily agreed" at this point of the Bill. It depends on other clauses. If you were to insert it here, it would look as though there could not be any other procedures, and it would greatly weaken the effect of Article 35 and following. Therefore, I urge noble Lords to think seriously before they vote for this Amendment.
§ LORD POPPLEWELL
Before the noble Lord sits down, would he explain 1029 a little more clearly what he means by total failure of voluntary agreements? This is rather a sweeping statement, which I think is totally unjustified unless he is prepared to produce some figures. If you look at the Donovan Report you find the situation is vastly different.
§ LORD HANKEY
Perhaps the noble Lord would look at the number of days lost through unofficial disputes; the figure is absolutely enormous. We are losing our markets all over the world, and it is largely due to extremely disorderly conduct in industrial relations. I am not blaming only the trade unions; I think it is partly due to inflation. I want to see strong trade unions, but I do not think we are going to get them by putting in a word which slightly distorts the meaning at a very important point of this Bill.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
I wonder whether the noble Earl the Leader of the House would agree with me that there is no need for my noble friends, or for any other noble Lord to say, "before the noble Lord sits down", because this is the Committee Stage and my noble friend Lord Blyton can continue the discussion.
§ LORD POPPLEWELL
Is it not rather serious when noble Lords make such sweeping, and obviously disturbing statements, which are not calculated to do us any good at all as a nation? Is it not these sweeping assertions, which have been so loosely bandied about in the Press, on television, and by members of the opposite faith, which are so disruptive and have created so much difficulty within industry as a whole? With all the unofficial strikes, we are well down the table compared with most of other industrial nations. Should not noble Lords be much more guarded in their observations in this direction?
On this question of voluntary agreement, we are asking the Government to 1030 save themselves from some of the damage they are doing. From my knowledge of industry, we have a few insurgents talking to a lot of bored people who do the same job day in and day out. If it is a question of seeking some new conciliatory agreements, they will make an extreme demand and they know that if they hold out long enough an agreement will be imposed upon them. This is the rather difficult situation that arises in industry. If, within the terms of the Act, it is laid down specifically that these agreements must be voluntarily entered into, there is no purpose in these insurgent people—and we know them—holding hack for extremely difficult negotiations and difficult procedural agreements. For instance, they can easily say, "We are doing nothing until we have a 50 per cent. workers' share of control". They simply sit back and create trouble, knowing that sooner or later an agreement will be imposed. But delay takes place, and the long delay in establishing good voluntary agreements is one of the most difficult things that we experience in industry.
I think it would be advisable for the Government to he prepared to have another look at this type of thing. I hope they will give us such an assurance, because until we get the principles of the code to go with the preliminary document before us, I think it inadvisable to let the Bill stay as it is. I hope the noble Lord will agree to have another look at this point.
§ 8.57 p.m.
§ LORD DIAMOND
I am most grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, for the conciliatory manner in which he put forward his proposal, and I understood and took his point. I shall come back to that in a moment. In the meantime, we have had a most stimulating contribution from the Cross-Benches. I can only assume, knowing the distinction of the noble Lord, Lord Hankey, that he was not present when I opened the discussion, and therefore I owe it to him, in courtesy, to repeat the view of the Government, as expressed by the Secretary of State. What the Secretary of State said at column 658 ofHansardof another place on January 18 was:We certainly want procedures for the peaceful settlement of disputes to be voluntarily 1031 agreed. That is how it should come about, and that is why we stress in the principle that we want settlement to come about by negotiation, by conciliation or by arbitration. In doing so we are making crystal clear that we believe that the proper way to arrive at procedures for the peaceful settlement of disputes is by voluntary agreement assisted, where necessary, by conciliation and arbitration.The noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, said the clause considered procedures; there is not a lot between us, but in fact it is principles. Subsection 1(b) starts off:the principle of developing and maintaining orderly"—et cetera. The principle is the one which the Secretary of State described in the clearest of language without any exception, reservation or limitation of any kind whatsoever. Therefore, I am bound to go back to what I said earlier. It is a very important issue of principle on this side of the Committee. It is something which the Secretary of State has made clear as to the way in which he thinks the principle should be described. The Secretary of State refers also to negotiations, to conciliation, and to arbitration. Those words are still in the clause. Nobody is seeking to remove them. Nobody is seeking to remove the settlement of disputes by negotiation, conciliation, or
§ arbitration, with due regard for the general interest of the community.
§ What we are seeking to do is to put the view of the Government on record. The noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, will know that what even such a distinguished noble Lord as the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, says in this place—although it ought always to be in the mind of everybody—counts for nothing. What any Minister says counts for nothing. What counts is what is in the Bill. We are not being discourteous to any individual when we point that out. That has been made clear to me a number of times, so I well understand the point. What we are asking is that the Secretary of State's statement of principle should be recorded in the Bill. That is not a lot to ask when we are dealing with an issue which is of profound and fundamental importance to everyone on this side of the House, and on which we are agreed. The noble Lord should agree with us that that statement of principle should be recorded in the Bill itself. I am sorry, but that is the view we take.
§ 9.5 p. m.
§ On Question, Whether the said Amendment (No. 3) shall be agreed to?
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 48; Not-Contents, 118.1033
|Archibald, L.||Gardiner, L.||Nunburnholme, L.|
|Ardwick, L.||Garnsworthy, L. [Teller.]||Phillips, Bs.|
|Bacon, Bs.||Greenwood of Rossendale, L.||Platt, L.|
|Bernstein, L.||Henderson, L.||Plummer, Bs.|
|Beswick, L.||Hilton of Upton, L. [Teller.]||Popplewell, L.|
|Blackburn, L. Bp.||Hoy, L.||Rusholme, L.|
|Blyton, L.||Hughes, L.||Sainsbury, L.|
|Brockway, L.||Jacques, L.||St. Davids, V.|
|Buckinghamshire, E.||Janner, L.||Shackleton, L.|
|Champion, L.||Leatherland, L.||Shinwell, L.|
|Collison, L.||Lindgren, L.||Slater, L.|
|Diamond, L.||Llewelyn-Davies, L.||Stonham, L.|
|Donaldson of Kingsbridge, L.||Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe, Bs.||Stow Hill, L.|
|Fiske, L.||Maelor, L.||Taylor of Mansfield, L.|
|Fletcher, L.||Milner of Leeds, L.||Wells-Pestell, L.|
|Gaitskell, Bs.||Morris of Kenwood, L.||Wynne-Jones, L.|
|Aberdare, L.||Beaumont of Whitley, L.||Burton, L.|
|Ailsa, M.||Belstead, L.||Byers, L.|
|Ailwyn, L.||Berkeley, Bs.||Caldecote, V.|
|Aldington, L.||Boston, L.||Carrington, L.|
|Amherst, E.||Brabazon of Tara, L.||Clinton, L.|
|Amherst of Hackney, L.||Brecon, L.||Clitheroe, L.|
|Amory, V.||Bridgeman, V.||Clwyd, L.|
|Balfour, E.||Brooke of Cumnor, L.||Colyton, L.|
|Barnby, L.||Brooke of Ystradfellte, Bs.||Conesford, L.|
|Bathurst, E.||Brougham and Vaux, L.||Cork and Orrery, E.|
|Beauchamp, E.||Buccleuch and Queensberry, D.||Cottesloe, L.|
|Cowley, E.||Gridley, L.||Poole, L.|
|Craigavon, V.||Grimston of Westbury, L.||Rankeillour, L.|
|Craigmyle, L.||Hailes, L.||Reading, M.|
|Crawshaw, L.||Hailsham of Saint Marylebone, L. (L. Chancellor.)||Redmayne, L.|
|Cromartie, E.||Rhyl, L.|
|Cullen of Ashbourne, L.||Hankey, L,||St. Aldwyn, E.|
|Davidson, V.||Harvey of Tasburgh, L.||St. Helens, L.|
|De La Warr, E.||Hives, L.||Sandford, L.|
|De L'Isle, V.||Hood, V.||Sandys, L.|
|Denham, L. [Teller.]||Jellicoe, E. (L. Privy Seal.)||Savile, L.|
|Derwent, L.||Kemsley, V.||Somers, L.|
|Digby, L.||Lansdowne, M.||Stamp, L.|
|Drumalbyn, L.||Lauderdale, E.||Strang, L.|
|Dudley, E.||Lothian, M.||Strange, L.|
|Dundee, E.||Lyell, L.||Strange of Knokin, Bs.|
|Eccles, V.||Malmesbury, E.||Stratheden and Campbell, L.|
|Effingham, E.||Mancroft, L.||Terrington, L.|
|Elliot of Harwood, Bs.||Mansfield, E.||Thomas, L.|
|Essex, E.||Massereene and Ferrard, V.||Thurlow, L.|
|Falkland, V.||Merthyr, L.||Tweedsmuir, L.|
|Ferrers, E.||Milverton, L.||Tweedsmuir of Belhelvie, Bs.|
|Ferrier, L.||Molson, L.||Verulam, E.|
|Fortescue, E.||Monck, V.||Vivian, L.|
|Gage, V.||Monckton of Brenchley, V.||Waldegrave, E.|
|Glasgow, E.||Mowbray and Stourton, L.||Wigram, L.|
|Goschen, V. [Teller.]||Napier and Ettrick, L.||Windlesham, L.|
|Gowrie, E.||Nugent of Guildford, L.||Wolverton, L.|
|Gray, L.||O'Neill of the Maine, L.||Yarborough, E.|
|Grenfell, L.||Pender, L.|
Resolved in the negative, and Amendment disagreed to accordingly.
§ 9.12 p.m.
LORD DIAMOND moved Amendment No. 4:
Page 1, line 19, leave out from ("associations") to end of line 21.
The noble Lord said: I shall keep your Lordships only a very short time indeed on this Amendment. Its purpose is to enable us to say to the Government that the words in paragraph (c) of subsection (1) are clear, intelligible and acceptable up to the words "employers' associations". There is nothing wrong with them at all. The words:
the principle of free association of workers in independent trade unions, and of employers in employers' associations
seem to put the matter perfectly well and adequately. I myself cannot see any reason for having one more word. I cannot see that the words after that add anything at all. I can see that the words after that are capable of any number of interpretations. The noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, has widened the topic, because now not only do we have to consider what different interpretations are valid in English but we have to consider every language under the sun. That would be a long and trying job, and I should not wish to delay your Lordships unduly. So what I am saying to the
noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, or whoever is going to deal with this matter, is: Would you please be good enough to try to satisfy us why any further words at all should be put there? The argument against the words is that they are liable to be confusing and subject to all sorts of interpretations. The main argument is that they are, in my view, totally unnecessary. I will not delay the Committee any longer. I beg to move.
§ LORD DRUMALBYN
This Amendment causes me some surprise. I should have thought that the noble Lord, having wanted to use the word "democratically", would have welcomed these words, because they seem, in a kind of expanded form, to cover exactly what I should have thought he meant by "democratically"—the words "representative, responsible and effective". I find it difficult to understand why he should want to leave out these words. After all, if we take the word "representative", nowadays the problems of size and complexity are felt by all large organisations. Management is frequently accused of being remote from its employees and of failing to consult them and win them concessions.
On the other hand, there is a danger that union leadership can lose touch with the needs and aspirations of its membership and breed sentiments which are not 1035 acceptable to the rank and file. The consequences of this situation are all the more serious now that the shop floor realises its power and is sometimes prepared to reject agreements reached on its behalf. There is also the danger that a minority of militants, quite unrepresentative of union opinion as a whole, can manipulate a union's electoral machinery to seize and retain power for themselves. That is why we stress the importance of unions being representative and why Clause 63 of the Bill provides safeguards whereby an individual member can play a full part in the union's internal democracy, which is exactly the point which the noble Lord was making earlier through his claim about the right to stand for election to any office in the organisation without any arbitrary or unreasonable discrimination.
We do not pretend that legislation can by itself ensure that union leaders will be representative of their members, but all the same it is a cause which this Bill helps to further and which is rightly included in Clause 1 as one of the desirable things to promote with a view to good industrial relations. The same applies to the word "responsibly". We have discussed this word already, and my noble and learned friend clearly understands it and I think that, despite everything that was said here, everybody has a good idea what we mean by a responsible citizen and how a responsible citizen would behave.
As to the word "effective", I cannot see why that should raise any disagreement. I should have thought it added quite a lot. It does not necessarily follow that, because workers are organised in independent trade unions, they are necessarily effective, so it is a good idea to encourage the promotion of good industrial relations through organisations which are effective. The Opposition certainly would not seek ineffective trade unions. Indeed, the professed aims of the trade union development scheme which featured in the Labour Government's final Industrial Relations Bill were to increase efficiency and thereby the effectiveness of trade unions. We share that objective, although we do not adopt the same means of achieving it.
1036 As an illustration of our approach I would mention Clause 54, which requires employers to disclose to registered trade unions information needed for collective bargaining. Our aim is to place the employer and the trade union more nearly on a footing of equality as regards information, and the noble Lord may remember that I made a special point of this, in speaking on Second Reading, as one of the ways in which good relations can be promoted and the individual worker can be encouraged to know what is going on and take a real interest in the success of the undertaking. I hope I have said enough to convince noble Lords that these words are not redundant and therefore should not be disposed of.
§ LORD POPPLEWELL
I should like to ask the noble Lord a question or two. Who is to decide whether people are:…so organised as to be representative, responsible and effective bodies for regulating relations between employers and workers"?To some of us there is a nasty ring in those words. The first part of paragraph (c) reads:the principle of free association of workers in independent trade unions, and of employers in employers' associations …".I share the view expressed by my noble friend Lord Diamond that those words seem to be abundantly clear. But who is to interpret the last three lines? Some of us have long memories. If my noble friend Lord Taylor of Mansfield were present I am sure that there would spring to his mind the Nottingham Spencers' union of 1926 and 1927. I have often heard him remark about that, even today. That could be interpreted to be "representative, responsible ". It certainly was not independent. One has heard of the Foremen's Mutual Benefit Society. That was not an independent trade union, not even a representative one; and there are others.
I was therefore amazed to hear the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, when questioned, replying that the leaders of the trade unions lose touch with and lose the confidence of the rank-and-file members. That seems to be a popular view often expressed sensationally by newspapers, television and other media. Those of us who have been in the trade union movement all our lives know that there are 1037 sufficient safeguards against individuals who get a little swollen headed. We know that they are usually dealt with. It is an extravagant use of language to talk of loss of confidence or losing touch with the rank-and-file. Trade union leaders are governed by an executive committee and subject to periodical elections. That committee does not lose touch with its rank and file, because the individual members know that if this were to happen they would lose their seats at the next election. This kind of thinking does not do any good to the Government or to industrial relations.
The retention of these words will lead to suspicion being developed; because now, for the first time, we hear of agency shops. This is something new to the trade union movement. We know of closed shops; but in connection with agency shops, particularly as the Bill is now drafted, one can visualise that a certain amount of rigging may take place. Under the terms of the Bill as it now stands, it can be argued that such a shop is representative, but workers will hold a completely different view of that interpretation. So long as these words are retained in the clause there is the possibility and feasibility of suspicion in the minds of the workers. The clause contradicts itself, and I suggest that we shall avoid a great deal of confusion in the future by adopting the suggestion of my noble friend to leave out the words from "associations" to the end of line 21.
§ 9.25 p.m.
§ LORD BERNSTEIN
Some time ago we had a discussion on one word. Now we have eighteen words and we are trying to explain what each word means. I am beginning to think that we have more words than are needed to explain more than the Government know. What are the words?:…so organised as to be representative, responsible and effective bodies for regulating relations between employers and workers.That is preceded by…free association of workers in independent trade unions, and of employers in employers' associations.What more could you possibly want? There must be some reason for additional words, as every lawyer knows. Everyone who has been associated with industry knows that sooner or later there is some small type written in somewhere 1038 in the marginal notes, designed to try to get people to sign a contract. We have already had a discussion about the small type which will come along. No industrialist would agree to sign a contract if he knew that things were to be inserted in small type after he had signed it.
We talk of losing touch with the unions. Surely the provisions in this Bill cannot work unless the unions work them. The limelight will be on the unions; they will be in the headlines and if anything goes wrong the unions will be blamed. Unless the unions are willing to work its provisions, this Bill will fail. The unions have made clear that these regulations, which are distasteful to them, will not help to produce industrial relations on the lines that the Government want. I say to the Government, "Cannot you see that what you are doing is pressing people beyond a certain point?". It is not for me to advise the Conservative Party, but I would say to them, "If you assume that every trade unionist is a member of the Labour Party and votes for the Labour Party, you are very much mistaken. You are damaging yourselves in the eyes of Conservative trade unionists for something which will not help the Bill at all." I should like to support the Amendment, and I urge the Government to take a more enlightened view of Amendments which are being proposed tonight.
§ BARONESS GAITSKELL
I wish to support the Amendment. Here again the Government are showing their hand, and we on this side of the Committee are not taken in. Nor are we very amused. By retaining these words we should put into the minds of people, who have no proper idea, knowledge or understanding of the way in which industrial relations are carried on, the idea that some unions are unrepresentative, irresponsible and ineffective. This anti-union bias is threaded throughout the whole of the Bill and I think that it will poison industrial relations. That is why we on this side of the Committee object to it and support the Amendment.
§ LORD BYERS
I do not understand why, regarding a clause which deals equally with employers and workers, there should be any accusation of antiunion bias. If I thought that this Bill 1039 was anti-union I should not be giving to it the limited support which we on these Benches are giving to it. I cannot help feeling that we are wasting a lot of time. Here is something which merely makes clear the fact that we want employers' associations and trade unions to be representative, to be effective and to be responsible. I can see nothing against that at all. If it had said that the trade unions must be responsible and effective, yes; but it refers to both, and we know that there are employers' associations which are ineffective and irresponsible at times. Surely it is a balance that we ought to keep here. I see no reason why the Labour Party should feel that they are being picked on in this petty way. If I thought that that were true I should be strongly against the Bill, but I feel we are importing an emotion into this matter which should not be there.
§ LORD HANKEY
I should like to support the noble Lord, Lord Byers. The reason I am in favour of the Bill is that I think it will make the unions much stronger, and I want to see them much stronger. I have no doubt that that will be the effect, as it has been in some foreign countries where somewhat similar, or analogous, provisions obtain. We have to live down a barrier of heritage in our law which has tended to regard unions as conspiracies. In the years in which we live, this is totally ridiculous. I do not see how we are going to get over this problem unless we keep in the declaratory part of the new Bill something which says what unions are and should be. I like these words and I hope that, on reflection, the Opposition will feel that they are less damaging than has been claimed.
VISCOUNT MASSEREENE AND FER RARD
With reference to the remarks of the noble Baroness, Lady Gaitskell, may I point out that Mrs. Castle's Bill would have been very anti this Amendment, because that Bill of 1970 went at considerable length into various schemes for improving the trade unions—superannuation schemes and other schemes like that. The Donovan Report was also against this Amendment. I am speaking only from memory, and I really 1040 cannot remember now, but the Donovan Report definitely suggested that the unions must be made responsible, and it went on at great length about how that should be done.
THE EARL OF BALFOUR
If this Amendment is to go through, I would point out to your Lordships that Clause 65 will need to be strengthened in order to make the position clear and prevent any little organisations from being allowed to register as trade unions in the special register under Clause 82. I am sure that we do not want to have all these tiny unions. Unless we have union representation and unless the unions are responsible and effective bodies the very fine unions we have in this country are going to be considerably weakened. It means that when there is some discontent, we shall have small bodies breaking away. I feel that the wording of this clause is essential as a protection for properly organised union affairs, and I am surprised that the Amendment has been put forward.
I had composed a minute ago a speech which would have taken 20 seconds. As another noble Lord was rising simultaneously may I make another one impromptu? All I want to say is that the only good and short speech ever attributed to me inHansardwas in tact made the other day not by me, but by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hail-sham of St. Marylebone. It consisted of the one word "Yes". I do not think I can claim credit for that; but I should like to take this last opportunity, after the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Byers, and before the noble Lord replies, of saying (to the speech of my noble friend Lord Byers) "Yes".
§ 9.35 p.m.
§ LORD DIAMOND
I am bound to say that I am completely at a loss when the noble Viscount asked permission to get up and make his final speech, but I am sure that it is my responsibility to offer my condolences. First of all, I want to thank the noble Viscount, Lord Massereene and Ferrard for what he said. He is always very helpful in his interventions and I want to assure him of the sympathy of the whole House on having to speak from memory when he 1041 had momentarily lost his memory. It is a predicament which I share with the noble Viscount, as he will recollect, because on one occasion I was speaking from notes and momentarily lost them.
To be a little more serious about the clause which we are seeking to amend, I would say first to the noble Lord, Lord Byers, whose support we welcome and cherish, that there is no doubt from the speeches made on Second Reading that a large number of extremely able, intelligent and responsible Members of your Lordships' House take the view that this Bill is to be supported because it curbs the power of the unions.
§ LORD DIAMOND
I am not for one second attributing it to the noble Lord, The noble Lord asked, "Why do the Labour Party take the view that this Bill is in some sense aimed at the unions?" The short answer is: because a number of noble Lords for whom I have the deepest respect have said that they are sincerely convinced that the unions have too much power; that they are an estate of the Realm which has outgrown itself, and that in common with our history, where this has happened to any number of other organizations—including, one noble Lord said, your Lordships' House—the time has come for a reduction in the power of that particular estate of the Realm; therefore the purpose of the Bill as they read it (I am not saying what our view is) should be supported because it will curb the power of the unions. The noble Lord, Lord Byers, must not ask me to disbelieve what able men in your Lordships' House say with sincerity and conviction. I accept that that is their view.
§ LORD BYERS
Would not the noble Lord agree with me that it is his duty, as a leader in this field, to disillusion these people, and to try to get real industrial relations on a mutual basis and not on a confrontation basis?
§ LORD DIAMOND
Of course I do. That is what I am seeking to do the whole time; that is the progress I am seeking to make. I share the view of all those noble Lords who expressed 1042 those sentiments, that the purpose of this Bill is to curb the power of the unions. That is as plain as a pikestaff. But there is no need for me to express my view when those who support the Bill have said so with such clarity. I am saying to the noble Lord, Lord Byers, that that must be at the back of our minds when we consider these things.
§ LORD BYERS
I do not want to interrupt too much, but I can say that the noble Lord will get our support on a number of his Amendments, and we shall look for his support for ours. But if we are going to do it against this background, we are not going to make as much progress together in improving the Bill as we ought to do.
§ LORD DIAMOND
We shall seek to be very objective, and to have regard to the words that are used and the provisions of the clauses. I am quite sure that when we come to Amendment No. 19, on Clause 3, in the names of the noble Lords, Lord Byers, Lord Henley, Lord Beaumont of Whitley and Lord Diamond, we shall probably find ourselves in agreement.
I turn back again to Clause 1(1) (c). The first two and a half lines express a view which we hold with deep sincerity and profound conviction. The words are:the principle of free association of workers in independent trade unions, and of employers in employers' associations …That covers both the unions and the employers' associations. We regard that as a good and adequate description of the principle which ought to apply. I would say to noble Lords opposite that, so adequate is that, that if the noble Lord insists on adding anything to it, let us have it in a separate Bill, because this expression, in our view, is not only correct, but also perfectly adequate. It is a sentiment to which we are devoted, and we should not wish to see it hedged around by any other words.
Then, if the noble Lord wishes me to deal with the other words, he is right in saying that the word "representative "connotes something of the word "democratically", which we were considering earlier. Then he went on to say there 1043 was no difficulty about "responsible". I do not think I can forgive him for saying that. I could forgive anybody who was not in the Chamber, but the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, has been listening to every word, so far as I am aware, and he has been in the Chamber almost as long as myself, and I have been here all the time. He must have heard the debate, and I must support his own Back-Benchers. It is not fair in the absence of the noble Earl, Lord Bathurst, to say that everybody is clear about the meaning of "responsible". The noble Earl was not clear, even after the most pointed declaration by his Leader, and nothing could be more unclear than that.
I hesitate to interrupt the noble Lord, but he should not pluralise my noble friend Lord Bathurst in this way.
§ LORD DIAMOND
I am not accustomed to your Lordships' proceedings and, being a mere Baron myself, I did not know to what extent an Earl counted for two or three. I am quite sure that the noble Earl was only voicing a sentiment which was felt by many others on those Benches. We all know that when you are in the process of a very long and difficult Bill which a Government are putting forward frequent interventions from Back-Benchers are not all that welcome. Therefore I am quite sure that it would be reasonable to deduce that one very often repeated expression of doubt in the face of a noble Lord's Leader represents a fair measure of doubt on those Benches.
THE EARL OF DUDLEY
May I remind the noble Lord, that my noble friend Lord Bathurst was at great pains to say that his difficulty was over the word "responsibly", not the word "responsible" which is in the paragraph which is covered by this Amendment.
§ LORD DIAMOND
I did not quite hear what the noble Earl said. I think he said that his noble friend was concerned about "responsibly". That is absolutely right. I did not entirely follow the noble Earl's difficulty in moving from "responsible" to what he called the "adjective", "responsibly", but I did 1044 not think it appropriate for me to intervene at that time.
It is perfectly clear from what has been said in another place, and what has been said here, that there is considerable difficulty in interpreting "responsible", especially in this context. This is a context of organisation. I should have thought (and I should be grateful for what help we can get from the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor) that when you have regard to the word "responsible" in this context it can have only its first and natural meaning of responsible to those who instruct it, or give it authority to act.
This is a question of organisation, This is not a question of acting responsibly in the other sense, of being morally accountable for one's actions. One is dogged by the problem that "responsible" has these two meanings. In the other case we were left with the impression that both of them were to be included, that is to say in subsection (1) (a). Here only the second one, I should have thought, was involved. But one just does not know. Therefore there is doubt about it.
As to "effective", that is something which cannot be regarded with satisfaction on this side. A whole host of interpretations could be put on what is in the mind of the Government as to achieving effectiveness. I should have thought we could leave out the word "representative" and, if necessary, put it in somewhere else. We should leave out the word "responsible" because it is already admitted to be a considerable difficulty. The word "effective" we have not discussed at length, but it is obviously going to be a very difficult word to interpret. But, above all, the first two lines are adequate and full and respected in themselves, and therefore I should have thought that the Government ought to meet our point and say, "Well, we will accept the Amendment. We will omit the last three lines and, if necessary, at a later stage, having thought about it and seen how we get on with the Bill, we will put something back again on Report stage." I therefore hope that that will be acceptable to the Government.
§ 9.46 p.m.
§ On Question, Whether the said Amendment (No. 4) shall be agreed to?1045
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 42; Not-Contents, 120.
|Archibald, L.||Garnsworthy, L.||Morris of Kenwood, L.|
|Ardwick, L.||Greenwood of Rossendale, L.||Phillips, Bs.|
|Bacon, Bs.||Henderson, L.||Plummer, Bs.|
|Bernstein, L.||Hilton of Upton, L.||Popplewell, L.|
|Beswick, L. [Teller.]||Hoy, L.||Rusholme, L.|
|Blyton, L.||Hughes, L.||Sainsbury, L.|
|Brockway, L.||Janner, L.||St. Davids, V.|
|Champion, L.||Kennet, L.||Shackleton, L.|
|Collison, L.||Lindgren, L.||Slater, L.|
|Davies of Leek, L.||Llewelyn-Davies, L.||Stonham, L.|
|Diamond, L.||Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe, Bs. [Teller. ]||Stow Hill, L.|
|Donaldson of Kingsbridge, L||Taylor of Mansfield, L.|
|Fiske, L.||Maelor, L.||Wells-Pestell, L.|
|Gaitskell, Bs.||Milner of Leeds, L.||Wynne-Jones, L.|
|Aberdare, L.||De L'Isle, V.||Milverton, L.|
|Ailsa, M.||Denham, L.||Molson, L.|
|Ailwyn, L.||Derwent, L.||Monckton of Brenchley, V.|
|Aldington, L.||Digby, L.||Mowbray and Stourton, L. [Teller.]|
|Allerton, L.||Drumalbyn, L.|
|Amherst, E.||Dudley, E.||Napier and Ettrick, L.|
|Amherst of Hackney, L.||Dundee, E.||Nugent of Guildford, L.|
|Amory, V.||Eccles, V.||O'Neill of the Maine, L.|
|Balfour, E.||Effingham, E.||Pender, L.|
|Barnby, L.||Elliot of Harwood. Bs.||Platt, L.|
|Barrington, V.||Essex, E.||Poole, L.|
|Bathurst, E.||Falkland, V.||Rankeillour, L.|
|Beauchamp, E.||Ferrers, E.||Reading, M.|
|Beaumont of Whitley, L.||Ferrier, L.||Redmayne, L.|
|Belstead, L.||Fortescue, E.||Rhyl, L.|
|Berkeley, Bs.||Gage, V.||Rothermere, V.|
|Blackburn, L. Bp.||Glasgow, E.||St. Aldwyn, E.|
|Boston, L.||Goschen, V. [Teller.]||St. Helens, L.|
|Brabazon of Tara, L.||Gowrie, E.||Sandford, L.|
|Brecon, L.||Gray. L.||Sandys, L.|
|Bridgeman. V.||Grenfell. L.||Savile, L.|
|Brooke of Cumnor, L.||Gridley, L.||Selkirk. E.|
|Brooke of Ystradfellte, Bs.||Grimston of Westbury, L.||Sherfield, L.|
|Brougham and Vaux, L.||Hailes, L.||Somers, L.|
|Buccleuch and Queensberry, D.||Hailsham of Saint Marylebone, L. (Lord Chancellor.)||Stamp, L.|
|Burton, L.||Strang, L.|
|Byers, L.||Harvey of Tasburgh, L.||Strange, L.|
|Caldecote, V.||Hives, L.||Stratheden and Campbell, L.|
|Carrington, L.||Hood, V.||Terrington, L.|
|Clinton, L.||Jellicoe, E. (L.Privy Seal)||Teviot, L.|
|Clitheroe, L.||Kemsley, V.||Thomas, L.|
|Colyton, L.||Lansdowne, M.||Tweedsmuir. L.|
|Conesford, L.||Lauderdale, E.||Tweedsmuir of Belhelvie, Bs.|
|Cottesloe, L.||Lothian, M.||Verulam, E.|
|Cowley, E.||Lyell, L.||Vivian, L.|
|Craigmyle, L.||Malmesbury, E.||Waldegrave, E.|
|Crawshaw, L.||Mancroft, L.||Wigram, L.|
|Cromartie, E.||Mansfield, E.||Windlesham, L.|
|Cullen of Ashbourne, L.||Margadale, L.||Wolverton, L.|
|Davidson, V.||Massereene and Ferrard, V.||Yarborough, E.|
|De La Warr, E.||Merthyr, L.|
§ Resolved in the negative, and Amendment disagreed to accordingly.
§ House resumed.