HL Deb 27 April 1971 vol 317 cc1058-77

2.40 p.m.


My Lords, I beg to move that the House do again resolve itself into Committee on this Bill.

Moved, That the House do again re-solve itself into Committee.—(Lord Drumalbyn.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly.

[The EARL OF LISTOWEL in the Chair.]

Clause 1 [General principles]

LORD BLYTONmoved Amendment No. 5 Page 2, line2, leave out from ("safeguards") to end of line 3.

The noble Lord said: I beg to move the Amendment standing in the name of my noble friends Lord Diamond and Lord Delacourt-Smith. We are told by the Government that this Bill is to help the trade unions but, as the Bill is debated in future weeks, it will become apparent that this is a Bill to take away rights that have been won by the unions, and to considerably weaken their power in negotiations on wages and conditions. As I watched the Divisions last night, I wondered whether I should have been in order if I had said "I spy strangers", as there were noble Lords here last night I have never seen, and I am confident that they did not come because of their love of the trade union movement.

Subsection (1)(d) contains a principle by which trade union strength will be annihilated. This principle deals with "unfair industrial practices". No doubt this will be dealt with at length in the latter stages of the Bill: but this principle is one which is terribly unfair to the trade unions in negotiations with their employers. It is not one to assist better labour relations, and it is one which cannot be ignored.

In dealing with Clause 1(1)(d), we are dealing with workers' rights and trying to examine just what this concept of "unfair practices" means. It means that a man has an equal and unqualified right not to join a union as he has to belong to one. If this clause is carried it means that it will be an unfair industrial practice for trade unionists to say, "We will not work with a non-unionist". I can see great stress in many industries on this issue. If there is anything on earth that is repulsive to a trade unionist, it is to work alongside a non-unionist. Again, if one trade union goes to the help of another in a struggle by "blacking" the place in dispute, this is an unfair industrial practice. This will prevent trade unions from taking solidarity action, something that has been in existence ever since I joined a trade union in 1913. If a trade union comes to the aid of another union in a sympathetic strike, that also is unfair practice.

This clause attacks what are the basic traditional concepts of trade unionism, and there is no justification whatever to undermine the fundamental rights won by the trade unions through past years. The Bill itself sets out about 14 unfair industrial practices, and we have not vet seen the code of conduct, which may increase the number. I have heard some people say there may be well over 100 unfair practices in the future. It is quite apparent that Clause 1(1)(d) does not deal fairly between employers and unions. First, those unfair practices which operate against the unions are directed squarely against them, making it very difficult to carry out their legitimate trade union activities. Secondly, the ones directed against the employers are, in many cases, directed also against the workers and the unions, and will assist the employers against the unions.

The Bill makes it an unfair industrial practice to induce or threaten a strike to persuade an employer to deal with a non-unionist or a union man. This is essentially striking a blow at the closed shop; it is also striking a blow at a place where there is 100 per cent. membership of one union. To-day, there are about 12 million members of trade unions with about three million in post-entry closed shops, and about three-quarters of a million in pre-entry closed shops. If this Bill goes through unamended, and it is made an unfair practice to induce, or threaten a strike to force an employer to agree, or to continue in force a pre-entry closed shop, this will be a serious attack on the cherished rights of the trade union move- ment, and will lead to untold trouble in many industries. Some unions' very existence depends on the pre-entry closed shop—especially the seamen's union.

Another unfair practice under the Bill is to deny workers the right to strike for 100 per cent. trade unionism at their work. These so-called "unfair industrial practices" are an attack on the fundamental rights of the union, and have nothing at all to do with improving industrial relations. There is not a semblance of fairness to the trade unions, and the Government should not pretend they are being fair.

By their Bill the Government have imposed on us the Taft-Hartley Act; but they have omitted to recognise that in 1959 America amended their law to allow for 100 per cent. trade unionism in certain industries where the closed shop had been a long-established principle. This Bill goes a lot further than the U.S.A. law. It would be an unfair practice for workers to carry out the "blacking" of goods, yet the practice of taking solidarity action is a long established principle in the trade unions of Britain. Many times in my life I have known of appeals (and we, as miners, have appealed when in a dispute) to other trade unions for support, and often the support we have received has resulted in our winning our case. In fact, a trade union could hardly hope to operate, or win battles, unless it had the right to ask for support from its friends. Yet under this Bill, this right, which the trade unions have had for years, is to be removed.

I said in my Second Reading speech that this Bill would be a money-spinner for lawyers. It will require many lawyers, on both sides of industry, to interpret what is and what is not an unfair practice. There will be arguments right down the line in the courts about the effect of the Bill; one decision can affect thousands of workers, and we will get case law. The great difference between us and the Tories is in our attitude to the trade union movement; ours is very different to-day from that of the Government. Collective bargaining has been voluntary, and is an essential part of the democratic expression. One cannot have collective bargaining without an organisation of workers, on which it depends. What is needed is not a Bill for trade union bashing, but one that encourages, stimulates, and promotes the organisation of workers for the given end of collective bargaining.

There is no fairness when the Government say, "You can get out of a trade union if you want, and can enjoy the fruits of trade union collective bargaining without paying towards the cost of getting the increased wages." I have never had any use for a man who will take the rewards that a trade union gets him at his work, but refuses to pay towards the cost. Everyone knows that, by himself, a person is absolutely powerless in industry to-day. He has no defence whatever against his employer. On the other hand, employers know that they could not operate their industries without collective agreements, and in strong trade union areas the non-unionist is a nuisance, not only to the employer but to the trade union as well.

In giving this concession to the non-unionist the Government are really building up trouble, weakening the trade unions, and encouraging "scab" unions and company unions. I believe that people should be encouraged to join a trade union, and that the trade union, in turn, should encourage its members to participate in its affairs and help in the control of the union. All that this Bill does, with its principles, is to put the trade unions into a position of struggling in the future with one hand tied behind their back. That is why we are opposed to the idea of unfair industrial practice. It will lay down a rigid set of conditions which will be of no use on many occasions, which are bound to be broken, and which will create situations where legal action becomes possible.

If the Government believe in any kind of fairness, they ought to accept this Amendment There is no doubt that, later on in the Bill, we shall argue the realities of what this provision means to the trade unions and to the workers. We see in this paragraph another injection of quasi-criminal legislation into the industrial tribunals, and we have good reasons for not accepting this state of affairs. Industrial practices which we have had for years are now to be made illegal, with penalties and sanctions on working people. The strength of the trade union movement is to be weakened by this clause, and in future employers will deal with trade unions in a quite different fashion, when they know that a union is bereft of its power. It is because of this, that we seek to delete the words against unfair industrial practices, whether on the part of employers or others".

I beg to move.


The effect of accepting this Amendment would be that the principle of freedom and security for workers would not be limited to safeguards against unfair industrial practices, but would extend more widely. The burden of the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Blyton, centred on the concept of the unfair industrial practice, and the noble Lord made many points about specific unfair industrial practices—or, rather, actions which may or may not, as your Lordships debate the Bill, be held to be unfair industrial practices. Therefore may I draw the attention of the Committee to the central concept of unfair practices, in the confident belief on this side of the House that the position regarding particular practices will become clear when the relevant clauses are debated.

Clearly, there is considerable disagreement about the nature of unfair industrial practices contained in the Bill. The Opposition, through the noble Lord, are arguing that these practices are biased against the interests of trade unionism, and I hope that in the coming debates we shall demonstrate conclusively that the opposite is true. These, however, will be matters for judgment and for emphasis. I hope there is less disagreement about the principle of taking certain actions which, in the eyes of a detached observer, are manifestly unfair and labelling them "unfair practices". This would serve the dual purpose of attaching to such actions a form of approbrium and also allowing the aggrieved parties to take advantage of the various complaints procedures provided in the Bill.

The noble Lord's speech concentrated on unfair practices in relations to union membership—on the agency shop, on pre-entry closed shops and on solidarity action, to mention only some of the points which the noble Lord picked out. I should not have thought anyone would claim that the drafting of the agency shop provisions showed lack of sensitivity to the practicalities, deeply though we may disagree on these matters. The method of preventing the "free rider"—to which the noble Lord referred, though not specifically—the recognition of the status of a trade union with all workers in an agency shop, the clear right of an employer to encourage trade union membership under Clause 5(5)—surely such provisions provide a basis for debate, not arbitrary exclusion of these matters from the initial principles of the Bill. The provisions of Clause 16 and Schedule 1 covering pre-entry closed shops were altered in another place. Surely the Committee do not want to pre-judge an issue on which, as the noble Lord has shown very clearly to-day, he and the Opposition feel very deeply indeed, when deep convictions are held in all parts of the Committee and when the rights of the individual are also very closely concerned.

The noble Lord specifically mentioned solidarity action in support of a strike. It is not the effect of the Bill that sympathy strikes shall be banned. If I may refer the noble Lord to Clauses 92 to 94, they really do not have that blanket effect. This is a complicated part of the Bill. I think the Commission of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Donovan, referred to the law in this field as "a maze". But I believe that when the Committee come to consider those clauses in detail it will be seen that the Bill recognises the use of borrowed strength within reasonable limits but seeks to protect the party wholly unconnected with the original dispute. And may I remind the House that unfair industrial practices extend rather more widely than the noble Lord, Lord Blyton, perhaps indicated? As he mentioned, there are the practices from which trade unions or employees' organisations can suffer, and there are also the practices from which employers can suffer. The noble Lord gave it as his opinion that although, technically, if one reads through the unfair industrial practices, there are more on the employers' side than on the employees' side, the position was not quite what met the eye. The noble Lord also said that the code of practice, which your Lordships will probably be debating later to-day, will very likely increase the number of unfair industrial practices. That is not so. It will not happen, and I would go so far as to say that I cannot see how it can possibly happen.


I am sorry to interrupt the noble Lord, but is he saying, from his knowledge of what is in the code of practice, that that is the case? Is that what he is basing his statement on?


No. But this subject was debated at great length yesterday afternoon, and I should have thought, in the light of the ideas and principles which were put forward from this Box by my noble friend Lord Jellicoe, that that was the situation. The scope of specific unfair practices cannot be increased in number by the code of practice itself. Thinking on the lines that industrial practices go a little more widely than was indicated by the noble Lord, Lord Blyton, may I remind the Committee that employers may not institute or threaten lock-outs while recognition applications to the Industrial Court are pending. That would be an unfair industrial practice. Furthermore, a trade union may not induce an employer in furtherance of, or following on, a recognition dispute; and unfair dismissal becomes an unfair practice under the Bill—something which I think many of your Lordships will welcome.

We specify that a particular action constitutes an unfair industrial practice; but this is not to say that it is something which is going to occur commonly. But the rarity of such an action surely does not make it any the less unfair, or obviate the need for means by which the individual can sometimes obtain redress. What we are suggesting from this side of the Committee is that the knowledge that an action is stigmatised as an unfair industrial practice about which a complaint can be made to an industrial tribunal, or to the N.I.R.C., according to the specific method under a particular clause, will be a potent influence on behaviour, and therefore will have an effect on "the principle of freedom and security for workers".

The noble Lord did not refer to legislation abroad, but it has been widely suggested that provisions in this Bill regarding unfair industrial practices have been simply borrowed, qute uncritically and across the board, from United States legislation. Really, that is without foundation. The provision against each unfair industrial practice has been carefully formulated to try to keep an eye to the requirements of British industrial relations, and if there are areas of overlap it is because the situation in developed industrial countries has certain similarities about which many of your Lordships know a great deal more than I do. More significantly, perhaps, the idea of the unfair practice, admittedly with different formulations, has commended itself already to a number of other countries.

This is the fourth of the principles in Clause 1 of the Bill, and it seeks to identify matters which are unfair in the context of good industrial relations. I entirely take the point—and the noble Lord, Lord Blyton, has made it very clear to-day—that some noble Lords may utterly reject this principle; but are there not many noble Lords in this Committee, including some noble Lords opposite, who have previously identified activities which are against the interests of the community? Was it not the White Paper, In Place of Strife, which proposed remedies against trade unions unduly hostile to their members, or prospective members; and which proposed remedies against both employers and trade unions in disputes over recognition where the interests of the community are concerned? And was it not the same document which condemned unfair dismissal by employers and sought to protect the right to join a union, the right of ballot in certain circumstances and the right to recognition negotiations?

I entirely take the point that that White Paper did not lead to action, and that noble Lords opposite will say that this is not a correct way of arguing. But it was a major document. It was something with which many noble Lords opposite identified themselves; and although I think that many of us in this Committee will be only too ready to listen with the very greatest sympathy when we are told that the details of that White Paper have been re-thought—after all, this is a free country and anybody can withdraw whatever details he likes—I find it very difficult to accept that one of the basic standpoints of that White Paper should be thrown utterly overboard. For surely there is agreement that legislation is bound to involve identification of what is unfair, so that the principle of freedom and security for workers may be achieved. We may disagree on what is fair and what is unfair, but that is for later consideration. "The principle of freedom and security for workers" referred to in this paragraph—and, despite what the noble Lord. Lord Blyton, said, for stronger trade unions—can be achieved only with the words which this Amendment seeks to exclude. For that reason I hope that, after being carefully debated, this Amendment will not be pressed to a Division.

3.4 p.m.


In rising to give support to my noble friend Lord Blyton, of South Shields, regarding the way he has moved his Amendment, may I say to Lord Belstead, who has replied on behalf of the Government, that it would be as well for Her Majesty's Government if they had a number of trade unionists sitting on their Benches who knew something about trade union practices as they have operated over the years in this country, and as to how they have been built up. I want to direct the attention of the noble Lord to certain aspects of operation in regard to practices operating within that other particular trade union. My noble friend made reference to the union to which he and I are attached and with which we are associated. Before I ever became a Member of Parliament, and before I ever entered your Lordships' House, I was a branch official; and during that period if an individual was not prepared to join the union, you could guarantee that 100 per cent. of the men working at that particular colliery would refuse in any circumstance even to enter the cage with him to go down into the bowels of the earth to battle with Mother Nature, and he would have to ride in that cage on his own.

Noble Lords on that side of the Committee will say that it was wrong that that situation should be allowed to operate against this individual because he would not join the trade union. There is one thing which I learned from my father, When I went down the pit at the age of 14 he said to me, "You are going into the pit, boy, and there are two important factors relative to the life of a miner in a mining community that you should remember. The first is to make sure that you are a member of your trade union, and the second is to see that your rent is paid, because one is a means of providing a cover over your head and the other is a means of looking after the employment of your labour". Some noble Lords may think this was unfair, unjust and rather severe. But nevertheless we had to battle with employers of labour in this country for many years over the hardships that were inflicted upon our people because of their outlook on life. Even if an individual went over, as it were, the fortnightly period and became unfinancial, what did we do—and this will be news to noble Lords on this side of the Committee, as I have no doubt it is to noble Lords on the other side. We would put a notice up on the pithead saying that member so-and-so was unfinancial, and therefore was not eligible for the coverage of the trade union if he fell into any form of dispute with the management.

Another important factor is that there may be—and it is so at this moment—employers of labour who are not prepared to accept individuals into their employment unless they are members of a trade union. These agreements have been negotiated, and no doubt are still being negotiated; and they have even gone so far that they have been prepared to keep on the paying out, as we term it in my particular industry, of the contribution which an individual has to pay when he is a member of a trade union. It is no good talking about unjust practices, because when a man comes into heavy industry or mining he is expected to contribute to the cost of obtaining any benefits secured. I see that my noble friend Lord Shinwell, from Easington, is looking round, probably because of the statements I am making in regard to the mining industry; but I spent over 30 years in it and I accepted the position of a leader of that particular association, and I carried out negotiations in regard to agreements. In the course of these negotiations, we were not prepared to allow individuals to accept the benefits without contributing to the cost involved in bringing the agreement to pass on behalf of the membership. We were not prepared that they should receive the same pay and the same privileges as the members of the union whose officials had been responsible for the negotiation.

Another important factor I want to mention before I sit down is this. I have talked about heavy industry. In the mining industry we used to have what were called "marrows". There was the cavelling system which is based on six people. At the end of each quarter cavels would go in and they would be drawn out for areas and districts. They had that responsibility. If an individual was a non-unionist he did not get a cavel in and the management agreed.

All that is to go, and with it the rights that trade unions have exercised and enjoyed as determining rights to safeguard the interests of their members. All that is to be taken away under this particular clause of the Bill. I say to the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, who has spoken for the Government this afternoon, that were he to go into any working men's club in this country—and I will go with him if he wishes—and say to them what he has just said to noble Lords here in reply to my noble friend's speech, then he would get his answers. They would not be the kind of answers that he sought to get here. They would be answers that may surprise him. He, with his Government, would be condemned out of hand for introducing this unfair measure and the principals contained within it.

3.12 p.m.


It is obvious that it becomes impossible to discuss any Amendment adequately without at the same time covering the whole ground; in other words, without making a Second Reading speech. It may be observed that that has happened this afternoon. Quite rightly, my noble friend Lord Blyton, in order to explain carefully, deliberately and meticulously the object of his Amendment, was bound to spread himself, It is quite impossible to do otherwise. And it was obvious that the Government had prepared a Second Reading speech because I have the suspicion—but I am open to correction on this—that the noble Lord who spoke for the Government spoke from a prepared brief. So the Government considered that even on what might be regarded as a mild and minor Amendment it was necessary to spread their wings—oratorically, of course.

I do not propose to make a Second Reading speech. I have not made one yet; though with the consent of noble Lords I may make one on the Motion that this clause stand part. I have a few ideas floating through my head and I may develop them in due course. But for the moment I confine myself to the Amendment—with one very important proviso. I direct your Lordships' attention to what was said by the noble Lord who spoke for the Government. I shall present the points with as much clarification as I can. The noble Lord said, in effect, "We had better wait until we come to that part of the Bill, Clauses 92 to 94, which deals with unfair practices". It is all right saying that; but he might have proceeded a little further and read out what appears in Clauses 92 to 94. Then we might have known what we were talking about. Merely to use such nomenclature is of very little consequence for, as we discovered yesterday, words may mean almost anything. That is the opinion of the Government—at least on certain words. As for other words, they are convinced that it is possible for them to be rigidly definable.

I propose to deal with this Amendment by reference to Clauses 92 to 94. I cannot do otherwise. It may be argued that on this Amendment, which comes at the beginning of the Committee stage, it is pointless to deal with the general subject of unfair industrial practices. But unless the matter is dealt with now, both in a general and a particular fashion, then it goes by default. If on this side of the Committee the case is not deployed now, then it may be argued when we come to Clauses 92 to 94 that we had had an opportunity to deploy the case when we were dealing with this Amendment. I hope it will not be so argued; for it would be fallacious to argue that it is improper to deal with the subject of unfair industrial practices at this stage and on what might be regarded as a minor Amendment.

I would direct your Lordships' attention to some of the Government's definitions of some industrial practices so that we may see, or, if we do not see at least have a suspicion of, the road on which we are travelling.


May I ask the noble Lord a question? He said that he would be as gentle with us as possible and that he would accord us all the clarification in his power. May I therefore at this stage of his observations ask him whether he is leading up to the final point that there are no unfair practices?


I am surprised that a noble Lord of such high intellectual calibre should ask me a question of that kind. Everybody knows that in all walks of life there are unfair practices. But do not tempt me to go into that subject; by doing so I may appear to be a little offensive to many of my friends on the other side; and that is the last thing I should wish. I beg the noble Lord not to tempt me. Perhaps he will allow me to proceed. Though I put up with them, I do not like interruptions; they interfere with the thread of my discourse. I have not prepared a speech, I have just been listening to what has been said.

I direct the attention of noble Lords to Clause 93(2) (a) in which there is a reference to unfair industrial practices. It reads calling, organising, procuring or financing a strike". It is well known in the history of the trade union movement that when workers are either on strike or are locked out—and that has sometimes happened. I have had experience of it myself—they often go around taking collections. I can remember many strikes in the mining industry when, because they were in a condition of starvation, men were compelled to go round the country asking for help, not only from their industrial colleagues but also from the general public. Often members of the public gave help willingly because of their humanity and generosity of spirit. That is what we would expect from the people of this country among whom, despite the attempts of the Government to destroy it, there is still a great deal of character of which we are very proud. But that is an unfair industrial practice. Some day there may be a strike, in spite of this Bill. Indeed, the noble Lord has said so. There could be a sympathetic strike—he said so. Very well, my Lords, I take the point. In a sympathetic strike a collection might be taken. Those involved might seek finance, and that is an unfair industrial practice, is it not? Of course it is.

I come to Clause 94(2), which states: For the purposes of this section a person shall be regarded as an extraneous party in relation to an industrial dispute if … he is not a party to that dispute", and so on. What is contemplated in this provision? Reference has been made in the newspapers to this subject; they are very disturbed and alarmed at the possibilities. What I have in mind probably would not appear in The Times. One could not expect a paper read by the top people to indulge in such a thing; or the Daily Telegraph—although sometimes the Daily Telegraph can be vicious enough to do anything. That is why I read it. Whenever I feel doubtful about the Labour Party I have only to read the Daily Telegraph leading article and I immediately send another contribution to the Labour Party funds. However, there may be a newspaper or a periodical devoted to the interests of the Labour Party—but let us leave out the Labour Party—devoted to those on strike. If, in contemplation of assistance to those engaged in an industrial dispute, a journalist wrote an article—it might be a sub-editor; even the editor himself, or a free-lance journalist—in which he sought to further the industrial dispute, that would be an unfair industrial practice. What about the freedom of the Press now? I understand that the Government, and particularly Mr. Heath, a man of undoubted integrity—sometimes a bit foolish, but of undoubted integrity—believe in the freedom of the individual, and that includes the freedom of the Press. What, then, is to happen? I leave the subject there. We have those two points.

First, one must not take a collection or seek finance in order to assist those engaged in an industrial dispute. Take, for example, what happened in the Post Office dispute. I do not want to go into the merits or demerits of that dispute; there are varying views about it, and about whether it should have happened at all. At the same time, when it happened the union, not having a strike fund, sought assistance from the transport workers and a number of other organisations, and from colleagues, and a considerable sum of money was obtained. That of course would have been impossible under the provisions in this Bill. In those circumstances, are we at this stage justified in accepting the term "unfair industrial practices" at the very beginning of the Committee stage? Ought we not to clarify our minds on the subject and clarify the position; and see what the Government are actually driving at? Of course, when we come to 92 and 94—and that seems to be a long way off (I am speaking about the clauses in the Bill and not about myself)—we can deal with the subject. But let us deal with this principle now.

One further point before I sit down. Do your Lordships know what is wrong with this Bill? Apart from its content and its principles, there is too much language in it. Let us examine the adjectives alone. It is the language of extravagance; exaggerated, superfluous, excessive, and all the rest of it. I have in mind a number of other adjectives I could use about it, but I will use them on some other occasion. There is far too much language in the Bill—principles and principles and all the rest of it; do this and this and don't do that and that. I do not know who was responsible for drafting the Bill; probably it was one of those highly placed civil servants with an exorbitant salary. I would have sacked him on the spot. As a Minister, I would have said, "Do not come to me with all that 'guff'. Let us be quite clear about it. Condense it into a few words that everybody may understand; do not confuse people." Because I believe that it is necessary to define accurately and clearly, without any ambiguity or vagueness, what we mean by "unfair industrial practices" before we pass to the next stage, and because I think the language of the Bill is superfluous, particularly in this clause, I support my noble friend.

3.27 p.m.


I hesitate to attempt to dot the i's and cross the t's of anything that my noble friend Lord Shinwell has just said, but I must register a complaint to him because he has "pinched" quite a lot of my speech. I agree with him wholeheartedly that when we are discussing this matter we must turn to Clauses 92 and 94. What are the unfair practices which are enumerated in the Bill? The noble Lord, Lord Belstead, indicated earlier that the scope of these unfair practices cannot be increased. That is a very interesting and profound observation. One of the difficulties we are experiencing when discussing this Bill arises from the fact that we have not got the proposed code of practice available for consideration. We are told that a preliminary code will be issued in some weeks' time. According to the Bill, the permanent code will not be available for probably another 12 months. That imposes considerable difficulties on anyone attempting to understand the Bill. It confirms the view held by many of us that ultimately the provisions in the Bill will prove financially rewarding for members of the legal profession.

The Bill provides for the establishment of an Industrial Relations Court and industrial tribunals, and there will be representatives from both sides of industry. If the unions do not submit recommendations, one can visualise that any decision made by these bodies may ultimately go through the appropriate machinery to the Court of Appeal. Therefore it is important that we should know more about these unfair practices. Some of them are laid down in Clauses 92 and 94. If a person induces, or threatens to induce, another person "to break a contract to which that other person is a party" et cetera. That means that if a dispute looms up at shop floor level and they talk, as they ultimately do, about a walk-out—especially in conveyor-belt type of jobs where boredom exists—and they "put the shafts" up, as we used to say many years ago, that is an unfair practice whereby those people are liable to various penalties imposed by the Bill.

If a union decides not to register—and a decision has been taken by some unions that they will not register, although probably some of the rail unions will register—it will cost them a considerable amount in income by way of lost income tax rebate. That is a strong argument for "blackmailing" these trade unions into registering. As I understand Clause 92(2), if a trade union is not registered that union will be committing an unfair practice, and as such will be liable to the penalties inflicted by this Bill. That is very serious.

I do not want to deal with Clause 93, which my noble friend Lord Shinwell has dealt with, but he mentioned the Post Office strike. Many unions contributed to the Union of Post Office Workers, and many individuals too. They gave privately. Are they committing an unfair practice? It would almost appear that under Clause 92 they are committing an unfair practice, and by virtue of making a contribution those trade unions and individuals are liable to the penalties inflicted by the Bill.

The crowning point of all is Clause 94(3). I should like noble Lords to turn to that subsection: A person shall not be regarded for the purposes of this section as having taken action as mentioned in subsection (2)(b) of this section by reason only that he—

  1. (a) is an associated employer in relation to an employer who is a party to the industrial dispute, or
  2. (b) is a member of an organisation of employers of which a party to the industrial dispute is also a member…"
An association of employers may assist an employer involved in difficulties, but associated trade unions must not assist one another. If there is an interwoven group of directorships, it is perfectly in order for one group in industry to assist another which is involved—at least, that is my interpretation on reading these clauses. We are in some difficulty, I must confess, because the code of practice has not been laid before us.

The clause goes on under paragraph (c): has contributed to a fund which may be available to such a party by way of relief in respect of losses incurred or to be incurred in consequence of the dispute, where the fund was established, and his contribution to it was paid, without specific reference to that industrial dispute. It exonerates the employers. They may make contributions where one of their colleagues is involved in a dispute, but not so the trade unions.

A day or two ago the noble Lord, Lord Fraser of Lonsdale, referred to an observation I had made, saying that I was preaching class legislation. If I am correct in interpreting Clauses 92 to 94 in the way I do, this is class legislation. There is every foundation for saying that here there is distinct class legislation, when it exonerates employers' associations who assist any of their colleagues involved in a dispute, and yet at the same time penalises trade unions who are similarly placed. I have been proud to be associated with the National Union of Railwaymen. If my organisation were involved in a dispute, another union engaged within the railway industry, the Associated Society of Locomotive Engineers and Firemen (ASLEF), would not be able to make a contribution, if I read this clause correctly.

We shall not have the code of practices for some time, but that is the type of thing which is specified in Clause 94. We cannot discuss and define what these things are, so how can we agree to this clause which we are now discussing? Therefore, in all fairness, if the Government will not accept our Amendment they ought at least to say that they will have another look at it, because the implications are that this Bill is a clear piece of class legislation of the worst possible degree.


What worries me so much about this Amendment is the attitude which the first two speakers have taken in speaking to it. What they are really saying is that all practices which have been developed by trade unions during their fight for recognition are automatically estimable and applicable to-day, and that they should not be called into question by anybody. That is a terribly dangerous attitude, because surely our trouble to-day is to try to move out of the 19th century into the 20th in our labour relations. I am very disturbed that this Amendment should be put forward with thoughts of that sort in mind, and I shall vote against it.


Surely by putting forth this Amendment the Opposition are putting their heads into a noose; they are becoming entangled in the mesh of their own exaberent verbosity. Surely they want the workers to be protected. The noble Lords opposite speak as if unions do not indulge in any unfair practices. I have come across these unfair practices. I have experience of them. There are kangaroo courts, the victimisation of individuals, and one could even go so far as to call it blackmail. Surely noble Lords want the workers to be protected from this. The noble Lord, Lord Popplewell, used to be a well-known official of the railwaymen's union. No doubt he will remember the strike of the footplate men under Sir Anthony Eden's Government, when the Prime Minister called on the footplate men of the railway, in the name of patriotism, to stick to their jobs. Many did. You know what happened to them. The ones who stuck to their jobs in the interest of the country were so victimised that two committed suicide and a great number of them had to emigrate.

The noble Lord talks about class legislation and Lord Blyton talked about democracy. They must have a very odd idea of the meaning of those words. Of course we want full union membership. We want everybody to belong to a union, but we do not want them to be compelled to belong to a union against their wishes. There are certain people who, for religious reasons—some call them cranks—do not want to belong to a union. Why should they be compelled to belong to a union? It is a monstrous action against the liberty of the individual. I have always been brought up to protect the minority and the weak, but noble Lords opposite do not want to do that. I repeat to noble Lords opposite: you have put your head in a noose.


In the light of my own experience in life, I cannot be as knowledgeable as others of my noble friends on this side of the House in connection with what relates to trade unions. I was not permitted to be a trade unionist, because I was called an employer of labour and the unions which seemed to be appropriate would not have me. But that has not altered my outlook on what is right and wrong. While I cannot claim to be able to speak with the strength of experience of my noble friends, I must confess my great anxiety with regard to the words we are discussing this afternoon, against unfair industrial practices, whether on the part of employers or others". The noble Lord, Lord Belstead, and others have referred to Clauses 92 to 94 and obviously that is where one looks for any definition of "unfair industrial practices". My trouble is that while the words are, "employers or others", I cannot for the life of me envisage where in these paragraphs the employers could be affected. It seems to me that the whole emphasis in this clause is on employees and not employers. As my noble friend Lord Popplewell has just said, this seems to be class legislation. If the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, and other noble Lords opposite can point out to me an illustration in these paragraphs of how it affects the employers, I should be glad to hear it, because to me the whole stress is on the employees. Because of that, I regard this as purely class legislation. I cannot think of it in any other sense. Therefore, I am sure that it is advisable that the Committee should leave out those words, because of the emphasis which is placed on them.


It might be for the convenience of your Lordships if time were taken for a Statement to be made. I beg to move that the House do now resume.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

House resumed.