§ 3.31 p.m.
§ THE MINISTER WITHOUT PORTFOLIO (LORD DRUMALBYN)
My Lords, I beg to move that the House do again resolve itself into Committee on this Bill.
§ Moved, That the House do again resolve itself into Committee.—(Lord Drwnalbyn.)
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.
§ House in Committee accordingly.
§ [The EARL OF LISTOWEL in the Chair.]
§ Clause 1 [General Principles]:
§ On Question, Whether Clause 1 shall stand part of the Bill?
§ LORD POPPLEWELL
As your Lordships will be well aware, this clause is the foundation stone of what follows in the rest of the Bill, and its importance cannot possibly be underestimated. The lines of approach in this clause indicate the wide divergence there is between both sides of the House. The clause establishes a new type of machinery for industrial relations. It establishes a legal code, as it were, for enforcement of the various decisions arrived at between the respective parties in the industrial field. The establishment of the N.I.R.C., with its President and divisional chairmen, who will be members of the higher Judiciary, is indeed a very important step in our industrial development.
The future pattern, then, in industrial relations, is that the agreements that may be arrived at, instead of being shaped and developed by those used to these problems, will, of necessity, have to be sub- 1300 mitted through the Judiciary who, on the whole, are well versed in criminal and civil law. This means that a new code of industrial law will have to be shaped and developed, and case law will undoubtedly be thus established. Considerable delay must in the very nature of things take place before that case law is established and this Judiciary is at work. Because, when all is said and done, the Chairman of the N.I.R.C. and also the chairmen of the industrial tribunals will be assisted by representatives from both sides of industry. The present mood of the General Council of the Trades Union Congress and of trade unions as a whole, who at the moment totally reject any idea of submitting names for appointment to these bodies, indicates how one-sided these bodies will be. Therefore it seems that the establishment of case law will be very one-sided.
The very object of this particular clause completely rejects conciliation. It lays down that when an application is submitted by the trade union and is going through the normal procedure, the N.I.R.C. or the industrial tribunals will have to decide exactly where case law eventually has to declare itself; and those of us on both sides of industry must realise how difficult this is going to be. Many of the settlements under the present voluntary system are word-of-mouth settlements and are honoured as of old in industry. In future that is not going to be the position, because settlements arrived at must evolve into a legal code and the whole paraphernalia of law will have to operate.
For years the Ministry of Labour, as it was in the past, and now the Department of Employment, has had its conciliation machinery which, by and large, has won the respect of both sides of industry and has brought about many settlements—amicable settlements arrived at through compromises, according to circumstances. In future there will not be the opportunity or possibility for this type of approach in our industrial negotiations and relations. Case law once having been decided, and the appeal courts ultimately being the deciding factor, there will have to he clear-cut decisions, as there are for criminal and civil offences. If it be that these are not observed, the full power of the law 1301 exists, even to the extent of ultimate prison sentences. That is something we have to bear carefully in mind.
Problems quickly crop up in day-to-day working within industry. Unless those problems, such as the definition of piecework, bonuses, redundancy, change of jobs, and working schedules, particularly in transport, are quickly resolved, they often will lead to quick action. We know how explosive a thing the alteration of a schedule, for instance, or an interference with working conditions, can be. There will be the utmost difficulty in making an eventual settlement on the spot. Sooner or later, these things will force themselves through the machine, and it will be extremely difficult to operate within the legal definitions.
Once these courts are established it will mean that negotiations will be subjected to the threat of law, and that is not the best type of inducement to securing amicable industrial relations. Despite its certain weaknesses—which it has, just as democracy has certain weaknesses—the voluntary process calls for the acceptance of certain principles. The keystone of this Bill is more legislation and less negotiation. I know that it says in the Bill that courts will be easy of access, but we know that once the law is brought into operation an early settlement becomes difficult; and that is undesirable in the best interests of all concerned, and in the interests of increasing productivity and efficiency.
A stranger to this country would be alarmed at the reports which appear in the Press about difficulties caused by strikes and industrial unrest. The last set of figures revealed that, apart from the motor car industry, only one-third of a day per worker per year was lost in strikes and industrial disruptions. Trade unions detest unofficial strikes, but in a free society, and under our present economic conditions, they are inevitable. During Questions to-clay the Minister was unable to answer a pertinent inquiry about the rate of wage increase in the private sector of industry compared with the public sector: but the difference is one cause of the difficulties. Trade unions are endeavouring to build up the standard of life of the workers and to improve their working conditions.
1302 The acceptance of this clause would mean that the courts to be set up would be able to award compensation and damages, and impose severe financial obligations on the trade unions. Such a procedure would take us back 70 years in our industrial development, to the days when the unions were prosecuted and their resources were liable to be impounded for damages, to the days before the Taff Vale judgment. Since that time it has been realised that workers have the right to organise and that withdrawal of labour is their final weapon. To resort to the law is the wrong approach to a solution of industrial difficulties. A voluntary system has been built up in this country, and it is accepted throughout the world that our free trade union way of life is the best in civilised societies. Where law has been resorted to in other countries strikes and difficulties have occurred to a far greater extent than has happened here, and this should be an object lesson to us all. It is the political opponents of noble Lords on this side of the Committee who would prefer this new procedure.
§ LORD ROBBINS
May I venture to interrupt the noble Lord? I apologise for doing so, but I speak from the Cross-Benches as one who has not made up his mind about many important subjects which will be under discussion during the next two, three or four months. I have listened with great attention to, and have been very impressed by, the speeches made by noble Lords from the Opposition Benches during the last three days. I have a feeling of very great perplexity, and that is the cause of my question to the noble Lord, Lord Popplewell. Is the argument put forward by the noble Lord, and by others who have spoken so eloquently against what is, to my way of thinking, the comparatively innocent aspirations expressed in the first part of the Bill, that no changes are desirable in the law relating to industrial relations? On the first day of the Second Reading debate I listened to the extreemly well-balanced speech—as I thought—given by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Donovan. He said we needed a code of industrial relations, and since then I have heard —
§ LORD ABERDARE
I hesitate to interrupt the noble Lord, Lord Robbins, but he is making an intervention in the 1303 speech of the noble Lord, Lord Popplewell, and I wonder whether he could put a fairly short question.
§ LORD ROBBINS
I was nearly at an end. I was simply going to ask the noble Lord whether he denied completely the proposition of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Donovan, in that respect; whether it was the contention that the status quo is the thing to cling to, and that no innovation is desirable.
§ LORD POPPLEWELL
If the noble Lord had only waited, he would have got the answer, because I am coming to it eventually. The establishment of case law, bringing the negotiations between both sides of industry to the courts of appeal dealing with criminal and civil affairs, is something that we feel is required. It has been argued—and this is the answer to the noble Lord—and I have often heard it expressed, that the trade unions are above the law. Of course this is absolutely preposterous; trade unions are not and never have been above the law. Case law has been established where disagreements between trade unions and industry have reached the courts of appeal as distinct from negotiations. Therefore, in answer to the noble Lord, there always is the safeguard of the law.
With the establishment of the Industrial Relations Court, trade unions and industry as a whole will be brought within the law, as it were, for a breach of agreement entered into by both sides. This is going to make relations very difficult, and it is the very negation of trying to establish good relations within both sides of industry. The other night, the noble Lord, Lord Teviot, sought to assure the House—and the Minister of Employment sought to assure the nation as a whole—that this Bill is not bashing the trade unions but helping them. It is a very odd sort of society when we get some 130 different trade unions affiliated to the T.U.C., and not one of them has accepted this welfare from the Government. Each and every one of them is totally opposed to the Bill, even the white collared unions which have not been noted for their militancy in the past. It would be odd indeed if, among those, there were not some that could recognise the benevolence of the Government as expressed by the 1304 noble Lord and other members of the Government. It is indeed remarkable. Now we have heard through the Press —
§ LORD TEVIOT
I wonder whether the noble Lord could tell me if he was referring to something I said the other night. I must confess that all I said was in response to remarks made by the noble Lord, Lord Leatherland when he said this side of the House were against trade unions. I said that they were not; that the employers were not having a bash at the trade unions.
§ LORD POPPLEWELL
It is most certainly what was said the other night. If the noble Lord will look at Hansard, he will see that I have put the correct interpretation upon it. I think he will agree it is a very valid interpretation indeed.
The noble Lord, Lord Taylor of Gryfe, is of the opinion that in opposing this Bill the trade union movement is living in the past and not looking to the future. Let me assure him and other noble Lords who make this type of observation that it is indeed very far from the truth. What the trade unions have done is that they have taken note of lessons in the past and they are determined, so far as lies in their power, that they are not going to make it possible for measures of a similar type to be taken against them in the future. As to the future, we have only to look at what the trade unions as a whole are doing, through their Bridlington Agreement and through the agreements that they are negotiating on increasing productivity. The trade unions and the Labour Party are out to build up confidence that when increased productivity means redundancy, the welfare of the men being made redundant will be freely accepted by the trade unionists as a whole. Surely this is forward thinking; surely this is the right of the representatives of organised labour, to note the history of the past and determine to see that it is not repeated.
This fine record, brought about entirely by the voluntary system and the honourine of agreements. is indeed in jeopardy. This procedure of the past has been arranged by men on both sides who know the detailed requirements in this particular direction. If these are to be abrogated in favour, ultimately, of case law, I think we shall be embarking upon 1305 a very very difficult period indeed. Instead of creating a better atmosphere by quick settlement, grievances will be fostered. I think the Government would have been much better advised to have attempted to look at the difficulties and problems in the trade union and industrial world at the present moment. One aspect of these difficulties concerns the delay which often occurs. There is also the boredom that exists, particularly in the repetitive type of industry, where men are doing the same job day in, day out, week in, week out. They do the job automatically, and are a ready breeding ground for imaginary grievance.
Clause 1 is totally against the type of machinery and advice suggested by the Donovan Commission which spent some years in considering the evidence of some hundred representatives of both sides of industry. I believe that evidence on 80 different aspects was heard from various bodies and individuals and the Commission came firmly to the conclusion that to try to establish law as here envisaged, with this new high court of industrial relations, is certainly not in the best interests of the nation as a whole. I certainly hope that, later on tonight, when we have the opportunity to vote, we shall reject this main clause of the Bill, Clause 1. Let us have another clearer look at it and get down to the real problems within industry—and they are many—and let us see whether we cannot arrive at a more amicable settlement.
§ 4.0 p.m.
§ LORD BLYTON
In opposing the Motion that Clause I shall stand part of the Bill. it is necessary for us to state our total opposition to bringing in a legal framework for trade unions. We are to have courts, judges and lawyers to determine a code of conduct, the right to belong to a union or not, sanctions if you threaten or induce a strike, the closed shop or pre-entry closed shops, registration, the outlawing of organisations who do not register, and the enforceability of agreements. Trade unions in my time have always been wary of the courts, and particularly of lawyers. We have seen courts trying to crush us in the past, and even when we have tried the Bishops (I am sorry to see no right reverend Prelates here this afternoon) to conciliate for us they have been against us, and from my observations it seems to me that they are 1306 against us again on this Bill. We are where we are to-day by our own voluntary effort, and are quite happy to remain that way. We are against this clause, and nearly all the Bill, because it is nothing less than a device to weaken the defence of workpeople against their employers. These guiding principles, which must be taken into consideration by the legal framework of the Bill, are penalising to the trade unions.
In relation to the words "unfair industrial practices" the right which is being given in the Bill to belong or not to belong to a trade union, destroys the principle of the pre-entry closed shop as we know it. I consider that trade unionists must have the right to organise and to maintain that organisation and that group or collective freedom is just as important as individual freedom. Having listened to the noble Lord on the Cross Benches intervening in my noble friend's speech about the code of conduct, I would say to him advisedly that we want a code of conduct. So did Donovan, but Donovan wanted it voluntarily and not by the process of legal sanctions that are embodied in this Bill.
The intention in this Bill is not only to destroy the pre-entry closed shop but applies equally to the 100 per cent. trade union shop, where people can start work as a non-unionist, on the strength that they will join the union as a later date. Much trade union organisation, particularly in the sensitive areas of manufacturing and engineering industries, is built upon this principle. This clause will destroy this and the complicated proposals later in the Bill for an agency shop will do nothing to maintain it.
It must be remember that in 1971, with over 11 million trade unionists in Britain, it is the day-to-day work of something like 180,000 shop stewards who maintain the trade union organisation and improve it, and this clause will directly hit at that. I am satisfied that where trade union organisation has been established, as has happened in many industries, the implications of this clause as guiding principles, together with what follows in the Bill, will lead to industrial chaos. Then again, the right to belong or not to belong to a trade union given in this Bill is the opening to non-unionism, and the Clause 1 definition of action against a non-unionist as an unfair practice is the opening to 1307 encourage non-unionism by law. If a trade union are in breach of this, they will meet a Gilbertian situation when they go before the courts. They will be tried by a judge who is a lawyer. They will be prosecuted by a barrister and defended by a barrister, so that the trade union will be either defended or prosecuted or tried by members of the biggest and tightest closed shop that there is in this country.
All this flies directly against the Donovan Report. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Donovan, was firmly in favour of encouraging people to be trade unionists, and also in favour of the closed shop and the principle of 100 per cent. trade unionism. The effect of Clause 1, together with Clause 5 of this Bill, will mean that a non-unionist will have the right in any circumstances not to work with trade unionists. But, on the other hand, if trade unionists take action to maintain their solidarity, they run the risk of being taken to have committed an unfair industrial practice and of the consequences that flow from this in the N.I.R.C. or C.I.R. Again, why should an employer be brought in as to a man's joining a union? It has nothing to do with an employer whether or not a man should be able to join a union. I consider that there should not be any reference in the Bill to the employer to enable him to exercise such a right. Why should the trade unionists be singled out in this way? Why should a non-unionist be given a legal right to stay out, but not given the legal right to stay out of his firm's superannuation fund or sick fund? He has no legal right to stay out of national insurance.
This clause means that for the first time the law will be brought directly into the centre of collective bargaining. The use of the word "responsibly", the whole tenor of the clause and its very tone and arrogance are examples of the manner in which this Government are trying to deal with the trade unions. This first clause sets the tone of the Bill and by its language shows the Government's attitude. The Government regard this clause as so important that it has been put as a sort of preamble, since it is clearly stated as guiding principles; and to these principles we are opposed. We have asked, but have not yet received a reply: to whom are trade unionists to be responsible? And 1308 I ask again: are they to be responsible to their members, which is what a system free from State control means? Or are they to be responsible to something else; or what? Is it to the Government or to the community generally or to the employers? It is very important to remember that these principles are to be embodied in a code of practice, and it will be seen from subsection (2) of this clause that they are to be taken as the guiding principles by the Secretary of State, by the Commission on Industrial Relations and by the Chief Registrar of Trade Unions, who will make the rules of the unions, and by the whole line of courts that are to he set up.
We have not up to now had a definition of what is meant by the words "with due regard to the general interests of the community". By having this word "responsibly" in the Bill we are giving the Government freedom to lean on one side in collective bargaining, to get the results they think they ought to have in their economic policy. We saw this plainly demonstrated at the Wilberforce Inquiry into electricity workers' wages. Therefore the definition of "the national interest" has not been given to us by Ministers. It seems that they are hiding behind the pretence of the words in the clause because they do not want to come out into the open and admit that they are operating an incomes policy. The effect of these guiding principles is to centralise and to make more bureaucratic the working of industrial relations, as opposed to the theme of the Donovan Report, which took the view that the more centralised system had got out of touch with the shop floor. Therefore, by seeking to centralise responsibility for the conduct of industrial relations they are acting against the present trend.
This is not the time to go into the Bill's effect on the shop stewards' freedom of action, though there is no doubt that the Bill is aiming at them. We shall argue this later. By saying that a shop steward must operate only with the express authority of his union, or else be at legal risk, the Government are impeding the flexibility of negotiations on the shop floor, especially in productivity bargaining. I consider that the way to better relations and productivity bargaining is simply by the extension of comprehensive local agreements which 1309 are respected and observed by the workers concerned because they themselves have had a part in drawing them up. To get better relations, collective bargaining should be free and democratic. We all know that the way to get people to observe agreements is not by imposing legal restrictions upon them, but by involving them in negotiating and drawing up their agreements, thereby getting them morally committed to supporting those agreements.
I regard this Bill as a piece of class legislation to damage the trade union movement, to create non-unionists, company unions and breakaway unions. It penalises working class folk for actions which have been their right for years. It brands as unlawful trade union methods that have been established for over a hundred years. Clause 1 and the rest of the Bill are based on the political dogma of crippling the trade unions, which the Government think are too strong in our society. The Government's aim is to weaken the unions and strengthen the employers against them. It is for these reasons that I shall vote against Clause 1.
§ LORD PLATT
Like the noble Lord, Lord Robbins, I speak from the Cross Benches with my mind not fully made up on many of the important issues which we are debating to-day and which will be debated in the next few months. Some noble Lords may already have noticed that once or twice I have voted on one side and once or twice on the other. That does not worry me at all. What worries me is that I feel my votes are negative votes, cast without any great enthusiasm. I vote with the Opposition when I feel that the Government are being unduly obdurate and unaccommodating, and with the Government when I think the Opposition are developing an unnecessary paranoia. If at any time I discern a kind of dead-heat between obduracy and paranoia I intend to abstain.
We are told that this clause—which we are now, 11 sally I hope, discussing—is really the kernel of the whole Bill and that the Bill may be judged on it as it deals with principles. I hope your Lordships will believe that I am dealing with principles and not simply making a Second Reading speech. Throughout the long debate on Second Reading and in the debate on Monday and Tuesday and 1310 to-day I think it very nearly true to say that no one, except the noble Earl, Lord Halsbury, has had in mind that the Bill has anything to do with the professions. The whole language of the Bill, the whole language of Clause 1, is the language of industry. The whole thinking behind it seems to be the thinking of industry. Every speech we listen to is based on managers and trade unions, employers and employees. I think it might come as quite a shock and a surprise to some noble Lords whom we rarely see in this House to realise that this Bill also applies to medicine and the other professions.
There seems to be no realisation in the Bill, so far as I have been able to read it, of the fact that we in the professions are concerned with principles which override those simply of manager and worker. Throughout my professional life, whether I have been working in the National Health Service or as a university professor, I have always conceived that my first duty is to my patients. As for the employer and employee relationship, I was both for 17 years when I was a member of the board of governors of a teaching hospital in which I served. The professions have always jealously guarded their professional freedom. They must do so, for it is their business to make independent judgments, come to their own conclusions and act upon them, subject only to the law of the land and to the ethical code which governs their own profession.
On the initiation of the Health Service, Aneurin Bevan was at great pains to preserve this professional freedom, for he knew that without it he would not get good doctors into the Health Service and good morale in the profession. In my view, he was greatly helped by the noble Lord, Lord Moran, who was recently sitting beside me. Many members of the profession at that time feared Government interference. My feeling is that, after staving it off for a long time, it is now coming in in a big way. If anyone had asked me some years ago if I entered into an agency shop agreement or federation of workers' organisations, I would politely have asked him whether he thought that we were working in the Soviet Union.
I know that I shall be told that there are safeguards throughout the Bill for this and that; that certain things are 1311 voluntary and other things demand majority votes; but I am afraid I gravely suspect a document as long as this which no normal professional man is going to waste his time reading and in which throughout the professions are barely mentioned at all. It means adopting trade union language, trade union methods, trade union practices, the calling and holding of political meetings which no one except sea lawyers in the professions will probably attend and, above all, it will lead to a lowering of status and morale which could affect recruitment to the profession.
Is it indeed voluntary? As I understand, unless we reorganise ourselves we shall lose some of the privileges of negotiation which we enjoy at present. I fully realise that the professions must negotiate, especially with the Government when the Government are employers. I fully realise that for many years the British Medical Association—which, by the way. I find many noble Lords confuse with the General Medical Council, which of course is our governing body—has seen as one of its functions the role of a kind of a professional trade union. Indeed. some of us feel that it has already gone too far in that respect. But its main functions remain the guarding of professional standards and professional education.
I can say that, in my view, the evidence given to the Royal Commission on Medical Education from the British Medical Association was about the best evidence that we received in the course of our deliberations. I understand that it has already given a provisional acceptance to this Bill, with of course certain safeguards. depending on certain Amendments which will crop up in due course. But in my view the B.M.A. are misguided in doing this, and unless the Bill is rewritten in language which professional people—or any people, for that matter, except the Attorney General—can understand, I think we shall be ill-advised to have anything to do with it.
We have developed our own codes of practice which we find satisfactory. Some of them are centuries old in their evolution, and I, for one, do not want some new trade union code imposed upon us. These intangible things like morale and ethical standards may take years and 1312 years to build up, but they can be destroyed in a very short time by the unwelcome intrusion of the Government, bureaucracy and the law. We have developed a satisfactory negotiating procedure, and we had in the Kindersley Committee an independent review body to determine doctors' salaries and so on. I understand this is to be replaced by a new and somewhat different body. which will also look after some of the other professions. So why force us into this Bill?
In syllogistic terms, the thinking seems to be: this Bill deals with employment; the medical profession is an employment, and therefore it is in the Bill. My syllogism would be: this Bill deals with industry; the thinking in it, and the language in which it is written are those of industry. Medicine is not an industry; therefore medicine is not in the Bill. I hope that in speaking of medicine I speak also of other professions, because I know of some professional organisations which are deeply worried. The noble Earl, Lord Halsbury, in the Second Reading debate, said—if I may quote at some little length:Professional men in this sense fear that the agency shop and the sole bargaining positions of this Bill will place them between two fires: that of conformity with the regulations of some union into which they have been unwillingly dragged, and the responsibility to clients and employers required by their code of professional conduct. This, generally speaking, in one form or another, requires them to identify themselves with their employer's or client's interests in a number of contexts where membership of a union might require them to do the opposite."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 5/4/71, col. 110.]In the legal profession conditions are probably somewhat different, because I guess that the great majority of lawyers are self-employed, whereas the great majority of medical people in this country under the age of retirement have some kind of contract, whole-time or part-time, with the National Health Services. But the Judges, including the Law Lords, have a salary and are therefore employees. I wonder whether they are going to have an "agency shop agreement" and a "federation of workers' organisations". If not, why not? If from now on we are going to express all our professional relationships in trade union terms, why not go "the whole Hogg" (if I may be pardoned for using that expression) and in future speak 1313 of "the noble and learned Lord who sits on the shop floor". I ask the Government if they will kindly think again whether most of the principles of the Bill should be forced upon professions.
§ BARONESS GAITSKELL
Before the noble Lord sits down, I should like to ask him a question. If the professions are to be so privileged as to he able to maintain their freedom and independence in their work, would he not agree that this same freedom and independence to negotiate and make terms should be granted to industrial workers as well?
§ LORD PLATT
My answer to that question is this. Undoubtedly industrial workers are entitled to the same freedom. They are entitled to higher salaries (usually higher than we have in the medical profession), and I have absolutely nothing against it. On the other hand, I am not an industrialist, I am not a trade unionist, and I do not know what are the perhaps much greater problems in industry—where there are firms employing 20,000 and 30,000 people—than these may be in the professions, which comprise groups of people who have gone through a similar kind of trend and may be very much easier to cope with. So that I should not like to give a final answer as to whether what I am saying has general application.
§ LORD SAINSBURY
I want to refer to a question that the noble Lord, Lord Robbins, addressed to my noble friend, but before doing so I wish to express my admiration for the noble Lord, which I think is shared in all parts of the Committee, for his distinguished record in so many fields. He asked my noble friend whether no innovations were needed. I believe that there has been a profound and important innovation, after the Donovan Report, and that was the setting up by the last Government of the Commission on Industrial Relations. I profoundly believe, not as my friends the trade unionists (they have never let me inside a trade union), but as a past employer of labour on quite a considerable scale, that it is the slow, persevering work done by the Commission for improving the procedures, negotiating pay claims, improving the structure of communications, that is important. The human problems and misunderstandings of industrial relations can 1314 be found clearly stated, for example, in Report No. 15 of the Commission. It is only by that slow persevering work of improving procedures, in my humble opinion, that you get better industrial relations. It is because I believe that that is the path we should pursue, and not adopt a straitjacket of legal regulations, that with every confidence I will go into the lobby against this clause.
§ LORD STONHAM
I feel that this is a somewhat sad moment as we prepare to say farewell to Clause I of the Bill. I say that not because I think we have not discussed it adequately: we have. There has been no filibustering, and the behaviour of the Front Bench opposite, if I may say so, has been consistently good.
§ LORD DIAMOND
I apologise for interrupting my noble friend, but I should like a little more definition of what he means by "good".
§ LORD STONHAM
I was coming to that. They have been urbane and have not used any rude words. The sadness, as I approach this moment, lies in the fact that we have had ten Amendments moved with great cogency by my noble friends, and all of them have been turned down flat. However good the arguments were, the responses did not answer the arguments. It is a very distressing matter. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Platt, will not think that I suffer from paranoia about this Bill, but just as he looked at it from the viewpoint of a doctor, I look at it from the viewpoint of an employer. Like my noble friend Lord Sainsbury, I am an employer of labour, although on a much smaller scale. It is impossible for me to look at this Bill and not to look at the problems that it would bring to me as an employer. Like the noble Lord, Lord Platt, I have decided that it will not make any difference to me because I will take no notice of it. I need no help in the conduct of industrial relations with my employees; I like to think they are all my friends.
As for the great discussion about the closed shop, in my business, in the workshops, we have had a closed shop for 35 years, but only because when a new employee came and was asked to join the union and he found any difficulty 1315 about it, he had to convince me that he was sufficiently intelligent to serve as an employee. Because I have not regarded anyone who is not intelligent enough to see the advantages of belonging to a trade union as worthy of being in my employ. Therefore I nave had a closed shop and there is no trouble at all. I, and a good many other employers, will ignore this Bill because it will not he worth the trouble.
Looking back on the ten Amendments that we failed to get, one sees that in the first one we wanted to remove the words, "collective bargaining freely and responsibly conducted". We wanted to know, and we were not told, what responsible conduct was. The words we proposed to put in were very much better, but we did not get anywhere. There was the trouble in which my noble friend Lord Blyton found himself about having "due regard to the general interest of the community". The question is, who is going to judge what are the general interests of the community? I submit that the 23 million employed workers have reasonable claims to be considered as included in the community, but from the speeches that we have had it would seem that their interests are not to be regarded as included in the community. Then we tried to remove the words, "representative, responsible and effective bodies for regulating relations", because we have grave doubts about the bodies which would monitor this matter and ensure that in their view they were "representative, responsible and effective" bodies.
Perhaps the most remarkable failure we had was to secure acceptance of Amendment No. 6, and that was to add to the Bill the principle of workers' participation in management. In and out of this House I have heard noble Lords from all parts of the House pay lip service to the principle of workers' participation in management. Indeed, I thought this Amendment must be accepted. It was refused and the main argument used by the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, in refusing it was that there was nothing to back it elsewhere in the Bill. He later modified that slightly, but that was the idea in his mind. That is very significant, because all the other things that we wanted to take out are 1316 linked up with other sections of the Bill which could be used to compel. And what is being said about our Amendment is that there was no other way that the Government could "put the boot in", no one to compel, no one to enforce. Our experience so far on the Bill leads me reluctantly to the belief that the Government are determined not to accept any change, however reasonable and well argued. That is another reason why this situation is very sad.
This Bill is not only bad for the trade unions and bad for the people in the country, but it is bad politically for the Government as well—as they will find out. This Bill is being insisted on line by line and word by word because the Government realise that they cannot succeed. They had a very good start: a very favourable balance of payments, the most favourable for very many years. It could have been used to enlarge and enhance the economy and to create more employment. It has not been so used. We are in the tragic position that we have over 800,000 men and women unemployed, and obviously the number will be considerably increased. We know already of other large pockets of unemployment which are going to add to this number, and it is highly likely that it will exceed a million before the end of the year—a tragic number. There are at least 89,000 fewer jobs vacant than there were at this time last year, which is a very significant fact.
With that position, you have the rest of the Government's policy which is adding to the cost of living. It is not only in prices; there are important things, particularly for the lower paid workers, which have increased substantially: rents, which have either gone up or are going up considerably. Those who occupy council flats and houses will be paying double or, in some cases. treble the rent. Fares have gone up all over the country; rates have considerably increased. All these are, directly or indirectly, through Government action. So far as the welfare services are concerned, there are increased charges for teeth, spectacles, welfare food, school meals, milk. All these things are directly adding to the cost of living, particularly affecting the lower paid workers—all of them. Inevitably, these people are going to try to preserve their standard of living and 1317 preserve their rights as trade unionists. So they must take industrial action. And it is at that point that this Bill will operate. One is put out of work; one's living conditions are depressed. Then you strike—and see what happens!
I heard my noble friend Lord Douglass of Cleveland speak. He could not be described as other than a highly responsible trade unionist and leader of a great union. At one stage in his speech, in speaking on the "closed shop", he said, "We shall have a closed shop; don't worry about that". During the whole course of these debates the Government have steadfastly refused to alter by one word provisions which embody the principles on which the Bill is based. The whole thing is disastrous. There are some of us like the noble Lord, Lord Platt, and myself, who are not trade unionists, who say, "It won't make any difference to us. We won't let it. Our factories are not going to be affected". There are others in the big industries and big plants who, when the time comes, will say exactly the same. How much better it would be if the Government would avail themselves of the experience and knowledge which exists in this House and modify the Bill, if they must have it. I am afraid they will not do that, and so we must take the only course open to us and oppose these clauses in the Division Lobby.
§ 4.43 p.m.
§ LORD DAVIES OF LEEK
With a certain amount of sadness I find that I have to oppose this clause, despite the noble desires of the draftsman who put it on paper. In answer to the noble Lord, Lord Robbins, who asked, "Is there anything in the Bill?" I say that there are certain things in it, and the Bill is so constructed that all are legal, but some are more legal than others. We have listened to a distinguished Member on the Cross-Benches who is in the medical profession. The medical profession will be legal—and they will be more legal than others when we are dealing with sewage workers, electricity workers and other workers who are in public industry. It is part of the plan of this Government to take action in the area of economic activity which they control. The area of economic activity which they can control is the public sector. So, although all these things are legal, they are not as legal 1318 for the workers I have mentioned as they are for the distinguished professions.
When I say that I cast no aspersions upon one of the great professions—one of the greatest of all time—except that I would hope sometimes that some members of that profession and general practitioners would not question poor people on their panel and sitting in their waiting-rooms as to whether they are on strike or not, and make their own decisions as to whether they will serve them with black, red or yellow pills. This is undignified for a profession. Sometimes the only way in which thee workers, who have nothing else to sell but their labour, can stand up to a situation is by combining. Let us take this clause. I will not follow the syllogistic method; I will follow the Socratic. We will ask some questions and answer them.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR (LORD HAILSHAM OF ST. MARYI.EBONE)
Let other people answer them.
§ LORD DAVIES OF LEEK
Well, it depends who answers them. It is one thing if the noble and learned Lord answers them as an individual, but if he is answering them for the Government he is hound to put the Government's point of view. As I say, some are more legal than others, and I want the people whom I have represented for many years to be as legal as are the professionals. What does this Bill do? We are told in the Bill that we need a new, modern, sensible, fair, legal framework for trade unions because industrial relations have got out of hand. The first answer to that is that roughly nine-tenths of all industrial disputes are settled without strikes. My statistics are as good as those of the Board of Trade, because they did not even add up the balance of payments correctly when we had a General Election. Is it not amazing that there are geometrical and arithmetical mistakes just at the moment when the mater of £30 million one way or the other is of vital importance? Suddenly, some knights of the slide rule discover, after the Election, that the Board of Trade had made mistakes and we were £30 million in hand instead of £30 million the other way. I bet that that lost us 2 million of the women's votes!
What the Bill does in fact is, first, to put a legal ban (this is in Schedules 8, 9 and others) on a number of normal, or, 1319 to be accurate (let us get the semantics right), hitherto normal, trade union activities. Secondly, it changes the union rule books. Nobody opposite would agree with me when I said some weeks ago that this changes the position of a trade union, but it certainly does. The Bill changes union rule books in the hope of making leadership, it is asserted, more responsible. Is a trade union leader considered more responsible when he is more responsive to the Government than to his members? I say that a trade union leader is considered responsible when he bows his will to the wishes of the Government in power at the time, be it a Labour or Conservative Government.
We have to look at the meaning of the word "responsible"; and not only do we find that the language of law is mixed up so that even judges cannot interpret it, as in the Rookes v. Barnard case—although I will not go into that—and that judges are bewildered and bewitched, but we find that the man in the street is in the same position. In the Rookes v. Barnard case a judge interpreted in a completely different way words which had been considered by another judge.
What is the Industrial Relations Bill for? It is said that our negotiating patterns need a new formula. The Prime Minister said that the underlying problem is that the competitive pressures inherent in the existing system of collective bargaining, plus industrial disputes, have pushed up money incomes too far and that the Bill is a vital element in the longer term for dealing with it. Now, there is the truth from the mouth of the Prime Minister! There he is—bless him! —like Samson, flexing his muscles and with his sun tan, but a little bit blind. He is led to the pillars of the Temple of Dagon by all the bewildering leaders around him, and there he decides to pull a hundred years of trade union law to pieces. Just for one moment the mighty majority that he has—because he is misled by it—sees him pulling the Temple of Dagon around his ears and destroying 150 years of history. I was delighted to hear the constructive, temperate, peaceable plea of my noble friend Lord Sainsbury.
THE EARL OF DUDLEY
If I may interrupt the noble Lord, may I ask him whether, in his reference to the Temple of 1320 Dagon he is suggesting that trade unionists are philistines?
§ LORD DAVIES OF LEEK
Not at all. The trouble about Samson was that he was so blind he did not know quite where he was—like the noble Earl. Before the interruption I was paying a tribute to my noble friend Lord Sainsbury for the constructive, quiet way in which he asked for a slow, empirical or pragmatic approach to these problems instead of trying to draw a pattern of human relationship.
The noble Lord, Lord Robbins. asked about reforms. Of course we want some reforms. The noble Lord may not know this, but I have read his writings for years and paid great respect to him during my lecturing days; I have learned a lot from what he wrote. Of course we want changes, but the way in which the Government have gone about this will have exactly the effect suggested by my noble friend Lord Sainsbury.
I will not delay the Committee wilfully. Nevertheless, I think it is necessary for us to put a few other points of view. I will ask my next question: does the Bill encourage trade union membership? We are told—and it is in the Bill—that it is going to offer unparalleled opportunities for increasing membership. I should think Welsh Tories will be riding through Wales with a harp, singing penillion about the possibilities of increased membership of the trade unions if the people vote Conservative in the elections. We are told that there will be unparalleled opportunities.
The next question is this: what is this claim based on? It is based on the legal right to belong to a union. All of us accept that part of the Bill. However, the Government say, not to any union; and this is where the snag comes in, because some are more legal than others. It is only to registered unions. We go on a little further. This would be of some advantage in some fields if it were not balanced by the fact that, for the first time, there will also be a legal right not to belong to any union. There is the legal provision, which I hope we shall see in the code as well, for union membership to be recognised, and a condition of service which is called an agency shop. I am sure that 99 people out of a hundred have 1321 not a clue as to what an agency shop is; they probably think it is a Welsh pack-man tripping over the mountains, or a tallyman walking through the Rhondda, knocking on people's doors, and they pay 2d. a week to buy a new pair of trousers. Those (lays, thank God! have gone. What is an agency shop?
§ LORD CONESFORD
May I put one point to the noble Lord? Would it not perhaps be more relevant to ask what is an agency shop when we reach the clause dealing with the agency shop?
§ LORD DAVIES OF LEEK
Absolutely brilliant! This is the trouble about the Bill: it is such a mish-mash of legal phraseology, with Clause 1 depending on everything that follows, that I guarantee that in a House run on Orders of Procedure nothing I have said could be ruled out of order because it is referring to the general, broad pattern chalked on the canvas by Clause I. The general principles are contained in that clause and are then detailed further down. Therefore we are entitled to ask, even when dealing with Clause 1, a few questions en passant about the general principles; and one of them refers to the agency shop. However, out of deference to your Lordships I must be fair. I thank the noble Lord for his interruption. I agree that we must discipline ourselves a little and I can assure the Committee that I shall—
§ LORD STONHAM
I hope my noble friend's disciplining does not mean that he is not going to answer his own question. I want to hear what is an agency shop.
§ LORD DAVIES OF LEEK
I am not going to answer it in full because it would take at least three-quarters of an hour. I am not going to trespass on the good temper of the Committee. The pre-entry shop exists now. At the present time a worker must join the union before being taken on. That becomes an unfair industrial practice which is illegal under the Bill. The traditional type has been a 100 per cent. shop, after a period of grace for any worker to join his appropriate union. That is now being done away with and we are given the alternative called the "union shop".
1322 A union or several unions may apply for an agreement that for the workers of a particular description, or membership of a particular union, it shall be a condition of employment of the workers who will want to exercise this legal right either to belong or not to belong to the union after paying, that if they do not want to belong then they pay into a charity. In this Bill, we are getting mixed up with the Salvation Army and Dr. Barnardo's Homes. Have noble Lords ever heard anything so daft? Imagine us paying into a charity! I can tell the Committee that during the last war the unions gave £819,000 interest-free to the Government. Whenever this country has had its back to the wall, both in war and in peace, the unions have loyally served the best interests of the nation, and I hope this clause will be eradicated.
§ LORD DRUMALBYN
If the noble Lord will forgive me for interrupting him, when the trade unions gave this money during the war, surely that was not charity; it was patriotism.
§ LORD DAVIES OF LEEK
Of course. They do not have to be asked to give to the right causes. This exactly proves my point. Of course it is patriotism, but it is charitable to love one's country. If the employer agrees, an agency shop can be introduced straight away. If he resists, the Commission on Industrial Relations conducts a ballot, and if the result is favourable the employer must sign the agreement, but only registered unions can set it up. When the opportunity conies in the Bill I think that we on this side of the Committee must spend nearly all day dealing with the problem of the agency shop.
Noble Lords will now be pleased to hear that I am coming to the end of my little speech. I want to make one sad reference to the end of the Bill. Schedules 8 and 9 are definitely concerned in the Question, That Clause 1 stand part. I will not read them out, because noble Lords are as capable (and some more capable) as I am of reading. Without boring the Committee I should like to point out that in that part of the Bill 150 years of trade union history are torn up. And it has been torn up because people sitting around a table think that by writing words and figures one can deal with human relationships.
1323 It has taken 150 years to build up among the working people trade union leaders who are responsible. We do not want trade union leaders who are tools of the Government, be they Labour. Conservative or Liberal. That is the way of corporate states; that is the way to Fascism; that is the way to dictatorship. I warn noble Lords opposite that none of this Bill will work if it is going to be pushed along in this vacuous way with phraseology that no judges can agree about. I beg noble Lords to take back to the Government some of the points we have made on this side, even if they do not agree with all of them. Some of us feel very sad, especially those of us who have had relatives who over 150 years have played their part in this movement, trying to build it up. I am as sincere on my side about this as some noble Lords on the other side.
§ 5.1 p.m.
§ LORD CONESFORD
I am sure the noble Lord is sincere in his opposition to the Bill, but that does not entitle him to libel the dead. I spent a great deal of my life reading the Dialogues of Plato. and I do know a little about Socrates, although my memory is not as good as it was. If the noble Lord thinks that anything he said has the least resemblance to the Socratic method, he is wrong. Apart from anything else, Socrates had the gift of brevity and relevance, which at once distinguishes him from the noble Lord.
I have the highest respect for trade union leaders, with many of whom I enjoy personal friendship. This is of fairly long standing, because many years ago I wrote a book on trade union law, and I do not think many of those trade union leaders disagreed with so much of my book as set out the law as it was. But the speeches that we have heard from the other side, with one exception which I shall mention later, consisted of arguments against other clauses of the Bill; for example, against the clause that provides the right not to belong to a trade union, and other clauses which deal with the agency shop, and so on. But the only question that is relevant, I think, to the trade union leader in deciding how he is going to vote on whether this clause shall stand 1324 part is this. As was pointed out at an earlier stage of our proceedings, the operative part that makes a change in the law from what it would otherwise be is contained in subsection (2) of Clause 1, which directs various bodies to have regard to these principles as guiding principles. This clause does not set up these bodies, but I wonder whether any trade union leader who considers the matter seriously desires that these bodies should not have any regard to any principles set out in the Bill. I very much doubt whether that would serve their purpose in any way. All the matters which noble Lords opposite have been debating, in regard to some of which I appreciate they will have great objection, are contained in subsequent clauses of the Bill. They will not be giving up any right whatsoever to question subsequent clauses, either as a whole or in part, by allowing this first clause of the Bill to stand part, and I suggest that it would be far more profitable if they were to do so.
I spoke just now of speeches by noble Lords opposite, but there was, I thought, a very important and moving speech made from the Cross-Benches. I refer to the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Platt. With that I had considerable sympathy, and I think there are points of substance, which we shall have to consider on subsequent clauses of this Bill, questions whether, as the clauses now stand, there is not a risk of substantial injury to the interests of important professions. I think that I partly agree with the noble Lord there. But so far as the remaining speeches made from the opposite side of the House are concerned—the sincerity of which, of course, I accept—I would say this. I accept that noble Lords opposite dislike this Bill on many grounds that they have set forward: I am merely questioning the applicability of those objections to the clause we are now considering.
§ BARONESS GAITSKELL
I will not follow the noble Lord who has just spoken in his sort of lecture, but will try to stick to the clause we are discussing. I am opposed to this clause because it is full of words, words of no precision; words and concepts like "responsibly"; like "the general interests of the community"; like "responsible and effective" and "unfair industrial practices", and so 1325 on; words at best legally undefinable, imprecise, and at worst opening a door to prejudice. That is why I object to this clause. In spite of what was stated in the Consultative Document, that this Bill is a basis for consultations with the T.U.C. and the C.B.I., I think it is a very poor basis, either for consultation or for Rood industrial relations. We should be in a much healthier condition if we had the code of industrial practice to go on, but so far we have had an invisible code of practice, invisible guide lines and invisible yardsticks; I do not think we can judge it properly at all, even this clause, as we have nothing to go on.
I am also opposed to this clause because the Government have been so intransigent, not accepting any of the suggestions we have made—not very far-reaching but quite moderate Amendments. I am deeply suspicious of the underlying philosophy of this Bill, that, somehow, industrial workers are entitled to lesser protection than, let us say, professional men like the noble Lord, Lord Platt, and other doctors, and particularly lawyers. I am deeply suspicious of this, because these professional men, I am sure, will not submit to all this agency shop nonsense, as we have just heard from the noble Lord, Lord Platt. It may be that it was not the Government's intention to give the impression that the Bill is anti-trade union, but they have made 11 million people in this country feel that it is; they have made 11 million trade unionists feel that the Government are against them, and this is a bad augury for good industrial relations. Though the Government have adopted the line that the general public is with them, the general public for them seems to be somehow a lot of people in this country minus 11 million workers. So I am opposed to this clause.
§ 5.10 p.m.
§ LORD SH1NWELL
The noble Lord, Lord Robbins, at an earlier stage of our deliberations, posed a question which, in the circumstances of this Bill, and the tone and temper of this debate, was appropriate and deserves a full answer. There appeared to be some misunderstanding about the content of his question. He did not seem to be primarily concerned about the law governing the trade union movement, or concerned with trade union principles; he appeared to ask a quite plain question, which was— 1326 he will correct me if I am wrong; did we, on these Opposition Benches, wish to retain the status quo? Were we against any trade union reform? If I may say so, that question was not fully answered. The answer is quite plain; we are as anxious for trade union reform, with certain qualifications and natural reservations, as any of the noble Lords on that side of the House.
As for the law relating to the subject of trade unions which has been injected into this legislation, I would just say that there never was a time when the trade union movement could escape the meshes of the law, the long and strong arm of the law. Indeed, ever since the days of the Tolpuddle Martyrs—that was an historic example of the law intervening simply because a few farm labourers wished to protect themselves against exploitation-we—have had trade union legislation, some of it acceptable to the Government of the period, some of it amended. Over and over again there have been oscillations and fluctuations associated with legislation concerning the trade unions of the country.
Let me make it clear beyond peradventure that I am not opposed to the law intervening at certain stages in the organisation, administration and conduct of the trade union movement. I have had experience of the matter myself. Perhaps at this stage, almost in parenthesis, I might state my qualifications for sharing in this debate. It is quite a long time since I was associated with the trade union movement: I think it was in the year 1927 that I severed by connection. I mention this because my trade union friends, if I may say so with the highest respect, seem to imagine that those of us who are regarded as "academics"—I was about to say "semi-intellectuals"—have no acquaintance with the trade union movement. That is a misunderstanding. I joined a trade union at the end of the year 1902. I became a delegate to the Glasgow Trades Council a year later, and subsequently became chairman and vice-chairman. This is perhaps an unusual item of history, and it may be worth relating because it has some bearing on the law and the trade unions, and the rest of it. In the year 1909 I was nominated under the Trade Boards Act, which was promoted by the Liberal Government of the day—the "Government of 1327 all the talents". I hope the members of the Liberal Party will take note of that. It is a long, long time ago. I am not suggesting that there is no talent in the Liberal ranks, but there is nothing compared to the Government of 1906 to 1910.
§ LORD BEAUMONT OF WHITLEY
The reason why we have not had a "Government of all the talents" since is that we have not had a Liberal Government since.
§ LORD SHINWELL
We sometimes do escape our misfortunes. Let us be grateful for small mercies. It is a mistake to interrupt me; I mentioned that the other day. It happened that Winston Churchill was President of the Board of Trade in 1909, and it was considered desirable and appropriate by the Liberal Government to promote a Bill, the title of which was the Trade Boards Bill, the purpose of which was to come to the aid of workers in the so-called "sweated" trades—the tailoring trade, furniture, and a variety of other trades, where workers were paid the lowest possible rates and subjected to extreme exploitation. Indeed, that was the opinion of the Liberal Government. I do not appropriate that to myself; that was the position of the Liberal Government of the time.
I happened to be associated with the clothing trade in Scotland, and was actually nominated to that Board as the Scottish representative of the clothing operatives in the whole of Scotland. That nomination was accepted by Winston Churchill. He did not know me at the time, otherwise he would never have accepted the nomination. But what was the purpose of it? The purpose was, in the absence of appropriate trade union organisation, to invoke the law to safeguard and protect the interests of these low-paid workers. As a result, minimum hourly rates were decided upon by that Trade Board under the Trade Boards Act. It became an Act of Parliament round about the middle of 1909, and the workers gained a measure of protection as a result of invoking the law. So let us not assume that to invoke the law is foreign to the practice of industry and industrial relations. Nor was it objected to by the trade unions, except that the trade unions considered at that time that 1328 by invoking the law it might impede trade union organisation. It had the opposite effect; it gave a stimulus to trade union organisation. Therefore it is a mistake to assume that by invoking the law, injecting the law into industrial legislation, it is damaging to the prospects of the trade union movement. That has nothing to do with the subject at all.
I was asked a question some weeks ago by one of the right reverend Prelates, who is not in his place now. He asked what was my opinion about the difference between this legislation and the legislation which was promoted by the Labour Government. He said, "What is the difference", because he could not detect any substantial difference. I gave him the answer that, apart from certain items (to which I will refer in a moment because they have a bearing on this debate), there was no substantial difference. He said, "Well, what is the trouble?" I said, "It is a question of attitude of mind, a question of how one wishes to tackle a problem." The Labour Government were faced with a problem not unlike the problem with which this Government have been faced. The Labour Government were faced not so much with a problem of rising wages, but with a problem of far too many unofficial strikes.
Let me make it clear that we on this side—I stand open to correction—dislike unofficial strikes, as do the trade union leaders, and I think that the trade union leaders will be gratified by the knowledge that some day there will be some means of preventing unofficial strikes. Let me qualify what I have said. Far too many unofficial wildcat strikes have occurred, but we have never analysed the reasons for those strikes. Some time ago there was a statement in the Press, which seemed to be authentic, that in the Ford Motor Company and various other works there had been 115 strikes in one year, most of them of a minor character. We never seem to concern ourselves about the reason for those strikes, some of which last a few hours, some last an hour, some last 10 minutes, some last several days and some are prolonged for various reasons, probably because of delay in negotiations which is either the fault of the trade union leaders who are responsible, or the fault of the management, or a combination of both.
1329 It is about time—it is a pity that we cannot do it in the course of our debates on this Bill; it requires another Commission, as even the Donovan Commission did not tackle this aspect of the problem—that we tried to diagnose the malady, to understand what are the basic elements that cause these strikes. I think it would then be discovered that many strikes occur because some people—not the managements, not the boards of directors, not the people at the top, but some people—sometimes "drest in a little brief authority" use their powers excessively, as a result of which men are aggrieved and strikes take place. It is difficult to say whether this legislation will put an end to the trouble, but I leave that aspect of the subject there.
As I said, there is an attitude of mind here. My noble friends on this side, trade unionists outside and members of the Labour Party have attacked the Government on the ground that they seek to destroy or, at any rate, to weaken the trade union movement. I do not believe that that is the attitude of the general body of employers. I am even prepared to say that I do not believe that, generally speaking, noble Lords on the Government side want deliberately and with malice aforethought to destroy or even to weaken the trade union movement. They are intelligent people. They realise that the trade union movement is something which is going to stay and which is essential for engaging in reasonable and orderly industrial relations.
In my view, the trouble is Party political. It was necessary for the Government to win the last election. I am not blaming them; I myself have been associated with many elections and I wanted my side to win. Sometimes we won and sometimes we did not, usually because we did not get enough votes. It is as simple as that. But let us consider what has been happening in the other place. We recognise that there may be some justification for the talk about wildcat strikes, about Communist elements, about: extremists. We have had to deal with them in the past. As Chairman of the Labour Party many years ago and as a member of the Executive for many years, I have had to deal on behalf of that Party with the Communist elements in Wales, Scotland and elsewhere. But 1330 what about the wildcat people at the other end of the corridor?—these young Tories who are bloody-minded and anxious to wrestle with the trade unions, to teach them a lesson. That is what the problem is all about and I dislike it intensely, because that is not the way to find a solution. You do not solve problems in that way.
We are going to deal later on with the closed shop. I am a member of a closed shop. Many years ago I was made an honorary life member of the National Union of Seamen. That honour is confined to very few people. The late Ernie Bevin was awarded the honour, the father of the present Lord Greenwood of Rossendale was awarded the honour, and I possess it. It is a great privilege because, apart from the honour itself, I do not have to pay any subscriptions. I escape that financial commitment. But that is a closed shop. It is not unlike the Knights of the Garter, which is another closed shop; only a few people are permitted to enter. Therefore, I have some knowledge of the trade union movement and I am bound to say that the real trouble for donkey's years has not been that trade union leaders are extreme, dogmatic, adamant and unreasonable when approached by employers. The real trouble has been that most of their time has been occupied in dealing with the malcontents, the wildcats, the people who are always giving trouble and who are determined to cause trouble. I can remember when I tried to cause a bit of trouble too, but they could not deal with me; it was too much for them to tackle. But that sort of thing happens and goes on happening. The trouble is that behind this legislation, and promoting it, is an attitude of mind which—and I use the term that is contained in the Bill—is dangerous to the interests of the community. You do not solve problems in that way.
Let me say something about the last Labour Government. I was very much involved in the trouble, because although I was not a sponsored trade union member, nor a member of the trade union group, when the earlier legislation was before the other place I was asked by the officials of the trade union group there to intercede on their behalf with the Prime Minister. What was the trouble about? It was not about the 1331 legislation in general; it was about the penal clauses. If the penal clauses had not been there, the generality of trade unionists in the country would have been satisfied; there is no question about that. The penal clauses were the real trouble. They were the fly in the ointment, the nigger in the woodpile. I recall speaking to the Prime Minister on behalf of my trade union colleagues, and his reply was, "We must have reserve powers." But on further intervention he was inclined to agree that problems could be left to the trade unions, within the ambit of their own rules. They could deal with any malcontents according to the rules of the unions. We thought that that was likely to be the solution, and the rest of the legislation would have been accepted, with some minor reservations. But somebody intervened with Mrs. Castle, or with somebody else—I do not know—and we were unable to persuade the Government to remove the penal clauses. They were the cause of the trouble and the Government had to withdraw the legislation; otherwise, the present legislation would never have been promoted at all. Indeed, before the Election an attempt was made in the White Paper In Place of Strife to present a much more reasonable and satisfactory piece of legislation from the point of view of the trade union movement. If it had not been for the General Election intervening, the problem would have been solved by the Labour Government. So there it is.
Now, what are we to do about it? Take this clause. Why is it that we are opposing this clause? Is it really necessary to oppose it? I believe it is, because this clause contains within it all the principles upon which the rest of the Bill depends. If we take this clause away; if we defeat this clause; if the Opposition, because of persuasion and because of a more reasonable attitude among noble Lords on the other side of the Committee following that remarkable speech by the noble Lord, Lord Platt, who seems to represent a large section of the Cross-Benchers, defeat the Government on this clause; the rest of the Bill would not matter, because all the principles are contained in this clause, including the law and the machinery of 1332 the law. The principles and all the mechanics are there.
Why do we oppose it? First of all, because it is the duty of an Opposition to oppose; but it is also the function of the Opposition to persuade. What have we been doing? On Monday and Tuesday all of us were pleading, almost on our hands and knees, asking the Government to offer us a few concessions, even mild ones. Not a concession did we manage to secure—not a single one. In fact, this can be said: that the Government have had all their own way. The Government have won every battle in this part of the Committee stage; but I warn them that they have not won the war. What is even more important, they have not won the peace. That is the real trouble. You can promote legislation and you can force it through—I have seen Governments do it throughout my time—but it has to be implemented. By whom? Not by civil servants, not by politicians. It has to be implemented through the grass roots, by common people—employers, on the one hand, trade union leaders and the people on the shop floor, on the other. They have to work it. What is the use of legislation if, at the end of the day, it is not thoroughly implemented as the promoters hope for?
Therefore, I say to the Government that I do not expect them to accept my suggestion or the proposal which has been made on this side of the Committee to withdraw the clause, but I hope that as a result of this debate something else might happen that will be just as useful. I hope that before the end of the debate the Government will have taken note of what has been said on this side of the Committee. In spite of all the speeches by my noble friends—I would say even that by my noble friend Lord Blyton, who speaks with great strength and force and sincerity, and sometimes appears to be aggressive; but, after all, he comes from the mining industry in Durham, and they have reason to be aggressive occasionally although, strangely enough, they are among the mildest and most placid of the miners in the country—the Government have not given way. Very well; do not give way on this. All right; we accept it. We would rather that the 1333 Government did give way, did consent, but, if not, at any rate let them take note of what has been said and let it be understood that we on this side of the Committee are speaking with the utmost sincerity. I do not deny the sincerity of noble Lords on the other side of the Committee who feel keenly about this Bill and feel that, unless something is done, the country will go to the dogs. I do not believe the country is going to the dogs at all, but it may go to the dogs if the Government show too much strength—strength which is not strength at all but is really weakness.
That is our appeal. If it is not accepted, well, there we are; we shall just have to carry on right through the length of this long legislation in the hope that, as the result of a more reasonable attitude on all sides of the Committee, apart from the Opposition Benches, the Government will see the light and concede some concessions which the trade union movement may regard as reasonable, which may help the Government in the long run to achieve their objective; namely, of protecting the interests of the community.
§ LORD BERNSTEIN
My Lords, my noble friend Lord Shinwell has tried to answer Lord Robbins's question. I think he, did. But the noble Lord, Lord Robbins, asked, so far as I can make out, a question which I can address to myself. Do I agree that a Bill is needed? I do. The question is: Which Bill? If this Bill had within it a design for creating harmony in labour relations, I would support it. Some noble Lords on the other side say that the trade unions have too little power, some that the unions have not the power to control their shop floor members; others say they have too much power. Which is it? Too much or too little? I remember that during the war I had the responsibility of sending films overseas. From among many films I selected one which showed a strike going on in this country in the coal mines. Some people in the Foreign Office objected to it on the grounds we were showing a strike taking place in England. My view was that to show a strike taking place in England would suggest to those people who were not allowed to strike that it was a special privilege which came from a democratic country.
1334 I am not in favour of strikes as such, especially when they affect companies in which I am involved; but you are going to have strikes because, as Lord Shinwell says, there are bad behaviour patterns on the part of all people in industry—the trade unions and employers. if you read the annual reports of the chairmen of big public companies, some by the more enlightened industrialists, you will invariably find that they say that they are in favour of the Bill but have reservations about many clauses. In other words, they are in favour of a Bill but not necessarily of this Bill. I suggest that your Lordships read in to-day's newspapers the report of my good friend Sir Halford Reddish, a staunch Conservative Party man and an enlightened employer. He talks of the efforts he has made in his relations with his staff, and the results that have been produced.
A noble Lord opposite asked if we would concentrate on the facts. How can you concentrate on the facts of this Bill if, in relation to the first clause, which we are talking about to-day, the code of practice has not yet been produced? I said the other day that it is the small type which could change the whole of the Bill we are talking about. For instance, there are clauses in the Bill which are too difficult for a lawyer to work out—at least, the lawyers I have discussed the matter with. The Bill creates the presumption that collective agreements are legally enforceable contracts unless they contain an express provision to the contrary. This must unnecessarily complicate the delicate process of drafting such agreements. What will happen is that both sides will bring in their lawyers, and they will have a field day in their attempts to cover every possible contingency and sew up every conceivable loophole. Negotiations which are now carried out in a rather (if you like) friendly horse-trading way will become unnecessarily prolonged and embittered, and will not be conducive to good industrial relations. Is that what is wanted from the Bill? It is not what I want.
Some noble Lords opposite have raised the question whether we are "pro" or "anti" trade unions. Whether they are against trade unions or for trade unions I have not yet discovered, except on the voting, as to which way they are really 1335 thinking. The voting seems to me to tell its own story. It is not a question of being pro-trade unions or anti-trade unions, certainly not so far as I am concerned. But we have in trade unions a delicately balanced machine—delicately balanced separately and collectively. Unions reflect the national moods. Their behaviour is affected by the policy of the Government, by the policy of the Opposition and the behaviour pattern of employers. This Bill does not take into account anywhere the climate of opinion inside a factory, or even the effects of outside propaganda, whether it comes from the extreme Right or (dare I say it?) the extreme Left. Unless those involved in the day-to-day operation have antennae sensitive to take all the factors into account I cannot see how they can eventually get industrial harmony.
The noble Lord, Lord Platt. in answer to my noble friend Lady Gaitskell, said that he did not have enough knowledge of industrial matters to answer her question. The question was whether he thought that workers should have less privileges than the members of the medical profession. May I tell the noble Lord, Lord Platt, that I would not wish to vote in a Bill reducing the rights of doctors unless I had studied their problems more carefully than he appeared to have studied the problems of workers under this Bill. I agree with my noble friend Lord Sainsbury. I say with some modesty that I have considerable knowledge of industrial matters, and I shall vote against Clause 1 because this Bill will not produce what I want or what I think most people in this country want; namely, industrial harmony.
§ LORD TEVIOT
I wish to make it plain that I have no intention of making a Second Reading speech, but there are a few points I should like to make in a few brief words. I am aware, like others, that this clause is at the very heart of the Bill. It is a great pity that the Opposition did not choose to put forward Amendments other than those which were put forward in another place. They may then have received more satisfaction. I would ask noble Lords opposite to remember that this legislation was envisaged before the last Election and that the country returned a Conservative Gov- 1336 ernment because of that. Noble Lords opposite, unless I am wrong, have stated that this Bill is not the workers' wish. It cannot be said that the workers did not vote for this Government, because there simply would not have been enough votes to go round if they had not. In the last Election the Conservative Party made conquests in many untraditional parts of the country.
I know that it is not a recommended practice to recall too many personal experiences in your Lordships' House, but as many noble Lords will know I was an active trade union member for six years. I strongly uphold the unions, and I feel that I am in no sense betraying that in proclaiming the virtues of this Bill, as embodied in the clause we are discussing. The noble Lord, Lord Popplewell, has told us that strikes, apart from those in the motor industry, account for one-third of a day per worker per year. Even if this is so, the motor car industry is about the second largest in the country and in one way or another it affects the engineering and other industries. Their disputes have affected many innocent workers and their jobs, and many of the smaller firms have had to close down because of irresponsible action. These people must be protected by legislation. Finally, I should like to say that if we were allowed to get on with the individual parts of the Bill we might on Report or even on Third Reading be able to accept changes.
§ LORD ROYLE
I shall not take many minutes. I should like to say a few words on a matter of procedure. I apologise to the noble Lord, Lord Teviot, for not following him in what he said. My concern is whether we should have this clause in the Bill at all. Many of us in this House have served for many years in the two Houses of Parliament. In my 26 years I cannot think of a single instance where a clause of this character has got into a Bill. My view is that if these things are to be set out at all they should be set out not in the form of a clause but in the form of a Preamble. I do not know who drafted this Bill; I do not know whose idea it was that this should be introduced as a clause of the Bill.
I am wondering if we can ask the Government to think about this matter between now and Report stage. What I 1337 envisage is an Amendment on the Report stage to leave out Clause 1 and to insert in its place—at the end of our discussions—a Preamble. In view of all the talk that has gone on during this week I do not care whether the words are precisely the words which are in Clause 1 or not; but I think the effect would be tidier and more in accordance with Parliarnentary procedure. It is difficult to do this on the Committee stage. It is too late. But your Lordships will remember that the Chairman of Committees at the commencement of every Bill asks, first of all, that the Title of the Bill be postponed. If there is a Preamble he asks that the Preamble be postponed, though it is not often that this occurs.
We have passed that stage; but it occurs to me that when we get to the Report stage something of this kind could be done—and the Bill would be infinitely more tidy. I hope with these few words to persuade the Government to think along these lines before we get to the Report stage.
§ LORD DRUMALBYN
I rise now not to curtail the debate in any way, nor to encourage it, but simply because I think we have reached the stage where a speech from this side of the Committee might be thought appropriate. I confess that I am disappointed with the reception given by the other side to the principles enunciated in Clause 1. I did not notice while we were discussing them any marked antipathy towards them except, of course, that noble Lords opposite shied violently whenever they saw the words "responsible" or "responsibly". I accept that they would have liked to have seen additional principles there, and I tried my best to explain the reasons why we are fully in agreement with the ideas that were put forward but did not think it appropriate that they should appear among the principles in that particular place. I was very interested in the observations of the noble Lord, Lord Shinwell. I suspect that he, too, did not really disagree with the principles. What he was talking about was the attitude behind the principles. He talked of "wild men "first on one side and then on the other.
The whole problem here is to get a balance on which the great consensus will be agreed. I suspect that there are some on my side of the Committee, just as there are some on the other side, who 1338 feel that perhaps the terms of Clause I are not quite right. The hope has been to try to achieve a balance. When you do that you are vulnerable to attack from either side, but know very well that it is more likely to come from the Opposition. Therefore one should not be too discouraged that the attack has cone entirely from the other side of the Committee on this occasion.
The noble Lord also said that if we discarded Clause 1 we may as well, in effect, drop the whole Bill. Technically, of course, I think there is something in what the noble Lord, Lord Royle, has just said. That is not the case; the Bill would still stand on its own. There are arguments for a Preamble which were very common in days gone by, but the Bill would still stand on its own. We still feel it is a good idea to put in the very forefront of the Bill the principles we regard as the foundation for accomplishing the task.
What is the task? It is quite clearly the improvement of industrial relations. We all agree on that at least as the aim, whether or not we agree on the means of achieving it. But I suspect that the Opposition would find it very difficult to arrive at a number of principles more appropriate than these, bearing in mind that if they were in Government they would still have to achieve a balance. Indeed, I would go so far as to say that if these principles had been put forward, for example, by the United Nations—as they might well have been—or by the I.L.O.—as equally they might well have been—they would have been lauded to the skies by the Opposition. So the noble Lord, Lord Shinwell, is entirely right in saying that this is a question of attitude of mind. But what is the attitude of mind? Who is the author of this Bill? Who is mainly responsible for it? No one would deny the credit for that to my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Employment. Does anybody think that he is a wild man? Does anybody think he has not got industrial peace at heart? Surely, we can all accept that the intentions here, at any rate, are entirely what we would all wish to achieve.
§ LORD SHINWELL
I am sorry to interrupt the noble Lord. So far as I am concerned—I speak for myself alone —I would acquit the right honourable 1339 gentleman in the other place who is responsible for promoting this legislation, from any malice or any desire to destroy the trade union movement; but I suspect, if I may use a colloquialism, that he has been "got at" by the young Tory "wildcats" both inside and outside the other place.
§ LORD DRUMALBYN
But surely the noble Lord will recall that my right honourable friend has studied this matter personally for many years past and made a very great contribution to the document Fair Deal at Work which undoubtedly, in its turn, has contributed to the terms of the Bill itself. I would have thought we could all accept that these principles are satisfactory principles for the basis of the Bill. One entirely accepts there are many things in the Bill with which noble Lords opposite do not agree, but I disagree with the noble Lord, Lord Popplewell, when at the start of his speech he said that this clause indicates a wide divergence—I think those were the words he used. I simply cannot accept that, and I do not think your Lordships will, either.
The noble Lord went on to say that this clause establishes a legal code. That is not correct. He said agreements would have to be submitted to the Judiciary; and that is not correct. He then said that case law would have to be established. Let me just go through the points he made. He said that no nominations would be made by the trade unions to the N.I.R.C. None are called for. He said that settlements must be evolved into a legal code—I think those were his words. That is not correct. The settlements are made independently of the law. All that happens is that bargains struck will be treated in exactly the same manner as bargains struck in any other walk in life—possibly rather more favourably. Lord Popplewell said there would be no conciliation machinery and that there would be no opportunity for that in the future. This is very far from the truth. Studded throughout the Bill are references to conciliation, and there is provision for the appointment of new conciliation officers. The noble Lord spoke of prison sentences. We all know that this is what happens at the end of the day if you do not comply with what the court has said, and when all other 1340 courses have been exhausted the court may impose a prison sentence. That applies in all walks of life and not here alone. The noble Lord indicated that negotiations would always be subjected to the threat of law. That is totally untrue. He says the strength of democracy rests on the acceptance of voluntary principles. There I at last agree with him. But whatever are we doing here, in Parliament? Behind those voluntary principles must stand the force of the law.
§ LORD DRUMALBYN
This is what we are here for, to represent the people and to see that the laws for the people are good and that they are, to use the phrase that is always used, "good and perfect laws".
§ LORD POPPLEWELL
But surely the noble Lord is rather dragging his feet on this. We are dealing with this clause and the machinery that is to be established. Later we shall deal with the actual details that are to apply to that machinery. At this stage it is pretty well known and accepted that any agreement arrived at between both sides of industry must, unless otherwise specifically stated, be regarded as having the force of law behind it. If it is not, then it can be, and is, subjected to the compensatory clauses that the courts will be able to inflict. Surely this brings the force of law into every one of the agreements?
§ LORD DRUMALBYN
The force of law is brought in to the same extent as it is into any other bargain, except that in this case it apparently has to be written. I stand to be corrected—even oral contracts are enforceable in every walk of life.
§ LORD POPPLEWELL
I thank the noble Lord for giving me my point at once. It is rather interesting that, after all he has said, he gives me my point. At the present time an industrial relations agreement entered into need not necessarily be written, and does not in any case have the force of law, except where disagreements lead ultimately to breaking the civil or criminal law. That is where the law surely becomes effective.
§ LORD DRUMALBYN
On the contrary, I was quoting what the noble Lord said. But we really are getting into deep waiters. What the noble Lord keeps saying is not the case. Of course, in order to be enforceable under the Bill a collective agreement will have to be written—collective agreements do not necessarily have to be written but they then will not be enforceable; and many of them will not be enforceable simply because the parties will agree they should not be.
Perhaps I may now go on with my speech notable speech. I should like to say to him that it is not the case that this Bill has taken no account of the professions. So far as the B.M.A. is concerned, I should say that it was the B.M.A. which made the representations as a result of which provision was made for the special register. What is more, the B.M.A. enjoys privileges as a trade union at the present time. If the B.M.A. were to exclude itself from the Bill by not putting itself on the special register it would be greatly to the disadvantage of the Association.
I think a much more important point that the noble Lord made was in his reference to the sense of individuality that every professional man has; indeed this was the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Blyton, when he was talking about collective freedom and individual freedom. Of course we recognise this, and because we do so the right not to belong to a trade union is enshrined in the Bill. I think the noble Lord will find when we discuss the various Parts of the Bill that there is a great deal with which he will be completely satisfied—or as nearly satisfied as any of us will be, because most of us will find it difficult to subscribe to every dot and comma in the Bill.
There is the role of the Commission on Industrial Relations which will be smoothing out and improving industrial relations. The C.I.R. is bound to take account of the needs and the freedom of the individual, as well as of the trade union; and, of course, at the same time the rights of the employer, because this must be a balanced operation. The greatest value of setting out principles is that every agency operating under subsection (2) of the clause will be working 1342 On exactly the same ideas and principles. That seems to me to be commonsense, and a good reason for setting the principles out in. Clause 1 and making certain that everyone who has to operate the clauses in the Bill, everyone who has authority and power under the Bill, should be working on the same principles.
I should like to conclude by saying a word about the theme which has run through our discussions on the clause; namely, the extent to which the Bill introduces compulsion into collective bargaining. I do not do so to provoke discussion, but to clarify the intention of the Bill as set out in Clause 1, and so that your Lordships may understand the spirit in which the later provisions are proposed. References to the provisions of the Bill have shown widely those provisions are misunderstood. I am quite confident that when we discuss them in detail we shall be able to allay most of the misgivings which have been expressed. But, of course, it would not be possible to do so on this clause, however long we discussed it. It may be done only when we come to discuss the provisions themselves.
As I said, the principles in Clause 1 have not really been challenged, except for what is not covered, and on the issue of responsibility which we believe is the quintessence of the changes that are now required. I was told, more than once I think, that no definition of responsibility had been given. But if noble Lords will look at column 959 of our debate on Monday they will see that my noble friend Lord Jellicoe defined what was meant by legal responsibility very clearly indeed. He said:First, we mean that collective bargaining should he conducted by those who are properly authorised to do so"—by the people who are, as has I think been said by the noble Lord, Lord Blyton, responsible in that sense.
Secondly, we mean that those who engage in collective bargaining must bear some responsibility, not just for themselves and those they represent but the community as a whole. That is what we mean by responsibility. I cannot see how anyone can object to the idea of collective bargaining being conducted responsibly. After all, the community has a right to expect all citizens to behave responsibly. Yet differences of opinion 1343 and clashes of interests are bound to arise, and strikes or lock-outs may result. There is nothing in the Bill to prevent strikes or lock-outs as a last resort. What the Bill seeks is, first, that what is euphemistically called "industrial action" will not take place, or continue, until the proper procedures have been gone through; and secondly, industrial action which is unfair is discouraged by providing remedies for those who suffer from it. The remedies are quite simple, an order determining rights, an award of compensation or an order to cease or desist from the unfair practice.
LORD DAVIES or LEEK
Will the noble Lord tell the Committee what, in the pejorative phrase that he used, he means by "what is euphemistically called industrial action"? Why should it be "euphemistically" called industrial action? I should like to know clearly what is in the noble Lord's mind.
§ LORD DRUMALBYN
It seems to me what one might call an omnibus phrase. It is also a very neutral phrase. For many people, things like strikes and lockouts carry certain implications. So I used the word "euphemistically"—I hope in a correct sense.
§ LORD DRUMALBYN
I do not know that words are either responsible or irresponsible; it depends on the purpose behind the words. I should like to make clear that nobody regards strikes and lock-outs as desirable in themselves, and we realise that this is the common view of your Lordships. But if employers adhere to the spirit of the principle, and if employees do the same, the incidence of strikes should certainly be reduced. Their primary responsibility for good industrial relations will be spelt out in the code. We are all agreed on the importance of a procedure agreement; we are all agreed that agreement should be reached freely and responsibly. Yet, even with the advice and assistance of the Commission on Industrial Relations, it may not be possible to reach such agreement. Where that situation arises the Bill provides—this was something dis- 1344 cussed by the noble Lord, Lord Diamond, last night—a means of ensuring that, nevertheless, there can be a procedure agreement which we all agree is at the basis of good industrial relations.
There could be a procedure agreement on lines recommended by the Commission on Industrial Relations, if either the trade union or the employer asks the Industrial Relations Court to make a direction that the recommendations of the C.I.R. should apply as a procedure agreement. Last night the noble Lord described this as a "shotgun wedding"; that is as I understood it.
§ LORD DIAMOND
Yes indeed. I apologise for interrupting the noble Lord. I am only asking him for clarification. When he refers to the procedure agreement he is talking about the compulsory imposition of a procedure agreement in the last resort?
§ LORD DRUMALBYN
I thought I had made plain that if either the trade union or the employer asks the Industrial Court to make a direction that the recommendations of the C.I.R. should apply as a procedure agreement, then that agreement enters into force as if it had been agreed between the parties.
§ LORD DOUGLASS OF CLEVELANDis the whole case.
§ LORD DRUMALBYN
I am putting the point: what is the alternative? We are all anxious to avoid strikes, we are all anxious to avoid lock-outs, and the noble Lord, I thought, put this quite fairly up to a point when he was talking about a shot-gun wedding. But there is a very great difference. A man and a woman do not have to live together, marriage ceremony or no marriage ceremony; the employer and the workers in any undertaking do, if the undertaking is to survive at all. What they want is a modus vivendi. The C.I.R.'s recommendations will provide it, and I believe it will be very much welcomed. In most cases the two parties will be only too happy to have the matter settled for them without industrial action. They will then be able to get on with the job, and most people want to do that.
All who have studied and commented upon the present industrial scene agree that the main problem lies in dislocation 1345 of work in defiance of constitutional procedures. While a heavy responsibility lies on employers to avoid justifiable causes of disputes, the main responsibility to ensure that constitutional procedures are not flouted on the part of members of trade unions must rest with trade unions themselves. It is for this reason that the Bill seeks to strengthen their hand, as noble Lords will see right throughout the Bill.
It has been argued that in this country the law has always been kept out of industrial relations, and ought for ever and ever to he kept out. Britain, it is said, is so very different from every other country: in Britain the law is the enemy and must always be the enemy. Whether the trade unions like it or not, they are one of the great Estates of the Realm, some think the most powerful of all; hey are part of the Establishment. The Bill gives them a clearly defined status and confers upon them important rights and privileges which are very great, on two conditions; first, that they accept the responsibility of bringing their rules into line with the provisions of Clause 63 and Schedule 4. Many of them will find that few, if any, changes in their rules are needed. The second condition is that they do not engage in unfair industrial practices. As noble Lords will come to see, the Bill in fact places obligations on the employers at least as heavy as those placed on the unions.
I just want to finish by saying this, because I attach the greatest importance to the integrity of these principles. It is said that this Bill will divide the nation. The trouble is that the nation is divided. The object of the Bill is to help to unite it. We fully understand the trade unions' feelings in the matter. We only ask that the trade unions should understand the feelings of the rest of the nation and have regard to their interests. It is emphatically the aim of the Government. to encourage and strengthen trade unions in the interests of good industrial relations and in the interests of the country as a whole—not to bash the unions. If the principles in this clause are adopted wholeheartedly and unreservedly and put into practice in the same spirit, then we can look forward to a new era, a far better era in industrial relations, an era which, I must make it plain, will dawn gradually, but which will at least be 1346 comparatively free from the industrial squalls and storms which are at present so debilitating to the strength of the nation and so lowering to morale.
§ LORD DIAMOND
This debate has been enlivened by an appeal by my learned friend, Lord Davies, to the Socratic method. I scratched my head and thought of what I recollected about Socrates and the Socratic method, and the only thing I could recollect was the essay of the schoolboy who wrote:Socrates was an old Greek gentleman. He offered people good advice, they gave him poison.I am about to offer your Lordships good advice.
§ LORD DIAMOND
And the advice perhaps can best be postponed to my final sentence, although I dare say your Lordships will guess what it will be. What I first want to say is that I recognise that we have discussed this clause fully; I recognise that we have discussed the Amendments fully, and that we have discussed the Question, Whether the clause, unfortunately unamended, stand part of the Bill, fully. But your Lordships will, I hope, unanimously agree that where there is a clause—and it is a doubtful question whether it should be there or not, but the Government have chosen to have it there and we realise why—which sets out the whole principles upon which the legislative provisions are based, and a clause by which the Secretary of State himself asks that the whole of the Bill should be judged, it is inevitable that we should spend an adequate amount of time discussing those principles which have been set out in it.
I am grateful to everybody who has contributed and made the position very clear, so much so that my task will be a reasonably short one. I shall really only have to put together the essential differences between the two sides, and compare them. I am sorry, as my noble friend Lord Stonham was sorry, that we have been unable to persuade the Government to reconsider any part of the wording at all. I think there was good reason for them to have accepted, within their own philosophy, certain of the Amendments. But I recognise that the 1347 noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, has said that certainly one Amendment is well before his mind and he is considering whether it can be introduced more usefully in a different part of the Bill.
I hope we have made clear on this side, if not in the previous two days then at all events to-day, what the essence of our opposition is to the Bill. I hope that has been made clear to your Lordships by speeches which have been made to-day by those who have spent the whole of their lives in the trade union movement; by large employers of labour on this side, and by professional men. I hope that has satisfied your Lordships that this is an overall view, drawn from wide experience, from every kind of experience, and is certainly not a limited view based either on opposition to whatever the Government bring forward or on an overstressed, over-stated loyalty to a particular section of our Party which has to be protected through right or wrong. None of that applies.
We are at one with the Government that serious economic damage is being done by excessive numbers of strikes, particularly those strikes which are lightning strikes, particularly those strikes which at most could benefit a handful of men and could damage the welfare of thousands or tens of thousands. That is not in dispute at all. What the noble Lord opposite, and I regret to say occasionally some of his noble friends, forget, is that the first people who suffer from the strike are the striker and his family. The last thing a working man wants to do, especially if he has large family responsibilities, is to have to engage in a strike. He does so only because he sees no alternative to maintaining or improving the standard of living for which he is fighting. We should not therefore misunderstand one another; we are on common ground, the question being which is the best way of dealing with the problem.
We have tried time and time again to make the point that this is a difficulty in human relations which can be resolved only by patience, understanding, compassion, conciliation and, at the end of the day. by more patience, more compassion, more conciliation and more understanding, but not at the end of the day by legal com- 1348 Pulsion is not only of no help; it is of great damage. If the noble Lord wants to return to the humorous exchange we had about the shot-gun wedding, may I say that we do not believe that the best way of achieving an enduring and cooperative relationship is for the bride's father to have a gun in his hip pocket in case the groom should have second thoughts. We do not think that that is a helpful longstop, or whatever term the noble Lord may use. So we appeal to the Government to consider again whether these principles are the right principles.
The noble Lord distinguished very fairly between the two attitudes by making it clear that the recommendation as to a procedural agreement by the C.I.R. would in our case have been a voluntary one and in his case, if necessary, a compulsory one with the force of law behind it; and, as we all know, at the end of the day contempt of court means a possible prison sentence. Indeed, one was inflicted on a journalist a few days ago in a case of some notoriety. I hope. therefore, that as we go through this Bill we shall reach more agreement than we have been able to do on the principles. I agree with the noble Lord that we can go on urging our own interpretation of these principles and get wider and wider apart instead of closer. Nevertheless, I could not disagree more with the noble Lord, Lord Conesford. These are the principles embodied in the Bill, and made absolutely specific in subsections (1) and (2), our opposition to which we have already explained. I note with pleasure that the noble Lord makes no complaint about this.
May I, for the last time on this clause, refer once more to the speech made by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Donovan? I know your Lordships will tire of my referring to the noble and learned Lord's speech if I overdo it, but I am bound to say that he deals with the questions which were asked both yesterday and to-day by the noble Lord, Lord Robbins. I thought yesterday's question was so pertinent that I took a considerable time to reply to it. I was sorry that the noble Lord was not able to be in the Committee, but if he cares to pay me the honour of reading what I said he will recognise at all events that it was an attempt to reply to him.
§ LORD ROBBINS
I apologise for not being present. I have already read with great diligence what the noble Lord said.
§ LORD DIAMOND
The noble Lord says that he read my speech with great diligence and I wondered whether he was going to go on. "Diligence" is a courteous word, but it does not advance the argument very much. However, I apologise to the Committee for reading the comment of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Donovan, at columns 44 and 45 of the OFFICIAL REPORT of April 5:In truth, the teeth of this Bill are in the unfair industrial practice and the penalties which it attracts. The term unfair industrial practice' tends to conjure up an idea of something which is not quite cricket—like bowling too many bumpers. What it really connotes is a new kind of tort attracting a heavy fine. And if one takes the trouble to count up the number which the Bill creates, he will arrive at the figure of at least 179. If these provisions turn out 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 venture to ask why the noble and learned Lord, Lord Donovan, says that and why the Secretary of State, for whom we all have respect—indeed I have had the privilege of working opposite him for many years—says something different. Nobody challenges the Secretary of State's sincerity. What I challenge is the Secretary of State's knowledge. One is entitled to do that.
As the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, made clear, the Secretary of State was closely connected with the Conservative document Fair Deal at Work, which set out their policy in this field of industrial relations if they ever came to be returned to power. The Secretary of State made a great contribution to and took full responsibility for this document. It was a document which was prepared out of how much research I know not, but a modest amount, let us recognise, in advance of the work of the Royal Commission, which received I do not know how many witnesses, a huge volume of written evidence and spent three years examining all the facts. It is not the first time that the honest opinion of an uninformed individual has varied from the informed opinion of a Royal Commission based on three years of detailed investigation. It it; not surprising that the two 1350 are different. I am not challenging the right honourable gentleman; I only say that it was unfortunate that he stuck to this uninformed view of the right way to deal with industrial relations, and did not alter his view when he saw the facts.
I hope that all those accustomed to the method of reaching a conclusion after examining the facts will be swayed by this kind of examination. Nobody is more accustomed to that process than the noble Lord, Lord Robbins, for whom I have an admiration second to none, because I have been privileged to work with him in a field in which we both share a tremendous interest. I must say that the way of this Bill is not the right way to deal with the problem before us. It does not look as if it is going to produce the right results. The most authoritative investigation supports the view that the Opposition is taking, and if we examine to-day's figures of days lost by strikes I do not know how the Government dare take the responsibility of carrying on with the Bill in face of what we see happening. What we are saying is that the method of reducing strikes is not to be found in American practice, and the Bill incorporates very largely American practice. We have said this, time and time again. It is well known that American industrial relations, as measured by the one measure which most of us accept——namely, the number of days lost through industrial strikes per thousand workers—shows that the American experience is unfortunate, because the figure is about four times as big as our figure.
I say this in particular to my noble friend Lord Taylor of Gryfe, who had exactly the same experience as I had when I was in America trying then, as a Minister, to get people to invest in this country. I was asked, "What about strikes?" just as my noble friend was asked when he went over to the Continent and tried to get people to invest in Scotland. It is an interesting comment on the extent to which we insist on advertising any difficulties we have in this country. There I was in Chicago, giving a lecture on behalf of the Chancellor of the Exchequer who could not go there, and having to say to Americans that their impression that our strike experience was infinitely worse than theirs was, unfortunately, an impression which they got through reading our newspapers, but was 1351 not an impression they would get by reading the facts.
So I say to noble friend Lord Taylor of Gryfe, he having had exactly the same experience as I had, that I have every sympathy with his desire to attract people and to remove the danger of strikes which are a threat to incoming capital. Of course it requires enormous patience, and it is very uncomfortable to be in the position of having strikes. It is very uncomfortable to be in the frying pan, but the immediate reaction of the Government is to jump straight into the fire. They say, "Something needs to be done; we will resort to the only attitude which we as a Party recognise, the attitude of force". That is the attitude of exerting power. In my view it is innate in the Conservative attitude. It is not the right way of dealing with industrial relations.
To those who ask us to think of the future and not of the past, I say I am sure that many of your Lordships must be more informed on the literature on this subject than I am. I have been reading it since 1947 when I went to a conference on industrial relations and unfortunately made the ghastly mistake of rising and opening my mouth. Accordingly, I was landed with the chairmanship of the resulting investigation and had to do a fair amount of work on it. The literature is enormous. It always leads to the same conclusion—that in industrial relations you must turn further and further away from compulsion and more and more to winning, deserving and seeking co-operation. That is the story the whole way through.
To jump out of the frying pan into this fire of a legal framework will not solve the problem. The noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, cannot expect to have it both ways. He cannot say to my noble friend Lord Popplewell that there are no legal provisions in this Bill, as my noble friend insisted, and at the same time say that the whole approach which the Conservatives think the nation needs is a legal framework to industrial relations. We know that this depends—he made it perfectly clear with the C.I.R.—on the N.I.R.C. and at the end of the day it essentially depends on a new kind of tort attracting a heavy fine. The number of new kinds of tort adds up to at least 1352 179. Against that it really is not open to the noble Lord to say that this is not a legal framework and legal compulsion, and relying on that where persuasion and patience are required.
§ LORD DRUMALBYN
I think I ought to correct this for the Record. What the noble Lord, Lord Popplewell, said (and I quoted him) was that the clause established the legal framework. That is not so.
With respect, that is rather splitting hairs, is it not? I do not like making that kind of comment, but there is no substance in his objection to my noble friend's statement because the clause refers to the Chief Registrar of Trade Unions, the assistant registrar, the Industrial Relations Court to be established and to "unfair industrial practices". All these are forerunners of the provisions which we shall have to discuss in detail later. What my noble friend was referring to, as a trade unionist perhaps rather than as a lawyer, was the essence of the matter. I am sure we shall forgive him if he used a word which was not completely accurate but which gave the meaning as clearly as it could be given.
What was the reply whenever we referred to the American experience based on American law, which largely is being incorporated into British law by this Bill? The answer was, "Well, look at the number of strikes, never mind the days lost. Admittedly, the days lost are four times as bad in the States as they are here, but look at the number of strikes, and particularly look at the number of unofficial strikes. That is what creates havoc, the unofficial strike and not knowing when one's production line will come to a halt. Not knowing where one is causes the damage."
What is the position as we see it today, when we examine the figures for the first three months of 1971? —12 million days lost as compared with 2¼ million in the same period of last year. The number of days lost was five times as many and the number of stoppages was down by half. The number of unofficial strikes was infinitely worse. That is what this Bill is aiming at—the American experience, to turn every unofficial strike into an official strike. Every colleague 1353 of mine who has had trade union experience knows that the area between en official strike and an unofficial strike is a very grey area indeed.
What the Bill will force unions to do is to give an official blessing to unofficial strikes lest there be sanctions legally enforceable under the Bill. So we shall see a continuation of this situation which every noble Lord knows is deteriorating as it has deteriorated last year and in the last three months by five times because we are moving from a situation where a strike could be quickly over to a situation in which one gets a prepared long official strike, as in the United States. That is their experience and that is what is likely to happen here. We want neither their experience nor our current experience. We want an improvement in
§ the situation for the sake of the economy and of the standard of living of every worker, trade unionist and other citizen of the country.
§ We shall get this by turning our backs on compulsion, law and words whose meaning we do not understand, and complications of the kind that are in this Bill, by getting back to an attempt to persuade, to conciliate and to give people the opportunity to grow from power into responsibility, which is the tradition of our country.
§ 6.39 p.m.
§ On Question: Whether Clause 1 shall stand part of the Bill?
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 155; Not-Contents, 56.1355
|Aberdare, L.||Drumalbyn, L.||Kindersley, L.|
|Ailwyn, L.||Dudley, E.||Lansdowne, M.|
|Airedale, L.||Dundee, E.||Latymer, L.|
|Amherst, E.||Ebbisham, L.||Lauderdale, E.|
|Amherst of Hackney, L.||Eccles, V.||Loudoun, C.|
|Balfour, E.||Ellenborough, L.||Luke, L.|
|Balfour of Inchyre, L.||Elliot of Harwood, Bs.||Lyell, L.|
|Beauchamp, E.||Emmet of Amberley, Bs.||MacAndrew, L.|
|Beaumont of Whitley, L.||Falkland, V.||McCorquodale of Newton, L.|
|Belhaven and Stenton, L.||Falmouth, V.||McFadzean, L.|
|Belstead, L.||Ferrers, E.||Mancroft, L.|
|Berkeley, Hs.||Ferrier, L.||Massereene and Ferrard, V.|
|Bessborough, E.||Fisher, L.||Merrivale, L.|
|Birdwood, L.||Foot, L.||Milverton, L.|
|Blackford, L.||Fortescue, E.||Monck, V.|
|Bledisloe, V.||Fraser of Lonsdale, L.||Monckton of Brenchley, V.|
|Boston, L.||Garner, L.||Monsell, V.|
|Braye, L.||Geddes, L.||Monson, L.|
|Brooke of Cumnor, L.||Gladwyn, L.||Montague of Beaulieu, L.|
|Brooke of Ystradfellte, Bs.||Glasgow, E.||Mowbray and Stourton, L.|
|Brougham and Vaux, L.||Goschen, V. [Teller.]||Napier and Ettrick, L.|
|Buccleuch and Queensberry, D.||Grantchester, L.||Netherthorpe, L.|
|Burton, L.||Gray, L.||Northchurch, Bs.|
|Byers, L.||Greenway, L.||Nugent of Guildford, L.|
|Caccia, L.||Gridley, L.||Pender, L.|
|Carrington, L.||Grimston of Westbury, L.||Penrhyn, L.|
|Chelmer, L.||Hailes, L.||Radnor, E.|
|Clitheroe, L.||Hacking, L.||Ranfurly, E.|
|Clwyd, L.||Hailsham of Saint Marylebone, L. (L. Chancellor.)||Ritchie of Dundee, L.|
|Colgrain, L.||Robbins, L.|
|Colville of Culross, V.||Hankey, L.||Rochdale, V.|
|Colyton, L.||Hanworth, V.||Rockley, L.|
|Conesford, L.||Harvey of Tasburgh, L.||Sackville, L.|
|Cork and Orrery, E.||Hastings, L.||St. Aldwyn, E.|
|Cornwallis, L.||Hawke, L.||St. Helens, L.|
|Cottesloe, L.||Henley, L.||St. Oswald, L.|
|Courtown, E.||Hives, L.||Sandford, L.|
|Cowley, E.||Hood, V.||Savile, L.|
|Craigavon, V.||Howard of Glossop, L.||Selkirk, E.|
|Croft, L.||Hurcomb, L.||Sempill, Ly.|
|Cullen of Ashbourne, L.||Hylton Foster, Bs.||Shaftesbury, E.|
|Daventry, V.||Ilford, L.||Southwark, L.Bp.|
|De Clifford, L.||Jellicoe, E. (L. Privy Seal.)||Stamp, L.|
|Denham, L.||Kemsley, V.||Strang, L.|
|Derwent, L.||Kilmany, L.||Strange, L.|
|Digby, L.||Kilmarnock, L.||Strange of Knokin, Bs.|
|Strathcarron, L.||Tangley, L.||Verulam, E.|
|Strathcona and Mount Royal, L.||Teviot, L.||Vivian, L.|
|Thorneycroft, L.||Wakefield of Kendal, L.|
|Sudeley, L.||Townshend, M.||Ward of Witley, V.|
|Swansea, L.||Trevelyan, L.||Westminster, D.|
|Swaythling, L.||Tweedsmuir of Belhelvie, Bs.||Windlesham, L.|
|Archibald, L.||Jacques, L.||St. Davids, V.|
|Ardwick, L.||Janner, L.||Segal, L.|
|Balogh, L.||Kennet, L.||Serota, Bs.|
|Bernstein, L.||Leatherland, L.||Shackleton, L.|
|Beswick, L.||Lee of Asheridge, Bs.||Shepherd, L.|
|Birk, Bs.||Lindgren, L.||Shinwell, L.|
|Blyton, L.||Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe, Bs.||Snow, L.|
|Brockway, L.||McLeavy, L.||Soper, L.|
|Buckinghamshire, E.||Milford, L.||Stonham, L.|
|Champion, L.||Milner of Leeds, L.||Stow Hill, L.|
|Collison, L.||Moyle, L.||Strabolgi, L. [Teller.]|
|Davies of Leek, L.||Noel-Buxton, L.||Summerskill, Bs.|
|Diamond, L.||Nunburnholme, L.||Walston, L.|
|Douglass of Cleveland, L.||Phillips, Bs. [Teller.]||Wells-Pestell, L.|
|Gaitskell, Bs.||Platt, L.||White, Bs.|
|Gardiner, L.||Plummer, Bs.||Williamson, L.|
|Garnsworthy, L.||Popplewell, L.||Willis, L.|
|Greenwood of Rossendale, L.||Royle, L.||Wynne-Jones, L.|
|Hughes, L.||Sainsbury, L.|
§ Resolved in the affirmative, and Clause 1 agreed to accordingly.
§ Clause 2 [Code of industrial relation practice]:
§ 6.55 p.m.
LORD BEAUMONT OF WHITLEY moved Amendment No. 11:
Page 2, line 16, leave out from beginning to ("to") in line 17 and insert ("appointed day on which this Act shall come into operation").
§ The noble Lord said: I beg to move Amendment No. 11 standing in the names of my noble friends and myself. It is with some slight feeling of relief that I rise to make the first speech in this House on the Committee stage. After 4½ days of Second Reading debate I think it is about time that we got down to trying to amend the Bill. It is agreed on all sides of the House that a Bill is needed, and those who think that this is the Bill should now be able to consider with an open mind what changes are needed; and those who think that it should be a different Bill can share the task of trying to make it—at any rate to some extent—a different Bill.
§ The object of this Amendment is to make sure that the Bill does not come into operation until the draft code of practice has been published. It is common ground that the code of practice is a very 1356 important part of the whole operation of which the passing of this Bill is a part. It has become quite clear as we have progressed with the Bill—certainly one can trace a development in the other place—that this is the most important part of the Bill. Our attitude to the Bill (except those of us who have taken up very entrenched positions) could be changed by an inspection and knowledge of what is in the code of practice. We have been told by the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, that there will be one small item which will state what is lawful and unlawful. Apart from that we do not know what is in it. Mr. Vincent Hanna of the Sunday Times, writing on March 14, obviously had a very fair idea of what was in it, and it will be very interesting to see whether what he says is correct. For the rest of us, with the exception of some Ministers, we are completely in the dark.
§ This obviously is a most unsatisfactory state of affairs, and the Government have gone a long way to agree that is so. Ideally, we should like to see the draft published before the Royal Assent is given to this Bill, before it becomes law, because it is unsatisfactory that such a major appendage of the Bill should not even be published until after the Bill is law. It would be possible to go even so far as that. We are told that the draft-draft will be produced very soon. On 1357 March 14, Mr. Vincent Hanna said that it would be produced next month, but we have only a couple of days left for that so presumably that was one point on which he was not entirely accurate. But the draft-draft must be more or less ready at this particular moment because the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, was able to give us certain information and reassurances about it when we were discussing this at an earlier stage in the Committee.
§ We are also told that it is hoped that the draft code, which is mentioned in the Bill, will be ready in the autumn. It seems to me that a certain amount of intelligent and hard-working use of the period between now and the autumn, and the use of the spillover period of Parliament, may enable us to see the draft before this Bill becomes law. But we are not asking this; we realise that it might unduly straitjacket the Secretary of State, so that if really important issues, on which he felt he needed to ponder, came up in the summer in his consultations which we are told and hope will be widespread—he might find it difficult to have to produce the draft by the time of the end of the spillover period and the beginning of the new Session of Parliament. We are asking that the code should be published before the Bill comes into effect.
Clause 160 of the Bill says:
This Act shall come into operation on such day as the Secretary of State may appoint by order made by statutory instrument …
§ This means that the Secretary of State has a great deal of leeway in hand as to when he shall cause this extremely important Bill to come into effect. I and my noble friends are appealing to the Government not to bring the Bill into force until they have published the draft. There is a very great deal of genuine disquiet on behalf of people on all sides of industry as to what is going to be in this code. I have no doubt that the publication of the draft-draft will do a certain amount either to allay or, maybe, even inflame. But one hopes to allay that unfortunate feeling.
§ I am quite certain that psychologically it would be tremendously to the benefit of industry, to the benefit of the country, and indeed to the benefit of the Gov- 1358 ernment, if they could make this particular move—this particular psychological move, I might call it—and say, "Right. We will not bring this Bill into force until people can see what are its full consequences." It is not in any way a complicated Amendment; it will not "straitjacket" the Government in any way, and I hope they will see their way to helping us all by giving way.
THE EARL OF BALFOUR
I am sorry to hold up the proceedings, but, from what the noble Lord has said on his suggested Amendment, I am not quite certain exactly how Clause 2(1) would read as a consequence of it.
§ LORD BEAUMONT OF WHITLEY
I think I know what the noble Earl is getting at. The word "beginning" in my Amendment is not shown in inverted commas on the Marshalled List. It does not refer to the word "beginning" in line 16; the word refers to the beginning of the line. The result would he that the clause would read:It shall be the duty of the Secretary of State, before the appointed day on which this Act shall come into operation, to prepare … a code of practice, containing such practical guidance … ".
§ 7.3 p.m.
§ LORD DRUMALBYN
The proposition which has been put forward by the noble Lord is one which is, on the face of it, very attractive. But certain considerations rather weigh in the other direction. In the first place, it is going to be some time before the infrastructure of the Bill will be in operation, and for that reason it would be good for the Bill to be brought into operation as soon as possible. In the second place, the Bill will not come into operation all at one time. The Bill provides for it to be brought into operation in stages, as the noble Lord will see if he looks at Clause 160(2).
If the noble Lord reflects he will see clearly that the chances of the code of practice itself influencing anything that may happen in the early stages of the operation of the Bill are pretty remote. First, the machinery under which the unfair practices will be dealt with will 1359 have to be set up before the unfair practices can be dealt with at all. This will take a bit of time. The timetable is such that, bearing in mind that we should like to get the Bill into operation as soon as possible, at the present time it does not look as if the code will actually be approved by both Houses, or even that the draft will be laid before them (there should not be a great deal of difference in time there), before the first appointed day. This is in no way fatal, and will not really affect the operation of the Bill at all when it becomes an Act.
The provisions in the Bill stand entirely by themselves: they are the operative provisions. The code will give guidance about the behaviour of employers, trade unions and the rest in many different ways. As the noble Lord may have seen, my honourable friend the Parliamentary Secretary set this out pretty clearly in his reply in the Commons.
He referred to matters like management rights, the responsibility of management towards employees, the role of the supervisor, the relationship of management to trade unions, those facilities which management should provide to help unions in representing employees, the role of the trade unions, their rights, responsibilities and functions, collective agreements and guidelines on establishing effective agreements, dismissals and the establishment of the right of employees to know why they are being dismissed, joint consultation and the like.
Given that the machinery will not have been set up at that time, nothing will be lost if the code has not actually been brought into operation, or even been presented to Parliament, by the time of the first appointed day when the first section of the Bill is brought into operation. I do not think the noble Lord need worry at all on that score. I hope the noble Lord will feel that this reply is satisfactory in all the circumstances. It is of course true that in the meantime, and before very long—a matter of weeks, to use a phrase which is almost hallowed by now—what we would call a "consultative draft" will be published so that people will have a pretty broad idea of what is likely to be in the code when it ultimately comes out. Obviously, changes will be made to meet representations made where appropriate, but there will be no 1360 lack of a general idea or general concept of the code.
It is important to realise that what is in the code will not influence anything that is in the Bill, except to the extent that when proceedings come before the industrial tribunals then these bodies will have to have regard to how the parties have behaved in relation to the code. But this is very unlikely to arise in the early stages; and in the Government's view it is much better to make a really good job of the code, and a really good job of consultation, and then obtain Parliamentary approval and bring the code into operation. I would concede right away that ideally it would have been nice if we could have got the code into operation at the time of the first appointed day. But what I am saying is that it seems unlikely that we shall be able to do so, and it would be a mistake to bind ourselves and postpone the coming into operation of the Bill.
§ LORD DIAMOND
I wonder whether I may add shortly to the discussion on this Amendment which the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont, has raised, and to which he spoke with such clarity and, to my mind, with a completely persuasive force. With respect, I should not think there was a great deal between the two sides of the Committee on this. The clause provides for a period before the end of one year beginning with the passing of this Act, so it provides for the maximum of 12 months, and all that is being sought now is that the maximum of 12 months should be reduced. The noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, has given his reasons why he hesitates to accept the Amendment, because he may he pushed a little in the process of consultation, which we should not want—we want there to be full consultation. But he has not dealt with the other part of the argument, namely, that although the Bill would have the force of law if it were enacted before the code, people would want to rely on the code and not on the Bill.
This has often been likened to the Highway Code and I would ask your Lordships how many of you have read the Highway Code? The answer, of course, is every one of your Lordships, because you will recollect that you have to say so when you fill in your application for a driving licence. But how 1361 many of your Lordships are aware of every single Transport Act? It may be that every one of your Lordships is word perfect on every clause of those Acts, but I think it would be a reasonable assumption that outside this House, at all events, it is the case that most people are fully aware of the Highway Code but totally ignorant of the provisions of the various Transport Acts, except where they happen to be engaged in that actual business. What people will do—what every manager, foreman, trade union official, and indeed every shop steward will do, will be to have regard to the code of practice, and my belief is that—contrary to the anxiety expressed by the noble Lord—the code of practice will allay that anxiety and not add to it. I have always found that anxiety is based on shadows and not on reality, and as soon as you put on the light and remove the shadows so that you can see what you are really dealing with most of the anxiety disappears.
Secondly, I believe that the consultations which will inevitably take place on the code of practice, and which have not been able to take place on the Bill itself, will introduce common sense and practicality into the code. Therefore there will be not only an advantage in having a code for those who want to act in accordance with the code, but there will be a distinct advantage in taking the tension off what I fear will occur when this Bill, in some form or another, is enacted, and which in my honest view will do great damage, whereas the code itself may be helpful.
We accept that the Government believe in their views, and they accept that we believe in ours; but they will really have to accept also that there is a great difficulty, that this Bill requires the cooperation of the whole trade union movement if it is to work satisfactorily, and that co-operation is totally lacking. Therefore it is the responsibility of all of us to try to find a way forward. It is no good "railroading" a Bill through this House if at the end of the day it is not going to get co-operation from the source where it is needed.
Therefore I would ask the noble Lord to think again and to see whether he cannot achieve what is asked for, which is not a difficult process, namely cutting 1362 down the period of a maximum of 12 months to nil—that is to say, having it at the same time as the Bill. I am speaking for myself and my own Party; I do not know what the Liberal Party thinks about it, but I am entirely in sympathy with their view and I think we should press the Government to accept the Amendment.
§ LORD BYERS
I must express my great disappointment at the reception which the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, has given to this Amendment, which was put forward in good faith as a way of helping the general situation when the Bill becomes law. The code of practice is absolutely fundamental to the Bill and it is something which, as the noble Lord, Lord Diamond, said, will be looked at much more often and with much more confidence than any part of the Bill itself when it becomes an Act. Very soon the Government will produce the preliminary draft. This is not going to be good enough, because although I have some doubts after the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, I assume that the preliminary draft will be changed quite considerably after consultation to meet the views which will have been expressed during the consultation period. I think it may have been a slip on his part, but the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, said that the preliminary code will not in fact be changed very much by the time we have a draft code. I hope I misunderstood him. I believe that the preliminary code is merely a basis for discussion and the draft code is what emerges after that discussion. An intelligent code of practice (and I think it could be intelligent) would give real confidence to all the people affected by it.
The one thing this Bill needs if it is going to succeed is to have the confidence of the maximum number of people on all sides of industry. If there is no draft code at the beginning there will certainly be misgivings and doubts and rumours, and an understandable unwillingness on the part of many people to commit themselves because they will not know what they are committing themselves to. I am not impressed by the argument that it will take a long time to set up the infrastructure and the machinery. It may well take time. but that can be started as soon as the Act is passed. What we are talking about is the appointed day on which the 1363 Act comes into operation—and this could be different. We had a similar situation in the Divorce Law Reform Bill.
What I believe is so important is to get the right psychological atmosphere. The Act may well come into operation some months after it has received the Royal Assent, and if we can get an intelligent code of practice in parallel with the Act I believe we shall have done a great deal to get rid of the natural doubts which are felt on all sides of industry. I think the Government ought to take this back and look at it. We are here to help in this matter and I do not believe that anyone has sat down and visualised what is going to happen in the period after the Bill gets the Royal Assent and before it comes into operation.
What is going to happen in that period? Are we going to have a whole lot of protests and strikes because people do not know what the guidelines are going to be in the draft code of practice? If I were in the shoes of the Government I would say "We will look at this again. We will not give any commitment about it, but we do feel that a valid point has been made". If they are not prepared to say that I shall begin to doubt whether the Government in this House have any discretion at all to accept any Amendments, because this is meant to be a helpful Amendment to get the atmosphere right. I hope we shall have (as I am sure we will) the support of the official Opposition, and probably of people on the Cross Benches, because this is meant to assist in getting the Bill, as an Act, off to a good start.
§ BARONESS GAITSKELL
I would like to support this Amendment. The noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, has said that we have a pretty broad idea of what the code of practice is about. That is so, but we would like it to be narrowed down quite considerably and particularised. After all, we have a broad idea because some of us have read the Bill—or at least we have tried to read the Bill. It really is an octopus of a Bill: not only has it got teeth but it has tentacles, and also it has ramifications. We are hoping, of course, that the code of practice will be much shorter and I hope it will be much more intelligible, whether we support it or not.
§ LORD DRUMALBYN
I appreciate very much that the noble Lords on the Liberal Benches, and I do not doubt also in this case (if not in all) the noble Lord, Lord Diamond—
§ LORD DIAMOND
I apologise for interrupting, but of course if he were here the noble Viscount, Lord Amory, would also be included. The noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, will remember what the noble Viscount was pressing him to do.
§ LORD DRUMALBYN
The noble Lord should let me finish the sentence before he adds further subjects to it. I appreciate very much that noble Lords are wishing to be entirely helpful in this matter. I understand the point of view they have put forward, but I would say to them that I think there is some misconception behind their Amendment, because the code is not going to be just a sort of glorified Explanatory Memorandum for the Bill. I recognise very well that the great difficulty we have been in in the country as a whole is to get the Bill over. It is a very complicated thing. We all know that there are committees meeting all over the country to discuss the Bill, and one finds that not a single member of the committee has read the Bill at all. This is a very serious problem; it is plainly a problem that has to be dealt with. Noble Lords, and most of all the noble Lord, Lord Diamond, having been Chief Secretary to the Treasury, will know the difficulties involved.
As soon as the Bill becomes an Act—I cannot give any undertakings at the moment as to how it will be done—it will be very desirable, and it will be possible, to issue a sort of guide to the contents of the Bill, as is done, for example, in the case of a National Insurance Act, where detailed information is given. But that is quite a different thing from the code. The code is a general guide to behaviour. I suggest to your Lordships that it is very important that we should get this right. On the other hand, we do not want to delay the Bill, and in this particular case we are between this Scylla and this Charybdis. As I have said, the Bill will inevitably be brought in in stages. I am not in a position to tell your Lordships the stages in which it will be 1365 brought in; obviously this is not normally done, and frankly I do not know. But what I do say is that the Bill will not really start to operate, really work on the shop floor, for some time. I cannot say how long, obviously. But we do want to get the code out as soon as we possibly can. We are anxious to get it out so that people will have an opportunity to digest it. But we do not think it right to defer the first appointed day necessarily until the code has been published.
I am perfectly prepared to look at this matter again with the object of hurrying the thing along as much as possible, but I would say to noble Lords that what one normally looks at in a Bill are questions of principle—what the effect of the Bill is going to be over the years. Here we are dealing with a problem of time and space in which we are confined by the realities of a situation, in which we want, first of all, to get as good a consultative draft as possible, secondly, to have as much consultation as possible, thirdly to come before Parliament with it. In all those circumstances it does not seem that we should bind ourselves to postpone the first appointed day until after all that has been gone through. Ideally we should do so, but in the circumstances I do not think it is reasonable to ask us to do that.
I do not think I can be accused of being an over-subservient member of the Liberal Patty although I am always very loyal. May I try to make a quick point to substantiate what was very clearly put by the noble Lord, Lord Diamond: that it is very difficult to remember any code or do anything about any code we have not seen. The Highway Code is a case in point. I am one of the worst offenders. I would not claim to know all the clauses, but I think I could, having seen it, mention the cases in which it is stated one should not overtake. Having a bad memory, I attempted to memorise them to the tune of Mountains of Mourne, as follows:
That takes in, I think, all the important things, which I certainly should not have been able to remember if I had not seen the Code.
- "I daren't overtake when a fog, or a mist,
- Or rain makes it hard to judge speed and distance.
- Only by clay when the sky is still blue
- Do I dare overtake what I long to pursue,
- I daren't overtake what one often pursues
- When approaching the crossings pedestrians use;
- A Turning; a Bend; the (steep) Brow of a hill;
- Or the (quaint) Hunchback Bridge by the old water-mill."
§ LORD HANKEY
One of the difficulties I saw about this matter was that the relationship between Clause 2 and Clause 3 is not quite clear. I must say that I think the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, has greatly clarified the situation. We now know that we are going to get the preliminary draft very soon. I do not know that there is much point in arguing any more about the time when we get the draft; it is going to be weeks. We now know from the noble Lord that there are going to be extensive consultations. I welcome that very much. We attach great importance to the code being agreed upon as far as possible, without its being unduly delayed. We know that within a year it will be laid before both Houses of Parliament, so we shall have a chance to discuss it. I should have thought that that left the situation very clear, and in view of the difficulty of defining what is the appointed day of an Act, which is to come into force in bits, I think the present situation is very satisfactory.
§ LORD BYERS
I should make it clear that we are not asking for the code of practice to be in rhyme. I must say I am getting more and more worried as the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, explains it, because I sense that he is diminishing in his mind, and perhaps in other people's minds, the importance of the code. He said in his speech that the chances of the code of practice affecting the working of the Bill are remote. I do not see this. I think people will look to it and want to have confidence in it. We spent two and a half days discussing Clause I of this Bill. Clause 2 says:It shall he the duty of the Secretary of State … to prepare in draft a code of practice, 1367 containing such practical guidance as… would be helpful for the purpose specified in section 1(1) of this ActThe Government give tremendous importance to these principles, and these are the guidelines which are going to be given to management and the trade unions to suggest how they conduct negotiations and all the rest. I hope we are not going through this Bill denigrating the importance of the code of practice. I would ask the noble Lord to take this matter back and look at it again. Otherwise, we shall be forced to have a Division.
§ LORD DIAMOND
In support of what the noble Lord, Lord Byers, has said, and while I polish up my recollection of Hiawatha for when the code comes out, may I say that the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, frightens me as much as he frightens Lord Byers. He said that the Act would come into operation in different stages but he was not yet in a position to disclose that, both because it was unconstitutional and because he did not know. The second is a persuasive reason. May I try to find a way forward in relation to what he has said? Because I am feeling exactly the same as the noble Lord, Lord Byers, that here is a matter on which everybody is trying to help the Government. There is no dispute on what is going to be really material, and that is getting people accustomed to a good code of practice. Yet the Government are acting as though even on the most helpful contribution they cannot meet anybody's point of view. This would be so derogatory to your Lordships' House that I do not think it would find sympathy anywhere. The noble Lord has said that the Bill is to come into operation in different stages. As the noble Lord knows, no reference, for example, to the N.I.R.C. could be made until the code of practice has been enacted, because the N.I.R.C. would have to have regard to the extent to which the parties had complied with the code of practice. The judge sitting in the N.I.R.C. would be put in an impossible position, because in coming to a conclusion on the case before him, he would have to have regard to a code of practice which did not exist. It really is an absurd position. If that part of the Bill which deals with the N.I.R.C. is enacted in advance of the 1368 code, the Government are going to be in an impossible position. They are going to have to put the brakes on even though the Act of Parliament will be enacted, which is an impossible situation.
I am wondering whether there is a way forward. I wonder whether, at the back of the Minister's mind, there is a part of the Bill which could not be introduced for the practical reasons I have indicated—could not be enacted in advance of the code. Perhaps the definition clause could be enacted, because I do not see that there would be any great harm in enacting that clause before we enacted the rest of the Bill and the code of practice. What I am really asking is whether there is a part of the Bill which, at all events, the noble Lord could undertake would not be enacted before the code of practice is enacted, and thereby meet the relevant part of the noble Lord's Amendment? If he could undertake to do that it would help the matter forward. If he cannot undertake to do that on a matter the substance of which is plainly agreed between all sides, and where we are trying to help the Government—and there is nothing sinister up my sleeve; I did not move the Amendment—then I would have every sympathy with what the noble Lord, Lord Byers, said in his concluding remarks.
§ LORD DRUMALBYN
I willingly respond to the noble Lord's plea, but I must say that I think he is misreading Clause 4—This is by the way, because I think it is a side issue he has raised here—when he says that there must be a code in operation before there are any proceedings before the court. Clause 4 says:… but in any proceedings before the Industrial Court or an industrial tribunal under this Act—(a) any such code of practice …It is quite plain if there is no such code of practice they cannot have regard to it.
§ LORD BYERS
Is it not unfair to one of the parties to the dispute if there is not a code that he can plead in mitigation?
§ LORD DRUMALBYN
As I say, this is a side issue. On the strict construction this is not necessary, as I understand it. Apart from that side issue, I have indicated that it seems very unlikely that the court would be established and in operation before the code of practice is 1369 published. Of course, we shall know a little more about it by the time we come to the Report stage. With due respect, I think it would be a good thing if the noble Lord would withdraw his Amendment at this time, and we can then discuss it in one form or another.
I am afraid that I cannot give the noble Lord any commitments on this other than that I shall be glad to look very carefully into the whole question. I think we are all agreed on two things: first, we are agreed that the Bill should be brought into operation as soon as possible; second, we are agreed that the code should be brought into operation as soon as possible. Ideally, we are agreed that they should come into operation at the same time. What I am saying is that if the Bill can be brought into operation before the code, for the reasons I have stated I do not think it would be sensible to require the bringing into operation of the Bill to be postponed until the code was actually approved by Parliament, or laid before Parliament.
I hope that we can leave it in that way at the present time, on the understanding that I recognise that noble Lords want to have the code in operation contemporaneously or, if you like, before the Bill comes into operation. I understand this. All I am saying is that my advice at the present time is that this would hold up the implementation of the first part of the Act to be brought into operation, and we do not think this would be a desirable result.
§ 7.36 p.m.
§ LORD BEAUMONT OF WHITLEY
This has brought out into the open a point of difference between the Government and noble Lords on these Benches, and also a point of difference—although we are agreed, I think, about this Amendment—between ourselves and noble Lords on the Labour Benches. The Liberal attitude to this Bill is that basically a Bill is needed, and very largely (and here we part company from the Labour Party) this is the right kind of Bill. A Bill is long overdue; I think that is common ground all round. We have taken a long time to get round to it, and we do not think there is any very great hurry to put it into practice. If the Government are saying that there is, they are getting dangerously near reverting to an impression that they gave 1370 at the beginning of the production of this Bill, and during the Election—and, I may say during by-elections since—that somehow the passing of this Bill is going to stop inflation and is a substitute for an economic policy. If they are not taking this point of view, I cannot see why there is such a desperate hurry to get this Bill into operation. We are not attempting to delay it by very much. The consensus of opinion round the House, including the Government, seems to be that if a really good job of consultation is done, and a really good job is done on the code (to quote the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn), the code of practice would not be delayed beyond, say, Christmas, or very early spring. We do not think that that is too much to ask in terms of the psychological effect that it will have.
We on these Benches wish this Bill, in bulk, well, and we want to see it have the best possible chance. I am afraid that I do not think that the slightly halfhearted assurances of the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, are sufficiently satisfactory, and we should like to press this Amendment.
THE EARL OF BALFOUR
In rising to support my noble friend Lord Drumalbyn in opposing this Amendment, I should like to state how important is the fact that preparing the enormous amount of machinery that needs to go into the code of practice, and setting up the Commission and the Industrial Court, will all take time. In theory, I must admit I felt that there was a great deal to be said for putting forward this suggested Amendment, but in practice I do not think it will give Her Majesty's Government enough time to get the rest of this Bill, and the code of practice, into operation. For example, I should like to refer to Clause 115 which sets out the guiding principles for the Commission on Industrial Relations.
Under Schedule 3, this Commission has a lot of rules to study and observe. It is set up under the Industrial Court, and the rules of the Industrial Court are covered in Part II of Schedule 3, from paragraph 18 onwards. The Commission's rules are covered in Part III of the same Schedule. There is a lot of work and study to be done there. I should particularly like your Lordships to look at paragraph 37 of Schedule 3, which 1371 gives the Commission power to examine "any question under this Act", and to remedy any defects. That needs time. I hope that the Commission will have on it trade union representatives, and a complete cross-section of those connected with industry. I must support my noble friend Lord Drumalbyn in opposing this Amendment, because although in theory it sounds very nice, in practice I do not think it will give the Government enough time to get the proper and adequate machinery that is necessary for organising everything in this Bill.
§ 7.40 p.m.
§ LORD LEATHERLAND
If I may speak metaphorically, there has been for 50 years hanging above my bed a very nicely embroidered motto which states, "If the Liberals say it, it is wrong." But tonight I feel that I must agree wholeheartedly with the Amendment which the Liberal Party have put forward. It seems to be common sense, tying up the Bill and the code of practice into a nice, complete logical document. The noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, spoke about many committees up and down the country which are discussing this Bill. I presume that he means committees of trade unions and of the Labour Party, because he went on to say that they were denouncing the Bill although they had not read it. Yet we are asked to-night, in one of the Chambers of the Legislature of this country, to say Yes or No to something that we have not seen; that the noble Lord does not intend to let us see for some months, perhaps until half of the Bill has been dealt with. We ought to have this code of practice before us to-night. That is the only logical way of considering a Bill of this kind.
My mind went back to the 1920s—the Liberal Party was a real Party in those days—when books were published by the late E. D. Morel about the secret treaties into which diplomats entered on behalf of their countries. I am sorry that the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, walked out—
§ LORD LEATHERLAND
We were told in those days that nations signed treaties between themselves, but that hidden away and not disclosed to the public were all kinds of secret clauses. That is what is happening with the Bill that is before us to-night. We are allowed to read the 100 or so pages that are before us, but the very essence of the Bill is contained in the code of practice which we are not allowed to read.
The noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, has partly satisfied me on one point which I should have raised; that is, the danger of some legal action being taken against a trade union in the period between the Bill coming into operation and the code of practice being published. Nevertheless, he has not satisfied me about another aspect. There is the possibility of pressure being brought to bear on trade unions during that interregnum. There is scope in the Bill for all kinds of pressure—not only in the matter of registration, but in many other matters—being brought to bear upon the trade unions, and if they are to be blindfolded and not know what rights they have under the code of practice, that seems very unfair indeed—almost, an unfair industrial practice.
§ LORD DRUMALBYN
May I say that it is not the intention that the code of practice should confer rights. That is a matter for Statutes to do. It is going to lay down guidelines of behaviour.
§ LORD LEATHERLAND
Nevertheless, the code of practice, like the Highway Code, is a moral code. It will tell us what is right and what is wrong. Therefore, the trade unions should be able to refer to it when they are asked during that interval to comply with the various degrees of pressure that will be brought to bear upon them by the Government. I feel that without the code of practice we are being asked to vote for a pig in a poke, because the code is the very essence or the backbone of this legislation.
§ 7.46 p.m.
§ On Question, Whether the said Amendment (No. 11) shall be agreed to?
§ 8.0 p.m.
LORD CHAMPIONmoved Amendment No. 12:
Page 2, line 17, leave out from ("practice") to end of line 19 and insert ("which has been agreed with organisations of employers and the
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 48; Not-Contents, 107.1373
|Airedale, L.||Davies of Leek, L.||Platt, L.|
|Amherst, E. [Teller]||Delacourt-Smith, L.||Plummer, Bs.|
|Archibald, L.||Diamond, L.||Royle, L.|
|Ardwick, L.||Foot, L.||Sainsbury, L.|
|Balogh, L.||Gaitskell, Bs.||St. Davids, V.|
|Barrington, V.||Gardiner, L.||Serota, Bs.|
|Beaumont of Whitley, L. [Teller]||Gladwyn, L.||Shackleton, L.|
|Henley, L.||Shepherd, L.|
|Bernstein, L.||Jacques, L.||Soper, L.|
|Beswick, L.||Janner, L.||Stonham, L.|
|Birk, Bs.||Kennet, L.||Stow Hill, L.|
|Blyton, L.||Leatherland, L.||Strabolgi, L.|
|Brockway, L.||Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe, Bs.||Swaythling, L.|
|Buckinghamshire, E.||Milner of Leeds, L.||Tangley, L.|
|Byers, L.||Nunburnholme, L.||White, Bs.|
|Champion, L.||Phillips, Bs.||Wynne-Jones, L.|
|Aberdare, L.||Fortescue, E.||Milverton, L.|
|Ailwyn, L.||Geddes, L.||Monck, V.|
|Amherst of Hackney, L.||Gisborough, L.||Monckton of Brenchley, V.|
|Balfour, E.||Glasgow, E.||Monsell, V.|
|Balfour of Inchrye, L.||Glendevon, L.||Monson, L.|
|Beauchamp, E.||Goschen, V. [Teller.]||Mowbray and Stourton, L.|
|Belstead, L.||Gowrie, E.||Napier and Ettrick, L.|
|Birdwood, L.||Gray, L.||Nelson of Stafford, L.|
|Boston, L.||Greenway, L.||Penrhyn, L.|
|Bridgeman, V.||Gridley, L.||Poole, L.|
|Buccleuch and Queensberry, D.||Grimston of Westbury, L.||Radnor, E.|
|Chelmer, L.||Hailes, L.||Reading, M.|
|Clinton, L.||Hailsham of Saint Marylebone, L. (L, Chancellor.)||Reigate, L.|
|Clwyd, L.||Rochdale, V.|
|Conesford, L.||Hankey, L.||Rockley, L.|
|Cork and Orrery, E.||Hanworth, V.||Sackville, L.|
|Cottesloe, L.||Harvey of Tasburgh, L.||St. Aldwyn, E.|
|Cowley, E.||Hastings, L.||St. Helens, L.|
|Craigavon, V.||Hawke, L.||Sandford, L.|
|Craigmyle, L.||Hertford, M.||Savile, L.|
|Colyton, L.||Hives, L.||Selsdon, L.|
|Daventry, V.||Hood, V.||Shaftesbury, E.|
|De Clifford, L.||Hylton-Foster, Bs.||Strang, L.|
|Denham, L.||Ilford, L.||Strange, L.|
|Derwent, L.||Jellicoe, E. (L. Privy Seal.)||Strange of Knokin, Bs.|
|Digby, L.||Kemsley, V.||Strathcarron, L.|
|Drumalbyn, L.||Killearn, L.||Sudeley, L.|
|Dundee, E.||Kilmarnock, L.||Swansea, L.|
|Ebbisham, L.||Lansdowne, M.||Thomas, L.|
|Eccles, V.||Latymer, L.||Thorneycroft, L.|
|Elliot of Harwood, Bs.||Loudoun, C.||Townshend, M.|
|Falkland, V.||Lyell, L.||Tweedsmuir of Belhelvie, Bs.|
|Falmouth, V.||MacAndrew, L.||Verulam, E.|
|Ferrers, E. [Teller.]||McFadzean, L.||Wakefield of Kendal, L.|
|Ferrier, L.||Massereene and Ferrard, V.||Ward of Witley, V.|
|Fisher, L.||Merrivale, L.||Windlesham, L.|
Resolved in the negative, and Amendment disagreed to accordingly.
§ General Council of the Trades Union Congress").
§ The noble Lord said: This Amendment is to my mind one of the most important that appears on the Marshalled List. As will be seen, we do not propose in this or in any other Amendment the omission of the reference in the Bill to 1375 the drafting and submission to Parliament of a code of practice. This Amendment has some relation to Amendment No. 15, to which we shall come later unless we decide—
§ LORD DRUMALBYN
It might be for the convenience of the Committee, if the noble Lord is willing, that we should discuss Amendment No. 15 at the same time as Amendment No. 12.
§ LORD CHAMPION
This would be wholly agreeable to me. The Amendments contain exactly the same principle, but Amendment No. 12 relates to the preparation of the code and Amendment No. 15 relates to the possible amendment of the code at a later stage. But the principle is exactly the same; namely, that of securing the agreement of the bodies which would be most affected by this code of practice, to both the provisional code as it will at first appear before Parliament, then to the subsequent draft and then, finally, to any revision that might take place. What we are seeking to do by this Amendment is to guide the Secretary of State on sound lines in his preparation of the code and in its subsequent implementation. The Amendment is—and I make no bones about it—mandatory in so far as it would impose a duty on the Secretary of State to secure the agreement of the appropriate organisations before presenting it to Parliament under the terms of Clause 3.
I suggest that to take such a step would be to give effect to the principle which the Government have urged on the trade unions and the employers in Clause 1(1)(b). After the preliminary words of subsection (1) which read:The provisions of this Act shall have effect for the purpose of promoting good industrial relations in accordance with the following general principles "—it goes on to set out the principle in paragraph (b), which is: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 general interests of the community ".As I understand it, this is in accord with Trades Union Congress thinking which was expressed in a resolution sent to the Secretary of State by the T.U.C. following its special congress of June last 1376 year. That resolution affirmed the need to preserve the voluntary basis of our industrial relations system, opposed the imposition of any legislation restricting the freedom of the trade union movement and in particular opposed the proposals for the legal enforcement of collective agreements and a compulsory cooling-off period. The General Council, in addition to informing the Secretary of State of that resolution, drew his attention to the work on which they had been engaged in reforming industrial relations over the previous years. That body also acknowledged that the Government have a constructive part to play in this process, by providing information to guide trade unions and employers toward the adoption of good industrial relation procedures and by making available independent and objective conciliation and arbitration services.
I would particularly call the attention of the Government to the unequivocal acceptance by the Trades Union Congress of the fact that the Government have a part to play in the guidance of trade unions and employers towards good standards of industrial relations. If that means anything at all, it means that the T.U.C. in all this would welcome an agreed code of practice—and "agreed" was the word used by the noble Lord, Lord Hankey, when talking about this. He mentioned the word "agreement": that there should be an agreed code of practice; and I agree with him on that. The General Council, at the same time as they got into touch with the Secretary of State, asked him to meet them so that they could explain constructively the work on which they were engaged and discuss how the Government could help both sides of industry to secure further improvements in its voluntary system.
To that offer the Secretary of State replied that he would be prepared to meet the General Council after the Government had published their Consultative Document on their proposed Industrial Relations Bill. We are aware of the sorry events that followed that. On October 13 the Secretary of State informed the T.U.C. representatives that, in effect, the eight central pillars of the Government proposals were not negotiable—"You can come and see me, but I am not prepared to discuss the guts of the Consultative Document ". In my opinion that is a very bad way in which 1377 to begin negotiations with a body of the importance and standing of the T.U.C. That was a ghastly error that alienated any good feeling that might have borne good fruit if the T.U.C. and the Government had got together on the T.U.C.'s acknowledgement that a framework of guidance to employers and trade unions could help provide a set of useful guidelines on good standards of industrial relations.
All that is now water under the bridge. But it is not too late in my opinion to get down to the preparation of a code based on agreement between the Government, the. T.U.C. and the employers. It must not be something imposed on the trade unions and the employers in a high-handed fashion by the Government. Where the Trades Union Congress is concerned, it must be based on agreement with that body that has always sought to have responsible—and dare I say "reasonable" as well as responsible?—relationships with the Government of the day no matter what its Party political persuasion. I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, will recognise that in the past—certainly since 1926—there has existed between the Government of the day, whether Tory or Labour, a relationship in which the T.U.C. felt that in the interests of the people it represented it was best for it to co-operate with Government. That has happened in the past; but at this moment the possibility of co-operation does not look like coming into effect; instead, it appears that we are going to depart from a standard which has existed in this country since 1926.
I do know that there must persist in the minds of some of your Lordships the idea, implanted so many years ago by the brilliant cartoonist Low, of the Trades Union Congress as a slow and plodding carthorse. if ever it was that—and I would not regard it as an entirely false picture—it has changed. It has changed very much—perhaps not from a shire horse into a Nyjinsky, but to an organisation of which the Donovan Report said under the heading "The role of the Trades Union Congress":In this chapter we have suggested a programme of action for trade unions, involving a substantial list of proposed reforms … carrying them through will nevertheless demand considerable effort, imagination and initiative from trade union leaders and execu 1378 tive members, and a willingness to move away from accepted modes of thought and patterns of behaviour. To generate the initiative and sustain the effort we rely heavily upon the leadership of the Trades Union Congress.After speaking of its authoritative position in the trade union world, the Report added:Its unchallenged position as representative of the unions in dealing with the Government and as their spokesman to the public adds to its influence over its members. In recent years it has taken the lead in several new developments, by far the most important being the working out of its own incomes policy and its own machinery for vetting the pay demands of its members.The Report further added:This is an innovation which would have been barely conceivable even a few years ago, and it has been accomplished without a formal revision of the constitution.In my opinion the body there depicted by this authoritative Royal Commission deserves the utmost encouragement, and to seek its agreement to a code of practice is not asking too much of a highly responsible body. The code of practice is to be one, like the Highway Code, which may be admissible as evidence and could be of vital importance in determining matters crucial to employers and trade unionists. This was something which I found to be importan—something we first had on the Liberal Amendment. It is going to be of great importance. Its potential importance has been stressed throughout all the discussions we have had up to now on this Bill, even from the very moment of first being moved in Committee on the first day of our Committee stage.
On Tuesday last, both my noble friend Lord Diamond and the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, said we could expect the code of practice to be on every manager's desk. I would say it must also be on every trade union official's desk and in every shop steward's pocket. But if the code of practice is carried out as clearly intended by Clause 2 and the principles contained in Clause 1, it will need a pretty big pocket to hold it. It is going to be a considerable document. The instruction here in Clause 2 is that the Secretary of State must prepare a draft code of practice which would be helpful for the purpose specified in Clause 1(1) of the Bill. I will mention only one of the principles to be dealt with in the 1379 clause: that is in paragraph (b) of subsection (1)—the principle of freedom and security for workers protected by adequate safeguards against unfair industrial practices, whether on the part of employers or others.
One gains some idea of the size of this code if one includes in it only that Part of this Bill which is headed "Rights of Workers". This starts with Clause 5. The marginal note says:Rights of workers in respect of trade union membership and activities",and it continues through 27 clauses dealing with workers' rights in connection with pre-entry closed shop agreements, contributions to trade unions in lieu of membership, contributions to charity instead of contributions to trade unions, agency shoe agreements, special provisions for approval of closed shop agreements, minimum periods of notice to terminate contracts of employment, the right of the employee not to be unfairly dismissed, fair and unfair dismissal, dismissal in connection with a lock-out, dismissal in connection with a strike, excluded cases of employment, qualifying period and upper age limit and pressure on employer to infringe the rights of workers, et cetera. I have not mentioned all the clauses in this Part, but they are all highly germane to the principle in Clause I which I quoted.
Part II of the Bill contains some 900-odd lines of print. Every one of its 27 clauses contains something vital to workers and will have to be explained at considerable length in the code. I believe it is absolutely essential that that should be done. It should be fully explained to the man who is going to have to live and work and negotiate by the code, and generally to behave in his industrial relations in such a way that he can stand up anywhere and say, "I have obeyed the code. The code is important and I have considered and obeyed it."
I said a few moments ago that it was not too late for the Government to get down to an agreed code of practice with the Trades Union Congress. It is very nearly too late. As I said before, for the first time since 1926, the T.U.C. looks to be in danger of refusing to co-operate with the Government of the day. A 1380 report carried by the Daily Telegraph on Tuesday last said,All trade union members of industrial tribunals, part of official arbitration machinery, will be instructed by the Trades Union Congress to resign on the day the Industrial Relations Bill receives Royal Assent.I should regard that sort of thing as being an absolute disaster, but I should have to blame the Government if in fact it took place. Such a decision by an organisation with the sort of history of co-operation with the Government of the day that the T.U.C. has, is an extremely serious one, and it bodes ill for the so-much-desired industrial harmony. It is indicative of the sorry relationships which have grown up since this Government came into office. The Government are on a course which may well prove to be disastrous for the country.
In the interests of the future of all of us, I appeal to the Government to accept our Amendment as the first step back to the sort of sanity that marked the relationships between the right honourable Sir Walter Monckton and the Trades Union Congress and also the relationships that existed between the right honourable John Hare (now Lord Blakenham) and the trade union movement as a whole. They realise the importance of that co-operation. I believe that it would be right for the Government to accept this Amendment and the subsequent one, Amendment No. 15, for, as my noble friend Lord Diamond said, the future of good industrial relations in this country will depend on co-operation. That is precisely what this Amendment seeks, to bring about a situation in which there will be co-operation between the Trades Union Congress and the Government; and, I would hope, between the employers who will have a part to play in this code of practice and the Government. I believe that it is on these lines that we may in future be able to secure the sort of industrial relations which will serve this country well.
§ LORD TANGLEY
I supported the Opposition on the last Amendment, and I expect to support them in a good many more Amendments which we shall be considering before long. But on this occasion I want to ask the noble Lord, Lord Champion, whether he has considered the ultimate effect of his Amendment if it were accepted. To me it 1381 raises a serious constitutional point. The Committee has accepted Clause 1 which sets out certain principles, and I cannot see any Amendment on the Order Paper which suggests that Clause 2 should be left out of the Bill. I have, therefore, to assume that it is accepted, and on the basis of the principles of Clause 1 the Minister will have a duty to prepare a draft code and submit it for the approval of Parliament.
The effect of this Amendment is to prohibit the Minister from putting anything to Parliament and to prohibit Parliament from considering anything which has been vetoed either by the C.B.I. or the T.U.C. Nobody in his senses would suspect the noble Lord, Lord Champion, of having any leanings in a Fascist direction. But this is a long step to the corporate State. I suggest that it is quite intolerable and that the Committee should have nothing to do with it.
§ 8.22 p.m.
§ LORD DRUMALBYN
The noble Lord, Lord Champion, moved this Amendment in, I was going to say, a moving way I do not want to say "moving", but I cannot find another word at the moment. I agree with him that the future of good industrial relations in this country depends on cooperation, and we certainly look forward to the "restoration of diplomatic relations" in certain sectors. As the noble Lord knows, I have had experience of running a voluntary code and I know the tremendous advantage and force that an agreed code can have. I hope very much that the draft code prepared by the Secretary of State will be agreed by the Trades Union Congress, by the C.B.I., and by other organisations of employers which are involved. But I am bound to agree with the noble Lord, Lord Tangley, when he says that it would be an odd constitutional quirk if Parliament were deliberately to deprive itself of the opportunity to consider a code by insisting that it should be agreed by two lots of people at least. each of whom would have the right to hold it up if they disagreed. They might do that—not necessarily on the whole code. but, let us face it, they might do it in order to get their way over a particular matter. They might do it to bring pressure to bear, and it wold be quite legitimate 1382 for them to do so were the Amendment accepted.
The noble Lord will be aware that the Secretary of State has said categorically: "I can give an unqualified assurance that I shall be taking the initiative in seeking discussions and views about the formulation of this code of practice". Those were the Minister's words, and of course he hopes for consultations with the Trades Union Congress, whose progress in the kind of work they do is acknowledged by everyone. He will consult also with the C.B.I. But it is a very different matter (is it not?) to specify that agreement must be obtained. I am not certain that the noble Lord really meant this. We hope that it will be obtained, and I am sure it will be substantially obtained, because the Secretary of State would be very unwise to bring a code of practice before Parliament with which there was not substantial agreement. But no one can guarantee complete and entire agreement on all details and so it is with regret that I have to say that I cannot accept the Amendment certainly in the letter, although I think it fair to say that one accepts it in the spirit. Agreement is the thing that one will seek to achieve and hope that it will be achieved.
§ LORD BEAUMONT OF WHITLEY
It is with considerable reluctance that I feel unable to support the noble Lord, Lord Champion, in this Amendment. There are some Amendments from the Opposition Benches which will be discussed shortly which I hope very much that we shall be able to support; but I take the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Thrigley, and the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn. It has always been a Liberal position on industrial affairs that industrial decisions are not just a matter between the employing side and employees; but in addition there is the interest of the community in general, and the community has a considerable right to be heard at all levels.
I think this is one of the great things which, so far, is missing in the attitude to industrial relations shown in this Bill and in the debates we have had upon it; because there is a very strong interest by local communities in what goes on in the factories and what happens in the industries in their areas. There is also 1383 the national interest. I do not think one could have a situation where, as the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, said, one side or the other could veto an arrangement like this. I am quite sure that Parliament must be able to suggest things and to approve things which are not necessarily liked by both sides; though, of course, as was rightly said by the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, nothing could be accepted or could work which did not very largely have the agreement of both sides. I think that this Amendment goes a little too far, and I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Champion, will see his way to withdraw it.
§ LORD CHAMPION
I am bound to say that what really matters in regard to this Amendment is that it should be accepted in spirit. Those words were used by the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn. I do not pretend that I would go to the stake for an Amendment of this kind. I think to use the word "agreed" in this connection was wrong. I did not frame the Amendment. I spoke to it, not necessarily to get it accepted in its present form, but to try to ensure that we should get the kind of reply from the Government which we have had; namely, that so far as it is humanly possible, the Government will try to secure an agreement with the bodies which matter most in this connectiton.
I think that the noble Lord is right. I am sure that so far as Lord Drumalbyn went in that regard, he would be supported by the noble Lord, Lord Tangley, who was a member of the Commission which I quoted when talking about the Trades Union Congress. I take his point about the Constitution. I am not such a "mug" in Parliamentary affairs that I could not realise what is meant by the wording of this Amendment. What I was after of course was the undertaking which I have got, and to which I am sure we shall not need to hold the noble Lord. In the circumstances, I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment standing in my name.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ 8.31 p.m.
LORD BYERS moved Amendment No. 13:
Page 2, line 19, at end insert ("and in particular to provide for a Works Constitu-
tional Law within it by which works councils shall be established as negotiating bodies in every plant where over fifty persons are employed.").
§ The noble Lord said: I rise to move this Amendment, and I should make it clear that it is in fact a probing Amendment, to put on record the concept we have about the importance of works councils. The reason I say that it is a probing Amendment is that I recognise that it is not in the right place in the Bill; in fact. I think it would be difficult to find a right place in the Bill without subjecting the Bill to a considerable number of additional Amendments. The purpose of this Amendment is to broaden the scope of the Bill, by making it possible in the future to incorporate within our industrial relations structure a works constitutional law and the establishment of statutory works council for firms employing more than 50 people. These works councils would be recognised as negotiating bodies. We are not suggesting that these things could be done overnight. We believe that the direction in which we as a country should proceed should be recognised within this measure; and this is the direction which we believe to be the right one. It is an attempt to put some philosophy of human relations into the Bill and to broaden it from what Lord Donovan described as an Industrial Disputes Bill into a genuine Industrial Relations Bill.
§ The system has worked well in Germany, though I am not by any means suggesting that we should slavishly copy it. The people we have had over in Germany studying the system have come back with some enthusiasm for it. I think it has worked well largely for two reasons: first, the works constitutional law lays down very clear procedures and sanctions, and secondly, there are far fewer unions in Germany than we have in Britain. This might well be the way in which this country could develop its industrial relations. In any event, the establishment of a works council in itself creates something in which we are desperately interested, and that is a democratic forum in which there can be full discussion of matters which affect the life and livelihood of the workers and of management. It is a means of improving communications and it is a means of disseminating information, not lust from 1385 management but from the unions to their fellow workers. Noble Lords will remember the Fleet Street strike, where the secretaries had no idea whether they were intended to go on strike or not, and, if they refrained from striking, whether they would be paid for going on working. It was an amazing gap in the cornmunications system of the industry.
§ One of the great advantages of using the works council as a negotiating body is that one is negotiating at plant level, where performance can be judged, where productivity can be measured and where it is much easier to identify merit. Additionally, by using the works council as a negotiating body one can avoid this appalling system of leapfrogging, where one is always negotiating with one union after another. As soon as one has finished one negotiation, the next union wants to come along and get the differentials agreed upon as a result of the settlement which has been made. This leapfrogging in itself is something which feeds the inflationary spiral, and if we can find a way of stopping it—and I think that to create a works council as a negotiating body is one—it will make a lot of difference.
§ I believe, having just come back from Japan, that there is a great deal to be said for the system which they have of reviewing wages once a year, at a definite time in the year. Everybody knows that the wages are going to be reviewed in March or April in the light of the past year's performance, and then is decided what is going to be done for the following year. That would be much easier with a works council set-up than it would be on a national industrial basis. But the main point of putting forward this proposal is to indicate the need which we feel of moving, gradually perhaps, in the direction of greater worker participation, and to bring negotiations closer to the work and the plant. Therefore I beg to move the Amendment standing in my name.
§ LORD DRUMALBYN
I was glad to hear the noble Lord say that he was moving this as a probing Amendment, because, as lie is clearly well aware, it is not one which fits very easily into the position in the Bill which he has selected for it. The first point one has to make is that it is not very clear what is meant 1386 by a law—I take it he is using the word in the sense of a model law, with which one is more familiar, I think, in Continental circles than in this country.
§ LORD DRUMALBYN
That is to say, a model on which the constitutions of works councils could be set up at various plants. There is not any doubt that the concept of a body representative of and elected by all grades of workers, including management, has considerable attractions, and indeed is widely put into practice, perhaps more abroad than here. From the point of view of consultation and communication it is perhaps more in use on wage negotiations in this country, but the idea of a single body to do this for a whole plant, possibly taking into account a national body in negotiations at the same time and interpreting them to suit the plant, is of course a very valid one. There can be no doubt that in some plants workers' councils have proved effective, particularly in their earlier years of existence. Experience seems to show that there tends to be rather a dead passage after the first flush of enthusiasm has passed and after they have tidied up a lot of things which needed to be tidied up. I would, however, question whether the idea is of universal application in this country, and certainly whether it would be right to make it compulsory to establish works councils as negotiating bodies in every plant with over 50 employees. Even if it were right, the way in which to compel them, I should have thought, would be by Statute and not in a code of practice.
The purpose of the code provided for in this Bill, as has already been said, is to give practical guidance for the promotion of good industrial relations to all those concerned with them, so by its very nature it will not be a suitable document for laying clown the strict legal requirements for the establishment of statutory institutions. I am bound to say also that the concept of a mandatory universal requirement cuts right across the provisions of the Bill; for example, those relating to the establishment of sole bargaining agents. If it were accepted not only would it mean adding clauses to establish and give effect to a works constitutional law, but it would also require substantial re-drafting of the Bill 1387 to remove those provisions which are incompatible with it.
I hope it will be some consolation to the noble Lord that much of what the Liberal Party would like works councils to achieve will be achieved by the provisions in the Bill relating to collective agreements, and particularly to procedure agreements, as well as to sole bargaining agents consisting of joint negotiating panels. Moreover, the code of practice will give guidance about provision of information by employers and about effective means of communication, negotiation and consultation between management and workers.
There is nothing in the Bill to prevent works councils being set up on the pattern suggested by the Liberal Party in their pamphlet Partners at Work, but making that pattern mandatory and universal is quite a different matter. Circumstances vary greatly in plants and what is appropriate in some might be quite inappropriate in others. There is no reason to deny employers and workers the right of working out together the system which suits them best. Plainly also this Amendment, if accepted, would weaken the code, because it might leave the industrial court and the industrial tribunals in considerable difficulty in deciding what to do when proceedings came before them in which it was alleged that the guidance in the code on the existence, composition and functions of the works council was relevant.
That is an argument directed to the Amendment as such, rather than to the principle lying behind it. There is also the point that the Amendment, if made universal, could undermine and weaken trade unionism as we know it by requiring plant level bargaining in all cases. When I was laying perhaps undue emphasis on plant bargaining yesterday there was a strong reaction from the other side of the House, and I think that the lesson to be learned from that is that we have to adapt circumstances to particular industries and particular plants, and that negotiating procedures should be worked out by the collective bargaining process. In our view collective bargaining, freely and responsibly conducted between management and strong trade unions in accordance with agreed procedures, is the most effective way of conducting industrial rela- 1388 tions. We have no desire to lay down a law for the constitution and functioning of negotiating and consultative bodies at plant or at any other level. Perhaps I may sum up in this way. We are sympathetic with the idea of works councils in appropriate circumstances, and the Bill does not prevent works councils being set up in appropriate circumstances. Obviously the noble Lord is not going to press his Amendment, and I would hope that he will on this understanding withdraw it.
§ LORD STONHAM
I found the reply of the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, somewhat disappointing in that he felt constrained to stick closely to his brief, which understandably could not take into account what the noble Lord, Lord Byers, said in moving the Amendment. It is all very well to say that the noble Lord is not pressing his Amendment and that the Government are in favour of works councils, but where does that take us? I, too. am in favour of works councils, very much in favour of works councils. I would point to what they have achieved in Germany, where the law says that there is to be a works council where there are 20 persons employed, and that goes much further than the Amendment. If we are to have industrial democracy on the shop floor, this is one of the ways, possibly the pre-eminent way, of achieving it, and I hope that the Government will look carefully at this proposal. Manifestly, the proposition of a works constitutional law is rather more than one would expect, but certainly this is a means of achieving what I believe we all have in mind—industrial democracy. Therefore, the proposal merits rather more consideration than the noble Lord has been able to give it.
§ LORD BYERS
I am extremely grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, for the support he has given to the ideas put forward and for the way in which he put them to the Government. However, I accept the technical problems so far as this Bill is concerned, and I accept that we cannot amend the Bill in the way we would desire. I am delighted to know that the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, has been reading our pamphlets. We wondered why the sales had suddenly gone up and how we had found this new source of revenue. But what I would like to see is what the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, would like, to get a really good 1389 dialogue going among managers and workers about this whole proposal. The more we can get them involved in discussion at factory and plant level the more we can get away from "the two sides" in industry and get industry working as a team, and this is what we wanted to urge tonight. Having done that, I would like to ask leave to withdraw my Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ 8.47 p.m.
BARONESS WHITE moved Amendment No. 14:
Page 2, line 30, at end insert—
("() Before drafting the Code of Practice in accordance with the provisions of Clause 2(1) or revising it under the provisions of Clause 2(3) the Secretary of State shall consult with organisations of workers representing all descriptions of workers affected by the Code of Practice.")
§ The noble Baroness said: I beg to move the Amendment standing in the name of my noble friend Lord Garnsworthy and myself. Your Lordships will appreciate that this Amendment does not fall into the constitutional difficulties to which the noble Lord. Lord Tangley, drew attention in connection with an earlier Amendment moved by my noble friend Lord Champion, because this Amendment seeks to do no more than lay upon the Secretary of State an obligation to consult. The consultations may or may not ensue in an agreement, but we feel strongly that the Government should consult, and not only with the General Council of the T.U.C., important as that is, but also with the bodies representing all descriptions of workers affected by the code of practice. I should make it plan to your Lordships that I am moving this Amendment at the instance of the National Union of Teachers and the National Association of Local Government Officers. We have reason to think that there are other bodies also interested in this, and we are supporting them in their plea for a definite obligation to consult with them and their representatives, because the assurances that have been given in another place have been in very general terms. Rather similar Amendments were moved in another place, one confined to teachers and the other to local government employees.
§ The Amendment which I am now moving deals with all workers who may be 1390 affected by the code of practice. The answer was given in another place—I freely admit was it was at 5.30 a.m.: we have not quite reached that stage in your Lordships' House but no doubt we shall, with or without breakfast, incidentally—but I think that the two Amendments were treated very cavalierly. The replies given did not satisfy those with whose interests we are concerned. Teachers' organisations, for example, were told by the Secretary of State for Employment that it would be a matter for the Secretary of State for Education and Science whether or not any consultations were held with organisations representing teachers, and in what form. When the Secretary of State for Education and Science was approached, again very general assurances were given, but they were of a nature which did not wholly satisfy those who were concerned.
§ Nothing that we are saying in support of this Amendment is in any way derogatory to the supreme importance of consultations with the General Council of the Trades Union Congress, as so eloquently urged by my noble friend Lord Champion on an earlier Amendment. It is simply that the bodies I have mentioned, and others with comparable membership, feel it is very natural that the General Council of the T.U.C. should be primarily concerned with industrial practice. These organisations have to have regard to the very special interests of their members, who are public employees with a professional rather than an industrial background.
§ I should perhaps explain that the type of organisation with which we are concerned is somewhat different from that of the normal trade union. The National Union of Teachers, for example, has a federal structure. There are more than 600 local associations with a very considerable degree of autonomy. Each has its own rule book. Each is allowed under the arrangements of this particular organisation to make its own rules, and its own line of practice in relation to each local education authority by whom teachers may be employed. This is not a centralised organisation any more than the teachers are employed by the Government. They are employees of individual local education authorities. There is very wide variation, I am informed, in the methods, practice and traditions in the relationships between teachers and their 1391 employing authorities in different parts of the country.
§ The local government officers' organisation goes very much wider than the local authorities. There are in membership of that organisation people who are employed by big public corporations in the gas industry, in the electricity industry, and so on, and also in the hospital service. They have a number of people in membership who again are professional people, including, for example, solicitors. They feel that some of their members at least may be in a position of some difficulty under the various provisions of this Bill. I believe they have had some discussion with the Law Society. They are very anxious that, in the Government's natural desire to have a more or less comprehensive code of practice to be put before the public, the particular interests of bodies of this nature shall not be overlooked.
§ We all understand that the main purpose of the Bill is industrial relations in the narrower sense, but the organisations I have described, and other cognate organisations, will be caught under the Bill's provisions. For instance, they will have to register. They are very much concerned about the provisions as to rules, because they believe that these will be extremely awkward for federal organisations such as the N.U.T. They wish to have the fullest assurances that there will be real consultation—not at second-hand or at arm's length—with organisations of this kind whose interests are somewhat different from those of the normal run of industrial tribunals.
§ I did not have the pleasure of hearing the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Platt, but I understand that he also put forward, with much force and eloquence, considerations of this kind. He seems to have impressed various noble Lords very much, as they have mentioned his speech to me. I am fortified by this in hoping that the Government will accept at any rate the spirit of this Amendment, and give the kind of assurances—which certainly were not given in another place—that the particular interests of organisations with professional members, or those who do not fall into the more straightforward category of industrial members, will be fully taken into account, and that provisions which are appropriate and applicable to 1392 them will be clearly indicated in the code of practice.
§ I do not pretend that this will be very easy. It will not be easy to define different groups of members to whom certain provisions will be applicable and others to whom they will not be applicable, but that is a problem for the Government, not for us. If the Government are to have this code of practice they have to find ways and means of making it sufficiently comprehensive and inclusive to satisfy groups of workers of different types. I do not know how much thought they have given to this. We are told that there is a draft code of practice floating around Whitehall which we have not been privileged to see. So far consultations have not been initiated. I have been assured by organisations which asked me to raise this matter in your Lordships' House that they have not had any glimmer of consultations, and they are very anxious indeed about it. For these reasons I hope very much that we shall receive a full, firm and sympathetic reply from the Government. I beg to move.
§ 8.58 p.m.
§ LORD DAVIES OF LEEK
I should like to support my noble friend, Baroness White, who moved this Amendment, particularly as I had the pleasure of being in the House when the noble Lord, Lord Platt, made a constructive speech referring to his profession. All noble Lords on this side of the House were interested in the argument which he so cogently placed before your Lordships.
In the teaching profession particularly for some generations now we have been struggling to get a professional code of ethics operating. It is essential to understand that it is not always in the teaching or lecturing side of the profession that one deals with salaries. Often one is dealing with conditions in places of work, problems of raising the school-leaving age, and the conditions of work of teachers in schools. As in the medical profession, where much of the income of the general practitioner is actually earned as an employee of the Government, so in the teaching profession and in local government people are employed by local authorities. There we have many echelons of people who often want discussions about codes of practice, and not always about salary but about ethics and the conditions in which they work. I will not 1393 hold the attention of the House any longer, and I would be tautological if I tried to build the case up further. I hope that some attention will be paid to the cogent arguments put forward in this Amendment so ably moved by my noble friend, Baroness White.
§ 8.59 p.m.
§ THE PARLIAMENTARY UNDERSECRETARY OF STATE, DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION AND SCIENCE (LORD BELSTEAD)
The House will agree with the noble Lord, Lord Davies, that this Amendment has been ably moved by the noble Baroness, Lady White. I am also grateful to the noble Baroness because she has covered ground which was not covered in another place.
This Amendment would place a statutory duty on the Secretary of Slate when drafting and revising the code to consult with organisations representing workers of every description who would be affected by the code. But the absence of any such statutory obligation would not of course preclude the Secretary of State from consulting representatives of organisations of workers. The Secretary of State has given a clear undertaking in another place, and it was quoted by my noble friend, Lord Drumalbyn, that there will be opportunity for consultation about the proposed code; that he will welcome constructive suggestions and observations from organisations of workers and employers and from any other interested persons who wish to express their views. That will allow adequate time for the wide consultation which the Government consider essential before the draft is laid before Parliament for approval by Affirmative Resolution.
The wording of the Amendment presents a little difficulty to me, hut perhaps I am on the wrong track. It refers to organisations of workers representing all descriptions of workers. Of course the term "workers" and "organisation of workers" is adequately defined in the Bill. But the Amendment is tied to the code of practice. I am therefore still not quite clear, having listened to the noble Baroness moving the Amendment, exactly what it is that the wording envisages: because we presume that the code of practice will be heavily weighted towards considering things in relation to registered organisations of workers. I am 1394 not seeking to split hairs with the noble Baroness on this; I am merely saying that I am in a little difficulty in replying to the Amendment on this particular point.
§ BARONESS WHITE
If the noble Lord will permit me to interrupt, I can see that he may be in some little difficulty, but we have supposed that the words "affected by the codes of practice" were intended to cover organisations which would be registered. If we are wrong about that, we should be happy to take the Amendment back and re-word it.
§ LORD BELSTEAD
I thank the noble Baroness for that explanation. If I may continue on those lines, what the Secretary of State made clear in another place was that the code will attempt to give guidance which will be of practical use, we hope, in different sets of circumstances. To achieve this the Secretary of State has given his undertaking to consult as widely as possible, and I would hope that your Lordships would take the view that this objective and the means to achieve it are as fair and thorough as is possible at the moment.
As regards the second part of the Amendment—that is to say, the subsequent revisions of the code—we should expect that the C.I.R., when formulating its advice to the Secretary of State, would take account of the views of organisations of workers and employers. However, once again the suggestion that the Secretary of State should be statutorily obliged to consult with any specific body, whether it is an organisation of workers or of employers—and employers are not mentioned in the Amendment—is one which we find it difficult to accept, though written into the Bill is the statutory right for consultation with the C.I.R.
There is really very little between us on the principle of the need for consultation. The undertaking that I will certainly give to the noble Baroness (what she will be doing with the Amendment will he within her own discretion) is that I will draw to the attention of the Secretary of State for Employment that these detailed points have been made by her this evening on behalf, in particular, of the National Union of Teachers and the National Association of Local Government Officers. Speaking off the cuff, both these organisations are, I think I am right 1395 in saying,. trade unions and will on the appointed day become registered trade unions and go on to the provisional register for transfer on to the general register. That is my reading of the situation. But the Government take the view, speaking at this moment of time, that to write into the Bill a duty to consult when undertakings have been given by the Secretary of State. is unnecessary. For that reason, I would ask your Lordships not to agree to this Amendent if it is pressed.
§ LORD TANGLEY
I rise to support the Amendment proposed by the noble Baroness, Lady White. I am not happy about the attitude of the Government in this matter. I think they are being a little unnecessarily rigid. I think they could go further to meet us, and I fear that the reason why they do not is that they do not properly understand the issues involved here. You have great numbers of people in employment (I am not speaking of teachers now) who are members of professions, are members of their own professional association and are subject to the discipline of their profession. This applies to architects, surveyors, barristers, solicitors—and I could read off a great many more. None of their professional bodies is a trade union or capable of being registered as a trade union: in fact. I know, in the case of the Law Society. that there is a statutory prohibition upon their every becoming a trade union or registering as such.
On the face of the clause, therefore, it looks as though the Government do not realise the necessity of consulting with these bodies in order to take account of the fact that these are not ordinary employees—if I may use that term without any patronage—but employees who are also professional men, subject to the rules of their profession. I do not think that the wording of the Amendment is perfect, but we can sort that out at a later stage. The object of the noble Baroness's Amendment is to drive that home, and I hone that she will press it to a Division.
§ LORD STONHAM
In a sentence or two I should like to support my noble friend in her Amendment. A Minister's assurance, however valid, is never the same as words in a Bill. The noble Lord 1396 himself was not quite sure how far his assurances would go. I think it is inevitable (particularly in a Bill of this kind, which nobody would be so bold or so foolish as to claim to wholly understand) that a Minister's speech in reply to a debate has to be drafted, and it is drafted for him by the Department in accordance with their views, or their guess, of the speech that will be made in moving the Amendment. Inevitably it is not quite comprehensive. That is the great difficulty in which I think the Minister finds himself. He is within the confines of his brief, and it does not entirely fit the views expressed by my noble friend Lady White in moving her Amendment. No doubt the Minister would like to accent it. I, too, share the views of the noble Lord, Lord Tangley, in honing that my noble friend will press her Amendment on this occasion, thinking that it will be far better in the Bill titan what has been said by the Minister.
§ LORD PLATT
I should like to add my support from the point of view of the professional man. I hone that this Amendment will be pursued to a Division, I see absolutely no reason why the Government should not fall in with the Amendment. I cannot see what they gain by not doing so, and I hope that they will not whip up a large number of people who have not heard the argument.
§ 9.8 p.m.
§ LORD SHEPHERD
I intervene merely to heir, the noble Lord, Lord Belstead. It seems that there are two things that the noble Lord can do to-night. First of all, he can say that the Amendment is imperfect but in principle he is not against it, in which case we on this side of the Committee would be very ready to accept his assurances. The noble Lord could then produce an Amendment at a later stage of the proceedings on the Bill to deal with the point of view that is being expressed and supported throughout this Committee.
The situation is not unique. I can remember over many years the inclusion in Bills of statutory requirements that a Secretary of State should consult with particular organisations. Sometimes there is a degree of difficulty in specifying with whom he should consult. In the end, we have been able to find the proper solution. Of course the noble Lord may say 1397 that he cannot accept the principle behind the Amendment. In that case, my noble friend would be amply justified in pressing this Amendment to a Division.
In view of the comments that have been made. I hope the noble Lord will now be forthcoming and say that he will look at this point, that he is in general sympathy with it and will produce an Amendment to meet the point of view that has been expressed by my noble friend and others who have taken part in this discussion.
§ 9.10 p.m.
§ LORD BELSTEAD
I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd for putting in his useful oar, and also to other noble Lords. The difficulty I am in is not with regard to my brief which, by this evening, bears a number of marks other than the official typing. I have been given two lots of advice this evening. There is the advice of the Amendment which refers to organisation of workers affected by the code of practice. With the greatest respect to the movers. the Amendment is not crystal clear. Of course the noble Baroness has clarified that. There is also the advice of the noble Lord, Lord Tangley, who referred quite specifically to organisations of workers who are not registered—and he mentioned the Law Society.
I am in this dilemma. With respect to the noble Baroness, I think one can reasonably say that this Amendment is imperfect to the extent to which I have referred. I must also be honest, and say that consultation obviously takes a great deal of time, and that I cannot, without consulting advisers, give an undertaking from this Box that it would he possible to consult. What I should like to do, if the noble Baroness will accent this, is to consult with her and leave the way entirely open for the noble Baroness to put down this Amendment again on Report. or for the Government to put down an Amendment on Report. I do not think I can go further than that. To refer to the original point, I must make clear that in its present state I do not think that the Amendment is technically right, for the reason which I gave originally.
§ LORD SHEPHERD
This is not the first occasion in Committee in your Lordships' House upon which Amendments have been moved that are not technically 1398 right but towards which the Committee may have a general sympathy. When your Lordships have felt that a point of view is being put forward, but that the Amendment has not been technically right, your Lordships look to the Government and their advisers to produce Amendments designed to meet the wishes of your Lordships.
My understanding is that there is a code of practice. The noble Earl the Leader of the House, on the Second Reading debate on the Bill, indicated that the code of practice would come before the House within a matter of weeks—we do not know when it will come. All we are asking is that the Secretary of State should have statutory consultations in this matter. It seems to me at this stage that the noble Lord is not able to commit his right honourable friend to these consultations.
§ LORD BELSTEAD
In all fairness, I know that the noble Lord is trying to be very helpful. and I am grateful to him, but the noble Baroness in her Amendment is asking for statutory consultations. I would ask the noble Lord to look at the Amendment List and see with whom the Amendment asks that the statutory consultation should take place. It is the wording which comes thereafter which is imperfect. I am not trying to be bald-headed about this matter, but I am saying that on one leg I really do feel that those words which come after are imperfect; and. secondly. I am reserving my position, which I do not think is entirely unreasonable before the Report stage, on the consultation point.
§ 9.15 p.m.
§ LORD TANGLEY
Before this debate is finally concluded, may I make an appeal to the Government to be a little more flexible on this matter. I sit on these Cross-Benches, and I have no political allegiance. I spent three years' hard labour under the kind but inexorable chairmanship of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Donovan. My only interest here is to try to get this Bill into a better shape than it is. I do not want to sit here for the next three months if I can help but I do feel, sitting here on these Cross-Benches, if I may say so with great respect, that the Government are beginning to show a certain 1399 inflexibility on matters on which they might be flexible. If that impression gains ground, I am afraid it will not help our discussions on this Bill.
Here is a matter which, again with great respect, I do not think from the Minister's replies he has fully understood. There is here a real point to be considered. It is not a political point; it is not a selfish point from anybody's particular point of view. The Government are putting, the wrong face on their proceedings if they do not agree to look at this matter again with the movers of this Amendment before the Report stage.
§ LORD DRUMALBYN
There is a real difficulty here. It is a practical impossibility to put a mandatory obligation on the Minister to consult with an unlimited number of persons or descriptions of workers. One would never reach the end of it. If I understand the debate aright, there are certain special categories of workers—whether they are registered as trade unions or not—who want specially to be considered and to be consulted. The fact is that the scope of the consultations envisaged has not really been brought out in the debate to-night. What I should like to do with my noble friend is to have consultations to see exactly what is involved here; and we shall certainly meet what is desired so far as we possibly can. It really is a impossibility, I suggest, to put a very wide obligation on the Government to consult by Statute, because if that is done one can always be challenged because there is someone who has not been consulted. It is as simple as that.
I want to make it clear that the Secretary of State intends to have the widest possible consultation. I must discuss this with him first, but I am Quite certain that he will be particularly anxious to have consultation with those organisations for whom a code might present the', greatest difficulties. But until my noble friend and I understand this point we should not like to give an absolutely firm undertaking about it. And of course noble Lords will understand that, as the Amendment is at present drafted, it would not be right to accept it. However. I hope noble Lords will realise that we really shall try to meet them on this matter.
§ VISCOUNT HANWORTH
I should like to speak against the Amendment because I feel that, provided that the Government agree there will be consultation, to hamstring them by saying that it must go in the Bill means that all sorts of things could happen. Some organisations might say that they have not had sufficient time; there may be a mistake by which one is left out of consultation. All these factors which in themselves might be quite minor could delay matters considerably. It is a great mistake to put a provision in a Statute like this when it is not really necessary. Therefore, I oppose the Amendment.
§ BARONESS WHITE
In the light of the observations just made. I would say that if there are other noble Lords who are of the same view then I really must press this Amendment. The Government have given no real consideration to the problem to which the noble Lord, Lord Tangley, has drawn attention, and which also affects other groups of professional persons who have, as it were, a dual organisation and a dual loyalty. One of the organisations to which they belong will be caught under the provisions of this Bill; the other organisation will not. The individual is caught between the two, and it is essential for anyone in that position that he should have an absolute assurance that this particular interest of his—both as a professional person, on the one hand, and as a member of a registered trade union affected by the code of practice, on the other—can be reconciled.
This is the real nub of the matter. I did feel, with the greatest respect to the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, who I know is doing his utmost to be helpful, that he and his advisers had not gone into this matter. There was no excuse for their not doing so, because they had been alerted in another place to the problem, and there the Amendments which were particularised were treated very cavalierly, as I said earlier. We felt that probably it was because they were too closely drawn and referred specifically to teachers and local government employees. It was for that reason that the Amendment which is now before your Lordships' Committee was drawn more widely. Had the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, said, "It is the 1401 wording which worries us, and only that," then one might have been persuaded to say, "All right, we will withdraw it. Will you help us by giving us the assistance of your Parliamentary draftsman so that we may bring it up again at a later stage?". We have had not the assurance that the principle has been studied or accepted, but that it is simply the phraseology which is dubious. In those circumstances I am afraid I do not feel inclined to withdraw the Amendment.
§ LORD TANGLEY
It is not for me to advise the noble Baroness, Lady White, but I did not take quite such a pessimistic view of the Government's intelligence as she has done. I thought there was a little flame of understanding beginning to flicker and that if we blew on it gently between now and Report stage it might grow into quite a good light It might he better to take that rather gentler but perhaps more productive course, rather than to insist upon a Division now. It is, of course, entirely a matter for the noble Baroness.
§ LORD SHEPHERD
'['he noble Lord referred to the flicker of flame; I wonder whether we could blow a little more quickly and blow now, and see whether the noble Lord. Lord Drumalbyn, whose intervention we very much accepted, could say that he accepts the general principle behind the Amendment and that he would wish merely to look at the particular words. If he were to accept the general spirit of the Amendment, I am certain some of us could persuade my noble friend not to press it to a Division; but if he cannot give that assurance I certainly will join her in the Division Lobby.
THE EARL OF BALFOUR
I wonder whether I may mention one small point in connection with this Amendment. Clause 2 directs the Secretary of State in the preparation of the code of practice in regard to the responsibility of managers and employers. The recommendation that has been put forward by the noble Baroness. Lady White, has a great deal to commend it, and particularly in the emphasis that has been put forward by the noble Lords on the Cross-Benches. However, I do not think she has chosen quite the right place in the Bill. I feel that almost the whole of this Amendment 1402 could be incorporated in Clause 82, which refers to the special register. I think that the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, replying to the noble Lord, Lord Platt, mentioned in regard to the B.M.A. that that was the sort of place where conditions of this sort could be incorporated in this Bill. I am quoting from memory and I hope I have not misled any of your Lordships, hut I feel that the recommendations of the special, highly-qualified organisations, such as the R.I.B.A., might well he covered in provisions in the special register and not in the part of the Bill dealing with the code of practice.
§ BARONESS WHITE
May I put it to the noble Earl that while what he says is applicable to certain members of certain organisations it would be difficult with an organisation which could be splintered. The National Association of Local Government Officers covers such a wide spectrum of people of varying kinds of skill, work, and so on. I think it really would not apply.
§ LORD DRUMALBYN
May I just put the position simply to noble Lords opposite. Let me he quite frank about this. The Amendment that the noble Baroness has put down did not carry to us the meaning that she gave when she spoke. We were not aware of what was behind this matter, and we have not really had an opportunity of studying it. I ask noble Lords opposite to give us an opportunity of studying it. It would plainly be quite wrong for us to commit ourselves until we have had that opportunity, and therefore in the circumstances I hope that the Opposition will exercise a little patience in this mater.
§ BARONESS WHITE
In the light of that plea, and the frank admission that the Government have not really studied this matter, which is what I suspected all along, I ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause 2 agreed to.
§ LORD BESWICK
While the noble Earl is looking at the Order Paper, I wonder whether he would consider that the completion of Clause 2 might be a reasonable time at which to adjourn. I doubt whether we should get much further if we continued. If he says he wants to continue we shall be happy to 1403 do so, but I doubt whether any real progress would be made.
EARL ST. ALDWYN
I was under the impression that the last Amendment was to be discussed and that we might possibly have discussed that and the Question, That the Clause stand part. We seem to have got on very well. Perhaps we might manage one more Amendment.
§ LORD BESWICK
Of course we cannot be retrospective, but I heard what was said in the usual channels, and I thought that if we got through Clause 2 we would adjourn. I contrived, with some kindly co-operation by my colleagues, to get through Clause 2 more quickly than we would otherwise have done. That being so, I think it would be very bad industrial relations not to agree now to adjourn.
EARL ST. ALDWYN
There seems to have been a little misunderstanding. I did not have time to consult my colleagues. We have got Clause 2, and in the circumstances I think we might adjourn.
§ House resumed.