HL Deb 08 July 1971 vol 321 cc1058-125

3.30 p.m.


My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now further considered on Report.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question Motion agreed to.

Clause 56 [General duty of employers to disclose information]:

LORD DIAMOND moved Amendment No. 79XX: Page 47, line 17, after (" of ") insert (" all the stages of ").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, we are now dealing with that clause of the Bill under which employers are required to disclose information for the purposes of collective bargaining to employees or their representatives. This is a matter which we dealt with in a certain respect in Committee, and the purpose of this Amendment is to try to meet the point of view which was then expressed by the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor and at the same time to go some little way towards meeting the point of view which we expressed from this side of the House.

The question centres on the point of time at which information should be made available. One would think that it was a very simple matter, but of course it is not easy to define exactly where collective bargaining starts and where the sort of conversations leading up to collective bargaining finish. Therefore one wants to have some kind of definition. The definition in the Bill is "for the purposes of collective bargaining", and that is well and good, but one knows that one must make sure that in all the stages, the initial stages and the middle stages as well as the final stages, the information required should be made available. Obviously it does not improve industrial relations if information to be relied on is not made available at the time when it should be. The noble Lord who sits on the Woolsack (or judging from the arduous duties he has recently carried out, who sits on the Woolsack when he has an opportunity of doing so) said at column 407 on May 18: but I would say to him— that is, to me that as negotiations proceed, quite clearly more and different information may be desirable at different stages of a negotiation. Probably in the early stages information is forthcoming without much difficulty; as the negotiation becomes closer it may become more difficult to extract the information. But at any stage when the union feels it is required for the purpose of collective bargaining and that the employer is not performing his duty, its remedy is to go to… clauses this, that or the other. So the phrase which kept cropping up was "different stages", and this Amendment is put down in the hope that it will clarify the matter and make it clear to both sides that at all stages the information will be made available.


My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for the very clear way in which he has put this point. I should like to make it equally clear from the outset that the intention of Clause 56 as it stands at present is that the employer's obligation to disclose information should start at the stage when managements and unions get together to discuss proposals for change in the terms and conditions of employment or in a procedure agreement, but not before. It has always been the Government's intention that the employer's obligation to disclose information existed, to use the words of the Amendment, at all stages of collective bargaining, as we found in the latter part of this Bill. Indeed it is argued that this is the case, and that the Bill as it stands covers this. I am confident—at least my advisers are confident, and I am content to take their advice on points of this kind—that the clause as drafted does provide this. Nevertheless I think that this is a matter which should be put beyond the peradventure of doubt. I take the point which the noble Lord, Lord Diamond, was making. I think there is no doubt that it would be wise to be absolutely clear here, and with that in mind I should be very happy to recommend your Lordships to accept this Amendment should the noble Lord, Lord Diamond, wish to put it.


My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Diamond, had that in mind when he moved the Amendment; and I am most grateful to the noble Earl for taking the point so clearly. I think it helps, although one always relies on advice of this kind, if one makes it clear to everybody that that kind of advice should be available to them. I am most grateful.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

LORD DIAMOND moved Amendment No. 79FFF: Page 47, line 21, after (" undertaking ") insert (" or the undertaking of any associated employer ").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, in moving this Amendment I should like to make it quite clear that I do so in the considerable hope that the Government will find it acceptable.


My Lords, might I say straight away, in case I am unduly encouraging the noble Lord by accepting his first Amendment, that I do not think he should push his luck too far. We may find as we go along that there may be something else on which I may be able to help.


I shall enjoy the journey all the more pleasurably because it is into the unknown. My Lords, the Bill as it stands refers to such information relating to his undertaking as is in the possession of the employer, or of any associated employer ". The information which is likely to be in his possession relates to his undertaking, and the information which is likely to be in the possession of any associated employer is surely information about the associated employer's undertaking; and so I think one needs to include that undertaking as well as his own. That is what the Amendment seeks to do. I beg to move.


My Lords, I should like to make one point on this. The occasion could arise where a holding company with a number of subsidiary companies might be able to withhold information, saying that this was not a matter relating only to a subsidiary company and was primarily a matter for the holding company which was engaged in the negotiations. But the information might be absolutely vital for the trade unions to reach a satisfactory agreement. I should like to advance that as a reason why it would be desirable for this to be made perfectly clear.


My Lords, I must confess that when I first read this Amendment I was attracted by the symmetry of it, that the disclosure should operate as it were, in both spheres. But may I make it clear, since we have not discussed this point previously, that the clause as drafted requires employers to disclose to trade unions information relating to the undertaking which is needed for collective bargaining, whether it is held by the employer himself or in the hands of an associate of his. I think that is the point to which the noble Lord, Lord Pargiter was referring. The effect of the Amendment would be to extend that obligation very materially, so that the employers had to disclose information relating to the undertakings of associated employers.

As I said at the outset, I was initially looking at this without advice and I was attracted by the symmetry of the Amendment. I saw that in logic there was a case for arguing that if a clause bit on one leg, as it were, it should bite on the other. But there are difficulties here, and quite considerable ones. Subsection (6) of Clause 163, as your Lordships know, defines "associated employers". I will not trouble your Lordships by reading the definition, but it is a pretty wide one, and although I readily concede that in some circumstances the affairs of an associated employer's undertaking might be relevant for the purposes of collective bargaining, to widen the obligation of the clause in the way which is sought would, I think, open the door too wide, and might indeed lead to very considerable practical objections.

I do not wish to pitch it too high, but I will expand what I have in mind. In a multi-company set-up, a requirement to provide information about the affairs of associated companies could impose a tremendously heavy burden on the employers. For example, in connection with other provisions of the Bill an employer has pointed out that because of the definition given in Clause 163, to which I have referred, over 150 companies in their group could be treated as "associated". This is by no means exceptional. Indeed, although this is quite a large group, there are other groups which are larger—for example, I think that Courtauld's have something like 500 associates—and therefore the implications of accepting the Amendment, in spite of the merits which initially commended themselves to me, could be tremendously heavy on a company of this sort, which might well be asked to provide information about a whole range of "associated employers". I think this really would be overwhelming the machinery of the Bill. For that reason I hope that the noble Lord, having listened to what I have said, will not press this particular Amendment.

I hope I have made clear that I am not in principle opposed to what he has been suggesting, but I think in practice it would place an unduly heavy burden upon the employers concerned. At the same time, in expressing the hope that the noble Lord will not press this Amendment I should like to point out that there is absolutely nothing in the Bill to stop employers from providing this sort of information if in their view it would promote effective collective bargaining. However, my Lords, to impose a statutory requirement of the sort which this Amendment would entail right across the board would in my view be unwise. That is really the advice that I should like to give your Lordships' House on this Amendment.


My Lords, before the noble Earl dismisses this would he consider a re-phrasing? The reason for this Amendment is that people on this side of the House are suspicious of the possibilities. I appreciate the explanation which the noble Earl has offered, but if the words were, "where the information required is relevant to the bargaining entailed", would that not be sufficient to satisfy extraneous inquiries which had no relevance to the bargaining that was going on? I wonder whether the noble Earl would consider words of that kind instead of the Amendment as proposed by my noble friend Lord Diamond.


My Lords, may I speak again so that the noble Earl can deal with both speeches at the same time? May I follow up the point which my noble friend has just made and say to the noble Earl that this is a matter of practice, not a matter of political theory, and it is therefore not a matter on which I should seek to divide your Lordships' House. I nevertheless press the argument upon the noble Earl, because I think he has misconstrued the situation according to the Bill. I think that the first unaided view he took was, as is often the case, the better one. And may I say why? The whole of this is conditioned by Clause 56(1)(a) which refers to the kind of information that can be asked for; namely, information without which the trade union representatives would be to a material extent impeded in carrying on collective bargaining.

Let us take the case of a company with 500 associated companies. How many of those associated companies are so closely connected with this particular negotiation as to affect the bargaining that is about to take place or that is going on? The likelihood is that of the 500 associated companies only a few, perhaps less than half a dozen, would in the slightest degree be so closely connected that the information referring to them would be information without which these particular negotiations would be to a material extent impeded. Therefore, with respect, I am not at all worried about a company having 500 or 5,000 associated companies. The ones I am worried about are those one or two associated companies whose connection with the company under consideration is material—and the noble Earl said in his first sentence that there would be cases where that information was material.

My Lords, I did not expect the noble Earl to reply that that was the Government's intention. I expected him to say either that it was an oversight and that they were grateful for the drafting correction, or that this was already covered by the Bill. It cannot be the case that the necessary information can be made available if part of it is relevant and it comes from one or two of the 500 associated companies. I certainly agree with the noble Earl that one should not bother your Lordships with a detailed definition of an associated company, but it is much more associated than your Lordships would think; it is a very close connection indeed. It would be the case that there would be one or two of such associated companies whose business would be so closely interwoven with the business of the employer under negotiation that really the employer would not be giving the relevant information. Therefore, I say to the noble Earl that this is not a Party point; it is merely a question of interpreting correctly the spirit behind the clause which says that the employer should give the relevant information; that the union must not ask for irrelevant information, and that the employer should be free to run his business under one hat, two hats or 500 hats if he wants to. I have always been very sympathetic with this point of view and I went to enormous lengths when I had responsibility for the Finance Bill to make financial provisions adjustable to the freedom of industry to run its business as it thought fit. I have not the slighest difficulty in saying that I welcome every business which wants to hive off one particular part of its undertaking under one hat another under another hat and to have 500 or more associated companies; but I cannot accept for a moment that it is not the spirit of this clause that relevant information should be made available.

I hope the noble Earl realises that I am not for one second seeking to give a trade union the right to wander all over the place to seek information and give many people a lot of trouble. That would be utterly stupid and counterproductive. But there is a point here, a sensible point, and I should be grateful if the noble Earl would look at it, and look at it favourably.


My Lords, this is the first time that we have discussed this particular point. I am very prepared to look at this between now and Third Reading, but I do not wish to get into the position of holding out a whole host of considerations between now and then for purely practical reasons. On the question of relevancy, I think I can help the noble Lord, Lord Diamond, because—and I may not have made this absolutely clear in my opening remarks—I think there is nothing between us on this point. The form of words contained in Clause 56(1) does not necessarily preclude a trade union from requesting information which, although it relates to the undertaking in question and is relevant to the bargaining in hand, also relates to an undertaking of an associated employer. That information will of course, to be caught by this, have to meet the standards of paragraphs (a) and (b) of subsection (1), and the Bill operates in this way as already drafted. It is therefore my view that the clause, as drafted, will allow unions access to all relevant information which they require for the purposes of collective bargaining without at the same time imposing a potentially intolerable burden or very heavy burden on employers.

Having said that, I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Diamond, that this is not a Party point. We are discussing a purely practical point and it is a question of interpretation of the drafting. I shall be glad to look at it again in the light of arguments advanced by him and by the noble Lord, Lord Pargiter, and the noble Lord, Lord Bernstein, but I should like to make clear that I am satisfied that at the present time the Bill gives us both what he and I would like. I am equally satisfied, subject to looking at it again, that to accept the Amendment would be to impose a heavy and rather impractical burden. I should not wish to be dogmatic on an area of quite difficult interpretation, and I hope, given that explanation, the noble Lord will not (and he has suggested that he will not) pursue this matter at this particular stage.


My Lords. I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

3.50 p.m.

LORD DIAMOND moved Amendment No. 79GGG: Page 47, line 21, after (" is ") insert (" available to or ")

The noble Lord said: My Lords, if this Amendment was accepted the clause would read: …all such information relating to his undertaking as is available to or in the possession of the employer,…". The point is a very simple one. At the moment the Bill requires the employer to produce the information which is in his possession. I am not a lawyer; I do not know precisely what that means. If it means in his possession in the particular building in which he happens to be conducting the negotiations, that would not take us very far. If it means in his possession at any time, in the sense that it is already made up, that would not take us far enough. A more sensible description would be "available to" as well as being "in the possession of". That is why the words are inserted. I beg to move.


My Lords, again while not being dogmatic, I am, I fear, in a resisting mood. I am not speaking as a lawyer, and it is certainly not my understanding that possession would have this rather narrow interpretation which the noble Lord was inclined to put upon it. May I explain the position, as this is also a new point? Under Clause 56 an employer already has a duty in collective bargaining to disclose to trade union representatives appropriate information which he has in his possession. He is obliged, in addition, to obtain any relevant information from associated employers. Consequently, in collective bargaining in relation to a company, trade union representatives have a right under the Bill, to relevant information from such associated employers. I believe that it would be unreasonable to extend the employer's obligation still further, as the noble Lord's Amendment would do. The Amendment could possibly oblige employers to seek from similar but non-associated enterprises information about procedure agreements (and I take procedure agreements as an example) which might be used in discussions in collective bargaining within their own organisations. That would be going beyond what is reasonable. That is certainly my understanding of the phraseology which we should be bringing into the Bill. The Amendment would involve the possibility of endless arguments as to what could, or could not, be made available. I suspect that we might be creating that sort of happy hunting ground for the barrack-room lawyer which certain noble Lords have accused those who sponsored the Bill of already providing.

Our predecessors in office were, I suspect, of a rather similar opinion to that which I have been expressing, since the corresponding provision in their Bill, which was Clause 22, was the same as ours. I am not resting my argument on that; their Bill was no more sacrosanct than ours is, but I believe that the point is relevant. I hope I have shown that I am not in spirit far from the noble Lord on this point, but I think there is a practical objection to the Amendment; and, especially in the light of a "goody" about to come, I hope the noble Lord will not press the Amendment.


My Lords, six years as a Chief Secretary has taught me to be singularly incorruptible. If your Lordships do not mind, I will therefore concentrate on this Amendment, in the confident hope that the future is replete with "goodies". Nevertheless, one has to do one's duty on this Amendment. I did not find what the noble Earl said completely persuasive. The condition that any information is to be made available is set out in the Bill, and it has to be information without which the trade unions would be to a material extent impeded. The example the noble Earl gave is the kind of information which the union would not ask for because they would get it from their friends in the union, and would have ready access to it. They would not bother the particular employer about comparable arrangements. Unions are good at getting comparable arrangements and all the information on them. We do not disagree about the kind of information that we think the employer ought to give, but my anxiety is that the words are too narrowly drawn to enable the information to be made available. The noble Earl thinks that my Amendment would incorporate words which are too widely drawn. I do not think that either of us should rest our case wholly on the words if we are trying to reach agreement on this matter. I should be content if the noble Earl would say that he would give it further consideration; that is all that is necessary at this point. I do not know whether he would be prepared to say another word about it.


My Lords, we are on a comparatively narrow point. First of all, may I come to an important point of principle. I recognise that the noble Lord, Lord Diamond, like Robespierre, is "sea-green incorruptible", in case he was crediting me with any other possible opinion on his possible corruptibility. I am unwilling to go beyond what I have already said. There is a practical difficulty here. Having dealt with that point of principle out of order, may I have the permission of your Lordships to speak again on this matter? I find it hard to see what information that would be relevant for the purposes of collective bargaining could be obtained from sources other than the employer himself. If the employer has the information, it is in his possession and therefore the information is caught by the provisions of the Bill. If the information is not in the possession of the employer, if it is outside, it is just as likely that the trade unions will have access to it as the employer himself. I believe that to incorporate the notion of availability, which is a fairly wide one, into the Bill would be opening the door to endless barrack-room arguments as to what constitutes availability. The Bill, as drafted, gives those who wish to promote better collective bargaining—and we all do—everything that is really necessary. I will look at what the noble Lord has said, but I do not think I shall be able to meet him on this point.


May I interrupt the noble Earl?


Yes, of course.


My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Earl for permission to interrupt him; but unless I do so I am in a tactical difficulty. May I ask him to look at this point with a view to finding a word which does not mean available from outside sources, but available to the employer from inside sources although not in his possession at the moment? I am thinking of sheets of information rather than of sources of information. If it is in his possession, one does not want an argument on the lines: "Well, I could get the information if necessary". The Bill refers later on to the problems of preparing information, and one does not want an argument on that basis. I am not seeking to press the noble Earl for information from outside sources, meaning outside the undertaking or firm itself.


My Lords, it is certainly my understanding that the Bill as drafted would have that implication. It is also my understanding—but I am thinking on my feet and I am not a lawyer—that the phraseology information in possession" would certainly cover the sort of case the noble Lord instanced as an example, but I shall look again at what he has said. It would be a mistake to hold out a promise that I am going to import new phraseology at a later stage, but without any commitment certainly I undertake to examine what lie has said. I think it would be wrong for me to go so far as misleading your Lordships' House and to use the hallowed phrase "consider again".


My Lords, I beg your Lordships' leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

LORD DIAMOND moved Amendment No. 79HHH: Page 47, line 39, after (" be ") insert (" or be confirmed ").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I sincerely hope that this and the next Amendment are the "goodies" which the noble Earl had in mind. This Amendment is a very small one but not without interest, and one might almost describe it as slightly erudite. We are concerned with disclosure at this point and with what the word "disclosure" means. The provision in the Bill says that disclosure of the information shall be in writing. I do not know what would happen at a meeting if someone disclosed information verbally to someone else; that is not in writing, but it is a disclosure. If the person—and I understand this is the intention of the Bill—then said, "That was very interesting. Will you write and confirm it to me?" the employer could then say, "I am not required to do that, I have already disclosed it". If one were required to do it, it would have to be confirmed in writing. I think your Lordships see my difficulty. It would be clearer if the expression "or be confirmed" were included so that lines 38 and 39 of the Bill would then read "The disclosure of it shall be or be confirmed in writing". It is either to be in writing in the first place or, if it has been given verbally, it is to be confirmed in writing.


My Lords, for a former Chief Secretary, I am surprised that the noble Lord, Lord Diamond, does not recognise the difference between the plural and the singular. I think I used the word "goody"; he has already doubled it. I hope that by playing down the particular importance of this Amendment, he was not seeking in any way to devalue the nature of the conciliatory attitude which I am about to show towards it. I think it is an Amendment which shows not only the greatest possible erudition but is also one of great practical importance. That is how I certainly regard it. At the same time I must grant that I do not think that there is a great deal between us on a matter of principle on this particular point. I understand there is some doubt as to whether the Industrial Court here involved would construe the present subsection, subsection (3), so as to entitle a trade union to written confirmation of information. I am quite clear, and the Government are quite clear, that this entitlement is desirable on grounds of policy, and I am happy to accept an Amendment which puts the matter beyond any possible doubt.

This right, of course, would extend only to information which an employer is obliged to disclose under Clause 56; it would not cover additional confidential information which an employer may disclose as an earnest of trust and good faith. Upon that understanding, I am very happy to recommend your Lordships to accept this erudite and undoubtedly very important Amendment.


I find it difficult to summon words to give adequate expression to the gratitude which I feel to the noble Lord. All I can do is to thank him very much indeed.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.


My Lords, Amendment No. 79DDDD flows from the last Amendment and the noble Lord, Lord Diamond, doubtless anticipated it; perhaps it was the second "goody" which he had in mind. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 47, line 43, at end insert (" or confirming ")—(Earl Jellicoe.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

4.7 p.m.

LORD DIAMOND moved Amendment No. 79YY:

Page 48, line 13, at end insert— (" (6) In this section the term "trade union" is used in the same way as in the code referred to in subsection (2).")

The noble Lord said: My Lords, on this occasion we have moved from erudition to simple logic, which is perhaps the more persuasive. May I describe the argument in a very few, simple steps. The first step is that an employer must disclose information in accordance with good practice, which we find described in subsection (1)(b): information which it would be in accordance with good industrial relations practice that the employer should disclose to them for purposes of collective bargaining. That is the first step.

The second step is that that means having regard to the code of practice, because in subsection (2) one reads: In determining…what would be in accordance with good industrial relations practice, regard shall be had to the principles relating to disclosure of information…set out in the code of practice…". That is very simple and straightforward. Then one has to look at the code to see what that says and all of us know what it says. Broadly, the term "trade unions" in the code is used to describe both registered and unregistered workers' organisations, so that one has these three simple steps which produce the result which this Amendment would make more clear. I have to say "more clear" because there is a little ambivalence in the Government's mind when it comes to thinking about trade unions. But they realise that as soon as one comes to the practice of good industrial relations which the code describes, then one disregards any esoteric distinction between registered or unregistered trade unions and one has regard to good relations between man and man, between the employer and the employee.

For those purposes, therefore, it is right that all employees should receive the information which is needed to enable the bargaining to take place on a proper footing and a fair footing, and indeed the code of practice, issued under the authority of the Government with the blessing of the Secretary of State himself, tells us to do that very thing. So all I had to do, really, was to say, "Well, it is not for me to put the Government's Bill right. They should have seen to it themselves." But perhaps their logic was just a tiny bit lacking in this respect, and so I have been only too happy to fill the gap and put down the Amendment, which I now beg to move.


My Lords, so far in the consideration of this Bill my noble friends and I have supported the Government in their stand of giving advantages to registered trade unions and definitely penalising unregistered independent organisations of workers. We see this as one of the major parts of the Bill, something not bad in itself, and certainly any attempt to take this out would be to wreck not only the Bill but also anything which ought to flow from it. Therefore we have been on the Government side on this particular point all through.

However, on this one point we definitely agree with the noble Lord, Lord Diamond, because, as he himself has said, this is really not a question of the relationships of the union itself; it is a question of general good industrial practice and general good management practice. It is the entitlement of all workers to get as much information as possible from the employers about what is going on in the firm. Indeed, we think this is one of the most important factors in the whole of industrial relations as opposed to industrial disputes. It is for this reason that we are now supporting the noble Lord, Lord Diamond.


My Lords, there are one or two points here which I feel your Lordships should consider. Although the code of industrial practice, on page 19, goes quite extensively into collective bargaining agreements on the general guide to that question, at the same time it states in reference to the term, "trade unions", on page 8: For the sake of simplicity the term ' trade unions' is used in this code to describe both registered and unregistered worker's organisations. What I am worried about here, as I believe very strongly in trade unions, is that this is exactly the kind of set-up one would have in a works where people were not satisfied with their trade union. They would then demand of an employer to give them all the information they want to start to form themselves into a breakaway union—which I personally should not like to see. This is why I do not like this Amendment. I think it could be quite distinctly against the interests of the unions.

4.16 p.m.


My Lords, in moving this Amendment the noble Lord, Lord Diamond, has laid great stress on the fact that in the code of industrial practice, the draft Consultative Document, no distinction is made between trade unions and unregistered organisations. I agree with him and, furthermore, I should like to say that it is entirely right that this Document should draw no such distinction. The code is concerned with principles of general application, and therefore there is no reason or need to distinguish between registered trade unions and unregistered organisations of workers, both of which have the common purpose of promoting their members' interests. As my noble friend Lord Balfour has pointed out—and he was on a very valid point, if I may say so—the term "trade unions" is therefore used throughout the Consultative Document to describe both registered and unregistered organisations.

Although the Bill draws a distinction in this respect, I do not think that this difference in terminology will cause confusion. The asterisked note on page 8 of the code is absolutely clear. The great majority of people who come into contact with the legislation will do so through the code of practice and the guides which will be issued by the department of Employment, and these will make the position absolutely clear. But the effect sought by this Amendment is to require employers to disclose information to organisations of workers which are not registered. I do not wish to make too much of this, but we have made it plain time and time again—we made it plain when we were in Opposition and we do not hide the fact now—that the registration proposals lie at the very heart of our policy on this matter. I know that the Opposition do not like this; they have made it perfectly plain. But, in any event, this matter has been debated, I think I might fairly claim, both in this House and in another place ad nauseam, and I do not intend to expound our philosophy here—it would be quite wrong on Report stage—in great detail. I would confine myself to saying only that it is a fundamental principle of this Bill that the privileges and rights which it affords should be restricted to those organisations which accept the very reasonable requirements of the registration provisions and the resulting responsibility towards their members.

The Bill therefore gives certain rights to registered bodies but not to those bodies which do not register. The right to relevant information in collective bargaining is, in our view, one of those rights. I should like to underline a further point here. There is nothing in this Bill to prevent an employer from giving information to officials of unregistered organisations of workers if he wants to negotiate with them; but I should like to make it clear that they cannot demand information as a statutory right under the Bill as drafted. I believe this to be right because it is in accord with our fundamental approach to the problem of registration. In Committee we debated (I suspect that it was at a rather early hour) an Amendment which would have had much the same effect as this, and although the noble Lord, Lord Diamond, did not mention this particular point at that stage—


My Lords, there was no code at that point.


No, my Lords, there was no code, but we debated an Amendment which was very similar to this; it would have had the same effect. What I was going on to point out was that on that occasion both the noble Lord, Lord Diamond, and the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, implied that under the Bill unregistered organisations of workers would lose their existing negotiating rights. I should like to make it plain that if this is what was thought—it is certainly what they said—it is quite wrong. In this Bill we are not seeking to take away existing rights from unregistered organisations in this respect. What we are doing here is to confer new rights and privileges on those who do register, including the right to information in their collective bargaining. It is in our view, therefore, up to each organisation of workers to balance those benefits against the responsibilities implicit in registration. The principle of according, along with responsibilities, certain privileges to registered organisations is one from which we cannot depart, and therefore I have no hesitation in advising the House to reject this Amendment which the noble Lord, Lord Diamond, has moved in such studiously moderate terms.


My Lords, I hear and I understand the statement made by the noble Earl that this is a distinction from which he cannot depart. That is a statement but it is not an argument. But it is the only thing he has said that really sustains the weight of his high office and the matter we are discussing. I recognise that he is in great difficulty about it. We discussed this point in Committee and made suggestions from this side broadly along the lines we are now considering. But at that stage there was no code of practice, and to our astonishment the Government said, "Yes, it is right to give information to employees if their union has registered under this Act, but it is not right to give information to employees if their union has registered under a previous Act." That seemed to me to be an absolutely astonishing statement, and I think I said at the time that I found it quite shocking.

Since then we have had the code of practice, which makes the position absolutely clear that as soon as we attempt to put a theory like that into practice we come unstuck. Just imagine any factory with different sections in it and organised by different unions. Union A is registered under the new Act and union B is registered under the old Act; union A goes to the management and says, "For the purposes of our collective bargaining we need some information." The owner says, "Of course, not only am I required to give it to you by law but it is in accordance with the best industrial practice. Here it is." Then union B, which is registered under the old Act but not under the new Act, goes and asks for the same information affecting a similar body of workers employed by the same employer in the same undertaking but carrying out a different task and therefore organised by a different union. They are told by the owner, "Oh no. We are not required to give the information to you and we are not going to do so. We have given it to your mates but we are not going to give it to you." One can imagine the kind of explosion that would take place in that factory and how long it would be before all the men were out; and one can imagine also that until that information was made available none of the men would be back at work. It is a sure recipe for industrial unrest.


My Lords, may I interrupt the noble Lord for one moment? He has said that there would be an explosion in that factory should that situation arise. Surely any normal management, and indeed perhaps even the more stupid management, would realise that point and would give the information to both the unions. The only point at issue is the right of the union to have the information if the employer does not want to give it. Surely in those circumstances it would be right to attribute to management normal common sense.


My Lords, I entirely agree and I am most grateful to the noble Lord. I am only sorry that he has not spoken more often in these debates.


My Lords, perhaps I should say that the time of the House has been so fully occupied by the noble Lord and his colleagues that there has not been very much opportunity for the rest of us to take part in these debates.


My Lords, I am very sorry indeed to hear that. We must seek, through the usual channels, to create the opportunities so that we may have the benefit of the noble Lord's comment.


Extend the Report stage for another month.


My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Alport, made a most valuable contribution. I entirely agree that any sensible management would give the information and would realise that it would be an intolerable position not to give it. The Government also recognise that, because as soon as they began considering practical points as to how industrial relations were to work in practice they produced a code of practice which says, "This is what you shall do". It says that you shall give this information to all the employees irrespective of whether or not their unions have registered. What I am saying is that it is a ridiculous situation when, as the noble Lord has said, every sensible employer would recognise that it was his duty to give information. The noble Earl now says, "We cannot depart from the policy we have taken on"; and we know what that means. The Bill therefore says something which is not necessarily quite the opposite to the code of practice, but it does not say the same thing. The Bill makes a careful distinction: it says that if you are registered you are entitled to it and if you are not registered you are not entitled to it. As the noble Lord, Lord Alport has said, that is sheer nonsense. It is nonsense for it to be in the code of practice and not to be in the Bill.


My Lords, may I just correct the noble Lord, who is always very fluent in his interpretation of what those who are taking part in the debate have said? I did not say that it was nonsense; what I said was that it is a question of rights, and that the practice that took place would depend upon the circumstances and should be interpreted as such by the management. But the principle laid down by the Government is perfectly applicable and understandable both to trade unions and to management.


My Lords, I withdraw immediately what I said previously. The noble Lord did not say that it was nonsense; he made the case to show that it was nonsense to do one thing in the code of practice and another thing in the Statute. That seems to me to be as good a definition of a Government proceeding to nonsense as I can think of: to provide in week one a code saying, "You shall give the information to all concerned", and to provide in week two or three a Statute saying, "You shall not give the information to all concerned but only to some of those concerned."

I am grateful for the support the Liberal Party have given to this Amendment, because it means a great deal that they should have departed from their normal attitude to this aspect of the Bill on this one particular point. The Amendment seeks only to breach this principle in respect of this one area of giving information. The code, if the noble Earl would like me to read it out, makes clear, not only in the footnote but time and time again throughout the code itself, that it is important for efficiency that employees—employees in the plural and not just certain employees—are kept informed on matters which concern them, and that managements should ensure that every employee is given full information. All these things are repeatedly stated in the code. It is sheer nonsense; or, if it is not nonsense, it is worse—it is a deliberate withdrawal of rights from a certain class of employee. Because the employer who was so inclined would read the Statute and would say, "I am not required to give you the information until you register, and if you do not register you are not entitled to it by law, and that is the end of the matter." It is obvious that we cannot accept the noble Earl's reply, which is merely to stand on his authority. That is not an argument which appeals to us and we must press this Amendment to a Division.


My Lords, before the noble Lord does so I wonder whether he would consider this argument. On Tuesday last we were discussing whether or not this Bill conferred new rights on trade unions. This is undoubtedly a place where a new right is conferred on a trade union—and a right which can be asserted through the Industrial Court. If the noble Lord succeeds in this Amendment no doubt he also had it in mind to make it later in Clause 102, which gives the trade union power to assert this right. If noble Lords will look at Clause 102 they will see that if an employer fails to give the information that this clause requires him to give then a complaint can be made to the Industrial Court and the Court can make an order determining rights, an order directing an employer to take such action in fulfilment of the duty in question as…it would be within the power of the employer to take and is action which in the circumstances he ought to be required to take. If information is withheld for bargaining purposes, then under Clause 126 an order can be made authorising presentation of the claim to the Industrial Arbitration Board. And if we look at Clause 126 we see what the Industrial Arbitration Board can do. There a claim can be made to the Industrial Arbitration Board and Any such claim…shall be a claim that, in respect of one or more descriptions of employees specified in the claim, the terms and conditions of employment to be observed by the employer specified in the order should be, or should include, such terms and conditions as are specified in the claim. In other words, they then take their bargaining claim to the Industrial Arbitration Board, and it will be for the employer to appear before that Board and, if he likes, argue his case there.

These are new and very substantial rights indeed. I do not think the noble Lord is justified in saying that no new right is given here. The clause gives registered trade unions the right to have certain information. There is a very important distinction between rights given by Statute and good practice set out in a code of practice. The code recommends employers to give information; the code does not say, "This is what you shall do"; it says, "This is what you should do". That is the essential distinction.

Good employers, and we hope all employers, will follow the code and give information of this kind. The only distinction is that if an organisation of workers wishes to avail itself of the rights, then it is required to register under the Bill, and registration will carry with it the requirement to comply with certain standards. That is one of the rights that is conferred. The noble Lord is well aware that neither unregistered organisations of workers nor trade unions can assert the provisions of the code in the Industrial Court. It is true that non-compliance with the code may be quoted in any action before the Court or the tribunal, but a right under it cannot be asserted. The right given in this clause is one which can be asserted, and that is why it is confined to registered trade unions.

4.34 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said Amendment (No. 79YY) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 64.; Not-Contents, 106.

Addison, V. Evans of Hungershall, L. Reay, L.
Airedale, L. Fiske, L. Ritchie-Calder, L.
Archibald, L. Gainsborough, E. Royle, L.
Ardwick, L. Gardiner, L. St. Davids, V.
Balogh, L. Garnsworthy, L. Samuel, V.
Beaumont of Whitley, L. Henderson, L. Segal, L.
Bernstein, L. Henley, L. Shackleton, L.
Beswick, L. Hilton of Upton, L. Shinwell, L.
Blyton, L. Hoy, L. Silkin, L.
Brockway, L. Hughes, L. Slater, L.
Buckinghamshire, E. Jacques, L. Sorensen, L.
Burntwood, L. Janner, L. Stocks, Bs.
Champion, L. Leatherland, L. Stonham, L.
Chorley, L. Lee of Asheridge, Bs. Strabolgi, L. [Teller.]
Cooper of Stockton Heath, L. Lindgren, L. Summerskill, Bs.
Crook, L. Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe, Bs. Taylor of Mansfield, L.
Davies of Leek, L. Lloyd of Hampstead, L. Wade, L.
Delacourt-Smith, L. McLeavy, L. Wells-Pestell, L.
Diamond, L. Nunburnholme, L. White, Bs.
Donaldson of Kingsbridge, L. Pargiter, L. Wynne-Jones, L.
Douglas of Barloch, L. Phillips, Bs. [Teller.]
Douglass of Cleveland, L. Popplewell, L.
Aberdare, L. Bledisloe, V. Daventry, V.
Ailwyn, L. Brock, L. De Clifford, L.
Alexander of Tunis, E. Brooke of Cumnor, L. Denham, L.
Alport, L. Brooke of Ystradfellte, Bs. Derwent, L.
Ashbourne, L. Burgh, L. Drumalbyn, L.
Auckland, L. Caithness, E. Dundee, E.
Balerno, L. Camoys, L. Effingham, E.
Balfour, E. Carrington, L. Elliot of Harwood, Bs.
Balfour of Inchrye, L. Clwyd, L. Emmet of Amberley, Bs.
Barnby, L. Coleraine, L. Erroll of Hale, L.
Belstead, L. Colgrain, L. Falkland, V.
Berkeley, Bs. Conesford, L. Ferrers, E.
Bessborough, E. Cork and Orrery, E. Ferrier, L.
Birdwood, L. Courtown, E. Fortescue, E.
Blackford, L. Craigavon, V. Goschen, V. [Teller.]
Gray, L. Loudoun, C. St. Helens, L.
Gridley, L. Lucas of Chilworth, L. St. Oswald, L.
Grimston of Westbury, L. Mancroft, L. Savile, L.
Hacking, L. Margadale, L. Selkirk, E.
Hailsham of Saint Marylebone, L. (L. Chancellor.) Massereene and Ferrard, V. Sempill, Ly.
Mersey, V. Shannon, E.
Hankey, L. Milverton, L. Skelmersdale, L.
Hanworth, V. Morrison, L. Somers, L.
Hatherton, L. Mottistone, L. Strang, L.
Hawke, L. Mowbray and Stourton, L. Strange of Knokin, Bs.
Hood, V. Moyne, L. Strathcarron, L.
Hylton-Foster, Bs. Northchurch, Bs. Strathclyde, L.
Ilford, L. Nugent of Guildford, L. Swinton, E.
Jellicoe, E. (L. Privy Seal.) Oakshott, L. Tenby, V.
Kemsley, V. O'Neill of the Maine, L. Tweedsmuir, L.
Kindersley, L. Ranfurly, E. Tweedsmuir of Belhelvie, Bs.
Kinnoull, E. Rankeillour, L. Vivian, L.
Landsdowne, M. Robbins, L. Waldegrave, E.
Latymer, L. Rothermere, V. Wise, L.
Leicester, E. Ruthven of Freeland, Ly. Young, Bs.
Lothian, M. St. Aldwyn, E. [Teller.]

Resolved in the negative, and Amendment disagreed to accordingly.

Clause 57 [Disclosure of information to employees by major employers]:

4.41 p.m.

LORD DIAMOND moved Amendment No. 79JJJ: Page 48, line 15, leave out (" 500 ") and insert (" 200 ").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I hope to produce in respect of this Amendment at least three arguments as to why it should be accepted. We now come to the clause which deals with the requirement that a firm should disclose information to its employees regularly, not necessarily in connection with collective bargaining but just as a matter of sensible industrial practice, to keep people informed. Nobody wants that information to be required to be given in the case of every firm; so one eliminates the very small firm. But, equally, one does not want the requirement limited to the overlarge firm, and I think that at the moment we are in danger of doing that. At the moment, by definition, the person required to give this information is the owner of an undertaking which employs "more than 500 persons, other than excepted persons". For these purposes I am going to assume that "excepted persons" are mainly part-time employees; so the clause requires—and I hope that the House will excuse me from using the words "bites on" for one gets a little tired of being "bitten on" from time to time—an employer whose undertaking engages more than 500 persons, apart from part-time workers, to give this information. In these days that is a large firm, and can be a very large firm. In the case of a capital intensive employer, 500 employees, quite apart from part-time workers, could provide a turnover of £5 million a year or more. That is the first point.

The second point relates to the part-time employees. Suppose one had a firm of 450 full-time employees and 2,000 part-time employees, making a total of 2,450. That firm would not be required to give this information. A firm which had 501 full-time and no part-lime employees would be required to give it. I do not think that that is a very sensible way of looking at the matter. I make two points at this stage. The first is that we are, in my view, erroneously restricting the requirements to over-large firms; and, secondly, that the definition wrongly excludes part-time employees. As this particular Amendment refers only to the first leg of my argument, it proposes to leave out "500 employees" and to insert "200 employees". If, then, you have a number of part-time employees it is not such a relevant matter.

I know that there is a provision in the Bill, a so-called escalation clause, which provides for adjusting this figure. The noble Earl may tell me that if it does not work out in practice the figure can be adjusted upwards or downwards. That is true; and I hope that the Government will have regard to that and will adjust the figure if necessary. But this clause is bound to set the tone; it is the figure in the clause that would be regarded as the standard for good practice. Irrespective of the variation clause, I think it right that the Statute should provide a figure which sets the tone correctly. I think that 500 is far too high. For the reasons I have given I hope that the House will regard 200 as more appropriate. There is nothing between us as regards the need to give the information; but this figure is set too high. I hope that the Government will feel that this is another Amendment that they can look kindly upon and perhaps accept. I beg to move.


My Lords, I shall be very brief. My name is coupled with that of the noble Lord, Lord Diamond, on this Amendment. The noble Lord, Lord Diamond, made a staggering statement. He prefaced his remarks by saying something to the effect that no one wants the obligations of this clause to apply to every firm. I do, so that is a misstatement. I think the obligations here should apply to every firm; that they are the absolute basis of good industrial relationships no matter what size firm is concerned. I see no reason why these obligations should not be statutory and enforceable. For that reason I support the noble Lord, Lord Diamond, in the rather small step he has taken along those lines.


My Lords, may I refer to one point which I think might have been made clearer? The clause refers to "other than excepted persons". I know that the term is defined in a later subsection of the clause; but why not leave these words out of subsection (1) and call the employees simply "whole-time employees"? That would be simple; everybody would understand it and there would then be no need to refer to a later subsection. Otherwise, I would support the figure of 200. I might even support the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont, in making it smaller. I appreciate that a line must be drawn somewhere. The figure of 200 appears to be reasonable.


My Lords, I thought that my noble friend was a little modest in his requirements. When I was in the other place, I remember a chemical company who were proposing, at a cost of something like £3½ million, to move into my constituency. They asked about labour relations and how they worked in that area, and I advised them. I asked what this move would cost and they told me that the cost would be anything up to £3½ million. I thought that an investment of that nature would involve bringing in 200, 300 or 400 people. I was told, to my amazement, that there would be 36 people employed; and that backs up the argument advanced by the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont of Whitley. Such firms are not given the same accommodation as other people because they do not reach the figure of 500 which is in the Bill, and I think that my noble friend Lord Diamond is being conciliatory with his figure of 200.

In all development areas there are factories on industrial estates where the figure would not reach even 200, but they are not to be taken into consideration or given the accommodation which they should receive because that figure is below the one in the Bill. I hope that the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, may be able to help us. An employee in a particular type of industry wishes to know why the firm for which he is working cannot have the same facilities as are afforded for people in other factories where the number of employees may be greater. I am looking at this matter, and the comments which have been made, from that point of view.


My Lords, I should like to support the Amendment, and I agree with what has been said by the noble Lord, Lord Slater. Today, with automatic machinery a firm may employ 25 people and yet have the most enormous turnover. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont of Whitley; I do not see why this should not apply to all employers, even those employing half a dozen people. I cannot see any objection to that. A bona fide employer should have no objection to his employees knowing everything about his business. I hope that my noble friend may be able to give a favourable response to the arguments advanced by the noble Lord, Lord Diamond.


My Lords, I urge the noble Earl to accept this Amendment. I speak from practical experience, having been involved with a plant which cost over £2 million and employed fewer than 100 people. As has been mentioned, all kinds of work which used to be performed manually has been taken over by automation and by computers. The numbers of workers in efficient companies are being reduced, and I think it essential that the minimum figure should be 200.


My Lords, may I mention that by subsection (7) the Secretary of State is allowed to vary the number? I support the proposal to have a figure of 500. In many cases, particularly on industrial estates, there are firms which are starting up perhaps in a highly technical field—say electronics. They may be operating on borrowed money, or they may be a subsidiary of another company which has supplied money to start the new enterprise in the hope that it may be successful. Very often such firms operate on a shoestring in their early stages and might not wish to disclose too much information about themselves. Usually in small firms there is a very friendly feeling between management and workers, but I think that if the number is reduced to something like 200 the requirement should not apply to firms of less than five years standing. This would give such firms a chance to get started. As the Secretary of State has the power to vary the figure I feel that we should not press this matter too hard.

4.55 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to say straight away that I am far from unsympathetic towards the arguments advanced by the noble Lord, Lord Diamond, and other noble Lords. I think it is reasonable that employees, many of whom may have spent the whole of their working lives in a particular firm, should be entitled to have information about the firm they work for. The clause springs from a conviction, which I think we all hold, that in the conditions of modern industry employees can easily lose touch with the activities of the firm for which they work.

It is not for me to lecture noble Lords on the problems of modern industry, but I believe that a loss of personal identification with the job is one of our great problems to-day. I am not certain that we have the right answer to it, or that the answer may be found in a modern industrialised society. It is perhaps rather ironical that in the harsher conditions of an earlier age there was often more involvement in the job, and more pride in the work, because, I suppose, people were able to feel they were identified with it. I do not know: perhaps it was because the concern was a family concern, and work was then organised in smaller units. I have found that the element of depersonalisation in industrial relations is likely to occur as soon as concerns get above a certain size. That size is about the number that someone can know. I am not basing my argument for accepting the figure of 500 on this, but I think the right figure is that of the number of people with which one person can cope—about the size of a battalion, that sort of thing. That has been my impression from such first-hand knowledge of industry as I possess.

In drafting the provisions of this clause our thinking was influenced in two ways, which was rather schizophrenic, as they pulled in two directions. We wanted to ensure that an individual should receive at least a minimum amount of information about the organisation which employed him. On the other hand, we wished to avoid placing unduly onerous burdens on employers. It is difficult to generalise, but I believe that it is in respect of the larger enterprises that there is a need to do everything one can to counteract the problem caused by depersonalisation and lack of involvement. That is where the greatest need lies for doing something to stimulate better communications by the sort of regular statements which are provided for in the Bill. That is one reason why we have put in a figure of 500. In our view, it is the larger organisations where this is most needed at the present time. In addition, in fixing the initial limit at 500 we had in mind that to oblige small employers to issue such a statement might involve them in a great deal of cost and considerable work. For those two reasons, we believe that, at least initially, the statutory obligation should be limited to fairly big employers of labour.

There are only three things that I should like to add before I say where I stand on this. In the first place, I would point out that there is nothing in the provision to preclude employers of fewer than 500 workers from issuing such statements. Many already do, and many no doubt will continue to do so; and so far as I am concerned, the more the merrier. I hope that this Bill and its general direction will encourage thorn in what I think in principle is a highly desirable practice. Secondly, there is subsection (7), to which the noble Lord drew my attention and anticipated what I might say on it. It is an escalator. In this case, I think that it is far more likely to go down than up. I cannot see it going up; I can readily see it going down. I would assure your Lordships that it is my right honourable friend's intention to keep this matter under review and, he will if necessary adjust the figure. I think your Lordships may take it that such adjustment would be downwards. I say that with some considerable assurance.

I see nothing sacred about the figure 500. I gave from my personal experience a rationalisation for a figure of about that size. My own feeling is that the dangers which we are seeking to avoid here, and the problems we are seeking to mitigate, seem to be most prevalent and pressing in the undertakings of 500-plus rather than in the concerns of 500-minus. That is where a conscious effort is most needed to improve communications, though they are needed in the smaller firms, too. I do not wish to dogmatise. There is nothing between us in principle. In my view, 500 is not unreasonable. I do not wish to argue that 200 is necessarily totally wrong and, by the same token that 600 is necessarily totally wrong. In view of what I have said, and above all the clear indication that my right honourable friend will keep this under close review and will have no compunction whatsoever in operating the escalator clause, should this seem desirable and practicable, I hope that the noble Lord will not press this Amendment. I believe that this is not an unreasonable figure at which to start. We may well move downwards over the course of years. My own instinct tells me that we probably shall. But I think that we should give the Bill a trial period and see how we get on; and then, if need be, my right honourable friend will operate the de-escalator.

5.4 p.m.


My Lords, we are grateful for the conciliatory reply which the noble Earl has given but I do not feel that he has paid sufficient attention to either the weight or the spread of the argument. First of all, may I deal with the point which the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont of Whitley, made. I am sorry that I used the phrase I did, but I did not have to-day's Marshalled List before me and did not have the pleasure of seeing that the noble Lord had attached his name to my Amendment, at which I am delighted. The Liberals take the view that this information should be made available in all circumstances. I share that view, but I am in this practical difficulty: that I do not think this is the kind of statutory provision we can make, because Statutes have to be carried out and, if necessary, policed. That is my practical difficulty; but I certainly share the view that information should be made available much more regularly.

To whom do we intend this clause shall apply? Not to the large firm, which already gives information, and I should be astonished if there were a large proportion of firms with over 500 employees who did not give information already: it is standard good practice. So I think we ought to direct our attention not to firms who already carry out this practice but to those who should be carrying it out. I should like to see a much smaller figure than 200, but we are on Report stage and I have to try to assess which Amendments are so moderate, over-moderate and reasonable that the Government might be willing to accept. That is why I pitched on the figure of 200. From the first-hand information we have been given to-day about the size of firms, I think that 200 is very relevant. It is not our fault that the Government pitched on this definition of number of employees. If they had tried to define it by annual turnover, that might have come out with a different result. I think it is right to base it on employees, because we are concerned about giving information to employees and we arrived naturally at that method of definition. When I said that a firm of 200 could produce a turnover of £5 million, I was being moderate, but I took this from my general experience. I know that as more and more capital-intensive firms come along, and as investment grows, as we hope it will continue to do at a much greater pace, investment per man will grow enormously. If we compare the American figures with our own we see how slight our own is. The number of employees in relation to turnover will grow progressively smaller.

The noble Earl was right when he said that this figure would have to be brought down. But we have to pitch it somewhere. Our figure of 200 is not so small as I expect the variation clause will lead to; I expect it will get down to about 100 over the next five years. I feel that I must press the noble Earl a little further to give this Amendment more favourable consideration. Of course nobody is going to say that it is a practical issue, but it must be made clear that we should encourage the smaller firm to do as the bigger firm is doing, and supply this information. At the moment the clause speaks only of the firms who no doubt already do it. In that respect it is not a practical clause, and I am bound to ask the noble Lord whether he is prepared either to accept this Amendment now or at least say he will consider this sympathetically—and I do mean sympathetically. Then there will be no need for us to press this matter further to-day.


My Lords, may I add a word? I have had a little experience, mostly in big industry, but also some in small industry. I cannot help feeling that we have probably to add a great number of part-time employees to the figure of 200, which is 200 fully employed people; so that in fact the final figure will be greater than 200. In my opinion it would be wrong for a firm of that size not to give the information about which we are speaking. I should find it difficult to vote in any other way than in favour of the Amendment, because I think this is fundamentally wrong.


My Lords. I am grateful to noble Lords for the moderation with which they have pressed this Amendment. I should like to mention one point which I imagine is known to your Lordships. Many of the actual units which will be covered by the 500 clause will be under the 500 level. The clause applies, of course, to firms with over 500 employees; but as a result of subsection (1) companies whose individual establishments employ less than 500 will be covered. So there will be quite a few establishments of less than 500 which will be covered by this Amendment.

Committee stages and Report stages in your Lordships' House are not just charades. I believe that the value of this House is that we can exercise independent judgment, and listen to the weight of argument, without undue attention to Party considerations. I think that a considerable weight of argument has been deployed in favour of this Amendment. I have listened carefully to what has been said from all quarters of your Lordships' House, and I think it would be wrong for me, speaking both as Leader of the House and also from this Bench, if I were not to say that I will pay close attention to what has been said on a part of the Bill to which I personally attach considerable importance. I would say straight away that between now and the next stage of the Bill I should like to give this Amendment sympathetic consideration. It would be a mistake for me to commit my right honourable friend, and indeed myself, as it were, thinking aloud, but I will bear in mind what has been said by a number of noble Lords representing a number of parties.


My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Kindersley, who joined in our debate. Speaking, if I may, for all those who have participated in the debate, I am sure that we want to acknowledge the important gesture that has just been made by the noble Earl the Leader of the House, who holds such a high Cabinet rank, too. When he says that he is going to give the matter sympathetic consideration (which he did say, and for which I asked), I can only say that I am grateful, and I seek the leave of your Lordships to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

5.12 p.m.

LORD DIAMOND moved Amendment No. 79ZZ: Page 49, line 25, leave out paragraph (a).

The noble Lord said: My Lords, this Amendment is raised now, in view of what the noble Earl has said, as a matter for discussion, and I hope he will listen to it from that point of view. In subsection (9) it says: …for the purposes of this section "— the section on the disclosure of information that we are now considering— a person is an excepted person…if…

  1. (a) he is employed under a contract…for less than twenty-one hours…"
and there are two other exceptions which I do not think I need bother your Lordships with. This is the normal definition—and therefore I accept it immediately as a definition—of a part-time employee.

The question before us is: should a part-time employee be denied the information which a full-time employee gets? I do not think he should. If you are in a situation where the employer employs a largish number of part-time employees (even if it is 200 it is a largish number in a largish firm; and as the noble Lord, Lord Kindersley, has made absolutely clear he would automatically be employing some, and possibly quite a large number, if you think of stores and businesses of that kind), I cannot myself see the argument for denying to those part-time employees the right to receive the same information, especially as for the purposes which we are considering. I do not think "part-time employees" is a good description. I think the description is misleading, because very often although it is a part-time engagement, it may be a person's sole occupation, and therefore his livelihood depends on that occupation. That being the case, that person is surely as much interested as a person who works longer hours and receives more remuneration. Indeed, the person could be at a low level of income, having great difficulty in making ends meet, and really be more interested in the odd 5p than the person who works the full hours and receives a larger amount of remuneration. On that score, I should have thought it was reasonable to ask that part-time employees, as defined here, should be given exactly the same information as full-time employees, and for exactly the same reasons, that their livelihood depends on it.

If that were all that the Amendment does I should seek to press it upon your Lordships. But unfortunately the Amendment refers to another aspect of this, too: it refers to the definition of the size of the firm. The noble Earl was good enough to say on the earlier Amendment that he would consider the question of the size of the firm. The size of the firm is defined in terms of full-time employees; it excludes part-time employees. If he is going to stick to a definition of that kind, of full-time employees only, then I think we should want to press this Amendment, which would then have the effect of meeting to a point our earlier argument, and also meeting completely the main argument; namely, that the whole livelihood of a part-time employee may depend on the information which is obtained for the purpose of collective bargaining for that employee's standard of living and wages.

I hope that the noble Earl will realise that this is quite an important Amendment. There are two aspects to it, but the more important one is treating the part-time employee as a person whose sole occupation this is. In those circumstances, it is difficult to see why that person should not receive the same information as his or her neighbour, who is also engaged in his or her sole occupation, although it happens to be one of longer hours. I beg to move.

5.20 p.m.


My Lords, without unduly delaying the House again, I should like to draw attention to an aspect of this matter which may be relevant. One must not forget that there are still parts of Britain where strange conditions of work exist. Even in these progressive days there is in textile towns a great deal of work done at home. In the silk industry and some other textile industries, and in glove making, it is an understood thing that quite a number of people, through generations of families, are linked with part-time work at home.

I possess an old document referring to the 1906 London Exhibition on sweated home-work. Conditions are not like that to-day, but in London in those days people were making tassels for coffins for about 3d. a gross. In the silk and scarf-making industries quite a lot of women do this kind of work at home. I hope that some consideration will be given to this. A firm in some industries could be employing fewer than 200 full-time workers and have quite a lot of home-work done. Without delving into this matter too deeply, the question arises whether those part-time workers should be entitled to know what is going on in the firm for which they are working. I hope that some sympathetic and understanding attention will be given to this matter.


My Lords, as the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, has undertaken to look at this clause again, may I raise a point which I think is more of technical drafting than anything? We are all assuming that the employees about whom we are speaking are employees of the owner of the undertaking. If one reads the first three lines of Clause 57 one finds that they are wide enough to cover the employees of an independent contractor who may be on the premises for a long time or for a short time. It may be the intention—I do not think it is, but it may be—to include those employees in this obligation. They are not taken out by the last three lines of Clause 57(1) because the employer who is the owner of the undertaking may be a quite different person from the employer of the employees employed by the independent contractor. I hope I have made that clear. It is a purely technical point which may be worth looking at.

5.24 p.m.


My Lords, it was interesting to listen to the clarification given by the noble Lord, Lord Kindersley, of the technical matter which arises under this clause. I was also interested in the observations made by my noble friend, Lord Davies of Leek. May I say to the noble Earl the Leader of the House that much part-time working to-day takes place in telecommunications, just as much as in the silk industry. For a very long time trade unions, by means of negotiation, have been fighting for a shorter working week. As a result, in telecommunications the greater part of the personnel employed is female labour. They are prepared to work an eight-hour shift but they do not want overtime work. Yet the cycle of operations has to go on to keep up with export markets and so on.

I have visited some of these factories and I know what happens in my area. Many ladies, when their children have come home from school and the husband has returned from work, work four hours a night for five days a week in this way. They are therefore employed part-time and the employer may employ 600 or 700 on a part-time basis. We have this massive operation going on throughout the country. I will not particularise and give the names of big companies in telecommunications, for that would not be right in view of the knowledge I have of what is happening. Having listened to what was said by the noble Earl the Leader of the House in reply to my noble friend Lord Diamond, I hope that the Leader of the House will agree with the case that we are seeking to make.


My Lords, there is a practical side to this matter. You have heard arguments about part-time workers. Every major company employs part-time workers to-day. If there are a number of people working in the same plant, and information is given to some but not to others there will be a leak and someone will disclose that information. Why not give the information to all those employees at the beginning and thus save embarrassment? The difference does not make sense to me.


My Lords, speaking as one who is a part-time employee I sincerely hope that the Leader of the House will give sympathetic thought to this Amendment. I should hate to feel that I was deprived of the knowledge that the very few whole-time employees in my profession are able to get.


My Lords, in this connection a development is starting in contract cleaning. The people engaged in this work are almost invariably not employed for more than about 21 hours a week. There are also the big organisations which deal with the school meals service and with school cleaners. That is a very wide industry employing much female labour. I think that such people should be considered if the Government are prepared to look at this clause again.


My Lords, I wonder if there might be a question of what is an undertaking. Noble Lords have been speaking about part-time employees, and the definition of an undertaking in the Bill suggests that part-time employees should be taken into account in arriving at a decision about the size of an undertaking. Thus it might be that the proportion of part-time employees who are not to receive information might be so great that those in full time employment received no information.


My Lords, I wonder whether I could first make one thing very plain to your Lordships' House? I do not wish there to be any misunderstanding. I believe the noble Lord, Lord Donovan, started the habit of saying that I was going to have a look at the whole of this clause, and that habit has been creeping in. I should like to make perfectly clear that what I said was that I would give sympathetic consideration to a particular and specific Amendment moved to this clause. That was the extent of my undertaking. I do not wish in any way to detract from the undertaking, but I also do not wish to add to it save by my own volition.

In view of the fact that the debate has gone rather wider than a Report stage debate sometimes goes I should summarise the general position. First, we are anxious to do what we can to promote better communications in industry. This is what this part of the Bill is after. Here we are all agreed. Secondly, we felt it right to limit for practical reasons the employers' obligations in a number of ways. Perhaps I should summarise what we felt to be reasonable and sensible limitations. First, as we discussed on the last Amendment, an employer will not be required to issue statements at all if he employs fewer than 500 people. That I have said I should like to look at.

Then there are three categories of employees who are excluded from the statutory right to receive a statement. They are, first, employees who work for less than 21 hours a week; secondly, those who have been in employment for less than 13 weeks, and, thirdly, those who normally work outside this country. It is the first of those excluded categories of part-time workers, if one is allowed to use this shorthand phraseology, to which the Amendment relates. Its effect would be twofold. First, it would entitle such workers to receive an annual statement, and, secondly, it would mean that such employees would be counted in determining an employer's liability to issue statements. Certainly the effect of accepting the Amendment, given the way the Bill is drawn, would be that all employees would be entitled to a statement, irrespective of the number of hours worked.

What would be the practical effect? It would mean that the statutory obligation would extend not only to part-time employees employed for four or five days or nights a week regularly, systematically, over a longish period of time (say in a bar or a public house or in a restaurant), but also to a much more casual type of part-time employee. It would apply, for example—and I am using this in no pejorative sense—to an older schoolgirl who works an hour or two on a Saturday morning in a department store or supermarket—one of the "Marks and Sparks" or Tescos of this world. I personally believe that it would be a mistake, and I hope that noble Lords will agree with me, to make this a statutory obligation on employers to impart the information called for in the Bill to such employees.


My Lords, if I may intervene before the noble Earl leaves this point, it seems to me that he is misinterpreting the effect of the clause. It seems to me that the part-time employee is not excluded from getting information, but is excluded from being counted as one of the number of employees making up the 500 beyond which it is obligatory to give the information. The paragraph says that the information will be given to persons employed in the undertaking. Now the definition of "employee" in the definition clause is a person who works under a contract of employment, not a person who works for more than 21 hours, and it is only for the purpose of ascertaining numbers that the 21 hours is effective. Therefore if the noble Earl were right you would have a ridiculous situation in a company which employed 501 full-time employees and 500 part-time employees, which is by no means an unusual thing—indeed it is very common, as my noble friend Lord Slater has said, in the electronics industry, in the textiles industry and as a matter of fact in any industry where the operation is such that it requires women to do delicate work because their hands are more suitable for it than those of men. In many industries nowadays you cannot get women to do such work on a part-time basis, except by allowing them to work for four hours or so a day, sometimes in the morning, sometimes in the afternoon or sometimes in the evening. Once this information is to be made available, it must be given to everyone who is employed in the undertaking, whether he is working 40 hours a week or four hours a week.


My Lords, with all due respect, I do not think I am misinterpreting the noble Lord. If the noble Lord will look carefully at Clause 57(1), it reads: In the case of any undertaking in which on any date within a financial year of the undertaking more than 500 persons, other than excepted persons… Then there is the definition of "excepted persons", which catches the part-time employees of whom we have been speaking. I think that is the position: in fact, I am certain it is.


My Lords, what puzzles me is to understand the nature of the burden which it is apparently assumed is imposed on the employer in providing information for part-time employees equally with full-time employees. I think that if I were now an employer I should want all my part-time employees to have the information, and I cannot see the objection to providing it.


My Lords, I do not think there necessarily is an objection. What I was seeking to develop was the argument that here it would be a mistake to have a statutory requirement. There is nothing in the Bill to prevent an employer issuing statements to his part-time employees if he wishes to do so; indeed, for many employers it may be more convenient to do so rather than distinguish between one type of employee and another. Here it seems to me that what the noble Lord, Lord Bernstein, was saying was perfectly reasonable. All I would say is that he seemed to be assuming that the employer would be debarred in some way from issuing some statements if this was a sensible thing to do. There is absolutely nothing in the Bill as drafted to prevent this, and in the case that he instanced I think that indeed it would be the sensible thing to do. I also hope that what I have said answers the question—whether satisfactorily or not I do not know—put to me by the noble Lord, Lord Robbins.

Again, I should like to point out that there are two quite firm precedents here for adhering to the Bill as drafted; namely, in the Contracts of Employment Act 1963, and the Redundancy Payments Act 1965. I should like to draw your Lordships' attention to the fact that—it is something we touched on a couple of days ago—Section 4 of the Contracts of Employment Act requires employers to issue to their employees within 13 weeks of starting work a written statement of the main terms and conditions of employment; but this does not include employees who normally are employed for less than 21 hours a week. I think it would be anomalous to give part-time employees rights under this clause of this Bill while excluding them, as they are excluded at the present time, from receiving written statements of the terms of their employment which are likely to be of even greater interest. Again, a similar distinction, rightly or wrongly, is drawn in the Redundancy Payments Act 1965.


My Lords, may I ask whether it would be entirely unreasonable to regard the provisions of the earlier legislation as being imperfect in this respect?


My Lords, I do not think it would necessarily be entirely unreasonable; but if one is going to move in one area it would probably be reasonable to move in all three areas and not have a lopsided arrangement. I am certainly quite unable to accept the Amendment as it stands at present because I should be very unhappy at placing a statutory obligation on employers to issue statements of the kind required to the part-time employee of the type which I instanced. I think that to make that a statutory obligation would really be going far too far, but this would be the effect of the Amendment which the noble Lord, Lord Diamond, has moved. I personally believe that the Bill, as drafted, is sensible, and that these exceptions are reasonable. I feel that the Amendment as it stands is defective or goes far too far; but even if it did not go so far I personally believe that the Bill goes just about the right distance in this particular area, bearing in mind that there is nothing in the Bill or elsewhere to prevent employers from issuing these statements to part-time employees if this is the sensible thing to do.


My Lords, if I may take the time of the House—


I think the noble Lord has already spoken.


My Lords, I understood that, and I was introducing it by, "if I may by leave of the House", but I will not now impose on the leave of the House.


My Lords, I will do my best to interpret what was in the mind of my noble friend Lord Davies of Leek by the look in his eye and hope that what I am about to say will find sympathy in his breast. There is no meeting of minds, I regret to say, on this particular Amendment, and I am sorry that is so because I want to treat it as moderately as I can, and I have been much impressed once more by the generally sympathetic way in which this Amendment has been received and discussed in all parts of the House. I was particularly touched by the gentle and subtle comments of the noble Lord, Lord Robbins, who seemed to me to be saying in very simple terms that not only do two wrongs not make a right but three wrongs in this case do not make a right. Two bad precedents are quoted, and what he might have gone on to say is that these are really different Bills with different obligations involved, and I do not think they are close precedents or similar analogies. So I hope we can have regard to this one Amendment alone.

The noble Earl says that he does not like the idea of placing a statutory responsibility on people in a certain respect, but it is this Bill which places a statutory responsibility. I am glad that it does. It is a wholesome clause and a clause for which we are grateful in all parts of the House. All we have to decide is not the question whether a statutory responsibility should be placed, but on whom it should be placed. At the moment, the noble Earl seems to think that we should include part-time employees, or at all events very small part-time employees. I think we shall be getting into hopelessly unnecessary detail if we say to employers, "You shall give it to all people employed full-time, to all people employed 21 hours a week, but not to people who are employed for 10 hours a week or whose employment of 10 hours a week is spread over fewer than three days." There are so many variations and as has been made clear, the administrative argument is in favour of covering them all, not of putting upon the employer the responsibility of saying, "How many hours did this man or woman work in this week? Does he qualify or does he not qualify?"

I am sure there is no important argument in saying that we should redefine the question of 21 hours. Being compelled by Statute once a year—that is all it is; it is in respect of a financial year—to give these statements to part-time employees as well as full-time employees is something which I should have thought the House will wish to press on to the noble Earl.

My Lords, may I deal with the other part of it, the part affecting the definition of the size of the firm. In spite of what my noble friend said, I certainly took it that subsection (3), which says— such information…shall be issued to every person who,…, is employed…and who is not…an accepted person. meant that this clause refers both to the hours worked and to the definition of numbers. So, having dealt with the hours worked, may I come back to the definition of hours?


My Lords, that is my interpretation of the Bill.


My Lords, I am glad we are on common ground there, and I hope that what I am going to say will satisfy the noble Earl that there is no reason why we should not press the Amendment. Having dealt with the part-time aspect of it, I come back to the definition of numbers, and the noble Earl has said that he will look at that. I hope he will look at it in terms of saying that every firm with 200 or more employees, be they full-time or part-time, will have the obligation of issuing the statement, and that therefore it is right to remove this exception completely. He will have to make up his mind about that and we hope he will say that. It is conceivable that he will come back and say, "No, I am going to exclude part-time workers in defining the term". But he said he would look at this matter sympathetically, so something is going to be decided: thought is going to be given and a decision of some kind or another is to be made. It is within his freedom of action to take into account the fact that subsection (9)(a) is, I hope, going to be removed. Therefore there is no technical difficulty why we should not press it. The arguments are in favour of pressing it. Speeches in support of it have come from all parts of the House and I should be failing in my duty if I did not press the Amendment to a Division.


My Lords, may I ask for one point of clarification? When the noble Lord refers to part-time workers, is he including casual workers and seasonal workers whose employment may fluctuate from time to time? This would make the situation different. Is he referring to regular part-time workers who go on from year to year?


My Lords, the only part of the definition of the exception with which we are necessarily concerned at the moment is part-time workers, in respect of their right to receive this information. Therefore I would say to the noble Lord that if this information is issued on a day when there are half-a-dozen casual workers who will not be there next week, does it matter if they get the information as well or should we put on the employer the responsibility of saying, "I must go carefully through the wages sheet of my 500 employees and extract those who are casual workers and will not be here next week?"

So far as casual workers are concerned there are two points which I should like to put to the noble Lord. First of all, in many cases a casual or a seasonal worker comes back season after season—for example, the hop pickers—and there is quite a relationship between the employer and the seasonal employee. Secondly, I am not suggesting to your Lordships that subsection (9)(b) should be removed, and that subsection defines one of the excepted classes as a person who has been employed in the undertaking in question for less than thirteen weeks. If your casual worker has beer employed for only

twelve weeks then the noble Lord need have no anxiety. I hope the noble Lord shares my view that we do not want to get too complicated on this, and I hope he will support us in the Lobby.


My Lords, I should like to say one or two things. First, here, as elsewhere, it is not easy to draw the line, but it does not seem unreasonable to say that the line concerning the statutory obligation to furnish this information should be drawn at the 21-hour week; that is, employees working for less than, say, half the normal working week. That seems to us to be a perfectly reasonable watershed. Secondly, I would make clear again that here we are talking about a statutory obligation. There is nothing in existing practice or in the Bill when it becomes law which prevents an employer, when it is sensible so to do, from furnishing this information. There are times when it might be administratively convenient and sensible—the type of instance which the noble Lord, Lord Bernstein, gave. There may be times when it would be inconvenient and not sensible. I do not wish to argue that. This does not affect the fact that part-time employees, however casually employed, for however short a time, can receive a statement if the employer so desires it. The only difficulty between us is whether this should be a statutory obligation.

I believe the effect of this Amendment would bite on the most casual type of employment, somebody being employed for a couple of hours a week. It is quite absurd to place what could be quite an onerous obligation on employers to furnish this information. I do not believe that the Bill as drawn is in this respect unreasonable. This Amendment goes far too wide, and I must advise your Lordships to resist it if the noble Lord presses it to a Division.

5.52 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said Amendment (No. 79ZZ) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 66; Not-Contents, 89.

Amulree, L. Bernstein, L. Buckinghamshire, E.
Archibald, L. Beswick, L. Byers, L.
Ardwick, L. Birk, Bs. Champion, L.
Balogh, L. Blyton, L. Collison, L.
Beaumont of Whitley, L. Brockway, L. Cooper of Stockton Heath, L.
Crook, L. Hoy, L. Reay, L.
Davies of Leek, L. Hughes, L. Ritchie-Calder, L.
Delacourt-Smith, L. Ilford, L. Robbins, L.
Diamond, L. Jacques, L. Shackleton, L.
Donaldson of Kingsbridge, L. Janner, L. Shinwell, L.
Douglass of Cleveland, L. Kennet, L. Slater, L.
Foot, L. Leatherland, L. Sorensen, L.
Gaitskell, Bs. Lindgren, L. Stocks, Bs.
Gardiner, L. Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe, Bs. Stonham, L.
Garner, L. Lloyd of Hampstead, L. Strabolgi, L. [Teller.]
Garnsworthy, L. [Teller.] McLeavy, L. Strang, L.
Gladwyn, L. Morrison, L. Summerskill, Bs.
Hanworth, V. Norwich, V. Taylor of Mansfield, L.
Henderson, L. Nunburnholme, L. Wade, L.
Henley, L. Pargiter, L. Wells-Pestell, L.
Hilton of Upton, L. Phillips, Bs. White, Bs.
Hood, V. Popplewell, L. Wynne-Jones, L.
Aberdare, L. Drumalbyn, L. Loudoun, C.
Abinger, L. Dudley, E. Margadale, L.
Alport, L. Dundee, E. Mersey, V.
Ashbourne, L. Ebbisham, L. Milverton, L.
Auckland, L. Effingham, E. Monckton of Brenchley, V.
Balfour, E. Elliot of Harwood, Bs. Mowbray and Stourton, L.
Balfour of Inchrye, L. Emmet of Amberley, Bs. Nairne, Bs.
Barnby, L. Falkland, V. Northchurch, Bs.
Belstead, L. Ferrers, E. [Teller.] Oakshott, L.
Berkeley, Bs. Ferrier, L. Ranfurly, E.
Bessborough, E. Fortescue, E. Rankeillour, L.
Birdwood, L. Geddes, L. Rathcavan, L.
Bledisloe, V. Goschen, V. [Teller.] Rothermere, V.
Boyd of Merton, V. Gray, L. Rothes, E.
Brecon, L. Gridley, L. St. Aldwyn, E.
Brooke of Cumnor, L. Grimston of Westbury, L. St. Helens, L.
Brooke of Ystradfellte, Bs. Hacking, L. St. Oswald, L.
Brougham and Vaux, L. Hailsham of Saint Marylebone, L. (L. Chancellor.) Savile, L.
Caithness, E. Selkirk, E.
Coleraine, L. Harcourt, V. Skelmersdale, L.
Colville of Culross, V. Hatherton, L. Strange, L.
Conesford, L. Hawke, L. Strathclyde, L.
Cork and Orrery, E. Hylton-Foster, Bs. Swansea, L.
Courtown, E. Jellicoe. E. (L. Privy Seal.) Swinton, E.
Craigavon, V. Kemsley, V. Tenby, V.
Crathorne, L. Killearn, L. Tweedsmuir, L.
Daventry, V. Kindersley, L. Tweedsmuir of Belhelvie, Bs.
De Clifford, L. Lansdowne, M. Vivian, L.
De L'Isle, V. Latymer, L. Waldegrave, E.
Denham, L. Lauderdale, E. Windlesham, L.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 58 [Notification of procedure agreements]:

6.0 p.m.

LORD CHAMPION moved Amendment No. 79K: Page 49, line 32, after (" State ") insert (" after consultation with the Trades Union Congress and the Confederation of British Industries ").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, this is an Amendment which we discussed at considerable length in Committee. It is reported in two columns of Hansard. It is not my intention to rehearse the argument that we covered at that time. What I am doing is giving the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, a chance to make a statement, because he was kind enough to say on May 18 (col. 440): I am prepared, if this will help, to have another look at it, without commitment, to see whether it might in fact be desirable. I do not think it is necessary, but I have an open mind on this. My Lords, upon his saying that, I was reported as having said: That undertaking to look at it beats me completely."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 18/5/71; col. 440.] Although this took place at an early hour in the morning, I cannot imagine for one moment that I said that what the noble Earl said beats me at all. What I said was that he meets me completely ". Certainly that was the purport of my remarks because I liked what he said; namely, that he would have a look at it.

I am now asking the noble Earl to tell us what was the outcome of his further consideration: whether he can meet us without beating us, and whether he can tell us that he is now prepared, after having considered the matter further, to accept the Amendment which, after all, is a reasonable one and is one that he could very well accept without upsetting the principles that he has enunciated from time to time in connection with this Bill. I beg to move.

6.2 p.m.


I should perhaps explain the Amendment to some noble Lords who may not have been here when we discussed it earlier. This Amendment would oblige the Secretary of State to consult with the T.U.C. and the C.B.I. for the making of any regulations requiring employers to notify their procedure agreements and arrangements.

As the noble Lord, Lord Champion, said, we debated this matter at the Committee stage and I said I would consider it. I did so in studiously neutral terms which, with his usual fairness, the noble Lord has repeated. I have reconsidered this matter, and I say once again—echoing what the noble Lord, Lord Champion, said—that in principle there is little or nothing between us. Yet having reconsidered it—and this was not a pro forma reconsideration, but a real one—I must still advise your Lordships against this Amendment.

When I say that there is little between us, I know that in practice it is highly unlikely that the views of the T.U.C. and the C.B.I. would not be fully taken into account before regulations under this clause were made. I say that because I know that the voluntary exercise which has been going on now for some time, the notification of procedure agreements, has been working really very well indeed. It has been working with the full consultation and co-operation of both the T.U.C. and the C.B.I. I am confident that the consultation and co-operation in this respect will continue when this Bill becomes law and when this particular part of it "bites", to use a phrase which the noble Lord, Lord Diamond, now wishes to avoid.

The other course would be to lay a statutory obligation here for such consultation, which I do not think would be really justified. In my view the need to lay upon Government a statutory obligation to consult is justified only where the circumstances really demand it. I should like to instance a case where I think a statutory obligation is justified; that is, that before the Secretary of State makes an application relating to procedure agreements to the Industrial Court, Clause 37(3) would require him to consult the parties concerned; namely, the employer and the appropriate trade union. In that case I do not think the special consideration does apply.

However, I should like to refer again to two points, one of which I have already made. First, the views of the T.U.C. and the C.B.I. will almost certainly have been taken into account before these regulations are made. I should like to emphasise that. Secondly, I should like to draw attention to the fact that there is the not unimportant safeguard that regulations made under this clause would be subject to the Negative Resolution procedure in both Houses of Parliament. There would thus be opportunity for specific approaches by or on behalf of those concerned at that stage. In any event, the regulations will only be used in those very isolated cases where it is considered really necessary and important that the information should be obtained.

I should like to assure your Lordships and make clear to the noble Lord, Lord Champion, that I have reconsidered the desirability of incorporating the statutory requirement to consult, but for the reasons I have given I feel that it would be unnecessary to do so. Also, I believe that it is not a good thing in principle to load a Bill with statutory requirements to consult here, there and everywhere, except where it is absolutely necessary.

In the light of what I have said, I hope that the noble Lord will feel that it is not necessary here and that he will not feel it necessary to press his Amendment.


My Lords, it is quite obvious that the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, as promised, has very carefully considered this matter between the Committee stage and to-day. I agree with him that the voluntary arrangement is working very well and I have some doubts myself about putting anything into legislation which is unnecessary in the circumstances. For that reason, I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

6.9 p.m.

LORD DIAMOND moved Amendment No. 79KKK. Page 51, line 39, after (" an ") insert (" independent ").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I shall move the Amendment quite shortly in the hope that it is not necessary to press the argument at any length. We are now starting on the clause which refers to the registration of trade unions and other organisations. We are dealing now with an introductory clause which states that an "'organisation of workers' means an organisation" which and then proceeds to a description. The point I am making is a very simple one. The first condition of such an organisation is that it should be an independent organisation. We had a similar Amendment on Committee stage but that Amendment dealt with freedom from domination or control by an employer.

Since then I have looked at the definitions more closely and I find that the word "independent" is there defined in relation to a trade union or other organisation as meaning "not under the domination or control of an employer or group of employers". Therefore it seems to me that one word will serve the purpose of several words, and I hope that is a thought which all of us share. I apprehend I may be told that it is not necessary, that independence is already secured. It is partly because of that possibility that I do not wish to detain your Lordships any longer. I beg to move.


My Lords, I have looked carefully at this Amendment, and when I first saw it I felt that perhaps there was something to it, because of course we have exactly the same object in view. But, as I am sure the noble Lord, Lord Diamond, will realise, the point which we both wish to pursue is covered under Clause 67, which particularly names an independent organisation of workers as an organisation eligible for registration as a trade union. Furthermore, as the noble Lord himself said quite clearly in his opening remarks, the clause that we are now discussing, Clause 61, is of a declaratory nature. Therefore, if we were to include "independent" in this particular place we should be favouring those unions which are employer-dominated. As neither of us wishes that to happen, I suggest that the noble Lord withdraws the Amendment.


My Lords, I am most grateful to the noble Baroness, who has cleared up the anxieties which were the main reason for my putting down the Amendment, and I seek leave to withdraw it.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.


My Lords, it may be for the convenience of the House if we could consider this particular Amendment, No. 79A with No. 79B. They are drafting Amendments only. I beg to move No. 79A.

Amendment moved— Page 52, line 19, after (" and ") insert (" which ").—(Baroness Tweedsmuir of Belhelvie.)

6.12 p.m.

LORD DIAMOND moved Amendment No. 79BBBB: Page 52, line 25, after (" which ") insert (" has power, without the concurrence of any person who is not a member of the organisation, to alter its own rules and to control the application of its own property and funds and which, if it was formed on or before the 30th June 1971, is for the time being registered as a trade union under the Trade Union Act 1871, or if it was formed after that date ").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, this is an Amendment which I fear we cannot dispose of quite as quickly as the last one. This Amendment, which I now beg to move, refers to the definition of a trade union. The subsection says: In this Act ' trade union ' means an organisation of workers which is for the time being registered as a trade union under this Act. The Amendment seeks to make it say that it is an organisation of workers which is independent in the words described and which is for the time being registered as a trade union under one of two Acts. The Acts are the Trade Union Act 1871, under which most trade unions are at present registered, and "this Act"—which of course means the Bill under consideration. However anxious I am to speed your Lordships' business, I am bound to spend some time on what is a most important Amendment at a most important time politically.

First, may I repeat what I have said before: that we are not in dispute with the Government on the principle of registration. Indeed, it is very irritating when noble Lords rise and make speeches as if that was what divided us. What divides us is not the principle of registration; it is the compulsion to register in a particular way as defined under this Bill. Over 80 per cent.—I think, over 85 per cent.—of trade unionists are at present in unions which are registered. So it cannot be said that the trade union movement objects to registration. What it objects to, and objects to bitterly, is the registration that is proposed under this Bill, and all that goes with it. In practice the Government have now seen and demonstrated to us that the distinction which is arrived at by saying, "Only organisations of workers which are registered under this Bill shall be treated as trade unions" is a distinction which cannot stand. Since we last discussed that point the code of practice has been published—the code of practice upon which we all place great hopes; and I certainly very much hope and believe that that code, by itself, unemcumbered with the difficulties associated with this Bill, could lead to considerable progress in improving relations between the Government and the trade union movement and improving industrial relations as between employer and employee. That code of practice makes it perfectly clear: "For the practice of good industrial relations, would you please disregard the distinction between registered and not registered unions".

Secondly, since we discussed this principle in Committee the Government have made a statement with regard to the House of Commons' fair wages resolution, which states that every contractor with the Government must give the right of joining a union to every one of its employees. That resolution was passed in the late 1940s—1947 or 1948 or at about that time—and has subsisted ever since then, and has been accepted and reconfirmed by every Government since then. The Government have made it perfectly clear that in interpreting what that resolution means one must have regard to all unions, whether they are registered under this Bill or not. So I am saying that in practice this distinction is seen to be irrelevant.

In theory, I now go on to say, the proposed denial of rights to employees who do not belong to a union which registers under this Bill, but belong only to a union which has registered under the previous Act, is, in my view, if not a breach, a near-breach of our international obligations which we have taken on under the International Labour Organisation, and is certainly an infringement of the fundamental liberties which we regard ourselves as entitled to enjoy in this country—in particular, the freedom of association. It also means a withdrawal of statutory rights which have been secured for over a century. That is the theory of the matter.

So the first three points I want to make to your Lordships are these. We are in dispute not about the principle of registration but merely about registration under this Bill. In practice, registration under this Bill will be disregarded in the practice of good industrial relations, because the code invites us to disregard it. And, in theory, it is not only an infringement of our fundamental liberties but is very nearly, if not absolutely, a breach of our international obligations. It is for all these reasons that the Labour Government proposed, both in their document In Place of Strife, and in the Bill which they introduced but which went only as far as a First Reading, that there should be registration under the 1871 Act. That is of course what the Amendment proposes. The Amendment proposes that where old trade unions are registered under the old Act, that is fine: let them continue. Where there is a new trade union created that may be a consideration that it should be required to register under a new provision, but it is a normal method of dealing with changes in the law that one provides that those organisations which are already well established should continue on their existing procedures and compels only new organisations to take on new liabilities and new responsibilities and new burdens.

I want now to turn to the practical politics of what we are talking about, and I address myself with great seriousness to the Government. At the moment, we are in a situation where 8 million trade unionists belong to unions which have decided not to register under this Bill when it becomes an Act. I believe that today, in fact, instructions are going out from the T.U.C. advising these various unions as to how they can achieve their purposes in this new situation. These trade unions have decided not to register in accordance with a democratically convened conference and democratically arrived at decisions—the Croydon Conference—and the hostility which this Bill has engendered in the trade union movement is undoubtedly hardening; and, if I may say so, the arguments which the Government use to attempt to justify registration only add insult to injury. It shows that the Government are totally incapable of understanding why it is that all these organisations are wholly opposed to this Bill and to the registration provisions of it. As my noble friend Lady Gaitskell said, do the Government really think that all the unions are mad; that they have decided that it is not in their interests to register under this Bill?

I am seeking, as I have sought in every single Amendment that I have put before your Lordships on the Report stage, not to find a method of achieving what I think is right but to find a method of achieving a compromise which may seem right to the Government as well as to us, which may offer a way forward, so far as the unions are concerned, and which may offer an opportunity of avoiding the disasters that will clearly face us if the Government insist not only on carrying this Bill through but on implementing it. The proposal which I offer is that the registration should be either the existing registration or the new registration—the existing registration for existing unions, the new registration for new unions. That is a very moderate proposal. It would provide the Government with the opportunity which they may need for administrative purposes of having records of unions.

It may be in the public interest that the Government should have records of the unions. The Government would know of their rules, because that is provided for under the original registration provisions. There would immediately be a lessening of tension and a possibility of moving forward. At the moment I am proposing that provision only so far as this clause is concerned. There may be a whole host of consequential Amendments to be made if the Government want to go a long way with us; they may, of course, want to go only a little way. We could provide Amendments for later stages of the Bill which would meet this situation. Certainly what we have to provide straight away is that the 1871 Act should continue to exist, and accordingly an Amendment has been tabled to that effect, because the Government have proposed to remove it from the Statute Book.

I hope I have made clear why I am returning to this important issue and why I regard it as a public duty to advise the Government once more of the difficult situation for which they seem to be heading, and why I feel it right that they should think again in a very serious situation, and why I regard it as elementary justice that trade unions, which for a century have been able to register under the 1871 Act should continue to be entitled to register under that Act. This would be a simple way of achieving it. I beg to move.

6.25 p.m.


My Lords, I accept the spirit in which the noble Lord, Lord Diamond, has moved this Amendment. He said that in his opinion it was of great importance and he wished to make clear—and I think it is good to have it on the Record in this House—that he and his colleagues are not in dispute on the principle of registration. To instance that, he pointed out that about 87 per cent. of trade union members now are registered under the 1871 Act. He said that new factors had emerged since this matter was last debated at considerable length on the Committee stage, and he instanced in particular the code of practice. He said that the distinction now cannot stand between the original Act, which is embraced in this Amendment, and the registration provisions under this Bill because, he said, the code of practice makes clear that one should in fact disregard registration.

I hope, and believe, that the purpose behind the code of practice is to make clear the guidelines to the kind of best methods which would be carried out by those who work and those who manage in this country, whether they register or whether they do not. I have the code of practice here, and it does not make any distinction between organisations, because—and this is the important point—the duties of all are the same under the code. The Bill distinguishes between those only because certain privileges are given only to registered unions—for instance, the freedom to introduce a breach of contract of employment. The noble Lord, Lord Diamond, said that from the point of view of practical politics, as he called it, he understood that about 8 million trade unionists now belonging to unions had decided not to register under this Bill, and that a T.U.C. instruction was going out to try to help them in not registering. If the object of the Amendment is to avoid the difficulty that might arise if a large number of trade unionists refused to register, I would suggest that the difficulty would really be for the unions, because they would not have the privileges which undoubtedly exist under this Bill—shall we say the advantages of the Bill?

I read again with very great interest the debate which took place on May 20, and I think that my noble friend Lord Windlesham, who at that time was replying for the Government, made the case for registration—which is voluntary registration—under this Bill very clear. What are the advantages of the Bill? All it does is to lay down that the advantages should be restricted to those organisations whose rules meet minimum standards; and surely all the best organisations—trade unions—in this country would have these kinds of rules, and those who have not got them surely would wish them to reach the minimum standards.

I quite understand that noble Lords opposite have not at any time said that they agree with these particular advantages that registration under this Bill provides; they have mantained that all along. And throughout the debates we have maintained that it is right to have a minimum standard of rules as laid down in this Bill. I do not think that either of us will convince the other at so late a stage in the Bill, but to turn to the particular Amendment I would only say that, quite apart from the fact that it goes against the main thinking behind this Bill from the practical point of view—and the noble Lord, Lord Diamond, referred to what he called the "practical politics"—I think it would be difficult to have, on the one hand, the Register of Friendly Societies for 1871 unions and, on the other hand, the new register for new unions. To have these two together would really make life very difficult, and it would, to give one example, duplicate the administrative requirements of Clauses 87 to 91.

But it is not merely on the administrative difficulties I base this case. I take the case as put down by the noble Lord. The code of practice lays down the minimum requirements of behaviour of those who work and those who manage. Registration is voluntary; it gives certain legal protection to those who register. I suggest there will be many up and down the country who will think carefully about their position, both individually and within their union, and I hope at the end of the day many of them will think that to register will be the best action they can take.


My Lords, may I support my noble friend Lord Diamond in his most reasonable plea for the Government to reconsider this. Not only do I wish to ask the Government once again—I have forgotten the words I used before—do they really think that nearly 9 million trade unionists in this country are mad when they say they do not wish to register if this Bill goes through, and are quite ready to give up their privileges? After all, they are not mad; they do not wish to give up privileges for nothing. I really would plead with the Government to look at this sympathetically and see what they can do. and consider my noble friend Lord Diamond's suggestion about allowing the trade unions which have registered up to now under the 1871 Act to go on, and simply let the new unions who wish to register now register according to this Bill when it becomes law.


My Lords, the noble Baroness surely realises that if this Amendment were accepted you might as well scrap the whole Bill. The noble Baroness says 9 million trade unionists would refuse to register. I have heard some exaggerations in this House, but never one as bad as that. I know quite a few trade unionists who will be only too pleased to register under this Bill.


My Lords, the noble Lord may have his friends among trade unionists, and it may be they are of a mind to register. I would not dispute that for a moment. I beg his pardon, the noble Viscount. I gather he has many titles, both English and Irish, and it would delay your Lordships unduly if I referred to all of them. But what the noble Viscount must not do is to say that my noble friend Lady Gaitskell is exaggerating when she is repeating the figure, nearly 9 million, which is given on the Trades Union Congress's own authority and is the best figure that exists. I hope that the noble Viscount will take that into account. He may know half-a-dozen trade unionists sympathetic to this Bill, but the facts are—and I hope the noble Baroness, Lady Tweedsmuir, and the Government will take this on board, too—that there has been continuous and careful thought and consideration given to this question of registration by all the unions, by all the officials and by all the members of the T.U.C. They have had a full and public conference about it. They have given thought to it subsequently. They know the difficulties that are involved in not registering, and they have all decided that it is clearly against their interests to register and that they are not proposing to do so. They have all made that decision, over 8 million of them, nearly 9 million—I daresay that by the time it comes to the end of the day 9 million will be more likely the figure.

The Government are really being blind, absolutely purblind, if they continue to refuse to recognise what is happening, and it is no use the noble Lady saying that she feels sure that in due course many will be carefully thinking this matter over and will register. They have thought it over, because they know better what is in their own interests, with great respect than the noble Lord. They have given this matter more thought than the whole of the Government have done. They are capable of thinking about it. They are able people; they are experienced people; they have enormous responsibility. And I daresay there are more votes behind them in their trade unions than there are behind the Government to-day in their political stance, which is also of some interest.

It is no use the noble Lord saying to me "why not?" I had hoped that the commonsense of this would appeal to noble Lords, the realisation that if, after all that consideration, the unions do take the view, which I think is as plain as a pikestaff they should take, that it is wholly against their interests to register, that view would have registered with the noble Lord and the Government. It clearly has not registered with the noble Baroness. It is no use our exchanging arguments; she merely refers to the one side of the question; she can go on doing that till the cows come home. She may say I only refer to the other one. There are two sides. The balance in my view is overwhelmingly against registration—overwhelmingly. The Government are acting in the most unjust and unwise manner. I have no authority on behalf of the trade unions to put forward this proposal, none whatsoever. I was merely hoping the Government might be prepared to see that here was a way in which you could hold the position, give people a chance to talk to one another, get round a table and thus arrive at a modus operandi satisfactory all round. I am not going to try to persuade the Government if they do not want it. It is not something I want, it is not something the unions want, it is a possible compromise. If the noble Baroness does not want it, we will leave it, but we are bound to divide the House

6.38 p.m.


My Lords, before the noble Lord does that, I wonder if I can say this. We have had very long debates on these matters. The noble Lord says the trade unionists are very able people, and so, if I may say so, is the noble Lord, and yet he is still talking in quite the wrong terms. He must know, I think, by now that there is no question of registration. As soon as the Bill is passed all those bodies will go on to the provisional register. If any body wants to deregister it is free to do so, but there is no question of registration. Those who are on the 1871 register will automatically go on to the provisional register. This is not a question of semantics, because this is already a compromise which was reached in another place, believe it or not, a compromise solution that was put up. They go on to the provisional register. If at that time a particular union meets the requirements in Clause 67—and they are very simple requirements indeed, that they are an independent organisation of workers, and they have powers without the concurrence of any parent organisation to alter their own rules and administer their own property and so on—it is transferred to the register, it is on the register.

And then at that point the Registrar will do what everybody agrees should be done, which the Donovan Report recommended should be done, that the rules of the trade unions should be brought up to date; this will then be done. And it will be done simply by the Registrar giving notice if the rules are defective in any of the ways we shall be coming to a few clauses later. If they are not defective they will continue like that in the register—quite unchanged. If they are defective, then surely the rules ought to be changed, and the opportunity is then given to change them. If the union does not change them, if it does not bring them up to the standards in the Bill, which are the right standards and are generally recognised as being the right standards, then the registration may be cancelled. Apart from that, the unions are free to withdraw their registration. If they withdraw their registration they are free later, if they choose, to apply for re-registration. There is no question of registration by the unions. It will be a voluntary act on the part of the trade union if they de-register. This is the essential thing. I do not think that noble Lords have yet understood it; and I am absolutely certain that 99 out of a 100 trade unionists, the Congress, the 8 million of whom the noble Lord spoke, have not understood it either.


My Lords, is it not surprising, after all the time we have spent on this Bill, that the noble Lord should publicly admit that the trade unions of this country do not understand it? There must be something wrong somewhere—and, if I may say so, on the Government side.


My Lords, I have not personally had the opportunity of explaining the Bill to the trade unions; I have tried only to explain it to your Lordships.


My Lords, if trade unions are automatically registered, then if they de-register, if they withdraw themselves from that register, does one not take it from the noble Lord's observations that they will be no longer recognised as a trade union by the Government?


My Lords, this is a difficulty of definitions. We are talking about the definition of an organisation of workers. Then we come on to the definition of a trade union. A trade union is an organisation of workers which is for the time being registered as a trade union under the Act. They will be included in the provisional register.


My Lords, this is something the Government cannot escape from. If a trade union as it is now—for example the N.U.R.—decided that it is going to de-register, to withdraw itself from the register upon which (purely because of the introduction of this Bill) it has been placed, it would cease to be recognised by the law of the land as a trade union.


Perhaps, my Lords, I may treat this as an intervention. The answer is simply that they then become an organisation of workers, as is provided for in this clause. "Organisation of workers" is an omnibus phrase. It includes trade unions, staff associations, non-independent organisations of workers and the rest. They then become an organisation of workers—entirely at their own choice.


My Lords, does that mean that we are going to be treated to the wonderful spectacle of a "National Workers' Organisation of Miners", a "National Workers' Organisation of Railwaymen", and an "Amalgamated Workers' Organisation of Engineers and Foundry Workers"? Are they not to be allowed even to call themselves a union?


My Lords, within the terms of Order it is a little difficult for me to go on speaking. We are coming to the question of names later. There is an Amendment down in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Diamond, and I shall be able to deal with that point then.


My Lords, what is the Report stage for but to elicit information? This is the first time I have risen from these Benches during this Report stage. Do I understand the noble Lord to say that existing unions who do not decide to de-register will be put on the provisional register; that they will be approached as to the

compilation of their rules—and this is the point that I want to elicit—and that if those rules are found to be "defective" (that was the word the noble Lord used) the person who so decides is the Registrar? In the event that the union is notified to that effect but take no steps to remedy the defects, would they then be automatically de-registered from the provisional list?


My Lords, the noble Lord puts this question to me, so perhaps I may speak again with the leave of the House. We shall be coming to clauses which deal with this. The noble Lord will then see that the word "automatically" is not appropriate. They cannot be de-registered without an application of the Industrial Court.

6.47 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said Amendment (No. 79BBBB) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 40; Not-Contents, 88.

Archibald, L. Gardiner, L. Ritchie-Calder, L.
Ardwick, L. Garnsworthy, L. [Teller.] Shackleton, L.
Bernstein, L. Henderson, L. Shinwell, L.
Beswick, L. Hilton of Upton, L. Slater, L.
Birk, Bs. Hoy, L. [Teller.] Stocks, Bs.
Blyton, L. Hughes, L. Stonham, L.
Brockway, L. Jacques, L. Stow Hill, L.
Buckinghamshire, E. Kennet, L. Strabolgi, L.
Champion, L. Leatherland, L. Summerskill, Bs.
Collison, L. Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe, Bs. Taylor of Mansfield, L.
Cooper of Stockton Heath, L. Nunburnholme, L. White, Bs.
Crook, L. Peddie, L. Wynne-Jones, L.
Diamond, L. Phillips, Bs.
Gaitskell, Bs. Popplewell, L.
Aberdare, L. Courtown, E. Hailsham of Saint Marylebone, L. (L. Chancellor.)
Abinger, L. Craigavon, V.
Ashbourne, L. Crathorne, L. Hanworth, V.
Auckland, L. Daventry, V. Harcourt, V.
Balfour, E. De Clifford, L. Hatherton, L.
Balfour of Inchrye, L. De L'Isle, V. Hawke, L.
Barnby, L. Denham, L. Henley, L.
Belstead, L. Drumalbyn, L. Hood, V.
Berkeley, Bs. Dudley, E. Hylton-Foster, Bs.
Bessborough, E. Dundee, E. Jellicoe, E. (L. Privy Seal.)
Brecon, L. Elliot of Harwood, Bs. Kemsley, V.
Brooke of Cumnor, L. Falkland, V. Killearn, L.
Brooke of Yystradfellte, Bs. Ferrers, E. [Teller.] Lansdowne, M.
Brougham and Vaux, L. Ferrier, L. Latymer, L.
Byers, L. Fortescue, E. Lauderdale, E.
Caccia, L. Geddes, L. Lindsey and Abingdon, E.
Caithness, E. Goschen. V. [Teller.] Loudoun, C.
Clifford of Chudleigh, L. Gowrie, E. Massereene and Ferrard, V.
Coleraine, L. Gray, L. Merrivale, L.
Conesford, L. Gridley, L. Milverton, L.
Cork and Orrery, E. Grimston of Westbury, L. Monckton of Brenchley, V.
Mountevans, L. Rothermere, V. Shannon, E.
Mowbray and Stourton, L. Rothes, E. Skelmersdale, L.
Napier and Ettrick, L. Ruthven of Freeland, Ly. Somers, L.
Northchurch, Bs. St. Aldwyn, E. Strange, L.
Norwich, V. St. Helens, L. Swansea, L.
Oakshott, L. St. Oswald, L. Teviot, L.
O'Neill of the Maine, L. Sandford, L. Tweedsmuir of Belhelvie, Bs.
Rankeillour, L. Savile, L. Windlesham, L.
Rathcavan, L. Sempill, Ly.

On Question, Motion agreed to.

6.54 p.m.

Clause 62 [Employers' associations and other organisations of employers]:


My Lords, I beg to move Amendment No. 79B. We have referred to this Amendment before; it is a drafting Amendment.

Amendment moved— Page 53, line 4, after (" and ") insert (" which ").—(Baroness Tweedsmuir of Belhelvie.)

LORD HUGHES moved Amendment No. 79YYY:

After Clause 62 insert the following new clause:

Definitions of "combined organisation of workers and employers" and "joint industry board". (" .—(1) In this Act (subject to section 86) "combined organisation of workers and employers" means an organisation (whether permanent or temporary) which—

  1. (a) consists of an organisation or organisations of workers to which section 61 applies and an organisation or organisations of employers to which section 62 applies;
  2. (b) is an independent organisation consisting wholly or mainly of workers and employers or individual proprietors of one or more descriptions;
  3. (c) has as its principal objects the regulation of relations between workers and employers or individual proprietors of that description or those descriptions or organisations or organisation of workers and organisation or organisations of employers; and
  4. (d) has power, without the concurrence of any parent organisation, to alter its own rules and to control the application of its own property and funds and those of its branches and sections (if any).
(2) In this Act subject to sections 67, 68, 71 and 72 "joint industry board" means a combined organisation of workers and employers which is for the time being registered as a joint industry board under this Act.")

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I think that this Amendment, particularly because of the way in which the noble and learned Lord who sits on the Woolsack enunciated it, is appropriately lettered. It is almost totally different from any other Amendment which we have moved at any stage on this section of the Bill. As was emphasised by my noble friend Lord Diamond, the attitude of the trade union movement generally is to object, not to registration, but to registration under this Bill, because of the conditions attaching to it. This Amendment, which differs to a certain extent from the one moved at the last stage to which the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, promised to give consideration, concerns a joint industrial board which wishes to register under the Bill and which the Government are not encouraging in that course of action.

When I said that the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, had promised to consider the matter the noble Baroness, Lady Tweedsmuir of Belhelvie, looked somewhat startled. Well, my Lords, he did; and he has done so very well, because he wrote me a very long letter, extending to three foolscap pages, giving the reasons why the Government were still of the opinion that the Amendment should not be accepted. I will refer briefly to points in that letter because I have learned through these rather unusual channels that the Government are still not going to change their mind, and so I am not going to waste your Lordships' time by speaking at great length.

As the Bill stands, it may not prevent organisations like a joint industrial board from being registered, because, technically, it could be argued that they satisfy the definition of an organisation of workers since a substantial majority of the members are clearly workers, even though both trade union and also employers' organisations are acting in this type of association. In his letter the noble Lord went on to say that the reasons why the organisation wanted to be registered did not impress the Government; it was all a matter of probability and possibility. At no stage in the letter did the noble Lord inform me that it is not essential for this body to register to protect their interests. The phrases used are, "It seems improbable"; "It rests on the possibility"; "There does not seem to be any real danger". The reason why I have given the noble Lord this further opportunity is that in the letter he said there were technical difficulties in the way.

I appreciate that one of the technical difficulties is that an organisation consisting of employees' and employers' associations was seeking under the previous Amendment to come under Clause 61 which dealt with trade unions, and Clause 62 which dealt with employers' organisations; and it could be argued that an organisation which represented both could not therefore properly be regarded as coming under one or the other. It seemed to me, therefore, that the correct method was to bring in a new clause defining a joint organisation.

It may be that the noble Lord is right when he says that the organisation is worrying unduly. My point is that out of all the people in the country affected by the Bill, this one type of organisation which wants to go on the register is performing the task which is the Title of the Bill—industrial relations. Its whole object is to improve industrial relations. They draw my attention to the fact that during the time of their existence, the number of days lost in the industry has fallen from 28,000 to 9,000 last year and to as low as 5,000 the previous year. They accept what the Government want in this Bill. And as a reward for all this, they are told that they are not to have the benefit of registration.

I do not know what the noble Baroness will say in furtherance of this matter. If I am right in assuming that she is not going to accept this new clause, I do not intend to press it. What I shall do is to draw the attention of the organisation concerned to the fact that the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, has expressed the view that, notwithstanding his belief that the Bill is not intended to cover organisations of this kind, they may still try to register as a trade union, because they are a body consisting mainly of workers. I beg to move.

7.1 p.m.


My Lords, the noble Lord is quite right in saying that this Amendment is well prefaced by "YYY". It is the only Amendment we have had throughout the Bill which seeks to encourage registration under the Bill. What it seeks to do is to ensure that joint employer and worker organisations should come within the scope of the Bill and be eligible for registration under it. When I appeared surprised at the noble Lord saying that my noble friend Lord Drumalbyn had undertaken to consider this, I thought he said that consideration was going to be given to the whole question of registration and did not realise it was only this particular point on joint boards.

I also am fortunate in having a copy of my noble friend's letter in front of me. I assume that this Amendment is put down in order to place firmly on the Record whether it is necessary for joint boards to have some special provision under the Bill or whether they can register as joint boards. They cannot register as joint boards. Each constituent part, whether it is the employers' or the workers' side, can register under the Bill. The real argument behind my noble friend's letter was that it was not necessary for them to register, because one can hardly imagine a situation where one side would encourage a strike while the other was encouraging a lock-out. I think that would hardly be a problem we would have to face.

Naturally we wish to convince the joint boards that their position is secure. They are concerned whether they could have protection under Clause 96, which protects a registered body as to inducing a breach of contract. If I may read the relevant part of the letter to which the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, referred, it says: It seems improbable that the joint boards would ever be directly involved in actions involving inducement of breach of contract of employment. I am sure that that is true. I would point out that a great deal of consideration was given to this matter in consultation with the joint boards, before we came to the Committee stage and none of those mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, on Committee stage have been able to produce an example of where they would be in danger under the Bill. That being so, I hope that the noble Lord will feel that the Amendment is unnecessary and will see fit to withdraw it.


My Lords, I indicated that if the answer was as I expected it was going to be, I would not press this Amendment. In spite of all the meetings that have taken place—and the Joint Industry Board have made it perfectly clear to me that they have received very full consideration in meetings with the Law Officers of another place and in the correspondence that has taken place, they remain firmly convinced that they will be under disadvantages if they are not allowed to continue to register. I gather that they are registered as a trade union at the present time. If the point which the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, emphasised just before we divided, that they may find themselves placed on the provisional register, is correct and if they are registered as a trade union now, they will go on the provisional register and then it is for them to see whether their rules conform to what is necessary to allow them to transfer to the register proper. I suppose that what will take place now is that bodies like this will examine carefully what has been said in this further discussion of their position and will consider what is the best course of action for them to follow. I do not think that I can further their interests any more by seeking to press this Amendment and I beg leave to withdraw it.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.


My Lords, it may be for the convenience of your Lordships if the House were now to form itself into a Committee on the National Insurance Bill and thereafter adjourn during pleasure, so that we can have an hour's respite. I beg to move that further proceedings on Report be adjourned to enable the House to resolve itself into Committee on the National Insurance Bill.

Moved, That further proceedings on Report be adjourned to enable the House to resolve itself into Committee on the National Insurance Bill.—(Lord Drumalbyn.)

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