§ 3.0 p.m.
§ THE MINISTER WITHOUT PORTFOLIO (LORD DRUMALBYN)
My Lords, I beg to move that the House do again resolve itself into Committee on this Bill.
§ Moved, That the House do again resolve itself into Committee.—(Lord Drumalbyn.)
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.
§ House again in Committee.
§ [The EARL OF LISTOWEL in the Chair.]
§ Clause 13 [Application for ballot on continuance of agency shop agreement]:
LORD DIAMOND moved Amendment No. 100:
Page 11, line 22, after ("of") insert ("a voluntary agreement or").
§ The noble Lord said: This Amendment is a probing Amendment, and I would not wish to make more than a very few comments in order to enable the Government to explain the meaning of this clause, and particularly to tell me whether I have understood it correctly. So far as I understand this part of the Bill, there are in fact two kinds of agency shop agreement as referred to in Clause 10. Clause 10(1) refers to an "agency shop agreement", which I might describe as a voluntary agreement. We have to have two words for "agreement" because the old, simple meaning of agreement—namely, something two people have agreed together—no longer applies because an enforced agreement where two people have been compelled to undertake, at the instance of somebody else, certain action is now called, according to this Bill, or according to the Minister in charge of the Bill, an "agreement". So, in order to make my position clear, perhaps we may call this first one "a voluntary agreement". The second case, under Clause 10(2), is where there is an agency shop agreement as a result of an application to the Industrial Court859
Under Clause 13 there is this reference, at line 22, which is under subsection (3):
In the case of an agency shop agreement made in pursuance of a ballot…".
That is one kind of agency shop agreement. What I am seeking to do is to ascertain the position with regard to the other kind of agreement; namely, a voluntary agreement. In the case of the agency shop agreement the clause makes it perfectly clear that there cannot be—that is to say, the Industrial Court cannot entertain—an application before the end of the period of two years for a cessation of an existing agency shop agreement, where that arose out of a ballot. Am I correct in understanding that this subsection has no relevance to what I would call a voluntary agency agreement under Clause 10(1); and that if, for example, the voluntary agreement specified a period of six years, eight years or ten years—namely, periods which are well in excess of two years—then this subsection would have no application and a voluntary agreement would persist so long as the period was unexpired; and that there would be, therefore, no possibility of a reference to the Industrial Court to bring that agency shop agreement to an end after two years—or, rather, under this procedure, in two years' time; under a period of not less than two years?
§ That is the purpose of the Amendment —to clarify the position. I should be grateful if the Government would be good enough to confirm or deny whether I have understood it correctly; and then we can deal with the situation further in the light of the Government's reply. So for these purposes, I beg to move.
§ LORD BELSTEAD
The noble Lord, Lord Diamond, has made clear the intention of his Amendment; namely, to probe the position of a voluntary agreement. In the case of a voluntary agreement there will have been no ballot and therefore the challenge could still be made under the provisions of this subsection. If the effect of the Amendment would prevent the voluntary agency shop agreement from being challenged within two years of its commencement, we believe that this could lead in fact to industrial strife, because the voluntary agreement, of course, will not have been subject to the ballot in the first place. No challenge would be made 860 if those who were covered by the voluntary agreement—those working—were content with the agreement. The only purpose, therefore, surely, of this Amendment would be to frustrate the desire of the majority of workers who might want to bring about an end to an agreement in an orderly way. Not being able to secure a ballot to express their views, they might have to turn to methods which would be damaging to bring about changes which they desired and which would not help to improve industrial relations.
The agency shop provisions, we believe, have been carefully designed to ensure that no agreement is made without affording the workers directly concerned an opportunity to express their approval or disapproval of the agreement. Where the workers have expressed their views the provisions allow what we believe is a reasonable period of stability—the two—year pause—before a further challenge can be made. At the same time, there is reasonable opportunity to bring about orderly changes in the arrangements.
An agency shop imposes important obligations on the workers covered by it, and we believe therefore that those working should have the opportunity to express their views on it and to challenge any arrangement which is made against the wishes of the majority. I hope that that explanation clarifies the relevance of the voluntary agreement which the noble Lord is trying to insert into the text of the Bill, and the agency shop agreement.
§ 3.8 p.m.
§ LORD BLYTON
I rise to support the Amendment because of the fact that it is not as easy as the Minister attempts to make it. There will be a great number of difficulties arising over the balloting procedures involved in setting up an agency shop or challenging it once it is in existence. A ballot will be required in two sets of circumstances: first, by 20 per cent. of the employees asking for a ballot; and, secondly, by the employer asking for a ballot. To obtain or maintain the agency shop, a union will have to gain a majority of those eligible to vote—not a majority of those voting. In this way, to abstain is to vote against.
Under this rule, if a union fails it would be forbidden to apply for a ballot 861 for two years. The propositions for an agency shop are really impracticable in the maritime transport industry, and the most difficult will be in the ballot requirements. There are serious arguments against the proposals in this clause, and one is the practical difficulty involved in balloting seamen at any given time, given the mobile nature of their work. The assumption that each shipping company has its own permanent staff is erroneous. Only one in five registered seamen have company contracts. Therefore, 80 per cent. of our seamen have the liberty, which is often exercised, to be employed by any number of companies for varying periods throughout their careers as seamen.
Balloting within a company could give seamen the opportunity to participate in more than one ballot on the agency shop question, and even if these ballots were held simultaneously the vote would still be unreal, for the reason that the issue would be company orientated while the seamen are industry orientated. In other words, the matter of union representation within an undertaking would be determined by the seamen who have not, and need not have, any special interest in the individual company or its affairs. Again these ballots will effectively disenfranchise a large number of seamen who at any one time are ashore on leave or awaiting further employment, and I ask the Minister: how well their interests be catered for within the ambit of this clause?
In these circumstances, the agency shop and its procedures is open to criticism, especially in an industry like seafaring, and this is in no way a substitute for the comparatively efficient and equitable system that we have known for years of the closed shop in the seafaring industry. As I stated on Clause 5, the shipping industry has a high turnover rate and means that seafarers serve for short periods only. Thus many will be in the position to enter and leave seafaring employment without being obliged to conform to an agency shop agreement. Clearly the law will not be capable of enforcement in many such cases. How can this law be made enforceable when the sailors are in the Indian Ocean? The proper conduct of industrial relations with seamen rests primarily on organisation, and I am sure that if this were put in 862 the Bill they would get a voluntary agreement with the shipowners.
The effect of doing away with the closed shop will be to destroy this most essential element in their union. How can we expect, in an industry scattered over the seven seas, to take a ballot as described in this clause, with all the qualifications that follow? It is really necessary—and I plead this case on behalf of the seamen—that this Amendment should be accepted so that they can make a voluntary agreement in this industry. I am certain that if this clause were left in the Bill it would bring about industrial chaos. We shall not get the industrial peace that the Government say this Bill sets out to achieve. Therefore, I support my noble friend on the Front Bench.
§ LORD POPPLEWELL
I also should like some further clarification. My noble friend seeks to embrace the words "voluntary agreement". That type of wording includes the present closed shop. When this Bill becomes an Act, will the closed shop be accepted as a voluntary agreement or will it necessitate the full implementation of the Act in establishing votes for an agency shop? This is exceedingly important, because it could probably be argued—as I rather gather the Minister was arguing—that what we seek as a voluntary agreement is something, according to the Minister, that has not been voted upon by the people with in any given industry. By and large this is not quite correct, because the unions that have been able to establish these closed shop agreements have done it with the full consent of all their members—probably not by having a ballot, but by various decisions that have been taken by their respective ruling assemblies. Therefore, they express the voluntary spirit of our trade union movement that has brought about and operated these closed shops.
With the introduction of this Bill I think it is important that we should make perfectly clear, once the Bill becomes an Act, the precise position with regard to voting. How will the code of practice that will be given to the N.I.R.C. operate, in so far as they will agree to make an application ultimately to the Commission to carry out this ballot? Will the code of conduct that will be given to the N.I.R.C. be such as to instruct them 863 that a ballot must take place? This is very important. I hope that I am wrong in my assumption, but if I am right it further indicates how illogical this Bill really is because it is not calculated to establish good industrial relations. If what I fear in fact comes to pass, it will put one little bit more bitterness into the question of negotiations between both sides that neither side really wants. I hope the Minister will be able to give me a full answer when he replies.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
The noble Lord who moved this Amendment described it as a probing Amendment and asked a question, to which my noble friend Lord Belstead gave an answer. My noble friend Lord Belstead pointed out that subsection (3) deals with the period of time which must elapse between an agency shop agreement made in pursuance of a ballot taken under Clause 11 and a new application to the Industrial Court for a fresh ballot—and it refers to nothing else at all.
My noble friend pointed out that a ballot under Clause 11, as prescribed in line 22, could only take place in the circumstances set out in Clause 11, which is that the employer did not originally want the agreement. Both noble Lords who have spoken since appear to be under a misapprehension as to that, because both of them have gone back to the original discussion about the purposes and scope of an agency shop agreement. The voluntary agreement of an agency shop between the employer and a union or unions we dealt with at considerable length yesterday, and it takes place under Clause 10. It does not give rise to the two-year period, for the reason which my noble friend has explained. So far as the seamen are concerned, if and in so far as there is anything in the case presented by the noble Lord, Lord Blyton, we have sought to cover the case in Schedule 1 and, I think, in Clause 16. That I think also deals with the point which was troubling the noble Lord, Lord Popplewell. There is no lack of logic in this clause. It simply says that if a compulsory ballot takes place under Clause 11 and results in an agency shop, the challenge which is provided for in Clause 13 cannot take place for a period of two years because 864 the men will have already voted for it in the course of a ballot.
§ LORD SHINWELL
Although I support the principle behind the Amendment, namely, in regard to special circumstances, as, for example, in the case of the seafaring community, which is an exception, it seems to me that if the Amendment were accepted by the Government the subsection would require to be revised. Therefore the assurance that has just been given by the noble and learned Lord, the Lord Chancellor, which is embodied in Schedule 1 and provides for an exception of the kind mentioned by my noble friend Lord Blyton, would, in my judgment, be satisfactory.
My noble friend Lord Blyton was on a very important point when he referred to the seafaring community. A ballot is very difficult to operate, even to initiate. Although it could be initiated it might fail to be implemented among the seafaring community because, as noble Lords are aware, seamen sign articles and can be away from the United Kingdom for 12 months or sometimes even for two years according to the articles signed. That is quite customary in certain shipping lines. In those circumstances the seamen would be quite unable to take part in a ballot. I wonder whether the point mentioned by the noble and learned Lord, the Lord Chancellor, could be supplemented by an assurance that the seafaring community, along with the shipowners, the Shipping Federation, or a number of associations connected with the shipping industry, could form, by arrangement, a voluntary agreement. I cannot imagine that the Government would take exception to that. It would not conflict with a ballot, which would be required for the ordinary case in industry.
The noble Lord, Lord Belstead, in suggesting the rejection of the Amendment, argued that the voluntary agreement might be challenged. Challenged by whom, and for what purpose? The only possibility of a challenge would not come from shipowners, because if the shipowners and the National Union of Seamen or the navigation officers' organisation came to an agreement which provided for a closed shop in the seafaring community, the only possible challenge could come, for example, from a seaman who had a 865 conscientious or other kind of objection to joining the union.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
I think the noble Lord is under a misapprehension. My noble friend was referring to the rights of challenge conferred on a 20 per cent. minority by Clause 13, which applies to a voluntary agreement.
§ LORD SHINWELL
I am anxious to follow the noble and learned Lord, the Lord Chancellor, but I still think I am on a point. His argument now, which differs from the argument adduced by the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, is rather difficult to understand. He speaks of a 20 per cent. minority. Minority of whom? It could not be the Shipping Federation, because they speak for the general body of shipowners.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
If the noble Lord would look at subsection (2) of the cause we are discussing he will see what minority precisely is referred to.
§ LORD SHINWELL
I do not want to pursue this matter unnecessarily. I am only concerned, having some knowledge of the situation affecting seamen and knowing the difficulties that confront them in taking a ballot, that it is very difficult for the National Union of Seamen or the navigation officers' organisation to undertake a ballot. But if I am assured that the seamen are in some way protected and regarded as an exceptional case, I shall be quite satisfied.
§ 3.27 p.m.
§ LORD DIAMOND
Clause 13 refers to "any time when an agency shop agreement is in force" and it was natural, therefore, that my noble friends, Lord Blyton and Lord Popplewell, should take this opportunity of discussing matters which are very much on their minds and relate them to this particular Amendment. In fact, as the noble and learned Lord has said, this Amendment deals with a rather narrower point; it deals in particular with subsection (3). Therefore, although I am most grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, for having given me a clear answer on subsection (2), I wonder whether I might redirect his attention to subsection (3). He asked whether the position had been made clear. I am bound to say it has, up to a point, so far as I am concerned. Perhaps 866 he will be patient while I explain that part that is not absolutely clear. We are on common ground, I know, from what he and the noble and learned Lord said, that although subsections (1) and (2) deal with all kinds of agency shop agreements, subsection (3) deals only with that particular kind of agency shop agreement which has originated out of a disagreement between employer and union and which has been settled by the ballot procedure referred to under Clause 10(2) and Clause 11.
I am asking what is the effect of Clause 13(3), or indeed of any part of Clause 13, on the circumstance where there has been a voluntary agreement entered into for a period of more than two years. In short, is it the case that after two years the voluntary agreement could be challenged under this procedure? I assume not. Is it the case then that a voluntary agreement which is in other respects satisfactory and is for a period of more than two years could not be upset by anything in this clause, and in particular in this subsection? If so, I should not wish to trouble your Lordships further with this particular Amendment. The assurance which my noble friend, Lord Shinwell, seeks could come more conveniently on Schedule 1, and the questions which my noble friends have asked in regard to the closed shop I am sure will recur when we come to the closed-shop clause. But it is at this point that I must get it absolutely clear that a voluntary agreement under Clause 10(1), made for, if you like, a period of two years, but it could be any period, will not be upset by anything in this clause.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
I hope the noble Lord will forgive me. It is a little difficult to be quite certain that one has got the point he has in mind. I think he has been mistaken. A voluntary agreement under Clause 10(1) is subject to what we have called the challenge under subsection (1) of Clause 13. The period of time for which it is made is immaterial, so long as the condition provided by subsection (2) of Clause 13 is fulfilled. If, however, the challenge is unsuccessful, then, running from that day, there is a period of two years' embargo on any further challenge; but that depends upon the lack of success of the challenge under subsections (1) and (2). and not upon the period of time for which the agreement 867 was originally arrived at. I hope I have made myself clear.
§ LORD DIAMOND
I am most grateful to the noble and learned Lord. He has made himself terribly clear (and I use the word "terribly" in all its senses) because he has made it clear that where a voluntary agreement is entered into by parties in real agreement—there is no dispute under Clause 10(1); the employer and the union are satisfied that there should be an agency shop agreement and enter into it—nevertheless, the agreement can at any time, one week later, one year later or at any time, be challenged, provided the conditions of Clause 13(1) and (2) are satisfied; namely, that you get the one-fifth concurrence in writing. This will mean that where you have an agreement which has been entered into voluntarily—and this took a long time to wheedle out of the Government and out of the clause— bona fide to the satisfaction—
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
Excuse me for a moment. The noble Lord is not being fair to my noble friend. He did say this in his original answer, but it evidently failed to register; and it was for that reason that I repeated it when I noticed that the noble Lord wanted clarification.
§ LORD DIAMOND
If he did, then it is perfectly clear that it did not penetrate my mind and so it was necessary for it to come out again. I am not sure whether every member of the Committee, immediately the noble Lord, Lord Belstead spoke, understood that what this clause provides—and we have now got it clear—is that where union and employer have voluntarily entered into an agreement of this kind, which is satisfactory to both sides, which both the employer and the union or unions want, then that can be challenged by any single dissatisfied person or employee, who proceeds to go round the works with a list of papers saying, "Please sign this, mate". And it is, of course, very easy to get signatures. If your Lordships doubt how easy it is to get signatures, may I invite your Lordships to look at the recent signatures on two documents appearing in the other place: one is a document prepared by the Anti-Common Marketeers, against 868 the Common Market; another is a document prepared by the Common Marketeers, in favour of the Common Market.
Your Lordships will see that distinguished Members of the other place have put their names, some to each document, some to both documents. That expresses a breadth of mind, a tolerance which we admire; but I think it makes the point which every single Member of the other place understands only too well: the pressure of a friend to get you to sign a document which is pleasantly worded, but in the kernel of which is an appeal against the agency shop agreement. How easy it is in such circumstances to get 20 per cent. willing to oblige a friend, a mate, who will sign the document.
In those circumstances the Government, for reasons which are totally unexplained, want to come along and upset the agreement, in pursuit of good industrial relations. It will not surprise your Lordships when I say that having reached that conclusion nothing could be further from my mind than to withdraw this Amendment, because this Amendment might mean—I doubt whether it is perfectly worded—that where you have an agreement voluntarily entered into between the two sides, they should be allowed to carry out the agreement they have entered into; they are both satisfied and happy about it, the works is continuing happily and everybody is content. In those circumstances, I am bound to ask, what is the philosophy, the justification of the Government, for upsetting an agreement which both sides have entered into voluntarily in the pursuit of good industrial relations?
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
The noble Lord is entitled to ask the question and I am entitled to reply. The answer is this: the basic philosophy I explained at considerable length the other night when we were talking about the closed shop. Our belief is that human beings are entitled to be in voluntary association. The whole basis of the agency shop, which is a substitute for the closed shop, is, in our view, an abridgement of the rights of the minority and the rights of the individual. In order to ensure that it is only a minority whose rights are 869 abridged we provide for a ballot. If the union and the employer get into cahoots with one another—I use the word in no pejorative sense—and they have an agreement that there should be an agency shop, we wish to be sure that should at least one-fifth challenge it the agreement should continue only if it represents the majority of the workers. What Clause 13, and this particular subsection of Clause 13, is about is the provision that there should be a majority of the workers in favour before the agreement continues. If you want to divide about that, divide about it.
§ LORD DIAMOND
I should have thought there is nothing which the noble and learned Lord and I have more in common than that this is something which one should and must divide about; namely, the right of employers and employees, through their unions, to enter into arrangements and to abide by them.
§ 3.38 p.m.
§ On Question, Whether the said Amendment (No. 100) shall be agreed to?
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 56; Not-Contents, 123.871
|Addison, V.||Hilton of Upton, L. [Teller.]||Sainsbury, L.|
|Archibald, L.||Hoy, L||St. Davids, V.|
|Balogh, L.||Jacques, L.||Samuel, V.|
|Bernstein, L.||Janner, L.||Serota, Bs.|
|Blyton, L.||Lee of Asheridge, Bs.||Shackleton, L.|
|Brockway, L.||Lindgren, L.||Shinwell, L.|
|Buckinghamshire, E.||Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe, Bs.||Slater, L.|
|Burntwood, L.||McLeavy, L.||Soper, L.|
|Burton of Coventry, Bs.||Maelor, L.||Stocks, Bs.|
|Champion, L.||Morris of Grasmere, L.||Stow Hill, L.|
|Crook, L.||Moyle, L.||Taylor of Mansfield, L.|
|Davies of Leek, L.||Noel-Buxton, L.||Wells-Pestell, L.|
|Delacourt-Smith, L.||Nunburnholme, L.||White, Bs.|
|Diamond, L.||Pargiter, L.||Williamson, L.|
|Fiske, L.||Peddie, L.||Wise, L.|
|Gaitskell, Bs.||Phillips, Bs. [Teller.]||Wootton of Abinger, Bs.|
|Gardiner, L.||Popplewell, L.||Wright of Ashton under Lyne, L.|
|Garnsworthy, L.||Ritchie-Calder, L.|
|Geddes of Epsom, L.||Rusholme, L.||Wynne-Jones, L.|
|Aberdare, L.||Cork and Orrery, E.||Henley, L.|
|Aberdeen and Temair, M.||Courtown, E.||Hives, L.|
|Abinger, L.||Cowley, E.||Hood, V.|
|Ailwyn, L.||Craigavon, V.||Howard of Glossop, L.|
|Airedale, L.||Crathorne, L.||Hylton-Foster, Bs.|
|Albemarle, E.||Cromartie, E.||Ilford, L.|
|Alexander of Tunis, E.||Daventry, V.||Inglewood, L.|
|Allerton, L.||Denham, L. [Teller.]||Jellicoe, E. (L. Privy Seal.)|
|Amherst, E.||Derwent, L.||Kemsley, V.|
|Amory, V.||Digby, L.||Lauderdale, E.|
|Arran, E.||Drumalbyn, L.||Long, V.|
|Ashbourne, L.||Dudley, E.||Lonsdale, E.|
|Atholl, D.||Dufferin and Ava, M.||Loudoun, C.|
|Balfour, E.||Dundee, E.||Lucas of Chilworth, L.|
|Balfour of Inchrye, L.||Elliot of Harwood, Bs.||Luke, L.|
|Barnby, L.||Exeter, M.||Lyell, L.|
|Bathurst, E.||Ferrers, E.||MacAndrew, L.|
|Beauchamp, E.||Ferrier, L.||McCorquodale of Newton, L.|
|Beaumont of Whitley, L.||Fortescue, E.||McFadzean, L.|
|Belstead, L.||Gisborough, L.||Mancroft, L.|
|Berkeley, Bs.||Goschen, V. [Teller.]||Mansfield, E.|
|Bledisloe, V.||Grenfell, L.||Massereene and Ferrard, V.|
|Boothby, L.||Gridley, L.||Merrivale, L.|
|Boston, L.||Grimston of Westbury, L.||Molson, L.|
|Brooke of Cumnor, L.||Hacking, L.||Mowbray and Stourton, L.|
|Brooke of Ystradfellte, Bs.||Hailsham of Saint Marylebone, L. (L. Chancellor.)||Moyne, L.|
|Byers, L.||Northchurch, Bs.|
|Caithness, E.||Hankey, L.||Nugent of Guildford, L.|
|Clifford of Chudleigh, L.||Hanworth, V.||Oakshott, L.|
|Clwyd, L.||Hatherton, L.||Ogmore, L.|
|Conesford, L.||Hawke, L.||Orr-Ewing, L.|
|Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L.||Salisbury, M.||Swaythling, L.|
|Radnor, E.||Sandys, L.||Swinton, E.|
|Rankeillour, L.||Sempill, Ly.||Teynham, L.|
|Reay, L.||Sherfield, L.||Thorneycroft, L.|
|Robbins, L.||Sinclair of Cleeve, L.||Thurso, V.|
|Roberthall, L.||Stamp, L.||Tweedsmuir of Belhelvie, Bs.|
|Robertson of Oakridge, L.||Strang, L.||Vivian, L.|
|Rockley, L.||Strange, L.||Ward of Witley, V.|
|St. Aldwyn, E.||Strathclyde, L.||Windlesham, L.|
|St. Helens, L.||Stratheden and Campbell, L.||Wolverton, L.|
|St. Just, L.|
Resolved in the negative, and Amendment disagreed to accordingly.
§ 3.48 p.m.
§ On Question, Whether Clause 13 shall stand part of the Bill?
§ LORD DIAMOND
This is a most important clause. Because of the way in which the Amendments have been taken we have had an opportunity of discussing one aspect only of the clause. So your Lordships will bear with me while I explain a number of aspects of the clause to which we are wholly opposed. In essence, the clause is a prescription for unrest. That is the essence of our complaint. It is disruptive of good relations in industry and of good relations within trade unions as between members. As I indicated a little earlier on subsection (1), it gives to one person, any single individual, the right to make an application. I think it would be difficult in any community or society or in almost any large household to find not one single individual who is feeling a little unhappy about life on any particular day. One individual who feels disgruntled, to use an expressive, albeit not highly literal, term, can set the whole of this disruptive process going.
When I say "disruptive process", it is a process to disrupt an agreement which has been entered into either voluntarily as between employer and unions, or after a ballot when a reluctant employer is compelled by the force of the ballot, by the force of public opinion, of his employees to enter into this arrangement. It disrupts that arrangement, and the peaceful relations which are existing as a result of that arrangement. It disrupts them because it provides, first, that any single disgruntled individual can set the process going, and, more particularly, can threaten, and properly threaten, to set the whole process going. So immediately a new power, a new force, a new strength is being given to the disgruntled individual 872 or individuals, inside a particular place of work where there is an agency shop agreement in force.
Next, as I indicated a little earlier, all that the Industrial Court has to be satisfied about, before it entertains the application from that one individual, is that not less than one-fifth of the relevant workers —that is to say, the workers to whom the agency shop agreement applies—have signified, in writing, their concurrence in the application. I suggest that this again is such a small and easily accomplished figure that the disruptive process is not in any sense deterred. It would have to be a far larger figure before you could really be sure that there was serious, and permanent, dissatisfaction with the agency shop agreement. Nothing could be easier, on the basis, of, say, 10 per cent. disgruntlement (which is not a very large figure), and 10 per cent. friendship (which is also not a very large figure), than to get 20 per cent. of signatures in order to enable this application to be entertained by the Industrial Court.
The disruptive process therefore carries on, except, I agree, to the extent that, where the agency shop agreement has resulted from a ballot (namely, as a result of the employer disagreeing in the first place, or being unwilling or reluctant in the first place) you have a period of two years of reasonable calm, free from this disruptive process. But, as we quite recently elicited, where you have an agreement which has been entered into with open arms by both sides of industry, the employer and the employee, then it can be disrupted within seven days. Employers and employees are perfectly content, and have entered into a shop agreement of this kind, and it can be disrupted, in the process I have described, within the first week, or after any period, although broadly it is going very satisfactorily, and as well as these things go if one pictures the average factory or shop 873 floor, where inevitably there are incidents which cause anxieties, pressures and frustration, which make any self-respecting man feel that he would like to do something at that particular moment. Even such a restrained indivdual as the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor could not restrain himself from finishing his last speech by throwing off a threat in his very last sentence. Did he mean it? Of course he did not. What he meant was that a certain amount of pressure had built up and he wanted it to be released. This is a normal psychological release, with which we are all familiar.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
I made no threat. I only remarked that the noble Lord had said he wanted to divide on the Amendment. I described the issue. I said that I thought we were right, and I said "If you want to, divide". What could be less of a threat than that?
§ LORD DIAMOND
There is no need for me to repeat what the noble and learned Lord said, or the relevant accents, or temperature, or octaves. It was within the hearing and recollection of all noble Lords. All I am saying is that I am using that as a most recent example of the fact that in a much more difficult set of circumstances, of grinding machinery, noise, delays, awkward foremen, unto-operative mates and so on, it is inevitable that there should be pressures which result in a man feeling that he must do something to get them released. He will start an application and go around with a sheet of paper saying. "Here, we cannot stand this any more, can we? So-and-so said I had taken too much time off for tea, so sign this". Then the mate signs. I am saying that 20 per cent. could arise from a much smaller figure of real disgruntlement, that that disgruntlement might well be temporary and not permanent, and that that is far too small a percentage on which to base a disruptive process of this kind, where apparently you have a reasonably satisfactory atmosphere based on a reasonably satisfactory agency shop agreement.
One final argument I wish to draw to your Lordships' attention, and which perhaps would appeal more to those on this side than on the other side of the Committee. 874 It is of course the case that, within an organisation as large as the average union or section of a union, as within any other group in society, there will be differences of opinion. It is even known in your Lordships' House, and even within one side of your Lordships' House, that there may be differences of opinion. There will certainly be differences of opinion within most trade unions, as between one man and another, about a variety of matters. It is healthy, appropriate, and traditional that these opinions should be aired, that discussions should take place and, so far as possible, agreement reached. But where should the opinions be aired? Differences between trade unionists should be aired within trade union circles and trade union spheres, as between one trade unionist and another. This clause misdirects that proper discussion; it directs the discussion of that difference towards an outside body instead of getting it settled within a union. It will therefore undoubtedly tend to weaken instead of strengthen the union, because strength comes from difficulties met and overcome in good faith. This clause will misdirect all that energy and we shall get agitation, which should take place within the union, directed outside, thus weakening the whole approach.
This one clause contains all those mistakes, yet it is a central clause of a Bill the main justification for which, to the ordinary member of the public, is that there have been industrial disputes, that they ate due, in the ordinary man's view, mainly to a man's word not being his bond, that agreements should be kept; therefore, we must have an Industrial Relations Bill, so that agreements should be kept. I suggest that that is the normal approach of the average person outside Parliament, who is not particularly technical in the field of industrial relations. This is what the Bill is about: to ensure that a man's word is his bond. This clause is to ensure that a man's word is not his bond. It is to ensure that, when agreements have been entered into voluntarily as between employer and employee, they can be broken; they can be challenged; they can be threatened by one disgruntled person starting off the process I have indicated. I think this clause is wholly bad.
§ 4.0 p.m.
§ LORD SHINWELL
What I am about to say to your Lordships, particularly to noble Lords on the opposite Benches, though not so much to those on the Government Front Bench, is said more in sorrow than in anger. I was always under the impression that employers of labour—and there are many in your Lordships' House, particularly on the Government side—would naturally prefer a voluntary agreement based on co—operation, conciliation and good will. Frequently we hear that there is far too much legislation. The Press join in the chorus against excessive legislation; in the other place, there are frequent abrasive remarks about too much legislation; and I am satisfied that there are many in your Lordships 'House who would prefer fewer legislative enactments than appear from time to time and are subsequently implemented.
In the preceding debate the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor said to my noble friend Lord Diamond that he was seeking to probe. That was correct. But as a result of the probing of my noble friend Lord Diamond, we made a discovery which to me is astonishing. When I indulged in a few observations when we were debating the Amendment, I failed to do so with the skill of my noble friend Lord Diamond and I missed the point. I was concerned only about what I regarded as an exceptional aspect of our industrial life which relates to the seafaring community. I have always been interested in the wellbeing of that community and, indeed, of the whole shipping industry.
I observed (this is a personal matter and I mean no offence in what I am about to say; I merely state a fact) that one of the noble Lords who presented himself—he was not in the House during the debate on the previous Amendment but he came in, no doubt in response to the call for a Division—was the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, who is one of the principal directors of the Cunard Line. I should not be surprised to learn that there are here other shipowners and people connected with the shipping industry. But I am convinced that if there is a body of industrialists in the United Kingdom who want a voluntary agreement with their employees, it is those who are associated with that industry. Therefore I challenge noble Lords on the 876 opposite Benches. What is it that they want? Do they want more disruption, more disputation, more industrial strife, more discontent among workpeople, and disappointment and disillusionment about employers? Or do they want a measure of good will and conciliation and understanding, in order to avoid industrial discontent and strife?
At the end of the debate, the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor remarked in a very strident voice, "Divide. Divide, if you want to divide." And that we did: not because he demanded it of us. but because that was our intention. We should have divided even if he had failed to display what seemed to me, not arrogance—I should not care to use that term—but annoyance. I beg the noble and learned Lord not to be annoyed with us.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
I was not in the least annoyed. I was only quite confident that we were right and that we were going to win; and I was right about both items.
§ LORD SHINWELL
The noble and learned Lord is entitled to believe that he was right. On the other hand, we are entitled to believe that we were right. There is disputation among us, but the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor not only believed he was right but thrust it down our throats, and I must confess that I do not care for that sort of conduct. I suggest that the noble and learned Lord should understand that we are the Opposition. There was a time when he was a member of an Opposition, and indeed for much longer than he cared. But I do not want to go into personal matters. He and I understand each other. We have had frequent conversations and I am certain that we do not bear any malice, one to the other. But the noble and learned Lord must understand that we are here for the purpose of presenting our case as we understand it. Sometimes we fail to present a logical argument, but occasionally we succeed, and I am bound to say that if ever I admired a speech from the Front Benches I was full of admiration for the skill with which my noble friend Lord Diamond projected his point of view. He clarified the position for all of us.
My noble friend said that noble Lords opposite who took part had no doubt 877 heard what the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor said at the end of our preceding debate. But they did not. They failed to hear it. I wish they had heard it, I should not be at all displeased if the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor indulged in the same remark if the whole 123 of your Lordships were present. Then noble Lords opposite would understand a little more, and perhaps would be displeased at the gesture of annoyance and disturbance that caused the noble and learned Lord to indulge in that quite unnecessary observation.
Anyhow, now we know where we are. We now have it on the authority, and indeed at the urgent request, of the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor: "Divide; divide"; and that is what we are going to do. If I had my way, I should divide on every Amendment. Is that what the Government want? Do they want to hold this up, to filibuster, to continue for many weeks and months? Do they want to go all through the night? I beg of them not to try, not to tempt us in that direction. It would be a mistake. It would not be for the good of the Government or of the Opposition, and it would not be good for industrial relations.
That is really all I want to say, except this. It would be to the advantage of our debates occasionally—and I admit that I myself am sometimes absent—and it might be to the advantage of the whole country and to the prospects of better industrial relations, if noble Lords on the other side themselves listened to the debates and did not rely on the Whips ordering them into the Division Lobby. That applies in particular to those noble Lords who are themselves engaged in industry. I ask this question of noble Lords: what is to be the future of this country? We are beset with more problems that we have ever known. Those problems must be resolved in the interests of all of us, and if they are to be resolved we have to start on a better understanding and a better relationship between the employers, on the one hand, and the employees, on the other, which will in the long run be conducive to the good of the United Kingdom.
Finally, I want to ask this question again. and I wish that somebody on the other side would answer it. Would not 878 noble Lords prefer voluntary agreements to the compulsory arrangements which are embodied in this legislation? What is their choice? Is it voluntary agreements, voluntarily arranged with good will on either side, which can last for a considerable period of years—perhaps for all time? Or do they want legislation which is capable of disruption, interference, and unnecessary intervention? What do they want? I wish that somebody would tell us. It would help us in our future debates.
§ BARONESS GAITSKELL
I am against the whole of this clause, because it seems to me to be an example of what is wrong with the whole of the Bill. This is a very complicated Bill, but it is superficial. One can expect of a document which is so complicated that it would be profound, and that it should go to the fundamentals of industrial relations. But this clause certainly does not do that. It does not do it with its 20 per cent. ballot and its two—year pause—both of these things are completely unnecessary. If this Bill were good at all it would be better without both of these things. All the very glib sentences about personal freedom uttered by the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor are simply sops to the Conservative voters, who do not understand or know about the complexity and the sensitive nature of industrial relations, and that there are no glib answers. This clause contains only glib and superficial answers which will not work at all. I should like to draw to the attention of noble Lords opposite the question posed by my noble friend Lord Shinwell at the end of his intervention.
§ LORD PARGITER
There is a question involved in this particular clause, and in other clauses to which I cannot see the answer, either because I am too dense or because the Bill is too complicated and perhaps it is a little of both. As I read it, it seems that no existing closed shop will be legally able to exist on the appointed day. On and from the appointed day, the rules with regard to agency shops will have to be complied with, and in order to do that all the procedure embodied in these clauses must be followed. That is my understanding of the matter. Do the Government know what they are letting themselves in for? Do they know what is going to happen if this is the case? All the existing 879 closed shop agreements will have to comply with, and be seen to comply with, these provisions on the day that the Act comes into force. First, an application is presumably to be made, then provision for ballot, then provision for exemptions, and the necessity to have the correct percentage asking for a ballot. The classes of workers to whom the specific agreement will apply have to be defined, for in a particular establishment one section could be closed and another open. It will apply to certain classes of labour within the establishment, but not necessarily to all. All these factors are at present well covered by voluntary agreement. But so far as I can understand it, voluntary agreements are to go out of the window and this is to be put in their place. It seems to me that the Government have no idea of what they are taking on.
THE EARL OF MANSFIELD
If anyone in your Lordships' House, or outside it, has hitherto suffered from the delusion that the Labour Party is in favour of industrial democracy I think that their attitude on this clause—particularly as shown by the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Diamond—ought to have dispelled any such illusion. The noble Lord, Lord Diamond, started by complaining that one person could start a disruptive movement. Throughout the world it is nearly always one person who starts any kind of movement. He then complained that a mere 20 per cent. of disgruntled people could force a poll. Surely, if a trade union after two years of an agency shop has 20 per cent. of its members sufficiently disgruntled to be willing to sign a requisition for a ballot, that union cannot be a very happy one.
Many of your Lordships must belong to a considerable number of societies of one kind or another, political, literary, or scientific. In almost all the societies of which I am a member, and I believe it is the case in most others, there is usually a provision that a special general meeting can be called on the request of a certain number of signatories. I know of no case in which the number of signatories required is anything approaching 20 per cent.; it is usually something like 5 per cent.—perhaps 12 to 25, or occasionally 50, of the members of a body which usually consists of some hundreds. 880 If 20 per cent. of the membership of a union after two years are sufficiently disgruntled with an agency shop to wish to hold a ballot, that union has something very wrong with it. Why then should they not be able to have a ballot? Twenty per cent. is a considerable number. It means that, if that number of people sign a requisition in favour of a secret ballot, there are probably as many again who are secretly in sympathy. We have witnessed the ridiculous scenes, usually on television, when militant shop stewards call upon a meeting of several thousand workers to put their hands up to show that they wish to start or continue a strike. Practically every hand goes up. It would be a bold man who would not put his hand up, and a braver one still who would show his hand against. They know what the consequences would be.
Here we have a perfectly simple case of whether or not 20 per cent. of a union sufficiently disgruntled may demand a ballot; yet noble Lords opposite and their Party are so sufficiently undemocratic that they wish to refuse them that secret ballot. This attitude is one of those things which has made the bringing forward of this Bill absolutely necessary. The trade unions have brought it on themselves.
The noble Lord, Lord Shinwell, asked what we on these Benches want. I can answer that simply. We want the trade unions to have self-determination. We want their fate to lie in the hands of the general body of the members of the trade union, and not in the hands of a small caucus of shop stewards who, all too often, are either Communists or Communist—dominated. If noble Lords opposite' would only realise that the unions have brought this on themselves, and that what we are trying to do is to save them from themselves, they would realise that this Bill was very necessary and that this clause is one of the most necessary in it.
§ LORD POPPLEWELL
One would have thought from the noble Earl's observations, and how he tries to put his case, that he is a friend of the trade union movement, merely asking the unions to put their own house in order. But he made a number of fallacious observations in support of his case. First, he referred to the 20 per cent. of the trade union involved. That is not in the Bill. This 881 Bill refers to 20 per cent. of those people engaged within the industry—
§ LORD POPPLEWELL
The Bill makes provision for people not to become members of trade unions. They may have a conscientious objection to joining; there may be other reasons. He overlooks completely the democracy that there is in the trade union movement. This indicates his total lack of knowledge of the building up of the trade union movement. In all the rules of the movement approved by the Registrar, provision is made for the ordinary rank and file member of the trade union eventually to be the dominating factor. The executives, whoever they may be, can only go with the ultimate decisions to the rank and file member through the various steps of the trade union rules. I would have thought that the noble Earl might have made himself aware of this fact before making these particular observations.
THE EARL OF MANSFIELD
I was talking about the Bill and the clause, which the noble Lord opposite is not.
§ LORD POPPLEWELL
The noble Lord was totally wrong in saying he was dealing with the clause, because he was continually referring to 20 per cent. of the trade union movement.
§ LORD POPPLEWELL
Well, this is within the knowledge of the Committee. I will leave it there. That is my argument so far as that matter is concerned. Quite frankly, I had no intention of intervening on this particular part of the clause until I responded to the observations of the noble Earl. The clause indicates one more act of repression, as it were, by the Government against the trade union movement. It has often been argued that the trade union movement has privileges. Of course it has not, and never has had, any privileges, regarding the criminal and civil law. A whole series of enactments, from 1871 onwards, were needed to restore to the trade union movement some of the civil liberties they had before. This particular Bill is another instance of the imposition of entirely unjustifiable penalties. I am absolutely astonished that the Government should 882 insist on this clause because it has been approved in another place. We are not elected representatives and it could be argued that we have no right to speak here.
§ LORD DIAMOND
I hope my noble friend will forgive me for interrupting him, but he has again said, together with other noble Lords, that this clause has been agreed in another place. I am sure my noble friend appreciates that this clause, and all the clauses up to Clause 31 that we are going on to consider, were all subjected to the guillotine procedure and not one word was said on them.
§ LORD POPPLEWELL
I thank my noble friend for reminding me about that position. To be perfectly frank, that fact had slipped my mind during this discussion. We are part of Parliament and as such are surely entitled to debate these subjects. If we can influence the Government to be more realistic and to enter into the voluntary spirit that has served industry so well throughout the ages, the position would be much better. The difficulties which trouble industry today do not need a cumbersome Bill of this description. We ardent trade unionists know the difficulties better than most people. A short, sharp Bill dealing with the question of unofficial action and things of that kind would have been more beneficial to the nation as a whole than imposing a law of this kind which will be a lawyer's paradise and will bedevil industry for a long time.
§ 4.25 p.m.
§ LORD SLATER
I had not intended to make any contribution to the debate on this particular clause, but having listened to the noble Earl who preceded my noble friend Lord Popplewell, saying that the trade unions had brought this upon themselves, it is obvious to me that the noble Earl knows very little about trade unions, how they have been built up and how they operate within this country. He says that he is a member of various organisations. Certain regulations and certain principles operate within those organisations with which he is associated. Some of us who have negotiated with people such as those sitting on the other side of the Committee have found them to be good employers of labour, and we have been able to enter into conciliation 883 machinery whereby we have arrived at voluntary agreements which have been most lasting and have proved beneficial to both sides of industry.
I was surprised, indeed amazed, at some of the speeches made in another place with regard to voluntary arrangements and agreements. When one can reach a form of conciliation between two sides, and forms of settlement within a short period of time on particular issues which are main issues within a particular industry, this is to the advantage not only of the people inside the industry—whether employer or employee—but of the nation and the economic position of the nation. We are concerned about this, just as much as the employer, and the noble Earl who preceded me, who had so much to say against the trade unions. It is unfortunate that his observations will be taken particular notice of by people on the shop floor. Many of us will no doubt be asked questions about observations of this nature and about the reluctance of the Government to keep the existing type of conciliation machinery. We have appealed to them time and time again for the continuance of the system which is in operation in certain industries in this country. I agree with Lord Shinwell that it would have been much better if we could have reached the position of working out problems on a voluntary basis, as we have endeavoured to do ever since the trade unions came into existence in this country.
§ LORD COOPER OF STOCKTON HEATH
I think it was the Sidney Webb group which many years ago, described the trade union movement as a continuous association of workpeople. For the first time in trade union history we now have this proposition which threatens the continuous association of workpeople at the workplace every two years. I know a little about the American method. I do not think we should be quite so foolish in this country as they were in America, where it led to the contract system and wages being fixed for periods of two or three years. At the end of the contract there was an internecine struggle between unions as to who should represent the workpeople involved, and all kinds of endeavours were made to persuade people to move from one 884 union to another. This clause in a way opens the door to that sort of thing. Obviously, I do not think this kind of method is necessary. The Registrar, as was indicated yesterday, is going to watch the union rule book very carefully to make sure that it provides adequate measures to discipline the workpeople, and so on. This is the intention. On top of this we are having this ballot.
I have tried to speak from experience when I have taken part in these discussions—and I find it extremely interesting, because it is bread and butter to a practitioner in the trade union movement—and I am now again going to speak from experience about the Pilkington dispute to illustrate the difficulties which can be created by the Government for a union trying to exercise a fair measure of social responsibility. The Pilkington dispute started because of the situation in this country, where there is a great deal of pattern bargaining and a great deal of local bargaining. Pilkington's was primarily a Liverpool problem, but there were many internal faults which I accept and which were brought out by the Government inquiry. The Pilkington dispute started over a mistake by a wage clerk in not putting into effect an agreement covering a certain number of men. It was promised that the mistake would be put right within a week, but this was not done. As a result, the employees got so irritated that between 24 and 30 of them walked out; and before we, as a union, could do anything about it, the action snowballed and workers at five factories came out at St. Helens, where the bulk of the employees were working —7,000 to 8,000 work people. There were also sympathetic strikes at other Pilkington factories up and down the country.
After they came out, they formulated a demand for a wage claim of £5 a week. That figure escalated, as they got more and more sympathy and success, to a demand for £10 a week increase—I think that even £15 was mentioned. It was a very tricky situation. Great attention should be paid to this because it illustrates one of our modern problems. All the workers were dealt with—and when the noble Lord speaks about individual freedom he should think about how to deal with it. If there are 5,000 people on a football field and they are asked to 885 decide whether they want £3 or £5, there is only one thing they will vote for; and up will go the hands. This is an impossible way to try to handle men and their aspirations. I would say that the only possible way is through the machinery of a trade union. If you permit sectionalism, and allow groups to break away because they do not like the policy of the union at a particular moment, you will encourage the breaking up of trade unions and the development of breakaway unions.
In the middle of this strike at Pilkington's the unofficial leaders formed a trade union which was registered. They were helped by solicitors. This created quite a problem for our union. In spite of those difficulties, we made a settlement, which in all the circumstances I thought reasonable, involving an increase of £3 a week. For doing that our name became mud with this demagogic crowd, which was being led unofficially. At Pilkington's we had a check-off system. May I say, in parenthesis, that only twelve months earlier (this point will be appreciated by noble Lords who are familiar with the Whitley system) I had been asked, as the General Secretary, to attend a dinner of all the Pilkington shop stewards to pay tribute to fifty years of industrial peace. This was the fiftieth anniversary of the Pilkington Whitley Council. I will again use the phrase that I have used so often: this whole thing absolutely blew up in our faces.
As I was saying, we recommended a settlement of £3. We then had two ballots. The first was abortive because—and this is a lesson about balloting—in the middle of the ballot we had changed circumstances; other offers were being thought about, including the one of £3 on which we settled. Knowing the religious position in St. Helens, we allowed the clergy to supervise the second ballot: it seemed the fairest way. We had a simple majority decision, but the unofficial element, despite the fact that it had been agreed that they should act as returning officers, said that it was a "twist". They would not accept the decision, and they kept those lads out for about eight weeks before, finally, they went back to work on the offer we had made. That was an almost uncontrollable situation, and it often happens. You 886 often find that if work people are unsuccessful in their endeavours against their employers, and they are advised by their union to be a little more reasonable and accept certain offers, they turn on the union in a bitter sort of way because they have lost the battle; and they make the union as it were the stalking-horse.
At Pilkington's we had the check-off system, the closed shop, and the union contributions were deducted at source. This unofficial crowd, which started operations on the football field, had sample forms for the work people to sign call on the firm to terminate the agreement to make the check-off direct. They secured 3,500 signatures. I am pleased to say that we got over it; but what a problem it has been for the union! Is not that an example of what we may be letting ourselves in for if this legislation is passed? It is easy for a dissident group at a particular moment to create a great deal of trouble; and in my view, the only way such a situation can be dealt with is to have—as we have in the union—proper machinery, proper organs of government, properly elected, and people who can make decisions. Sometimes it is very important to be able to make decisions, which may be unpopular in certain quarters, if you are to maintain proper agreements properly entered into. In fact, at Pilkington's we had made a recent financial agreement of which only the first instalment had been received; the second was still due. In spite of that, the agreement was violated and the workers went on strike. I would say that if, within a few weeks of that strike, there had been a ballot about which should be their official union, we should have had a very rough time and experienced great difficulty in maintaining our position.
§ 4.35 p.m.
§ LORD TAYLOR OF MANSFIELD
I wish to make a few observations about the mechanics of this clause. We have established two kinds of agency shops. The first is arrived at by voluntary agreement between employer and trade union. The other kind will result from a ballot on the instructions of the National Industrial Relations Council. Both kinds, according to this clause, may be terminated. This is where the mechanics of the matter come in. In the event of 887 a one-fifth written concurrence with a proposal to get rid of either type of closed shop, the matter is reported to the N.I.R.C. which reports to the Commission on Industrial Relations, and the Commission will be empowered to order a ballot. I do not think the Government appreciate the size of the difficulties which will result from this suggested procedure.
My noble friend Lord Blyton referred to the almost impossibility of taking a ballot among seafaring people. Let us consider some industries which are not in the same position as the seafarers. The C.I.R. will be responsible for supervising and conducting the ballot, and if we take the mining industry, about which I know most, it would be easy to conduct a ballot because permission would be given by the management and the owners of the property, and a large number of men would be in one place. In the mining industry ballots are not uncommon, and they are always taken at the pithead. But until 1947, before a ballot could be taken permission had to be granted by the management, representing the colliery owners, and even since 1947 permission has had to be obtained from the N.C.B.
We will assume for a moment that in the mining industry an agency shop has been established, and there have been murmurings of dissatisfaction, which have grown into noises, and the time has arrived when the necessary one-fifth have decided to ask for the abolition of the agreement, and the procedure as outlined in this clause is initiated. Now suppose the C.I.R., who are responsible for the supervision and the conduct of the ballot, go to the management of the colliery and say: "We are charged by the N.I.R.C. with the task of taking a ballot about the agency shop agreement". Suppose the management, on behalf of the owners, the N.C.B., say: "We are sorry, we are quite satisfied with the agreement, and so as a matter of fact is the union. It is just this minority of not less than 20 per cent. and rather than upsetting and disturbing things we would prefer them to stay as they are, and we do not propose to give you permission to take the ballot at the pithead". That is quite easy and simple. Will the noble Lord tell me whether, in such a situation, the manager of the 888 colliery will be permitted in law to refuse permission for the C.I.R. to take the ballot, which Clause 13 says they are legally charged to supervise and conduct?
Let us take a more extreme case. Let us take the agricultural workers: two men on a farm here, another man on a farm perhaps two miles away. Let us assume that the Agricultural Workers' Union and the National Farmers' Union feel an agency shop to be desirable. How is the C.I.R., or anybody else, going to take an effective ballot in the circumstances in agriculture such as I have just described? Many more cases could be given, and my question to the noble Lord is whether he will answer those propositions. My concluding words are these: this clause, in the view of one noble Lord on the opposite Benches, is going to create the utmost difficulties, and in my opinion they will be insurmountable.
§ 4.43 p.m.
§ LORD DRUMALBYN
We have had a full debate on the Question, That this clause stand part. It has to some extent anticipated a debate on the next clause stand part, and I hope the debate on that clause will be appropriately reduced in length, though one cannot forecast these things. At any rate, I hope the same things that have been said on this clause will not be repeated.
We are on an important clause here, without any doubt at all, and I would like to take the key-note for the start of my reply from the words used by the noble Lord, Lord Popplewell, on the last Amendment, when he said: "Unions have established closed shop agreements with the full consent of their members"; then he went on to say that it was probably not with the ballot. Then the noble Lord, Lord Pargiter, who always asks very pertinent questions, asked what was going to happen about closed shops on the appointed day. I think we ought perhaps to deal with this question first, so that we can then see the position later. Noble Lords will remember that, while the Bill will no doubt come into operation on an appointed day, it will come into operation when the first Part of the Bill to be brought into operation comes into operation.
But noble Lords, I think, would be misleading themselves if they thought that it would be possible at that first 889 stage to bring this Part of the Bill into operation. I should imagine—and I think I can speak with some authority on this: when I say that I should imagine, even if I were not informed on this, it would appear quite obvious—that the first Parts to be brought into operation must be those setting up what might be called the infrastructure of the Bill, the registration, the provision for setting up the courts and so forth; for indeed without this you could not have an application to the courts. It will therefore follow that this kind of arrangement will come into effect some time after—I cannot say how long—the first date on which the Bill comes into operation. This of course will also have to go for Clauses 5 and 6. That being so, there is quite a good margin of time for closed shop agreements to be turned into agency shop agreements if the parties so desire. Indeed, as a said yesterday, this is already happening, now, before the Bill comes into operation, although of course the statutory rights do not accompany the arrangements until the Bill does come into operation. I do not know what the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, finds amusing in all this. I hope I am explaining the matter with tolerable clarity to him, but I am happy that he is happy—
§ LORD SHACKLETON
I was really rather hesitating about whether we should ask the noble Lord to explain it all over again, because although he said he was speaking with some authority—we always hope that Ministers on that side speak with authority—it was rather a difficult argument to follow, and the word "operation" had a sort of repetitive quality. I had not wanted to interrupt the noble Lord, but I am not sure that all the noble Lords behind me on this side quite understood. If the noble Lord, without necessarily explaining the reason why he is speaking with authority, could just say again what the consequence is, it would help.
§ LORD DRUMALBYN
I am sorry indeed if I diverted the noble Lord from concentrating on the substance of what I was saying. The point is simply this: there will be different dates for different parts of the Bill to come into operation. These parts which we are talking about just now will not be the first parts to 890 come into operation. The first parts will obviously have to be the infrastructure, the registration clauses, the clauses setting up the courts, and so on. There will therefore be an interval of time after the Act, if you like, comes into operation, before this particular Part of it comes into Operation. I hope that is clear. Within that period it will be possible for closed shop agreements to be turned into agency shop agreements, because when this part comes into operation then of course Clause 6 will operate right away and any agreement regarding a pre-entry closed shop will be automatically void.
§ LORD PARGITER
I am grateful to the noble Lord for his explanation, but I am still not quite clear. It seems to me that this part of the Bill will come into operation not on the first appointed day but on some subsequent day, and in the meantime a lot of machinery will have been set up and the agency shops will be able to go on. But suppose that the employees do not want them to go on. Then the Government can come and say on the subsequent appointed day that they trust comply with the rules set out here. I see no particular reason why I should help the Government on this matter, but surely the simple way would be for any existing closed shop agreements to be registered, after which they can be challenged and the matter would then go through the machinery. That appears to me a simple thing to do, but it would be recognising that there are existing agreements, arrived at voluntarily between unions and employers. Surely it would be a simple thing to write into the Bill that these agreements remain valid until the parties concerned end them.
§ LORD DRUMALBYN
We have already dealt at great length with the reasons why the right to belong or not to belong to a union should be maintained in the Bill. There are consequences that follow from that. What the noble Lord is asking is that that right should not apply in cases where there is an agreement to continue the closed shop and that agreement is registered. That is what I understood him to say, but that is not the way the Bill proposes to go about things. We are not debating this just now. I had to say this to give the 891 pattern because of the noble Lord's question. We should not follow this down the road too far.
§ LORD PARGITER
Nothing we would do in the continuation of an existing voluntary agreement would prevent those workers who may be dissatisfied, because they were forced to be in the union, from using the procedure already in the Bill in order to get the closed shop out of the way. But here is a firm basis from which to start.
§ LORD DRUMALBYN
I am trying to explain to the noble Lord that a closed shop can be transformed into an agency shop without the approval of anybody at all. If he had only been a little patient, and had waited for me to develop my argument, I should have got to that point by now. This is one case: that an agency shop can result from a closed shop. Secondly, there can be an agency shop set up by voluntary agreement between employers, workers and unions after the Bill comes into operation. In both cases —certainly in the first case—the union will have established, as the noble Lord, Lord Popplewell, said, the agreement with the full consent of its members, but this would apply with equal force to an agency shop agreement which took over from the closed shop with the modifications which the Bill requires. In the second case, one would equally expect that if there were a voluntary agreement between employers and union, the union would have made sure that they had full support for it. Indeed, I understand that in some cases where closed shop agreements are negotiated, the employers insist on a high proportion of consent to the agreements—and I see the noble Lord, Lord Cooper of Stockton Heath, nodding his head. But that is not necessarily the position; the agreements may not last for ever. People can lose the confidence of their supporters. An agreement may not operate as it was expected to go. Circumstances may arise in which the majority of workers will wish the agreement to be revised. This clause is the first clause which starts the machinery for getting revision in that case. The rubric is:Application for ballot on continuance of agency shop agreement.The noble Lord, Lord Diamond, expressed astonishment that any worker 892 to whom the agreement applies should be allowed to make an application. But somebody has to make the application. I find it difficult to see why there should be any restriction on the person who makes the application. It may well be that the person in question has some office in another union, but he must be a person to whom the agreement applies. For good measure, the noble Lord added the word "disgruntled" and said that this power is being given to disgruntled individuals. But that is entirely to ignore the fact that there is a collection of the written support of one-fifth of the workers. During the time when that written support is being collected, what are the shop stewards doing? Is this going to be allowed to pass without explanation, so that people will be misled into giving their signatures? I do not think that the noble Lord is being entirely realistic.
§ LORD DIAMOND
As the noble Lord has said that he did not think I was being entirely realistic, I am bound to ask: did he listen carefully to the precise chapter and verse of everything being described by my noble friend Lord Cooper of Stockton Heath in the specific case that he gave.
§ LORD DRUMALBYN
I did. I listened with the greatest interest to a most illuminating account of the circumstances of the Pilkington dispute and I am sure that it fascinated the whole Committee. But is it not significant that the story was in fact ended by an officially sponsored ballot, which was conducted mainly under the auspices of local independent clergy, showing that such a ballot can have at least the support of the silent but responsible majority as against the small band of disgruntled extremists. The important point, surely, is that if there is a constitutional or even a statutory means of testing effectively the views of the workers concerned, this may prevent or bring to an end the kind of unconstitutional anti—union strike that we had at Pilkingtons.
I hope that I have drawn a fair comparison in this case. I hope that, on mature consideration, noble Lords will not feel that this is something they need oppose, but in case they feel inclined to oppose it, I would say this. As the noble Lord, Lord Shinwell, says, both 893 sides are entitled to believe that they are right, but in fact only one side can be right; and of course both sides can be wrong. But I have explained my point of view on this clause. The object here is to build up a system of industrial relations based on the individuals whom the unions are there to serve. The opinions and votes of the individual should be made to count. This is our point of view and I think that here the procedure logically follows from it.
I need not reply in detail to the other points that have been made, except to say to the noble Lord, Lord Taylor of Mansfield, who mentioned one or two points of interest, that of course under certain circumstances there will be difficulties in the taking of the ballot. This is inevitable. But it is up to the C.I.R. to arrange the ballot in such a way as to be a properly conducted ballot. I do not think it would be possible to lay down in detail in a Bill of this kind how this should be done. The noble Lord asked about the taking of a ballot at a pithead. Last night we introduced into the Bill an Amendment which would enable the C.I.R. to invite the employer to provide facilities. This Amendment was moved by my noble friend Lord Thorneyoroft. The employer could refuse, and it would be up to the C.I.R. to find proper facilities elsewhere. To answer the other question that the noble
§ Lord asked, the employer would not be able to refuse the C.I.R. permission to take the ballot.
§ LORD SLATER
We have had plenty of experience of ballot-taking. These cost money. Who is going to be responsible for accepting the cost of these ballots? The noble Lord may think that I have a suspicious mind; that may be so in regard to this particular measure. Attached to the Conservative Party are what are known as Conservative trade unionists. It would be nothing for them, through their local associations, to take certain forms of action which would involve a ballot. Who will pay the expenses incurred? Where is the money to come from?
§ LORD DRUMALBYN
Clause 156 deals with the financial provisions, and the noble Lord will find that this matter is covered in the financial provisions. I hope that I have expressed our point of view on this matter. There is clearly a difference of principle between the two sides here and we can only settle it by expressing our opinion in the Lobby.
§ 5.3 p.m.
§ On Question, Whether Clause 13 shall stand part of the Bill?
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 142; Not-Contents, 62.895
|Aberdare, L.||Chesham, L.||Ferrier, L.|
|Ailwyn, L.||Clifford of Chudleigh, L.||Fortescue, E.|
|Airedale, L.||Clinton, L.||Gage, V.|
|Albemarle, E.||Clwyd, L.||Garner, L.|
|Allerton, L.||Colgrain, L.||Gisborough, L.|
|Alport, L.||Conesford, L.||Goschen, V. [Teller.]|
|Amherst, E.||Cork and Orrery, E.||Grenfell, L.|
|Amory, V.||Courtown, E.||Gridley, L.|
|Ashbourne, L.||Cowley, E.||Grimston of Westbury, L.|
|Atholl, D.||Craigavon, V.||Hacking, L.|
|Balfour, E.||Cranbrook, E.||Hailsham of Saint Marylebone, L. (L. Chancellor.)|
|Balfour of Inchrye, L.||Crathorne, L.|
|Barnby, L.||Crawshaw, L.||Hankey, L.|
|Barrington, V.||Cromartie, E.||Hanworth, V.|
|Bathurst, E.||Daventry, V.||Hastings, L.|
|Beauchamp, E.||Denham, L. [Teller.]||Hatherton, L.|
|Beaumont of Whitley, L.||Derwent, L.||Hawke, L.|
|Belhaven and Stenton, L.||Digby, L.||Henley, L.|
|Belstead, L.||Drumalbyn, L.||Hives, L.|
|Berkeley, Bs.||Dudley, E.||Hood, V.|
|Blackford, L.||Dundee, E.||Howard of Glossop, L.|
|Bledisloe, V.||Ebbisham, L.||Hylton-Foster, Bs.|
|Boston, L.||Effingham, E.||Ilford, L.|
|Brooke of Cumnor, L.||Elliot of Harwood, Bs.||Inglewood, L.|
|Brooke of Ystradfellte, Bs.||Emmet of Amberley, Bs.||Ironside, L.|
|Byers, L.||Exeter, M.||Jellicoe, L. (L. Privy Seal.)|
|Carrington, L.||Ferrers, E.||Kemsley, V.|
|Kilmany, L.||Moyne, L.||Sandford, L.|
|Kilmarnock, L.||Northchurch, Bs.||Sandys, L.|
|Lansdowne, M.||Nugent of Guildford, L.||Sinclair of Cleeve, L.|
|Lauderdale, E.||Oakshott, L.||Strang, L.|
|Long, V.||Perth, E.||Strange, L.|
|Lothian, M.||Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L.||Strathclyde, L.|
|Loudoun, C.||Portsmouth, L. Bp.||Stratheden and Campbell, L.|
|Lyell, L.||Radnor, E.||Swaythling, L.|
|MacAndrew, L.||Rankeillour, L.||Swinton, E.|
|McFadzean, L.||Rathcavan, L.||Terrington, L.|
|Malmesbury, E.||Reay, L.||Teviot, L.|
|Mancroft, L.||Rhyl, L.||Teynham, L.|
|Mansfield, E.||Roberthall, L.||Thorneycroft, L.|
|Massereene and Ferrard, V.||Rockley, L.||Tweedsmuir, L.|
|Merrivale, L.||Rothermere, V.||Tweedsmuir of Belhelvie, Bs.|
|Meston, L.||Ruthven of Freeland, Ly.||Vivian, L.|
|Milverton, L.||St. Aldwyn, E.||Ward of Witley, V.|
|Molson, L. St.||Helens, L.||Willingdon, M.|
|Monck, V.||St. Just, L.||Windlesham, L.|
|Monk Bretton, L.||Salisbury, M.||Wolverton, L.|
|Mowbray and Stourton, L.|
|Addison, V.||Geddes of Epsom, L.||Rusholme, L.|
|Archibald, L.||Greenwood of Rossendale, L.||Sainsbury, L.|
|Balogh, L.||Hall, V.||St. Davids, V.|
|Bernstein, L.||Hilton of Upton, L.||Samuel, V.|
|Birk, Bs.||Hoy, L.||Segal, L.|
|Blyton, L.||Hughes, L.||Serota, Bs.|
|Brockway, L.||Jacques, L.||Shackleton, L.|
|Brown, L.||Janner, L.||Shinwell, L.|
|Buckinghamshire, E.||Kennet, L.||Slater, L.|
|Burntwood, L.||Lee of Asheridge, Bs.||Sorensen, L.|
|Champion, L.||Lindgren, L.||Stocks, Bs.|
|Chorley, L.||Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe, Bs. [Teller.]||Stow Hill, L.|
|Cooper of Stockton Heath, L.||Summerskill, Bs.|
|Davies of Leek, L.||McIeavy, L.||Taylor of Mansfield, L.|
|Delacourt-Smith, L.||Maelor, L.||Wells-Pestell, L.|
|Diamond, L.||Moyle, L.||White, Bs.|
|Donaldson of Kingsbridge, L.||Pargiter, L.||Williamson, L.|
|Fiske, L.||Peddie, L.||Wootton of Abinger, Bs.|
|Fletcher, L.||Phillips, Bs. [Teller.]||Wright of Ashton under Lyne, L.|
|Gaitskell, Bs.||Popplewell, L.|
|Gardiner, L.||Raglan, L.||Wynne-Jones, L.|
On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ Resolved in the affirmative, and Clause 13 agreed to accordingly.
§ Clause 14 [Ballot on application under section 13]:
§ 5.13 p.m.
§ On Question, Whether Clause 14 shall stand part of the Bill?
§ LORD HOY
I have been asked to say a few words about Clause 14. The noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, said that apparently a great deal of what was contained in this clause had been anticipated during discussion on Clause 13; but that is simply because of the way in which the Bill has been drawn up. There are so many cross-references. Indeed, when one reaches Clause 14, the one we are now on, before one has finished reading the second line of the clause one encounters 896 a reference to Clause 13. So if there is some duplication in debate, obviously it is not because noble Lords wish to duplicate their argument but simply because of the way in which the Bill is drafted.
Clause 14, as I understand it, deals with the mechanism of the ballot. If an absolute majority votes for continuation of the agency shop under subsection (4), it continues; and then there cannot be another ballot for two years. But if there is not an absolute majority the Court must, under subsection (3), rescind the agency shop agreement and make an order as laid down in this subsection. This seems very strange language to me. I am not competent to give a legal interpretation of it, but in my fairly long experience in the Houses of Parliament I cannot remember legislation in which 897 courts have been dictated to in this fashion. But I shall certainly be grateful to have the opinions of those who are much more versed in the matter.
We also have—and it is contained in this clause, in subsection (3), at line 10—words which we debated in the early hours of this morning on the question of the majority of workers eligible to vote. As I understand it, when this matter was discussed in the early hours of the morning the Government gave an assurance that this point would be looked at. However, perhaps I may say a word or two on this part of the clause because it is of vital importance, since the Bill is saying there must be an absolute majority by a simple mandate of those who trouble to vote. Indeed, what is being said is that the non-voters, treated in an ordinary Parliamentary Election or local election as abstainers, are to he treated as dissentients under this Bill. What the Government are saying in the Bill as at present d rafted is that even if one refrains from voting, one is voting against. That seems to me to be an extraordinary proposition.
Indeed, we could never have Government in this country at all on that basis, because what a clause such as this would be laying down would be that no Government could ever have the right to govern in this country unless it had a mandate from the majority of the electors of the country, whether they voted or not. Obviously this seems a little preposterous. I raise the matter again to-day only because I understand the Government said in an earlier stage in the Bill (I cannot remember if it was before or after midnight) that they would look at this point. Perhaps we on this side of the Committee should be content if the noble Lord who has to reply were to give an assurance on this point to-day.
We should also like to know how the ballot is to be carried out. If noble Lords will look at the beginning of Clause 14 they will see that it says:For the purpose of complying with a request made by the Industrial Court under section 13 of this Act with respect to an agency shop agreement, the Commission shall determine whether the ballot is to be taken by the Commission or is to be taken under the supervision of the Commission by some other body…".The clause then goes on to explain what would follow from that. I consider that 898 your Lordships are entitled to be told what the intention of the Government is in this respect. Ballots are difficult things, I admit. Indeed, if your Lordships want any convincing of the difficulties that arise in taking votes you may be assured that those of us who were present in your Lordships' House in our "trial run" this afternoon well understand how difficulties could be created. So it is important to know what you want to do when you are taking a vote. Either the Commission is going to do it or the Commission is not. If the Commission is not going to do it itself, then who do the Government think is going to carry out this ballot?—because the Bill refers to some body other than the Commission and uses the phrase "some other body". This is a nebulous way in which to frame legislation. I do not know; I may be misinterpreting the Government's intention in this matter, but it would appear to me that this clause is exceptionally loosely worded. We are entitled to know exactly what the intentions of the Government are.
My noble friend Lord Slater, on Clause 13, raised the question of costs, which I think comes under Clause 14; but, as I say, the cross-references are so numerous that one can well understand that happening. I do not know who in fact is going to pay. It is all right for the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, to say, "If you just look across at Clause 156, that clause will explain to you how certain expenditure in certain circumstances will be met by certain sections of the Government." Indeed, he interprets Clause 156 with such great optimism that he even makes provision for any profits to be paid into the Consolidated Fund, so he is obviously going to take no chances as far as money is concerned. If we are going to put responsibility on people other than the Commission—on outsiders—I should have thought that who in fact is going to make the payment ought to be spelled out in the Bill. We heard at an earlier stage that the Government had accepted an Amendment and were even prepared to allow the employers to carry out these ballots. With due respect, I should have thought that a ballot carried out by employers—and this is not an indictment of their honesty—might not be altogether 899 a guarantee of secrecy so far as the workers are concerned. Indeed, we had a later suggestion, just before we finished our debate on Clause 13, that ministers of the Church had been asked to carry out this task. So altogether Clause 14 is in many ways loosely and badly drafted, and certainly contains an objectionable part in subsection (3).
So on these points we shall be grateful if the Government can confirm that they hold to what was said last night, and will tell us who they propose shall carry out these ballots under this Part of the Bill.
§ 5.22 p.m.
§ LORD GARDINER
May I raise a further point? The intention of the Government in this clause, as I understand it, is that where there is a newly negotiated agreement between employers and employees on an agency shop a ballot may be ordered and the Industrial Court may make an order rescinding the agreement unless more than 50 per cent. of those eligible to vote in fact vote in favour of the continuance of the agency shop agreement. I express no opinion on the policy of that, but as I understand it that is the object of the Government. The question I respectfully raise is whether this clause really carries this out. It is a question which I raised at about half-past two this morning. I do not think many of your Lordships were here then, and naturally I did not expect a full answer at that hour of the night. The position is that first of all the Industrial Court is not fulfilling the ordinary functions of a court, which is to decide some dispute and which, by applying the law, the court decides. Here the Industrial Court has no alternative if the conditions are satisfied but to make an order. It is a rubber stamp process and they might as well do it by post because there will not be anything to ask them about.
The point I wish to emphasise is that the Court is not to make that order if a majority of the workers eligible to vote in fact vote in favour of keeping the agency shop agreement. It is to make that order if the Commission reports the result of the ballot. If I may repeat that: the court is not to make the order if that is the result of the ballot; they are to make the order if that is what the Commission 900 says is the result of the ballot. We are used to ballots and elections, and the able and distinguished people who act as returning officers—usually town clerks, clerks of the peace and so on—sometimes make mistakes, and that is why we have an election court. They make mistakes either because votes are counted which ought not to have been, or vice-versa. I suppose there has never been a ballot or an election without some spoiled papers. Somebody has to decide that, and they may decide it wrongly, or sometimes there may be a simple error in adding up a column of figures. That is why we have an appeal. The law knows that even judges make mistakes; that is why it is almost part of the rule of law that there must be at least one right of appeal, and sometimes of course, two, in case the Appellate Courts are mistaken.
What I want to know is what happens in this case if the Commission is wrong? Once it has reported, the court is bound to order the agreement to be rescinded. Nothing can stop that once the Commission has reported. But supposing the Commission has reported to that effect and at the time the court is required to make the order it knows from evidence which has been put before it that the Commission was wrong and that a quarter of the people never got their ballot papers, or that the Commission qua returning officer has wrongly accepted from the other body to whom it has handed over the arrangements, what the result of the ballot is. This is quite unprovided for and, as I understand it, this is part of the Bill that was never really discussed in the other place.
It might perhaps make sense to provide that if there is a dispute as to whether the Commission's report on the result of the ballot is accurate or not, there might be an appeal on that to the Industrial Court. Then the Industrial Court would have something to do, instead of just being a rubber stamp to carry out the decisions of the Government. But, surely, some provisison ought to be made, and I should like to know whether I am right in thinking that this must be the only type of ballot or election held in this country in which no provision of any kind is made for the returning officer making a mistake.
§ LORD BELSTEAD
As I understand it, the checks on the Commission would 901 be the Industrial Court and also, of course, the terms of the Bill, which are that the Commission shall carry out the ballot in a certain way, and presumably if it is not carried out in the way that is specified, and properly conducted in secret, then the ballot will have to be taken again. I am replying to the noble and learned Lord without advice on that, and I will certainly rectify it if I have that point wrong. We feel, as I have tried to make clear from Clause 5 onwards in the Bill, that agency shop agreements arc a matter of balance, and frankly on this side of the Committee we hope we have got it right—the balance between individual rights and the rights of trade unions for the good of negotiations in industrial relations. We also hope that we have persuaded your Lordships that the C.I.R. will be able to undertake that the ballots are fairly conducted.
The noble Lord, Lord Hoy, asked what other bodies might undertake electorally. This was debated last night. I do not know whether the noble Lord was here.
§ LORD BELSTEAD
Well, the Electoral Reform Society will have passed before the noble Lord's gaze in the debate. We have heard to-day of other arrangements which were made. These matters were certainly brought up, but I was not aware that they caused great dissension between the two sides of the Committee. On the expenses point, I am afraid that I have nothing to add, except to refer the noble Lord to the clause to which he referred; namely, Clause 156. But on the general aspect of the reasonableness of undertaking the ballot, the noble Lord is quite right. If he was here yesterday evening he will have heard my noble and learned friend give the undertaking that if a ballot is to he conducted in a reasonable way it may well be that it will have to involve, for instance, postal votes. My noble and learned friend said that that was the effect which could well be had by the wording of the Bill, and the duty that that will lay upon the C.I.R.
The noble Lord, Lord Hoy, then went into the part of Clause 14 that concerns a majority of those eligible to vote. I would draw your Lordships' attention to the fact that noble Lords in the Liberal 902 Party had withdrawn quite a string of Amendments just before we came to debate the Question, That Clause 14 stand part, and I would not wish to say anything which might provoke remarks from those noble Lords who have withdrawn Amendments—
§ LORD BELSTEAD
May I just finish my point?—by reopening in great detail a matter on which (the noble Lord, Lord Hoy, is right on this point) the Government gave certain undertakings yesterday afternoon. I am not evading the point, I am just trying not to take us over the same ground again. Noble Lords are quite welcome to pick these points up if they wish. We on this side of the Committee realise, and it was made clear to the Committee in a large number of able speeches yesterday, that there are criticisms of this balloting situation, and the noble and learned Lord just now made the point very effectively that we do not simply require a simple majority vote. The point has also been made that apathy, under these terms in the Bill, could have a decisive effect on the result of a ballot. I hope I am not being provocative when I say that I think we on this side of the Committee feel that our reason for this is that the terms and conditions of employment are affected significantly by agency shop agreements; that there is some loss of freedom, as well as the very real advantages which will accrue to both sides of industry, from the making of agency shop agreements. That is the reason—we may well be wrong on this—why we have, we admit, required a higher rate of majority in these ballots than we do later on in the Bill when there are ballots on the recognition issues.
Having said that, may I remind the House that my noble friend conceded yesterday that a strong case had been made, a case which needed close consideration, and that it may be that rather a different emphasis will need to be put on this. At any rate, we are quite ready to Took at it again. Those were the terms of the undertaking given by my noble friend—and not least because of the sort of speech which the noble Lord. Lord Blyton made earlier in the day, when he pointed out, with considerable force, 903 the difficulties of highly mobile labour forces. It would be wrong for me to add to what my noble friend said yesterday; I am seeking merely to repeat it; I am not seeking to stop any noble Lords from picking up the points I have made.
Lastly, there is the two years' pause point to which the noble Lord, Lord Hoy. referred. May I quickly say that we; again concede that the two years' period written into Clause 14 is an arbitrary one, but the case which the Government put in favour of it is that it provides a reasonable interval of time in which a trade union can seek further support. Some restriction on frequency of application is undoubtedly necessary, as agency shop provisions allow for agency shop agreements to be made voluntarily between employer and union. We feel that there must be some restriction on the ability of the parties to apply when it is shown that such an agreement would not enjoy the support of workers. Here is an effort to find a balance between stability, on the one hand, and the need for change, on the other. The period of two years which we find in Clause 14, and in other clauses is, we hope, a fair and reasonable compromise between the need to secure this stability in industrial relations and the need to provide for orderly change. Yesterday your Lordships discussed the great importance which all parts of the Committee realised there would be in the voting on agency shops, and although the two years' period may not be right, we are convinced that six months, which was the alternative suggestion, would be too brief a period for the stability which we all wish to see in order to promote good industrial relations.
§ LORD HOY
I do not want to delay your Lordships' House unduly, but I am a little surprised at the way in which the noble Lord has replied to the debate. He was asked two simple and, I hope, plain questions. He said that the Liberal Peers have withdrawn Amendments to-day and he will not have failed to notice that the particular Amendment to which I was referring carried the name of my noble friend Lord Delacourt-Smith. We were quite willing to share this Amendment. All I was asking the noble Lord was whether he would give us the same assurance 904 on this Amendment as we had last night. Why he wanted to make a long story of it I do not know because at the end of the day that is exactly what he was saying. If the debate has been delayed a little the fault lies entirely with the noble Lord; all we want is answers to our questions.
One of the questions which he did not answer was put by my noble and learned friend Lord Gardiner, who said that this was the first occasion he had known in which there was no court of appeal. Once this Court makes its decision that is it; whether the decision be wrong, or whether it seems to be wrong, there is no appeal against it. I thought my noble friend made a very modest request and that the noble Lord would say, on behalf of the Government, "We think you have something here; we will have a look at it along with the other point." If he can give us that assurance we can get rid of this clause pretty quickly. Surely it is not asking the noble Lord too much. I hope he will be able to say now, on behalf of the Government, that he will look at this point, because it is a point of law. It seems a denial of justice to a large section of the community if we are not going to make this provision for them.
§ LORD BELSTEAD
The answer to the noble and learned Lord's question, on which I had to receive advice, is that there would automatically be a right of appeal to the Divisional Court if the C.I.R., as the noble and learned Lord quite rightly pointed out, exceeded its powers or erred or acted contrary to its statutory duty under this Bill. For this reason we think that there would be no need for a special appeal provision. I think I owe the noble Lord, Lord Hoy, an apology both for being "longwinded" and for not spying that the name of his noble friend Lord Delacourt-Smith was on one of the Amendments which was withdrawn.
§ Clause 14 agree to.
§ Clause 15 [Pressure to anticipate result of ballot]:
§ On Question, Whether Clause 15 shall stand part of the Bill?
§ 5.39 p.m.
§ LORD DELACOURT-SMITH
We have now come to the end of this Part 905 of the Bill and we are considering a clause which, like those which preceded it, did not receive any specific detailed examination in another place. I should like therefore to direct attention to this clause, and I want to address myself particularly to subsection (2) with a view to eliciting some comment from the Government upon the way in which they see some aspects of the provision made in that subsection. It may at first sight appear to some noble Lords that this is a very reasonable provision, having regard to what I think it would not be unreasonable to call the rather elaborate legal paraphernalia of the clauses which precede it. This subsection in fact declares it to be an unfair industrial practice for any person to organise workers to take certain action within the ambit of the matters dealt with in the clauses which we have been discussing. which, of course, are those dealing with agency shop agreements.
I want to reflect for a few moments upon the concept here of an unfair industrial practice in those circumstances, because it: is one of the features of this Bill that it stigmatises as unfair industrial practices actions which have hitherto been legal, hitherto been, not widespread, but certainly not completely in disuse by the trade union movement in this country. What these references to unfair industrial practices on the part of workers and trade unions, or most of them, do is to impose severe limitations in practice upon the right to strike. These limitations are applied even in the case of those trade unions which by registration have earned for themselves the title of trade unions under the Act. And, of course, they are even more severe limitations in the case of what I think we on our side shall continue to call trade unions, although they do not qualify for that term under the Bill but are perhaps properly described as unregistered trade unions.
The right to strike is an extremely important right, and the right to take proper and reasonable action to make strikes effective is, of course, extremely important, too. These rights have been gradually established in this country, and not only here, but in all advanced countries the right on the part of workers to withdraw their labour is accepted as an important aspect of freedom. And there are, of 906 course, very many declarations—and declarations have been cited on one or two accasions—which guarantee and underline the importance of the right for working men to withdraw their labour when they think it necessary to do so.
I venture to suggest that it is a fact of economic or social history that when effective action has been taken in a country to preclude the exercise of the right of workers to withdraw their labour, that has been accompanied by poor living standards and depressed conditions for working people. I say "when effective action has been taken" to preclude the exercise of this right, because there are a good many examples which one might take from the law of this country and from the legal systems of other countries where efforts have been made in one way or another to limit the exercise of the right to withdraw labour, and the legal arrangements have proved to be inoperative or only very partially operative; but where effective action has been taken in one way or another to nullify the right to withdraw labour, I think it will be found that it has invariably been accompanied by poor living standards and social backwardness. Noble Lords may differ as to whether there is any causal relationship between those two facts. I merely venture to suggest that wherever workers have effectively been deprived of this right, poor living standards have in fact applied.
But we all recognise that this, like some other rights, is a right which should be exercised sparingly, responsibly and with discretion. It has economic effects; it can have important economic effects. Therefore, because of its effects, nobody wishes this right to be exercised unnecessarily. Particularly, I do not think that those who are called upon to withdraw their labour usually want to see this right exercised unnecessarily. As I took the liberty of pointing out to your Lordships, I think on the Second Reading debate, in fact in this country in recent years, with the exception of certain industries which I listed, the number of days we have actually lost in production time through the withdrawal of labour by workers has been pretty small, and I suggested to your Lordships that it would be wiser, or would have been wiser, to have concentrated our attention on those specific industries—the motor 907 car industry, the shipbuilding industry, the docks, are ones which I think I particularly mentioned—where the loss of working days has been high, rather than try in this completely broadcast fashion to deal with the industrial relations situation. But I am merely saying that it is common ground between the members of the Committee that nobody wishes to see this right to withdraw labour exercised unnecessarily.
There will always be different views about the justification of its use in particular cases, just as with the right to freedom of speech. In the case of the right to freedom of speech we may often think that individuals have used that right to say silly things or things with which we as individuals disagree, but none of us imagines that that is any justification for circumscribing unreasonably and circumscribing to an extreme degree the right to freedom of speech. For in fact we cannot get away from the fact that the right to withdraw labour is an essential protection for the worker, and Parliament ought to be careful about the ways in which it limits or restricts it. Indeed, I would suggest to your Lordships that it is better to aim at producing circumstances in which workers do not wish to exercise the right than to produce a legal framework, as this Bill does, which makes it perilous and extremely expensive to exercise that right save in a very restricted number of cases.
I think it is necessary to look at the general principles. I appreciate that I have spoken in general terms, but it is necessary, because this is one of the underlying issues, not only in this Bill but in the whole controversy of which it is part. I think it is one of the fundamental issues which perhaps we have not looked at clearly enough and comprehensively enough. I want now to examine the situation in the specific setting of this clause.
For many years, trade unionists have regarded it as important that they should have in practice the right not to work with non-unionists. The Government have not said a great deal about the rights of individuals, but the right of individuals not to work with non-unionists is one for which they have little sympathy. It is already largely qualified, in the clauses 908 that we have been discussing, by the device of an agency shop, where the utmost that an individual who does not wish to work with non-unionists will be able to achieve is that he will be able to ensure that his workmates, if not trade unionists, are at any rate contributing to a trade union financially, or have established a conscientious right not to do so. Nevertheless, these are—and the noble Lord who has spoken would be the first to agree—important and serious qualifications of the rights not to work with non-unionists. But, of course, if this clause is adopted in this form, it will become an unfair industrial practice to do anything to jerk along the process which is set out in the preceding clauses.
I must confess that it is not quite clear to me what happens if a person in fact starts to organise or procure or in some other way sets up a strike to induce an employer to enter into an agency shop before application has been made under Clause 10 of the Bill, or without an application under Clause 10 even being contemplated. But, apart from that, this subsection declares it an unfair industrial practice to take any steps to speed up the process. As I understand it, the position of the Government is that they are expecting workers to accept the terms of subsection (2) because in the preceding clauses the Government have provided them with such a comprehensive and detailed scheme under which an agency shop agreement can be created and maintained.
I think that it is necessary to look at the degree to which delays could arise under the arrangements which are being set out in these earlier clauses, especially when one recalls that these clauses in general—and certainly the ballot provision for establishing an agency shop—arise in the case where the trade unions are seeking an agency shop agreement and the employer is reluctant to agree to one. If, indeed, the employer is reluctant to agree to an agency shop agreement, he is not likely to be mollified in his views by the fact that the legal arrangements set out in these clauses are being put into operation. I do not think he will change his views because of that; he is likely to maintain his resistance.
It is important that the noble Lord should tell us candidly how far he believes that the arrangements set out in 909 these clauses, and particularly the arrangements set out to provide a ballot under the ægis of the Commission on Industrial Relations if an employer resists a request to establish an agency shop agreement, allow scope for delaying action on the employer's part and what guarantees there are that the procedure will in fact operate speedily.
We are perhaps unfair to the legal profession, but we do not normally associate speed either with lawyers or with legal institutions, and it would be a cause of great frustration and it could bring the provisions to which we have been giving such meticulous consideration into disregard and even contempt if in fact their operation proved so slow as to produce a sense of frustration on the part of the workers who, through their trade unions, were seeking an agency shop—and they would be precluded from exercising any kind of industrial pressure, as I understand it, by the terms of this subsection.
There are other issues which arise: for example, the difficulties that can in practice occur in identifying the individual or individuals who are organising or inducing some of the actions dealt with in terminology of this type which occur in this subsection and elsewhere in the Bill. But I have already detained the Committee long enough and there will no doubt be other occasions to return to this other aspect of the matter. I do not think we ought to let this clause pass without taking note of the fact that it is a part of a process of circumscribing very severely indeed the practical application of the right of workers to withdraw their labour. I hope, therefore, that we may have some comment upon it and some explanation of it both in general and on the detailed points which I have raised with the noble Lord.
§ LORD POPPLEWELL
I wonder whether the noble Lord will explain the clause a little more clearly in his observations, because Clause 15, subsection (2), line 5, says:…any irregular industrial action short of a strike, or threatening to do so…Just exactly what does that mean? We complain that there is too much detail attached to this Bill, but here we have something that requires some very clear 910 definition. No doubt the noble Lord will say that it may probably be included in a code of practice of unfair industrial action. It is very difficult for us at this stage to give permission for something to be brought in that is not very clearly defined at all. What is "irregular industrial action?" Is it when a person who is engaged on a conveyor belt in the motor-car industry and is absolutely bored stiff, when a little incident arises and there is some impetuous talk says, "Let us stop the job"? We had that very clearly defined earlier this afternoon by what took place in the Pilkington troubles. Those of us with some knowledge of industry know that this type of thing does take place, and we know that people will say, "Let us stop the job," if' they are bored stiff or there has been some trouble developing. It may not come to anything, but is that an unfair industrial practice? I think this is something that we must have very clearly defined.
Now so far as the employer is concerned the clause goes on to say that he must refrain from inducing or attempting to induce a trade union or joint negotiating panel or any other person, from making an application under Clause 10 or Clause 13 of this Bill. The same remarks apply to the trade unions. They must not attempt to influence an employer or try to prevent him from making an application under the respective clauses. We all know that industrial difficulties arise from time to time and that certain loose threats take place, to the effect, that "unless we can get something we will do so-and-so". Is that an unfair industrial practice? If in the negotiations between both sides some difficulty has arisen and the employer says, "If that is your attitude, we will take the appropriate action under the various sections of this Act," or vice versa—the trade union saying the same thing to the employer—is that an unfair industrial practice? We know that this type of thing takes place. Would that be an unfair industrial practice at that time? Very often cooler thinking follows and this type of threat is withdrawn? If this sort of thing develops in future (and I am sure it will) and if it be that commonsense ultimately does not prevail, would that be an unfair industrial practice?
911 These are important matters. I hope that the Minister will give us some indication of the Government's views about this type of thing which so befogs industrial relations. If you try to bring compulsion in in this way, it has to be very clearly laid down, and not left to a set of lawyers to define what are the terms of a particular clause. We are told that the unfair industrial practices will be clearly laid down. I hope that this particular item in this clause will be clearly laid down. What is, and what will be, an irregular industrial practice? What is "irregular" to a legal mind is very much ordinary common sense so far as industrial relations are concerned.
§ LORD DAVIES OF LEEK
In a later clause we get a rough definition of "sympathetic actions". As usual with this Bill, one has to look backwards and forwards to try to get some sense out of it. The calling of sympathetic strikes is to be unlawful. If there is a person outside the works gates who may not be in the union, or who may be at the gates or on a loud speaker, or if there be a group of people outside the gates who are not in the union at all, and if some workers listened to them, would this be an unfair industrial practice?
I know how hard the noble Lord on the Front Bench has been working, and I sympathise with him; he needs support. The amount of work the Government are giving him is shameful, but it is typical of them. They want a stone-waller, and he is batting well. The Government have not given away much, but we recognise talent and grit when we see it.
I want to bring in a nasty phrase. There is an organisation called the "Economic League". At one time they sent out letters to industry offering to keep an eye on people who may be awkward—those who sometimes will not sit down at 2 o'clock in the morning when somebody wants a Bill to go through and wants to go to bed. One of the directors of Securicor was at one time none other than Mr. Carr himself. That was in 1962. Securicor at one time withdrew a letter which suggested that they could be useful to employers. I heard little puffs of irritation elegantly delivered at about 2 o'clock in the morning when I used the phrase "agent provocateur". 912 I do not mean that in the wicked sense of espionage, or of the rough stuff which occurred in American trade unionism and industry in the last century.
We have had such wonderful common sense in this country that this sort of thing is what worries me about this Bill. All that kind of thing can creep in. I beg noble Lords opposite, and those who are of Cabinet status, when they get into the calm precincts of No. 10, to have another look at this matter, because as it is mushed up here it will not work. I know that sympathetic strikes and encouraging people to strike in sympathy are all laid out in the clause. I think we are trying to do too much. Something sharp and short, conscientious and constructive, may have been useful for both sides of industry, but this is growing deeper. Please give us some kind of answer that would imply some type of modification.
§ 6.5 p.m.
§ LORD DRUMALBYN
We are on the Question. That the clause stand part. I willingly respond to the request of the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Leek, to give him some kind of answer, but I am not certain that I could imply some kind of modification at this stage. I am bound to say that the noble Lord does sound better at this time of the day than he does at 2 o'clock in the morning. I think noble Lords who have spoken in this debate have put their points extremely responsibly, and I should like to try to give some reply to what has been said. I think perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Delacourt-Smith, was slightly exaggerating the difference between the two sides of the Committee on this kind of issue. We, in this country, are all fully committed to the defence of the right to strike. The question is, on what occasions should you strike? Our point of view on this is simply that if you can develop a system which will reduce strikes and give a viable alternative, this is a good thing in itself. We are commending this part of the Bill to noble Lords, in the hope that they will ultimately accept it, because we believe that this gives an alternative approach to the strike.
I think the basis of this particular provision is to prevent industrial action, or 913 the threat of industrial action, being used unfairly to deter anyone from exercising the rights given by the agency shop provisions. It will not be an unfair industrial practice for a trade union to take action to induce an employer to enter into an agency shop agreement, when a ballot has been held after an application under Clause 10—I think this is the point the noble Lord asked about—and the ballot has shown that a majority of the workers concerned are in favour of the agency shop agreement. In these circumstances, the employer is under a duty to enter into the agency shop agreement, and if he fails to fulfil that duty he does so at his peril. After all, the chance for him to avoid strike action has already been taken through the agency shop provisions. That is quite plain.
The noble Lord also asked what happens if strike action is instigated before an application is made. Until an application is made it is open for strike action to be taken, but for it to be done properly, it would have to be after due notice in accordance with the contracts of employment. One would hope that during that period, the employer would see sense and in that case an application could be made to the Industrial Court. It might be that the employer is holding out because he does not believe that the union that is making the application really has the support of its members, and in that case he may make the application to the Industrial Court and so presumably avoid the strike action, and then get this system going. There is quite a lot to commend these proposals.
Then the noble Lord asked: to what extent can delays arise? He asked whether the employer who was reluctant to enter into an agency shop agreement would be likely to maintain his resistance. I have already indicated the extent to which he is likely to be able to maintain his resistance, given the rights that are available either to make application or to strike.
§ LORD SLATER
May I ask what is the difference between a strike and a lock-out? There could be a lock-out by the management, because of an application made by a trade union or by the workers themselves. If the workers preferred 914 to carry on to a limited extent, the management might reach the position where they said, "We cannot carry on so we are closing the works. There has to be a lock-out." What would happen then?
§ LORD DRUMALBYN
This is surely covered by subsection (1), which states:It shall be an unfair industrial practice for an employer, by instituting, carrying on, organising, procuring or financing a lock-out, or threatening to do so".It is also unfair for a trade union to call, organise, procure or finance a strike, or threaten to do so. So that this works both ways.
I was trying to answer the point about the employers' resistance, and about what scope there is for delay which would produce frustration. I think that what I have already said covers those points, and an employer would obviously be delaying at his peril. The noble Lord, Lord Popplewell, asked about irregular industrial action I am sorry to have to refer him to the Bill, but if he will look at Clause 158 he will find that:irregular industrial action short of a strike' has the meaning assigned to it by section 31(4) of this Act;If he looks at Clause 31(4), he will find exactly what irregular industrial action is. This is not altogether unusual in legislation.
§ LORD POPPLEWELL
I have been looking at the Bill. It is the definition of "irregular" that I am seeking.
§ LORD DRUMALBYN
The noble Lord asked about the other point as well, and in the meantime he has found the answer. I was giving the noble Lord the definition of "irregular industrial action". If he will look at Clause 31(4) he will find the answer. It is essential to understand that the concept of an unfair industrial practice depends on its purpose. If its purpose is unfair, then the industrial practice is unfair. The noble Lord also asked about threatening. This is always a question of degree, and it is as well to remember that. One also has to remember what are the remedies. The remedies are simply a definition of rights, or an award of damages. But one will not get large damages out of a mere empty threat, or a cease and desist order 915 to stop making silly noises, and one is not likely to go to court for that. So the noble Lord can rest reasonably content. I hope I have answered all the questions I was asked.
§ LORD DELACOURT-SMITH
The noble Lord did not dwell quite as fully as I might have hoped on the degree to which the Bill limits severely the exercise of the right to strike. He said that it is common ground that we all accept the right to strike, but I am bound to say that it is a very strange acceptance which makes the exercise of that right subject to such extremely severe penalties, which have not been part of the law of this country for some 70 years. It is a very strange way of showing one's devotion to that right.
I come back to the point that it is our view that it would be very much better to set on foot arrangements likely to improve procedures and the whole background of industrial relations, through a constructive use of the Commission on Industrial Relations and all that goes with it, as a means of ensuring that workers do not want to exercise the right to withdraw their labour, than to embark upon the arrangements in this Bill. But that is a decision which the Government have already made and, unfortunately, the noble Lord has to bear the very long proceedings of this Bill because of that unwise and unfortunate decision.
May I come more specifically to the problems which arise here? We are dealing with a situation in which a trade union is approaching an unwilling employer to conclude an agency shop agreement. If the employer was willing, they would presumably have already concluded the agreement under Clause 10(1). Clause 10(2) deals with the employer who is stated to be unwilling. First of all, when is it established that an employer is unwilling? An application is made, and there is not more than the usual delay in getting an acknowledgment from the employer who, by definition, does not wish to embark upon this course of action. He says that he has the matter under consideration but there are many other pressing matters requiring his attention. How long does that have to go on before he is regarded as unwilling for the purpose of Clause 10(2)?
916 Once it has been established that he is unwilling, the matter presumably goes to the Industrial Court on the application of the trade union side. There will then be proceedings before the Industrial Court and, although legal institutions and lawyers are much admired and respected in this country, they do not have a great reputation for speed. If I read subsection (3) of Clause 10 aright, there will be some scope for the employer, if he so wishes, to delay the proceedings by raising technicalities. When, eventually, those technicalities have been overcome, the matter is referred to the Commission, which must collect a good deal of information. It is clear that it will require a degree of co-operation from the employer and his agents to get that information, so can we assume that that will always be speedily forthcoming from a reluctant employer?
Once the information has been procured and the Commission has made up its mind, it makes a report to the Industrial Court—we have now come to Clause 11(2)—and the Commission determines whether or not to take a ballot. The report made on the result of the ballot will go back to the Industrial Court. Here we are at Clause 12(1), wherea majority of the workers eligible to vote in the ballot have voted in favour of an agency shop agreement then it shall be the duty of the employer to take all such action as is requisite".to conclude an agency shop agreement and maintain it. How quickly does he have to act? What remedy does the trade union have if he is dilatory in carrying out the orders of the industrial court. Throughout this process I am suggesting that there is scope for a reluctant employer to delay the operation of the Bill. I am not saying that every employer will be reluctant. We are not dealing with trade union recognition, because it is a prior condition of this whole operation that there shall be trade union recognition but we know how some employers in the country have for years resisted any attempt to unionise their workers and have refused to give any recognition to trade unions. Others have withstood very long and damaging industrial disputes because they would not afford recognition. It is not to be 917 assumed that every employer will be cooperative about going through this process which, I concede, is a stage beyond recognition, a stage of having to accept an agency shop agreement which by definition he has initially resisted.
At any point in that process, as I understand it, once the course of seeking to make an application under Clause 10 has been undertaken, the employer can regard himself as protected absolutely against any kind of pressure by his work-people or against anything which could be construed as a threat. I do not know whether it is a threat (and this will be a very important point) for a trade union official to say-not, "If something does not happen, I shall call a strike"; but, "If something does not happen there will be trouble." There can often be trouble, as everybody will appreciate, without a trade union official calling for it. One of the difficulties about this subsection is the weak position in which it puts the official trade union representative when a course of action undertaken by the employer causes anger and frustration among the work people.
If a trade union official goes too far in warning an employer of this, he can be regarded as threatening industrial action when, in fact, what he is doing is warning the employer that, irrespective of anything that the trade union may do officially, there is a prospect of trouble arising. It is this kind of difficulty that most genuinely arises in the minds of trade union representatives. There could be extremely frustrating delay in following up the process which this Bill sketches and throughout that period of frustrating delay (which might be quite deliberately undertaken as a tactic) the employer would be immune from any kind of industrial pressure by his work people. The frustration and irritation arises from this. It will be borne by the work people and, incidentally, by the trade union representative who, in my experience, would probably get the brunt of it.
§ LORD DAVIES OF LEEK
For the Record, this is exactly the point I quoted. It is in Part V and the word "threat" is used.
§ LORD DRUMALBYN
I realised that the noble Lord was probably referring 918 to the original Bill. The points raised by the noble Lord, Lord Delacourt—Smith, are absolutely legitimate. I will answer them as best I can although I think the answer must necessarily lie in the good-will of the parties concerned and the sheer circumstances of the case, with the options open to various people. I have already explained that an employer who delays before an application is made is wide open to threat; if he delays in implementing the ruling of the court he is wide open to threat. I do not know the answer to the first question put by the noble Lord: when is it that an employer is unwilling? It is a very interesting one. I shall have to look at it and I shall be interested to find the answer and to let the noble Lord know. As to the delays in procedure being technicalities, once the thing has actually got under way the court and the C.I.R. will be likely to expedite matters as much as possible. The C.I.R. have very full powers under Part IV of Schedule 3 to get such information as they want and they will not tolerate any delay. Their powers are strong.
While I do not suggest that there should be delays or that delays should be tolerated, it is as well to remember that it is a dispute of rights and not of interests that is involved in a case of this kind. I think the noble Lord, with his wide experience, will confirm that disputes of rights often take rather longer to settle than do disputes of interests. The noble Lord raises the question of threats. This, again, is a question of degree. I do not think that we need worry too much about it. If, in a serious case, the threats actually develop to the stage that notices are sent out, then it would be possible to have recourse to the Industrial Court. But the good sense of the trade union movement is too great for this to be a serious worry. The two sides know the limitations in this matter.
Finally, the noble Lord asked about the position of the trade union official, which he said was weak when the action of an employer excited anger among the trade union members. I would only say slat this is a matter which plainly the Industrial Court could take into account when it came to fix the degree of responsibility in the case. It is given a wide discretion in this matter. If the employer had behaved badly, this would 919 be set off by the Court against whatever damages he might have suffered. I hope that I have dealt with all the points raised.
§ LORD DELACOURT-SMITH
I appreciate the spirit in which the noble Lord has replied to the questions which I put and the problems that I raised. I must say that he has not allayed my anxieties or those of my noble friends. But since this is the first time that we have come across this kind of problem and have had the opportunity of exchanging views about it, I do not propose to invite my noble friends to divide the Committee on this clause.
§ Clause 15 agreed to.
§ Clause 16 [Special provisions for approval of closed shop agreement]:
§ 6.30 p.m.
LORD DRUMALBYNmoved Amendment No. 104:
Page 13, line 17, leave out ("section") and insert ("Act").
§ The noble Lord said: This is purely a drafting Amendment. In the closed shop provisions the description is intended to apply throughout the Act and not just to this clause. I beg to move.
LORD DELACOURT-SMITH moved Amendment No. 105:
Page 13, line 17, leave out ("approved").
§ The noble Lord said: This is perhaps an Amendment which the Government might at some stage accept.
§ LORD DRUMALBYN
May I ask whether it is the intention of the noble Lord also to discuss Amendments Nos. 112, 119, 127, 142 and 190?
§ LORD DELACOURT-SMITH
I was only proposing to discuss them in a very general way at this stage, and perhaps this might be a convenient point for me to refer to the general approach which we make to this clause. We have already had a good deal of discussion in the Committee proceedings so far upon the concept of closed shop agreements. It is no part of our case that all closed shop 920 agreements are perfect, or that closed shop agreements should cover the whole face of industry. We recognise, as did the Donovan Commission, the problems, and, in some cases, the injustices, which can arise through the closed shop. However, we think—and this will be no new point to your Lordships—that the Government have made the handling of this matter a great deal more difficult by their insistence on the statutory right to be a non-trade-unionist, and that this had led them in particular to refuse to recognise the fact that there are areas of industry where, either because of the conditions of recruitment or employment, or because of the outlook of the two sides, there is justification for having a closed shop arrangement. They speak of the practice in a way which suggests that they always wish to circumscribe it most completely—indeed sometimes to the point of rendering it ineffective to fulfil the purpose for which it is intended.
We envisage closed shop arrangements as those which are reached by agreement between trade unions and the employer or employers in a field of employment, in accordance with proposals which are recommended by the Commission on Industrial Relations. We shall be discussing these points in more detail at later stages in the Bill, but we would urge the Government to agree to remove this word "approved" from the text of the Bill. In our opinion it would be much more fitting to recognise these as closed shop agreements and not to give them a rather special characteristic which suggests that they have to be so particularly singled out in the way that the word "approved" suggests. I beg to move.
§ LORD DRUMALBYN
As the Bill stands, the closed shop has to be approved, and we think that it ought to be approved. The short answer to the noble Lord therefore must be that we think the expression "approved closed shop" says exactly what we mean. We are going to have long discussions on this, I have no doubt, and certainly at this stage, I think it would be inappropriate to pre-empt those discussions by removing the word "approved". I hope therefore that the noble Lord will not press his Amendment. I am bound to say that I cannot hold out very much hope to him that we shall be prepared to 921 accept it, because the noble Lord knows that this is really cardinal to the Bill. As the Bill was originally introduced, there was no scope for the closed shop at all. There has already been a move to an approved closed shop, and that is where we are at the moment. Perhaps we might leave it there for the moment in the hope that the noble Lord will not press his Amendment.
§ LORD POPPLEWELL
We have had this argument before, and the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, is such a decent fellow and has been so patient, when almost anyone else would have said "What a bloody-minded lot you are!" I do not know whether that is a parliamentary expression or not, but it indicates definitely what we are feeling in connection with this matter. These closed shop agreements have been entered into on both sides, and when the Government just say, "No, we cannot say that: it must go through the normal ballot procedure", well, what I have said indicates our line of thought in this particular direction.
§ LORD DELACOURT-SMITH
I appreciate the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, that we are early in our discussions on this matter, and I also appreciate his point that in the original Bill, as presented, there was in fact no provision at all for closed shop arrangements. We recognise that there have been moves in the direction of wisdom on the part of the Government. We applaud them, and we indeed hope that they will continue in this direction. Perhaps I may say that I am prepared to accept the words of the noble Lord that in considering this point of terminology we should not pre-empt the more detailed discussions which we shall be having later. In these circumstances, I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ 6.39 p.m.
LORD DELACOURT-SMITH moved Amendment No. 105A:
Page 13, line 20, after ("unions") insert ("or indpendent organisations of workers").
§ The noble Lord said: Here we come to the first point of real and substantial difference between the two sides. I am conscious that this Amendment is in terms very closely similar to an earlier clause which I moved; but on that 922 occasion. I was drawing attention to the distinction that the Government were insisting upon between the registered trade unions-who alone under this Bill would have the title "trade union"-and independent organisations of workers, and I was drawing attention to that point particularly in the context of the significance of registration and the criticisms which the trade union movement have about the registration arrangements.
§ I move this Amendment in the somewhat different context of the proposals for sudden limited closed shop agreements. I must urge the Government to consider again their view that only a registered trade union should be embraced in the operations envisaged in this clause. We shall be in a strange situation if independent organisations of workers exist and attempts are made to preclude them from entering into arrangements with employers which would be prefectly proper if undertaken by a registered trade union.
§ The essence of a trade union is that it establishes itself with its members, and with the employers, as a body with which employers are ready to deal. We might have a quite extraordinary situation if this Amendment were not accepted. Employers might be prepared to make arrangements with an independent organisation of workers, or more than one such organisation, or with an organisation and a registered trade union working together to achieve the effect envisaged in this clause. Such arrangements, of course, would make a contribution to better and more stable industrial arrangements. Are the Government saying that, because of the terms of this clause, such an arrangement would be precluded? This is by no means a hypothetical question, and it would be valuable if the noble Lord would explain what the situation will be. I hope that he will come to the conclusion that the right course would be to allow independent organisations of workers to be covered by this clause.
§ 6.43 p.m.
§ LORD DRUMALBYN
The position here is that it would be possible for an independent organisation of workers to enter into an agreement with an employer with a view to setting up a closed shop. What would not be possible would be 923 for such an organisation to make application for a closed shop jointly with the employers unless first the organisation accepted the responsibilities of trade union registration. We regard this as a fundamental point. We see no reason why it should be pressed on us that in the special circumstances of the closed shop, which carries a special responsibility, almost the highest responsibility of all, registration should not be accepted by any would-be applicant. We anticipate no difficulty about this. We think that every union likely to be in this position will apply for registration. We do not want to ram registration down anyone's throat, but we firmly take up the position that a condition for examination of an application for a closed shop should be that the matter should be between an employer and a union. I regard this as fundamental. I do not think we can yield, despite the blandishments of the noble Lord, Lord DelacourtSmith. I do not believe that, in his heart, the noble Lord feels that this is something on which we can yield—I hope he does not. Therefore I hope he will not press the Amendment, which we shall certainly have to resist.
§ LORD DELACOURT-SMITH
I am sorry that I am not able to respond to the noble Lord. Quite apart from his prying into my heart, on which I venture to claim I am a greater expert than he is, he has completely failed to convince anyone on this side of the Committee—
§ LORD DELACOURT-SMITH
As my noble friend says, he has not won their heads, let alone their hearts, by his argument.
I was postulating circumstances in which an organisation of workers, which had chosen not to be registered, was able to conclude a closed shop agreement with employers. The noble Lord says that the Government take a strong view on registration but that they do not wish to ram registration down anyone's throat. in view of the emphasis placed on the 924 entitlement to be a non-unionist, as opposed to the entitlement to be a unionist, I cannot see why the Government do not put equal emphasis on the entitlement to be unregistered as opposed to being registered. If the organisation desires one or the other, surely it should be able to choose. There are enough penalties already in the provisions in this Bill to deter anyone from preferring the unregistered state without good reason. If the Government do not want to ram registration down the throats of a particular organisation of workers I cannot see why they are unable to meet us on this point.
The test is a practical one. Can the organisation command the support of its members and the respect of the employers to the point at which it can operate a closed shop arrangement? The employers, who will have everything to gain by an orderly arrangement in their industry, would not be disposed to make such an agreement with an ineffective organisation which could not perform the function it was supposed to perform. Yet even in those circumstances the noble Lord insists that the opportunity to make agreements must, as a matter of doctrine—it is no more than that—be confined to those organisations which have gone through the process of registration and become trade unions. I hope that the noble Lord will respond further.
§ LORD DRUMALBYN
I would respond very quickly to the question about doctrine. It is not a question of doctrine; it is a question of complying with the rules that are laid down for an organisation to bring its rules into line so that it may be registered. We think this is particularly important in respect of anyone who is to enjoy the privileges of a closed shop.
THE LORD BISHOP OF BLACKBURN
May I inquire whether it is possible for an independent organisation of workers to be registered?
§ LORD DRUMALBYN
An independent organisation of workers can indeed be registered; and if it is registered it becomes a trade union.
§ 6.49 p.m.
§ On Question, Whether the said Amendment (No. 105A) be agreed to?
|Addison, V.||Henderson, L.||Sainsbury, L.|
|Archibald, L.||Hilton of Upton, L.||St. Davids, V.|
|Ardwick, L.||Hoy, L.||Serota, Bs.|
|Balogh, L.||Hughes, L.||Shackleton, L.|
|Bernstein, L.||Jacques, L.||Shepherd, L.|
|Blyton, L.||Janner, L.||Shinwell, L.|
|Brockway, L.||Kennet, L.||Slater, L.|
|Brown, L.||Leatherland, L.||Snow, L.|
|Buckinghamshire, E.||Lee of Asheridge, Bs.||Stocks, Bs.|
|Burntwood, L.||Lindgren, L.||Stow Hill, L.|
|Champion, L.||Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe, Bs.||Strabolgi, L.|
|Chorley, L.||Lloyd of Hampstead, L.||Summerskill, Bs.|
|Cooper of Stockton Heath, L.||Longford, E.||Taylor of Mansfield, L.|
|Delacourt-Smith, L.||Maelor, L.||Wells-Pestell, L.|
|Diamond, L.||Milners of Leeds, L. [Teller.]||White, Bs.|
|Energlyn, L.||Morris of Kenwood, L.||Williamson, L.|
|Evans of Hungershall, L.||Peddie, L.||Wootton of Abinger, Bs.|
|Gaitskell, Bs.||Popplewell, L.||Wright of Ashton under Lyne, L.|
|Gardiner, L.||Raglan, L.|
|Garnsworthy, L. [Teller.]||Ritchie-Calder, L.||Wynne-Jones, L.|
|Ailwyn, L.||Digby, L.||Lloyd, L.|
|Albemarle, E.||Drumalbyn, L.||Loudoun, C.|
|Aldington, L.||Dudley, E.||Lucas of Chilworth, L.|
|Allerton, L.||Dundee, E.||Lyell, L.|
|Amory, V.||Eccles, V.||MacAndrew, L.|
|Ashbourne, L.||Effingham, E.||McCorquodale of Newton, L.|
|Balfour, E.||Elliot of Harwood, Bs.||Malmesbury, E.|
|Balfour of Inchrye, L.||Emmet of Amberley, Bs.||Mansfield, E.|
|Barnby, L.||Falkland, V.||Massereene and Ferrard, V.|
|Barrington, V.||Ferrers, E.||Merrivale, L.|
|Beauchamp, E.||Ferrier, L.||Milverton, L.|
|Beaumont of Whitley, L.||Gage, V.||Molson, L.|
|Belhaven and Stenton, L.||Gisborough, L.||Monck, V.|
|Belstead, L.||Goschen, V. [Teller.]||Monk Bretton, L.|
|Berkeley, Bs.||Gowrie, E.||Mountevans, L.|
|Birdwood, L.||Gray, L.||Mowbray and Stourton, L.|
|Blackburn, L. Bp.||Grenfell, L.||Napier and Ettrick, L.|
|Boston, L.||Gridley, L.||Norwich, V.|
|Brabazon of Tara, L.||Grimston of Westbury, L.||Oakshott, L.|
|Bradford, E.||Hailsham of Saint Marylebone, L. (L. Chancellor.)||Radnor, E.|
|Bridgeman, V.||L. Rankeillour, L.|
|Brooke of Cumnor, L.||Hankey, L.||Rathcavan, L.|
|Brooke of Ystradfellte, Bs.||Hanworth, V.||Rea, L.|
|Brougham and Vaux, L.||Hastings, L.||Reading, M.|
|Caccia, L.||Hatherton, L.||Reigate, L.|
|Caldecote, V.||Hawke, L.||Rhyl, L.|
|Carrington, L.||Henley, L.||Rockley, L.|
|Chandos, V.||Hives, L.||Rothermere, V.|
|Chesham, L.||Hood, V.||Rothes, E.|
|Clifford of Chudleigh, L.||Howard of Glossop, L.||Ruthven of Freeland, Ly.|
|Clinton, L.||Hylton-Foster, Bs.||St. Aldwyn, E.|
|Clwyd, L.||Inglewood, L.||St. Helens, L.|
|Colville of Culross, V.||Ironside, L.||St. Just, L.|
|Conesford, L.||Jellicoe, E. (L. Privy Seal.)||Salisbury, M.|
|Cork and Orrery, E.||Jessel, L.||Sandford, L.|
|Cowley, E.||Kemsley, V.||Sandys, L.|
|Craigavon, V.||Killearn, L.||Somers, L.|
|Cranbrook, E.||Kilmany, L.||Southwark, L. Bp.|
|Crathorne, L.||Kilmarnock, L.||Strang, L.|
|Daventry, V.||Kinnoull, E.||Strange, L.|
|De Clifford, L.||Landsdowne, M.||Strathclyde, L.|
|De La Warr, E.||Lauderdale, E.||Stratheden and Campbell, L.|
|Denham, L. [Teller.]||Lichfield, L. Bp.||Swaythling, L.|
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 60; Not—Contents, 140.927
|Swinton, E.||Thurso, V.||Warburton, L.|
|Teviot, L.||Tweedsmuir, L.||Wigram, L.|
|Thorneycroft, L.||Tweedsmuir of Belhelvie, Bs.||Windlesham, L.|
|Thurlow, L.||Vivian, L.||Yarborough, E.|
§ LORD DRUMALBYN
This may be a convenient moment for us to resume the House preparatory to considering the Nullity of Marriage Bill, and I suggest that that should be for one hour, and that we should again resolve ourselves into Committee on the present Bill an hour from now.
§ LORD GARDINER
I thought that an hour and half was the time usually allotted, if necessary. It may be that we shall be shorter than an hour and a half; but we may not.
EARL ST. ALDWYN
Last week on another Bill we had an hour and half, and I had in fact so many complaints from all sides of the House, about taking out as much as an hour and half, that I felt it was only reasonable to reduce the period to an hour. If we do not complete the Committee stage on the Nullity of Marriage Bill we can of course take it on Friday.
§ LORD GARDINER
Could we not be a little more flexible than that? If it appears at the end of an hour that another ten minutes will finish it, it seems to me quite unreasonable that we should adjourn until Friday, in the middle of a clause.
§ Moved. That the House do now resume. —(Lord Drumalbyn.)
§ On Question, Motion agreed, and House resumed accordingly.