§ 6.21 p.m.
§ LORD DRUMALBYN
My Lords, I beg to move that the Draft Code of Industrial Relations Practice, laid before the House on January 19 last, be approved. In asking your Lordships to approve this Draft Code I should like to start with two observations. I do not think that any debate on any facet of industrial relations in this House at this time could start without an expression of our sorrow at the death of Lord Donovan. Not only did he win the respect and affection of your Lordships but, having been invited to preside over the Royal Commission on Trade Unions and Employers' Associations in 1965, he applied his intellect and his humanity to this immense task for over three years 1330 in addition to his duties as a Lord of Appeal in Ordinary. His contribution to the improvement of industrial relations is inestimable. Greatly as it is appreciated now, I believe it will come to be valued more and more as the years go by. It may well have shortened his life, but he has certainly left behind him a study bearing his name which will be a lasting memorial to the work of himself and his colleagues. All of us mourn his death and offer our deep sympathy to his widow and family.
My second observation relates to this debate. When I initiated the debate on the Consultative Document there was no need for me to go into any detail on its provisions, and I was able to be brief. To-day I hope your Lordships will bear with me if I speak for rather longer, so that I may give some account of the process and results of the consultation that has taken place.
The debate we had on the Consultative Document last June was critical but constructive. It took place on the eve of our embarking on the Report stage of the Industrial Relations Bill. In contrast to the Bill, the Code was welcomed on both sides of the House, though the noble Lord, Lord Byers, thought it needed deflating and strengthening. Even the noble Lord, Lord Diamond, could not forbear to give it a welcome, albeit, as he said, a muted one. There were suggestions and criticisms and even commendations. As I promised, all the views expressed were carefully studied alongside the comments received from industrial, commercial and local organisations, professional bodies and individuals concerned with industrial relations during the four months after the Consultative Document was published. The sets of considered comments exceeded 200. They went into great detail. Clearly the Document was widely considered and discussed. By the end of the year over 370,000 copies had been distributed.
I am bound to say that relatively little comment was received by the Department of Employment from the trade union movement. That was a disappointment. The T.U.C. did not send their observations to the Secretary of State but they did issue their own booklet, Good Industrial Relations—a Guide for Negotiation. Whether that booklet owed anything to the Consultative Document, I 1331 would not presume to say. It may well have done. Certainly there is much common ground in the two documents. At any rate, the revised Draft Code that is now before us certainly owes something to the booklet, so that in a real sense it was possible to treat the booklet as the T.U.C.'s observations on the Code. Indeed, Paragraph 133 (v) of the Code was taken directly from it. That is the paragraph which says:… no disciplinary action should be taken against a shop steward until the circumstances of the case have been discussed with a full-time official of the union concerned.Also the passage in the Code dealing with independent arbitration as the final stage in the disciplinary procedure was modified, and the passage dealing with facilities for shop stewards was amplified to take account of the booklet's recommendations.
The House will forgive me, I hope, if I first remind your Lordships briefly of the purpose of the Code, which is to give practical guidance for promoting good industrial relations. It does so in accordance with the four general principles set out in Part I of the Industrial Relations Act, which the Introduction summarises thus: freely conducted collective bargaining, orderly procedures for settling disputes, free association of workers and employers, and freedom and security for workers.
In the debate on the Consultative Document the Foreword received a good deal of praise. Noble Lords may wonder why it has been rewritten and called an Introduction. Quite simply, the reason is that it was felt that the Foreword had so much that was valuable that it ought to be incorporated in the Code in the form of an Introduction, so that notice would be taken of it in the interpretation and implementation of the Code itself. This Introduction also includes new points arising out of comments received. Most of all, the Introduction declares the two main themes that pervade the Code: first, the vital role of collective bargaining, and second, the importance of human relations between employers and employees. It also declares that the Code applies wherever people are employed—not just in industry. Having said that, it states the corollary—and it needs stating—that since circumstances vary so 1332 widely between different forms of employment, even within industry, not to men tion other forms of employment, some of the provisions may need to be adapted to suit particular circumstances. But it goes on to say that any adaptations that are made should be consistent with the Code's general intentions.
Undoubtedly the primary responsibility for the promotion of good industrial relations lies with management, and that means their taking the initiative in formulating adequate industrial relations policies and procedures. But as the revised Introduction stresses, good industrial relations are a joint responsibility, and they need the continuing co-operation of all concerned. This means that management should give employees the opportunity to co-operate; they should invite them to do so and should consult them. I can illustrate this by referring to the Section of the Code on Employ ment Policies. Paragraph 25, in the introduction to that section, reads:Management should initiate and accept primary responsibility for these policies. But they should be developed in consultation or negotiation, as appropriate, with employee representatives.This reference to the need to consult or negotiate, as appropriate, with employee representatives applies, of course, to all the subsequent parts of the section: planning and use of manpower; recruitment and selection; training; payment systems; status and security; redundancy; working conditions—the lot. In particular, paragraph 45 meets the point of the noble Lord, Lord Diamond, on redundancies. The noble Lord also said that management should work out with employees what the disciplinary pro visions should be. Parapraph 130 says:Management should ensure that fair and effective arrangements exist for dealing with disciplinary matters. These should be agreed with employee representatives or employees concerned.On status quo we have not felt it right to go quite so Car as the two noble Lords would have liked. The Code does not refer to status quo as such. What the Code does say is that:Major changes in working arrangements should not be made by management without prior discussion with employees or their representatives.I hope nobody will ask me what changes are major. If so, I shall be bound to ask them, how long is a piece of string? 1333 The answer will vary from case to case and from establishment to establishment. It is essentially a matter for settlement between the parties.
Indeed, this brings me to the need for flexibility of application in the Code which has to cover a huge variety of needs and circumstances over the very wide field it covers. On the whole, it was urged in the last debate from the Opposition and the Liberal Benches that the Code should be more precise. But the weight of criticism from outside Parliament was in the opposite sense—that some of the detailed provisions of the Consultative Document were inappropriate or unnecessary for small firms; that different enterprises were at different stages in the development of industrial relations and could not be expected to implement the whole of the Code right away; that one has to have regard to what is practicable at any one time—for example, as to equalisation of conditions and status of those exercising comparable responsibilities, desirable as that is; that it was wrong to alter procedures that were working well and were in keeping with the general intentions of the Code, whether those procedures were procedures between trade unions and employers, or between representatives of other sorts, employees and employers.
For example, the proposals in the Consultative Document about consultative machinery in establishments with more than 250 employees were quite precise. These were examined critically by the noble Lords, Lord Byers and Lord Brown. In the revised draft the section has been almost entirely re-written. On consultation in establishments with over 250 employees, it says that there should be systematic arrangements for consultation, but that consultation between management and employees, or their representatives, about operational and other day-to-day matters is necessary in all establishments, whatever their size—and please note the word "between"; this is a two-way process. It is left to individual establishments to agree on what arrangements suit them best, always pro vided, as paragraph 67 says, the arrangements are not used to by-pass or discourage trade unions. The main thing, as paragraph 68 seeks to ensure, is that consultation should be meaningful, comprehensive and effective. It is of the 1334 essence of good industrial relations that managements should know what employees are thinking, and that employees should have the opportunity to express their views. I draw attention to the definition of "consultation" in paragraph 65.
One change that has been made will not please everybody, I refer to A17 of the Consultative Document which related to professional employees and reads:An employee who belongs to a profession with a recognised Code of conduct has an obligation to comply with that Code. He should not be called upon by his employer or by any trade union of which he is a member to take any action which would be contrary to it.Professional bodies strongly endorsed it. But others, including both unions and employers, no less strongly criticised its assumption that professional should always take precedence over other obligations. Moreover, they said, it gave professional bodies a free hand to define the obligations of their members in ways which could prove divisive and disruptive to the established negotiating machinery in local government and elsewhere.
It is common ground that there are particular kinds of situations in which professional obligations should always be paramount. Paragraph 22 seeks to de fine those circumstances in terms of public health and safety, and the health or well being of an individual needing medical or other treatment or care through the personal social services. But there are other circumstances in which professional obligations may conflict with other obligations but cannot be automatically assumed to over-ride them. Paragraph 23 therefore enjoins professional associations, employers and trade unions to co operate in preventing and resolving such conflicts. This covers professional associations in general and not only those whose members might be affected by paragraph 22.
The thinking behind these provisions in the Code is that anyone has a right not to belong to a trade union. If, there fore, taking into account his prior obligations to his professional body—prior in time, at least—he chooses to belong to a union, he voluntarily accepts the obligations attaching to membership of that union: obligations which ought not to be lightly set aside. The Code cannot lay 1335 down a general rule reflecting all conflicts of obligations that may arise. In short this is essentially a matter for the parties to settle among themselves.
During the last debate several noble Lords hankered after a Code which would be entirely separate from and independent of the Industrial Relations Act. Their view seemed to be that if only the Act were not implemented, the Code, by and large, would be fine. But Codes need some sanction to be effective, and the more apt the sanction the more effective they are. The sanction of this Code lies in Section 4 of the Act which provides thatin any proceedings before the Industrial Court or an industrial tribunal under this ActBut important as it may be to have a sanction, most people do not adhere to a Code because of the sanction, but because its content is in tune with what they know to be right and necessary. The Code is to serve as a guide to good industrial relations practice in the hands of the ordinary practitioner on both sides of industry. There is a good deal of evidence that managements have already been studying the Consultative Document with a view to bringing their practices into line with its provisions and so promoting good industrial relations.
- (a) any such Code of Practice shall be admissible in evidence, and
- (b) any provision of such a Code of Practice which appears to the Court or tribunal to be relevant to any question in the proceedings shall be taken into account by the Court or tribunal in determining that question."
Several noble Lords in the last debate expressed the view that though the Consultative Document had the merit of being in plain English, it was not peremptory enough and not sufficiently reformatory: it was, according to the noble Lord, Lord Byers, flatulent and wishy-washy. However, the Introduction makes it plain that those who at present fall short of the standards set in the Code are expected to make reasonable and continuing progress towards achieving those standards. The standards are those that are currently recognised as together representing existing good industrial relations practice. Whether one is concerned with standards with which industrial Roods should conform, or standards with which industrial relations should con- 1336 form, the aim should always be to raise those standards. The same applies to health and safety. There is nothing to prevent particular producers setting them selves higher standards and trying out new refinements or developments. It is even more important that such improvement should be attempted in industrial relations than in goods and services; the objective in both cases is a dual one: greater efficiency and greater satisfaction, but in the case of industrial relations it is job satisfaction and happiness in one's work.
My Lords, it would not be possible to be more peremptory or more precise without at the same time being less flexible and less humane. After all, these improvements are going to conic about by two sides sitting down together and agreeing on the ways in which the Code is going to be applied in their establishment, their undertaking or their industry. What need to be precise are those agreements. The Code must be clear, but it is bound to be in more general terms. And the Code can be changed, as the agreements can be changed. Indeed, the Code will have to be changed because it is as yet in a sense incomplete.
The Section dealing with disclosure of information cannot be completed yet, be cause the C.I.R. has not yet reported on the remit given to it by the last Administration. I say that not in criticism, for the subject is as difficult as it is important. I shall merely add that when the C.I.R. has reported, and when their report has been considered I after consultation with interested organisations probably by means of a consultative document, the Section will be amended in a revised Code which will require an Affirmative Resolution in each House and will, if approved, be brought into effect at the same time as Section 56 of the Act, which deals with disclosure of information by employers in all stages of collective bargaining. In the meantime, the practical guidance which the Secretary of State is obliged by Section 2 of the Act to give in the Code with respect to disclosure of in formation is. I admit, brief, but it is none the less explicit and important. It says in paragraph 97:Management should aim to meet all reasonable requests from trade unions for information which is relevant to the negotiations in hand. In particular, it should make 1337 available, in the most convenient form, the information which is supplied to shareholders or published in annual reports.No doubt as industrial relations evolve and improve, further amendments to the Code will he needed from time to time.
I turn now briefly to the changes that have been made in the Code to meet comments and criticisms, especially those made in this House, and to changes that were advocated but have not been made. Apart from the Introduction, the only other change in the structure of the Code is to bring together the guidance on grievance and on disputes procedures into a single chapter. The procedures are similar and there are often close links between disputes and grievances—if the noble Lord, Lord Brown, will pardon the expression. The two major criticisms of the noble Lord, Lord Diamond, may be summed up in the words "paternalism" and "ambivalence"—the ambivalent attitude of the Government towards the trade unions. He would have liked the Code to proclaim that it is one of the responsibilities of management to encourage trade unions. On the other hand, I have been told often enough by noble friends of his in the past 12 months that the trade unions are well able to look after themselves. What the Code does is to emphasise in the Introduction the need for strong representative trade unions, and where unions are recognised for the purposes of negotiation to require managements to make clear to employees that they welcome their membership of an appropriate union and their participation in the union's activities. There is no ambivalence at all about the Government's attitude. The Government want every employer to develop effective industrial relations policies which command the confidence of the employees. It is for the employees to choose whether to belong to trade unions, or to form a trade union for themselves, and be represented by them. It is for particular trade unions to convince the employees that their interests are best promoted by them and to attract them by the opportunities for participation that they offer. It is not for Government or Parliament to tell managers or employees what trade unions to recognise or belong to. The new wording in the Code removes any ambivalence there may have been.
1338 On the other hand, I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Diamond, and the noble Lord, Lord Delacourt-Smith, no longer feel that the revised Draft Code has the ring of paternalism, or that it plays down the role of trade unions in industrial relations. The emphasis throughout the Code is on joint responsibilities—of unions, managements, individuals and employers' associations; it is also on negotiation, consultation and agreement before action.
Finally, my Lords, a word about arbitration. Paragraph D 25(d) of the Consultative Document stated that disputes procedures should include arbitration as a final stage. On the other hand, the T.U.C. Guide and other critics argued that if at the end of the day there was the certain prospect of arbitration, the standards of collective bargaining at the earlier stages would suffer and negotiation would become less meaningful. The Government considered that there was force in that argument, and the Draft Code now confines the use of the Indus trial Arbitration Board or other independent arbitrators to circumstances where both parties agree that they should be used. That is paragraph 29. The paragraph adds that arbitration can be used to settle all types of disputes, especially disputes of right, and that where it is used the parties should undertake to be bound by the award. Independent conciliation, of course, is also available as a means of enabling the parties to reach agreement.
My Lords, it would not be possible for me to go in detail into all the various other amplifications that have been made on consultation, shop stewards, and the like. But I hope I have convinced your Lordships that the Government not only have paid attention to what was said in our debate on the Consultative Document, but have profited by it to amend the Document in some at least of the ways which your Lordships advocated. The Draft Code now reflects to a large extent a consensus on industrial relations. I believe it will do what it is intended to do; namely, to make an important contribution to better industrial and human relations in this country. My Lords, I commend it to the House and I beg to move.
§ 6.46 p.m.
§ LORD BROWN
My Lords, before making my contribution to this debate I am constrained to comment that selection of priorities by those responsible for arranging the order of debates in this House seems to have gone awry to-day. We have a very important Motion in front of us, and I am sure many share with me the view that to relegate this Motion to this hour of the evening, after spending two hours on Amendments to a mechanism for controlling a temporary, new form of debate in the House, really was a shocking, ill-selection of priorities.
Before I come to the Motion, I should like to join with the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, in paying a very deep and sincere tribute to the late Lord Donovan for his enormous contribution to the whole subject of industrial relations, particularly through the Donovan Report.
My Lords, this Motion is not capable of amendment, as we all realise, but Section 2 of the Industrial Relations Act allows the Secretary of State to amend the Code at appropriate times, and so my remarks are made not as carping criticism of the Code—I have no wish to do that—but to put on record certain views which may perhaps be taken into account when the time comes for revision, which I hope will not be too far into the future. The first point I want to make is with regard to the general case for attaching to the Code a number of appendices, which could set out in exemplary form procedures which might be adopted by companies who were attempting to follow the Code. There is a very good precedent for doing this. In the Companies Act 1948, Schedule 1 includes Tables A, B, C and D, which set out model Articles of Association for companies that have not the skill to draft their own or do not wish to go to the expense of doing so. These are not obligatory on companies, but failure to produce Articles means that a company has to adopt Table A, or one of the other tables. There will be literally thousands of firms, some of them not so skilled, trying to devise procedures for negotiation and for hearing appeals, and all the other aspects of the matter 1340 referred to in this Code. Some of them are going to be very bad—although some may be very good—and it would have been helpful if there had been appendices attached. I hope that this point may be taken note of for future editions of the Code, because it would save a tremend ous amount of work and would get some uniformity into procedures, which I be lieve would be highly salutary.
The second point concerns this whole question of agreement of policies. There is reference in paragraph 25 of the Code concerning policies, as follows:But they should be developed in consultation or negotiation, as appropriate, with employee representatives.…Then in paragraph 52 it is stated:Major changes in working arrangements should not he made by management without prior discussion".I would have hoped that this Code could have grasped the nettle. I welcome the pressure put on firms to negotiate and to consult with employees before making changes; but I should have thought it would be recognised by now that if there is strong resistance after negotiation and after consultation it is not open to management to impose changes on employees. If they seek to do so there may be a strike, but eventually compromises are reached which are in the form of an agreement. So it would have been much better if the Code had pointed out the impossibility of the imposition by management of new policies. One might have hoped, as happened in my experience, that there would be a quid pro quo in that shop stewards and other representatives would adopt the same attitude and refuse to use their power to impose their will on management.
That would be a highly desirable out come of a Code which drew attention to these facts of life as they exist in industry, and I hope that this will be taken note of in a second edition. That is the civilised way of going about matters in industry. The cost to our society if one side or the other seeks to impose its will on the other in a highly unsocial and uncivilised manner is enormous, and we have to learn to sit down and go on with discussions until, as a result of a compromise on the part of both parties, there is agreement, albeit after the strike instead of before it.
1341 The third point I should like to make may sound rather trivial. In paragraph 37(ii) there is a reference to the fact that payment systems should be,based on some form of work measurement where payment is linked to performance;This is a semantic point, but it is important. In the last report of the Prices and Incomes Board, about methods of payment, reference was continually made to measuring the time allowances and prices under piece-work schemes. It may be news to many Members of this House that consistent researches into the work of rate fixers (and I do not care what sort of modern methods they use) to establish piece-work prices vary over the samples taken. There have been many notable pieces of research carried out by universities which have varied by plus or minus 40 per cent. If anyone is going to refer to that as measurement he will simply be leading everybody up the gar den path. When one turns away—and, thank God! people are turning away from so-called piece rates on to day rates—it has become common to refer to these as "measured day rates". There is no measurement in it at all. I wish we could come to reality like disciplined thinkers and stop using inappropriate terms. It leads to a great deal of trouble in industry when people believe that, because a price varies and they are unable to earn the money they used to earn, or somebody is earning far more than he expected, it is a fault on the part of management because it is faulty measurement, whereas if it is known to be a matter of pure judgment one can discuss it on a much more rational basis. So I should avoid the term "measurement" wherever it is clear that measurement is not possible.
My fourth point refers to the false dichotomy that continues in this document between supervisors and managers. There are in industry different roles which should be referred to properly: on the one hand, "supervisors" and on the other, "managers". It is quite easy to define a manager: the manager has responsibility for the work of his subordinates and he must have the authority to veto an appointment in a role subordinate to him. He must be able to make differential judgments of his subordinates and he must be able, if necessary, and subject to appeal, to have them removed 1342 from those roles if they cannot do the part of the work that he has to give them to do. Then there are people who assist managers, and these are supervisors. It is quite easy to define the super visor as an employee who assists his manager by assigning work to those members of his manager's team of subordinates who are allocated to him by his manager, and seeing that those subordinates get that work done.
This Code confuses the whole issue. It has a footnote on page 5 which says:In this code ' supervisor' means a member of the first line of management. who is responsible for his work group to a higher level of management.If he is a member of the first line of management then he is a manager. So why confuse the issue by calling him a supervisor? It seems to me to be a great pity because there is need for both terms, "supervisor" and "manager". Where the Industrial Court has to deter mine some of the disputes that will arise then, believe me, it will have trouble on these grounds because it will not know whether the supervisor is supposed to have behaved in a certain way or not, according to whether or not it dubs him to be a manager. This seems to me to be a pity.
I remember an occasion of a B.B.C. broadcast when I was approached to take part. The subject of the broadcast was, "Is a supervisor a member of the management team?" I said that I would take part if I was first allowed to define the term 'manager'. They said, "That is too technical for us", and so I said, "Well, you can go away and have an absurd broadcast if you like but you are not having it with me unless I can define the term 'manager'. They went away and came back and said that it would be nice to have a definition after all, so would I take part? So I did take part and I defined the term. The programme was done on tape in the usual way, but when the broadcast was relayed they left out my definition. At the end of the debate the man who was summing up said:" We have had a very interesting debate but somewhat confused, because this is a very confusing subject". It was an absolute lie. The confusion was introduced by the B.B.C. owing to a complete failure on their part to define their terms, and I 1343 am sorry that this Code fails in the same way. This is a matter of some importance which I hope will be cleared up in a further revision.
Under the question of appeals procedures, I am glad to see several references to rights of employees to appeal when they feel aggrieved, and that employees should be told how they can do so. I feel quite strongly that this is a case for the sort of appendix to which I referred, because there are many firms to-day who would say, "Of course our employees have the right of appeal". Your Lord ships know the managing director who says, "My office door is always open", but we know very well that the employee who takes advantage of that offer is taking a very risky course of action. There is a need for a proper procedure, properly worked out, and there are several available that could have been included as examples. Paragraph 132(iii) says:provide for a right of appeal, wherever practicable, to a level of management not previously involved".That is where a man has been disciplined. I think that stands open to criticism. A man must always have a right of appeal and the words, "where practicable" are surely a rather unfortunate intrusion.
I have made a number of points and I do not want it to be thought that they are made in a carping manner. I disagree with some aspects of the Industrial Relations Act, but certainly one of the excellent by-products is this Code. I believe it is an extremely important act to write a Code and to give it this indirect sanction which it receives when it is meshed with the Industrial Relations Act. I give credit to the Government for improving a great deal on its original draft, but I think it could be improved still further without too much deep thinking, and I hope that on a future occasion, when the Secretary of State comes to consider revision, some of the points I have made will be taken into account.
§ 6.58 p.m.
§ BARONESS SEEAR
My Lords, if my noble friend Lord Byers were here tonight I am sure that he would not be using the rather unflattering adjectives that he applied to the previous edition of the Code. There is no doubt at all that 1344 the Code as we now have it is a great improvement on the Consultative Document. I suppose that is one of the purposes of having consultative documents. We on these Benches certainly received this Code with what I fear I must describe as tepid enthusiasm; tepid for reasons that I shall go on to explain, but the enthusiasm is certainly there. As the noble Lord, Lord Brown, has said, the Code provides very valuable guidance indeed. It is an extremely useful check list for employers and trade unions up and down the country who are now seriously bending their minds to an improvement in their industrial relations policies and practices, and I am sure that we shall see this Code on the desks not only of middle managers but, much more important, on the desks of directors and board members who have to see that the Act is implemented, and implemented in the spirit as well as in the letter. It is undoubtedly, then, a useful document.
Why did I say that our enthusiasm was tepid? Because I think that the drafters of this Code have had a very good stab at an impossible job. It is not in fact possible to provide a Code which can be applied to the whole of employment in this country, to vastly different kinds of enterprise in which people work, without a great deal of generalisation, over simplification, and inevitably the writing of cliché, and this is no criticism of the drafters of the Code; it is inherent in the task with which they were presented. However, we have got it, and it certainly adds greatly to the value of the Industrial Relations Act, an Act about which we, as your Lordships know, had very serious reservations indeed. Of the two documents there is no question that the Code is far more valuable than the Act. We could, of course, have had the Code without having any Act; but that is another matter.
We have now spent about two years getting the Industrial Relations Act and the Code of Practice through the two Houses of Parliament. Can we now put this behind us? It is there. The Government gave us to understand that it was to be a framework within which good industrial relations were to develop. Can we, now that it is on the Statute Book, turn once more to the recommendations of the late Lord Donovan, which, in the view of many of us, were too much overlooked 1345 at the time the Industrial Relations Bill was being passed? Your Lordships will remember that Lord Donovan, in his recommendations, stressed again and again that the real place that matters in industrial relations is the company, the factory. Perhaps it was inevitable, but that finds little place in the Act, and some place, but inevitably not enough, because of the nature of the document, inside the Code. It is the factory, the company, that matters. That, after all, is the place where the work is done, the money earned, profits gained, the disputes break out and are ultimately settled. It is what happens there, and the people inside the place of work who are going to determine whether in fact we have good industrial relations in this country or whether we do not. The bureaucrats and academics who stand on the outside giving good advice —and in practice it sometimes is—to the people trying to make the thing work inside, have about 5 per cent. to con tribute to the real job to be done. Can we not now start thinking again about the way in which we can refashion the institutions at the level of the plant, as Lord Donovan urged us to do, and about what new procedures and practices and devices we need in order that this can take place?
From the Liberal Party we have been urging for a very long while that the time has come in this country when we, like many other countries in Europe, need a Works Councils Act. We need to institutionalise the procedures at the level of the factory. We need to recognise the power groups, the interests of the different elements which have a contribution to make in the running of the enterprise, and we believe that this will only be done if we legislate for works councils and give them proper legal powers. We have been much impressed by the way in which the Germans have developed practices of this kind. We do not say that it is necessary—it is probably not right—to imitate the German practice just as it stands, or to copy here the procedures which have apparently worked with considerable success in that country. It is not necessary, although it may in the long run prove to be advantageous, at the beginning, at any rate, to contemplate introducing the device of the supervisory board. But as we move into Europe we 1346 are going to find that practices of this kind are widely developed inside Europe. We are likely to find that the European company statute is going to make suggestions along these lines, and I should like to urge the Government now, in con junction with the C.B.I. and the T.U.C., perhaps working through the procedure of N.E.D.C., to start threshing out what kind of legislation for works councils could best be adopted in this country to bring our thinking into line with the best European thinking and our practices into line with the best practices there.
There are examples of great interest which have been introduced on a voluntary scale. The noble Lord, Lord Brown, was too modest to point to the great experiments which have been made in his company. That is only one example, but a very important one, of the way in which policies of this kind could develop over industry in this country as a whole, and this seems to me to be an urgent next step to which we should devote our attention straight away.
May I, before sitting down, make one other much more general point. As I have said, what really matters is not the legislation outside: it is not what the civil servants and the academics say to the people in industry: it is what the managers, the trade unionists, the shop stewards, the rank and file do and what sort of relations they form. We suffer grievously in this country for a basic lack of respect for what these men of all grades do. If you asked me why we lag so steadily behind in this country in many areas of economic development, I would say because here the task of a manager, the job of a manager, is not held in high regard. On the other side of the Atlantic, in Germany, in France, the title "engineer" ranks very high. It is not true in the United Kingdom. There is an unholy alliance between the extreme Right and the extreme Left; the old social prejudices and attitudes of the extreme Right, which play down the importance of management and give it less than the status that it ought to have, and the attitude of the extreme Left, which still sees the manager as the capitalist grinder of the faces of the poor. Until we get rid of these attitudes and see the tremendous social value of the job which is being done by managers we shall not progress. But if we think for 1347 a moment what a manager's job really is, of how the resources of men, money and materials are within his control, how the economic development of the country, the resources that we all need for better social development, depend on the way in which he does his job, then surely we shall begin to rate that task far more highly than at present. Men rise to the expectations that other people have of them. This is the point that I should like to leave in this debate: to say that we need urgently to think about ways in which at the level of the factory, within the company itself, the work can be more appreciated and the task done by all can receive the respect which is due to it.
§ 7.9 p.m.
THE EARL OF HALSBURY
My Lords, 1 shall make a very brief intervention this evening, simply to express my disappointment at the softening of the Code in relation to the status of the professional man, to which the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, referred in opening the debate. I have of course been concerned with this point from the start. I moved four Amendments to the Bill, of which the noble Lord accepted one on Report, which did at least mention in the Bill the status of the professional man. He may still be between the hammer and the anvil, but at least official cognisance has been taken that he exists.
We were promised that the matters I had hoped to include in the Bill would be attended to in the Code of Practice, but I thought that the original Consultative Document, at paragraph 17 in one clause, broadly drawn, dealt with the matter as satisfactorily as I could wish. But this has now been softened, and we have three narrowly drawn clauses in which the position of a professional man is slowly whittled away, and the noble Lord has told us why. Pressure has been brought to bear from the employers on the one side, and the unions on the other, saying how very inconvenient it would be to have special cases. Of course it would. Doing one's duty is inconvenient, but the whole point about the professional man is that he does not stand on his rights. The employer stands on his rights, the unions stand on their rights, but the professional man stands on his obligations and duties in relation to his clients, and it is this right to stand on that that I do not want to see whittled away.
1348 Paragraph 21 gives a recital, and refers to the existence of the professional man, but again it gets the sort of moral note quite wrong in referring to the professional man as being liable to incur penalties. The professions do not run kangaroo courts: that is done in other parts of the world. Nobody of course would impose a sanction on a professional man who violated his code under duress. No question of that arises. What they have done is to take on obligations over and above the obligations in law, which is the maximum that is imposed on their neighbours. I think it strikes a wrong note. At paragraph 22, of course (and this again shows where the pressure comes from) are recited the obligations which he has solemnly taker. on by joining the union, but there is no reference at all to the obligation to his clients or his employer—though this is again referred to in paragraph 23 where the employer and the union come in on level terms.
The best way of playing Russian mess ages (the little game we all remember from our childhood) is to tell a Parliamentary draftsman what you want, amend it in the House, and then get a court to construe it in due course; then all sorts of funny doctrines arise. Anybody who is going to construe paragraphs 21, 22 and 23 is going to think, why is the employer left out of paragraph 22 when he comes into paragraph 23? I should have liked to see them enter in on level terms. In other words, the position has been eroded.
I promised your Lordships a short speech, and I am not going to deal with the matter in greater detail except to make one point; namely, the recitation of public health and safety, the health of an individual, the wellbeing of an individual needing care through social service, are a quite inadequate recital of the matters which a professional man might look upon as obligations. May I, just very briefly, refer to an activity for which I was responsible some rather long years ago, namely, running a high temperature laboratory doing long-period endurance tests at high temperatures on steel, "creep" tests, fatigue tests, and so on, some of these running for 2,000 or 3,000 hours. I had to be in continuous attendance keeping the themostats in order, seeing that the instrumentation did not go wrong, that 1349 the temperature remained constant, and so on. Of course I could not work round the clock, but I had assistants to do it for me. The idea that I would have, as it were, sabotaged thousands of hours of my own handiwork to the prejudice of my employer just because some third party told me I had got to because, willy-nilly, I was involved in some wretched industrial dispute, would have been absolute anathema. This is just as much an obligation of the professional man in this regard as public health and the health or wellbeing of an individual from the social service point of view. This recital is, from my point of view, quite inadequate and unacceptable.
§ 7.15 p.m.
§ LORD NELSON OF STAFFORD
My Lords, I fully support this Draft of the Code and the Motion which is before us. As my noble friend has already explained to us, it has been drawn up after a great deal of consideration of the points raised in the long debates in this House and elsewhere, and as a result of representations and views from many quarters. Therefore, it would not be appropriate, I am sure, to go over all this ground again to-night. I rise for only one purpose; that is, to support the views which the noble Earl, Lord Halsbury, has just expressed.
I must emphasise to my noble friend that among professional workers, those who are professionally qualified, there is a great deal of disappointment at the watering down of this paragraph origin ally paragraph 17 in the Consultative Document to which reference has already been made. I think the attention of your Lordships and also of the Government should be drawn to this situation. This clause was intended originally to allay the considerable anxieties which existed of the sort of position in which professional people could be placed. Most of them to-day do not see these fears allayed in this Draft Code put before us. Positions could arise when really serious divided loyalties could exist for the professionally qualified worker who is governed by a Code of Practice which itself is directed towards the protection of the public interest, and this is the purpose of his professional Code of Practice. He could well have divided loyalties between that Code on the one hand and his colleagues, his trade union or his employer, on the other. There 1350 is a very strong feeling among these workers, wherever they may be, that this present situation is not satisfactorily taken care of.
At this late hour I will not take up your Lordships' time in detailing the sort of situations which could arise, but those outlined in the present paragraph 22, referring to public health and safety, the health of an individual needing medical and other treatment, the wellbeing of an individual needing care through personal social services, important as they are in themselves, are by no means enough, and by no means, I would assure your Lord ships, do they cover all the cases which could well arise. I would merely, then, confine myself to expressing the hope that the Government will keep the position of the professionally qualified person under consideration in the months ahead while the Code of conduct is put into practice and we see how it works; and that when it comes up for review they will have this situation very much in mind. In the meantime, I am sure that it is the earnest hope of all your Lordships—it certainly is mine—that this Code, when put into practice by those who have the very difficult task of conducting industrial relations, whether as employers or employed, will prove to provide extremely valuable and helpful guidelines in an activity which is so important to us all.
§ 7.18 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT AMORY
My Lords, the Industrial Relations Act set the legal framework for industrial relations, and this Code is a positive guide to conduct. As such, I think it will be heartily welcomed everywhere as a handbook that covers the ground well. The noble Earl, Lord Halsbury, raised the terrifying prospect that the lawyers might get their hands on it. I can only say that I hope that the lawyers will keep themselves a very long way away from this document, because it is not a document whose effectiveness depends on its legal interpretations. My noble friend Lord Drumalbyn has covered the ground with his usual skill and lucidity, and at this late hour I do not wish to refer to the details of the Code. It is disappointing, as he said, that the trade unions have not given it a warmer welcome—though it is encouraging that there is a great deal of common ground, in fact, between the trade union document and this Code.
1351 If I may, I should like merely to stress two or three rather obvious points. First of all, I always enjoy following the noble Lord, Lord Brown. At a certain point in what he says I always feel, "Now his feet have left the ground", and then immediately the noble Lord says, "I have practised this for 24 years, and it works". Invariably I come back to the same conclusion, that the noble Lord, Lord Brown, always speaks in these matters from first-hand experience, and very good first-hand experience, too.
I like his suggestion of the model rules, which might be of help to small firms which will not want to spend an enormous amount of time on drafting. I also like very much his recommendation of talking, talking and talking. It is almost always the right answer. Never break off talks, because if you do it means defeat for both sides. I think he touched a good point when he talked about the managing director's door always being open. It certainly touched me, because when I was a managing director I always thought that my door was open. But I was a little discouraged one day when somebody opened the door and said, "I have been trying to make up my mind for two years to come and see you." I then felt that there was not much point in saying, "But the door has always been open."
I should like to make three rather obvious points. First of all, good industrial relations cannot be achieved simply by following regulations, however conscientiously. They are a reflection of an attitude of mutual trust and respect, and mutual confidence which has to be earned by decent sensible conduct on the part of both parties. Industrial relations is a plant of slow growth which withers if it is not continuously tended, and when it is lost it takes a very long time to grow again. This Code is very valuable in providing sound guide-lines and in being something to check up on from time to time. But it is not a substitute for personal relations and personal responsibilities. You cannot really conduct industrial relations very well with the rule book in your hand all the time. Therefore, if this excellent Code is to succeed it must be personalised at all levels, and not just carried around in people's hands.
1352 Secondly, though management carries the first responsibility and should generally take the initiative, it must—if it has not already done so—shed those old-fashioned notions of prerogative and privilege which really do not fit very well to-day. Management, indeed both sides, must always be all the time trying to reconcile the interests of shareholders and employees, which conflict from time to time. Thirdly, in human relations the relative importance of an issue cannot be settled completely objectively. Whether it is important or not depends so much on the viewpoint and the situation of the individuals concerned. What may often seem trivial to management, may not be at all trivial to those immediately concerned.
My fourth point is one which I can never get out of my mind; that is, that bigness in so many industrial organisations to-day is a terrible handicap, be cause bigness breeds impersonal relation ships and, indirectly, reliance on the rule book. All I can say is that the bigger the organisation, the greater the efforts that are required to ensure personal relations and personal responsibility at all levels. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Brown, that a supervisor is part of management. Most people believe that it is easier to feel loyalty to small groups than to big ones, so large under takings must be broken down into small groups. The noble Baroness, Lady Seear, mentioned the factory and I agree with her. But we should go further than the factory, and should go down into departments and small groups which really mean something.
Finally, my Lords, let us discard as utterly false two allegations that are often, and perhaps increasingly, made. The first is that people are interested only in the money return that they get from their work. History and human experience prove that that is a dangerous illusion, and when it is true it is an indictment of the nature of the job. The second illusion that I want to ask your Lordships to reject is that happiness and satisfaction cannot nowadays be found in work, and must therefore be sought only in leisure. Again, one has only to check upon one's personal experience of those who seem to get the most out of life to prove the superficiality and shallowness of such an allegation. Pride 1353 in skill, the satisfaction that comes from meeting challenges, and achievements are the breath of human life. But some jobs, alas! —perhaps an increasing number—are of such a mechanical nature that it must be almost impossible to derive much personal satisfaction from them. The remedy in such cases is not to accept the fact, but to try in one way or another to enrich the nature of those occupations. This is a good and valuable document, although the practices it describes should, as I think my noble friend Lord Drumalbyn pointed out at the beginning of this debate, not he regarded as static or the final truth, but as a springboard to further progress.
§ 7.27 p.m.
§ LORD HANKEY
My Lords, I should like to join those who have given a warm welcome to this draft Code of Practice. I thought at first that it would be exceedingly difficult to draft anything that really made sense and which applied generally throughout industry where conditions are so diverse, but I believe that this is an extremely good start to solving the problem, though we shall obviously have to amend it as we go along.
Many people are at present discouraged about our industrial relations. I do not think we ought to lose heart about them. Some of our difficulties are due to inflation, and even the Swedes and the Germans have had their troubles owing to that. Some of our difficulties, especially the redundancies, are due to a recession which is not only ours but fairly general. That will pass because, in the long run, we know how to deal with it. But it is obvious that we have to remove the grosser errors and mistakes on both sides of industry, which, unfortunately, characterise our industrial relations. I am sure that we shall never hold our own in the Common Market unless we do that. This is where the Code of Industrial Practice has a very important part to play. As the noble Viscount, Lord Amory, said, it is forward-looking, and what we need is something which is forward-looking and of practical assistance to industry. This means that we really must try to get it widely studied and widely applied. It may not be the only key to better industrial relations, but I certainly believe that it is the best key.
1354 I should like to draw attention to one or two detailed points. For instance, paragraphs 7 and 12 refer to the importance of training in industrial relations, both for management at all levels and for trade unions, and especially for shop stewards. I was very impressed in Sweden by the admirable training institution which the Swedish Confederation of Trade Unions (L.O.) has set up. It is really quite excellent. In this country we do this on a far smaller scale. I believe the time has come, now that we have a Code of Practice, to make sure that this deficiency is corrected. I believe it is time to draw in the universities, many of which now have sections dealing with industrial relations. I believe that universities all over the country should be prompted and moved to provide courses on industrial relations. My Lords, it is expensive to attend courses such as these; it means leaving work and devoting time to study. I think that the Government ought to consider a system of grants which would enable people to go to such courses which would he made less expensive. And, in case anybody should think that the Govern ment are on the side of the employers only, this system ought to be administered by "Neddy ", with the participation of the trade unions and with both sides of industry.
I should like to draw attention to paragraph 71 on collective bargaining, which recognises the need for due regard to be paid to the general interests of the community. This is a very important thought, because unless due regard is paid to the essential interests of the community the stronger organisations will always "down" the others. It is essential that the Government should continue to play the sort of role they now play, and preferably an enhanced role, because only the Government can really judge expertly what are the general interests of the community. Equally, my Lords, it is essential that in doing this the Government should carry both sides of industry with them; and here again I urge that this is a framework where "Neddy" could be exceedingly useful and where its influence might be developed still further.
Paragraph 121 recognises the need to settle disputes promptly. I do not think enough attention can he paid to this. It 1355 is when disputes drag on and on—they go from one instance to another, and higher up still; they bedevil relations at national or industrial level, and still are not settled—that the workers get into a state of complete despair and go in for un official disputes, or take other measures. Every possible effort ought to be made to speed up procedures and get disputes settled and out of the way.
My Lords, I have been greatly shocked by the act of the Yorkshire miners in stopping maintenance men from pre serving the mines—and, indeed, from preserving their own source of livelihood. This really is an incredible state of affairs. Why have the men been driven to take such action? I think it is extra ordinary that the British should not long ago have invented, applied and effectively enforced a less brutal, self-defeating and ridiculous method of settling industrial disputes. I hope that we shall take note of the appalling situation which has come about and that we shall use the occasion to get a great many people to study this Code of Practice and to apply it throughout industry. We certainly all have a far greater interest in restoring a reasonable degree of prosperity to our country and to our workpeople than in tolerating such futile industrial relations as these. In short, I hope everyone will help to get the Code studied and applied as widely and as effectively as possible.
§ 7.34 p.m.
§ THE EARL OF COURTOWN
My Lords. I welcome the introduction of this Code, which may well become a landmark in industrial relations in this country. To those concerned in this field, both in management and in the unions, there are important principles in the Code which have never before seen re cognition in a Government publication. The noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, spoke of how much consultation had gone on before the production of this Code from the Consultative Document. I think that if your Lordships compare the two you will realise the extent to which this is so. There is hardly a sentence that has not been changed; and although in some cases it is difficult to detect the difference in meaning in the new edition, the Code has nevertheless, as a 1356 whole, undoubtedly been changed for the better.
In our previous debate on this subject I noted down three basic objections from noble Lords opposite: first, that it is paternalistic; second, that it does not recommend union and employee participation in management decisions; and, third, that it does not make employers responsible for urging employees to join unions before recognition. Reference has already been made to the paternalistic objection. I think it is difficult for any document which states general principles to avoid saying what may appear obvious to those steeped in the subject. But I would say that if it does appear paternalistic, it appears just as much so to wards management as towards unions and employees. There can, however, be few companies that can truthfully say, with their hands on their hearts, that they carry out faithfully and comprehensively all the principles and methods of operation recommended in this Code. though from my own experience I would say that enlightened management would find little to disagree with in the Code.
Let me move on to the second objection—that is, that the Code does not recommend union and employee participation in management decisions. As my noble friend Lord Drumalbyn has said, it goes a good deal further than the previous Consultative Document, and I do not believe we have yet reached the stage at which we can define satisfactorily the extent to which employees can be involved in management decisions. Over the last few years there have been great developments in management, union and employee relationships in certain firms. Management and employees have worked together to establish agreed manning of plants and ways of operating. There are, indeed, many decisions made in industry which would not be made without the concurrence of the employee representatives. But there are also many which have to be made by management after an appropriate amount of consultation. Management has to weigh factors and maintain a balance among the employees, shareholders, customers and the national interests of the country in which they are operating. I think it is almost impossible, at this stage, at any rate, to define the extent to which employees, through their elected representatives, 1357 should be involved in management decisions; but it is, I think, a subject for further study.
The third objection was in connection with urging employees to join unions where no unions were recognised. The new edition of the Code states:Where trade unions are recognised for negotiating purposes management should … make clear to employees that it welcomes their membership of an appropriate recognised union and their participation in the union's activities.I believe that it is right not to go further than that at this stage. It must be remembered that there are a large number of small firms which have little or no union membership at present. The Bolton Report produces the fact that there are in this country 820,000 small firms employing 4.4 million people, and at present almost two-thirds of these have no union members on their payroll. On the whole, small firms have a good record of industrial relations, and few strikes, but little of the overhead, to which my noble friend Lord Amory referred, which a large firm has to have in relation to its personnel affairs. It is important not to overburden these small firms at this stage. I support the suggestion of the noble Lord, Lord Brown, of having appendices giving recommended ways of dealing with various aspects of this Code. I think that this would be particularly valuable to small firms.
My Lords, there are just two further points that I should like to make. One is in relation to the image of the unions. There is no doubt that, rightly or wrongly, the image of the unions is not always attractive to the so-called white-collar workers, and it affects their willing ness to join. It is these workers who tend to increase as a proportion of the working population; and if the unions are to maintain their proportionate strength they must be able to recruit them. Independent studies in certain companies have shown a clear antipathy among white-collar workers, and especially among women, to unions. It seems to me to be most important that the unions should seek to improve their own image to these potential recruits. It is dangerous for an individual like me to speculate on the reasons for this antipathy among thousands of people who might be union members. It is a subject for a wider objective study which I believe the unions could 1358 beneficially carry out for their own purposes.
The second point is in relation to the question of specialised activities and specialists, which is linked closely to the problem facing the noble Earl, Lord Halsbury. More and more people in industry consider themselves specialists. They learn specialism and move, possibly, from company to company, or from one part of a company to another, using the same or similar specialist skills. Whether or not many of these belong to a society of some sort with its own code of ethics, there must be hundreds who have these qualifications or professions. But there is no definition in the Industrial Relations Act of what is a professional man. Clearly, the references which have been quoted in this Code refer to very few professions. The noble Lord, Lord Nelson of Stafford, indicated this when he said that the list referred to in the Code is nothing like complete.
I think that there is some evidence, too, that specialised workers prefer to join a specialised trade union, rather than a general union. So with increasing unioni-sation we may find a number of unions represented in each company. This can lead to inter-union difficulties as particular skills and technologies change. I heard it said recently on the radio that one of the reasons for the good industrial relations and the lack of strikes in Germany was that there was only one union in each company. It also stated that this was imposed upon them after the last war by the Allies and particularly by the British representatives on the Allied Control Commission. This contrasts with the situation before the last war when, apparently, there were many unions with in each firm. I think it possible that this is a subject that will require further study, along with the position of the professions. The multiplicity of unions here may be a problem, but I believe it is possible to devise a compromise by which employees may have a relationship with two unions, one for their specialism and the other for their overall relationship with their employer. One of these unions might be a union of what they would call their profession.
In conclusion, I may say that I welcome this Code. Although some people may wish for further items to be included, I believe that there is general agreement that the 1359 document is a good one. The problem now (and this was referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Hankey) is how to put this over and into operation with both management and employees. There is clearly a need for training for all concerned. Whether or not the universities are the right place for this, I suggest that the polytechnics and the technical colleges may have much to contribute.
§ 7.45 p.m.
§ LORD PLATT
My Lords, I apologise for speaking, I hope briefly, at this late hour. I very much agree with the noble Lord, Lord Brown, that this debate should not have come on at so late an hour; we spent most of the afternoon discussing something very much more trivial than that which we are now discussing in an almost empty house. But I have sought tile permission of the people concerned to say a few words. Before I do so, I should like to explain why my name is not on the list of speakers. It is purely due to a misunderstanding. I rang the office of the Government Chief Whip and, as always, received a most courteous reply. I inquired whether this was a case in which one could put down Amendments. As I expected, I was told that it was not. I said that I hoped that this would not preclude my making a few acid comments. The courteous lady to whom I was speaking said, "I am sure, Lord Platt, that you can make some acid comments." She evidently thought that these were going to be interjections, whereas I thought that she was going to put my name on the list. This is how the misunderstanding came about.
Your Lordships will be glad to know at this late hour that most of my acid comments have been made in a most wonder fully restrained way by the noble Earl, Lord Halsbury, and that it is not so necessary for me to make them. I would call attention once again, as I did during the long, tedious discussions on the Indus trial Relations Bill, to the fact that clearly it was written by and for people who are concerned in industry. It is called the Industrial Relations Act. The document we are now discussing is called the Indus trial Relations Code of Practice. In its Introduction we read:Good industrial relations are a joint responsibility. They need the continuing co operation of all concerned—managements, trade unions, employers' associations and 1360 individual employees—and the discussion of day-to-day problems as they occur.Whoever wrote that had no idea that he was writing for professional people, people like those in my own profession, whose first obligation is to their patients and not to their trade union or to their employer. If the trade unions blame the professions for wanting different treatment, this is not the fault of the professions, it is the fault of the Government who forced us into this Bill which really does not apply to us at all.
Again, on page 7 of the Code we read:The individual employee has obligations to his employer, to his trade union if he belongs to one, and to his fellow employees.There is no suggestion that a person may have other obligations which surmount all of these; in other words the Code is not written for us at all. So we start with a little prejudice against it. Nevertheless, I agree with those who welcome this Code of Practice. I think it is a great improvement on what has gone before. I think that the Industrial Relations Act, although I do not agree with it all, is tremendously necessary at the present time. But the people who have praised it have not seen if from the point of view of the professions.
The only specific point I should like to make is in reference to paragraph 22 on page 8, which concerns professional employees. Here a little concession has been made and, as the noble Earl has said, it has now been watered down in this new version of the Code of Practice. This has been endorsed from the Government Benches by the noble Lord, Lord Nelson of Stafford. As a result of this little concession the Code refers to, "the health of an individual needing medical or other treatment". It actually mentions the medical profession—quite wonderful! It is known to me that the British Medical Association has tried to get the Department of Employment simply to take away the words "needing medical care or treatment", but this has been refused. This seems to me to be carrying things too far. Under these words, "the health of an individual needing medical or other treatment", a doctor involved in some dispute, who happens to be a member of a trade union and so on, can give treatment to an individual who needs treatment; but he cannot give a child an injection against diphtheria because there 1361 is a diphtheria epidemic about as the child is not a person "needing medical or other treatment". That may seem petty, if you like, but it seems to me another example of a case where the advice of the profession has been ignored. But I welcome the Code so far as it applies to industry.
§ 7.51 p.m.
§ LORD DELACOURT-SM1TH
My Lords, like other noble Lords who have spoken, I do not intend to detain your Lordships for long. I should like to begin, however, by associating myself most warmly with what was said by the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, and echoed by the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, about the debt which we owe to Lord Donovan. I had the privilege of knowing Lord Donovan for something like 25 years, since the time when we were Members together in another place. I greatly admired not only the great intellectual ability with which he was endowed, but also the humanity and the wisdom which he was able to bring to every subject to which he gave consideration. My belief is, my Lords, that in due course we shall have to retrace some of the steps taken in recent months in respect of industrial relations and go back to the principles. and even more to the temper of mind, expressed in the Report of the Royal Commission over which Lord Donovan presided. He indeed rendered a great service, and the public life of this country is much poorer for his absence from it.
I wish that I could find it in my heart to join in the rather diminished and somewhat muted and qualified praise which has come from various quarters for this Code of Practice. If I could believe that it was going to serve the purpose of effecting some improvement in industrial relations I should be happy to give it a welcome, quite irrespective of the quarter from which it has come. But, my Lords, I am afraid that there are some of us who cannot feel that this Code, produced as it has been, is really going to serve a useful purpose. It may sound harsh to say that about this so amiable, palpably well-meaning, even if some what laboured in places, rather placid document. It may sound better to wish it well and hope for the best. But it is no good disguising or refusing to face the fact that this Code, whatever virtues it may have—and I shall try to show later 1362 that in my judgment its virtues are very qualified—is hopelessly prejudiced by its association with the Industrial Relations Act. And it has been greatly weakened by the circumstances in which it has been produced. By that, I mean those circum stances in which it has been impracticable for the major parties, the Government, the trade unions and the employers, to sit down in a real atmosphere of a round table conference and try to work out some principles which may assist to ameliorate industrial relations in this country.
That situation, that handling of this subject, has been quite impossible in the circumstances and atmosphere of the last 18 months. No one, I think, can deny that the main responsibility for the lack of an atmosphere in which there could be a real round table consideration of these problems must rest upon the shoulders of the Government. I believe now that members of the Government must them selves recognise how ill-advised was their action in the cursory way in which they treated the trade union movement at the time when they were starting to frame the Industrial Relations Act. No doubt, in part. it was imposed on those directly responsible by the desire of the Government to launch the long, lumbering procedure of this incredibly cumbersome and over-complex Act.
The Code of Industrial practice has been commended by Government supporters in a rather complacent way, even by the standards of complacency set by the present Government in their statements on industrial relations. I do not think that anyone would have judged from the debate that we have had, and from the introduction of this Code by the noble Lord, that we are seeing in facet after facet of our industrial relations to-day, not an improvement but an increasing confusion and increasing embitterment. It is the Government's policy in industrial relations which is giving rise to this confusion and embitterment. For example, one would not have thought that the trade union movement of this country, which has co-operated so readily in peace and in war with Governments of such different outlooks, is at the moment engaged in the most comprehensive and united programme of non-co-operation that it has ever been engaged in; and that this extends not 1363 only to a refusal or the greatest reluctance to register under the Act, but also to non-co-operation with the Commission on Industrial Relations because of the change in the character of that Commission to which the Industrial Relations Act has given rise. This non-co-operation with the Commission on Industrial Relations is already producing difficulties for the work of the Commission, and some of the reports which it has produced give clear indications of the handicaps under which it is now having to work because of the atmosphere which the Government have produced.
One would not have thought, after the perspective which the noble Lord set before us, that so far from having improving industrial relations, we had a year ago a long and bitter strike in an industry which, until then, had been marked by extremely good industrial relations. One would not think that at the moment we have what may be a long and bitter strike in the coal industry, the first national coal strike for almost half a century. When the Industrial Relations Bill was under discussion, some of us ventured to suggest that there was a possibility that we might find that, even though we might have fewer unofficial strikes, we should have more and more serious official strikes; and it looks as if that danger is becoming a reality, even before the Act is fully in operation. Already, as the end of February approaches, trade union representatives and, I expect, the employers, too, are finding themselves inevitably getting deeper and deeper into the morass of legalism to which the complexity and ambiguity of the Industrial Relations Act has given rise. Unhappily, energies which might be used for better and more constructive purposes are being diverted to dealing with what over very much of industry are the quite unreal legal problems which the Act forces upon the attention of those on the two sides of industry.
I said that I would be brief, and I want merely to mention one or two aspects of the Code as it has come before us. The noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, has referred to some of the changes that have been made in the Code in response to criticisms which have been made by noble Lords and in other 1364 quarters. I think I recall that I ventured when we were discussing the Consultative Document to praise the Secretary of State's Foreword, and to say that it was very much better than the Draft Code; that I wished to goodness the spirit of the Foreword could get into the Code; and I expressed the hope that I should not cause any embarrassment to anybody by saying this, or cause the removal of the Foreword at a later stage. Well, the Foreword that I saw has disappeared. The noble Lord assures us that it has appeared in a new form and taken on a new lease of life in the Introduction. But it is, unhappily, a slightly changed form in which it appears, for the phrase which I particularly admired and praised in the Foreword wasthe fundamental principle underlying the Code is that industrial relations in a free society are best conducted by collective bar gaining between employers and strong representative trade unions ".That useful and rather important word "best" appears to me to have disappeared from the Foreword in the course of its transformation into an introduction. Collective bargaining, we are told, is of vital importance, but we are not told, as we ought to be told, that collective bargaining is the best way of conducting our industrial relations.
Then I regretted that the Code did not do more in the form in which it was then before us to effect a positive strengthening of the trade union movement. I cannot say that I think the document that we now have represents much of an advance in this regard. The Consultative Document did at least say that employers should encourage employees to join. Now the document merely says that they should welcome their joining. Perhaps that is not a very significant change, but it is certainly not a strengthening. I am bound to say that I still remain of the opinion which I formed in the course of our detailed discussions on the Bill, that there is nothing in the Act or on the Code which will get trade unions established in concerns where employers have hitherto resisted or have discouraged their establishment. That I believe is a great weakness.
Let me give a practical example of the sort of thing that is happening. I am acquainted with a concern which has for many years told new entrants in quite 1365 simple, clear and understandable terms that they are not merely allowed to join a trade union but are encouraged to do so: and the hope was expressed that they would play an active part in the trade union which they joined: excellent sentiments, clearly, humanly and understand ably expressed. I have now seen the legal document with which, at any rate at this stage—and I hope that perhaps they will have second thoughts—this particular concern are proposing to greet new entrants, and which will be substituted for the admirable, simple, straightforward and quite unexceptionable advice which I have quoted.
This elaborate legal document, based on Section 5 of the Act, first of all says that there is a right to join or not to join a union, unless of course it should be that an agency shop or an approved closed shop arrangement turns out to be established in the concern in question. It then goes on, provided the entrant has picked his way through the legal jargon so far, to say that if he joins a trade union he will be allowed at appropriate times to play a part in the trade union. Then this extraordinary document goes on to say: "'Appropriate time' means your own time." This is a great widening of freedom! It then continues: "If you are going to undertake any trade union activity during working time, it must be with the express approval of your super visor." I should have thought that in most large employments a fairly good set of arrangements had been worked out for providing facilities for workshop representatives during working hours; and everybody knows that in any enterprise of any scale this is an absolute necessity.
I have quoted that example from employers who have a reputation for being (shall I say?) at least as intelligent and progressive as the generality of employers, to show the kind of situation to which this legalism to which we are now subject is going to lead. We shall find employers telling men, in language which will be largely incomprehensible because of its careful legal preparation, that they are entitled to certain basic rights, casting doubt upon those additional rights which have been established by practice or negotiation in the past. There will be some employers who may do this because they think it is what the law requires them to do. I am afraid 1366 there will be other employers who will do it because they will be delighted to have a basis and a ground for removing some of the rights which have been acquired in practice, and the necessary facilities which have been won in practice over a period of time, and to necessitate the argument starting again from scratch.
This is exactly the sort of thing which some of us tried to indicate would happen under the Industrial Relations Act. It is a relatively small example, almost, from some points of view, a trivial one; but it is an example of the way in which a new spirit is going to be injected into the industrial relations of this country. I admired very much, as I always do, the observations of the noble Viscount, Lord Amory, on this subject, and I agree with him wholeheartedly when he says that good industrial relations are not built up quickly; they take time to develop, and once the basis of confidence is destroyed they take a long time to re-create or re-build.
When one looks at the point of difficulty to which the Code makes reference, I do not think one can avoid a sense of disappointment. The crucial issue of the status quo, the crucial issue of the conditions on which and the way in which changes should be made in industrial practice—in the layout of the workshop, the processes which affect men—is a weak and unsatisfactory one. Indeed, the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, in saying that it was difficult to know what was a major change, underlined one of the difficulties about it. But the Code merely calls for consultation. Consultation can be very perfunctory. The issue is whether that consultation shall continue until either agreement has been reached or until all the processes of negotiation and consultation have been exhausted before the change is actually put into effect. This is one of the central issues which will dominate industrial relations in this decade: the degree to which workers are going to be given a real measure, a real share, in the control of the pattern of their working lives.
In many ways we are being left behind in this country by some of the countries on the Continent of Europe. Similarly, if one looks at paragraph 96 of the Code, one sees that the important question of information is still unsettled and that the provisions of Section 56 of the Industrial 1367 Relations Act have not yet been put into operation. I suspect that discussions upon them are proving rather difficult. As I said, nobody would be more delighted than I if I could really feel that in the Code before us to-night we had a document which was going to fulfil the expectations which some noble Lords, at any rate, have held out for it. If it does indeed do good, this will be welcome; but I am bound to say that, on the evidence now before us, and in the atmosphere and circumstances which exist, I really cannot believe that the Code will do much good—partly because of the weaknesses which it still has and partly because of the background against which it is produced.
§ 8.12 p.m.
§ LORD DRUMALBYN
My Lords, the noble Lord, as he himself said, struck a rather discordant note, or at any rate a different note, in comparison with the speakers who preceded him. I do not think that your Lordships would wish me at this time of night to go through the very many valuable points that have been made if only because, as the noble Lord, Lord Brown, said in his own remarks, they were directed to the next Code rather than to this one. But there were one or two exceptions to this, and I should like to deal with them. I thought that the points made by the noble Lord, Lord Brown, were, as usual, very valuable, though I felt that he was perhaps a little hard on the definition of "supervisor" and the question of the "first level". After all, the first storey is the first one after the bottom, and why the first level of management should be the top one, as lie seemed to imply, rather than a single level, I could not make out.
§ LORD BROWN
My Lords, I do not want to prolong matters, but the point really is a very important one, and I should like to clarify it, in case I did not express myself clearly earlier. Managers on the floor do need managerial assistance from those who are not themselves full managers. They come between people who are working on the floor and their managers: people who have not access to management. It is necessary for them to be called "supervisors", but this Code has usurped the term "supervisor" and used the term "manager", because that footnote makes out that there is 1368 no difference between a manager and a supervisor. I am sorry to have delayed the noble Lord.
§ LORD DRUMALBYN
I quite take the noble Lord's point on this, but what we are really saying is that the super visor is part of the management system but throughout the document is distinguished quite clearly from the management. For one thing, if one takes the disciplinary provisions it is quite clear there where it says, in paragraph 132(i):specify who has the authority to take various forms of disciplinary action, and ensure that supervisors do not have the power to dismiss without reference to more senior management:This merely makes the point in really a few words that they are all part of the system of management but they are distinguished and distinguishable.
§ LORD BROWN
My Lords, the foot note on page 5 says:In this Code supervisor means a member of the first line of management …Now that can mean nothing else but that a supervisor is a manager. I must dispute this with the noble Lord. I am very grateful to the noble Lord for his courtesy in giving way, and I hope that he will bring this to the notice of those who have to look at this Code in the future.
§ LORD DRUMALBYN
My Lords, I am sure that everything the noble Lord, Lord Brown, says, will be carefully considered and closely examined; but I am bound to say that the way in which the Code is presented has not raised in my mind the same difficulty as it has raised in his.
I listened with great interest to the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, and as usual what she said deserves careful study also. She said that we must bring our thinking into line with the best of European thinking. I hope also that we shall take with us the best in our own thinking and that we shall align the two, because there is so much that is good in this country as well. I think that it would have been wrong to have attempted to bring the whole Code into line with those who are making new experiments. These have still to be worked out. What we have tried to do is to bring it into line with the best accepted practice and to go on, we hope, from there. I fully expected the more-in-sorrow-than-in anger speech of the noble Earl, Lord 1369 Halsbury. If I may say so, I think he expressed himself with great moderations in the circumstances. But I would put to him—and also to my noble friend Lord Nelson, and to the noble Lord, Lord Platt—this point. It would be a great pity if at this stage, when we are starting out to develop a new code of industrial relations, we were consciously to make an abrupt distinction between those employees who are recognised as putting their duties first and those employees who are not so recognised. By "duties" I mean here what has been referred to by my noble friend Lord Courtown, as well as what the noble Lord himself said, the duties to the public interest. I personally hope that we shall get to the stage when everyone in industry will put his duties to the public interest very high, if not first. It is very difficult, in this imperfect world, not to put our own interests very high; but at any rate I hope we shall get to the stage when everyone will put his duties to the public interest very high indeed. I fear that if at the present time we were to make too sharp a distinction it would tend to be divisive; and, as I said in my opening speech, I do not think it would be helpful to the development of industrial relations. After all, it is wrong to suggest that anyone who is involved in industrial relations has no regard to the public interest. This is a question of values, of education and of conscience, and altogether these things have to be amalgamated and developed, as we hope will happen once we have removed the initial frustrations in industrial relations.
§ LORD PLATT
My Lords, may I say that we have gone a long way towards agreeing with the noble Lord; but if you read the whole of the Introduction to this Code. you find that it does not recognise that there arc such people as professional people. If the noble Lord really feels—and I would go a long way towards agreeing with him—that every one who is employed, a worker of any kind, should have these loyalties to his job and to the things which he is doing to the public first, then the Code of Practice might have been written in those terms.
§ LORD DRUMALBYN
My Lords, there is always a danger in preaching to the converted, but perhaps here the Code has erred on the side of very obviously 1370 preaching to the unconverted. Obviously the noble Lord is perfectly right that the Department's manpower and productivity services have not been called in very often to deal with the professions. Quite obviously when they are writing a pamphlet of this sort they must have in mind what I call, for a short title, the big battalions, rather than those who pride themselves on their individual approach. We recognise this entirely. We want to get rid of these frustrations—and this was referred to by one of the speakers to-day. There is the attitude of management on the one side who feels that his job is being interfered with by the trade union; on the other hand there is the trade union representative who feels that management is standing in the way—I am not generalising, I am putting a point—of what he wants to achieve. If we can get rid of this idea that each is standing in the way of the other, and get them to work towards a common objective, accepting their differences in emphasis and differences in immediate interest and so forth, and the conflicts that are bound to arise, then we shall begin to make real progress. The code sets out to lay the foundations of this; it cannot do more than that.
I willingly accept what the noble Lord, Lord Delacourt-Smith, says, that we are faced with a massive non-co-operation at the present time. We deplore that very much. This is not carried right through to the shop floor; this is not a feature of industrial relations, properly speaking, in most of the factories of this country. They are going along perfectly well at the present time and are improving. In certain areas of acute economic difficulty there are plainly hesitations, if I may put it that way, if not to use the mildest possible word. One has to take this view quite firmly: one has to separate a political decision not to co-operate on the top level with the usual industrial relations that are going on all the time. We hope that with the passage of time wounds will be healed, and will be healed very soon.
The Government want nothing better than to be able to sit down once again with the T.U.C. and the employers and discuss the future together. In the mean time we are dealing with this Code of Industrial Relations. The noble Lord, Lord Delacourt-Smith, was less generous than he generally is—I quite understand 1371 his difficulties—for I think the consensus in the House to-day is that this is a good document. It is not a perfect document; we know that it will be improved. Even in the debates on the Industrial Relations Bill it was foreshadowed that this would be studied all the time; we debated how often the Code would be reviewed, and so forth. The answer is the old phrase: it is going to be under continuous review. We shall have to make alterations to it before very long to bring in the necessary detail about information.
The noble Lord, Lord Delacourt-Smith, was not right in saying that the discussions on Section 56 were proving rather difficult. We are awaiting the C.I.R. Report which was commissioned by his Government. We hope that will give us the necessary guidance on which to base a consultative document which will be considered and examined, and the necessary amendments to the Code will be brought before Parliament. I am not saying that these will be the only amendments that will be made. Obviously we shall be seeking every opportunity to improve the Code.
I am grateful not only to noble Lords who have spoken in this debate but to the enormous number of people who have taken a great deal of trouble to advise the Secretary of State on the form of the Code, advice to which he has responded by making extensive alterations to it. I am extremely grateful to all who have helped to make the Code what it is— 1372 the first and initial stage in trying to pro mote better industrial relations. Despite all that the noble Lord, Lord Delacourt Smith, has said tonight, I am sure that he has in his heart the desire to work together and along the lines of the Code —with all its blemishes as he would think—in order to get better industrial relations and improve the Code as and when we can. I am grateful to your Lordships for the help you have given on this occasion. You have given as good a baptism to this Code as we could possibly have expected.