§ 4.10 p.m.
§ Debate resumed on the Motion to continue in force the Emergency Regulations 1972.
§ LORD BYERS
My Lords, if we may now resume the debate on the Emergency Powers I would first of all take up the reference made by the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, to the concern which he felt, and which many of us share, about the shadow that has been cast on our standing abroad by this serious dispute in the country. But, equally, it is only right to say that it has been a matter for some congratulation by reason of the most public-spirited manner in which the nation has responded and has accepted in a remarkable way the sacrifices which it has been called upon to make. In fact, somebody said to me the other day that it is almost like getting back to wartime conditions; and we know what that means, when London and the big cities get down to it.
I do not wish to range widely to-day, as the noble Lord, Lord Champion, wished to do. I do not want to cover the whole subject, and I do not want to repeat the kind of debate we had on January 31. I do not wish to say anything which might adversely affect the propects of an honourable settlement of the miners' dispute. The Court of Inquiry, with commendable speed, is at work, and I do not want to jog backwards on this occasion. There will be occasions when we should look in depth at the gross miscalculations which appear to have been made in many quarters and try to learn the lessons of the situation in which we find ourselves.
There has been up to now a very great deal of sympathy with the miners' case; and particularly with the case of the 40 lower-paid worker in the mining industry. We support that. But we must not lose sight of the other horn of the dilemma; that is, what is best in the national interest. My noble friend Lady Seear said in the debate to which I have referred, held about a fortnight ago, that any settlement within the figures demanded by the miners is bound to trigger off demands for similar treatment from many other industries, and we shall then get back to a very uneasy square one. It might have been possible to treat the miners' case as a special case at the beginning, and to regard it as something which should not be followed by other industries; but we have been through this problem of inflation and what triggers off other inflationary demands if the norm is substantially increased in any one particular claim. As I say, I do not want to go into the merits of that. I do, however, want to demonstrate that while we still have very great sympathy with the miners' claim, it has to be looked at against the interests of the nation as a whole. I do not believe that any section of the community is entitled to inflict on the rest of the nation the sort of damage to the economy which we are facing at the present time. I say this with all sincerity. There comes a moment of time when the nation—and that is the Government—has to say: "Enough, and no more."
What concerns me as a Liberal is the way in which our picketing practices seem to be taking us down a very slippery constitutional slope. I believe we may get to the point where in handling demonstrators and pickets we shall undermine 'our traditional standards of law and order which are respected world-wide and are fundamental to the exercise of real democracy. I believe that we have seen a serious erosion of the rule of law. If I may say so to the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, I think he gave the impression, which is uncharacteristic of him, of a certain amount of complacency about picketing. It may not have been intentional. But there are not just a few instances. I believe that the way in which the picketing, which we dislike and which worries us, is developing is pretty widespread. It is not just one or two instances here and there. I believe that the right to peaceful picketing is an essential part of our general philosophy of 41 freedom; it has been hard won, and we must preserve it. But, equally, the right of the citizen to be protected by law, and the enforcement of the law to prevent violence, pestering or molesting, is a fundamental part of our general philosophy of freedom of the citizen. It is with the protection of these freedoms that I, as a Liberal, am particularly concerned. That is why I hope that Government will clarify the situation much further than they have done so far in the course of this debate.
I was frankly disappointed that the Home Secretary in another place yesterday, and the noble Earl the Leader of the House to-day, were not really specific about points which are worrying many people to-day. For instance, what are the instructions to the police in cases where, patently, pickets have molested and used violence on workers entering National Coal Board premises—for example, in Doncaster, and elsewhere? I do not think there is much doubt that there was pestering. People were spitting upon these young girls going in, and all the rest of it. What happened? What charges have been preferred? If charges have not been preferred, what is the philosophy behind not preferring charges in this case? Secondly (and this I do not understand from what has been said by either the Home Secretary or the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe), what is the law concerning the picketing of third-party industries, particularly when this results in supplies not getting through? I can quite understand, and support, the right of a reasonable number of pickets to persuade by peaceful means their fellow workers in the same industry. But what is the position when miners picket a power station and prevent supplies of essential commodities, such as hydrogen and special oils, from being delivered? Surely this is unlawful; and, if it is, how is it proposed to stop it?
The noble Lord, Lord Citrine, I believe, wrote the "Erskine May" of the trade union movement. It is a great work, and I think it is called Trade Unions and the Law.
§ LORD CONESFORD
My Lords, may I correct the noble Lord? That work was written by the noble Lord's son.
§ LORD BYERS
My Lords, I am much obliged for the intervention and the cor 42 rection; it brings the work all the more up to date. In this particular work—and it is not the author but the work to which I wish to refer—the position is stated, as I understand it (the noble Lord, Lord Conesford, is an authority on this, and I hope he will correct me if I am wrong), that:Picketing will become unlawful if either the means or the object is unlawful".And clearly, as I say, the way the female employees were reported as being treated must surely have been unlawful. Then the book goes on to say:Thus, if the object of the picketing is to induce breaches of contract, other than contracts of employment in contemplat on or furtherance of a trade dispute, it will be unlawful. To picket in this way can also be criminal.The question I want to put to the noble Lord who is to wind up is this. Presumably the power stations have contracts for the supply of essential commodities. May I ask the Government why no charges have been made, or why instructions have not been given to, say, the police to enable the supplies to get through? Because what is happening to-day is surely a breach of contract which is preventing a third-party industry from carrying on its lawful business. I do not think it is any good saying, "Well, this is being prevented by peaceful picketing". On "The World at One" to-day a group of miners were asked what they were going to do about the lorries that were coming down to the power stations. They said, "We are going to stop them getting through, of course. What do you think?" This is obstruction. It cannot in my view be peaceful picketing. I should like clarification on this whole position of the third-party industry handling things which are not coal or the product of a mine.
I am told that in some places the police are actually stopping delivery lorries in order to allow the pickets to talk to the drivers. Is this right? Is this within the law? Is this the sort of thing that ought to be going on? Because if it is, and if this is our philosophy bf picketing, I believe that we may find we get rid of the rule of law. It is also clear that if picketing is carried out in such numbers, or otherwise in such manner as to be likely to intimidate those subjected to it, or to obstruct or molest them against their will, it will be unlawful. 43 There must have been a good deal of that if the Press, television, and radio reports are correct. The book continues:Any show or threat of violence, or any other unlawful threat likely to create fear in the mind of a reasonable man makes picketing unlawful and may make it criminal.There have been cases of that nature reported in the Press from day to day. My Lords, I believe that a vital constitutional principle is involved here. The Government of the day are charged with protecting the freedom of all citizens by seeing that the law is properly enforced, and I believe that the Government have not only miscalculated the potential gravity of this strike so far as the national economy is concerned, but that, instead of seeing that the law was enforced from the beginning, they may have done grave damage to our constitutional freedoms, and in my opinion this must be rectified.
Therefore, I ask the Government; what is the present law? To what extent has it been enforced? What instructions about picketing have been given to Chief Constables in the past few weeks by the Home Secretary, and particularly so far as third party industries are concerned? My Lords, I emphasise that this is not an attack upon the miners. I am asking what is the constitutional position here because I believe we are in danger of getting things out of perspective. If the Government do not enforce the law, every major strike will be aimed at stopping some third party industry, such as the power industry, from serving the public. This is the way to anarchy, and I want to know what the Government intend to do about it. Is it not time, for instance, that the Government had talks with the T.U.C. on the constitutional issues, on the way in which picketing has developed during the course of this strike? I believe that the damage which will he found to have been done to the continuous processing industries, some of which will have great difficulty in starting up again, will justify an immediate inquiry into the way in which the picketing system has developed. I would say to the miners that I hope they will call off their pickets while the Court of Inquiry is working. It surely cannot have any effect one way or another on a man of the integrity of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Wilberforce. The miners, as Lord Champion has said, will get a fair and 44 impartial assessment from Lord Wilberforce because he is that sort of man, and I hope most sincerely that there will be a complete reconsideration of the lengths to which this country can go, particularly in the way in which picketing has developed recently in such an antisocial way.
§ 4.23 p.m.
§ LORD TAYLOR OF MANSFIELD
My Lords, I do not propose to follow the noble Lord, Lord Byers, on the question of what is and is not legal picketing. What I can say to him is that in my county of Nottinghamshire there has been very little trouble over this particular point. In fact it was reported in the local paper only yesterday that the Stay-thorpe Power Station had been shut down, pickets had been there during the whole of the stoppage but there had been no incidents and no disturbances. Peaceful picketing had been going on in that part of Nottinghamshire and evidently had been successful in bringing the working of the power station to a halt. As the noble Lord, Lord Byers, has said, this may be a constitutional issue, and it may be that in the future more will be said about it.
I want to follow the example of the previous speakers, so far as brevity is concerned, and I want to begin by saying that it has been my opinion over a long period of time that something must be done to make this industry—the coal mining industry—viable. Certainly since 1921, and possibly before that—although that is a long enough period to enable one to make a judgment—one can state categorically that the industry has never been out of debt financially. During the period from 1921 to the outbreak of the war in 1939, scores of millions of pounds were written off, presumably owing by the miners to the late coal owners. I have not the time this afternoon to go into the details of the circumstances which prompt me to make such an assertion, but I would submit to your Lordships that if you were to take the trouble to go into the district ascertainments which pertained between 1921 and the outbreak of the war you would find that the assertion which I have just made is by no means out of place.
In the month of June, 1970, the present Prime Minister said to the nation that if 45 the Conservatives were returned as the Government of the day, at a stroke prices would be reduced, as also would the figure of unemployment; and, further, there would be a better to-morrow. I do not know whether at that time the Prime Minister was suffering from a figment of the imagination or whether he had been looking into the crystal ball, or whether, as a seafaring person, Father Neptune had said to him, "Now look here, you have a good chance if you say so-and-so." But that is what the present Prime Minister said at that time. What is the picture to-day? During the past twelve months prices have not been reduced "at a stroke"; they have been increased by at least 10 per cent. The figure of unemployment has gone up almost 100 per cent. and the situation (which we all deplore) in which the nation finds itself to-day is hardly the kind of "better tomorrow" that was visualised in June, 1970.
I agree with my noble friend Lord Champion that during this crisis the Government have been guilty of ineptitude and incompetence, and, I would add, procrastination. I recall the Secretary of State for Employment saying quite non-chalantly in the other place during the first week of the stoppage, when it was being urged upon him to take some action that would bring the mining dispute to an end, "I cannot do anything. The only thing I can say is that the door of my Department is open". The matter was dismissed by him as flippantly as that. My complaint against the Government, so far as first the mining situation and now the general situation are concerned is that they are guilty of incompetence, ineptitude and procrastination.
May I say this about the present Prime Minister? I am disappointed at the silence that he has exhibited during the past six weeks. Last Friday he went to address a Conservative Party conference in Liverpool, and this was the first time from the date of the stoppage that he had even opened his lips. As I watched him on television my immediate reaction was that anybody who did not know who it was would think he was not a statesman but a private auctioneer. What he said to the mining community of this country was, "Take the money, cash down, accept the Inquiry 46 and go back to work ". And yet—and this is where the failing of the Prime Minister is so apparent—from the first day of the stoppage until last Friday he had never asked to see the leaders of the miners.
I am glad that the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, is here in his place this afternoon; he is a member of the Cabinet; he must be close to the ear of the Prime Minister. I would ask him to take this message back, because it is important: "Do not be so intransigent and so arrogant and so stupid. Even at this late stage it would not do harm, certainly psychologically, to call in the leaders of the miners." At this late stage he has to-day asked to see the President of the Confederation of British Industry), and the General Secretary of the Trades Union Congress. I do not complain about that; it is quite a good move, but I think it would have been much better had he called in those who are directly responsible in this dispute, that is to say, the miners' leaders.
My Lords, I said I would be brief. There are only two other things I want to say. I think that in the long term there are three alternatives facing the mining industry: number one the restructuring of its finances; number two, an increase in the price of coal; or number three, the continuing erosion of the miners' standards. Those are the three alternatives with which this country is confronted as regards the mining industry. Let me say about the last one that that is out, and I will say why in a moment or two. So far as the second is concerned, an increase in the price of coal, that would be very unwelcome by the nation. Some Government, if not this, has got to get down to the business of restructuring the finances of this industry and removing the millstone from around its neck which is mainly responsible for the trouble in which the nation finds itself to-day.
My closing words are these. I live in the coalfield, and these last three or four weekends I have made it my business to talk to the miners and their local leaders in Nottinghamshire. May I say this to the noble Lord who is to reply. In this industry I have had a long experience, but at no time have I seen greater determination on the part of the miners to refuse to have their standards 47 eroded. I want to talk as the miners are talking. There are thousands of them with their wives outside this afternoon, come to impress Members of the other place with the justice of their case. I had a talk with one miner and I mentioned to him, "You hear what they are saying about pit closures?". "Oh", he said, "pit closures, Bernard"—that is what they call me—"it leaves us cold, like pouring water on a duck's back". I said "You must have some reason for saying that." He said, "Oh, yes, for the past ten years they have closed 600 pits and have put nearly half-a-million miners, at any rate, on the roads. And you tell them this in London …". I am going to tell your Lordships what he said. I do not know whether to use the adjectives or not; it might not be appropriate in this place. There seems some dissent about it, so I will leave the adjectives out. "When you get to London tell them this: that as far as we are concerned, seeing that we have been so rewarded for our co-operation in the last ten years to make this industry viable, we have now reached a stage where unless we can have a standard of life comparable with the workers in other industries, commensurate with the dangers and the difficulties that we have to face, they can close the lot". That is the mood, that is the temper and that is the spirit of the miner at this time.
I am glad the Inquiry has been set up. I hope there will be a successful outcome. But may I say this, with no desire to cause any influence: that the miners are in no mood, believe me, to accept peanuts as part of the settlement of this dispute.
§ 4.38 p.m.
§ BARONESS GAITSKELL
My Lords, I shall be briefer than usual. During the weekend this Tory Government—and I use the word "Tory" deliberately rather than Conservative—have had a pasting in the Press from right, left and centre. Picking on picketing to excuse themselves, the Government have not convinced me, or many other people either. The extent of picketing should make one think not just of law and order but of law and equality in economic policies. To think of law and order in the rather superficial way that a great many people do is simply to evade the underlying 48 malaise in our society. Whether the newspapers have leaned more towards the miners' case or the Government's side, all have agreed that the Government have been insensitive, intransigent, incompetent and unprepared; and here I agree with my noble friend Lord Taylor of Mansfield.
From the day that this Government took office they have been what I can only call "manifesto mad". They keep referring to their little blue book of election promises—superficial slogans. They are steadily discovering that governing is not the same as electioneering and they have alienated half the population of this country. By resisting increased wage demands and at the same time disclaiming a prices and incomes policy they have wielded an "incomes without prices" policy which rests on increasing unemployment. There is an irony about their policy of limiting wage demands in the public sector, for here the Right-Wing Tories are conceding the argument of the Labour Left, who maintain that a Government can regulate the economy more easily through the public sector in the interests of the whole community. But this must not be interpreted as holding down wages in the public sector while leaving the private sector to ignore the exhortations of the Government and allocate wage increases far higher than those asked for by the miners. The recent increases made by Chrysler and British Leyland are examples of this.
Gentlemanly disengagement has been the order of the day in the miners' dispute. Mr. Ezra, the Coal Board's chairman, has sounded rather like a ventriloquist's dummy—the Government denying any intention of bankrupting the Coal Board while they were in the process of bankrupting it. Mr. Carr and Mr. John Davies should have staged a "sit-in" at the Mineworkers' Union headquarters and not left until they had hammered out a settlement. Here I again agree with my noble friend Lord Taylor of Mansfield when he suggests that the Prime Minister might have joined them there, too. Even if a settlement had not been achieved, it might have taught them something about the facts of life, and about the industrial state of the nation and the grievous feelings of injustice that many trade unionists are labouring under.
49 This weekend the Sunday Times came out strongly for the Government, saying why they thought that the miners must not win. It was a very unstatesmanlike headline. They would have done better to reprint an article by their labour correspondent, Hugo Young, written during the power workers' dispute about a year ago. This article, which I re-read the other day, is prophetic in its analysis of our industrial troubles and their misguided handling by the Government. The article stated that it looked at issues beyond the power cuts, and accused the Government of engaging in policies of "divide and rule". This is as true today as it was over a year ago.
Mr. Heath's ambition to change the course of history—as he proclaimed when he was returned—will spell disaster if he does not couple this ambition with a change in the social order. The Government's dogmatic economic policies as the Guardian pointed out a few days ago, have so far failed to deliver success. These emergency measures, necessary as they are, are a monument to their failure, for we shall have everything in months to come: we shall have inflation; we shall have high prices; and we shall have high unemployment. Finally, I should like to wish the noble and learned Lord, Lord Wilberforce, success in his Inquiry, and hope that pride and prestige, two of the most dangerous components of politics to-day, will not prevent a successful outcome to this tragic strike.
§ 4.45 p.m.
§ LORD CONESFORD
My Lords, on the case for the miners for greater remuneration I do not propose to say anything at all, because that is a subject that has been referred to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Wilberforce, and his Court. I believe that noble Lords in all quarters of the House are glad of that and do not think that it would be very profitable to discuss that topic—certainly not for somebody without direct knowledge of the industry. The matter on which I am going to address the House is a matter of law. Here may I say with what pleasure I heard the noble Lord, Lord Byers, because I propose to address the House on precisely the same topic.
It is generally admitted in all quarters that in the events that have happened 50 picketing has played an extremely important part. Was this picketing legal? My Lords, it is my submission that a large part of the picketing that has taken place has been quite plainly illegal. The authorities that I shall quote are, I think, authorities that the House will respect. They are the Report of the late noble and learned Lord, Lord Donovan, and the two modern cases decided in the courts that the Donovan Report itself cited.
What are the purposes for which picketing is authorised under Section 2 of the Trade Disputes Act 1906? They are expressed thus: the attendance must be—and now I come to the actual words—merely for the purpose of peacefully obtaining or communicating information, or of peacefully persuading any person to work or abstain from working.Those are the two purposes for which alone that section of the Act of 1906 provides: peacefully obtaining or communicating information, or peacefully persuading. For the reasons given in the Donovan Report in paragraph 872, sometimes the pickets are entitled to have the first purpose only—namely, communicating information—but in order to simplify matters for the House on this occasion I shall assume that in all the recent cases of picketing the pickets would have had as possible legitimate aims both those purposes.
The two modern decided cases are these—and I shall give their legal references in order that they may be followed up by anybody who is concerned to ascertain the law—Piddington v. Bates, reported in  3 A.E.R. at page 660, and the more recent case of Tynan v. Balmer, reported (as to the proceedings in the Crown Court of Liverpool) in  3 A.E.R. at page 99, and in the Divisional Court of Queen's Bench in  2 A.E.R. at page 133. Of those two decisions of a modern Divisional Court, that in 1960 was a decision of the then Lord Chief Justice, Lord Parker of Waddington, and the more recent decision of Tynam v. Balmer in 1966 was the decision of the then Lord Chief Justice, Lord Parker, and Mr. Justice Sachs and Mr. Justice Widgery, as they then were. These decisions make the present law perfectly clear in certain respects. I am going to 51 state some of their effects, and I am very glad that the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor is here so that he can correct me if he thinks I am going wrong.
The first thing that is absolutely clear is that the police can limit the numbers of pickets. Let me read what the noble and learned Lord, Lord Donovan, said, about the Piddington case. He said:Two recent cases on section 2 of the Act of 1906 might be mentioned. In Piddington v. Bates"—and then there is the reference that I have given—a police constable told Piddington, a would-be picket, that the two existing pickets at the particular entrance to the employer's premises were enough.Three would be too much. He stopped a third and that gave rise to the case. It was held that the police constable was right. It is equally clear from these decided cases, even if it was not before, that obstruction and intimidation are unlawful and that the pickets have no right whatever to use force to stop either a pedestrian or a vehicle, if the pedestrian or the man driving the vehicle does not wish to stop. These scenes, in which men crowd around vehicles and try to push them back, have no resemblance whatsoever to peaceful picketing—none whatsoever. Nor by any stretch of the imagination can they be brought within that sphere. The fact is that the mass picketing recently practiced making it physically impossible for people or vehicles to get through, derives no authority whatsoever from the law as laid down in 1906.
The noble Lord, Lord Byers, in his admirable speech, asked one or two rather difficult questions which I think would need a good deal of consideration by a lawyer. But the main points he made were, I thought, crystal clear and absolutely right; that the law has been ignored and contravened to a very large extent. Let me make it quite clear that here I am not accusing the leaders of the National Union of Mineworkers of bad faith. I think some of them are as mistaken about the law of picketing as many other people who ought to know better. What I am suggesting is that the National Union of Mineworkers—and the men who lead them, I feel sure, are not 52 indifferent as to whether or not they are obeying the law—should study what the noble Lord, Lord Donovan, has said in his Report and the two cases which I have ventured to quote. Does the noble Lord wish to interrupt?
§ LORD BESWICK
I did not really want to interrupt, my Lords. But is there not an even greater obligation upon the Government to state what the law is at the time?
§ LORD CONESFORD
My Lords, I am not a member of the Government, and what the Government do is for the Government to decide. I am stating bona fide, with such legal knowledge as I have, in the presence of the Lord Chancellor whom I ask to correct me if at any point I go wrong, what I believe the law to be. I advise the leaders of the National Union of Mineworkers to study what Lord Donovan said and to study, above all, the two legal cases that I have quoted. May I read in passing, because it is rather interesting, what Lord Donovan himself said on the subject of mass picketing, because there were people who wanted him to recommend an alteration of the law that would permit mass picketing. It may be useful to remind your Lordships in a few sentences of what Lord Donovan himself said, and I think I am right in saying that in this paragraph he was speaking for all his colleagues, including Mr. Woodcock of the T.U.C. This is what Lord Donovan said about mass picketing in paragraph 874 of his Report:The T.U.C. asked that Section 2 be amplified so as to permit communication by pickets with a person 'whether that person is in a vehicle or on foot'. There is, however, at present nothing in the section to preclude this. The Society of Labour Lawyers went further and suggested that a limited right should be given to pickets to stop vehicles so as to communicate with the drivers, due regard being had to other users of the highway. It seems to us, however,"—and here he was speaking, as I said, for all his colleagues—that it would be impossible to define such a right in terms which would avoid considerable obstruction to the highway and serious risk of personal injury to the pickets themselves. Others urged that 'mass picketing' should be protected by the law. It is not clear, however, why mass picketing is required simply to communicate information, and the advocates of this proposal did not suggest that they desired it for any other purpose than 53 to demonstrate solidarity, which can be done equally well by other means.I thought it well to remind the House of those words of Lord Donovan because they show that this question of giving further legal protection to the mass picketing from which we have recently suffered was considered by the Donovan Commission and deliberately and unanimously turned down.
There is only one further point which I might make in self-defence. It may be asked: "Why did you not suggest making the law clearer on this subject when the Industrial Relations Bill, now an Act, was passing through this House?" The answer is perfectly simple: I did. On June 8, 1971, the picketing clause—there was not very much in the Bill about it—came before this House in Committee. I expressed my regret that Her Majesty's Government had not thought fit to deal with the effect of the two decided cases that I have cited this afternoon and which were cited in the Donovan Report itself. Those cases showed what limitations could be imposed by the police under the existing law, through the control of numbers and so on. May I quote my actual words? I said:My criticism of the Government in regard to this clause is that it is a great pity that, by omission, they do not mention any of those limitations defining what the police can legitimately do on the basis of the decided cases."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 8/6/71 col. 119.]It is just conceivable that there are members of the Government who now think that that was not a bad suggestion. That Industrial Relations Bill, now an Act, was not a short one. Surely it was worth while stating in clear language what was the law of picketing.
My Lords, let me conclude by saying this. With the noble Lord, Lord Byers, I hope that nobody will say that the law does not matter. Our national and international reputation, as well as our economic recovery, depend on our recovering our respect for the law, and obeying it.
§ 5.0 p.m.
§ LORD BLYTON
My Lords, I apologise to the House for being absent for a while during this debate, but I was called out by the miners and their wives, who are demonstrating in another place: and I may tell the noble Lord who preceded me that I was peacefully picketed 54 by the hundreds of miners and their wives who are lobbying their M.P.s in the Lobbies. Of course, the picketing here will not interfere with any production that affects our economic life.
My Lords, the Declaration of Emergency and the Regulations before us were bound to come as time went on because stocks were bound to be run down and. at the same time, no coal was being produced. There are some 150 electricity stations on coal, and they are responsible for nearly three-quarters of our electricity supplies. If this strike is not settled they will slowly be stopped altogether because there cannot be much coal left at the stations. The undistributed stocks cannot be moved unless, by these Regulations, the Government intend to use the Forces of the State to do it. If that happens it will bring about a state of affairs that no one wants to see. All that the miners wish is for this dispute to be settled in an orderly way that will give them a reasonable wage. It should be remembered by the Government also that what undistributed stocks there are will be needed to keep the stations going when this dispute is settled, and it will take two to three weeks to get the pits going again.
I would advise the Government that these Regulations must not be used as a weapon for breaking the strike or the miners, because we have memories of these Regulations in the 1926 dispute. On the other hand, I recognise that the Government have a great responsibility to see that power goes to the hospitals, to the water and gas industries and to the railways; and also to see that old people get heat. In respect of coal to hospitals and the aged, the miners have helped and will help all they can in these two cases. But the House of Lords should remember that there are many old people who can get coal but who have not got the money to pay for it on the meagre pension that they are receiving.
This still means that electricity will go on ration, causing an upset to family life and to industry. These controlled black-outs will affect 7 million domestic, commercial and industrial users, and if the weather gets worse power supplies will he cut further. Under these Regulations the Government can order a complete shutdown of power to non-essential industries for as many days as they consider 55 proper. So the situation this House faces is of factories facing a shutdown as power stations' coal stocks dwindle and electricity dies out, and homes being without light for long periods. As I see the picture, it is apparent that we shall be witness to the largest industrial crisis that has been seen for years if this dispute is not settled. Are the Government going to face a shutdown and a crisis that is so unnecessary? Within the financial limits of the N.C.B. they say they cannot afford more money, and so the Inquiry takes place—and the union has decided to give evidence. It will take at least a week, and then it may take another week to get the men's decision if the decision of the court is worth putting to them. It is only the Government who can come to the rescue. Many projects enjoy State support: why not coal? It is still an asset to the nation.
In my last speech to the House I dealt at some length with the N.C.B.'s financial structure, and I now find the Minister for Industry, of the Conservative Party, saying that the Government have now come to the same conclusion. In closing the debate in another place last week, on February 8, he said:It is, I think, common knowledge that the whole question of the board's financial structure has been in the air for some time, and, obviously, we shall have to give careful thought to the prospects of viability now before it. But first, of course, the strike itself has got to come to an end."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Commons, 8/2/72; col. 1263.]So at last the Government are recognising that the financial structure is as I illustrated it to the House last week. That is why the miners have objected to these accounts being used as an argument to deny to the men in the coal industry reasonable wages; and that is why we say that their 7 per cent. wages policy in the nationalised sector cannot be accepted, and that it has created the present position.
It must be realised by all that this crisis lies squarely on the Government's shoulders. The Government began by misjudging what would be the economic effect or the economic impact of this strike; secondly, they misjudged the determination of the miners; and, thirdly, their interference by laying down a 7 per cent. increase for the nationalised industries while leaving the private sector free 56 to negotiate higher wages was bound to lead to industrial warfare. Why, even last week the Chrysler men were settled at £6 a week, and the Government could do nothing. Their lavatory attendants now get £33 a week, and Chrysler will merely increase the price of cars to meet the situation. But the miner, in the hard, laborious work that he does, must be tied by the Government's norm.
If this strike is not settled sharply it is going to have serious effects on the economy. Unemployment, now over a million, is going rapidly upwards and will take a long time to reverse; and output, which we expected to rise in the economy, will take much longer. The longer this strike goes on the more will feelings get harder and the men get more embittered. The men are 100 per cent. solid, and so are their wives. You only have to go among them, as I do every weekend, to understand their attitude. It is they, the wives, who are behind their men in this fight for wages. I recognise, as I said, the difficulties of the Government, but they have been created by themselves. These Regulations will not break the determination of the men, even if they are used in a vicious way.
My Lords, in the light of the Prime Minister's speech at Liverpool on Friday, miners are asking "How can the Inquiry be impartial, free and unfettered, after this speech by him?" It was an untimely speech to be made just before the Inquiry starts its work. Neither side are bound by any decision that the Inquiry gives; and we want a settlement; but the speech by the Prime Minister again gives the impression that the Inquiry will be governed by Government dictates. Can an assurance be given that the Inquiry now taking place will not be subject to the 7 per cent. or 8 per cent. norm on wages fixed by the Government for the nationalised industries?—for if this is not given there cannot be much hope of a settlement.
Peaceful picketing is within the law, and in most parts of the country it has been done without incident. In others, there have been incidents and provocations. I have done a lot of picketing in my time and it is not an easy job, especially in an acute crisis like this. All I would ask is that the Government request the police to be tolerant towards the pickets and for the pickets to carry 57 out their job within the law. While we know that at all times the police have to maintain public order, I think that their job was made very difficult by the provocation at the Saltley Gasworks at Birmingham last week; and terrible indignation was created among my people by one of the miners' pickets being killed. He was buried last week. All that one can do here is to ask the police and the men to be tolerant towards each other where picketing takes place. I would ask the Government to have the same sense of responsibility that the miners and the police have been exercising at 95 per cent. of the coalfields and in getting out the supplies to hospitals and needy cases.
My advice to the Government under these Regulations is not to bring any troops into this dispute. Our troops in Ireland have a hard job between the two sections of the population. The last thing I want is to see them used between the miners and the Government in this dispute—because the miners have long memories and we still remember Featherstone and Tonypandy when they were used against us pretty ruthlessly. To bring troops into this dispute will create more bitterness than that which exists to-day.
The announcement by the Minister of Trade and Industry last week means a massive increase in the unemployment figure which will rise from one and three-quarter millions to two and a quarter millions—that is including the pre-dispute figure of one million unemployed. The Minister also stated that there will be sterner cuts if the situation gets worse, and until this dispute is settled I cannot see its getting any better. Industrialists are perturbed as they try to grasp the implications of the Government's emergency measures. The steel, car, shipyard, repairing yards and engineering industries are already affected. The cost of it all in money is far more than is needed to meet the request of the miners for a reasonable wage. No one can say that the position we are in now was not foreseen. Warnings were given to the Government weeks and weeks ago; yet nothing was done to appreciate the gravity of the situation. The miners want a settlement—which is probably harder to get now than it was five weeks ago. My sincere desire is that Lord Wilber 58 force by his Inquiry can break this deadlock and settle the matter. The greatest industrial crisis we have had for many years faces the nation, and the total responsibility for it rests squarely on the shoulders of the Government. They did nothing for four weeks while this strike went on. The miners do not want to see the country in danger; they are ready to work once they are given a wage on which they can decently keep their families.
My Lords, in conclusion I would appeal to the Tribunal to give the matter the utmost urgency to bring about a settlement in as quick a time as possible. I hope also that their decision will convince the miners that at last they have got justice and that the country will not have to endure the present agony a moment longer than is necessary. Because the Government have played such a part in these negotiations as to have brought the nation to this crisis, I shall vote against the Motion tonight.
§ 5.17 p.m.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR (LORD HAILSHAM OF ST. MARYLEBONE)
My Lords, the course which the debate has taken probably places me under an obligation to intervene at this stage. I must first say how grateful I am to the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Leek, who according to the list of speakers was to have spoken next and who has kindly indicated that he has no objection to my intervening at this particular point of time. I think that my need to address the House at this stage arises out of the speeches of the noble Lord, Lord Byers, and of my noble friend Lord Conesford. I also fully accept from the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, who intervened at one stage, that it is the obligation of someone on behalf of the Government—and, if anybody, then probably the Lord Chancellor—to give some indication, where it is possible, of what the law may be on this topic. May I say, in passing, that I had not intended to speak as your Lordships will have noticed from the list of speakers? That was quite deliberate. We are discussing the Regulations and the Emergency which has given rise to them. I would think that, strictly speaking, what the House would wish to discuss was, first, whether an emergency did exist and, secondly, whether the Regulations were in order.
59 Of course, the noble Lord, Lord Byers, in what I thought was a notable contribution to the debate—and in that respect I endorse fully the words of eulogy heaped upon him by my noble friend Lord Conesford—raised the question of the lawfulness of some of the things being done. So did my noble friend Lord Conesford, in his own speech which I should also like to praise for the accuracy of many of the things in it. There is obviously a danger in my intervening on the legal side of the matter because, as I learned from my right honourable friend the Home Secretary and as I noted from his speech in another place yesterday, arrests have been made, charges are pending, and the courts will have to rule upon them. I therefore do not want to say anything this afternoon to your Lordships, or to anyone else, which could possibly prejudice the outcome of legal proceedings before the courts. Therefore, in the nature of things what I have to say must be confined to some extent to generalities and certainly should not be taken as referring to any particular case, whether or not noble Lords think they have seen it on the television screen. Because such a case might be the subject of judicial proceedings, it would be still improper for me, whatever other noble Lords may be free to do or say, to say myself anything which could conceivably prejudice those proceedings.
With that by way of premise, perhaps I may approach this subject with suitable caution. Almost every generalisation that one chooses to make about this subject probably needs qualification. The Common Law on the subject is not altogether plain. What is plain is that there are two statutory enactments now in force; namely, the Conspiracy and Protection of Property Act 1875, of which the relevant section is Section 7, and the Trades Disputes Act 1906, of which the relevant section is Section 2. Both of these Acts have a bearing on the subject under discussion. There is also a third enactment the relevant part of which is not yet in force, but which comes into force on February 28—the Industrial Relations Act. That Act, which will be comparatively fresh in your Lordships' memory, also has a bearing on one of the questions raised by the noble Lord, Lord Byers, though not, I think, on the questions raised by my noble friend 60 Lord Conesford. So that really, except in so far as there exists a somewhat imprecise Common Law on the subject. what one has to consider is two enactments, and only two, now in force; namely, the Act of 1875 and the Act of 1906.
The Act of 1875 (apart from its other provisions, with which I will not weary the House) differs from the Act of 1906 in this respect. The Act of 1875, by Section 7, renders certain acts unlawful, whereas Section 2 of the Act of 1906 renders certain acts lawful. While, therefore, I wholly agree with the interpretation put upon the Act of 1906 by my noble friend Lord Conesford, with which alone he dealt, there should be added the qualification that the section which he quoted legalises something which might or might not have otherwise been illegal. The Act of 1875 renders something illegal whether or not it might otherwise have been legal. It is important to bear that in mind, in view of what I am going to say.
I will not weary the House by reading the entire sections. I absolutely agree with my noble friend Lord Conesford that an extremely good semi-popular exposition of this subject is contained in the Donovan Report, at page 227, under the heading "Picketing". This is easier for the layman to read than Citrine's Trade Unions and the Law, which is a book for lawyers, and indeed the leading textbook on the subject. For those who wish for an intelligent layman's point of view, I would recommend Donovan as being a slightly easier, though not necessarily more accurate, exposition of the matter.
The Act of 1875, as I have said, renders certain acts illegal which might or might not have been legal up to that point. One of those acts is:To use violence to or intimidate such other person or his wife or children, or to injure his property.The second is:Persistently to follow such other person about from place to place.'A third is:To hide any tools, clothes or other property owned or used by such other person or deprive him of them, or hinder him in the use thereof.61 Then, fourthly:To watch or beset such other person's house or place of work or business or the approach thereto.And fifthly:To follow such other person with two or more other persons in a disorderly manner in or through any street or road.The whole of those acts are rendered illegal. The Act provides that it is unlawful for any person to act in those mannerswrongfully and without legal authority and with a view to compelling another to do or not to do any act which that other had a legal right to do.Clearly, in the case supposed by the noble Lord, Lord Byers, in the ordinary case where a gas company, for instance, is seeking to perform a contract to sell coal or coke already in their possession and on their own property to some third party, they and persons acting under their authority have a legal right to sell and deliver that coal or coke, and therefore they would come within the phrase which I have just quoted from the Act of 1875; and to do any of those acts which I have enumerated in relation to them or their servants might therefore come within the words of the section if the evidence was such as to bring them within those words. So much for the Act of 1875.
The Act of 1906, as I said before, is not an Act which illegalises anything (if I may coin a horrible and un-English verb) it renders something lawful. My noble friend read parts of this Act. but he did not make it absolutely plain; and to this extent, and this extent only, I thought his exposition was defective. The Act begins with the words:It shall be lawful for one or more persons, acting on their own behalf or on behalf of a trade union or of an individual employer or firm in contemplation or furtherance of a trade dispute"—and those words are material, because it must be in contemplation of a trade dispute or in furtherance of a trade dispute before the section bites, and there have been some recent decisions in which those words have been construed by the court which might have a bearing on the question posed by Lord Byers—to attend at or near a house or place where a person resides or works or carries on business or happens to he. if they so attend merely for the purpose of peacefully obtaining or 62 communicating information, or of peacefully persuading any person to work or abstain from working.Of course, when your hear somebody like the noble Lord, Lord Blytan, who has just spoken to the House, talking about "peaceful picketing", teey are really using a perfectly legitimate form of shorthand to refer to that section. But it is not true that everything that you do which is peaceful and which you choose to call picketing is legalised by hat section, because what you have to look at in order to ascertain whether it is legal or not is not the perfectly legitimate shorthand that we use in conversat on, but the actual words of the section.
§ LORD SHINWELL
My Lords, is not the noble and learned Lord now saying something which might prejudice, my case on the subject of picketing coming before the courts?
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
I do not think so at all. I was asked to expound the general law on the subject, and I am trying to do it for the information of the House. Of course, if at any moment I were to say anything which reflected on an individual case, I should immediately seek to qualify it. But, so far as I know, I have said nothing which any judge, jury or counsel could possibly treat as influencing any individual case which is now sub judice or is likely to become sub judice in the course of this dispute. If I am wrong I hope to be rebuked, but I am fairly confider t that I am right.
That said, it follows that m" noble friend is right. In order to claim the advantage of the section of the 1906 Act, a person must establish that what he was doing was in contemplation or furtherance of a trade dispute; and in the case of Cousins v. Torquay Hotels he failed to do so. There was one other case, called Stratford v. Lindley, in which the point was raised and was equally unsuccessful from the point of view of the union. Then a person seeking to rely on the section has to show tint what he was doing, if it comes within the description of the action. was merely—that is the crucial word—for the purpose of peacefully obtaining or communicating information or of peacefully persuading any person to work or to abstain from working.
63 My noble friend Lord Conesford, absolutely correctly, drew the attention of the House to two cases on which Lord Donovan's Commission rightly placed emphasis in their exposition of the law. The first was Piddington; and Piddington clearly establishes the point I was seeking to make a moment ago: that in order to claim the advantage of the section you must look at the words of it and not use a shorthand phrase like "peaceful picketing", because your Lordships will remember from my noble friend's exposition that in that case there were only two persons picketing, and what Piddington sought unsuccessfully to do, for which he was arrested, was to make a third. I quote from Lord Donovan's exposition at the bottom of page 229:There was no obstruction of the highway, no violence and no disorder.In other words, what Piddington did could be, within the meaning of those phrases I have just read out, described as "peaceful". He was none the less held to be outside the law because the police constable who stopped him was reasonably justified in expecting a breach of the peace unless he thinned out the picket line. Piddington was convicted of obstructing a police constable in the execution of his duty contrary to the Prevention of Crimes (Amendment) Act 1885. In other words, he was not able to claim the benefit of Section 2 in that case, and equally he was guilty of an offence not under the Conspiracy and Protection of Property Act 1875 but under the general Statute Law relating to crimes which applies to everybody. So much for Piddington, to which my noble friend referred.
He also referred to the case of Tynan v. Balmer in which, again, the facts are extremely material to the question put to me by the noble Lord, Lord Byers. In this case, 40 pickets outside the main entrance to a factory moved about in a continuous circle, thus obstructing vehicles and pedestrians. Yet there was no violence—again, something that could perfectly well be described as "peaceful" in the ordinary use of the word. Tynan, who was in charge of the pickets (he was the party who gave his name to the case), was asked by a constable to stop the circling, but refused. He was arrested and later convicted by a magistrate for 64 wilfully obstructing a police constable in the execution of his duty. The conviction was upheld in the Crown Court at Liverpool and in the Court of Appeal. It was held that the powers of the police to interfere with picketing were not confined to cases where a breach of the peace was feared, that the circling was not justified by Section 2 of the 1906 Act and that the circling was an unjustified obstruction of the highway. In other words, what rendered that act illegal, apart from the law relating to the obstruction of the police, was the obstruction of the highway—another factor which is illegal under the general law and not under the Conspiracy and Protection of Property Act 1875. That was held to be illegal and, so far as I know, that is the law at the present time.
It follows therefore that if by sheer numbers you seek to stop people getting somewhere where they have a right to go, this is not peaceful picketing within the meaning of Section 2 of the 1906 Act, because what is sought then is not to convey information or the like but to physically obstruct people from doing a thing which they have the right to do. Secondly, sheer numbers and threats of violence or noise can be intimidation. I do not say that they are in any case which has occurred or is likely to occur. I merely say that sheer numbers and threats of noise or violence, so as to put reasonable men in apprehension that they will not be allowed to enter somewhere without paying a penalty which they arc not liable to pay and to do that which they have a legal right to do, is not something which is sanctioned by the law.
I am not going to give a direct answer to the third question which was asked by the noble Lord, Lord Byers, because it is a more difficult one; that was about the contractual rights of third parties. I do not think I should be justified in giving a likely explanation there, except to say to the noble Lord, Lord Byers, that one of the reasons why we passed that section of the Industrial Relations Act last summer was because that part of the law is not altogether satisfactory or clear. I would rather, if I may, in my brief remarks this afternoon, steer clear of it altogether. Also, I am not in a position this afternoon to say what instructions, if any, my right honourable friend has given the police. That is a 65 matter for the Home Office. My noble friend Lord Windlesham is here to assist the House if he feels able to do so. All I have sought to do is to reply as clearly and accurately as I could to the invitation which was impliedly put out by the two noble Lords who have spoken, and expressly thrown out by the noble Lord, Lord Beswick. I must apologise for detaining your Lordships for so long.
§ LORD BYERS
My Lords, before the noble and learned Lord sits down may I say how very grateful the House will be for his very important intervention. May I ask him when we are likely to get any clarification of this question of people who persuade other people to break a contract which has been entered into in good faith? I do not want an answer to that now, but when will this be clarified?
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
My Lords, I do not want to fluff this in any way, but these are cases where one has to but these are cases where one has to fluff the answer deliberately. I do not want to burke this question, but the Lord Chancellor (and indeed in another place the Law Officer) is not a British law ascertainment tribunal, in the sense that he is entitled to prejudge the decisions of the courts. He is bound to assist the House of Lords, so far as his humble professional capacity enables him to do so, about the principles which are reasonably well ascertained; and that I have tried to do. I tried to do it this summer as to the possible effects of the section which we have enacted but which does not come into effect until February 28. But where the law is slightly obscure and depends very largely on a precise formulation of particular facts, I think it would be wrong for me to venture an opinion, and I might be treading on the ground which the noble Lord, Lord Shinwell, suggested I might have been treading on a moment or two ago. I do not know that there are any cases which raise this point, but the only definitive answer which can be given to the noble Lord, Lord Byers, at this stage is that the courts must decide.
§ 5.40 p.m.
§ LORD DAVIES OF LEEK
My Lords, I am sure the House will be grateful to the noble and learned Lord for his interpretation from the Woolsack, but I 66 wish to point out something that the entire House seems to have missed. First, we have been talking about the Donovan Report in normal circumstances. What this House seems to have forgotten is that we are discussing these Regulations, giving emergency powers, and the entire statement (I have not been trained in the law, but I did some logic and semantics) of the noble and learned Lord who sits on the Woolsack seems to be changed by page 21 of the Regulations. Regulation 35 says, in simple, plain English language:Where a constable, with reasonable cause, suspects that an offence against any of these Regulations has been committed, he may arrest without warrant anyone whoa, he. with reasonable cause, suspects to be guilty of the offence.So why all the talk?
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
My Lords, I do not think it is. My noble friend Lord Jellicoe dealt with this point in his opening speech. One of these Regulations (I have not been able to put my finger on it while the noble Lord has been speaking; but it is Regulation 21, I think) expressly says that this does not alter the law in relation to picketing; it does not impinge on it.
§ LORD DAVIES OF LEEK
My Lords, I would not be so arrogant as to contradict the noble and learned Lord directly; but in my estimation it does exactly what I said it does. Furthermore, we are now legitimising illegality of emergency powers. I do not want to delay the House; it is my intention to steak for about only four minutes. We have 50 or 60 Regulations: a man can run a car or lorry without a licence.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
My Lords, would the noble Lord forgive me for one moment, if he will be patient enough? Where I failed before in putting my finger on it, what I was referring to is in Regulation 37. If the noble Lord looks at the proviso he will find that I was right.
§ LORD DAVIES OF LEEK
My Lords, the House will be delighted that that clarification has come forth. I will leave 67 it at that because it would be obtuse of me to follow that point any further. I think I have made a case here that since we have had emergency regulations the whole matter is different. I want to warn the House, as somebody who remembers the great previous occasion of 1926, and before, that we are a different society from that of 1926, which was primitive. At that time we could cook on a coal fire; upsetting the electricity supplies did not interrupt the rhythm of life so much in the 1920s and in 1926 as the rhythm of life is upset to-day. Take the poor people who are living in 26-storey flats where the water has to be pumped upstairs. In other words, the impact of this type of strike is greater than ever before in our history.
With an intelligent and understanding Government we may be able to make this the last of the strikes if we approach the problem and do not play a game of political brinkmanship as the Government have been doing. I should have liked to take longer, but this House is a wise one and probably knows everything I am going to say. I want to spike down, en passant, this point: we must use the public services as a social shock absorber. Coal, transport, electricity, gas, are social shock absorbers. I accept that at the moment (although one day I think it will be changed) that they can be the floats upon which an intelligent, fair, private enterprise can he kept smooth and competitive. Even Churchill, 30 years ago, believed that it was legitimate to subsidise the railways to help industry. I wish the Government would look at these public enterprises in that light. I could quite easily make a 30-minute speech on that point; but this is such a wise and noble House that I am sure every Member present has grasped my point without me expanding on it.
I am objecting—and this point should be watched—to the snide asides at our people in the mining industry, about them lacking intelligence. They are as intelligent as any policeman. Some judges who have sat in this House and other noble Lords, and even bishops, have been sons of miners or, in some cases, have cut coal themselves. To attack any particular class of society for lack of intelligence, as apparently Kingsley Amis did the other day, is an 68 arrogant assumption of intellectuality. So many people oozing with intellectuality, oozing wisdom and lacking wisdom, do not help in a case like this. Consequently, I hope that this trial by television will cease. I feel quite strongly about this, and I am trying to control my emotions about it. Quite sincerely, I think that the interpretation that the noble and learned Lord gave from the Woolsack is necessary at this period in order that we may understand the position. I hope that in this emergency period those who appear on the television will control their remarks rather than cast forward things to get immediate applause or use the immediate catch phrase to arouse popularity.
I have cut my speech by about 99 per cent., and I will sit down now with this observation: no noble Lord in this House can justify the situation in an industry where, as in South Wales, there are nearly 80,000 miners who, after a week's work, can claim family supplements if they really wish to push their claim at the Ministry of Social Security. I thought that it was a good Act in which Sir Keith Joseph did a job of work when he introduced the family supplements provisions. I maintain that any system of society which allows 280,000 key men in the mining industry to he pushed into the position where 80,000 of their number in one part of the country alone, South Wales and its area, can ask for family supplements has something wrong with its scale of economic values. Consequently, without exacerbating the situation, I sincerely hope that we will try as soon as possible to settle this dispute and learn that we must look at this industry in a different light. Why did we send "Bevin boys" to the pits during the war? It was because of the hardness and difficulty of the job. Consequently, while this debate to-night has been a good one, and so far as I am concerned fairly conducted, I hope that noble Lords on both sides of the House will understand that those of us who come from country or mining backgrounds are not trying to overstate our case, but that the time has come when this industry should he treated justly.
§ 5.48 p.m.
§ LORD NUGENT OF GUILDFORD
My Lords, may I utter a word of support for my noble friends on the Front Bench 69 who are moving this Motion for Emergency Powers? Let me say straight away to the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Leek, that I agree with the special case of the miners, but the question at issue is, "How much?" This is always the problem. One thing that we have all been able to agree about is that there is now a grave crisis and therefore emergency powers are needed. With some dialectical skill the noble Lord, Lord Champion, managed to differentiate his support for that from his intended opposition for the Motion itself. There is no doubt that it is the Government's duty to take every action needed to safeguard the life of the community, and that is what they are doing. As I understand it, particularly from the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Champion, supported by many other noble Lords opposite, Her Majesty's Opposition are opposing the Motion because they claim that the fuel crisis was caused by the Government's mishandling of the situation. Let me say in passing that however this is differentiated, it is very unusual for the Opposition Party of the day to vote against giving emergency powers to a Government in a national crisis.
Let us face the issue in the present crisis. Clearly there has been fault—and probably there have been faults. Either they have been on the side of the National Coal Board, and possibly the Government, or they have been on the side of the National Union of Mineworkers, who called the strike. It is not difficult for both sides to recognise that. I must say to noble Lords opposite that in assessing the objectivity of their decision to charge the Government with this fault, to attack the Government for mishandling, we must record the fact that noble Lords opposite have decided throughout this disute that they will support the National Union of Mineworkers. I am not complaining about that; that is -for them to decide. I well understand the deep traditional loyalties on the other side and I listened with interest and respect to noble Lords who have worked in the pits and noble Lords who have been closely associated with them for many years. I well understand how deep and strong their feelings are, but noble Lords opposite, in opposing this Motion to-night and dividing against it, are doing no more than being consistent 70 to this loyalty that they have already declared. But they cannot expect to be regarded as impartial judges of the situation, and they will not be. In voting against the emergency powers they expose themselves to the charge of putting Party interests before national interests.
My Lords, there are two points specific, ally, and one major one, which I should like to touch on briefly in regard to the Government's handling of this dispute which has led to the present requirement of emergency powers. They are both unusual in an industrial dispute. The first is the National Union of Mineworkers' persistent unwillingness to negotiate at all in this dispute. This has been the rock on which our fuel supplies have now foundered. The second is the nature of the picketing, which has already been referred to. I regard it as very much a secondary issue, although it is obviously one which people feel very strongly about. Dealing with the first. the unwillingness of the National Union of Mineworkers to negotiate, it is significant and I think it is just worth repeating the course of events.
Since the strike started on January 9, the National Union of Mineworkers have stuck to their demand for full settlement which was an extra £5 to £9 per week. That would cost the National Coal Board an extra £130 million per annum, a sum which everybody must have recognised was impossible. I will quote specific instances. In the final negotiations, before the Union decided to call the strike, the National Coal Board offered to refer the dispute to the independent National Reference Tribunal and this was rejected. This has been especially provided under the coal mining industry conciliation tribunal. It was rejected. Secondly, during the course of the strike the General Secretary of the Trades Union Congress, Mr. Feather, made a determined effort to try to bring the two sides together and he failed. He said in his statement on January 19 that there was no prospect of doing so.
Finally, in the negotiations last week, the National Coal Board increased their basic offer by £1 per week to an extra £3 per week. It would have beer spread, it is true, over an 18-month period instead of a 12-month period, with certain other improvements. This would have raised 71 the national minimum wage for mineworkers to £22 per week for the lowest paid workers, and would have raised the national rating of the lowest paid workers and the national rating of mineworkers generally from 16th to 6th place in the national scale. This was also rejected. This, my Lords, really does show an extremely unco-operative attitude.
There are many unions in this country who can make out a case for special treatment. We have heard several in the last 18 months. Only 15 months ago we were deeply concerned about the case for what are called the "dirty work" workers in the public service. They have a special case. I will not take up your Lordships' time now, but I cannot forbear to say that I am connected with the farming world. The farm worker's statutory wage for a 42-hour week is £16.10. He has to work weekends as well. It is true that he gets overtime for that weekend work, but his final wage is far below the final wages being claimed here. Of course, he does not have a dirty, dangerous job like mining. I agree that the miner has a dirty, dangerous job and deserves recognition as a special case. The point I am making is that there is a limit, and it must be seen in the national perspective in order to judge what it should be. However strong the miners' case may be, no Government could have agreed to finance the wage increase concerned. Certainly the National Coal Board could not do it. If something of the order of an extra £100 million, which their final demand of some £7 per week would have amounted to, had been granted, this would have had to be financed by the Government, and any Government knows well from the history of recent years that this would have been the prelude to a procession of similar claims and we should have been back to square one with the raging inflation that we have experienced in recent years.
Normally, the leadership of the trade unions are willing to negotiate, and we can see throughout the national scene today leaders of unions who have negotiated recent wage levels at somewhere between 7 and 10 per cent. I would say that, in face of the National Coal Board's final offer, it was reasonable to expect that the National Union of Mineworkers 72 would agree to negotiate. For that reason alone I would reject the charge of the noble Lord, Lord Champion, that the Government should have acted sooner to take emergency powers in order to safeguard the nation's supplies. It is always difficult to decide what the right timing is. If the Government act too soon they may prejudice the chance of the union leaders coming to the negotiating table and negotiating a settlement.
§ LORD CHAMPION
My Lords, the point that the Government ought to have acted sooner did not relate to the emergency powers but related to the appointment of a Court of Inquiry which in my opinion could have been set up at least three weeks earlier.
§ LORD NUGENT OF GUILDFORD
My Lords, I am coming to the Court of Inquiry in a minute. Normally, fortunately for everybody, union leaders and employers, whether in the public or in the private sector, do manage to get around the table and do manage to settle these disputes by agreement.
Finally, a word about the nature of picketing. May I join in thanks to my noble friend the Lord Chancellor for his valuable and authoritative exposition on this difficult subject, and say also how much I enjoyed the speeches of the noble Lord, Lord Byers, and my noble friend Lord Conesford? The measure of intimidation and violence employed by some pickets, particularly in interfering with workers and supplies at electricity generating stations, has undoubtedly significantly worsened the supply position and was not anticipated by Her Majesty's Government. It could not have been. The Government can hardly be criticised if they made any mistake on timing on this account.
To what extent this kind of picketing has occurred I am not prepared to express an opinion. We do not know. We know that some did occur, because we saw it, but I am prepared to accept that in many cases pickets behaved perfectly reasonably. In so far as there was any intimidation or violence, there was undoubtedly a breach of the law, and this was something the Government could not have expected. But we do know that the 73 effect has been that there are some 2 million tons of stocks of coal at the power stations which are now immobilised because the Generating Board has not been able to use them, either directly or because of shortage of the various supplements that are necessary in the use of this solid fuel. So, in regard to timing, I would urge that the Government's original estimate that the power stations had some eight weeks' supply of fuel—that was the statement they made on January 9—was probably not far out, if the extra two weeks are taken into account. In the light of these events, I maintain that Her Majesty's Government were right to give the National Coal Board and the National Union of Mineworkers a last chance to negotiate last week. And, in the light of the last offer made, I roundly say that I felt, and I believe a great many people felt, profound disappointment that the National Union of Mineworkers rejected it out of hand. In my opinion, the responsibility lies squarely on their shoulders and not on the Government's.
The one ray of light I welcome in the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Champion, was his reference to the appointment of the Court of Inquiry. I join with him in welcoming it, and particularly in his welcome to our distinguished friend, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Wilberforce, as Chairman. Despite my criticism of the noble Lord's decision to go into the Division Lobby, I felt that his comments on the setting up of the Court of Inquiry, and the statement that he welcomed it, boded well; and I most earnestly hope that this implies that the Labour Party will use its influence with the National Union of Mineworkers to accept the Court's recommendation when it comes. Because at this moment in time, during an urgent fuel crisis, the issue at stake, as we all well know, is the life of the whole nation. The miners and their families are a very important part of the whole nation, but they are only a part of it and they must take second place to the interests of the whole. It is the Government's responsibility to protect the rights of our people against inflation, which has done so much harm in recent years—and here the Government are having a substantial measure of success—and equally, to protect the interests of the private citizen 74 and the nation as a whole against strong-arm methods by any section of the community against the rest. It is in that spirit, my Lords, that I urge your Lordships to go into the Lobby—I wish it would be unanimous—to support this Motion.
§ 6.3 p.m.
§ LORD BALOGH
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Nugent of Guildford, accused us of partisanship, and then accused the mineworkers of not wanting to negotiate. Here is a trade union which has not had a strike since 1926 It does not seem really, on the face of it, a union which does not want to negotiate and avoid strikes. Lord Nugent himself exposed his non-partisanship by saying that the miners should have submitted their claim to the Reference Board. He could not have read my speech on the miners' strike made a few weeks ago, because had he done so he would have seen that that Board consisted of I. retired civil servant who acted as a counsellor to a large company, with two members, one a publicity counsellor of another trade association, and a so-called academic whose bitterness against trade unions is well known. This is what the noble Lord, Lord Nugent, wants the miners to accept as an impartial body. Well, I congratulate him!
LORD NUGENT or GUILDFORD
My Lords, I am much obliged to the noble Lord for giving way. Yes. I gave myself the pleasure of reading the noble Lord's speech, but I reached a different conclusion from his about the impartiality of this body.
§ LORD BALOGH
My Lords, I am quite sure that the noble Lord, Lord Nugent. was entirely guided by non-partisanship, while I am very partisan. I am partisan between good and bad.
My Lords, we are asked to approve emergency powers for this Government. In normal circumstances as their have been since the war, of course one would have granted these emergency powers as of right, on the nod. "Butskell' could have had it and "Gaitler" could have had it. But this is not a normal postwar British Government at all; this is something quite different. This is a Government which depletes the ranks of 75 the Judicial part of this House with extreme rapidity, exporting them to either coal Inquiries or Northern Ireland Inquiries. We have seen an exacerbation, indeed an escalation, in another part of this country as the result of ill-considered or non-considered steps of this Government. Can one be sure that the Government here will not follow their policy nearer to the capital? Britain was a pleasant country to live in until this Government came into power. It was a country which showed that Marx can be taken as an object of scepticism, not as a major describer of actualities. We had no class war or even class hostility in this country before this Government came to office. We now have both, and mainly thanks to the obstinate stupidity of the Prime Minister in extolling abrasive competition and positively favouring those who have against those who have not. The characteristic performance of the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack shows with blinding clarity the cause of our difficulties. The lawfulness of picketing is irrelevant.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
My Lords, the noble Lord may describe my intervention as characteristic but it was directly the result of an invitation of the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, among others, to state what, so far as I knew, on behalf of the Government, were the general principles of the law. That is all I did. If the noble Lord thinks I was inaccurate he is well entitled to say so, but I only responded to an invitation which came from three quarters of the House.
§ LORD BALOGH
My Lords, I stand corrected. But it is still irrelevant, I fear. It is irrelevant if we want to establish a society which can combine stability and full employment. If you want to have conditions in which we can securely go into the Common Market. or indeed exist outside, it is not by lawfulness or unlawfulness in this connection that we are going to get them.
The departmental structure is obviously absolutely hopeless. Ministerial control, as this case has shown. is almost nonexistent. Some of my friends have emphasised here the special case of the miners. of course the miners have a special case; but so were so many others. We had a special case even for the noble 76 and learned Lord on the Woolsack. His salary for being on the Woolsack was reduced by £1,500, but his overall salary went up quite nicely. The civil servants were a special case. Indeed, everybody is a special case. How can we, without a central body, without having a packaged deal on the national level, deal with these matters? Obviously what we are now having are demands for higher wages, and it is obvious that this will continue. Noble Lords may laugh but it is not a laughing matter; it is a tragic matter. However, I do not want to detain your Lordships now, because we are going to discuss these matters to-morrow. The only appropriate simile I can find to this sort of negotiation is that everybody is somebody and nobody is anybody. That is what is so tragic about it. In the rat race we are trying to catch up with each other and we end by imperilling the prosperity of the country. To-day I can only say that I cannot entrust this Government with these powers.
§ 6.10 p.m.
§ LORD SHINWELL
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Nugent, was correct in his assessment of the position: the Labour Party sides with the mineworkers; the Conservative Party, as exemplified in the course of the debate in the other place yesterday. sides with the Government. There is not the least doubt that noble Lords on the Conservative Benches opposite will also support the Government. That is how the matter stands.
We can deal with the merits of the coal dispute, and indeed that it partly the purpose of this debate. but there have been irrelevancies. The noble Lord. Lord Nugent, embarked on one such irrelevancy. He referred to the situation in the farming industry and compared it with the right rates of pay offered to the mineworkers. Is he not a little ashamed of the low wages paid to those associated with farming in the United Kingdom? If he is not ashamed it is obvious that the Conservative Party's policy, if it has the power, will be to depress the living standards of the workers of this country. Indeed, they embarked on this policy after the last Election.
§ LORD NUGENT OF GUILDFORD
My Lords, will the noble Lord be kind enough to give way for a moment? Certainly I would like to see the farm 77 workers' wages higher, but the last two wages increases which have been made—and they are statutorily controlled, as the noble Lord, Lord Shinwell, will know —in January of this year and the previous January, in other words, while this Government have been in office, are the two biggest wage increases that the industry has ever had.
§ LORD SHINWELL
My Lords, no matter what the wage rates of the farming community are at present they are far too low, and any attempt to improve their living standards has been resisted over and over again by the farmers, many of whom sit on the Government Benches. But we are not discussing the wage rates of farmworkers; the noble Lord, Lord Nugent, embarked on a comparison and thus he provoked me into making this brief observation on that aspect of the subject.
We had a somewhat lengthy dissertation on the legal aspects of picketing. It may be that the generalisations—I use the term that was used by the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor—may Prejudice some of the cases that come before the court. Men engaged in picketing are accused of illegal or unlawful activity. but that may not be so in this case. In my submission, the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor, went pretty near the bone and I only hope that the judges who are empowered to try those cases will pay little or no attention to the observations made by the noble and learned Lord who sits on the Woolsack.
There is another observation I wish to make in this respect. If there is such anxiety to ascertain the facts relating to what is called "illegal and unlawful picketing", why did not the Law Officer in the other place say something on the subject? It may be that there was no request in the other place during the course of yesterday's debate for a lengthy (or even a limited) exposition of the subject. Why was it left to your Lordships' House? It was the noble Lord, Lord Byers, who raised the subject. What was the content of his speech. and indeed what was the purpose of it? Let us take the content of it first—"Ah, the millers deserve better treatment". Then said the noble Lord, Lord Byers, "Of course they do, but we cannot go too far". In other words, the miners should only go 78 just as far as the noble Lord, Lord Byers—an industrial tycoon—along with his associates, will permit. That is the situation. So he has indulged in the obvious diversion, if I may use an old expression which I am sure is familiar to the noble and learned Lord who sits on the Woolsack: if you have: lot got a case, abuse the plaintiff. So, if you have not got a case against the miners then attack them, in an indirect, oblique fashion, and refer to illegal picketing.
What is more, the noble Lord, Lord Byers. referred to violence, as ii violence had been general up and down the country throughout the coalfields. There is not a substratum of truth in that. Of course there has been picketing; men have been desperate and have been in conflict with the police. Many of the police have sought to restrain themselves. On the other hand, many of tie police have been under instructions from chief constables in various parts of the coalfields—and everyone knows w lat chief constables are: members of the county golf clubs: they go hunting, they mix with members of the Conservative Party and they do not care very much about the miners. I would like to know what their actual instructions were. But we will not discuss in this debate whether picketing is desirable or not, whether it is lawful or legal or not. That is not the subject. The issue is whether we can support the Government in the presentation of emergency powers.
In that connection I am going to make one preliminary observation. I want to say one thing and I hope that my noble friends on this side of the House will permit me to say it. But whether they permit me or not, I shall say it. It is the prerogative of any Government to introduce emergency powers. I have been a member of Governments that introduced emergency powers. The question is not whether the Government have the right, the prerogative, the privilege or indeed the responsibility of introducing emergency powers: the question is whether there is justification at any moment of time for undertaking that task. That is the issue.
What is this issue all about? The situation is that the miners say: "We want better rates of pay". They approach the National Coal Board, and the National Coal Board say: "We cannot afford it 79 but we will give you something". When asked: "What?" they say: "We will give you something that is equivalent to the norm"—stated over and over again by Mr. Heath and company, namely, seven point something per cent. That is what they said. The National Coal Board were carrying out their instructions. They have a case—the financial structure. Just look upon this typical situation. The Board add: "Moreover, if we increase the miners' wages the price of coal will go up", as though the price has not been going up all the time. If we take comparable rates per ton of coal in this country, the rates are enormous in comparison with what they were, not because miners' wages have increased but for a variety of other reasons, in particular including the quite appropriate efforts on the part of various members of various National Coal Boards to mechanise the pits, to rationalise them, to make them more effective, to introduce modern equipment in order to increase the manpower production of the men who are employed in the mines. They have done that. It costs a lot of money, and the National Coal Board, the present Board and Boards which preceded them, have had to pay high rates of interest on the capital invested by them, compulsorily invested by them, because without that investment it would have been impossible even to produce the coal that has been produced before this strike began. That is the situation.
The Government say the miners have been demanding too much, but in point of fact the Government now recognise, as indeed the country recognises, as indeed noble Lords opposite must recognise, that the miners have got a case for more than the National Coal Board offer. In point of fact the offer made by the National Coal Board was derisory. Why do I say that? Because now we are told the miners should accept what amounts to a £4 increase, a £22 minimum wage, a substantial increase beyond what the National Coal Board offered. So what was offered in the first instance was derisory. The case has been made out.
Then why emergency powers? Because there is not enough coal. But we are told there are 9 million tons of coal in the stocks and 4 million tons of coal 80 at the disposal of the Electricity Generating Board. Indeed we have been told from the start that it would be possible to avert anything in the nature of a stoppage or a blackout or a reduction in power, either in industries or for domestic purposes, because there was sufficient coal for eight or nine weeks. That was what we were told. And it was because the Government believed, or at any rate asserted—whether they believed it is beside the point—that there was sufficient coal for seven weeks that they were able to ignore the miners with the contempt which they indulge in when it suits their purpose. That is the position. If the Government had believed that there was not more than four weeks' supply available, if the Government had believed that it would be impossible to go beyond three or four weeks without introducing emergency powers, if the Government had believed the miners would not take it lying down but act in some instances like desperate men, very often provoked into desperation, then the National Coal Board would have made a much more substantial offer.
But what did that mean? More inflation. I want to make another proposition which is a principle which I think ought to be acceptable to every Member of your Lordships' House. We ought to curb inflation if it is possible to do it, of course. Nobody likes inflation, any more than anybody likes emergency powers with all the consequences of emergency powers and an emergency situation. But consider what the situation is. Here we have a large section of industry under national control, operating by corporations, by boards. and here we have a large section of industry under private enterprise, private ownership. What is happening? Look on this picture and on that. Take the private section. The motor firm of Chrysler recently increased wages by £4 or £5 a week.
§ LORD SHINWELL
Maybe £6; at any rate, increases far beyond anything offered to the miners. The comparison of the kind of work undertaken, the hardships, difficulties and casualties, must be obvious to everybody. Indeed, in almost every sector of private ownership 81 in this country since the Government came in there have been substantial increases in wage rates leading to higher living standards, whereas in regard to the public sector they have been held down to a norm which the Government must know in their hearts is far less than those in the public sector are entitled to. So when we are talking about inflation, and the desire, which is wholehearted, universal, in this country to curb inflation, what are the Government doing? It makes the impact on those in the public sector. It may be said they have no responsibility for, no power over, those in the private sector. It was possible for them to go to C.B.I. and come to some arrangement for the purpose of restricting the rise in food prices and other prices to 5 per cent. Was it impossible for them to use their influence with the C.B.I. and those associated with the C.B.I. in order to curb inflation in the private sector, or were they afraid that it would lead to a series of industrial disputes? So on behalf of the Labour Party I say that the miners have got a case.
Now take this question of illegal picketing. There was a sense of unreality when the noble Lord, Lord Byers, the noble Lord, Lord Conesford, and the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor, raised the matter. I shall tell noble Lords why. Because almost simultaneously with those speeches, indeed before those speeches had been delivered, even in the case of the noble Lord, Lord Byers, to say nothing of the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor, in the Evening Standard and the Evening News (and those are organs of unimpeachable veracity; they never tell anything but the truth) there was a declaration by Mr. Gormley to terminate mass picketing—nothing but peaceful picketing, indeed in certain parts of the coalfields no picketing at all. Why did Mr. Gormley say this? Because, he said, we have now got an Inquiry and we know that that Inquiry will result in a much more substantial wage than was offered originally by the National Coal Board. So where was the reality in all these dissertations and discussions about illegal picketing? It would be advisable for noble Lords before they make their speeches to go into the Library and read the newspapers or look at the tape, 82 as I did; they would discover that their speeches are unnecessary or completely irrelevant.
Where are we now? I shall tell your Lordships. We are back where we were in the last mining debate. Do not forget what was said on that occasion: we need a fuel and power policy. We have not got one—with electricity standing on its own head, gas standing on its own feet, coal in between, insecure, uncertain and told over and over again, "We do not know how long you are going to last". The workers of the coal industry are never certain about whether the pit in which they are employed is going to linger on or be closed down. It may be that it is the insecurity among the mineworkers that causes this appearance of desperation that has been exemplified recently in some parts of the coalfields. We require a fuel and power policy; coordination of electricity generation, gas production, North Sea gas, oil, and even nuclear energy. In parenthesis, may I remark that the vast sums of money that have been spent by the State in the production, development and research in relation to nuclear energy have led to practically nothing. We want coordination with the whole of the fuel and power industries; and the sooner the Government get down to that the better it will be for the country.
There has been a great deal of talk about keeping in mind the national interest, and I agree with almost every word that has been said about it. In my opinion, the national interest must always be No. 1 priority. But when we are concerned about the national interest we cannot disregard some sectors associated with the national interest; and particularly when we have a Government who claim to be anxious to improve the lot of the people by reducing prices, about which there has been so much boasting with such little performance.
Finally, a word about the Prime Minister. The Sunday Telegraph, of all papers, Tory to the hone, had a leading article; and look at the headline: "We want another Baldwin". Nothing that has been said on this side of the House against the Prime Minister—and I listened to the speech of my noble friend Lord Taylor of Mansfield criticising the Prime Minister in very mild, muted tones—or even in the other place yesterday, 83 compares with what the Sunday Telegraph said. "We want another Baldwin"—another leader, and how rightly! Obstinate; obdurate; arrogant; almost perverse: if I can use a gem used by the late lamented Neville Chamberlain over and over again about his critics: bungler, amateurish, a political apprentice with an awful lot to learn. Yes, comparing him with some of the Conservative Prime Ministers of this country—Balfour, at the beginning of this century; Baldwin; even Bonar Law for 12 months; Macmillan (what a tower of strength in comparison!)—it is about time your Lordships were a little ashamed of him.
There it is. What are we going to do about it? We know that to-night the Labour Party will go into the Lobby and, whether we like it or not, we shall have to accept the emergency powers, for what help they are going to be. We shall have a report from the Wilberforce Committee, and no doubt they will add a little to what was offered by the National Coal Board on two occasions since the beginning of this dispute, and the miners will go back to work. But not all of them will go back to work; some of them will not be able to go back because of the condition of the pits, so I believe, although I think that matter has been grossly exaggerated. I have had experience as a Minister connected with the mining industry way back to 1924, and I know that it is often found, when a pit is waterlogged or even when the equipment has deteriorated, that it is possible to recover it very rapidly. Many miners will not want to go back. If it were not for the one million unemployed in the country many miners would not go back to the mining industry. Those who are always telling us that after all the conditions are very good—like the noble Lord. Lord Nugent of Guildford, who said they are going to get a minimum wage of £22—and many of the newspaper scribes who have said that the conditions are not so dangerous in the pits as is said, can go and dig the coal themselves.
We must vote against the Government to-night, not because we are against emergency powers as such but because of the wrong timing. the miscalculations, and the attitude of the Prime Minister who, during this dispute, has done practically nothing. There has been no attempt to bring both parties together. There was 84 an occasion when we had the seamen's dispute rather more than two years ago when complaints were made that the former Minister of Labour, Mr. Gunter. failed to bring both sides together and the dispute lasted seven or eight weeks. It is the responsibility and duty of a Minister associated with industry and employment to bring the parties together at the earliest possible stage. I am satisfied that both parties would have come together under the auspices of the Minister responsible if they had been invited in the proper fashion. They were treated with contempt ail the way through, and now we have this grave disaster which we all deplore and which we want to bring to an end as rapidly as possible.
§ 6.36 p.m.
§ LORD DRUMALBYN
My Lords, my noble friend and Leader in opening this debate said he would go fairly wide and that he expected the debate to go wide. Certainly Lord Shinwell's speech in that respect has been typical of the debate, with his kaleidoscopic oratory. He sought to justify going into the Lobby against the Motion—which is quite a simple one, as to whether we approve or disapprove the continuance of the emergency powers—as did the noble Lord, Lord Champion, by claiming that it was a protest against the Government. The tenor of the debate as a whole has been that these emergency powers are necessary. Noble Lords opposite are welcome to the luxury of going into the Lobby against the Government. It is a luxury because they would not do it if they thought that there was any chance of defeating the Government. They know that these powers are necessary.
The noble Lord, Lord Champion, started off on a very moderate note. He waxed more and more critical of the Government as his speech went on, but I really do not think that, if the noble Lord were fully aware of the facts, he would have been able to make such a speech as he made. I hope to be able to tell him some of the facts of which he apparently was not aware. He said that the Government had stood back and hoped that market forces would produce a settlement. However, the National Union of Mineworkers, on January 6, declined the invitation of my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Employment, to enter into talks at 85 his office. On January 18, as my noble friend Lord Nugent said, my right honourable friend again emphasised in another place that his door was wide open to both sides for any help which he could give. This was no nonchalant, flippant statement, as the noble Lord, Lord Taylor of Mansfield, suggested; it was a constructive offer of his assistance. It was one of the initiatives which led, on January 21, to him seeing representatives of the National Coal Board and the Union. Although both parties felt unable to change their positions, he declared publicly that he would continue to consider any possibilities of further action, and would keep in touch with the parties. On February 9 my right honourable friend again persuaded both sides to come to St. James's Square, and he and his officials did everything possible to promote a settlement. As your Lordships know, the National Union of Mineworkers rejected the much improved offer by the National Coal Board at that meeting. I submit that in the light of the evidence I have mentioned, the Government stand acquitted of the charge of having stood back throughout the dispute. They have actively sought to help both parties towards a settlement.
The noble Lord, Lord Champion asked: Why leave it so late to appoint a court of inquiry? Why spring the decision on industry? This decision was not sprung on industry. The Government had stated at the outset that there were eight weeks' supply of coal for electricity. This is a point which the noble Lord, Lord Blyton, mentioned. He said that the declaration of emergency was bound to come. After live weeks, it must have been obvious to all that the taking of emergency powers was imminent. The papers had been full of warnings the previous week-end. In the fifth week, the parties were at last brought together again. The noble Lord said that no meaningful consultation took place, but I want to tell your Lordships that consultation took place at all levels; that there was a considerable amount of preparation; that the preparation for an emergency of this kind went back to the autumn; that the electricity boards were in touch with their customers in all the regions; and that it was on this basis that it was possible to make the plans. I was challenged on the point of consultation, but, as I said, there was very full consultation at all levels and 86 your Lordships should ask noble Lords who know. Many of them or both sides of the House have been consulted and have been able to take steps or to make representations on this matter.
§ LORD SHEPHERD
My Lords, as my companies have certainly not been consulted, I wonder whether the noble Lord can make available in the Library a copy of the letter which the noble Earl the Leader of the House said was sent out, intimating to companies what action they should take. Will the noble Lord undertake to look into this?
§ LORD DRUMALBYN
My Lords, the noble Lord has made a mistake. It was not a question of sending out information to firms telling them what was going to happen. What happened was this. The electricity boards were authorised to undertake confidential consultations in the autumn when these seemed necessary, and many such discussions took place; for example, with firms with continuous process plants that may have been unable to comply safely with the directions. The extent of the consultations was left to the discretion of area boards but there was at least one area board that consulted all its major consumers.
§ LORD BESWICK
My Lords, will the noble Lord be good enough to tell us when industry was told that it was going to be put on a three-day week?
§ LORD DRUMALBYN
My Lords, 20,000 letters had obviously been prepared in advance to send out to those customers whose demand was 100 kilowatts or more. These had obviously been carefully prepared. They could not have been sent out on that day unless they had.
§ LORD DRUMALBYN
No, my Lords. I cannot give way all the time. I was challenged about consultation. All this was done in the light of consultation and it was therefore possible when the time 87 came, when it was obvious that an emergency had descended upon us, to send out the letters. But the scheme had to be carefully worked out, and it was only when the decision was made that the letters were sent out and promulgated.
§ LORD BESWICK
My Lords, is the noble Lord then telling us that, although there were these consultations last autumn, it was still necessary to give only 24 hours' notice that these cuts were to be made?
§ LORD DRUMALBYN
My Lords, we had come into an emergency. The fact was that at that stage we had a rejection of an improved offer by the National Coal Board. The following day we had a rejection of the suggestion that the offer should be taken up by the miners and that they should go back to work while a Court of Inquiry investigated the position and the Coal Board itself said that it was prepared to implement the findings of the Court of Inquiry, whatever they were. It was on that basis that we arrived at that situation. The situation at that time was that we had a limited supply of coal with which to work.
§ LORD DRUMALBYN
No, my Lords, I really cannot go on giving way all the time. The situation at that time was that industry, generally using about 75 per cent. of its normal consumption of coal, still had three weeks' supply in all except three regions. The power stations were down to three weeks' supply, taking into account stocks which were being denied to them. Obviously, this was the moment at which to declare the emergency. Noble Lords are arguing from time to time that it should have been declared earlier. On the other hand, they are proposing to vote against giving emergency powers now. Noble Lords really must make up their minds what they want.
The noble Lord, Lord Byers, did a great service to the House, as did my noble friend Lord Conesford, in raising the question of picketing. I have listened quietly throughout the debate and I hope that noble Lords will extend to me the same courtesy. As I said, they did a great service in raising this question of 88 picketing as it affects the liberty of the subject. My noble friend Lord Conesford, and my noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor, have dealt with this matter, but they have left me to deal with important points that were raised. I want to make it quite plain that no instructions—and "instructions" is the word that was used—have been issued to the police. The Home Secretary has no power to issue such instructions. Chief constables were reminded early—
§ LORD DRUMALBYN
That is the normal way to do it—of the law relating to picketing in particular, Section 7 of the Conspiracy and Protection of Property Act 1875, and Section 2 of the Trade Disputes Act 1906. Guidance was later given to chief constables about the importance of close consultation. The first was telling them where to look for the law, and the other was giving them guidance about practical matters. They were told of the importance of close consultation between the local trade union officials and local senior police officers in ensuring that picketing is conducted properly and peacefully.
It is the responsibility of my right honourable friend the Home Secretary to maintain law and order, and this is done through the chief constables. They are responsible for law and order in their own areas. I am bound to say that I think the House ought to be grateful to them—and I do not think this has been sufficiently appreciated—that they have kept all feeling, all emotion, down. It may be that they have done this by way of turning a blind eye from time to time to particular offences. But, at any rate, it is very much to the credit of the police in this country that in what was undoubtedly a highly contentious situation they succeeded in getting through with so few incidents. It is, of course, for the courts to interpret the law; and I hope that I may leave the matter there.
My Lords, something has been said about the restructuring of the finances of the Coal Board. The noble Lord, Lord Taylor of Mansfield, and the noble Lord, Lord Blyton, both mentioned this. The noble Lord, Lord Blyton, quite correctly quoted what my right honourable friend the Minister for Industry said in another place; and it is a fact, of course, that the 89 restructuring of the finances of the Coal Board have been under consideration for some time. But this has nothing to do with the present issue. One has to remember, after all, that in respect of the Coal Board's finances over £400 million has already been written off. This is a matter which can be considered at the proper time; but the issue that we really had to deal with was, on the one hand, a very high claim by the National Union of Mineworkers and, on the other, an offer by the National Coal Board which was raised three times—and the last offer was, in ordinary terms, about 50 per cent. higher than the original offer.
Perhaps I may be allowed to say just this, because noble Lords have raised the question of justice. The noble Lord, Lord Davies of Leek, spoke about justice; and naturally we all want to see justice for every section of the community. We want to see justice for the miners. But perhaps it is not out of place to point out—and I hope I am not in any way prejudicing anything by saying this—that at the time when the present Government came into power the minimum wage for miners was £15. It is now £18; and if the offer that was put forward had been accepted, the minimum wage in the mining industry would have been £22. So it has gone up from £15 to, as it would have been, £22 in less than two years.
§ LORD BLYTON
I have asked the noble Lord quite civilly, and he has given way. Why all the shouting?
§ LORD BLYTON
Dealing with the financial structure, it is only belatedly that the Government have now made an announcement. These accounts have been used against us all the way, and the offers that have been made we have considered totally inadequate. It has been this millstone around our neck which has caused the present situation.
§ LORD DRUMALBYN
My Lords, the Government have always been willing to look into this problem, but, as I say, there has already been a reorganisation of the finances. The finances can be reorganised if necessary; but what no Government are prepared to do, as my right honourable friend said in another place, is to subsidise wage increases.
I hope that noble Lords will now allow me to draw to a close. The point that I think I must revert to here is this. The nation is now in a serious emergency. This is not the time to discuss the extent to which the parties to the dispute or the Government are responsible. Some think the Government have been determined to drive the miners into the ground; some think the miners have been determined to drive the nation into the ground. But the question is whether we are going to approve these emergency powers or not. Noble Lords have criticaised us for not introducing them sooner. They cannot at the same time say that they are not now necessary. These powers are not directed against anyone. They are not designed—I say this to the noble Lord, Lord Blyton—to break the strike. They are obviously not designed for that purpose, because they are so similar to what has been introduced before. Their purpose is to protect the life of the community. It cannot be denied that there is an emergency. Everyone recognises that, in an emergency, the Government must be given powers to protect the life of the community. Everyone recognises that, in an emergency, available supplies have to be shared out. These Regulations give the powers necessary to do so. These powers are very similar to those previously given to Government in similar, though probably less serious circumstances. I invite all your Lordships to approve these powers.
§ On Question, Whether the Motion shall be agreed to?
§ 6.56 p.m.
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 135: Not-Contents, 53.91
|Aberdare, L.||Arran, E.||Balfour of Inchrye, L.|
|Allerton, L.||Astor of Hever, L.||Bathurst, E.|
|Amherest of Hackney, L.||Auckland, L.||Beatty, E.|
|Amory, V.||Balerno, L.|
|Beaumont, L.||Exeter, M.||Mowbray and Stourton, L. [Teller.]|
|Belhaven and Stenton, L.||Falkland, V.|
|Belstead, L.||Ferrers, E.||Moyne, L.|
|Bessborough, E.||Ferrier, L.||Napier and Ettrick, L.|
|Bethell, L.||Fortescue, E.||Northchurch, Bs.|
|Blakenham, V.||Gainford, L.||Norwich, V.|
|Boyd of Merton, V.||Goschen, V.||Nugent of Guildford, L.|
|Brecon, L.||Gowrie, R.||Onslow, E.|
|Brooke of Cumnor, L.||Greenway, L.||Orr-Ewing, L.|
|Brooke of Ystradfellte, Bs.||Grenfell, L.||Rankeillour, L.|
|Brougham and Vaux, L.||Gridley, L.||Redesdale, L.|
|Buchan, E.||Grimston of Westbury, L.||Reigate, L.|
|Caccia, L.||Hailsham of Saint Marylebone, L. (L. Chancellor.)||Roberthall, L.|
|Caldecote, V.||Rockley, L.|
|Camrose, V.||Hood, V.||Rowallan, L.|
|Carrick, E.||Howard of Glossop, L.||St. Aldwyn, E.|
|Carrington, L.||Hylton-Foster, Bs.||St. Helens, L.|
|Chelmer, L.||Ilford, L.||St. Just, L.|
|Clitheroe, L.||Inchyra, L.||Saint Oswald, L.|
|Clwyd, L.||Inglewood, L.||Sandford, L.|
|Coleraine, L.||Jellicoe, E. (L. Privy Seal.)||Sandys, L.|
|Conesford, L.||Jessel, L.||Savile, L.|
|Cowley, E.||Kilmany, L.||Selkirk, E.|
|Craigavon, V.||Kilmarnock, L.||Sempill, Ly.|
|Craigmyle, L.||Kindersley, L.||Shawcross, L.|
|Crathorne, L.||Kinnoull, E.||Somers, L.|
|Crawshaw, L.||Lauderdale, E.||Stamp, L.|
|Cromartie, E.||Leicester, E.||Strathclyde, L.|
|Cullen of Ashbourne, L.||Lothian, M.||Sudeley, L.|
|Daventry, V.||Loudoun, C.||Swansea, L.|
|de Clifford, L.||Lucas of Chilworth, L.||Swinton, E.|
|De L'Isle, V.||Lyell, L.||Teviot, L.|
|Denham, L. [Teller.]||Macleod of Borve, Bs.||Thorneycroft, L.|
|Derwent, L.||Mancroft, L.||Trefgarne, L.|
|Drumalbyn, L.||Mar and Kellie, E.||Tweedsmuir, L.|
|Dudley, E.||Margadale, L.||Tweedsmuir of Belhelvie, Bs.|
|Dulverton, L.||Massereene and Ferrard, V.||Vernon, L.|
|Dundonald, E.||Merrivale, L.||Vivian, L.|
|Eccles, V.||Mersey, V.||Waldegrave, E.|
|Effingham, E.||Milverton, L.||Windlesham, L.|
|Elliot of Harwood, Bs.||Monek, V.||Young, Bs.|
|Emmet of Amberley, Bs.|
|Ardwick, L.||Evans of Hungershall, L.||Nunburnholme, L.|
|Arwyn, L.||Gaitskell. Bs.||Popplewell, L.|
|Bacon, Bs.||Garnsworthy, L.||Raglan, L.|
|Balogh, L.||Hoy, L.||Royle, L.|
|Beswick, L.||Janner, L.||Rusholme, L.|
|Blyton, L.||Kennet, L.||St. Davids, V.|
|Brockway, L.||Leatherland, L.||Serota, Bs.|
|Burntwood, L.||Lee of Asheridge, Bs.||Shepherd, L.|
|Burton of Coventry, Bs.||Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe, Bs.||Shinwell, L.|
|Chalfont, L.||Lloyd of Hampstead, L.||Snow, L.|
|Champion, L.||Longford, E.||Strabolgi, L. [Teller.]|
|Cooper of Stockton Heath, L.||MeLeavy, L.||Summerskill, Bs.|
|Davies of Leek, L.||MacLeod of Fuinary, L.||Taylor of Mansfield, L.|
|Delacourt-Smith, L.||Maelor, L.||Wells-Pestell, L.|
|Diamond, L.||Milner of Leeds, L. [Teller.]||White, Bs.|
|Donaldson of Kingsbridge, L.||Morris of Kenwood, L.||Wright of Ashton under Lyne, L.|
|Douglass of Cleveland, L.||Moyle, L.|
|Energlyn, L.||Noel-Buxton, L.||Wynne-Jones, L.|
On Question, Motion agreed to.
|Resolved in the affirmative, and Motion agreed to accordingly.|