§ 4.39 p.m.
LORD ORR-EWING rose to draw attention to methods used to disrupt and undermine British industry; and to move for Papers. The noble Lord said: My Lords, I am very fortunate in having drawn in the ballot for the second occasion an opportunity in a mini-debate to discuss a subject which I believe to be of considerable importance to the whole nation. I have set it down in the terms:
To draw attention to methods used to disrupt and undermine British industry; and to move for Papers.
I am grateful to Peers in all parts of the House for remaining here, the very last debate before we rise for the Easter Recess, and I hope that the importance of the subject will fully justify their attendance and their support. I am most grateful to those Peers on both sides of the House who are speaking on this Motion.
§ If any noble Lord, or the House in general, expects me to be highly provocative, I shall have to disappoint them, because I do not wish to be provocative. I hope I will not disappoint the noble Lord, Lord Shinwell, because he always likes the good cut and thrust of debate. I am afraid I must disappoint him, because I believe the subject to be so serious that it must be treated as a serious contribution and effort to build some understanding where it is all too short, between the unions and the Government. I may say that it is not just the unions and this Government; if the Government were to change tomorrow there would still be certain militants within the unions who would find similar causes for disagreement. I am delighted to see that two speakers from the Labour side are going to take part in the debate, Lord Champion and Lord Shinwell, and I hope that others will join in as well.
§ I cannot help feeling that this problem, which to-day affects the Conservative Government, is going to affect equally greatly not only a future Labour Government but the chance of the Labour Party actually coming to power; and Dick Crossman, who is always provocative in the articles he writes for The Times, has yet again been provocative this morning in making exactly the same point. I think everyone in all the major Parties has 1156 fully understood for at least the last thirty years that the trade unions play an absolutely vital part in our industrial and economic life, and therefore their talking to the Government, even though they may oppose the Government of the day on certain things, is essential for the wellbeing of our nation.
§ It is my object to point out how small numbers of militants—sometimes people call them "subversives"—acting outside their union organisations in almost every instance, acting often entirely against the wishes of their elected union representatives, and often representing no one but themselves, have disrupted and are continuing to try to disrupt British industry. This strike problem, particularly the unofficial strike problem, has come to be known as the "English sickness", and a very good book, which I shall quote later, has recently been published under that name. I cannot help feeling that it must delight our competitors. We have fierce competition in many industries, particularly in engineering, and so much of our export trade is in the engineering field. We have considerable and powerful competitors in Germany, France, Italy and Japan. They must be delighted every time they read how the smooth and efficient flow of mass production in this country is being stopped.
§ The number of strikes has in fact fallen in the last few years. In 1970 there were 3,970 strikes (incidentally, these are the official strikes, because unofficial strikes are not always registered); in 1971, there were 2,220; in 1972, there were 2,470. Working days lost, however, because strikes have tended to last rather longer, have gone up very steeply. In 1970, 11 million working days were lost; in 1971, that figure had risen to 13½ million; in 1972, to 24 million, in which, of course, the miners' strike played a big part at the beginning of that year.
§ The effect on Britain's competitive !position in the world, the effect on the punctual delivery of our exports, the effect on the standard of the product which we sell has been serious, and, as I said, our reputation as a great industrial country has been seriously undermined by the tactics of a small minority. I expect many of your Lordships have cause to travel from time to time. The country that I visit most regularly is perhaps Switzerland, sometimes on business and 1157 sometimes to ski, and the reduction in the number of British cars there is symbolic of the reduced impact we have achieved in the last 25 years and the greater impact that our competitors have achieved. At the end of the war we were selling a considerable number of cars into France, and the same with Italy; now the numbers are very small by comparison. In our old Commonwealth, in Australia, B.L.M.C. at the end of the war had 20 per cent. of the market. I read in the Financial Times to-day that that figure has now fallen from 20 per cent. to 8 per cent.
§ I have just for the first time visited South Africa, from which country I was glad to bring back a very good-looking daughter-in-law; the object of my visit was to attend the marriage of one of our sons. I could not help noticing there that, whereas that was a market which bought largely British cars, Mercedes has made a tremendous penetration throughout that country, as have Fiat and Renault. The same applies in so many of our traditional Commonwealth markets.
§ Of course, some of this falling off may be due to management. But the problem is a desperately difficult one in a highly complicated, highly organised, manufacturing concern like the car industry, which is collecting together a whole lot of components and assembling them into cars. By way of illustration, the fact is that every single day at Fords, Dagenham, 1,000 C class vehicles deliver the components which are to go into the cars on that day or the next day. So a small disruption, not only in the plant at Dagenham but among the many hundreds of component makers, can so disastrously disrupt the flow of production. In fact, I have the figures. I am instancing the motor industry because we can see for ourselves the impact there, whereas it is more difficult to see in the chemical industry or in the machine tool industry. The United Kingdom motor manufacturer list of official and unofficial strikes in the last two years is most revealing. In 1971, there were 241 stoppages. The five-day week means that there are 250 working days in a year—rather less because of statutory holidays. So there is rather more than one stoppage every working day in one of the motor manufacturer concerns. The numbers involved 1158 in 1971 were 340,000 people, and there were 3.1 million working days lost. In 1972 the figures were a little lower; there were 216 stoppages, 246,000 men affected, and 1.33 million working days lost. It is nice to have an improvement, but there is a long way to go.
§ LORD SAINSBURY
My Lords, may I apologise for interrupting the noble Lord, but would it not give a little better balance if he could quote, for the information of the House, the number of working days lost by strikes in the Renault factory in France, for example, and in the Fiat factory in Italy? This is surely an international problem, largely connected with the monotony of the system of producing cars and the strain on the workers. In my opinion, this is not an English disease, applied to the motor industry here; it is an international' disease of that particular industry.
§ LORD ORR-EWING
My Lords, I do not underrate the international quality of this disease. In fact, as the noble Lord, Lord Sainsbury, so rightly says, Renault, for the first time, I think, for a little while, has a massive strike on its hands, and even in Japan there is at the moment a massive strike in the motor industry. But this is an exception. One has to say that, whatever we call it, if one talks to one's Continental friends they call it the "English disease"; they have the feeling that they have caught it from us. It may be they have given it a misnomer, but that is what they call it. We cannot argue about that.
I would add that, although they are sometimes quite as damaging, these statistics do not include strikes which last less than a day or which involve less than 10 workers. The figures are considerably greater if those are included. I would also say that the problem exists not just in manufacturing industry. Some of our most damaging strikes have taken place in the infrastructure industries—electricity supply, railways, mines, and particularly ports. I mention ports because nothing is more damaging than delays in our exports, when we are not able to keep to targets, when exports and perhaps the spare parts are stuck in the docks. All these earn us a had reputation.
I should like to turn for a moment to the organisations concerned. They 1159 are often small, but they are often extremely effective and very powerful; and I again underline the fact that they are outside the organised trade union movement. First, there is the Communist Party. I know it will be said that they are not behind everything, but they are the biggest in numbers and they have a network organisation. Even to-day, although their chances of being elected to the other place are very remote and they make no impact, either, in local councils, they are extremely powerful sometimes inside the movement but very much more often outside. I thought Lou Lewis was very revealing when he said in the News of the World:The Communist Party is a lot stronger in this country than most people believe. We are fantastically strong at shop steward level. When I was on the executive of the Communist Party, I would estimate that up to 80 per cent. of senior shop stewards in this country were Communists.He went on:Certainly, all the people I worked with up and down the country in the strike—"—and he was referring to the building workers' strike—all the hardliners—were Communists.That came from a dedicated Communist, so I do not think one should disagree that they are a powerful influence; and leaders of both Parties have acknowledged the power and influence which they have.
The second organisation—and these organisations are brought together for certain purposes—is the National Port Shop Stewards Committee in which Bernie Steer played such a prominent part in the strike of 1967 when the Labour Government were in power, and which Mr. Harold Wilson condemned. Everyone in the House will know the manner in which he spoke. The third is the Building Workers' Charter Group, which claimed responsibility for the 1972 building strike and organised the flying pickets. Some very ugly scenes were produced as a result of those flying pickets. The fourth organisation is the Power Workers Group, which was based on an Essex power station, and its leader was a member of the Communist Party Executive. The fifth group is the Liaison Committee for the Defence of Trade Unions.
1160 All these groups, rather like the Civil Liberties group, have very good democratic-sounding names, but that does not mean that they are in any way in support of democracy and they are often seeking to undermine it. That Committee is under Communist control and it emerged at the end of 1966. It then called for nation-wide strikes against the Labour Government's intended industrial legislation.
Then there is the Socialist Labour League. It sounds all right, but it has a strong industrial arm called the Ali Trades Union Alliance which, again, is right outside the trade union movement and certainly does not represent it. That is very active on Merseyside, in Hull and elsewhere. No doubt many of these groups are trying to pressurise the T.U.C. —and we can produce quotations to support this view—to call a one-day national strike on May 1. If it is thought that they are small in numbers—20 or 30—I should like to call in support of the idea that it does not need large numbers to produce rather squalid and serious results, what my noble friend Lord Carrington said. He said:One should not be deceived by the smallness of their number. One should read one's history and note that a small number of determined people can accomplish a very great deal.I should like to turn my attention to one area—not because of any prejudice, but because it is a very important area—and that is the A.U.E.W., because, as I said earlier, engineering exports are such a vital and very important part of this country's export effort. There is a very strong Communist element in that union, either holding office or being influential in other ways. I name, first, Eddie Marsden, general secretary of the construction section of the union. I would say, in parenthesis, that that union—the old A.E.U.— in its new form has four sections—the engineering section, the draughtsmen's section, the construction section and the foundry section. Secondly, I would name Henry McLevey, who is a member of the national committee of the engineering section—a dedicated Communist, I believe. Thirdly, there is Dick Etheridge, joint chairman of the combined shop stewards' committee at the Longbridge plant of British Leyland, a frequent A.U.E.W. delegate to the Trades Union Congress and again of strong Communist persuasion. Then there is 1161 Jimmy Reid, whom we all know. We have all seen a great deal of him—perhaps too much at one time—on television. He led the "work-in" at the Upper Clyde shipyard; he was formerly a full-time national secretary of the Young Communist League, and a former full-time Scottish district secretary of the Communist Party. Noble Lords will know that Moscow felt he was so talented that it was worth while taking him there and training him very assiduously for some months. Then I would name John Tocher, a former National Chairman of the Communist Party, who is the union's divisional organiser in the Manchester area; and that appointment may be reflected in some of the troubles which have occurred on Merseyside and in Manchester.
I read to-day on page 15 of the Financial Times—and this was also reported in The Times—that a Communist keeps his seat on the A.U.E.W. executive. That executive is only 13 strong and the engineering section has 7 of those 13 places, so it is the strongest. The other three sections share an average of two each, to make up the 13. That report states that Mr. Les Dixon is the only Communist Party member among the seven-man executive of the engineering workers' national executive. He has been re-elected, and I am glad to say that it was on a postal vote so there was a rather bigger vote than normal. He may be the only member of the Communist Party, but it is not true to say that he is the only one who has strong Communist affiliations, because there is Reg Birch on the engineering section, and he left the Communist Party to become even more Left Wing than that. There is also Bob Wright in the engineering section, who is also of the extreme Left. Perhaps one should add the President, Hugh Scanlon. Although he states that he has left the Party, he was a dedicated Communist and has said so, according to today's paper. They had a debate yesterday as to whether they should send contributions to the Morning Star and he said:I am an unrepentant past member of the Communist Party, and I have never failed to support the Morning Star or the Daily Worker —its predecessor.So he is not in any way ashamed of his support. That is a Union where, in important positions, there are a lot of 1162 dedicated Communists, ex-Communists or people even to the Left of them. I have picked out some, but there are others that I could pick out and perhaps other noble Lords will do so.
Where do the Government come in this? I think every right-minded democrat in this country, and many who do not take any interest in politics, was horrified at the scenes of the militant pickets and at the manner in which they acted during the building strike and the dock strike. It is wholly unsavoury to see picket lines boo-ing and spitting at women. It is wholly undemocratic to see truck drivers having their vans stopped and their windows shattered. In a democracy, we do not like to see individuals being plagued, their wives and children being put under pressure, and men being forced to strike when they sometimes do not wish to do so. No Government can be happy about this situation. The Government tell us that there is enough power, and that the police have enough power. Mr. Robert Carr, speaking as Home Secretary, made a statement to that effect in another place. It is certainly true that 350 of these pickets were arrested so presumably there is power. But I still wonder whether the interpretation of the law is strict enough, and whether people are being unnecessarily victimised and shamefully attacked.
What else can be done to put this right? I hope that everyone of good will will try to stimulate the average rank and file trade unionist out of his apathy—and a bigger vote for the responsible offices must help. When Hugh Scanlon was elected president of the one million-strong A.U.E.W., only 10 per cent. of that union voted and he got 7 per cent. of the votes. I am glad to say that the introduction last year of postal voting has meant since—and this is reported in today's paper—that that percentage has now risen to nearer 30 per cent. I am sure everyone would support this as a move in the right direction.
Finally, I should like to come back to a consideration which I mentioned once before in this House. Is it undemocratic, or ought the trade unions not to reconsider the banning of dedicated Communists from holding office? This was done by Arthur Deakin, who was a strong leader of the Transport and General Workers' Union, and it was reversed only 1163 in the last period when Frank Cousins was in charge of that union before he came into Parliament. I wonder whether, if this ban were reimposed, we should not have batter relationships in this country; whether it is not desirable in the interests and the image of the trade union movement as a responsible part of our nation.
The noble Baroness (perhaps I misinterpreted her) was, I thought, shaking her head when I was talking about The English Sickness, in reply to Lord Sainsbury, who has now left us. I am sorry, my Lords; the noble Lord has moved further back—and to his right, I am glad to notice. This is a book published recently, The English Sickness by Maureen Tomison; and there was a review by Lord Robens, a person greatly respected in this House and in our nation. He says this of the book:I found The English Sickness not only absorbing but very relevant to the present state of industrial unrest".Later on he quotes John Gollan, the General Secretary of the Communist Party, and says:Mr. John Gollan, the General Secretary of the Communist Party, demanded the T.U.C. should break off immediately any kind of talks with the Government. There should be a refusal of any statutory control of wages, an all-out wage offensive, coupled with the demand for real price controls'.I cannot imagine a better recipe for sending every one of our industrial companies bankrupt in the minimum of time, if you are going to allow wages to rip but limit the price charged. Lord Robens goes on:We cannot say that we have not been warned. There are signs that the T.U.C. is being swung over to this viewpoint, and the majority of the Parliamentary Labour Party seem to have swallowed it, hook, line and sinker".He adds:The English Sickness traces the history of the trade union movement over the past 200 years. It makes fascinating reading. It contains, too, a subtle warning as to how a movement … can easily be prostituted by evil men".My Lords, I hope that we in this House, on this last day before Easter, may make a small dent and try to promote, not the evil men—let us not give publicity to them; they get enough publicity on television as it is—but the interests of the good men, the good solid democrats in our nation, and ask them to better themselves so that this very important movement, and the general 1164 well-being and industrial health of our nation, may be restored as it was of old. My Lords, I beg to move for Papers.
§ 5.4 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT MASSEREENE AND FERRARD
My Lords, it is a great pleasure to follow my noble friend in this debate because I heartily endorse what he has said. I think it is a pity that this debate, which is a very important debate, has come on just before we rise for the Easter Recess. I should have liked to see this not as a short debate under the ballot rule but as a full-scale debate. I say that because we have many debates here on how to cushion people against financial hardship, and so forth, but, of course, if we cannot stop subversion in our industry it does not matter how much we talk about social benefits, or supplementary benefits, because eventually, if our economy collapses, there will be no supplementary benefits for anybody. So this debate is extremely important.
I have spoken on this subject ever since I came into your Lordships' House because at a fairly early age I came up against this problem. I have seen the Communists at work in industry, and have therefore always been keen on this subject and on exposing their work. But up to a short time ago you were always looked upon rather as a crank if you every brought this subject up—Communists under the bed, and all that. People just laughed. But people are now starting to awaken to this danger. After all, Britain has given so much to the world by way of our tolerance. As we are British perhaps I should not say so, but I think that the British, of all races, are probably the most kind; and therefore I think it would be a tragedy if we allowed this Trojan Horse in our midst—and it is a Trojan Horse—eventually to destroy us. As my noble friend pointed out, it is a very small Trojan Horse numerically, but it is very highly organised and politically motivated. It is a very dangerous Trojan Horse.
As my noble friend said, last year we lost more working days than at any time in our history since the General Strike. Of course, there is no doubt at all—the evidence is there—that a great number of these strikes were politically motivated. The professional Communists—and I have 1165 said this ad infinitum—know that to have a fertile seedbed in this country for their propaganda they have to destroy the high standard of living of the working class in this country, and in order to destroy that they must smash industry. Quite a few of your Lordships have been behind the Iron Curtain and have been to Russia. You do not get many workers in Russia who have cars. It is far safer to walk in the streets of Russia because there is so little traffic—and the same applies to East Berlin. I quite agree that they have a point there, but for the wrong reason.
My noble friend referred to Mr. Lou Lewis. I shall not repeat the quote that my noble friend gave of Mr. Lou Lewis, who is a prominent Communist Party member and who, of course, was the organiser of last year's building strike, but the quote that we had from my noble friend showed us that in Mr. Lewis's opinion, when he was a member of the Executive of the Communist Party, 80 per cent. of the senior shop stewards in British industry were Communists. There you have it straight from the horse's mouth. So no one can accuse one of being alarmist about "Reds under the bed". I could quote many similar statements, as also could my noble friend, on the Maoists, the Trotskyists and all those various groups. But, as my noble friend said, one of the most disagreeable aspects has been this violent picketing. It must surely be against the law to have these flying squads of organised pickets who go from site to site, as they did, disrupting the workers on these sites and, of course, being violent—throwing bricks at policemen, and similar activities.
Mr. Lou Lewis—I suppose I had better call him that—said during the building strike:We have to wrest control from the unions so that we are going to make sure that the workers all come out even if we have to physically pull them off the site one by one.That is strong language. The Communist Party, as my noble friend said, has a total membership of only about 30,000 in Britain, which is a fleabite, nothing at all. But as I have said before, they are highly organised and very efficient. Their industrial policy is under the the direction of Mr. Ramelson who comes from the Ukraine in Soviet Russia. My noble friend also mentioned that Mr. Ramelson seeks to organise political strikes through 1166 what he calls (and my noble friend mentioned this) the Liaison Committee for the Defence of Trade Unions. The cheek of using those words! As everyone knows, the Communists want to smash the trade unions. In Russia the trade unions are only a name; they have no power at all. Nobody working in a trade union in Russia has any power. We live in an age where words are used which do not imply what is meant by them; they are used to fool people. I am afraid that it is a very dishonest age politically.
My noble friend referred to a speech by Mr. Wilson in 1966 when he was Prime Minister. He was referring to the Communist Party's subversive pressure during the seamen's strike. Might I refer briefly to what Mr. Wilson said in another place on that occasion. He told the House:It is difficult for us to appreciate the pressures which are being put on men I know to be realistic and reasonable not only in their executive capacity but in the highly organised strike committees in the individual ports, by this tightly-knit group of politically motivated men who, as the last General Election showed, utterly failed to secure acceptance of their views by the British electorate but who are now determined to exercise backstage pressures forcing great hardship on the members of the union and their families, and endangering the security of the industry and the economic welfare of this country.A week later he said:This House will be aware that the Communist Party, unlike the major political Parties, has at its disposal an efficient and disciplined industrial apparatus controlled from Communist Party headquarters. No large strike occurs anywhere in this country, in any section of industry in which the apparatus fails to concern itself.My Lords, some time ago in this House I drew attention to the case of an acquaintance of mine who was in Czechoslovakia trying to arrange some trade there. They told him—and this was some considerable time ago—that it was no use arranging any imports or exports for a particular date because, "you are going to have a national dock strike". They told him that four months before it happened. They told him the exact date on which it would start in this country. That makes one think. The unions into which the Communists really try to infiltrate are those unions representing those industries that can most easily throttle the economic life of the 1167 country—such trade unions as the engineering unions and those unions concerned with the power industries and the docks. It is really monstrous that a handful of men in a powerhouse can turn a few knobs and black out a whole town, stop the trains, stop the factories and throw tens of thousands of people out of work. Surely that is something we cannot tolerate. I might have some sympathy if it were the inventor of the powerhouse, or the inventor of electricity, who took this action, but for people with very little skill (they have not planned or built the powerhouse or the trains) to have the power to throw out of work those tens of thousands of people is intolerable. How long have we to tolerate that state of affairs? It is not tolerated in the majority of other Western domocracies? In the Netherlands and in other countries if you work in a public utility you do so under a service agreement and you cannot indulge in a sudden stoppage; although of course you can hand in your notice of a month or whatever the period may be.
The real answer I think lies to a certain extent with the Government, but mainly with the unions themselves. If only the unions can get their members to vote when they are electing officials for the executive posts. In the average union sometimes only about 1 per cent. of the members vote. I agree that when Mr. Hugh Scanlon was elected (and my noble friend pointed this out) 10 per cent. of his membership voted. But is that democracy? It is a negation of democracy. Here you have men who claim to speak for millions of people but who have been voted into power by only a small percentage of their members, the hardliners. I should like to see the unions really put their house in order in this regard and to say that if 50 per cent. of the members do not vote then an election is null and void. I do not know whether it would be practical for Parliament to make such an Act of Parliament; I doubt it. I should be most happy to see such an Act, though I cannot see it materialising.
My noble friend pointed out that last year we lost 24 million work days compared with 13½ million in 1971. It is true that we had more strikes in 1971 but they were far shorter. We have had longer strikes in 1972 and this is why we have lost more work days. The reason 1168 why we are having these long strikes is of course that the wretched taxpayer has to finance the strikers. In 1972 I think we paid out £10 million to strikers. It is really mad because in the case of the nationalised industries, particularly the public utilities, the Government are really paying their own employees to strike. We have had a new organisation spring up which gives a handbook to strikers, to advertise and publicise more efficient ways of using taxpayers' money to finance strikes. The introduction states:If we are going to strike in the future we need to find new ways of organising so that we hurt the bosses and not ourselves.But, my Lords, all that will happen is that the bosses will leave the country, and the strikers will hurt themselves. It is incredible that anybody can be so dumb as to believe that nonsense, but unfortunately people do believe it. I should like the Government to tighten up on the question of National Assistance for strikers' families with the exception, of course, of cases of proven hardship. You would probably need to have a lot more inspectors, but it is really immoral to expect the public to pay up.
The position is very serious but if we are going to cure inflation and keep the high standard of living of our working people we shall have to stop the subversion of industry and the slow strangulation of our economy. I will end by quoting Mr. Chapple who has been a strong trade unionist for a long time. He has great inside knowledge of how the Communists work. He said:Working for the Communist Party is like being part of a ruthless industrial and political Kray brothers organisation. It is like a religion run by gangsters. They work on the simple policy. Their task is to wriggle their way up from the shop floor to decision-making positions in key industries.My Lords, we really must stop this situation, and if only all trade union members would take their responsibilities seriously I am sure it could be stopped.
§ 5.23 p.m.
§ LORD SHINWELL
My Lords, will the noble Lord, Lord Orr-Ewing, permit me to offer my congratulations to him on having initiated this debate. It is a very important subject as he rightly declared, and I follow that reference to his initiation of the debate by offering 1169 congratulations on his studied moderation. Indeed, he almost approached it—I have heard him speak frequently in the other place and in your Lordships' House—with a reluctant objectivity. He was quite mistaken in assuming that my intention was to be provocative. This is not the occasion for being provocative; nor is the subject one on which any Member of your Lordships' House should be provocative. We ought, if I may say so with great respect to the noble Lord and to other Members of your Lordships' House who are present, to speak with the utmost reason and objectivity, but we have to consider the background of all this.
The noble Lord had one defect in his speech. It was the absence of a reasonable conclusion. I make no intellectual claim for the preparation of speeches, but in preparing a speech one should think not only of the beginning and the middle but also of the conclusion. All he ventured to say in terminating his oration was that he hoped that the trade unions would get rid of the Communists. I might as well retort that the Conservative Party should get rid of the malcontents in the Monday Club. It is precisely the same argument and is not worth developing.
Let us consider the background to all this. At the beginning of the last century a few agricultural labourers met together somewhere in Dorchester and their purpose was to consider some means of protecting their interests. Their wages, according to what I have read about the subject, were round about 10 or 12 shillings a week—not very much, and they worked very long hours. They decided to form something in the nature of a trade union, a protection organisation. It really was not a trade union in the modern sense; there was no question of registration or anything of that sort. But the magistrates in the area, the landowners and some of the farmers gathered together and decided that they must put a stop to this kind of mischief and they did, because eventually these poor misguided labourers who only sought to protect their interests were deported to Botany Bay. These were militants. These were people who were protesting, people who were seeking to safeguard their interests. What was wrong with that? They were described as 1170 "militants", though probably that was not the term used at the time. They were dangerous men", "subversive elements seeking to uproot society, subversive to the Government of the day".
Coming a little nearer to the present time, I can recall the dispute that took place in 1888, four years after I was born, for the most part in the East End of London, the dock area. It was called "the tanner an hour strike". What was it about? The dockers, who were then very casual labourers, were picked out at random when they gathered at the dockside seeking employment. They were receiving something like fourpence or fivepence an hour. They were very skilled and if there was a scarcity of labour they would probably be getting sixpence an hour. It was decided by a number of so-called agitators, the militants, to undertake a strike. Who were they? Ben Gillet, Cunningham Graham, a descendant of Scottish kings, and John Burns, a notable labour leader of the period who later became the president of the local government board in a Liberal Government. Those are the people who were described as "militants and responsible for subversive action". There are several others that I could mention, but I do not want to elaborate on that theme.
Coming a little further along the line, I can recall what happened when there was a series of strikes early in the century, before the First World War. How did this happen? They began with the seamen. Havelock Wilson, the seamen's General Secretary, in spite of his understanding with the Shipping Federation of the period—he and the shipowners were on excellent terms—decided that the seamen were entitled to higher rates of pay. What were they receiving? I beg your Lordships to take note of this. Deck hands sailing across the Atlantic at that time in some of our great liners of the period were receiving £3 10s. a month; and the stokers below decks received £4 a month. They decided that they ought to have £5 a month. The shipowners disagreed. There was a strike and there was a great deal of picketing at that period; I remember it all. Eventually, the men who went on strike gained a victory. They received £5 10s. a month, not a great deal at that time. They were working long hours when at sea; and 1171 when working ashore, as they sometimes did alongside the ship when it was moored at the quayside, they received little more than 5s. or 6s. a day for excessively long hours. They protested and what is wrong with that, my Lords?
Here I would make a digression. There seems to be some opposition to those who protest. There would have been no progress at all in this or any other country had it not been for those who protested. I would go so far as to say (I do not want to introduce anything theological in any way, that is not my subject) that had it not been for those who protested at the time of the Reformation the theological situation in this country would be vastly different to-day. At times to protest is essential. Therefore, we must not object if men, and sometimes women too, take it into their heads to revolt by refusing to allow their labour to be exploited, because that is all that striking means.
Having said that, I want to make clear beyond a peradventure that I am not in favour of strikes if they can possibly be avoided. I believe that strikes are an intolerable nuisance. But why do they happen? Of course, there would be no strikes if employers gave way every time the workers in a particular industry or factory asked for an increase in their wage rates. But we do not expect employers to do that. Whether or not we expect it, the employers are reluctant to do it, and often that is the cause of the trouble. I ask this question because I do not want to make a long speech at this time and in this kind of debate, but is it not a fact that there is something radically wrong with the whole system? I ask that question and I should like an answer at some time or other. I cannot provide the answer myself. I can indicate defects and point to the malaise; but it is difficult to find a reasonable answer, in other words, a solution for the problem which now infects industry and our social life and indeed may affect our future.
Something more must be said. If we could ensure beyond any possibility of doubt that the workers in the industries of this country would have regular employment I do not believe that there would be any strikes at all. Insecurity is the real trouble. For example, we have strikes about what is called demarca- 1172 tion, whether one person should do this job or that. Why do we have these inter-union rivalries? It is because men feel insecure. If a merger is initiated in the City of London and as a result a number of men are thrown out of employment, what can one expect? They protest but they have no remedy in their hands. This sort of thing happens in present-day society and has been happening since the beginning of this century. Over and over again members of the working class have been oppressed and exploited. Some have become affluent, not so much because of trade union activities but for other reasons, and some have gained material improvement because of trade union activities; and also because of legislation for which many Governments of different political Parties have been responsible. Insecurity is a problem which has to be considered in the context of the subject we are now debating.
What is to be done about all this? The noble Lord, Lord Orr-Ewing, suggested that the difficulty was the Communists who cause trouble in industry. I am not here to defend the Communists, and I have never done so. More often, I have attacked them and criticised them. I was a member of the National Executive of the Labour Party, and at one period the Chairman of the National Executive, when we refused affiliation to the Labour Party to the Communists, and not for the first time. We must not make heavy weather about this Communist trouble, because it will have been noted that in the recent local government elections Communist candidates received a derisory number of votes. The Labour Party wants no truck with the Communists, or any subversive element of that kind. All we ask is that those in authority, whether Government or employers, wherever they may be and whatever their authority and responsibility, should take into account the reasonable demands which are made from time to time.
Recently I have been undertaking some scribbling and putting my thoughts into writing. Going back to the beginning of this century—and I have lived through that time—I found, even in spite of trade union activities, militant activities, aggressive activities, strikes and what-have-you, that the conditions of the working classes, relatively speaking, are 1173 not very much better now than they were at the beginning of the century. I said, "relatively speaking". Of course, many workers have gained material improvement. It is true that their wage rates have increased enormously. But, almost simultaneously, and alongside these changes in the conditions of the working-class people we often find that those in authority, those in the top drawer, are receiving salaries and gaining profits far in excess of what they were receiving forty or fifty years ago. That is the situation, and naturally it has caused discontent. I am not in the least surprised at that.
What is to be done about it? One could elaborate on this theme for a long time but I should like to come to a conclusion and to try, if possible, to be constructive. I think that we should all try to be constructive. If I may say so with respect, I thought that the noble Lord, Lord Orr-Ewing, was not at all constructive simply by saying, "Get rid of the Communists".
§ LORD ORR-EWING
My Lords, the noble Lord said earlier in his speech that he found it difficult to be constructive, as indeed I did. But I purposely said that the extension of the ballot was a move in the right direction, and I wished to see the postal ballot now being introduced by the A.U.E.W. extended to other unions, because then a small minority could not fix their own elections. I went on to postulate whether the movement ought not to consider—as has happened in the past—the outlawing of dedicated Communists from holding office. These were two constructive suggestions I made, and I made others too.
§ LORD SHINWELL
Does it not occur to the noble Lord and other noble Lords that, if the Communists were excluded from normal trade union activity, they would be a self-centred, self-contained, aggressive, turbulent force, perhaps capable of doing far more damage than a few Communist members in a trade union branch? Of course there are militants there. I am not surprised about that. But merely to suggest that they are Communists and that there is no other reason for their militancy, I cannot accept. Indeed, I go so far as to say that there would not have been any Communist in any part of the world—apart 1174 from what happened in the Soviet Union as a result of the First World War—if the conditions had been satisfactory. Provide reasonable conditions, take into consideration the natural sentiments of the working class, have regard to their natural and reasonable desires for a higher standard of living, and all the more so when they see around them people who do not work as hard as they do receiving emoluments, remuneration and privileges far in excess of what they are entitled to. This may be regarded as envy on their part, but envy is not an unnatural quality—if it can be called a quality.
I will now try to come to a conclusion about this question. Let us, for example, take the situation of the trade unions. If I had my way—but I have not got my way, and I say this with full regard to the situation in which many of the trade union leaders find themselves—when an offer is made of £2 or £2.50 a week, or something in that neighbourhood, I should be inclined to accept it. I should make a protest and say it is not enough, but then I would accept it and come along six or 12 months later asking for more. I should try to avoid disputes, because, quite frankly, I do not think disputes are doing the workers who go on strike very much good in the long run. They lose a great deal by being on strike. They lose wages and, at the end of the day, as in this particular instance, they have to accept what the Government have decided. Not a great deal has been gained. As I say, if it had been left to me I would say, "All right, we will take your £2.30 or £2.40, or whatever it may be, but understand that we are coming back later on and asking for more. As the cost of living goes up we are entitled to more." No one would deny that that is a very reasonable suggestion.
About the trade union position generally and trade union leaders, I must confess that I am a little amused at the suggestion sometimes made that trade union leaders want strikes. I was at one time the national organiser for the international marine union. Did I want strikes? Most of my time was taken up trying to prevent them. Whenever I went down to a ship there was trouble. There were occasions when the men left the ship at the last moment. It was very difficult to get them back again. Sometimes I would have discussions with 1175 either the chief officer of the ship or the chief engineer and I would apologise. They would often say to me they could never understand why the men went to sea sober.
These are difficult days, and they exist. There are Members of your Lordships' House who do not seem to apprehend that these difficulties and these sentiments to a large extent colour the action of many working-class people. Do not put the blame entirely on the trade union leaders. They have the hard task of dealing with the men, and if in the case of the lower paid workers a demand is made that there should be a minimum of £20 a week—not that that is very much, not that that lifts the worker or his family much beyond the poverty line—surely it is a demand that is reasonable in every sense of the term and ought to be considered.
One final point, on this question of Government interference. I do not at all agree with many of my trade union friends that the Government should not interfere or even promote legislation in order to deal with the industry and to deal with both sides of the industry. In the year 1909, when Winston Churchill was President of the Board of Trade and was responsible for introducing in the House of Commons the Trade Boards Bill, which became an Act of Parliament, for one reason or another he accepted my nomination as the representative of the Scottish workers. I used to come to London every month for a couple of years, until I joined the seamen and I did not bother about the Trade Board any more. What was it about? It was because of the conditions of the so-called sweated workers in the clothing trade, in the furniture trade, in the chain-making trade, in the Potteries, and so on. This meant legislation. I have to admit that the trade union leaders of the period objected to this legislation because they said it would interfere with the normal practice of collective bargaining. It did nothing of the sort. They said it would inhibit their capacity for organisation. It did nothing of the sort. As a matter of fact, it gave a fillip to trade union organisation at the time.
There is another matter. The other day my noble friend Lord Douglass of Cleveland, in the course of his speech—I did 1176 not hear the speech, but I read it and thought it very good—referred to a minimum wage policy, a national wage policy. I believe in a national wage policy, if that means legislation. Moreover, if there are agreements reached between employers and the representatives of the workers in a responsible trade union I see no objections to legal enforcement. I would welcome it all the more. I do not want a Government, no matter whether it is a Labour Government or a Conservative Government, to interfere unduly in the activities of a trade union. I do not want the Industrial Relations Act; I believe that to be superfluous. But a Government from time to time are bound to intervene. That I accept, even if from time to time it means legal enforcement.
These are the suggestions that ought to be made, and if the Government of the present day had been more reasonable and more objective in their outlook, and when Mr. Heath and company met Mr. Feather and company and disagreed, if instead of the Prime Minister deciding to proceed with legislation he had said that there would be further meetings and that they would go on talking, I believe we should have reached a much more satisfactory conclusion.
So I would beg the noble Lord not to bother too much about these dedicated Communists and subversive elements. Anyway, I doubt whether one will be able to deal with them in a satisfactory fashion. Do not bother about that. But consider the background to all this; consider the state of our society; consider whether it is not possible to inject something more reasonable—sentiments which are calculated to present to the workers who are concerned some hope of a higher standard of living and, in particular, security.
That is the constructive line we ask for, and for that reason I welcome this debate or further debates. If I may say so, your Lordships' House is the place to have the debates, because here we can have debates, as I have discovered, without too much turbulence and without too much of the Party hack operating. That is very useful indeed. The more of these debates we have, the better. But let us exclude Party considerations, however strung out convictions and principles are, and let us try to be objective not only in the interests of the workers but also in the 1177 interests of the country for which we have a great affection.
§ VISCOUNT MASSEREENE AND FERRARD
My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, may I ask him whether he has ever run a business, or has ever created a business? Has he ever had to find the wages on a Friday night? Has the noble Lord ever run a business at all?
§ 5.50 p.m.
§ LORD NUGENT OF GUILDFORD
My Lords, may I first congratulate my noble friend Lord Orr-Ewing on initiating this debate. I offer my apologies to the House that I was not here when it started. I was in the chair at the Refreshment Sub-Committee and was unable to be here at the time. I have listened with great interest and respect to the noble Lord, Lord Shinwell, especially in his talking about the origins of the trade union movement, and his very good point that the leaders of the day were the militants. No doubt they were looked upon by people at the time as being dangerous men, but we look back on them now, wherever we sit in this House or wherever we are in the country, as men who played a valuable part in getting a fair deal for the workers of the country. I do not disagree with the noble Lord in his thoughts that one must be careful before excluding militants from any body, whether they call themselves Communists or anything else. As I say, I think that was a good point. But I am sure the noble Lord would agree that the prior situation has come full circle: that whereas in the beginning of the 20th century, and certainly in the 19th century, the organised workers and the trade unions were terribly under strength and underprivileged, to-day the great trade unions are undoubtedly so strong that they can, if they wish to do so, stop the whole economy of the country. So the whole balance of power has completely changed, and we are dealing with a much more difficult situation.
I agree with my noble friends Lord Orr-Ewing and Lord Massereene and Ferrard that the record of last year is one which causes anxiety to all of us wherever we may sit in this House. This was, as has already been said, the worst 1178 year for industrial relations since the General Strike. We were all made aware that the flying pickets played a prominent part in this: we saw them on television and read about them in the newspapers—and very offensive their actions were. I was interested to see, although all that is now in the past, that as near home as St. Thomas' Hospital across the river, where there is an electricians' dispute, flying pickets have recently arrived and have been making themselves pretty unpleasant. So we are not out of it yet.
On the legal point, I missed what my noble friend Lord Orr-Ewing said about this, but no doubt he referred to the judgment of the Lord Chief Justice last week, which seems rather to confirm that the view that Her Majesty's Government have taken up until now, that the law is adequate, may well be right. The Government are right sometimes—I say that with respect to my noble friend on the Front Bench. But we all await with expectancy this pamphlet which my noble friend on the Front Bench is about to produce, and which is going to clarify the law with regard to picketing. This will undoubtedly be welcomed by both management and trade unions alike, and I do not doubt by the police and magistrates, as well. Perhaps my noble friend when he replies will be able to tell us when we may expect this document. I should also like to ask my noble friend whether, if among the things that we have to live with to-day are flying squads of pickets, there are going to be flying squads of police in order to see that law and order is observed. Is this being organised?
Like the noble Lord, Lord Shinwell, I want to turn to the broader perspective. I think one can give too much attention to the Communist Party, very dangerous and disruptive though they may be. I would ask your Lordships to consider for a moment the history of the last three years, and the industrial scene, which has been disturbed by exceptional strains during this period. The two major factors which have disturbed the industrial scene have been, first, the Government's campaigns to check the surge of inflation which they inherited in 1970; and secondly, their introduction of the Industrial Relations Act. All of us here can remember a number of attempts by Governments over the post-war years to check inflationary surges, and we all 1179 know well that inevitably, whenever this is done and however it is done, it makes hard cases and causes great industrial tensions. So that alone would have caused considerable difficulty and disturbance in the industrial scene. But on top of that, the Government were committed to introduce the Industrial Relations Act, and undoubtedly the combination of these two major policy undertakings raised the strain in this country to a really dangerous level last year.
With regard to the Industrial Relations Act (I do not want to do more than refer to it, and here I disagree with the noble Lord, Lord Shinwell) I believe the Government were right to introduce it, and that in the long run the Act will help to give stability in commercial and industrial affairs. It is fair to say that noble Lords opposite, when they were sitting on this side of the House, believed the same and introduced a Bill very similar to ours. I would not for one moment say that this Act is perfect. I hope that one day it will be possible for the trade union leaders to sit down with the Government and management and consider constructive amendments which may make it acceptable to all. But that is by the way. Certainly the immediate impact of these two major Government policies, both of which I believe were for the ultimate benefit of the community, resulted in a seriously embattled situation in industry last year. This of course is the fertile ground for the trouble-makers to work in. Personally, I see the Communists, and indeed the militants, not so much as causing the troubled situation as cashing in on it; and they certainly know how to do that.
To-day, in the spring of this year, the situation is happily substantially changed and much improved. The Government's decision of last autumn to set up a statutory system of prices and incomes control has won a substantial measure of public support; and the recent secret ballots of the gas workers and of the miners in favour of accepting the Phase 2 award, I think, confirm this. The Government have won the support of public opinion for their policy for two reasons: first, because people feel that broadly it is fair; and secondly, because people think that broadly the Government have the strength to hold firmly to their policy. I should 1180 like, if I may, to pay a tribute to my right honourable friend the Prime Minister for his part in this. I think he is absolutely right in declaring his faith in the common sense of the British people. This is a victory for common sense. What has happened now is that the Government have won the consensus of public opinion for their policies.
In this improved atmosphere—although we are by no means out of trouble yet—the proper, natural team work of management and trade unions is substantially restored: and immediately we see that the actions of the militants, the Communists, lose their significance. I am sure that this is the right way to tackle the problem. I entirely agree with the noble Lord, Lord Shinwell, that it would be a great mistake to promote this too far. They should be watched carefully, but if both management and trade unions can play their part and cooperate constructively, and the Government can play their part, then I think this is something with which we can live.
So I look now to Phase 3 in the autumn when the Government move into the next stage of their counter-inflation policy and, with the C.B.I. and the T.U.C., they must work out how the next stage of this tripartite partnership is to work, with the Prices and the Pay Boards dealing with individual problems. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Shinwell, that to-day the Government have to play a part in this. Just how it is to be done I should not like to say, but I believe that the trade unions—and I am sure they would usually be willing to deliver the goods when they believe that their members are well served—need something statutory behind them to enable them to deal with their troublemakers. So the Government have to play a part here in order to get the right balance between wages, on the one hand, and profits, on the other. Prices must also be associated with this process.
The Government have my best wishes as they move into Phase 3, and indeed into Phase 4—because ultimately we have to relate ourselves to free markets. We are a country which, almost more than any other, depends upon trading in free markets over which we have no control. We have to meet all corners, and there-I fore to a large extent the economy of 1181 this country has to be related to markets in a free economy. We have to work out a convention which will seem fair and acceptable here in the distribution of the cake—which we hope will grow—so that, on the one hand, reasonable wages and salaries can be paid and, on the other hand, sufficient profits can be made. The Government have a part to play in this, and I think that my noble friend and his right honourable colleagues in the other House have bravely faced this difficult matter. They have my support in this and I believe that if they follow these constructive policies the danger of Communism and the militants will fall into place.
§ 6.2 p.m.
§ LORD HANKEY
My Lords, I should like to say just a few words without prolonging this debate unduly, because I know the time is limited and we must leave time for the Front-Benchers. I should like to say how important I think it is for the Government to go on doing something about our industrial relations. You cannot have good industrial relations or avoid strikes while you have inflation. I agree entirely with the noble Lord, Lord Nugent of Guildford, that Phases 1, 2, 3 and 4 of that policy are vital. I wish to say something about the general decline of the position of the United Kingdom, because I believe that the situation is even worse than the noble Lord, Lord Orr-Ewing, represented. I agree entirely with what the Foreign Secretary said some months ago: that this country is really regarded with great gloom by most of its friends abroad, because we are not fulfilling our delivery dates and we are not delivering goods of adequate quality such as we have been famous for in the past—and this is very largely due to the strikes.
I believe it is time to throw some positive ideas into our debate and I am going to rush in where angels fear to tread in this respect. In the first place, I believe it is time that we all began to consider much more seriously the necessity for Works Councils in our businesses, or at any rate in a great many of them. They are very effective in Germany. They result in the election of a "works representative", who takes a place on the board. Very often the boards are on two levels. Nobody likes the system very much, but all my friends abroad tell me 1182 it is immensely effective in reducing the number of disputes and that it produces much better labour relations. I agree entirely with the noble Lord, Lord Shinwell, that we should be aiming at producing better relations and preventing worse ones.
This brings me to the next point, because we have far too many strikes. I believe the time has come to talk not only about the right to strike but also about the right to work. Our work-people have a right to work, and it is unreasonable that any small group of men, led by militants or otherwise, should be able to put thousands of men and even completely integrated industries out of work.
Then I suggest the time has come when a legal distinction should be drawn—of course this would require legislation—between constitutional strikes and unconstitutional strikes. This is fairly far-reaching and I realise that I am suggesting something which is pretty revolutionary in British law. Very briefly, I would define a constitutional strike as one where all the proper procedures for settling disputes have been exhausted, and also as one in which the strike is not contrary to an agreement which is still valid in time. Applying this distinction, I believe the time has come when we should only pay supplementary benefit to the wives and children of strikers when their strike is certified by an industrial tribunal to be constitutional. This would require a strengthening of the framework of industrial tribunals and, of course, it would require a great deal of thought. On the other hand, the wives and children, the trade union leaders, branch secretaries, the works councils and very many other sensible people—who are very numerous in industry if they could only have a voice—would have an excellent argument to use with strikers and militants in trying to avoid unconstitutional and wildcat strikes.
Further, I believe that something more has to be said about picketing. The Government are thinking about this, I believe, but I personally should have been very glad to see adopted the Amendment suggested by the noble Lord, Lord Thorneycroft, to the Industrial Relations Act—an Amendment whereby picketing would only be legal when carried on by people who work in the actual plant 1183 affected. I should also like to say that if you draw a distinction between constitutional and unconstitutional strikes, picketing would be legal only when a strike was constitutional and that the picketers would have to have with them a copy of the certificate issued by the industrial tribunal. I do not believe that this would be beyond the wit of people to organise, and I think it would be extremely effective in preventing some of the disgraceful abuses we have witnessed during the last year or two.
Perhaps we ought to consider whether it is reasonable to allow unconstitutional strikes at all, or even to recognise any constitutional ones by paying supplementary benefit to the workers concerned who go on strike in essential industries. You will recall, my Lords, that until the Industrial Relations Act was passed it was illegal for any strike to take place in the water, gas or electricity industries. The noble Lord, Lord Donovan, told us in his Report that this was quite unnecessary and, as in a number of cases concerned with the Donovan Report, we have learnt to our cost in the last two or three years how wrong that view was. There might be a case for providing special arbitration and conciliation procedures in those essential industries, because if you do not allow strikes then you must find some means of settling disputes quickly—and I emphasise that word quickly"—and justly.
To sum up, at the present time I believe that the militants have really overstepped all limits and that a new situation has been created. I should like to see the Government taking some positive action here. The Government were elected to deal with this situation seriously. They passed the Industrial Relations Act and have clone very well over countering inflation, but I say to them that they have not yet done an adequate job in preventing wildcat strikes from disrupting our exports and diminishing the standards of living of all the workers of this country. I believe the situation is getting worse and not better, and I appeal to the Government to do something about this, possibly on the lines I have suggested.
§ 6.9 p.m.
§ LORD FERRIER
My Lords, I feel that I should just like to say a few 1184 words. I had not intended to speak, but I see that there is ample time in hand. Having listened with great interest to the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Shinwell, and as the son and grandson of active Liberals and conscious, as I have been throughout the debate, of the emptiness of the Liberal Benches, I feel it is proper that he should have described, as he described so well, the problems of the seamen earning so little a month and the hardship which their families had to undergo; lack of support for widows, and so on. Nevertheless one should remember that there were great philanthropists among the employers of those days. After all, this country worked on the abolition of slavery before anybody else did. I am thinking of people like Alexander Balfour of Liverpool, Lord Leverhulme, and others, who devoted themselves to their task (as, I believe, in a little quiet way I have also, in a long life of concern with industry) in the belief that the one thing in an industry which assures profitability and fairness to both sides is the feeling among the workers—that is, not only the workers on the shop floor, but throughout—that they are being propertly treated.
To that end, I agree with what my noble friend Lord Nugent of Guildford said. The Industrial Relations Act is a step in the right direction. Of course it will have to be amended, here and there. This is something practical which is being done. The noble Lord, Lord Shinwell, asked: "What constructive suggestions have you to make? What do you propose should be done?" Of course there are many proposals which one could make and which are unworkable, such as the denationalisation of steel, the return of the Post Office to a Postmaster General, and so on. We are past all that; we have to live with the difficulties with which this complex situation, to which my noble friend Lord Nugent of Guildford referred, faces us to-day. The position has turned full circle: organised labour is now the greatest monopolist in the country. Nevertheless, it is often in sympathy with organised labour that people like myself support people like my noble friend Lord Orr-Ewing in saying that it is important to defend responsible labour from the infiltration of subversive elements, such as Communists. The noble Lord, Lord Shinwell, referred 1185 to the working class being oppressed and exploited in the past. By whom? By the employers? Perhaps that was the case in the 19th century; but this was not so much the case as the 20th century went on. To-day the oppressors and exploiters are not the employers. I believe them to be the people who stand at a great meeting and say, "Those in favour, show!" As my noble friend Lord Orr-Ewing said, the postal ballot is something to amend that situation.
When we talk about practical things to do, I should like to see an end to the use of the words "working classes". It seems to me, particularly as a Scotsman, that this class distinction, which has always been harped on by noble Lords opposite, is now quite out of date. Let us talk about, if you will, the manual workers and the brain workers and the white collar workers; but do not let us imagine that the only people who are workers are the manual (I would emphasise to Lord Shinwell that that is spelt m-a-n-u-a-l) workers. The point I make is that there is much we can do; but more can be done by organised labour than by the Prime Minister with his absolutely patent endeavours to bring people together to come and talk. Much more could be done if poor old Vic Feather were able to come to the negotiating table without obviously having one hand tied behind his back by the Communists.
It is all very well to say that people talk about Communists under the table, Communists under the bed, as my noble friend Lord Massereene and Ferrard said. We should be hiding our heads in the sand if we did not know that they were there. They are there. They are in the B.B.C.; they are in the printing unions; they are in the docks; they are everywhere. I believe it is only fair to accept it like that and see what we can do to provide the good, straightforward labour leader, with proper support so that they can cope with them. The Communists not only interfere with the management of labour relations; they work in a very cunning way right the way down the line.
My noble friend Lord Orr-Ewing talked about motor cars. When I bought a new car about two years ago the garage said to me, "We have a range of five colours. Come in and choose the one you like". 1186 I said, "All right". They telephoned me back and said, "We are sorry; there are five colours here but only one of the cars has a self-starter because of the Lucas strike". I said, "All right, I will pick that one up". It worked very well. I bought another car—a British one because I always like to buy British—the other day. I went to take delivery of it and, being Scottish, I said, "Where are my four gallons of petrol?" They filled the petrol tank and it was leaking. While they were filling the petrol tank I opened the bonnet and I found that the air filter had fallen off and was down beside the engine. When the petrol tank had been repaired and the air filter was replaced I took the car home.
The next morning I went to start the car and as I pulled out the choke the whole thing came out from the dashboard. A few days later the tail pipe fell off; it had been assembled incorrectly. I have the car running now and it is an absolute little beauty. I nearly bought a French car the other day because one of my grandchildren said that I ought to do so. Believe me it was not a patch on the British car. But—and this is my point—when I took this up with the makers they said that it was a "Friday" car. I asked them what they meant by that. They said that it was built on a Friday when everybody was hurrying off for the weekend. When I went into it further I was informed that a great deal of the inspectorate of the motor manufacturers are terrified of their Communist shop stewards who—witness their flying pickets and other such oppressive measures—are fully prepared to make difficulties for anybody who will check on the workmanship in British cars. That is one of the reasons why our export of cars to other countries is falling. You only have to read of Switzerland's experience to realise that.
The only other contribution I have to make in terms of the way in which subversive people right the way down the line can have an effect upon affairs, is this. I have a daughter who at one time (I am talking of 10 or 12 years ago) was working in one of the broadcasting organisations—not the B.B.C. She came to me here one day (I could not make out why she was in a state) and said, "I have been in our canteen and have been listening to the lighting crew who are going to be 1187 doing an interview with the present Foreign Secretary. They are working out how they can fix the lights so that he looks a fool". I immediately contacted the Leader of the Conservative Party and the matter has been followed up since so that these chaps cannot do that again.
My Lords, I thought I would say a few words, as there is time, and I congratulate my noble friend on his Motion. I beg your Lordships not to have any doubt about the fact that subversive powers are there, and it is up to us to stand up, face the facts and help good, solid labour relations people, leaders of trade unions, to negotiate fairly with the employers. I believe most employers today to be fair and anxious to be seen to be fair.
§ 6.19 p.m.
§ LORD CHAMPION
My Lords, as a big supporter of the two and a half hour debate I am bound to say that I think all those who are going to speak in such debates ought at least to take the trouble to put their names down on the list of speakers. That would enable noble Lords who are going to speak to so adjust the length of their speeches that they will not deny Front Benches of the time which they wish to have in order to reply to, or participate in, the debate. I make that point because I hope it will have some effect when, in future, we have two and a half hour debates. It is true that in this case the two noble Lords who have spoken have not unduly interfered with the time that will be left for the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, and then subsequently for the noble Lord, Lord Orr-Elvin?, to reply to the debate in the terms which he would wish.
I shall not attempt to deny that disruptive elements exist inside the trade union movement, for to do so would be to put the telescope to the blind eye. Of course they exist, but they can only exist and flourish in suitable conditions; and the suitable conditions in which the Communists and other people of that type can in fact flourish is in a badly managed industrial economy—and I think that we have a badly managed industrial economy. I hope to spell this out in the course of my speech.
At this point, as a trade unionist I think I ought to say that trade unionists 1188 generally are heartily sick of being preached at by people who know remarkably little about them and are prepared to tell them how to behave. The noble Lord, Lord Orr-Ewing, trod delicately, like Agag. He was very careful when he approached this matter, but nevertheless he was criticising fundamentally the trade unions because he was suggesting that they are the framework within which the disruptive elements can in fact exist and work. In the course of my life I have found that the main criticisms of trade unions come from those who imagine that trade unions exist to solve the labour problems of incompetent managements. So many of the managements in this country, I know, have no member of the board directly responsible for industrial or labour relations, or have not seriously tried to grasp the fundamentals of the problem.
The problems are not those of accountancy but of fundamental human relationships. If we are going to tackle the job of sweeping away the disruption that noble Lords assert is undermining British industry let us begin with those upon whom the responsibility rests for running our industry. In my opinion the responsibility lies in the boardrooms or offices of management. Let them begin with those industries and managements whose failings Mr. Oliver Jessel asserted a few months ago stemmed, not from economic pressures but from management deficiencies. All too often, he asserted, inefficiency was due to broken down and senile and drunken managements. Although he toned down "senile" and "drunken" later, I do not think he modified his view that to a large extent the British economy was built on companies which are a complete shambles within.
In his speech not very long ago, Mr. Michael Clapham, now the President of the British Confederation, asserted that we were heading towards becoming the peasants of the Western world, and while not absolving the trade unions and Governments from blame, he pointed a critical finger at members of the Confederation of which he is now the distinguished President. The facts of the British economy are—this has to be kept in mind, and I am glad that my noble friend Lord Shinwell pointed it out—that our wages in this country are lower, our holidays are shorter, our working hours are longer, 1189 and our capital per man employed is less than in most of the countries we compete against. What have we to say about this? What do those noble Lords who are criticising the trade union movement say about this? I am very much in favour of improving and cleaning up British industry. I suggest that we begin by tackling the method of selection of our top executives and managements, all too many of whom are in the boardroom because they happen to know the right people.
§ LORD ORR-EWING
My Lords, I do not think the noble Lord is quite accurately representing most of the speeches on both sides of the House. I did not think anyone was blaming the trade union movement. We were trying to reinforce the trade union movement and pointing out that it was people outside the trade union movement who were causing most of the trouble.
§ LORD CHAMPION
My Lords, this is the old story—"We are only trying to help". But you are not trying to help when you are criticising in the sort of terms in which noble Lords and others have from time to time criticised the trade union movement and what happens within it. As I said at the outset, I do not pretend that disruptive elements are not to be found within the trade union movement. All I am saying is that we want to create the sort of economy within which they cannot flourish. That is the gravamen of my charge against management as I know it.
I think that what we have to do is to bring about a large expansion in the teaching of business and commercial subjects in our colleges, and particularly the teaching of the basic considerations in the management of industrial relations. If we want to see conditions changed so that the so-called subversive elements will not have a fruitful soil in which to grow and flourish, let us start by ensuring that the boards have enough members on them who really know labour relations from the ground up. I know that some boards have this knowledge. I had the great honour of being a member of a board for some time. I must say that we had on that board men who were appreciative of the fact that they had to understand human relationships in connection with industrial relations, and indeed always kept this consideration 1190 in their minds in everything they did but I rather think that board was the exception rather than the rule.
What we need at the top in industry are people who understand that trade unions are organisations of workpeople whose methods are to pursue what experience has shown to be likely to produce for their members the best results. That is the trade unions' job. What their history has shown them all too clearly is that satisfactory results are not obtained by sitting about and waiting for the crumbs to fall from the bosses' table. In order to bring about a change of method by the trade unions and their militants I can only suggest that you should change the experience of the trade unions. This can be done by giving industry the experience of true co-operation between employer and employee, and such co-operation produces better results for workpeople than militancy.
Locking over the whole field of British industry one would be hard put to find evidence of any initiative on the part of employers or their associations to pioneer improvements in industrial relations. The Fawley experiment was perhaps the exception. But the attitude of most managements to industrial relations is to say "No" to every claim put before them; and they say "No" until they are subjected to sufficient pressure to cause them to say "Yes". All too often they weakly concede to unofficial strikers concessions refused in peaceful negotiations, thus undermining the responsible national leader. I am sure that every noble Lord who spoke in this debate to-day will recognise that this is true, that this happens so often, and is undoubtedly a direct incentive to more and more unofficial strikes. The next time that I hear of management calling in trade union leaders and telling them of the increasing prospects of the company and of their desire to share their prosperity with the workers, with the shareholders, and with the nation through lower prices, will be the first! There may be a small undertaking here and there who might take up my challenge on this point, but they will be very rare indeed. Always when we hear of restrictive practices, it is of labour restrictive practices and seldom, if ever, about commercial restrictive practices. And they do exist. It is only almost by 1191 accident that we hear of the greed of a Kellogg's or the rapacity of a Roche Products. Their boards do not operate in the glare of publicity that surrounds the trade union board room. Their kind of fleecing of the public exposed recently by the Monopolies Commission is likely to do far more to encourage the subversive elements than all the militancy within the trade unions.
Too much emphasis is laid by observers of the industrial scene on the importance of the sinister activities of Communists and militants. As I have said before, I do not pretend that they do not exist, but to dismiss all agitation and strikes as indications of Communist plots is a complete nonsense. The pressures that build up and burst in industrial relations do not take place in a vacuum but only in situations ripe for discontent; usually it is a backlog of unsettled but not forgotten grievances. To suggest that Communists, et cetera, are behind all, or even most, of our industrial troubles is to award to them an importance far beyond their merit.
I thought to avoid discussing the ham-handedness of passing an Industrial Relations Act in the teeth of the advice of knowledgeable people, because I wanted to bring to the notice of the House considerations that are longer term. But it has been mentioned. I am bound to say that it seems to me to be a nonsense to have on the Statute Book an Act which the Government of the day are not prepared to use. The responsible employers are not prepared to use it and its only present effect is to act as an irritant and not to help to solve problems of industrial relations. I certainly do not agree with the noble Lord, Lord Hankey, that we ought to try to place further restraints on the trade unions and to prevent what he called "constitutional strikes" and so on, by more laws. The present law has failed, and I suggest that there would be no point at all in re-enacting a law which died with the Donovan Commission Report, because that is really what happened.
§ LORD CHAMPION
Yes, my Lords. I gather that I said "constitutional" 1192 where clearly the noble Lord referred to unconstitutional strikes. He was thinking in terms of gas workers, electricity workers, people working in water undertakings and so on. All I can say is that I think it would be a nonsense to attempt to do something which has died; and to resuscitate it would be merely to add a further irritant to the industrial scene. That is not what I am sure the noble Lord, Lord Orr-Ewing, and the rest of the House would want.
To sum up, and trying to be constructive, as suggested by the noble Lord, Lord Shinwell, if we are to achieve the industrial peace which all sensible people desire, we have to fulfil a few conditions. We have to bring to the board room not those whose sole qualification is of belonging to the "Old Boy" network, but to bring men and women knowledgeable by education and/or experience in labour relationships. Secondly, we must support the more responsible trade union leaders by not refusing to them reasonable concessions and then conceding them, under pressure, to the unofficial leaders—those about whom the noble Lord, Lord Orr-Ewing, and others have complained. Above all, we must try to bring to those who operate industrial relations an atmosphere of harmony and true cooperation and not warfare, either concealed or open. My Lords, I end by thanking the noble Lord, Lord Orr-Ewing, for moving a Motion which has enabled me to say a few things that I have been wanting to say publicly for a long time.
§ LORD FERRIER
My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, may I say that I am sorry that he was upset that I had not put my name down to speak. I assure him I would not have spoken had I not heard that the noble Lord, Lord Peddle, was to speak. I was looking forward to hearing from him. I think that there has been ample time allowed for good winding-up speeches.
§ 6.36 p.m.
§ LORD DRUMALBYN
My Lords, first of all I should like to thank my noble friend Lord Orr-Ewing for having given us the opportunity to debate this Motion. I ought to say right away that his Motion is to draw attention to the methods used to disrupt and undermine 1193 industry. I am so glad that it has given the noble Lord, Lord Champion, the opportunity to say a lot of things that he has been wanting to say for a long time, but I am not certain that they are all very germane to the Motion. He said in effect: "Don't let us talk about the trade union movement; let us discuss management", and proceeded to do so. But as my noble friend was making clear, he was not attempting to discuss the trade union movement; that is not what he set out to do. He was attempting to discuss the impediments that are in the way of the trade union movement and in management together in enabling British industry to get on with its job. I should like to join the noble Lord, Lord Shinwell, in congratulating my noble friend. The noble Lord, Lord Shinwell, did not make a provocative speech and I hope that I shall not be provocative, either. I had hoped that this would be a debate that would be as free as possible from Party vituperation of any sort and I would only add that I have no intention of preaching to the trade unions to-night.
First of all my noble friend Lord Orr-Ewing started by talking of the effects of such disruption, as opposed to the methods, and the bad reputation that we have abroad. There can be no doubt that stoppages such as we had last year in the pits and at the docks result in late delivery of our exports abroad. As for building strikes, they certainly do nothing to help the housing programme. So too the unofficial strikes and walkouts of comparatively small numbers can cause chaos in whole industries if they are prolonged. There can be no doubt that our reputation suffered last year, and I agree with my noble friend that our foreign competitors took care to make the most of their opportunities even though over the years our record of strikes is far better than those of many other countries. But I believe that the vast majority of people in this country now understand very well that we cannot afford the luxury or the calamity, whichever way you look at it, of such disputes very often. We all accept the right to withdraw one's labour and the right to organise the withdrawal of labour. I fully agree with the noble Lord, Lord Hankey, that we must always link this also with the right to work.
1194 I would remind noble Lords that we on this side were the first to put on the Statute Book the right to strike, in the much-abused Industrial Relations Act. It is not, of course, an unqualified right. Few rights are. It would be wrong to confer an unlimited immunity on groups who combine together from the consequences of their own actions upon others. We all accept also the right to protest, the right to differ, as it used to be called immediately after the war, especially in the countries that had been overrun. We all accept that, which the noble Lord, Lord Shinwell, rightly claimed for himself and for all of us. But at the same time we are painfully aware that industrial action not only causes serious inconvenience, but adversely affects our balance of payments, our production and our standard of living. That is why it is so important that those who contemplate, who influence or participate in decisions about strikes or lock-outs need to balance carefully the gain they hope to achieve for themselves against the loss to their own enterprise and to the nation as a whole. That is why we need to regard industrial action as something that should be treated as a last resort when all else has failed.
Of course, anyone with the interests of his fellow workers at heart is free to seek election as an official of a trade union or as a shop steward, and to be strenuous, militant if you will, as strenuous as he likes, in furthering those interests. It is up to the membership to choose the wisest as well as the most active people to represent them. What my noble friend and all of us are concerned with is the existence of groups in this country who may or may not be concerned to further those interests but certainly have often much less innocent objectives as well, and I had thought that the Party opposite were just as concerned as we were. These groups are organised on a national level and sometimes draw their inspiration and often their instructions and their finance from outside this country. We often talk about militants. There are church militants. Militants are good if what they are militant about is good, and I am sure the noble Lord, Lord Champion, would agree with that.
The fact that these groups are not large does not imply that they are negligible. We know and they know how 1195 much damage can be wrought by comparatively small minorities, as my noble friend Lord Massereene and Ferrard said, in our complex and interdependent society, There are, as my noble friend Lord Orr-Ewing said, the Communists, the Trotsky-ists, the Maoists, the International Socialists, the Anarchists and others. The Communists' numbers, said my noble friend Lord Massereene and Ferrard, are only a fleabite, but if I may parody something said in a different connection—some flea, some bite! Their principal method is to infiltrate and to work hard so as to get themselves into key positions. But I must say that I do not believe they are nearly so successful—I am sure the noble Lord, Lord Champion, will agree—as Mr. Lou Lewis made out. If 80 per cent. of shop stewards were Communists, I doubt whether we should be seeing the higher standards of living and higher growth that exist at the present time.
But it is evidently true that having done so they take every opportunity to light or to fan the flames of discontent. One International Socialist said:We do not claim to have caused strikes. We simply use them.I must say this to the noble Lord, Lord Champion. I simply cannot accept that if only the country was better run (and any country can always be better run), there would be no dissension. There will always be grievances, real and imaginary, and those grievances will always be exploited by those who are out to exploit them. This international socialist went on to say:They are fertile grounds for our political aims of destroying the capitalist system.They are not prepared to accept any bounds to their total freedom of action. As one of them has recently put it:There is no question of accepting any restriction, voluntary or otherwise.Yet if ever they were to achieve power by constitutional means, they would be most unlikely to extend to others the freedom that they claim for themselves. Meantime, extremists do all they can to prevent workers reaching fair and reasonable settlements. They also promote or encourage groups with innocent or even beneficent sounding names to operate on 1196 their behalf, and these groups are proscribed by the Labour Party.
The Communists, I understand, have an advisory committee for each industry. They may not favour violent methods, but their propaganda is inflammatory and can easily lead to violence. Other groups are not so restrained. The Anarchist magazine of the same name said:Sabotage has a long and honourable history … sabotage is an essential part of the formal revolution".Why then do we not ban such organisations? My noble friend Lord Massereene and Ferrard seemed to be anxious that we should, or at any rate that we should encourage the trade unions to ban them from office. The reason is that we are a free country, and freedom, like the quality of mercy, is not strained. Everyone is free to say what he likes and to write what he likes, provided he keeps within the law. Even if, as some of these organisations do, they deluge workers in disputes against their employers with copies of Socialist Worker Specials, they are free to do so, as they would certainly not be free to do so in Socialist countries.
My Lords, I said, "workers in disputes". But too many strikes in this country nowadays do not arise out of industrial grievances. When men withdraw their labour because of disagreement about pay or working conditions we may deplore it, but we recognise it as their legitimate right. When they do so, for example, over demarcation or recognition it is doubly regrettable that it cannot be settled without striking, but it is at least industrial action on industrial issues. But that is not true of political strikes. Such strikes are attempts so to interfere with the economic life of the country as to force the Government to change their policies, often on matters with little or no connection with the industry concerned. Pushed to the extreme, they are in effect attempts to force a change of Government.
No such attempts, with either aim, can be allowed by any Administration to succeed. The place for political action is in Parliament and in our democratic electoral processes, not in factories, in the mines, on building sites or on the railways. I could only wish that the Opposition would acknowledge that 1197 openly, as the Government do. Increasing numbers of workers of this country have shown in recent weeks that they are not willing to be manipulated into strike action for political ends. Some of the more responsible trade unions have had the courage to declare their intention not to take part in the proposed day of protest on May 1, the chosen day, as the Communists call it. We would very much welcome from the Labour Party an unequivocal statement that they are against any strikes that are obviously political.
One of the methods, obviously, of causing disruption is through picketing, and this is something which my noble friends Lord Orr-Ewing and Lord Massereene and Ferrard have spoken about this afternoon. During the three major strikes last year there were many reports in the Press up and down the country of so called picketing activities which went far beyond the limits of peaceful picketing. Millions of people saw such incidents with their own eyes on their own television screens. It was reported that bus loads of men, some of them, so it was said, having no connection with the industries concerned, descended on sites in what can only be described as raids, and that their conduct was anything but peaceful. Unfortunately, it is not always easy to obtain evidence on which to prosecute. Nevertheless, in the coal miners' and docks disputes, combined the police in England and Wales made 327 arrests. I think my noble friend said 350, but the figure I have is 327.
In recent months Ministers have repeatedly drawn attention to what is permitted during picketing. We are all, I believe, at one, not only in recognising that in any democratic society there should be freedom to demonstrate and persuade, but also that every individual is entitled to go about his business free from harassment or intimidation. The right to picket as set out in the Industrial Relations Act is limited to the peaceful communication of information and to the peaceful persuasion of a person to work or not to work in the circumstances of an industrial dispute. I believe that everyone would agree broadly with this, even if there are differences of opinion on detail.
As to mass picketing, I cannot do better than quote the words of my noble 1198 and learned friend the Lord Chancellor, who emphasised 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"—the protection of this section other than for picketing a person's home is repeated by Section 134 of the Industrial Relations 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."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 15/2/72; Col. 64.]But protection for peaceful picketing is not unlimited. Even where picketing is perfectly peaceful, a liability may still exist. For example, in the important case of Piddington v. Bates, where a picket was arrested and convicted of obstructing the police, it was made clear that his actual behaviour on the picket line was peaceful. Nevertheless, he was guilty of an offence. As the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor has said,It is not true that everything that you do which is not peaceful and which you choose to call picketing is legalised by that section".Picketing, even though peaceful, may thus be an unfair industrial practice under the Industrial Relations Act: for example, if in certain circumstances it induces someone to break a contract; and there may be a liability under the Common Law for such civil wrongs as trespass or nuisance.
Because of the widespread concern at the incidents to which I have referred, the Government have undertaken a review of the law on picketing. A number of suggestions have been made for changes in the law. I do not propose to discuss these suggestions to-day, because I do not want to anticipate anything that my right honourable friend the Home Secretary may say in another place, and I am afraid that I cannot tell my noble friend Lord Nugent, who made such an admirable speech, when he may say it. In any event, I believe that the problem is essentially one of enforcement and of the effective application of police resources. The responsibility for enforcing the law rests, of course, with chief officers of police. It is their task to secure proper observance of the law, while acting impartially between those who picket and those who wish to work.
1199 It is gratifying that the great majority of picketing is carried out in a peaceful and orderly manner, as was illustrated by the behaviour of pickets during the gas and hospital services disputes. When picketing is not peaceful, it is essential that the police should have all the facilities necessary for them to intervene effectively. The Home Secretary has had discussions with chief officers of police which ranged over the whole field of picketing. Among the subjects discussed was co-operation between police forces—I cannot tell my noble friend whether flying squads were discussed—and improved arrangements for mutual aid between police forces have now been made. This is a matter of obvious importance, in view of the invasions from one area into another which I have mentioned; and if men are minded to indulge in these methods in future they may find things rather more difficult than in the last year or so.
Inevitably, I think, reference has been made to the Industrial Relations Act. On picketing and all the other matters, the usual answer is that it is all the fault of the Government's Industrial Relations Act. I should say right away that the number of working days lost last year cannot possibly be blamed on the Act. Ninety per cent. of the working days lost were due to disputes over pay. The Act was never intended to deal with pay disputes as such. But in their calmer moments, even the most savage opponents of the Act admit that there is some good in it. For example, since it came into operation and the Code of Industrial Relations Practice was introduced, both sides have been critically examining their procedures for dealing with industrial relations to an extent never seen before in this country. This is very significant. Perhaps I should say it again to the noble Lord. Since the Act was introduced, both sides have been critically examining their procedures for dealing with industrial relations to an extent never seen before in this country.
The Industrial Court itself has had considerable success in its prompt and constructive work of making voluntary settlement of problems possible. It has also paved the way for a thorough investigation of difficult issues; for example, as in the C. A. Parsons case. In addition, over 10,000 complaints of unfair dis- 1200 missals have been referred to conciliation officers. This has provided those concerned with a remedy which they have not previously enjoyed. Over half the cases were cleared at the conciliation stage, and I understand that one-third of the complaints were upheld. A number of unions, too, have used the provisions of the Act to gain recognition where it had previously been refused, and to negotiate agency shop agreements to the benefit of their membership. These alone are substantial achievements for a new piece of legislation.
We have never claimed that we got the Act absolutely right first time, nor can we agree with those critics who say that we got it absolutely wrong. We have always said that when the Act had had a reasonable period in which to operate as it was intended to do, we would be open to suggestions for improving it from both the C.B.I. and the T.U.C. This offer is still open and I very much join with my noble friend Lord Nugent in hoping that both will take advantage of it. If reports of the T.U.C.'s dealings with the Labour Party are correct, it seems that the T.U.C. envisages some legislation in the industrial relations field. I notice that Mr. Scanlon recently spoke in terms of amendments, but the only authoritative body representing the trade union movement is the T.U.C. and it is from the T.U.C. that we should like to hear. I hope we shall. Meanwhile, I must say that we have no immediate plans for amending the Act, let alone for withdrawing it.
We have heard a good deal this afternoon about subversive elements within trade unions and about infringement of the law on picketing. Those activities, as the noble Lord, Lord Champion, implied, are in no way representative of the way in which the great majority of trade unionists of this country conduct themselves. I often think that we on this side have more faith in the sound common sense and sense of responsibility of the trade union membership as a whole than the Party opposite has. It may be curious to noble Lords opposite that the Industrial Relations Act was based on that faith and on the desire to ensure that sound common sense would be given full scope for expansion.
The noble Lord, Lord Champion, spoke about reasonable concessions, as 1201 I think did the noble Lord, Lord Shinwell. But unless the T.U.C. will come forward, how are we to know what are the reasonable concessions that they want? But given that they themselves admit that there is good in the Industrial Relations Act, why not let them come forward and put their suggestions as to what the reasonable concessions should be? I must say that I did not agree with everything that my noble friend Lord Massereene and Ferrard said about supplementary benefits for strikers' families. Any family in this country which is in need is entitled to supplementary benefit; and it may well not be the fault of the wife and family that a husband has gone on strike; if indeed it is a fault at all.
§ LORD BESWICK
My Lords, I was very interested to hear what the noble Lord thought of his noble friend's speech. Can he say what he thought of the contribution of his noble friend Lord Ferrier, about these cars which fall to pieces when you pull the choke out? Which subversive element was the cause of that? Does he agree that that is the state of affairs in the motor industry?
§ LORD DRUMALBYN
My Lords, I was very sorry to hear about my noble friend's experience. I have driven nothing but British cars all my life, and I am glad to say that I have never had an experience of that sort. My noble friend may have been unlucky, but he has expressed his experience and I cannot say more than that. I should be very sorry to think that anybody would take the experience of my noble friend Lord Ferrier as being in any way typical of British cars, because I am sure that it is not. I am obliged to the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, for reminding me of that point.
My Lords, I want to conclude by saying this. The way forward—and I think we all agree with this—must be through co-operation between the Government, the Trades Union Congress and the C.B.I. If there is something wrong with the whole system, then let us put it right by co-operation. Let us know what is wrong and let us seek to put it right. We are convinced that a strong, responsible and well-informed trade union movement in regular and constructive consultation with employers and the Government is the best safeguard against 1202 subversion and against the very small minority of extremists within trade union ranks. I think this debate has served a very useful purpose. It has allowed some people to say what they wanted to say, and I think it has thrown up a great many ideas, including those of the noble Lord, Lord Hankey, which perhaps were a little more outside the main stream of the debate than he realised. I would only say to him, on works councils, that this is something which is being closely studied by the Government at present, and the Government are also reviewing company law. I do not think it would be right to pursue this very far to-day, but many suggestions of great value have been put forward. I can only once again thank noble Lords who have participated in this debate, and above all the noble Lord, Lord Orr-Ewing, for having given us the opportunity to discuss this subject.
§ VISCOUNT MASSEREENE AND FERRARD
My Lords, before my noble friend sits down, may I just say that he has in fact quoted me incorrectly? I said that supplementary benefits should be paid to strikers' families where cases of hardship could be proved; but when it is a question of a strike it is the job of the unions to pay the people on strike. My goodness!, the unions are colossally wealthy. They are among the biggest operators on the Stock Exchange, as noble Lords opposite know. Let them pay the strikers, not the poor wretched taxpayers.
§ LORD DRUMALBYN
My Lords, if I may answer my noble friend, of course this has always been so: that the families of strikers get supplementary benefits, as anybody else gets supplementary benefits, if they need it. They do not get it if they do not need it.
§ 7.3 p.m.
§ LORD ORR-EWING
My Lords, I must first thank everyone who has been so patient as to listen to this debate. As I think almost every one of your Lordships has said, this is a serious matter and it is appropriate that we should debate it at a time when our industrial organisation is threatened and disorganised, to put it at its lowest, by militants operating—and I should like to make this point once again—outside the trade union movement. I served for five years as P.P.S. to Walter Monckton and 1203 for another five years as an active member of the Conservative Labour Committee, so I have throughout my Parliamentary career taken a special interest in this matter. Therefore, I know the difficulty which respected trade union leaders have had in dealing with the militant upthrust from those who cause trouble to the ordinary organisation and to the democratically-elected leaders. I count some of them among my close friends, and many of them are in this House now; so I hope I am absolved from any criticism that I have not taken an interest.
I thought, also, that the noble Lord, Lord Champion, was a little unfair. As I find it, we have a great benefit in this House in having a batting order. I think this is desirable, because in another place you sit on the edge of your seat for forty minutes wondering whether you are going to be called or passed over. We do at least know when we are likely to speak. Also, our speeches are roughly half the length they would otherwise be. I remember that the noble Lord, Lord Shinwell, always spoke for fifty minutes in the other place: he now speaks for only twenty-five minutes here. Therefore, this, too, is salutary. It was also a little unkind, I think, to say that there was no space—we still have another seven minutes, even now—for people to come in, listen to the debate, feel they have some useful contribution to make and to make it, in a modest and sometimes very constructive manner, as Lord Hankey did to-day. I hope that that was not a criticism of the method. I think Lord Champion said that they should at least have put their names on the list of speakers.
§ LORD ORR-EWING
My Lords, that is a view. I am newer to this House than the noble Lord is, and I personally find it very refreshing to get a fresh mind—somebody who has listened to the debate, who wants to make a contribution and who then makes an interjection in a short speech.
§ LORD ORR-EWING
Yes, my Lords, short debates are new, too; that is quite right. I was rather sorry that the Front Bench of the Labour Party did not come forward with some constructive ideas as to how we could deal with this problem. I mentioned the Communist Party, but I by no means single them out. They are the best run organisation, but there are a whole host of others, which I listed in my opening speech, which act outside the Communist Party and sometimes well to the Left of the Communist Party. So it is not just the Communist Party; it is people outside that organisation.
I am rather sorry that Lord Champion did not take the opportunity to say how he felt the Labour Party and the trade union movement were going to deal with this problem. I quite understand: we all have stored-up speeches which we have not had an opportunity to make, and he rightly said that he had been longing to make a speech against the industrial Relations Act and mat this atlorded him a wonderful opportunity. I am not going to take up, although I should be delighted to do so, some of the benefits. I would mention that in an organisation of which I am chairman there has been a non-union firm for 50 years. As a result of the Industrial Relations Act, we now have a union organisation in our midst. Whether that is good or bad, I do not know, but it is certainly good for the trade union movement. When we see the figures—we have only got them up to 1971; they were declared yesterday in the House of Commons—I think it will be found that the 10.9 million trade unionists will have increased very considerably in number as a result of the Industrial Relations Act. So that is one good thing so far as the trade union movement is concerned.
I should just like to say, reiterating what my noble friend said in his masterly winding up speech, that we have a problem in this country. Everyone recognises this; and it is only going to be solved if some bridges of understanding are built and some tables are got round by the C.B.I., the T.U.C. and the Government of the day. I hope very much that we shall now begin to see a constructive approach. How can we amend this Act? It is not perfect. It might have been rather better if there had been 1205 less filibustering in the House of Commons and rather more debate on important clauses. Many of these clauses were taken straight out of Barbara Castle's Bill and popped straight into what is now the Industrial Relations Act. It seems surprising that the whole of that approach has been condemned by official Labour spokesmen from the other Front Bench when so much of it, so many of the ideas, originated in the previous Labour Government. I think we all recognise that this is a problem which has got to be solved. I thank noble Lords very much for their patience and for the trouble that they have taken in taking part in this debate, and I beg leave to withdraw my Motion.
§ Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.