HL Deb 16 July 1974 vol 353 cc1066-108

5.58 p.m.

Debate resumed.


My Lords, it is remarkable, I will not venture to say significant, that this contretemps, this incident, this intrusion into our normal procedure in debates, should have ocurred before it was known to your Lordships that I was about to address the House. And the fact that my noble friend—if I can indeed now call him a friend—Lord Wigg should be associated with the saboteurs comes, I must confess, as a very great surprise and disappointment. But, my Lords, leaving aside the purpose of the Bill now before your Lordships' House, at any rate for the moment, I should like to direct the attention of your Lordships to some quite interesting features of this debate.

For example, there is the absence from the debate of the noble Lord who indeed is the villain of the piece. I refer to the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn. Where, oh where, has he gone? Noble Lords who were associated with the debates in 1971 will recall the late nights lasting sometimes almost through the night, Committee stage after Committee stage, speeches illuminating and otherwise. I ventured to make so many speeches myself that the Press actually took notice of them. They will remember all the fuss, all the confusion, all the disturbance and the turbulence that there was then and here we are back to square one. When I listened to the eloquent speech delivered with such refinement by the noble Earl, Lord Gowrie—most of it had nothing to do with the debate at all, but it sounded very pleasant though, as we know, fine words butter no parsnips—I recalled at once those well-known lines from Omar Khayyám, Myself when young did eagerly frequent Doctor and Saint and heard great Argument About it and about: and evermore Came out by the same Door as in I went. That is the essence of the speech delivered by the noble Earl. "She didn't say, Yes. She didn't say, No." We dislike the Bill, we have to amend it. Otherwise, there will be another cataclysm in the country and we cannot afford that "—the Conservatives have been responsible for so many in the past. Then he wondered whether it was not a bad Bill after all—-with reservations and qualifications and amendments which of course would end the Bill anyhow. This is what we got. But where was the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn? Is it not an extraordinary feature, my Lords, that the noble Lord is not here though he was responsible night after night, day after day, hour after hour, minute after minute for seeking to convince your Lordships that unless the 1971 Bill was accepted by your Lordships with a huge majority, as it was—they all came in; they had not heard the speeches, but they came in as usual at the end, to vote—the trade unions would dominate the Labour Party, not that that would matter very much to the Conservatives, and would dominate the country? This is what they argued, and now they come along—including Mr. Heath, whose integrity I do not doubt for a moment, and whose honesty of purpose is obvious—and say, "No more of this nonsense". The noble Earl, Lord Gowrie, nearly went to that length himself, but not quite.

My Lords, other features of the debate were distinctive in character. There were the maiden speeches of my noble friend Lord Feather, whom I have known for many years as the chief of the Trades Union Congress General Council, laying down trade union law and having no nonsense about it—and he made an excellent speech this afternoon—and my noble friend Lord Houghton, who occupied a position which I adorned myself; that of Chairman of the Parliamentary Labour Party. We both knew what that meant. We had to suffer a great deal but we bore it with fortitude, which is customary with us. I congratulate them both and, naturally, I should like to hear them again because they both made constructive speeches; in contrast, if I may dare say so, to the noble Lord, Lord Hankey, who was most aggressive.

I have never heard him so aggressive. He was in a real fighting mood and he would tear the trade unions to bits if he had the opportunity. If only to embellish and embroider his observations, he brought in inflation and even something about the Common Market. I do not know how that managed to creep in, though, indeed, we had other speeches, including that of the noble Baroness, Lady Seear—to whose speeches we always like to listen—who this afternoon gave us a philosophical dissertation about human relations and all the rest of it, which had really nothing at all to do with the Bill, particularly when it came to the subject of inflation. If any Member of your Lordships' House really believes that inflation in this country is attributable to the demands of the trade unionists for higher wages, he is making a mistake. If any noble Lords want an authority on this subject, let them ask Mr. Enoch Powell. We should disabuse the minds of everybody about that. It bears some relation to inflation, but it is not the primary cause and we know it. Why bring it in, time and again, in a debate of this character? Anyhow, this is not an economic debate. But perhaps the most significant and outstanding feature of the debate so far is the fact that the noble Earl, Lord Gowrie, did not stand up to apologise for the misdeeds and misadventures and misdemeanours of the Conservative Government in 1971 when introducing the old Bill.


My Lords, perhaps to-morrow the noble Lord and I could go into conclave. My impression was that I was earnestly trying to give it to everybody in the neck.


Everybody to the noble Earl's taste, I agree, but, my Lords, why should I enter into a confrontation with him? We will set that aside. What is the purpose of this legislation?


My Lords, I am sure that I said a great many things which the noble Lord did not like, but as a matter of fact he will see if he looks in Hansard that I never mentioned the word "inflation" once.


My Lords, I am sorry that the noble Baroness objects to what I said, because I really thought that she spoke with her customary eloquence and I congratulated her, but now she rails at me. Could we now come to the purpose of the legislation? What is it all about?—simply this. I thought that my noble friend Lord Houghton touched the point admirably. We want to repeal the old legislation. That is all. Does anybody really suppose that if the Bill goes through, as no doubt it will even with some reservations, qualifications and Amendments, it will solve the problem of industrial relations? Of course it will not. We have a long way to go.

We ought not to neglect the history of this business. I happen to be well acquainted with that. I recall, before the First World War, a whole series of disputes starting in 1911. The seamen, then the dockers, then the transport workers, then everybody else were engaged in disputes and, had it not been for the outbreak of war in 1914, we should have had a real general strike. Indeed, one can go back further into history. When we talk about trade union disruption and turbulence, let us consider the history of the problem. Four years after I was born, in 1888, there was a great strike in the East End of London and it eventually spread to other ports. Why did it occur? The dockers demanded sixpence an hour. It was the "tanner an hour" strike. Lord Devonport was the boss of the docks and he would have nothing to do with it. He said that it would be destructive of the whole system to give them sixpence an hour. They were getting threepence and fourpence an hour for casual labour. We can go back a long time. There is a history about this.

Let me give your Lordships one example of the kind of argument which has recently been used in connection with this struggle. Take, my Lords, the criticism of my right honourable friend Mr. Michael Foot, because he ventured to indulge in some criticism of Sir John Donaldson. I am sorry that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hailsham of Saint Marylebone, is not present because if anybody invokes the law it is the noble and learned Lord. Why all the fuss about that? I have been indulging in a little research and for the purposes of accuracy I should like the permission of your Lordships' House to quote. As your Lordships know I never use any papers. I know that sometimes impromptu speeches are not worth the paper they are written on.

What did I discover on the question of criticism of judges? When in 1911—a long time ago—a Bill was introduced in the House of Commons to permit unions to use their funds for political purposes Winston Churchill made a formidable attack on the judiciary. He was then Home Secretary. I know the exact date when the statement was made, it was May 13. He deplored the interminable litigation to which trade unions had been subjected in the past few years and he claimed that it had not been of service to the unions or the courts to bring them into contact with one another. He went on to say that it is impossible to pretend that the courts command general confidence. On the contrary, they do not, and a very large proportion of the population have been led to the opinion they are—unconsciously no doubt—biased.

This remark of Winston Churchill in another place led to storms of protest in the House and to demands for withdrawal. But Churchill refused to withdraw. "I repeat what I said", he went on, "it is unfortunate that these commissions occur between the courts and the great union bodies". That is a kind of criticism, but now we are told it is a dastardly thing to venture to criticise Sir John Donaldson. I quote another authority for whom everybody in your Lordships' House has respect—my noble friend Lord Citrine. He is now in Devon and is not able to come to your Lordships' House to take part in our debates. He was at one time General Secretary of the T.U.C.—highly respected and not an extremist. By that I do not mean that my noble friend Lord Feather is an extremist. My noble friend Lord Citrine said—and this is an almost classical definition of the purpose of the trade union movement—that the trade union movement has not the slightest confidence in the impartiality or the competence of judges to deal equitably with trade union affairs. So why all this fuss? I exclude the Law Lords in your Lordships' House. Yesterday, I listened with the utmost interest and pleasure to the distinctive speeches made by the noble Lords, Lord Diplock and Lord Salmon, and the noble and learned Viscount, Lord Dilhorne, and others—wonderful speeches, the subject was illuminated, to my mind at any rate. But the one point I gathered was that they all disagreed with each other. If the Law Lords disagree with each other how are we expected to refrain from criticism of any of them?

I now come to what is perhaps the most important part of this debate; that is, with respect to all those who have taken part, the question of whether we have a mandate for this Bill. Often we are accused in the Press of not having a mandate for this, that and the other, but at the last Election the one point, among others, put before the electors was that if a Labour Government was returned it would repeal the 1971 Industrial Relations Act. We have a mandate for this. We have another part of the mandate—the Liberal Party. The noble Baroness, Lady Seear, nods her head affirmatively. She will agree that the Liberal Party said "we do not want art or part in that Bill"—although she would like some amendment of the Bill. I can understand that. We had a mandate from the country to repeal that Act. That is what it is about, it is not about inflation, or the economic situation or the calamitous things which occur and which I deplore as much as the noble Lord, Lord Hankey. I want to endorse almost every word which my noble friend Lord Houghton of Sowerby said on the subject. We have to get rid of confrontation, but let us be realistic about it. We cannot prevent working people demanding more money, but now it is not only the manual workers but teachers, scientific, professional people, even the Press and people on the B.B.C. They all demand more money. Heaven knows it is going too far now! Even some Members of your Lordships' House who come from the provinces and have to pay high costs for hotels are now demanding more money. If it comes to the aristocracy demanding more money, should we complain? We will not get rid of that by making speeches or by legislation or by this Bill.

This requires understanding, goodwill and something more—some understanding on the part of employers also. There are many enlightened employers, but we want more of them. So we will have to accept this. As I understood my noble friend, Lord Houghton of Sowerby, he advocated other legislation, conciliation and arbitration. Indeed, I would go further than my noble friend by saying, whether or not some trade unionists and trade union leaders like it, that we may have to accept some measure of legal enforcement. We cannot exclude the law entirely, nor do I believe that by accepting legal enforcement in some directions we are in any way militating against the organisation of the trade union movement.

I can recall that in 1909 Winston Churchill (I bring him in again) who was not Home Secretary but a President of the Board of Trade, introduced the Trade Boards' Bill which became the Trade Board Act, the purpose of which was to accord some protection for workers in the sweated trades. I was appointed by Churchill as the representative of the Scottish workers on that Board. He did not know he had appointed me or he never would have done it—he only got to know that afterwards. He just picked out the name and there it was. The trade union leaders objected to that Bill. They said that it interfered with the trade union organisation. But it had the opposite effect, therefore we must accept some measure of legal enforcement.

I regret that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hailsham of Saint Marylebone, is not here. He is one of the greatest legal luminaries in this country. He frequently invokes the law on his side, and rightly so in many respects. I regret he was not present when I ventured with the utmost accuracy—not only out of my mouth but out of a document associated with Winston Churchill—to quote what he said about the judiciary. I should like him—if the OFFICIAL REPORT comes to us again, if we can persuade those who are on strike to let us have our documents again—to read it and perhaps he will mend his ways and come to different conclusions. Our purpose is to repeal the old Act. Away with it. It has contributed more harm to industrial relations than anything else. Let us make an end of it and have something new.


My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down may I say that I understand from his speech that the only thing this Bill does is to repeal the Industrial Relations Act. But surely the noble Lord is not quite correct there, because the Bill goes much further than that. As I read this Bill a union can come out on strike, with complete immunity, in favour of some dispute abroad if they do not like the complexion of a Government abroad. To put it mildly, that seems to me to be going a bit too far.

6.20 p.m.


My Lords, I hope the noble Lord, Lord Shinwell, will excuse me if I do not follow him in detail, but there were moments when I thought, if I heard him aright, that I might be in partial agreement with some of the things that he said: one was that we have a long way to go in industrial relations; another was when he talked about confrontation, on which I shall try to say a word later on; and the last was when I thought he agreed that there must be a legal framework for industrial relations.

My Lords, I find myself in this debate the only Member of the Back-Benchers on this side of the House who has been unwise enough to rush in when my noble "angel" friends seem to have decided not to take part, so I suppose I ought to give some reason why I think I am entitled to trouble the House. Before I do that may I pay my own tribute to the maiden speech of the noble Lord, Lord Feather. I heard every word of his speech and listened with the attention one always gives in this House to those who know all about the subject under discussion. I am sorry that I was not in the House when the noble Lord, Lord Houghton of Sowerby, made his maiden speech, but I shall be reading it in Hansard when a copy of that work is available.

I said that I ought to try to justify myself for taking part in this debate. For about 30 years I have been a chairman and director of companies employing union labour of various colours both in this country and overseas. I am going further back even than the point to which my noble friend Lord Gowrie went. When I was concerned with the Home Guard I had, through the kindness of the noble Lord, Lord Citrine, a great deal of help, encouragement and advice on trade union matters from the Organisation Department in Transport House. I also on one occasion had a great deal of help from a Member from a mining constituency who I am glad to see now sitting opposite me as the noble Lord, Lord Taylor of Mansfield. It has taken me all this time to find an opportunity to acknowledge the debt which I owed at that time, and I gladly take it now.

The real reason why I thought fit to trouble the House is because in 1918, for reasons which need not trouble your Lordships, I had the opportunity of working in the Ministry of Labour in the department which was engaged in implementing the Whitley Report. I worked under two excellent chiefs whose names, believe it or not, were Heath and Wilson—Sir George Heath and Bertram Wilson. So when I knew this debate was to take place I thought I would have another look at the Whitley Report, since I had not looked at it for all those years. The Librarian found it for me and dusted it, and there I saw what indeed I remembered and everybody else knows, that it was an attempt to provide an organisation in which industrial affairs in each industry could be carried on by a joint committee of employers and workers sitting under a chairman of their own choice. That I think was the first blueprint for anything of the kind in this country, and there it was. The Joint Secretary was the father of the noble Lord, Lord Greenwood of Rossendale. That Whitley Report got off to a very good start in certain industries but not in others. It pointed the way to the Promised Land and one may ask: if it did, where we lost our way?

I noticed that there was one point which was not touched on in the Whitley Report and which I thought was a pity, and that was the need for those who came, whether they represented employers or workers, to come equipped with powers to negotiate on behalf of their constituents or if, for any reason, they could not have powers, at least to come with the reasonable expectation that when they went away from the the conference table the proposals which they had negotiated would be honoured by the rank and file when the got back. There is no real reference to that in the Whitley Report and I was left wondering, as your Lordships may be left wondering, whether that was an oversight, was taken for granted or was deliberately swept under the carpet. I just do not know. But, quite certainly, the Whitley Report might have done a great deal more than it did; the stage was set but the act did not quite take place.

Of course one can generalise if one wants to, because directly after the Whitley Report had been issued the temptation became apparent, particularly in the larger unions, to use the card vote power for things which were not immediately connected with the welfare of the industry. It has been too easy for that to go on. There were other things like the constitutions of the individual unions which varied and made it easier or more difficult to follow the lines of the Whitley Report.

Then one can look at the employers' association. It is probably fair to say in general terms that a great many of the wage negotiations were too short-term and on too low a level. I myself can think of at least one case (and if I can do that there must be hundreds) where a wage negotiation took place and was settled in a certain way because the particular firm which was largely affected had a large contract just nearing completion and their main aim on that occasion was to avoid the penalty clause being invoked by the customer. If those negotiations in that case had been carried on at the proper level a more statesmanlike view would have been taken. As it was, that wage agreement sowed the dragon's teeth in a certain industry. Then there is what it is fashionable to call failure in communication; in other words, excessive secrecy about one's business or telling "nowt to nobody". That, in my own experience, gets worse the further North you go in this country, and it always ends up by everybody knowing everything except the people who might well know.

I do not want to take up the time of your Lordships by generalising, but I want rather to concentrate on two things which I think have been two of the main obstacles on the road to the Promised Land and are both capable of being removed by those who want to remove them. The first one is the unofficial strike. There may well be good reasons, traditions, and all the rest of it, about the unofficial strike. But I do not want to look at it from that point of view; I want to look at it from the point of view of leadership, which is something I have tried to study in my life and occasionally have had the opportunity of trying to exercise. To my mind, the unofficial strike involves a state of affairs where the people who are supposed to be running the show—the union, if you like—are in fact running it at one moment and then at another moment affairs are being run by somebody else. Because I believe firmly that you cannot switch leadership on and off as you do the electric current, therefore I am quite sure that the practice and theory of the unofficial strike so long as it persists will be one of the great obstacles to the industrial peace which we all want, partly because once the leader has abandoned his leadership, if he tries to resume it he leads his army from behind, like the chap in the opera—or he has to pretend to lead. In neither of those conditions can one really keep order in the trade union world, or indeed anywhere else.

When we come to talk about keeping order, I should like to mention the White Paper entitled In Place of Strife. That title, I thought, had some mark of genius. It also may have been slightly naïve—I do not know—because it may have led some people to believe that everybody wanted to see strife replaced by something else; and I do not think that is so. There are two sets of people whom I am quite certain do not want to see strife replaced. The first are the professional troublemakers. There they are: they occupy their lives with making trouble and, for all I know, they get their living by it. I do not know whether it would be an infringement of the Race Relations Act to ask people to make a count of the names of those who constantly appear in the news in that regard and who turn out not to be English. But there one is.

I come now to something which I think the noble Lord, Lord Feather, started to talk about—that is, the media. The industries which are not in the news are nearly always able, so far as I can see, to carry on their negotiations in a sensible and businesslike atmosphere and no doubt they can achieve the right amount of "give and take" because they are not always having microphones thrust at them and being forced to appear in the news when that is probably the last thing for producing the right negotiations. My father, from whom I learned a lot, and who was the first Parliamentary Secretary to the Miinstry of Labour (as the noble Lord, Lord Henderson, will know) and later on became First Secretary for Mines, was able, at the time of the coal strikes of the 1920s, to establish confidence between both sides. Therefore he was able to pave the way for negotiations which ended successfully and were concluded in public, on the Government side by Sir Robert Hoare and Mr. Lloyd George. But I doubt very much whether he would have been able to hold the conversations which paved the way if he had been chased by the media into the secret places where he held conversations with Mr. Frank Hodges—I believe they met in a teashop on one occasion. Fortunately, he belonged to a day and age when he was able to do his work in peace and so were the union representatives.

I also remember his saying that he could never understand why more virtue was attached to a settlement reached after hours of wrangling in the middle of the night than to one reached after short and sensible discussion in the middle of the day. That is the sort of thing which seems to me to bedevil the affairs of the larger unions—the reporting of them by the Press and the media—because instead of using the language of peaceful and businesslike negotiations, which I imagine is what the sensible members of the unions and the employers' organisations would like, the reports are dressed up in the clothing of war and words such as "conflict" and "confrontation" are used, as the noble Lord, Lord Shinwell, said. You might think that instead of being a serious comment on something of the greatest importance to the community it was a sort of national dogfight or Punch and Judy Show.

And so it is you get the language all wrong. You get all the jargon about bitterness, frustration, betrayal and all the rest of it—none of which can really help to produce a solution or help the people concerned to produce a solution, or to make readers of the national Press understand that this is a matter not of a sort of national sport but of something vitally important which ought to be carried on in a businesslike fashion. So, although we may not be able to get away from this sort of thing entirely, I think we should all realise how very dearly we pay for this particular form of national sport. I myself, as a former professional soldier, dislike very much the idea of using the language of war for anything except those things connected with our national enemies, whoever they may be.

My Lords, I do not know the answer to any of the points that I have raised and I am not trying to lay down the law in any direction because I am not qualified to do that; but I have tried to indicate some lines of thought which may help to lead back to the Promised Land. I do not expect to get a reply to this. If there was a reply, it would almost certainly be that none of the things I am talking about could possibly be put in this Bill—nor are they at present, so far as I know, because like everybody else I have not seen the Bill. But they are all things which will need thought if we are to make progress in the right direction; and they are all things which will require, as the noble Lord, Lord Shinwell, said earlier, a framework of law. That, after all, is what this Bill ought to be about, whatever is going to happen to it now.

6.36 p.m.


My Lords, I do not know why the noble Viscount sought to justify his intervention. He made what I thought were some very interesting points. I disagree profoundly with one or two of them, but all the same I agree with his point about leadership. However, he had not taken into account the shift of power in leadership and that leadership of yesterday is not that of to-day. Perhaps the noble Viscount does not realise that on the shop-floor there is now a great deal more power than there used to be. I am afraid I do not agree with his remarks about foreign workers or foreign people who set out to destroy our society. I do not really think those were very worthy remarks. It cannot just be foreign people who are out to destroy this country.

I intervene briefly, if only to pay homage to two new "stars" in your Lordships' House on delivering their maiden speeches: one of them a lifelong trade union leader, the noble Lord, Lord Feather, and the other an outstanding life-long Parliamentarian, the noble Lord, Lord Houghton of Sowerby. How appropriate it is that they both spoke about industrial relations. I hope we shall hear them often, for they both have great wisdom from which we can profit.

I quite unashamedly enjoy the interventions made by the noble Earl, Lord Gowrie. Of course, I do not agree with him on most occasions, but we sit on opposite sides of the House: why should we agree on everything? The noble Earl made what I call a very elegant "jeremiad" to-day about life in general. I rather agree with him. I think that life is a vale of tears. He said that all the injustices in industrial relations had disappeared; the injustices that used to occur from employers to workers have all gone; and now the only injustice that remains is that the trade unions are too strong. I should like to refer to the speech of the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, in which she spoke at length on political strikes. I do not know how one can separate the economic, the political or the industrial relations aspects of a strike. They are usually all mixed up.

My second reason for this brief intervention is that this separation of industrial practices from political attitudes is very confusing. I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, that the question of industrial relations is very complex, sophisticated and difficult to understand by ordinary people. I learned this in my apprenticeship when I listened to the debates on the Conservative Party's Bill in 1971. A simple phrase like "the freedom not to join a trade union", taken at face value, means "freedom" for the individual and "anarchy" for the trade union. Trade unionists who have fought for a century to achieve strength through organising together are not likely to risk losing their benefits for some abstract theory of liberty. Collective bargaining to advance industrial democracy is sacrosanct for trade unions. It is a fact of life that we have to accept to-day.

Looking back over the past 10 years and the efforts made by both the Labour Government and the Conservative Government to tailor industrial relations to some arid theories, I think both political Parties when in power have missed great opportunities. When the right honourable Lady Mrs. Barbara Castle presented In Place of Strife, many of us supported her, except for the penal clauses in the document. I wondered why the Trades Union Congress did not accept this document as a basis for negotiation. I have never understood this. I know that they have tried to explain it but I still do not understand it.

The reactions of the trade unions to successive Labour Governments could not have been more ironically chronicled than by Eric Whigham in The Times to-day. The idea that trade unionists are the friends of the Labour Party or, for that matter, vote Labour automatically in Elections, is one of the old unexplained myths. Then came that very wise Donovan Report. What a tragedy that Lord Donovan died. One would have thought that Mr. Edward Heath, when he became Prime Minister, would have grasped it and built upon it. But he appeared to be intoxicated with his own Party Election Manifesto. Inflexibility was the order of the day from then on. During the course of the long debates in this House during 1971, on May 17 two distinguished noble and learned Lords, Lord Tangley and Lord Wilberforce, told the Prime Minister in no uncertain terms that the lynch-pin of the Industrial Relations Bill—the law to formalise agreements between unions and employers in a legal framework—was legally unenforceable. It is remarkable that this was not portrayed at all in the Press. I heard Lord Donovan himself say that most collective agreements were not legally enforceable, yet we had this colossal Bill resting on the legal enforceability of certain aspects.

So now we are faced with this present Trade Union and Labour Relations Bill, wiping out the Conservative Industrial Relations Bill which did more to bring down the last Conservative Government than anything else. On the whole, this present Bill takes account of changed circumstances in the world, particularly, as I myself feel, the fact that industrial relations are no longer a static concept. They are changing. Also, I feel uneasy about such things as new protection in the area of secondary industrial action, such as sympathy action and blacking. I am not altogether happy about this. The law about picketing also should be clarified and looked at again. Finally, my Lords, much more education is needed among ordinary people about trade union issues, for these are not as simple as they are supposed to be. They are diverse and sophisticated and not explained by political slogans.

6.45 p.m.


My Lords, in intervening in this debate very briefly, I shall take a somewhat different line from those that have been followed by most noble Lords this afternoon. To me this is a debate of outstanding, even historic, importance! It is no exaggeration to say that it is comparable with those that preceded our entry into the European Economic Community, with due respect to the noble Lord, Lord Shinwell. Then one major point at issue was that of the sovereignty of Parliament. Now the same issue arises in an entirely different context, as I pointed out in a letter to The Times recently; namely, in the context of trade union power, a subject of widespread public concern.

In what I have to say I do not propose to consider the power of the trade unions in relation to excessive wage demands, and the effects of these on the inflation that threatens to destroy our society, important as this factor may be, with due respect to the noble Lord, Lord Shinwell, who referred to this earlier. What I should like to concentrate on for a few moments is the use of trade union power for political purposes, that has gained such momentum in recent months, spreading far and wide so that it is now being applied even in my own profession of medicine, and, according to the latest statement from Mr. Clive Jenkins, even in my own speciality of pathology. If this state of affairs continues it can only lead to utter and complete chaos.

When the present Bill is passed, as it seems it must be—though I sincerely hope not before it has been amended in several important respects—the crucial question will arise: how will the trade unions respond to the restoration of, and, in some respects, increase in, their powers that were limited by the Industrial Relations Act? Will the voice of responsibility and true moderation prevail? By that I mean not only that the avowedly Communist influences be defeated and indiscipline curbed, but also that the concept of the social contract, apparently accepted by the so-called moderates, should be re-examined, as I said in my letter, in the light of its implications for democracy.

Ill-defined as it is, the social contract involves the implementation by the Government of the trade union brand of Socialism as a pre-condition for their co-operation, without which the economic fate of the country is sealed—this in spite of the fact that nearly two-thirds of the electorate in the last Election cast anti-Socialist votes. The fact of the matter is that democracy as we know it will come to an end if trade union power is used in this way for political purposes. There is only one way in which Socialist policies can be promoted in a democratic country and that is through the ballot box.

It is sincerely to be hoped that at trade union executive councils, and at the next Trades Union Congress, the voice of true moderation—which means that this fact is recognised—will be heard loud and clear. The proceedings of the Congress will receive wide television coverage and be watched by millions, and the nation will be able to judge for itself the extent of this danger to our way of life. But if moderation does not prevail and trade union power continues to be used for furthering political aims, even to the extent of attempting to bring down a Government, what then? There will be an increasing demand for a Government of national unity supported, it is to be hoped, by all who put the survival of democracy above all other considerations. This would not by itself resolve the crisis, but it would at least fully mobilise public opinion in defence of what we all hold very dear.

In this connection, I would say in passing and as an aside, that the question arises, and may become urgent, as to how the leader of such a National Government would be chosen. One possibility might be by a ballot of all Members of the House of Commons, or at least of those who were prepared to vote. An extension of this proposal which might be generally accepted is that the Prime Minister thus appointed should allocate seats in the Cabinet among the main Parties in proportion to the total vole cast for each of them at the General Election. But I realise of course that this is very much of an aside. It is clear, though, that the time has not yet come when a Government of national unity for a limited period, however it may be formed, would be generally accepted grave though the economic crisis is, and that we shall have to go through yet another General Election with Party politics rampant and all that this will mean in dividing the country. But, surely, if we are to surmount our economic difficulties and restore to the nation that sense of unity which is essential, some form of National Government must come sooner or later.

My Lords, in going into this question I may seem to have strayed from the subject of this afternoon's debate, but for reasons I have given I feel it to be very relevant. I will not detain your Lordships further. I have not taken part in a debate on industrial relations before, as I have very little or no industrial experience. But, in my view, the fate of our country, that of our children and grandchildren, our whole way of life, depend increasingly on bringing the trade union movement, which has done so much for the underprivileged in the past, into harmony with Parliamentary democracy; and to-day I have felt impelled to intervene, even though very briefly, on this point.

6.52 p.m.


My Lords, may I start by offering my congratulations to my two noble friends Lord Feather and Lord Houghton of Sowerby on such notable maiden speeches. I am sure we would all agree that their vast experience will greatly enrich the proceedings of your Lordships' House. My Lords, I welcome this Bill because it repeals the Industrial Relations Act. In my opinion, it was the greatest error of judgment of the previous Administration, with disastrous effects on our industrial well-being. And, what is more, these effects could be lasting if the lessons of recent experience are not learnt. As the noble Lord my Leader has said, one of the many lessons is to understand that industrial relations are about human relations and cannot be placed in the straitjacket of the law. I think it is not too unkind to point out that this fact is now admitted by leading Conservative spokesmen, and to add that conversion is better late than never.

Laws need the consent of those most affected if the whole notion of law is not to be brought into disrepute. May I make it perfectly clear that I do not approve of law breaking and in no way condone it. But one cannot escape the fact that the 1971 Act, as it worked out in practice, actively encouraged a dangerous disregard for the law. And we were warned. May I refer, like many other noble Lords in this debate, to the late Lord Donovan's most impressive and convincing speech on the Second Reading of the Industrial Relations Bill in your Lordships' House on April 5, 1971. In all humility, I thoroughly recommend that this speech should be studied by us all once again. Among the many wise things that the late Lord Donovan said was that common sense requires co-operation from both sides of industry. The trouble with the Industrial Relations Act was that it made this difficult, if not impossible. You cannot threaten to bring a person before a court one day and expect him to come and work for you the next. That is why, as we all know, employers were so reluctant to invoke the law.

Historically, as the late Lord Donovan also said, workers came to regard the law as their natural enemy. And I quote Hansard of April 5, 1971, column 40: … these inherited attitudes do not die; they crystallise into tradition, the force of which is immense. I also agree with the late Lord Donovan on the importance of the historic perspective. Many of the present attitudes are determined by past experience, and we must admit that historically employers have abused their powers and that trade union resentment was justified. When I entered business over fifty years ago, a known and active trade unionist could not hope for promotion in many firms—and I am sad to say that Sainsburys was one of those firms in those distant days.

In this country, we have always avoided revolution by the pragmatic approach to our problems. I believe that that pragmatic approach is urgently needed to-day. Seeking solutions from abroad is not helpful in my opinion, especially from the United States and Germany which have such different histories and traditions from our own. During my active business life I always told my own management that, whatever the particular circumstances of a withdrawal of labour, be it official or unofficial, they must accept a large part of the responsibility for it. Often in the Press and elsewhere, management's responsibility for poor industrial relations is not widely enough acknowledged. It has long been my belief, and I have endeavoured to carry it out, that the greatest mistake of any generation of management is to proceed on an unquestionable acceptance of the attitudes of the previous generation of managers. Managers as well as politicians must adapt to modern conditions—first, the changed power relationship be-between workers and employers and, secondly, the better education of their employees.

My Lords, the present legislation gives everybody a breathing space which we should welcome. It gives us an opportunity to turn our attention to the much more important debate upon the subsequent legislation which has been promised and which, among other things, will establish the conciliation and arbitration service. Let me end by repeating the comment of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Donovan: Common sense requires co-operation from both sides of industry". We should heed that advice and encourage the speedy establishment of the machinery of conciliation and arbitration which is the only common sense way of regulating our industrial affairs. I am optimistic that people will have learned the lesson of recent experience, and I believe that this is particularly true of the younger generation of managers. Our duty is to provide them with a framework within which they can sensibly help to run our modern economy.

7.3 p.m.


My Lords, I must begin with an apology. I had a public duty to perform which prevented me from coming here until the concluding peroration of the notable speech by my noble friend Lord Gowrie. Therefore I did not hear the speech of the noble Lord the Leader of the House with which he initiated this debate. He was, however, aware of this fact and courteously supplied me with a note of what he intended to say. I hope that he has not betrayed me by saying something different.


My Lords, perhaps the noble and learned Lord will permit me to say that the noble Lord the Leader of the House certainly did not depart in any particular from what was in the text but that he did not give the House the benefit of the whole of it.


My Lords, certain passages which the noble Lord had thoughtfully marked in square brackets were, no doubt, those which he selected for omission, but perhaps I am betraying a confidence by disclosing this fact.

My Lords, I turn from my apology to the House and my note of thanks to the noble Lord the Leader of the House to the two "maidens", whom I hasten to congratulate upon the two speeches they have made which were as welcome on this side of the House as they were on the other. I thought that in both of them there was, perhaps, a little lacking in that coyness which one usually associates with complete virginity. Peeping out from the bridal veil of one of them there appeared to be the experienced countenance of a trade union leader with a background of tough negotiation behind him, and from the other blushing neophyte the hard periods of the experienced' politician. However, they have left church on the arm of their bridegroom with the triumphant strains of the "Wedding March" accompanying them, and I can assure them that their future contributions will be looked forward to with great eagerness. I think they will find, as most of us do, that this House is a friendly and cooperative place, despite differences of Party.

My Lords, I think that the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, began on this note, that it is perhaps a little ironic that we are here to discuss a Bill which will shortly be taken away from us, as I understand it, and which nobody can have read, owing to the total absence of copies of Hansard and the almost unintelligible typescripts and intercalations and interpolations with which industrial disputes have left us. This circumstance leads to a rather wry and bizarre comment upon the earlier passages of the speech made by the noble Lord, Lord Feather, when he congratulated us all upon having the best system of industrial relations in the world. I do not agree with the noble Lord, Lord Houghton, nor with the noble Lord, Lord Sainsbury, that the bad industrial relations of the past 18 months or two years were principally, or even perhaps at all, due to the Act which this Bill repeals. My own conviction, for what it is worth—and I view the situation as one who observes the match from the touchlines rather than from the muddied field—is that one cannot have good industrial relations in a period of raging inflation. I do not believe that it is possible; and if it be possible, nobody has discovered how. Therefore I am not entirely wrong, even in the second alternative. On the contrary, the recent industrial troubles have almost all, as one would expect in a period of inflation, been demands for wages, and whatever else the Act of 1971 purported to do it did not seek to prevent strikes which were based upon demands for increased wages.

I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, and respectfully disagree with the noble Lord, Lord Sainsbury, that this Bill can be justified on the double ground that it repeals the Act of 1971, and that one day a more important Bill containing totally different provisions will be introduced by the present Government, if they survive long enough to do so. I think, with the noble Baroness, that one must discuss the merits or otherwise of this Bill as they are presented to us in so far as we are able to decipher them. And, my Lords, that is what I propose to do.

May I begin, however, with one observation about Lord Donovan from whom, unless he has betrayed me, the noble Lord the Leader of the House began by quoting and from whom we all heard a number of quotations from the noble Lord, Lord Sainsbury, a few moments ago. Anybody who listened to those passages would suppose that Lord Donovan would have been a wholehearted supporter of the measure which is now before the House, and I feel that it is my duty to an old friend and to a judge for whom I had great respect when at the Bar, and to a colleague for whom I have great love in this House, to set the Record straight, because Lord Donovan was not, nor did he appear in that guise in his Second Reading speech, an enemy of the rule or framework of law within which industrial relations, like any other human activity, has to take its place.

With respect to the noble Lord, Lord Sainsbury, who went so far as to say that one could not embrace industrial relations in law at all, I think that all human relations are governed either by rules of some kind or another or by force. In a moment I will give way to the noble Lord, Lord Sainsbury, and he may castigate me as much as he pleases, but the noble Lord says that all industrial relations are human relations. So is the relationship between husband and wife about human relations, but nobody suggests that we have been wrong to pass a succession of Statutes in my time. So is the relationship between solicitor and client, and already in this short Parliament we have passed two more Acts about solicitors. So is the relationship between landlord and tenant, and the Statute Book is absolutely "stuffed"—if I may use the term—with laws about landlord and tenant. The fact is that the rule of law is not based on criminal law at all. There is a famous book in the Library called Halsbury's Laws of England which I am in the process of revising, if I may permit myself a "plug". It has about 45 volumes and there is only one volume about criminal law. The rule of law is about human relations: it is about cheques, it is about bankers, it is about companies and it is about trade unions, strangely enough. To suggest that of all these human relations trade unions are the only ones that cannot be embraced by rational rules is to qualify them for the mad house.


My Lords, surely the noble and learned Lord would agree that there is a question of degree. I did not say that there should be no law governing trade unions; I believe there should always be in modern times. It is the question of the quantity, complication and interpretation of law that justified the word "stranglehold" in connection with his Act.


My Lords, I blush at the reference to "my Act" because I think it was a collective effort, but I believe that when the noble Lord reads his speech in Hansard to-morrow he will find that he was guilty, at least in part, of some of the heresies which I have imputed to him. If he is asking for simple law I would respectfully agree, but the absence of statutory enactment does not usually make for simplicity. In fact, one of the principal recommendations of the Donovan Commission which is not carried out by the Bill, was precisely that the law on industrial relations should be resolved into a code to be contained within an Act of which he proposed the title the Industrial Relations Act.

Let us now consider how we got in to the present Bill and let us see exactly the course of events which we are discussing. It is now 10 years ago, I think; it was 1964 (I think) almost at the beginning of Mr. Wilson's first Administration that we set up the Donovan Commission and I can well remember that at the time Mr. Wilson, both in public and in private, preened himself on his action so early in his Government. He said the reason was that industrial relations were in a bad state and it was urgently necessary to do something about them, and he castigated the Tory Government of Mr. Macmillan, which had preceded him, on failing to set up this necessary piece of investigatory machinery. He was very proud of the Donovan Commission, and the Donovan Commission sat. The inquiry was already overdue, so we were led to believe, 10 years ago. It took a good deal of time to issue its Report, some part of the delay being due to the fact that the Trades Union Congress had delayed for a considerable time before submitting their evidence, as the noble Lord, Lord Feather, will not have forgotten. One wonders how far they had really been trying to bestir themselves in the interval. However, at length the Donovan Commission submitted their Report and they made some important recommendations.

That was in June 1968, six years ago, and let me say at once—again rather confirming what the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, told us—I would not shed any tears over what the noble Lord, Lord Sainsbury, was pleased to call "my Act" if something was to be put in its place by this Bill. After all, the good has to be replaced from time to time by the better and if the noble Lord the Leader of the House and his distinguished right honourable friend in another place had come before Parliament and said, "We are now going to introduce the terms of the Donovan Commission" (with a few embellishments and improvements, no doubt, as the Tory Government ought to have done in 1970), I might have been covered with shame. However, this is not what they have done.

Some of the recommendations of the Donovan Report require implementation by industry and I will not refer to those, but some undoubtedly require legislation, for which purpose the Donovan Report made a number of important recommendations, none of which is included in the present Bill. I have already told the House that they recommended the passage of an industrial relations Act, but as the noble Lord, Lord Houghton of Sowerby, said, we cannot use that phrase any more because it is a dirty word, like "registration". So instead of "industrial relations" we say "labour relations" and instead of "registration", like the gentleman in the Gilbert and Sullivan opera, we have a "little list" and they are all to be on the little list.

There was to be the establishment of the Industrial Relations Commission. I suppose that as they have murdered ours, which we called, rather unoriginally, the Commission of Industrial Relations, their conciliation service will ultimately take the place of that, but we have not seen it yet. There was to have been compulsory unilateral arbitration by the then Industrial Court—a different body from the one we sometimes discuss at the present time; there were to be safeguards for individuals against trade unions, including unfair exclusions and expulsions and unfair dismissal due to shop floor pressure. There was to be a compulsory system of supervision for electoral malpractices and a new mandatory supervision of trade union rules. May I say to one of the two noble Lords who spoke from that point of view, I really cannot understand, if the Companies Act provides minimum rules for a limited liability company and Table A or the Friendly Societies Acts provide minimum rules for friendly societies under the Statutes in that behalf, why it is considered to be such an intolerable interference in the private affairs of trade unions that they should not sometimes be asked to have a standard set of practices in their rules.

The Donovan Report had a special industrial law committee with a view to consolidating the jungle of trade union law, because I really must remind the noble Lord, Lord Sainsbury, that if you do not legislate in a comprehensive fashion your law becomes a jungle. Incidentally, now that I see the noble Lord, Lord Shinwell, in the Chamber, who I understand made polite references to me in my absence and quoted Winston Churchill against me, I really must tell him that Winston Churchill is like the Bible: you can find authority for any proposition in his voluminous works. It all depends whether you are quoting from Genesis the Book of Revelation, or from one of the major or minor prophetic works. As a matter of fact, the noble Lord's quotations came from nearer to Genesis or the Pentateuch than they did from the New Testament, because he referred to a speech he made in 1911. That was before the last of the changes in the great man's chequered and unparalleled political career.

Then there was to be a corporate personality for trade unions. Of course, they must not have that, because we had it. They now have a list instead of registration, and all the marks of corporate personality listed in the first or second section which deals with their status. I am so glad that the noble and learned Lord is going to reply to this debate. He will tell us the significance of having a list and not a register. He is also going to explain the value of having all the marks of corporate personality without making them corporations, and I know we shall be very grateful to him when he does so.

There was going to be withdrawal of the immunity granted in respect of trade disputes under Section 3 of the Trades Disputes Act 1906 to all save trade unions on the register, and the restriction of immunity in respect of actions of tort to actions in connection with industrial disputes. I understand from his courtesy that the noble Lord the Leader of the House was taking the view that all that had been done in this field of policy by the proposals in the Bill was to revert to or repeat some of the proposals in Section 134 of the Conservative Act. I am always grateful for plagiarism of this kind, but I am bound to say that in a humble way I venture to differ from him.

You see, it looks all right if you look at the text of the Bill, but then you have to examine the definition clause, because it is all very well to say that certain acts in contemplation of an industrial dispute are the subject of trade union immunity. That is common to both pieces of legislation, and looks all right. But when you look at the definition clause you find they have popped in a dispute between workers and workers; in other words, a "who does what" dispute, acts done in furtherance or contemplation of which are given total immunity under the present Bill. It is not only that, because you will find that his right honourable friend, that ingenious fellow Mr. Michael Foot, has altered the definition of "worker", which includes now everybody who is honestly seeking a job. Of course, the disputes can be in Chile and not in the United Kingdom. So you could rent a crowd of undergraduates who want to work in the Long Vacation, in a dispute in which they have no kind of interest, doing acts which can ruin innocent third parties who have contractual relations in this country and doing all they do in support of an industrial dispute in Chile. This is rather different from what we had contemplated when passing the Act in 1971. For these humble reasons, I venture to think that the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, had not quite plumbed the subtlety of his right honourable friend to its abyssmal depths.

So far I have got to the Donovan Commission. The noble Baroness, Lady Gaitskell, was puzzled as to why this Labour Government had not introduced In Place of Strife, because the general criticism six years ago was that the Donovan Report was too mild. In January, 1969, when In Place of Strife was published by Mr. Wilson, he said that radical changes are needed in our system of industrial relations to meet the needs of a period of rapid technical and industrial change"— our old friend the white heat of technological revolution. Does this Bill give radical changes? Only by putting the clock back to before Donovan. Mr. Wilson said: until action is taken, conflict in British industry will often be damaging and antisocial". Does the present Bill produce any radical action? The Labour Government said, "The State has always been involved in the process of industrial relations. It has always had to provide a framework of law for dealing with the actions of individuals and groups struggling to advance and protect their interests." Is there a framework of law in the present Bill? The noble Baroness. Lady Seear, said not. I think I agree with her. "The need for State intervention", went on the Government of that day," and involvement in association with both sides of industry is now admitted by almost everyone". That was six years ago. Then they proposed an industrial relations Act, as they were then disposed to call their legislation, based on four principles—the reform of collective bargaining, the extension of the role and rights of trade unions, new aids to those involved in collective bargainings, and new safeguards for the community and individuals.

How many safeguards for the community and individuals are contained in the present Act? They concluded then that the existing law does not place any unreasonable limitations on picketing, but now they promise us another Bill that will enlarge the law on picketing. So that is gone. It accepted then that the present legal requirements relating to the rules of trade unions are inadequate, and should be extended in the interests both of the unions and their members. What additional safeguards for the members are contained, six years later, in this Bill?

Then they adopted the principle of compulsory registration for the Donovan Report, the withdrawal of immunity of actions of tort except in connection with industrial disputes, defined somewhat differently, and provided for compulsory machinery for safeguarding the rights of individuals against unions, and proposed to pass an industrial relations Act. I agree with the noble Baroness that if the Government had said, "Well, the Tory Act is rotten; we are going to enact In Place of Strife instead", I might indeed have been covered with shame. But it has not happened that way.

The fact is that the Government's present Bill, as was pointed out, I think, by the noble Lord, Lord Gore-Booth, is not to be justified by any of those proposals, although the sacred name of Donovan has been taken in vain again and again from the Government Benches. He has now been put into the discard. No attempt has been made to justify the return to anarchy and confusion in the law which is now to be re-enacted by the present Bill. As the noble Lord, Lord Gore-Booth,, told us, there has been no fresh inquiry, no new evidence, no further White Paper and no effective consultation. What is done is a diktat, a diktat without moral authority or political or social justification attempted, or even offered. Of course, the explanation is the relationship between the T.U.C. and the Labour Party. It has no basis in the merits of the Bill. It has no basis in reasoned argument, and none in justice.

The trade union movement pays four-fifths of the funds, and exercises four-fifths of the votes in the Labour Party. I meant this when I described the Labour Party to-day as a wholly-owned, or at least almost a wholly-owned, subsidiary of the trade union movement. Let us face it, the Labour Government is a puppet Government, strong only in oppressing those who are not members of their particular organisations. For various reasons, I do not want to say much more about this. Of course, if the trade union movement were dominated by Bevins and Deakins, or even Douglasses or Citrines or Feathers, one would be considerably less anxious than we are about the development of Government policy. If it were only that the Labour Government was Lord Feather's poodle I would not mind, because I love the noble Lord, Lord Feather, and poodles are nice little dogs. But what happens if it is Mr. Magahey's Pekinese? It could easily become so if Mr. Foot has his way. The fact of the matter is, as I think numerous noble Lords have pointed out, that the Government have faced none of the problems underlying the situation in this country at the present time.

The reason which led Mr. Wilson ten years ago to take great pride in his Donovan Commission was, of course, that the trade union movement, as the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, told us, has developed very much in power and in function over the past years. It, of course, operated tremendously well, and one admires a great deal the heroism of the pioneers in defeating the economic power of the bosses at a time when there was virtually no social security in this country. But I do not think we can still talk in quite those terms. They are in a position now of immense power; and power must be accompanied, in my judgment, at any rate, not merely by a sense of responsibility in the moral sense—and some are more responsible than others—but also responsibility in the light of the law, and to the public and Parliament, and not only to their members.

One must ask, now that the situation has changed, how far they are prepared to face the questions which my noble friend Lord Bridgeman asked in his speech earlier this evening. How far are they entitled to go on using their strength without resort to arbitration in the monopoly conditions created by nationalised industries? How far are they entitled to do so to obtain some sort of political object by coercing the elected Government? And that was another theme developed by Lady Seear. How far are they entitled to do so when the sanction applied is deprivation from substantial numbers of the public of ordinary means of livelihood; namely, heat, light, water, and now, we learn, medical and surgical help, food or sewage disposal? Is this something which really can be left to what we call human relations and the good will of the executives concerned, or should it be regulated by some principle of law? How far are people to be entitled to extend their industrial action to beyond the actual parties to the dispute or the industries? Is it really just that if two unions are either so incompetent or so belligerent that they resort to industrial action as a means of settling their demarcation disputes, innocent third parties are to be ruined without compensation? That is what the Bill provides for at the moment. Is it really sensible that in our present economic condition people in this country, innocent third parties again, could be ruined by industrial action based on some dispute, real or imagined, which takes place, let us say, in Chile, for that is the effect of the present Bill?

If a closed shop is to be permitted, what protection is to be given to an individual unjustly excluded or expelled from a union and thereby deprived of his living and livelihood? The last Labour Government promised one six years ago, and so did Donovan. Why does not this Bill give it now? I know that we shall be told it is all coming for a Christmas present some time if Mr. Foot is still Secretary of State, but why is it not in this Bill? What guarantee have the members of a union against an Executive which fails to draft rules which are just or fails to apply just rules justly? Donovan and the last Labour Government promised protection. The Companies Act and the Friendly Societies Act give protection to their members On what grounds can industrial individual unionists or minorities be left in this Bill without protection?

Why should a union be immune from actions of tort except in relation to a trade dispute. Neither Donovan nor the last Labour Government thought that they should be. On what evidence have the present Government changed their mind, and whom did they consult, other than the T.U.C. and Lord Houghton's liaison committee, before they made up their mind? What guarantee under this Bill have the members that elections are properly carried out without unfair practices, or that officers elected are properly representative? We know the last Labour Government promised to provide some resort to the courts in these matters. What do the Government propose?

My Lords, it is not desirable—no one has suggested it is—that this House should seek to reject or postpone the carrying into law of what the Government propose in this Bill. But I must say that I share to the full the misgivings which have been expressed in every corner of the House, including notable speeches, among others, from Lady Gaitskell and I think Lord Shinwell; I must say that I share all their misgivings, and I shall look to the noble and learned Lord, whose skill as an advocate is equal to any occasion, to remove some of them.

7.36 p.m.


My Lords, may I begin, as did my noble friend Lady Gaitskell, by paying homage to our two maiden speakers who have delighted the House to-day with their maiden speeches. The noble Lord, Lord Feather, and the noble Lord, Lord Houghton, both have distinguished records, if I may say so, of public service that any noble Lord in the House would be proud of. It is very difficult to conceive of them as making maiden speeches, however. I have heard the expertise of the noble Lord, Lord Feather, as an expert witness, guiding his counsel so eloquently through the case, and to have heard the noble Lord, Lord Houghton, in Party meetings and on the Floor of the House in another place is a memory which I shall treasure. It is a great boon to this noble House that these two experts in the field of industrial relations, which, as the noble Earl, Lord Gowrie, said, is the domestic issue of our times, have come to join us, to give us and the nation the benefit of their guidance.

My Lords, the debate was begun in a speech of moderation by the noble Earl, Lord Gowrie, in which he said he would refrain from a diatribe against the Government. That had also been my intention until I heard the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hailsham, speak. But I will resist the temptation, save that I think I am entitled to say at least this; surely we could have expected some slight wearing of sackcloth from him, bearing in mind that he was a leading member of the Government which reduced industrial relations to the total chaos and breakdown which we inherited in March of this year. However, I am not the sort of politician to make a political speech on those lines, though I would add that when it comes to asking where the money comes from for the great political Parties, there is a promising field of research; there is an interesting exposure of all the things that old Sir Winston used to expose, the brewers, the financiers, the bankers, the landlords—


My Lord—


Wait till I finish my flow—and all the rest of the famous backers of the Tory Party through the ages.


My Lords, I am sorry I spoiled the noble Lord's eloquence; it was not my intention to do so. Let me tell him this beyond doubt, because I in the past have been Chairman of the Party. The one thing which is absolutely fundamental, or was in those days, in Conservative finance was that we would never accept any money with any sort of strings attached.


My Lords, I am sorry, but I am being directed on to a track that I did not intend to pursue at all. One has only to see the programme of the Tory Party, which is the finest tribute they can pay to those who finance them, to suspect that perhaps the strings are pretty tightly held after all. Really we are discussing the serious issue of industrial relations, and it is only, if I may say so, the naughtiness of the noble and learned Lord which has led me astray into the political field.

It is right that I should deal with the question why it is that the Labour Government have given first priority to getting rid of the Industrial Relations Act. The answer is that we believe that its continuing existence for even a day longer is doing, and would do, serious harm to industrial relations in this country. Quite apart from the more obvious damage it has done by polarising the attitudes of parties in particular cases before the National Industrial Relations Court in a way which would have been unlikely to have happened but for the legal framework which the Act provided, it has been a distraction from the more important tasks to which trade unions and employers should have been paying attention.

The last Government's energies were unhappily concentrated far too much on attempting, by means of the Industrial Relations Act, to improve the procedural aspects of industrial relations, instead of doing more to apply their energies to making, or improving, co-operative efforts to combat inflation. Moreover, because of the lengths to which legal processes were sometimes carried, the impact of the Act has often been to drive the moderates into supporting what, before 1971, they might well have regarded as extremist measures. The Act created an atmosphere in which there was no room for moderates.

Although the ability of trade unions to conduct collective bargaining has been dependent on the provisions of the law, it is I think the case that the general practice in British industrial relations up to 1971 was not to intervene in the operation of the industrial relations system. This was completely reversed in 1971. The noble Earl, Lord Gowrie, has said that the Act had the merit of comprehensiveness. Indeed it had; it embraced far too much. Detailed legal provisions were laid down for such areas as the closed shop, the agency shop, arrangements for improving procedures, and for resolving difficulties over recognition and bargaining rights. The long standing trade union immunities were revised, and related to a complex system of registration which was rejected, and perhaps rejected because it meant a much more detailed oversight of union rules and practices than had hitherto been the case. The whole operation was one of extreme complexity. It was not just an attempt to introduce new legal procedures into industrial relations over a particular area where arguably there might have been some justification for that. The attempt covered practically every aspect of industrial relations, including new provisions designed to deal with disputes in an emergency. In fact, as we know, many parts of the Act were scarcely made use of for the good reason that to have made use of them would have been disastrous. The Act just did not work.

The idea of large scale intervention by the law in industrial relations, as the noble Lord, Lord Feather, has pointed out on the trade union side, and my noble friend Lord Sainsbury has pointed out on the employer's side, was quite unacceptable to both sides of industry. To the employers the Act was an irrelevance; to the unions it was a threat to the position that they had acquired by years of struggle, before 1906 often in the teeth of the law. The previous Administration completely misjudged the reaction of industry—and here I include management, as my noble friend Lord Sainsbury has pointed out, as well as the trade unions.

It is interesting that the Social Science Research Council's Industrial Relations Research Unit at the University of Warwick has been studying the effects of the 1971 Act. In a recent article they emphasised the attitude of management. They say that in management's view it was their job to deal with various actions which the provisions of the Act were supposed to stop. They had to minimise the impact of dispute or argument with workers through the long-term application of personnel expertise. The threat of legal proceedings, they conclude, restricts management's room for manoeuvre. The Study quotes one personnel manager in a large engineering company as saying that legal proceedings may suppress the problem temporarily, but cannot assist in promoting lasting good relations between management and workers. Indeed, very often the trouble in litigation, as I used to find in my young days when appearing at the Bar on the Wales and Chester Circuit, was that by the time the wretched case came to court the dispute had long been settled, and the litigation was merely an irritant and a restoration of trouble, and would leave residual bitterness.

The Study comments: Many personnel officers and senior managers involved in industrial relations are firmly convinced that successful company industrial relations depend on a sensitive touch in each circumstance, a touch that the law and its agencies appear to them incapable of providing. I have emphasised, as my noble friend Lord Sainsbury has done, management's attitude, because we often appreciate this less well than the attitude of trade unionists. The struggle on the part of the unions to establish themselves was a long and often bitter history of reversals, of legal difficulties which had to be surmounted, often with the help of Parliament, and which naturally gave rise, rightly or wrongly, to suspicion that the law might not be on their side. However, they did know that their basic ability to carry out their functions was guaranteed by a series of Acts of Parliament culminating in the Trades Disputes Act of 1906. If I may say so to the noble Lord, Lord Hankey, they attach far more importance to this protection than apparently he does.

Of course we recognise in the Government that there is a place for a legal framework in industrial relations, but we say that this must be much more limited than that which the 1971 Act attempted to provide. The question really is not whether there shall be a framework of law, but what sort of framework there shall be. When the full package is disclosed—and this will be before the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hailsham, has completed the revisal of the 45 volumes of Halsbury—we are satisfied that our package will be more appropriate than the Industrial Relations Act to the special industrial relations situation of this country.

A large number of questions have been raised in the course of this debate, and had we but world enough and time I should have been delighted to try to deal with them all, including even some of the esoteric matters which the noble and learned Lord asked in the confident expectation that I might not have been able to answer some of them, as to which he would not have been wholly incorrect. But coming to the major matters that have been raised, and first of all to the closed shop, my noble friend Lord Feather pointed out that there are 5 million employees working in closed shops, and the remarkable thing is that although the Industrial Relations Act made most of them illegal they continued to operate, which in the view of the Government is a measure of their value in securing stability of employment and sound industrial relations in several areas of industry.

In relation to the closed shop—the matter which very properly caused concern on both sides of the House—there was the question of safeguards for union members against arbitrary exclusion or expulsion from union membership. That is an anxiety which I personally share very much indeed. The Government have repeatedly made it clear that they do not regard the Common Law—valuable as it is, and I shall say a little more about it in a moment—as adequate to deal with expulsions and exclusions from unions. We are giving serious consideration to the question of further safeguards.

We say that this is a matter for the next stage of legislation on industrial relations; namely, the Employment Protection Bill which we shall publish in the autumn. The intervening period will give us more time for an acceptable solution to be worked out in co-operation with the T.U.C. I make no apology for saying that. Of course the T.U.C. must have an important say in a matter which affects trade unions so closely. The Government accept that the question of safeguards for union members is an important one. Perhaps the best appeals machinery is that which lies nearest to the original point of dispute. Consideration will have to be given to the kind of additional machinery which ought to be laid on top of existing appeals procedures. But whatever conclusion is arrived at, I assure the House that we attach great importance to this aspect of the matter.

The noble and learned Lord, Lord Hailsham of Saint Marylebone, and, I believe, the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, were concerned about their apparent fear that the Bill legalises the political strike. It does nothing of the kind. A political strike would not fall within the definition of a trade dispute, since it would not be a strike over any of the matters set out in the Bill which constitutes such a dispute. The Bill legalises certain acts, otherwise tortious, when they are done in furtherance of a trade dispute. A "trade dispute" is defined by Clause 26 and unless the content of the dispute falls within one of the paragraphs of Clause 26(1) it will not be a trade dispute. All those paragraphs relate to employment.


My Lords, I wonder whether the noble and learned Lord will assist me on a matter about which I have not given him notice, and therefore I shall not complain if he says it is unfair. But let us take, for instance, a case in which a union including radiographers refused to work with doctors who did not want to join the National Health Service, and deprived their patients of medical treatment, which I would define as a political object. Can the noble and learned Lord tell me how that would not come within the definition of the kind of dispute which would be protected under the Bill?


My Lords, I do not want to be drawn to give a view on a specific case which may ultimately come before the courts for consideration. I know not, but I should have thought that at some stage that dispute would inevitably involve a trade dispute. I do not want to be firm about that, but it would be clear that a strike, for instance, to enforce a political attitude about Chile, or some matter remote from and unrelated to the trade dispute situation, would certainly not be protected by the provisions of the Bill.


My Lords, with great respect to the noble and learned Lord, I am afraid that I cannot have made myself clear. Of course I am well aware that the Bill does not cover the political strike and give protection against it, but my point was that persons suffer as a result of political strikes. I think that the Bill should contain something positive in the way of redress to the community or to other individuals who suffer as a consequence of political strikes. The mere absence of immunity does not meet the need.


My Lords, I respectfully agree that the community does suffer from political strikes, but all I am seeking to say in my submissions at the moment is that this Bill does not legalise the political strike. Indeed, in the case of a political strike the union officials who might be concerned if the union was engaged upon it could be sued, even though the union itself was immune. I do not think it is always the case that union officials are men of straw, although I have not doubt that the noble Lord, Lord Feather, would say that not many of them are millionaires. As I see it that is the position.

So far as political strikes are concerned, the position is precisely the same as it was before the 1971 Act and a little different in practical terms from the position under the 1971 Act. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Hailsham of Saint Marylebone, was concerned because the Bill gives immunity to unions who cannot settle their "Who does what?" dispute with other unions. The 1906 Act included in the definition of "trade disputes" disputes between workers and workers. The 1971 Act confined "industrial disputes" to disputes between workers and employers. To that extent there is a difference. This Bill proposes to restore the 1906 position. In doing so, it rests upon the conclusions of the Donovan Commission. The majority of the Commission recommended no change in the pre-1971 definition on this point. Happily, the number of demarcation disputes is now very small. They represent only about 2 per cent. of all disputes occurring each year. As to the definition of "worker", to which the noble and learned Lord. Lord Hailsham of Saint Marylebone, referred, the Bill does not change the definition which is in substance the same as in the 1906 Act and in Section 167 of the 1971 Act.


My Lords, can the noble and learned Lord advise us whether the statistic of 2 per cent. of industrial "Who does what?" disputes is computed by the number of disputes, or by the time taken by such disputes? I gathered that the number of industrial disputes in this field was much large than 2 per cent.


My Lords. I have the advantage of an indication from those who give one guidance on these matters, and I am told that the 2 per cent. figure is in relation to the number of disputes. A matter of concern raised by the noble Lord, Lord Hankey, and others, was the fact that a trade dispute could include and embrace overseas trade disputes. The first justification for that is to be found in the great increase in the number and size of multi-national companies and enterprises in recent years. Multi-national companies pose a legal problem in connection with industrial action, because the occasions increase on which workers take action in support of workers in another country—often workers employed by an enterprise integrally related economically to their own employer in Britain. It is right that workers taking action in such circumstances should enjoy the legal protections which they would enjoy if they were taking action in contemplation of furtherance of a dispute within Britain.

But this is not the only justification. It can be argued, I think, that if industrial action in sympathy with a dispute occurring inside this country is to be protected, as it is, similar protection should be available in the case of sympathetic action in support of a relevant dispute overseas. With the vast increases over the past decades in international trade and foreign travel, together with the development of international institutions, especially in the economic field, workers are much more aware of what is happening in other countries. Sympathetic strikes as such have always been regarded as lawful, and indeed strikes in relation to overseas trade disputes might well be regarded as lawful to-day. It is not by any means sure that the decision would go the other way. But there is no essential difference, in the view of the Government, between sympathetic action in support of a dispute within this country, and similar action in support of a dispute overseas relevant to the conditions of employment of the employees in this country.

But I emphasise that the golden formula, "in contemplation or furtherance of a trade dispute", is still the guide and still applies. With the exception of the Clause 11 immunity, all the immunities in the Bill hang on this golden formula; and, as I have ventured to say, it is unlikely, for example, that industrial action aimed at policies of another country, such as Chile or South Africa, would be protected. Moreover, any foreign dispute would have to satisfy the definition of "trade dispute" in the Bill, in order for sympathetic action in this country to enjoy the immunities. The definition does not cover political disputes.

I was asked questions by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hailsham, about registration and lists—an esoteric and fascinating theme into which I do not propose to enter in any great detail. Registration was conceived in 1971 as a device for regulating trade unions. The list is an administrative arrangement analogous to certification by the Registrar of Friendly Societies under Section 2 of the Trade Union Act 1913; that is to say, it is evidence of status. Registration of the type that was insisted upon in 1971 is rejected. Then I was asked about corporate status for trade unions. The reason why the Bill does not, as the Donovan Commission recommended, make trade unions corporate bodies or give them the choice of incorporation is that the unions themselves do not want it. There are five elaborate reasons why they take that view. Owing to the passage of time I shall not burden the House with them, but if it is desired to return to the point I have little doubt that there will be opportunity for discussion before the long end of this journey is reached.

My Lords, during the debate serious reservations have been expressed about Parts of the Bill and, on the Opposition side, about the Government's approach to industrial relations. I ask noble Lords on the Opposition Front Bench to consider this point. They had their chance for three-and-a-half years to deal with our country's industrial relations problems. Clearly, they attached great importance to dealing with them, because indeed they made dealing with them one of their first priorities when they came to office in 1970. As the noble Earl, Lord Gowrie, has said, it is the domestic issue of our time. They chose their particular way of attacking our problems. That way was tried and found deplorably wanting, and I do not now think that any intelligent observer of the industrial relations scene could reasonably deny that the Industrial Relations Act has failed. There has not even been the faintest trumpet sound in its favour. It is dying, not with a bang but with a whimper.

What we are asking is that we should now be given the chance to try our approach to industrial relations problems, and we favour an approach completely different from that represented in the 1971 Act. We did a lot of forward thinking about this, as my noble friend Lord Houghton said in his speech, when we were in Opposition and our approach is based on conciliation rather than on confrontation. I am not of course suggesting that the Opposition deliberately sought confrontation, but it cannot be denied that during the last three years we saw the Government and trade unions seriously at loggerheads in a way which gravely damaged our industrial relations. We, on the other hand, are seeking conciliation and co-operation.

So far as the unions are concerned, this policy is embodied in the social contract. We make no secret of the fact that we have fully consulted with the T.U.C. as well as with the employers, of course, over the Bill, as we are doing over the rest of the package—and we make no apologies for this. Indeed, it would have been far better if the previous Government had listened to the T.U.C. before putting the 1971 Act on the Statute Book. I do not think that I am being unkind if I point out that a lot of the T.U.C.'s predictions about the working of the Act, as my noble friend Lord Feather pointed out, which were so clearly given by way of warning, have come true. As to consultations with the C.B.I., which is a point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Gore-Booth, admittedly there has not been a great deal of time for the fullest possible consultations on the present Bill. But the Secretary of State published his outline of the proposals in the Bill on March 22, so the C.B.I. and others had an opportunity to make their views known to the Government. That has been done, and notice has been taken of them.

My Lords, I was also asked by the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, about the importance of ensuring a proper workflow of the C.I.R. type for the C.A.S., the organisation for the conciliation and arbitration service which will be set up and provided for in the Employment Protection Bill. We are now hastening by administrative means the process of getting everything ready, and indeed starting the work of the C.A.S. The C.A.S. will be independent, but it is expected to have the capacity to carry out the kind of longer-term investigations which the C.I.R. carried out so usefully, and that it will be able to follow that same example. The C.I.R. itself is being wound up and, although this inevitably leads to loss of continuity for a short time, it is unfortunately the case that since 1971 the C.I.R. has been handicapped because it was identified with the Industrial Relations Act. A fresh start is necessary with a new institution, which we hope will prove acceptable to all.

My Lords, I have sought in my conclusions to indicate what is the philosophy behind our industrial relations policy and the present Bill. I emphasise that it is not the Government's total answer to our industrial relations problems. It is only the first, though the most urgent, stage, as we see it, in a three-stage programme for legislation. It is by way of being an emergency measure to get the 1971 Act off the Statute Book as soon as possible, while ensuring at the same time that the trade unions can operate on a legitimate basis. Our main proposals for legislation on industrial relations will be in the next stage of the programme; that is, the Employment Protection Bill, which will, as I have said, be published in the autumn. Finally, in the third stage of our programme, we shall deal with questions of industrial democracy. We believe that this Bill lays the foundation for the improvement of industrial relations in this country which we all seek and, on this basis, I commend it to the House.

8.11 p.m.


My Lords, I beg to move that this debate be now adjourned. As I told the House a little earlier, a Message has been received from the Commons requesting the House to return the Trade Union and Labour Relations Bill to another place for further consideration there. I suggest to the House that, if your Lordships agree, we should adjourn the debate now and that we should take the Message from the Commons into immediate consideration. I suggest that if there is to be a debate, it should be on the Motion that we should accept the Commons request.

I hope that the Bill will be returned to your Lordships' House to-morrow in which case it seems to me, in consequence of consultation through the usual channels, that there is no reason why we should not take the Committee stage on Monday and Tuesday as planned. Clearly, Amendments which noble Lords may wish to put down for the Committee stage may be put down and, if necessary, adjustments can be made to the page and line references. My Lords, I beg to move that the debate on Second Reading be adjourned until tomorrow.

Moved, That the debate on Second Reading be adjourned until to-morrow.—(Lord Shepherd.)


My Lords, I entirely support what my noble friend the Leader of the House has said, and I accept it except for one point. On the previous occasion when a similar procedure was debated—that is, on August 1, 1972— the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, informed the House at an early stage that a Message would be received and that it arose because there were misprints in the Bill. There was some agreement between the two sides of the House. I suppose that Back-Benchers on both sides were as ignorant as I am about the contents of the Message, but it is not unimportant before we let the Bill go, to know whether the reasons which prompt another place to take it back—and I understand the difficulties in dealing with the matter without referring to the content of the debate in another place—will be of such a character as to warrant a second debate. If the Bill will be substantially altered, it is a fundamentally different situation to that which arose on August 1, 1972, when the only concern was with misprints. It may be that there has been some discussion through what are euphemistically called "the usual channels" and some agreement reached. If that is the case, perhaps we may be told, or we may receive an expression of opinion from the Leader of the House as to whether it is his intention or his hope that when the Bill comes back from another place it will be taken formally.


My Lords, as Leader of the House I am completely unaware of the contents of the Message. So, I suspect, are your Lordships, and we shall remain so until, as is customary, it is read by the Clerk. I have at this stage sought to move the adjournment of the Second Reading debate. Clearly, if the Bill were to undergo a major change—and here I have no idea what is in the mind of another place—we should have to consider whether a new situation had arisen in terms of debate. I can only say to my noble friend that we can only judge of that when we have heard what is the Message from the House of Commons, and, should the Bill be returned to the House of Commons, when we know in what shape and form it is returned to us. Then we should have to consider what we must do in the circumstances.


My Lords, I am much obliged.

On Question, Motion agreed to, and debate adjourned accordingly.