HL Deb 22 July 1974 vol 353 cc1412-29

General Principles

(1) The provisions of this Act shall have effect for the purpose of promoting good industrial relations in accordance with the following general principles, that is to say:

  1. (a) the principle of collective bargaining freely conducted on behalf of workers and employers and with due regard to the general interests of the community;
  2. (b) the principle of developing and maintaining orderly procedures in industry for the peaceful and expeditious settlement of disputes by negotiation, conciliation or arbitration, with due regard to the general interests of the community;
  3. (c) the principle of free association of workers in independent trade unions, and of employers in employers' associations, so organised as to be representative, responsible and effective bodies for regulating relations between employers and workers; and
  4. (d) the principle of freedom and security for workers, protected by adequate safeguards against unfair industrial practices, whether on the part of employers or others.

(2) With a view to fulfilling that purpose those principles shall be regarded as guiding principles—

  1. (a) by the Secretary of State, and by all other persons upon whom duties are placed by and under this Act, in the performance by them respectively of their functions under this Act, and
  2. (b) by industrial tribunals, in the exercise of the jurisdiction conferred by or under this Act on those tribunals.")

The noble Lord said: I think that it is very desirable that the Trade Union Bill or, for that matter, any legislation which governs our trade union relations in the way that this Bill does, should state somewhere what trade unions are really expected to do. This Bill states their rights and also what they must not do, but nowhere does it give a forward looking and constructive appearance to their functions, and I believe that this is overwhelmingly important.

I do not think that this is simply a psychological question. If one takes an embassy, for instance, behind the Iron Curtain—where embassies are treated like licensed spies and are not able to entertain very much the people in the country, and the ambassador can see the head of the State he is accredited to only with the greatest difficulty—they are really not able to exercise any useful function. Because they are regarded as licensed spies, many members of the embassy tend to behave like licensed spies. The same happens on this side, and what else could happen? It is the same with any organisation, including a trade union. If we regard trade unions as a licensed conspiracy—which is the traditional basis of British law about trade unions—the employers tend to think, "These people are dangerous. Let us have as little to do with them as we can."

The real position which a trade union ought to occupy is quite clearly seen in other countries, on both sides of the Iron Curtain, where they have a big and constructive role to play. Trade unions ought to act not only in the interests of their members—and I stress this—but one of their functions is to give the workers in any industry the absolute confidence that their interests are well protected. If they know that their interests are well protected they are much more likely to work happily and there can be better industrial relations. It is also important that the trade unions should have respect for the public interest, because otherwise what one trade union does damages the interests of workers in other industries and, for that matter, other industries themselves. Therefore, one wants responsible action on the part of the trade unions, and, I maintain, speaking strictly from the middle of the road, that this idea ought to be enshrined, stated and explicitly set forth somewhere in our legislation.

This Amendment which, with great humility, I ventured to set down is, in fact, a redraft of the initial article of the Industrial Relations Act 1971. I think your Lordships will have noticed it crossed out at the beginning of Schedule 1 for a reason which, in the absence of Hansard, I cannot explain. I have taken that text out because I think that it is an excellent statement of what trade unions ought to do. I believe that, provided we have that idea adequately set forth in our legislation, it would facilitate fruitful contacts between the workers in any industry and the heads of that industry, and the people with whom they have to conduct their daily relations. So I should like—again speaking strictly from the middle of the road—to commend this clause to both sides of the House. I should have thought that it might prove to be uncontroversial. Indeed, I cannot imagine anybody objecting to it unless they were, or (shall I say?) might be people of some evil intent. I think that this clause is so transparent that I recommend it to your Lordships' approval.


I am interested in the observations of the noble Lord, Lord Hankey. He talked of being "middle of the road" about the constitution of trade unions, how they operate and what can really happen between one trade union and another. I hope he has not overlooked the fact that rules and regulations governing trade unions in this country are drafted by their membership, with the consent and approval of the Registrar-General who must give his stamp of approval.

I come from the mining industry, and as far back as 1937 we had to draft and redraft the rules and regulations of the Durham Miners' Association, as it was before it became a member of the N.U.M. We spent weeks and weeks, with legal advice at our disposal, deciding the rules and regulations governing our trade union for the benefit of the membership. The terms and objects of those rules are to govern and to seek to look after the interests of the membership to the best of their ability, so far as the head office and its Executive are concerned. The rules are applied not only to one section but to all sections within that type of industry and that trade union.

I sincerely hope that the noble Lord, Lord Hankey, will give further thought and study to these facts. I can appreciate his observations as a diplomat and with his experience of embassies. Many of us have met ambassadors from abroad. In conversation we have found that some of them even had to depend on the layman's information and attitude of mind to put them on the right track. Therefore, the drafting and the workings of a trade union are not so much a cause of difference between one trade union and another. What we must remember is that there is not just one trade union for the mining industry; we also have the engineering industry and the warehouseman's side. There are all these different trades and grades of operation and employment within this country, who are governed by their parent body for trade unions in seeking to look after the interests of their members.


Like my noble friend, I was slightly taken aback the first time the noble Lord, Lord Hankey, referred to himself as being "middle of the road". I was even more taken aback when he repeated it. My memory is sufficiently long to remember his speech on Second Reading. It was so far to the Right that I even suspected that the Cross-Benchers might have found difficulty in finding a place for him. How ever, he has moved the Amendment with moderation. There is no doubt that in the distant past it was the practice to include in legislation what one might call the long title of a Bill, in the sense that it set out the general purposes and principles that governed the legislation. That is no longer the practice, whether right or wrong. The noble Lord admitted that the Amendment which he has tabled has been copied from the 1971 Act. At the beginning of this Committee stage I do not wish in any way to raise the temperature of the Chamber—


On a point of correction, the Amendment is considerably and very well redrafted. I was only trying to explain that it was not redrafted by myself.


The principle is there. A few words here and there may have been changed, but the substance of the noble Lord's Amendment is that of Section 1(1) of the 1971 Act. In the Second Reading debate, I sought to explain to the House that, as a freely admitted consequence, the Industrial Relations Act had created great harm and great discord in the entire field of industrial relations. What we sought was a new concordance, a new sense of cooperation between Government and the trade union movement, and also within the C.B.I. itself. This is the first of a series of pieces of legislation. It is of a limited character but is none the less important. I cannot imagine anything that would be more contrary to the desire of the Committee than to include the first subsection of the 1971 Act in a new piece of legislation dealing with the trade union movement, whatever the merits of the words in the Amendment. We are seeking a new era. Therefore it is right and proper that we should keep as far away as possible from the general construction of the 1971 Act.

My understanding is that in the other place the official Opposition tabled an Amendment in similar terms. Whether it is right to say that a deal was done I do not know, but that Amendment was not proceeded with by the official Opposition, because an understanding was reached with the Government that the code of practice should remain within the piece of legislation. The code of practice is a useful and practical piece of doctrine on which trade unions and employers can operate. This set of principles, whether worthy or not, will create great disturbance in the minds of those who will be called upon to operate this new piece of legislation. The noble Lord will find that a number of the so-called principles do not appear in any form of provision in the Bill itself. Therefore, even if one were to regard it as the long Title, it would seem strange to set it out at the beginning of the Bill as its purpose and intention, when there are no clauses within it to fulfil what are the intentions of the principles set out.

In conclusion, I think that when the noble Lord, Lord Hankey looks at subsection (1) he will agree that he then needs to follow carefully subsection (2). If he does that he will find that the principles which are set out in subsection (1) of the 1971 Act do not in any way refer or require implementation by trade unions. If the noble Lord has not read it perhaps I should refer to it. Subsection (2) says: With a view to fulfilling that purpose those principles shall be regarded as guiding principles (a) by the Secretary of State, the Commission on Industrial Relations, and the Chief Registrar of Trade Unions and Employers' Associations, and assistant registrars, to be appointed under this Act, in the performance by them respectively of their functions under this Act, and (b) by the National Industrial Relations Court to be established under this Act, and by industrial tribunals, in the exercise of the jurisdiction conferred by or under this Act on that Court and on those tribunals". My understanding is that, apart from the Secretary of State all those referred to in subsection (2) disappear with the repeal of the Industrial Relations Act.


I apologise for interrupting the noble Lord again. If he will look at the Amendment he will see it does refer to none other than the Secretary of State and the industrial tribunals which do continue.


But in setting out the principles one needs some form of provisions and some kind of organisation to whom they are directed. Having dealt with the point I hope the noble Lord will feel that I have covered it adequately. While I am not against the principles as such it would be inadvisable at this stage for these to be included in new legislation which is to be regarded as a new effort to bring about a new concordant, a new understanding and degree of co-operation between the Government, trade unions and every side of industry.


When one hears mention of the term "the 1971 Industrial Relations Act", the likelihood is that someone from these Benches will bob up. I think we are in a slight difficulty already, despite the fact that the warm words uttered by the noble Lord the Leader of the House about the Code of Practice were music to my ears as one who has read the account of the fight over retaining the Code of Practice in Standing Committee in another place. I am very glad that he has been converted so quickly; and I think that may make for good augury on all sides for the rest of the Committee stage. Of course. I think it would be as well—I say this to the noble Lord, Lord Hankey—to get out of the way at the very beginning of this Committee stage, as he has tried to do, the casting of the Industrial Relations Act in the role of primary villain in industrial relations. I do not think this will be very helpful.

I know that for political reasons, for reasons of trying to introduce it on May 1, and the like, the opening words of the present Bill state the desire of the Government to repeal the Act, and yet, that notwithstanding, it keeps some 27 provisions, I think, the unfair dismissal ones being the most notable in point. I hope that we can, and I appeal to your Lordships that we should, spend this Committee stage without attacking the Act, because I think that it attempted to solve on a comprehensive basis (perhaps too comprehensively, perhaps too quickly) many important issues in industrial relations which are still with us and with which this Bill, this Government, the next Government, whoever, will still have to deal. We know that the Act provided a means for dealing with recognition disputes and disputes as to bargaining rights with the help of the C.I.R., and it provided a means of ensuring that unions behaved fairly towards their own members. It provided machinery for determining the relative shops—closed shops or agency shops—and how they should be allowed. All of these, I think, were fairly constructive points; but for our part, we have, as your Lordships' Committee will know, formally abandoned any commitment to reintroduce the Industrial Relations Act. We accept that it may have made the situation difficult, though my own view—and it is only my own view—is that any attempt at industrial relations legislation in an atmosphere of raging inflation, with what that does to the relative positions of workpeople in our society, is bound to fail on that score alone.

However, this said, I am enormously grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Hankey, and am very glad that he has brought up these principles. It is, I believe, sometimes a matter of controversy between lawyers and laymen as to whether principles—cheer-leading provisions, if one may so describe them—should be in Bills; but when Bills are dealing with such a wide area of national life as in industrial relations, regardless of whether they are dealing with them in the way we tried to or the way in which the present Government are trying to, then I think it is right in many ways—it is tempting, certainly—to try to insert some cheer-leading provisions, some statements of intent.

I do not see how anyone who reads the Amendment put down on the Marshalled List by the noble Lord, Lord Hankey, could fail to agree with those principles or refuse to comply with them. I do not think, of course, that the Government would want to disagree with them. Surely we all want better industrial relations. As I said on Second Reading—and the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor was kind enough to quote me on this—it is the domestic issue of our time, our central issue. We want to encourage everybody who is concerned in this sphere to follow good principles of industrial relations, and, following the noble Lord, Lord Hankey, I should like to outline some of the ways and some of the principles by which differences in this sphere could be resolved. I will then turn to the question of, "Why not put them in this Bill?", because, despite in principle being so much on the side of the noble Lord, Lord Hankey, I agree with the noble Lord the Leader of the House that they perhaps should not be in the Bill at this time.

It seems to me that it is important in a Bill such as this to deal with rights, and later on there will be many Amendments on which one will be talking about rights. When you try to establish what your rights are, you immediately have to ask yourself the ways in which you can enforce them. It is when you can enforce them, when you can appeal to law about them, that, of course, the law is involved. If people reach the stage where they cannot agree and they have to ask, "Where are my rights? What are they? How can I enforce them?", and there are disagreements about that, then that brings in the law, because the answer can be given only in law. That, I think, is why we were and are so keen to have a coherent framework of law for industrial relations, and why we wish to see the Bill put into a framework which is to us more coherent than as it now stands, if that is possible. In short, we want to agree about the general principles, and that is why we tried to persuade the Government to accept the Code which the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, mentioned quite warmly at the beginning of his speech.

It is because the Government saw reason about this matter, because they agreed with the majority in Standing Committee that the Code should be retained, that we feel that there are not merely cheer-leading provisions and principles but also a point of reference for good principles in the Bill. I think that the fact that the Code is there enshrined by Statute or will be there if the Bill goes through, is important, because it means that when we in Parliament debate industrial relations we can appeal to the Code just as if, we, too, were engaged, perhaps, in disputes about it. If the Bill goes through, its legal status will remain relevant in evidence and the industrial tribunals will continue to have regard to it. I therefore ask the noble Lord, Lord Hankey, to recognise that a very considerable victory has been won here—or, if that is somewhat too militaristic a term, that very considerable sense has been shown by the Government here—and I hope that he will not press his Amendment.


I thank the noble Earl, Lord Gowrie, for the good speech that he has made in respect of this matter at the beginning of our discussions. I hope his tone will be carried through the debates on this Bill, because it is a short Bill. It is not intended to deal with all the aspects of human relations which exist inside industry. I am moved to ask the noble Lord, Lord Hankey, when he talks about general principles, why he wants to offend all the moderate trade unionists in this country. Governments have done that time and time again, which has led us into an industrial impasse and made things almost impossible in the country. Now Lord Hankey does precisely the same thing by setting down the general principles as though they were something which had not previously been observed by moderate trade unionists in this country.

I will put just one brief question to the noble Lord. In these general principles he does not refer at all to the right to strike. This is a significant omission. The fact is that the wording of this Amendment will be interpreted not by what is in it but by what is left out of it. If Lord Hankey had included in these principles the right to strike, which everybody in this Chamber has reiterated time and time again, and had given some indication as to any limit he might like to put upon the right to strike, then the Amendment would have been more understandable. As it is, when all these general principles are set down and the one on the right to strike is left out, then the whole Committee is entitled to be suspicious of the motives of putting down an Amendment of this character.


I note the feeling of the Committee. I am surprised at the opinion of the noble Lord the Leader of the House about the undesirability of referring to the Industrial Relations Act at the beginning of the new Bill; for that is certainly what the present text does. I think it is quite pathetic to start repealing the 1971 Act and then to go on to list whole chunks of it which are to be retained. As a matter of fact, it is obvious which chunks are to be retained; but it seems to me that the Bill is doing precisely what the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, said that he did not like us to do.

Regarding the observations of the noble Earl, Lord Gowrie, I should like to say how much I share his opinion about the Code of Practice. It is extremely important that that should be retained. I was not aware that there had been an understanding in order to get it retained—and, if so, I should think that as important as anything we have done—and in that case I should not want to press my Amendment. However, I should like to observe that the Code of Practice can be amended at any time by the Secretary of State with the approval of Parliament, so that it is not quite so stable a statement of principle as is contained at the beginning of an Act.

The noble Lord, Lord Douglass, made an important and interesting point with which in many ways I agree. If one reads this Bill as a whole there is so much in it about strikes and immunities and that sort of thing that it is a little unbalanced. I should have liked to put in something like this Amendment in order to set the record straight; although, of course, one cannot put everything into one compendious Bill, for it would then be so long as to become a waste of time. I think it would have been valuable to have a statement of principle and I do not believe that anybody would want to disagree with any of the principles. But if there has been an understanding arrived at then, with the approval of the Committee, I beg leave to withdraw my Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 1 [Repeal of Industrial Relations Act 1971 and re-enactment of certain provisions]:

3.13 p.m.

LORD SANDFORD moved Amendment No. 2: Page 1, line 17, leave out ("118").

The noble Lord said: On behalf of my noble friend Lord Belstead, I beg to move Amendment No. 2. I should like at the outset to explain that this is a preparatory Amendment to two probing Amendments, Nos. 39 and 40, which relate respectively to paragraphs 19 and 20 of Schedule 1. On reflection, my noble friend and I feel that perhaps the right place at which to debate this matter would be on the Motion that Schedule 1 stand part of the Bill; but, on the other hand, I think it might be helpful at this stage—because it is necessary in any case to put down the Amendment—to take the opportunity to set out the thoughts that we have in our minds, so that the noble Lord the Leader of the House and the Government may reflect on the points I am about to make and can be ready to deal with them when we discuss Schedule 1.

The thinking behind the Redundancy Payments Act has always been that the blow of redundancy must be cushioned by the award of the equivalent of two years' pay. The 1971 Industrial Relations Act adopted this solution (which is to remain on the Statute Book) for unfair dismissal and laid down a maximum compensation of £4,160, computed at £40 a week salary for a period of two years. This Bill carries on the principle of the 1971 Act, but increases the maximum amount of compensation for unfair dismissal to £5,200; that is to say, a salary of £50 a week for two years. This is done in Schedule 1, Part II, paragraph 20. The points we want to make are, first, that the comparison between redundancy pay and compensation for unfair dismissal is a false one; and, secondly, that in a number of cases—and I am thinking particularly of the situation of a head teacher—the maximum compensation will be inadequate.

Perhaps I could deal with the first point, that of false comparison. Unlike redundancy, dismissal—albeit it unfair—involves the loss of status. In some occupations or professions this may not be disastrous, but in the teaching profession—and, as I have said, it is the head teacher that I have particularly in mind—the stigma attaching to dismissal can be disastrous. The fact that it is unfair dismissal is really beside the point. A head teacher may have devoted his or her entire life to the profession culminating with a headship, and it must be realised that where unfair dismissal causes the loss of a head teacher's position it can be extraordinarily difficult to regain an equivalent position. The head teacher's professional training and experience will scarcely fit him for an equivalent position outside teaching. So much by way of illustration of how the comparison between redundancy and compensation for unfair dismissal breaks down.

I now come to the second point, in which I seek to show to the Committee that the compensation—at any rate, for people like head teachers—may often prove inadequate. For the reasons given, the position of a head teacher is particularly vulnerable under the provisions of Schedule 1, paragraph 20, where the maximum compensation figure is £5,200. Certainly, this is a figure which takes some account of inflation; for since 1971 there has been the increase that I mentioned from £4,160 to £5,200. But inflation, even if we succeed in reducing the rate at which it is growing, will, I fear, remain with us. I do not believe that this figure compensates for the injustice of unfair dismissal of a person like a head teacher.

To illustrate that point, it is probable that 70 per cent. of the schools in this country are classified as Group 4 on the Burnham scale; and a two-year salary for a head of a Group 4 school would range from £6,048 to £6,848. Let us compare that with the maximum of £5,200. Furthermore, the head of a moderately large secondary school would receive from £9,570 to £10,362 over two years. I hope that that demonstrates clearly enough that the maximum compensation that can be paid under this Bill is already quite inadequate. There is quite a bit more that could be said on this issue. I thought that it might be helpful to the Committee merely to make those points now, on the understanding that if 1 withdraw this Amendment my noble friend and I have it in mind to return to the subject when we start debating Schedule 1.


I would respond to the intention of the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, and make a little longer intervention at this stage than perhaps is needed. I do so in order that the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, may avoid the necessity of raising the matter later in the Committee stage. I think we should be clear we are not now dealing with those who may be wrongfully dismissed, because they have their rights at court; nor are we dealing with those who may be unfairly dismissed but who are subject to a fixed contract. We are dealing with those who may be unfairly dismissed and who are on a short term form of employment.

The present provisions of paragraph 20 of Schedule 1 limit the tribunals' awards of compensation for unfair dismissal to an amount not exceeding 104 weeks' pay in the claimant's last job, or £5,200, whichever is the less. The Secretary of State has, however, power to raise the latter limit by Order, subject to the approval of both Houses of Parliament. These Amendments would remove paragraph 20 in its entirety and delete all reference to it. The only remaining restriction on tribunals' freedom to dispense unlimited sums in compensation would be the provisions of paragraph 19 which require them to award such amounts as they consider just and equitable in all the circumstances, on the basis of the loss sustained by the complainant as a result of dismissal.

It is important to be clear at the outset that industrial tribunals are designed to deal quickly and informally with the claims presented to them. They are not equipped to deal with the complex legal issues which may arise over the dismissal of highly paid executives where very large sums of money are involved. The Donovan Commission expected tribunals to have the most importance for the lower paid worker, perhaps in less strongly unionised sectors of the economy. There is little evidence that the present limit has forced tribunals to reduce their awards of compensation.

It may be thought that the more highly paid employees are at an unfair disadvantage because they can be awarded only £4,160, whereas lower paid workers can get two years' pay. This might be a problem if compensation awards of two years' pay were commonplace, but this is not the case. The Department's statistics indicate that in the whole period from the beginning of the unfair dismissal jurisdiction on February 28, 1972, to the end of 1973, tribunals awarded more than £4,000 in only 10 cases out of 1,428 awards of compensation for unfair dismissal, and the Department is aware of only six cases in which it is clear that the tribunals would have awarded substantially more than that sum had they not been constrained by the upper limit. Nor do the Government accept the theory that the upper limit of £40 a week may have deterred employees earning more than that amount from bringing cases to the tribunals, and that may be the reason why so few complainants have been awarded the present maximum. The Department's statistics indicate that in 1973, for example, nearly a quarter of male applicants recorded their basic wage at over £40 a week, nor did it seem that tribunals found the limit of 104 weeks' pay unduly restrictive. Cases where complainants have received less than the sum necessary to compensate them for their losses because of the application of the 104-week limit have been known, but there is no reason to suppose that they occur frequently.

In the Government's view, the reason for the low amounts generally awarded is that the tribunals are required to assess the amount of compensation strictly according to the loss suffered by the complainant. The real question is, therefore, whether it is right that compensation should be assessed purely on the loss due to the dismissal. This is a question which the Government are already studying as part of a much more fundamental review of the unfair dismissal provisions for the Employment Protection Bill. In the context of that review, the present limits on compensation will be reconsidered but, while the basis remains unchanged, there does not seem to be any need to alter the present provisions.

I hope that, with that explanation, and recognising that the Government are aware of the problem but feel the need to look at the matter in a more fundamental way than in present legislation, the noble Lord will feel that the point which he has in mind is understood and, it is hoped, will be met by the Government when the Employment Protection Bill is presented to Parliament.


Is it possible to consider—though I know it is not in terms of the Amendment—leaving the two-year limit but omitting the financial upper limit? With the present rate of inflation the figure may not have been too low in the past, but it is very likely to be so in the future and, if there is the limit of two years' salary, it imposes a kind of limit within which the tribunal can operate without having an actual figure which may before very long seem very unrealistic.


I will certainly take note of what the noble Baroness has said. But I hope that she will remember that I said earlier that there is power in the Bill for the Secretary of State by Order to lift the limit for the industrial tribunals. This would deal with the valid point which the noble 3aroness has made about the consequences of inflation.


I am grateful to the noble Lord for that first response to my first statement on this issue. My noble friend and I will study carefully what the noble Lord has said before we come to the next opportunity for debating this matter during this or the next stage of the Bill. However, I very much agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Seear. While it is perfectly true, as the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, has said, that there is power in the Bill as drafted for the Secretary of State by Order to raise the upper limit, I submit that that is not the same thing and is not as good a way of dealing with it as giving power or discretion to the tribunals—which is the effect of my Amendment and is the effect which the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, would like to see—to go above the fixed limit. I should have thought that that would be a better way of doing it, and that is what the Amendments seek to do. However, as I indicated at the beginning, I think that the right thing to do is to leave this for the time being because the substantive discussion fits more aptly and appropriately into the discussion of Schedule 1 and, if the Committee agree, I should prefer to study what the noble Lord has said and to withdraw the present Amendment.


Before the noble Lord withdraws the Amendment, would he consider whether he would think it right to give the tribunals greater discretion than that which Parliament is prepared to give to the county courts? At the present moment, the limit for county court awards is £750, though I believe that in a few months' time it is to be raised to £1,000. It is true that these industrial tribunals have a legally qualified chairman, but they have lay members and I wonder whether it would be right, as the noble Lord has suggested, to give such wide powers, with no limits and well above anything that Parliament has given to the county courts. This is a point I would ask the noble Lord to consider between now and the next stage.


The figures which the noble Lord quotes show that the tribunals have already been given the power to award more than the county courts and, in any case, if there is the limit of two years, that puts an appropriate limit on the matter. The figure for the county courts is lower than that which has been allowed to the tribunals in the Bill.


I think that that is enough to illustrate that there is a good deal in this matter which still needs consideration. I am grateful to the noble Lord, and my noble friend and I will consider these matters. I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 1 agreed to.

Clause 2 [Status of trade unions]:

3.30 p.m.

THE EARL OF GOWRIE moved Amendment No. 3: Page 2, line 40, after ("corporate") insert ("by virtue of section 74 of the 1971 Act").

The noble Earl said: On behalf of my noble and learned friend and myself I should like to move this Amendment. Under the terms of Section 74 of the 1971 Act a trade union which registered under the Act, if it was not already a body corporate, became one. I understand that the trade unions of this country wish to reverse that position, and while we do not agree with that we, of course, understand why it should be so. Clause 2(4) is designed to do just that. On the present wording it might possibly de-incorporate—and I apologise for that use of language, but I cannot think of a better term—and make incorporeal or corporated people who wanted to remain so, who felt that corporate status was advantageous to them and to others, and that it was a perfectly reasonable thing to retain. Our Amendment would restrict this de-incorporation to those who had originally been incorporated against their will. I beg to move.


It is not known to the Government whether any such bodies as have been hypothetically indicated by the noble Earl do, in fact, exist, but if he is able to identify any we would certainly be glad to look at them. There are two possible cases which might conceivably be covered: first of all, trade unions which happen to be corporate bodies otherwise than by virtue of the 1971 Act but are not on the special register and so enabled to retain their corporate status. We do not know of any such bodies but if the noble Earl does we will certainly consider the matter. Secondly, there are corporate bodies which do not at present fall within the definition of trade unions and so are legitimately incorporated, but who would, because of the slightly wider definition of "trade union" in the Bill, fall within the definition and so have their corporate status rendered void. It seems unlikely, though perhaps not absolutely impossible, that there are any such bodies. All I wish to say is that if it becomes possible between now and Report stage to identify any bodies we will certainly be willing to look at the point.


The noble and learned Lord has made a very handsome offer and, in the light of his giving us more time to look at this matter, I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.


I beg to move that the House do now resume.

Moved accordingly and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

House resumed.

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