HL Deb 11 March 1975 vol 358 cc170-253

4.5 p.m.

House again in Committee on Amendment No. 13.


I am a member of two institutions and one institute and I can say that, in the main, professional engineers have never been very keen on forming themselves into a union of any sort. However, the question has arisen as to whether they can get what they want without that necessity. The Council of Engineering Institutes says the following: It is a non-political body and we are not anxious to become involved in any political issue relating to the rights of trade unions or otherwise. The Chartered Institutions in membership of the Council, however, are fully alive to the dangers which might ensue if the obligation of trade union membership were on occasion to be found in conflict with an individual chartered engineer's obligations under his code of professional conduct, and in particular his obligations at all times to safe-guard public health and safety. The question was raised as to how one was to make a division here. I think myself that if one were to take a chartered engineer as being the criterion, though that would not cover the whole of the profession, it would go a very long way towards establishing what is needed and I believe that it would in any case be true that those institutions which do not have professional status would still benefit to some extent in difficult situations from what has been done for the chartered engineer. May I therefore suggest that there is no great problem in making the definition.

However, I shall not speak to the Amendment except to say that I think it could not be improved. What I want to get across to your Lordships is the object of the exercise, which is not to form a union unless it is necessary for a particular purpose—and I very much doubt whether it really is necessary. There are other possible solutions, and I would earnestly ask those on the other side of the Committee to recognise that there is a problem here and that, if the Amendment is not carried, they should direct their minds to seeing how this important requirement could be met.

Let us not forget that arrangements such as the closed shop—a point upon which I make no comment either way— make life a great deal more difficult for the professional engineer. I would also maintain that the world would be a very much worse place if those engineers were not able to implement their codes of conduct, which are very high. In fact, I do not think that there is very much difference between an engineer and a doctor, who also has his ethics. The point about the professional engineer, however, is that he comes much closer to industry and, whether he likes it or not, the professional engineer will inevitably have some contact with any industrial trouble which may occur. It will inevitably affect professional engineers much more closely than other professions, such as doctors, solicitors and so on. The need is there and I hope that those trade union members who speak on this Amendment will recognise that need, though I realise that to provide for it may have certain inconveniences from their point of view.


I confess that yesterday I had some doubts on the relation of the individual to his union and on Government policy on that point, but I have no doubts what-ever in supporting my noble friend Lord Douglass in resisting the Amendment. Either one has a union membership agree-ment, or one does not. If one has a union membership agreement, one great advantage is that it removes all the complications of an employer having to conduct separate collective bargaining with a large number of unions, some of which may have very small numbers of members. For that reason, I strongly support my noble friend.


I should like the Committee to become realists in connection with this matter. Having listened to the discussion, I wonder how many of the speeches made from the other side are founded on the realities of life in industry. For quite a long time, we have heard how this country has been bedevilled by small unions, strikes and small groups. It has been pointed out that in Germany and elsewhere there has been less industrial trouble, because of their method of organisation. We have been told that they have been given an advantage as competitors in selling their products in the markets of the world. Yet we repeatedly get special appeals on behalf of small groups of people who feel that they should be given professional status.

I spent many years in the area which the noble Baroness, Lady Ward of North Tyneside, represented in the other place. I think she will agree that this demand for professional status is being made by only a small body of men, and that demands of this type are made regularly in industry. Suddenly people feel that because their work contains a certain additional responsibility that should entitle them to professional status. Those of your Lordships who have been engaged in trade union activities know only too well how frequently requests are made for people to be classed as professionals.

My noble friend Lord Douglass of Cleveland, a practical man, pointed out exactly the sort of trouble noble Lords opposite are asking for if they are sincere about this Amendment. We have just witnessed how members of the union representing railway signalmen have been involved in sporadic strikes, day by day, week by week, and we all condemn that sort of thing. But despite that, we have noble Lords opposite seeking the establishment of even more small organisations and desiring to give them additional power to do what some have described as holding the nation to ransom. It seems that, with one exception, the industrialists have been silent on the Benches opposite, yet I am sure that they appreciate how difficult it is to enter into negotiations when one is dealing with a plethora of small unions. In that situation, as soon as one deals with one, there is an endless chain of differentials to be overcome. With a larger organisation, it has been found possible time and time again to deal with differentials and, at the same time to keep the wheels of industry turning.

I ask your Lordships to be sensible about this matter and not to adopt a theoretical approach. It is all very well to talk about protecting the small man, the individual, but such arguments do not have the same meaning as they did 50 years ago. We are living in a completely different age and many sophisticated developments have taken place on both sides of industry, and both sides have established their own case law, so to speak. If we go along with the type of nonsense we have heard today, and have a proliferation of small unions, because of the desire of some noble Lords to protect the individual, we will be faced with additional problems. There will be more head-aches for management and for the trade unions, which will lead to endless arguments and disputes instead of enabling us to get on with the job and prevent time being lost.

Over the years the unions have realised this and, despite what was said last night by the noble Lord, Lord George-Brown, who made a brief appearance and attacked the Bridlington Agreement, the unions have shown how beneficial it is to industry as a whole to have collective bargaining. I hope that noble Lords who do not have practical experience of these issues will drop the sort of arguments they have been using and will let those who have been dealing with the developments on both sides of industry get on with the job.

I remind noble Lords opposite that they had their chance when they were in Government. They put through industrial relations legislation which brought the nation to a standstill, they introduced the three-day working week and they lowered morale in industry. I am tempted to say that they caused hatred between master and man, but I would not go quite so far. Nevertheless, they created a difficult road for us to tread and created many problems between master and man when they were in Office. They should know by now how many of their observations lack wisdom. I appeal to them to let us get on in a way that will help industry and the nation to produce the goods which will give us our fair share of world markets, and lift us higher up the world production ladder.

4.18 p.m.


I am pleased to follow my noble friend Lord Popplewell, who made some cogent observations about this Amendment. The greater part of the debate has been about the engineering sector of industry and chief engineers in particular. Indeed, it seems that many contributions have been aimed primarily at one class of engineer. The noble Baroness, Lady Ward of New-castle—


North Tyneside, please.


I apologise to the noble Baroness. I should have known because we served together for many years in another place. She talked about representing engineers who had asked her to put forward their grievances. I remind the noble Baroness that there are many classes of engineer and I have in mind the mining engineer, who has so far not been mentioned. I knew one well. He had taken a degree, his B.Sc. in mining. I worked in the pits for 30 years and I came to know Newcastle and the area which the noble Baroness represented in another place very well. The man I speak of became the manager of the colliery for which I worked. And what about all the other engineers, including those who work for the highway departments of county authorities? I remember a county surveyor in the engineering sector of one authority who told me that his father had spent a tremendous amount of money to enable him to qualify for that type of employment. I advise noble Lords opposite to be very careful when speaking about setting up new unions.

One has had experience where individuals were members of two unions and on one occasion they went before a local authority body, of which I was a member, and put forward their case on behalf of the chief officials and others for an increase in salaries and wages. We turned them down, and we immediately found to our amazement that they were members not only of the General and Municipal Workers' Union, in the first case, but they were also members of NALGO; NALGO put forward the same case as the General and Municipal Workers' Union had on behalf of those people, and we turned that down as well.

Guidance and advice have emanated— in this respect the noble Baroness, Lady Wootton of Abinger, referred to my noble friend Lord Douglass of Cleveland—in regard to how one determines what is an engineer. You will find that engineering covers a very wide field. This was brought out by the noble Lord from the Cross-Benches. He talked about being attached to forms of association. This is true. We had forms of association in the previous Ministry that I was in; forms of association of up to about 180 members of executive status. The same applies with engineers from various trades and sectors in industry in this country. We ought not to overstate it when we talk about the engineering sector. In many sectors practical experience is the greatest factor one can have, apart from letters after one's name.

On one occasion, we desired to raise from the ranks in a county authority the deputy county surveyor. But, because he did not have letters after his name, and was not attached to, or had not become a member of, an association—the noble Lord who spoke from the Cross-Benches referred to that—the Minister of Transport at that time was not prepared to accept the nomination which we had put forward for this man to take over duties as the chief articled surveyor for the county authority. This kind of thing can happen. Therefore, I sincerely hope that, following the advice, which is most tangible and most effective, from my noble friend Lord Douglass of Cleveland on this matter—which covers, I repeat, a very wide field—we do not fall for this sop; because we would be setting up these little sectors of private, small unions which would have no powers whatever in looking after themselves. It would be left to God and good neighbours to get them out of the valley of despondency into which they would fall because of the action taken.

4.24 p.m.


I do not want to intervene for long, but I wish to try to persuade the Government and their supporters that there are two serious interrelated problems here. One is the relation of the big union to the small union, and I want to say a word about that. The other is the relation of a union to a professional association. The problems are different, but they are both raised by the subject matter of this Amendment. I wish that I could persuade the noble Lord, Lord Douglass of Cleve-land, with whom I have had long and friendly relations dating back for certainly more than 15 years, that it is no part of the philosophy either of my Party, or of this Amendment, to encourage small or splinter unions; it really is not. On the contrary, if I might describe myself as a typical Establishment figure, I have always been in favour of large unions; I have always been against small or splinter unions.

All I need to say to the noble Lord, Lord Douglass of Cleveland, is that I do not share the assumption which appears to be universal on the Benches opposite that because a union or an association is small it does not have rights. It does have rights, and to deny them is always a mistake, because in the end that will bring trouble for oneself. Secondly, because one disapproves of something—in this case I share the preconceptions of the noble Lord, Lord Douglass of Cleveland—it does not mean that one has to destroy it. There are things which one disapproves of which, on the whole, one would protect. That is all I want to say at the moment about small unions.

However, I want to say to him some-thing about professional associations. I probably have a good deal of experience of professional associations, and particularly of the engineering professional associations. Curiously enough, I am a member of almost every one of the chartered engineering associations, having honorary fellowships. The fact of the matter is that the relationship between the union, in the ordinary sense of the word, and the professional association is a matter of increasing importance which cannot be swept aside simply by saying that the professional association has no rights. Whether it is the doctors in the Health Service, or chartered engineers in industry, or those acting as consultants or whether it is the various and increasing number of professional associations, all of these simply cannot be swept aside by people who have experience of ordinary trade unions saying that these groups have no rights. They have rights and the danger of a clash between them and the unions is increasing when there is the kind of assumption which has been coming from the Benches opposite.

The noble Lord, Lord Douglass of Cleveland, thought that it was difficult to define a professional engineer. The noble Lord, Lord Slater, said, quite rightly ,that the word "engineer" has been used to cover everyone from the driver of a motor car—who was always called the "engineer" when I was a boy —to the man who designed Waterloo Bridge. But, in point of fact, I do not believe that the difficulty exists. The professional institutions—the civil, the municipal, the chemical, the structural, the mechanical and the electrical engineers —are perfectly well defined institutions. They have a high professional qualification, which may or may not include a university or polytechnic degree or diploma; but they have very high professional qualifications and they contain quite a different kind of person from the kind of person who would wish to join the AEU, for instance, on the shop floor. They must be allowed to continue to exist and to have their rights.

The noble Lord opposite, who claims to have great practical experience in his own field—and I am absolutely sure that it is a perfectly sound claim—does not, I think, appreciate what my noble friend said in introducing the Amendment. My noble friend made it clear that there are two discretions in the Amendment expressly designed to avoid the dangers which the noble Lord apparently expected. The first is that the Secretary of State has a discretion whether or not to refer the matter at all. He can turn it down flat and I have no doubt that a Secretary of State, properly advised —as a Secretary of State nearly always is—by professional civil servants, would turn down flat any of the frivolous or undesirable objections which come from splinter groups simply designed to make it difficult for a more responsible or serious-minded union.

I say at once, in passing, that I fully accept what the noble Lord, Lord Douglass of Cleveland, recently said about the degree of responsibility which he has devoted to the problem of containing subversive or irresponsible elements in his own field. But a Secretary of State need not refer the matter at all, and if he does refer it, he can refer it to the machinery set up by the TUC. That is designed to cover the kind of problems which the noble Lord has in mind, especially those between the large unions and the small unions. One can-not simply say that a small union has no rights, and one cannot simply say that because a body is not approved of by oneself, it does not have a right to exist. But as regards the problem between the trade unions, properly so called, and the professional associations, I want to urge, with the full power that I can possess, that just as noble Lords opposite have warned us to be very careful about the way we handle organised labour at that level, I warn them to be very careful indeed before they interfere with the independence of the professions; whether it be the medical profession, the engineering profession or the legal profession, they have their rights and standards and their high qualifications. To declare war on them either by inadvertence, as I suspect, or by intention would be to precipitate a class war in this country.

4.30 p.m.


Following the noble and learned Lord on this very important issue that he has put forward, that they had no rights, I must say that this is not correct at all. In the trade union movement as it is today, there are trade unions for manual workers and for white-collar workers, and there are appropriate trade unions available for professional people. What has happened is that the professional people, who have had their organisations for years and who have done a wonderful job of work in building up the prestige of the professions, an laying down rules of conduct, and so on, are now wondering whether they should switch from their traditional job of being a professional organisation and take upon themselves the function of a trade union.

In local government, in particular, we have had the problem of the professional engineers. NALGO is a body which can cater for them and, as a matter of fact, in the device mentioned, duplication of membership, many of these professional engineers are trying it both ways. They are members of their own professional body and are also members of appropriate trade unions. It is not the fact at all that they are denied rights. The professional engineers, to my knowledge, have presesd for inclusion in the negotiating machinery; they have been turned down by the trade union side on the ground that there already exists an appropriate body catering for them. Let us take local government agreements. They are very involved; but nevertheless they cater for the professional people all the way to the top. There is an agreement to cover every employed person in local government. The professional people are included among them. They have their own agreement and their own negotiating body within the overall negotiating body in local government. It is wrong to say that they have no rights. Nobody is depriving them of rights. What they are saying is that they now want to take upon themselves a job of work that has been done by the white-collar unions for a very long time.


I hesitate to take part in a debate which obviously has Party political connotations. I have always sought to avoid taking any part in Party political disputes, but I have spent my life trying to ensure that any Bill, Regulation or other document which emerged made administrative sense. I am advised that, so far as local government is concerned, unless there is an Amendment of this kind the Bill will create administrative chaos. This is the considered view not of one but of all the chief officers' associations: the Association of Chief Executives, the Association of Financial Officers and the Society of Education Officers, with which I am particularly concerned. The reason is obvious. I have no experience of industry, but I have experience of local government in which I have worked all my life. The chief officers are a part of management. This is a fundamental fact which has to be accepted. They sit on the management side in negotiations. I negotiated teachers' salaries for 30 years. If the teachers had called a strike the idea that I had either to go on strike or be dismissed without compensation would have seemed to me to be nonsense. This is what can hapen under the Bill unless some provision is made.

I am no legal expert; I am not pre-pared to say that this Amendment is the right answer. I would not express a view on that. I want to make clear what can happen, as I am advised. The principal white-collar union in local government is NALGO. NALGO in any authority may well create a closed shop. The noble Lord may assure me that no employer would allow a closed shop which would create difficulty. I have not as much confidence in every local authority as to assume this could not happen; it could happen. The chief executive officer, the chief officer of the authority, is the man on whom management absolutely depends. The relationship between the chief officer and his chairman is the same as that between the Permanent Secretary and his Minister.

If the chief officers did not go on strike, what could happen? They could be expelled by NALGO; and if they were so expelled they could be dismissed with-out any kind of compensation. If they went on strike, what would they be doing? First, they would be denying the code of conduct of their own professional association; and, secondly, they would, in my opinion, be utterly guilty of dereliction of duty to the local authority and to the public, whom they serve. I am no expert in legal matters. Whether this Amendment provides the right answer I do not know. What I am certain about is that the Bill must make provision which secures that chief officers in local authorities are not put in what would be a totally untenable position. Only in that way could we avoid a situation which could be utterly disruptive of local government. I hope the Government will find the answer to what I believe is a very real problem.

The Earl of ARRAN

May I make it clear that what we have been talking about for the last hour, although no names have been mentioned so far, is the dispute between the NUJ and the IOJ? I happen to belong to the IOJ, which is a substantial organisation, and which the noble Lord insulted when he said it was —what did he say?—an organisation which did not exist at all. He knows as well as I know that it is a very powerful, influential, authoritative and experienced organisation. To say that the NUJ should take it over, which is what he has said by implication, is insulting.


May I express my appreciation to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hailsham, for what he said about our association over the years. When he was Minister for Science I had to meet him as an official from the General Council. I always got a sympathetic hearing and very often came away a better educated man than I was before meeting him. I say that sincerely; and I am sincere now because we are dealing with issues which have been thrown into the middle of politics and where opposition rather than co-operation appears to be the order of the day. I am trying to solve those problems and to prevent us from treading more difficult paths than those which exist now. When the noble Lord on the Cross-Benches said that he accepted the definition of chartered engineer, I appreciated his effort to meet this point. I take his point. It is a problem. It is a problem when you have managers and workmen in the one industry who may belong to the one union. No solution has yet been found to that. The noble Lord on the Cross-Benches spoke about the local government problem. I do not know the details; I am no expert on it, but I know that it exists. It seems to me that we here all know that the problem exists and we are trespassing on the next Amendment that my noble friend Lord, Lord Houghton, is to deal with.

I want the Opposition to accept that when you have a problem of this character, if you can get a code of practice into operation you are on the way to a solution. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Hailsham, put forward the idea of a code of practice in the 1971 Act. I did not care very much for it because I felt at that time that it was merely stating some-thing that was understood by everybody. Over the last four years my experience has taught me the value of that, because it is stating something which is very rarely understood by anyone, and if the debate this afternoon has shown any-thing it has shown a number of people who are groping towards a solution, each with his own preconceived ideas of what that solution should be, and yet having doubts.

I am speaking partly to the next Amendment we are to deal with, and it refers to the newspaper industry. I want to suggest that the legislation of 1971 led to more ills than it cured, and the legislation of 1974 did not relieve the situation. It did not do so because it attempted to deal by precise legislation with matters which were incapable of being so dealt with, however good the intention—and I believe the intention was good from either side. I pay the Opposition the tribute of believing that they were sincere when they put forward this legislative programme. I think they must have learned that it does not solve the problems involved. When I sat on the arbitration court arising from that legislation, dealing with unfair practices and other things inside industry, I was astonished by the amount of ignorance shown on the part of both employers and employees as to the rights under existing legislation. They had to be helped tremendously by the chairman, a lawyer, to understand just what their situation was. The number of employers who had no idea of what was a sensible code of practice inside an industry was legion. Many of them went away much wiser men than when they came to that arbitration court because they learned something from the Chair-man of what good industrial relations practice was thoughout all industry and throughout the country. I am putting forward the plea today that we should not attempt to solve these problems by legislation which may contain unforeseen mistakes. Not only do they cause troubles in the industry but they give hostages to fortune so far as the subversive elements inside industry are concerned.

I want us to approach all these problems from the point of view of the "child" of the Conservative Party, when in power, when it established a code of practice. I want us to accept the word of the present Secretary of State who has said a code of practice should be set up, and it is set out plainly in the Amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Houghton. But behind the code of practice the legislation shall still exist. There shall be nothing to take away the right of the individual to go to legislation if the code of practice breaks down. Let me tell the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hailsham, that nobody has anything over me on the rights of the individual! My trade unionism sprang from non-conformism, when I listened to preachers in the pulpit talking of the evils of the day and what should be done about them. At the centre of that was the rights of the individual, which, let me say, I will defend to the death anywhere for or against any Party in this House. But the rights of the individual will be jeopardised by the legislation which the Opposition are trying to introduce on this occasion. They would not be jeopardised if we had a code of practice as a means of approaching the problems; and if that code is fully investigated all the problems which have been discussed this afternoon can be thoroughly sifted.

The noble and learned Lord, Lord Hail-sham, said he had no difficulty in defining the professions. I sat on the Monopolies Commission when we had a remit to examine the professions; but we have never yet really discovered what the professions are. The evidence of the noble and learned Lord would have been very welcome to the Monopolies Commission because I do not think they have yet discovered how to define a profession. But there is a profession, there are qualifications and there are different grades to be dealt with. There are types of trade unionism which have to be adapted to different circumstances, and none of us knows all the answers.

If I may say so to the noble Lord, Lord Goodman, when he comes forward with his Amendments, there is only one sensible solution to these problems if we are to get the co-operation here that we need in industry. If there is no co-operation from your Lordships you will never inculcate it into industry. It will have to get co-operation independently of your Lord-ships, if your Lordships cannot give it. You are discussing the power that you have—and you have the power, because there is so much governmental interfer-ence in industry today that the power is bound to lie with you. So therefore let us approach this in a sensible manner. Let us have the code of practice so that all the different experts in industry on both sides of the table can find out exactly what the problem is and what the solution is, with the safeguard behind it that if the code of practice proves to be no solution the legislation still remains to give the noble and learned Lord what he rightly wants: the right of the small organisation and the small individual to be recognised.

The Earl of COURTOWN

I have tried to intervene once or twice already this afternoon, because I felt that some- one who had had experience of industry should also speak from this side. I would inform the noble Lord, Lord Popplewell, that I myself have spent 43 years in industry, right from the shop floor upwards. I wish to support this Amendment. I do not want to delay the Committee, because we have had a long debate about this Amendment; but I should like to emphasise that with the growth of the white collar unions it has become increasingly evident that many managers and specialists, if they are to belong to a union, wish to join a union which is prepared to negotiate on behalf of its specialists. Doctors, scientists of different types, lawyers, accountants and many others belong to this category. I know, too, that senior officers in local government are extremely worried about this situation, as are others in industry. There was an article in the Guardian on 7th March, last Friday, which pointed out very clearly the difficulty in which senior officers in local government might find themselves as a result of this situation.

I should also like to point out that what this Amendment does is not really very earth-shaking. Perhaps I may quote from the principal Act of 1974: … has the effect of requiring the terms and conditions of employment of every employee of that class to include a condition that he must be or become a member of the union or one of the unions which is or are parties to the agreement or arrangement, or of an-other appropriate independent trade union. The Bill before us amends this to be "another specified trade union", which presumably means that the Government intend that certain professional associations, specialist associations or specialist unions of one sort or another may be specified in the union membership agreement made. It seems to me that all this Amendment does is to provide for a special case, if a group of people—per-haps quite a small group of people, or it may be only one person—think that their specialism or position as managers is so different from that of other employees in that particular establishment, if necessary, to be ordered by the Secretary of State. It allows an appeal against the agreement which has been made between the employer and the main union. It does not seem to me that that will mean that you are going to encourage all kinds of breakaway unions of the sort suggested by some noble Lords opposite; and I wish strongly to support this Amendment.


May I refer briefly to a set of circumstances which has arisen in the past and the solution to which will have to be found either in a code of practice or in an Amendment to the Bill. It is that in which the trade union is the minority body and the professional association the majority body. It may be thought immediately that no question of a closed shop could arise because it is hardly likely to be agreed by the employing body with a union which is so obviously a minority union. But it has arisen by the action of the employing body. It was 25 years ago when the Willesden Borough Council decided to impose a closed shop. The deputy matron of the Willesden maternity hospital declined to join a union. She was, as she said, a member of the Royal College of Nursing, the representative body of nurses, and would not join a union. She was sacked from her post. I am not suggesting that this situation has often arisen, but I am saying that in looking at the problem of the professions and the trade unions it is essential to examine the position where the trade union is in a minority and the professional body is in the majority. I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Douglass of Cleveland, would not want the trade union treated as some have suggested that minority unions should be treated. It is a problem, and I hope that in searching for a solution that set of circumstances will be borne in mind.

4.53 p.m.


In my view, most of the speeches in this discussion have been based on a misunderstanding. It is largely a matter of definition. In the Amendment is included the term "independent trade union". What is an independent trade union? If by that term is meant a professional organisation, or semi or quasi professional organisation, that is understandable. When Members of your Lordships' Committee have spoken as if we are involved in some great problem, I have wondered about it. Let me offer an illustration. Take the mining industry. In that industry we have the Mineworkers' union which consists of men who work at the coal face, men who work underground, and men who work on the surface. Among the men who work underground are those who do not belong to the mineworkers' union but to the electricians' union, the engineers' union or the carpenters' union, and so on. They work together, but when negotiations take place they often negotiate separately because conditions vary. This is clearly understood. But in addition to those I have mentioned are those who may be described as semi-professional; that is to say, under-managers, mine managers, mining engineers, and I believe even architects are involved—I use the term employed by the noble Lord on the Cross-Benches. There is no difficulty at all. Indeed, there is no conflict whatever.

As to the instance furnished by the noble Lord on the Cross-Benches of what happens in local government, I am surprised that that is a problem at all. Where I have been involved, if a local authority employs, in addition to dust-men, men who are engaged in cleaning the streets and men engaged in sewage disposal, I have found that most of them belong to the union of which my noble friend Lord Cooper of Stockton Heath was for many years the general secretary. But there are many employees associated with local government who do not belong to what is—I hesitate to use the defini-tion—a normal trade union; they belong to professional or semi-professional organisations. They are architects, teachers and the like. I see that the noble Lord on the Cross-Benches assents to what I have just said. Therefore, there is no real problem and it is a matter of definition.

It may well be that in order to clarify the situation in terms of the provisions of this Bill the suggestion made by my noble friend Lord Douglass of Cleveland is appropriate. At the same time, I am bound to say that I should like to see the terms of the code of practice. A great deal would depend on that. If there is to be a code of practice which will be fruitful, effective and operative, not one that creates more trouble, it must be negotiated; and that will take time. I do not believe it is possible to undertake a task of that kind voluntarily. It may require to be undertaken by the Secretary of State—but, of course, as a result of consultation. Therefore, having listened to the whole of this debate and being somewhat baffled by many observations. I would say to your Lordships that what is required is to discover an accurate definition, or a series of definitions, which the Secretary of State has to take into consideration.

My advice to my noble friend on the Front Bench—I am not complaining; I have myself been on Front Benches and have acted under instructions and deployed a brief—is not to say, "We resist this Amendment," but to consider its implications, its possible ramifications and complexities. There was a vast difference between the speech of the mover of the Amendment, who did not seem to be very expert, and the speech of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hailsham of Saint Marylebone, who is an expert—whatever else might be said about him, he is an expert. He divided the employees, professional and others, into their categories; and indeed this is the normal situation.

Therefore my advice to my noble friend is that the Government should look at this again—it can be dealt with at Report stage—to ascertain whether it is possible for the Government draftsmen to find some kind of definition which would be saitisfactory to all concerned. That is what is wanted. To suggest that there is a problem which is intractable and incapable of solution is political nonsense. I do not believe in political nonsense; we must be realistic. Therefore, with great respect to my noble friend on the Front Bench, I offer to him that advice.

Baroness SEEAR

I think it goes with-out saying that we all agree that we do not want a proliferation of unions. Although I have not had the opportunity to check it, it may be of help to remind your Lordships' Committee that the Donovan Commission did not come out in favour of what is normally regarded as industrial unionism. The term "industrial unionism" was used this afternoon. The Donovan Commission came out in favour of one union for each grade of employee within the organisa-tion. It seems to me that what we are trying to achieve by this Amendment, even though the wording may not be perfect, is in the spirit of the recommendations of the Donovan Commission.

5.3 p.m.


This Amendment is similar to an Amendment which was submitted in the other place and rejected on a Division. On this occasion, I hope that I may be able to persuade the noble Earl to withdraw his Amendment. A union membership agreement is made between employers on the one side and unions on the other. It is a two-sided affair, and we can expect that the employer will wish to protect all of his employees. Particularly will he be seeking to protect those of his employees who are closest to him, those who are in relatively short supply. This applies to managerial and professional staff. They are closest to the employer and very often they are in short supply. It is inevitable that the employer who is a party to the union membership agreement will wish to give protection to that category of his staff. There is no great objection of the unions to that wish.

In winding up the debate on Second Reading, I said that during the whole of my working life I had been in closed shops in different parts of the country. I can also say that for 50 years I have been a member of a union which caters for managerial and professional staffs, and in case there may be any misunderstandings, it is affiliated to the Trades Union Congress. Never on any occasion during those 50 years has there been any difficulty whatever, in the closed shop situation to obtain recognition of the smaller union. Never has there been objection to obtaining recognition from the employer or from the trade unions.

It is not the small unions of professional people to which the larger trade unions object. Their objection is to the splinter groups. Splinter groups are not in the interests of the workers, the management, or the public at large. As the noble Lord, Lord Popplewell, has reminded us, recently we have had a very strong lesson, and it is worth while looking for one minute at that lesson. When British Rail and the unions recognised by British Rail failed to come to an agreement on restructuring the wages in the industry, it was eventually referred to arbitration. In due course, the arbitrators made their decision which was not accepted by a handful of signalmen who were in a splinter union. The official trade unions and the management reviewed the situation and improved the signalmen's pay, and they went some way towards meeting their problem.

Despite the arbitration and despite the review, a mere handful of people in a splinter union had been able to hold the public at ransom and cause grave inconvenience, had caused British Rail to lose millions of pounds in revenue and impaired their ability to pay decent wages not merely to the signalmen but to the rest of their staff. They had gravely jeopardised negotiations that were then taking place for the annual wages review —a review which, in fact, included the signalmen in question. Those are smaller unions of the kind to which the larger unions object, not the smaller unions of professional bodies.

The Government line up with the unions in that regard and have taken great care in the preparation of this Bill —which amends the 1974 Act—to give the flexibility which is required. This Bill provides that employees need not belong to a union which is a party to the agreement but may belong to some other specified union. The word "specified" is used for a particular purpose. We did not want to use the word "appropriate", because who was to decide what was appropriate? The word "appropriate" might have let in some of the splinter unions. When using the word "specified", we had in mind the smaller pro-fessional unions. Furthermore, this Bill goes to endless trouble to give flexibility to the union membership agreement so that any identifiable class can be excluded from the agreement, including the members of another union; for example, a small professional union. Therefore we consider that this Amendment is not necessary.

Also, we have certain doubts about the practicability of the Amendment. We submit that it is not the proper function of the Secretary of State, or any agency which may be appointed by him, to decide which unions ought to be specified in a union membership agreement. The entire agreement may have to be revised. Certainly it would have to be examined. Many of the agreements are long and involved. It might mean a complete re-drafting of the union membership agreement. At least, there would have to be a thorough arguing of the case on both sides. We submit that this is not the function of the Secretary of State or of any agency which may be appointed by him.

Much of the lobbying of the smaller unions is part of a running battle for the recognition of unions by employers—an understandable battle. In the White Paper on the Protection of Employment Bill, we have made it very clear that it is our intention to include in that Bill some protection for unions, large and small, which cannot obtain recognition by employers. We have provided in the White Paper, particularly in paragraphs 45 and 46, that where a union feels that it ought to have recognition and that it is not getting recognition, it can use the advisory Conciliation and Arbitration Service with a view to obtaining recognition. We believe that that is the nub of the problem. Therefore we say to the noble Earl that this problem is being dealt with in a subsequent Bill. With that assurance, we hope that the noble Earl will withdraw his Amendment.

I could not understand one point on local government which was made by the noble Lord, Lord Alexander of Potterhill. Again, this is a question of recognition by the employer. Our understanding of the position is that the Association of Local Authority Chief Executives and the Joint Committee of Professional Officers' Associations are recognised for negotiating purposes in respect of the Chief Officers' National Joint Council. It would appear, therefore, that the noble Lord is assuming that, as a result of this Bill, the existing negotiating machinery will be completely overthrown. Certainly, the Government do not expect that to happen.

5.10 p.m.


First, may I take up the point which was made by the noble Lord, Lord Shinwell. I am the first to admit that my experience in this field is limited. If every Amendment which I move takes as long as the first two Amendments, I think that I shall resume my weekly journeys to and from the European Parliament, although it is not, perhaps, wholly in order for me to say that. I take responsibility for the drafting, and the phrase "independent trade union" means no more and no less than what it says. It is the definition in Section 30(1) of the 1974 Act. It was put there deliberately, and indeed was so phrased in order that there should not be any confusion. If I may say so, that honest attempt has not lessened the con-fusion that there has been in this Committee this afternoon.

May I plead with your Lordships on the basis of what this Amendment does not do. I notice that the noble Lord, Lord Douglass of Cleveland, has left the Chamber, but I do not suppose it matters. This Amendment will not proliferate, nor does it seek to proliferate, any splinter groups or small unions, nor do I suggest—and I do not think it has been suggested on behalf of the Government— that it will lead to industrial chaos. Certainly, when the Minister of State dealt with the matter in the other place he did not take that view. He made it perfectly plain that he—speaking, I dare say, for himself—supported smaller unions and unions which were outside the ambit of the TUC. So let us get away from the allegation that this Amendment will pro-vide a vehicle for those within the trade union movement to cause upset and chaos. That it does not do.

Equally, the noble Lord, Lord Douglass, was wrong when he said that this Amendment had something to do with the Amendment which I understand may be moved by the noble Lord, Lord Houghton of Sowerby, at a later stage. It may be that it was unfortunate that the noble Earl, Lord Arran, raised the question of the Press, because it immediately made the debate somewhat wider than it need have been. This Amendment does not apply to the Press as such, though I anticipate it could well be used if, for instance, you had a very small local paper with, say, six members of one union and one member of another union on the staff. If the proprietor of the newspaper wished to come to a closed shop agreement, he could, as it were, be prevented for a period from doing so by the application of this Amendment by the single member who would, in effect, have the opportunity to shout, "Help, my rights are affected. I want the matter investigated by the Secretary of State"—not by a court, not in the first instance by a tribu-

nal, not by any person who would be disagreeable to the trade union as a whole and himself in particular. As my noble and learned friend said, one would imagine that, if there were any frivolous application to the Secretary of State, that applicant would soon be 'shot out".

All that this Amendment does is to give a right in certain circumstances to groups of workers to have a grievance ventilated. As I said when I moved it, She whole idea is to stop a potential industrial disagreement. I suggest that there is nothing in the Amendment which will merit the phrase of the noble Lord, Lord Popplewell—"this sort of non-sense". That is a matter for your Lord-ships to decide.

If I may now turn to the noble Lord, Lord Jacques, he, in effect, and I do not blame him, repeated the attitude of the Government in Standing Committee when the Minister of State—I hope I am being fair in paraphrasing—said that this is not a bad idea. There must in the future be some form of arbitration machinery to cover the sort of situations, or some of them, which we have been discussing this afternoon. But—wait for it—we are going to produce another lovely new Bill, the Employment Protection Bill, and all will be revealed. I hope that that is not an unfair way of putting the noble Lord's and indeed the Government's position.

We do not think that is good enough. We think it would be better to set up the machinery now which, as I suggest, is entirely innocuous in character. If at a later stage the Government, as they may well do, think that in a future Bill —whenever in this rather crowded Session it comes before this House or another place—they want to improve upon the position, by all means they can do so. In the meantime, I am not very favourably affected by the noble Lord's argument and I shall seek to persuade my friends to follow me through the Lobby.

5.18 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said Amendment (No. 13) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 137; Not-Contents, 81.

Aberdare, L. Allan of Kilmahew, L. Amory, V.
Alexander of Potterhill, L. Allerton, L. Arran, E.
Ashbourne, L. Ferrers, E. Montagu of Beaulieu, L.
Balfour of Inchrye, L. Ferrier, L. Mountgarret, V.
Banks, L. Foot, L. Mowbray and Stourton, L.
Barnby, L. Fraser of Kilmorack, L. Moyne, L.
Barrington, V. Gisborough, L. Nairne, Ly.
Beaumont of Whitley, L. Glasgow, E. Newall, L.
Belhaven and Stenton, L. Glenkinglas, L. Northchurch, B.
Belstead, L. Gore-Booth, L. Norwich, V.
Berkeley, B. Goschen, V. Nugent of Guildford, L.
Boyd of Merton, V. Gray, L. Ogmore, L.
Brookeborough, V. Grenfell, L. Platt, L.
Brooke of Cumnor, L. Gridley, L. Rankeillour, L.
Brooke of Ystradfellte, B. Grimston of Westbury, L. Robbins, L.
Burnham, L. Hailsham of Saint Marylebone, Robson of Kiddington, B.
Byers, L. L. Rochester, L.
Caccia, L. Halsbury, E. Ruthven of Frecland, Ly.
Campbell of Croy, L. Hankcy, L. St. Davids, V.
Camrose, V. Hanworth, V. St. Helens, L.
Carrington, L. Harmar-Nicholls, L. St. Just, L.
Cathcart, E. Hartwell, L. Sandys, L. [Tetter.
Chalfont, L. Harvington, L. Seear, B.
Clifford of Chudleigh, L. Henley, L. Selkirk, E.
Colwyn, L. Hill of Luton, L. Sempill, Ly.
Cork and Orrery, E. Inglewood, L. Shaftesbury, E.
Cottesloe, L. James of Rusholme, L. Shannon, E.
Courtown, E. Killearn, L. Sharples, B.
Cowley, E. Kilmany, L. Somers, L.
Craigavon, V. Kilmarnock, L. Stamp, L.
Cranbrook, E. Kindersley, L. Strathclyde, L.
Daventry, V. Kinnaird, L. Strathcona and Mount Royal,
Davidson, V. Lauderdale, E. L.
Denbigh, E. Lloyd of Kilgerran, L. Strathspey, L.
Denham, L. [Teller.] Long, V. Swansea, L.
Derwent, L. Lucas of Chilworth, L. Swaythling, L.
Drogheda, E. Lyell, L. Tenby, V.
Drumalbyn, L. Lytton, E. Terrington, L.
Dundonald, E. Mackie of Benshie, L. Teviot, L.
Ebbisham, L. Macleod of Borve, B. Trevelyan, L.
Eccles, V. Mansfield, E. Vickers, B.
Effingham, E. Massereene and Ferrard, V. Vivian, L.
Elton, L. Merrivale, L. Wakefield of Kendal, L.
Emmet of Amberley, B. Mersey, V. Ward of North Tyneside, B.
Essex, E. Meston, L. Wigoder, L.
Exeter, M. Monck, V. Young, B.
Falmouth, V. Monckton of Brenchley, V.
Allen of Fallowfield, L. Elwyn-Jones, L. Lyons of Brighton, L.
Ardwick, L. (L. Chancellor.) Maelor, L.
Arwyn, L. Evans of Hungershall, L. Maybray-King, L.
Bacon, B. Gaitskell, B. Melchett, L.
Balogh, L. Gardiner, L. Paget of Northampton, L.
Bernstein, L. Geddes of Epsom, L.
Beswick, L. Gordon-Walker, L. Pannell, L.
Birk, B. Goronwy-Roberts, L. Pargiter, L.
Blyton, L. Greene of Harrow Weald, L. Pitt of Hampstead, L.
Bowden, L. Greenwood of Rossendale, L. Popplewell, L.
Brockway, L. Hale, L. Raglan, L.
Bruce of Donington, L. Hall, V. Rathcreedan, L.
Burton of Coventry, B. Hamnett, L. Rhodes, L.
Castle, L. Harris of Greenwich, L. Ritchie-Calder, L.
Champion, L. Hayter, L. Robertson of Oakridge, L.
Chorley, L. Henderson, L. Sainsbury, L.
Cooper of Stockton Heath, L. Houghton of Sowerby, L. Shepherd, L. (L. Privy Seal)
Crook, L. Hughes, L. Slater, L.
Crowther-Hunt, L. Jacques, L. Snow, L.
Cudlipp, L. Kissin, L. Stewart of Alverchurch, B.
Darling of Hillsborough, L. Leatherland, L. Stow Hill, L.
Darwen, L. Lee of Asheridge, B. Strabolgi, L. [Teller.]
Davies of Leek, L. Lee of Newton, L. Summerskill, B.
Douglas of Barloch, L. Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe, B. Taylor of Gryfe, L.
Douglass of Cleveland, L. Lovell-Davis, L. Taylor of Mansfield, L.
Thurlow, L. Wilson of Radcliffe, L. Wootton of Abinger, B.
Wells-Pestell, L. Winterbottom, L. [Teller.] Wynne-Jones, L.
Wigg, L. Wise, L.

On Question, Motion agreed to.

Resolved in the affirmative, and Amendment agreed to accordingly.

Clause 2, as amended, agreed to.

5.27 p.m.

Lord HOUGHTON of SOWERBY moved Amendment No. 14:

After Clause 2, insert the following new clause:

Code of practice on freedom of the press

" . After section 1 of the principal Act there shall be inserted the following section: 'Code of practice on freedom of the press. 1A.—(1) If, before the end of the period of six months beginning the press. with the passing of the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Amendment) Act 1975, there is agreed among parties including employers of journalists, or employers' associations representing such employers, and trade unions representing journalists, a code of practice containing practical guidance for employers, trade unions, editors and other journalists on matters relating to the freedom of the press, the Secretary of State shall lay before both Houses of Parliament a draft of that code. (2) For the purposes of subsection (1) above, matters relating to the freedom of the press include such matters as the avoidance of improper pressure to distort or suppress news, comment or criticism, and the application of union membership agreements to journalists. (3) If no such code of practice has been agreed as mentioned in subsection (1) above, the Secretary of State shall, after consultation with the Press Council, and such of the parties referred to in that subsection, such organisations representing workers and such organisations representing employers, as he thinks fit, prepare in draft a code of practice containing such practical guidance as is referred to in that subsection, and shall lay the draft before both Houses of Parliament. (4) If the draft laid under subsection (1) or (3) above is approved by resolution of each House of Parliament, the Secretary of State shall issue the code of practice in the form of the draft. (5) A code of practice agreed as mentioned in subsection (1) above may be revised from time to time by agreement between such parties as are referred to in that subsection, and the Secretary of State shall lay a draft of the revised code before both Houses of Parliament. (6) A code of practice which was prepared by the Secretary of State in accordance with subsection (3) above, may be revised from time to time by the Secretary of State after consultation with the Press Council, and such of the parties referred to in subsection (1) above, such organisations representing workers and such organisations representing employers, as he thinks fit, and the Secretary of State shall lay a draft of the revised code before both Houses of Parliament. (7) If the draft laid under subsection (5) or (6) above is approved by resolution of each House of Parliament, the Secretary of State shall issue the revised code of practice in the form of the draft. (8) On issuing a code of practice or a revised code under subsection (4) or (7) above the Secretary of State shall make by statutory instrument an order specifying the date on which the code or revised code is to come into effect. (9)A failure on the part of any person to observe any provision of a code of practice which is for the time being in force under this section shall not of itself render him liable to any proceedings but in any proceedings for breach of contract in any court between a journalist and his employer or between a member of a trade union representing journalists and that trade union, or in any proceedings before an industrial tribunal under Schedule 1 to this Act—

  1. (a) any such code of practice shall be admissible in evidence, and
  2. (b) any provision of such a code of practice which appears to the court or tribunal to be relevant to any question arising in those proceedings shall be taken into account by the court or tribunal in determining that question." "

The noble Lord said: I beg to move the new clause standing in my name and in the names of my noble friends. This is the proposal which I foreshadowed in the speech that I made to your Lordships' House on 25th February. I need scarcely say that I have no personal interest in the matter under discussion; I am not a journalist, I am not an editor and I am not a newspaper proprietor. From experience as Chairman of the Parliamentary Labour Party for seven years, I am now by disposition a peace-maker, a finder of the middle way—a sort of minor Lord Goodman. I hope that between us the middle way will be found.

I was encouraged to think along the lines of this new clause by the remarks made by the Secretary of State in another place on the 13th February. I paraphrase what he said, which was to the effect that he hoped that the parties— that is, the editors and proprietors and unions—would pursue the idea of a charter or a code of practice, and if both sides desired an agreed charter or code to be embodied in legislative form the Government would be willing to consider it. I then linked this idea with the existing code of industrial practice which was embodied in the 1971 Act and re-enacted in the 1974 Act. The re-enacted provisions will be found in Part I of Schedule 1 to the 1974 Act. These two ideas combine to suggest a way towards better understanding and the hope that present anxieties, deeply felt and sincerely held, might be allayed.

This new clause relates to the written word; not at present to broadcasting and not to the printing unions. Broadcasting could be brought within the scope of this new clause if it were thought desirable, but at present my judgment is that the problems' of the newspaper industry and of journalists could be distinguished from those of the broadcasting authorities. The new clause contains an implied invitation to the parties concerned to try their best to agree on a code of practice, and to do so within six months of the passing of this Bill. If they do not agree within that period, a draft of the code would have to be laid before both Houses of Parliament by the Secretary of State for approval.

I have seen it suggested that the freedom of the Press is not a matter for negotiation between journalists, editors and proprietors. The freedom of the Press, it is said, belongs to our fundamental liberties and should not be disposed of by agreement between those engaged in the industry. What we are discussing is more the freedom of editors than the freedom of the Press; they are not always the same thing. But if they fail to agree, then the Amendment requires the Secretary of State, after consultation, to deal with this matter himself and to lay his own draft. In both cases the approval of this House is necessary. The public interest is safeguarded by the approval which has to be given by both Houses of Parliament to an agreed code, if there is one, or by the draft of the Secretary of State, if he is required to produce one by the terms of the new clause.

The Amendment says that the code shall include practical guidance for employers, trades unions, editors and other journalists on matters relating to the freedom of the press …".

Subsection (2) says that … matters relating to the freedom of the press include such matters as the avoidance of improper pressure to distort or suppress news, comment or criticism, and the application of union membership agreements to journalists.

I stress the importance of the latter part of that subsection, which states: … the application of union membership agreements to journalists.

and includes the application of union membership agreements to editors, and other matters relevant to what we have recently been talking about in this connection.

The question of the incidence of so-called outside contributors—often described as "freedom of access to the Press"—would be within the scope of the code. I suggest that it is in the reasonable interest of the National Union of Journalists to safeguard the livelihood of its members. What was said by Mr. Ken Morgan, the General Secretary of the National Union of Journalists, in the Observer, and by the Chairman of the National Union of Journalists at a meeting on Saturday, seems to be very reasonable in this connection. It is not an unworthy interest of a union to safeguard the employment of its members.

The only question at issue, then, is whether in so doing, they are harming the public interest or "crabbing" the Press, or putting unnecessary restrictions on the freedom of the editor. The freedom of the Press does not imply complete freedom to ignore the legitimate interests of those employed in it; it is the job of the trade union to look after those interests. The duty of the trade union is to discharge that responsibility with reasonable safeguards, both for its members and for other interests. So I suggest that the code which the Amendment, encourages the parties to negotiate and to try to agree upon, can cover all the points of difficulty and apprehension that we have heard so much about.

The first tentative draft of the kind of code of practice which might be envisaged under this new clause has been put forward by the Editor of the Guardian, Mr. Alastair Hetherington. I think your Lordships should pay tribute to the efforts which the Editor of the Guardian has made to resolve this difficulty, and for the most helpful comments made in one of the leading articles in the Guardian yesterday. Progress on this code on a voluntary basis would have been further advanced today had it not been for the attitude of those representing the newspapers at the joint discussion presided over by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Pearce. On that occasion, the proprietors and editors made it a condition of discussing the code put forward by Mr. Hetherington that this Bill before the House today should ban the closed shop in the newspaper industry. That was a precondition which they wished to lay down before embarking on the discussions which the NUJ and other unions were prepared to continue. That is a condition which I suggest—


If the noble Lord, Lord Houghton of Sowerby, will allow me to intervene, we might dispose of this canard immediately. I am authorised by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Pearce, to say that when he asked the various representatives to come to the meeting he fully understood that none of them had any mandate from anyone, that they were coming in order to hear what was said and had no authority to reach any decision. At that precise moment, as the noble Lord, Lord Houghton, will know, a more significant meeting was taking place, at which the noble Lord and I were present, when I willingly accepted the possibility of discussing a code that had the force of law. To make overmuch of this, as has the noble Lord on three occasions now, is a little unfair.

5.37 p.m.


I am obliged to the noble Lord, Lord Goodman, but I have in my hand the report made by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Pearce, to the Secretary of State, of the conference which took place on 20th February. I will not trouble your Lordships with all its details. It contains a list of all those present. I was not in a position, nor presumably was anyone else, to know whether those present were authorised to speak for the organisations, for the employers or for the interests they represented. But they were all there— the Guild of Newspaper Editors, the Newspaper Society, the Newspaper Publishers' Association, the National Union of Journalists, the Institute of Journalists, the Scottish Daily Newspapers Society, the Scottish Newspaper Proprietors' Association, and Fleet Street editors.

Your Lordships may be aware of the fact that, although the discussion was amicable, it was agreed by 13 votes to 2 that provided the Press and broadcasting were excluded from the provisions of the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Amendment) Bill, the organisations concerned would be prepared to discuss the framing of a charter to safeguard the freedom of the Press and broadcasting in the widest context, and to prevent improper pressures from any quarter. Surely that bears out the statement I made a few moments ago. With the greatest respect, I am saying that your Lordships' House cannot agree to ban the closed shop from the newspaper industry in order to pave the way for discussions on a code of practice. Certainly, my noble friends and I could never agree to that precondition. We cannot outlaw the closed shop in journalism and the media, and discriminate against one field of employment and one union in this regard.

But we can agree—and the new clause provides for this—to apply a union membership agreement in the newspaper industry with reasonable common sense and understanding of the problems of which those employed in it will be fully aware. The code should ensure that if agreement is reached it can be laid by the Secretary of State before both Houses of Parliament for approval. If that proves possible, very good indeed. If all the difficulties prove negotiable, no one, surely, will be better pleased than your Lordships and Members of another place. But if not, if there is no agreement despite best endeavours, however friendly, then the new clause places upon the Secretary of State a statutory duty to draw up his own code of guidance and lay the draft before both Houses of Parliament. Subsection (3) of the new clause makes provision for the Secretary of State, if he is called upon to do that, to hold consultations over the widest field, as wide as he thinks fit. He could then bring into his consultations the TUC, editors, the CBI; he is required to consult the Press Council by the new clause itself. But there is no limit upon the consultation that he can embark upon before himself laying a draft.

This, therefore, is the distinction that is made between the area of consultation if the Secretary of State has to embark on this task and the area of negotiation, if the code can be agreed, under subsection (2). The editors are not left out in either case. There is no need specifically to bring them in. If a code can be negotiated, the parties concerned can decide upon those who shall be brought into the discussions upon this important matter. That will be for them: proprietors, editors, unions, the lot. But if the Secretary of State is required to discharge his statutory duty, then the area of consultation must be widened, and that is provided for in subsection (3). Subsections (5) to (8) deal with the procedure for revision of the code, whether by agreement or under the responsibility of the Secretary of State.

Now I come to the most difficult question, that of enforcement: whether the code should be given the force of law. It will, of course, be given legislative sanction. But the question is, shall it be enforceable. It will no doubt be said that the code, whether it is agreed or whether it is the work of the Secretary of State, will have no teeth, no real effectiveness, unless it is given the force of law. I do not want to harp again at length on the subject of law enforcement in this difficult field. But where is the evidence, I ask, of the effectiveness of the force of law in industrial relations? I wish we could clear our minds on this. Part of the trouble is that the history of trade unionism is the history of struggle against the law, and the deep suspicion of the law and mistrust of the law. In many quarters in the trade union movement this is very difficult to overcome. Whereas the trade unions in Europe look to the law to establish their rights, the disposition in this country is for the trade union movement to look at the law because they think it will deprive them of their rights; and that is one of the differences in trade union outlook which I submit will have to be considered in relation to our membership of the European Community.

This Bill, and the principal Act before it, repeals the provisions for the force of law which were contained in the 1971 Act, an Act which the Conservative Party, after their own disillusionment and dreadful experience of that Act, have said that they would not wish to reintroduce. It became unworkable. I have no need again to read out the obituary of the Industrial Relations Act 1971. But one thing it did do which has survived in the 1974 Act, and which I am now making use of in putting forward this new clause, is the code of industrial practice which was first put in the early clauses of the 1971 Act and which have been re-enacted in Schedule 1, Part I of the 1974 Act. It was this part of the 1974 Act that I looked at for encouragement in putting forward this new clause.


If I may interrupt my noble friend for one moment, I think he will have in mind that that code of practice had in fact the force of law.


The code of practice in the Industrial Relations Act 1971 and in the Act of 1974 does not have the force of law, but I shall be coming later, if I have your Lordships' patience, to what is the legislative significance of the code, if one is agreed or one is approved by both Houses of Parliament on the recommendation of the Secretary of State. I emphasise the fact that the proposed code under the new clause would have exactly the same status as the general industrial code of practice which was re-enacted in 1974, and it would have the same authority of approval by both Houses of Parliament, exactly the same, parallel with but without prejudice to the generality of the industrial code of practice.

But this clause goes a little further. In subsection (9) it provides for the code of practice to be quoted in any proceedings for breach of contract in any court between a journalist and his employer. That is an addition to the provisions of the 1974 code and it is related to the special circumstances of newspaper editors. All in all, what I am asking your Lordships to do is to make a considerable, and I hope a successful, contribution towards achieving our common purpose. I hope that this new clause will prove acceptable in another place. I have no means of knowing for certain whether it will. I am not acting, in bringing forward this new clause, as an agent either for another place or for the Secretary of State. This idea was put by me to the Secretary of State, I freely admit, to see what his reaction to it might be. I was not discouraged from proceeding with the drafting of this new clause, and that is all I can say.

But if we press too hard and too far, by amending this new clause, by mutilating it, by making it unacceptable to another place, then your Lordships will finish up, all of us will finish up, with nothing at all, nothing whatsoever. We are familiar enough with the procedure to realise that if an Amendment goes to another place and is rejected there, it will be impossible to amend that further when it reaches your Lordships' House for final attention. And what is more, in certain circumstance a difference between this House and another place on a matter of this kind might raise difficulties we would wish to avoid. What I think is much worse than that is that there would be no basis upon which we could encourage the newspaper industry to reach this code of practice. We might be doing a grave disservice to the future peace in the newspaper industry. We might be doing grave harm indeed to the freedom of the Press.

Therefore we have a very heavy responsibility. The consequences of overreaching ourselves could be damaging to the very cause we have at heart. I beg of your Lordships to view this new clause favourably. I will not anticipate Amendments to be moved by the noble Lord, Lord Goodman. We shall see what he wishes to do with the proposed new clause when he comes to that point. We can give his proposals careful consideration along with the contents of the new clause. But with great respect, I hope that I may be permitted to reaffirm my belief that our hope lies substantially in this new clause, and if we keep to that I sincerely believe that we shall properly have made a contribution in this House which proved impossible in another place and which might redound to the credit and to the constructive ability of this House to improve legislation coming from another place. I beg to move.

5.51 p.m.

Lord GOODMAN moved Amendment No. 15 as an Amendment to No. 14: In subsection (1), line 6, after ("employers") insert (" editors and such editors' organisations ").

The noble Lord said: At the outset may I be permitted to pay a sincere tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Houghton of Sowerby. He has worked extraordinarily hard to try to reconcile the differences between his viewpoint and that of my friends and myself in this matter, and no-one could have worked harder. I feel singularly ungracious in saying to him at the outset that, if I am incurring the risk of losing this concession because of asking, Oliver Twist-like, for more, that is a risk which I incur with complete composure. I do not regard what we are offered in this Amendment as having the slightest value for the purposes for which I am urging the Committee to make a change. I must say this at the outset. If I did not say that there would be a large measure of insincerity in what I say next.

The noble Lord said that he had no interest to declare in this matter. I have several professional interests to declare, as chairman of the Newspaper Publishers' Association, who have given me no instructions in this matter, and for whom I am not speaking; I am chairman of the Observer Trust, who have given me no instructions in this matter, and for whom I am not speaking, and I happen to be the chairman of the Jewish Chronicle. I hasten to say that they have given me no instructions in this matter and I do not speak for them either. But. I do speak, I think, for everyone in this Committee who is concerned for such an historic privilege and right that we possess. I think, also, that I speak not only for them in this matter, but for their children and grandchildren. I think we shall deeply deplore and regret it if we allow this situation to pass without making some significant change to the law now suggested.

I hoped, as did the noble Lord, that we should be able to avoid a confrontation in this matter. I hope that my proposals may be seen as an extended olive branch. I and my friends will make ourselves available day and night to see whether we can avoid forcing this matter by the weight of votes in this House. I do not think this ought to be a political matter. It is, I hope, no disparagement of the noble Lords on the Opposition side, but it would be a sad thing if the right to preserve the freedom of the Press were forced upon us by the vote of the Opposition or by any Party vote. Hence I urge the Leader of the House—and I know there is no-one who will respond more readily to such urging—that we continue to consider whether the differences between us can be bridged in a fashion which is acceptable to us.

There are historical issues involved in what we are discussing today. One of the problems with which we have to deal—and we have to admit it—is the fact that we are talking on rather different planes. When we last debated this subject. I heard the noble Lord, Lord George-Brown, saying with some asperity that I was an arid intellectual and asking what was the difference between some scribbler who was scribbling and the man who was working on a lathe or repairing a road? The difference is simple: each man who is scribbling is scribbling something different. This is the vital and essential point which I have to commend to your Lordships. You cannot therefore seek to regulate these activities by a common code that applies to everyone.

I wonder whether I might give an example from my own childhood, because it was one of the most formative experiences that I had. I used to bicycle no great distance to a bookshop in the East End of London. It was a surprising shop. One half was full of pulp magazines, from which the bookseller made his living; the other was full of literature of the highest quality and he used to talk to me about the books. I learned more from him about books, and was more influenced towards the way of life I have since developed, by that man than by any other human being. He wrote, and one of the problems with which we have to deal today is that the union says, in union industrial terms: "We cannot allow a non-professional to take a job if there is a professional writer available". But there is no such thing as a professional writer.

I will appeal, if I may venture to do so, to the noble Lord who is sitting alongside me, who is one of the most distinguished novelists living. I wonder whether he will say there is such a thing as a professional writer in the sense that a man can take instruction, a course or an apprenticeship. The man I mentioned became a very important and distinguished dramatist between selling his pulp magazines and selling, or trying to sell, his better literature, which, so far as I know, no-one bought—I alone read it— but he developed a skill as a dramatist which was outstanding, and he had three or four plays produced.

If he had been a journalist, there is no doubt that the National Union of Journalists, with great validity, would have said that he could not be a member because he did not earn enough from his journalistic activities. There is very little doubt that they would have the right, if they sought the right, as they have done already and may well do again, to exclude him from journalistic activities in the future. Is this a situation which we can possibly tolerate in this country at this moment? Is it something for which I ought to be asking? Is it conceivable that 10 years ago the Labour Party would have offered any resistance at all to the suggestion that the four exclusions that I seek to obtain in this Bill should be a matter for debate and discussion in the Houses of Parliament?

I know what has happened. I hope your Lordships will bear with me if I venture to expand on this point—it is nothing bad and nothing sinister. I will say what has happened, and we really must count our blessings. The other day the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, drew attention to the subversive influences in trade unions and elsewhere—and rightly did so—but what he did not draw attention to was the miracle that we are achieving a revolution in this country without a revolution. This is the cause of the difficulties which we are now encountering. People who were deprived of power are obtaining power, and they are obtaining power legitimately through the democratic process. But the taking of power cannot be measured with such nicety that problems of this kind will not arise in the course of it. We have enormous blessings which we have acquired because of it. We have the blessing of changes of a revolutionary nature, the transfer of power from an exclusive group of people to the entire community, without bloodshed, without violence, without the sort of disturbance that other countries have suffered. If, therefore, we have a problem of this sort arising from this historic change, it is something which we should recognise without too much regret and which we should set our minds to solving.

I am not a friend of the Industrial Relations Act of 1971. I have heard the poor Act mauled and murdered, and so many harsh words have been said about it that I have almost felt it necessary to start a society to enable some slight recognition to be given to its better parts, because there were better parts of that measure. There never was a curate's egg of an Act like that one. But the fact remains that, whether or not one supports the Act, what one must not do is allow the process of wiping away, obliterating and washing away the Act with soap and pumice stone, with acid and with every kind of detergent that can be found; to wipe away things that ought to be preserved is the danger.

I refer now to the Secretary of State in the Commons, and I should like to say that I very much regret the attack made on him on this House during the Second Reading debate. I have known him for many years and, whatever one may say about his views on this matter, no-one can question his sincerity and courage. I am in profound disagreement with him today, and no doubt I shall be in profound disagreement with him on many other matters. But I know that he has become obsessed with the trade union aspects of this subject and, sadly, he refuses to recognise the dangers that arise from some of these changes.

Let me say a word about the National Union of Journalists. This is in the main a highly responsible body of men. I doubt whether there is a section of the community which is more concerned with the liberties of the country than are the journalists. Nor is there a body which has, through its membership been more active in preserving those liberties. But we have a situation in which the National Union of Journalists has 27,000 members and it would be unspeakable folly to entrust the right of deciding who is to publish in a newspaper to 27,000 people, if it were 27,000 people who were concerned.

The last thing I want to do is to prolong a quarrel with the National Union of Journalists, but I must draw your Lordships' attention to something that happened in relation to the union's attitude towards registering under the 1971 Act because it is extremely significant so far as concerns the argument about how far we can trust ourselves with a small union of this kind. I shall give the figures. After the 1971 Act had become law, the executive met to recommend that there should be a ballot to determine whether the union should register or deregister. That resolution was passed by 21 votes to 9, but the executive included the recommendation that in sending out the ballot papers it would express its own view that the union ought to deregister. It expressed its view and, as often happens, that view was rejected and, by 6,384 votes saying "Yes" to 3,807 votes saying "No", the union, through its membership, decided to register. Then what happened? The union holds an annual delegate meeting and at that meeting, by 298 votes to 82, the union decided that it would not register. So the ballot was totally ignored. Then there was dissension and upset on the part of the membership and they demanded, as it were, a recount and asked for further discussions and meetings. At the further meeting, the position was maintained by 171 votes to 160. Therefore, if I may say so, we are being invited by the noble Lord, Lord Houghton, and by the Secretary of State in the House below, to entrust our fortunes to 11 votes or, to be scrupulously fair—though I have no reason to be so —to 171 votes out of the 27,000 members of the Union.

Does that really make sense, and can we really accept all the pious assurances in Mr. Michael Foot's article that we should be wrong to pay attention to the resolutions of the annual delegate meeting and that they all mean nothing and are all froth? Should we believe that the people who are really running the union are the kindly, benevolent souls like Mr. Kenneth Morgan?—and indeed he is kindly and benevolent, and a more honourable man one will not find. I met him last night at the splendid lecture organised by the noble Lord, Lord Bernstein, and I wish that everyone on the Government Benches had attended that lecture because Mr. Roy Jenkins said all that I need to say, and said it with great courage. He made a point that is rarely made: we talk about a free Press as if it were some abstraction plucked out of the air and obtaining some common denominator of freedom that operates all over the newspapers. There is no such thing. A free Press is the right to have enough newspapers to publish everyone's viewpoint. The moment one reduces the number of newspapers, one reduces the freedom of the Press. If the number of papers is reduced to one or two, the freedom of the Press is destroyed. It cannot continue to exist.

There are no rules that can be put into a charter to tell a man how to edit a newspaper so that it expresses total impartiality. There are no such rules. There is no means of putting into a charter what the contents of a newspaper ought to do. What one has to do is to have a sufficient number of newspapers to correct and put to right the faults that one editor may insert into his newspaper. Without that, there is disaster. Mr. Jenkins recognised that fact as few recognise it, unless they happen to be experts in the field and have been watching it and thinking about it for years. I venture to suggest to your Lordships that the necessity is that we should preserve a sufficiency of newspapers by preserving sufficient freedom for sufficient people to publish in them.

How can any union say in relation to professional writers that it is going to choose a professional member—one who has paid up his dues? I touched on this point in my last speech and made a rather dubious joke about it; but the point is, how can any union tell an editor who he is to substitute for the expert writing of a man who has the talent which he has developed, God knows how? Nobody knows how a writer develops, and the skill and genius of writing has nothing to do with political systems and nothing to do with financial rewards. Rich men make good writers and poor men make poor writers, and vice versa. In tyrannies there are great writers. It is a strange thing that in the despotism of the Russian Czarist régime some of the greatest writers in the world existed. In the freedom in many democratic States there is not a word that is readable. No one can explain this except the Almighty. But once one starts regulating writers with trade union regulations one will destroy every glimmer and every spark of genius and creativity that exists.

To address myself specially to the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson, who made an appeal to me, this is not a trade union matter. This is not a matter where we are concerned in the slightest in restricting any rights in relation to trade unions. I am no enemy to trade unions. Only yesterday, a letter appeared on my desk from a trade union asking me to become their ombudsman. I may say that I should be very chary of accepting the offer, knowing the amount of work that it would involve, but I regarded it as one of the greatest compliments I have ever received. But that trade union would realise quite well the difference that exists in this matter: it would see that, if a man can write and has something to say, nothing is put in the way of his being able to do that. The suggestion that one can deal with this by a code of practice is, if I may say so with the greatest respect, egregious nonsense. It is nothing else, and it has to be so described.

If I may turn to the charter proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Houghton, I would point out with no direspect at all that he says that he has a document that will be evolved in agreement between the parties connected with the industry. There is not the remotest chance of any such agreement being achieved. We will sit down and we will try very hard, but I do not believe that the people who are aspiring to have the sort of rights of which they already have a promise and of which they already have an anticipation— they have tasted the heady wine of the power that they will be able to exercise— will release the prospect of that power and return to normal democratic processes. I do not believe that but, in any event, we will negotiate, however, if we have this charter, and assuming that we are able to reach agreement, we are told that it is to have a purely persuasive effect and that in any court or tribunal the charter may be called in aid to influence the court in deciding exactly how all the parties ought to have behaved. But what are the proceedings? What court will be able to be invoked? The Act provides that a man can be expelled from a union with no explanation, no trial, no redress. When is he to invoke this particular right? Supposing it had the slightest value, in to what court is he to call it in aid? Into what procedings is he to call it in aid?

There is the remote possibility that the Common Law—and I do not know if there are any Law Lords present, so I shall be rather circumspect in saying what I am going to say, being about to air a view on the progression of the law, though not in the least offensively—was groping towards something like the right to work. One or two cases emerged in the Common Law; one was the case of a lady trainer who obtained a judgment against the Jockey Club, which had stopped her from working, and there was another case in which the same sort of possibility was beginning to emerge in a groping way. But nobody knows how that will emerge and nobody knows if that right will not have been obliterated and destroyed by this Act. And that is all. That is the only prospect of any attempt to invoke the law on behalf of somebody who has been excluded from a union. What is the use of this persuasive section? On this subject, I should like to hear the noble Lord, Lord Houghton, explain why he thinks it can have the slightest benefit.

Hence, we have ventured to make some amendments which, as I have said, are of the mildest possible character. We have accepted the structure and framework of a charter. We have preferred the word "charter", because that indicates the existence of rights and we have inserted in that charter four matters which will be mandatory. One is the freedom of the editor. Much has been said on this and I do not think it is necessary to say another word, except that unless an editor is free from pressures—union and all other pressures—he cannot be a successful editor. If a proprietor exerts pressures, he pays the inevitable price of having a bad newspaper. Hence it is very rare indeed, over the most recent years, that proprietors have exerted such pressures, because they know that they will lose an editor of quality. We have recently been joined in this House by a very great editor, and I suggest that it would be a brave proprietor indeed who would endeavour to exert pressure on him in these matters. It is not that the proprietor will not have the right to do it. It is simply that if he respects his commercial property, he will have the sense not to do it. In fact, he will have the sense to recognise that that editor will disappear and go next door.

What if anyone else tries to exert these pressures? What about advertising pressures? Nobody will, I think, deny that advertising has some effect and must in some way influence the content of a newspaper, but it would be a very skilful man with a very discerning, microscopic eye who could read a newspaper and say, "That paragraph was dictated by the advertiser." I think it is rare that an advertiser would have the effrontery to suggest any direct influence. I do not say that newspapers are infallible. They are fallible human institutions with human faults and in many personal matters perhaps they do not behave too well, but the Government set up a Press Commission to consider all this.

Why are we racing ahead with a measure which will preempt every possibility of the Press Commission preserving these rights when the Commission has just started its work again under a distinguished new chairman? What is the point of that? I submit that the Amendment which I propose to the Amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Houghton of Sowerby, is reasonable, that it should be accepted by the Committee without a Division, and that it is desperately necessary. It is necessary because, for some reason, it has been decided to proceed on the basis of total consistency, and this, I suggest, is another fault of the Secretary of State. This may sound a very excusable fault. I think that what he has said to himself is, " We must have the same treatement for everyone. If we are to have a closed shop, everyone must have a closed shop."

There is a kind of Teutonic thoroughness about this approach which might commend itself to a number of people, except that it is totally demented that one should seek to apply a Teutonic thoroughness to writers which has the same relevance and the same kind of effect as it will have to machine grinders or whatever operation is necessary, important and is carried on in shops under the control and supervision of trade unions. A writer is no better than a working man in some other capacity. A writer makes no such claim. He is just different. I am not making my claim on the ground that he is an intellectually superior person. He may write the utmost rubbish or pornography, or what he writes may be touched with divine inspiration; but whatever he writes, it is totally different from the activity of the people who are concerned with and affected by this measure.

I make a final plea to the Leader of the House. I hope he will respond to the invitation I extend, so that we may still have a further opportunity of considering the implications of this Bill. It will do much more credit in the light of history to the Labour Party and the Government if they accept my Amendment and concede the claim that is being made by honest and anxious voices in all parts of the country than if they inexorably force through this legislation in the belief that, by achieving an improvement in trade union status, they are achieving an improvement in journalistic and literary status. What I have said applies equally to broadcasting, radio, independent broadcasting and to the BBC. It applies to every creative activity. I hope that we may be able to reach a compromise that will leave an issue of this kind happily unresolved by any politicial decision, so that it can never be said in future years that the liberty of the Press was lost or gained by the vote of any section of any political Party in this House or elsewhere. I beg to move.

6.17 p.m.


I think it might be for the convenience of the Committee if I were to intervene at this stage and explain the position of Her Majesty's Government in relation to the two Amendments that are before the Committee. To the noble Lord, Lord Goodman, I say that I count myself fortunate to have been born an optimist, because during the earlier part of his speech I became rather depressed, but I became more hopeful as I listened to the noble Lord's latter remarks. On Second Reading I went to great pains to deal at some length with the problem that has emerged on this Bill regarding the freedom of the Press.

I said then, and I say again, that we are discussing the freedom of the Press in the wrong context, and the noble Lord, Lord Goodman, mentioned this. I made it clear that the Government were as anxious as anyone not only to maintain the freedom of the communications media but, if possible, to improve it. I have no doubt that that freedom can be maintained and, above all, be accepted by the reader and the listener only when the amount of Government intervention and the application of law are limited to the very minimum.

If one accepts that, one will appreciatae the reluctance of the Government to include in this Bill, which is about labour relations, matters concerning the media. We have, however, said that, should the Royal Commission on the Press give reason, the Government would not hesitate to legislate. But we would then have the advantages of a close investigation, a studied report and time to give thought and consultation for the right kind of legislation based on the principles of the freedom of the Press.

I acknowledge the concern in your Lordships' Committee and I recognise the realities of the situation. Equally, those who hold strong views will, I hope, accept that the Government's reluctance to depart from the views we have expressed here and in another place are for genuine reasons and are firmly based on the freedom of the Press. It seems to me, having studied the debates, the articles written and the conversations I have held, that the basic fear is not about the present but of possible events of the future. If that is so, is there not a case for going more slowly on the firm assurance that if the Royal Commission were to report and legislation were required, then we could legislate specifically for the freedom of the Press and not in the context of a trade union and labour relations measure?

That is what I would prefer and would urge on the Committee for consideration. An added reason for delay is the very helpful report of the meeting over the weekend of the executive of the NUJ. I should have thought that there is now enough common ground for the industry to work out their own agreement and I will return to this later in my remarks. If, however, the Committee are not content with that situation, then we must consider the series of proposals before the Committee.

I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Houghton, and the noble Lord, Lord Goodman, for letting me have advance sight of their Amendments. The Houghton Amendment, if I may refer to it as such, has been in my possession some days and I can give a considered reply. As regards the Goodman Amendment, again if I may use this shorthand to refer to it as such, I had sight of it officially only late on Friday and, therefore, for obvious reasons, will express a provisional view. I shall also give careful consideration to the speech that the noble Lord, Lord Good-man, has just delivered.

The Government have consistently taken the line that it would be wrong to amend the Bill to make special provision for the Press by way of specifying that certain people, that is, editors, should not be covered by union membership agreements. This view is supported by a number of arguments. First, closed shops are not compulsory. There is no legislation that requires this. Secondly, the history of legislation on closed shops is far from encouraging. The experience of the Indus-trial Relations Act confirmed the judgment of the Donovan Report when it said that prohibition of the closed shop must be rejected. Thirdly, the Bill touches specifically on the closed shop in journal-ism (and "therefore on the freedom of the Press) in only a very limited way, because it had to deal with the question of unfair dismissal in the closed shop situation.

When the Bill was debated at Report stage in another place, the Secretary of State repeated what he had told the editors of the London newspapers—and my noble friend Lord Houghton of Sowerby referred to it—that is, that it would be difficult to deal with the matter by legislation, but that if the parties concerned wished to see an industrial agreement backed by some form of enactment in a code of practice, the Government would be prepared to consider that possibility. He emphasised —and I repeat it—that such a procedure might well add to the authority of such a document. The Government did not have in mind an Amendment to the Bill of the kind which my noble friend Lord Houghton has now proposed in order to achieve this. There might well have been other ways of doing this—for example, by an Amendment to the existing Code of Industrial Relations Practice under the Trade Union and Labour Relations Act.

Nevertheless, there are some advantages in the approach which my noble friend Lord Houghton has adopted. It makes clear—and I should like to stress this— that the responsibility for drawing up a code rests with those concerned in the industry. It gives specific recognition to the importance of Press freedom in the Statute dealing with labour relations, but at the same time puts any code made relating to the Press on the same footing as the existing code; that is, a transgression of the code could not of itself give rise to proceedings before a court or an industrial tribunal, but if the code is relevant to proceedings taken on the basis of another statutory provision the code would be admitted as evidence, and taken into account by the tribunal or court.

Of course the talks within the industry came to an untimely end when a majority of those concerned decided that they would be prepared to discuss the framing of a charter to safeguard the freedom of the Press only if the Press was excluded from the provisions of this Bill and refused, with the exception of the NUJ representatives, to agree to try to formulate a charter irrespective of what went in the Bill.

One reason why I can welcome the main part of my noble friend's Amendment is that it places the emphasis on the need for the industry to come to an agreement acceptable to all sides. The Government's doubt about the Amendment centres on subsection (3). This places the possibility for producing a code on the Secretary of State, if the industry does not produce one in six months. I can appreciate why my noble friend proposes this, but this is not really a task for Government at all as my noble friend Lord Houghton himself recognises in subsection (1) of his Amendment.

The whole question of union membership agreements—once the basic legal definitions have been made as flexible as possible—and the principles which might govern their application in particular industries is a matter best decided by industry. Moreover, it is quite alien to our traditions for the Government to be laying down what has to be done in relation to the freedom of the Press. It may be relevant to point out that the Inter-national Federation of Journalists has taken the view that codes of ethics for journalists are to be encouraged, but it has deplored the possibility of their being imposed by the State because of the risk that this could lead to unwelcome interference. I am sure that my noble friend—


I am sorry to interrupt the noble Lord, but is he saying that the International Federation of Journalists has approved a suggestion that no one can write for a newspaper unless he is a member of a single union?


What I said was that the Federation had said that the codes of ethics for journalists are to be encouraged, but it has deplored the pos-sibility of their being imposed by the State because of the risk that this could lead to unwelcome interference. I should have thought that that is clear enough.


I am very loth to insist upon this, but it is a matter of very great importance: the suggestion that the proposal of the Government is approved by an immensely important international institution. I must ask again, very specifically: is it suggested that it is approved by that institution that no one should write for a newspaper unless he is an accepted member of a single union, from which he can be expelled without reason or trial? Is that approved by that institution, because if it is I should be extremely—


I think that the noble Lord is, if I may say so, making a debating point. To the best of my knowledge the codes of ethics of the Federation are similar to those of the NUJ. What I was seeking to establish, in reference to the International Federation of Journalists, is its fear and reluctance to any imposition being put upon the media by legislation of the State, and I should have thought that all those in your Lordships' House would have accepted that—


May I interrupt the Minister? I apologise for doing so, but if I may comment on what the noble Lord, Lord Goodman, has said, is it not the case that last weekend the executive of the National Union of Journalists declared the right of access to any person, not limited to members of the union?


Perhaps I may continue dealing with my noble friend's Amendment. I am sure that he has not made his proposal for any reason other than a desire to see that a sensible code emerges after not too great a lapse in time, and I am certain that he would wish to place the emphasis not on what the Secretary of State might do, but on the need for the industry to build on the useful start which some of those within it have made. I have heard expressed some doubt about my noble friend's Amendment, about whether the six months is in fact too short a time to allow the industry to finalise an agreement. If the Committee felt that this is so, we could consider the point. Personally I should hope, given the existing good will, and putting aside set positions, and led by men of determination, an agreement could be finalised in a short period of time.

Therefore despite the doubts that I have expressed about the desirability of the Secretary of State being involved in the way proposed, we welcome the Amendment as a whole in the hope and expectation that all those concerned in the industry will see their way to playing their part in the creation of a useful agreement.

I now turn to the Amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Goodman. For reasons I have already explained, the views I now express can only be provisional. I should at the outset make clear that the Amendment is not acceptable to the Government in its present form. A number of points apparently basic to the noble Lord's Amendment cut completely across the line of approach hitherto taken by the Government. The effect of subsection (2) would make talks within the industry much less meaningful because it lays down the ends to be achieved in advance. This is a very different approach from that hitherto adopted by the Government, and also from that in the Amendment by Lord Houghton. The aim has been to build the maximum flexibility into the law. The Bill legalises closed shops, but does not make them compulsory. It is for industry to work out where closed shops are thought to be appropriate, the conditions on which they should be made, and where employees should be covered.

Lord Goodman's Amendment appears to be designed to exclude editors from any obligation to join a trade union. This is putting editors into a very special position indeed. The Government arc not necessarily in favour of editors joining a union, but are not satisfied that this is a matter which should be prescribed by law. Moreover, noble Lords may notice that the noble Lord, Lord Goodman, would give this right to "other persons exercising editorial responsibilities." This could run very wide indeed. I wonder whether the noble Lord, when he winds up, will give some indication as to whom he has in mind.

The Amendment would also give journalists the right to join a trade union of their choice. This is effectively outlawing the closed shop in journalism. The noble Lord shakes his head and indicates that this is not his intention; but that is my view. I wonder whether the noble Lord would consider particularly the implication of paragraph (b) of Amendment No. 17, because it appears to us that this is a legal ban on the closed shop on journalism.

While I would certainly hope and expect that editors will be free to publish articles free from pressure by industrial action, I have to ask whether this is the right way of going about this aim. It seems to me that there are much better ways of doing this than by laying down a right, subject to the legal penalties in Amendment 28. The NUJ made it clear that they are against censorship and the General Secretary has explained that it distinguishes between the blacking of articles written by non-members when there is a dispute, and discrimination against particular articles which are contrary to the union's code of conduct.

It seems to me from what they have written to Mr. Frank Owens, the Presi- dent of the Guild of British Newspaper Editors, and to Mr. Hetherington, that we can meet many of the fears of the editors towards the NUJ. There are many other matters in the noble Lord's Amendment which we shall need to examine with very great care.

My initial reading of Lord Goodman's Amendment is that he is, in effect, making a substantive statutory right, be-cause Amendment 28 lays on everybody a clear statutory duty to comply with the provisions of the charter. Breach of the duty seems to be actionable whether or not it arises from industrial action, which is given a very wide meaning in Amendment 29. I would be rash if I now made more than a general comment on what is obviously a very complex piece of drafting, which could well on further examination raise some important legal questions. But I have to ask whether noble Lords, including the movers of the Amendment, are certain that the way to achieve the aim of Press freedom is really to insist on legal provisions of this kind.

I therefore hope very much that Lord Goodman will reconsider his Amendment —and I am willing to have further discussions with him—because it seems to be changing the idea of a Code or Charter into something very different. It is per-haps not unfair to say that it is using the concept of the Code or Charter to make basic changes in the law. I hope that particularly in the light of developments over the week-end, the noble Lord will give further consideration to his Amendment.

What should we do this evening? I have expressed a cordial welcome to the Amendment of my noble friend. It was not one that we had in mind; but it seems to provide a base on which we may be able to build and to extend certain of the provisions of the noble Lord's Amendment at a later stage of the Bill in order to meet some of the points that the noble Lord has in mind. Therefore, I hope that the Committee will agree to accept the Amendment of my noble friend on that basis.

To the noble Lord, Lord Goodman, I would say that he has moved a very complex Amendment. It raises a number of difficult issues; but I want to say this particularly to him. I believe that there is a real possibility in the Press industry and in the media for finding a solution, an agreement and settlement that is satisfactory to all sides. I cannot conceive of anything better in the interests of the freedom of the Press than that all the guardians of the freedom of the Press could agree. I think that agreement is more likely if we use the time between now and the Third Reading of the Bill to explore, examine and negotiate an agreement within the industry.

The noble Lord is a very determined man. I will not call him " Mr. Fixer "— although I gather that to some he is known as such—but he has undoubted ability to bring different sides together to find a solution. If the noble Lord, Lord Goodman, could set his heart and mind to this, then, so far as the Government are concerned, we shall do all we can to help. I hope that the noble Lord and this Committee will believe that the freedom of the Press depends on the guardians of all sections of the Press working towards that agreement. I believe it is possible; I believe we should use Lord Houghton's Amendment as the basis. I am still optimistic that a solution can be found.

6.40 p.m.


Many references have been made in this debate to the 1971 Industrial Relations Act. I should like to call the attention of the Committee to some of the problems that the Labour Government of 1964-70 had to face with their industrial disputes legislation. I agree with my Party in many respects, but I never could be convinced" that Mr. Harold Wilson, our Prime Minister in the 1964–70 Parliament, was wise in trying to force certain aspects of industrial legislation down the throats of the trade unions. It seems to me a self-evident truth that if a law is passed in such a form that an individual railwayman, miner or engineer refused to obey it and, in consequence, a fine was imposed that from that follows imprisonment if there is a refusal to pay the fine, then you need only have one railwayman, engineer or miner jailed, and you have the whole industry out. I thought in that 1964–70 Parliament we should have learned the lesson that there are some areas in industrial relations that you cannot deal with by legal methods. It is much more complicated than that.

It seems to me sheer madness for any-one now to think that we can solve the extremely complicated relationships between newspaper proprietors, editors, journalists and the rest by enforcing law over the whole field. It can be done over certain parts, yes—because, as the noble Lord, Lord Goodman, said, there are historical issues involved. If I may say so, I thought the most eloquent part of his speech came when he talked about the struggle by which the trade union movement had achieved the right to exist at all, and when he talked about the right to have any kind of freedom of the Press. These are great historical issues, and therefore we approach this problem differently on either side of the Committee.

Of course, the noble Lord, Lord Goodman, cares passionately about the freedom of the Press. Nothing could seem to him, or to the rest of us, more barbaric than that anyone should be pre-vented from writing or talking freely. But what do we mean by the " freedom of the Press"? Do we mean the freedom of a limited number of newspaper proprietors to have things all their own way? The noble Lord, Lord Goodman, said that they do not get everything their own way nowadays, and that they do not even try. He said that it is now the editor who can fly freely. I hear noises on my left: I do not want to embarrass anyone, but I think that anyone in this Committee who has had the experience of editing a paper knows perfectly well that editors are not self-employed and do not operate in a vacuum. One does not expect, for instance, the editor of the Daily Telegraph to put the Communist point of view very eloquently or adequately, and one does not expect the editor of the Morning Star to put the Conservative point of view very eloquently or adequately.

I agree that one thing we have in this country, which is precious, is a number of different newspapers. Unfortunately, they are becoming fewer. There is no such thing as an abstract and complete freedom of the Press. Of course there will be pressures from the people who give the money; of course there will be pressures, direct or indirect, from newspaper owners. Of course there will be pressures from journalists. All that is happening now is that in journalism, as in everything else, the men and women who are earning their living there are insisting on having a larger say than they have had in the past. Perhaps in an imperfect world the best we can hope for is to have a diversity of newspapers. I should like to see a greater diversity than we have now.

You can be relatively complacent if you are a sound Tory, because you get a very good share of the Press; the Communist Party manages to keep a daily newspaper, but the poor old Labour movement has never been able to keep a newspaper. Perhaps one of the reasons why the Daily Herald went under was that some of the same restrictions, operating in every other newspaper, operated there. And the point of view with which I have been associated with all my life, and which I still hold, never had a very big say in any official Labour journal! So it is just as well to keep in mind that there are differences of view within Parties, as well as between Parties, and the nearest we can get to making this abstract phrase "the freedom of the Press" a reality is by having as much diversity as possible.

Because I think along those lines, I would most certainly not want to see the National Union of Journalists having a monolithic control over the entire Press; and the British public would not stand for that. But there is no indication, so far as I can see, that the National Union of Journalists is so out of touch with reality that it is asking for any such privilege. It is asking that there should not be fragmentation. As my noble friend Lord Douglass of Cleveland, who knows so much about this subject, said, the fellows earning their living nowadays try to put into practice the song we all sang and the slogan on the banners we marched behind—" Solidarity for ever ". Union is strength, and we know the price we have paid in the past; first, when no union at all was allowed, and then when small struggling unions came into existence.

Much admiration has been given to the American system, where there is the industrial union. We did the Germans proud after the Second World War, because we gave them a brand new trade union movement along the lines of industrial unionism. We have a different system in this country. We have a lot of social furniture inherited from the past and any trade union leader has an extremely difficult, complex and sensitive job to do in dealing with the different interests within his union, as well as between unions. Therefore, remembering the experience of the 1964–70 Labour Government, and much as I admire the eloquence of the noble Lord, Lord Goodman—and usually he manages to convince me—I am not convinced that we shall promote freedom of the Press by trying to make certain matters in this difficult area compulsory by law.

The most hopeful aspect of the situation is that the National Union of Journalists has moved in the last few days, and I hope that the proprietors are also moving. They realise that they can no longer be complete dictators. It is nonsense to think that editors are going to operate in a vacuum. There has to be some kind of modus vivendi nowa-days and I believe that a code of conduct must be voluntary; we have to play it by ear. I have heard my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Employment say to others that he would be. prepared to consider the position not just for six months but even for a year, in order to see whether the noble Lords, Lord Goodman, Lord Houghton and others could get together and work out a code of practice which would make it possible for us to have at least the maxi-mum diversity in freedom. The National Union of Journalists said just the other day: The Union also want to consider creating a special form of membership for specialists writers and others who at present are not eligible for full union membership. So I take it that the situation is that if you are earning your living as a journalist you belong to the National Union of Journalists, and if you are a specialist writer and earn only part of your living that way you will not be excluded.

We have very difficult areas here to clarify, but I would say to your Lordships that we ought to have learned from the experience of the 1964–70 Labour Government, when there was an almost permanent divorce between my colleagues on the trade union front and those on the political front. There are certain things which cannot be dealt with by force. I was in America in the Prohibition years, as were many of your Lordships. You may think it is a very good thing and very democratic that the majority of member of a Government decide to do something and then carry it through. But it brings the law into disrepute if, when you are dealing with something which intimiately affects a very large number of people, you try to legislate in a way which will not be implemented.

We all know the difficult problems that have been created in the past by that; we know about the stills, the Mafia and the underground. There is a certain parallel here, and I think that if we were to approach this issue tentatively we would not get a perfect Press. But when you compare what we have with what can be found in any dictatorship, whether it is Fascist or Communist, there is much to be said for our Press, with all its faults. And I wish it would stop giving all those prizes to criminals and brigands and the rest. We need a code of conduct not only for who is to write for the Press but for some of the material that appears in the Press; but perhaps all that can come. However, I am deeply convinced that it will only come tentatively, and it will come only by our feeling our way in those sensitive areas where it is quite clear that something cannot be done by legislation.


May I make one point to the noble Baroness before she sits down? She wails the demise of the Daily Herald. But is the noble Baroness aware that, so far as I have always been told, the reason why the Daily Herald went out of circulation was that it would not accept any contributions from anyone who was not a member of the National Union of Journalists? That is what I have always understood.


The only people from whom it did not accept contributions were those who had my political point of view.


The Daily Herald often published material from people who were not members of the NUJ. It was a question of whether they belonged to the Labour Party or had its views, but not whether they were members of the NUJ. The noble Viscount has it wrong.


May I add a line as as editor of the Daily Herald at one time? Our regular weekly columnist was Mr. Michael Foot.

6.53 p.m.


May I begin by thanking my noble friend the Leader of the House for his broad and generous support of the Amendment to which I am now going to speak. The noble Lord, Lord Goodman, made, as he nearly always does, if not always, a very scintillating speech which fascinated me, but which, I must admit, did not wholly convince me. I want to take issue with him on a certain number of matters. He said that the Secretary of State—I think these were his words—was obsessed with the trade union aspect of this matter. But I think it fair to say that the noble Lord, Lord Goodman, does not pay nearly enough attention to the trade union aspect of this matter which is, after all, in a trade union Bill. It is natural to think of the trade union aspect of problems in such a Bill. I was interested in the point made by my noble friend the Lord Privy Seal, that we might have special legislation concerning the freedom of the Press in a context separate from this Bill, so that it was not mixed up with trade union matters but could then be thought of in its own right and settled in its own right.

Of course, Lord Goodman is right that there are some aspects of the Press, journalists, broadcasters and so on, which differ from aspects of other work. But there are special aspects of many other industries. One could make something of the same case, or a corresponding case, for many other industries. We cannot discriminate against one or two unions in regard to the closed shop, picking them out from all other unions and all other industries. Certainly we cannot, as Lord Goodman seemed to imply, pick on them because they might have a small majority. That is what the noble Lord said: everything could be settled in the Press by a very small majority because they once had a small majority.


I hesitate to interrupt the noble Lord, but that is not what I said. I said they had a ballot in which there was a vast majority in favour of one course which was set aside by a tiny group of gentlemen by voting with a tiny majority. That is very different. It means that no one is safe to rely on the democratic process of that union, which is a fraud.


I agree with what the noble Lord said first, but I was concentrating on what he said second, which he seemed gravely to object to and to think very dangerous: that something was settled by a very small majority in the end. If I misunderstand him, I will leave that point. It seemed to me that that was what he said, even when he interrupted me. I thought there was one curious omission in the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Goodman, in that he did not refer at all to the recent resolutions of the executive council of the National Union of Journalists, who voted for the rights of the editor not to join a union, not to be compelled or pressed to do something he does not want, and on excess for outsiders. I may say that our code does the same.

I of course agree with my noble friend the Lord Privy Seal that, if agreement could be obtained by all the parties, it would be the best thing; but the noble Lord, Lord Goodman, said there was no chance of agreement. And, after all, although Lord Goodman does not speak for anybody, he kept on saying in his speech, "we", not "I". I think he knows well what are the chances of agreement. I am afraid that the chances of getting what the Lord Privy Seal wanted are rather small. The noble Lord also raised in respect of our Amendment the danger of bringing in the State through the Secretary of State's ultimate duty to impose a code. I fully see that there is great danger of bringing the Government into any kind of industrial matter. On the other hand, it seems to me that it is so important to obtain a code of the kind we want that we ought to have in the Bill some kind of guarantee that it would come about one way or another. If it is thought that six months is not long enough, of course we would all agree to have what-ever my noble friend thought was the proper length of time.

I believe the main issue that the noble Lord, Lord Goodman, was concerned about was whether a code had the force of law. He objected to ours because it did not, and he wants to amend it in such a way that it would have, at any rate to a greater degree, the force of law. One can also, none the less, criticise his own Amendments in respect of the kind of code that our code would become if these Amendments were carried. There is a limit to what one can do by the force of law in any field, and there is a particular limit to what can be done by the force of law in a trade union field. I do not understand, for instance, how Lord Goodman sees his subsection 17(c) could be enforced. This difficulty applies to the very important Section 28. It seems to me that the only way that a court could enforce its view, if it were defied in respect of an injunction or some such thing, would be to put people in prison. This is always a fatal thing to do. I can-not see how the noble Lord, Lord Goodman, has not yet grasped that. If in the last resort one has to put men in prison over an industrial matter—I do not mean other things—it is fatal. It absolutely leads to self-defeat. He would not get what he wanted ; and no one would then ever again take the matter to the court and then this clause—


I hesitate again to interrupt the noble Lord, but I think we ought to know what he is saying. Is he saying there are no circumstances in which the law should be enforced in order to protect the outraged rights of a citizen by sending somebody to prison? Is that what he is saying?


No, of course not. If I steal something or if I pickpocket from the noble Lord or if I commit any other such crime, of course I am properly sent to prison, as indeed I am if I drive in a drunken state or do something like that. I am speaking about an industrial trade union matter. It is in that field that we have, by sad experience, learnt that this course does not pay and is not enforceable. Of course, I am not saying—how could he believe I was saying?—what he suggested I was saying. Of course I believe that people should be put in prison when found guilty of offences. I would think the court would have no choice but to put people in prison under the noble Lord's code—it would have no choice if it were defied. But it would not be right; or it would be right in one sense, but highly unwise and imprudent.

As regards the enforcement clause, or the lack of an enforcement clause, in our code, I would point out to noble Lords that the phrase in our code is exactly the same as the phrase in the Code in the 1971 Act. That Act, after all, was the great example of law bursting in upon trade union matters Yet, although the then Government did everything they should not do concerning the Industrial Relations Court and so on, they did not think the code should be given the kind of legal force that the noble Lord. Lord Goodman, wants. May I ask the noble Lord to think about that. Even if the creators of the 1971 Act did not want to give their code enforceability in his sense, it is surely wise not to go in any respect beyond that Act.

I think the noble Lord, Lord Goodman, admitted that he is not against the Bill. What he is primarily against is the fact that it does not make special provision for journalists. He is also against the fact that the National Union of Journalists has changed its attitude. Neither of these facts has anything to do with this Bill. In any case, that kind of argument could be applied to all kinds of trade unions. Finally, may I say to the noble Lord, Lord Goodman, that it is clear that both of us want a code. The noble Lord wants a different code, but both of us want a code to go into the Bill. If, however, the noble Lord's charter as he prefers to call it, is passed into law —in other words, if his Amendments are carried—there is great danger—


If these Amendments are carried in this House.


Yes; I mean what we are now doing. If that happens, there is great danger that we will have no code and no charter. The noble Lord, Lord Goodman, realises that and says that he does not mind if that happens. I hope that noble Lords will not agree with him about this. It is extremely important to get a code which, in all probability, will be acceptable to another place and to the Government, rather than that for the sake of some principle we should get no code at all. If the charter of the noble Lord, Lord Goodman, is agreed to, there is no hope that the other place will accept it.

Unless a code is put into the Bill in this House, the other place will not be able to discuss any code. This Bill has gone through all the processes that are possible in the other place. Unless, there-fore, we insert a code that is likely to be acceptable to the Government, the other place will be unable to incorporate a code into this Bill. If the charter of the noble Lord, Lord Goodman, were agreed to, there would be the same result because they would have no choice but to reject it; then there would not be a code in the Bill which the other place could accept. Of course, our code is a com-promise, and various noble Lords will have different views about it. The noble Lord, Lord Goodman, has fairly strong views. It is a compromise; therefore, not everybody will agree about it. How-ever, I submit to your Lordships that this is a case where one should consider that four-fifths of a loaf are better than no loaf at all.

7.3 p.m.


May I begin by making a small declaration of interest; namely, that occasionally I contribute to news-papers in this country without being a member of a trade union. It is not a very significant matter in my personal affairs, but I thought I should mention it. Although we all pay great tribute to the noble efforts of my noble friend Lord Houghton of Sowerby and my noble friend Lord Gordon-Walker, I must say that they do not remove the fears which I feel and which are felt by many of the people for whom I am speaking tonight. The real problem is one that has been touched upon but which Government spokesmen generally either gloss over or alternatively do not understand—I am never quite sure which; namely, that although it is true what journalists are part of an industry, they are also some-thing entirely different. They are very different from most of the similar examples which we can bring forward.

The general organisation, in the shape of unions, of persons from particular activities leads to some rather curious results. As your Lordships may have noticed, one of those rather curious results is the National Union of Students; they are considerably different from the National Union of Mineworkers. For example, if they go on strike it does not matter. In fact, it is clear and definite that their nominal reason for becoming a union has nothing to do with their function in society. In a certain sense, there is an analogy with the National Union of Journalists. One part of their function, one part of their activity, has no relationship whatever to industrial structure; it depends upon what the noble Lord, Lord Houghton of Sowerby, has called " the written word ", and the written word really does matter.

Although I do not like the word " freedom ", if we do not safeguard the freedom of the written word, and if we do not safeguard the part that it plays in our lives, it will be very easy to descend to a kind of moral squalor which is not unknown in the world and which could just as easily happen here. That is the reason for the sense of outrage which a number of persons who are known to your Lordships have felt about the treatment of this issue by the Government. It is the strongest single example of dissension from Labour policies which I have known in people who are, by tradition and by experience, wedded to them. I will try to mention to your Lordships some of the people who have felt most strongly this sense of outrage within the last three or four months—who have felt not only the lack of sensitivity, because they are used to living in a rough world, but the lack of even a rudimentary insight into what the problem is.

The first persons who have been professionally concerned are four of the most respected editors in London. All of them are men who are not illiberal; all of them are deeply respected in the profession. Their jobs do not depend upon this; their positions are secure. If necessary, there are many parts of the world where they can practise their vocation. Although the Government never seem to have realised it, they feel this need just as passionately as trade unionists feel their addiction to the closed shop. Unless that is made clear, we are talking like imbeciles.

The second group of people who feel this need just as strongly are the editors of professional journals, who, for various reasons, are almost always Labour sympathisers. The third group of people— here I am closer to my home ground— is the Society of Authors. None of the people who are concerned in the Society of Authors depends upon this for a penny. What they feel is that this is something which just cannot happen. One cannot have unions, however noble, dictating who or who should not be allowed to write in newspapers. It is a fundamental freedom that there must be a chance for Bernard Shaw and Walter Lippmann—people who were always on the periphery of journal-ism—to say their piece.


Would the noble Lord agree that the National Union of Journalists has said exactly the same things as he is saying now, and that it is a " bogey " which he is trying to put forward?


I shall come to that in one minute. When one is making a speech, one does not forget these things. In no circumstances that I can envisage could Walter Lippmann have fitted into any conceivable union structure in this country, yet he was probably the most influential journalist of our time. The fourth group of people are more important still. They are some of the most distinguished pub-licists in this country, and one name that I shall pick out is that of Mr. J. B. Priestley. He has probably done more than any politician in the country to make acceptable Labour Governments of our present type. His influence, of both strength and fundamental good nature, has, from his early books to his wartime broadcasts and so on, been very strong indeed. He is as horrified about this as he is about anything in his political experience.

Hard-baked persons in Government can say, perfectly rightly, that this does not matter at all; this is not a matter of social forces; the number of persons concerned is trivial, and so on. I would say to them that that is a profound misjudgment. People who do not control votes, or mass forces or large organisations often form opinions which filter underground and in the long run have a decisive effect on human activity. I believe this indifference or unawareness of what a very large number of persons whom I will call inde-pendent writers are thinking, has been a quite extraordinary, and to me inexplicable, mistake. I know that the noble Lord, Lord Houghton, is trying to do something to rectify that position which has done great harm. I assure my noble friends on this side of the House that they probably do not realise what harm it has done. I have heard more bitter comments on this than anything since the last War.


My noble friend mentioned Walter Lippmann, J. B. Priestley, and others. Was he making an assessment before the statement made by the National Union of Journalists, when, as I said earlier, the union wanted to consider creating a special form of membership for specialist writers and others who at present are not eligible for full union membership? Would not J. B. Priestley, Walter Lippmann and others be eligible for full union membership? Would not J. B. Priestley, Walter Lippmann and others be eligible under that category?


That is the question which the noble Lord, Lord Gordon-Walker, has already asked me. It is not something which anybody making this speech would be likely to forget. This is a prospective fear, it is not a present fear. As far as I can judge, Mr. Ken Morgan has behaved throughout with admirable composure, very eloquently and with good sense. Of course, the statements of the National Union of Journalists' Executive have been noticed by everyone concerned. The people con-cerned are used to reading ; that is their life and they read quite carefully. But they know, very much more than Governments, how very rapidly these things can change. Normally they have travelled more and have lived in a number of countries and within ten years have seen perfectly decent societies and professional bodies of writers, and so on, pass into a drug-like sheltered state. It is not the present that we are thinking about; it is what is possible. Again, it is quite likely that this is only a small chance. But sane men do not take small chances about big risks and dangers. That is the problem.

Everyone I know agrees that at the moment the National Union of Journalists has an Executive which, in the main, would agree with most of the points we are making tonight. We all say that perhaps these things will not happen. But we have lived in this world. I have written to at least ten countries in Europe, and, in fact, we have seen with our own eyes how very easily things can slide unless there is one fundamental value, which is the value we are trying to preserve tonight. I have tried to get such comfort as I can—and it is very little—by asking friends from other countries how they manage their affairs. This is not a purely parochial matter but one which is common to every country in the Western World, and. in a backhanded way, to the Eastern World, too. I usually turn for counsel here to my Swedish friends who, on the whole, have developed the most highly articulated industrial organisation in Europe and the one which works the best, and whom no one can accuse of lacking respect for the major literary values. Unfortunately, there is a slight difference, because there is no closed shop in Sweden. Obviously I accept the closed shop as an historical fact, but it means that the Swedish analogy does not vork. They say that such difficulties are quite unthinkable. An editor in Sweden would normally belong to a union, but he has by tradition the kind of power that is, in some ways, rather greater than English editors would have. Since there is no closed shop the right to have out-side contributors does not arise. There is no problem there.

I confess that I can sec no easy comparisons, no easy remedies. But the important point is that we realise that there is a real danger, the final danger. We must not think that everything is for the best in the best of all possible worlds, that this country has a sacred dispensation for things always to go right and that in five years we shall all think this is an absurd scare. The matter is so important that I would far rather be over-anxious at this time than under-anxious. If the thing is once really guarded against then it is probably irreversible. We have seen that elsewhere. Therefore, if it comes to a vote, I shall vote for the charter proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Houghton, on the grounds not I think that four-fifths of a loaf is better than no bread but that one-tenth of a loaf is better than no bread, which is rather more the correct approximation.

But I confess I feel slightly that the wisdom of Sam Goldwyn enters. He once said that an oral agreement is not worth the paper it is written on. I have something of the same feeling about charters which are, in fact, expressions of good will. So I have no comfort. I am trying to speak for people with no political influence whatever who would, on the whole, be on this side of the Committee rather than on the other, but who feel most deeply on this matter, are really distressed and would work to help if there is the faintest possibility of producing either an agreed solution or one which is gently imposed.

7.18 p.m.

The Earl of DROGHEDA

I shall not make a speech, because I think that most of the remarks I would have made have already been made. I think your Lord-ships should realise the very great depth of feeling on this matter on the part of the editors of virtually all the national and the provincial Press, many periodicals and the editors of the broadcasting media. I have the greatest respect for these people. They do not speak with one voice at all; they have the most diverse political views and this is the first time in my recollection that I have seen a group of people come together feeling so deeply and strongly about anything. It may well be that their fears are ground-less, in which case I cannot see that one is giving very much away by letting them have some kind of legal recognition of their special position. The noble Lord the Leader of the House spoke about the possibility of discussions between now and the next stage of the Bill, and he said that something could be evolved. I very much hope that this will happen without our having to wait for six months, a year or longer for some code to be drawn up.

Finally, I should like to remind your Lordships of the existence of a union which has not been referred to at all; namely, the Institute of Journalists, which was registered in 1890 and is 20 years older than the National Union of Journalists. Although it has quite a number of members, they are few relative to the NUJ. It is certainly a union which would have to be recognised—or whatever the expression is—and be a specified union in the event that we come to that. But this union plays a major role and is registered under the 1974 Act.


The noble Lord, Lord Snow, referred to the Goldwynism that " oral agreements are not worth the paper they are written on ". He cannot have known the history of the fair wages clause which is now quoted up and down the land in every court. But there is no statutory force behind that clause. It is just a statement by George Isaacs in the House as to what fair wages should be. Nobody can plead against the fair wages clause.

I want to refer to only one point which has not so far been mentioned. In a Bill which gives the right of the closed shop to over 10 million trade unionists, one cannot outlaw 30,000 journalists. A great many journalists will see in this Bill a great many things that they desire. The opponents of the noble Lord, Lord Houghton, are the kind of people who want to outlaw journalists completely from the benefits of a closed shop—there is no question at all about that.


If I may interrupt my noble friend, I said specifically that that was not the case. I said that quite specifically and as clearly as I could speak, which is generally quite clearly.


The noble Lord did speak quite clearly but I still say, having studied the Bill, that the effect of the further Amendments is to put the National Union of Journalists outside the benefits of the Bill. There is no question about that, and if it is followed to its logical conclusion, instead of five dockers going to jail there will be five journalists.


If I may intervene for a moment, one of the great difficulties in your Lordships' House, because we have no Speaker, is that noble Lords cannot always see who is standing up to speak, but I know that my noble friend Lord Brockway has been struggling to get in for quite some time and I wonder whether—


I was about to preface my few remarks by saying that I very rarely speak or trouble your Lord-ships, and in this case I intend to speak for only a very few minutes. My own feeling is that it is most unfortunate that in this debate we should be considering two totally different things: one, good industrial (relations and, secondly, the freedom of the Press. I consider both to be important, although personally I happen to think the freedom of the Press is more important. Good industrial relaations affect those who are engaged in that particular industry; the freedom of the Press is one of our greatest national heritages—something of which we are all very proud and which affects not only those engaged in the preparation of newspapers but all citizens of this country; and the reason why considerable concern has been expressed in a great many quarters about this Bill is because it is feared, rightly or wrongly, that the freedom of the Press is in jeopardy.

I think that has been recognised in some of the speeches we have heard today, and in particular by the Secretary of State during the Third Reading in another place when he said that if, contrary to what he thought, the freedom of the Press was jeopardised by this Bill the Government would consider taking some steps to remedy that situation. That seems to me to be a complete fallacy. We are not concerned here today with establishing the freedom of the Press; we are concerned with preserving the freedom of the Press as it is in this country today, imperfect though it may be, and we have to face the fact that a great many people of varying shades of opinion, intelligence, education and outlook are quite genuinely and seriously concerned that if the Bill is enacted in its present form that historic freedom of the Press will be in jeopardy.

It is quite untrue, if I may say so to the noble Lord, Lord Pannell, to pose as a question that one cannot deny to a certain number of journalists the closed shop provisions which are being given to 10 million or 12 million other people. That may be one incidental effect of the Bill but it is not its purpose and object. It may be one unfortunate side effect of the Bill, but even so, in my opinion it is much less serious than the fear of a great many people that the freedom of the Press will be jeopardised.

May I say to the noble Lord, Lord Goodman, and to the noble Lord, Lord Houghton, that I am not very impressed with either the proposed code or the proposed charter. My own preference would be for the simple Amendment which was moved earlier to exclude journalists and editors from the provisions of this Bill in so far as it is a Bill dealing with industrial relations. Granted that there will be a necessity to deal with them at some time, I would have hoped that common sense would suggest to the Government, in view of the concern felt, that for the time being there should be excluded from this Bill any provisions relating to journalists or a closed shop in journalism, and not attempt, in a hurried, rushed atmosphere to produce either a code or a charter, about either of which it is quite obvious from the speeches that have been made today that a great deal more thought is required than anybody has yet been able to give to it. I hope that such a code or charter can be worked out in some agreed form that is acceptable not only to those intimately con-cerned, but also acceptable to the nation as a whole—the general public—who do not seem to me to be particularly represented in these meetings which are con-templated. If that is worked out satisfactorily, it will not be a difficult matter to have a short Bill (if it is so desired) giving this particular industry the same recognition and the same provisions about the closed shop as the Government are now suggesting on the not very realistic grounds of consistency.

The real justification, as has been put forward in another place and here, and by my noble friend just now, for including journalists and editors in this Bill about industrial relations, with all the damage that may be done to the freedom of the Press, is on the arid doctrinaire ground of consistency. That does not seem to be a good reason. If after a code or charter has been worked out it is still found desirable to amend this Bill by bringing in journalists, so be it, but I hope that the Government will reflect seriously on what has been said in this debate today and will be influenced by the generally sincerely-felt expressions of opinion throughout the country about the editors and the freedom of the Press that are inherent in the Bill as it now stands.

7.29 p.m.


In every speech that has been made during this debate reference has been made to the National Union of Journalists. Indeed, its attitude, its actions and its relation to free-dom of speech has been the dominant theme throughout the whole of the debate. Therefore, I think it appropriate that before the debate ends some expression should be given to this Com-mittee of the views of members of the National Union of Journalists. I must declare an interest. I joined the National Union of Journalists in 1910, and I am still a fully paid-up member.


They ought to give the noble Lord life membership!


I do not wish to address the Committee just to express my own personal views. This morning I discussed with the General Secretary of our union, Mr. Kenneth Morgan, the attitude of the union to the Amendments which we are now discussing. Mr. Morgan pointed out that the National Union of Journalists, like all trade unions, has a philosophic objection to State control, and that the union itself did not desire a State-imposed code of ethics. Never-theless, Mr. Morgan went on to say that in the first paragraph of the Amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Houghton of Sowerby, there is encouragement to the unions and the employers to get together and to work out a code of ethical conduct which both would accept. Mr. Morgan said that that was welcome, and that any State intervention would occur only if there were failure in that agreement between workers and employers. He quite evidently thought that agreement could be reached. He said finally that he regarded the Amend-ment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Houghton. as a reasonable Amendment, and one with which the union could live. I think the General Secretary of our union had real grounds for saying that an agreement could be reached between the organisations of the workers and of the employers, to maintain the freedom of the Press.

I had intended to read to the Committee the charter of a code of ethics adopted by our union last weekend. It is a quite remarkable document, not merely declaring in principle for the freedom of the Press, but entering into detail as to how such freedom might be maintained. I am not reading it only because of the lateness of the hour. I hope that Members of this Committee will see the document for themselves. It is one of the most remark-able documents that any trade union has ever issued. The very fact that the NUJ has endorsed such a plea for the freedom of the Press is surely ground for hoping that, as suggested in paragraph (1) of this Amendment, an agreement could be reached with their employers which would guarantee that freedom.

One or two other specific points were raised in the debate. The fear has been expressed by a recent speaker of pressure on editors, perhaps even intimidation. During the last weekend, the executive of our union declared quite clearly that the NUJ accepts free choice to the editor— properly defined as the person having legal responsibility for a publication— on whether he wishes to be a member of the union. The union is no longer insisting that every editor must be a member.

Fear has been expressed that the application of the closed shop to a newspaper would mean that those who are contributing to it would be prohibited from so doing unless they were members of the union. Last weekend our executive made our position quite clear on that. Our executive stated the commitment to free access to the Press for any person, con-sonant with the protection of the employment of the NUJ members. Surely, there are two spheres of contribution here. There is the journalist who is entirely engaged for a livelihood on his newspaper, and there is the specialist who contributes feature articles. The NUJ desires that that situation shall continue.

In the last few weeks, the National Union of Journalists has been very badly misrepresented. There is no one who desires the freedom of the Press more than the working journalists. For that reason, as the General Secretary of our union indicated, the union welcomes the Amend-ment which the noble Lord, Lord Houghton, has introduced.


I came here today with the express intention of voting for the Amendment of my noble friend Lord Houghton of Sowerby. It is still my intention, although I may say that after listening to many of the speeches I have become more and more worried. I should like to support the Amendment of my noble friend Lord Houghton, because I have great faith in his wisdom. He is a very wise man. I also support it because the Guardian has been particularly good on this question. In yesterday's leader column in the Guardian, it was pro-posed that we should go "softly, softly" on this.

I am in support of this Amendment because I see it as the only possibility for conciliation in this matter, and not because I am not passionately in favour of the freedom of the Press, which I do not understand as having anything very much to do with the industrial relations Bill. The irony of this is that when we were discussing the 1971 Industrial Relations Act, which was very complicated and which we opposed very strongly, there was the code of practice, which was a very small code and was so simple that any child could have under-stood it. I said that any child might have written it, it was so full of good intentions; it certainly had no teeth. It was compared with the Highway Code. These easy comparisons of codes, charters and the Highway Code convince me very little.

When I think of the freedom of the Press, I think of it in both national and international contexts. The freedom of the Press was well expressed by the Guardian today. I do not know whether noble Lords noticed, but the Guardian reported the verdict of a judge with which they greatly disagreed. The judge had reduced compensation to some children from £10,000 to £2,000. Then the judge —and I suppose this is what we call natural justice, or whatever we were talking about yesterday for so long—having reduced the amount from £10,000 to £2,000 added that the Press must not report it. The Guardian reported it. This is what the freedom of the Press means; it means just that. Noble Lords cannot really convince me that anything short of that is freedom.

Of course we do not like everything that newspapers write on the various subjects in which we are passionately interested; of course we disagree with them. All the same, let us consider if we did not have it, but instead we had what they have in Russia, or in Yugo-slavia where recently there occurred the case of a man who has been imprisoned for eight years because he published a small pamphlet. So when noble Lords talk about freedom of the Press as being only part of the Industrial Relations Bill, I really do not know what they are talking about; that is the truth. When the Press exercises freedom in the way that the Guardian exercised it today, against the law, against something that was expressed by a judge, that is the kind of freedom I can understand; not as in the United Nations, when people talk not of freedom of information but development of freedom of information, not of freedom of the Press but development of freedom of the Press. We know what we under-stand by "freedom of the Press". So as I say, I will support my noble friend's Amendment, because I see it as the beginning; it is a hope for some kind of way out of this dilemma which we have got into by mixing up industrial action with freedom of information.

7.45 p.m.


I must confess that I am still not satisfied. I have heard practically all that has been said through the two debates. I feel a bit tensed up about it. I feel as much tensed up about it as I did in my 'teens when I was sacked for helping form a union branch at the place where I worked. In those days we were remedying, or trying to remedy, social injustice of a sort that ran deep in some of us in the Colne Valley district of Yorkshire. I ran with papers for Victor Grayson in an Election pre-World War I, when my father was warned that if I ran again he would be sacked. My sincerity about this has been matched by the Minister. I do not previously remember Lord Shepherd expressing what he felt in so sincere a way as he has done tonight, and I am perfectly certain that somewhere behind what he said we are groping for a solu-tion. I was sacked again, for a second time, as an employer, when I came back from World War I, after being two and a half years in hospital after the war was over. There was a slump on. When I went for my old job back they said, " Don't you know there's a slump on? Don't you know about the unemployment? " I did not. For two and a half years I had lived the secluded life in a hospital of a patient suffering from war wounds. I went round for a job on two sticks.

I was made a capitalist whether I liked it or not, because I had to start my own business to keep myself going. That is where it all began. But some of us came under the influence of very important people. The important person that I remember was Seebohm Rowntree, and if your Lordships had ever read his Treatise on the poor of York I guarantee that you would have been, like me, moved to take some action. By then I had got a work force. I read his book on a Sunday, and on the Monday morning I called a meeting of my workpeople and said : " How many come under this category? " You will remember, those who have read the Treatise, the different categories related in it, spinsters who had to pay rent for a house and all that sort of thing. I raised my wages that week, and for it I was sacked out of the employers' association. So on one occasion I was sacked for asking for more money and on the second occasion I was sacked for paying more money. You cannot do right, can you?

We have got a kind of consensus coming through now, after we have been immersed in the debate for so long. Two strange things come out of it, as a kind of recurring theme or themes. One was mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, during the Second Reading debate, and it has been mentioned, once yesterday and once today, by the noble Lord, Lord Gordon-Walker, and that I would like some comment on, in reply. The feeling that we have, according to what has been said, is that you cannot make a law stick, not so much because it would be a bad law but because it would not be acceptable to a militant minority.

The other thing which comes through was raised by Lord Greene. He went to considerable pains to instruct this House in where the strength of the trade union movement lay, and it was on the shop floor. He said it last week and he said it yesterday. The nub of what we are talking about is that it is possible for a militant minority to grab power. We have seen it everywhere. Have not we seen the power riven away from the Commons by militant minorities? Of course we have, during this last 15 months; during and ever since the miners' strike of the winter of 1973–74 it has gone on. Take notice of what you are doing because this industry is quite different from any other. There is not another industry which moulds public opinion like the newspaper industry.

Some years ago I made a visit to Japan and was asked to speak at the Anglo-Japanese club in Osaka. I sat next to Baron Mitsui. He hissed to me during the lunch: " Why have you come to Japan "? I said, " To find out where power lies, Sir ". He said, " Power is in the hills, but the difficulty is to know which hill to climb ". The old so-and-so! So I said, " All the more important, Sir, that I should have a good guide ". So he hissed through his teeth with pleasure, and I knew it had registered. Nothing happened for a fortnight. Then I was waylaid at Canon Camera Co. The manager went a pale yellow when he knew who was waiting in an office at the side of the lens polishing department. He said, " Five gentlemen wish to speak to you ". I will not mention their names because they are members of the Zaibatsui, great industrial figures. Enough to say that five men sat there like sphynxes and I might just as well have been in a witness box because they said, " We want to ask you a question ". I said "What is it?" They said, " Why is it that we have not got public opinion in Japan like you have in England? "

Now let everybody think about how they would answer such a question. You can go through all the gamut of how we arrived at our democracy and what has been done about it since. You can say that the aristocracy, when they found they were losing out to democracy, allowed their younger sons to stand on the hustings for Parliament. So I had no more wit than to say, " Why not allow your sons to stand for Parliament?" One of them said, " Ah, no! We could not afford to be turned down. You see, 20 years ago, if we had been turned down it would have been considered an insult and we would have had to commit hari-kari ". So I went through the various reasons until we came to this one (I have been reserving this!) and I said, "You own all the newspapers." They said, " Yes, we do ". I said, " How do you expect to have a public opinion if you own all the newspapers and you do not allow controversy in them?" They said, "Is that what creates public opinion, con-troversy? " I told them that was my opinion.

Now they asked me these questions be-cause of something that had happened two years before, when 300 students did the snake dance in front of the Diet and tipped out the Prime Minister of the day. To turn that round the other way, if you stifle controversy then you have the dangerous minority who can come in and usurp authority which has taken hundreds of years to create in this country. I have brought specially from my locker my great, great, great uncle's diary from which I thought would quote. My distant relative was the originator of the first handloom weavers' union. He was a chartist at the same time as Hardy of Tiverton, Fielding of Todmorden and many others. His great principle was that men of scruples should be listened So be-cause by meeting men of scruples half way you can hammer out something that is of benefit to the community as a whole.

I have often said that to create a community takes as long as it does to grow a tree. But it takes a damn sight longer to create a public opinion that is worth anything than growing any tree. Do not let us do anything to undermine it.

The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN of COM-MITTEES (Lord Douglas of Barloch)

Since Amendment No. 14 was moved, an Amendment to that Amendment has been moved: In subsection (1), line 6, after (" em-ployers ") insert (" editors and such editors' organisations ").


I do not want to make a speech, but it would help some of us to know what is going on. The noble Lord in the Chair was perfectly right to put the Question, but I should like to know what is going to happen, and only the mover of the Amendment to the Amendment can tell us. So far he has observed an absolutely discreet silence, but perhaps he will say some-thing before we die!


To prevent a national disaster, I have been provoked to speak. I shall make a few observations on what has been said and then I should like to address a direct inquiry to the Leader of the House. I do not intend to make another speech.

A noble Lord

Hear! Hear!


Everybody has expressed their views. There are one or two things which I did not deal with in opening. One is the total misapprehension that we are seeking to bring the law into this matter. The law has been brought into this matter by the Government, not by us. The law has been brought in by the simple fact that by the Act there was a change in circum-stances which did not previously obtain, and it is on that account that we are seeking to restore a situation so as to preserve rights that were imperilled by this change in the law. It is important to make that point because, with tears streaming down my cheeks, I notice for the first time ever there might have been some division between myself and my beloved Baroness, Lady Lee of Asheridge. I hope she will go away tonight and reflect on the fact that she has totally misunderstood the situation. The situation is not that we are bringing the law into the matter, but that the law has been brought into the matter and we are trying to rectify the situation.

The other point I should like to mention is the absolute obsession about not having anything to do with the court. I cannot explain this. I can under-stand the resentments that were aroused by the Industrial Relations Act and I can understand the feelings about the court; whether or not they were justified is irrelevant. But is it really believed that in society today we can continue to live in safety and under the rule of law if we proscribe the courts as the instrument to protect our rights? Can that seriously be put forward as an argument by the major political Party in the country? Are we to be prevented from appealing to the courts? And what other expedient is possible? The suggestion that, if we do appeal to the courts, the ultimate remedy is something so horrible that we have to withdraw from the possibility and have to abdicate everybody's rights, seems to me to be the best formula for anarchy that anyone has yet devised.

I do not hesitate for a moment in saying that, if we have to invoke the courts, we have to invoke the courts. I speak as a lawyer, but if I were not a lawyer I should say exactly the same things in more emphatic terms. If somebody can find a better way to enforce a person's rights than by going to the courts, I shall be glad to hear it. We were told that the courts had done terrible things to the trade unions. I do not believe that that is true. I believe that if one made a study of trade union law one would surprisingly find the reverse to be the case. Over the years, what have the courts done? They have preserved the country from slavery, they have preserved women from bondage, they have secured personal liberty for anyone to walk in the streets. The idea that we, as a Legislature, should exile the courts on the basis that they did something offensive in relation to trade union procedure seems to me not so much preposterous as totally ill-advised and something that we shall withdraw from in no time at all when ordinary, reason-able counsels prevail.

I am completely unapologetic about leaving the courts in, and I would invite those responsible members of the trade union movement to consider whether their attitude is a possible one to continue with and whether they should not make their peace with the courts as early as possible. They might perhaps point out that some change in the method of selecting judges —a matter over which I have had ex-changes in the past with distinguished Lord Chancellors—might be a sensible way of dealing with the thing, but it is not sensible to say that there is no rule of law and that we cannot use it.

Finally, the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, made a spirited defence of the National Union of Journalists. I have never attacked the National Union of Journalists. This is a highly respectable and responsible union and it is full of very worthy people who are doing a good job. What I have said is that it is un-believable that we should entrust to the National Union of Journalists, or any other organisation of that size or a hundred times that size, the right to decide who publishes works in newspapers. That is quite a different matter. It is not a question of an offensive remark about the National Union of Journalists. It shows an utter want of proportion to consider it even possible that any single organisation whatever—be it a trade union, be it the Law Society, be it a proprietors union, be it an association of millionaires, be it whatever your Lordships like—


Would the noble Lord give us chapter and verse for any declara-tion by the National Union of Journalists that it wants to determine what appears in newspapers?


I gave the noble Lord chapter and verse on my last appearance, if I may so describe it. I gave him plenty of chapter and verse. I will now tell the House the lamentable story of Mr. Robinson of the Financial Times and I shall produce the same exhibit. The story is a very simple one, and I will tell him some other stories too.


The noble Lord made a declaration that the National Union of Journalists wanted to determine—and this is presumably by resolution of its National Conference of its Executive— what appears in the newspapers. It has never done any such thing.


It is a very late hour and the noble Lord can be forgiven for mishearing. I should never blame him for not listening very carefully to anything I was saying. However, what 1 did say was that it was madness to entrust such a power to a union. I did not say that they were claiming it. I do not necessarily believe that they are asking for it, though there were very significant signs that they were getting a power complex. What the noble Lord, Lord Snow, said was totally and admirably true: even if there is the faintest scintilla of a risk that this might happen, why should we take it? Why should we take it with anything as precious as the right we are debating here tonight? And there is more than a scintilla of a risk. What the noble Lord has done—merci-fully for your Lordships—is to make me forbear from again telling your Lord-ships the story of Mr. Robinson of the Financial Times. May I say that I could tell you a great many other equally horrible stories in relation to the pro-posed exercise of power by the National Union of Journalists, but, as I say, it is not a question of the National Union of Journalists. It is not a question of any particular organisation. It is simply that we must not entrust this particular right to any organisation.

I would again address the noble Baroness, Lady Lee: it is not a question of those who are moving the Amendment wanting to procure legal rights for the first time. It is that we want to pre-serve the status quo and that, in order to do so, we have to deal with the changed situation that has been brought about by this legislation by a pure side issue. 1 do not think that the Secretary of State intended it, but it has happened and it is necessary that we should defend the position and restore it.

My direct question to the Leader of the House is this: I do not want to divide the Committee tonight, if that is avoidable. I do not want the noble Lord to say anything in unduly encouraging terms, and I am not trying to draw anything out of him which will commit him, but if the noble Lord will say that, in his view, and having heard the debate and what I have had to say, he believes that there is a prospect of an arrangement being reached after discussions between us, I would ask for no further commitment than that and I would withdraw my Amendment, reserving the right to restore it on Report or on Third Reading. If the noble Lord says that to me, I shall be very happy to withdraw the Amendment, because I have already said how reluctant I am that this issue should be determined by the power of a political vote.

8.7 p.m.


The noble Lord will remember that in my speech I said that the Amendment before the Committee in its present form was unaccept-able to the Government. I also said that this was a provisional view, as it was a very complex Amendment. I am sure that the noble Lord, on reflection, while he spoke with great strength on the need for this series of Amendments, spent very little time—if any time at all—on the detailed parts of the series of Amendments which he put before us. I do not criticise, but this is a fact. I could not give an undertaking that what the noble Lord is seeking can be achieved and that the Government could accept all that the noble Lord has put forward. But I believe that there is sufficient ground to believe that men of good will who wish to see the freedom of the Press could, if given time, find an agreement. I believe that to be so.

What worries me, and what I said in my speech and what I would ask the noble Lord to consider in deciding whether to withdraw the Amendment, is that much of the series of Amendments, in some way, puts a pre-condition upon discussions. I think that this is nearly always undesirable. I can say to the noble Lord only that, if we can be given time, I believe that an agreement can be found. I hope that it can. Certainly, any good offices that I can use in your Lordships' House I would use, but I could not give the commitment for which the noble Lord is asking. If I did, it would be very unfair to your Lordships' House. I could not give that commitment but this one undertaking I will give: I will do anything I can—and this is a wise House which has many resources and many tentacles going in different directions—to find an agreement, and I am certain that we could find it if we had the leadership of the noble Lord. Lord Goodman.


This is one of the rare occasions when flattery is unlikely to change my viewpoint. What I will say to the noble Lord the Leader of the House is that I did not ask him for a commitment. I think that he has said what I wanted to hear; that is, that he holds the view that discussions might in the end be fruitful. If he holds that view, it would be ungracious and politically and strategically inept for me not to say that I shall withdraw my Amendment on the basis that we will talk on the matter and that, if we do not reach agreement, I shall restore it on Report or on Third Reading. I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment to Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

8.10 p.m.


I moved the original Amendment and I wish to be guided in this matter. The noble Lord, Lord Goodman, has with-drawn his Amendment to my proposed new clause. If the Committee has disposed of his Amendment and has there-fore allowed the noble Lord to withdraw it, my new clause is still before the Com-mittee and I want to say something about it.


I am aware of that. Amendments Nos. 16 to 29 were not moved.


Perhaps I can help. The Amendment which is now before the Committee is No. 14 which was moved by the noble Lord, Lord Houghton.


I am getting a little puzzled. As I understand it, the noble Lord, Lord Goodman, has, by leave of the Committee, withdrawn his Amendment to the main Amendment which was originally proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Houghton, which means that the Question now before the Committee is that that Amendment be agreed to.


And that Amendment is No. 14.


I hope I am now free to comment briefly on the Motion which is now before the Committee—

Several Noble Lords: Hear, hear.


—which is whether Amendment No. 14 shall be adopted. I will not delay the Committee for long, but although the noble Lord, Lord Goodman, has with-drawn his Amendment I am most anxious that the Committee should adopt my new clause.


Is it not a fact that the Committee has before it a series of Amendments to the one proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Houghton? Will we not have to deal with those before eventually returning to the main Amendment; namely, that in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Houghton?


May I be permitted—

Several Noble Lords: Order.


I suggest that the Committee must first dispose of all out-standing Amendments to Amendment No. 14 before returning to that Amendment.


I have indicated that Amendments Nos. 16 to 29 have not been moved.


I have a suggestion to make to the Leader of the House. I think it would help us if the noble Lord, Lord Houghton, also withdrew his Amendment, because we are now about to traverse the whole field again to see what possibility of a solution can be found by the exercise of the highest degree of ingenuity and compromise. It would be helpful if we did not have any Amendments in this sphere, so that we could consider the matter entirely afresh. I therefore suggest that the noble Lord, Lord Koughton, withdraws his Amendment pending fresh discussions.


I could not agree to that. I submit that the new clause is the best on which the discussions can take place and is the basic proposal on which the noble Lord, Lord Goodman, tabled his Amendment. It seems to me that if the Committee will write the new clause into the Bill discussions can take place on how it can be adapted to meet the general views of the Committee; otherwise, after our long consideration of the matter the Committee will have nothing before it, except talks to take place between now and the later stages of the Bill. This, with respect, is not the way to deal with a matter of this importance on which so much work has been done.

My new clause offers the best prospect of being the foundation for reaching an accommodation, and if there is anything else I should like to know what it is. Nobody else has put forward anything to replace the new clause in Amendment No. 14 as the foundation for future action. The noble Lord, Lord Goodman, confined himself to tabling an Amend-ment to my new clause. If he had a remedy that was outwith the new clause it would have been open to him to put it down as a separate Amendment, but he did not do that. He has traded wholly on my new clause, I submit, because he recognises that it holds the floor and offers the best hope of eventual agreement.

Therefore, I submit with respect, that it is not fair of the noble Lord, Lord Goodman, to ask me to withdraw my new clause simply because he has withdrawn his Amendment. If he had pressed his Amendment and it had been agreed to, my new clause as amended would have been in the gravest peril from the point of view of acceptance by Parliament, and the noble Lord knows that. As I have said, unless my new clause is accepted the Committee will end up with nothing and will have deserted its responsibility to endeavour to find something to overcome the difficulties of this matter. This being so, I ask your Lordships to support the new clause which is Amendment No. 14.

Clause 3 agreed to.

In the Title :

8.18 p.m.


I beg to move Amendment No. 32.

Amendment moved— Line 4, at end insert (" and to provide for a code of practice on matters relating to the freedom of the press. ")—[Lord Houghton of Sowerby.]

Title, as amended, agreed to.

House resumed : Bill reported with the Amendments.