HL Deb 30 October 1975 vol 365 cc676-8

[No. 4]

Clause 2, page 2, line 41, leave out paragraph (e) and insert— ("(e) promoting industrial democracy in undertakings which the Agency control;").

6.1 p.m.


My Lords, I beg to move that this House doth agree with the Commons in their Amendment No. 4. It is difficult to find new points to deploy in this argument. Therefore the points I now make consist of a summary of arguments already used, somewhat expanded in places. I see from the record that, when this Bill was before your Lordships' House earlier in the Session, there was a good deal of discussion about the Agency's role in the field of industrial relations. Noble Lords opposite felt that the phrase, promoting industrial democracy in undertakings which the Agency control", should, because of its lack of precision, not appear in legislation. I appreciate that the wording of this Part of the Bill as it left your Lordships' House represented a genuine attempt to achieve a better definition. But I should like to make three points on this matter of definition.

The first is that the words inserted by this House are not an adequate substitute. The phrase "industrial democracy" is not restricted to the promotion of good industrial relations and appropriate means of employee involvement in undertakings. It also covers the wider question of co-operation in industry—a cooperation covering more than the matters normally employed by the term "industrial relations", which is usually meant to be discussion of wages and other conditions of service. I feel that the wording inserted by noble Lords opposite does not in full reflect what the Government propose that the Agency should do here. Secondly, the phraseology deleted in the other place is not itself fully appropriate. It attaches the function of promoting good industrial relations and appropriate means of employee involvement in undertakings to a much wider range of companies—those with which the Agency are "associated" rather than those which they "control". While I appreciate that this wording was a consequence of other changes which your Lordships made to the Bill, I think noble Lords would all agree that it would he extremely difficult for the Agency to take on this task in relation to all the many undertakings with which they are "associated" which could be very widely interpreted. Moreover, although noble Lords opposite argued that the phrase "industrial democracy" lacked definition, the same is surely true of the wording which they substituted. How, in fact, does one define "associated"?

My third—and, I think, conclusive—point on the matter of definitions is that the shape of industrial democracy, which will be applied by the Agency, will follow the policy as set out in the legislation which, since your Lordships last considered this matter, the Government have undertaken to bring before Parliament in the 1976–77 Session.

Moved, That this House doth agree with the Commons in the said Amendment.—(Lord Kirk hill.)


My Lords, we come to the matter of industrial democracy which arose in the Industry Bill earlier today and will come up again in the Welsh Development Agency Bill. The objections which we saw when this matter came out were, first, that it was a very vague term to put into legislation, and those feelings were repeated in various parts of the House; but worse, we also recognised that various people put different interpretations upon the term "industrial democracy". We felt that, anyway at this stage, it would be wrong to put it into the Bill. The Government have apparently decided none the less that they will take the risk, and the noble Lord mentioned that the Government have set up a committee to examine and report on the subject. It would have been better at least to have waited until that committee had reported and the term could then be less ambiguous than it now is. But having given the Government time to think about this point, we do not propose to pursue it now.

On Question, Motion agreed to.