HL Deb 15 November 1976 vol 377 cc1025-8

78 Schedule 4, page 28, line 40, leave out "18th September 1967" and insert "3rd December 1975"

The Commons disagreed to this Amendment for the following Reason:

79 Because the right to object to classification should be confined to trade unions recognised in respect of the work at least since September 1967.

4.40 p.m.


My Lords, I beg to move that this House doth not insist on their Amendment No. 78, to which the Commons have disagreed for the Reason numbered 79.

Moved, That this House doth not insist on the said Amendment to which the Commons have disagreed for the Reason numbered 79.—(Lord Jacques.)


My Lords, this is an agreement I should like to have seen in the Bill because I think it is unreasonable to distinguish between the rights of trade unions purely in relation to the date on which a recognition agreement was made. If those in respect of whom a recognition agreement was made before 1967 are to have the right of veto, so should those after 1967. I think it is wrong to discriminate in that way. I may say that when reading the Reason which the Commons have given for disagreeing to the Lords Amendment, which is in the following terms: Because the right to object to classification should be confined to trade unions recognised in respect of the work at least since September 1967.", I cannot help wondering whether those who drafted this were very familiar with the Bill because, as the noble Lord, Lord Jacques, has already made clear, in dealing with Clause 8 and the right to object, a notice has to be sent out whenever the Board are considering or are about to consider proposals for classification under that clause. A notice has to be sent out both to the employers and the trade unions, so that they can make recommendations. In those recommendations, they can object and yet this Agreement says that: … the right to object should be confined to trade unions recognised in respect of the work at least since September 1967". I know what they mean, but they have not got it right: and if they have not got it right, how on earth are other people to get it right—members of the public, and those who are going to have to operate under the Bill? It is a very complicated Bill. I personally let this go with great reluctance, because I think it shows so clearly how wrong it is that one section of the public should try to solve its problems at the expense of another section of the public. That is the core of the objection to the Bill.


My Lords, why does one let it go, even with reluctance? If we want to say something differently, why do we not insist on trying to get it said? We do not mean only the trade union or the trade unionist before 1967, do we? We actually mean that any body, any group of trade unionists, properly recognised and properly organised before or after 1967 should have the right to make representations—as the noble Lord said, making representations and making, if you wish, an objection. What I do not understand is why we let a thing go through as ill-drafted and indefensible as this, unless we are assuming that we are transferring the responsibility to the judges and assuming that if at some later stage it is moved against, the judges will say, "This is wrong", or, "It falls because we cannot interpret it".

I just do not understand. I know that both sides have done their best and, on the whole, I am willing to accept that; but they could have done better. I honestly and truthfully do not see why we let something go through in the cynical view that because it is in any case indefensible somebody else will knock it down at some later stage. I think I shall be a Not-Content on this issue.


My Lords, there are really two points here. First, I still dislike very much the rejection of our Amendment by the Commons. Secondly, I do not like the Reason which is given for that rejection, and I was pointing out that it does not stand up. However, this is not really a matter that we can amend.


My Lords, I have raised several objections to the Bill, but the Government are right about this. What the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, is asking for is a confrontation with the dockers. That is exactly what we are trying to avoid, and that is exactly what would happen if this were not accepted. There may be some trouble arising out of this legislation, but if we can avoid it, so much the better. The reference to September 1967 is there simply because that is when the dockers came to an agreement. It is on the basis of that collective agreement that they are seeking to gain further powers; that is all. What Members of your Lordships' House sought to do was to promote a new collective agreement. That could cause a lot of trouble. The Government are right on this matter, though in many respects they have been quite wrong.


My Lords, I should like to ask for clarification whether it is not a fact that there is an opportunity for objections to be made by other trade unions which have been established after 1967 under the public inquiry system. Is there not therefore less reason for this Amendment than perhaps there might otherwise have been? I do not know whether or not noble Lord, Lord Jacques, heard me. I was asking whether it was not possible for other trade unions which have been established and recognised after 1967 to make an objection under the public inquiry system. Have I got the wrong end of the stick? Perhaps my noble-friend can clarify the position for me, if the Government cannot.


My Lords, I think there is some misunderstanding here. First, I would say to my noble friend Lord George-Brown, that there is nothing to prevent a trade union, whether recognised or not, making representations and objections when classification is being considered. What we are considering is whether it should have a veto. We say that it should be only in the rarest circumstances that an institution outside Parliament should be given a veto. Consequently, the veto has been restricted to those trade unions which were recognised by the employer before September 1967, because it was desired to protect the long-established warehouses and cold stores, to say that they could not be classified.

What we are saying in regard to the more recent cold stores and warehouses is not that they should be classified but that they should be considered. There should not be a veto by anyone to stop them being considered. They may very well be in-lieu of work that was done at the dockside, or they may not. We think it is a matter for consideration. What we are trying to do here, and what we have been trying for all the time, is to set up peaceful means of settling disputes instead of the picketing, and so on, that went on during 1970, 1972 and 1975.

On Question, Motion agreed to.