§ 3.7 p.m.
My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now again resolve itself into Committee on this Bill.
§ Moved, That the House do now again resolve itself into Committee.—(Earl Ferrers.)
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.
§ House in Committee accordingly.
§ [The LORD ABERDARE in the Chair.]777
§ Clause 2 [Dismissal for non-membership of union]:
Lord Jacques moved Amendment No. 18:
Page 3, line 5, at end insert ("or no such ballot has been requisitioned").
§ The noble Lord said: This amendment must be read in conjunction with Amendment No. 31 and therefore, in moving No. 18 I shall, with the leave of the Committee, speak also to No. 31. This series of amendments is concerned with existing closed shops. We are seeking to put to the Committee the point of view of some employers who have had closed shops for many years, some of them for more than 50 years, so that all their present staff knew of the position long before they came into the service of the organisations concerned.
§ In many cases, firms with a long-standing history of closed shops have had excellent industrial relations, and I give the example of the Co-operative Wholesale Society, which has 23,000 employees and has had closed shops since 1919. It has excellent labour relations; for example, it estimates that in the last 12 years its loss due to industrial action has been equal to less than one-hundredth of 1 per cent. of the days that could have been worked, and even that very small percentage was due largely to national disputes to which the CWS was only one of several parties. It has excellent industrial relations, largely because it has this understanding with the unions. It is also because the very organisation with the unions gives it a stability. It is a stablity which is to the benefit of both sides of industry; a stability which is of particular importance to the staff.
§ Since the union and the employees have a standing within the organisation, the employees have a greater say, a greater voice, in the decisions which are to affect their lives, especially their working lives. Our experience is that when there are such good relations, there is no difficulty in dealing with the occasional conscientious objector. We have found no difficulty in dealing with that problem. Because it happens so rarely and because there are such good relations with the unions we have had no difficulty in resolving the problem to the satisfaction of everybody.
§ We feel that the Bill will create problems where none exist at the moment, and this we think is absolutely wrong in the present circumstances. The purpose of our amendments is to minimise the damage that will be done by the Bill. The particular clause, or number of clauses with which we are concerned, require the employer, if he wishes to safeguard his position against excessive claims for compensation, to have every five years a ballot of the staff on the closed shop. We know that it is not an automatic ballot. We know that it has not got to take place every five years. But we also know that if the employer wants to protect himself against excessive claims for compensation, in his own interests he will have to have a ballot. So in effect it is a way of compelling five-yearly ballots of the staff.
§ In life generally those who wish to change the established rules and regulations have themselves to take the initiative, and they must be given the facilities to take the initiative. But it is not for somebody else to take the initiative. This principle is well enshrined 778 in our company law. All the quotations that I am to give to the Committee are from the Companies Act 1948. In Schedule 1, Table A, paragraph 58 provides that a poll may be demanded by members representing 10 per cent. of the voting rights. In Section 137 of the Act the minority of 10 per cent. is protected. That section overrides any provision in the articles which would make the demand for a poll ineffective.
§ So there you have it. The dissatisfied shareholders have to take the initiative. They have to have the facility for doing so, but they must be protected. In this case they are protected by law. Section 132 of the same Act provides that members representing 10 per cent. of the voting rights can require the directors to convene an extraordinary general meeting. So time and time again the initiative has to be taken by the minority, but they have to have the facility to take it, and that facility must be protected by law.
§ What is good for the relationship between a company and its shareholders is good for the relationship between a company and its employees, particularly in a closed shop situation. Therefore, I suggest that we take a leaf out of the book of the Companies Act and put that kind of provision in this Bill, so that the obligation to take the initiative, and the protection which should be given to the minority, are included in the statute, in the way that they should be included. I beg to move.
During the Second Reading debate I quoted from an article in the Guardian newspaper by Dennis Landau, who is the chief executive of the Co-operative Wholesale Society—the organisation which my noble friend Lord Jacques has been using as an example for your Lordships' Committee. In the article Mr. Landau rightly was concerned about the requirement in the Bill that all closed shop arrangements will in effect need to be reconfirmed every five years. He was writing as the chief executive of a very large and complex business. With a large business, such as the Co-operative Wholesale Society, with its great complexity of factories, warehouses, products, and services, inevitably there is also a great complexity of trade union organisations, and as Mr. Landau pointed out, he is responsible for no fewer than 44 closed shop arrangements, which, as my noble friend has said, have led to a perfectly harmonious relationship between the management and the employees.
When faced with the prospect of having to renew the 44 arrangements every five years, one can, I suggest, see what a burden of administration is being gratuitously placed upon the shoulders of the management of such an organisation. My noble friend and I are using the Co-operative Wholesale Society as an example because, as is well known, we are closely associated with the Co operative movement, but I suggest that what applies to that organisation applies equally to any large conglomerate business organisation, and that what is administratively burdensome for the CWS would also be administratively burdensome for other businesses.
In my view, instead of the five-year ballot, a closed shop arrangement should come to be reviewed under a balloting arrangement only if a reasonable number of employees want the review to take place because 779 they are dissatisfied with the existing situation. In the amendment that we are putting before the Committee we are suggesting that the reasonable proportion be 10 per cent., this, as my noble friend has pointed out, being roughly analogous with the provisions in the Companies Act for the requisitioning of polls of shareholders. That seems to me to be a very reasonable parallel to the situation that we are now considering in relation to union membership agreements.
I notice that when the Bill was before Standing Committee G in another place, Mr. Tom Bradley, for the Social Democratic Party, moved an amendment very similar to that which my noble friend has just moved, except that Mr. Bradley proposed 20 per cent., rather than 10 per cent. as proposed in our amendment. Had Mr. Bradley's amendment been carried, it would thus have been more difficult to requisition a ballot on a closed shop situation. But the arguments that Mr. Bradley put forward were exactly in line with those which my noble friend has put forward.
I notice that my erstwhile noble friends in the Social Democratic Party have not put down an amendment on this question, now that the Bill is before your Lordships' Committee. That might be because, like all of us, members of the Social Democratic Party have many things to argue about and they were selective and decided not to put down an amendment on this particular point. However, in view of the efforts that Mr. Bradley made in Standing Committee G, I hope that when we divide the Committee—as we might have to do, if the Government do not see fit to accept the amendment—we shall receive the support of the members of the Social Democratic Party, and indeed that of noble Lords in other parts of the Chamber, who should, I think, be concerned with the situation of managements of large business concerns who over the years have found the closed shop arrangements which they have negotiated to be of benefit to their business concerns.
§ Lord Campbell of Alloway
May I inquire of the noble Lord, Lord Jacques, whether as a matter of broad principle there is any viable distinction between this Amendment, No. 18, and Amendment No. 31 and Amendment No. 17, which was discussed in your Lordships' Committee yesterday? If so, what is it? Furthermore, for information (because I am ignorant about this) is there some feature of the Co-operative Society that makes it different from the matters that we discussed yesterday?
§ Lord Campbell of Alloway
No. It was, if I may explain, the one which was to delete lines 4 and 5, moved by the noble Lord, Lord Wedderburn of Charlton —Amendment No. 17.
§ Lord Jacques
As I understand it, the difference is this. Amendment No. 17 tried to knock out the five-yearly ballot and put nothing in its place. We are trying to knock out the five-yearly ballot but to put in its place that a minority of 10 per cent. can require a ballot.
§ Lord Jenkins of Putney
I should like to say a word, if I may, in support of my noble friend's amendment. One of the difficulties about this Bill, I think, and indeed about other legislation which noble Lords opposite have put forward from time to time, is the assumption which is implicit in the legislation that trade unions are more or less like one another and that one can legislate in a broad sense and cover all the possibilities in a single piece of legislation. The difficulty that arises from this from time to time is due to the fact that trade unions are very different organisations indeed, and a form of words which may reasonably apply to one organisation and its relationships does not apply to another.
My noble friend has put forward the difficulties which would arise from applying this particular legislation—and he has tried to improve it by this amendment —in so far as the Co-operative Society is concerned. I can see even more difficulties arising from the attempt to apply this legislation in the world of acting. Here, the contracts which are made from time to time are made on all kinds of different occasions and the closed shop (or the union shop, rather) is achieved contractually. At a later stage in the Bill we shall be dealing with that particular problem, but it arises in this case because of the fact that the contracts which are entered into from time to time are entered into individually, separately.
So how does one deal with a ballot arising? Although there is a generality of interest among all people working in the area that they should all work on the same kind of basic contract, all the details of the contract—the salary, and so forth—are of course filled in separately. But it is a general form of contract, known as an Esher standard contract. The name derives, noble Lords may be interested to recall, from Lord Esher, I think the father of the present noble Viscount, Lord Esher, who was instrumental in setting up the London and Provincial Theatre Councils. Lord Esher was a good deal wiser about trade union matters than some of his successors today. He really knew his way about this field, and he set up in this complex and difficult area a contractual relationship which provided a form of coherence which had not previously existed in the whole of the acting organisation.
My noble friend Lord Wedderburn is, I think, the successor of Lord Esher as chairman of the London and Provincial Theatre Councils, and therefore he knows a good deal more about this matter in its current manifestations than I do myself. But I think he will agree with me when I say that the implementation of this particular clause would present extraordinary difficulties in this area because of the fact that there is no factory engaging a large number of people, and contracts are sometimes made at different times with five or six different people in different areas. How, therefore, is one going to get that cohesion of attitude whereby people can decide, "Now is the time at which we want a ballot", or, "We do not want a ballot", and so on?
I do not think that my noble friend's amendment necessarily makes this whole thing workable in the field of acting, but I should like to assure noble Lords—in fact, some noble Lords who know the area will agree with me—that it is extremely desirable that the coherence which these contracts give shall be retained 781 in this area; I will not place it any higher than that. Therefore, though I am not at all sure that this amendment will do the trick in making it workable, it would make the clause a good deal more workable than it is without the amendment and for this reason I hope the Government will feel able to say when they come to reply that they accept what my noble friend is trying to do here and will regard this as an improvement of the Bill.
§ 3.27 p.m.
§ Lord Stewart of Fulham
I am moved to take part in this debate, although my own experience of industrial relations has been very brief, by the fact that, such as it is, I think it is here to the point. A good many years ago I held the office of Under-Secretary of State for War—under, I may say, the wise guidance of my noble friend Lord Shinwell, who was Secretary of State for War at the time. One of my duties every three months was to meet the trade union representatives of the civilian employees at the War Office—and they ranged over a fairly wide field. Of all the duties I ever had to perform, that was certainly the toughest. I remember always coming out at the end of the morning in a state of complete physical and almost mental exhaustion. The trade union representatives, although entirely friendly, were extremely hard-bitten; they knew their case, and they could invariably present it with great skill. Consequently, some of the episodes have stuck in my mind.
One was of a man who had conscientious objection, he said, to belonging to a trade union. That particular trade union did not seek to operate a closed shop; it did not mind his being there to work. But it was proposed to promote him. Once again, they did not object in principle to the promotion of a non-unionist, but what they said about this chap was, "He will go about talking in a loud voice about how much money he saves by not paying a trade union subscription". There is a limit to human endurance. You can talk until you are black in the face about people's consciences, and so on, but where a man proposes to do something that is exceptional he is under a duty to show some regard for the feelings of the people among whom he works.
Another incident was that one of the men had a little daughter who had been and a subscription was being raised to send her to a sanatorium in Switzerland. The subscription was raised in quite a usual way: on pay day, near the place where the men were paid, there was a cap, and as each man received his pay he threw some contribution out of it into the cap. One of the men, who had always been a non-unionist, not content not to contribute, had to inform everybody that he had a conscientious objection to organised subscriptions of any kind. At that stage his fellow workmen, who had put up with him for some time, again took the view that there is a limit to human endurance.
These, admittedly, are exceptional cases, but the whole thing we are dealing with in this amendment, and the whole question of the man who does not want to join a union, is by definition an exceptional case. The point I am arguing, as I tried to say earlier, is that, normally, if you work together with people on the shop floor, you are under some obligation to be a 782 good workmate to them. We must remember that we are not legislating for work in the sense of the work that we do in your Lordships' House, or work done in offices in comfortable conditions. We are also legislating for work done sometimes in conditions of extreme exasperation—bad weather, dangerous machinery, the risk every day of anything from a broken finger to a broken back. In those circumstances, the obligation of any man is to show as much respect as he possibly can for the feelings of his workmates. If he has a conscience which obliges him to do something that he knows will make difficulties, then he ought to make every effort to minimise those difficulties; and I am afraid that sometimes he does not. Some of the stories that we read in newspapers that depict herioc people standing out for liberty arc, if you examine them, stories of the kind that I have related to your Lordships.
The trouble with the Government's whole attitude is that this is a matter which ought to be approached with understanding and patience. I would understand it perhaps if the Government had said, "We believe that the man who conscientiously objects to being a trade unionist has a right not to be one; but we realise that this can be a great provocation to his fellow workers and we are going to search for a tolerable way to deal with the problem". What the Government are doing is positively encouraging people not to work with their fellows; saying all the time to them, "Come on!You decide that you are not going to be trade unionists and the power of the law will be stretched out to help you". That is the wrong approach. It is because I think that this amendment tries to get the approach on a somewhat saner basis that I would be among those who support it.
§ Baroness Seear
I should like to follow up the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins, and to ask before dealing with the amendment whether some special provision is being made in the case of actors. There was a special case for seamen in the 1971 Act but I do not recall similar reservations made with regard to acting and to merchant seamen in this Bill. I should be interested to know what the noble Lord has to say about that.
I do not quite follow the arguments of the noble Lords, Lord Jacques and Lord Oram, in saying that the good relations in the Co-operative movement are due to their having a closed shop. There are closed shops in other industries, such as the mining industry, which are not outstanding for the absence of industrial disputes. The noble Lords, Lord Oram and Lord Jacques, I should have thought would have been the first to agree that it might be plausible that the good relations were due to their being co-operatives and not due to the fact that they were closed shops. The attitude on these Benches is to attempt to be as evenhanded as possible with regard to the continuation of the closed shop. We do not accept the idea of a closed shop as being an essential and highly desirable element in the development of good industrial relations. We believe with the noble Lord, Lord Houghton, yesterday that a high degree of trade unionism in an organisation is desirable and that there is lot to be said for the union which maintains a 90 per cent. membership without enforcing a closed shop: we think that in the long run 783 this may be better for industrial relations and better for trade unionism than the enforced closed shop.
We do not accept the argument, although we do accept the viability of a very high level of trade unionism. On the one hand, we know that there are a number of concerns in which the employers and the trade unions, because, rightly or wrongly, the closed shop has been established over a long period of time, wish that arrangement to continue. We would not wish arbitrarily or ruthlessly to disturb that decision. On the other hand in many cases the nature of trade unionism has changed and we are not convinced that all is for the best in the best of all possible worlds where you have closed shops. We know of cases where individuals extremely reluctantly go along with union membership because it is a bread ticket for many and they would like to be able not to do so if it were not necessary for them to continue their union membership in order to get a weekly pay packet.
We want to make it easy for people to be able to have the question revised and we do not consider that for 10 per cent. of the people to be able to have to get together to say that they want a ballot to take place is a satisfactory way of dealing with this. We believe that modification of the proposals put forward elsewhere in this Bill is a better approach. In a closed shop, for 10 per cent. of the people to organise themselves against the closed shop to have to ask for a ballot could be a way of making themselves exceedingly unpopular and many people will find this difficult. For those reasons, we do not accept this amendment, but we will return to this question when we are looking at the numbers that are required, the percentages required in order that a ballot should take place.
Before the noble Baroness sits down, in relation to what she said at the beginning of her speech about industrial relations in the Co-operative movement, would she take it from me that neither my noble friend Lord Jenkins nor I was saying that the closed shop was the reason for good industrial relations in the Co-operative movement? We would say that it was consistent with, and not harmful to, good industrial relations. That is different from the way in which the noble Baroness put it.
§ Lord Boyd-Carpenter
I have known for probably longer than almost any noble Lord here what a superb advocate is the noble Lord, Lord Stewart of Fulham, because I have had the experience of hearing him over a considerable number of years. Certainly, he showed this afternoon that he was on the top of his form as an advocate. His account of his dealings in the War Office with the civilian staffs rang true and, I think, had a considerable effect on your Lordships. But, on reflection, we realise that in a closed shop atmosphere the sort of person who will stand out and insist on his right not to join a union tends almost inevitably to be the awkward type of cuss. The ordinary man, given the general pressure in most organisations to join, however unenthusiastically, will shrug his shoulders and join. He will take the line of least resistance. Only the awkward type, the type (if you like) that the noble Lord described, the one who passed by the cap without putting in a 784 subscription, and in an offensive way, will stand out. That does not prove anything except that for the great majority of people, there is sufficient pressure—and those of us with some experience of these matters know that there is pressure in a great many establishments—to join a union.
The purpose of a ballot is to find out whether, among those working in this particular establishment or establishments there is really an overwhelming desire to have a closed shop. As I understand the Government's policy on this, you can have a closed shop if you can establish that the overwhelming majority of people working in the establishment want it. The only way to find that out is to have a secret ballot. Therefore, with respect to the noble Lord, Lord Stewart of Fulham, it does not help us, in considering this question of the ballot, to be told that some of the people who even without a ballot stand out and are awkward about joining a union are the awkward tiresome types whom probably management are as annoyed with as the workers. If you get a ballot quietly, the quiet, considered feeling of the silent majority can exercise itself. Therefore to say that you do not have a ballot, as the Bill provides, automatically after a certain number of years but only if quite a number of people stick out their necks and ask for one, is really to defeat what I think a lot of noble Lords on both sides of the Committee regard as the sensible purpose of this Bill; to restrict the closed shop to where, honestly and expressing their views in private, the great majority of workers want it; and not in other cases.
Therefore, though this amendment has been put forward with great skill, tact and apparent reasonableness, I think the fact is that it does, if accepted, really make a considerable hole in the provision for a ballot. It means that in many cases there will not be a ballot and therefore the position will go on without anybody knowing what is the genuine wish of the workers concerned. I think we ought to know the genuine wish of the workers concerned, and therefore I find myself against the amendment.
§ Viscount Massereene and Ferrard
Regarding what has been said about the man who did not pay his union subscritpion on grounds of conscience, or whatever it may be, I have always understood that, if that was so, it was unanimously agreed that he would pay the same amount to some charity or some religious body; and in fact I have known an example of that. But I quite agree that it does seem rather unfair if a man pays neither a union subscription nor the equivalent amount to a charity. I agree that it does seem slightly annoying to his workmates.
§ Lord Kilmarnock
Since the noble Lord, Lord Oram, referred to us on this Bench, and said quite correctly that my honourable friend Mr. Bradley put down a 20 per cent. trigger amendment in another place, which of course was not called, I am afraid I have to tell him it does not mean we shall be able to support him on this 10 per cent. trigger. There is a very considerable difference. We consider this is too low. Also, I cannot find anywhere in the noble Lord's amendment any limitation on the frequency of triggering. Therefore, we might have a constant series of very disturbing 785 ballots being requisitioned, particularly in the case of industries which have mobile workforces. Also, in another place we put down lower percentages for the ballots when they do take place, and I see that he and we have very similar amendments in that direction on which we might well come to very similar conclusions; but on the trigger mechanism I am afraid we cannot support him.
§ Lord Jacques
May I say to the noble Lord that if all that is stopping him from supporting this amendment is that the ballots could be too frequent, I am quite willing to discuss with him between now and Report stage how fequently a ballot should be allowed. Let us carry this amendment before we take the next step.
§ Lord Shinwell
This amendment may not be regarded as the most significant feature of this legislation, either one way or another, but it has an aspect which is closely related to the principle which I think is uppermost in the minds of Members on all sides of this Chamber. If I need any justification for my intervention, I can only claim—I think there is abundant evidence in support of my claim—that I am in fact the author of the closed shop. That means going fairly far hack into industrial history. I carry with me my union card. It differs to some extent from the union cards held by many of my colleagues on these Benches inasmuch as I am not called upon to pay any subscriptions. That was always regarded as an advantage among the workers before the First World War, who disliked the idea of paying 2d. a week to the union to which they were asked to belong.
I came into the business in this fashion—and this relates to my claim to being the author of the closed shop. I was associated with the seafaring unions before the First World War. It was purely accidental, and not deliberate on my part, but I was involved in a dispute at the time when I was president of the Glasgow Trades Council. That was almost on the eve of the outbreak of the First World War; and when the liners were sailing from the Clyde, from the Mersey, from Southampton and other liner ports, I had occasion to be associated with the departure of those vessels because we had to ascertain whether those who were sailing, whether on deck, in the stoke-hold or in the engine room, were members of the appropriate union. One of my tasks, as national organiser for some years, was to ensure that the men were members of the union; in other words, that the ship was a union ship. It was not called a closed shop, but it was closed in the sense that, although some of those who had signed on at the Board of Trade maritime office and engaged to sail for perhaps a short voyage across the Atlantic or for a matter of two or three years sailing throughout the world on a tramp vessel, nevertheless they understood that there must be complete unity aboard ship and if, as sometimes happened, a man who was signed on said, "I am not going to join the union", an approach was made either to the second officer on deck or to the second engineer below to give the man his cards. Actually I do not think there were cards in those days; they came later on about 1909. But they would say, "Tell him to go; we don't want him". Often the man would say, "I am not going to go", 786 but it did not matter—he went. There were ways and means.
That is what started the closed shop, because a man discovered, whether he liked it or not and whether he regarded this oppression as too high, too low or inappropriate, he had to pay in some form or other or else he would disappear before the end of the voyage. There was no doubt about it. The union which had a death benefit used to pay compensation. It had to pay far more in abundance when thousands of men were torpedoed in the First World War. Some were members of my union and some were members of other unions. That is how it started and, having started among the seamen, it continued automatically. Nobody objected to it. It was a natural thing: "You join the union or else there will be trouble". So they joined. There was no question of principle or philosophy about it—not an element or iota of wisdom about it—but it was just the sort of thing you are expected to do.
Here I interpose with a philosophical suggestion—perhaps not so much a suggestion, but an item that might be regarded as associated with philosophy. People talk about their "rights". For example, in this controversy about the closed shop, I am very often approached by middle-class people who say: "You ought to get rid of this closed shop; it is unfair to dismiss a man because he will not join the union", and so on. I try to put some contrary evidence. They say, "But a man has got rights". I want to tell your Lordships that none of you have rights. You have responsibilities but no rights; you have privileges, and that is quite another matter. But rights—in what sense? What is the principle which would entitle a Member of this Chamber, whether he is engaged in activities in this assembly or outside in business, in some vocation or profession, to claim rights? Philosophically, there is no such thing. Long ago, when employers disliked the idea of the development of the trade union movement, the workers demanded rights. They said, "If the employer has the right to dismiss me, I have got the right to strike"; and that was accepted—even by the courts.
What is the position now? At a time of economic distress, at a time when the country is seeking to get back on to its feet, at a time when we are faced by innumerable economic and other problems, there is introduced and for what purpose at all?—an Employment Bill, in order to dismiss any idea of having a closed shop or a trade union movement without any possibility of interference.
Quite frankly—and I am now going to say something which may be disagreeable and which will surprise some people, but I shall say it nevertheless, because I believe in what I am saying—when attacks are made on the trade union movement, it is sometimes a good thing, because it shakes them up. Sometimes the trade union movement want a bit of shaking up. Sometimes the trade union movement are too sluggish, and sometimes inactive, instead of being overactive. If Mr. Tebbit—and Mrs. Thatcher supports him—and Members of your Lordships' House on the other side think it is right to curb the power of the trade union movement—go ahead!It is the very thing that the trade union movement want and need. But it will not improve industrial relations—nothing of the sort.
787 What are we asking? I can understand—it is acceptable and, in fact, is embedded in our legislation, so I understand it—that on conscientious grounds a man can say, "I refuse to join the union". He can demand compensation for what is regarded as unfair dismissal and all the rest of it. That is acceptable on conscientious grounds, on religious grounds, on philosophical grounds and on grounds of principle, whatever it may be. But why a man should object to being a member of a trade union, perhaps in a body of 1,000 workpeople, and should want to be the odd man out and claim rights because of that, I cannot pretend to understand. Nor do I think that it is an acceptable principle, either philosophically, industrially, in the sphere of economics or in the hope of improving industrial relations.
I say this to Members of your Lordships' House who are opposed to those of us on this side, who want to help the trade union movement. Of course, I recognise that there are defects; I have referred to them myself, I have written about them and have complained about them. But setting those aside, I can understand noble Lords complaining about the power of the trade unions. But I suggest to them that the trade unions are there only because of the unexampled power of the employing persons in this country over the years. That is the only reason. The raison d'être of the trade union movement is the fact that they have been exploited and dealt with in a fashion which the employers thought was the right thing for them to do. They claimed almost divinity, which was not the possession of the working classes.
Therefore, I suggest this. The Government must make up their minds, sooner or later. Are they going ahead with propositions which will not improve industrial relations, although they may satisfy some elements among the employers?—and there are many employers who do not object to the trade union movement or to its activities. But the Government intend to do this. Is there nothing else for us to do in the promotion of trade, in better relations with other countries, in international trade and in the development of other countries who need our aid and our trade? These are things which we must deal with, if we are to recover. But this is not the way out.
I say this to those on the other side who will reply to this debate. It is almost a Second Reading debate and for that I ask to be forgiven; I am coming to my conclusion and I shall not worry the Committee much more. But I say: be very careful what you are doing. Do not bite too hard. Do not attack, apparently, with malice—although I do not believe that there is malice. It is simply the idea that you must deal with the trade union movement that is becoming too powerful. But the financial employers are becoming too powerful and the middle classes are beginning to realise that. Do not forget that. You have to look over the whole field in order to understand what is going on.
All I am asking is that we deal with this question in a rational fashion. If there is a way out, if there is a possibility of compromise, if we can do something to cement good relations as between the employers and the working class of this country, let us make the effort. 788 It is far better to do that than to fight this out and make it into a quarrel, which will take years and years, and from which it will be difficult to recover.
§ The Minister of State for Defence Procurement (Viscount Trenchard)
I believe that it may be the will of the Committee if I move that the House be resumed in order that the Statement can be made. If that is the view, may I move that the House do now resume?
§ Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.
§ House resumed.