§ 7.32 p.m.
The Earl of Gowrie
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.—(The Earl of Gowrie.)
§ On Question Motion agreed to.
§ House in Committee accordingly.
§ [The LORD ALPORT in the Chair.]
§ Clause 15 [Political objects]:
Lord Wedderburn of Charlton moved Amendment No. 111:
Page 18, line 23, at end insert ("and in determining for the purposes of subsection (3)(e) and (f) above whether a trade union has incurred expenditure of a kind mentioned in those paragraphs of that subsection, no account shall be taken of expenditure of which the main purpose is the furtherance of statutory objects within the meaning of section 1(2) of the 1913 Act").
The noble Lord said: With your Lordships' leave, I shall speak, also to Amendment No. 115, which is consequential.
Amendment No. 115: Page 19, line 6, leave out subsection (3).
This amendment takes up the issue with which your Lordships were concerned yesterday; namely, the new definition of political objects in Clause 15. The amendment puts in something that was in the old definition but not in the new definition. It is therefore very central to the Government's claim that the new definition merely updates and clarifies the old one. It concerns a proviso in the 1913 Act which related to political literature and political meetings. The old Section 3(3) stated that the political fund must be used to pay for expenditure,
on the holding of political meetings of any kind, or on the distribution of political literature or political documents of any kind, unless the main purpose of the meetings or of the distribution of the literature or documents is the furtherance of statutory objects within the meaning of this Act".
The statutory objects were defined in Section 1(2) as being,
the regulation of the relations between workmen and masters, or between workmen and workmen, or between masters and masters, or the imposing of restrictive conditions on the conduct of any trade or business, and also the provision of benefits to members".
Although the language is somewhat ancient, the meaning is clear; namely, industrial matters in which trade unions and employers would be concerned.
The book to which the noble and learned Lord, Lord Denning, referred earlier in our discussions in Committee,Citrine on Trade Union Law, had this to say about this most imporant provisio; namely, the proviso that the distribution of literature and the holding of meetings which had as their main purpose the furtherance of those statutory industrial objects could come out of the general fund. Citrine wrote on page 440:
This proviso was intended to cover a situation in which political and industrial activities or purposes overlap".
I pause to say that that will normally be the real situation. Citrine goes on:
If the main purpose is statutory it is excluded from this paragraph even if it happens to be taken up by a political party as part of its programme".
A little later, he says:
If the object is purely political without any admixture of statutory objects it falls within this paragraph. If the object is both political and statutory, the test is whether the main object is statutory".
That is really the nub of the matter. Where the purposes are mixed, the old definition included the extremely sensible provision that the court had to test it by way of the main purpose, and if the main purpose was industrial, then the admixture of an element of party political matter did not require that the trade union pay for the whole of this matter out of its political fund.
The case of McCarroll v.National Union of Mineworkers, Scottish Area, decided in the Scottish courts in 1965, is an excellent illustration and somewhat topical. In that case, the Scottish area of the union had organised members in a lobby of Parliament. They interviewed Members of Parliament, the Leader of the Opposition and the Minister of Fuel to protest about threatened pit closures. It was alleged later that the expenditure should have come from the policitcal fund. Lord Kilbrandon, in the Court of Session, dismissing the action, said:
It is plain as can be that although an expedition to London to lobby MPs and Ministers can be described in one breath as having a political objective, at the same time it is clearly an industrial objective in the context in which the lobby took place. In one sense any dispute between employer and employee in a nationalised industry takes on the complexion of a political dispute since the employer is in some sense the State, which is a political body. Nevertheless I have no doubt whatever that the mainspring of the lobby was the fear that miners were in danger of losing their employment in consequence of an industrial policy of closing pits, and it is against this policy that the demonstrations were being mounted. This, in my view, is fundamentally an industrial demonstration".
§ Therefore, they could pay for it from the general fund.
§ One thing that the Government cannot say is that the proviso has a place in their new definition. Indeed, it goes further. Not only does the proviso have no place in the new definition, but the way in which the definition clause is now structured means that even if the main purpose of, say, leaflets (let us take leaflets in paragraph (f), although this matter relates both to new paragraph (e) and new paragraph (f)) is industrial, nevertheless if they include an admixture that is other than something that can be dismissed as de minimis, if they include a substantial but minor element of what falls within the definition of political—my noble friend Lord Underhill spoke about this on previous amendments—then that now has to come from the political fund. There is no discretion for the court; the court cannot weigh up the amount that is industrial and the amount that is political.
§ If one thinks of some of the examples discussed in another place to which the Government's response was almost negligible, one realises the seriousness of the situation. The example was taken of a Civil Service union that placed an advertisement in the paper to allege that the Government were going back on agreements and pursuing an unfair policy overall. Civil Service unions do not have political funds. No doubt that would be said to be in a great degree an 853 industrial advertisement. But can anyone doubt that a court could say, quite properly, that to some extent it was likely to persuade people to vote or not to vote for the political party in office? If it does that, it is within the new definition.
§ Similarly, the example was taken that if there were a Government proposal to privatise work in a Royal Ordnance factory in a particular town, the town council could spend its money to explain and to express views on the proposal; the local chamber of commerce could do so; local bodies of all kinds could do so. But the trade union, because this would clearly immediately involve it in something that might be said to be likely to persuade people not to vote for the party with this policy, would have to use its political fund.
§ That is a major change in the definition. This amendment asks one thing only of the Government; it asks them to keep to their word not to make a major change in the definition, to restore the proviso, which means restoring the statutory objects which are the subject of Amendment No. 115. It is the very fact that the Government have seen fit, in subsection (3) of the clause, to delete the statutory objects which proves the case that a major change is being made. We think that is unfair. It is the opposite of what the Government say they are doing, and, on that basis, I beg to move.
The Earl of Gowrie
The Government believe that it is one of the benefits of the Bill's more easily understandable definition of political objects that the reference to statutory objects has been removed. In any event, as your Lordships know from last night's debates on Amendments Nos. 106 and 107, the new definition adopts an entirely fresh approach to meetings and communications, which avoids the need for a statutory object type of qualification.
Nevertheless, we have undertaken to look again at the two paragraphs of the definition which these amendments seek to qualify, and although I have to say that we are not very inclined towards the formula contained in the amendments, we shall certainly bear in mind the noble Lord's comments. I hope that on this basis—that I undertake to look at it again—the noble Lord will agree to withdraw the amendments.
§ Lord Wedderburn of Charlton
I am very happy that we have made such a good start. I am sure that, as he says, the noble Earl will look carefully at it, and on that basis I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ [Amendment No. 112 not moved.]
§ 7.42 p.m.
Lord Dean of Beswick moved Amendment No. 113:
Page 18, leave out line 42.
§ The noble Lord said: This amendment bears a great similarity to some of the amendments that were moved last night and were the subject of debates. The effect of the Bill, if not amended, would be far-reaching, and this provision would make it more involved than anything we have discussed so far. We are in a situation where, if we do not look again at these clauses or amendments, unless one knows the 854 situation and the people involved it is almost like driving into a minefield without the benefit of having a flail tank in front of one.
This amendment is similar to Amendments Nos. 106, 107 and 108, to which the noble Earl has just referred. Last night the noble Lord, Lord Gray, gave an assurance that he would look at them again, bearing in mind the points raised in the debate. What does this clause mean when it refers to,
any position within a political party"?
I do not know how far this would stretch out into the political sphere of my own party. As noble Lords are aware, the main political functions in this Palace of Westminster are carried out in another place at the end of the corridor. I believe that if we pass this clause without alteration we may very well be transgressing on some of the accepted procedures and practices that have gone on for years in another place. It is a very dangerous road to go down.
§ For instance, there can be an election by the Labour Opposition, as the main party, for the Leader of the Opposition. How does that fit into it? There can be a number of other votes in what can be deemed to be political meetings within this Palace, where the members of the Opposition Party elect the Opposition Chief Whip; where they elect the Opposition Deputy Chief Whip; where they elect the parliamentary committee which largely becomes the Shadow Cabinet, depending upon the choice of the official Leader of the Opposition.
§ If a member of my party wants to elect a leader, while he may nominate in this place, in order to cast his vote—he does not have a postal ballot—he has got to attend the Labour Party conference, where he cannot vote. How does that fit into the scheme of things? Nobody can tell us, but this is the sort of thing that can happen. There are also other elections which take place here and which are important to my party. What about the chairmanship of the Parliamentary Labour Party? That is another post that is balloted for by Members of Parliament. Where does this fit into the scheme of things?
§ How are Members of Parliament who are sponsored by trade unions covered by these clauses? The Bill, as drafted, does not say so clearly. There are a number of functions which, over the years, have been accepted by governments of various colours and minority parties of various colours. It may well be—I say, "may" because I am not legally qualified to pass a judgment—that, through taking part in those functions, which, with the probable exception of the election of the leader of the Labour Party and his deputy, go on annually—Members of another place could be ensnared by this Bill.
§ I do not want to delay the Committee any longer because we are on a pretty tight schedule. I hope the noble Lord will be able to respond in the spirit shown a few minutes ago by the noble Earl, and which he himself showed last night. I beg to move.
§ The Minister of State, Scottish Office (Lord Gray of Contin)
This amendment seeks to modify the definition of political office in subsection (3)(c). That term has a bearing on a number of aspects of the 855 definition of political objects, not only in relation to the maintenance of office holders but also in relation to their candidature, including publicity designed to persuade people to vote for or against them in an election; and its effect would be to exclude positions within a political party from the scope of the definition.
We have been more than prepared to reconsider the new definition where it has been demonstrated to us that it goes too far. Amendments which were accepted in another place were designed to deal with concern where the definition had gone too far in relation to conferences and meetings, and we have agreed in your Lordships' Committee to give some further consideration to this aspect and also to re-examine the paragraph dealing with communications.
But in this instance we are not persuaded of the need to reconsider the aspect raised by this amendment. The Government readily accept that party office holders are not covered in the existing 1913 Act definition. No reasonable person can seriously suggest, however, that that is anything other than an anomaly. Why should a trade union be able to spend its members' general subscriptions on, for example, meetings in support of one of the candidates in a Labour Party leadership election? What is less party political about this than the election of candidates to Parliament or to local councils?
I listened very carefully to what the noble Lord had to say on this, and while I found his argument last night one with which I had great sympathy—that is why I agreed to look again at the matter we were discussing—on this occasion I really cannot see that he has such a strong point. I hope that he may respond in the harmonious spirit which I offered last night, and perhaps withdraw this amendment.
§ Lord Dean of Beswick
Is the Minister saying that the political positions are related solely to another place as a legislative assembly? Are they related solely to that and not included in the provisions of this Bill? If that is the case, I will withdraw the amendment.
§ Lord Gray of Contin
What I was suggesting to the noble Lord was that I did not really see why it should be necessary, or, indeed, why it would be right, for a union to use union funds for the purpose of furthering an election of that sort, and using those funds without necessarily having the full authority of its membership. That was what I suggested to the noble Lord.
§ Lord Dean of Beswick
I do not wish to delay your Lordships any longer. If the noble Minister is saying that the present procedures are accepted and that there will only be a violation of those if meetings are held specifically or funds are used specifically, for candidatures of those particular types of positions that I have highlighted in my amendment, I shall obviously beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ [Amendments Nos. 114 and 115 not moved.]
§ On Question, Whether Clause 15 shall stand part of the Bill?856
§ Lord Dean of Beswick
My colleagues and I have given notice that we wish to oppose the Question that this clause stand part of the Bill. It would be quite spurious to refer to the amendments that have been debated as regards this clause because I want to debate the main thrust of the clause. While we would say that Part I and Part II of the Bill are motivated against the trade union movement, we think that this clause is a total attack upon the main Opposition Party. We do not see it as anything else, however it is presented.
So far as I am concerned, politics are about power or they are about nothing. We consider that this clause is the Government's declaration of war on their main political opponents. One could argue about the difficulty of people opting out of political affiliation, but there are thousands of people every year who opt out of paying political levies to trade unions. I understand that thousands have already done so. I also understand that the Conservative Party itself runs an annual campaign among trade unionsts in order to achieve that object. It is no good the Government saying that they have suddenly discovered something to which union members are being subjected and that union members may not be aware of their rights. They are aware of their rights and they take advantage of opting out when it suits them. I contend that this particular clause of the Bill is a dagger aimed at the heart of the party which the Government see as their main threat.
It is well known in any kind of warfare—and I consider that this is political warfare —that if you wish to defeat your enemy, you should destroy his logistical support because then he cannot even begin to fight the battle. I suspect and suggest that that is the main motive behind this particular clause.
The provisions of the Bill are tantamount to a future Labour Government saying to the Conservative Party, "We will not interfere with company donations to the Conservative Party so long as the cheque is accompanied by an individual affidavit signed by every shareholder of the party approving the donation". If the Government are saying that that is not the case, then perhaps whoever replies to this debate on clause stand part will prove it to be so. But I can say that the Government in steamrollering this particular provision through this House are doing themselves for the future no service whatever.
As the political pendulum swings, one day the people on the Government Benches or their successors will be sitting on this side of the House and I or my successor and my colleagues or their successors will be sitting on the other side of the House. The Government have set a very dangerous precedent indeed by what they have done. I can give them this undertaking. People like Sir Terence Beckett and Mr. Walter Goldsmith who donate huge sums of money through their companies to the Conservative Party without recourse to the shareholders of those companies, will be stopped from taking part in that type of exercise. We will make sure that the retribution or the punishment or the retardation that the Government are inflicting on trade unionsts in order to support the party that they actually spawned as an embryo years ago, will be visited on such people, and history will show that they are making an appalling mistake today.
The Earl of Gowrie
It really is rather difficult to understand the bloodcurdling threats of the noble Lord because he is not comparing like with like at all. As I understand it, there is no objection from a political party such as the Conservative Party—and I am well aware that I am not talking for the Conservative Party at this Box—that is opposed to state funding of political parties, that there should be donations to the Labour Party, any more than there is objection that there should be donations to the Conservative Party. The difference of view between the noble Lord and ourselves is a difference conditioned not by our party allegiances but by very large sociological changes in this society whereby trade union members are not necessarily any longer affiliated to the party which, in the noble Lord's words, they spawned. Things have changed. The fact of the matter is that at the last General Election a clear majority of trade unionists voted for parties which were not the Labour Party. This therefore is a misplaced criticism on the part of the noble Lord, Lord Dean of Beswick.
The clause which we have been debating stemmed from a need identified in the Green Paper to bring the definition of "political objects" up to date in a number of respects. Particular omissions from the original 1913 Act definition to which the Green Paper drew attention related to elections to the European Parliament; to film and sound recordings; and to the preparation and production—as opposed to the distribution—of political literature.
However, when it came to updating the definition in these simple respects, it became apparent that the existing definition was less than satisfactory in a number of ways. This is hardly surprising in view of the comments of the noble and learned Lord the then Lord Chancellor who, when asked in 1913 whether everything necessary had been covered in the definition, replied that:one cannot be quite certain in a matter of this kind … every effort was made to sweep in the things to which objection is taken, and there has been a sort of general assent that rough justice has been done in the matter. That it is more than rough justice I will not pretend but as far as we can see the ground has been covered".It was also clear that the existing definition had given rise to a number of misunderstandings and uncertainties over the years. Such is often the fate of rough justice. It is, moreover, full of anachronisms—not least its failure to recognise explicitly that most expenditure on "political objects" represents payments to political parties. Nowhere in the old definition are political parties mentioned, presumably in view of the fiction that political parties have no connection with the electoral process.
It therefore seemed to the Government that the opportunity should not be missed to bring forward a more up to date, readily understandable and recognisably relevant definition. I must re-emphasise however that—despite what noble Lords opposite have alleged—it was not our intention to tighten the constraints on trade unions. What the new definition does is simply to make much clearer what these constraints actually are. That the old definition did not make these clear is apparent from two notable examples—which I shall delay the Committee only 858 very briefly by giving—of expenditure on party political matters which trade unions have recently made from their general funds. That is the point at issue here. I repeat: from their general funds, not from their political funds.
The first example was the decision by a number of trade unions to incur expenditure on the Labour Party's Walworth Road Headquarters from their general funds. The sums concerned were hardly trifling. Altogether some £1.3 million was handed over. No doubt many of these unions made these payments from their general funds in the genuine belief that this was allowed by the existing definition of "political objects". Both the certification officer and the Employment Appeal Tribunal have however ruled that this expenditure did come within the existing definition of "political objects". We have taken the opportunity presented by the Bill to make clear in the new definition that payments of this kind are covered. To be precise the definition includes expenditure:on the provision of any service or property for use by or on behalf of any political party".The second example of party political expenditure made from union general funds occurred during a campaign by NALGO last year in the run up to the general election. NALGO ran a campaign against expenditure cuts or, rather, to translate the phrase into its proper form, it ran a campaign against expenditure not rising as fast as NALGO would have liked. We are not necessarily suggesting that the provisions of the 1913 Act required this campaign as a whole to be financed from a political fund. But when it came to advertisements like those which appeared in national newspapers, which depicted, under the tragic word "farewell", prams, buses, wheelchairs and hospitals falling over a cliff; which went on to say:They've got welfare the wrong way round",and:the Government says that we can't afford to spend more money on the Welfare State";and which ended up by saying, alongside a box containing an "X",Put people first—if this gets your vote make sure you use it"—when it comes to a particular advertisement like that, what objective person could doubt that, however effective or ineffective such an advertisement might be, it certainly belongs firmly within the realm of party politics?
However, NALGO did doubt this. Under the terms of the existing definition it felt able to go ahead and finance the advertisement—necessarily out of its general funds, as NALGO has been wholly unable to persuade its own members to set up a political fund. The lawfulness of this action has not been tested in the courts but, had it been, there is little doubt in our minds that the advertisement in question would have been held to be "political" under the present definition of "political objects". Therefore, noble Lords opposite should hardly be surprised that in the new definition we have felt it necessary to spell out that communications which seek to persuade people to vote for or against a political party must be paid for from political funds.
The Earl of Gowrie
Perhaps I could just finish the point. I am saying this as a man who not only works for a Government formed under our system from a political party, but from the point of view of a citizen—albeit a disenfranchised one—very passionately of the view that there should not be state-funding of political parties. Therefore. I am very keen on political parties being funded by political funds.
Therefore, I would invite your Lordships to look behind the smokescreen which noble Lords opposite have tried to create. Are they really attempting to argue that it is right that trade unions should be able to finance contributions to the Labour Party's headquarters from their general funds; or that it is right that they should be able to finance advertisements urging people to vote against a political party from their general funds? If the principles established in the 1913 Act are to have any meaning at all, one has only to pose these questions to see that the answer must be, "of course not". And, if that is the answer, we would be failing in our duty if we did not take this opportunity to devise a definition which is clearer, as well as more up-to-date. On that basis, I would urge the Committee to support the proposition that this clause stands part of the Bill.
§ Lord Wedderburn of Charlton
Before the noble Earl sits down, I do not wish to question him about the two particular cases which he cited, because he may well be right on the particular facts of those cases. But I want to ask him this. If the Government knew all along that, quite apart from updating—which they have always said right from the beginning was the purpose of the exercise of this sort of clause—there were all these anachronisms that required major changes, why did not they put those anachronisms in the Green Paper in the one and a half pages that they devoted to this matter? Why did not they consult on the matter? Why did not they, even in the subsequent typescript paper that put forward their positive proposals for legislation, put forward these anachronisms? Why have they kept them back until they have put the Bill through Parliament when the trade unions no longer have a chance to consult upon them?
The Earl of Gowrie
Perhaps I could just deal with this point and then I shall willingly give way to the noble Baroness. As I said in opening my remarks, the clause which we have been debating stemmed from a need identified in the Green Paper to bring the definition of "political objects" up to date in a number of respects. I seem to remember that I was still in the department when this Green Paper was being designed, and consultations were constantly called for and very few came forward.
§ Baroness Seear
Surely the noble Earl is on rather dangerous ground in saying that the noble Lord, Lord Dean of Beswick, was wrong in drawing attention to 860 company contributions. If a company, out of its funds, gives money to a political party, it is giving away its shareholders' money. Whatever justification is there for assuming that all those shareholders wish that money to go to the Conservative Party? Personally, speaking for a party which does not benefit either from a political levy or from company contributions, we should like the whole matter examined in a different way. But at least shareholders ought to have the same right to have some control over the way in which the company's money is handled as trade union members have over the way in which the political levy is handled.
The Earl of Gowrie
The Government simply do not accept collectively, and again I say that I do not accept personally, that the noble Baroness is comparing like with like. Companies do not control the lives of those who have shares in them.
§ Lord McCarthy
Will the noble Earl not admit that companies can sack people and not take on people? The employment relationship is a dependent relationship. To suggest that companies do not control people is nonsense.
The Earl of Gowrie
I was referring to their shareholders. Their shareholders are free beings who can buy or sell the shares at whim. Indeed, the Labour Party quite sensibly owns large numbers of shares in companies that make contributions to the Conservative Party. I cannot understand what the noble Lord is fussed about.
§ Baroness Seear
The noble Earl surely is not saying that because shareholders disapprove very strongly of their money being given to the Conservative Party, they should get rid of those shares? They have put their money into that company for the development of that company, of which promoting the Conservative Party is in no way a proper part.
The Earl of Gowrie
It is very seldom that the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, and I have such sharp disagreements, but, may I respectfully say to her on this issue that she is wholly wrong. The fact of the matter is, as I have said at this Dispatch Box this evening several times, that I make no objection whatever, either as an individual or as a Minister, to trade unions making contributions to the Labour Party or, indeed, to the party which the noble Baroness so ably leads. I am objecting to their doing so out of their general funds.
§ Lord Dean of Beswick
To be brief, there may be a difference on some of the points of argument between my own party and the Liberal Party, but at least there is some measure of agreement on the question of how the noble Earl interprets the way in which companies act. He has probably conveniently forgotten the large sums of money expended by the cement lobby, the building trades lobby and the sugar lobby in order to 861 influence people on how to vote. As I believe that the noble Earl is completely immovable on this subject—he thinks that he is holier than thou, totally right on the issue, and that what I and my party believe is wholly wrong—I wish to divide the Committee on the issue.
§ Lord Tordoff
Before the noble Lord moves on to that point, may I ask whether the noble Earl is suggesting that companies should set up a political fund which should be susceptible to the votes of shareholders—that seems to be the logic of his argument—and that unless and until that is done companies should not give money to political parties from their general funds? That seems to be the logic of his position.
§ 8.10 p.m.
The Earl of Gowrie
A company is perfectly free to give money to the Conservative Party, the Liberal Party, the SDP or the Labour Party. Noble Lords who have been involved in this territory of political organisations, as many of us have, will be aware that companies give money to all of these parties. Indeed, the Labour Party has consistently had good contributions from companies until in recent years it went off its onion. As a result, the noble Lord and the Benches on which he sits have been the beneficiaries. That is why so many Members of a previous Government have joined them.
Leaving aside that point, we know that the issue where unions are concerned is quite different because the union can tick off with the employer contributions from its employees, and we have tried to meet the anxiety of the TUC and the Labour Party on this issue in the concession that my right honourable friend the Secretary of State made. That amendment itself absolutely gives the lie to the idea that this is an attack on the financing of the Labour Party.
§ Lord Howie of Troon
I find the noble Earl's attitude this evening unusually sharp. In my experience of him he has been, if not benign, at least half reasonable. I find him very sharp tonight and I wonder why. Is it perhaps that he is embarrassed?
§ Lord Howie of Troon
If he will listen, he will find that he ought to be. We shall perhaps find out in a moment or two. I am giving him the benefit of the doubt. I had hoped that he was embarrassed. I am a little disappointed that he is not. He is arguing here strongly in favour of measures which have peculiar side-effects.
I have spoken for certain trade unions on several occasions during these debates and I shall not go on about that. What is important about them is—and this relates, I think, to Amendment No. 111 moved by my noble friends on the Front Bench—that these unions do not have political funds, nor do they want political funds. But under the changes proposed in this legislation they will be obliged to want political funds. That is to politicise these unions in a way which they do not want. That, if I may say so to the noble Earl, is a political mistake. I do not make the kind of threats 862 which my noble friend made, but it is a political mistake, and it is a serious mistake for the Government to make.
The Minister asks us to look behind the smoke screen, and I think we should do so. Behind the smoke screen, regardless of some of the individual points which he has made tonight, which are made in the legislation and with which I agree—there are individual reforms which I accept—the reality is different. It is not the sum of these individual reforms at all. Behind the smoke screen there is a unilateral attempt by a political party, which happens to be in power, to diminish the power of one at least of its opponents. That might be a proper way to use power if you think that power is its own justification. I do not happen to think that, and I do not think it in relation to my own party either. I do not think that power should be used in that way.
Had the Government come before us with a body of measures which were the result of wide-ranging independent inquiry by a commission, or committee, or something of that nature, the proposals put forward in this clause would have carried weight and might have carried some of us into the Lobby with the noble Earl. But he has not done that. The political party gained power at an election in which, as he rightly says, a majority of trade unionists voted for parties other than the Labour Party. However, it is quite likely that a majority of trade unionists voted for parties other than the Conservative Party as well. I do not actually know, but that is quite likely, and that is no argument at all of any significance. Behind the smoke screen we see a party utilising its power for party advantage, and that is shabby. Because it is shabby, this clause should be opposed.
The Earl of Gowrie
I am sorry to delay the Committee on this, but we again are not, in my judgment, making the proper comparisons. If the Committee were politically cynical it might say that the interests of the Conservative Party—and certainly many commentators have made this point—would be served by reinforcing the electoral rump of the Labour Party at the expense of that interesting new phenomenon on the political scene—the Alliance. The idea that it is in the interests of the Conservative Party to clobber the Labour Party's funding is grotesque.
As we know, political funding into the Labour Party comes through, as it were, a subscription method on union funds ticked off by employers. We are not proposing to change that, for the reasons I gave. That enormously helps the Labour Party, and I would hope that it would grow through political funding to help all parties, because there are many Tories, many SDP, and many Liberal members of trade unions. All we say is that these political purposes should not be funded out of the general funds.
§ Lord Houghton of Sowerby
May I utter a cautionary word here? To bring companies into any kind of relationship with the trade unions in regard to contributions to party funds will not help matters in the least. It may give a feeling of superficial fairness, but I warn the Committee that if shareholders were required to vote money to political parties through company meetings, company donations would 863 increase enormously. It is because the companies do not get shareholders' approval, or need not get shareholders' approval, for their political donations that they are so modest. When once they get shareholders' approval they will become much bolder.
Experience in Europe was not that the union contributions to political parties were causing any trouble, because no trade union movement in Europe was affiliated to the Social Democratic Parties there as the unions are affiliated to the Labour Party here. No, it was company donations which were the trouble. It was company donations which had to be stopped from becoming too great in relation to all other funding of political parties, especially when tax concessions went along with them. That is why the changeover to state aid came about in order to cleanse the whole system. Our system needs cleansing, and one day it will have to be done. I hope the Labour Party is not going to talk about tit-for-tat with the Conservatives on doing something to the companies that the Conservatives do to Labour. There is a much bigger and better remedy waiting to be accomplished than that.
§ Lord Dean of Beswick
I indicated when I started to speak on clause stand part that we were opposed to the clause standing part of the Bill. Therefore, we divide the House on this matter.
§ 8.19 p.m.
§ On Question, Whether Clause 15 shall stand part of the Bill?
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 80; Not-Contents, 37.864
|DIVISION NO. 2|
|Airey of Abingdon, B.||Gowrie, E.|
|Allerton, L.||Gray of Contin, L.|
|Auckland, L.||Gridley, L.|
|Avon, E.||Grimston of Westbury, L.|
|Bauer, L.||Hailsham of Saint Marylebone, L.|
|Belhaven and Stenton, L.|
|Bellwin, L.||Halsbury, E.|
|Beloff, L.||Hatherton, L.|
|Brookes, L.||Home of the Hirsel, L.|
|Brougham and Vaux, L.||Hornsby-Smith, B.|
|Caithness, E.||Hunter of Newington, L.|
|Cameron of Lochbroom, L.||Hylton-Foster, B.|
|Campbell of Alloway, L.||Inglewood, L.|
|Campbell of Croy, L.||Kilmany, L.|
|Carnegy of Lour, B.||Kinloss, Ly.|
|Chelmer, L.||Lane-Fox, B.|
|Colwyn, L.||Long, V.|
|Cork and Orrery, E.||Lucas of Chilworth, L.|
|Craigavon, V.||Lyell, L.|
|Crathorne, L.||McAlpine of West Green, L.|
|Davidson, V.||MacLehose of Beoch, L.|
|Denham, L. [Teller.]||Masham of Ilton, B.|
|Effingham, E.||Maude of Stratford-upon-Avon, L.|
|Elton, L.||Mersey, V.|
|Faithfull, B.||Montgomery of Alamein, V.|
|Fanshawe of Richmond, L.||Mottistone, L.|
|Fortescue, E.||Mountevans, L.|
|Gardner of Parkes, B.||Mountgarret, V.|
|Gibson-Watt, L.||Orkney, E.|
|Gisborough, L.||Pender, L.|
|Glanusk, L.||Rankeillour, L.|
|Glenarthur, L.||Renton, L.|
|Rochdale, V.||Tranmire, L.|
|Saint Oswald, L.||Trefgarne, L.|
|Savile, L.||Trumpington, B.|
|Sharples, B.||Ullswater, V.|
|Skelmersdale, L.||Vaux of Harrowden, L.|
|Stamp, L.||Windlesham, L.|
|Stodart of Leaston, L.||Wise, L.|
|Swinton, E. [Teller. ]||Young, B.|
|Barnett, L.||John-Mackie, L.|
|Bottomley, L.||Lockwood, B.|
|Bowden, L.||McCarthy, L.|
|Brockway, L.||McIntosh of Haringey, L.|
|Carmichael of Kelvingrove, L.||MacLeod of Fuinary, L.|
|Cledwyn of Penrhos, L.||Mar, C.|
|Collison, L.||Mishcon, L.|
|David, B.||Nicol, B.|
|Dean of Beswick, L.||Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L. [Teller.]|
|Elystan-Morgan, L.||Rhodes, L.|
|Ennals, L.||Stewart of Alvechurch, B.|
|Ewart-Biggs, B.||Stewart of Fulham, L.|
|Gallacher, L.||Stone, L.|
|Graham of Edmonton, L. [Teller.]||Taylor of Mansfield, L.|
|Hatch of Lusby, L.||Wedderburn of Charlton, L.|
|Houghton of Sowerby, L.||Wells-Pestell, L.|
|Howie of Troon, L.||White, B.|
§ Resolved in the affirmative, and Clause 15 agreed to accordingly.
§ 8.28 p.m.
The Earl of Gowrie moved Amendment No. 115A:
After Clause 15, insert the following new clause:
§ "(Collection of union dues by employers.
§ .—(1) Where any person who is a member of a trade union which has a political fund has certified in writing to his emloyer that, or to the effect that, he—
- (a) is exempt from the obligation to contribute to that fund; or
- (b) has, in accordance with the 1913 Act, notified the union in writing of his objection to contributing to it;
§ (2) Subsection (1) above does not apply—
- (a) before the first day, following the giving of the certificate, on which it is reasonably practicable for the employer to comply with it; or
- (b) after the certificate is withdrawn.
§ (3) Where an employer—
- (a) refuses (otherwise than to the extent required by subsection (1) above) to deduct any union dues from emoluments payable to any person who has given a certificate to him under this section; but
- (b) continues to deduct union dues from emoluments payable to other members of the union;
§ (4) Where, on an application made by a person who claims that his employer has failed to comply with this section in deducting or refusing to deduct any amount from emoluments payable to him, the court is satisfied that there has been such a failure it shall make a declaration to that effect.
§ (5) Where the court makes such a declaration it may, if it considers it appropriate to do so in order to secure that the failure is not repeated, make an order requiring the employer to take, within such time as may be specified in the order, such steps in relation to emoluments payable by him to the applicant as may be so specified.865
§ (6)The court having jurisdiction for the purposes of this section shall be the county court or, in Scotland, the sheriff court.
§ (7)This section has effect (with the omission of subsection (5)) in relation to employment under or for the purposes of a government department or any officer or body exercising on behalf of the Crown any functions conferred by any enactment as it has effect in relation to other employment.").
§ The noble Lord said: We now come to a new clause which I believe should command the overwhelming support of your Lordships' Committee. We can forget recent minor altercations about money. This concerns the system whereby employers undertake to collect trade union subscriptions from their employees' pay packets on a trade union's behalf—the so-called check off system.
§ It is not my purpose—nor does it come within the scope of this Bill—to deal with the merits or otherwise of the check off system in general. But the operation of this system has proved to be the cause of difficulty and considerable concern to many trade unionists in the context of the political levy. This concern was reflected in amendments put forward by a number of honourable friends and honourable Members on the Alliance Benches during Report stage in another place.
§ The problems associated with the check off in the context of the political levy were of course in the Government's mind well before the debate on the amendments to which I have just referred. The Green Paper indeed referred directly to the cause of concern with which this new clause is intended to deal. Suffice it to say that when the matter was raised at Report stage in another place my right honourable friend was glad to give an undertaking to bring forward a provision to deal with the problem. It is that provision which is now before your Lordships' Committee.
§ The problem is quite simply that, even when he has contracted out, a trade union member whose subscriptions are collected through the check off can find that he is still paying the political levy and that he is unable to require his employer to stop the deduction of the political levy element from his pay cheque. Some employers are prepared to operate lower rates of deduction for contracted-out members voluntarily; but I regret to say that this is not always the case. Where the employer is not prepared to vary the level of his deduction, the member concerned is faced with the task of obtaining refunds from his trade union on a continuing basis.
§ I would quite understand if your Lordships were to find this question of refunds rather odd. I did myself. It is based on a provision in Section 6 of the 1913 Act. This provision is pretty obscure stuff, but what it boils down to is that, where the political levy is collected as part of the general union subscription, the trade union member should be relieved of paying it and, so far as possible, this should happen at the time the subscription is collected. But this was before the days of the employer check-off; and what it has since been interpreted to mean in that context is that, where the levy is collected as part of the general subscription by the employer, it is sufficient for the union to make a refund of the amount involved. This refund should normally be made in advance,but—according to a judgment of the Employment Appeal Tribunal in the case ofReeves v. Transport and General Workers Unionin 1980—where a refund in advance is for some 866 reason impossible, it may even be made after the political levy has been collected.
§ Many trade unionists find this need to obtain refunds of a levy which they are contracted out of paying quite unacceptable in principle, even if—as is supposed to happen—they receive the refunds in advance and without having to ask the trade union for them. What they find even more unacceptable is when they have to badger their trade union to provide refunds, when they do not receive them until months or years after the levy was collected, or—as sometimes happens—where they are required to attend a trade union office, or even a trade union branch meeting, to ask for their money back. The sums of money are not large. It is hardly surprising that some trade union members, when they are faced with such difficulties, simply decide not to bother. But just because some union members are prepared to put up with this situation, it does not mean that we should ignore the very genuine and entirely justified sense of grievance that many feel. It is just this sort of thing that has given contracting out a bad name.
§ I shall now quickly describe what is contained in the new clause. The key provision is subsection (1). This places a duty on an employer not to collect the political levy where an employee notifies him in writing that he is exempt from paying it or has notified his union of his wish to be exempt. Subsection (2) makes clear that the employer must comply as soon as is reasonably practicable. Subsection (3) makes clear that he will not be in compliance if he simply refuses to deduct any money at all from the member in question. Subsections (4) to (6) set out the remedies for failures to comply, and subsection (7) extends the provision to Crown employees, subject to the usual convention that enforceable orders of a court may not be made against the Crown. I commend the proposed new clause to the Committee.
§ Lord McCarthy
The noble Earl is starting as he began. His argument on this new clause is the same as all the arguments that he has used throughout the passage of this Bill. It is what I call the "exclusion principle". One simply says that trade unions are different. You do not have to say how they are different—they are different. You exclude them from all principles of similar treatment, equity, fairness and, now, even evidence. You do not have to have evidence if you want to do things to trade unions because they are different. They can be excluded from all evidence and all rationality. So, the noble Earl tells us that there is overwhelming support for the amendment. We are not given any evidence of that overwhelming support. His attitude is, "What I say three times is true".
The noble Earl tells us that a considerable number of trade unionists are concerned and that many find the present arrangements unacceptable. He tells us that people have badgered for months and for years and have had to go to their trade union branch meetings to get their money. He talks as though there are thousands and thousands and thousands of them all banging on the door of Transport House. No evidence is required because we are talking about trade unions. They have been excluded from the rules of evidence.
867 So we come to a detailed examination of what this is. It is suggested that a perfectly reasonable and, in an overwhelming number of cases, workable arrangement shall be changed. Why should it be changed? It is quite true that in another place the Secretary of State said that it was to be changed because of the considerable number of trade unionists who had been banging on his door. But more recently, in an exchange which he had with the TUC, as was widely reported in the Press, the Secretary of State gave somewhat different reasons. He said that he had to move in this direction because he was already under pressure to abolish the check-off altogether. He acknowledged the difficulties put to him by the TUC representatives in previous discussions on this matter, but the amendment he was proposing was the minimum he considered could be offered in response to considerable parliamentary pressure for much more far-reaching changes. Once again, this Bill ends as this Bill began.
We have had the Secretary of State in the other place and the noble Earl in this place justifying what they have done to their own Bill and what they have proposed during the course of their own Bill—none of which, of course, was envisaged in their own Green Paper—and justifying it by saying, "Look at the wild men behind us". But the noble Earl said, if I understand him—and I shall read Hansard with great care tomorrow to see if I do—that the Government do not plan to change the check-off and that they have no plans to do so. Perhaps he said they had no "present" plans; we shall see. Therefore, if there are no plans to change the check-off, I do not see why we need this provision.
Let us look at the problem which the noble Earl mentioned. Let us suppose that the block is the employer. Let us suppose that the problem is that the trade unionist who wants to stop paying the political levy cannot get the employer to give back the money. In the first place, of course, the trade unionist might be able to establish a case in a small claims court or, under Reeves v. Transport and General Workers Union, he can go to the union and obtain redress from the union if the employer refuses to cancel the checkoff and prays in aid the fact that he has an agreement with the union. If the block is the union, then, if you take into account not only Reeves v. Transport and General Workers Union but also Williams v. Butler, it is quite clear that the union is responsible if the union was informed.
The problem with the Williams v. Butler case is that there is no evidence that the complainant actually complained to the union. The problem was that he wanted to go to the employer without going to the union. Reasonably enough the court said, "If you have an understanding and an agreement with the union then the union is the one to cancel it". I say, therefore, that there is no substantial problem. I know of no significant numbers of cases where unions have refused to cancel check-off arrangements. Of course, it may be difficult to cancel them immediately. The certification officer says that in those circumstances the union must give the money back in advance. That is what the certification officer says and what the Employment Appeal Tribunal says. So the law is quite 868 clear. The number of cases where there are problems is extremely small.
Finally, of course, all this was gone through and is the reason why the TUC was so annoyed when the General Council saw the Secretary of State somewhat earlier in the day and discussed with him the general question of what to do about what the Government were thinking of doing about the political levy and the issue of contracting out. The TUC reached an agreement. At least, they thought they had reached an agreement. They thought that they reached an agreement with the Secretary of State that there would be no legislation dealing with contracting-in or contracting-out if the TUC agreed to issue a statement of guidance and circulate information sheets based upon that guidance. The Secretary of State said to the representatives of the TUC on that occasion that he would reserve his right to legislate if and when it appeared that the operation of the TUC statement of guidance was ineffective. Yet before the ink was dry, and before the passage of the Bill through the House, as a result of the madmen from behind, the Government bring in this amendment.
§ Lord Rochester
I cannot be expected to take responsibility for what may or may not have been agreed between the TUC and the Government; but I have to say that I support this amendment so far as it goes. My doubt is whether, if there is to be this basic change in the check off system, it goes quite far enough. As a matter of principle, why should not the levy be deducted from an employee's pay only if, as in the case of other deductions, the individual concerned has indicated positively that that is his wish? I hope that the Committee will not construe this as being an anti-trade union attitude on my part and that that has been sufficiently demonstrated by what I said on Part II of the Bill. It must also be apparent from the terms of Amendment No. 118 to which we shall soon be coming.
The fact is that my noble friends and I are opposed to all forms of corporate political funding; either by trade unions of the Labour Party or by business interests of the Conservative Party. But for so long as such arrangements continue they should in my view be based on considerations that are positive and voluntary and which enable the individual to disclose his political views to as small a number of people as is necessary in the circumstances. I shall not be pressing this point any further now. I simply wanted to draw the attention of the Committee to the principle involved here, for at a later stage I might wish to return to it.
The Earl of Gowrie
I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Rochester—who could hardly be described as either mad or behind me—for the support that he has given me on this amendment. It seems to me extraordinary that the noble Lord, Lord McCarthy, should defend the present state of the law. I must ask him why people should have to ask for refunds, and why should not contracting out mean what people think it means?
A number of examples were given in another place. There was the celebrated case of Mr. Cleminson who in 1977 discovered that he had being paying the political levy through the check off system without 869 receiving refunds for the previous 11 years. More recently there has been the quite extraordinary situation where 160 members of the National Association of Theatrical, Television and Kine Employees (all-important good men and women and true in my world of the arts) were unable to obtain refunds from their union up to three years after they had contracted out. I do not think the strictures of the noble Lord, Lord McCarthy, about my antiunionism—which is far from being the case—should be allowed to conceal that this is the correction of a small but very irritating anomaly to quite a significant number of people.
§ 8.45 p.m.
§ On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 115A) shall be agreed to?
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 105; Not-Contents, 34.870
|DIVISION NO. 3|
|Airedale, L.||Hatherton, L.|
|Airey of Abingdon, B.||Home of the Hirsel, L.|
|Allerton, L.||Hunter of Newington, L.|
|Attlee, E.||Hutchinson of Lullington, L.|
|Auckland, L.||Hylton-Foster, B.|
|Avon, E.||Inglewood, L.|
|Aylestone, L.||Kilmany, L.|
|Bauer, L.||Kilmarnock, L.|
|Belhaven and Stenton, L.||Lane-Fox, B.|
|Bellwin, L.||Lawrence, L.|
|Beloff, L.||Lloyd of Kilgerran, L.|
|Birdwood, L.||Long, V.|
|Broadbridge, L.||Lucas of Chilworth, L.|
|Brookes, L.||Lyell, L.|
|Brougham and Vaux, L.||McAlpine of West Green, L.|
|Caithness, E.||MacLehose of Beoch, L.|
|Cameron of Lochbroom, L.||Mar, C.|
|Campbell of Alloway, L.||Marshall of Leeds, L.|
|Campbell of Croy, L.||Masham of Ilton, B.|
|Carnegy of Lour, B.||Maude of Stratford-upon-Avon, L.|
|Chelmer, L.||Mersey, V.|
|Cockfield, L.||Meston, L.|
|Colwyn, L.||Minto, E.|
|Cork and Orrery, E.||Monson, L.|
|Craigavon, V.||Montgomery of Alamein, V.|
|Crathorne, L.||Mottistone, L.|
|Davidson, V.||Mountevans, L.|
|Denham, L. [Teller.]||Mountgarret, V.|
|Donaldson of Kingsbridge, L.||Pender, L.|
|Effingham, E.||Peyton of Yeovil, L.|
|Elles, B.||Rankeillour, L.|
|Elton, L.||Renton, L.|
|Faithfull, B.||Robson of Kiddington, B.|
|Fanshawe of Richmond, L.||Rochdale, V.|
|Foot, L.||Rochester, L.|
|Fortescue, E.||Saint Oswald, L.|
|Gardner of Parkes, B.||Savile, L.|
|Gibson-Watt, L.||Simon, V.|
|Gisborough, L.||Skelmersdale, L.|
|Glanusk, L.||Stodart of Leaston, L.|
|Glenarthur, L.||Swinton, E. [Teller.]|
|Gowrie, E.||Taylor of Gryfe, L.|
|Gray of Contin, L.||Tordoff, L.|
|Grey, E.||Tranmire, L.|
|Gridley, L.||Trefgarne, L.|
|Grimston of Westbury, L.||Trumpington, B.|
|Hailsham of Saint Marylebone, L.||Ullswater, V.|
|Halsbury, E.||Vaux of Harrowden, L.|
|Hampton, L.||Vickers, B.|
|Harris of Greenwich, L.||Walston, L.|
|Whaddon, L.||Wise, L.|
|Wigoder, L.||Young, B.|
|Barnett, L.||John-Mackie, L.|
|Bottomley, L.||Lockwood, B.|
|Bowden, L.||McCarthy, L.|
|Brockway, L.||McIntosh of Haringey, L.|
|Brooks of Tremorfa, L.||MacLeod of Fuinary, L.|
|Cledwyn of Penrhos, L.||Mishcon, L.|
|Collison, L.||Nicol, B.|
|David, B.||Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L. [Teller.]|
|Dean of Beswick, L.||Stewart of Alvechurch, B.|
|Elwyn-Jones, L.||Stewart of Fulham, L.|
|Elystan-Morgan, L.||Stoddart of Swindon, L.|
|Ennals, L.||Stone, L.|
|Ewart-Biggs, B.||Taylor of Blackburn, L.|
|Gifford, L.||Taylor of Mansfield, L.|
|Graham of Edmonton, L. [Teller.]||Underhill, L.|
|Hatch of Lusby, L.||Wedderburn of Charlton, L.|
|Jeger, B.||White, B.|
§ Resolved in the affirmative, and amendment agreed to accordingly.
§ Clause 18 [Short Title, commencement and extent]:
§ 8.53 p.m.
Lord McCarthy moved Amendment No. 116:
Page 20, line 2, after ("Part I") insert ("and Part II").
The noble Lord said: In my submission this is, if not the most important amendment that we have put down, one of the most important; and I would argue that it is one of the most reasonable because the Government have given us the case—at least they have given us the case so far as Part I of the Bill is concerned and also to some extent so far as Part III is concerned. Yet they have not given us the case so far as Part II is concerned; and to give us the case is what we ask for in this amendment. I want to take with Amendment No. 116, Amendment No. 117, which is essential for its effect.
Amendment No. 117: Page 20, line 4, leave out subsection (3).
The object of the amendment is to change the position whereby Part II—that is to say, that part of the Bill which deals with the strike ballot—comes into effect in the same way as Part I. Part I, as the Bill is now printed,
shall come into effect on such day as the Secretary of State may by order made by statutory instrument appoint".
§ We suggest that should be the case for Part II of the Bill. The Government do not explain, and in another place have never explained, why they make a distinction in this respect between Part I and Part II. They have said, and indeed we can see in many of the arguments in the Green Paper, why a discretion has been given to the Secretary of State so far as Part I is concerned. It is normally accepted—and, as I say, this is there in the Green Paper—that Part I of the Bill will only work, and can only be expected to work, if time is given for trade unions to change their rule books.
§ The Government are often telling us that there is nothing in Part I of the Bill which does not exist already in some unions. We challenge that, but certainly there is no one union which does everything that is required in Part I of the Bill. Therefore, the Government presumably accept that the unions must 871 be given time for rule book changes. They must be given time to use their constitutional machinery. Whether they have biannual delegate conferences or special rules revision conferences, however they set out it, their executive has to compose (and they will be complicated rules) new rules to bring into effect a system of direct elections under Part I of the Bill. Then the decision-making body of the union has to accept or reject them.
§ I hope it is the case that one of the reasons why the Government have said from time to time that several years may elapse before all unions will be expected to come into line on Part I of the Bill, is that they realise that it may be the case that a general secretary, an executive of a union, could quite honestly and sincerely use best endeavours to persuade the rule revision conference to take a particular point of view, and the rule revision conference could throw them out. Then the Government, I would have thought, would be reasonable enough to allow that union to call another conference and try again—at least maybe once again—before they brought the Act into effect in general terms, so far as they are concerned.
In all these ways the Government, in talking to the TUC and in their statements in another place, have been quite reasonable from the time point of view in terms of what they have expected to happen in relation to Part I of the Bill. And yet the Bill says:
Part II shall come into force on the expiry of the period of two months beginning with the day on which this Act is passed".
§ In other words, if this Act were to come out of Parliament some time in July, August or September, before the end of the year, all trade unions in this country would be bound by Part II of the Bill.
§ Some of my more suspicious friends believe that this is so because the Government still want a little bit more law in reserve to use in the miners' dispute and if Part II of the Bill is effective then this might be some way in which they could force a ballot on the miners. I do not believe it. As I have said before, I subscribe to the "cock-up" and not to the "conspiracy" theory of history. I do not believe that this part of the schedule reads as it does because the Government think they are going to get this in for the miners' dispute. As I have said, there is plenty of law of all kinds lying about the place unused, both civil and criminal, which can be picked up any time anybody thinks it will help in the miners' dispute. I think it is a cock-up.
§ I do not believe they have thought through the consequences, and I think that is because where it is quite obvious that if you want to rule how somebody shall be elected or how a national executive shall be decided, you have to go to the rule book. And whereas the Government are very much aware that there are rules now, for example, in the GMBATU (and they will have to make vast changes as to how their executive is elected) they have not really cottoned on to the fact that there are rules about strikes; that all unions have something in the rule books about strikes.
§ If they did not have something in the rule book about strikes, they could not control the expenditure of strike funds and they would not be able to say whether a particular industrial action was authorised or unauthorised, which is essential for the financial 872 viability of the union. So the rules of the union are every bit as important in governing the use of the strike weapon as the rules of the union are in the election of the executive committe.
§ Fortunately, the work on union rules in relation to strikes has been done for us, and done recently, by Undy and Martin. They have looked at 103 rule books, including all the rule books in the TUC. What comes out of their study is that. if anything, the existing rule books of British unions are further from the model which the Government wish to impose upon them under Part II of the Bill than they are from the model which the Government wish to impose upon them under Part I of the Bill.
§ After all, 60 per cent. of the unions directly elect their executive and 60 per cent. of the unions do not make provision for ballots on strikes. Most of those who do make such provision do not have mandatory ballots at all, they have discretionary ballots. They say that you may use a ballot but you do not have to use a ballot. You may use it or you may use one or another of the ways of sanctioning industrial action. I am not seeking to argue at this time whether that is right or wrong. I believe it is perfectly reasonable, but it will not be the law after this Bill is passed.
§ Therefore, if the Government are not in a position—and, again, some of my friends say that this is what they are trying to do—where they want to make it impossible for British trade unions to be lawful because they cannot change their rules in time, then they must give them time. I do not wish to say that the Government want to drive the trade union movement into illegality. The fact is—and the Government must try to make an imaginative leap and understand this—that unions cannot operate outside rules.
§ You cannot create a great constitutional legal system and then say, "Operate that in the way that the Bill says, irrespective of rules". That is not the way that things work. People authorised by the unions to take decisions are elected and appointed to take those decisions. If you want to bring them into conformity with another set of provisions, you must give them time to bring the rules into conformity with the law. That the Government appreciate in the case of constitutions and in the case of executives. Why do they not appreciate it in the case of strikes?
§ Think of the complications for a union which wants to abide by this Bill. Authorised strikes must have ballots. Only those who are affected by the strike must vote in the ballot. This is much more difficult to ensure in the case of strikes than it is in the case of constituencies in elections, because it is sometimes a multi-union question; and sometimes part of the branch is involved in the strike and part of the branch is not. Conventional union registers will not fit the frontiers of collective bargaining and new registers have to be compiled to fit the frontiers of collective bargaining. Time has to be given for this.
§ We are told that the voters must vote nil cost—at no cost to themselves. There must be an equal opportunity for all to vote. I believe that this will require considerable changes in the structure of unions, if they are to conform. Some branches may have to be merged. In some cases, postal ballots will have to be used, and if they are the ballots will be 873 expensive and unions will need to have money in order to carry out the ballots.
§ It is very easy for the Government to say—I have mentioned this before, but this is my last opportunity—"Go to the certification scheme under the 1980 Act". The Government know as well as I do that the formal position at the moment at the Trades Union Congress is that unions do not use the scheme. The Government may say that they must change. All right; but they must have time to change. They must have time to apply, and when they apply, if the future resembles the past, we know that that will take time.
§ Undy and Martin show that there have so far been 31 applications for ballot money for elections from non-TUC unions over a two-year period. Less than half have been successful, and most of them have been defeated on complex technical grounds. It is difficult enough to solve those complex technical objections when you are dealing with permanent constituencies: when you are dealing with shifting constituencies for strike ballots it is almost impossible. But whether it is impossible or possible you need time, and I beg the Government to give the trade union movement time by accepting this amendment. I beg to move.
§ The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Viscount Simon)
Before I put this amendment, may I apologise to the Committee. In my hurry to get on with things I forgot to put the Question. Whether Clauses 16 and 17 shall stand part of the Bill? I shall put it now.
§ Clauses 16 and 17 agreed to.
The Earl of Gowrie
If I may, in the interests of getting on I shall not deal with the issues of Part I, because the noble Lord, Lord McCarthy, has very fairly said that the Government recognise that it would be unrealistic to expect unions to make changes overnight. That, in a nutshell, is why, subject to any further considerations which may be occasioned by our response to the amendment of my noble friend Lord Beloff, it is our intention to introduce Part I by a commencement order, so that it takes effect a little over a year after Royal Assent. That will provide the necessary time for unions to bring their arrangements into line with what Part I of the Bill requires.
I do not see, however that these concerns apply in any real sense to Part II of the Bill, because Part II faces trade unions with what is essentially a very simple proposition. If they intend to organise industrial action and wish to avoid liability under the civil law for doing so, they will need to hold a proper ballot first. The practical implications of holding a ballot will vary considerably, according to the scale and other circumstances of the industrial action which they may be contemplating.
Where this is on a small scale, there should be no difficulty in setting up the necessary arrangements in a short space of time. If, however they wish to call a large-scale strike soon after the commencement of this Part of the Bill, and they fail to prepare themselves properly to comply with the Bill's requirements, then I am afraid they will have only themselves to blame. The essential features of the balloting requirements will have been known to them for very many months. The exact requirements will have been known for two 874 months and more. They should therefore have no good reason for not being able to comply with these requirements. And even if they do not bother to exercise a modicum of foresight and planning, which is unlikely—trade unions have many able people either directly involved with them or assisting them professionally—all is still not lost.
The Government are far from requiring trade unions to organise strikes, still less strikes within a fixed time after commencement. If trade unions are not sufficiently organised to comply with Part II of the Bill, the solution is obvious. They should postpone the strike call until they are properly prepared. If they choose not to do so and thereby deprive themselves of immunity, it would be fair to say: on their own heads be it. They cannot blame the Government for the effects of having exercised their own freedom of choice.
The noble Lord, Lord McCarthy, raised the issue of the miners' strike. Even if one were to share his pessimism about the length of the miners' strike, the Bill does not apply retrospectively. It will apply only to new industrial action organised after commencement, not to industrial action already taking place. But certainly it is the case that if new groups of strikers were called on to take action in sympathy with the miners after commencement, their unions would need to take account of the provisions of the Bill. I should have thought that in those circumstances, most of their members would certainly want that to be the case. I can therefore see no grounds for departing from the standard minimum period between Royal Assent and commencement in relation to Part II of the Bill. In the light of what I have said, I hope that the noble Lords opposite will agree to withdraw their amendment.
§ Lord McCarthy
I am extremely disappointed by what the noble Earl has said. Perhaps it is my fault. Perhaps we should have found some way to introduce the amendment earlier. It points to a question which was not raised in another place. I readily accept that it was overlooked in another place. The noble Earl has his prepared brief and he answers in the prepared way; but the answers he has given will not do.
In the first half of his answer he seemed to be arguing for fragmented bargaining and suggesting that there are very few problems if you want to bring small pockets of workers out on strike—that that is all right and is easy—but that very difficult problems arise if you want large strikes; perhaps, therefore, trade unions should draw the conclusion and break up collective bargaining and company-wide, plant-wide, bargaining, and go back to shop floor bargaining in small groups, because anybody can run a ballot for 30 people.
That is not a responsible way in which to reply to a serious suggestion. The bargaining structure is a matter for the parties. A Government that constantly tell us they do not want to interfere should not interfere with the bargaining structure, especially when they do not know what they are doing. This was not done to fragment the bargaining structure. The Government are just digging up, an excuse which implies fragmentation of the bargaining structure and they are stuck with it.
875 The noble Earl also suggested that if you cannot get a proper ballot of your members you should hang about and not do anything; you should not strike until you can. This relates to something which is quite fundamental to the Government's philosophy and to which we are always drawing attention. The Government do not believe in trade unionism; they do not want trade unions to have effective sanctions; they do not want trade unions to have strike power, because if they do not have effective, lawful strike sanctions they will not strike. We believe that the trade unions have a role to play and a place in society, and their need to take effective industrial action must not be made unlawful. The trade unions must be given a little time. We shall come back to this matter on Report.
§ On Question, amendment negatived.
§ [Amendment No. 117 not moved.]
§ 9.13 p.m.
Lord Wedderburn of Charlton moved Amendment No. 117A:
Page 20, line 6, leave out from ("shall") to the end of line and insert ("not come into force until such day as the Secretary of State may by order made by statutory instrument appoint; but the Secretary of State shall not appoint a day for this purpose until there shall have come into force legislation requiring gifts or other dispositions by a company for political purposes (within the meaning of subsection (3) of section 3 of the 1913 Act) to be made only from property which is available for distribution and which is kept in a separate political fund approved by ordinary resolution of the company, and giving members the right in respect of their shareholding in the company to contract out of their contribution to such gifts or dispositions.").
§ The noble Lord said: Amendment No. 117A, which I beg to move, proposes that Part III of the Bill should not come into force until there is parallel legislation for companies. There has been some debate in Committee on another clause about this matter but it is necessary to put shortly the specific case for this amendment, now that it arises. It is particularly necessary since the specific clauses which my noble friends and I put on the Marshalled List to deal with the matter in detail were found to be out of order and not relevant to the rules of procedure. A Bill dealing with the political funds of trade unions and employers' associations does not, it seems, allow for debate in detail on the political funds of companies. Until 1967, there was no provision in our law for political gifts and donations made by companies. As the noble Earl rightly said, companies are free to give on political objects. The reason that is so is, the courts never having held that because the definition of a company in our law does not expressly include mention of political objects, that therefore it was unlawful and ultra vires for companies to make political donations. It was precisely that finding—making the necessary change from company to trade union—that the Osborne case in 1910 made on trade unions. It is now seen, of course, as a totally erroneous interpretation of the doctrine of ultra vires and there is no book in the land that would uphold it. For trade unions there was the error of Osborne but for companies there was never any son of Osborne. Companies were free, as were other associations, to draw up their own rules and to act by majority—and 876 I stress, to act by majority—or according to such Articles of Association as they chose to adopt.
§ In 1967, companies were for the first time required to disclose gifts for political and charitable purposes by the Companies Act of that year. Section 19 of the Companies Act 1967 required that companies disclose the amount they gave for those purposes. That is still true, with a cut-off point of £200 below which disclosure is not required. The only requirement for companies is disclosure of the donation.
§ The noble Earl, Lord Gowrie, has more than once said in your Lordships' Committee that to compare trade unions with companies in this matter is not comparing like with like. The answer to that argument is twofold. First, were I free to do so, I would wish to extend the debate beyond companies and trade unions. It seems to me to be an issue of the law of associations; and all associations should be looked at and the law should be even-handed among them. We take the case of companies because, as a matter of practical affairs, companies are the most straightforward and directly relevant issue.
Secondly, there was the point made by the Jenkins Committee on company law in 1962, to which evidence was given in a company law investigation that the political donations of companies should be both disclosed (as, five years later, they were) and controlled. The Jenkins Committee presented in paragraph 51 a sentence which so expresses the curious establishment view of the matter that it needs to be stated in contrast to the way in which people sometimes see trade unions. The committee said this:
We do not comment on the substance of these suggestions because we are quite clear that they are not primarily a matter of company law and that they raise constitutional issues which are outside our competence and which would affect other organisations besides companies".
§ The Jenkins Committee responded—as do most other committees—by stating that discussions of donations for political objects involve constitutional issues. That always goes for companies. It always goes for other associations. But it never goes for trade unions. As soon as a trade union comes along, the trade union is not allowed to decide the matter by a majority or in accordance with its rules but must have a special law because Osborne required a special law to be passed. We enter into a very curious, special debate in which, as my noble friend Lord McCarthy has suggested, different rules of logic are used.
§ This amendment does not try to go back on that history—as perhaps we should. I have some sympathy with my noble friend Lord Houghton in thinking it is time that the whole issue of the financing of political parties was examined in a sensible and overall manner. If that were the case, this particular issue would be subsumed within a much greater and more sensible inquiry. But that personal view of my own cannot avoid the need to confront reality as it is now. We are very unlikely to have any such investigation, let alone agreement, in the near future. Therefore, we ask: what is the fair way to proceed in the near future?
§ It is true that trade unions give money mainly to the Labour Party—it is not true that that is wholly so—and support Labour Party candidates. It is true that companies give money mainly either to the Conservative Party or to its front organisations, such 877 as British United Industrialists, which changed its corporate status in 1967 in order not to have to disclose its affairs as a company to the light of day.
§ In moving this amendment, I would suggest in the light of the reality we have now that the political donations of companies, to whichever party they are given, and of trade unions, to whichever party they are given, should be governed by parallel principles. I cannot understand at all why the position of companies involves constitutional issues, or merely issues relating to the shareholders, who can sell their shares, or some other curious position of that kind which does not apply to trade unions, while trade unions have a special need for regulation.
§ The only reason that we have the 1913 Act is the Osborne judgment and what followed. If noble Lords want to prove that point, let them look at the development of the political fund problem in relation to trade unions in every other country in the world. Each country has its own specialities; each country falls into its own historical curiosities. But none of them has encountered the development that ours has, because none of them had Osborne, son of Osborne, or anything in the Osborne family. The amendment is therefore asking the Committeee to say that, having had that, and, given that we cannot change it until we can have an overall inquiry into the matter of the financing of political parties, is it not fair that the same rule should apply to trade unions and at any rate companies?
§ I would say this to noble Lords on the Liberal Benches. I perfectly appreciate that it is a difference between us that they want contracting in and we believe quite sincerely that contracting out is fairer. It also brings greater benefit to the Labour Party, that is true. but it is not impossible to have a point of principle coincide with a point of expediency. That difference between us, however, one might have thought was smaller on this particular amendment and in relation to the noble Lords' own amendment, Amendment No. 118, albeit there are small drafting differences between them. But the point of principle is surely that trade unions and companies should be dealt with even-handedly, and it is on that basis of broad principle that I move this amendment in your Lordships' Committee. I beg to move.
§ Lord Rochester
This amendment seems to have come from behind in a late run, so to speak, to overtake Amendment No. 118 in the names of my noble friend Lord Aylestone and myself. My noble friend spoke to Amendment 118 briefly last night in introducing Amendment No. 90. The amendment which the noble Lord, Lord Wedderburn, has just moved, covers much the same ground as our amendments, but it goes further, as the noble Lord has acknowledged, in requiring political donations by companies to be made only from a separate political fund and that shareholders should have the right to contract out of that fund.
I do not want to enter again into the fairly heated exchanges that we had in that area a little time ago. All I think I need say for the purposes of responding to this amendment is that the basic purpose of Amendment No. 90, which my noble friend withdrew late last 878 night, but to some form of which, as we gave notice we shall return on Report, was to provide for contracting in to the political fund of a trade union rather than contracting out.
I am afraid that I have to resist the blandishments of the noble Lord. There could hardly be a more basic difference than that between the two amendments, and I cannot support this one.
§ Lord Gray of Contin
The noble Lord, Lord Wedderburn, has as always given us a very interesting account of his reasons for supporting Amendment No. 117A, but I think that many of your Lordships would agree that everything he said merely confirmed that it is based on an entirely false analogy between trade unions and companies. The proper analogy is not with companies but with unincorporated employers' associations, and they are correctly covered by Clause 16(4) of the present Bill.
Companies are quite different. Their conduct is regulated by statute and by European directives in quite enormous detail, bearing no relation to trade union law. There are half-a-dozen Companies Acts in force, comprisng close to 1,000 sections and many detailed schedules. They are enforced by extensive and, where appropriate, severe criminal penalties, including imprisonment. One would therefore expect noble Lords opposite to be the first to say that company and trade union law are not in any way analogous.
On the particular subject of the amendment, there is no comparison between the position of an employee in a trade union with a political fund and the position of an investor deciding whether to buy shares in a particular company. There is a free market in company shares. You can choose to put your money in any of the many thousands of companies that make no political donations or in one of the smaller number that do. You can buy and sell as you please. No doubt this helps to explain why there has been so much public concern about the political funds of trade unions but scarcely any complaints from shareholders about political donations by companies.
Another reason is that there is no comparison between the amounts of money involved for the individual. Political expenditure by trade unions adds up to a significant sum by comparison with expenditure on members' benefits. On 1982 figures, if unions' political expenditure could have been used instead for members' benefits, benefits would have been 13 per cent. higher. The amendment would have something like this for companies, with contracting-out shareholders being paid an extra dividend representing their share of political expenditure. But how much would this be? Our latest figures, for 1,000 large companies in 1980, show political contributions coming on average to 0.046 per cent. of the total dividends—less than one two-thousandth part. A contracting-out shareholder would need a shareholding worth many thousands of pounds to win the price of a cup of tea.
This calculation strongly suggests that the relative minute amounts of companies' donations, all much smaller than those of the big unions, do not in practice affect the totals of dividend distributions at all. This 879 amendment erects a false analogy based on a false premise.
Now let me come for a moment to the similar amendment which was moved by the noble Lord, Lord Rochester—Amendment No. 118.
§ Lord Rochester
If I may intervene, I did not move Amendment No. 118. I was certainly contrasting it with the amendment which is now before us.
§ Lord Gray of Contin
I accept that the noble Lord did not move the amendment; but if he did not move it he certainly spoke to it. I think he would agree that he did—as did his noble friend last night when speaking to Amendment No. 90—make reference to the subject. I think I have got the messsage and the point he was making in any case, and I shall do him the courtesy of trying to answer it.
I accept that the amendment is more moderate than that tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Wedderburn; but the noble Lords, Lord Rochester and Lord Aylestone, have made the same mistake in my view, drawing a false analogy between trade union law and company law. The Government do not propose to amend the existing law on political donations by companies. It was passed by a Labour Government in 1967. It requires the public dsclosure of all political donations exceeding £200. Investors can then judge for themselves whether the company has made a wise decision. If they wish, they can buy or sell shares in it accordingly.
Trade unionists have seen that the 1913 Act is not working as it should to protect their interests. That is why the present Bill has been introduced. Shareholders, on the other hand, are in general entirely satisfied with the Companies Act as it stands. They do not seek new rights or further protection. This Bill is not about the financing of political parties. It is about the conduct of trade unions. There is therefore no place in it for either of these amendments. I trust that the noble Lord, Lord Wedderburn, who moved his amendment will therefore consider withdrawing it.
§ Lord Wedderburn of Charlton
It is necessary to say just three things in response to the noble Lord, Lord Gray. First, one really cannot have one's blood made to run cold in this matter by being told that there are severe criminal penalties in the Companies Act for hundreds of offences. There is nothing in the Companies Act whatever about political funds or the like for companies. That is the point. There is about disclosure—that is common ground—but nothing more.
Secondly, the noble Lord suggests that really these amounts of political gifts by companies are not very large. They run to some £2 million a year, so far as can be seen. It is, of course, very difficult to establish how large they are, because not all of the amounts given to the front organisations, like British United Industrialists and the Economic League, are always put into 880 the accounts. It is a matter of dispute exactly as to what the Act means in that respect. As a matter of fact, although we are not debating it, the noble Lord suggests that Amendment No. 118 is more moderate than Amendment No. 117A. In fact, its definition of political purposes is rather wider than ours, and I would have thought rather more radical in that respect.
Coming back to the amounts involved, the noble Lord suggests that the amount for each shareholder on his dividend would be very small if you use the contracting out mechanism that we suggested in our specific clauses that unhappily could not be debated because they could not come into play. It may be very small. But does the noble Lord realise that in the leading case of Reeves v. Transport and General Workers Union, one of the major areas for the Government to move an entire new clause, the member was claiming an amount of 32/52 of a penny per week? I agree that it may be a matter of principle to claim that amount. You cannot say that it is a large amount. There may be a shareholder who says in just the same way, "I don't want to sell my shares. I want the equivalent amount that I am entitled to". It seems to me precisely parallel, and it may be that there are small amounts involved in both cases.
The last point surely gives the whole game away. It is appropriate that we should come to it last. The noble Lord says that there is no analogy between trade unions and companies. The analogy is between unincorporated associations of employers' associations and trade unions. Unincorporated employers' associations! Imagine an unincorporated association of chief whips, our Chief Whip and the Chief Whip on the other side. They are unincorporated and they operate as an association of employers, employing us all. Then, suddenly, they incorporate themselves as a company. The noble Lord says that now they are totally different. Whereas the association before was analogous to a trade union, now, because it has undergone through the Companies Act that metaphysical transformation that, under the decision in Salomon v. Salomon, gave it in 1897 a separate identify from the members, it has become something quite different and is not analogous to a trade union.
Just how much sillier can this debate get than to say that an unincorporated employers' association is analogous to a trade union and is therefore in the Bill but that, if the employers' association incorporates, it has to come out of the Bill because it is a different entity and cannot have any control made over it because a grave constitutional issue is raised and following its incorporation it cannot possibly be discussed along with trade unions?
The final proof that trade unions are dealt with differently is contained, in my submission, in that wrong-headed suggestion of analogies. We shall not divide on the amendment. We shall, however leave it on the Order Paper. It will doubtless be negatived. However, it will remain there as a clear guide to the view that we take on this side of the Committee of the way in which the injustice of the law should in reality, in the short term at any rate, be put right.
§ On Question, amendment negatived.881
§ 9.35 p.m.
§ Lord Aylestone moved Amendment No. 118:
Page 20, line 6, leave out ("31st March 1985") and insert—
("such day as the Secretary of State may by order made by statutory instrument appoint; and the Secretary of State may not appoint a day for this purpose until there shall have come into force legislation requiring that any gift of money by a company for political purposes (as that expression is defined in section 19 of the Companies Act 1967) shall have first been approved by an ordinary resolution of that company.").
§ The noble Lord said: Late last night, or perhaps early this morning, I mentioned in passing, when we were dealing with the question of contracting in as against contracting out, that Amendment No. 118 had to be taken into consideration with it. The noble Lord, Lord Gray, seems to have replied to the debate on Amendment No. 118 at the same time as he replied to the debate on the previous amendment. It may be that the answer is the same.
§ But there are one or two points that I think we should make at this stage. First of all, this party, unlike the Government, unlike the Official Opposition, does not represent any particular section of the people of this country. We represent neither the trade unions nor big business. Our purpose is to endeavour to be fair-minded, to see that there is equity in every respect. The noble Lord, Lord Wedderburn, referred to what he called the small amount of money received from gifts from companies—presumably to the Conservative Party, because I think most of us accept that that is where it goes. I should like to make the point that we are not concerned with amounts of money; we are concerned with principle. It is the principle of the thing that concerns us mainly.
§ The trade union contributions to the Labour Party are approved in one way or another, sometimes by block votes, sometimes by ballot. But it is equally true that the charitable and the political donations of the companies are approved by resolution at annual meetings, very often by massive proxy votes. But massive proxy votes can be equated with massive block votes in the trade union movement, so in that respect there is equity. What we would wish to see, if it is at all possible, is Her Majesty's Government accepting the idea that it is the principle that matters and looking again at the 1967 Companies Act to see what can he done with it to make the position rather more even than it is at the moment.
§ If I were asked, standing on my feet, as it were, what sort of change could be made—and I appreciate that it is difficult—I should say that one simple change would be that a company which, by resolution passed at its annual meeting, decides to make a donation of—shall we say?—£5,000 to a political party, should state which political party that money is going to. That is not the position at the moment under the 1967 Act. On the other hand, one knows full well that, while all the money from the trade unions' political fund does not go to the Labour Party, the great majority of it does.
§ Our amendment seeks simply to delay the operation of Part III of the Bill, which is due to become operative on 31st March next year, until such time as the Secretary of State has been given an opportunity to look at the 1967 Companies Act and make an amendment or amendments which will bring rather more fairness between the two. I beg to move.882
§ Lord Gray of Contin
I apologise to the noble Lord if I answered most of the points in my earlier remarks when I was dealing with the previous amendment. But I was somewhat misled by his noble friend when he referred to this amendment, and I had not appreciated that it was the noble Lord's intention to move it later. I apologise to him. I shall not weary the Committee by once again going through my brief with my answers to him. But he raised some additional points, and of course we shall look at them very carefully and read what he said. Indeed, I suspect that it would be more appropriate for me to draw much of what he said to the attention of colleagues, because it does not directly relate to the Bill.
As I explained, this Bill is not about the financing of political parties; it is about the conduct of trade unions. The points which the noble Lord made regarding what might happen with changes to company law would also, of course, be for another department rather than for the Department of Employment. No doubt those points will be carefully read by others and—who knows?—they may be taken into account, indeed, I am sure that they will be taken into account, if and when any future legislation is being considered. It is always useful for us to read what all sides of the House think on these matters if we are considering at any time any future legislation.
But in the meantime I shall conclude by saying that, while the amendment which stands in the name of the noble Lords for the Alliance Benches is in our view—although not obviously in the view of the principal Opposition—slightly more acceptable than the last amendment with which we dealt, I am afraid that we still believe that it suffers from the mistake of having the wrong analogy. We do not believe that the trade union movement and the funding of political activities can be compared directly with company law which we see in a totally different light. I see that the noble Lord, Lord Wedderburn, is smiling as I say that. What I mean is that we see it in a different set of laws and regulations altogether. To compare the two is erroneous. For that reason I hope that the noble Lords might be prepared to withdraw their amendment.
§ Lord Aylestone
In view of the fact that the noble Lord has given an undertaking that the government will look at and will consider what we have had to say, I think that perhaps we can return to this matter at Report stage. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ [Amendment No. 119 not moved.]
§ Clause 18 agreed to.
§ In the Title:
The Earl of Gowrie moved Amendment No. 120:
Line 5, after ("unions") insert ("and unincorporated employers' associations").
§ The noble Earl said: This amendment to the Long Title of the Bill is necessary because the provisions of Part III relating to expenditure on political objects apply both to trade unions and to employers' associations. This follows the precedent set by the existing provisions of the 1913 Act. The amendment is necessary to ensure that this aspect is covered in the Long Title and I commend it to the Committee on that basis. I beg to move.883
§ On Question, amendment agreed to.
§ [Amendment No. 121 not moved.]
§ Title, as amended, agreed to.
§ House resumed: Bill reported with the amendments.