HL Deb 08 March 1988 vol 494 cc567-632

3.4 p.m.

The Minister of State for Defence Procurement (Lord Trefgarne)

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.—(Lord Trefgarne.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly.

[The LORD ABERDARE in the Chair.]

Clause 12 [Extension to non-voting positions of duty to hold elections]:

The Chairman of Committees (Lord Aberdare)

If Amendment No. 63 is agreed to, I cannot call Amendments Nos. 64 to 72 inclusive.

Baroness Turner of Camden moved Amendment No. 63:

Page 14, line 16, leave out subsection (1) and insert— ("(1) After subsection (6) of the 1984 Act (duty to hold election of voting members of a trade union's principal executive committee) there shall be inserted the following subsections— (6A) Notwithstanding anything in the rules or practice of any trade union, the person who holds the position of president of the union, or in the case of a union with no such position, any equivalent position, shall (if the rules do not otherwise provide for him to be a voting member of the union's principal executive committee) be deemed for the purposes of this section to be a voting member of the committee. (6B) Notwithstanding anything in the rules or practice of any trade union, the person who holds the position of general secretary of the union, or in the case of a union with no such position, the position in the union which is the equivalent, or nearest equivalent, to that of general secretary, shall, (if the rules do not otherwise provide for him to be a voting member of the union's principal executive commmittee) be deemed for the purposes of this section to be a voting member of the committee except where the post of general secretary (or nearest equivalent) is subject to appointment by the union." ").

The noble Baroness said: We now reach Clause 12 of this important Bill. The clause is very significant because it seeks to impose upon unions the obligation to elect officials who in many instances have normal contracts of employment. Amendment No. 63 standing in my name proposes two different subsections from those which are in the Bill. The object of the subsections is to try to preserve the position which currently exists in many unions and which was found to be acceptable in the 1983 Green Paper, Democracy in Trade Unions.

In most unions, and certainly in large numbers of white collar unions, the position is that the president—subsection (6A) deals with presidents—is a full member of the national executive council and normally has a vote. He would in almost all cases have had to be elected under the terms of the 1984 Act. Subsection (6A) of the amendment preserves that position.

However, the general secretary is often in a very different position. In many unions he is an official who is appointed with a normal contract of employment. He is the chief executive of the union. He is responsible to the national executive committee or council, which is itself electable and accountable to the members for the administration of the union and the employment of staff, who are themselves responsible to the general secretary and, through him, to the national executive committee.

In recent years unions have attempted to become, and in many cases have largely succeeded in becoming, increasingly professional. They have legal and research departments; they have publicity departments; they run education courses and provide training in industrial law and industrial relations as well as job evaluation and pay bargaining. In order to provide those services they employ full-time professional staff. The chief executive must have the capacity to manage those enterprises.

When the Green Paper to which I have referred looked at the situation in 1983, it came to the conclusion that that type of individual was not always readily available or even willing to submit himself to the vagaries of the electoral process. That is very true. It is particularly true in the white collar field. Many such unions look outside their ranks for suitable chief executives. Such a person could not be expected to win an election since at the time of appointment he would not be a member. Some unions have attracted the officials of other unions when advertising their more senior posts. There seems to be no reason why they should not continue to be able to do so.

There are unions, notably in the craft or manual field, where it has been traditional to elect all officials, including general secretaries. That is a matter for them if they wish to do so. However, unions are not all the same. In the craft and manual area it used to be possible—although probably it is less true now—for a defeated official who had had a craft training to go back to the production line or, as it used to be said, go back to the tools. He would of course then get the rate for the job.

In white collar employment the situation is very different. If a white collar union is to be able to persuade a bright young technician, chemist, supervisor or banking executive to become a union official, it has to offer him the job security which he could expect if he stayed in his present employment. In other words, he or she would not expect a job for life. However, he or she would expect to have the same employment cover—the right not to be unfairly dismissed and not to be made redundant without compensation and the right to have pension rights and so on—as if he or she had stayed in his or her original employment.

Moreover, career opportunities must include, as they would have included had those people stayed where they were, the chance eventually to be considered for the top job. Some people may not be willing to hazard their future every five years by resorting to the hustings. If they are defeated, they are not able in a white collar career simply to go back to the tools as a manual worker might have been able to do. They have to begin their careers all over again in private industry. Because they will have lost a number of years, that cannot be done easily.

For people within striking distance of retirement the situation is even more impossible. The Bill proposes that people who have formerly been appointed should have their contracts negated and should have to stand for election up to within two years of retirement. That is a very malicious clause. No defeated candidate could possibly hope to get another job for that short time. And what about pension rights?

There is another aspect which I do not think that the Government have considered in putting forward the proposals in the Bill. A general secretary who is accountable to his executive has to do what that executive says. Sometimes he may not like it. He may give advice which the executive rejects. I have seen examples of that in my career. Nevertheless, he has to do what the national executive council tells him to do. However, if he is elected by the entire membership his power is immeasurably enhanced. He does not have to do what the executive tells him to do. He can say that he is elected by the entire membership and responsible only to the members. Moreover, the staff would continue to be directly responsible to him as chief executive. Therefore, the executive council could find itself powerless. That is a matter which has worried the CBI, since employers prefer to deal with unions where there is a substantial degree of internal stability.

I think that the clause was originally introduced in order, as I said at Second Reading, to catch one particular union president. However, I do not think that it has had that effect. In any event, pursuing individuals is no way to legislate. During yesterday's debate, I listened to what Members of the Committee opposite said about the way in which the trade union movement operates. I must say that I did not recognise the movement in which I am proud to have spent my working life. The image was projected of powerful despotic officials whose main job appeared to be to intimidate their members. That has not been my experience. My colleagues and I have never intimidated any members. We should not even try. We should think it entirely counterproductive. We have built our union upon the philosophy of membership involvement and of taking people with us as a result of persuasion and argument; nor are we alone in that. Other unions operate in a very similar way.

As I said at Second Reading, unions unfortunately have had a very bad press which they do not deserve. Members opposite should be wary of putting too much reliance on press reports of union activity. The good things that unions do are never reported; only disputes and crises are reported and in a slanted way at that.

If unamended Clause 12 will have an immensely destabilising effect upon trade union administration. Perhaps that is what the Government want. It is certainly not to the advantage or in the interests of union members and I urge the Committee to accept my amendment. I beg to move.

Lord Mottistone

Before the noble Baroness sits down perhaps I may ask whether she is speaking only to Amendment No. 63. I thought that Amendment No. 74 and my Amendment No. 78 were grouped with it.

Baroness Turner of Camden

I hope to have an opportunity to say a few words about the amendments which are in the group when they are moved. I believe that both those amendments aim to protect contracts of employment in some other way and to that extent I support them.

Lord Campbell of Alloway

The noble Baroness speaks from great experience. I defer without reserve to her own experience. However, I hold that the views that she has expressed are related in the main to experience of her own union and do not have general application. Alas there are some unions which do not subscribe to the very edifying views that are always expressed by her.

Amendment No. 63, which is grouped with Amendments Nos. 74 and 78, envisages a derogation from the very important principle of Clause 12 as amended. It is a derogation which should not be allowed to run counter to the intendment of Clause 12 as it is proposed to be amended.

In due course let us examine what is proposed in the amendment. We return to the situation that notice has been given to oppose this clause and are faced with another hull-down firing position not of the noble Baroness but of the hard Left of the trade union membership.

On any objective analysis, Section 19 of the Act of 1984 says that the "principal executive committee" means the principal committee of the trade union concerned with the executive functions, by whatever name it is known. Clause 12 as it stands extends Section 1 of the Act of 1984 (which requires the reelection after five years of a voting member of the PEC) to include persons who attend and speak at some or all of those meetings by a process of amendment to subsections (1) and (83) of Section 1 of the Act of 1984 by the inclusion, in the noble Baroness's amendment, of subsection (6A) and (6B).

It is an intricate pattern of statutory patchwork. Government Amendment No. 73 proposes a new subsection (6C), which contains reasonable measures of safeguard to non-voting members of the PEC or employees of the union who hold a position under the rules for a year and did not hold that position in the previous year. This is designed to meet an opposition amendment tabled in another place.

The justification for Clause 12 as it stands—and it has to be faced now although this is not a debate on whether the clause should stand part of the Bill—is enhanced by the measure of safeguard afforded by Amendment No. 73. It is essential to close the escape route for the avoidance of the principle at stake, which under the Act of 1974 is limited to voting members of the PEC standing for election—avoidance by changes in the rules to provide that certain members of the PEC should avoid standing for election thus depriving members of a vote. It is an obvious, well-designed and intelligently applied escape route. In this regard the NUM has already changed its rules and it is understood that some other unions which I do not wish to name may do the same. If asked to name them I could do so.

The effect of Clause 12 is to include members of the PEC already covered by the Act of 1984, those members who by virtue of the rules do not at present have the right to vote and also the de facto members who attend meetings and play a part in the decision-making process but do not vote. Yet again these amendments would open the door to evasion and abuse. Although I accept the good intentions of the noble Baroness I feel that it would be dangerous to accept this amendment. I hope that the committee will not accept it.

3.15 p.m.

Baroness Seear

I speak in support of the amendment. Those people who attend and have a right to speak or who speak on occasion are virtually the civil service of the trade union movement. It would be very odd to suggest in this Chamber that civil servants should be elected by the general body of voters.

There is another and more practical point. As the noble Baroness, Lady Turner, has said, modern unions employ an increasing number of professionally trained people from a variety of different professions. If we want modern, efficient and well-organised unions, they must be serviced by properly trained professional people who feel free to speak their minds according to their professional knowledge and to guide their union into more modern and appropriate ways of behaving. If those professionals have constantly to look over their shoulder to see in what way they are pleasing or displeasing the membership, many of whom may not be fully aware of the importance of such developments, their position as professionals who can make the unions more efficient and effective will be seriously undermined.

It is because we on this side of the Chamber believe in trade unions but want them to be modern, up to date and efficient that we should like to see this amendment accepted. I am bound to say, having listened to the debate today and yesterday that one wonders whether Members on the other side of the Committee want good, reformed unions, as we do, or whether they do not want any unions at all.

Lord Campbell of Alloway

I should like to say to the noble Baroness that there are many on this side of the Committee—I am one of them—who totally agree with her. She is wrong in her accusations.

Lord Mottistone

Perhaps I may now speak to my amendment, Amendment No. 78, which is grouped with Amendment No. 63. First, however, I should like to say to the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, that it seems to me, from long experience in this area, that it is obviously important that the trade unions with which one deals should be properly organised and truly efficient.

At Second Reading I said that I thought Clause 12 was directed too much towards dealing with Mr. Scargill and that perhaps it was unwise to overdo the act of trying to deal with him as a special case. More significantly—the point was made by both the noble Baroness, Lady Turner and Lady Seear—there is the very important matter of being able to preserve the position of people who have served their unions well but who have not been elected and who probably would not be the kind of people suitable for election. Indeed, as I said at Second Reading, that would apply to many of the best noble Lords.

Turning for a moment from Amendment No. 63, which perhaps goes a little far, and looking at Amendment No. 74 in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Turner, and Amendment No. 78 in my name, both appear very similar. Some parts of the noble Baroness's amendment are perhaps more directly associated with the Act in picking out general secretaries and presidents. I have not done that; I have sought to cover anyone who might inadvertently be caught by Clause 12. I have also included people who have not been elected to any trade union position during the preceding 12 years. That would catch Mr. Scargill and may catch other people who have shifted from one sort of background to another. I have met such people.

Both amendments apply only to people under contract of employment before 22nd October, which is the date that this Bill first saw the light of day in another place, and would not apply for the future. I have done that to encourage the Government to accept the proposal. They could feel that whatever they had in mind for the future would apply but would not immediately affect people who have served their unions for many years with great skill and devotion.

I wish to impress upon the Committee that these amendments are very modest. If the Government do not like the wording either of my amendment or of Amendment No. 74, which would not in the least surprise me, it would be very encouraging to think that they would be able to give consideration to the principle behind them and give us some hope that they might be able to come back at a later stage in the Bill with something similar.

Whatever the Committee may think about Amendment No. 63 and the comments of my noble friend Lord Campbell of Alloway—on most occasions I agree with my noble friend but, this time, I think, he overstated his case—I hope that special care may be given to considering the sense and purport of Amendments Nos. 74 and 78

Lord Campbell of Alloway

Before the noble Lord sits down, I accept that it is inevitable that any advocate can overstate his case. I did not intend to do so. However, in all sincerity, I hope that my noble friend the Minister will not consider these amendments.

Lord Murray of Epping Forest

I think that it is common ground that we want to see trade union leaders, general secretaries and other officials accountable and responsive to their members. Presumably that is the objective of all of us. What puzzles me about the proposal from the government side is that it seems that it will have directly the contrary effect. All general secretaries or presidents are accountable to the membership of the union in two ways: through the operation of the rule book and through the elected executive committee.

Appointed general secretaries are more stringently bound by their executive committee than are elected general secretaries who can point to their recent appeal to the whole membership and who can claim that the sanction on them comes from their next appeal to the membership in two, three, or five years' time—whatever it may be. To that extent, if they so choose and wish, they can withstand pressure from the elected executive.

The effect of this proposal would be twofold so far as concerns those general secretaries whose members have decided through conscious decision and through their executives that they prefer the method of appointment rather than election. It would weaken the confidence of the members in the rule book. It overrides the rule book and the decisions that are taken by conference to modify, change, amend, improve and bring it up to date. The delegates modify the rule book over a number of years. It is a considered decision by the members themselves mediated through their conference.

Those members are now being told: "You must have that much less confidence in your own ability to make the rules. We do not trust you to make the rules. We do not allow you to make the rules in this respect. We intend to impose a single unitary system on you, whatever your wishes may be". To that extent, their regard for the rule book and their attachment to it are diminished. That is a sad weakening of their rights as members—rights of which we heard a great deal yesterday and no doubt shall hear more today. That is my first point.

My second point relates to the role of the elected executive council in relation to the general secretary or president. Obviously, willy-nilly, whether he wishes it or not, the power and authority of the general secretary will be greatly enhanced by the provisions of this clause. Frankly, most general secretaries of my acquaintance would not wish to take any advantage of that situation. They would not wish to assert their authority vis-à-vis their executive as it meets month by month in order to claim that their view was superior to that of the elected members of the executive. The fact remains that the effect and consequence of this clause are to enhance the authority of any general secretary, however exceptional may be his conduct, who wishes to lower the quality of the control of elected members of the executive over the union.

That is why I am so puzzled by the argument that in some ways this proposal enhances the control by the membership and the rights of trade union members. It seems to me that the proposal contained in the amendment is eminently commonsensical. I hope that the committee will accept that.

I leave aside any question of playing politics, although that is a very real problem. It is not one which will come immediately to the fore. However, over a period of time, I think it will come to play a much greater part than it does now in the activities of some unions. It will come to play a greater part in those activities because there is always a group within a union which wants to play politics, however unrepresentative and boring those people may be. Such a group may seize this provision as an opportunity to introduce into a stable situation something which it would regard as helping to destabilise the elected decision. That group regards the general secretary or other officials as coming between the members and their aspirations, along well-known ultra-left lines. That is a contingent danger but not one that I would advance as being the main danger. I have sought to put the main consideration before Members of the Committee. I hope that in replying the Minister will take on hoard the real danger that, because of some preoccupation, they are not advancing the cause that they purport to support.

3.30 p.m.

Lord Renton

Before the noble Lord sits down, perhaps he can explain one thing. He has said that Clause 12 overrides the rule book. He is therefore suggesting (is he not?) that the rule book should dominate the law. He is suggesting that it should take precedence over the law. That is the natural consequence of what the noble Lord has said. Is he going the stage further? Is he saying that if a law is passed which a union does not like it has only to alter its rule book and then the rule book would take precedence? That would seem to be the corollary of what he is suggesting.

Lord Murray of Epping Forest

Perhaps the distinction that I draw between the existing role of the courts in relation to the rule book, on the one hand, and the putting on to the statute book of this entirely new piece of legislation, on the other hand, is not obvious or clear.

I accept very readily that the courts have an obligation to ensure that the rules of a union, even those adopted by the conference of the union—however they may be adopted—must be in conformity with natural justice. The courts should be able to strike down rules which do not pass that test. I accept very readily that in judging a particular interpretation of those rules by an executive or an official the courts must apply the same test of natural justice that has been applied heretofore. That same test of natural justice should continue to apply. It is right; it is proper and it is acceptable. However, it is entirely different to introduce this proposition which seems to indicate that this Chamber does not have much confidence in the ability of the courts to ensure that justice is done in relation to rule books.

Lord Campbell of Alloway

Does the noble Lord recognise that in this context—as my noble friend Lord Renton was seeking to explain—we are not concerned with the traditional position with regard to the rules of natural justice or with breaches of the rules? We are concerned with the situation that is away from those two control factors of the High Court according to common law tradition. We are entering into a new dimension. In the new dimension, as my noble friend asks, are we to assume that the rules of the trade union in some way are to fetter the discretion of the High Court? That is the question.

Lord Murray of Epping Forest

I must not weary the Committee. I simply put this suggestion to the noble Lord, Lord Cambell of Alloway, as a method of meeting both our worries. When this law is passed—in whichever form it is adopted—the members of a union through secret ballot should be able to say whether or not they wish this law to apply to them, or whether they wish to continue to be governed by their own rules. This would be quite consistent with the dignity of this Chamber and of another place. If the noble Lord would like to meet me on that common ground I should be delighted if he would draft an amendment to that effect to which we would both subscribe at Report stage.

Lord Trefgarne

The Government have made clear that Clause 12 is intended to ensure that union leaders are representative of the membership. It therefore extends the 1984 Trade Union Act's election requirements to all members of the principal executive committee, general secretaries and presidents, and to those who have the right under the rules or by custom and practice to attend and speak at some or all meetings of the PEC other than in a genuinely advisory capacity;

In this way, all those who are members or act as though they are members of the PEC will have to be elected and thus be better able to represent the views of the membership.

The clause closes a loophole in the 1984 Act by means of which certain union leaders have been able to give up their vote on the PEC and so evade the election requirement. The clause is therefore drafted quite tightly to reduce to a minimum any opportunity for evasion. It is important therefore to avoid providing any new loopholes, as I fear would be the case under Amendment No. 63.

I welcome the general acceptance of the principle that general secretaries and presidents should be elected. Indeed, even Mr, Scargill belatedly came to grips with the practicalities of that principle when he offered himself for election towards the end of last year.

I see no reason though—as Amendment No. 63 provides why some unions should be allowed to continue appointing their general secretaries rather than have them elected. General secretaries are often the individuals people think of first when they hear a union's name, and they can wield more influence than a non-elected post might suggest. For that reason I cannot agree to the amendment. Indeed, Clive Jenkins of ASTMS, Ken Gill of TASS, Fred Jarvis of the National Union of Teachers and Rodney Bickerstaffe of the National Union of Public Employees are all appointed officials and would therefore be exempted from the election requirement under Amendment No. 63.

Amendment No. 63 is also unacceptable because it would leave the unions free to have almost anyone attend meetings and take part in the decision-making irrespective of whether members knew or approved. It would leave a significant loophole by means of which individuals could formally relinquish membership of the PEC and yet continue to attend meetings and influence events.

I realise there is a real point of principle underlying Amendments Nos. 74 and 78, but I am afraid I cannot accept them either. If members are to be sure that the leadership is truly representative, it is important that all PEC members, general secretaries and presidents are elected in accordance with these provisions. We cannot have protected categories able to see out terms of office which might consist of 10 or 20 years without the need for election. Mr. Scargill has already been mentioned, not only by me but by others. Under Amendment No. 74, for example, Mr. Scargill would be able to stay in post until retirement age, as might individuals such as Mr. Sapper of ACTT and Mr. Bickerstaffe of NUPE.

The Government are not being unreasonable in the way that this election requirement is imposed, however, as various transition and exemption provisions are provided in the Bill. Non-voting members whose election satisfied the workplace requirements of Section 3 of the 1984 Act will be able to see out a five-year term of office, as will non-voters who have been elected under any other form of election in the five years before the Bill's provisions came into force. Section 8 of the 1984 Act will continue to provide an exemption for certain elected PEC members nearing retirement age. In addition, Clause 12(4) would exempt from the extended election requirement most employed PEC members who are within two years of retirement age when the provisions come into force irrespective of whether or not they have previously been through an election.

I am afraid, therefore, that I see considerable difficulty with all three of these amendments. These provisions ensure that individuals are not treated harshly by the new election requirement. I cannot therefore agree that any of the amendments is either desirable or necessary. I hope that in the light of those considerations they will not be pressed.

Lord Murray of Epping Forest

Does the Minister agree with me, as he has mentioned Mr. Scargill, that the decision by Mr. Scargill to seek election was precisely based on the grounds that it would strengthen his position vis-à-vis his elected executive committee? Will he further agree with me that the decisions taken by the executive since then and the result of the ballot vote last week by the membership demonstrate the nonsense of thinking that an enforced election can in some way bring the actions of particular unions into line with government thinking?

Lord Trefgarne

If the noble Lord is asking me to look into the mind of Mr. Scargill and to explain why he carried out some particular action or other, I am afraid I have to tell him that I have long since ceased to be able to do that.

Lord Jacques

I am one of those who has taken a very close interest in the trade union movement from the outside. I have always been a member of a union but I have never taken an active part in a union. My job was to manage a business. I spent a lifetime doing that. I feel that in this matter the Government are wrong in principle and will get results which are quite the opposite of what they require.

First, why is it wrong in principle? Every organisation which is based upon membership elects officers and those officers are always given the authority to appoint officials to advise them. We are not concerned with names or whether they are called "president" or "secretary". The question is whether they are elected and are responsible to the membership or whether they are appointed by the board which the members have elected.

The Government will not be dictating to any other organisation which is based upon membership what it can do but they will be telling the trade union movement that it will not be allowed to choose officials who will be appointed because of their ability, who will not vote but who will advise the members. They must be elected. The Government are not interfering in that way with any other organisation, so why is it to happen with the trade union movement?

It would have been a disaster in the business in which I was employed if I had had to be elected. I would have had to appeal to the membership. I was appointed because of my ability to do the job and to manage the business, not because I had some appeal to the membership of the society.

This is entirely wrong in principle, and it will give entirely the wrong results. One has only to look at this Chamber and another place to understand why it will give the opposite results. The people in the other place are always looking over their shoulders and wondering what their constituents will think. Very often their conduct is guided by what their constituents will think. They are concerned with the immediate future. But in this Chamber, where we do not have constituents, we can take a different view.

We are not elected and we do not have to look over our shoulders. We are appointed and consequently there is an important difference. We are inclined to take a long view whereas in the other place a short view is taken. That is exactly what will happen in an organisation based upon membership. Those who are elected know that in a year or two they will come up for re-election and are therefore concerned with the short term, pleasing the members to get their votes. But those who are appointed can take an entirely different view.

If one has observed the trade union movement over the last 50 years one has seen trade union leaders appear to be very much to the Left while being elected but once they have retired they are inclined to be very much to the Right as they are no longer dependent on their members' votes. There is first-class evidence of the foolish thing that the Government are trying to do.

3.45 p.m.

Lord Campbell of Alloway

That is an interesting—

Lord Chapple

It was not my intention to speak in this debate, primarily because I was not here when it began. My other reason was that I did not want anything I said to embarrass my former colleagues on the Opposition Benches. However the last contribution compels me to say that in principle in this matter the Government are absolutely right. There can be no doubt that trade union presidents and general secretaries have great power. They have power over the appointment of officials. They have power over the purse and the expenses that are paid to officials and over the pension rights of officials. They have great power, and that is a power that ought not to be bestowed upon them because they were appointed by an elected executive, albeit elected by very dubious means anyway. That will be put right by the rest of the Bill.

I have spent the last 30 years of my life arguing that all union officials who have the power of decisions in unions should be elected. Only the appointed officials who do not take part in making decisions are entitled to stay without an election. Despite my disagreements yesterday with the Government's proposals I profoundly agree with the suggestion that all trade union officials should be appointed, particularly if they are members of an executive or general presidents or general secretaries.

I am sorry that I have had to say what I have because I did not want to embarrass my former colleagues on this matter, but I could have gone into a great deal of detail on the validity of appointing people to become general secretaries if I had known that this would be the tenor of the arguments from the Opposition Front Benches.

Lord Campbell of Alloway

I am glad that I gave way to—

Lord Sefton of Garston

Let me—

Lord Campbell of Alloway

This side!

Noble Lords


Lord Campbell of Alloway

I gave way to the noble Lord. This side.

Noble Lords


Lord Sefton of Garston

I am not giving way at all.

Lord Campbell of Alloway

I gave way to the other side; it should be this side.

Lord Sefton of Garston


The Earl of Dundee

I am sorry to interrupt the noble Lord, but it is the turn of this side to speak.

Lord Campbell of Alloway

I give way. What else can one do?

Lord Sefton of Garston

Let me put another point of view. I heard the last speech and it seems to me that the ego of the noble Lord, Lord Chapple, is considerably bigger than I ever thought it was. I do not think anybody here will be embarrassed by something that we quite candidly expected. I certanly am not embarrassed, but I watched Committee Members opposite when the appeal was being made by the noble Lord, Lord Jacques. I thought I detected a sense of appreciating the basis of that appeal. I am sure it will not convince the Minister, however.

I put another point of view. Once again I make no apology for going back into the history of the trade union movement, which some people on the Government Benches do not seem to appreciate. The position in relation to the appointed officers of a trade union arose because the trade unions themselves were determined many years ago that they would have the best of civil servants, if I may use that phrase, to service them. You cannot possibly get the best out of a person if, as has been pointed out, somebody is looking over his shoulder all the time and the threat of the sack is there. One has to establish what we in this country boast of—a decent civil service. The amendment will take that ability away from the trade unions.

What in effect will be created if the amendment is carried, whether we like it or not, will be a situation in which the responsible officers of trade unions sooner or later will be at the beck and call of all the extremists in the the trade union movement.

Lord Campbell of Alloway

I am very glad that I gave way to the noble Lord, Lord Chapple, and also to the noble Lord, Lord Sefton, but not for precisely the same reasons.

The noble Lord, Lord Chapple, said everything that I wished to say but with far greater experience, with far greater authority and to much greater effect.

He suggested that this is a question of the Government being authoritarian as regards trade unions. I am not sure that I have used the right word but that was the sense of what he said. All I ask is whether he remembers the winter of discontent when the trade unions were seeking to be authoritarian as regards government. Surely we must have this debate—

Lord Basnett

Will the noble Lord give way?

Lord Campbell of Alloway

May I finish and then of course I shall give way? Surely we must keep the debate in some perspective. All I can say is "Thank you" to the noble Lord, Lord Chapple, for having kept it in such perspective.

Lord Basnett

The noble Lord mentioned the winter of discontent. Is he aware that during that time there were occasions, about which none of us was proud, when members disobeyed their union's instructions and undertook acts which were regrettable? My own union was concerned. However, the executive of my union, and those of others concerned, obtained control of the situation because we wished to act responsibly. I raised that matter in question form and I hope that Members of the Committee will allow me to continue.

I should like to pick up the implication that perhaps my noble friend Lady Turner did not reflect the major responsible part of the British trade union movement. I believe that she does; I am sure that she does. I was general secretary of a trade union which represented approximately 12 per cent. of the trade union movement. Together with the union of which she is a member we represented some 20 per cent. of the movement and our view is that of the movement. Would the noble Lord, Lord Campbell, care to estimate the percentage represented in the trade union movement in the examples he gave? It is a very small percentage.

I believe that two issues are involved. The noble Lord, Lord Chapple, says that there must be elections to keep the powerful general secretaries in rein. I never knew anyone to act with such authority of power as did Frank Chapple. Indeed, he embodies—

Lord Chapple

Give the Committee an example.

Lord Basnett

Yes, certainly; on the general council. That underlines the point made by my noble friend Lord Murray as to how one constrains the power of people in authority. General secretaries and presidents have power and there is no doubt about that but which is the best way to restrain it? Is it by making them subject to an executive and a congress which determines what they do, or is it making them subject to re-election every five years? I was a general secretary elected to office and thereby not subject to re-election. Every two weeks I met my executive, which could and did tell me on occasions exactly what to do. Every year I held a congress which decided the fundamental policies of the union. I had to follow those policies whether or not I agreed with them.

If I had been re-elected every five years and stood on a platform with which my executive and congress did not agree, there would immediately have been friction and a dilemma between us and I would then be relieved of some of the authority which they exercised over me. I agree totally with my noble friend Lord Murray about the issue.

I should like to pick up one further point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, concerning the election of certain professional officers attending an executive. Unions are constantly making themselves more professional. I had in attendance on my executive, for example, a finance officer who was an accountant, an education officer who was an educationist and a research officer who was a graduate. They were appointed by me and were not in rule. They spoke at the executive, could answer questions and in doing so they obviously developed views. However, the responsibility was ultimately mine. This Bill would require them to be elected. That would create a nonsense for the unions. How could I have such qualified people in a union where I wanted professional advice if they had to be subject to election every five years? I could have them by appointing politically-motivated people, the only people one can get. The issues raised by the Government will have completely the opposite effect to what is intended.

Finally I should like to echo what was said by my noble friend Lady Turner at he beginning of her speech. I believe that there are in this country two trade union movements. There is the movement which she and I have experienced, which wants to carry out a job and which is responsible. There is also the movement which is reflected in some of the speeches of Members opposite.

Lord Campbell of Alloway

Perhaps the Committee will allow me to answer one point. The noble Lord challenged me on the question of percentages. I am unable to answer; I have no expertise. I should like to make my position plain by saying that I accept that the vast majority of trade union activities in this country are wholly responsible. This legislation is designed to deal only with the irresponsible element.

Lord Basnett

Does the noble Lord realise that in trying to control a minority of the movement, as he suggests, the Government are creating loopholes for irresponsibility in the movement? They are under-mining the responsible activities of trade union leaders at the moment. That is the effect.

4 p.m.

Lord Houghton of Sowerby

The action being taken this afternoon is entirely without precedent in the history of our voluntary institutions. Never before has the legislature interfered with the administration of voluntary societies in the way that is intended under this clause. The question raised is: how far is this Parliament entitled to intrude upon the freedom of societies and combinations of individuals which are running affairs in their interests in the context of a free society? Why was this proposal not ventilated at the outset of the Government's attempt to reform trade union law nine years ago? This is the most important change of all.

Part of the difficulty of the step-by-step approach is the ease with which we forget what has gone before. I wish to put it to the Committee that the essential step taken in this matter was to strengthen the representativeness of the executive council. That was the important step. Whatever the individual temperament, personality or assumed power of general secretaries, they have executive committees to control them. They have the voting strength. They go to conferences and decide union policy. Therefore, we have already strengthened the representativeness of the trade unions by insisting on election of executive committees.

That has already made a profound difference in some unions. Some anticipated the change in the law in this respect, including my union; others did not do so but are now complying with the law. Having handed executive committee membership back to the membership of the unions, it is now proposed to do the same with all the full-time officers of any note in an organisation.

I believe that sometimes there is an exaggerated notion about the power held by a general secretary or president. In many cases they receive a good deal of public notice. In these days of television they receive a good deal of exposure and nearly always come to the fore in the event of industrial disputes. None of us can deny that some reprehensible behaviour has been a feature of some trade union activities in the past. I believe a new climate is being created, partly by changes in legislation and partly by changes in public attitude.

Do Members of the Committee think that the electoral message of the past three elections has been lost upon the trade union movement? Do Members not understand that the decision of the electorate over the past three elections has indicated to the Labour Party that one of its great electoral disadvantages has been the unpopularity of the trade union movement? Those matters are altering attitudes. Why is it that the Trades Union Congress and the Labour Party are embarking on major reviews of their policies and the presentation of them? The reason is that they have taken to heart what has happened in three elections.

That is good from the point of view of an elected democracy. Let us examine what is happening now. Not all unions are alike. At Second Reading I referred to the fact that Civil Service unions, local government officers and similar organisations in the public sector have different methods of appointment and different conditions of service for their full-time officers.

When I was asked to leave the Civil Service at the age of 22 to become the secretary of a very small Inland Revenue staff federation, I asked for the same security of tenure that my members would have and did have. Therefore, I was given a life tenure subject to the upper retirement age and subject to the power of removal in the hands of the annual delegate conference. That was sufficient for a union of that sort. Throughout the 38 years that I was the general secretary of the Inland Revenue Staff Federation I never went to re-election and, what is more, there was never any political dispute over my position within the organisation.

Now what is going to happen? Appointed officers subject to the decision of the executive council and approved by a delegate conference or by ballot will have to go to election every five years and stir up political divisions which are latent in most unions today over the personality and the nature of the appointment in prospect. There will be political battles and controversies over the personality of the general secretary or candidates up for election every five years which have been completely absent from the union over the last generation. That is no contribution to the stability of the trade union movement. It tends to encourage and push it into a quinquennial recurrence of political agitation and controversy. Who will get the job? Is he on the Right or is he on the Left? Is he a militant or what is he or she? In those circumstances, there is a disservice to be done to the trade union movement by the proposal before the Committee today.

If one goes further, the proposal in this clause is to interfere with the appointment of what I would describe as the civil service of the trade union movement. Trade unions require administrative officers, as do government departments, and usually they are appointed and usually are not up for election. However, this clause would put them in the field for election and re-election. I can tell the Committee that on a vacancy of which I am fully aware candidates are asking, "Will I have to stand for election? If so, I am not a candidate for this job. I am not in that arena. I am coming in with specialised knowledge of administration and finance and I do not expect to be thrown to the electoral wolves every five years. I do not expect to have to contest for my position, possibly not with a person of my qualifications but somebody representing a political point of view which they assume is preferable to mine". That is the injury which can be done to trade unions which know how to conduct their affairs and which do so with great efficiency in peace and free of political conflict.

All this is being done this afternoon without any real examination of the power, the use of that power and the checks and balances within unions. None of that has been fully inquired into. This is a superficial judgment of the Conservative Party about what is wrong with the unions. It believes that the way to cure it is to insist that those people must go to election in circumstances which are quite unsuitable to the work they do or the method of their appointment.

In conclusion, I ask the Committee to consider whether we are justified in carrying interference in the affairs of the trade union to this extent? Where do you draw the line? Are you drawing no real line at all, apart from the clerical and secretarial staff and executive officers? What about those who are departmental managers, not of policy but in administration, but who are free to attend meetings of the executive council to give account of their stewardship or offer opinion on matters before the executive?

I beseech the Committee to be careful before doing something this afternoon which is a breach of our freedom without full justification and with potential harm to a great movment which still exists and which is doing a job for the nation and for public administration as well as for its members. I believe this will be a reprehensible day in our history if Members of the Committee say, "We do not care what you say. We are going to throw all these jobs open to election by the membership and let that take care of itself. If there is political battle, let it go on. If there is turmoil let it go on". In the end I believe great harm will have been done to a great movement.

Lord Peyton of Yeovil

Before my noble friend leaps to his feet to bring this debate to a conclusion, I must say that it has left me in some confusion of mind. I have been a warm supporter of the Government's legislation on trade unions to date. On the other hand, I have always doubted the efficacy and effectiveness of statute law to remedy every defect in human affairs.

There are two assurances which I should like from my noble friend before I make up my mind on this issue. First, is he confident that the Bill as it now stands will not lead to an increase of political activity within the unions? Secondly, is he confident that the Bill as it now stands will not inhibit the access of those who have the difficult task of running a union to the best advice available?

Lord Beloff

I do not interpret Clause 12 to the same extent as noble Lords opposite suggested. I believe everyone here agrees with the noble Baroness who moved the amendment that the trade union movement, like any other important national institution which seeks efficiency, must be able to employ persons of competence and expert knowledge to perform both the advisory and, in some cases, the administrative tasks which are called for.

I cannot see that that process is inhibited by the terms of Clause 12. It does not seem to me inevitable that the person known as the general secretary should be the equivalent—I think this was in the mind of the noble Baroness—of, say, the permanent secretary of a government department. It is, if you like, a hybrid position. It is partly that, and in some unions it is very largely that. In other unions, as I believe has been made clear, it is a more political appointment; that is, the general secretary takes an active part in framing policy. He may be deferred to, because of his long experience and particular qualities, by his elected colleagues on the executive.

The term "general secretary" after all is the one by which Stalin maintained himself in power without, as I remember, holding any other office. Therefore, it is an ambiguous term. It is true that the shift, as it were, towards the political kind of general secretary would be increased, as the noble Lord, Lord Murray, said, because people who have to seek suffrages are themselves likely to be political in their outlook and habits. However, nothing inhibits the appointment of specialists—including specialists who may attend meetings of the governing body. If they attend to give advice or to receive instructions their presence is permissible under Clause 12. That is what we are used to in many other aspects of our national life.

The Cabinet, or a Cabinet Committee, may summon a civil servant or, say, a military chief, to give advice or even to receive instructions. It does not make that person part of the ruling group. A bogey has been built up about this clause. It would make a change but it would not inhibit the development of the specialist and professional services which the noble Baroness is right to see as one of the foundations of a modernising trade union movement.

Baroness Turner of Camden

In replying from these Benches to the debate on the amendment, I should like first to say that much of the discussion has not been absolutely directed to the amendment. The proposed subsection (6A) specifically deals with the position of president, as I said in my opening remarks. The presidency of the NUM has been bothering many noble Lords on the opposite Benches. That is specifically dealt with in subsection (6A) which makes clear that it is an elected position.

The proposed subsection (6B) deals with the position of general secretaries. My noble friends have dealt in great detail with those arguments. The Minister has certainly not responded to the main arguments that we have put forward. For example, he has not dealt with the Civil Service argument. Again, this is a strong argument. If one is to have specialist services, as the noble Lord, Lord Beloff, who seemed to agree, said, there must be someone in charge of those services who is likely to understand what they are all about. Therefore, a chief executive who has some administrative skills is necessary.

It is possible, of course, that such a chief executive will have a high political "profile" because that is the way in which public life operates in this country. He may be making television appearances, and so on. But that does not mean to say that he is not an administrator responsible directly to his executive.

I would say to the noble Lord, Lord Chapple, that not all unions are the same. Not all general secretaries of unions have the powers that he says exist in the ETU. In this amendment we say that because of the diversity of union practice, it should be left to the unions themselves to decide whether they want to appoint an official to administer affairs for them, to organise their specialist services, to represent them and to have the capacity to represent them on television, and so on, or whether they want to have an elected official.

The clause is an unwarrantable interference with the rights of voluntary organisations in a way so well put to the Committee by my noble friend Lord Houghton. It is wrong for the Government to come along with this legislation and seek to cut across all the standard practices, all the contracts of employment that currently exist, and to raise all sorts of ambiguities in relation to people attending the executives of unions who are not themselves general secretaries.

It has been mentioned that a number of officials regularly attend executive meetings. I did so for a long time during my trade union career. I do not know whether I could be said to have given professional advice, but certainly I had to produce papers for the executive and certainly I had to speak to those papers. Ultimately, if my recommendations were not accepted I had to abide, and did abide, by the decisions of that elected executive.

The clause expands the position very widely to cover that range of officials and to interfere with their employment contracts in a quite unjustifiable way. No criticism has yet been voiced in the Committee about the way those officials carry out their work or about their lack of accountability to the membership. For all those reasons I intend to press this amendment to a Division and I ask the Committee to support it.

4.17 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said Amendment (No. 63) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 118; Not-Contents, 152.

Airedale, L. Ardwick, L.
Amherst, E. Attlee, E.
Banks, L. Longford, E.
Basnett, L. Lovell-Davis, L.
Birk, B. McCarthy, L.
Blackstone, B. Mackie of Benshie, L.
Blease, L. McNair, L.
Bonham-Carter, L. Mason of Barnsley, L.
Boston of Faversham, L. Mayhew, L.
Bottomley, L. Mishcon, L.
Briginshaw, L. Molloy, L.
Brooks of Tremorfa, L. Morris, L.
Bruce of Donington, L. Mottistone, L.
Campbell of Eskan, L. Mulley, L.
Carmichael of Kelvingrove, L. Murray of Epping Forest, L
Carter, L. Nicol, B.
Cledwyn of Penrhos, L. O'Brien of Lothbury, L.
Cocks of Hartcliffe, L. Oram, L.
Dacre of Glanton, L. Paget of Northampton, L.
David, B. Peston, L.
Davies of Penrhys, L. Peyton of Yeovil, L.
Dean of Beswick, L. [Teller.] Phillips, B.
Diamond, L. Pitt of Hampstead, L.
Donaldson of Kingsbridge, L. Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L. [Teller.]
Dormand of Easington, L.
Elwyn-Jones, L. Prys-Davies, L.
Ennals, L. Rathcreedan, L.
Ewart-Biggs, B. Rea, L.
Falkland, V. Richardson, L.
Fisher of Rednal, B. Ritchie of Dundee, L.
Fitt, L. Rochester, L.
Foot, L. Sainsbury, L.
Gallacher, L. Seear, B.
Galpern, L. Sefton of Garston, L.
Glenamara, L. Serota, B.
Graham of Edmonton, L. Shackleton, L.
Grey, E. Shaughnessy, L.
Grimond, L. Simon, V.
Hampton, L. Simon of Glaisdale, L.
Hanworth, V. Stedman, B.
Harris of Greenwich, L. Stewart of Fulham, L.
Hatch of Lusby, L. Stoddart of Swindon, L.
Hayter, L. Strabolgi, L.
Heycock, L. Taylor of Blackburn, L.
Hooson, L. Taylor of Gryfe, L.
Houghton of Sowerby, L. Taylor of Mansfield, L.
Hughes, L. Thurlow, L.
Hunt, L. Tordoff, L.
Hunter of Newington, L. Turner of Camden, B.
Irving of Dartford, L. Underhill, L.
Jacques, L. Wallace of Coslany, L.
Jay, L. Walston, L.
Jeger, B. Wedderburn of Charlton, L.
Kilbracken, L. Wells-Pestell, L.
Kilmarnock, L. Whaddon, L.
Kirkhill, L. Wigoder, L.
Leatherland, L. Williams of Elvel, L.
Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe, B. Winchilsea and Nottingham, E.
Lloyd of Hampstead, L.
Lloyd of Kilgerran, L. Winstanley, L.
Abinger, L. Brougham and Vaux, L.
Airey of Abingdon, B. Broxbourne, L.
Aldington, L. Butterworth, L.
Allenby of Megiddo, V. Caccia, L.
Allerton, L. Caithness, E.
Ampthill, L. Cameron of Lochbroom, L.
Arran, E. Campbell of Alloway, L.
Auckland, L. Campbell of Croy, L.
Bauer, L. Carnegy of Lour, B.
Beaverbrook, L. Carnock, L.
Belhaven and Stenton, L. Cayzer, L.
Beloff, L. Chapple, L.
Belstead, L. Chelwood, L.
Birdwood, L. Clinton, L.
Blake, L. Coleraine, L.
Blatch, B. Colnbrook, L.
Blyth, L. Constantine of Stanmore, L.
Boyd-Carpenter, L. Cottesloe, L.
Brabazon of Tara, L. Cowley, E.
Brentford, V. Craigavon, V.
Broadbridge, L. Crawshaw, L.
Crickhowell, L. Mowbray and Stourton, L.
Davidson, V. [Teller.] Nairne, Ly.
Denham, L. [Teller.] Nelson, E.
Dulverton, L. Norfolk, D.
Dundee, E. Norrie, L.
Eccles, V. Nugent of Guildford, L.
Elibank, L. Orkney, E.
Ellenborough, L. Orr-Ewing, L.
Ferrier, L. Oxfuird, V.
Fraser of Kilmorack, L. Pender, L.
Gainford, L. Quinton, L.
Gardner of Parkes, B. Rankeillour, L.
Glenarthur, L. Reilly, L.
Goold, L. Renton, L.
Grantchester, L. Rochdale, V.
Gray, L. Rodney, L.
Gridley, L. Rugby, L.
Grimston of Westbury, L. St. Davids, V.
Haddington, E. Saltoun of Abernethy, Ly.
Hailsham of Saint Marylebone, L. Sanderson of Bowden, L.
Sandford, L.
Halsbury, E. Sandys, L.
Hardinge of Penshurst, L. Sempill, Ly.
Harmar-Nicholls, L. Shannon, E.
Harvington, L. Sharples, B.
Havers, L. Shrewsbury, E.
Hemphill, L. Skelmersdale, L.
Henley, L. Slim, V.
Hesketh, L. Somers, L.
Hives, L. Stockton, E.
Home of the Hirsel, L. Stodart of Leaston, L.
Hood, V. Strange, B.
Hooper, B. Strathcona and Mount Royal, L.
Hylton-Foster, B.
Jessel, L. Strathspey, L.
Johnston of Rockport, L. Sudeley, L.
Joseph, L. Suffield, L.
Kaberry of Adel, L. Swinton, E.
Kinloss, Ly. Terrington, L.
Kitchener, E. Teviot, L.
Lane-Fox, B. Teynham, L.
Lauderdale, E. Thomas of Gwydir, L.
Layton, L. Thorneycroft, L.
Long, V. Trafford, L.
Luke, L. Tranmire, L.
Lurgan, L. Trefgarne, L.
McAlpine of Moffat, L. Trumpington, B.
Mackay of Clashfern, L. Tryon, L.
Macleod of Borve, B. Vaux of Harrowden, L.
Mansfield, E. Vinson, L.
Margadale, L. Ward of Witley, V.
Marley, L. Westbury, L.
Marshall of Leeds, L. Whitelaw, V.
Massereene and Ferrard, V. Wise, L.
Merrivale, L. Wolfson, L.
Mersey, V. Wyatt of Weeford, L.

Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.

4.28 p.m.

Lord Wedderburn of Charlton moved Amendment No. 64: Page 14, line 23, leave out ("except in the case of a special register body").

The noble Lord said: I beg to move Amendment No. 64, and I shall speak also to Amendment No. 72. This amendment deletes from the clause which the Committee has just been discussing, and the purport of which I need not repeat, the exception in respect of a special register body. The Minister made a remark that was of particular interest in the context of this amendment. He said that we cannot have protected categories. He and I know that one comes across special, exempted and protected categories in this Bill as in any other. It is right to look carefully at all the exempt categories from the new regulation which is being put into force with such rigour, as my noble friends made clear in the debate.

Indeed, the more rigorous the regulation the more need there is to consider the rationality and the reasonableness of the exemptions. Throughout this clause and the clauses to come my noble friends and I will be seeking to inquire into the manner in which exempted classes are constructed. If the Government come close to that line of exempting a class from the new obligations, which is not in technical terms a genuine class but is a special class aimed at particular interests or people, then the question of the nature of the Bill may well arise.

As regards the special register body, I can put the point quickly and make progress in this way. The special register was invented by the Industrial Relations Act 1971 to accommodate those bodies that had trade union functions but wished to have a special corporate status. The 1971 Act was more complex than that, but the relevant point is that when the Industrial Relations Act was repealed in 1974 the then Labour Government had to face the question of what to do with the special status of those bodies. They are usually thought of as bodies like the British Medical Association, although in a moment I shall show the Committee that on my information that is perhaps rather wide of the mark.

In their wisdom or unwisdom—and it may have been a mistake—the Labour Government of 1974 responded to the appeals of these bodies and retained the special register to allow them to keep in a quite anomalous fashion their corporate status which is not allowed to any other trade union. The register was closed and therefore they remain as a kind of ossified bequest of the Industrial Relations Act 1971.

The question therefore arises: why should these bodies, the category of which arose through those fortuitous circumstances, be exempt from the obligations now being imposed upon other trade unions? I wish to make it quite clear that in putting down the amendment my noble friends and I wish no harm to any of the bodies. What we wish to do is to investigate again the Government's mind and to probe the dark corners of that mentality to discover why they have taken this step of exempting that group of special register bodies.

In another place the Government gave two answers. They first set out the history of the matter, which is much as I have described it. That justifies nothing. They then suggested that these were professional bodies that needed special treatment. After the debate the Committee has just had, I need spend no time on that argument in broad terms because as my noble friend Lord Houghton and others have just said, the way in which trade unions are organised differs so much that quite patently the idea of these bodies being different in category in terms of professionality from all other trade unions is quite absurd, especially when one reads the list

The Minister will correct me if I am wrong, but it is my information that there are 15 unions on the special register. They are the Association of Clinical Biochemists; the Association of Optometrists; the British Association of Occupational Therapists; the British Dental Association; the British Dietetic Association; the British Medical Association; the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy; the Education Institute of Scotland; the Headmasters' Conference; the Institute of Journalists; the Royal College of Midwives; the Royal College of Nursing; the Society of Authors; the Society of Chiripodists; and the Society of Radiographers.

The bodies on the list are not connected by any natural link. Indeed, it is not even true, as is sometimes thought, that they are all medical associations or the like. The Education Institute of Scotland is on the list and so too is the Headmasters' Conference. I ask the Government this specific practical question which arises from the debate my noble friends have initiated. Why should the National League for the Blind and Disabled be bound by the obligations of Clause 12 but not the BMA, the Society of Authors, the Institute of Journalists or the Association of Optometrists? What possible logic can there be in distinguishing all the varied kinds of trade unions which are and are not affiliated to the Trades Union Congress and in saying that these bodies can do things, such as putting people on the executive committee, which trade unions not on the special register cannot do?

Therefore what appears to be a small point in the legislative process in Committee surely begins to assume a rather bigger appearance. All the Government have done is to select a group of exemptions which have some historical basis without considering the function. Is that parallel with the rest of the Bill? They do not consider the different functions of different trade unions. They lump them all together and regulate them. They do not consider the functions of the bodies on the list. They know that the BMA is on it and they know that one or two other bodies are on it. Presumably they wanted to do them a favour and so they kept them out of the regulation.

It may be that the Minister can tell me why the National League for the Blind and Disabled has to fall under the rigours of the clause but the Society of Authors and the other bodies I have named do not. If there is a functional explanation which we have missed we shall be happy to make no more of it. I repeat, this is the first of the inquiries into the exempted categories in the Government's Bill. I invite the Minister to accept that this tiny one has been put in by mistake and that we could get rid of it by accepting the amendment. I beg to move.

Lord Trefgarne

Special register bodies have been part of the industrial relations scheme since the early 1970s. They are primarily professional associations with incorporated status which also conduct negotiations with employers about terms and conditions of employment. As the noble Lord, Lord Wedderburn, has already made clear, the BMA and the Royal College of Nursing are two of the better known examples. In essence, they have evolved from their original status as professional bodies and now have a dual role as professional bodies and independent trade unions. They are also bodies corporate. This dual role puts them in a unique position in legislation, and legislation has long made a distinction between them and other unions.

In the present case, this distinction is being recognised because some of the members of their PEC and other members who attend it do so only to deal with certain aspects of their professional role. I am a little puzzled that some Members of the Committee should seek to remove the exemption, given their dislike of the requirement for unions to elect their leaders at regular intervals. Whatever the reasons for the amendment, the fact remains that SRBs exist. They are different from other unions. They have been accepted as such by governments of both parties and they have made representations which Ministers felt able to accept. It would be both wrong and damaging to go back on that commitment.

The noble Lord read out the list of organisations which are presently on the special register. As he will be aware, the register is now closed so no new organisations can join it. He read out the list of those which are members, and I understand that list was the correct one. He then asked why it was that certain other bodies which he judged to be equally deserving were not on the register. I presume the answer is that they did not seek to be members of the special register when that was a possibility open to them some years ago. Therefore, they have the status of the regular trade union as recognised in legislation and by this Bill.

I have said that the Government have accepted—as indeed have successive governments that those organisations have a unique status and that the relevant legislation should take account of that status. If we were to accept the amendments proposed we should be going back on undertakings given to recognise that unique status—recognition and undertakings given by governments of both political parties. I do not think that that would be an appropriate way to proceed, and I hope that the noble Lord will not press his amendment.

Lord Wedderburn of Charlton

I am naturally disappointed with the Minister's answer, not merely for its conclusion but because of its reasoning. The first and main argument that he appeared to use was that we must exempt the special register bodies from the relevant parts of Clause 12 because the list is there. I might call this the Everest argument: "Why do it? Because there is a special register". I never know how to deal with the Everest argument. You either like it or you do not. But there is a more important attachment to the Everest argument which tries to tie us in to the ascent; that is to say that governments of both parties have given undertakings to the special register body.

No Labour or Conservative Government until this one, certainly not in terms of some things that have happened since, ever gave the special register bodies an undertaking that they would be exempt, as it were, as special chums from obligations imposed on all other trade unions of a new kind. The issue did not arise. What the Labour Government did, perhaps unwisely but out of the goodness of their heart because the arguments were not very strong, was to allow the BMA and one or two other bodies to keep their corporate identity.

The noble Lord referred again to the fact that they are bodies corporate, rather suggesting that they therefore have to be special. They are special already, and the mere fact that they are bodies corporate does not mean that they can be exempt from Clause 12(2). You can invent many kinds of corporate bodies. There are private companies, limited companies, companies limited by guarantee. The law is different in respect of each of them. There is no reason why a body corporate cannot be told that it must assume that all those who attend its executive meetings should be elected just like anybody else.

With what are we left? We are left with the comment that they have evolved into a dual role. One really does not know where to begin. First of all, they have not evolved into this dual role in terms of the special register. They were on it in 1971, and that was it. In so far as their functions are concerned, the Minister said they are primarily professional associations and they negotiate with employers. If the Minister could think of a distinction in those terms between most of the bodies on that list and the Health Visitors' Association, which is to be treated now under this clause as a trade union, I would give him a prize, even if it were not a very large prize, because it would be a response which would be ingenious in the extreme. The Health Visitors' Association have to do as they are told, but the other associations, including the Royal College of Nursing, can do as they like on this point. That seems to make no sense at all.

Finally—I do not think the Minister meant to misrepresent us on this but he expressed puzzlement—I insist that we offer no thought of harm to any of the bodies on this list. In the Committee stage of legislation if there is an exemption, we are entitled to ask the reason for it. The Government have given no reason. Their attitude on this matter will make us examine the exemptions that have been put into later clauses with even greater care than we intended from the beginning. We are very disappointed, but in view of the need to make progress with this clause I think it right to beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Lord Trefgarne

Before the noble Lord does that, I hope he will pause to reflect for a moment that the reason why we have agreed to perpetuate the special arrangements for these organisations is that we have given them an undertaking that we shall do that. The noble Lord is perfectly entitled to abrogate the undertakings given by the Government of which he was not a member but certainly a supporter some years ago. I prefer to stand by the undertakings given by my right honourable and honourable friends. That is the reason why I oppose the amendment.

Lord Wedderburn of Charlton

With the Committee's leave, perhaps I may comment upon that. I feel sure that the Minister did not mean that in some way I was abrogating vicariously the undertakings of the Labour Government. That government gave no undertakings to special register bodies except that they could maintain their corporate status, and there is no question about their maintaining that.

The noble Lord's other point is even more important. This Bill has been in existence only since its publication date last October, so the issue of whether special register bodies should or should not fall fully within Clause 12 has been alive only since last October. In the Committee stage in another place or in any pronouncements that I have seen, I do not recall public undertakings to those bodies. It may be that the Government in their wisdom, by way of policy, decided to exempt the special register bodies to give those bodies an entirely new dimension. The logic should be clear about this. There has been nothing like this in the past. The special register bodies are exempt from these great obligations. If the noble Lord says the Government have given undertakings to the special register bodies I quite understand that. No doubt at some time or other privately they gave them and then they put forward this clause, but you cannot justify a clause merely on the basis that you promised to make it. There has to be some reason other than what was said last Wednesday, and we have not heard anything. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

4.45 p.m.

Lord Trefgarne moved Amendment No. 65: Page 14, line 24, after ("body") insert ("and subject to subsection (6C) below").

The noble Lord said: These government amendments fulfil a commitment given by Ministers in another place. They reflect consideration of the principle behind the opposition amendment to exempt from the election requirement general secretaries and presidents if their, position is occupied under the rules of the union by a different person annually and that person is not a voting member of the committee".

The essence of the amendment is that individuals who hold a position as general secretary or president which is honorary and theirs by virtue of Buggins' turn should not have to be elected. Individuals who benefit from this exemption will be lay members of the union appointed or elected, perhaps by a union's conference, to act as its president.

The Opposition is another place described their amendment as a moderate one. It is, however, a significant concession from the Government's expressed intention that all who act as members of the PEC should be elected. It is made on the basis that the positions involved are normally honorary ones and do not carry the power and authority usually connnected with such positions. I hope that your Lordships will welcome this significant concession from the Government. I beg to move.

Lord McCarthy

We welcome the amendment. The Government would have been foolish to insist on applying the clause to people in the category covered by the amendment.

If I may follow up the point made by my noble friend Lord Wedderburn, it is being made increasingly difficult to understand the theoretical principle behind the clause. This is a point which we shall have to make on several subsequent amendments. It is only fair to use this opportunity to state where we think the difficulty lies.

The people covered by the amendment have no vote and are not employees. They have the job for a year, after which they give it up. Under those tests they are not covered by the Bill. An amendment that will be discussed later states that a person who has no vote, is a 10-year employee, is going within five years and is elected by a postal ballot does not have to have an election.

However, there is another case—a third example—in the Bill of a person who has no vote, is a 10-year employee and is going within five years but, because he is elected in a workplace ballot, he must have an election. There are more cases—in fact, six. There is the case of the 10-year employee, the general secretary or president, who is going within five years but was elected in a workplace ballot. Because he has a vote, presumably he will not be covered by Amendment No. 133. We cannot understand all this. The fifth case is that of the man who has no vote, is a 10-year employee, is going in three years and is elected by annual conference so that he has to be covered by an election.

There seem to be four criteria—votes, whether a person was an employee, whether he had the job for a certain period and whether the ballot was workplace or postal. I ask the Minister to start working out how one fits them all together and makes sense of it.

Lord Trefgarne

I confined my remarks to the amendment and was careful not to stray on to topics in other amendments. Despite that, perhaps I should have said that the amendment paves the way for Amendments Nos. 73 and 134, which I hope I shall be able to move formally.

This is a comparatively narrow amendment and represents the honouring of an undertaking given in another place. I hope that the Committee will agree to it.

Lord Houghton of Sowerby

Perhaps the Minister could give an example or two. The Government must have in mind some positions that are covered by substantive Amendment No. 73.

I am interested in members' trustees, for example. They are not officers of the union. They are not employees. They are appointed by the annual delegate conference as trustees. They hold office at the will and pleasure of the annual delegate conference. For the most part they are retired civil servants. They attend meetings of the executive council because they are the watchdogs on expenditure under the rules and can intervene if the executive council appears to trespass on their responsibilities in the matter. Do they have to go for election under the clause or are they covered by the concession?

There are also certain honorary officers who may be receiving an honorarium but who are not employees of the union. They may be members of the union. They hold a non-elected office for a period because they are given some responsibility for the development of the technical side. I think particularly of the taxation side of a union like my own where advice is wanted from people who are inside and who will accept some responsibility for it. Such people attend meetings of the executive council. If they are making grading claims or considering a re-appraisal of the value of work, they are in a position to indicate from their experience what kind of work it is. What does the Minister make of that? These are not positions of power and responsibility; they are ancillary to the government of the union. It is absurd if the requirement for re-election is to apply to them.

Lord Murray of Epping Forest

Perhaps the Minister can throw some light on the case of a trustee who satisfies all the requirements in the clause except that, as the union holds its conference biennially and not annually, he is elected by the conference on a two-year basis, largely because of the cost of bringing members together. He will presumably require to satisfy the electoral and ballot requirement contained in other provisions of the Bill. Can the Minister confirm whether that is so?

Lord Trefgarne

If I may speak slightly off the cuff in reply to the noble Lord, a president, an honorary president or an honorary general secretary who is not involved in the decision-making process of the union—

Lord Murray of Epping Forest

If I may intervene, I referred to a trustee, not an honorary president.

Lord Trefgarne

As I understand it, if he holds office for more than a year he is not covered by the benefits of the amendment, which is specifically directed at those who hold office for a year. The subsection provides for a period of 13 months so that individuals can hold their positions from one annual conference to another as annual conferences do not always take place exactly one year apart. If there is a biennial conference, I fear that the person who wanted to hold office between the two conferences would not enjoy the benefits of the amendment.

Lord McCarthy

The Government appear to have no consistent set of principles behind the exceptions. The Minister is right. Amendment No. 73 says: holds that position for a period which under the rules of the union cannot end more than thirteen months after he took up that position; has held neither that position nor any other position so mentioned at any time in the period of twelve months ending with the day before he took up that position". The position put by my noble friend Lord Murray of Epping Forest is quite clear: a person who was made an honorary president by an annual conference would not be covered. Do the Government really think that they are granting this concession for one year only? What is the basis for that?

Lord Trefgarne

The basis is that this is a response to a request from the Opposition in the other place, who were apparently anxious to receive the concession. They would of course have preferred the concession to go wider, but we felt unable to agree to that. We have moved in the direction of the Opposition, and I hope that that at least will be recognised.

The noble Lord, Lord Houghton of Sowerby, raised a specific point about trustees. Perhaps I may study what he said. If I can add anything, I shall write to him.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendment No. 66 not moved.]

Baroness Turner of Camden moved Amendment No. 67: Page 14, line 32, after ("technical") insert ("financial, legal").

The noble Baroness said: I hope that this simple amendment will commend itself to the Government. We are hoping that persons attending union executive meetings for the purpose of offering financial or legal advice will be granted exemption from the requirement to stand for election.

In our previous debate, I and a number of noble Lords said that unions were becoming more and more professional, and that it was necessary for union executives to have recourse to financial advice fairly continuously. With the legislation affecting trade unions that we have had and are now having in increasing amounts from the Government, unions will have to have continuous legal advice.

Many unions make it a practice to have their national finance officer attend executive meetings to ensure that the members are properly advised as to the financial implications of their decisions. It therefore seems reasonable to add to the clause an exemption for people who attend to give factual information or technical, financial, legal or professional advice. With those few words, I commend the amendment to the Committee. I beg to move.

5 p.m.

Lord Trefgarne

I do not intend to reply immediately to the noble Baroness, but the Committee might find it convenient if we also discussed Amendments Nos. 68 and 69, tabled by the noble Viscount, Lord Hanworth, and Amendment No. 70, tabled by my noble friend Lord Brentford.

Viscount Hanworth

It may be convenient if I speak now on the other two amendments. As we know, Clause 12(6A) defines the circumstances in which a union member attending a principal executive committee must be elected. However paragraph (b) makes an exception, for the purpose of providing the committee with factual information or with technical or professional advice with respect to matters incidental to the carrying out by the committee of its functions". My amendment seeks to make that exemption a little less stringent by adding the words "or opinions". In trade unions and many other organisations, including local authority specialist committees, senior officers act as the organisation's principal spokesmen in committee. In a union, such officials may express opinions on the effect of alternative courses of action, and give general advice. But they can do so only at the executive committee's request.

The situation in the unions is different from that in government where Ministers are always advised by their civil servants, and the latter seldom speak at committee meetings. As I have said, that is not the procedure for unions. Elected members of the executive committee are usually full-time employees in another occupation. They often need verbal briefing and advice, but the committee alone makes the policy. The effect of the subsection, as it stands, would make the decision process and operation of many trade unions difficult. It would help me greatly in deciding whether to pursue the matter, possibly at another stage, if the Minister would describe the circumstances in which he feels that that limitation is important and how it may be abused.

Viscount Brentford

In speaking to Amendment No. 70, I should like to make it clear that all I am trying to do is to implement the Government's intention, which I fear is not the case with the Bill as at present drawn. The amendment seeks to clarify the meaning of a provision which purports to exclude from election those giving professional advice, including solicitors. The clause excludes from election those who provide the committee, with factual information or with technical or professional advice with respect to matters incidental to the carrying out by the committee of its functions". The Government have stated clearly that it is not their intention to require the election of professional advisers such as solicitors. The problem hinges on the word "incidental". Although the Government do not want to have professional advisers elected, the clause as drafted may make it necessary for them to be so.

I shall quote from Standing Committee in another place when my honourable friend the Minister of State who was dealing with this issue said: The word 'incidental' has been used to ensure that those attending meetings to give advice and information needed by the PEC to make its decisions, rather than to take part in the decisions themselves, are not covered. The Bill expresses that as clearly and as accurately as possible. The advice on incidents in the main decision—for example, advice on the legal aspects of a decision—is one of the incidents leading up to the final decision". If that were the drafting of the Bill, I should be happy with it.

Later my honourable friend said: 'incidental' does not mean trivial in this respect, or partial, which it can sometimes be taken to mean … that legal meaning of 'incidental' is one of the incidents on the road to making a decision".—[Official Report, Commons Standing Committee F, 17/12/87; cols. 373, 391.] My dictionary says that incidental means casual, not essential. I accept that the word "incident" has a much wider meaning, but it is not the word "incident" in the Bill, but "incidental". In common usage, according to my thinking and that of my dictionary, that means casual, not essential. I fear that as drafted the Bill will make it essential for a professional adviser, such as a solicitor, who attends to give legal advice on an essential matter to be made subject to an election.

I am sorry for being technical. I believe, and it is the view of many other lawyers, that the wording of Clause 12 does not implement the Government's intention. My proposal is designed to clarify the position to ensure that my noble friend's intentions are fulfilled.

Lord Wedderburn of Charlton

Before the noble Viscount sits down, I accept and endorse the views he put. Many lawyers are interested in that phrase. In our view, his amendment is helpful. It is something to which we shall clearly return on Report because it is a difficult area. I wonder whether the noble Viscount would answer two slightly critical questions about his wording to clarify the point before we return to the issue on Report.

I have in mind solicitors who are employed by a union. It is becoming more common for solicitors, or even barristers, to be in-house, as it were, than it was many years ago. If there is such a person—I can think of two unions where it is so, and there are more—could one say that he was employed or engaged solely to give professional advice, in the sense that one of the people about whom I am thinking, for example, witnesses affidavits? In-house solicitors perfectly properly do other jobs. They are not precisely giving advice. Therefore, solely for the purpose of providing advice might meet a criticism, although not as strong as the noble Viscount's criticism of the Government's words, that the wording does not cover the job done by the solicitor in-house whom he wants to protect.

Lord Campbell of Alloway

Perhaps I may—

Viscount Brentford

If I may answer that question briefly, the example given by Lord Wedderburn is of witnessing affidavits which would surely not be done at the meeting of the PEC. I should have thought that my wording probably covered what was basically in my mind.

Lord Campbell of Alloway

I apologise to the noble Lord, I always give way to everybody, but I did not see him rise. There is a distinction which has been drawn between in-house and non-in-house lawyers. That in a sense could in certain very exceptional circumstances be a crucial distinction because the ordinary lawyer who is called in to advise, I would have thought, subject to the views of the Committee, would clearly fall within subsection (6A)(b), and there is no problem. Then the in-house lawyer who becomes part of the establishment and eventually after years becomes part of the decision-making process, falls into a sort of grey area. In that grey area, subject to the opinion of noble Lords, I should have thought it was better to leave Clause 12(6A)(b) as it stands rather than to accept the amendment.

Lord McCarthy

We took the view generally, before hearing the detailed arguments, that all three of these amendments, though not the biggest amendments in the world, were helpful. We believe that it would be perfectly reasonable for someone not to serve in an election and have to have regular elections because they are not just providing facts and information of a technical and professional character. They are occasionally asked to express their opinion. If you have experts, you ask for their opinion. You say, "What do you think is the best thing to do?" Anybody who is paid for being a consultant or expert is asked, "What do you think we ought to do?" If it be the case that not having the word "opinion" in the clause makes it more difficult, then I should have thought that we have to thank the noble Viscount for suggesting it to the Government. I hope that the Government will find a way to accept the amendment.

Also "to matters incidental": again it seems to us that if we take out the words "matters incidental" in subsection (6A)(b) we just make it more straightforward. It is technical or professional advice with respect to the carrying out by the committee of its functions. What does the phrase "matters incidental" add to the significance of the clause? We do not think it adds anything and we would hope that the Government could accept the amendment.

Finally, with the third amendment put forward by the noble Viscount, Lord Brentford, I must say that the idea that unless something is done with the clause we may get a situation in which a solicitor giving advice to a trade union has to stand for election is quite ludicrous. It is one more ludicrous example of the ludicrous nature of this clause in this ludicrous Bill. I hope that the Minister will improve it.

5.15 p.m.

Lord Boyd-Carpenter

I hope that my noble friend will pay particular attention to the amendment in the name of my noble friend Viscount Brentford. It seems to me that he has made a valid point on the rather curious use of the word "incidental". To take the obvious case, if a solicitor attends a meeting in order to advise a union on whether to fight a certain issue or to settle or give way, he is then giving advice, not incidental to the decision but crucial to it. His advice will bear on the decision which that committee ought to take.

I think it is straining the English language somewhat to describe that sort of advice as being merely "incidental" to the functions. Therefore whatever view my noble friend takes on the other amendments on which I express no opinion, I hope that he will take seriously the amendment in the name of the noble Viscount, Lord Brentford.

Viscount Hanworth

I just want to make one further point on "incidental". It seems to me that even taking into account what has been said in another place, it does not in any way restrict the clause. The very fact that it is there seems to me that it might be a wonderful arguing point for lawyers. If you omit it, I do not think subsection (6A)(b) loses anything at all from the Government's point of view.

Lord Campbell of Alloway

Where does the word "incidental" appear in Amendment No. 70?

Lord Trefgarne

The word "incidental" appears in the amendment of the noble Viscount, Lord Hanworth, Amendment No. 69. I imagine it was that to which my noble friend Lord Boyd-Carpenter was referring.

Clause 12 is intended to ensure that union leaders are representative of the membership. As we have already discussed, the clause extends the 1984 Trade Union Act's election requirements to all members of the PEC, general secretaries and presidents and to those who have the right under the rules or by custom and practice to attend and speak at some or all meetings of the PEC.

In this way, all those who are members or act as though they were members of the PEC will have to be elected and thus be better able to represent the views of the membership. The clause closes a loophole to which I have already referred in the 1984 Act, by means of which certain union leaders have been able to give up their vote on the PEC and so evade the election requirement.

Amendment No. 67 seeks to ensure that individuals who attend PEC meetings only to give financial or legal advice will not be subject to the election requirement. But under the clause as drafted, as long as an individual is supplying factual information or technical or professional advice for the purpose of assisting the PEC to make decisions, as distinct from actually taking part in the taking of decisions, there will be no election requirement. This includes financial and legal advice and I believe therefore that Amendment No. 67 is unnecessary.

Turning to Amendment No. 70 which would add a new subsection defining the phrase "professional advice" in subsection (6A)(b) as included in any advice given to a union by a professional person who is engaged or employed "solely for the pupose of providing that professional advice", it is unnecessary because the clause as drafted includes those who attend for the purpose of giving professional advice, whatever their relationship with the union. I quite take the point made by my noble friend. He is right to raise that concern. But I believe that the clause as drafted meets the point which he made. I hope that my noble friend Lord Boyd-Carpenter will accept that as well.

Let me turn specifically now to Amendments Nos. 68 and 69 in the name of the noble Viscount, Lord Hanworth. The addition of the word "opinions" after "advice" in Amendment No. 68 is again unnecessary, I am told, as "advice" automatically includes "opinions". However I presume Amendments Nos. 68 and 69 are intended to operate together. Thus the use of "incidental" in subsection (6A)(b) ensures that those to be exempted from the election requirement are not concerned with matters which are the primary function of the PEC; that is, deciding whether and when to do something as opposed to how to do it.

Removal of "to matters incidental" would therefore have the effect of permitting individuals to play a fuller role in the activities of the PEC while still being exempted from the election requirement. I do not think that is quite what the noble Lord intended, and it is certainly not what the Government have in mind. I agree with my noble friend Lord Boyd-Carpenter that sometimes the advice tendered by professional advisers can be very important indeed in persuading the principal executive committee or other senior officials of the union which way they might decide in any matter. But I believe that we have drafted the clause sufficiently tightly to ensure that those who are tempted to stray beyond—

Baroness Seear

If the noble Lord will permit me—

Lord Trefgarne

Perhaps I may just finish this sentence—tempted to stray beyond the professional advisory capacity will find themselves outside the ambit of the protection which we provide here.

Baroness Seear

I am really extremely confused. That is probably my fault. But let us suppose that the executive committee is considering whether or not to take strike action and it turns to the legal adviser and asks whether such action would be within the law. The legal adviser then gives his opinion. Is that to be regarded as incidental?

Lord Trefgarne

I am very reluctant to give a legal opinion on a particular hypothetical situation about which the noble Baroness has given me just one sentence. If I were a legal adviser advising a trade union I should not be content to give advice on the basis of instructions represented by one or two sentences. I believe, however, that in the kind of situation that the noble Baroness has indicated where the action that an executive committee had in mind was likely to be secondary action and therefore outlawed by a particular provision, it could properly question a legal adviser on that matter. I think that such an adviser, asked just such a question, would enjoy the protection of this clause.

Lord Boyd-Carpenter

I am sorry to press my noble friend a little further but I am not happy about the word "incidental" in subsection (6A)(b). I wish to refer to the example that I put to the Minister earlier which he did not deal with. If a union is faced with a possibility of legal proceedings will it decide to fight? The legal adviser turns up to advise. That is not, technical or professional advice with respect to matters incidental to the carrying out by the committee of functions". That, surely, is legal advice bearing on the substance of the decision which the committee is going to take. I do think it is stretching the language a little to describe that as "incidental".

Lord Renton

I join with my noble friend Lord Boyd-Carpenter in making this request to my noble friend on the Front Bench. There are two difficulties that I see about this provision. First, the addition of these apparently innocent words broadens the scope of the subsection very much indeed. Secondly, in doing so, I can imagine cases in which there will be a wrangle before the courts as to whether a matter was incidental to the carrying out by the committee of its functions or was not incidental. I do not think that we should be legislating in such a way as to give rise to that situation. There is a very strong case for my noble friend to consider further Amendment No. 69 of the noble Viscount, Lord Hanworth.

Lord Campbell of Alloway

With considerable diffidence, I disagree with my noble friend Lord Boyd-Carpenter and my dear sponsor the noble Lord, Lord Renton. I cannot see in all objectivity that the clause creates any difficulty at all. I take the point raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Seear. It is, frankly, the crucial point. The noble Baroness always makes the crucial point. One gets the solicitor. Never mind for a moment whether he is in-house or not in-house; there he is. One says to him, "Look, Jones, this is the form. Can we take this action or not?" He says "yes" or "no" or in all probability, "I do not know. You will have to make your own decision." That is the usual kind of legal advice that one receives.

In any event, whatever he says he will express it, as I understand ordinary English construction, in the following manner. I am seeking to answer the noble Baroness. He will say that it will be incidental to the carrying out by the committee of its functions. Good heavens! Lawyers never make any decisions. That is why they always survive. They just advise. Whatever they do is merely incidental to something that someone else does on that advice.

Baroness Seear

The noble Lord seems to think that a decision is taken at a particular moment on the clock. But, of course, it is a process. That opinion is a very important part of the process of making the decision.

Lord Campbell of Alloway

I take the point made by the noble Baroness. I agree with her, as I usually do. But the legal advice is, as I understand it—I may be totally wrong and that is a matter for the Committee—purely incidental to the decision-making process of the committee. Some people rely on the legal advice they receive. Many people, perhaps for very good reasons and often to their advantage, reject it. Legal advice is asked for. It is given. It is incidental. It is not the decision. The decision is made by the committee. As it stands, this clause as I construe it—I say that with considerable deference in view of the fact that two members of the Bar are opposed to me—

Baroness Seear

But, really, if the lawyer says, "If you do this, you will go to jug", one cannot say that that is incidental in the process of making the decision.

Lord Trefgarne

I believe that my noble friend is right to say that on occasions legal advice, perhaps less categoric than the example given by the noble Baroness, is sometimes disregarded. The fact of the matter is that on the right of me I have three most distinguished members of the legal profession who disagree among themselves. I think that the right thing for me to do under these circumstances is to accept that there is room for more than one respectable view on this matter and to undertake to have it examined further between now and the next stage. I do so without commitment because I am not necessarily persuaded by one view or the other. But I shall ask for the matter to be considered by a further range of experts—if I may put it that way—and, if I think fit, bring forward a further amendment at a later stage.

Baroness Turner of Camden

I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Viscount Hanworth had given notice of his intention to move Amendment No. 68: Page 14, line 33, after ("advice") insert ("or opinions").

The noble Viscount said: I should just like to thank the noble Lord for his reassurance that "opinion" is not necessary in order to cover the kind of situation which I have described. I hope that the noble Lord does not feel differently before the next stage.

Viscount Brentford

I wish to thank my noble friend for offering to reconsider this matter. I hope that he will look at the meaning of the word "incidental" in the dictionary as well as studying the legal implications of this.

[Amendment No. 68 not moved.]

[Amendment Nos. 69 and 70 not moved.]

Baroness Turner of Camden moved Amendment No. 71:

Page 14, line 34, at end insert— ("( ) With the exception of persons falling within subsection (6B) below, a person is not a member of the principal executive committee of a trade union if—

  1. (a) the rules of the union state that he or someone occupying his position is not such a member; and
  2. (b) he has no right to vote at meetings of that committee.").

The noble Baroness said: I rise to put in the form of an amendment to the Committee the arguments which I have already produced when speaking to the original Amendment No. 63 in respect of people who attend meetings of the national executive council who are senior officials but who are not perhaps professional people in the sense of being solicitors, accountants, or whatever.

There is a large number of senior officials, assistant general secretaries, national officers and the like who have the obligation from time to time of attending every meeting. But national officials with particular industrial responsibilities attend meetings as required from time to time by the national executive council. They report on their activities and make recommendations to the national executive council in respect of various industrial problems that the union may be facing.

Furthermore, there are officials who attend executive councils who are responsible for the administration of the council under the general jurisdiction and authority of the general secretary and who have responsibility for ensuring that the administrative work of the council is effectively carried out, and also for ensuring that the administrative decisions are carried out.

I am not denying that that is a responsible and senior position. However, those people in general have normal contracts of employment—contracts which enable them to have normal notice periods and full cover of present employment law in regard to unfair dismissal, redundancy payments, pension entitlements and so on. They are often administrative personnel who would not join the staff of a union if they felt that they would have to stand for election every five years. Often they are not the kind of people who would see themselves as fighting on the hustings to maintain their positions.

It seems to me to be quite inequitable for unions to be put in the position of having to have those jobs balloted for by the general membership. It does not seem right that unions should be uniquely disadvantaged in that way. I know that the Government have said on a number of occasions that unions are unique organisations. However, that is a special disadvantage. As I said earlier, unions have been endeavouring to become more and more professional. In the last 10 or 15 years they have been attempting to recruit young people who perhaps have career opportunities in the positions they hold and to ensure that they have career opportunities similar to those which they would have had if they had stayed in those positions and not joined the staff of the union.

If we have a situation in which such people see, as they go up the promotion ladder, that they will get to the point of being considered for senior positions and will have to stand for election instead of being promoted on their merits by a national executive council, we shall not be able to have access to that talent and it will not be available to unions to utilise it in a professional trade union and administrative way. It will damage the structure and functions of trade unions. I commend the amendment to the Committee.

Lord Renton

I hope that my noble friend the Minister will not accept the amendment. It seems to be manifestly a way of overcoming the provisions of the new subsection (6A) by changing the rules of the union. That goes back to the speech which we had on the first amendment which we considered today (Amendment No. 63) when the noble Lord, Lord Murray of Epping Forest, was asked by me at the end of his speech if he would give way. I then put to him the point that when he complained that the clause overrides union rules, he was suggesting that the rules should take precedence over the law. He came back at me with a plea for natural justice. He quite rightly mentioned that the rules can be approved or disapproved by the courts when there is a change if necessary.

The point we have to bear in mind on the amendment is that although the rule book has a sanctity—and properly so—it cannot be subject to the proposition that it overrides the sovereignty of Parliament. Legislation is an expression of that sovereignty. We should look carefully at any amendment that seems to attempt to overcome the law which Parliament makes.

Lord Campbell of Alloway

I accept, as the noble Baroness has said, that trade unions have made vast progress of late. That is much to be welcomed and encouraged. The question of damage to the position and the status of trade unions is not readily understandable for the reasons which I sought to give earlier this afternoon and which I have no intention of repeating. The adverse effect on career structure for young people is again not readily understood.

One comes back full circle every time to the problem that the effect of Clause 12 is to include members of the PEC who are already covered by the Act of 1984 and then to include those members who, by virtue of the rules, do not have a right to vote and de facto members who attend meetings and play a part in the decision-making progress. That is the essence of the matter. That was a consideration which affected the last amendment which my noble friend has taken back.

To accept the amendment—although I know and avow that it is not the intention of the noble Baroness and that it would not happen in the hands of her union or most unions—would, in the hands of some unions, open the door to evasion and abuse. For that reason and with the utmost regret I oppose the amendment.

Lord Trefgarne

I agree that the amendment is something of a Trojan horse. For that reason, I find it impossible to agree to it. The amendment would add a new subsection with the effect that, with the exception of general secretaries and presidents, individuals would not be members of the PEC and therefore not subject to the election requirement if the rules of their union stated that they or people occupying their positions were not principal executive committee members and had no right to vote at meetings of the PEC. That would leave all non-members free to act as if they were PEC members, other than voting, without being required to be elected. That is a Trojan horse if ever I saw one. I cannot accept the amendment.

Baroness Turner of Camden

I find the arguments advanced against the amendment very strange. I must say to the noble Lord, Lord Renton, that we are not suggesting that the rules should take precedence over the law. We are suggesting that Parliament should not pass unfair laws. Once the law is in position, unions have to abide by it. That is not in question. We are not suggesting that the rules should take precedence.

Our argument has been that there are classes of officials employed as what has been described by the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, as civil servants of the trade union movement. Should those people have to stand for election? We say that they should not. It is destabilising to introduce the electoral process into administrative processes. It also politicises those processes in an unwelcome way.

Nor is the amendment a Trojan horse. Those people are responsible directly to an elected executive council and they are employed by it. There is no suggestion on our side that such people should be able to do exactly what they like without reference to anyone else. The national executive council is an elected body. Those people are employees of it and are responsible directly to it. They must do what the elected executive tells them to do. They administer the union on the instructions of the elected council. That seems to us to be a reasonable process.

That is the type of situation that applies in many institutions. Why should it be applied differently here? Why should there be discrimination in regard to unions? We do not understand, except that it seems to us that the Government are out to be as damaging as they possibly can to union organisation and advancement. However, I shall not press the amendment to a Division and we shall look at the matter on Report. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 72 not moved.]

Lord Trefgarne moved Amendment No. 73:

Page 14, line 47, at end insert— ("(6C) For the purposes of this section where any person who holds in any trade union any such position as is mentioned in paragraph (a) or (b) of subsection (6B) above—

  1. (a) is, in respect of that position, neither a voting member of the principal executive committee of the union nor an employee of the union;
  2. (b) holds that position for a period which under the rules of the union cannot end more than thirteen months after he took up that position;
  3. (c) has held neither that position nor any other position so mentioned at any time in the period of twelve months ending with the day before he took up that position,
that position shall not be regarded for the purposes of this section as a position by virtue of holding which that person is a member of that committee or is deemed under that subsection to be such a member.")

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendment No. 74 not moved.]

Lord Wyatt of Weeford moved Amendment No. 75: Page 15, line 5, leave out ("the period of five") and insert ("a period of less than five years but more than two")

The noble Lord said: I rise to speak to Amendments Nos. 75 and 76. This Bill will make all members of union executive councils stand for election in secret postal ballots. That will include presidents and general secretaries if they regularly attend their executive meetings. That being so, the sooner it happens the better. Surely we do not want a situation in which some union executives are elected by properly conducted secret postal ballots—in which we hope there can be no fiddle—while other union executives continue to rest on the insecure foundations of ballots which may or may not have been rigged.

The purpose of these amendments is to require all those who have not been elected in properly conducted secret postal ballot elections in the two years before the passing of this Bill to stand in such an election after the Bill becomes law. For the life of me, I cannot see the point of waiting for as long as the Bill suggests.

This is not ad hominem to Mr. Scargill, as was suggested on Second Reading, although he would be affected. Many other people are also concerned. Mr. Scargill chose to stand for election as president of the NUM on 22nd January although he did not have to do so. Firstly, the provision had not yet come into force requiring a non-voting member of an executive to stand for election even though general secretary. Secondly, at that time, there was no necessity to hold a ballot because the new law had not come into effect and there was no provision for it. As I explained at Second Reading, Mr. Scargill was trying to dodge the provisions of this Bill because he was frightened of the outcome of a secret postal ballot. The workplace ballots in the NUM are easily manipulated and almost certainly were manipulated in the NUM election on 22nd January. We had a short discussion about that at Second Reading, and I do not think that there was much in the way of an answer.

As the proposed law stood, if the union retirement age had been lowered to 60 Mr. Scargill could have used the 22nd January election to stay in office for 10 years less 11 days before he reached the age of 60. I understand that the Government have altered that provision so that he would now be able to stay for only seven years less 11 days without an election if the retirement age were altered to 57. I think that a term of office of seven years less 11 days on the basis of a very dubious election is far too long in any case.

Lord Graham of Edmonton

Will the noble Lord give way? The noble Lord keeps referring to the elections of the NUM and commenting on their legality. He has yet to spell out his case; he has generalised. He relies upon headlines in the Yorkshire Post and his own arithmetic, but I think that the Committee would be interested if he would go very carefully through that arithmetic. The arithmetic that I have seen concerning the ballot in no way substantiates the allegation that there was any illegality in the conduct of the election.

Lord Wyatt of Weeford

I am not relying on headlines in the Yorkshire Post, I am relying on its content. I do not want to bore the Committee by going into that again. Nevertheless, it was clear that in some areas more miners voted than happened to be available in the workplace on that particular day.

Lord Graham of Edmonton

Will the noble Lord give way? The noble Lord conveniently forgets that miners who may not be working and therefore not in the workplace are entitled to vote. If he had done his research properly for once, he would have found that it needed only 1,000 of the 4,000 miners, alleged to be missing because they were off work, to have gone into work to vote. It could very well have been that although they were not due to go to work they were sufficiently interested in the ballot to go to work to vote.

Lord Wyatt of Weeford

The noble Lord is demonstrating clearly that there is a good deal of dispute about the election of the NUM which took place on 22nd January.

Lord Graham of Edmonton

There is no dispute at all.

Lord Wyatt of Weeford

Not only was it made out clearly in the survey by the Yorkshire Post but also by members of the NUM who were very much afraid and saddened.

5.45 p.m.

Baroness Turner of Camden

Will the noble Lord give way? Is he not aware that the Yorkshire Post carried a statement the following day that the Electoral Reform Society was satisfied with the way in which the election had been conducted?

Lord Wyatt of Weeford

Oh dear! I did not know that the noble Baroness was quite so gullible. The Electoral Reform Society was only satisfied that it had counted what it had received. The Electoral Reform Society did not send out the ballot papers in the first place and had no idea how many had been printed or how many had been duplicated, substituted or added. All it did was to count those that came back.

Anyone who was watching television news programmes at that time could see the envelopes from the NUM branches being delivered to the place where the Electoral Reform Society was to count them. The envelopes were stuffed with the ballot papers which had been taken out of the ballot boxes—which were never sealed, nor locked—by branch officials. Therefore, it was prefectly easy to add or subtract ballot papers before they were put in the envelopes. What is more, the champions of Mr. Scargill were declaring 24 hours before the result of the count was announced that he had won, and that he had won by a narrower majority than usual. How the devil did they know if they had not already arranged for that to happen?

I am quite happy to engage in these rather puerile debates with Members opposite. They simply bear out the total uncertainty and unreliability of a workplace ballot conducted by the NUM. That is the reason why Mr. Scargill wanted a workplace ballot before this Bill came into effect. He had a much better chance of winning such a ballot, with lots of people sympathetic to him and manipulating the votes at branches and pitheads and taking them out of ballot boxes before they put them into envelopes to send to the Electoral Reform Society. He had a much better chance of winning that kind of ballot than of winning a properly conducted secret postal ballot.

Surely the noble Baroness—who I thought was extremely intelligent—must realise what his game is. It is obvious, is it not? Why dash into an election, which you do not have to have, on 22nd January if not for the fact that you know that you will have to hold it on the basis of a properly conducted secret postal ballot after the Bill becomes law? Perhaps we may dispense with that point for the moment.

Lord Murray of Epping Forest

Will the noble Lord give way? At the expense of boring the Committee, which I suspect is deeply bored already, will the noble Lord explain why those on his national executive committee who are by no means the champions of Mr. Scargill have lent their support to the statements that that election was above board? Will he tell us how many Conservative laws are meant to dance on the point of a Scargill?

Lord Wyatt of Weeford

I am afraid that I do not understand the noble Lord's point at all. As is well known, the executive is rather afraid of Mr. Scargill. I do not expect much progress from that quarter. As for boring the Committee, some Members of the Committee seem to be quite interested.

The truth of the matter is that the principal victim of the 22nd January election—a Mr. Walsh—is not willing to rock the boat internally by standing up and demanding a declaration from the certification officer that something was very much awry with that election. One reason is that his whole career is as an area officer, a paid official of the NUM. They would have him out in a brace of ticks if he dared to protest to the certification officer.

These amendments would also apply to members of the executive council of the Transport and General Workers' Union. Everyone has read about the extraordinary work place ballots held recently in the Transport and General Workers' Union. I hope that Members of the Committee will not be bored if I read out something from The Times of Saturday 27th February, which I found rather fascinating: A former prominent hard-left member of the union has signed an affidavit saying he saw widespread rigging and spelt out how it was done. The rigging is alleged to have taken place in an election of the general executive of the TGWU … The union member making the allegations has told officials that he saw new membership cards being pre-stamped when he attended a local union 'ballot stamping' party in the North-West". I do not wish to embarrass Members on the Labour Benches too much and I shall not read on, but I must say—

Baroness Phillips

With his vast experience of newspapers surely the noble Lord does not believe what he reads in them. The ones with which he is concerned certainly do not speak the truth.

Lord Wyatt of Weeford

As it happens, I believe statements from members of unions when they carry absolute verisimilitude.

Lord Graham of Edmonton

Perhaps the noble Lord will allow me to say something on that point. He quotes from a newspaper the words "a former prominent hard-left member". Does the noble Lord care to name that person? What he is relying upon is a scurrilous and made-up report, and if his remarks are designed simply to enliven the proceedings he should be thoroughly ashamed of himself.

Lord Wyatt of Weeford

It is very touching to hear how Members opposite desperately go on trying to defend the extraordinary activities of the TGWU.

Lord Graham of Edmonton

Name the man!

Lord Wyatt of Weeford

We have heard of ballots that have been re-run. They were all a shambles. They are workplace ballots which notoriously are rigged. Yet in a nice, old-fashioned, romantic way some Members of the Labour Benches go on desperately trying to pretend that ballots are always conducted like a Sunday school party. Well, they are not.

Lord Graham of Edmonton


Lord Wyatt of Weeford

For example, there was a ludicrously high number of votes cast in Ireland-90 per cent. of the people voted. Has one ever heard of such a thing? Well, one hears of it only in Ireland. However, there are numerous complaints made about false voting and I understand that at least three complaints will be coming from members of the TGWU to the certification officer. That should clear up the matter and we shall find out where we stand afterwards. However, if this amendment is accepted it will take care of those complaints by requiring a re-run in a secret postal ballot now.

Baroness Turner of Camden

Perhaps the noble Lord will give way. If there are complaints made to the certification officer, would it not be better to allow the certification officer to deal with them instead of having trial by newspaper?

Lord Wyatt of Weeford

I thought that this was the House of Lords. I did not know it was a newspaper. The certification officer will deal with the complaints in a proper manner when he receives them, and no doubt he will have lots of help from interested parties. My point is that if these amendments are accepted probably the certification officer will not have to act at all because the election will have to be re-run as soon as this Bill is enacted.

These amendments would affect people such as Mr. Ken Gill, who was formerly the general secretary of TASS and who has never stood in any kind of free and fair election. He has now become the joint general secretary of the merged ASTMS and TASS unions, which the noble Baroness, Lady Turner, knows well. I understand from her that the situation of Ken Gill will be taken care of as a result of the merger between TASS and ASTMS, which is her union, but that he will be required to stand in a properly conducted ballot according to the 1984 Act and the present Bill should it become law in time.

Incidentally, I should like to say that I have never heard any complaints about the conduct of elections in the noble Baroness's union. The fact that it conducts its elections fairly is no doubt one of the reasons she cannot understand or believe that other unions do not do the same.

There are also other unions which are affected by these amendments. Under this Bill, there are to be secret postal ballots, and in my judgment the sooner we have them the better. We do not want a two-tier system in which there are some union executives elected properly by secret postal ballot and others not so elected. Why should they not be all on the same footing? Our amendment would promptly validate or invalidate, as the case may be, all those who now sit on union executives. Over 40 unions now apply to the certification officer for refunds against the cost of postal ballots. It is a growing habit in the trade union movement. It is not difficult to arrange and I do not see any reason why there should be a long waiting period after this legislation is passed to validate all union executives by proper secret postal ballot of the kind that is now envisaged. I beg to move.

Lord Campbell of Alloway

Unless my noble friend the Minister is able to give some compelling reason—and no doubt there may be one—I should like to support this amendment in principle. I agree that the periods of five and two years are a matter of impression and accommodation. If the logic of the principle is accepted, no doubt the measure should be implemented at once.

However, logic is not the yardstick with which one approaches the delicate problem of industrial relations. The trade unions must be accommodated. Before the noble Lord spoke, it seemed to me that the Government had got this matter more or less right, but having listened with great attention to everything that was said by the noble Lord I wonder what will be the views of my noble friend the Minister.

Lord Trefgarne

I should like to start by saying that I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Wyatt, for the further explanation that he gave of the reasons behind his amendment. He gave us a foretaste of what he had in mind during the course of our debate at Second Reading. I shall address the substance of his comments in a moment. First of all, however, I should perhaps point out that I do not think that his proposed amendments would achieve the intended result.

To cite the case of Mr. Scargill, who was referred to earlier this afternoon, he could claim that his election satisfied the workplace requirements of the 1984 Act and that he was thus entitled to stay in office for five years. Whatever amendment was made to the transitional provision in Clause 12(2) would not therefore affect him.

It would, however, affect many others who, perfectly genuinely, have held elections which did not conflict in any way with the statutory requirements at that time and who have every expectation that they can remain in post for the full term of office.

The Bill will already cut that period short if it were for longer than five years. I think that it would be highly undesirable to reduce it still further by requiring those elected in the two years preceding the clause coming into force to stand again.

The Government believe, therefore, that the amendment has undesirable effects while failing to hit the target at which it is aimed. But even taking the stated aim of the noble Lord, Lord Wyatt, of requiring Mr. Scargill to stand again for election, and assuming that an amendment could be devised to do that, I ask the noble Lord whether that is really desirable. If there is evidence of malpractice in his election then let it be brought into the daylight by individual members for all to see, in particular the Electoral Reform Society, which oversaw the count, rather than amending the Bill.

If there is no evidence of malpractice and yet Mr. Scargill were picked out and forced to stand for re-election, would he not be able to present himself as a martyr and so gain the support of many tens of thousands who would otherwise perhaps not have voted for him? I suspect that the last thing the noble Lord would wish to see is Mr. Scargill re-elected in a carefully stage-managed vote of confidence. If he were to be re-elected in a fully postal ballot the prophecy of the noble Lord about Mr. Scargill remaining in office until retirement without further re-election would become self-fulfilling. That is because Mr. Scargill would certainly be able to benefit from the retirement exemption in Section 8 of the 1984 Act since the intention is that the exemption should be available to those whose previous election was fully postal.

I hope the noble Lord will therefore accept that his proposal goes too far and would not be in the overall interests of the end that he is seeking to achieve.

Baroness Turner of Camden

It is unusual for Members on this side of the Chamber to agree with the Minister, but we do so on this occasion. What he said is very sensible. I also believe that it is unwise to embark upon legislation aimed at specific individuals, which is what this measure does. The noble Lord, Lord Wyatt, made it abundantly clear in moving the amendment that that was what he was after. I therefore support the Minister in his comments on this amendment.

6 p.m.

Lord Wyatt of Weeford

One is in a very difficult position when the leading spokesman of the Opposition agrees with the spokesman for the Government; and they are both wrong! However, I feel helpless in the matter because clearly if we have a Division it will go against us. However, I should like the Government to have another look at this amendment. It is not directed simply at Mr. Scargill, as I carefully pointed out. It is directed towards a great many other executives which have been elected under somewhat dubious methods, such as the TGWU, which regularly elects its executive under very doubtful methods.

It is a little casual for the Government to say, "That does not matter. After all, we have only to put up with these unfortunate results of improper election for a few years".

Lord Trefgarne

I understand the feeling that the noble Lord has expressed on this matter. I shall certainly ensure that further consideration is given to this point. Frankly, I cannot hold out much hope that we shall reach any different conclusion, but if the noble Lord would like to continue his discussion with my honourable or right honourable friends on this matter I am certain that they would be more than happy to do so.

Lord Wyatt of Weeford

On that understanding—rather a weak one—I shall withdraw the amendment and return to another charge on Amendment No. 93. I hope that the Government may then be more receptive, having had further time to reflect.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 76 not moved.]

Baroness Turner of Camden moved Amendment No. 77: Page 15, line 29, leave out ("two") and insert ("five").

The noble Baroness said: The objective of this amendment is to try to remove what seems to be an anomaly. The 1984 Act specifies that individuals who are covered by its provisions do not have to stand for election within five years of retirement. This is a reasonable provision covering officials who are elected, because if people have to stand for election five years before retirement, and they lose their positions as a result of that election, it becomes difficult for them to rejoin their previous occupation and to be employed. Therefore it was a reasonable provision when the 1984 Act was put on the statute book. The provision complied with the rules of one of our major unions which has for many years had elections as the normal way of deciding upon its officials.

The new legislation before us, however, proposes that where officials who have been appointed have now to stand for election they should have to do so up to within two years of retirement age. This seems to us to be a quite malicious provision. After years of working in a post, if after an election the individual loses his position, is it really imagined that he is able easily to find alternative employment within two years of retirement? Most unions which employ officials and clerical staff endeavour to be reasonably good employers and certainly would not wish to put employees—even senior employees—in such a situation.

Moreover, there seems no reason to have one stipulation with regard to people who were elected under the 1984 Act and quite another with regard to people who were appointed and who now are to have their contracts of employment negated. They have to stand for election up to within two years of retirement. I can only assume that what has happened here is that the Government have looked at the ages of a few general secretaries whom they wish to catch in the electoral net and have decided that it would be a good idea to provide for two years instead of five years because that will enable them to catch a few more.

As I said earlier on previous amendments, it is not a very good idea to legislate with individuals in mind rather than principles. For those reasons, I commend the amendment to Members of the Committee.

Lord Trefgarne

There can be no serious argument against the principle of Clause 12 that all those who bear the responsibility for the running of a union should submit themselves for regular election in a proper ballot.

The existing legislation already recognises the difficulties which transition to the new regime may pose as well as the need to make special arrangements as in Section 8 of the 1984 Act for those approaching retirement. These will continue with appropriate modifications alongside this new subsection which caters for the particular extension effected by Clause 12.

It is important, however, that the effective implementation of the clause should not be unreasonably delayed, and any extension of the pre-retirement exemption would be likely—given the age profile of those in scope—to have a disproportionate effect.

In short, I do not think that we can agree to the amendment of the noble Baroness. It would unduly delay the proper implementation of the provisions of Clause 12. I hope that on reflection she will not insist upon it.

Lord Wedderburn of Charlton

Before the noble Lord sits down, can he give us a little more information about what he called the age profile of those in scope? This class refers to those who will reach retirement age within two years. Will he explain what he means by the age profile of those in scope?

Lord Trefgarne

When I saw those words I feared that the noble Lord might rise to his feet in response to them; and he has. Given the number of people involved—which is not enormous—it is fairly easy to ascertain how old particular people are and therefore to form a view on the broad effect of such a provision on the range of people involved.

Lord Wedderburn of Charlton

Perhaps I may detain the Committee a moment longer. We are very grateful to the Minister. We may assume that this class has been ascertained by reference to the ages of particular people.

Lord Trefgarne

As I understand it, yes.

Baroness Phillips

Can the Minister explain whether retirement age has the same meaning as in Section 8? In other words, is it one age for women and another for men?

Lord Trefgarne

Given the appointments that we are considering, the retirement age is generally spelt out specifically regardless of whether it is a man or a woman.

Lord Murray of Epping Forest

In order to help the Committee in its further consideration of this interesting matter, will the Minister publish the list of the people who have been considered, together with their ages?

Lord Trefgarne

Perhaps I can reflect upon that request. Off the cuff I cannot think of any reason why we should not.

Lord McCarthy

Will the noble Lord tell us whether he picked the age by looking at the people or whether he looked at the people to pick the age? Did he look down a list and say, "If we pick that age we will get that person". Is that the way it happened?

Lord Trefgarne

No, the noble Lord oversimplifies the process by which the Government arrive at these legislative proposals.

Lord McCarthy

I know that you are very crafty!

Lord Houghton of Sowerby

I hope that I am out of the crossfire just for a moment. I hope also that we appreciate that we are being asked to interfere all the time with the law of contract. This is a serious matter. In the Government's pursuit of their aims to put trade union leaders on the footing of delinquents requiring some kind of condonation of their activities by ballot, the effect on individuals is being entirely ignored. To submit to a ballot after a considerable period of appointment and within three years of retirement is I think very cruel treatment of someone who has done nothing wrong and who has been looking forward to the continuation of his employment. All kinds of considerations come into a ballot for election within three years of retirement. Surely some consideration can be given to people in that position. They were not expecting it. It was not part of their terms of service, but the law intervenes for Parliament has decided that it is inappropriate for them to continue in the office that they have held honourably for a number of years without submitting themselves to re-election even though retirement is within only a few years.

In a number of cases anybody who has any self-respect would not wish to undergo that ordeal and be challenged possibly for his last three years of office. He would rather take his pension and leave. I do not think that this is a fair way of dealing with the matter. The Government are so relentless—

Lord Trefgarne

I hope the noble Lord will allow me to intervene. There is another side to this matter. The noble Lord says that it is not fair upon the official concerned to have to subject himself to an election. However, he is also saying that it is therefore fair for the thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands, of members of trade unions to continue to have the services of a senior official who may or may not reflect their views or wishes for a period of perhaps two or three years. The Government therefore have to tread a rather careful path between the two.

If we were to accept wholly the view that trade union members could express their view instantly, we should then have accepted the amendment proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Wyatt, and agreed that there should have been a new election instantly upon the Bill becoming an Act. But we had regard to the special concerns of people such as those to whom the noble Lord referred. If they were in the last two years or so of office they should not be asked to submit themselves to an election in the way that the Bill provides.

I also refer to our recent discussion about the "age profile of those in scope". Those were the words which caused the noble Lords, Lord Wedderburn and Lord Murray, to rise to their feet. I am advised that the class concerned was not determined by reference to the ages of individuals, as perhaps I inadvertently suggested to the Committee. However, it is clear that most of those in scope will be relatively aged. Having arrived at the position, when faced with the amendment the Government were bound to consider what the impact would be in the light of the known facts. I ought to make it clear that we did not conduct a survey of likely candidates for this provision in the way that I might have inadvertently suggested earlier.

Lord McCarthy

I hope that the noble Lord will make himself absolutely clear. I have written him down as saying that "most in scope were aged". Is that right? How did he know that they were aged if he did not find out their age?

Lord Trefgarne

I said "relatively aged".

Lord McCarthy

How did he know that they were relatively aged if he did not find out their relative age?

Lord Trefgarne

Generally, by looking at their faces.

Lord McCarthy

Does the Minister believe that he could perhaps find a better answer before we return on Report?

Lord Murray of Epping Forest

I think that all we are anxious to know is what the Minister means—I think I am quoting him correctly—by "the known facts"? Will he publish "the known facts" to which he has referred in his subsequent answer?

Lord Trefgarne

The known facts are largely published already because there are many books of reference in which the names of distinguished general secretaries appear and most of them put in their age. I daresay that their ages are accurately entered, although equally I daresay that lady general secretaries often decline to do that, and quite right too.

Baroness Turner of Camden


Lord McCarthy


Lord Wedderburn of Charlton


Lord Blease

The Minister has said that he attempted to be fair. I am accepting him at his word that he wants to be fair in such a situation. We are dealing with people who for a period have been in office in a trade union. I am not sure what happens in other organisations, but it is my experience that trade unions have a practice when people are coming up for retirement of considering their retirement pensions, their superannuation.

We are dealing with human beings and I am asking the Minister to consider this matter with a sense of fairness. We are dealing with people who are coming into their last days of service in a particular post. Surely that service merits more thought about the fairness of giving a reduced pension and the other aspects concerned.

Lord Trefgarne

I agree and the Government agree that these people are not to be abandoned in the way that the noble Lord is perhaps suggesting. There are transitional provisions in the 1984 Act which apply equally to the cases that we are referring to under the Bill. Therefore, I hope the noble Lord will accept that, while the transitional provisions are perhaps not as extensive or as generous as some would wish, equally they go further than others would wish. The Government have to take a median path between the two positions and I hope the noble Lord will agree that we have taken the right one.

Lord Houghton of Sowerby

The name of Arthur Scargill is writ on almost every page of the discussions on the Bill. It is about time that we rid our discussions of references to him. I ask the noble Lord, Lord Wyatt of Weeford, to introduce a Private Member's Bill called King Arthur (Deposition) Bill and let us discuss Arthur Scargill, all his works and all his implications at one go. That would relieve us of this constant allusion to what happens in the NUM and with Arthur Scargill. He is a very decent fellow. The Committee has no idea how personable he is. He is a good husband, he loves his dog, so what is the matter with him? He is the leader of a difficult union and has accomplished much. Speaking as one old trade unionist to another, I have a certain sympathy with him.

However, the Minister seems to want to apply the test provided in the clause to the officers concerned. The test is: Does he represent the views of the members? Let us invent a breathalyser to apply to these gentlemen to see whether they represent the views of their members. What does he mean when he says "the views of their members"? It does not really matter very much in nine cases out of 10 whether he does or not, because he has an executive council duly elected fresh from the ballot, reinforced by the confidence of the members, who represent the members.

How can one person represent the views of the members when so many of their views are continually plaguing him and when the organisation may have split feeings about this or that? Unions are not the same as parochial councils. They are active, and are often divided and engaged in controversial debate. I believe that the Government have an obsession about the views of the members.

There is something in the art of government. Does this Government represent the views of the electorate? Let them try to prove that they represent the views of the electorate. If they are counting heads—and that is what is done in ballots—let us see the voting of the country at the last general election. It was not to give a mandate to the noble Lord sitting on the Bench opposite. I believe that we must strip some of the humbug from all this and get down to the reality of the matter. I think that is enough.

Baroness Turner of Camden

Yes, I think that it probably is. I am disappointed at the way in which the Minister has reacted to what I thought was a moderate, reasonable and compassionate proposition. People approaching the end of their working careers should not suddenly have the goalposts changed, their contracts of employment negated, and have to stand for election when their careers were based on the assumption that they had appointments and contracts of employment and were responsible to elected executive councils.

My noble friends Lord Wedderburn and Lord McCarthy have dealt with the age profile comment made by the Minister. I should like to know whether he has particular names in mind. Perhaps he will tell us that at Report, because it is important. We on this side of the Committee believe that in introducing the legislation the Government have looked and decided that there are a number of people they need to catch in their legislation, not only Arthur Scargill. As regards Arthur Scargill, I should like to say in passing that one of the reasons I believe that he would easily be elected, even with a postal vote, is that the policies of this Government towards the National Coal Board have so alienated the feelings of young miners in particular that they would vote for him because he articulates their concerns in that area.

Returning to the amendment, it has been said by the Minister that the views of members are important. Of course they are, but in many unions they have been expressed through annual conference decisions when discussing the question of whether they should have appointed or elected officials to run their administration. That matter has been discussed in my union and in many others.

In annual conference my union decided that it wants professional union officials who are appointed rather than elected. Therefore the members of that union have given their views as to the type of official they wish to have working for them. It is not good enough to say to all unions, as though they were all the same, "This is what you must do". Moreover it is not good enough to insist that union officials must stand for election up to within two years of retirement. I shall not press the amendment at this stage. However, I am disappointed at the response from the Government and I shall look at the matter again at Report. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 78 and 79 not moved.]

On Question, Whether Clause 12, as amended, shall stand part of the Bill?

Baroness Turner of Camden

I rise to oppose the Motion that the clause stand part of the Bill. During the course of the debate we on this side of the Committee have attempted to demonstrate how misdirected and malicious is Clause 12. As we have tried to show, it would produce unstable situations in many unions. It would introduce elections for officials who are civil servants of the trade union movement. It would prevent unions from developing the professional skills and expertise that are so necessary nowadays. Unions are constantly being told to modernise and clean up their act, and this clause would inhibit them from doing so.

Every large institution must be administered, and that requires full-time staff. Democratic institutions such as unions have elected national executive councils whose task it is to represent the views of the members and to make policy decisions in between annual conferences. That body is responsible to the membership, but in order to carry out those policies and provide services to members the executive must have an apparatus responsive to its will.

As has been said by a number of Members on this side of the Committee, by compelling officials who provide such administrative services to stand for election the Government will be undermining the authority of the national executive council. Elected officials will be able to say that they are not accountable to the executive but to the general membership. The CBI was right to point out to the Government that this would have a disruptive effect. Employers like to deal with stable unions. If unions are riven by internal dissension and disputation, fuelled by the press and with constant elections for officials, it will make industrial relations very difficult.

At one point in the debate the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Alloway, said that he believed the hard Left would support our view on Clause 12. I must say to the Committee that that is not the case at all. In my experience the hard Left wants elections all the time because it wants to destabilise unions internally, to run elections and caucuses for elections, and to politicise the administrative apparatus of unions. It is not the hard Left which supports our views on Clause 12, but the Government are assisting destabilising elements in unions in this type of clause.

There is also the important point about contracts of employment and career prospects for union staff. As has been said on a number of occasions in the debate, unions are trying to become more professional. Therefore why should this type of employee, and only this type of employee, have his employment contract changed by parliamentary edict? As I said earlier in the debate, we are not out to say that our rules should take precedence over Parliament. However, we are saying that Parliament should not enact laws which are so unfair to particular institutions—to unions. The unions may be unique institutions, but in our view they should not be uniquely disadvantaged in this way.

I do not wish to repeat a number of the arguments that have been made forcefully from these Benches. It is because of the comments that have been made and the reasons that have been given during the debate that I oppose the Motion that Clause 12 stand part of the Bill.

Lord Boyd-Carpenter

The noble Baroness is normally extremely fair in what she says. I believe that she has earned the respect of the Committee for the way in which she has led the opposition to this measure. I was therefore the more surprised when she described the clause as malicious. I believe that that description is quite unjustified. It is surely not malice but a sensible view of our society that the role of trade unions, particularly the major unions, is so important that it is necessary to see that they are led by responsible people who are responsible to their members and to our country. Surely it is reasonable to provide, as has been increasingly provided for in successive Bills, that the principal positions of those who control trade unions should be held by people who have been freely and honestly elected by the members.

The noble Baroness has said that that would be destabilising. I believe that a man or a woman can lead a trade union much more effectively, and with much more confidence, if they know that they have been elected by a majority of the members and that they have their confidence. Surely that is an important matter for the leadership of such publicly important bodies. Members opposite are always talking about democracy and the value of popular support, and yet when we come to these important bodies—very important to the whole working of our national economy—they seem to hesitate before they will agree to the matter being put on a proper democratic basis, with those responsible for running the unions to be elected by the members, responsible to the members, answerable to them and in due course having to consider the possibility of re-election.

Whatever view one takes of this clause, it is a very important part of the Bill. I think it is a very important part of the changes that the Government are effecting in our society. I welcome it and I hope the Committee will make sure that it stands part of the Bill.

6.30 p.m.

Lord Rochester

I rise only to support the noble Baroness, Lady Turner. I wish to support her in opposing this clause. I feel that it should not stand part of the Bill for reasons which she has given and which were confirmed by my noble friend Lady Seear earlier in the afternoon. In our view, there is a distinction between the election of members of principal executive committees—as will become plain when we discuss the next amendment—and the sort of civil servants and professional advisers to which this clause relates.

At the risk of turning out old pennies, I wish to revert to the criticism that was made by the noble Lord, Lord Renton, and the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Alloway, of some of the things said by those on the Labour Benches—and I have in mind in particular the noble Lord, Lord Murray of Epping Forest, although I am sure he is well able to look after himself. However, the allegation was made that in opposing this clause people were concerned to see that the law should not take precedence over the union rule book but rather the reverse. I am quite satisfied, having listened to the debates earlier on, that that was not the desire of people on this side of the Committee. They are happy to observe the law and do not wish to flout it. On the contrary, their desire is to see that laws should not be enacted which are undesirable. It is our view that this clause is undesirable and I support the noble Baroness.

Lord Renton

I do not believe that the noble Lord understood the noble Lord, Lord Murray—and I noted down the words of the noble Lord, Lord Murray, at the time. He complained that this clause overrides the rule book, and therefore I believe that the noble Lord, Lord Rochester, has it wrong.

Lord Campbell of Alloway

I hope that the Committee will permit a brief intervention as my name has been mentioned by two Members of the Committee. Without reservation, I wish to associate myself with remarks made by my noble friend Lord Boyd-Carpenter about the invaluable contribution that the noble Baroness, Lady Turner, has made to this debate and her objective approach. It is very much appreciated on this side of the Committee, on the Back-Benches at all events.

There is a problem with the hard Left, and I merely put this across the Committee to the noble Baroness and those who sit with her to consider. The main evasional tactic from the plain intendment of the provisions of Clause 12 which evoked the response of the Government in these amendments was Mr. Scargill. Is he a soft Left, middle of the road moderate?

Lord Trefgarne

My noble friend will forgive me if I do not follow him down that particular road. However, perhaps I could echo the words of my noble friend Lord Boyd-Carpenter when he said that this was a very important part of this Bill and one which lies at the heart of government policy in this area.

I believe the proposition that senior, powerful and influential people in the trade union movement or in particular trade unions should seek the approval of the members of the trade union is an unexceptionable one. In general terms, I do not think it is a proposition which is wholly opposed even within the trade union movement itself, although listening to some of the speeches in connection with this clause one could be forgiven for wondering whether that was the case. Nevertheless, I bring this proposition before the Committee in the confident expectation that it will further strengthen the management and respectability of the trade unions concerned. Of course, many trade unions already use the principles and the electoral processes set out in this measure. They do not all do so; and those that do not will now be obliged to do so. I believe that is a great benefit to the members of those trade unions and I hope the Committee will agree.

6.36 p.m.

On Question, Whether Clause 12, as amended, shall stand part of the Bill?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 140; Not-Contents, 90.

Abinger, L. Denham, L. [Teller.]
Allenby of Megiddo, V. Diamond, L.
Ampthill, L. Dilhorne, V.
Arran, E. Dulverton, L.
Attlee, E. Dundee, E.
Bauer, L. Elibank, L.
Beaverbrook, L. Elliott of Morpeth, L.
Belhaven and Stenton, L. Faithfull, B.
Beloff, L. Ferrier, L.
Belstead, L. Fraser of Kilmorack, L.
Bessborough, E. Gisborough, L.
Blake, L. Glenarthur, L.
Blatch, B. Goold, L.
Blyth, L. Gray, L.
Boyd-Carpenter, L. Gray of Contin, L.
Brabazon of Tara, L. Greenway, L.
Brougham and Vaux, L. Gridley, L.
Broxbourne, L. Grimston of Westbury, L
Buckmaster, V. Haddington, E.
Butterworth, L. Hardinge of Penshurst, L.
Caccia, L. Harmar-Nicholls, L.
Caithness, E. Harvington, L.
Cameron of Lochbroom, L. Havers, L.
Campbell of Alloway, L. Hemphill, L.
Campbell of Croy, L. Henley, L.
Carnegy of Lour, B. Hesketh, L.
Carnock, L. Hives, L.
Chapple, L. Holderness, L.
Chelwood, L. Home of the Hirsel, L.
Coleraine, L. Hylton-Foster, B.
Colwyn, L. Johnston of Rockport, L.
Constantine of Stanmore, L. Joseph, L.
Cowley, E. Kaberry of Adel, L.
Craigmyle, L. Killearn, L.
Davidson, V. [Teller.] Kinloss, Ly.
Kitchener, E. Renwick, L.
Lane-Fox, B. Rochdale, V.
Lauderdale, E. Rugby, L.
Layton, L. St. John of Fawsley, L.
Lindsey and Abingdon, E. Saltoun of Abernethy, Ly.
Long, V. Sanderson of Bowden, L.
Lucas of Chilworth, L. Sandford, L.
Mackay of Clashfern. L. Sandys, L.
Macleod of Borve, B. Sharples, B.
Margadale, L. Skelmersdale, L.
Marley, L. Stedman, B.
Marshall of Leeds, L. Stockton, E.
Masham of Ilton, B. Stodart of Leaston, L.
Massereene and Ferrard, V. Strange, B.
Merrivale, L. Strathclyde, L.
Mersey, V. Strathcona and Mount Royal, L.
Morris, L.
Mottistone, L. Sudeley, L.
Mountbatten of Burma, C. Suffield, L.
Mountevans, L. Swinton, E.
Mowbray and Stourton, L. Thomas of Gwydir, L.
Moyne, L. Thorneycroft, L.
Nelson, E. Torrington, V.
Newall, L. Trafford, L.
Norfolk, D. Tranmire, L.
Nugent of Guildford, L. Trefgarne, L.
Orkney, E. Trumpington, B.
Orr-Ewing, L. Tryon, L.
Oxfuird, V. Vaux of Harrowden, L.
Pender, L. Vinson, L.
Perry of Walton, L. Ward of Witley, V.
Peyton of Yeovil, L. Windlesham, L.
Prior, L. Wise, L.
Raglan, L. Wolfson, L.
Rankeillour, L. Wyatt of Weeford, L.
Renton, L.
Airedale, L. Hutchinson of Lullington, L.
Amherst, E. Irving of Dartford, L.
Ardwick, L. Jay, L.
Banks, L. Jeger, B.
Barnett, L. John Mackie, L.
Basnett, L. Kilbracken, L.
Birk, B. Kirkhill, L.
Blackstone, B. Listowel, E.
Blease, L. Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe, B.
Bonham-Carter, L. Lloyd of Kilgerran, L.
Bottomley, L. Longford, E.
Briginshaw, L. Lovell-Davis, L.
Brooks of Tremorfa, L. McCarthy, L.
Bruce of Donington, L. McIntosh of Haringey, L.
Callaghan of Cardiff, L. McNair, L.
Carter, L. Mason of Barnsley, L.
Cledwyn of Penrhos, L. Milner of Leeds, L.
Cocks of Hartcliffe, L. Molloy, L.
David, B. Mulley, L.
Davies of Penrhys, L. Murray of Epping Forest, L.
Dean of Beswick, L. Nicol, B. [Teller.]
Dormand of Easington, L. Oram, L.
Elwvn-Jones, L. Parry, L.
Ennals, L. Peston, L.
Ewart-Biggs, B. Phillips, B.
Gallacher, L. Pitt of Hampstead, L.
Galpern, L. Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L. [Teller.]
Glenamara, L.
Graham of Edmonton, L. Prys-Davies, L.
Cregson, L. Rea, L.
Grey, E. Ritchie of Dundee, L.
Grimond, L. Rochester, L.
Hampton, L. Seear, B.
Hanworth, V. Sefton of Garston, L.
Harris of Greenwich, L. Serota, B.
Hart of South Lanark, B. Shackleton, L.
Hatch of Lusby, L. Simon, V.
Heycock, L. Stewart of Fulham, L.
Hirshfield, L. Stoddart of Swindon, L.
Houghton of Sowerby, L. Taylor of Blackburn, L.
Howie of Troon, L. Taylor of Mansfield, L.
Hughes, L. Tordoff, L.
Turner of Camden, B. Williams of Elvel, L.
Underhill, L. Wilson of Rievaulx, L.
Wedderburn of Charlton, L. Winchilsea and Nottingham, E.
Wells-Pestell, L.

Resolved in the affirmative, and Clause 12, as amended, agreed to accordingly.

6.45 p.m.

Lord Trefgarne moved Amendment No. 80: After Clause 12, insert the following new clause:

("Election addresses

.—(1) The requirements which are to be satisfied for the purposes of Part I of the 1984 Act (elections for certain positions) shall, in relation to any election held after the coming into force of this section, include the requirements of subsection (2) below.

(2) The trade union in question must—

  1. (a) subject to subsection (3) below, provide every candidate in the election with an opportunity of preparing an election address in his own words and of submitting it to the union to be distributed to the persons who are accorded entitlement to vote in the election;
  2. (b) so far as reasonably practicable, secure that copies of every election address submitted to the union before such time as it may have determined are distributed by the sending of a copy of each such address, with the voting paper for the election, by post to each of those persons at his proper address;
  3. (c) make such arrangements for the production of the copies to be so distributed as secure that none of the candidates is required to bear any of the expense of producing those copies;
  4. (d) secure that no modification of any election address so submitted is made by any person in any copy of the address to be distributed except, subject to paragraphs (e) and (f) below, at the request or with the consent of the candidate or where the modification is necessarily incidental to the method adopted for producing that copy;
  5. (e) secure that the same method of producing copies is applied in the same way to every election address so submitted and, so far as reasonably practicable, that no such facility or information as would enable a candidate to gain any benefit from—
    1. (i) the method by which copies of the election addresses are produced; or
    2. (ii) the modifications which are necessarily incidental to that method,
    is provided to any candidate without being provided equally to all the others; and
  6. (f) so far as reasonably practicable, secure that the same facilities and restrictions with respect to the preparation, submission, length or modification of an election address and with respect to the incorporation in any such address of a photograph or of any other matter not in words are provided or applied equally to each of the candidates.

(3) Subject to subsection (2)(f) above, a trade union may for the purposes of this section provide that election addresses submitted to it for distribution—

  1. (a) must not exceed such length, not being less than one hundred words, as may be determined by the union; and
  2. (b) may incorporate only such photographs and other matter not in words as the union may determine.

(4) A time determined for the purposes of subsection (2) above as the time by which election addresses for an election must be submitted to the union shall be no earlier than the latest time at which a person may become a candidate in that election.

(5) No person other than the candidate himself shall be subject to any civil or criminal liability in respect of any publication of a candidate's election address, or of any copy of such an address, which is required to be made for the purposes of this section.

(6) In this section "post" and "proper address" have the same meanings as in Part I of the 1984 Act.").

The noble Lord said: The Committee has three amendments on election addresses before it: the Government's amendment, the amendment of the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, and that of the noble Lord, Lord Wyatt of Weeford. Apart from a change in the permitted number of words in the case of the amendment tabled by the noble Baroness, these amendments are identical to those tabled during the Committee stage in another place. My honourable friend said then that the Government were sympathetic to the principle behind the amendments and told the Committee that the Government were working on proposals to be introduced later. The Government's new clause and consequential amendments are the end result of that deliberation. I do not think I need go further at this stage except to invite the Committee to agree with the amendment. I beg to move.

Lord Harris of Greenwich

As the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne, said, there are three amendments; and the amendment in the name of my noble friend Lady Seear, and other of my noble friends, is the second. I think there is nothing between us on this issue. As the Minister rightly said, it was dealt with in Committee elsewhere when the Minister indicated that he was broadly sympathetic to the principle proposed.

One of the matters which troubled the Committee in the other place was the issue dealt with in subsection (5) of the government amendment we are now discussing; namely, the question of libel. Broadly speaking, what the Government propose here is right. Accordingly, we are wholly persuaded that the government amendment contains a better form of words than our own and therefore we shall not be moving our amendment.

Lord Wyatt of Weeford

I think that my Amendment No. 86 is included for discussion in this group of amendments. I welcome the Government's amendment. It will save me a great deal of time because I have to answer many letters from readers of the News of the World who want to know something about the people who are standing in various elections with a postal ballot or perhaps even a workplace ballot. They have no information as to who they are or what they stand for.

I know that noble Lords on the Labour Benches sneer at the News of the World but it has a somewhat larger circulation than the New Statesman and is read by trade union members who do not read the New Statesman, Marxism Today, the New Left Review or any other such publication. It is one of the reasons of course why so many trade union leaders are completely out of touch with their members. They do not have a clue as to what their members are thinking. They believe they are living in some rarefied political atmosphere, when they are not.

The amendment will greatly help trade union members to understand what the people for whom they are invited to vote stand for, what their objectives are, and to smell out the ruffians. Most trade unionists are extremely decent people who do not want to be run by extremist lunatics.

Lord McCarthy

Our proceedings get more and more amazing as the hour gets later and later. The Minister has made no case at all. He does not feel the need to make any case. He says he is sympathetic with the case made elsewhere and then sits down. That is the Government's case. The noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, spoke for not more than one-and-a-half minutes. He said that the new clause is okay because the part about libel is okay. He makes no case.

Without trying to be difficult, I do not believe that the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, would have given me half a minute or so and said that libel would be okay. She would have set out the case. The noble Lord, Lord Wyatt, welcomes it and the main reason he gives is that he receives letters from people who read the News of the World. As a result of the public writing to him, he comes to this House and an amendment is put down to the Bill. To quote the noble Lord, "They will smell out the ruffians." How simple the ruffians must be!— 150 words and an answer from the News of the World and "They will smell out the ruffians".

The fact is that there is absolutely no case for this clause. The noble Lord, Lord Beloff, sitting over there straining at the bit, may invent one subsequently but the Government have invented none. The Government did not make a case in another place and they have not made one tonight, except that of course this measure is part of the continual attack upon trade unions. It is curious that it was not included at the beginning. I suppose that the Government are becoming less efficient. They think of as many matters as they can but they cannot think of everything. It certainly was not mentioned in the Green Paper and it was not in the election address. Nor was the provision added in the other place. In the other place it was thought to be enough to make postal ballots essential and mandatory; to introduce independent supervision of elections; to extend all elections even when they are non-voting members; and to do all the other things which are in the Bill. Now they are saying that they are going to regulate the election campaign and smell out the ruffians with a minimum election address of 150 words.

The second heading of my case in saying that there is no argument for the clause is that there was a reserve power. The Government may have included something about election addresses which was more flexible than the long list of requirements for election addresses which are included in Amendment No. 80. It could have been included in the code of practice. I should have thought that the code of practice dealing with ballots would have been the appropriate place to make one or two flexible suggestions. Those suggestions about election addresses which may be used in trade union elections need not be of a precise and legal kind. Nothing was done about that but we are going to have legislation.

I am aware of no evidence in any of the considerable literature about trade union democracy, or the lack of it, and fiddled elections that the election address is a crucial element in the smelling out, or non-smelling out, of ruffians. As far as I am aware, no one has ever said that all those things which are in the Bill actually happened. For example, there are unauthorised modifications in election addresses. That is not a scandal about which I have heard anywhere. I am not aware, as the Bill suggests, that some election candidates have unequal access to distribution facilities. Again, this is not a public scandal. There is nothing in any of the evidence or any of the literature to suggest that one of the more significant mechanisms for manipulating trade union elections is through election addresses.

The great majority of trade unions that are subjected to the election process on a regular basis issue election addresses. Of course they do. They issue election addresses which very often are considerably longer than 150 words; it is part of the election process. What reason is there that this aspect of trade union behaviour, in addition to all the other aspects of their behaviour, should be regulated in this draconic way? What other reason can there be? Some people may ask why we protest. We protest for general reasons and because we see this as part of a continuing process. In particular we protest because of the way in which this clause and the schedule which accompanies it are written. They will add considerably to the number of minor offences in regard to which the CROTUM will be able to help trade union dissidents and in particular those who lose elections who always complain. It will help them to complain about the way in which their election has been undertaken. People who fail to receive an election address would be encouraged to go to the CROTUM. People who believe that there have been minor modifications to their election addresses which were probably necessary for editorial purposes will believe that there has been change to their limpid prose. They will also go to the CROTUM and the trade unions will have to answer these matters. It will waste the time of the trade unions and that is probably what it is all about.

Lord Peyton of Yeovil

I find it difficult to understand why the noble Lord, Lord McCarthy, should find so simple a clause setting out such very simple rules so difficult to swallow. I had no intention of speaking until I heard him speak just now. I say to my noble friend on the Front Bench that I very much hope that the rebuke he received from the noble Lord opposite about his brevity will leave him comparatively unscathed and that in the future we shall hear from him again as shortly as we did just now.

Lord Harris of Greenwich

I am sorry to trouble the Committee again, but as the noble Lord, Lord McCarthy, was kind enough to refer also to the brevity of my speech and believes that that is some cause for complaint, perhaps I may intervene and explain very briefly why I made a very short speech. It seems to me remarkable that anyone can be against a proposition of this kind. All that is being asked is that there should be an election address yet the noble Lord, Lord McCarthy, interpreted this as a devastating attack upon the trade union movement. I do not begin to understand the logic of his argument.

Lord Trefgarne

I apologise to the noble Lord, Lord McCarthy, for not making a longer speech. I had no idea that he was opposed to this provision. I had erroneously understood that the views of his honourable friend in another place, which were broadly in support of this measure, would be reflected in his own utterings. I am sorry if that is not the case. I still believe this to be a good proposal and I hope that the Committee will agree to it.

Lord McCarthy

Perhaps Members of the Committee can say whether they would be in favour of this clause, or something similar to it, being imposed upon their club, their professional association or their company?

Lord Boyd-Carpenter

I wonder why the noble Lord, Lord McCarthy, gets so excited about this matter. The Committee has decided that there should be elections and it surely makes sense that those who are to vote have some idea of the policies and proposals that the various candidates adopt. They should be helped to know what they are voting for. It seems quite extraordinary that the noble Lord, Lord McCarthy, should work himself up into almost hysterical excitement at the idea that those who vote in trade unions should actually be assisted to know what they are voting about and what the candidates stand for. For some reason it may be that the noble Lord believes such a measure will undermine the trade union movement.

Lord Wedderburn of Charlton

I apologise to the Committee for being absent for the first short part of this debate. I understand that I missed very little owing to the short speeches. What the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, and other noble Lords have said emboldens me to put a question before the Committee. It is being said that wherever persons are being proposed for election there should by law be a severe structure—and that is my view of this clause—of election addresses incidental to the process.

If persons come forward and say that this should happen in the form suggested by the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, for those who are proposed for election wherever that may be—for example, in companies, in clubs, in building societies—that would not be objectionable. Our lives are composed of myriad forms of association and societies in which we all take part. If the measure were put forward in that way, I would probably want to debate the form in which it was put forward. However, I am not sure that I would find it all that objectionable. What I find objectionable is the singling out of the trade unions. To my knowledge no one has explained why that should be so. When that is done and it is in a form which we see as capable of being harassment—those who do not know anything about what happens in union administrative offices may not understand it but this is capable of being harassment; and harassment only of trade unions—why are noble Lords surprised that we oppose it?

7 p.m.

Lord Boyd-Carpenter

There is a simple answer to the noble Lord's question. In this case—we have discussed it at length and I shall not go on doing so—Parliament has laid down that there shall be elections. Therefore, it surely makes sense that Parliament should go further and lay down that those who vote in the elections which Parliament has provided should be given some information about the people they are voting for. I do not see why the noble Lord objects to that.

Lord Wedderburn of Charlton

And for companies?

Lord Boyd-Carpenter

Parliament is not at the moment legislating about voting for companies. It is no use the noble Lord dragging in companies as he has done, I suppose, half a dozen times in the past 48 hours. We are not legislating for companies at the moment. When we come to a Companies Bill we can talk about that.

Lord Wedderburn of Charlton

Perhaps I may—

Lord Boyd-Carpenter

The noble Lord is very agile but he must restrain his physical agility for a moment. We do not want any dialectical abseiling in this particular debate. We are legislating. Parliament has decided and the Committee has decided that there shall be elections in trade unions. It is therefore relevant to decide the conditions under which those elections shall take place. I find it difficult to understand why Members of the Committee opposite want to deprive the voters in those elections of the information which this clause will give them.

Lord Wedderburn of Charlton

We need, not dialectical abseiling, but a few more intellectual gymnasts on the other side. We have put a point and I repeat it to the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter. It is no good telling us that we are only debating trade unions today. If the noble Lord were to give us a guarantee that a Bill about companies would be introduced tomorrow his argument would stand up. We have reached a point where the mystification about trade unions has become so pronounced that people do not know when they are victimising trade unions as opposed to any other kind of association.

Lord Beloff

I was not straining at the leash, as the noble Lord, Lord McCarthy, implied. However, after hearing the noble Lord, Lord Wedderburn of Charlton, it is worth pointing out that the arguments of the intellectual gymnasts who oppose this clause need to be looked at.

I well remember four years ago—and a lot of trouble would have been saved if the Government had taken notice—that a combination of Cross-Benchers, Tory Peers and one or two Labour Peers voted to make postal ballots mandatory. If the Government had stuck by the decision of this Chamber we would have become used to postal ballots by now and the kind of discussion that we have been having would have been otiose. Presumably, in the course of practice and of running such ballots in bodies whose membership was widespread and whose members did not meet each other daily as members of clubs, which is one of the less fortunate comparisons of the noble Lord, Lord Wedderburn of Charlton, people would be inclined to demand some knowledge of the candidates for whom they were voting. However, as I understand it, and as far as it is possible to penetrate the argument behind the rhetoric of the noble Lord, Lord McCarthy, his main argument is that this is in some way a method of bashing trade unions because it will give dissidents opportunities for saying that their election addresses have been tampered with, have not been issued properly and so on.

It is said that the amendment would add to the possibilities of the losers making complaints. That is quite extraordinarily contrary to everything we have been told in the course of our previous debates on this Bill. It has been the contention of Members of the Committee opposite that the trade unions function with admirable smoothness and that there are never allegations of wrongdoing or that, if there are such allegations, they are due to the malice of the News of the World or some other major organ of opinion. It is said that there are never contested elections, that the Transport and General Workers' Union did not run its last election twice and that all this is imaginary. If all this is imaginary, and if trade unionists are so disinclined to challenge the result of elections, why should the mere fact of having to issue election addresses suddenly produce the kind of backbiting and the kind of aspersions on each other from which hitherto they have been wholly exempt? It really will not do, and if noble Lords will not treat the subject seriously, the country will.

Lord Trefgarne

I apologise to the noble Lord and to the Committee if originally I moved this amendment less than adequately. I have in front of me one, two, three, four, five pages of notes. The Committee is welcome to all five if it so wishes. I believe that on balance the Committee preferred the rather shorter opening that I offered given that this amendment has attracted wide support, if not from the noble Lord, Lord McCarthy. I beg to move.

7.6 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 80) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 130; Not-Contents, 60.

Abinger, L. Butterworth, L.
Airedale, L. Caithness, E.
Amherst, E. Cameron of Lochbroom, L.
Ampthill, L. Campbell of Alloway, L.
Arran, E. Campbell of Croy, L.
Attlee, E. Carnegy of Lour, B.
Banks, L. Carnock, L.
Bauer, L. Chapple, L.
Beaverbrook, L. Chelwood, L.
Beloff, L. Coleraine, L.
Belstead, L. Constantine of Stanmore, L
Bessborough, E. Cowley, E.
Blake, L. Craigavon, V.
Blatch, B. Craigmyle, L.
Blyth, L. Davidson, V. [Teller.]
Bonham-Carter, L. Denham, L. [Teller.]
Boyd-Carpenter, L. Dilhorne, V
Brabazon of Tara, L. Dulverton, L.
Dundee, E. Nelson, E.
Elibank, L. Norfolk, D.
Ferrier, L. Nugent of Guildford, L.
Gisborough, L. Orkney, E.
Goold, L. Orr-Ewing, L.
Gray, L. Oxfuird, V.
Gray of Contin, L. Pender, L.
Grey, E. Peyton of Yeovil, L.
Gridley, L. Raglan, L.
Grimond, L. Rankeillour, L.
Grimston of Westbury, L. Renton, L.
Haddington, E. Renwick, L.
Hampton, L. Ritchie of Dundee, L.
Hardinge of Penshurst, L. Rochdale, V.
Harmar-Nicholls, L. Rochester, L.
Hemphill, L. Rugby, L.
Henley, L. Saltoun of Abernethy, Ly.
Hesketh, L. Sanderson of Bowden, L.
Hives, L. Sandford, L.
Home of the Hirsel, L. Sandys, L.
Hooson, L. Seear, B.
Hutchinson of Lullington, L. Sharples, B.
Hylton-Foster, B. Simon, V.
Johnston of Rockport, L. Skelmersdale, L.
Joseph, L. Stockton, E.
Killearn, L. Stodart of Leaston, L.
Kinloss, Ly. Strange, B.
Kinnoull, E. Strathclyde, L.
Kitchener, E. Strathcona and Mount Royal, L.
Lane-Fox, B.
Lawrence, L. Suffield, L.
Layton, L. Swinton, E.
Lindsey and Abingdon, E. Thomas of Gwydir, L.
Lloyd of Kilgerran, L. Thorneycroft, L.
Long, V. Tordoff, L.
Lucas of Chilworth, L Trafford, L.
Mackie of Benshie, L. Tranmire, L.
Macleod of Borve, B. Trefgarne, L.
McNair, L. Trumpington, B.
Margadale, L. Tryon, L.
Marley, L. Vaux of Harrowden, L.
Marshall of Leeds, L. Walston, L.
Massereene and Ferrard, V. Ward of Witley, V.
Mersey, V. Winchilsea and Nottingham, E.
Morris, L.
Mottistone, L. Windlesham, L.
Mountevans, L. Wise, L.
Moyne, L. Wyatt of Weeford, L.
Ardwick, L. Jay, L.
Barnett, L. Jeger, B.
Basnett, L. John Mackie, L.
Birk, B. Kilbracken, L.
Blackstone, B. Listowel, E.
Blease, L. Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe, B
Brooks of Tremorfa, L. Longford, E.
Buckmaster, V. Lovell-Davis, L.
Callaghan of Cardiff, L. McCarthy, L.
Carmichael of Kelvingrove, L. McIntosh of Haringey, L.
Carter, L. Mason of Barnsley, L.
Cledwyn of Penrhos, L. Milner of Leeds, L.
Cocks of Hartcliffe, L. Molloy, L.
David, B. Mulley, L.
Davies of Penrhys, L. Murray of Epping Forest, L.
Dean of Beswick, L. Nicol, B. [Teller]
Dormand of Easington, L. Parry, L.
Elwyn-Jones, L. Peston, L.
Ennals, L. Phillips, B.
Ewart-Biggs, B. Pitt of Hampstead, L.
Gallacher, L. Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L. [Teller.]
Glenamara, L.
Graham of Edmonton, L. Rea, L.
Gregson, L. Serota, B.
Hart of South Lanark, B. Stewart of Fulham, L.
Heycock, L. Taylor of Blackburn, L.
Houghton of Sowerby, L. Taylor of Mansfield, L.
Howie of Troon, L. Turner of Camden, B.
Underhill, L. Williams of Elvel, L.
Wedderburn of Charlton, L. Wilson of Rievaulx, L.
Wells-Pestell, L.

Resolved in the affirmative, and amendment agreed to accordingly.

7.15 p.m.

Clause 13 [Requirement of postal ballot for certain ballots and elections]:

Baroness Turner of Camden moved Amendment No. 81: Page 15, line 45, after ("paper") ("either (i)").

The noble Baroness said: I rise to speak to Amendment No. 81, and I should also like to speak to Amendment No. 82 at the same time. For the convenience of the Committee, I shall speak to just those two amendments. I do not intend to move Amendments Nos. 83 and 84.

The purpose of the amendments is to preserve for unions the option which currently exists to hold workplace ballots. The current position with workplace balloting is that a union has to provide the same sort of security for the individual voter as if the member had a ballot paper coming to him through his letterbox. In political fund ballots, for example, many unions conducted the ballot with a mixture of workplace and postal ballots. In my opinion—and I believe in others—we were very careful indeed to ensure that workplace ballots were properly conducted. In some large companies facilities were provided for us by the employers. Polling booths were set up and members were able to go into the booth. They were given a voting paper, and they voted just as if they were at a general election. We had a high turnout because people were able to vote at their place of work, and facilities were provided for them.

I have never seen any evidence of intimidation, although no doubt the Minister will dip into his reservoir and produce some examples which we are unable to check. However, in the Green Paper the only examples given were of situations which the unions themselves had investigated and put matters right. As far as the Transport and General Workers' Union was concerned (I mention that because it has already featured in the debate this evening, notably at the instance of the noble Lord, Lord Wyatt of Weeford), my understanding is that when the last election was re-run, which was following an investigation conducted by Mr. John Garnett of the Industrial Society, a well-known and highly respected figure in the industrial relations world, Mr. Garnett found irregularities in eight out of what were then 9,500 branches. Although he did not find sufficient evidence of abuse to warrant a re-run, nevertheless to put the matter beyond all doubt the union did in fact carry out a re-run. There really is a great deal of misinformation in the press about union elections, and it is unwise to base legislation on those allegations.

The amendment actually allows the member to trigger whether or not he wants a workplace vote. In that respect, it is a little different from existing legislation. I believe that the option should still be available, because there are many instances when it is possible to get a higher participation by members if they have an opportunity to vote at their workplace, in particular if there is co-operation from employers. I know employers who will co-operate in elections, who have certainly done so for my union and for others. If we are concerned to broaden as much as possible the area of membership involvement, it is a good idea still to maintain the option. I therefore move.

The Earl of Dundee

I am grateful to the noble Baroness for her explanation, and I accept that a case can certainly be made for preferring workplace ballots to our proposal, which is the postal voting system. However, I would just say that your Lordships' House held the view when considering the 1984 Trade Union Bill that all executive elections should be conducted by fully postal ballot. The Government agreed that ballot papers being sent out and returned by post constituted by far the best method, but were conscious that many unions did not at the time have precise details of their members. It would therefore have been both unreasonable and impracticable to have expected them to move in one stage to fully postal balloting.

The 1984 Act therefore permitted unions to use workplace ballots where they were satisfied that all other requirements of the Act would be met. However, the Act required unions to compile and maintain a register of their members' names and postal addresses. Therefore unions should now be in a position to hold fully postal ballots. Schedule 3 reinforces this by placing a duty on unions to allow their members to check that they are included in the union register and to obtain copies of the relevant entries.

I am sure your Lordships would agree that union members are entitled to expect fair and democractic balloting arrangements. Workplace ballots cannot guarantee this and can all too often be open to abuse, as the Green Paper indicated. The allegations currently being made about recent TGWU executive elections add fuel to this conviction.

In regard to other problems with workplace and semi-postal ballots, the turnout is not the most important factor in executive elections. Members must have the assurance that ballots have been conducted properly. I think that that eclipses the other consideration. Workplace and semi-postal ballots do not provide this, nor can they be adequately scrutinised by independent bodies because of the number of workplaces involved. This means there can be no certainty that ballot papers have actually been given to the members concerned and no others. The continuation of those systems would mean also that individuals would remain vulnerable to the risk that unfair pressures could be brought to bear on them—pressures that just cannot arise in an independently scrutinised postal system. Members could also be required to attend meetings so as to collect their ballot papers and thus be able to vote.

I think that the time is right to improve the balloting process. Unions have had plenty of time to compile registers of their members' names and addresses. The time is now right to move to a fully postal, independently scrutinised system for election ballots. Only then will there be any hope of putting behind us the controversy that has accompanied some recent workplace ballots.

Baroness Turner of Camden

I do not accept the arguments advanced by the Minister. The number of people voting is not the main consideration, but it is a substantial consideration if we are concerned to ensure maximum participation by union members. Moreover, under the present legislation it is necessary for unions to guarantee exactly the same degree of security for workplace voting as can be guaranteed for postal voting. That is why unions are so careful about the way in which arrangements are made in that respect.

As to the Transport and General Workers' Union, as has already been indicated, allegations have been made in the press that have not yet been investigated. It does not seem appropriate to me that we should base our views about workplace balloting on one instance in one union that has not yet been adequately investigated. The previous incident in the TGWU referred to in the Green Paper, as I have already said, has been investigated by the Industrial Society with the results that I gave.

Moreover, there already exists in legislation a substantial encouragement to unions to switch from workplace balloting to postal voting because one cannot claim public funds for running elections if they are a mixture of workplace and post. The financial inducement for unions to switch to postal voting therefore already exists. The only reason for maintaining the workplace provision is because it can give greater freedom of membership participation.

The amendment provides for the workplace balloting to be triggered by the member himself. There is no question of people having to attend a meeting in order to have a ballot paper. The individual can request the supply of a voting paper at his place of work or a place more convenient for him immediately before or after his working hours. That seems a reasonable suggestion, as indeed the amendment is a reasonable one. It maintains the option for unions to have a workplace vote or for the individual member to have a vote at his workplace.

I note what the Minister said. In view of the time I shall not press the amendment to a Division. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

The Earl of Dundee

The Committee may consider that we have reached a suitable moment at which to break in order to return to the business at 8.25 p.m. I beg to move that the House be now resumed.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

House resumed.