Orders of the Day — Joint Consultation in Industry
Mr Ernest Fernyhough (Jarrow)
I am lost with what the noble Lord has said; it does not strike a chord at all.
The point at issue surely is that hon. Gentlemen opposite can do a lot—some of them have done something, but they could do much more—to see that the spirit which is indicated in this Amendment becomes really effective and operative throughout industry. Most employers, or, at least, a good number of them, are doing what they can in this respect. They are approaching the problem in a fair, human and sensible manner, but there are still too many who not only refuse to take the workers into consultation at all, but who are still living in the 19th century, and, even in 1950, are bitterly opposed to trade unionism.
It is amazing that, in the year 1950, there should be the necessity for workers to strike in order to obtain trade union recognition. That happens not only in large units but more so in the case of some of the smaller employers. Because the party opposite really does stand for joint consultation and is publicly committed to the principle, I say that, apart from whatever this House might do, they have the moral responsibility to see that their own friends in industry act in accordance with their party's public professions. If they do that, they will do much to remove some of the bitterness, mistrust and suspicion which has bedevilled the two sides in British industry.
I do not think that, in a discussion of this kind, we should do other than mention the great record of the present Foreign Secretary in this matter during the years of the war. There is no doubt that he gave it a very great fillip, and I am anxious to find out from my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour today how far we have slipped back since the end of the war, how far there has been a hardening on the part of any employers, what are the chances of development in this respect in the reasonably near future, and what the Minister himself is doing to bring what I would term the recalcitrant employers into line with the best on this matter. We say very definitely that there should be no unlimited power in any sphere, that there should be no harsh or dictatorial attitude, but that the approach generally should be one of recognition that men and women are human beings, that they have hearts that beat and blood that flows through their veins, and should be treated as personalities and individuals rather than as so many industrial units.