Orders of the Day — Joint Consultation in Industry
Mr Ernest Fernyhough (Jarrow)
I certainly do endorse it, and I think that in view of the pleadings and panderings of the Opposition to the trade union vote during the General Election, we should now expect them to encourage trade unionism. During the General Election, they claimed that it was they who first brought unions into being, that it was they who built them up, and it would be a tragedy if, having created during the General Election that impression of a marvellous concern for the industrial worker, they should now in any way besmirch that impression by pretending that they are not too friendly towards the idea of the workers being organised in trade unions. As I have already indicated, many employers are co-operating and are doing their best.
It is the black spots with which we want to deal; with the employer who still looks upon his worker as a hewer of wood and a drawer of water—and, unfortunately, there are still a few of them—the employer who looks upon his worker in the light of, "His not to reason why, his but to work and die." It is that old-fashioned, 19th-century attitude towards the worker which we want to see removed. We say that where it has been removed, where the employer is enlightened and has taken his workers into consideration, and where joint consultation is really active and effective, the employers themselves acknowledge that the wealth of experience and the great knowledge of the workers has added considerably to the efficient running of the particular industrial unit.
We must all recognise that today it is just as important to get maximum production as it was during the war. Then the enemy we were fighting was the military foe. It was an external enemy, but nevertheless, industry was keyed up, and joint consultation was readily acknowledged because of that external enemy. Today, to a large extent, we are fighting an internal enemy—the fear of poverty. The battle today is the battle for production, and anything which can contribute towards industrial efficiency and can increase our productivity is something which ought to be welcomed by both sides of the House.
I think we would all readily acknowledge that industry is a common enterprise. There are the two sides to it, and the more we can move along the line of letting the workers take their proper and fair share in its conduct, the less bitterness, animosity, suspicion, and friction there will be. Over the years, this country has brought about the most advanced political democracy the world has ever seen. Our job now is to bring what I would term "industrial democracy" up to the level of political democracy. Every citizen, irrespective of race, colour, class or creed is given an equal opportunity, as it were, in determining the Government of the country.
What we want to see is that every man and woman employed throughout the length and breadth of industry is, as far as possible, made to feel that his or her voice is heard. A worker wants to feel that he has some responsibility for the concern in which he is working and some attachment to it. If we can develop that idea and make the workers feel that they are part of the concern, then there cannot be any question as to what the responsibility will be.
I think this is vitally necessary in order that the men and women who, more and more, in the situation to which technical advance will take us, will do those humdrum unsatisfying and uncongenial jobs, should be able to give expression through a joint industrial council to their thoughts and ideas. I hope, therefore, that the Minister will be able to tell us what progress has been made, and what is going to be done in the future. I also hope that by whatever methods he tries to bring about a greater measure of joint consultation in industry, we shall have in this matter the wholehearted backing and support of hon. Members opposite.