I beg to move, to leave out from "That," to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof:
in the opinion of this House the fullest possible measure of voluntary co-operation between management and workpeople is essential if productivity is to be increased and good industrial relations maintained as the national interest requires, and this House urges the Government to continue its efforts through the national organisations of employers and workers to encourage the practice of joint consultation on matters of common interest to management and workpeople in the factory and workshop and the development of appropriate joint consultative machinery.
The subject which we are to discuss is one of great interest to hon. Members on both sides of the House, but it is of even greater interest to the millions of men and women in our workshops, factories and other places of employment. During the last hundred years, by trade union agitation and organisation, we have been able to build up a wages structure which has removed the worst features of our industrial system. Where trade union organisation has not been strong, this House, by trade boards and later by wages councils, has done as much as possible to bring the unenlightened employer into line.
Today, while we have reached the stage where the worker is protected against the avaricious employer, we are moving towards the time when workers in workshops and factories, and empoyees in general, are not satisfied merely to have their wages and conditions discussed. They feel that, in the light of developments in industry, with its greater centralisation, they are becoming mere cogs in the wheel. They want some method of expressing their personalities, their feelings and ideas on matters which vitally affect them. Therefore, this Debate will go far beyond the mere question of wages and conditions. It is concerned with what I would term the functions and the part which the workers are to play in the new set-up in industry.
We must acknowledge that there is a tendency in modern industry for the gap between those who give the directions and those who put them into operation to become wider and wider. This fact, together with some types of work which employees are called upon to perform—the monotonous types such as tending machines without any chance of conversation or discussion—is apt to make the worker feel that he is losing his personality; that the machines are taking away from him his pride, his craftsmanship and a measure of satisfaction which he had hitherto.
I hope that many hon. Members opposite will agree with my hon. Friends on this side of the House that something must be done to make the worker feel that he is part and parcel of the establishment where he works and that his views on all matters will be taken into consideration. If this state of affairs is to be brought about, it will demand good and honest motives from both sides. On the workers' side, among the men and women in the factories and the trade union leaders, we shall be faced with the problem of trying to solve a system of representation which will give to everyone, whatever his job, a feeling that his point of view and ideas are being expressed and well represented in any consultation which may take place.
Hon. Members have often criticised the set-up in the nationalised industries. This House, when it was framing the legislation which led up to the nationalised industries, at least did a good and substantial job in the way in which it laid down the means of joint consultation. There cannot be any doubt that in the nationalised industries the machinery which has been introduced is not only proving satisfactory but is growing in usefulness every day. There is probably no constituency in any part of the country where that is better borne out than in the constituency which I have the honour to represent. That is particularly true in the collieries. Most hon. Members from Durham would acknowledge that the Boldon colliery has a record of struggle, fighting, bitterness and animosity between the sides which probably is not excelled in any part of the coalmining industry.
Yet today under nationalisation, with mutual respect and trust between what I would term the management and the workers, and because of the facts which are placed before them when they are consulted on every issue, not only is there a happy atmosphere but, more important, that colliery has beaten its production target month after month. It is not merely a question of the atmosphere within the colliery itself. That atmosphere has spread through the village and, instead of their being bitterness and animosity between the various sections of the community as there was in the old days, there is now a much happier atmosphere and a real community spirit which is most desirable.
The Opposition can do much to develop this spirit which obtains in the collieries in my area. They can do much to foster it in private industry. It must be acknowledge that the total of the national economy which is represented by the socialised industries—perhaps hon. Members opposite would prefer to call them the nationalised industries, although we do not lose any votes in my constituency by talking about nationalization—is 20 per cent., which means that the other 80 per cent. of our national economy is in the hands of private employers. [An HON. MEMBER: "Shame."] I share the view point of my hon. Friend. This is where hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite can come in. They themselves, during the General Election, issued this stirring document, "This is the Road," which I summed up during the Election in this way: "Everybody is going to get more, and everybody is going to pay less." I told my constituents that, while that might be good mathematics in Harrow, it was bad arithmetic in Jarrow. We are not discussing the whole of this, and I merely want to refer to that section which is headed "The Workers' Charter," and which advocates
the widest possible extension, on a voluntary basis, of joint consultation on subjects other than wages and conditions of work, which are already covered by collective bargaining, and
will favour schemes of co-partnership and profit-sharing. The main body of the Charter will not be embodied in legislation, but will be drawn up as a Code of Conduct and submitted to Parliament for debate and adoption. We shall ensure that this Code is strictly applied in all undertakings under Government control. After due notice has been given, only those employers who observe the Code will obtain public contracts.
Then, of course, our hon. Friends opposite who sit below the Gangway, the Members of the Liberal Party, issued "No Easy Way." [An HON. MEMBER: "Where are they?"] Well, there is one representative of the party here. That document said:
Liberal Government would set itself to reconcile the interests of workers and employers, whether in State or private trading. Since the Whitley Committee was set up during the first world war, Liberals have striven for joint consultation at all levels of production.
I believe it was the Deputy-Leader of the Opposition, the right hon. Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden), who, during his broadcast speech, said that the Conservative Party did not believe in nationalising industry, but in humanising it. If ever there was anything which was a reflection upon the Leader of the Opposition, his party and his friends, it was their declaration that industry needed humanising. Up to 1945, in the main, industry belonged to those who were either Liberals or Conservatives; it was, therefore, their own industry upon which they were casting a reflection. After 100 years of trade union agitation and the struggles of the workers for the right to have a bigger say in the running of industry, it was surely a reflection upon themselves to have to say in 1950 that industry needed humanising.
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.
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.
I beg to second the Amendment.
I am very glad of this opportunity, and wish, first of all, to say how thoroughly I agree with the speech made by my hon. Friend the Member for Jarrow (Mr. Fernyhough). If I do not place so much emphasis on the satisfactory features, but rather point to directions in which improvements and further work can be carried out, it must not be thought that I do not appreciate the great advances that have been made. Indeed, I have a clear picture in my mind of the immense advantages ahead of us, of the great harvest which can be reaped if the knowledge which has been achieved so far, and the things which we shall learn as experience matures in the next few months or years, are properly and carefully applied.
It is because I have seen in certain firms and businesses the remarkable progress which has been made that I take this attitude. It seems to me that we are repeatedly asked to make great efforts to increase production, and that the idea is that if we put in twice as much effort, we get twice as much production. In the case of joint production it is not quite like that; it is more like putting a little oil into a rusty and stiff machine. A small amount of effort, a little skilful organisation, and a comparatively small improvement in the relation between workers and management can sometimes produce immense results.
My first suggestion to the Minister is that the time has come for a review of the progress made so far. It is quite true that in certain undertakings and places—for instance, in the mines and many other undertakings—great improvements have been made. But there are backward areas. Some firms have set up joint production council committees, but, after a bit, they have dealt with only trivial and insignificant questions, and anything really important has, somehow, got side-tracked, and the whole thing has become stale and unproductive. The reasons for that can be discovered. They are different in every industry, and there is a different pattern of organisation here and there, but, as a general problem, the search for the obstructions in this direction is a thinking job which can only be done through the agency of the Minister himself.
One of the most important items is finance. Some firms keep their accounts rigidly secret, but the ones which have been successful are those which made a clean breast of their financial situation and gave the utmost information to their employees. The very best of all the concerns that I have come across in this direction is British European Airways. They have a system of accountancy, month by month, department by department, and charts and diagrams are displayed accessible to all employees; each little group is given a picture of its own target for the month, its target for the year, and its place in the whole scheme of things.
If the hon. Gentleman would like me to go into that in rather greater detail, I would point out that the losses are decreasing month by month. The reason for those losses are being found out; the special difficulties of any airways organisation resulting from the fluctuation of traffic between winter and summer are being dealt with quite scientifically, and that body is well on the way to being the most efficient airways organisation in the world. That is just by the way, and is one example of where the financial information has been particularly useful.
I shall give two other examples. One is that of a firm which had a certain surplus to be dealt with at the end of the war. They did not say to the workers, "You are to decide what can be done with this surplus." They said, "We will take into account your wishes in this matter. You can either have slight increases in pay here and there or you can use it for sport and recreation, or you can suggest better canteens and amenities in the factory and better machinery which will lighten your labour and improve the efficiency of the enterprise as a whole." The workers talked about that, and the arguments blew up hot and furious and went on and on. It did a vast amount of good to bring these questions out into the limelight. In the end they decided to divide the surplus between new machinery and amenities in the factory. The management were able to accept that recommendation.
The other example relates to piecework. Ever since I was an apprentice in an engineering firm piece-work has been a source of trouble. I do not believe there is a satisfactory system in the world. The men always think they are being done down, and the management always think the men are holding back with the idea of getting a higher price. In this instance the management said to one department, "Will you try to work out a satisfactory system of piece-rates among yourselves?" They argued this for six months with the idea of trying to secure some system which would satisfy the highly skilled, the semi-skilled and the unskilled. In the end they came back and said, "We give it up. We do not want a piece-work system. We guarantee to maintain our output if you guarantee to continue the same rate of payment to the whole department." That was just being put into force when I visited the firm. It does a vast amount of good when people know that their wishes are being considered, and they know how extremely difficult it is to devise a piece-work system that can really satisfy everybody.
Looking at the matter broadly, we should apply our minds to the question of how far joint consultation is going to be applied. There are a certain number of links to the high command in every organisation, according to its size. In the military organisation it runs right through from the private soldier upwards. In a small firm there may be only three links. In a large organisation like the Post Office, there may be seven or eight from the supreme command to the lowest workers. We should make up our minds whether we want joint consultation through the whole of the scale. Right at the top in industry there is joint consultation between two or three grades. At the bottom we have consultation at the workmen's level. There is a sort of gap in the middle. Just as in the Army the soldier has a right of appeal, step by step, to the Army Council, so in industry there should be a continuous sequence of consultation right through on all these levels.
I am particularly interested in the technical and scientific grades of workers. The members of my trade union, the Association of Scientific Workers, do not occur in large numbers in the same place. One may have a factory with 1,000 workers but with only three or four scientists. Great notice is taken of the trade unionists because they are so numerous. The same applies to the management because they are so powerful, but, because our members are so few they are inclined to be overlooked. They ought not to be overlooked. In joint consultations the management are a bit shy of the scientific workers because they think they know too much. The workers are shy of them because they have a different background. The workers are liable to associate them with the financial management, which is entirely erroneous.
Another problem is that of promotion. I asked a firm with whom I was acquainted, what had done most to improve feeling between workers and management. A considerable improvement had been taking place over the past few years. They said they thought it was because of the participation of the workers in the mechanism of promotion. When, as an apprentice, I went to the workshop for the first time, I was asked who had introduced me. The custom was for apprentices to need introduction from an important customer, or from someone high up in the firm. When I asked why they wanted to know who had introduced me, they said, "It is not what you know that matters in this concern, it is whom you know." That kind of promotion by favouritism has been quite normal in the private sector of industry, though it is also found in the public sector.
The most successful managements have been those who have been wise enough to explain the mechanism of promotion to their workers and wise enough to give the workers a say in promotion matters. It is not those above a person who always know his value. Those under him are often in a far better position to judge his worth. It is not easy to apply that knowledge to the scheme of things, but it is something that ought to be borne in mind and considered. These are the principal suggestions I would make and I conclude, as I started, with a word of admiration for the speech of the proposer of this Amendment and by commending the whole subject to the Minister for his most favourable consideration.
I think we on this side of the House, Mr. Speaker, would give a very warm welcome to the Amendment that you have just read out. I congratulate the hon. Gentleman the Member for Jarrow (Mr. Fernyhough) upon having chosen this interesting and important subject when he had the luck of the ballot recently. The wording of the Amendment is so much in line with what we believe, at any rate on this side of the House, that some hon. Members suggested to me that the hon. Gentleman went along to Conservative head office to get it worded properly. In a moment I shall show how much he follows what we in the Conservative Party have been endeavouring to do in educating the country in this matter over the last three years. I should like to welcome, particularly, his very proper use of the word "voluntary," because that is the key to the whole of this position. If I am not being provocative—because I know the Minister feels the same way as the hon. Gentleman does about this—may I suggest the Minister should emphasise to his right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade, when he considers such things as working parties in industry, that they too would work better if they were voluntary. If he does that, he will do a very good service.
It is nearly three years ago since the party to which I belong produced the political pamphlet entitled "An Industrial Charter." This had a very wide and largely appreciative reception. Indeed, many political observers reckoned that it was this pamphlet which played a large part in the great revival of the Conservative Party, which has been brought to such a pitch that we now see the changed distribution of parties in the House. I myself feel that that is partly true, because I was privileged to fight a by-election at just about that time and I made full use of the "Industrial Charter"; certainly the results of the election were very favourable from my point of view.
The "Industrial Charter" was adopted by the party almost unanimously, and it is the blue print of our Conservative approach to the problems inherent in modern large scale industry. We Conservatives stand fully by that policy and, as the hon. Gentleman himself said, we have reaffirmed it in more recent publications and notably in our admirable election address. The hon. Member adopted a neat way of slurring over the facts which make so much appeal to the country in this Conservative document, but if he wants a true appreciation of it I would recommend him to read an article in the "Manchester Guardian" which is certainly not a paper connected with us but which has a wide following in the North and which praised this publication as being by far the most realistic and the best of all the party publications issued in the election.
I should like to quote one or two short passages from the "Industrial Charter" in support of what the hon. Gentleman has said. On page 28 we say that our policy is to humanise, not nationalise; and that is true. We hope that continual progress will be made. Indeed, the point that the hon. Gentleman made has some substance in it—we also want to improve upon what went on in the old days—but it must be remembered that in the old days most of the shops were small and there was much closer contact between the managers, the shop workers and the bosses. Now we have this large-scale organisation, and a much more formal method of joint consultation is necessary.
We say in our "Industrial Charter":
We believe that industry should provide three general rights to those engaged in it:—security of employment, incentive to do the job well and to get a better one, and status as an individual however big the firm or however mechanised the job may be. These we regard as the essentials of a Workers' Charter.
The authors went on to write considerably more about joint consultation. In fact, they gave a whole page of this pamphlet to working out joint consultation and its advantages. I should like to read the last few words on that subject:
It is a truism that joint consultation will only work if there is the will to make it work. That may be said of any form of co-operation. We see no inherent reason why that will should not be universal. No good employer or satisfactory employee has anything to lose, and both have much to gain, by getting round a table and talking their problems out in a frank and friendly spirit. We recognise that joint consultation must be a plant of free and orderly growth, like so many institutions in this country. But we feel certain that, given time, if this new structure be well built it will produce excellent results.
I admire the colour in which the Trades Union Congress printed the Report of their Conference at Bridlington in 1949. It is very encouraging that they should choose even a little washed-out blue rather than the red which one might expect. There is a short paragraph in the Report to which I should like to refer. I am sorry they did not expand it a little more, but it is all right as far as it goes. They say that they have been pressing for joint consultation and the
Minister of Labour has been endeavouring to stimulate it. They then say:
No spectacular results have been received, but there has been a steady development.
The hon. Gentleman cited the collieries in his constituency as an example of what can be done when joint consultation is working well, and I was very glad to hear it. On page 217 of the Report under the heading "Coal, consultative machinery," one reads that the National Union of Mineworkers in an interim report expressed some anxiety as to the working of joint consultative machinery in the coal industry generally. They went on to say:
It is good in some places but very bad in others, and there is a growing sense of frustration and cynicism which is causing deterioration in relations in parts of the coal industry.
I am glad to know that, in Durham at any rate, it is good. Let us hope that the rest of the coal industry will follow Durham.
I make that point not to criticise the coal industry but to emphasise that in this matter of joint consultation the same problems arise in the nationalised industries as in the private enterprise industries. Certainly this shows that things are not perfect in the nationalised industries, any more than anybody would claim that things are at present perfect in any other form of industry. I would say in passing that I admired the courage of the hon. Gentleman in using the word "nationalised," in view of what the Lord President of the Council said this afternoon. Up in the North, as I know, they prefer to call things by their right names.
I should like to consider for a moment some of the reasons for laying emphasis on good industrial relations especially at this time, which can be encouraged by joint consultation. Good relations in industry are desirable at any time. I believe that at present they are, if possible, even more desirable. The hon. Gentleman himself said that high production is as necessary now as it was during the war, and that is true.
There are other reasons, too. We now have in this country an active, organised, ruthless group of people stimulated by help and encouragement from outside this country, who are pledged to disrupt our industrial production and cause all the trouble they can in industrial matters generally wherever they can operate. Of course, I refer to Communist infiltration. Communists have been able in the past to get into positions where they can exert in industry an influence out of all proportion to their actual numbers. I think that we all in this House will be pleased to note that a considerable number of trade unions are taking active steps to exclude from high positions in their unions those who are engaged in Communist activities.
But, in my opinion, nothing will counter the subversive doctrines of these Communist agents and the harm that they can do in this country, more successfully than by enabling the ordinary man and woman working in the factory to feel that they are regarded as human beings and as partners in the industry in which they are engaged. Therefore, all the improvements we can make in joint consultative arrangements will be valuable from that point of view as well. We must make the workers realise that even in these vast public monopolies—I use the words of the Lord President himself—owned by the State at the present time, the worker is not a cog in a vast Socialist machine, as so often appears at the present time.
Another point of interest and, I think, of importance is this. There should be a growing realisation in the country of the importance of joint consultation committees and consultative work generally. This country is improving in its education, and it is only natural that young people will want some machinery by which their opinions, their advice and feelings about the work of the shop in which they are operating can be made known to those in authority.
At the same time as we are improving education in this country, as a result of the great Act brought forward during the war by my right hon. Friend the Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. R. A. Butler) and of other methods, the breaking down of the old crafts and the development of mass production and large-scale industry are, all the time, tending to force the worker down into being a cog in a vast machine. As jobs become more and more repetitive, so the old skills of the craftsmen tend to disappear. I say, therefore, that in large-scale industry today this modern approach is needed more and more.
What is the basic objective of good management? This is a truism—and, indeed, when one discusses this subject one must introduce a good many platitudes, although many of them are none the less true: the basic objective of all good management and all good managers is the establishment of good relations in the shops. However technically skilled he may be, however many diplomas he may have received and however many courses of instruction he may have undergone, no man will make a good manager at any level in industry unless he is able to get on with and to get the best out of the men and women under his control. That is a platitude, but it is true.
In passing, I would remind the House that it is not always recognised. I well remember that when the vast ordnance factories were being built up and increased at the beginning of the war, skilled scientists, skilled chemists and others with all the degrees in the world and all the goodwill in the world, but with no experience and with little knowledge of man management, found themselves thrust into charge of these vast organisations. The results were what we might have expected. In passing, too, I might say that the average pittance which scientists are usually paid was attached in those cases to those jobs. I hope that position will never be reached again, but I trust that if we ever had to expand industry suddenly we should see that every step was taken to ensure that those placed in charge had an adequate reputation and experience in the art of man management.
A lot of cranky talk takes place about management and labour and a lot of people spin out great theories about it. Possibly we are apt to do so in this House. I am glad to see that the Minister agrees with me. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will watch very carefully over the people in his own charge at the Ministry of Labour. I was told only last week of a call made on one of the most eminent and successful managers of a factory, who has been in his post for 25 years and has done admirable work. He had to submit to quite a lecture from a young lady from the Ministry of Labour on the art of personnel management. That is all right, but I am not quite sure that her "talk" was really necessary.
I do not propose to go into the history of the development of joint consultative arrangements and I do not think the House would wish me to do so, but I think I should say that the Whitley Report of 1917 might claim to be the father of all modern thought on this subject. The great step which came out of their Report was, of course, the establishment of joint industrial councils. I should like to pay my tribute to the Minister of Labour for his work in the trade with which he and I have been associated all our lives. He played a great part personally in the establishment of a joint council in the printing trade, a council on which both of us have sat. During fair weather and foul it has done quite admirable work for all engaged in the industry.
I believe that the Whitley Councils in the Civil Service were also set up as a result of the Whitley Report, and here there is one question I should like to ask the Minister on a subject which causes me some distress. Having been at the Ministry of Labour in the past I sometimes look at the papers concerned with the Ministry. There is a paper called the "Civil Service Argus," the organ of the Ministry of Labour Staff Association, edited by the noble Lord, Lord Crook, a Member of another place. In the March issue this year this paper in its editorial—and I assume, therefore, under his authority or under his pen—issues a most violent attack upon the operation of the Ministry of Labour Whitley Council. On the outside of the pamphlet it says:
Ministry of Labour Whitley at the Crossroads.
When I was at the Ministry of Labour the utmost care was taken to make this joint industrial committee as perfect as possible. After all, it is the fountain head from which all our inspirations on this sort of thing should spring and it is important that it should be made as perfect as possible. The suggestion that the Whitley machinery at the Ministry of Labour itself is not functioning at all is almost like accusing the Archbishop of Canterbury of heresy. I wonder whether the Minister would like to say something about this.
From what I know of the Ministry I cannot help thinking that the noble Lord is all wrong in his strictures, but, of course, this is serious. In his article he says:
Recent developments would have shaken the confidence of even a happy staff … The staff of the Ministry of Labour asks not for cake and ha'penny but a square deal. If that cannot be obtained by Whitley Council methods then withdrawal … is the only alternative.
Surely that would be a most retrograde step. I am a little alarmed about the paper and I hope the noble Lord has not written the article out of spleen, not knowing the facts.
I should like to welcome, in a word, the initiative shown in sending these working groups to America to study work there. I do not know whether it sprang from the Ministry or from the joint consultative committees of industry. It is an admirable extension of joint consultation. The groups are drawn from both management and labour circles. One group from my own trade has just returned from America and the delegate who went from the firm to which I belong told me all about it yesterday and expressed his great satisfaction in the experience he had had. He gave a most heartening account of the way in which that great country welcomed our people. Indeed, when we go to America we all find the warmest of warm welcomes. It is remarkable how willing they are to show everything they have. Over here we are sometimes rather secretive in our processes and in the way we run our factories, but in America the reverse is true and they are always only too willing to show everything they have.
I was also glad to note that in this delegate's report, and I believe his colleagues concurred in this point, he says that while they picked up many good ideas and learned much, they have come back feeling that at any rate in our trade and in the ordinary printing shop in the country we certainly do not compare unfavourably, either in workshop practice or in the quality of our product, with that turned out in America. I think that is a very useful and heartening message for him to bring back.
I assume that all hon. Members advocate, wherever possible, the setting up of joint consultative machinery in the factory or workshop. I assume that because of the cheers from his supporters which greeted the hon. Member opposite and, on our side, because of the doctrine I have outlined. Apart from the general industrial council for the whole trade hon. Members advocate that there should be joint consultative machinery in the individual factory.
I should like to mention one or two things which we must guard against if we are to make this system a real help to the industrial world. First of all, joint consultative committees must not in any way usurp the functions of trade unions. Secondly, they must not usurp the functions of executive management. Thirdly, they must not be regarded as ends in themselves. I mean, they must not be regarded as a useful sort of ashcan into which to tip grievances and troubles in the hope that there they may be quite forgotten.
We on this side, as well as hon. Members opposite, as the hon. Gentleman said, attach the greatest importance to the operation of proper trade union activities in this country, and the establishment of joint machinery for negotiation between the trade unions and the employers' organisations of all questions of wages and conditions. That must not be interfered with by any house arrangement or house decision come to with the joint consultative committees. There is a danger of this sort which I know many trade union leaders feel. I think that if this were clearly understood a good deal of the hostility—not hostility, but apathy I ought to say—in some quarters would be removed.
Our belief and our wish at this time is that we must all do everything to buttress and nothing to weaken trade union responsibility in these difficult times. It is, incidentally, one of the reasons why I am such an opponent of nationalisation, because I believe it to be demonstrable that widespread nationalisation would, if persisted in in this country, kill voluntary trade unionism as we know it. I have spoken on this subject before in the House, and I hope at a later date to elaborate it again. I believe it can be proved demonstratively without possibility of contravention. However, let us pass away from that. These committees must be, therefore, consultative and advisory. They are not bargaining committees in any way. The bargaining must be done by properly constituted trade union and employers' organisations.
Secondly, the committees must not usurp the function of executive management. They can be of the greatest assistance to managements in making suggestions as to the working of the factories, suggestions as to improving the efficiency of factories, suggestions with regard to increasing the happiness and contentment of the workers, and on matters regarding the welfare and social activities, among other things, of the workers. Thus they can be of the greatest assistance to managements. The responsibility, however, for running the factory is that of the management of the factory.
The management also can use them—and I believe this is an important function and that they should use them—as media for telling the people in the factory the utmost of what is going on in the factory; about the state of the order book, for instance, the state of the finances of the business—and in this I agree with the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Dulwich (Major Vernon) who spoke last and who has just gone out—about such questions as the effects of Government regulations in this country, and of government quotas enforced from abroad, and about the export trade; and in the future, as closer integration in Europe takes place, there may be all sorts of very difficult questions which will need to be explained carefully to the people.
I believe that these committees can be used to explain these things and give this information; but they cannot successfully run a factory, and, therefore, must be regarded in this way as not executive. Sidney Webb put the position most clearly. He said:
The relationship set up between a foreman or manager, who has throughout the working day to give orders to his staff, and the members of that staff who, assembled in general meeting, criticise his action or give him directions with the power of dismissing him if he fails to conform to their desires, has always been found to be an impossible one.
That is true, and I believe that if that were properly understood many of the fears of rather old fashioned employers would disappear.
While I do not dissent from the general view the right hon. Gentleman is expressing, may I ask how he can reconcile this point with the fact that during the war the Ministry of Labour, at the time when, I believe, he was associated with it, gave joint production committees certain restricted executive powers? Does it not follow that this is not as clear-cut as it looks?
I am not entirely disputing what the hon. Gentleman said. There may be cases in which, with the full agreement of the trade unions and the employers—and in this case of the Government—certain specific jobs of a semi-executive nature could be given over to joint committees I remember that the question of absenteeism which probably the hon. Member has in mind was a particularly thorny question which very few people wished to handle. I am not sure it was not rather dumped on the production committees.
Well, I do not mind that remark very much, but this is a serious subject we are discussing. I said that in the third place the joint consultation should not be regarded as an end in itself. It is only one part of the whole job of man management in industry. There are many other aids to good relations in industry which I do not wish to refer to today—pensions and the like, which all conduce to better conditions in industry and, therefore, to better output.
I say from my personal experience in this matter in the industry and in the business with which I am connected, that the setting up of these committees is not altogether an easy task, especially in the smaller factories. We in the industry with which I am associated, being a highly trade-unionised one, have very close consultation almost every day between the fathers of the chapels and the managements, and it is felt in some of the factories, in the group with which I am connected, that that arrangement is so close that, really, more formal arrangements are not necessary. In our larger units we have been able to get going more formal monthly or bi-monthly meetings of the joint consultative committees, and where they have been started the managements, and those taking part on the employers' side, find good in them. No one wishes to see them stop; all hope rather than they will go on and extend their activities.
In conclusion, I would just say this. I should like to feel that it could go out from this House tonight, when we are discussing a matter which is not controversial in the party political sense—and none the worse for that, especially just before we break up for the Recess—that we believe that certainly in the larger establishments, and possibly in many of the smaller ones as well, both the managements' and the trade union leaders will find that the setting up of more formal consultative machinery is a most valuable and, indeed, an almost indispensable adjunct in the carrying on of the task of good labour management and high production in industry, if industry is to carry out that task. We in this House cannot do it. Even the Minister, with all the best will in the world, cannot do it.
On the other hand, we in this House can claim that we are constantly in touch, at any rate, with the widest aspects of this problem, wider possibly than those engaged in many industries, and I am sure that we shall be able to send a message that, in the very great difficulties which lie ahead, the more every one in industry at every level is given the facts and taken into consultation and made to feel more of a partner and less of a unit in the factory or workshop in which he works, the better it will be for industry and the better for the whole nation.
In asking for the indulgence of the House for this my maiden speech, I am encouraged by the very generous treatment which I have noted has been meted out so far to other new Members when making theirs. I am further encouraged by the fact that the Debate is on a subject which I feel will create the minimum of controversy. However, if I may indulge in a pleasantry, I would observe that the party on this side of the House has been interested in joint consultation for 30 years, whereas apparently the party opposite has taken a belated interest in it in the last three years—an interest which, if I may say so, during the last election rather embarrassed me as a trade union officer of 20 years' experience.
It is true, as the right hon. Member for Epsom (Mr. McCorquodale) said, that this subject is one on which there is a large amount of literature; and I think all hon. Members will agree that the bibliography prepared by the research department, now lying in the Library, is one on which the department is to be commended, and which is of great value to Members. But after all that has been written, when I try to draw on the experience of 20 years' active trade union work I am impressed, first of all, by the immensity of the problem and the great variety of types to be found in the structure of British industry. It is, therefore, extremely difficult to particularise on this very important subject. I have tried to examine the problem objectively. Having left the very useful career of trade union official and entered this House for the first time, I am not only looking forward, but have perforce been obliged to look back a little.
I felt that the best approach I could make to the Debate would be to look at my experience in the trade union world objectively and see what useful contribution I could make. Fundamentally, the question of joint consultation is simply a matter of human relationships; it is to deal with the day-to-day problems at shop level. I should like here to put forward a wider aspect for consideration, and that is not only the desirability of good will prevailing in the workshop on both sides, but the much more fundamental thing, which from time to time will have to be examined, that the time the worker spends in the factory is still the greater part of his life. The effect of the factory on the individual from the point of view of the functioning of democracy is, in my opinion, a social factor which ought to be considered over and above the immediate industrial problem of good relations.
Joint consultation is a development of what was started after the First World War—the idea of "Whitleyism." Gradually that has grown, and during the last 30 years industry has changed considerably, so that we have reached a point where negotiations have been removed from the domestic sphere of the factory to the district or national level. Even in the past there are examples where joint negotiation took place very happily directly between the trade union officer on behalf of the men and the factory manager. Gradually the trade union officer has been pushed about by a natural development, and today he journeys up to London to do his business rather than going just round the corner in the factory.
I think that is an inevitable development, but because of that we must encourage bringing home to the worker in the factory the significance of what is taking place somewhere outside, which will ultimately determine his wages and working conditions. There are three tiers at the moment: national, district, and the lower level. Frankly, I think that the lower level is fundamental and more important than the other two, for it is there that we have to bring home quite clearly to the worker his own position. The present tendency is natural, and is one which should be encouraged if possible.
I should now like to comment on what I feel are the fundamental conditions for the success of joint negotiations at factory level. The first essential is obvious, but it ought to be stated: it is the establishment of confidence on both sides. It is no use talking about doing this on a compulsory basis. Even it compulsion is tried we shall never get joint consultation until the two sides have confidence in each other to start off with. Secondly, and equally important, is the desire on both sides to make joint consultation a success. I was glad to hear the right hon. Member for Epsom say, what is most important, that any joint consultation should be consistent with the collective agreements that have already been reached at national or district level. I would stress the great importance of having a complete chain from the local level to the national level, so that those who serve on joint consultative committees are answerable to the bodies to which they should owe some responsibility, because there cannot be three-tier government, as it were, and irresponsibility at the bottom. That is, I think, well understood.
Now let me comment briefly on what has happened in the past, when there have been both good and bad kinds of consultation. I hope it will not be considered invidious to other industries if I mention one in particular; because it is a small industry where it has worked extremely well, and I refer to it because I believe that if the Minister wants an example of good joint consultation he will find it in this industry—namely, the match industry. In that industry they seem completely to understand the clear functioning of joint negotiation; they have their minutes, which are subsequently submitted to the Joint Industrial Council; and labour relations in that industry compare favourably with those in any other industry. There is no doubt that joint consultation can work, and I have the feeling that if a careful examination were made in industries where it has worked, we might discover ideas which would be useful in application elsewhere.
I would say to hon. Members opposite that there have been some very bad forms of consultation at factory level, and I advise them to be very chary in promoting too freely the idea of co-partnership, which is a form of consultation at factory level. I hope I shall be forgiven for saying this, but in the past, without a shadow of doubt, there have been attempts to create joint consultation at factory level for the purpose of preventing the workers being free to join trade unions. There is a danger in that, because an essential for good working is good understanding at top levels in industry, and if this idea of joint consultation is to be "sold" there must be good understanding at the top level and at the regional level. When that stage is reached—and most joint consultative bodies have now reached it after many years of "Whitleyism"ßžit is time to foster the same good spirit downwards with a view to encouraging what everybody agrees is an excellent thing for industry.
I should also like to refer to the paragraph in the T.U.C. Report, 1949, and continue where the right hon. Member for Epsom left off. There it was pointed out that, apart from the socialised industries, national agreements had been reached in 30 industries for the establishment of joint production committees. Joint production committees are, of course, only one form of consultation at workshop level. I understand that the Ministry of Labour has appointed a special officer to encourage nationally the development of consultation where J.I.C.s have already adopted the principle of consultation.
May I make this final suggestion to the Minister, because I feel that it is vital, not only at national level but also at regional level, that he should see whether it is possible to arrange for officers, who can specially devote their time to this work, to make approaches—and I would put in this restriction—to those industries which have already adopted the principle nationally that joint consultation should operate throughout the industries.
It is my very great pleasure to congratulate the hon. Member for Deptford (Mr. J. Cooper) on his maiden speech. I am sure that I carry with me the thoughts of the whole House in congratulating him on having made such an excellent contribution and on having chosen a subject on which he can speak with such authority as he has done in the present Debate. I can assure him that if he sticks to that line and talks about what he knows so firmly, the House will always listen very attentively to what he has to say. That does not always happen to everything which hon. Members on both sides of the House have to say, when they talk about matters of which they are not sure. From personal experience, I can assure the hon. Gentleman that this House is very keen to listen to a man who talks about what he knows and does so in no controversial or pre-judiced manner. It is, therefore, a pleasure for me to come into contact with another high-up member of a trade union. I come into contact with a lot of them, and the more I see of them the better we get on together, and the better it is for industry, which, after all, is one team and not two.
I should like to say how much I appreciate the manner in which the mover of this Amendment put his case, and the very sensible way in which he has worded it, so that we can all agree. The suggestion made to me, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, was that if I were fortunate enough to catch your eye I should give a little information to the House about the way in which joint production committees can be established and run successfully when they have been established. I should like to do that, and, therefore, I ask the House to pardon me if, in developing that a little later on, it appears to be on a very personal note. I cannot tell the House what I have been doing and what my organisation has been doing without being personal.
It is a common error to discuss our problems and difficulties on the basis of existing conditions without full consideration of why they have arisen. We take advantage of the achievements of our forefathers without question, and then we concentrate on grumbling at what they have not done or at what they did badly. So it is with industrial matters. The present position in industry is the result of developments which, in many cases, were rapid and often unexpected. When we think of the development of British industry over the last few centuries, we realise that we were an agricultural country only a hundred years or so ago. We had our cottage industries, followed by the local industries where water power, fuel and materials were availableßžall in a small way—and then there suddenly burst upon the world the Industrial Revolution, and a vast expansion took place.
Today, in many respects, we are paying the price of the pioneering which was done. On Thursday night my colleagues and I were engaged in trying to put to the Minister of Health the problem of housing in the industrial city of Birmingham. That is one of the things which we have inherited. I have been on a number of deputations abroad, and I have been shown some lovely works set out beautifully with fine roads and avenues of trees, but it is often forgotten that they are copies of what we have done after finding out the mistakes which we had made. We were the pioneers. Some of our factories are very haphazard and messy because they have been chopped and changed about during the development period. Before we regard all that our forefathers did as being bad, we should realise that we have benefited from the good things which they did, and now we have to put right some of the mistakes which they made and which we have inherited.
In industry, in the early days, we developed from small units where master and man were in daily contact and knew each other. Then came the larger factories with the big amalgamations and the joint stock companies, and the personal touch was lost. We have had advantages from that, and we have taken full advantage of them, but we have also had many disadvantages from the way in which industry has developed; but do not let us suggest as writers sometimes do, that it would be a good thing if we could put the clock back and go back to that era. We never can. We could not maintain the population of these islands if we went back to cottage industries or anything like them. In losing that personal touch, misunderstandings arose, as was natural. The boss could not have it out with the man; he could not tell him what he thought about it on the spot and settle it. They went away and thought about it, and so we got that antagonism which has developed and corrupted our industrial life. According to the British habit we take sides.
Today we have a number of large organisations, although, of course, we also have a large number of small ones. Do not let us run away with the idea that they are all big organisations, because more than half the industry of this country is still confined to small units. But progressive managements have had to look round, and they have found disagreement developing over the years. Various methods were tried to overcome this. Sometimes they were resisted.
It is a strange fact, which the hon. Member for Deptford will probably remember, that when some of the committees were started they were resisted, and that was because they were started on wrong lines. There was the fear of undermining the influence of the trade unions. They started to interfere with the trade union organisation. Sometimes that may have been done deliberately, but sometimes, I am sure, it was accidental. People brought up grievances which ought to have been dealt with by the trade unions.
May I give one example in the early days when we were feeling our way with these committees? We decided that we would pick up some money from the shareholders after the next balance sheet and start a works pension scheme. We got it going and then told the people about it, and they did not like it. They said, "That ought to have come from the trade union." They went to the trade union and were told "Go back and don't be fools; they are offering you something for nothing; you take it and be glad." That only goes to show how easy it is for misunderstandings to arise.
Then we had the war and a great movement forward in co-operation because we were in the spirit to co-operate after Dunkirk. I was particularly in touch at that time with the present Chancellor of the Exchequer, who was then Minister of Aircraft Production, and he pressed very hard, as the Minister of Labour will remember, for joint production committees in the engineering industry. We accepted them in the engineering world in a way we had never done before, and the federations and the unions got together and worked out the agreements on how these joint production committees should be carried on. They cleared out a lot of the naggers, and we have got on very well since.
Reference has been made to interest dying off, but I would point out that the matter has not been allowed to drift. The Minister of Supply, with whom the world works, realised this, and the Parliamentary Secretary went round the country trying to stir up enthusiasm and get the joint production committees going. I should like to take this opportunity of telling the Parliamentary Secretary how much his work was appreciated. Progress has been made, but it has not been universal. Therefore, I will offer my own experience in the hope that it may help some of those who are doubtful whether these schemes can be made to work and are as valuable as some think them to be.
I have been in this from the initial stage. I was not connected with any cottage industries, and I had nothing in the backyard. I started in a small factory with nothing but the whitewashed walls. It will be appreciated, therefore, that I know what it is to start in a small way. To begin with I had a man, a boy and a girl, so we did not need any joint consultations; we were consulting all the time. When we increased to 10 and then to 20 we still knew each other, and it all worked very nicely. I worked the number up to 100 or so before the First War broke out. We were then making a product that was very necessary for war purposes, and my present organisation approached me and suggested that I should let them take me over. I jumped at the opportunity to come under their wing, and we built up an organisation of 1,000 employees.
We still had the same personal contacts, because the men who were doing the expansion were men I knew and they passed it round. We were able to keep it a personal organisation until the end of the war. I was then asked to take over control of the organisation, and we developed with the expansion of the motor industry, eventually having factories in Birmingham and around the city. It was then that we began to feel what has been mentioned today—the fact that the organisation was too impersonal. We found that by the time the policy we had settled had got to the men in the shop it had been mangled to pieces. The men simply said, "That is what the boss says," which is just what we did not want. We wanted the policy to be explained, and we had to work out how we could get over this.
We tried many experiments. We started arbitration committees, but we found that questions concerning wages and conditions were cropping up which are not allowed to crop up under our agreement. We now have an agreement with the trade unions, and it has proved most valuable. It has to be understood that hours of work and conditions come under the trade unions, and then the work of the shop stewards is not interferred with in any way. We cannot have competition between the joint production committees and the shop stewards, because if that happens there is trouble.
Another point is that the joint production committees are no substitute for management at any grade on the factory floor. The ranks of management are open to all with the ability to lead and the capacity to take charge, and a large majority of the senior factory officials have risen from the floor of the shop. That must not be interfered with, because there must be no feeling of favouritism. For joint consultation to be effective, it must be accepted and welcomed wholeheartedly by all grades and by the management. There must be no feeling of conflict. The foreman must not feel that his authority is being prejudiced, because if that happens there will be very poor results. Therefore, we bring the foreman into these committees so that he does not feel he is being side-stepped.
Another important matter is who leads these committees. We have laid it down that in all the factories around the city the factory manager must be in the chair at the meetings of these committees. We have come to the conclusion that the factory manager is the man to take the chair, because he can promote harmony in the ranks, whereas the man below him may not be so acceptable. It makes those who take part in these committees realise it is a worth-while job if the factory manager is taking the chair.
I am coming to that. As I was saying, we have aimed at getting wholehearted support, but if that is not supplied from the top, the whole job will fall into discredit. In the engineering world there is an agreement between the federations and the engineering unions, and I wish to pay tribute to the way in which it has been worked out and carried out. Any matter which is the prerogative of the shop stewards is accepted, but hours of work, wages, bonuses, piecework and rates are excluded, which helps us to get on. Success depends on the atmosphere created, but some employers and some workers have been very apathetic when this job has been started. Poor results are guaranteed if there is apathy in a job like this.
We then have the criticisms. If the attitude is that these committees deal only with minor matters and that there is no need to worry if they are given the canteens, lavatories and rest rooms to look after, there is bound to be failure. If there is failure, then it is the fault of the management. We always blame the manager first. A lot of the problems and difficulties that arise would not have arisen if the management had got down to the job and had seen the thing coming quickly enough. Like other jobs, success depends on good staff work. It means that top-grade staff work is required. In every works there is a reservoir of people anxious to do something more than their daily task. Our whole local government system is built up on that.
Men are not always suitable and do not always have the qualifications or temperament to take promotion and some do not want to be promoted. One of the difficulties these days is to get people capable of taking responsibility whose energies can be used to great advantage and harnessed in these committees. I was talking quite recently to some of my military friends, and they tell me it is just the same in the Army. There are men not suitable to be made N.C.O.s but who are very good soldiers, and they like a solid core of these men in their battalions and companies. It is exactly the same with us. We can use these men who have a marvellous moral effect in a factory. In addition to day-to-day problems like canteens and such things, there are problems of the best utilisation of tools and similar matters which, if not looked at, will hinder the flow of goods and stop production.
I am sure the House would like to know some of the matters which we find most valuable in the committees. There is the question of waste, and the saving of time. Since the war we have had a lot of trouble with new labour coming in and getting the men back from the Forces. There is then the question of material and the use of substitute materials, which has caused a lot of trouble. The committees are keen on problems such as these and we overcome waste, which is hurting the national effort. Then there is the reduction of accidents. We make it a personal matter to see that the people obey the rules and regulations. We have a magnificent set of regulations, and we employers are responsible if men break the rules. We take the trouble to see that they are kept by securing the co-operation of these committees. Another place where we get splendid results is in the reduction in the waste of maintenance materials. There was a terrible waste of some of the things which are scarce today.
Last of all, there is the maintenance of quality. It is a great thing if a committee's help can be enlisted in maintaining quality, because it is the quality of British goods which is going to determine our future—and some shoddy stuff has already gone out. We have all our people working to get the quality back to what it used to be. All these matters represent increased production and the reduction of costs. They are matters which are vital today in the present state of our national affairs. We are going to have a hard fight for the markets of the world, and we have to take every step to get costs down for the fight that is coming. These people help us.
As to the composition of the committees, it was agreed in our business that they should all be trade union members. Once there is agreement on that, a whole lot of trouble is got over. There must be full representation of the foremen and of the local committees. All sections and departments must feel that they have their representatives and that they have access to the management. We have not made any attempt to have equal numbers on the committees. Some of the people are keen to get equal numbers, but the thing is better as we have it organised and we do not worry about equal numbers. The people are elected by secret ballot, which enables any person to be put on. Some shop stewards are elected, while others are not. The man who is not elected can only grumble at those who did not elect him, but people who fail to secure election do not like to grumble. They have a bit of pride, and they try to impress their fellows that for the next time they are the right sort of persons to put on the committee. It is perfectly free for the workers to elect anybody.
It is very important that everything discussed at these joint production committees should be made known to the foreman and superintendent. If that is not done, there will be trouble and difficulties. In the different factories we have joint production committees, and then there is a central one for all our works in Birmingham. What we do not do is try to mix the breeds. We do not bring from London people making aeroplane equipment, or those responsible for fuel, or anything else which is foreign. We keep the industries separate, because we believe we are going to get the best results if we give to the local organisations the fullest responsibility. They do not like people coming from London to tell them what to do in Birmingham. If the workers are made to stand on their own legs, better results will follow.
I am sorry that I have taken up so much of the time of the House, but in conclusion I want to say that if this scheme is treated casually, bad results will ensue. People will get out of it as much as they put in. It is an adjunct to good management and not a substitute for it. If that is borne in mind and the proper approach made, I believe that in time the system will help to break down that wall which exists between labour and management. If we can get our workpeople to understand that we are pushing in the same direction and we are all in the same scrum, then we will have the workers and management pushing together. The day is coming when Marshall Aid will not be there. We shall be dependent on our own efforts, and if we unite as we did during the war years, pull together and use this and any other means, we shall be able to get back our position in the world.
I do not know whether I should seek the indulgence of the House. I have spoken in this Chamber on a few occasions, but I have had an enforced absence. I am glad to be back, and I am very glad to come back to a Debate which shows such unanimity on both sides of the House. In fact, so much did I agree with the speech of the right hon. Member for Epsom (Mr. McCorquodale) that I could almost see the ghost of the Foreign Secretary sitting opposite me on the Opposition Front Bench.
I hesitate to take part in this Debate after the very fine practical example of joint consultation which we have been given by the hon. Member for Edgbaston (Sir P. Bennett). He issued a word of warning which made me distinctly apprehensive. He said that we almost always listened to people who knew their subject and knew what they were talking about. It will be observed that in this Debate so far, the contributions have come from those who know industry either as trade unionists, engineers or employers. As a mere lawyer I must try at once to justify my intervention. I am going to give an example of what lawyers can produce.
On this matter there is a great deal of agreement on both sides of the House. I should like to associate myself with what was said by my hon. Friend the Member for Jarrow (Mr. Fernyhough) and almost everything that was said by the right hon. Member for Epsom. However, I must tell the House that I feel the emphasis today has been too much on the desirability of joint consultation and not enough on its urgent necessity. I am going to demonstrate that to the House by reference to one industry. While I was absent from this House I presided over the deliberations of the Cotton Manufacturers' Commission, which was set up to examine the organisation of working and the methods of payment in the cotton manufacturing industry. What took up most of my time for two and a half years was to try to find an answer to their problems. I want to limit my remarks purely to the weaving side, which is only a section of manufacture, as hon. Members will know.
There we were faced with an antiquated wage system which was unfair to the operatives as between one operative and another and was no inducement to enhanced production and increased proficiency. It took us a long time. We examined exhaustively various alternatives that were put before us. In the end we devised an entirely new and scientific system of wages for weaving. It is a revolution which is a credit to the men of Lancashire, the leading figures of the trade unions and the manufacturers who worked on that Commission. It is the first example in the industrial history of this country of a whole industry accepting a scientific settlement. It is the first example in this country of an old-established industry throwing overboard its accumulated agreements of years and starting afresh. It is a magnificent achievement and is a great credit to Lancashire. It was not only accepted unanimously by the Commission over which I presided, but eventually it received the approval of both sides of the industry. It featured in the terms of a trade union agreement between the manufacturers and the weavers' representatives, subject to this, that the new system should be put into effect wherever we could secure local agreement.
Will the House accept it from me that this new system is essential to securing the increased productivity that we want, to make up for the deficiency of manpower to give better wages and conditions to those who work in the industry and to cheapen the products? I could elaborate on all this but I ask the House to accept it from me. This system is in operation in some mills. Something of the kind was put into operation in one or two mills several years ago, but the pace is too slow. What is the reason?
It has been discovered by all industrial consultants who have examined the situation in the weaving sheds and have devised a new and scientific system, that it is hopeless to try to put the system into operation unless we get the weaving operatives to go with us all the way. When I was in Holland discussing this topic with the leading industrial consultants in that country, I found that when they were introducing a new system they had started as any of us might do. They tried converting the directors first, then converting the managers and foremen, and then approaching and persuading the workers. Experience taught them that the quickest and best way of getting a new system of wages into operation was to start at the bottom. That is why I stand here to urge that the Minister, the Government, the trade unions and the manufacturers in Lancashire should get on with the job and should set up these committees wherever they can.
Let me say at once that we cannot force it. We cannot prescribe any particular form for it. It will vary all over Lancashire. It has to be suited not only to the size of the unit but to the kind of work it does. Indeed, it has sometimes to be suited even to the shape of the factory. His Majesty's Government should look upon this matter as urgent and should exert all the persuasion they can upon both sides of the industry. It is not easy. The trade unions are naturally suspicious that their function will be usurped. The managers are naturally suspicious that the functions of management are going to be usurped by these committees, or councils—call them what you will. Therefore it is useful to have the example of people like the hon. Member for Edgbaston who have put these things into practice.
That is the immediate problem for the cotton industry, but I will go further. The day is coming when we shall have to have a wages policy in this country. We cannot have a wages policy unless we have a sensible way of adjustment between the claims of different industries upon the wage pool in this country, and of adjusting the claims inside an industry of its different categories of workers. That is what they call by the queer expression "job evaluation." I wish that these industrial consultants did not devise such awkward terms.
It can be done very successfully. There are countries in Europe where it is operating now by agreement among all sides. We can never have it in this country unless we have these committees to agree upon job evaluation. We want them from the long-term point of view of working towards a wages policy. We are able to say: "We are the finest political democracy in the world. Nobody can compare with us." If we can make this change, we shall be able to say that we have created the finest industrial democracy in the world.
This is the first occasion on which I have had the honour to address this House and I humbly ask for that tolerance and friendliness which is its tradition on these occasions and which, as a new Member, I have seen finely exampled during the last few weeks.
I particularly welcome the opportunity of talking to the House for the first time on this subject. It is one of which I have some small experience—only very small when compared with that of my hon. Friend the Member for Edgbaston (Sir P. Bennett)—and one on which I feel most strongly. My only diffidence on the subject is that after the House has heard that speech from my hon. Friend one feels that there is very little left to be said about it. When one wants to know how joint consultation should be developed, one wishes that my hon. Friend could go round the country talking about it to those who have doubts in their minds. One feels that they would be persuaded.
It is natural that with the present national position we tend to think of the merits of joint consultation in terms of its economic aspect and of the gains we hope to get in production. I agree that that aspect is important, but in the long term I believe that we shall find, if we look at it carefully, that the social aspect is at least as important. It seems to me absolutely vital under present conditions to find a remedy for some of the evils and troubles which have arisen from large-scale production and mechanisation, and loss of satisfaction in work which has come from the decreasing opportunities for the practice of skilled craftsmanship. I know that all this mechanisation will give us greater wealth and leisure, and that there are some who think that these will be sufficient rewards, but I believe most deeply that a man will never find satisfaction in his leisure unless he has first found satisfaction in his work.
It is towards processes such as joint consultation that we must turn to find a remedy. It cannot be a rapid cure. It is most important to stress that. If we go into it thinking that it will cure all our difficulties at once, there will be disillusionment and disappointment, but I believe that it can be a solvent for our difficulties and problems and that if we apply it with determination and perseverance it can be a big help in providing that social harmony and unity of purpose which is so important in this country at the moment, and will be still more so in the difficult years that lie ahead of us.
To come back to the economic aspect, I am convinced from my own experience on the floor of a foundry and of a press shop, that whatever mechanisation and line production we may have, the human element is, and will always be, the most important factor for getting high production. Here again, it seems that we must look towards methods such as joint consultation to get that extra little bit of co-operation without which we shall not get the best out of even the most highly automatic plant and machinery. We must not expect it to produce results all at once, for it will take time and practice but, again from personal experience, I know that it will work.
In the latter years of the war I had the job of taking charge of a new factory run by my company for the Ministry for the production of cast aluminium alloy undercarriage support beams for the Lancaster bomber. We were ready for full-scale production and had worked out all the production schedules. We put up a production bonus scheme, but we met tremendous opposition. I did not know how to get round it. The men said that the targets were ridiculous, that the incentive bonuses were insufficient and that they would never earn their money.
I went to the management and got permission to put all our cards on the table. Eight of the men—two from each of the four main production sections—came to my office and I put before them all the costings, showing them the price we got for the beams, the element of the metal cost, fuel costs and overheads and all the rest, and persuaded them that the terms of the incentive bonus gave them a fair share of the price that we got for the beams.
Having started on that, we were able to put our heads together to see how we could reach our target. It was something like 20 beams per shift. From that moment it was as if magic had fallen on the shop. The men came to me with suggestions, such as how they could stagger their furnacemen's shifts so that metal was ready at the beginning of the next shift. In a week or two we were getting beams in the quantities required, the men were getting their money and were satisfied, and we were all enjoying the job.
We must be clear about the purpose of joint consultation. Hon. Members on both sides of the House have already stressed the important points, that it is not for labour to gain control over management or vice versa, that it is not to weaken the traditional functions of the trade unions—far from it—and that it is not to weaken the right of decision of management. I was glad to hear my hon. Friend the Member for Edgbaston refer to foremen. There is some danger if we are not careful that joint consultation may weaken the status and authority of foremen. I believe that the foreman has a very important rôle in production, a rôle which in this country at the moment we sometimes do not recognise fully. When at the end of last year I had an opportunity to go over some American factories, the thing that impressed me almost more than anything else was the status, knowledge and training of their foremen. It compared unfavourably from our point of view with the practice I had seen in some of our factories. I hope we shall watch that aspect very closely.
There is one purpose—a subsidiary one but an important one—which joint consultation can serve that has not yet been mentioned this afternoon, and that is that it can provide an extremely important training ground and opportunity for promotion for the workers' representatives to the highest levels of management. That can be a very important by-product of joint consultation.
When it comes to the methods of joint consultation, I must support very strongly what has been stressed on all sides this afternoon, the need for it to be voluntary, the need also for leadership to come from the top level of management and the top level on the trade union side as well, and that the machinery must not on any account be rigid or uniform. It cannot be There must be differences. Each case must be tailored to meet the needs of each factory and each industry. The other thing to which we must give publicity as we try to persuade people to take this up is that, although formal machinery is necessary, the formal machinery of joint consultation is the end and not the beginning. If we think that all we have to do is to elect a joint consultative council and then sit back, we are in for a very sad disappointment, and that sort of council will never get beyond the canteens and the lavatories about which one of my hon. Friends spoke.
There are one or two other smaller points about the formation of these councils to which I should like to draw attention. I believe that all representatives on the workers' side should be trade union members. I put forward the suggestion with sincerity that the election should be by secret ballot. I also believe that there should be small works constituencies, and the constituency from which a representative is chosen should not, if possible, comprise more than 25 people. I also believe that it is of great value if the consultative council is not equally balanced between the two sides. Let there be more workers' representatives than management representatives. Let there be a power to vote if necessary, but let voting be deprecated. I do not want to see the two sides lined up in equal forces on either side of the table.
The idea of joint consultation in my mind fits into a long-term political policy and philosophy. We on this side of the House try to pursue a policy which will combine liberty with order in which the burden of responsibility and the risks of opportunity are tempered with a guaranteed degree of security. This is the industrial facet of that policy. We envisage an industrial structure in which the central government interferes to an extent sufficient to implement a full employment policy, and to an extent sufficient to safeguard the consumer and efficient production from dangers such as those of monopolies and restrictive practices, but beyond that limit leaves the field clear to competitive enterprise stimulated and driven by the incentives of success and failure to lead to efficiency and the development of new ventures.
If in that set-up of competitive industry which I have described we have the rights of workers safeguarded by strong independent trade unions dealing with the collective bargaining of wages and conditions, and if we have that partnership of which joint consultation is the main pillar, we shall be working towards a society in which there is that widespread ownership of managerial and economic power, and that diversity of interest and opportunity which are essential if democracy is to progress in an industrial civilisation.
It is with great pleasure that I conform to the ancient and pleasant tradition of this House by congratulating the hon. Member for Mitcham (Mr. Carr) on his maiden speech. The hon. Member has revealed in that speech a deep and real knowledge of the subject. As the hon. Member for Edgbaston (Sir P. Bennett) said, the House always listens with keen attention to a speaker who knows what he is talking about, so I am quite sure that the House will look forward to listening to the hon. Member for Mitcham on future occasions.
The hon. Member for Jarrow (Mr. Fernyhough) is to be congratulated on introducing a subject of such importance, and the House has been at its best this afternoon in the discussion on this matter. We have had little of controversy but we have had some excellent contributions. We are all agreed that the health and the temper of British industry is of paramount importance to the nation, especially at present. The future of our people and the part the nation ought to play as a great world Power depends upon the speed with which we can raise our industrial production and how we can increase that production in more effective ways. All our efforts will be of little account unless at the same time as we are revolutionising our industrial system we can bring the happiest possible human relations into our industries.
There are great changes taking place in the industrial set-up. Great revolutions are being wrought in many industries. We witness them day by day and take little notice of them, but I am convinced that, looking back in 20 years, we shall be amazed at the technical alterations being made now; and for this reason, if for no other, that it is essential that the relationships between employed and employers shall be adjusted continually to meet these radical alterations so that they shall not be the cause of increasing friction. We may have the most perfect plans for reorganisation, we may introduce the maximum amount of machinery to enable us to meet the great tasks that lie before British industry, but if we overlook the importance of industrial relationships, or, indeed, if we evade them because of the difficulties inherent in them, we shall run into serious difficulties.
We have to do all we can, all of us—I speak of trade unions, managements, Parliament and the Press—to bring about a full appreciation of the common interest we all have in building up British industry so that it may enable this country to stand upon its own feet, independent and proud. The chief aim of joint consultation must be to improve the relationships between management and men, to get all those engaged in factory and workshop, in mines and on railways, to understand the purpose of the great effort that this nation is making, and to obtain a mutual respect and confidence.
From that understanding and tolerance and kindness of spirit existing between management and men, greater production will flow, and it is that confidence between management and men that we so much require now. It was indeed encouraging to hear the hon. Member for Edgbaston speaking of his own experiences. We could only wish that those had been extended over much wider fields of British industry, but that is not so—
I fear that it is true. Later I will speak about the fields where that confidence exists, but it does not exist in other fields and we may as well face the fact. If the hon. Member will allow me to go on with my speech, I was about to say that we do ourselves no good by denigrating the efforts already made. A comparison of the relationships existing in industry today with those of even a few decades ago gives a picture of a remarkable achievement by the British people, an achievement of which we have every reason to be proud. If certain organs of the British Press devoted half their space to telling the story of this great achievement instead of placing their emphasis upon the irritations, frustrations and disputes in industry, our people would have a clearer conception of the great distance we have travelled over the past few years and would welcome, as I am sure the whole House does, this great advance in the field of better relationships. I believe that the majority of employers and employed today desire to establish or to maintain a state of trust and confidence, and they certainly do not want an atmosphere of antagonism and suspicion to blight our efforts.
Having said that, I must add that it would be silly of us to be complacent. The hon. and learned Member for Islington, North (Mr. Moelwyn Hughes) said he had been rather concerned that in the Debate up to the time he spoke, there had been no note of urgency about the necessity for greater development in this sphere. In every field of activity in British industry we need desperately to do all we can to build up mutual confidence between management and men so that our efforts may be the greatest possible.
It has been suggested in certain quarters that you can have compulsory co-operation. I say, as a trade union Member of Parliament, that it still waffles around the Trades Union Congress when it meets. It may well be, as has been suggested by certain trade union leaders, that by the forcible bringing together of management and men we might, by the very fact of contact, eventually develop a better understanding. But I do not think that we can force management and men to co-operate in the long run. If there be obstinacy on one side or the other, or on both, inevitably there will not be the joint consultation that is desired. We might go through the motions of joint consultation, but there would be absent that attitude of mind, that broad tolerance and willingness to listen to the other side, patiently and intelligently, to try to discover what the other fellow is talking about—in other words, to win confidence; the confidence of managements and of men, whose mutual trust is the keynote of it all.
The winning of that confidence over large fields of industry must be undertaken by both sides. I do not think that any manifesto of the Conservative Party or of the Labour Party, or any exhortations from any Government Front Bench, will take us very much further in the field of joint consultation. The next great move, or the new sense of urgency, must be brought about by the trade unions and by the employers themselves. It is those two sides who must really get down to extending the field of joint consultation.
During the past few years there has been a very rapid development in the participation of trade unions in our economic life. At the top level this participation is accepted as a very wise and fruitful thing, but unless it is brought down from the highest levels of Government, of Transport House and all the rest, to factory and workshop level it will in the last resort be of little avail. The necessity for that co-operation and consultation which exists at the highest possible level must now be interpreted in the lower levels of industry and in the trade union organisation.
The great contribution which the trade unions could make at this time is to reequip themselves for their new functions in our national life. We are trying to operate the trade union machine with the weapons or instruments of 25 years ago. The unions must face up to the fact that if they are to enjoy this participation, which rightly they do enjoy, they must seriously review the way in which they are to perform their tasks in industry. Therefore, I make the suggestion that recognising, as do the trade union leaders, that in the long run better standards of life are dependent upon increased and efficient production, the task now is to interpret that necessity to the workers in the factories; but that is not easy.
The hon. Member for Edgbaston was speaking of a comparatively new industry, but we all know, on this side of the House at least, that it is not an easy task to allay the haunting fears of the past which still exist in the minds of many workers. It is no good for hon. Members opposite to argue about this and to tell us how illogical is that attitude. Thousands of workers have a profound distrust of any machinery which increases production, because at the back of their minds is the fear that it will result in short-time working and possibly unemployment. However different the circumstances may be today, we may as well face the fact that that fear still exists.
Another fear which lingers—hon. Members opposite may say that it does not, or should not, but it nevertheless remains—is the memory of bad managements and of vindictiveness. There is a very real fear on the part of thousands of workers that in the past managements were bad and vindictive, and are still as evilmotived even in these days. These fears and suspicions, which retard the development of the machinery of consultation, can best be removed by the unions themselves. It is not much good for the employers to do much about this, and I am pretty sure that it is not much use for the Government to do so. This is fundamentally a task for the trade unions, who ought to spend more time, energy and money upon the education, particularly of the active trade unionist, for which they are responsible. One of the main functions of trade unions today should be the stimulation of output, which in many cases they have accepted. We accept it as part of the function of the unions, but there still exists that suspicion of labour-saving devices and machinery and a reluctance to accept shift work, payment by results, and so forth.
I suggest that the unions could, and ought to, make a far bigger contribution, in explaining the situation of the nation, in pointing out that these fears which are still held, sometimes justifiably, belong really to a past age. They ought to devote more money to the education of some of their officials, so that they may be equipped for teaching these facts to their members and workpeople. The unions desire, and might well assist in, a greater drive for joint consultation and co-operation by placing far more emphasis upon the dissemination of the facts of the economic situation, so that we might have an educated body of workers who knew exactly what was wanted in joint consultation and who knew the meaning of the effort which they were asked to make.
I am bound to say, in passing, that one of the weaknesses of the trade union movement is that in comparison with many other industrial nations—I had better be careful here, or I shall be in trouble—hardly a union in this country has a research department worthy of the name.
I said that I should need to be careful. I could name half a dozen or more which do not have a research department worthy of the name—those were my words. We still have a lot to learn in the unions in the development of research departments which can assist in educating our members and enabling them to play their part in joint consultation.
Another point that we ought to get perfectly clear in our minds is that there is still a lot of confused talk about the meaning of joint consultation. There has been an amazing revival of the old syndicalist idea of direct workers' control in certain sections of labour. In my opinion, it is impossible to envisage any great development in the sphere of joint consultation if we imagine that this old, woolly idea of workers' control can operate. In the last resort management must be allowed to manage and to make decisions and must accept the responsibility. What we seek is that their decisions and policy shall be translated to the workers so that they may understand their objectives and thereby help to ensure that co-operation which can result in much better and higher production. I cannot leave the trade union side without expressing my belief that the majority of trade unionists do not desire to see the establishment of workers' control, as it is sometimes called. What we desire and demand is the maximum of co-operation and consultation, so that we may make our maximum contribution to the national effort.
I should like to say one other thing from our experience of joint consultation in the nationalised industries. Never before in the history of transport, for instance, did we have the machinery for consultation which we have today. There is sometimes a lot of talk from the other side about a diminution of the old family spirit, but we never saw much of that family spirit except in past years when sacrifices were required from the railwaymen. We have the machinery, but it is not working as successfully as it ought because we still have men on the management side who were brought up in the old atmosphere and who still suffer from suspicions in the same way as some of the workers are suffering. We have on the management side, men who still find it impossible to believe that the workpeople ought to be consulted. What we require is that the top-level spirit and atmosphere of consultation shall filter down.
I believe that the Railway Executive is quite honest and sincere in its desire to see consultation reach the highest degree of success, but it is at the lower levels that we meet difficulties. It is, therefore incumbent on the Railway Executive or those at the top to ensure that those holding less important posts in the structure shall be brought to understand what is required of them, that consultation shall not be merely a formal process of listening to what workers have to say about this or that, but that it shall be really a matter of the spirit and that they ought to accept the contributions of the workers, give them their full and proper value and use them, when at all possible. We also feel in transport that in the lower regions there is still too small a desire on the part of the management to give the fullest information to the men. One cannot really consult if those representing the workers are in ignorance of half the facts—facts which they can only obtain from the management. There must be that willingness to give and to let the workers really feel they have the fullest information.
The country has gone a long way and we have much to be proud of. I believe we can write an even more glorious page of history if both sides of industry will recognise the urgency of the task before them, and try now to build up the happiest spirit of co-operation and mutual trust. I am sure we shall see the results in a far greater contribution to the national effort, for in the last resort the purpose of joint consultation and the purpose of all our efforts is to see this nation once more strong, firm and proud in its independence, and this is one of the factors by which that can be achieved.
I also congratulate the hon. Member for Jarrow (Mr. Fernyhough) on introducing this subject. He has performed a very valuable service in making this discussion possible. All hon. Members will agree that the contributions that have been made have been valuable and useful. I think it would be fair to say, although this is not an occasion on which speeches of a party political nature are being made, that the party to which I belong have for years been deeply interested in the subject of industrial relations. After all, it was a Liberal who was the chairman of a committee which recommended the setting up of joint industrial councils—I mean the Whitley Councils. I think it unfortunate that more progress was not made in the days after the 1914–18 war in the setting up of joint industrial councils. Some say that it was partly due to lack of adequate powers, but in the main it was due to the prevailing suspicion of both sides which has been only gradually broken down.
I might perhaps remind the House that between 1930 and 1934 a series of Bills was introduced by Members of the Liberal Party—the National Industrial Councils Bill, the Industrial Councils Bill and the Works Councils Bill. If I might put a little variation into the theme about the bad old days before the war, I would point out that none of those Bills reached a Second Reading because there was not sufficient interest on the part of the Government, or of supporters of the Government, of the day.
We are concerned with the present and the future rather than the past, and I agree with other hon. Members that there has been a change of outlook and this change of outlook is most important. I quote from a leading article in "The Times" of 20th April, 1947, which refers to some remarks of Mr. W. B. D. Brown of the Glacier Metal Company:
The phrase 'joint consultation,'" says Mr. W. B. D. Brown, of the Glacier Metal Company, one of the most successful practitioners of joint consultation, "should convey an attitude of mind rather than a clearly defined process. Its function is ultimately to get rid of the division of factories into 'bosses and the rest' which still colours the background thinking of most people.
I think there is general agreement that this change of outlook is necessary.
I wish to make a few remarks on the purpose of joint consultation rather than on machinery. The machinery is most important, but even more important is the purpose. I would agree that roughly there are three kinds. There is consultation over wages and general conditions in which the unions are particularly concerned, although, I am not suggesting that they are not equally concerned with other aspects of joint consultation. Secondly, there are various advisory bodies dealing with the policy of an industry, and thirdly, forms of joint consultation at the factory level, or in the individual firm—works councils and joint production committees. While I appreciate the need for consultation at a high level, I wish to stress the vital importance of consultation at the factory level. The ultimate object of all this consultation is to create a real partnership, and to get that real partnership there must be consultation at the factory level.
I know there are still some sceptics who do not agree with this idealism. Although they have been absent from the House today, there are still employers who think that a worker is interested only in his pay packet and who regard him as a mere name or number on the pay roll; but they are not the enlightened employers. There are still some trade unionists who are a bit afraid of works councils and joint production committees, but they are not among the more enlightened trade unionists.
Assuming that joint consultation is desirable, there are certain conditions which must be satisfied. The first is the obvious one of right personal relationships, because human relationships in industry count for so much. If only we could solve this problem of the right relationships in industry, I believe that we could increase productivity from 20 per cent. to 100 per cent. varying in different firms and industries. I believe we could do that in spite of the fact that in many cases our machinery is out-of-date compared with that of the United States. I believe much more could be done with the aid of joint consultation in the way of welfare, because, valuable as welfare schemes are, they are not enough unless they are combined with joint consultation.
I quote again, this time from the "Financial Times" of 30th January last. In an article written by a managing director, he stated:
I am always sceptical of claims that the introduction of this or that change has resulted in a phenomenal increase in productivity, but, during the four post-war years, the productivity of my factory (administrative staff included) has increased by about 28 per cent.
above the figure for 1937–38, our best previous year. This increased productivity has not been due to new machinery because we have not yet been able to instal any of any consequence. The one big change to account for the improvement has been the steady intensification of our welfare activities.
That is the first point, the right human relationships. The second, which has also been mentioned by other speakers, is the need for absolute frankness on the part of management. The danger of giving away secrets is not nearly so great as the harm that comes from being too "close" in dealing with employees. I believe that we get the ideal form of co-partnership, co-operation or whatever one cares to call it, when we have a sharing of ownership, a sharing of profits and a sharing of knowledge and responsibility.
It is the last aspect which we are discussing today, the sharing of knowledge and responsibility, which is absolutely essential. That does not mean that the work in any kind of industrial concern can be run by workers' committees. There is all the difference between sharing knowledge and control by a committee of workers. I am not for one moment advocating that syndicalist point of view. It might contribute a little light relief if I referred to one of the very earliest known cases of co-partnership. In the days at the beginning of the last century a certain Lord Wallscourt introduced profit-sharing and a form of what we should now call consultative machinery on his farm. It was very unusual to introduce this principle into farming. He made the following comment in 1846, after it had been in operation for some time:
I have tried the plan for 17 years, and have found it to answer much beyond my hopes, inasmuch as it completely identifies the workmen with the success of the farm, besides giving me full liberty to travel on the Continent for a year at a time, and upon my return I have always found that the farm had prospered more than when I was present.
Neither I nor anyone else here is advocating that.
What I am leading up to is that there are firms in which there are works committees, and which stop at that; the owners are not in favour of joint production committees. My belief, with which the majority of Members here will agree, is that the workers have a valuable contribution to make on the subject of production and efficiency if only their recommendations are taken seriously. I regret the going out of existence of a number of the joint production committees.
Assuming it to be desirable that the men should make their contribution on these various committees in the matter of production and increased efficiency, three things should follow, and it is on these that I am asking for the opinion of those with greater experience than myself in the working of consultative machinery. One is that if there should be an increase in profits is it not fair that in those circumstances there should be a fair sharing of those increases in profits amongst all concerned, management and men, and not only among capital investors? The second concerns the fact that we come up almost immediately against the problem of restrictive practices, and that increased production and greater efficiency cannot be brought about unless we face the whole problem of restrictive practices in industry. The third point, which is closely bound up with the second concerns the problem of redundancy which may follow as a result of increased productivity.
Certainly. One example I had in mind was where new machinery is introduced which can cut down the number of men required from three to one, and where the three men are retained. That is the kind of thing I had in mind. That leads me to my further point that there is this feeling that increased productivity may result in a man's pals being thrown off. That is what I mean by redundancy.
Can the hon. Member really quote a single current example of the generalisation which he has just made, namely that where a machine can be introduced to reduce the amount of labour required, workers resist its introduction?
If the hon. Member will give me time, I will check some of the cases that have been given to me.
In connection with redundancy, the point I am advocating, with which I do not think hon. Members opposite will disagree, is that consultative machinery is valuable in dealing with this subject. I would recommend to anyone who is interested an article in the March issue of "Business," the journal of management in industry. It describes how this problem was successfully faced by joint consultation. There had to be a considerable reduction in the number of employees and the matter was smoothly dealt with by joint consultation.
My last theme, which is less controversial than the one I have been questioned about, is this aspect of there being two sides in industry. This has not arisen only since we have had large-scale industry. To take Yorkshire as an example, and looking back over a hundred years, the position was that of the master manufacturer working in his own home with one or two assistants. Then came the Industrial Revolution, but even then for a time master and men lived close together round the factory and the mill. There was still the feeling that "This is our show": there was still a kind of consultative machinery. Then as the employer became better off, he went to live outside the town in a large house. It was then that the beginning was seen of two sides in industry, with too much overcrowding of the workers in the towns.
We are still suffering from that great divide, which was brought about long before we had large-scale industry. Whatever may be our views on the subject upon which I have been questioned, I am sure we all agree that it is of vital importance that we should bring to an end this division into two camps, that we should end the feeling of there being two sides in industry by the creation of a real partnership. Only in that way shall we surmount the difficulties which face industry in the future.
I welcome the opportunity of taking part in what I consider to be a very healthy and, up to now, very constructive Debate on this highly important problem. I should like to compliment my hon. Friend who opened the Debate on the way he presented the case and I should also like to compliment the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epsom (Mr. McCorquodale) who followed from the Opposition Front Bench. There are occasions when the House at all events by what is said seems to reach a measure of agreement. But it is not what is said here today in this Debate that really matters. Honeyed words seem all right, but it is the implementation hereafter with which I am vitally concerned. I have read the pamphlet that the Opposition presented today with such gusto and I would suggest that if one-twentieth, or indeed one-fiftieth part of its proposals had been carried out in the last 20 years 4ve should not be having this Debate about joint consultation in industry.
I am tempted to offer the suggestion that that pamphlet, designed, as it is, for electioneering purposes, tells a rather different story from the one which could be told about industrial relationships of the past. But all that is water which has flowed under the bridge. All that has happened in the past will not help tomorrow, and it is with tomorrow that we are concerned. Industry, today, is insolubly tied up with our economy. So far as I can see our economy is tied up with our policy; therefore it is a good thing that those of us who are expected to create policy, and to implement it, should take part in this Debate.
Joint consultation? Yes. But at what level? For what purpose? How far shall it go, and by whom? That is the problem. I suppose there are hon. Members present who would say, "You come from an industry that does not have any industrial problems, so what do you know about it? "I would suggest that those in an industry which shows signs of having reached a great measure of agreement are those who have learned something about industrial negotiations, who have succeeded, with the least amount of trouble, in establishing a practical foundation; and who have made sensible and constructive attempts to solve this problem.
There are all sorts of consultations. There is the consultation with the doctor, when he is the specialist who says what he thinks should be done, and prescribes something with which it is done. Never yet have I gone to a meeting—and I have attended many thousands of them—and been allowed to suggest a formula for what I think would be good for me. I have never been at a meeting round an industrial board, where I was allowed to suggest what should be put into the pay packets of the directors. I have always attended meetings where the directors have had the opportunity and the ability to suggest what would be good for me—right down to the fourth decimal point of a penny per ton for some very valuable steel.
This Debate is of the greatest importance to productivity, which is the most vital thing of all. I may claim in all humility to have spent a considerable time during the last few years in talking to all sorts of people in all sorts of industries; and I would say that there has been a great measure of progress made within industry. I know that there are hon. Members in this House who believe that we should have Utopia because we have a Socialist Government. But we had a war, when men did not have the time to discuss and go into this great problem. We therefore find ourselves with a post-war problem of great magnitude; not having had the opportunity to attune our minds—this applies particularly to the workers in factories—to our responsibilities. I am often asked: What is the biggest problem of this Government, what is one of its biggest headaches? I reply that it is to get into the hearts and minds, of all men, and not only of managements, a sense of their responsibility to themselves, to their employers and to the nation.
The vital question is, consultation for what? In the interests of our national recovery? If that is so, the answer is "Yes." But if it is in the interest of increasing dividends, that, of course, is another story. Why should I attend a meeting of a joint consultation body, or productivity committee, a safety first committee, or a works savings committee—I could go through the whole gamut, having attended so many of them? Why should I be there? What for? If it is suggested by the Opposition that there should be joint consultations for and on behalf of our national recovery and national economy, I think we should be 100 per cent. agreed. If however, we are to be told by the older generation of management—and here I would pay tribute to the newer generation of management—"You shall do this as a number of individual"—so that Mr. A. or Mr. B. or somebody else shall benefit—we shall not get very far.
In my time I have taken part not only in joint consultations inside my own industry, but I have made it my business to try to find out what things are discussed in joint consultation committees and joint production committees in the various works which I have had the privilege of visiting. There are our own employees in the Royal Ordnance Factories, which is a case in point. I have considerable experience of dealing with a few people who felt that the exploitation of their fellow men and of the country was the right thing to do. If we go to the ordinary British working man and put to him a clear-cut case, in language which he can understand, we shall always get a ready response. If, however, we make the case complex; if we present it in a way he does not understand, using legal jargon and terms which are often heard in this House and which perplex him, we shall get no results.
It is true that extreme Left wing exploiters of our economy have taken advantage of opportunities for infiltration. But that is not the fault of the management. When speaking of the trade union movement I have always said that a wrong man put into a position of responsibility did not put himself there. He was elected at some time because of the apathy of the very decent fellows. But that phase is passing. I think we have seen the end of it, and are now seeing the realisation by our people of the needs of the country.
The question is, what shall be discussed at these joint consultations? The cold cup of tea? Yes. The fellow who did not quite do his job. The canteen, the potatoes which were not as hot they ought to have been? Yes. The foreman who was a little arrogant, and did not like the colour of the eyes of the chef who said something to a relative somewhere else? Yes. But when we get to the higher levels; when we want to see what is happening to the company's accounts; when we get to the question of what are the costs of raw materials; what is the effect of devaluation upon the company's order books; what is the effect of a change in currency in a country where the completed orders are to go—when we get to the higher managerial functions very often, too often, we find that the management take the line that, "This is not your business."
I wish to make a suggestion, and I am not speaking particularly of my own industry. As I have already said, each man in my industry is almost a production unit on his own. He has to get the tonnage. If he does not get the tonnage he gets no "brass"; and if he gets no "brass" he starves, so he has to be almost a production committee himself to ensure that he lives. I believe the time has arrived when we should go much further than having people elected to represent their fellow men and to meet those selected by the managing director to meet them.
I am an advocate of mass meetings of men in factories, at which the position would be explained to them. I say that any employer who would allow time for his employees to attend such mass meetings, and pay them to attend, would get results that would stagger him—provided that the person who addresses the meeting knew his job and explained the position to the men in language which they could understand. There is a great future to be explored in the direction of mass meetings, with the men being brought together by the management, along with responsible trade union officials, to discuss the whys and wherefors of their position.
I had the privilege of visiting a factory where there were £7 million worth of orders on the book and tens of thousands of pounds worth of dollar orders were being refused. Yet the men were working a straight 40-hour week. I suggested that something should be done in the way of overtime. All hon. Members know what I said, and I make no apology for having said it. I suggested that some of the orders should be cleared more quickly, and the management said that they did not think that the men would like that. When the men were questioned, they said that the management had not asked them. When the two sides were brought together, within a few days of joint consultation, they found that there was much common ground and the men immediately started Saturday morning work. The products began to flow out more freely, and the firm were able to book orders which earn dollars so vital for the purchase of the food on which we live.
The problem is to know the line of demarcation, to know where to start and finish. There is accredited machinery to deal with wages. One of my hon. Friends spoke about trade union officials coming to London. Of course, they come to London nowadays on wage problems which they fail to settle at the local level. That does not mean that there has to be this remote idea of wage control. It is because managements have set the pattern of always coming to London to meet other directors who are working in conjunction with them—or sometimes in opposition—to find what rates are being paid, because they are afraid that there will be unfair competition if they pay a slightly higher rate. The trade union official is following the example set by management.
At the General Election we found that the Conservative Party polled 12 million votes in support of their policy, advanced in "This is the Road," of a far better standard of existence for the workers than that which we ourselves had put forward. That was electioneering, of course. If we can get the 12 million people who voted for that policy to implement it along with the 13,250,000 who supported the Labour candidates and their policy of keeping con ditions from becoming no worse, then this country has not much need to worry. The important question is whether we intend to implement what is said in this House. Does industry, as represented by hon. Members opposite, really mean business at last? I hope that it does.
There are industries which desperately need to be investigated. I have a little, though not considerable, knowledge of the textile industry. There is an opportunity for the trade unions, of which there are literally hundreds in the one industry, to get together on joint consultation within their own ranks. There are vital problems to be solved. I trust that as a result of this Debate, with what I construe to be the promises which had been made, something will be done.
I listened with interest to the hon. Member for Birmingham, Edgbaston (Sir P. Bennett), a very good personal friend, who has had considerable knowledge of industry. I often wonder why the hon. Gentleman does not sit on this side of the House. His long, wide and varied experience has given him the opportunity to speak with real authority about conditions from the bottom to the top—
Not necessarily. It may be because of the company he keeps, rather than from a sincere conviction of what he really thinks he ought to do.
I should like to congratulate the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour on his appointment. He has had experience as a convenor of one of our biggest shops in an industry which is of vital importance. I know that the intentions of the Minister and his Parliamentary Secretary are strictly honourable. If the speeches of hon. Gentlemen opposite are implemented, nobody will be better pleased than we on this side of the House.
Never in the history of Britain was it so vitally necessary as it is today that there should be harmony in industry and a maximum effort by all, from the very top to the very bottom, to produce efficiently the highest possible volume of goods of the highest possible quality at the lowest possible cost. Unless we do that, then, despite all we do as politicians about the economics of the situation, the new, approaching attack upon the world's markets by Germany, Japan and other nations will show that any opportunity arising from our own faults will be exploited to the full to our detriment. Goodness knows, the industrial rope has been frayed enough in the past. We can no longer afford to have these divisions. I welcome the opportunity of having been able to make a contribution to this Debate as one who comes from an industry which has a harmony in production which is a pattern for the world.
The whole House has been extremely interested in the speech of the hon. Member for Rotherham (Mr. Jack Jones). He speaks with the advantage of many years' practical experience of the difficulties which are to be met in achieving what we all want to bring about, namely, an extension of joint consultation. I was specially interested in what he said about the policy of the party to which I belong as it was set out at the time of the General Election. I rather gathered that if he were convinced that we on this side of the House are sincere in putting forward that policy and that we would do everything we could to, implement it, he would join with us and support our action. As he ended by saying that this is the most important step that could be taken for the good of industry, no doubt he would go so far as to join us on this side of the House.
Perhaps that may be a little optimistic, but at least we have found on the Floor of the House a common aim and a great deal of agreement about the steps which should be taken towards that common aim. That, in itself, may be of encouragement to the country and of encouragement, and possibly of example, to industry. The hon. Gentleman made one remark which was a little alarming. It showed how deep still runs the suspicion of which he spoke and of which, I think it is right to say, he showed dislike. It was a suspicion that if both workers and management enter into joint consultation, they will merely plan to add to the profits and dividends of the firm concerned. I hope that he did not mean to imply that that feeling was widespread. I do not believe that it is.
I said that where the workers had the feeling that the joint consultation in which they took part would result in increased profits for individuals, they would not put forward the same effort as they would if they knew that the joint consultation was for and on behalf of the recovery and betterment of Britain.
I see the point. Surely, the answer is that there must be something wrong with the wage structure, or something else, if in fact added efficiency does not get the additional reward which it deserves. I think that side of the matter is outside the normal scope of joint consultation as we are discussing it today. It is far better left in the hands of the recognised authorities, such as the unions and the employers' federations—