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Restrictive Labour Practices (Inquiry)

Oral Answers to Questions — Employment – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 11th April 1957.

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Photo of Mr John Eden Mr John Eden , Bournemouth West 12:00 am, 11th April 1957

asked the Minister of Labour when he proposes to introduce legislation to enforce registration of restrictive practices in trade unions.

Photo of Mr Iain Macleod Mr Iain Macleod , Enfield West

Restrictive labour practices are difficult to define. Many of them indeed, are unwritten and matters of local custom. I do not think, therefore, that registration would be a practicable proposition. But I recognise the importance of this question, and my National Joint Advisory Council is at present conducting an inquiry into this problem with the object of securing a joint examination of restrictive labour practices in each industry. I believe that this offers the best hope of genuine progress in this field.

Photo of Mr John Eden Mr John Eden , Bournemouth West

I thank my right hon. Friend for that reply. Will he please do what he can to persuade the trade unions to drop some of these futile, out-of-date practices, and will he also do what he can to stop such actions as "sending to Coventry" and "sending to purgatory" and victimisation, such as in the case the details of which I sent him, which cause quite unnecessary hardship and suffering to trade unionists and their families?

Photo of Mr Iain Macleod Mr Iain Macleod , Enfield West

Of course, it is true that there are restrictive practices on both sides of industry. So far as those on the labour side are concerned, I believe that real progress can be made only on the lines along which I am trying to proceed. As regards my hon. Friend's other point, it is true—I detest it as much as anybody else—that there are examples of petty victimisation in industry.

Photo of Mr Charles Gibson Mr Charles Gibson , Wandsworth Clapham

Not only the trade unions.

Photo of Mr Iain Macleod Mr Iain Macleod , Enfield West

I did not say that; I said in industry. But I do not believe that these kinds of problems can be solved by legislation.

Mr. Lee:

Should not the Minister take into consideration the state of mind of his hon. Friend, who comes from Bournemouth, in this question of restrictive practices? Would the right hon. Gentleman not agree that it is quite wrong to assert that British industry is riddled with restrictive practices on the trade union side, and will he not agree that, if he looks up the files of the National Joint Advisory Council, he will find that on the one occasion when this matter was, in fact, raised from the employers' side and accepted by the trade union side, it was the employers who withdrew?

Photo of Mr Iain Macleod Mr Iain Macleod , Enfield West

When one uses the word "riddled", much depends upon how one defines it. To take a case which everybody has very recently had in mind, anyone who followed the inquiry into shipbuilding knows perfectly well that restrictive practices there are a very serious problem indeed to the industry— again, of course, perhaps on both sides. The N.J.A.C. inquiry being carried out is, I think, beginning to produce results. We have already had reports from committees set up in the industries covering the major proportion of workers in this country.