Orders of the Day — Commission for Industry and Manpower Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 8th April 1970.

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Photo of Dr Michael Winstanley Dr Michael Winstanley , Cheadle 12:00 am, 8th April 1970

I can understand some hon. Gentlemen wishing to keep their fingers out of it, and other hon. Gentlemen wishing to keep their mouths shut about it. Serious monopoly practices exist in respect of services, and I am astonished that any hon. Member should suggest that these are minor matters. If he went out into the country and said restrictive practices in relation to convey ancing and scale fees did not matter, he would get a sharp answer.

The Bill does not reproduce from the 1948 Act the proviso to Section 4(2): Provided that in considering whether or not any two or more persons so conduct their affairs as aforesaid, practices as to the workers to be employed or not to be employed by them, or as to the remuneration, conditions of employment, hours of work or working conditions of workers, or any class of workers, so employed shall be left out of account. This Section, which excludes matters relating to employment from the legislation, is omitted from the Bill. Is it intended that the conduct of a trade union which represents employees in more than one-third of an industry can be referred to the Commission? The Bill appears to permit this, and to permit the making of an order by which smaller bargaining units would be obligatory.

Clause 12(a) suggests that an order could be made to declare unlawful a sympathetic strike: An order under Section 10 of this Act may— (a) declare it to be unlawful, except to such extent and in such circumstances as may be provided by or under the order… I will not quote it in full, but if the Minister will look at it he will see that it changes the position with regard to the specific exclusion of employment.

The same situation arises in Clause 20(4): Section 4 of the Trade Disputes Act 1906 (which prohibits actions of tort against trade unions) shall not apply to any civil proceedings in respect of a contravention or apprehended contravention of any order under Section 10, 18 or 19 of this Act. That suggests that trade unions indulging in sympathetic strikes could be sued in tort without the protection of the Trade Disputes Act, 1906.

We do not wish to be misunderstood and identified with other people on this side of the House who appear to think that the industrial relations problem can be put right by legislation. We have made our proposals clear and expressed them fully in debate. We have said that we would bring nationally negotiated wage agreements into the ambit of restrictive trade practices legislation so as to encourage company or plant level bargaining. It seemed that at last in the Bill the Government were beginning to change the law in relation to trade unions, restrictive practices and certain of the immunities which formerly existed.

If that is the case we are at least prepared to give the Bill a start. We are unhappy about parts of it, but would be willing to see it go into Committee where we would hope that some parts would be removed and the rest tidied up. If the Minister says that all matters to do with employment have been left out of the Bill because they are to be brought into a new industrial relations Bill, then I would be inclined to advise my hon. and right hon. Friends to vote against the Bill.

We will not solve the problem of monopolies, lack of competition in industry, the lack of any feeling of involvement in industry, by making all sorts of glib assumptions about human motivation. I have listened to some extraordinary statements during the debate, automatic assumptions about what motivates people. If we are really to get industry to work so that the country can be competitive in this new situation we have to look much more realistically at human motivation. We have to get away from the idea that nothing matters except wages. I hope that we will move to a new kind of industrial democracy and that whatever Government are in power they will not say, "We have inherited this kind of system. We must keep it and make it work." I would like to see us introducing real constructive legislation to change the mood, the atmosphere and the system.