Negotiation and Consultation with Staff by National Ports Authority

Clause 41 – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 29th April 1970.

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Photo of Mr Roy Hughes Mr Roy Hughes , Newport (Monmouthshire/Gwent) 12:00 am, 29th April 1970

I beg to move Amendment No. 89, in page 60, line 24, leave out subsection (2) ' and insert subsections (2) and (3) '.

Photo of Dr Horace King Dr Horace King , Southampton, Itchen

I suggest that we take at the same time two further Amendments, as follows:

Amendment No. 92, in page 61, line 6, at end insert: (3) The consultation under subsection (1) above with an organisation shall also be directed to the conclusion between the Authority and the organisation or, if the Authority so decide, between subsidiaries of theirs and the organisation of such agreements or further agreements as appear to the parties to be desirable with respect to the measures (including the provision of facilities) to be taken by the Authority, or by the subsidiaries concerned, to assist the processes of communication between persons employed by the Authority or by their subsidiaries and the organisation or its representatives.

Amendment No. 93, in page 61, line 14, leave out resulting ' and insert: 'such as are described in subsection (2) above which result '.

Photo of Mr Roy Hughes Mr Roy Hughes , Newport (Monmouthshire/Gwent)

I am much obliged, Mr. Speaker. Amendment No. 89 is purely a paving Amendment for Amendment No. 92. The purpose of Amendment No. 92 is to require the National Ports Authority to seek agreement with trade unions about measures to be taken by the N.P.A. to assist communication between trade unions and employees of the Authority, and these measures would include the provision of facilities.

The purpose of Amendment No. 93 is to exclude agreements of this kind from the requirement in subsection (4) that agreements shall be sent to the Minister and the First Secretary of State. Each agreement of this kind will be of entirely local interest and concern, and it seems unnecessary, therefore, to provide that every one of them should be sent to the Government for approval or otherwise.

In Committee, similar Amendments were proposed, but the Minister was unable to accept them, principally, I think, for drafting reasons, but he indicated that he was sympathetic to the idea of underlying them. We are grateful to him for the sympathetic attention which we have received.

Amendment No. 92 avoids putting an obligation on the N.P.A. to provide adequate facilities, because that could lead to endless argument about what is adequate. None the less, the authority will be under an obligation to seek agreements with the unions and to seek them, as Clause 41 sets out, for the purpose … of furthering the participation of persons employed by the Authority … in the processes leading to the taking of management decisions ". In other words, the purpose is an extension of what is now called industrial democracy. The chances in the docks are better than in most industries, because of the 20 years' experience in the docks of joint participation, of the register, and of discipline, under the Dock Labour Scheme.

Unfortunately, when my hon. Friends the Members for Poplar (Mr. Mikardo) and for Bristol, North-West (Mr. Ellis) and I put forward these ideas in Com- mittee, they were equated with the thoughts of Mao and workers' soviets, we were told were back in the 1920s, and all manner of extravagent language was used. Since that debate, however, some powerful and authoritative allies have come to our aid. I am referring not only to Mr. Clive Jenkins. There have been writings in some of the specialist newspapers.

7.30 p.m.

Then we had the important speech of my right hon. Friend the Minister of Technology, on 23rd March, at the 334th Cutlers' Feast in the Cutlers' Hall, Sheffield. He said: … as manufacture becomes more specialised and the interdependence of all production grows still tighter, the worker will have the power to dislocate the whole system by withdrawing his labour. This is real power indeed, and we must take account of it in exactly the same way as we have taken account of the developments of the power of the international company ". My right hon Friend added: In politics you cannot get anything done unless you can carry people with you. This process is now beginning in industry. We are now moving rapidly towards production by consent—which means that management will not succeed in getting anything done unless it can carry its workers with it. I heartily agree with those sentiments. Industrial democracy is inevitable, though the Canutes in the party opposite and certain sections of industry will always oppose these progressive developments. Solutions will be found only by consent. We must try to create a framework of responsibility within which this consent can be achieved. Agreement on proper facilities for the functioning of trade unions is essential as a means towards that end.

The Amendments are merely a small attempt to bridge the gap of mistrust in the ports industry. There is a need to involve workers' representatives before and not after decisions are taken, because that is the cause of so much bitterness. There needs to be encouragement for workers to meet in works' time rather than leaving the job and then being classified as having gone on unofficial strike. Suitable buildings should be placed at the dockers' disposal for such meetings.

We now have the London experience to take into consideration. An important series of ballots was held over the container dispute, and it was heralded in many newspapers as a major step forward. For a change, much praise was given to the Transport and General Workers' Union. Before such a ballot can take place proper facilities must be available for the dockers and their full-time trade union officials to put the men in the picture about the issues in dispute. There is also a need for agreement on full facilities for shop stewards, those much maligned but important people in the industrial scene.

The degree of bitterness and unrest in the ports industry varies from one part of the country to another. In South Wales we have a fairly amicable relationship, and I am very proud that our ports are publicly owned. They are quite profitable, and there are very good industrial relations. After listening to the hon. Member for Tavistock (Mr. Michael Heseltine) yesterday, and to some of his colleagues, we realise that had they been in power at least one of the South Wales docks, if not more, would have been closed by now. Our dockers would be joining the ranks of the unemployed, after the Labour Government have striven so hard to introduce new industry into the area.

Photo of Mr Michael Heseltine Mr Michael Heseltine , Tavistock

Nothing I said could have been construed to have that meaning.

Photo of Mr Roy Hughes Mr Roy Hughes , Newport (Monmouthshire/Gwent)

That is the practical application of the hon. Gentleman's proposals, because the type of trade that would be attracted to Bristol would be competitive with the South Wales ports. All along the line the hon. Gentleman has advocated Portbury, the mini-Portbury and now the mini-mini-Portbury. This is purely electioneering.

The basis of the Amendment is to help to promote good industrial relations so that the authority and the trade unions can reach agreement which will be of benefit to the industry, the workers employed in it, and the country at large.

Mr. Edward M. Taylor:

The Amendment is most interesting. The hon. Member for Newport (Mr. Roy Hughes) was absolutely right when he said that he and some of his colleagues had some hard words with us in Committee on the question of industrial democracy and participation. We should draw a clear distinction between the two issues he has raised. First, he talked about industrial democracy, participation and workers' control. Second, he talked about consultation.

Before the House embarks on any discussion of the Amendment, it must get it crystal clear that there is a world of difference between participation, workers' control and all that goes with it, and consultation, which is crucial for good industrial relations in both private industry and the private sector. The hon. Gentleman brought in both aspects of the matter as though the Amendment covered both. I do not gain that impression from my reading of the Amendment. It seems to me to be concerned primarily with consultation.

We took a considerable time in Committee discussing industrial democracy and looked at various places in the world where attempts have been made to introduce it. Government spokesmen praised to some degree the experiments in Germany, where in some industries there is a form of works council, one-third of which consists of representatives of the employees. But the hon. Member for Poplar (Mr. Mikardo) put them in their right perspective in Committee when he referred to them as a joke, a letter without any of the spirit. We had examples of industrial democracy in Yugoslavia and India. But the Amendment does not deal with industrial democracy; it deals with the question of consultation.

We on this side can see little objection to the Amendment, and could be inclined to support it, although it does not appear to add a great deal to what is already in the Clause. The Clause lays an obligation on the N.P.A. to conclude agreements on the settling of disputes, efficiency, safety and so on. The hon. Gentleman is asking us to lay one further precise obligation on the N.P.A., to conclude agreements to improve the processes of communication between those employed in the ports and those who organise the ports.

The hon. Gentleman specifically referred to the question of facilities being available for such consultation, for meetings, and so on. The Amendment is a mile away from the other gigantic principle we discussed in Committee—the question of industrial democracy. Any endeavour to confuse the two could not only be misleading, but could make our discussion on the matter far less profitable than I hope it will be.

Photo of Mr Roy Hughes Mr Roy Hughes , Newport (Monmouthshire/Gwent)

Does not the hon. Gentleman agree that this is wholly a question of degree, that there is no rigid demarcation here, and that these are steps in the direction of industrial democracy?

Mr. Taylor:

I do not want to go over our discussions in Committee, which might be out of order—

Photo of Dr Horace King Dr Horace King , Southampton, Itchen

Order. So far, the hon. Member has ruled that out of order himself.

Mr. Taylor:

I hope that, in so doing, it might be made clear that there is a real difference in principle and that what we are talking about is the consultation and communication which every industry must have for harmonious relations. Communications in the docks are bad, and this is at the root of much of the trouble. We can get a clue from the number of labour disputes. The number of hours lost through stoppages is alarming. In 1964, the total was 129,000; in 1966, 134,000; in 1967, the year of decasualisation, it was 600,000: and in 1969, 359,000. A comparison with any other major industry shows that labour relations in the docks are very difficult, and good communications could help.

The Government White Paper, " In Place of Strife ", shows that this problem is not the same in the docks as in other industries—namely, a lot of hours being lost through strikes. There is a high incidence of unofficial strikes. The White Paper shows that, whereas in all industries the number of days lost through unofficial strikes per 1,000 employees was 84, the figure for the docks is the highest for any industry, 1,766.

It is said that other industries have similar problems but we might consider some which are often mentioned. For coal mining, in which the hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Newens) has a special interest, the figure is 416; for shipbuilding it is 412: for the motor industry it is 831—but for the docks it is 1,766. Any industry with a high percentage of unofficial strikes usually has bad communications, either between employers and employed or between union officials and union members. The Amendment would improve communications in both cases and to that degree has a contribution to make.

We are creating a centralised National Ports Authority. As we know from other nationalised industries, centralization brings remoteness. The process of decision making, if not more direct, is certainly more centralised. The Minister has suggested that the headquarters of this authority will be in London. With such centralisation, communications will become more difficult, so they should be emphasised.

The Amendment also deals with the provision of facilities. The first thing that this means is facilities for meetings to be held, but I am sure that the hon. Member for Newport (Mr. Roy Hughes) would not suggest that if those in the Royal docks wanted a meeting the N.P.A. should be obliged to provide a covered stadium for the purpose. What he wants is facilities for the men's representatives to meet. Some such facilities are already provided —I am sure that this is the case in his own dock—and some provision can be made by agreement with the local management.

7.45 p.m.

Mr. Taylor:

My hon. Friend is quite right. Without such facilities, meetings must take place elsewhere, thus placing more strain on communications.

But better facilities could also be given for union representatives to meet the workers. Communications between unions and men are as difficult as those between employers and employed. We should approach the problem from both points of view. Without wishing to cast blame, in the London docks, the unique growth of the liaison committee showed clearly the cleavage between unions and workers. This conflict is inevitable as industry grows and shop stewards get stronger.

One obvious reason is that the members of unions do not give enough status and support to their officials. The salaries and conditions of officials, compared with those in industry, do not attract the best people, unless they have a sense of dedication—as many in key union posts do have. With the abysmally low salaries and poor facilities, this cleavage is not surprising, and it might grow. If the Amendment is accepted, I hope that the unions will reassess the position of full-time officials. Perhaps what is really needed is a union for union officials.

Photo of Mr John Ellis Mr John Ellis , Bristol North West

What has this to do with the matter—how the unions run their affairs? How can the hon. Gentleman lay a condition like this on acceptance of the Amendment? Is he not going outside his remit?

Mr. Taylor:

We are not going outside the Amendment at all. The Amendment deals with the provision of communications, not only between employer and employee but between the trade union organisation and the members. I hope, if such facilities are provided, that they will not be restricted simply to improving communications between employers and employees.

Photo of Mr Roy Hughes Mr Roy Hughes , Newport (Monmouthshire/Gwent)

I referred to the recent London experience and pointed out that besides this there was a need to allow full-time officials to meet the men and put the official point of view before a ballot is held.

Mr. Taylor:

I am grateful for the hon. Gentleman's support. I simply say that facilities should be provided, first, to improve communications between employers and employees and, secondly, to improve them within the trade union organisation.

The Amendment is a step forward in emphasising the importance of communications, and of informing those who work in the industry about major changes due to take place. This is one of the real difficulties in the industry. Changes are made, or things happen, suddenly which affect them and they are not given prior notice or consulted. Anything which is designed to help all-round communications is worth while. I would support the Amendment.

Photo of Mr Ian Mikardo Mr Ian Mikardo , Poplar

The hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Edward M. Taylor) began his speech with a long and repetitive episode saying what the Amendment was not about. Once he had managed to surface and get down to what the Amendment was about he put forward a most powerful and conclusive case for Amendment No. 92, reinforcing the excellent case made by my hon. Friend the Member for Newport (Mr. Roy Hughes). We had a pretty good innings in Committee on Clause 41 and it became manifestly obvious in every one of the Minister's interventions in that long discussion that there was little if any difference between us on the broad aims and objectives in industrial relations in this industry.

We had some differences about how far and in what degree of detail we should make certain provisions statutory but we were one on the spirit and objective. My hon. Friend the Member for Newport, the hon. Member for Cathcart and I are pushing at an open door when we urge the Minister to accept this Amendment. As the hon. Member for Cathcart rightly said, one of the great problems—he said of this industry but it is true of all large-scale industry and all large-scale non-industrial organisations—has to do with centralisation. The decision-making centre moves further from the perimeter where the decisions affect people's lives. Immediately communications problems arise. The hon. Gentleman said he did not think that the Amendment would make much difference, but I believe that he has undervalued the Amendment. Even if it were true, anything that can be done to improve communications will undoubtedly contribute towards a better management-worker relationship.

I do not see this as a problem of merely providing meeting rooms. There is more to it. Representatives have to communicate with their members but they do not have to do so by means of mass meetings at the dock gates. There is a duplicated news sheet that can be got out and it is there that the port authority can help, in its distribution, because it has facilities for getting things to its employees. There are many other ways in which facilities could be provided and many examples of employers in the public and private sectors who help a good deal in this direction.

I hope that this Amendment will be accepted by my right hon. Friend because, even though we may be pushing at an open door so far as the Minister and the chairman-designate are concerned, it is valuable to have the Statute say that it is not only wages and working conditions they have to agree with their chaps but also the way in which decisions will be communicated to them.

Photo of Mr Keith Stainton Mr Keith Stainton , Sudbury and Woodbridge

I regard Amendment No. 92 as wholly commendable and I will support it. although my impression is that it will not come to a Division. My one regret is that the hon. Member for Newport (Mr. Roy Hughes) has been somewhat timid in his proposals. I say this because of the disparate treatment which would he meted out to labour organisations, if we accept the Amendment, in comparison with the provisions and facilities available to the port advisory committees.

I refer particularly to page 7 of the Bill where Clause 4(7) at line 12 says that there shall be a duty on the authority: … to provide such officers and servants and such office accommodation as are requisite for the proper discharge of the committee's functions•". I regard it as being very lopsided to write that into an earlier part of the Bill and to finish up now with this rather anaemic phrase. I do not mean to be offensive when I say that, but I think the hon. Member for Poplar (Mr. Mikardo) will agree that it is anaemic. The treatment of the two bodies is disparate. This is the case in another situation which I would like to draw to the Minister's notice. The essence of Amendment 92 is to assist the process of communication, which we are all agreed is a good thing. The overriding factor in communications is information.

Clause 41(5) says that there is imposed upon the authority a duty to make available … to those persons "— that is, the labour organisations— … such information in their possession relating to the subject as, after consultation with those persons, appears to the Authority or, as the case may be, •• This puts the whole provision of information on an ad hoc basis. No continuing condition is imposed on the authority. Subsection (5) of Clause 41 will govern the interpretation of the new subsection (3) proposed by the Amendment. But subsection (7) of Clause 4 states: …and to make available to the committee all such information in the possession of the Authority or board as the committee may reasonably require; That is a continuing obligation upon the authority.

I am not commenting on the content or quality of the information that respectively would go to the advisory committee, on the one hand, or the organisation, as we choose to call it—rather unfortunately—on the other. I am pleading, Mr. Speaker, and Mr. Minister, if I can address him directly in this situation, for a continuous flow of information. I am deeply concerned about the ad hoc implications which reside in subsection (5) of Clause 41, which I think, could undermine substantially the wholly commendable objectives of the Amendment.

8.0 p.m.

Photo of Mr John Ellis Mr John Ellis , Bristol North West

As is so often the case when the hon. Member for Sudbury and Woodbridge (Mr. Stainton) intervenes in our debates, he has made a very interesting speech—one which has much to commend it. I hope that all those responsible for setting up and running these organisations in the future will read his careful thoughts, which I can support 100 per cent. We are indebted to him.

We are also indebted to the hon. Gentleman in that he stuck closely to the Amendment, because some of the earlier discussion was not really related to the Clause or the Amendment. The word " consultations " has been referred to. The hon. Gentleman talked about an extension of democracy. I would prefer to use the word " participation " rather than " consultation ", because participation means that the workers are having a say rather than merely being consulted by someone making a decision. However, that is no part of the Amendment.

The Amendment, in referring to …further agreements as appear to the parties to be desirable with respect to the measures (including the provision of facilities) to be taken by the Authority, or by the subsidiaries concerned, to assist the processes of communication between persons employed by the authority … sets the situation out clearly. I want to put on record the Minister's role in our discussions in Commitee on this point.

The hon. Member for Sudbury and Woodbridge drew our attention to certain defects. I am sure that he was justified, but I should say in defence of my right hon. Friend that we have had his full co-operation. I am a member of the Transport and General Workers' Union group of Members, as is my hon. Friend the Member for Newport (Mr. Roy Hughes). What we had brought to our attention was what we knew to be true—that, very often on the docks, because they sometimes are spread over considerable acreages, there is perhaps an outlying part which lacks even the most rudimentary facilities for anyone to do anything in the event, say, of a ship docking with a dirty cargo and where consultations are needed.

It may be a dreary, wet morning, but there is no proper place for people to talk about the matter. They can either talk on the open dock, or go home to a more convenient place to discuss it. There may be a need in different parts of the docks for all kinds of different facilities.

Photo of Mr Keith Stainton Mr Keith Stainton , Sudbury and Woodbridge

I ask the hon. Gentleman not to over-indulge this argument, because it can be used for not providing mobile canteens and for dock workers having to go down the hill to brew a cup of tea.

Photo of Mr John Ellis Mr John Ellis , Bristol North West

I am sorry, but I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman has misunderstood me or I have misunderstood him. I was saying that often there are not even rudimentary facilities for a group of people to get together to discuss a matter.

Photo of Mr Keith Stainton Mr Keith Stainton , Sudbury and Woodbridge

I accept the point, but please do not over-indulge it. This is an argument as to why frequently there are not even convenient mobile canteen facilities and the dockers have to have recourse to go down the hill to brew up.

Photo of Mr John Ellis Mr John Ellis , Bristol North West

I am saying that there should be facilities. I am not saying that they should necessarily be mobile or immobile. It may involve a question of certain people such as shop stewards getting together to discuss work on a dock where they may not be working next week. In that case, for example, the provision of a mobile office would be adequate. More permanent facilities might be needed, on the other hand.

This problem should be studied. My right hon. Friend undertook to look at the matter and we are grateful that he went rather beyond this and thought about increased facilities. My hon. Friend the Member for Poplar (Mr. Mikardo) has pointed out that there could be the provision of a news sheet. That would perhaps fall within the terms of communication. I do not think that the hon. Member for Sudbury and Woodbridge and I are in disagreement one iota here. I think that, after what he has said and what my right hon. Friend has put forward, we can profit from examining the matter carefully. To some extent my right hon. Friend has gone considerably further than what we were trying to do in Committee. I agree that we should set our sights higher.

Photo of Mr Roy Hughes Mr Roy Hughes , Newport (Monmouthshire/Gwent)

I put constructive proposals forward on this matter in Committee and I do not recall having the support of the hon. Member for Sudbury and Woodbridge (Mr. Stainton) on that occasion.

Photo of Mr John Ellis Mr John Ellis , Bristol North West

I will not follow that observation. That is my hon. Friend's recollection.

Photo of Mr Fred Mulley Mr Fred Mulley , Sheffield Park

I can confirm the point which the hon. Member for Sudbury and Woodbridge (Mr. Stainton) made today about comparison with advisory committees. It was certainly made in Committee upstairs.

Photo of Mr John Ellis Mr John Ellis , Bristol North West

I am glad that is so. On these matters the hon. Member for Sudbury and Woodbridge takes a very enlightened line.

My union is the main union concerned in the docks and it will be appreciative, as we all are, of the line taken by all hon. Members in general about this provision and the fact that there should be consultation. What the Amendment is about, and what we have put into the Bill, is the obligation to hold consultations and provide these facilities after those consultations have been held. That is clear and explicit in what we are doing tonight.

I thank hon. Members for the thoughtful debate we have had. I think that we are all in unison. I particularly congratulate my right hon. Friend on the care he has taken in this matter. The supposition of the hon. Member for Sudbury and Woodbridge was right. We have had considerable help from my right hon. Friend in the drafting of the Amendment. It improved what we were trying to do. It extended it to certain other constructive things in addition to our original intention. In an industry where men and gangs change in number from day to day, there is need for a wide variety of facilities to be available. The Amendment will give us the best opportunity for obtaining them, whether those facilities are permanent or mobile or are any other kind of structure which may be necessary.

Photo of Mr Raymond Mawby Mr Raymond Mawby , Totnes

This group of Amendments is to be welcomed. The Amendments mention specifically the provision of facilities and, more important, the processes of communication. The hon. Member for Bristol, North West (Mr. Ellis), in an intervention in the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Edward M. Taylor), said that communications within a union were irrelevant to the Amendment. I believe that they are relevant to the Amendment.

Photo of Mr John Ellis Mr John Ellis , Bristol North West

What the hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Edward M. Taylor) was saying was that if the Opposition were to agree to the Amendment they would expect the union to make certain modifications. What intended to convey was that I thought this was a cheek, because it is up to the union to decide what it will do. Secondly, I thought that this was worth doing on its own merits.

Photo of Mr Raymond Mawby Mr Raymond Mawby , Totnes

I understand the hon. Gentleman's point of view. On the other hand, where the absence or alleged absence of communications between the elected official of a trade union and the membership leads to widespread unofficial strikes, this is a matter of real concern to people outside the union. Communications even between trade union officials and the membership could be improved if management were prepared to allow the use of notice boards for notices, information and bulletins.

The backward attitude of many industrial establishments makes the job of the trade union official much more difficult. If the union membership were in command of all the facts they would not be led by the nose. This is a matter of balance, and of the employers and the trade unions looking seriously at the whole question of communications.

We cannot ignore communications within the union. It would be nonsense for the N.P.A. to have continuing consultations with elected trade union leaders if the trade union leaders had no contact with their membership. There must be a proper communications system from the management level of the N.P.A. to every employee in the docks, backed up by a similar system of communication between union officials and members.

8.15 p.m.

The hon. Member for Newport (Mr. Roy Hughes) said in an intervention that it was a matter of degree how far one should go with industrial democracy, and he saw this as a step in the right direction. Even if the Amendment is not accepted, the N.P.A. in its discussions would be concerned with the two matters dealt with. Anyone with a knowledge of the docks knows that problems arise and the men may have no facilities for meeting at the time when a decision has to be made. It may be a rainy day, there may be no covered area in which the men can meet to discuss the problem, and they may decide to leave their work and go to the nearest pub. From that point on the men may be in dispute, whereas had facilities been available the outcome might have been different. The buildings need not be palatial; only reasonable facilities would be needed.

The number of man hours lost in unofficial strikes shows how important is the process of communication. The hours lost from this cause could be reduced if communications were improved. The system of communication must flow in all directions. The mere issue of a news sheet will not break down all the barriers and prevent people taking industrial action, but it will go some way towards it.

The Amendments are not world shattering, but they bring in two new factors which it would be as well to spell out in the Bill, although, even if the Amendments are not accepted, those two items would be given high priority by any sensible group of managers.

Photo of Mr Fred Mulley Mr Fred Mulley , Sheffield Park

I am grateful to my hon. Friends the Members for Newport (Mr. Roy Hughes), for Poplar (Mr. Mikardo) and for Bristol, North-West (Mr. Ellis) for the kind things they have had to say both in Committee and since about my attitude to this matter. An Amendment in similar terms in Committee was not suitable in form, and I said that I would discuss the matter with my hon. Friends with a view to suggesting lines on which a new Amendment could be put forward.

Since my hon. Friends were a little taken to task by the hon. Member for Sudbury and Woodbridge (Mr. Stainton), I would explain that the enthusiasm has always been that of my hon. Friends and the caution has always been mine. This, like some other proposals which have emerged, is a marriage of enthusiasm and prudence and on the whole works fairly well.

The impressive unanimity at this closing stage of the Bill on the matter of industrial relations is important and significant. I agree with the hon. Member for Totnes (Mr. Mawby) that it is not a world-shattering event that we should wish to write this provision into the Bill. I am sure that, like all other good managements and trade unions, they will discuss facilities and perhaps even communication processes. We need to raise the sights of those concerned, particularly on the trade union side, so that they should not be arguing about the adequacy of facilities at meetings, but about the outcome of those meetings.

The leaders on both sides should discuss how these matters are to be worked out and conveyed to people on the shop floor, or in this case in the docks, so that they know what is going on. There is an obligation on management, which is not always carried out, to see that the lower levels of management know what is going on. We hope that these matters will be discussed between the two sides and not taken for granted.

Photo of Mr Keith Stainton Mr Keith Stainton , Sudbury and Woodbridge

Would the Minister deal with my point about the availability of information? As I see it, the N.P.A's subsidiaries would be hog-tied by subsection (5), which is essentially on an ad hoc basis.

Photo of Mr Fred Mulley Mr Fred Mulley , Sheffield Park

I took a full note of the hon. Gentleman's speech, and I was preserving for him a place of honour to conclude my remarks. As so often in our rather long deliberations on the Bill, he has illuminated dark passages. His approach has been constructive and will be noted on both sides of the industry engaged in consultations and negotiations.

I agree on his first point about accommodation, that there is a difference between the provision of an office and staff for the advisory councils as against what is proposed for the trade union organisation of workers, but that is not excluded. The whole concept of Clause 41, indeed my own thinking, is that if there is to be participation and consultation the basic essential is that they should consult about the way those consultations should be carried out so that the people who are to participate in management should be brought in on a proper basis. This does not have to be written into a Statute or prejudged in a circular. It has to be worked out with the people concerned.

We cannot bring the Ports Authority, even less the port boards, into this arrangement until we have the authority of Parliament to set them up. This can only happen when the Bill has received the Royal Assent. Clearly, they have views and must be brought in. Equally, the trade union side will want to be brought in. Nobody else will provide the advisory councils and statutory bodies with offices or staff. I am not sure that my friends in the trade union movement would welcome it if I tried to write into the Bill how they should run their affairs. That is why there is a proper difference between what is provided for advisory councils and what is provided in these provisions.

I am sure that Clause 41 does not rule out the provision of an office in a particular port board's area if it is thought to be a convenient and proper arrangement for the shop stewards, or full-time officials, or whatever is worked out by agreement between the two sides. Equally, I am certain that if joint committees are agreed upon, proper arrangements will be made not only to service them with accommodation but also information.

I accept what the hon. Member for Sudbury and Woodbridge said, that subsection (6) is a little mealy-mouthed. But if it is to be argued whether management or unions should conform to subsection (5) or (6), or whatever it may be, there will be no real consultation or participation at all. All that we can do is to provide the framework to start with. Industrial relations in the ports industry' are, after all, concerned very much with human relations and so much depends on the attitude and the relations which exist between the people involved. Just as on the management side they have a great deal to gain, I am certain that those on the workers' side will realise that rights also mean duties and that as they increasingly participate in management decisions and the affairs of the industry they will have to accept increased responsibility.

This can only be worked out by the people involved. It cannot be done by legislation. If good management could be brought about by an Act of Parliament, then we could sit all night, with a guillotine Motion, and as a result all our industries would be well managed and our economic problems disappear. However, the situation is much more difficult than that. What we are trying to do in the Bill, and certainly in this Amendment, is to help to provide the framework. Nobody would say that they knew all the answers, or that if they did they could be written into a Schedule as part of the Bill.

I am happy to recommend this Amendment to the House, and would thank my hon. Friends for the trouble they have taken to devise it.

8.30 p.m.

Photo of Mr Michael Heseltine Mr Michael Heseltine , Tavistock

The Minister got it absolutely right in his concluding remarks when he said that management is a complicated business. This Amendment, indeed the Clause in which it is embodied and the whole of Part III of the Bill, will be irrelevant to the success or failure of the labour relations of the Ports Authority. I was glad that the advisory committees came into the discussions because they too will be irrelevant to the success or failure of the Authority.

My own view, which we argued in one of the best debates which took place in Committee, is that the clue to this subject of industrial relations lies in the managers and their determination to apply practices that will bring about the sort of things we all wish to see. If they are able to persuade the trade unions and employers within the docks that they are sincere and that their proposals are designed to achieve harmony, a high level of earnings, and the right consultative processes, they will earn the respect and support of the people they are to lead and encourage. The crucial decision the Minister must make is the appointment of the people who will have the responsibility for administering this Bill, if vesting date is ever reached and it appears on the Statute Book.

I would ask a general question, which is whether the obsessive desire to interfere and create a great paraphernalia of checks and counter-checks, controls and statutory distinctions will make the job of the managers easier or harder.

Again, I do not think that there is an answer to this question. It will then depend on whether those leading the employees in the docks want the system to work. That is where the ultimate responsibility will lie. If people on both sides who today find opportunities to make difficulties in the docks turn their attention away from niggling over piece work and bad conditions to niggling over this Measure, there will be trouble in the docks. It depends on whether they want trouble or whether they are determined to try and find a new harmony. That will not be legislated for in this House. It will require a change of heart on the part of all those involved, and it is a major challenge to them.

I only hope that everyone will understand the need for this change of heart and that we shall hear fewer attempts from hon. Gentlemen opposite to stir up the stories and images of 20 or 30 years ago as they have no relevance to what our docks will be like in 20 years' time. I am always disappointed to see how impossible it is to have any discussion about the management structure that we want without a repetition of the bitter memories and deep hatreds, as though they will all disappear with the passing of an Act of Parliament.

They will not stop. They will disappear only if the people elected by those who work in the docks make up their minds to look for harmony in our docks. We will not find that in this legislation or in anything said in this House. It depends on the determination of those who lead the unions to seek a way of bringing harmony to our docks and, at the same time, on finding the managers who can work in partnership with them.

It does not matter how many consultative committees there are, or how much money is spent on additional facilities. It will not work if the people concerned do not want to it to. It could be made to work with or without this legislation. The indispensable quality will be a change of heart. That is what is required and what is missing. We must all search our consciences to see the sort of contribution that we have made to achieving that indispensable factor.

Amendment agreed to.

Photo of Mr Fred Mulley Mr Fred Mulley , Sheffield Park

I beg to move Amendment No. 91, in page 60, line 38, leave out ' affecting' and insert ' to improve or maintain '.

This is a simple, drafting Amendment. In Committee we had a discussion about whether the words " affecting efficiency " might not be misconstrued. Obviously we all wanted to improve efficiency, but it was pointed out that in certain circumstances there might be a problem of maintaining efficiency, and that that could be the right combination.

I am indebted to the hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Edward M. Taylor), who made the suggestion in Committee, and, since we did not have this form of words before us at the time, I thought it right to introduce it now.

Mr. Edward M. Taylor:

As the Minister has said, this is a matter that we discussed in Committee. We put forward a suggestion which, for drafting reasons, he was unable to accept. I am glad that he has found a suitable compromise, and we give the Amendment our full support.

Amendment agreed to.

Further Amendments made: No. 92, in page 61, line 6, at end insert:

(3) The consultation under subsection (1) above with an organisation shall also be directed to the conclusion between the Authority and the organisation or, if the Authority so decide, between subsidiaries of theirs and the organisation of such agreements or further agreements as appear to the parties to be desirable with respect to the measures (including the provision of facilities) to be taken by the Authority, or by the subsidiaries concerned, to assist the processes of communication between persons employed by the Authority or by their subsidiaries and the organisation or its representatives.

No. 93, in line 14, leave out ' resulting ' and insert: 'such as are described in subsection (2) above which result '.—[Mr. Roy Hughes.]

Photo of Mr Fred Mulley Mr Fred Mulley , Sheffield Park

I beg to move Amendment No. 95, in line 35 after ' employment ', insert: ' and the promotion and encouragement of measures to improve or maintain efficiency in the carrying on of their activities '. This, again, is a drafting Amendment. Its purpose is to make it clear that nothing in Clause 41 will prevent the National Ports Authority or its subsidiaries from taking part, with other employers or employers' organisations, in establishing and maintaining machinery for promoting and encouraging measures to improve or maintain efficiency in the carrying on of their activities.

Quite obviously, this would be a joint purpose which the Ports Authority could well undertake with other employers, whether they be public or private employers. We all want to see written into the Bill a common concern to promote efficiency. I do not think that this Amendment is world shattering, but it will help a little to improve the Bill.

Photo of Mr Keith Stainton Mr Keith Stainton , Sudbury and Woodbridge

However naively, I am bewildered by this Amendment. It commences with a conjunction, though one can probably ignore that. But it really amounts to an embellishment of the words …settlement of terms and conditions of employment … However, it happens to be only one way of embellishing those words, and I cannot understand why it is chosen rather than any one of half a dozen others which I could scribble out at the slightest provocation.

I would have thought that the words " …settlement of terms and conditions of employment … were all-embracing and sufficient. Indeed, I would go further and question the need for subsection (6) at all. The authority will not be prohibited from associating with other employers' organisations, whether or not the subsection is written into the Bill, and I make that point as a very definite submission.

I started by commenting " however naïvely ". It may be that I have got off on the wrong foot in considering the terms of the Amendment. I would be interested to hear the Minister's comments.

Photo of Mr Eric Heffer Mr Eric Heffer , Liverpool, Walton

There could be some argument about the wording of the Amendment, but the fact remains that it is an important one. Too many people in this House and outside it believe that the only workers in the docks are dockers. It must be understood that there are probably more workers who are not dockers and who are known as dock workers. An important section of them are maintenance workers.

A situation might arise where a local authority had a very good maintenance scheme which could be applied to a certain type of maintenance on the docks. In such a case, it would be necessary to have discussions with other bodies of a similar kind in order to help promote efficiency. This is an important Amendment in that direction.

I will give an illustration. I had the schizophrenic role of being the senior shop steward on the dock in Liverpool as a dock maintenance worker and chairman of the works department of the local authority. The local authority introduced a maintenance scheme which I thought could be applied on the docks, and I argued with the employers about introducing something of that kind.

It is right that there should be discussions to promote efficiency, and so on. I wanted to make that point, because it is important.

Mr. Edward M. Taylor:

The hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heifer) and my hon. Friend the Member for Sudbury and Woodbridge (Mr. Stainton) have rightly said that this is more than a drafting Amendment. I should like to add one or two questions to those that have so ably been put.

First, will the Minister tell us why this is necessary? He has said that these words make the situation clear beyond doubt. But let us consider the Amendment. We have seen how earlier in the Clause we put an obligation on the N.P.A. to consult with a view to setting up machinery to improve efficiency. In other words, it might want an efficiency committee with representatives of its own and of those employed in the docks. How it can loosely be construed that this of itself would in any way prevent the Authority or the port board from engaging in discussions with other employers to find ways, jointly, to improve efficiency is beyond the normal bounds of reason.

The Minister is really suggesting that there are circumstances in which the conclusion of an agreement between those employed in a dock and a port board—presumably between the N.P.A. and the unions—would prevent the N.P.A. engaging in discussions with outside organisations of employers with a view to promoting efficiency in the ports. I cannot see how any circumstances could arise which might prevent the N.P.A. or its subsidiaries engaging in discussions with other employers with a view to setting up machinery to improve efficiency.

The Minister said that he does not think that it will arise, but the mere fact that it might arise necessarily causes concern.

The Clause refers to agreement with other employers on setting up wage negotiation machinery. Does the Minister think that by setting up machinery for wage negotiations in subsections (1) and (2) he could in any way prevent the N.P.A. consulting other employers or employers' organisations with a view to talking about wage bargaining machinery? It would seem that the Minister envisages the possibility of the N.P.A. or its subsidiaries being in some way restrained, by agreements made at local level, from making agreements with outside organisations or consulting an employer's organisation.

Will the Minister give a possible example, even in the extreme realms of possibility, when something done by the N.P.A. or its subsidiaries under subsection (2) could restrain the authority or its subsidiaries from doing the kind of thing which he is seeking to cover by this Amendment?

The subsection, if we add what the Amendment proposes, reads: Nothing in this section shall be construed as prohibiting the Authority or any subsidiary of theirs from taking part together with other employers or organisations of employers in the establishment and maintenance of machinery for the settlement of terms and conditions of employment and the promotion and encouragement of measures to improve or maintain efficiency in the carrying on of their activities". Will the Minister tell us what circumstances he envisages, even in the extreme realms of possibility, where such a conflict could arise? In moving an Amendment which he said is to cover something which might arise, to remove any shadow of doubt, he is under an obligation to give some example where such a clash could arise. If the Minister could give us one example we would know what the Amendment is intended to do.

8.45 p.m.

Photo of Mr Fred Mulley Mr Fred Mulley , Sheffield Park

This has been a valuable and interesting debate. I have certain sympathy with the hon. Member for Sudbury and Woodbridge (Mr. Stainton) in his argument that perhaps the whole of subsection (6) might be omitted. I confess, at this late stage in our proceedings, that in the hours that I have spent perusing the Bill I thought that quite a number of subsections might have been omitted—not because of any difference of policy, but because I find the legal language rather lengthy. I am assured that no one engaged on the Bill is paid on a lineage basis, so no suspicion of that kind need be aroused. So the key words are: Nothing in this section shall be construed as prohibiting the Authority … My advisers, on whom I rely very heavily in these matters, have the great responsibility of trying to anticipate all kinds of difficulties. In many cases, we are following the precedents, as in most of this Clause, and the experience acquired in other nationalised industries. Although it is absolutely right that the Authority, like any enlightened employer, private or public, should be encouraged to participate with others in working out terms and conditions or in promoting measures affecting safety, health and welfare, there could be argument about whether, for example, a subscription by a public body to some campaign was ultra vires. It would be equally desirable that they should participate jointly in campaigns affecting not only their own efficiency, but that of industry generally.

My hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer), from his knowledge and experience, suggested examples of such hesitancy—for instance, a port board wondering whether it would get into trouble. The accounts are after all coming to Parliament. There have been suggestions that almost everything the authority did should be subject to an Order of the House—for instance, whether they should put down £25 towards an efficiency exhibition in Liverpool, Manchester, or Glasgow.

As my hon. Friend said, the fact that the authority could join others in training would affect not only dockers or those actually engaged in the physical handling of cargo. They may be a minority. There are also maintenance people, electricians and crane drivers, all highly skilled, and training courses for such people might be better organised on a joint basis. To avoid any doubt, it should be in the Bill—

Photo of Mr Keith Stainton Mr Keith Stainton , Sudbury and Woodbridge

The Minister talks of avoiding doubt by a sort of " fail-safe " mechanism. Would he " come clean "? Is he insistent that, without the subsection, the Ports Authority could not undertake these activities? I entirely dispute that. Has he any grounds for this reasoning?

Photo of Mr Fred Mulley Mr Fred Mulley , Sheffield Park

Unless we could persuade the Chair to take a manuscript Amendment, we could not delete the subsection, so that is not the issue before us. The issue is whether, having provided—I think rightly, perhaps through an excess of prudence—for several matters in which the authority might work jointly with others, it would be right to include measures to improve and maintain efficiency. It is not a great issue, whether the subsection should be in the Bill or not.

I will make further inquiries about the legal position, but it would help all those who lack the legal acumen of the hon. Member for Sudbury and Woodbridge and who might be worried about what was in the Act. Otherwise, they might hesitate. There might be a fellow around a dock board table who said, " We cannot do this; there is nothing in the Act about it."

This is not a momentous matter, but it is sensible and I commend it to the House.

Amendment agreed to.