Industrial Relations (Code of Practice)

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 2nd February 1972.

Alert me about debates like this

Mr. Emlyn boson:

The Secretary of State for Employment congratulated himself on the fact that there was a sharpening up, as it were, of the language of the now published Code as opposed to the Consultative Document. To a certain degree the right hon. Gentleman was right; there has been sharpening up to a degree, although the Code is still a string of truisms. In paragraph 96 this distilled wisdom appears: Collective bargaining can be conducted responsibly only if management and unions have adequate information on the matters being negotiated. Such language is unexceptional, but it begs the question as to what rôle the Code is to fulfil in our industrial relations.

I have expressed the view many times that, whereas the Act and the Code can, and should be allowed to, make a contribution to improving industrial relations, neither of them gets down to the root of the trouble in industry. Although the power of employees' representatives in negotiations has now firmly passed to the shop floor and has probably been there a good time, there is in most cases in the industrial set-up no effective constitution-making machinery at shop floor level.

In fact, we are still in danger of anarchy in shop floor negotiations, despite the passing of the Industrial Relations Act. It is the stated objective of a large number of shop stewards, for a variety of reasons, to fight against the establishment of formal contractual arrangements for effective consultation and negotiation at plant level.

As we review the Code today, I want to reiterate the view of my party that there is a desperate need in British industry for a works constitution law similar to that which exists in Germany. The key point in our industrial relations today is the need for the legislature to appreciate what is its function in industrial relations. The right hon. Member for Newton (Mr. Frederick Lee) referred to the Labour Party's essay into industrial relations. That came at a time of financial crisis. It was tied up with a prices and incomes policy which had the effect of petrifying wages. Only a percentage increase was allowed, so there was no hope of redressing inequitable relationships. The right hon. Gentleman said that the interference was at the wrong time, and I think that he implied that it was made in the wrong way.