Industrial Relations

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

Alert me about debates like this

10.15 p.m.

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

I beg to move, That the Industrial Relations Act 1971 (Commencement No. 1) Order 1971 (S.I., 1971, No. 1522), dated 15th September 1971, a copy of which was laid before this House on 23rd September, in the last Session of Parliament, be withdrawn. I understand that, for the convenience of the House we shall discuss at the same time the following Motion: That the Industrial Relations Act 1971 (Commencement No. 2) Order 1971 (S.I., 1971, No. 1682), dated 15th October 1971, a copy of which was laid before this House on 25th October, in the last Session of Parliament, be withdrawn.

Photo of Mr Russell Kerr Mr Russell Kerr , Feltham

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. It is quite impossible for those of us who are waiting on the words of the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) to hear what he is saying. Will you ask the House to be quiet?

Photo of Miss Betty Harvie Anderson Miss Betty Harvie Anderson , Renfrewshire East

It is impossible to hear. Will hon. Members who are leaving the Chamber please do so as quietly as possible.

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

I understand that, for the convenience of the House, we shall be taking the two orders together and at the end of the debate have one vote on both orders.

Photo of Miss Betty Harvie Anderson Miss Betty Harvie Anderson , Renfrewshire East

Order. The hon. Member is asking if it would be for the convenience of the House to take both orders together. I think this would be for the convenience of the House. It will then be in order to have one vote only.

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

That is what we should like. We wish hon. Members to get away as early as possible and also to register opposition to the orders.

We have just been debating the Code of Industrial Relations Practice. The Opposition have made it clear that they reject the Code, not because they are against the Code but because it is tied to the Industrial Relations Act and they believe that the Code is irrelevant in dealing with industrial relations problems. The Act makes it plain that whenever a complaint is referred to the courts the Code can be used. These orders are comprehensive, as was the Commencement No. 2 Order which we discussed on Monday.

On that occasion I was criticised by the hon. Member for Basingstoke (Mr. David Mitchell) for not dealing with every section mentioned in the order. Having worked it out, I found that if I had spoken for one minute on every section under discussion I should have spoken for one hour. In a debate which lasted only one and a half hours, I should have been extremely unpopular had I spoken at that length. I am sorry the hon. Member for Basingstoke is not here, because I shall disappoint him again. I have no intention of dealing with every section on this occasion—and I apologise to the House in advance for not doing so—but I intend to concentrate on one or two particular points.

The first order deals with the Code. It is interesting that the Code could have been brought in at any time provided that it had been before both Houses. It also brings in the general principles of Section 1 and deals with the whole question of registration.

I see that the hon. Member for Basingstoke has just come into the Chamber, and I had better tell him that I have no intention of dealing with the 45 sections of the Act, the four subsections, the three parts of Schedule 3, the whole of Schedule 5, the whole of Schedule 4, part of Schedule 8, and Schedule 9, which are all included in these orders. I am dealing only with Commencement Order No. 2. If I were also to talk on Commencement Order No. 1 I should have to go into even greater detail.

The order brings in the measures related to registration. The question of registration is of fundamental importance to the trade union movement. I emphasise that the trade union movement is against registration under the Act because it is a direct interference with the internal affairs of the trade union movement. It is not opposed to the principle of registration since, after all, most unions affiliated to this T.U.C. had in the past been registered voluntarily. They have no objection to continuation of registration on a voluntary basis. What the trade unions object to is registration under the Act on the basis that, if they are not registered, they lose certain so-called rights and privileges.

We are now experiencing a measure of blackmail by the Government to force the trade unions into registration. The T.U.C. is not prepared to let that happen. This has caused, and is causing, a certain amount of difficulty to the trade union movement and I believe that this is a deliberate action by the Government. They want to bring about this sort a divisiveness within the trade union movement.

The facts are that the Trades Union Congress held a special meeting on 18th March last year at which it discussed the effects of the Act. One decision taken was that no affiliated trade union should register under the Act. When the T.U.C. discussed this question in October it reaffirmed the decision of the special congress, and went further and decided that it may well take action against any trade union which decides to register under the Act. It is not a question of democratic decisions taken by the T.U.C. This applies to affiliated unions, and the Government have deliberately endeavoured to set one trade union against another—this is what they have attempted to do and are doing in this Act. [Interruption.] Of course, hon. Members opposite do not want to accept this as an argument. Perhaps they will tell me why the trade unions are so passionately against registration under the Act.

Even the unions which have decided to register have explained that they are registering because, first, they do not wish to lose a certain amount of money which they will otherwise have to pay in taxation, and, second, they wish to protect themselves vis-à-vis the professional organisations which are being put on a special register. They are not doing it because they want to register under the Act. They are doing it because they are forced into this position as a result of Government action. That is what is happening in the trade union movement.

Right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite are loving it. They want to see the trade unions in conflict with one another—[Hon. Members: "Nonsense."] They shout "Nonsense". They try to kid the public that they are friends of the trade unions. if they were friends of the trade unions, they would ask their right hon. Friend the Secretary of State to withdraw this Act and get down to real discussions with the T.U.C. of the issues facing the country at present.

The right hon. Gentleman has changed his tune in the past few weeks. Recently, he said that he would be pleased to have discussions with the T.U.C. about problems like unemployment, industrial training, and similar matters. If the right hon. Gentleman is really serious, I suggest that he ought to take away the one Act which antagonises the trade union movement more than any Measure passed by any Government in the last 50 years.

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

That was taken away. The hon. and gallant Gentleman is pushing at an open door.

This Act does not help industrial relations. The other evening, I pointed out that the one occasion on which the Act could have been used it had not been used because it is an irrevelancy to the real needs of the situation and because, if it were used, it would exacerbate an already inflamed situation in industrial relations.

Photo of Mr David Mitchell Mr David Mitchell , Basingstoke

The hon. Gentleman is repeating the canard he used the other night. He knows that the Act specifies that the Secretary of State must be convinced, before seeking a cooling-off period, that during it he would be likely to be successful in bringing the parties together. That point has not yet been reached. It is a matter of judgment for the Secretary of State. In not applying the provision for a cooling-off period at this stage, my right hon. Friend is merely observing the terms of the Act. It is ridiculous for the hon. Gentleman to attack the Act and then to ask the Minister to observe it.

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

There are three grounds on which the Secretary of State can intervene if he desires. Any one of those three grounds has existed for a period already. I am not arguing at this stage that I wish to see the provision implemented. Certainly I do not. If it is used, there will be even more trouble than there is now. It is not used because it is irrelevant to the needs of solving the genuine issues in industrial relations. The Code, which comes into operation as a result of these two orders, solves none of the issues in industrial relations. It does not go one step towards solving any problems on the shop floor or in industry as a whole. That is the argument which we put forward. I do not expect the hon. Gentleman to accept my argument or the arguments of the trade union movement.

We have heard today that everybody has been consulted and that all kinds of information has been flowing back. But the one body which is deeply involved is so disgusted with the introduction of the Act that it is not prepared to talk about anything relating to it. That is the situation. So how can there have been real consultation with all the people directly involved in industrial relations?

The Secretary of State will learn very clearly that most trade unionists and unions will refuse to re-register. Therefore, the Government must live with that fact. A trade union, under the Act—[Interruption.] I heard what the hon. Gentleman said. The definition of a trade union is changed under the part of the Act which is brought into force with the passing of the order. From now on there will be two types of organisations: an organisation of workers which is not registered and an organisation of workers which is registered. A trade union will be a trade union only if it is registered.

That point was underlined by my right hon. Friend the Member for East Ham, North (Mr. Prentice) in his opening speech in the debate on the Code of Practice. The Code talks about welcoming or encouraging people to join registered, not unregistered, trade unions. People are not being en- couraged to join organisations of workers which do not accept registration.

Right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite say that they are the friends of the trade unionists and the unions and that they are really helping the T.U.C. But they have revealed the true position in the Act and in the Code which has been placed before us today.

I want to turn to the position of the T.U.C. concerning the National Industrial Relations Court, because that is also part of the order. The N.I.R.C. is set up under it and its members are involved.

The Solicitor-General (Sir Geoffrey Hone):

The powers to set it up.

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

Yes. The order provides the power to set it up.

What is the advice of the T.U.C.? The Minister referred to the T.U.C. handbook on the Industrial Relations Act. He even suggested at one stage—we had it again today—that the T.U.C. is apparently bringing out pamphlets of this kind because there is some kind of secret dialogue going on between the Government and the T.U.C.

This handbook explains how trade unions can avoid the provisions of the Act and, if they cannot, what they should do to overcome the difficulties in which they may find themselves as a result of the Act.

This is the T.U.C.'s advice about the N.I.R.C.: Because of the trade union movement's fundamental objection to the Act"— I do not recall that part being quoted by the right hon. Gentleman— Congress decided that trade unionists should be advised not to serve on the N.I.R.C. It also decided that unions shall not co-operate with the N.I.R.C. and should use all lawful means to persuade employers not to apply to the N.I.R.C. for a legally binding order. Unions should not therefore seek to initiate references to the N.I.R.C. and should not co-operate with it. However the situation may arise in which a union, despite doing everything possible, is unable to avoid a reference to the N.I.R.C. by an employer or a staff association. In these circumstances, and where the union considers that its interests may be seriously affected by the proceedings, it should seek the advice of the T.U.C. about whether and to what extent representations necessary to protect the interests of the union and its members should be made to the N.I.R.C. In other words, they do not wish to co-operate, they have no intention of co-operating, but if an employer or another association to which they have no affiliation makes a reference to the N.I.R.C., they then have to do something to protect their own members. Despite that we are told that there is no element of blackmail against the trade unions. If the Act is used at all by the trade unions it will be used only because they are forced into the position of having to use an instrument which they do not wish to use and in which they have no faith.

Those are some of the reasons why we are opposed to these orders. I cannot deal with all the aspects of registration, with the fact that the guiding principles for organisations of workers which affect the rules of unions also come into the matter as a result of these orders, and so on. Both orders have been in force for some time. Commencement No. 1 Order came into effect on 1st October, and Commencement No. 2 Order came into effect on 1st November, but the only opportunity that we have had to debate them is tonight in this negative form.

I could elaborate on many other aspects of the Act, but it has all been said before. We went over this ground as much as we were allowed to. Because of the guillotine, whole Sections of the Act were not debated in the House. The trade unions are totally opposed to this Measure. If any unions register, it will be because they have been forced into the position of having to do so. They do not want to register. This is a divisive Act. It operates against good industrial relations, and for that reason my right hon. and hon. Friends will once again vote against it tonight by voting against these orders.

One matter was not brought out by the hon. Gentleman in his quotations from the T.U.C. handbook. One decision of the special conference at which unions were called upon not to register was that the Act should be repealed. The Labour Party on its return to government will repeal this Act. In its place we shall bring in decent, suitable legislation that will protect the trade unions. It will protect unions against the type of employers that they are faced with at present, who are refusing, as in the coal mining industry, to give them decent wages and conditions—[Interruption.] The point about that industry is that the strike could be settled tomorrow if it were not for the Secretary of State, who refuses to do anything about it. It is basically his Government's policy which is continuing the strike by backing up the Coal Board's refusal to give the miners a few more shillings, which they deserve to have for the work they do.

10.41 p.m.

Photo of Mr Tom King Mr Tom King , Bridgwater

With great respect to the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer), the first point at which he thought to sit down— his reference to the vote—was the moment he should have done so. After that, he went on to much less happy ground, first in his reference to the possible repeal of the Act, without any suggestion as to what might be put in its place. The party he represents—I know that he does not represent the policy that they held when they were the Government—do not provide a happy augury for the future.

There are so many measures in this Act which the hon. Gentleman has claimed to support, yet he has stood at that Box tonight and said that they would repeal it—without any hesitation and without adequate thought about what they would put in its place.

The hon. Gentleman's reference to the miners' strike, about which we have heard far too much already tonight, seemed to me perilously close to the bounds of order in a debate on the Code of Practice. The miners are not impressed by what he has said. They have said that they are striking against the loss of their relative position in the wages structure of the country, because they have been progressively losing ground over the past five, six or seven years. While I accept a measure of responsibility on this side, it ill becomes an hon. Member opposite to say that it is just a matter of shillings, and that it is all my right hon. Friend's fault. That is crocodile tears—

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

May I ask the hon. Gentleman how many miners he knows, how many miners' meetings he has addressed, how many friends he has among the miners? For his information, I have addressed many miners' meetings—although not during this present dispute—and have been very well received. I have many friends among the miners. The hon. Gentleman had better learn something about the miners before he starts talking about them.

Photo of Mr Tom King Mr Tom King , Bridgwater

Let the hon. Gentleman now answer me one question—were the miners satisfied with the wages they were receiving in June, 1970?

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

Of course they were not.

Photo of Mr Tom King Mr Tom King , Bridgwater

The hon. Gentleman cannot rise and answer that question; he knows that what I am saying is a fact.

Photo of Mr Tom King Mr Tom King , Bridgwater

I appreciate the hon. Gentleman's great interest in this field, but I want to deal with the quite unjust remarks of his hon. Friend. I hope that I have now answered them clearly.

When the right hon. Member for East Ham, North (Mr. Prentice) was speaking earlier—one welcomes his participation in these debates, in which a number of us have taken part, certainly over the last Session—I thought that it was a different singer but the same old song. Just now, listening to the hon. Member for Walton, I thought that it was the same old singer and the same old song——

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

It is the same old Act.

Photo of Mr Tom King Mr Tom King , Bridgwater

We have been through this before. He rehashed all the old arguments, on registration in particular. But he made a rather unhappy analogy. The principal argument that he produced tonight against registration was that it involved an element of blackmail. This was not his principal argument during the passage of the Bill. Tonight, he denounced this as though it was a matter of over-riding objection. The hon. Gentleman went on, I thought unhappily, to say that because of T.U.C. and union objection to this system, consideration would be given to expelling any member who chose to register. It seemed strange for the hon. Gentleman to adduce an argument about blackmail and reply to it with another case of blackmail.

I do not want to cover much of the ground that we have already discussed at length, but I must refer to the hon. Gentleman's other argument in connec- tion with registration when he described the rules of unions as a private matter that should not be subject to investigation by an outside registrar.

Photo of Mr Tom King Mr Tom King , Bridgwater

But no argument has been produced to suggest that the registrar's interest in such rules would be other than a perfectly fair and reasonable one. It has been pointed out that the rules of some unions are less than totally acceptable and that there are unions whose standards are not as high as the majority or as high as the hon. Member for Walton would like to see. In other words, the hon. Gentleman argued on a point of principle and not on a point of application, because he could not substantiate the claim that the registrar's activities would work fundamentally against the unions.

We surely established throughout the passage of the Measure that this is not a purely private matter. It is not a question simply for the unions. The national and public interest comes into this; and if employers are to welcome union membership, then unions must recognise that while the Government and law of the country encourage union membership, that membership and its conduct carries with it a responsibility to the country.

The hon. Gentleman went on to criticise my right hon. Friend and said that we should repeal the Act, drop everything, and then we could have discussions. In other words, another element of blackmail was brought into the matter. [Interruption.] Imagine the hon. Member for Walton referring critically to industrial training in a week in which my right hon. Friend has announced the most massive increase in training provision in Britain. While the hon. Gentleman and his colleagues are standing up talking, talking and talking still more, and then demanding that we withdraw and repeal everything, my right hon. Friend is acting. Thank heavens we have in office a Minister who is prepared to act in the interests of the nation.

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

With over 1 million unemployed?

Several Hon. Members:


Photo of Mr Selwyn Lloyd Mr Selwyn Lloyd , Wirral

Order. This debate began at 11.30 p.m. I understand that the Solicitor-General will require about 12 minutes at the end in which to reply. I should like be able to call three hon. Members to speak from the back benches, but that will be possible only if they each speak for eight or nine minutes. Mr. Golding.

10.50 p.m.

Photo of Mr John Golding Mr John Golding , Newcastle-under-Lyme

The hon. Member for Bridgwater (Mr. Tom King) will appreciate how difficult it is for me to express my thoughts on this subject in eight minutes, but on this occasion I will do so.

I am an assistant secretary of the Post Office Engineering Union. I am a permanent officer of one of our new organisations of workers. For many years I have argued very strongly in my union for some of the things contained in the Code. It is with regret that I have to say, in the context of these orders, that it is impossible for many of us who have spent so long arguing for productivity bargaining, rationalisation of the trade union movement and an up-dating of ideas, to pay the attention to the Code—which has many defects, and some virtues—which it deserves. The reason for that is that we are now devoting our time to finding ways around the legislation.

I have in my hand a document produced by my union. The document is devoted to the ways in which we can stay within the law but evade its provisions. We shall be spending much of our energies doing that. It is not in the interests of good industrial relations. Hon. Members opposite may laugh. I do not laugh about it because it is a very serious question about which hon. Members on both sides of the House should be concerned.

I am concerned because whereas in the past when I trained branch secretaries I would teach them always to try to reach agreements in the most amicable way, and I would train my members to try to retain unity and goodwill within the work force, I now have to teach them different lessons. The first lesson is that it appears to many of us that the only control that we can now have, according to the Act, over the non-trade unionist or over the trade unionist who has not obeyed our canons of trade union loyalty is the angry silence. I do not want to spell it out, but it is regrettably true that in future we shall have to say to our members, "The law requires you to work with them but does not require you to speak with them beyond that which is necessary to do the job. You need no longer be friends. Employ the angry silence."

Another lesson that we shall be having to teach in our trade unionist schools is, "Under the Act you will always need a pretext for a strike, so always have in the pipeline some unresolved issue. Always top up the disputes procedure. Be ready." I speak as an official of a union which has struck on only one day in its long history. We shall have to have disputes at the ready in order to be able to strike, whether for sympathetic reasons, for instance, in support of the mineworkers, or otherwise. That is undesirable.

In conclusion, I raise two important practical points. The most important point is the effect on conciliation. As we see it, we shall have to tell our members never to speak in future to a conciliation officer. Already we are boycotting the Commission on Industrial Relations. But we shall have to go further than that. The hon. Member for Yarmouth (Mr. Fell) laughs, but this is a serious business. Because of the law as it stands, anything we say to conciliation officers of the Department of Employment can be quoted in the courts. Because of this, except for some minor exceptions regarding membership and unlawful dismissals, we shall have to tell our members, "If a Department of Employment conciliation officer comes near, do not talk to him, because he might be forced to give evidence against the union to a court which can award damages against the union." It is important for the Government to make absolutely clear that information given to conciliation officers is privileged. If they do not, they will not only have brought arbitration into disrepute but will have smashed their conciliation procedures.

Photo of Mr Ronald Murray Mr Ronald Murray , Edinburgh Leith

Will my hon. Friend allow me——

Photo of Mr John Golding Mr John Golding , Newcastle-under-Lyme

No, because I must make my next point, which is a practical one.

The other question many trade unionists are asking is about Section 65(5) of the Act, which says: The voting in any ballot of members of the organisation, or of a branch or section of the organisation, shall be kept secret. How do the Government interpret that? Does it mean that in every branch and on every issue there must be a secret ballot? Is there to be no voting by voice or show of hands? More important, is there to be no voting by roll call at annual conference? If that is the case, how do the Government think we shall get decisions acceptable to our branches at certain times? Although delegates to conference are elected by secret ballot in branches, at the conferences the same procedure is adopted as in this House. Votes are recorded so that those to whom the delegates are responsible can see how they voted. It is our experience as full-time trade union officers that this procedure leads to more responsible voting. Yet the Government insist on the abolition of recorded votes at conference.

What I have said tonight illustrates the defect of the way in which the legislation was passed by the House. There are many practical difficulties in the implementation of the Act. What is worse is that those of us involved in industrial relations will have to spend far too much of our time in avoiding the consequences of the Act rather than getting on with the job of creating industrial peace.

10.59 p.m.

Photo of Mr Robert Redmond Mr Robert Redmond , Bolton West

I wonder whether the hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Mr. Golding) means that he must have a pretext for every strike. Does he mean that he often has a strike without a pretext? I am sure he did not mean that, but it appeared that he said it. HANSARD will no doubt show tomorrow.

The main tenor of the debate seems to be an objection by the Opposition to registration, as during the debates on the Bill, because it gives the registrar oversight of the rules of the unions, rather as the Privy Council has oversight over the rules of the Royal British Legion and other charitable organisations. Those of us who are members of the Royal British Legion think that that gives us a great protection, in that our rules are safeguarded against an awkward motion that might go through at a meeting without the consent of the full membership.

These orders also properly establish the N.I.R.C. But it is quite clear that hon. Members on the Labour benches cannot understand the position of the court or of the Act in relation to the coal strike. This accentuates the difference between the Industrial Relations Act and the Labour Party's proposals in "In Place of Strife" from which I exempt the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer.)

Photo of Mr David Mitchell Mr David Mitchell , Basingstoke

A little earlier the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton derided the Government for their failure to make use of this part of the Act in the case of the coal strike. I have the Act here. It is extraordinary that the hon. Member for Walton has not noted Section 138 because he was an official spokesman for the Opposition during the proceedings on the Act. It says: Where it appears to the Secretary of State that…having regard to all the circumstances of the industrial dispute, it would be conducive to a settlement… he may, but only in those circumstances, make application to the court.

Photo of Mr Robert Redmond Mr Robert Redmond , Bolton West

My hon. Friend has more or less said what I was going to say, perhaps in more formal words because he read it from the Act.

Photo of Mr Robert Redmond Mr Robert Redmond , Bolton West

I am sorry I am not giving way. I promised to be brief and much of my time has already gone. If the Secretary of State applied to the court now over the coal strike it is not certain that a ballot or a cooling-off period would be allowed. This is the great difference between our Act and "In Place of Strife," because under the Labour proposals the Secretary of State could have directed a cooling-off period or ballot.

I am sorry that the hon. Member for Walton made his rather stupid point about union bashing and failure to consult with the T.U.C. It is apposite for me to say that today, not for the first time, I received a letter from a trade union official in my constituency thanking me for action I have been taking on behalf of his union. It would not be the first time if I were to write to a union thanking them for the help they had given me as a Member of Parliament and before that in industry in dealing with industrial relations in my own company.

I have never believed in union bashing. I am not doing it now and I did not attempt it when I was tramping through the Lobby a year ago. I am sorry I have to go through the Lobby again tonight against people who think I am union bashing. Let us look at some of the other advantages which would come to a trade union under the No. 1 order. The provisions would limit the amount of damages that could be awarded against a registered trade union. A registered trade union, or someone acting with authority on its behalf is granted legal immunity provided the conditions for a strike are fulfilled. A registered trade union can enter into an approved closed shop agreement. A registered trade union is entitled to apply to the Industrial Court for recognition rights, and the employer will be obliged to disclose to officials of registered trade unions information necessary for the purposes of collective bargaining. Every worker has the right to belong to a registered trade union if he likes.

By voting against the order the Opposition are trying to deny the unions all these advantages, should they want them.

11.5 p.m.

Photo of Mr Harry Ewing Mr Harry Ewing , Stirling and Falkirk Burghs

Following the hon. Member for Bolton, West (Mr. Redmond), who kindly allowed the hon. Member for Basingstoke (Mr. David Mitchell) to make his speech for him, I want to take up, first, the position of the T.U.C. and, secondly, an example of the ways in which the Industrial Relations Act has worsened relationships in an industry. It is an interesting example which I am sure will be enlightening both to the Secretary of State and to the House.

The position of the T.U.C., as I interpret it, is basically that of mistrust. It is worth recalling that since June, 1970, we have had three major strikes. First, there was the dustmen's dispute, when an inquiry was headed by Mr. Jack Scamp. It is generally accepted that Mr. Scamp was fired by the Government because the results of his inquiry did not coincide with their wishes.

Then we had the Post Office dispute. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Mr. Golding) that the Post Office unions had an industrial record second to none. His union has struck for only one day in its history. Mine, the Union of Post Office Workers, was forced to strike last year for the first time in its history. The Secretary of State was reluctant to intervene.

Now we have the miners' strike. I cannot go into detail because I am not an expert on the mining industry, but I do know that the country is crying out for the Secretary of State to intervene in order to get the dispute settled. Any hon. Member who thinks that that is not a fact is lost in cloud cuckoo land.

I come now to the way in which the Act worsens relationships. My union has a particular problem. Before the passing of the Act, the Post Office Board and the Union of Post Office Workers agreed that the union would be the sole agent for the grades it represented. Since the passing of the Act, a pirate organisation has sprung up—there is no other way of describing it. This new organisation has asked for recognition. The Post Office Board has to consider that request and is not in a position to refuse it because the Act does not allow it to do so. In all probability, the dispute will have to go to the Industrial Court for settlement. This is an instance where good industrial relations have been seriously damaged, not perhaps beyond repair but damaged to a great extent. by the Act.

I repeat what has often been said—that the Act was ill-conceived and ill-thought out in order to honour an election pledge. I concede that by the Act the Government have honoured an election pledge. I would comment on that issue only that there are certain other election pledges which the electors would prefer to see the Government honouring. However, the Government have gone overboard on industrial relations in no uncertain terms, with the result that in industries like the Post Office relationships which were once first class have been seriously disturbed by the provisions of the Act.

11.10 p.m.

Photo of Mr Charles Morris Mr Charles Morris , Manchester Openshaw

I want to supplement the eloquent and erudite remarks of my hon. Friend the Member for Stirling and Falkirk Burghs (Mr. Ewing). When he referred to the industrial relations in the Post Office Corporation he was in fact illustrating the hazards involved in article 2 of the order dealing with the coming into force of the provisions of the Act. I want to draw attention to Section 45 of the Act dealing with recognition. The danger I see is that this might give rise to a "Blackleg's Charter" if the Industrial Court takes decisions in the atmosphere following an industrial dispute.

Hon. Members will recall that we had a major industrial dispute in the Post Office last year in the course of which there were those in the minority who did not accept the decisions of the majority. If the Industrial Court makes rushed decisions in the aftermath of the industrial dispute it will give encouragement, sustenance and recognition to those elements who were in the minority and who seek to give their allegiance to an alien association seeking recognition.

I do not believe the Government intend this, but if the court does not take account of the history of good industrial relations and industrial harmony in such industries as the Post Office we might see the emergence of what many will regard as a "Blackleg's Charter."

It is understandable that each side will take up prepared positions in the debate. I hope that the Government will not remain impervious to the difficulties which can arise and could lead to industrial conflict.

11.14 p.m.

Photo of Mr Geoffrey Howe Mr Geoffrey Howe , Reigate

The hon. Member for Manchester, Wythenshawe (Mr. Alfred Morris)——

Photo of Mr Geoffrey Howe Mr Geoffrey Howe , Reigate

I apologise. Mr. Morris: It is a family conspiracy.

Photo of Mr Geoffrey Howe Mr Geoffrey Howe , Reigate

I apologise to the House and to the family. The hon. Member for Manchester, Openshaw (Mr. Charles R. Morris) raised the situation of a hypothetical dispute in the Post Office, taking up an example given by his hon. Friend the Member for Stirling and Falkirk Burghs (Mr. Ewing). He also mentioned the coal industry dispute. Both of them suggested, and particularly the hon. Member for Stirling and Falkirk Burghs, that my right hon. Friend was standing apart and aside from the situation in the coal industry. It is not for me, plainly, holding my position, to respond on the broader issues, save only to say that of course people are crying out, as the hon. Member said, for some way of breaking this deadlock because we are all in this nation confronted with a situation which cannot do good to anyone.

It is all very well for hon. Members to talk from the benches opposite about pledges by the Government, but there are also pledges about containing prices and squaring that circle facing us and many other Governments since the war, in order to secure price stability. My right hon. Friend has to bear in mind this dual function. While people are crying out for a resolution of the dispute in the coal industry, so they are also crying out to the Government for progress towards achieving a balance of prosperity and price stability. I hope one can consider these two orders and the Act in that kind of mood.

The second order deals with the establishment of the C.I.R. on a statutory basis, and this gives me the opportunity of pointing out to the hon. Member for Openshaw that he was in error in suggesting that the dispute in the postal industry between the telephonists' organisation and the U.P.W. will not be resolved if it comes to be handled through the procedures of the Act by the Industrial Court. It will not be the subject of a rash or rushed decision by the Court, but will be referred through the court to the statutorily established Commission for Industrial Relations and is a subject essentially for voluntary treatment, as the Chairman of the C.I.R., Mr. Neal, has emphasised.

The approach of the C.I.R. on this new basis will still be a problem-solving one and the Court will only underpin at the end of the road any solution which the C.I.R. will recommend. In suggesting that the Act is giving rise to the problems the hon. Member foreshadowed in the Post Office, the hon. Member is deceiving himself. The problem, whether or not the challenging organisations are under the same name, has been for many years festering and running on. This has given rise to trouble.

I do not suggest that the Act's solution will necessarily cause the problems to melt away, but they will be sensitive, sophisticated solutions undertaken by the C.I.R. on the basis of a voluntary conciliatory approach.

Photo of Mr Harry Ewing Mr Harry Ewing , Stirling and Falkirk Burghs

The problems have not been there for many years, because the Post Office Board and the U.P.W. came to an agreement that the U.P.W. would be the sole agency for representing the postal grades in the Post Office. The Post Office Board never recognised the old National Guild of Telephonists, but now that the Act is in force probably—and I say this reservedly—they will be forced to recognise the new pirate organisation.

Photo of Mr Geoffrey Howe Mr Geoffrey Howe , Reigate

The hon. Member no doubt knows more about the history of this than I, but the guild was recognised by the pre-corporation organisation of the Post Office. The situation changed when it was made a public corporation but that did not cause the membership of that guild to melt away, nor the issue to disappear. The issue continued to run on. My only point is that it will not be a rush decision by the court but it will be considered by the C.I.R. It is an illustration of the kind of problems the C.I.R. will solve and the way in which it will solve them.

It is a tragedy that, because of the continued unwillingness of the trade union movement to co-operate with these organisations, the C.I.R. solution proposed last month to the Engelhard Industries recognition claim by the A.U.E.W. has not been taken up although there was a reference by my right hon. Friend to the C.I.R. and the C.I.R. awarded union recognition. So willing has it been to forgo the advantages of the Act and its procedure that the union has not taken this up. The fact that the hon. Member, with his long experience of this matter, still takes that rather jaded short-term view is a matter for regret, but I will come back to it in a more general context in a moment.

I come to the point raised by the hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Mr. Golding) of his anxiety about speaking to a conciliation officer and the suggestion that this will never take place in future. If he will focus his attention on Section 146(6) of the Act and look at that alone he may be led to the conclusion that it applies in that situation only. But the problem, as he may not know, was considered by the President of the National Industrial Relations Court at its first sitting on 1st December. He said that fears had been expressed that the court would require conciliation officers and the Department of Employment or the C.I.R. to reveal the content of confidential discussions into which the parties had entered bona fide with a view to a settlement. Such fears are completely without foundation. He referred to the fact that communications to statutory conciliation officers are protected by Section 146(6) and went on: …the courts have for many years recognised that the public interest requires respect for the confidentiality of such discussions whether directly between the parties or with independent third parties. This Court will pursue the same policy. That is the statement made by the President of the Court and it is consistent with the way the Court approaches confidential exchanges between parties to litigation, whether in this context or any other.

Photo of Mr John Golding Mr John Golding , Newcastle-under-Lyme

I think the Solicitor-General will know that what he was referring to were designated conciliation officers, persons appointed by the Secretary of State under that Section. Will he make it clear that what the President said will apply equally to other conciliation officers? That is the main point at issue between us.

Photo of Mr Geoffrey Howe Mr Geoffrey Howe , Reigate

That was the point which the President was making clear. He pointed out that Section 146(6) applied to designated conciliation officers, but he was saying this in quite general terms to allay anxiety. There is no need to allay anxiety in the context of Section 146(6): it is there on the face of it. This is general. Discussions between people intervening in matrimonial or other disputes would not be the subject of enforced disclosure.

The hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme also referred to secret ballots under Section 65. That provision applies to secret ballots conducted by voting on ballot papers and would not be applied in a wider context.

Coming back to the more general points, as the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) pointed out, the other provision in these two orders is that which in general terms provides for the registration of trade unions. I want only to say about this well-worn argument that registration gives trade unions the opportunity of taking advantage of the remedies and procedures provided by the Act. Non-registration does not enable them to avoid responsibilities which are required of them, for example, under Section 65 in respect of the guiding principles applied to trade unions. It could enable them to avoid supervision of their rule books to the very limited extent, if at all, that any changes might be required on registration. To come back to the central point, this is not akin to a licence from the State to operate.

This does not involve the argument that trade unions by registration under the Act become creatures of the State. The time must surely come—and I very much hope it will come—when trade unions will see the pointlessness of empty gestures of sovereignty. It has been the law for decades for organisations—from friendly societies to limited companies, from school playgroups to riding schools and cat boarding establishments—to require registration before taking part in their activities. How in principle can it be wrong for trade unions to be subjected to guiding principles, not malevolent, in this kind of way in pursuance of the interests of their members and of society as a whole? This is the argument that must at the end of the day prevail.

The hon. Member for Walton approached this with the familiar verisimilitude of passion with which he has discussed this matter on many previous occasions. I take up one phrase of his. Can he tell me, or for that matter my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, why at rock bottom, or why in any particular, trade unions are so passionately opposed to registration?

Photo of Mr Don Concannon Mr Don Concannon , Mansfield

Compulsory registration.

Photo of Mr Geoffrey Howe Mr Geoffrey Howe , Reigate

No, the option remains. By opting to register they secure many advantages. [Interruption.] That is a debating point. It is not illegitimate in this House to make debating points, but that is not a very good one. It cannot be in the interests of this country, of this House, or of the trade union move- ment for this antipathy—this "angry silence", to borrow one hon. Member's phrase—to continue in perpetuity. If there are any real points about which the trade union movement is anxious, let us get down to real discussions with the T.U.C. to discuss the real issues. It takes two sides to have a fruitful discussion.

The hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme opened his speech with a serious assessment, which most hon. Members share, of the difficulties which face this country in the long term. It is quite fruitless to talk about pledges hither and thither to repeal this or that. One knows very well that repeal of the 1957 Rent Act led to replacement by the 1965 Rent Act, which took on board most of the rent provisions in the earlier 1957 Act and which facilitated more rent flexibility in the future than existed in the past. Any repeal of this Act would involve of necessity the replacement of most of the provisions by something designed to achieve the same kind of objective. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why?"] I know this touches emotional chords among some hon. Members opposite, but registration was regarded as the least contentious of the issues throughout the discussions that followed Donovan and the Labour Government's proposals.

If there are real issues, if that is the bone of contention which disturbs the trade union movement, let the trade unions recognise that they will give the best service to their members by coming forward to my right hon. Friend and saying what it is that grieves them and giving him the opportunity of looking at points one by one.

In those circumstances, the fruitful discussion of the real issues, which I suspect hon. Members on both sides would like to begin, can get under way. The time for driving each other in the same numbers into the Lobbies canvassing issues of principles underlying the Industrial Relations Act has surely come to an end. The time has now come when we can make constructive use of this legislation for the good of the nation.

Question put,That the Industrial Relations Act 1971 (Commencement No. 1) Order 1971 (S.I., 1971, No. 1522), dated 15th September 1971, a copy of which was laid before this House on 23rd September, in the last Session of Parliament, be withdrawn:—

The House divided: Ayes 175, Noes 208.

Division No. 52.]AYES[11.29 p.m.
Archer, Peter (Rowley Regis)Gilbert, Dr. JohnMorris, Charles R. (Openshaw)
Armstrong, ErnestGolding, JohnMoyle, Roland
Ashton, JoeGourlay, HarryMulley, Rt. Hn. Frederick
Atkinson, NormanGrant, George (Morpeth)Murray, Ronald King
Barnes, MichaelGrant, John D. (Islington, E.)Oakes, Gordon
Barnett, Guy (Greenwich)Griffiths, Eddie (Brightside)Ogden, Eric
Barnett, Joel (Heywood and Royton)Griffiths, Will (Exchange)O'Malley, Brian
Benn, Rt. Hn. Anthony WedgwoodHamilton, James (Bothwell)Orme, Stanley
Bennett, James (Glasgow, Bridgeton)Hardy, PeterOswald, Thomas
Blenkinsop, ArthurHarper, JosephOwen, Dr. David (Plymouth, Sutton)
Booth, AlbertHart, Rt. Hn. JudithPalmer, Arthur
Boyden, James (Bishop Auckland)Hattersley, RoyParker, John (Dagenham)
Brown, Bob (N'c'tle-upon-Tyne, W.)Heffer, Eric S.Parry, Robert (Liverpool, Exchange)
Buchan, NormanHoram, JohnPavitt, Laurie
Buchanan, Richard (G'gow, Sp'burn)Houghton, Rt. Hn. DouglasPendry, Tom
Campbell, I. (Dunbartonshire, W.)Huckfield, LesliePerry, Ernest G.
Cant, R. B.Hughes, Rt. Hn. Cledwyn (Anglesey)Pentice, Rt. Hn. Reg.
Carmichael, NeilHughes, Mark (Durham)Prescott, John
Carter, Ray (Birmingh'm, Northfield)Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen, N.)Price, J. T. (Westhoughton)
Clark, David (Colne Valley)Hughes, Roy (Newport)Price, William (Rugby)
Cocks, Michael (Bristol, S.)Hunter, AdamReed, D. (Sedgefield)
Cohen, StanleyIrvine, Rt. Hn. Sir Arthur (Edge Hill)
Coleman, DonaldJanner, GrevilleRhodes, Geoffrey
Roderick, CaerwynE. (Br'c'n&R'dnor)
Concannon, J. D.Jenkins, Rt. Hn. Roy (Stechford)Rodgers, William (Stockton-on-Tees)
Conlan, BernardJohn, BrynmorRoper, John
Cox, Thomas (Wandsworth, C.)Jones, Barry (Flint, E.)Ross, Rt. Hn William (Kilmarnock)
Crawshaw, RichardJones, Gwynoro (Carmarthen)Sandelson, Neville
Cronin, JohnJones, T. Alec (Rhondda, W.)Shore, Rt. Hn. Peter (Stepney)
Cunningham, G. (Islington, S.W.)Judd, FrankShort, Rt. Hn. Edward (N'c'tle-u-Tyne)
Cunningham, Dr. J. A. (Whitehaven)Kaufman, GeraldSilkin, Rt. Hn. John (Deptford)
Davidson, ArthurKerr, RussellSilkin, Hn. S.C. (Dulwich)
Kinnock, Neil
Davies, Denzil (Llanelly)Lambie, DavidSillars, James
Davies, Ifor (Gower)Lamond, JamesSkinner, Dennis
Davis, Clinton (Hackney, C.)Lawson, GeorgeSmall, William
Davis, Terry (Bromsgrove)Leadbitter, TedSpearing, Nigel
Deakins, EricLewis, Ron (Carlisle)Spriggs, Leslie
de Freitas, Rt. Hn. Sir GeoffreyLomas, KennethStewart, Rt. Hn. Michael (Fulham)
Dell, Rt. Hn. EdmundLyon, Alexander W. (York)Stoddart, David (Swindon)
Dempsey, JamesLyons, Edward (Bradford, E.)Strang, Gavin
Doig, PeterMcCartney, HughSummerskill, Hn. Dr. Shirley
Dormand, J. D.McElhone, FrankSwain, Thomas
Douglas, Dick (Stirlingshire, E.)McGuire, MichaelTaverne, Dick
Douglas-Mann, BruceMackintosh, John P.Thomas, Rt. Hn. George (Cardiff. W.)
Driberg. TomMaclennan, RobertThomson, Rt. Hn. G. (Dundee, E.)
Duffy, A. E. P.McMillan, Tom (Glasgow, C.)Tomney, Frank
Dunnett, JackMcNamara, J. KevinUrwin, T. W.
Eadie, AlexMahon, Simon (Bootle)Varley, Eric G.
Edelman, MauriceMarks, KennethWalker, Harold (Doncaster)
Edwards, Robert (Bilston)Marshall, Dr. EdmundWatkins, David
Ellis, TomMeacher, MichaelWells, William (Walsall, N.)
English, MichaelMellish, Rt. Hn. RobertWhite, James (Glasgow, Pollok)
Evans, FredMendelson, JohnWhitehead, Phillip
Ewing, HenryMikardo, IanWhitlock, William
Fernyhough, Rt. Hn. E.Millan, BruceWilliams, Mrs. Shirley (Hitchin)
Fitch, Alan (Wigan)Miller, Dr. M. S.Woof, Robert
Fletcher, Raymond (Ilkeston)Milne, Edward
Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)Mitchell, R. C. (S'hampton, Itchen)TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Foot, MichaelMolloy, WilliamMr. James A. Dunn and
Forrester, JohnMorgan, Elystan (Cardiganshire)Mr. William Hamling.
Adley, RobertBoyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hn. JohnCooke, Robert
Alison, Michael (Barkston Ash)Bray, RonaldCoombs, Derek
Allason, James (Hemel Hempstead)Brinton, Sir TattonCooper, A. E.
Archer, Jeffrey (LouthBrocklebank-Fowler, ChristopherCordle, John
Awdry, DanielBrown, Sir Edward (Bath)Cormack, Patrick
Baker, Kenneth (St. Marylebone)Bruce-Gardyne, J.Critchley, Julian
Balniel, LordBryan, PaulCrouch, David
Barber, Rt. Hn. AnthonyBuchanan-Smith, Alick (Angus,N&M)Crowder, F. P.
Bell, RonaldBuck, AnthonyCurran, Charles
Berry, Hn. AnthonyBurden, F. A.d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry
Biffen, JohnCarr, Rt. Hn. RobertDean, Paul
Biggs-Davison, JohnChapman, SydneyDixon, Piers
Blaker, PeterChichester-Clark, R.Drayson, G. B.
Boardman, Tom (Leicester, S.W.)Churchill, W. S.Dykes, Hugh
Boscawen, RobertClarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe)Eden, Sir John
Bowden, AndrewClegg, WalterEdwards, Nicholas (Pembroke)
Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton)Kershaw, AnthonyRoberts, Wyn (Conway)
Emery, PeterKilfedder, JamesRodgers, Sir John (Sevenoaks)
Eyre, ReginaldKing, Evelyn (Dorset, S.)Ross, Hugh (Hornsey)
Fell, AnthonyKing, Tom (Bridgwater)Rost, Peter
Fenner, Mrs. PeggyKnight, Mrs. JillRoyle, Anthony
Fidler, MichaelKnox, DavidSt. John-Stevas, Norman
Finsberg, Geoffrey (Hampstead)Lane, DavidScott-Hopkins, James
Fisher, Nigel (Surbiton)Legge-Bourke, Sir HarryShelton, William (Clapham)
Fortescue, TimLe Marchant, SpencerSimeons, Charles
Foster, Sir JohnLongden, GilbertSkeet, T. H. H.
Fowler, NormanLoveridge, JohnSmith, Dudley (W'wick & L'mington)
Fox, MarcusLuce, R. N.Soref, Harold
Fraser, Rt. Hn. Hugh (St'fford & Stone)MacArthur, IanSpeed, Keith
Fry, PeterMcCrindle, R. A.Spence, John
Galbraith, Hn. T. G.McLaren, MartinSproat, Iain
Gilmour, Ian (Norfolk, C.)Macmillan, Maurice (Farnham)Stainton, Keith
Gilmour, Sir John (Fife, E.)McNair-Wilson, MichaelStanbrook, Ivor
Godber, Rt. Hn. J. B.McNair-Wilson, Patrick (New Forest)Steel, David
Goodhart, PhillipMadel, DavidStewart-Smith, Geoffrey (Belper)
Goodhew, VictorMaxwell-Hyslop, R. J.Stokes, John
Gower, RaymondMeyer, Sir AnthonyStuttaford, Dr. Tom
Grant, Anthony (Harrow, C.)Mills, Peter (Torrington)Sutcliffe, John
Green, AlanMills, Stratton (Belfast, N.)Tapsell, Peter
Grieve, PercyMiscampbell, NormanTaylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)
Mitchell, Lt-Col. C.(Aberdeenshire, W)Taylor, Edward M. (G'gow, Cathcart)
Griffiths Eldon (Bury St. Edmunds)Mitchell, David (Basingstoke)Taylor, Frank (Moss Side)
Grylls, MichaelMolyneaux, JamesTaylor, Robert (Croydon, N.W.)
Gummer, SelwynMoney ErnleTebbit, Norman
Hall, Miss Joan (Keighley)Monks, Mrs. ConnieThomas, John Stradling (Monmouth)
Hall, John (Wycombe)Monro, HectorThompson, Sir Richard (Croydon, S.)
Hall-Davis, A. G. F.More, JasperThorpe, Rt. Hn. Jeremy
Hannam, John (Exeter)Morgan, Geraint (Denbigh)Tilney, John
Haselhurst, AlanMorgan-Giles, Rear-Adm.Trafford, Dr. Anthony
Hastings, StephenMudd, DavidTrew, Peter
Hay, JohnMurton, OscarTugendhat, Christopher
Hicks, RobertNabarro, Sir GeraldTurton, Rt. Hn. Sir Robin
Hiley, JosephNicholls, Sir Harmar
Holland, PhilipNott, Johnvan Straubenzee, W. R.
Holt, Miss MaryOnslow, CranleyWaddington, David
Hooson, EmlynOppenheim, Mrs. SallyWalder, David (Clitheroe)
Hordern, PeterOsborn, JohnWalker, Rt. Hn. Peter (Worcester)
Hornby, RichardOwen, Idris (Stockport, N.)Ward, Dame Irene
Howe, Hn. Sir Geoffrey (Reigate)Page, Graham (Crosby)Warren, Kenneth
Howell, David (Guildford)Parkinson, CecilWeatherill, Bernard
Hunt, JohnPercival, IanWells, John (Maidstone)
Hutchison, Michael ClarkPink, R. BonnerWiggin, Jerry
Iremonger, T. L.Powell, Rt. Hn. J. EnochWilkinson, John
Irvine, Byrant Godman (Rye)Proudfoot, WilfredWinterton, Nicholas
James, DavidPym, Rt. Hn. FrancisWolrige-Gordon, Patrick
Jenkin, Patrick (Woodford)Raison, TimothyWoodnutt, Mark
Jessel, TobyRedmond, RobertYounger, Hn. George
Johnson Smith, G. (E. Grinstead)Reed, Laurance (Bolton, E.)
Johnston, Russell (Inverness)Rees, Peter (Dover)TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Jones, Arthur (Northants, S.)Ridley, Hn. NicholasMr. Michael Jopling and
Kaberry, Sir DonaldRoberts, Michael (Cardiff, N.)Mr. Hamish Gray.
Kellett-Bowman, Mrs. Elaine

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn,—[Mr. Weatherill.]