Application to High Court with a View to Discontinuing or Defer Ring Industrial Action Which En Dangers Lives, Imperils National Security, etc.

Part of Orders of the Day — Trade Union and Labour Relations Bill – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 10th July 1974.

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Photo of Mr John Fraser Mr John Fraser , Lambeth Norwood 12:00 am, 10th July 1974

Except for the substitution of 30 days for 60 days and the mention of the High Court, the new clause is virtually a re-enactment of Sections 138 and 140 of the ill-fated Industrial Relations Act 1971. I shall try to give the House some other reasons for rejecting it.

First, the clause proceeds on the erroneous assumption that at the point when a great deal of tact, patience and ability is required to choose the right moment for the Secretary of State or his conciliation officers to intervene in a highly-charged industrial relations situation, the issue should be transferred from the unpretentious premises and conciliatory atmosphere of 8 St. James's Square to the High Court. That is not the right approach. We do not believe that we can solve such things by mock Taft-Hartley in a mock-Gothic courtroom. The way to do this is by conciliation using well-tried methods.

Secondly, the clause assumes that the courts can intervene to improve industrial relations. This is not the case. The clause refers to industrial action short of a strike. Can it be seriously suggested that a court will be able to supervise whether a rule book is being operated properly by putting people in lorry or locomotive cabs? This is not so.

Thirdly, the provisions of the clause are unnecessary. We have adequate legislation for dealing with emergency situations. We have the Emergency Powers Act, which was frequently used by the last Government and Governments before them. We have the ability to set up courts of inquiry. We have the facilities of the conciliation service. These are things which in the past have been used.