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

The argument that the clause is likely to be redundant is not a good reason for inserting it in the Bill. The procedure is alien to British and European industrial relations. It is copied from the United States. We have our own better, well-tried methods, and we do not need to import that procedure from the United States. There is no evidence that the procedure has been notably successful in the United States. The ability to hold up a strike merely resets the timetable for industrial action. The procedure is best left on the other side of the Atlantic.

In addition, the clause is badly phrased. It puts upon the Secretary of State a judge's function, namely, to decide whether there is an industrial dispute. It puts on the court a function which should belong to the Secretary of State, namely, whether there is an emergency. The procedure has been used on one occasion, during the railway dispute which was concluded by a ballot, and on that occasion the right hon. Member for Farnham (Mr. Macmillan) got a lot of egg on his face. All that happened during the cooling-off period was four hours of negotiation. Other methods of trying to deal with that dispute might have been better.

It is noticeable that the clause, which is a re-enactment of the 1971 Act, is not put forward by the official Opposition. I do not suggest that the Opposition are infallible in these matters or that they have an exclusive pool of knowledge, but it is significant that, having experienced the possibility of using these powers, they do not suggest that they should be re-enacted.

The Clause has been put forward by the hon. Members for Basingstoke (Mr. Mitchell) and Bridgwater (Mr. King), whom I like to think of as Burke and Hare resurrecting a corpse in the morbid pathology of this debate. It is a corpse that stinks and would be better buried, and I hope that the Opposition will bury it by withdrawing the clause.