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I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.
Although a brief interchange took place during Question Time, I welcome the right hon. and learned Member for Monklands, East (Mr. Smith) and the hon. Member for St. Helens, North (Mr. Evans) to their new responsibilities on the Opposition Front Bench. Although a general musical chairs has taken place recently, I look forward to debating this and other matters with the right hon. and learned Gentleman and his colleagues in the future.
I am especially proud that my new responsibilities give me the opportunity to introduce the Bill, which moves significantly forward along the step-by-step approach so well established by my predecessors. I pay a tribute to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, who set the standards by which the Government have since proceeded, and to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, who masterminded the Bill. In the 1980 Act my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, then Secretary of State for Employment, tackled the problems of abuse of the closed shop and the picket line. In the 1982 Act, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, during his term as Secretary of State for Employment, removed the immunity of trade unions which organised unlawful industrial action and made all closed shops subject to the test of a ballot. The Bill is concerned to establish a proper relationship between trade unions and their members and particularly to ensure that members in unions have a real say in the two key areas of who shall lead them and whether they take industrial action. This latest step is not one which we have taken lightly or hastily. We have always made it clear that our preference was for voluntary reform of trade unions.
In the 1980 Act we made public money available to finance postal ballots both for elections and for strikes and industrial action. In 1981, within a month of taking office, my predecessor, now Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, made a public offer to help the trade unions in any way that they might suggest to reform their constitutions and procedures. Both offers have been ignored by the trade union movement, consciously and deliberately. They refused even to discuss these questions before and after the Green Paper was published. They cannot, therefore, complain if the Government have proceeded without their advice to ensure the democratic rights of their members which the procedures of far too many unions still do not ensure.
It is still the case that most union leaders are elected by votes cast, often by a show of hands, at branch meetings held away from the workplace, despite all the evidence that branch meetings on average are attended only rarely by more than 7 per cent. of members.
It is still the case that some of the largest trade unions use the block vote system of election despite all the evidence that its effect is to distort the result of elections and to hide the fact that only a tiny percentage of members actually turn up to vote.
It is still the case that only two major TUC unions have adopted fully postal ballots for the election of their leaders, despite the clear evidence that postal ballots — like workplace ballots—mean a substantial increase in the number of members who vote.
It is still the case that most unions refuse to hold secret ballots before strikes and rely on rowdy open-air meetings which are a travesty of democracy.
It is still the case, moreover, that some unions use the coercive power of the closed shop to force their members to strike without any consultation at all, as we saw at the time of the notorious day of action in 1982 and the British Rail dispute of the same year.
All this occurred despite the fact that the 1980 Act removed the objection of cost which has always been the trade unions' main argument against secret ballots.
Trade unions hardly need any lecture about internal democracy from the right hon. Gentleman or his colleagues. It is strange that the right hon. Gentleman should be preaching to the trade unions as he has, when he is a senior member of a party which is far from democratic. Will he tell the House who was responsible for the decision to appoint the present chairman of the Conservative party? Did any ballot or election take place? Can he also say which trade union annual conference — I have attended the annual conference of my union for nearly 30 years—is likely to be as stage-managed as was the Tory party conference?
I should have thought that it was readily apparent that there is no immediate parallel between trade unions and voluntary organisations such as political parties. Trade unions have had immunity from normal processes of law conferred upon them by Parliament. The hon. Gentlemen and his colleagues, above all, should know that no political party is immune from damages or prosecution, as some fairly unpleasant things have happened to the Labour party. Trade unions have special protection in that respect.
I am surprised that the hon. Gentleman seeks to challenge this proposal. He should be far-sighted enough to know that in the sequence of events that I have described the first casualty is the trade union movement itself. In my view, the standing of the British trade union movement has never been lower than it was towards the end of the 1970s. The right hon. Member for Blaenau Gwent (Mr. Foot) and the Labour Government heaped privileges upon the trade unions in the 1974 and 1976 Acts, but they did them no real service, and they certainly cannot claim that the privileges were used with the restraint and the responsibility promised at that time. No one who lived through the appalling strikes of 1979 could make such a claim. In talking about rights, it should be noted that those events led to an unprecedented expansion of the closed shop and to the arraignment of the United Kingdom before the European Court of Human Rights, so it is worth remembering where the Labour party's approach took it.
It may be said that there is no parallel for the Bill in the legislation of other countries. We should note also, however, that no other trade union movement has grown up behind such a wall of virtually total legal immunity and that the closed shop is unlawful throughout most of western Europe and much of north America. The lesson from those countries is clear. Trade unions have a more secure and respected place in society if they recruit members by the quality of the service that they offer rather than by industrial conscription and if they are seen to be democratic institutions responsive to the needs and wishes of their members.
In this context, the Official Report of an earlier debate says that
if unionism is to flourish, it must be on the basis of encouraging voluntary union membership, with the unions recognising that they have to sell their services, and not upon the basis of compulsive sanction." — [Official Report, 27 January 1971; Vol. 810, c. 688.]
That was my own contribution to the debate on the Industrial Relations Bill 12 years ago and I believe it just as strongly now, so I can claim some consistency of view on this. The message to the unions, now as then, must be that thinking that admiration and respect can be gained through conscription and compulsion is a very dangerous philosophy.
I am also encouraged in moving the Second Reading by the fact that it contains nothing that has not already been done by one union or another. That applies to secret ballots for union leadership, for strikes and even for political funds. If some trade unions can follow proper democratic procedures, why should they not all do so? That is the purpose of the Bill. It does not establish any special courts. It does not create any new supervisory agency. It does not provide for the Government to impose ballots on trade unions. It does not require the wholesale rewriting of trade union rule books, nor does it prescribe a large number of detailed procedures for unions to follow. It does none of those things. It seeks to extend the existing rights of trade union members and the remedies already available to them.
Part I of the Bill concerns elections, part II strike ballots and part III the political activities of trade unions.
Part I provides that all the voting members of the governing body of a trade union must be elected by a secret ballot of the members. The governing body is defined as the "principal executive committee"—that is, the most senior permanent elected body of each trade union and not, for example, the annual conference which, whatever its policy-making functions, is likely to meet on no more than a few days in the year. It is the principal executive committee which governs the union from day to day and is usually responsible for actions such as the calling of strikes. Therefore, it is on the principal executive committee that the need for democratic accountability is greatest. The president and general secretary of each union will be subject to the same electoral requirement if they have a vote or a casting vote on the executive.
The ballot must be secret and every member entitled to vote must have an opportunity to do so at the time and place convenient to him and without having to incur direct personal cost. In practice, this means that ballots will normally have to take place either at the workplace or by post. The block vote and voting by a show of hands at branch meetings, with all their potential for manipulation, will not satisfy the requirements of the Bill. That in itself will be a major advance.
How would that apply to the National Union of Mineworkers, in which most of the power is vested in the regional and area branches throughout the coalfields? The NUM executive consists of all the officials, most of them full time, who are elected by secret ballot at the pithead. Is the Minister suggesting that they will have to go through another ballot when they go on to become members of the executive?
The determination whether they are involved depends on whether they have a vote. A distinction has been made between voting and non-voting officials. We understood and accepted that point when it came up in representations from interested parties.
Another important point may concern some of my right hon. and hon. Friends. Some people would have liked the Bill to provide for postal ballots only, but there would have inevitably have had to be exceptions for seamen, building workers and others who regularly work away from home. Moreover, I am not convinced that postal ballots are always the best means of ensuring maximum participation in elections. The turnover of members in many unions is very high and records are seldom up to date. A workplace ballot, properly conducted as the Bill will require, may often be a more effective means of getting voting papers into the hands of trade union members, as a comparison between some unions which operate postal ballots and others which operate workplace ballots clearly shows.
I hope that whenever possible unions will make use of postal ballots. The money provided under the 1980 Act to meet the cost of such ballots will continue to be available. I believe, however, that it would have been impracticable and even counterproductive to have required a postal ballot in every case. The most important need is to ensure that every trade unionist has a genuine and equal opportunity to vote and to do so in secret, thus ending what amounts to the disfranchisement of the majority, which is the present scandalous position in some of the largest unions. That is what the Bill is designed to achieve.
The hon. Gentleman will know the requirements set out in earlier legislation about making convenient arrangements, as I believe the saying goes. The provision of space and time is not a mandatory requirement, but they must seek to make arrangements. All this is set out in the codes of practice, with which the hon. Gentleman will be familiar. The subject may be further debated in Committee.
Part II concerns strike ballots. In effect, it gives trade unions a choice. They may ballot their members before calling them out on strike and keep the immunity that the law allows, or they may call a strike without a ballot and forfeit their immunity.
It is a simple proposition and an entirely fair one. A trade union's immunity from civil proceedings in an industrial dispute is a privilege unique in English law. I do not doubt that it is a necessary privilege if trade unions are to function effectively, but that is not to say that it should be a unconditional privilege and free of any corresponding obligations. The minimum obligation is surely to ensure that they have consulted their members before calling on them to risk their own livelihood and that of their friends and colleagues by going on strike, often causing considerable public disruption. There certainly can never be any justification for a trade union compelling its members to strike against their will under the threat of withdrawing their union cards and effectively throwing them out of their jobs.
The provisions in part II cover all industrial action, not just a strike which is in breach of contract and which is authorised or endorsed by a trade union, as set out under the 1982 Act. That means it will cover all official industrial action but also any action which trade unions or their paid officials are seen to be supporting. It would not, of course, be practicable to require the organisers or leaders of unofficial action to hold ballots. For one thing, they may be hard to identify and often unofficial action is too shortlived for there to be time for a ballot to be held. Obviously it would be illogical to put a balloting obligation on a trade union in the case of wholly unofficial action. Some have suggested, but I do not believe it, that the effect of this provision could be to encourage unofficial action. On the contrary, I think it will cause organisers of unofficial action to think twice. They will know that their union will be reluctant to give official blessing to a strike which was started unofficially, because to do so without holding a ballot would cost the union its immunity. In future the organisers of unofficial action may well find that they are on their own.
Of course, the Opposition claim that any and every change in the law will mean an increase in unofficial action. They said the same about the 1982 Act. I have yet to see evidence of it. They were at it again just now but we have rather longer memories of some comments made by members of the Opposition on earlier occasions. Their solution of unlimited, unconditional immunity for any and every bit of industrial action was not notably successful when they tried it in the late 1970s.
If the Secretary of State thinks that it is self-evident that there ought to be withdrawal of what he calls immunity if a ballot is not held, can he explain why the Green Paper produced by his predecessor explained in paragraph 60 that no country had ever legislated in this manner, why the document recommended against it and why it considered every alternative except the one which is in the Bill?
We had consultations about the proposals in the Green Paper and we took a different view in the light of those consultations. Many representations were made. It is an original approach to suggest that the proposals in a Green Paper should be followed as slavishly as those in a White Paper. We considered the representations that did not support the Government's proposals, and we felt that this was a better proposal to adopt. I hope we will get credit for listening to the representations.
Part III of the Bill deals with the rights of trade union members in trade unions which engage in political activities. There is nothing in the Bill to prevent a union from continuing to engage in political activity if that is the wish of the majority of its members. That was the principle established by the Trade Union Act 1913 and nothing in this Bill detracts from it in any way. If the majority of the members of a union wish it, their union can establish a political fund and raise a political levy of whatever size they choose. Their union may affiliate as many members as it wishes to a political party and play whatever role it can in the life of that political party. If unions wish to affiliate more members to a political party than actually pay the levy—as some unions do—then that is their business and nothing in this Bill will prevent their doing so. The trade unions can continue to march their ghost armies through party conferences and brandish their block votes if that is what their members wish. I cannot emphasise sufficiently that this Bill is not concerned with the political activities of trade unions as such, still less with the role trade unions may or may not play in a particular political party. It is concerned, as the 1913 Act was concerned, with the rights of the individual members in trade unions which decide to raise a political levy and spend it on political purposes.
Does the Secretary of State not admit that the circumstances of 1983 are very different from those of 1913? What the Government are trying to do is tilt the balance of political activity very much in favour of big business which can subvent the Tory party in terms of funds. Is he desirous of moving along a free enterprise route and of this country emulating the United States of America where the farce of their political activity was epitomised by Governor Connally of Texas raising $11 million to get one vote? Is that what the Secretary of State wants in this country?
That was a very interesting contribution. The implication of the intervention by the hon. Member for Dunfermline, West (Mr. Douglas) is that no union could get the support of its members in a ballot to continue a political fund. If that is true, it is difficult for the House to walk away from it. I invite hon. Members to correct me if I am wrong. I have had investigations made and I believe that only a very limited number of unions have had ballots; the Society of Graphical and Allied Trades had one recently, in 1976, I think.
There have been other ballots recently, but in a considerable number of unions we have not been able to trace any evidence of a ballot being held since 1913. That means in effect, unless they have much longer serving members than one appreciates, that in many unions not one member has ever had the opportunity to vote for the political fund. Presumably the 1913 Act was never intended to be a once-for-all provision, with no one ever having the opportunity to vote again on the matter. The only reason the hon. Member for Dunfermline, West would have for making that intervention would be if he expects that a few unions will be able to pass the simple test of a ballot of their members as to whether they wish the political fund to continue.
In view of the enormous research that the Secretary of state has done, can he tell the House how many union conferences of unions which are affiliated to the Labour party have had before them in the past 50 years resolutions demanding the ending of the political levy and how many of those resolutions were carried?
I was referring to voting on the political fund. I cannot find evidence of this. We all know that the activities of certain union members on the levy, as well as the fund, have ensured that the matter has never or very rarely been raised at political conferences. In certain unions branches have raised the issue of paying the levy to another political party. Whether that has been raised at conferences or in the executive business of the union I am not aware. That happened in the Association of Scientific, Technical and Managerial Staffs. The Bill provides that unions with political funds must consult their members in a secret ballot at least once every 10 years to see if the members want the political fund to continue. The procedure for these review ballots is exactly the same as that laid down in the 1913 Act.
The Minister will know that every trade union has at frequent intervals a chance of rules revision. During the process of revising the rules and endorsing them or otherwise, every member of a trade union has the right to end the commitment of his union to collect political funds. Therefore, there is a continuing process, whereby all members of trade unions can participate in the revision process. It is by that method that they say whether the trade union should continue to have a political fund. In other words, there is a regular opportunity for members to decide whether to continue with the fund. The Secretary of State is wrong to assert that trade unions do not regularly review their right to have political funds.
If the hon. Gentleman is satisfied that the system works well and, therefore, that the existing system accurately reflects the attitude of union members, I cannot understand what the problem is all about as elections and periodic ballots will bear that out. My understanding of the argument advanced by Opposition Members is that they are nervous of the possible outcome of a ballot. They are worried that a ballot would give union members a chance to vote on political funds. The hon. Member for Dunfermline, West expressed his extreme anxiety that doing anything as rash as allowing union members to vote on political funds might lead to terrible things. The hon. Member for Tottenham (Mr. Atkinson) cannot have it both ways. Either the system works—it is well understood by all union members — and the hon. Gentleman has nothing to worry about in a straight ballot, or the system does not work. A ballot will bear that out.
Perhaps I can help my right hon. Friend by quoting a reasonable trade union leader—Gavin Laird. He said:
I make no secret of it, we make it as difficult as we can for our members to contract out. I want the Labour Party to have as much money as possible. And within the law there is no way I'm going to facilitate people contracting out".
That is what Gavin Laird said in 9 September 1983 on Channel 4.
To coin a phrase, "It is not the moderates." The whole House will have listened to that quotation with interest. If that is an example of one of the moderates at work, God help us when we have to deal with the activities of some of the more extreme Left members of some trade unions.
The Bill does not deal with the rights of individual trade union members not to pay the political levy. That right was guaranteed by the 1913 Act. But there has been increasing worry recently about the difficulties experienced by some union members when they try to exercise that right. That point was well illustrated by the quotation which my hon. Friend the Member for Meriden (Mr. Mills) gave. I am discussing that issue with the TUC. I have asked it to make practical proposals to ensure a free and effective right for trade unionists to choose whether to pay the levy. Of course, I shall let the House know the outcome of those discussions at the earliest opportunity but I have made it clear to the TUC that, in the absence of its making acceptable proposals, I reserve the right to table suitable amendments to the Bill later, possibly on Report.
The Bill fulfils the undertaking that we gave to the country in our election manifesto. We fought and won that election on a promise to give the unions back to their members. That is the fact which the TUC cannot afford to forget, which some of the more extreme leaders of less democratic unions would dearly like to forget, but which the Government will never forget. Poll after poll has shown that these proposals have the support of the overwhelming majority of the British people and the majority of trade unionists.
I was glad to discover today that the Bill has even wider support than I realised. I happened to discover an early-day motion tabled by some far-sighted Opposition Members as long ago as 1975. It gives me some pleasure to note its wording:
That this House, in the interests of maximum democratic participation, urges the Government to introduce legislation to ensure the provision of financial aid for postal ballots in trade union elections.
That motion was tabled by two members of the Labour shadow Cabinet and five other members of the new Labour Front Bench, including the hon. Member for St. Helens, North, whom we welcome to his new responsibilities. The need for the Bill is apparently recognised by the hon. Gentleman and some of his right hon. and hon. Friends, as well as the vast number of electors and trade unionists who voted for the Conservatives at the general election. Millions of trade union members are looking to us to carry them through. That is the task on which we are now embarked and it is with enthusiasm that I commend the Bill to the House.
I thank the Secretary of State for his kind comments about me. I am happy to reciprocate them and to congratulate him on his first appearance, apart from Question Time, at the Dispatch Box in his present capacity.
The Secretary of State did not give us much detail. Indeed, he skipped through the Bill rather quickly, especially part II. I hope that we shall examine it much more carefully than the Secretary of State wants us to. The Bill is an irrelevant effrontery by the Conservative party. Conservatives, of all people, want to lecture the British trade union movement on the principles and practice of democracy.
As recently as 1963, the late lain Macleod was moved to describe the processes by which a Conservative Prime Minister was appointed to the highest political office in the land as more akin to the enstoolment of an African tribal chief than to the processes of modern political democracy. It is a party in the internal processes of which, as witnessed by the sickeningly deferential annual conferences, democracy is only occasionally glimpsed and yet it has the patronising temerity to use the power of the state to impose on our trade unions the Conservative party's ideas of how they should be run internally. Moreover, all that is in respect of trade unions which were born in democracy, nurtured and developed by it and practise it almost every day.
The Bill also restricts further the power of trade unions to defend and advance their members' interests by imposing an arbitrary and inflexible ballot which, in practice, amounts to a compulsory pre-strike ballot before there is any official withdrawal of labour under pain of losing the legal safeguards which alone would render that action possible.
The Bill produces the ludicrous circumstances in which members of a trade union who take part in an unofficial strike will have legal immunity from civil action if they are acting in a trade dispute while a trade union which acts officially will lose immunity completely if a ballot as prescribed by the Bill is not held. The processes of the inflexible ballot will encourage unofficial action more widely than ever before as industrial relations experts and intelligent employers know well.
The Bill creates a legal and practical incentive for unofficial action. Is that the Conservative party's contribution to better industrial relations? I hope that Conservative Members will understand that clearly before they vote for a Bill which might have an effect that they little imagine let alone intend.
Thirdly, in an act of mean-minded political spite, the Conservative party wants to restrict the operation of political funds of trade unions so much that it hopes to undermine the Labour party financially, thereby making it more difficult for Labour to carry out its constitutional function as Her Majesty's loyal Opposition. All this, while money is encouraged to flow—without let or hindrance or murmur of statutory control — from the coffers of corporate and private sector industry towards the Conservative party.
Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman suggesting that the Labour party is so bankrupt of ideas that it is incapable of obtaining funds by any other way from its members than coercion?
I regret having given way. If the hon. Gentleman listens to what I have to say, he will hear my argument as it develops.
In part I, for the first time in our history, the Government are attempting to regulate the internal affairs of trade unions. Hitherto, Governments of all complexions have regarded it as a necessary corollary of the freedom of association that trade unions be regarded as voluntary associations, free from interference by the employers or the state, which could best regulate their own affairs in accordance with rules democratically determined by their members and by the rules of natural justice.
I stress freedom of association as a cardinal principle. It must be regarded as important in these matters as the freedom of the individual. Unfortunately, in recent years the Conservative party, as it has become consumed by animosity towards the trade union movement, has overlooked its importance. However, it is a crucial principle threatened by the Bill.
The Government, in the Green Paper and in the Bill, proceed on the assumption that there is some serious deficiency in the way that trade unions elect their ruling executives. We reject that untrue assumption to be an unwarranted and unjustified slur on British trade unions. As British trade unions have grown over the years, hampered many times by legal decisions and political obstacles, they have each, in their own way, according to their experiences and requirements, developed their own system of representative internal government. What might be suitable for a small, tightly-knit craft union with strong traditions of internal cohesion might often not be suitable for a large general union, covering multifarious industries and services and with a large turnover of membership.
The trade unions have responded to the challenges that they have faced at different times in their history. Often, for example, they have changed their systems, either as a result of amalgamations or as the nature of the industry or service in which their members work has changed. They are changing every year, in one way or another, the methods by which they conduct their internal democracy.
Some unions hold annual elections for their executive council and some have indirect systems of elections. Some give their chief officers a vote on the executive but others do not. Some officials have to run so frequently for election that they have little time to do anything else. Some, on the contrary, are given security of employment for life. The essential truth is that the British trade union movement has developed a wide diversity of representative arrangements.
That is not a weakness of the trade unions but a source of strength. Accountability to the membership of trade unions is not only to be reckoned in terms of the methods of the election of its ruling executive. It is reflected in the methods of accountability, ranging from the annual or biennial conferences of unions, rules revision conferences, regional conferences, branch meetings and workplace meetings. One characteristic, however, runs through all the different trade union arrangements. They have all been decided by the members of the unions.
Now the Government come on the scene and say that, whatever the membership of any union may have resolved in the past or may now believe, a particular form of electing representatives is to be imposed on every British trade union, whatever its circumstances. In short, they seek to impose the rule that every voting member of a principal executive committee has to be elected every five years. That is the rule that the Government impose on every trade union, whether or not it wants it. [Interruption.] If the Secretary of State thinks that there is something wrong about my statement on his Bill perhaps he will tell us. He cannot deny my statement because it is in the Bill that they must all do that. It is clear that the Secretary of State will not rise to explain what his muttered remarks meant.
The right hon. and learned Gentleman is saying that we are laying down a single method by which this has to be done. However, the only test has to be that elections are free, unfettered and secret. Otherwise, trade unions can use any method they like that passes those tests.
I thought that the Secretary of State had not been listening to what I was saying, and that confirms my thinking. I made it clear that I was objecting to the requirement, decided by the Government, that every executive member should be elected every five years, which, as the right hon. Gentleman knows, rules out other methods of elections, perhaps for longer periods or by indirect methods.
The Government seek to impose the rule that every voting member of an executive committee has to be elected every five years. Any form of direct or indirect election that does not fit this pattern is effectively to be declared illegal, and the Government's chosen pattern is to be enforced directly by the courts.
Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman seriously suggesting that a requirement that these officials of trade unions be reelected at least once every five years is objectionable and, if so, why?
I hope that the hon. Gentleman will listen carefully as I develop my argument. I am objecting to the Government deciding that what they think should be done by unions is what should be done, whatever the union members may agree. Freedom of association means that the best people to decide the constitution of the union are the members of the union and not the state, represented by the present Government.
The crucial issue is that this means that the Government will require every union to go through this process, whether or not it wishes to. One can understand the argument that the wishes of the membership of the union should prevail and that if, for some reason, that is not happening, it should be ensured. However, I cannot understand the argument that if a Government think they know better than the members of the trade union how to run the union, it is consistent with the freedom of association that the Government should be able to impose their will.
I put it simply to assist the difficult task of persuading Conservative Members of my point. It could be established that there are at least five of what might be called "respectable" methods of representative self-government for trade unions, and let us call them A, B, C, D, and E. They might include indirect election, election at annual conferences, election by branch ballot, election by workplace ballots, combinations of partly directly elected and partly indirectly elected systems. The Government are saying that because they favour system A—the election of representatives every five years—that must be imposed on a membership that may be hostile to it.
Let me give the Government an example to persuade them of my point. Many white collar unions now seek highly qualified, professional staff in the market place to run their unions as the chief officials of the unions in much the same way as companies recruit executives. In return, the people who are appointed expect reasonable conditions of service, including the prospect of being employed for more than five years at a time. I hope that it is not thought to be unreasonable for these unions to act in such a way.
The unions may also think that it is sensible to give such officers of the unions a vote on their executive councils. Under the Bill, they will be prevented from doing that. Why on earth should they be so prevented from running the union in that pattern simply because the Government of the day—that is the Conservative party—take some objection? That is what the union wants, its members want, and what its members consistently vote for.
This part of the Bill is intellectually disreputable because it proceeds from arrogance, unfounded assumptions and downright ignorance of the way our trade unions work in practice. It will seriously inhibit trade unions in the exercise of their affairs in an unnecessary and troublesome manner. It will cause complications and expense with no benefit either to the unions or to the public. It comes ill from a Government to talk of democracy at the workplace—of which trade unions are almost our only example—when they consistently refuse to consider any advance in industrial democracy and to give trade unionists and other workers any influence on the decisions at the workplace which have a major effect on their lives. At the same time as the Government introduce this Bill, they are ferociously resisting the moderate initiatives of the Vredeling and fifth company law directives of the European Community, which aim to achieve only limited industrial democracy.
If the Government believe that the system of internal self-government which they are imposing by statute on British trade unions is so good, when is it to be applied to other voluntary organisations? If it is to be forced on the Transport and General Workers Union or the General, Municipal, Boilermakers and Allied Trades Union, why should it not be imposed on the National Farmers Union which, as far as I can see, is not covered by the Bill? It can be fairly said, I think, that that union exercises more influence than many other British institutions. It has a unique right of consultation under an Act of Parliament. I suspect that if the Government were to tell the NFU, with which many Conservative Members have a close association—
—that its system of electing its officials was not satisfactory and that its executive should be elected every five years, I am sure that many members of the NFU would say, "Mind your own business. We shall decide for ourselves how we run our union. We shall decide how we elect our executive." If it is good enough for the farmers to do that, it is good enough for the boilermakers and other British trade unions.
I hope that the hon. Gentleman is not inviting me to weep at the weakness of the NFU or find a place in my heart for that beleagured institution. As he well knows, the NFU has much more influence on this Government than the rest of the British trade union movement put together. He also knows that that has nothing to do with the so-called legal safeguards and immunity.
We are told that the protection of a trade union from being sued in civil actions is a great privilege or immunity. In fact, it is necessary for a trade union to operate. It is the way in which our legal system recognises the right of free association in trade unions. I never hear Conservative Members talking about the great privilege that is given to limited liability companies, whereby they are not forced to pay debts beyond the assets that have been contributed to the company. Of course, that is necessary for the operation of a limited liability company, and we accept it as such, but it is no more a privilege and no less an immunity than that which is accorded to trade unions in this country.
I come now to part II, which removes the necessary immunity from trade unions in all official strikes which are not preceded by a ballot of the workers, held according to the terms that are required in the Bill. As it is realistic to say that unions could not go on strike without the necessary safeguards now provided in section 13 of the Trade Union and Labour Relations Act, these provisions have the effect of requiring compulsory ballots before official strikes. We had better conduct our discussion on the Bill on the basis that it requires automatic pre-strike ballots for all official strikes.
That provision is based on another unwarranted assumption, that the leadership of the trade unions are constantly dragging reluctant members out on strike. The truth—as, again, industrial relations experts and most intelligent employers know only too well—is often the opposite. The members directly affected by an injustice, or a pay claim, or an unjustified alteration in the conditions of employment, are often more eager to take industrial action than their leaders. That truth, of course, will soon assert itself, if the Bill becomes law in its present form. When members are impatient of union procedures, or feel that they are too slow, or that the matter requires immediate or direct response, they will take unofficial action. The more the Bill puts obstacles in the way of effective official action, the more it will encourage unofficial action. It will not reduce strikes. It will merely encourage more strikes to be unofficial. Again, industrial relations experts and intelligent employers know the truth of that.
The Bill goes even further than that to encourage unofficial strikes. It gives unofficial strikers a better legal status than official action. Members of a trade union on unofficial strike in pursuance of a trade dispute are covered by the legal safeguards against civil action, but the same members, acting either without a ballot being held or before a ballot is held, will lose that safeguard. So there is not only a practical but a legal incentive for unofficial industrial action. If the Bill becomes law, it will give unofficial strikers more rights in law than those on offical strikes. Is that what the Conservatives want to contribute to better industrial relations? Is the message that is to be taken back to the constituencies this weekend that, "We have given more rights to unofficial strikers than to official strikers, and that is our plan for better industrial relations in the country"?
I want to examine some of the other features of this unpleasant Bill, because it has many curious and unintended effects.
Will my right hon. and learned Friend explain to the House the origin of the clause dealing with strike ballots, because in the Government's mind it is very much second best? Is it not the case that when the Government considered statutory ballots they thought that if workers were compelled by statute to have a ballot before a strike, the implementation of the ballot decision would be imposed, and that the people who would then picket the factory, if there were a ballot decision to strke, would be the police force and not the factory workers? The Government therefore decided that it would be quite impossible to have policemen picketing factories to ensure the carrying out of the strike ballot to withdraw labour.
There is a lot of truth in what my hon. Friend says. However, he is asking me to undertake a difficult task, and that is to work out what caused the Government to introduce this provision. I remind the House that the Green Paper introduced by the previous Secretary of State argued strongly against this provision, by implication. It considered other ways in which the strike ballot might be held, perhaps triggered by demands from the members themselves. The Green Paper pointed out that no other country had a provision such as we find in this Bill, and for good reasons, which the Donovan commission explained in 1968.
This part of the Bill has serious implications for trade unions, because it will gravely undermine the effective pursuit of their members' interests. For example, no action authorised by the union before the ballot is held can be covered by the safeguards. So a union will not be able to act speedily or decisively when action of that nature is required, because it is bound to take days, if not weeks, to organise a large ballot. If, for example, a case of rank victimisation is perpetrated by an employer on a union member, the union will not be able to initiate with safety any industrial action covered by the Bill before a ballot is held, when the circumstances of the case cry out for swift and speedy action by the unions.
In these provisions we find the real clue to the Government's intentions. They seek to alter the balance of power between trade unions and employers. What I find appalling is the Government's deceitfulness in proceeding, as they would have it, to give more rights to the member of the union to be consulted before a strike is held, but having as the so-called sanction the complete removal of protection from civil actions of damages, which does not affect relations between the member and the union but gravely alters the balance of power between the unions and the employers and others. If the Government were genuine about giving more rights to the members, they would introduce provisions whereby members could trigger ballots, such as were discussed in their Green Paper. They would perhaps legislate to allow members to require ballots to be held—the very thing that they canvassed for discussion in their own Green Paper. However, that is precisely what the Government do not do in this Bill. They are using this provision as a pretext for hammering the unions once again, by totally removing the protection from civil suits for any action authorised before a ballot is held, or where a ballot has not been held.
The use of that sanction throws a searchlight of truth on the Government's real intentions. They are concerned not to advance the rights of individual members of unions, but to weaken unions in their dealings with employers.
Personally, I am not in favour of trigger ballots. However, they are an example of how the Government have moved away from the position that they canvassed, and an example, too, of why the sanction that they have used is illogical, even in terms of their own purposes.
There are, of course, even more problems about the ballots that the Government seek to impose. If there is to be a ballot to start a strike, why is there not to be a ballot to end it? I make two observations about that. First, if ballots were held, most unions would also wish to hold them at the end of a dispute to ratify any settlements that had been reached. They would feel obliged to do so, even if the holding of a ballot held up the return to work. I think that the Secretary of State has some knowledge of such matters, given his previous history. That process will not always make for better industrial relations or the speedy resolution of disputes. Secondly, if a ballot has to be held by law before a strike can take place, should there not, in justice, also be a requirement in law to hold a ballot to end it, in order to protect a member from the possibility of the union agreeing to a settlement that he does not approve of? However, no such provision appears in the Bill. Such a question reveals the lack of consistency in the Government's approach.
The partiality evident in the statutory requirement concerning the framing of the question to be put in the ballot is even more serious. I hope that at a later stage hon. Members will look closely at clause 7(4), which prescribes the question that must be put. According to clause 7(4)(a), it must require the voter to say whether he is prepared to take part in a strike involving him in a breach of his contract of employment. Therefore, the question must be something like, "Are you prepared to take part in the strike in pursuit of the wage claim against your employer, which will involve you in a breach in your contract of employment?" The words, "any strike or other industrial action which involves a breach of a contract of employment" must be included in the question. Has a more loaded question ever been devised? Of course, its purpose is quite clear. It is to encourage union members to be inhibited about voting for the approval of industrial action, because they will be afraid of a legal consequence that they may not accurately perceive, but which they nevertheless fear. Again, we have a striking piece of evidence about the Government's lack of bona fides.
That part of the Bill will create enormous difficulties for trade union officials who are seeking to control industrial situations and to apply good industrial relations practices. The sudden and foolish insertion of the removal of legal immunities unless a ballot has been held makes a major change in our industrial law. I hope that even employers will realise that it is likely to cause far more problems for them than it will solve for others.
Part III has, of course, nothing—either good or bad—to do with industrial relations. It is about politics; and party politics at that. It represents a transparent attempt to cause financial difficulties to the Labour party, and to undermine the Opposition's effectiveness. Let us look at the facts surrounding the political funds of trade unions. Those funds are already tightly, and uniquely in this country, regulated by statute. Following the Osborne judgment of 1910, when the other place wrongly held that trade unions could not have political funds and that such funds were illegal, the Trade Union Act was passed in 1913 by the then Liberal Government. Ever since, that has regulated trade union political funds. Trade union members have always been free—by individual choice, which they exercise for themselves—not to contribute to the union's political fund: a fund which required a democratic decision to be established in the first place.
That right is not available to shareholders in companies. Indeed, many of those who are not Conservatives are forced to contribute to the Conservative party's funds, because of the decisions of company boards, whose only obligation is to disclose the fact and amount of the contribution long after it has been made. The Government may say—and the Secretary of State said as much today — that despite the legal right to contract out that is enshrined in statute, and which 1·5 million people exercise, trade unionists are in practice not free to do so. Let us look at the facts. The political fund rules are closely supervised by the certification officer. Between 1977 and 1982 the number of union members making complaints about alleged breaches of political fund rules ranged from 12 to 24 per year. The only exception was in 1979, when there were 105 complaints. That was an abnormally high figure, because 76 of the complaints were made by members of one onion at one workplace. During the six years in question, only nine formal hearings by the certification officer were necessary. Those are the facts about the complaints made by members. That is the recent history.
Before that, the Donovan commission, which reported in 1968, found that it had no reason to recommend any change in the Trade Union Act 1913. That was not some device that was organised by the Labour party. Therefore, it is just not true to allege—as the Secretary of State does—that members are not free to contract out, nor is it borne out by the facts. Therefore, there can be no reason for the attack made in the Bill on political funds.
In the Green Paper the Government recommend contracting in as the most favoured option, but that is not as yet in the Bill. Nevertheless, it is clearly to be held in reserve by the Secretary of State, and it may well be introduced at a later stage. If contracting in is introduced instead of contracting out, we shall simply be returning to the practices of the period between 1927 and 1946, when it was imposed on the unions because it harmed the Labour party. That was the motive then, and that is the motive now.
Similarly, the proposal to hold compulsory 10-yearly ballots of trade unions to decide whether they should have a political fund at all—although such a fund was set up only because they decided to have it, and can decide at any time whether to have it—is simply intended to cause regular and divisive ballots within trade unions on the question of their relationship with the Labour party. What is glaringly obvious about whatever provisions the Government make now or later concerning the political funds of trade unions is that they propose no limitations whatever on the sources of funds for the Conservative party from British private sector companies. There is no requirement for a ballot of shareholders on the question of political funds. There is no provision for consulting them at all at any stage. There is no right for a dissident—be he a shareholder, employee, indirect shareholder through a pension, or customer—to stop assets in which he has an interest being channelled into the coffers of the Conservative party. No contracting out or in is allowed to inhibit the Conservative party's fund-raising efforts.
We are disturbed not only by the 10-yearly compulsory ballots and the threat of contracting in but by the new definitions of political activity in the Bill. They do not represent mere harmless updating in the light of new circumstances. They have been carefully prepared to cause the maximum difficulties for trade unions in administering their political funds. Carefully laid statutory traps are being put in place to foster the harassment through litigation techniques adopted by the Association of Conservative Trade Unionists and the so-called Freedom Association, which will be very busy once the Bill is enacted. We shall return to these matters in Committee, and seek to expose the vindictiveness underlying such provisions. The Committee stage will also give us the opportunity to expose the weaknesses of an incredibly badly drafted Bill, which will not only cause harm, but may not work at all in the way in which its authors intended. Their intentions are not good.
During the election campaign the Prime Minister said that trade unions should not be a fourth estate of the realm. She preferred the role of trade unions to be limited to the workplace or enterprise. She felt that the connection between the Labour party and the unions was wrong. I am quoting her words almost exactly. In other words, unions should be regarded as having a diminished, minor and non-political role.
This Bill is an attempt to put the Prime Minister's views into practice and into the laws of the land. It is a blatant attempt by the Government to use the power of Parliament to alter the balance of power in the state to the advantage of the Government of the day. We are now familiar with the Prime Minister's authoritarian techniques. If Ministers do not agree with her, they are sacked;if Back Benchers do not practise deference and sycophancy to the required degree, they remain unpromoted. If local authorities dare to challenge the Government on the basis of their elected mandate, they are not only centrally controlled, but abolished. Because trade unions oppose her, trade union rights are to be curbed. In the most audacious stroke of all, the Opposition's funds are to be attacked in an attempt to make them less effective. These are the suspect motives behind the Bill.
Because the Bill will do serious damage to both industrial relations and political fairness, we shall not only fight it with vigour and determination but, when we come to power as we will, we shall repeal it and replace it with legislation that reinstates the principles that this Government seek to abandon.
It is with more than a small amount of astonishment that I find myself speaking at this point in the debate, which I thought was reserved for members of the Privy Council. I wonder whether there has been some announcement of which you are aware, Mr. Deputy Speaker, but which I have not observed. It is one of the agreeable traditions of the House that in the middle of debates of great importance, when passions rage and great interest is taken in the details of some difficult point, a new hon. Member can rise and take the House on a grand tour of his constituency and give a potted history of his forebears. With 150 new hon. Members having been elected, the House has had to have much greater forebearance than usual. Most maiden speeches have now been made, but I hope that the few maiden speakers remaining can dispel the idea that in this gargantuan feast of maiden speeches all the main courses have gone, and all that is left are the puddings—although there may be a few cabinet puddings among us.
As the first Member of Parliament for Tatton, I am proud to stand here this afternoon. It is an odd name for a constituency, and during the election campaign I had the task of explaining, not only who I was, but where my constituents were because most people were not familiar with the name. The name comes from Tatton park and Tatton hall—a house designed by Samuel Wyatt—which lie in the heart of my constituency at Knutsford. It is a varied constituency with a residential section at Wilmslow and Handforth, a farming section around Knutsford and an industrial section around Northwich. Hon. Members may know that Knutsford was celebrated in Mrs Gaskell's novel "Cranford".
Because it is such a varied constituency, it contains people from all walks of life and all social classes. Although parts of my constituency are undoubtedly affluent, other parts have industrial problems. ICI started in my constituency at Northwich, and Sir John Brunner, one of its founders, was a former Liberal Member of Parliament for that part of the constituency. The constituency also contains the Octel company, 250 of whose workers have recently been told that their jobs are in danger because of the Government's decision to phase out lead in petrol. I shall certainly speak on that matter in the weeks ahead in an attempt to alleviate the damage that has been caused, not specifically by the Government but also by the Opposition parties who have responded hysterically to the problem.
I am one of the few hon. Members in the House who can claim to have salt mines in his constituency. If ever the Red revolution arrives, I look forward to welcoming a great many of my right hon. and hon. Friends as my constituents, and perhaps one or two Opposition Members also. However, as I understand that the zeal of the Leader of the Opposition for a Red revolution is receding as quickly as his hairline, such a prospect is remote.
The constituency comprises parts of four former constituencies. As hon. Members who represented three of those constituencies are still in the House, I must be nice about them. I refer to my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Warrington, South (Mr. Carlisle), my hon. Friend the Member for Cheadle (Mr. Normanton) and my hon. Friend the Member for Eddisbury (Mr. Goodlad), who is not only my Whip, but the pairing Whip, so I must be especially nice to him. I must not forget that my noble Friend Lord Bruce-Gardyne was formerly the Member for Knutsford and he, to paraphrase Disraeli, is very much alive
but in the Elysian fields
of another place. I pay a generous tribute to the work of them all and hope to carry on in their traditions.
My constituency has also been represented by people whom hon. Members who have been in the House for some time may recall. For example, there was Sir Walter Bromley-Davenport, who had two great attributes for a politician. He had the loudest voice in the House and was an Army boxing champion. My hon. Friend the Member for Gainsborough and Horncastle (Mr. Leigh) told me yesterday that one of his ancestors represented mid-Cheshire — a Mr. Egerton Leigh. His main preoccupation during his three years in the House was to bring in the criminal penalty of flogging for wife beaters. That would not appeal to my hon. Friend who, I am sure, would regard it as dangerously liberal.
Despite all the huffing and puffing from Opposition Members to which we have listened this afternoon, I believe the Bill to be modest and with limited objects. The hysterical reaction from its opponents is wholly out of place. I hope that there will be less of that now that the "Prince of Darkness" has been moved to another Ministry and we have the King on the Front Bench.
The Bill is part of the Government's step-by-step approach to reform in industrial relations. Not everyone agrees with a step-by-step approach. Many people believe that when walking through a minefield the fewer steps taken the better—especially if the ground plan is not well known. The major philosophical issues that surround the immunity possessed by trade unions for the past 70 or 80 years are not the issues today. A great many Conservative Members will return to the question of whether immunity, in any shape or form, is justified. As I must be uncontroversial today, I shall not wander into that minefield.
The main reason the Bill has come before the House this afternoon is the non-co-operation of those who are the prime candidates for Conservative assistance. Mr. Moss Evans has said that he would prefer to go to gaol than swallow another dose of trade union law. He has said—and many Opposition Members agree with him—that democracy is solely a union matter and not something with which the House should be concerned.
But I accept the view written in an editorial in The Guardian recently, which said:
Unions have great power to damage the economy and the humane running of society. They retain substantial immunity from normal legal proceedings when they exercise those powers. They have the ability to influence the shape of politics by pumping millions of pounds into the coffers of the Labour Party. They retain great power to coerce the individual … Finally unions demand the right to participate in all aspects of national policy making, from the arts to education, from trade with Chile to a non-nuclear defence strategy.
If unions purport to have those powers and to play that part in our national life, Parliament must control the way in which they run themselves. Trade unions, like companies, are creatures of statute, and the statutes by which they are governed can be altered by this House.
It ill becomes the Socialist planners in the Opposition, while seeking to plan the detail of everybody's life, to say, "Hands off the unions." What great issue of principle is involved? Is it the provision of funds for ballots in trade unions? They did not object to the provision of funds for the training of shop stewards under the 1975 legislation. No great issue of principle is involved.
Under the Trade Union Act 1913, which has already been mentioned, trade union members voted on whether there should be a political fund at all. All the Bill seeks to do is to bring that Act up to date. Those 1913 trade union voters are now dead and buried, although many of them may still be affiliated to the Labour party because of the byzantine way in which the unions calculate the political levy to that organisation. All we seek to do is to give trade union members of today the rights of trade union members of 1913. The Trades Union Congress has failed to respond to the Government's invitation for consultations even though 150 other organisations and individuals responded to it. The union leaders therefore have only themselves to blame for their present predicament. The misuse of the block vote and the lack of real consultation with members on many issues has produced abuses which it is the duty of the Government to resolve. The gap between the minority who run the trade unions and the majority whom they purport to represent has been growing in recent years and has been the subject of great political debate.
The Government have a mandate for the reforms proposed in the Bill. Mr. Scargill has said that we do not have a mandate because we received only 42 per cent. of the vote, but did he object when the Employment Protection Act 1975 was passed by a Government who had only 38 per cent. of the votes at that time? Of course he did not. Between us, the Conservatives, the Social Democrats and Liberals—who broadly support the same types of policy on trade unions — we received 68 per cent. of the vote at the general election. It is strange to find those hon. and right hon. Members who oppose these
moderate and simple reforms—the forces of so-called social progress—allying themselves with the attitude of George III towards the pre-1832 British constitution—
Perfection as by law established
No, no, I will have no innovations in my time.
We are determined to get this innovation. Perhaps the right hon. and learned Member for Monklands, East (Mr. Smith) would agree with the statement by my noble Friend the Lord Chancellor, although he said it in jest in another context, that
We do not believe the Bill to be necessary but even if it were we should oppose it.
The Labour party research department has described the Bill as a threat to democracy. This is the first time that I have heard that giving the vote to people is a threat to democracy. There are parts of the world where it is bad form for the electorate to interfere with the results of an election but those are not generally regarded as countries which we would wish to emulate.
Many unions bar from office those who are not paid-up Labour party members or contributors to its political fund. The NUR is an example. I believe that those who stand for election to unions as executive officers are in many cases unable to promote their candidature because if they criticise the union leadership it is described as bringing the trade union into disrepute and they are therefore debarred from office in that union.
The varying procedure for election has been made a virtue by the right hon. and learned Member for Monklands, East. The procedure varies from union to union, but there are many abuses in the block vote system as I am sure any open-minded and reasonable person would admit.
We all know of meetings where votes are taken on a show of hands in a room packed with activists. They are held on stormy nights in the middle of winter and are not properly advertised to the members, some of whom are unable to attend. I read in the Financial Times of 24 January of a member of the NUR who wanted to vote in the election for Sidney Weighell's successor. He was a Left-winger himself but was prevented from voting because the meeting was held at the time he was driving his train.
The electoral system in trade unions needs reform to make it more uniform. It is a mistake to think that, as a result of introducing these reforms, the Left wing, as it is broadly described, will never take control of a trade union. That is a fallacy because the Oxford management centre has analysed the rule books of 102 trade unions in a study which shows that four out of the eight unions with full postal voting systems are broadly run by the Left wing. Therefore, Opposition Members who are fearful for their future or for the future of their comrades are being too pessimistic.
The Bill also proposes a major reform of the political fund. The right hon. and learned Gentleman said with great pride that few people had been brought before the certification officer to complain that they had been prevented from contracting out of their political levy. As is well known it is difficult, because of the circumstances of particular industries and the way people are pressured socially, for them to kick up a fuss. But there is a good example of a Mr. Jack Cleminson, who was a member of the Post Office Engineers Union and who for 12 years, year in, year out, asked for his political levy to be returned to him but was refused. He tried to distribute "opting-out" leaflets to other members of the union at his workplace and was threatened with the loss of his job. He received no refund of the political levy so he went to the certification officer and, because he disagreed with the decision of the officer, he had to go to the High Court before he got justice. His experience cannot be justified in our society.
Is it so intolerable merely to ask that unions should be governed more democratically? Is it so wrong to suggest that union members should decide once in a while whether they want to pay into a political fund? The hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner), who, I am happy to see, is no longer in the Chamber, said that this would lead to the crippling of the Labour party. Between 1927 and 1946, as has already been pointed out, the Labour party was not dependent on funds received in the present way. In 1945 Anthony Eden said that
If that means they are crippled, they look pretty healthy cripples to me.
The Bill sensibly proposes no criminal sanctions. Union members can enforce the provisions on the election of officers and companies and directly injured parties can sue if no strike ballot is held. A point which did not come out sufficiently in the comments of the right hon. and learned Member for Monklands, East is that the result of ballots will not be binding in law on the unions. All that is required is that there should be a ballot so that we know whether members of the union support the action that is proposed. Immunity is conferred whether or not the result goes in favour of the union executive.
I see no dangers to democracy as a result of the Bill—quite the reverse. The Bill is not perfect and hon. Members who serve on the Committee will seek to make various alterations. Does "Industrial action" in clause 6 cover an overtime ban of the type that the National Union of Mineworkers is now operating? There is nothing in the Bill about procedure agreements and nothing about strikes in essential services.
We said in our manifesto five months ago that the nation is entitled to expect that the operation of essential services should not be disrupted. There may be further drops of trade union reform in the future. I believe that this is a useful measure. The majority of the British people will support it, the majority of trade unionists will support it and a majority in the House will support it. I shall be proud to be in the Lobby this evening to support it also.
It is a pleasure to congratulate the hon. Member for Tatton (Mr. Hamilton) on his excellent maiden speech. It was entertaining, lucid and, as one would expect from a lawyer, cogently argued. I looked quickly through the hon. Gentleman's biographical notes and noticed that his recreations are listed as "silence" and appreciation of the countryside. We hope that he will continue his appreciation of the countryside and I am sure that I speak for the whole House when I say that I hope that he will forgo his trappist inclinations and that we will hear often from him in the future.
This is a mean, nasty and noxious Bill which continues the Government's vendetta against the trade unions. It is another move to seek to undermine and weaken workers' organisations. It is another turn of the screw and another pull on the ratchet to cripple, fetter and neuter trade unions. The Government are motivated by animosity and hostility to trade unions. The ideologues who now sit on the Government Front Bench believe that the market economy would work far better without trade unions. They do not like trade unions and they would like to squeeze them out and have a union-free society. It appears from their record that they are working towards this end with a new Bill every two years. There is already the threat of another Bill to deal with workers in public services. The cumulative effect of all this legislation is to emasculate and destroy free trade unions. Aided by massive unemployment, they want to replace free trade unions by docile state-controlled, state-registered, state-regulated and state-licensed trade unions. General Jaruzelski would be proud of them.
Eventually the Government will get their comeuppance and this whole effort will fail. I find their flatulent, windy rhetoric about democracy nauseating humbug. We it the trade union movement do not need lessons from the Government about democracy because we know all about it. We live by ballots and democracy. When I was a member of the administration of chapels in the printing industry, I was elected and re-elected by secret ballot every three months. Members who did not attend chapel meetings could be fined by the union for non-attendance. That is another reason why we do not need lessons from Conservative Members about democracy.
I have with me a document issued by my branch, the London machine branch of SOGAT — 82, and the envelope in which it is to be returned to the union. It shows that we even elect by secret ballot the scrutineers who conduct our ballots. I am told in this document by my branch secretary that the paper must be returned by Monday, 28 November and it says:
Members are reminded of the serious responsibility to choose who shall represent their interests, and all members are therefore urged to exercise their right to vote. Failure to return your Ballot Paper to the Scrutineers may result in your being fined in accordance with Branch Rule 7 Clause (d).
As I say, we live by democracy. As citizens, in the last four years we have voted in one general and one local election. As members of trade unions we have voted on numerous occasions on trade union matters.
The Green Paper pompously pontificates in paragraph 6:
The right to vote in secret for the candidate of one's choice is now widely accepted as one of the fundamental rights in any democratic society or organisation.
Those are the standards the Government set, but how do the other great institutions of our national life measure up to those principles? The workers in our major companies have little say in their activities; who elects the boss? Industrial democracy is virtually non-existent in those terms. Consider the pension funds into which we pay. There are few workers with a say on the boards of those organisations. What about the banks into which our wages are paid automatically? What say do the workers have over who runs the banks or the policies they follow? How many ballots take place there? As for the press, most of which Rupert Murdoch and Lord Matthews own, what say do the readers have in the policy of those papers? And what democracy and secret ballots are there down the Corridor in the House of Lords?
Let us consider the Conservative party. Who elects its leader? Where is the secret ballot for her or him, as the case may be? There is none, yet the Prime Minister has almost unlimited power. Consider the appointment of the chairman of the Conservative party. He is elected by an electoral college of one. In my union his equivalent is elected by a ballot vote of the members. Provided the chairman of the Conservative party is obsequious to his mistress, he can stay in office for as long as is necessary.
Not only the chairman, but the deputy chairman, treasurer and all the officials of the party are selected in the same way. Yet the chairman of the Conservative party has the gall, the impudence, the brass neck to lecture trade unionists about democracy. It is a wonder that he does not again grow a beard to cover his blushes. The Conservative party must be one of the most undemocratic organisations in the country. To be lectured by its members is too much.
I am not against democracy and the election of officials, but it is for the unions to decide the nature of their democracy and constitutions; it is for each union freely to decide, not for the state to impose a uniform straitjacket. After all, there are as many different forms of democracy as there are unions, just as there are as many different constitutions as countries. For example, the United States, France and West Germany have different ways of electing their Governments, but who is to say that they are not democratic? Anyone who has worked in industry knows that shop stewards and union officials are accountable to their members every day of their working lives. I repeat, we in the trade union movement do not need advice from Conservative Members on how to run our democracy.
In most cases a ballot takes place before there is a strike, but unions will object to being forced to have ballots in the way the Government want. Anyone would imagine from the way Conservative Members speak that the main function of union officials was to organise strikes, when the truth is the opposite. I understand that a television programme is in the vaults of Channel 4 replete with trade union members' criticisms of their officials for not supporting them in strikes. Most trade unionists have never been on strike in their lives and they would certainly never strike lightly. After all, when there is a strike they and their families suffer because they lose wages, so they strike only when there is an extremely strong grievance. Even in 1978–79, which embraced the winter of discontent, there were 10 times as many days lost through sickness as were lost through strikes.
I predict that the Bill will fail because it deals with what are called "authorised and enforced actions." The vast majority of strikes last for only a day, so it will not cover those. Nor will unofficial action be caught, yet most action is unofficial. It will put a premium on unofficial action; it will promote anarchy in industry because in future, even when trade union officials want to organise unofficial action, they will have to do it on a nod and wink basis. In other words, they will be forced to organise and connive at unofficial action. That is the sort of situation that the Government are introducing into industry.
Considering what might be called the few big set-piece national strikes, we must remember that the power to hold strike ballots existed under the Industrial Relations Act between 1971 and 1974. That power was used once, in 1972, on the railways, when on an 85 per cent. vote of railwaymen there was an overwhelming majority in favour of the union and industrial action.
We know from American experience under the Taft-Hartley laws that during the 35 years when those provisions were in force, of 163 ballots, the employers last offer was rejected in 155. In other words, the Bill is more likely to cause and prolong disputes, and I emphasise "prolong" because the Secretary of State may recall his ignominious and counter-productive role in the water strike. That strike ended the day after the officials made a settlement. A ballot held afterwards could have taken much longer. If unions are forced by law to hold a ballot before a strike, they may voluntarily include this provision to call off a strike. This is no wonder cure.
The Government show how vindictive they are when dealing with political funds. It is an exhibition of naked prejudice. The credibility of this measure is eroded by its one-sidedness. It aims to attack the Labour party's funds and to leave the Conservative party's funds alone. The House knows that that is the truth. In Committee a searchlight will be shone on the way funds for the Conservatives are raised. Many of the firms that contribute to the Conservative party want something in return. I believe there is an air of corruption about this, which will be revealed in Committee.
Half of the trade unions are not affiliated to the Labour party and the members of those unions that are members can contract out. Can shareholders in companies contract out? As customers, are we aware, when buying sugar, that Mr. Cube is bankrolling the Tory party? Do people know that they are making a contribution to the Conservative party when they drink Taylor-Walker's, Fuller's or McEwan's beer? Do the people who eat Hovis bread know that they are contributing to the Conservative party's funds? Do they know, when they insure their houses with the Sun Alliance Insurance Group, that they are bankrolling this bunch of idealogues on the Government Front Bench? Do they know that they are contributing to the Government when they patronise Trusthouse Forte plc? This is an act of naked malice and prejudice.
The Labour party has seen the public opinion polls, and it feels the wind in its sails. [Laughter.] Conservative Members will laugh on the other side of their faces when they see the industrial chaos their Bill will cause. I look forward to the day when we sweep away all anti-union legislation and start an era of co-operation, not confrontation, with the trade unions.
I agree with the hon. Member for Newham, North-East (Mr. Leighton) in congratulating my hon. Friend the Member for Tatton (Mr. Hamilton) on his maiden speech. My hon. Friend represents a beautiful part of the country, peopled by voters of mature political conviction who have sent to the House a series of hon. Members who have contributed greatly. They are to be congratulated again, as is my hon. Friend who has made such a happy start to his speaking career in the House.
I agree also with the right hon. and learned Member for Monklands, East (Mr. Smith) — on one thing — in congratulating the Secretary of State on his assuming the responsibilities of his present post and presenting his first Bill at the Dispatch Box. The importance of his post and the complexity of this part of his duty are beyond doubt. I congratulate my right hon. Friend on having remastered this side of his duties so quickly. Such criticism as I shall offer is not of the Secretary of State or his predecessor, but of general policy. Yes, we keep doing something—most of what we do is useful—but we are just plodding on too slowly. I hope that we shall use this Bill as a vehicle for moving both further and faster.
I do not need to tell the hon. Member for Newham, North-East and the right hon. and learned Member for Monklands, East what they know already, because we have so often taken part in debates on these matters, that I disagree strongly with most of what they have said. In my view, both indulged in what the hon. Member for Newham, North-East himself described as "flatulent, windy rhetoric". Goodness knows how they could become so excited about so mild a measure.
The right hon. and learned Member for Monklands, East said that the Government were consumed with animosity towards the trade unions and the hon. Member for Newham, North-East talked about a "mean, nasty vendetta" and also used the word "animosity". That is bunkum. I know of no Government Member who entertains any of those feelings. [Laughter.] The Opposition may try to laugh it off, but they are representing no one's interests by talking in such terms. That is "flatulent, windy rhetoric", to use the words of the hon. Gentleman himself. It serves only to confuse—and it is so important that we do not allow ourselves to be confused when debating this complex subject. In no other field of law is there more misunderstanding about the role of the law than in industrial relations.
First, some people seem to believe that lawyers, by some magic, ought to be able to make a law that would itself produce good industrial relations. That is rubbish also. Good industrial relations involve good human relations and start with responsibility by those at the top—in management and in the unions.
Secondly, some trade unionists—I am happy to think that the number is falling—have believed, as some still do, that the law should be used to allow them to do what they choose. They talk of immunities as rights rather than privileges. The Labour party in the Trade Union and Labour Relations Act 1974—which we amended—and in the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Amendment) Act 1976 brought all types of industrial action within the immunities given by section 13 of the 1974 Act. Anyone who describes that as a right starts from the wrong bus stop. If that was not "privilege" I have never seen any. However, I am glad to think that fewer trade unionists take that view.
Thirdly, some on the other side of the spectrum want us to use the law for union bashing, and I believe that is equally wrong. That type of tough approach does no one any good. If anyone talked about bashing me, I would see him in hell first—even if I thought he was right.
No, Sir, the purpose of the law in this field is to strike a balance between the rights of individuals and the rights of groups; between big groups and small groups; even between large and small unions, as arose when we were discussing the 1974 Bill and the position of the National Union of Journalists and the Institute of Journalists; between the freedom for those who engage in industrial action to do so without victimisation and the right for the rest of us to enjoy our freedoms too and to be compensated by those who cause us damage.
The right hon. and learned Member for Monklands, East was correct in saying that we are seeking in this Bill to change that balance. However, we are seeking only a mild change and one which is necessary because the scales are tipped too far one way. Even with this Bill I think that the balance is still too far the wrong way. The modest proposals in the Bill have not gone far enough.
I wish to put forward three matters which have always seemed to me of prime importance in relationships between management and men and those who are affected by a dispute between them although not a party to it. I refer to secondary action, selective action, and protection for the man who wishes to continue to work but who does not dare to do so in case he finds that his job is no longer open to him after the strike.
In addition, we may have to study the definition of "trade disputes" after the Court of Appeal has given its decison in Mercury, which I understand is tomorrow, although it may not, of course, be the end of those proceedings.
I agree also with my hon. Friend the Member for Tatton who mentioned procedure agreements in his maiden speech. The hon. Member for Newham, North-East correctly said that in many unions there has never been a strike. I think one will usually find that where that has occurred there is a good procedure agreement, one which comes into operation quickly, and therefore the need for a strike does not arise.
I want to remind the House about some aspects of secondary action. In its Trade Union and Labour Relations Bill 1974, the Labour party sought to give the widest possible protection to any action which was in breach of or interfered with an employment or commercial contract. The Conservative party, then in opposition, made the Labour party's Bill more reasonable by cutting out the extensions contained in clause 13 which would have given protection in respect of commercial contracts. That was done by a team comprised of the present Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, the former Member for Cities of London and Westminster, Mr. Tugendhat, now one of the European commissioners, the present Minister of State, Treasury with responsibility for the Civil Service and myself supported by others including the present Home Secretary and the present Under-Secretary of State at the Department of Energy. We reduced enormously the immunity and privileges which the Labour Government would have given. But in 1976 the Labour Government had a big enough majority to do what they had tried to do in 1974 but which happily had then been stopped. It seemed that even so matters might not be all that bad when the case of McShane was dealt with by the Court of Appeal. But when that case went to the House of Lords Judicial Committee, it was plain that Conservative fears had been fully justified and that we had been right in cutting back the immunity proposed.
Then came section 17 of the Employment Act 1980. That section does not protect a party who is not a party to the dispute. There is still immunity for action taken against the first supplier and first customer and even further, although they are not parties to a dispute. I, of course, do not expect my right hon. Friend to deal with all these matters at this stage of the Bill, but I hope that he will bear them in mind with a view to doing something about them in the later stages.
It is also worth reminding the House that section 17 has been described as the worst piece of legislation that the courts have ever seen. I hope that we can improve it and tidy it up. An amendment was put forward in the other place by Lords Orr-Ewing, Spens, and Renton. It would have achieved those objectives. I ask my right hon. Friend to consider these matters during the passage of the Bill.
Do I understand the right hon. and learned Gentleman aright when he says that he is against giving immunity to action against first suppliers and first customers? If my memory serves me right, that was dealt with in a previous Bill when he was a Law Officer of the Crown. He came at our request to explain matters and told us that we had the balance right.
The hon. Gentleman is correct. I was a member of the Government when section 17 was enacted. He is correct to say that, at the Committee's invitation, not once but twice, I offered advice as Law Officer. That advice did not include any political consideration such as whether the balance was correct or not.
Part II will have a marginal effect on section 17 because without a ballot the immunity provided by that section will not exist. But I hope my right hon. Friend will bear in mind that that effect is only marginal. It does not deal with either of the two points I have raised about section 17—the immunity it gives is too wide and its wording needs improving. Part II will have a marginal effect also on selective action. In my view, there is something almost indecent when about half a dozen people halt an operation and then everyone on whose behalf they are taking that action turns up with no work to do and expects to be paid. I hope that during the lifetime of this Parliament we shall consider the question of "lay-off" in those circumstances. However, all the union would have to do is—I am thinking of the six ladies who issued stamps and brought the Post Office to a halt—would be to ballot the six people involved.
There is some force in some of the points that have been raised about balloting. I am sure that my right hon. and hon. Friends have them in mind. I am equally sure that those who deal wth the Bill in Committee—I hope that I shall not be one of them, and I hope that I am an old enough hand to ensure that I am not—
Yes, I will offer some odds. Where something is almost obligatory—I know that the union has choice here, but there is some force in the argument that it has no real choice—the union may well feel that it has to win the ballot and be tempted to put forward all kinds of pressures and perhaps all this hardens the dispute.
One hopes that that possibility can be guarded against. There is some danger for that it gives those who engage in unofficial strikes an advantage and perhaps tempts them to strike unofficially. I have in mind what was said by the Donovan commission on that subject. I recognise the dangers, but half the battle is recognising them. I hope, with my right hon. Friend, that it is not beyond the wit of man to reach some accommodation which will ensure that when the Bill becomes law it will have the intended result. I am sure that no Conservative Members, in voting for it as we all shall, would wish to produce that result.
I shall summarise my points about each part of the Bill in reverse order. All that I have heard about part III from the Opposition today is more "flatulent and windy rhetoric". That part makes little difference to the Bill. Part II removes immunity from secondary and primary action where the provisions are not complied with, but it does nothing to clarify the law about when that immunity exists. It is extremely complicated, and I can see the difficulties that might arise if the Committee cannot improve it.
Part I is also complicated, but no doubt my right hon. and hon. Friends and Opposition Members will discuss it in more detail. Its objectives are right, but even in this third Bill we have not even reached the position we achieved in the Labour Government's own Bill in 1974, when we Conservatives introduced the unanimous recommendations of the Donovan commission on compulsory rules for unions. Those recommendations included model lilies for elections and said that there must be elections to the governing bodies of unions, although these did not I think specify the interval of those elections. The report contained many provisions about internal matters to which there would be little, if any, objection. Hon. Members on both sides of the House might think it worthwhile considering the recommendations of the Donovan commission, the introduction of which might help to solve some of the problems.
I mentioned three other topics — the man who is afraid to go to work, the definition of trade disputes and procedure agreements — but I should trespass on the generosity of the House if I took up more time. I appreciate the fact that my right hon. Friend has had little time to get the feel once again of such matters, which are complicated and which have so many sides. I hope that with this Bill he will find a way of dealing a little more firmly with some of the problems to which I referred. It must be given a Second Reading, but I hope that Conservative Members and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State will view it as a vehicle for substantially more improvement than would be achieved by the Bill in its present form. I wish it well.
We heard a clear and confident maiden speech by the hon. Member for Tatton (Mr. Hamilton), who I have no doubt will address the House often. He has the ability to string ideas together and to hold one's attention as he expresses his views. However, I wonder what has happened to the tradition that was explained to me when I made my maiden speech, which was that on no account must it be controversial. We have heard controversial maiden speeches from hon. Members on both sides of the House during this Parliament, and perhaps we might consider changing the rule about that. One hopes that some new Labour Members especially will not make even more controversial speeches in their political lives. However, I congratulate the hon. Member for Tatton, who did the job rather well.
The Bill is one of a long series of trade union Bills, and the right hon. and learned Member for Southport (Sir I. Percival) referred to some of the Bills that have been presented since I have been a Member of the House. As a Liberal Member, I reflect that yet another Bill has come before the House but that no progress has been made towards the Liberal dream of an industrial society where those who work in an industry—those who have given their lives, energy and sometimes genius to it—have a system whereby they know automatically that they will share in the profits generated by their great enterprise, and that their opinions and ideas about how their company should be run will be taken into consideration. It is a great tragedy but, as so often happens, Liberal Members are forced to consider the legislation presented to them. It is a great shame that the Bill will produce no diminution in the "them and us" attitude in industry. It might make "them" a bit stronger and "us" a bit weaker, but the Labour party claims already that if it gets the chance it will make "us" stronger and "them" weaker. I do not know for how long the nation will conduct industrial relations and treat the lifeblood of our economic prosperity on that basis.
The Bill has three parts, and the clause that I find positively supportable is that which compels secret ballots for the election of trade union leaders. There is no rational reason why an Opposition Member should be against that, and I noticed some flexibility in the Government, who appear to recognise that there may be difficulties in some cases. The Minister referred to difficulties with seamen, and if other difficulties can be brought forward sensibly the Government may be willing to incorporate modifications in the basic legislation. The argument for secret ballots for those who wish to lead their unions is overwhelming, and my union contacts in the large union membership of the far south-west have told me that there will be considerable support and sympathy for that clause.
It may be worth considering whether we should encourage giving the candidates standing for leadership equal access to members' names and addresses, and equal opportunities for them to state their views. Perhaps this is not the time for such argument, but if there are elections where the official and established union candidate has the machinations of the union behind him, but the maverick who is trying to change the union's policies does not have the opportunity to express his views, the House would be justified in worrying about that and in returning to the matter. However, as it stands, that part of the Bill is supportable and the clause will be an improvement.
Another clause, which is not as good as the first one I mentioned, but which does not drive me to paranoia, provides that in future unions must prove that their members want a political fund. I am aware, despite the claims of the right hon. and learned Member for Monklands, East (Mr. Smith), that the contracting-out procedure is not as satisfactory as he would have the House believe. I remember pursuing with the Amalgamated Union of Engineering Workers the case of a constituent, and in the end I received an assurance from the leader of the union that when my constituent died all the political levies that he had paid would be returned to his widow. My constituent could have turned up at each branch meeting and collected his penny or tuppence a week, but he did not wish to do that. Such action cannot be justified, and a union does neither itself nor the Labour party much good by insisting on such lunacies when clearly my constituent was paying a political levy against his judgment and will.
Why does the hon. Gentleman say that that man had to turn up at every branch meeting to collect a penny or tuppence? All that he had to do was to obtain a contracting-out form from his branch secretary, not from the general secretary of the union, fill it in, and he would not have had to pay the political levy again.
That is interesting. The rule book might say that, but I can bring the letter for the hon. Gentleman. I recall it well because I was outraged by it at the time. It said that a member of the AUEW had to pay the political levy. In certain circumstances it could be reclaimed but it had to be paid. Whatever the arrangements are, 98 per cent. of the members of the AUEW are in the political fund and the idea that only 2 per cent of that union do not support the Labour party is to stretch fantasy beyond the reason of hon. Members. The AUEW must be the most remarkably solid Labour-supporting union.
Will the hon. Gentleman accept that not only did he wrongly advise his constituent but he has the figures for those contracted out of the AUEW wrong? Will he accept that only 15 complaints have been made to the certification officer this year and that there has been no formal hearing of any complaint in the past nine months?
We heard that from the right hon. and learned Member for Monklands, East. It may welt be true but it does not tell us what percentage of the AUEW membership has succeeded in contracting out. The Bill will be discussed at great length and we shall return to that point.
The largest town in my constituency is St. Austell. It is dominated by large trade unions because there is an employer who employs many thousands of people and they do a superb job for their membership. I do not criticise them at all. However, the irony in St. Austell is that the management of that company makes great efforts to send thousands of pounds a year to the Conservative party and the unions apply great pressure on their members to raise thousands of pounds for the Labour party. Fortunately, there is as yet no sign of anybody in St. Austell supporting either of those parties, but it says something about the way in which we finance politics in Britain.
There is something to be said for an assumption in law that a union can run a political fund if it wants to. Any member can contract in to that political fund. Even if only a minority wants a political fund, I see no reason why that minority should not be able to exercise its right on an individual basis by contracting in to paying the political levy. Unions could greatly increase their influence on the House and the nation in general if a second opportunity were given to the individual to state which party he would like the money sent to. Members of the Transport and General Workers Union who contracted in to giving money to the Conservative party might well have more influence on the Government and the way in which Britain is run. That contrasts with the present system which pretends that every union member in Britain is anti-Conservative. We all know that that is not true. It never has been true and the evidence of the general election was that it is probably less true now than it has been for any union for some considerable time.
Unions could improve their influence on British life by contracting in and I would be willing to support a clause which made the political fund automatic so that people had to contract in. The real criticism of this proposal is that it is completely one-sided. I do not know whether Tory Members really believe that British politics would be better if there were less money for research and organisation, but British politics is already terrifyingly under-financed, as I know from my party. The Labour party is in a better position. Even the Conservative party, which is clearly the best financed political party in Britain, despite the fact that I may criticise the way in which it spends its money, does not show an excess of research, application or genius in the way in which it prepares its manifestos. No hon. Member who believes in democracy has an interest in passing legislation which, in the final analysis, must substantially reduce the money going into British politics. We should be facing up to the reality of the state financing of political parties, but that does not come within the Bill.
If the Government want to be fair they should introduce a system whereby shareholders vote on whether they wanted their managing directors to contribute to the Conservative party. That is obvious. I am not as sure as Conservative Members appear to be that they would receive the majority vote. If the pensions funds asked their members how they wanted their funds to be applied, there might not be overwhelming support among the share-owning section of British society to give money to the Conservative party. In that respect the Bill is one-sided. It is not a good proposal. It recognises the problem but the solution is not fair. It is regarded as fair politics in Britain for the Government to wangle every rule possible to kick the Opposition. I have no doubt that the alternative has happened in the past, and that is to be regretted in a democratic system.
The second part of the Bill worries me most. There is to be no immunity for official strikes without ballots. I worked in an industry before being elected to the House. The hon. Member for Newham, North-East (Mr. Leighton) and I appear to be the only two Members who have spoken in the debate who have spent much time working in industry. However, the Government's basic point sounds reasonable. To say that there should be no immunity for official strikes without a ballot sounds so reasonable that any platform speaker in Britain could carry his audience with him. However, will it work out as well as Conservative Members think on the shop floor, inside the factory gate? It will make wildcat strikes more likely. The Minister said that it would make them less likely, but I would be interested to hear his evidence. At best, the position will remain much as it is now.
Let me take an example and ask the Minister if my understanding of the Bill is right. It is not far from a point made by the right hon. and learned Member for Southport. Let us assume that a new bonus scheme was introduced on the shop floor which caused the capstan operators to walk out. Would that strike be within the law if a ballot among the capstan operators alone showed that the majority supported such action? I see that the Minister nods. I am pleased, because that is not the impression that the Bill gives. If the House is about to approve legislation as a result of which microcosms on the factory floor can declare an official strike simply by balloting among themselves as the group most affected, angered and outraged, we could end up with more official strikes than previously.
That is true, but my point was that it would be easy for them to make the strike official because they would have to ballot only among themselves, not the whole union. The Minister nodded when I made that point, although Labour Members shake their heads. I hope that the Minister will mention that point when he replies. Even if the interpretation of Labour Members is right, people will ask why they should risk a ballot and suggest instead that they call out a few key workers. That will be just as effective, and, provided no paid union officials are involved, I see little likelihood of the Government getting them under the Act. Shop floor disputes often start in a random manner, as a reaction to anger and outrage, and are not generated by shop stewards.
Part II is not necessarily all bad, but many questions must be asked about it. I fear that the Government may be introducing a measure that will make industrial relations on the shop floor more chaotic, and against the general improvement of British industry. My party will vote for the Bill on Second Reading. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] We have to vote one way or the other. At least when it came to cruise missiles we did not abstain like the Labour party.
There are many questions to be answered before we give any guarantee to vote for the measure on Third Reading. I have honestly outlined my reaction to the Bill. I warn the Government that the clause on immunities may be worse than current legislation, and against the general interest of British industry.
I am happy to follow the hon. Member for Truro (Mr. Penhaligon). I shall deal with a point that he mentioned, to which I intended to refer in my speech. The hon. Gentleman suggested that contributions might be made to the Conservative party from a political fund. Although that may raise laughter from Labour Members, it is a theoretical possibility, which anyone would be wise to consider, given the state of political flux in Britain today, particularly—although not necessarily—members of the Conservative party and some of the political configurations emerging today. I agree with the hon. Gentleman on that matter.
I welcome the Bill wholeheartedly and unreservedly. I welcome it for a variety of reasons, not least because it is a simple and direct piece of legislation that we can all understand. This is a complex subject, and legislation has been put before the House on previous occasions that was not so simple to understand. I welcome the measure for its simplicity. That will be part of its strength. It goes to the heart of the matter, to the relationship between trade unionists and their leaders, and between trade unions and the public. The Bill will leave much to the judges to interpret. I have always thought that that is generally right and good, and that it is wrong and unwise to try to get everything right in the legislation, and to anticipate every difficulty.
I am especially keen to welcome the Bill because in recent years trade union leaders appearing on television or writing in the newspapers have given examples of double-think, and have too often lost the confidence of the public. They have given us the impression of trying to fool all of the people all of the time. I believe that it is necessary — I hope that the Bill will achieve this — to restore confidence among trade unionists in their leadership, and among the public in trade unionists. There has been a tendency in recent years for members of the public who disagree with a trade union leader, and would like to have an honourable disagreement with him, to recognise that that is no longer possible. They sometimes feel strongly that the organised leadership of the trade union movement is jumped up, and is not a product of the will of the trade union membership. I hope that the legislation will improve the trade union movement and make it possible for it to win the hearts and minds not just of those within the movement, but of those outside as well.
There are some imperfections in the Bill which can be criticised. It has been said that a fundamental imperfection in the Bill is that it protects, or leaves protected, unofficial strikes, but prevents offical strikes that were not called with the support of a ballot, and leaves them unprotected.
If we look at parts I and II of the Bill in conjunction it can be seen that if trade union members are conscious that they have been invited to go on unofficial strike when they might have been invited to go on official strike, after a ballot, and if they feel that they have have been misled or deceived by the leadership of their union, they will have the opportunity to consider that matter on a future date at the elections for the executive committee. That strengthens the democratic process in the trade union movement. The fears that have been expressed are not well founded.
The hon. Member for Truro said that the Bill does nothing for the "them and us" syndrome in the trade union movement. I respectfully disagree with him. The election of the executive committee will do a lot to improve the likely candidates. When the election takes place, the candidates who put themselves forward for election will be judged on their past conduct, such as whether they have sought ballots from the trade union members and had the support of the membership on those occasions. That will do much to help to solve the problems to which the hon. Gentleman drew attention.
It is absolute nonsense for people to say that the Government cannot legislate to make trade unions more answerable. The National Farmers Union was cited by the right hon. and learned Member for Morklands, East (Mr. Smith) as being dear to Tory hearts. He said that it was not covered in such provisions. The argument that legislation cannot be made in respect of the trade union movement does not stand up to examination. I was astonished to hear the right hon. and learned Gentleman cite the example of companies. I would have thought that that reinforced the case for legislating for trade unions. Companies have great privileges. They have the privilege not to pay debts when they go bankrupt. As a result they are brought within the legal system to ensure that they do not abuse that privilege with impunity in any way that they choose. That is the reason for legislation in respect of limited companies. It is precisely because of the great privileges that trade union members enjoy that legislation is appropriate. That is so clear that it is difficult to believe how people can argue otherwise, unless they are pursuing an exercise in double-think.
There is also the vexed question of payments by public companies to political parties and the analogies that are drawn in the legislation. The position of shareholders is cited. However, is it not as clear as clear can be that a shareholder is in a totally different position? A shareholder does not have to invest in any company that acts in ways of which he does not approve. He can take his money away. He is in no way bound to put his money into that company. Perhaps I am wrong, but I have never seen evidence that shareholders are clamouring for companies' payments to political parties to be subject to political control. Glaxo is a well-known company in my constituency. No one came to me during the general election to say that he thought that its actions were outrageous. The shareholder invests his money because he seeks a good rate of return in a prosperous company. He does not do it for other reasons. If he has political views that conflict with what the company does, he can take his money away and put it elsewhere.
How can the hon. Gentleman apply that argument to workers who have money in pension funds and whose money is invested for them by the pension funds? How does his argument apply to them and to other such institutional investors?
If the hon. Gentleman thinks that I may be right in what I said, he does not enhance his case when he extends it in a more complex way to support his argument. I appreciate that some difficulties may exist and that on occasion people must be involved indirectly with activities of which they may not approve.
The hon. Member for Newham, North-East (Mr. Leighton) suggested that when a person buys sugar he does not know whether he is giving money to a political party of whose activities he disapproves. We must not be so remote. The relationship between the shareholder and the company must be proximate to support such a case. If we were in some way to bring such matters into the legislative framework, where would matters end? How would we deal with those companies that trade with South Africa? Some people may disapprove of trading with the Arabs or the Israelis. How would we deal with those companies that have such business contacts? Such matters are far too fanciful to pursue.
In conclusion, I congratulate my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State on laying the foundation stone of this important legislation, even though he may not have been the sole architect.
The debate has revealed a lack of knowledge on the part of Conservative hon. Members about trade unions and their activities. I am proud to speak as the vice-president of the Association of Scientific, Technical and Managerial Staffs. I often think that the Secretary of State and his Ministers have as much knowledge of trade union affairs as someone living in Saudi Arabia would have of snow shifting. The Conservative party is the remarkable body that brought to Britain, when introducing industrial relations legislation in the 1970s, such pantomine characters as the Official Solicitor, the Tipstaff and all the other unusual people who back up the establishment and get them out of the mess that the legislation creates. Perhaps we shall be seeing those people again.
I am not surprised about the remarks that have come from Conservative hon. Members. However, I was surprised by what was said by the hon. Member for Truro (Mr. Penhaligon). He began to chastise the Conservative party by criticising the unfairness and the one-sidedness of the Bill, and saying that it should be more even-handed. He concluded by saying that he would be voting for the Bill. It is worth noting that trade unions will know who their friends are. Such a fact should be declared publicly.
Perhaps the trade unions in Truro should know what their Member of Parliament thinks about them. I was amazed when, having spoken against the Bill, he said that he would be voting in favour of it. I presume that the Liberal party will also vote for the Bill. The idea that the Bill has anything to do with trade union democracy is a fallacy. The Bill shows the Conservative party's hostility towards the trade unions and trade unionists, and its political spite towards the Labour party.
I wish to refer to some of the difficulties that the Bill will cause to trade unions. It refers to the fact that voting must be secret, must be by the marking of a ballot paper, and must take place at a conventient time and place to all those members who are entitled to vote. Furthermore, every trade union member must have an equal and unrestricted right to vote. The Bill places upon the unions a statutory duty to observe such principles. Enforcement of the provisions in the Bill can be made by means of an application to the courts. It is important to note the consequences of non-compliance with such orders. What will happen if a union is fined and refuses to pay? Would we return to the time when the sequestration of funds was a method of punishment and a charade of the 1970s? I do not think that Conservative Members understand the effect of the blanket demand to which all unions will be required to conform. That is wrong. Unions do not conform to such patterns. They are highly democratic bodies. Each union, at its annual or biennial conference, determines its structure. The unions have a chance, during the year in which they can revise their rules, to change them. Each union branch sends a delegate to participate in the discussions. That is what democracy is all about. That is the reason why we have such a varied pattern of democratic institutions and democracy within the trade unions.
The TUC has also encouraged unions to deal with voluntary reform. Where is the evidence — the Government have presented none—to show that trade union members regard the present system as undemocratic or unsatisfactory? No such evidence has been put forward. The Donovan commission, which examined trade unions in great depth in 1969, found no evidence to justify a change in procedures. I do not believe that there has been any demand since that time. I believe that the proposals in the Bill are contrary to the provisions of article 3 of the International Labour Organisation convention No. 87, which states:
Workers' and employers' organisations shall have the right to draw up their constitutions and rules, to elect their representatives in full freedom, to organise their administration and to formulate their programmes.
The article continues:
The public authorities shall refain from any interference which would restrict this right or impede the lawful exercise thereof.
Despite such provision, the Government carry on.
There is no parallel in other Western countries for what the Government are attempting to introduce in the Bill. Such countries do not have laws that control the internal democracy of unions. When we examine laws in France, West Germany, the Netherlands, the United States or Sweden, not one of those countries regulates the unions in the way put forward in the Bill. Countries that attempt to regulate unions in such a way are usually Right-wing, repressive and often military dictatorships. Countries such as Brazil or Guatemala, which behave in a repressive manner, try to regulate their unions. I note that the Minister shakes his head.
Can the hon. Gentleman point to a single occasion on which the Brazilian Government have encourage trade unions to be more democratic? The Brazilian Government encourage their trade unions to be less democratic.
The Minister makes my point for me.—[Laughter.] It is all very well for the Minister to laugh. We all know that he has other roles in which he enjoys himself. I am dealing with a serious matter. The Minister is right to say that in countries where legislation of the type before the House exists the trade unions are shackled. The fact is that the Government wish to introduce such legislation in a democratic society. Will the Government think about that?
The Labour Government's 1969 White Paper "In Place of Strife" provided that the Secretary of State should have discretionary power to require a trade union to hold a strike ballot if there was a serious threat to the economy or the public interest. How does that tally with what the hon. Gentleman has just said?
Wiser counsels prevailed in the Labour party and those proposals were dropped. My right hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth (Mr. Callaghan), who later became Prime Minister, pointed out to the then Labour Government that the proposals were unworkable and that far from resulting in fewer industrial disputes they would probably lead to more disputes. I thank the hon. Member for Meridan (Mr. Mills) for making that point for me.
The Government constantly emphasise secret ballots. That sounds very democratic, but there are problems. Postal votes can be extremely expensive and unions do not have unlimited funds. We are told that the Government are prepared to make funds available. It is strange that a Government who do not believe in public expenditure can find funds for that. They are busy cutting essential expenditure on services such as home helps and attacking the Health Service, yet they can find money to do something absolutely unnecessary for institutions that are already highly democratic and responsive to their members' needs.
There are other difficulties that the Government have not even begun to consider. They say that all trade union members must have equal access to ballot papers and to the right to vote, whether at a branch meeting or by post. Union membership constantly changes. It will be almost impossible to ensure that there is an up-to-date record at the time of the ballot. Yet if just one member objects the union's whole electoral system will come to a standstill. I am sure that that is not the Government's intention, but that would be the result. Perhaps the Minister will deal with that.
The Government are demanding of trade unions more than is required for a general election. The regulations under the Bill will be more stringent than the Representation of the People Act. Under that Act the register is closed well before the election. Under the Bill, unions are expected to keep their membership record up to date until the very moment of the ballot. That will be almost impossible.
The Bill is heavy-handed and one-sided. If procedures of this kind are to work, there must be facilities for trade unions at the workplace. Thanks to the Government, however, restrictions are constantly being placed on trade union activities in factories. Shop stewards find it increasingly difficult to get time off. It would be far more sensible to make it compulsory for employers to allow the ballots to take place during working hours. That might give more strength to the Government's arguments about democracy.
Some unions have postal ballots. Postal ballots may be democratic. Equally, they may be undemocratic, because they divorce people from the workplace. A postal ballot tends to isolate union members because they do not attend a branch meeting at which there is discussion of the merits of the candidates. In a postal ballot they often have to vote blind. That cannot be democratic. It deprives members of full and frank discussion at branch meetings, and people who might otherwise come forward to strengthen the trade union movement see no reason to do so.
The Government's attitude to trade union democracy contrasts strongly with their attitude to industrial democracy generally. They do not want to give workers any rights in that respect. The Conservative party itself is highly undemocratic. The Government should spend their time reforming that. The chairperson of the Conservative party is appointed by the Prime Minister. That is most curious, although it may be the only way in which such a remarkable choice could have been made. Perhaps the Minister of State, as the current choice, would care to defend the method of selection. The Conservative annual conference is not a policy-making body. Resolutions may not even come up for consideration. It is similar to the CBI. Where is the democracy in that? Even the annual accounts are not published because people may realise the source of the funds, although we all know that the Conservatives will not bite the hand that feeds them.
Strike ballots must take place if unions are to retain their immunity. Under section 15 of the 1982 Act a trade union can be sued under its own name if unlawful industrial action by its members is authorised by a responsible person. The definition of a responsible person is very wide. It could be a member of the national executive, the president or general secretary, an employed official or even a committee to which the official reports. Again, members must be given an equal right to vote, and here, too, the provisions are more restrictive than the Representation of the People Act under which the Government were elected. Why should that be so, if the Bill is not an attack on trade unions?
The Bill will do nothing to improve industrial relations. It will prolong industrial disputes and encourage unofficial strikes. The Conservatives have always condemned wildcat strikes, having no real interest in industry and no understanding of how such disputes arise. The Bill will encourage such strikes because it imposes rigidity where flexibility is needed. That is a major weakness. Moreover, if it is right to have a ballot before taking strike action it is equally right to have a ballot before calling it off. I hope that the Minister will also apply his mind to that. Organising ballots takes time and prolongs disputes. If it is known that a ballot is likely, there is often no movement on either side because people want to know the result of the ballot. The procedure will thus prolong disputes and encourage more unofficial disputes. It will also encourage any individual who wishes to take legal action against a union.
Others have already dealt with the political levy. The Bill is a crude party political attempt to cripple the Labour party. There is nothing in it to improve industrial relations. If the Government wish to improve democracy, they should direct their activities towards multinational companies and try to control them in the interests;if the people of this country. Alternatively, they might turn their attention to another undemocratic body — the Conservative party—and try to reform that. One thing is certain. The Bill will be highly unpopular and it will do nothing to improve industrial relations. It will merely hasten the return of a Labour Govenment, whose first action will be to repeal this legislation. That will be far better for this country and for the people of this country.
I am pleased to follow the hon. Member for Warrington, North (Mr. Hoyle) who, from his position as a vice-president of the Association of Scientific, Technical and Managerial Staffs lectured us on freedom and democracy in the trade union movement and contrasted that with the lack of democracy in the Conservative party. After I became a Member of Parliament I was a member of ASTMS for six months at the beginning of either 1977 or 1978. After six months, because I had asked Mr. Clive Jenkins some questions which he found awkward and embarrassing, I was thrown out of the union. My union card was withdrawn; I was given no right of appeal; I was told by lawyers that I could appeal only if I could show that I had suffered serious financial loss. I am glad to say that was not the case. So much for democracy in ASTMS. I have always found it striking that ASTMS—
I want to make a few more points about ASTMS and then I will be delighted to give the hon. Gentleman a chance to comment.
In ASTMS some 68 per cent. of the members have contracted out of the political levy. Yet there is still a political fund that goes to the Labour party. When a resolution was recently brought forward at an ASTMS conference to reconsider these arrangements, there was a large "P" against it on the conference paper which meant that only those who paid the political levy and therefore supported the Labour party could vote on it. Not surprisingly, the resolution was thrown out. So much for democracy in ASTMS.
In regard to funds, I seem to remember that not long ago the certification officer ruled that ASTMS had incorrectly paid £69,000 out of its general fund to help build the new Labour party headquarters in Walworth Road. The certification officer ruled that this money should properly be paid out of the political fund. Unfortunately, according to his 1981 report, the ASTMS political fund had less than £10,000 in it; therefore, the money could not be paid and the fund is bankrupt. I will refer to that further later in my speech. Does the hon. Member for Warrington, North wish to say anything at this stage?
Yes. The hon. Member for Mid-Sussex (Mr. Renton) and I both know that he was never qualified to be a member of ASTMS. In view of his background in Sussex I fail to see how he could be a member. He should disclose that he is prominent in Tory trade unionism. Why has he not declared his interest? He is the strangest trade unionist I have ever seen.
On the point of my qualifications, perhaps my difficulty in ASTMS was that I had two membership cards, not one; I had one from the branch secretary and one from the area secretary who was presumably so pleased to have me as a member that he wanted to confirm the act. No reason was given for throwing me out. I was just told six months later that my application for membership post facto had not been approved. I am delighted that on the suggestion of a Labour Member I then joined the Association of Professional, Executive, Clerical and Computer Staff where I have been happy ever since.
No, I will not give way to the hon. Member again.
I should like to congratulate my right hon. Friend the Member for Bridgwater (Mr. King) on bringing forward the Bill. As he will agree, the ideas in it have been gestating for some time. The original ideas about requiring more ballots in the trade union movement were conceived when our right hon. Friend the Member for Waveney (Mr. Prior) was Secretary of State for Employment. There was a long pregnancy when my right hon. Friend the Member for Chingford (Mr. Tebbit) was in that important position. I am delighted that the proposals now see the light of day with my right hon. Friend the Member for Bridgwater as midwife.
I should also like to congratulate my friends in the Conservative Trade Unionists, whose president I have been for more than three years and who, as Ministers will know, have regularly suggested that it was time to return control of the trade union movement to the ordinary trade unionist. There was no better way to do this than by having a greater requirement for secret ballots, particularly for the national executive. In this context I should like to mention the past chairman of CTU, Geoff Campbell, and the present chairperson, Joy Bushby, both of whom have worked very hard on the issue. In some ways the Bill is a monument to their work.
With all respect to the hon. Member, that is a Committee point. I do not expect to be on the Committee but I am sure that the matter will be pursued in detail during the course of the Bill.
The block vote is a monstrous arrangement. It is realised more and more that the Bill will start the process of doing away with the block vote system.
I hope the hon. Member catches the eye of Mr. Speaker later; I want to get on with my speech.
I have always had greater doubts about mandatory secret ballots before strikes. As my right hon. Friend will know from his industrial experience, quick shop floor negotiations between the works manager or foreman and shop stewards can stop many strikes before they get under way. The measures in the Bill may give more frequency to unofficial strikes but I counterpoise against that the knowledge that they prevent the British Leyland type of strike meeting held on a football ground with thousands present all crammed together, some intimidation, many people unable to see the platform, and then a call from the shop stewards for a show of hands and a shout of, "That's it, lads, all out." That type of procedure is unacceptable. It is to get away from it that there must be a movement towards proper balloting procedures.
I welcome the Bill. It is a general Bill with general rules. No doubt in Committee the precise form of ballots and details about strike ballots will be properly ironed out. Throughout 1982 I was chairman of the Conservative Back-Bench employment committee. We asked many trade union leaders to talk to us; many came but they would never discuss the proposals in the Green Paper which has been referred to. They dismissed it with the comment that it was undemocratic of the Government to interfere. Like my hon. Friend the Member for Tatton (Mr. Hamilton), who made an excellent speech, I regard it as undemocratic not to have regular ballots for key positions. It is also undemocratic that Arthur Scargill is in office until the next century without a further ballot and that Clive Jenkins leads ASTMS without, so far as I know, ever having had to fight an election at all.
No, I have given way to the hon. Member once and I will not give way to him again.
We heard from the right hon. and learned Member for Monklands, East (Mr. Smith) that Labour will repeal the legislation in five years' time if they get back to government, which is unlikely, and therefore many trade union leaders will take the attitude that they will have nothing to do with discussions with the Government. That attitude would be greatly mistaken. The majority of trade unionists did not support Labour in June. The fact remains that we won as many trade union votes in June as any other party. Moreover, most trade unionists support our view that more ballots are necessary. The absence of a crowd on the Opposition Benches supports that view.
It is incumbent upon leaders of the trade union movement to talk with Ministers and members of the Standing Committee to ensure that the ballot proposals are as workable, fair and effective as possible. They should then ensure—once provision for ballots is on the statute book — that, with the help of about £14 million of training grant which they receive from the Government, they train the best available people to stand for election to their national executives. That is how the unions will win back the respect of the work force and the country.
The Bill fits the mood of the country, but if the Labour party and some trade union leaders such as Terry Duffy—who was reported in The Times at the end of last week as saying that the Bill will set the trade union movement back a century — continue to hold such a different view, they will suffer the fate of the dinosaur which became extinct because its body became far too large for its brain.
I have complimented my right hon. Friend on the Bill and I should now like to mention two flaws. The first, in part I, is the reliance on ordinary courts for legal action by ordinary trade union members. Ordinary courts are far too expensive.
The second flaw, in part II, is the reliance on the certification officer. The right hon. and learned Member for Monklands, East made much of the lack of complaints to the certification officer about misuse of funds in the trade union movement. He completely failed to mention the fact that complaints go to the certification officer only when they relate to unions that have political funds. That was a surprising omission by someone as learned and knowledgeable as the right hon. and learned Gentleman.
The certification officer has no jurisdiction whatever over a union that has only a general fund. That is a great limitation on the certification officer's power. It follows, therefore, that there are fewer complaints. The National and Local Government Officers Association provides a recent example of such a case. It has no political fund—one was rejected by its membership not long ago by an 8:1 majority. Nevertheless, during this spring, NALGO embarked on a £1 million campaign entitled, "Put people first." Through advertisements, hot air balloons and T-shirts, NALGO advertised Labour party propaganda without mentioning the party by name. It was a gross waste of money and merely created employment in the printing industry. When members of NALGO complained to the certification officer about that misuse of union funds, they were told that the certification officer had no authority because NALGO did not have a political fund.
I should now like to return to the case of Mr. Loudon Parkin, who made a complaint about ASTMS spending £69,000 on the new Labour party headquarters. The certification officer found for Mr. Loudon Parkin. ASTMS then appealed to the employment appeals tribunal, which also found for Mr. Parkin. However, ASTMS is now taking the matter to the Court of Appeal and using union funds to do so. It is obvious that no such funds are available to Mr. Loudon Parkin. The present system is clearly inequitable. The Committee should increase the powers of the certification officer to cover the use of all union funds and to ensure that the certification officer is given specific and enforceable sanctions.
There is no point in giving trade union members new rights through this important Bill if they cannot afford to exercise them when the procedures laid down by law are not followed. I hope that my right hon. Friend will think seriously about strengthening the Bill in that respect.
I appreciate that the political levy worries trade union leaders most because it touches where it hurts—in their pockets. A 10-year affirmative ballot must be correct. Many people have never voted for a political fund in their union and they should be given the opportunity to do so.
I shall not reiterate the argument why the analogy of company contributions to the Conservative party is false but it is worth mentioning that all contributions from companies to political parties must be recorded in the annual accounts. There is a case for considering in the next Companies Bill a measure which provides that such contributions be approved at the annual general meeting, as is the case with the final dividend. I do not think that such provision would affect the level of contributions but there is a good case for considering it. That is a company law point rather than one which should be dealt with in this Bill.
I hope that the next Companies Bill will do even more to encourage employee share ownership, perhaps by making it easier to produce special classes of partly paid shares for employees. Examples of companies such as United Biscuits (U.K.), J. Sainsbury Ltd. and the National Freight Corporation Company Ltd. show that there is nothing like share ownership to get away from strikes, bad shop stewards and bad management. Introducing a joint interest in shared prosperity is a much more effective solution to company growth and the welfare of employees than all the strike ballots in the world.
Having campaigned for more than four years for more democracy in the trade union movement, I have no doubt that the Bill goes with the grain of the wood in that movement and that it will be widely welcomed throughout the country.
I am grateful for this opportunity to speak after several Conservative Members, as their speeches reveal that Conservatives are less than united on the Bill.
This is not an ordinary Bill and it is more than a Trade Union Bill. It is basic to the Government's economic strategy because it seems to weaken the trade union movement. Moreover, it raises major constitutional issues which go far beyond the confines of trade union law. It also has grave implications for the established basis of our national political life.
The Bill has already been given a bad press. The Guardian described it as "one sided and unfair." The Financial Times called it
a needless interference in trades union affairs".
It springs from a Green Paper which The Observer described as
a shallow and poorly researched document".
Hon. Members should be in no doubt about the Bill's aims, especially in relation to the political representation of trade unions and their financial discretion in political matters. The Bill tries to terminate by partisan fiat what Sir Winston Churchill at the end of a political life during which he had been more involved than most Conservatives in these matters called
a well established custom that matters affecting the interests of rival parties should not be settled by the imposition of the will of the one over the other".
This is the first Bill to regulate the internal government of the trade union movement and it puts the courts at the centre of trade union affairs in a new and worrying way. The Bill offends not only against national practice but, as my hon. Friend the Member for Warrington, North (Mr. Hoyle) pointed out, against international practice, particularly the International Labour Organisation convention.
The Bill goes even further than that. It offends against common sense by seeking to control the political representation of the only major interest group whose political representation is already subject to detailed control. For what purposes does it do that? Let me quote another Conservative Minister, Sir Arthur Steel-Maitland in the 1920s speaking about a similar but less modest trade union Bill. He said then that the Conservative party should not delude itself about its real intentions. It was not
motivated by a burning indignation for the trade unionist but by the desire to hit the Socialist party through their pockets.
That was the aim then, and it is the aim now.
What are the Government seeking to improve? What must be changed about a state of affairs that was acceptable to Conservative Prime Ministers from Churchill to Heath? On what basis do they seek to reopen the vexed questions of the 1900s and of 1927? What are the undemocratic, inadmissible, unacceptable abuses and manipulations which, according to the Government, so blight the lives of ordinary trade unionists? Where is the evidence to support the crass intrusions in trade union affairs that the Government deem so necessary? We have not seen it, we have not heard it tonight and I doubt whether we ever shall.
Let us summarise the facts about political funds, which are now under attack. First, unlike companies, trade unions cannot give indiscriminately to political parties. There have been controls on this, as hon. Members know, from the beginning of the century. Secondly, unlike companies, union political funds must be established as separate funds, and the general funds of unions cannot be used for political purposes. Thirdly, unlike companies, union political funds must be administered and policed in accordance with rules laid down by the Government"s certification officer. Fourthly, and equally important, political funds can be abandoned by any union's rule-making conference—without a ballot and at any time.
It is therefore absurd for the Government to imply that the only reason that we have political funds is because there were ballots 70 years ago and that somehow political funds are an accident or anomaly of history. It is open to any union member to press for a ballot on a political fund at any time. It is open to any branch to ask for the political fund to be revoked. It is open to any rule-making conference of a union to abandon its political commitments. It is laid down in the Trade Union Act 1913 that unions can abandon their political funds without even a ballot.
One might ask, as some of my hon. Friends have already, why, when trade unions can decide as a matter of course whether they have political funds or not, the Government are imposing a costly, time-consuming ballot, in which the Government effectively set the question and dictate the timing. Could it not be that they seek an opportunity to divide and disrupt the trade union movement and that they see how a hostile, anti-union press can influence the result?
There is an additional legal safeguard for individual union members in that they can unilaterally opt out of the majority decision made by their unions and can do so at any time. The right is not only established but well protected and policed, to the extent that union members can apply to four courts or tribunals, up to and including the House of Lords. This is a unique provision denied to company shareholders in Britain, and denied to many trade unionists elsewhere. I can think of no comparable circumstances in which the minority is so well protected after the decision has been made by the majority. What they cannot secure from the unions' democatic process they can cure by a legal remedy. A constiutional expert, Dr. Keith Ewing, of Cambridge university has said of these provisions that the detailed and comprehensive nature of individual protection in this country for trade unionists is without parallel in any of the major labour law systems of the world.
However, the Government tell us that there is "widespread disquiet"and that the rights won in the 1913 Act are being "denied". They claim that the original principles are no longer adequately safeguarded. The Secretary of State talked earlier today about abuses. These are serious charges, but where is the evidence? Not in the evidence of the most recent Royal Commission that studied this matter, the Donovan commission, which said clearly that it had "no evidence" that the rights of 1913 were "ineffective" and that the protection was "illusory".
Not in the evidence put to the commission by one of the Secretary of State's predecessors, Mr. Robert Carr, then Conservative employment spokesman. The commission had to conclude that although Mr. Can
thought that he might be able to supply details of specific cases of abuse if given the time, … the expectation was apparently not fulfilled.
There is no evidence either in the statistics given in the Green Paper of January. From its interpretation of the evidence even the certification officer seems to recoil in his annual report. There is no evidence either in the complaints made to the certification officer. Out of 8 million trade unionists capable of taking litigation in this matter, there has been an average of only a score in the past 20 years, most of which, as the certification officer records, have been satisfactorily resolved on a routine basis.
There is no evidence in the hearings of the certification officer. There have been only two hearings in the past 22 months, hearings which would hardly lead us to consider new legislation. A Mr. Double put his case, wanting the best of both worlds. He wanted not to pay the political levy and at the same time to have a say in the selection of Labour candidates. The other case concerned a Miss Elliot, who was not satisfied with the repayment of her political dues in arrears, in advance or in excess. These are the only two hearings that have been published. If the Government were to provide us with evidence of the abuse that they claim exist, we might be able to answer the points that have been raised.
We have before us trumped-up complaints and spurious indignation. If there are abuses and a cancer at the heart of the trade union movement, if the widespread disquiet existed, should not Conservative Members be able to point to union conferences being inundated with at least the occasional composite resolution on the matter? Should we not have seen a vast upsurge in complaints to the certification officer, instead of a decline over this year? Should there not have been a deluge of cases having to go to the House of Lords, or a complete exhaustion of the existing procedures to the point of collapse, and not least because the propaganda of Conservative trade unionists has been geared to achieving that?
The Engineering Employers Federation is strident in its support of the Government's legislation. I shall quote what Dr. McFarlane, director-general of the federation, told the Select Committee looking at this matter only a few months ago. He was asked:
Have you any evidence at all to put before this Committee that people are paying the political levy unwillingly?
Not anything that I think you would recognise as evidence, no.
If there is no evidence of abuse, what is the reason for this legislation on political funds and the threat to political levies?
Companies in Britain do not have to establish separate political funds. There is no right of prior approval for political donations and no right of appeal against lost dividends. There is not even a stipulation that company contributions be registered with an independent office. The public is not entitled to know how much in total is paid to the Conservative party or its satellites. The Government might be better employed examining whether company donations conform to the law.
It may not have escaped the notice of Ministers that the League Against Cruel Sports was recently banned from giving money to the Labour party because it was a company and the purpose of its donation was political and party politics had no part to play in the objects for which that company was founded. If this is true for the League Against Cruel Sports, what of Plessey, Taylor Woodrow, or Consolidated Gold Fields? These companies also have no party political object in their memoranda of association, but over the years they have cumulatively given much more to the Conservative party than individual trade unions have given to the Labour party
Why do we have this one-sided legislation, to rectify abuses of which we are given no evidence, when more serious charges about political funding remain uninvestigated? Could it not be true that the purpose in 1983 is exactly the same as the purpose in 1927 when, as Duff Cooper records in his memoirs — perhaps the Government should read the history of what happened in the 1920s—it was "crudely confessed" that the object of that Conservative Bill—to change the political levy—
was to deplete the funds of the Labour party".
The Prime Minister is already on record as saying that she will be immensely pleased if the trade unions were not part of the Labour party. The Lord Chancellor said as much yesterday in The Guardian. The former Secretary of State for Employment has said that what he wants to achieve is "apolitical trade unionism". The Foreign Secretary has told us that legislation is the first step towards a "depoliticised trades union structure", the aim of which, he says, is to
restore order and balance to the labour market.
Could it he that the Government's economic policy depends on bankrupting the Labour party so that the monetarism they espouse can survive the vagaries of the electoral system? Is this then "Tory democracy", a concept that will for ever be shackled, in the view of Labour Members, by inverted commas?
Has it ever entered the hon. Gentleman's mind that the only method of acquiring political funds is not necessarily through trade union donations? Has he ever thought that individual members of the Labour party might go round knocking on doors asking for political funds?
The hon. Gentleman raises an interesting point. It is true that in the run up to the campaign for the June election, the then chairman of the Conservative party said that his party would have an income approaching £20 million. I can tell the hon. Gentleman that much of that income came from companies. If Conservative Members could tell us tonight that it did not depend for the majority of its income on the companies in this country, they might have a case.
Trade unions have been democratic organisations since long before this legislation was conceived, and they will be democratic organisations long after the legislation, if passed, is repealed and forgotten. Elections and accountability are the essence and actuality of the trade union movement. If their constitutions are distinctive and diverse, they are also democratic. If their rules are varied, they are also entirely valid. All trade unions have regular votes. The Tory party does not. All trade unions have regular elections at all levels. The Tory party does not. All trade unions have regular policy-making conferences. The Tory party does not.
If the Tory party were merely saying to trade unionists tonight, "We shall give you what we have never given our own members. We shall offer you what we have never offered ourselves," then the charge against the Conservative party and the Government would he simply one of hypocrisy. However, for the Tory party to use trumped-up charges of illusory abuses as the excuse to stifle the trade union movement is deliberately to create disorder and disruption in a manner that is not simply meddlesome but malevolent. It is curious indeed that the new society that we see across the Floor for the prevention of cruelty to trade unionists, as Conservative Members see it, should be composed almost entirely of bankers, stockbrokers, directors, and business consultants—the very groups who opposed trade unionism in the first place and whose closest experience of the shop floor is probably at Harrods.
If the Government were seriously concerned about the rights of ordinary trade unionists they might have guaranteed trade unionists the minimum legal rights that are commonplace elsewhere in Europe. If they were serious about the rights of trade unionists, they would have implemented the third European Commission directive on industrial democracy, and the fourth, on the disclosure of company information. If they were serious about the principles of which they talk, they would not have deprived 1 million workers of the right to protection against unfair dismissal, they would not have removed from thousands of women the rights to maternity leave, they would not have curtailed the rights to notices of redundancy. If they believed in their own rhetoric as they talk about protecting workers, they would not be considering abandoning the wages councils which offer protection to the lowest paid workers.
The Government's case for the Bill is emotional, not rational; it is partisan, not libertarian. It has little to do with strengthening trade union democracy, and more to do with weakening political democracy. It is based more on a disregard for the democratic provisions of the trade union movement than on any shred of evidence of their abuse. This Bill will be seen in the country for what it is—a political bank raid upon the Labour party, without principle and almost without precedent. It is a bad Bill. It is cynically conceived, contrived in its arguments, consistent only in its hypocrisy, subversive and one-sided in its effects. It deserves to be defeated.
I am grateful for the opportunity to speak after the hon. Member for Dunfermline, East (Mr. Brown). His speech contained a number of points that we might consider—perhaps more in humour than in seriousness.
I welcome my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State to the Dispatch Box. He will know of my considerable involvement in the past in this subject, and my joy, Mr. Deputy Speaker, in catching your eye tonight.
The only criticism that I could make of the Bill is that its title should perhaps be "The Individual Rights of Trade Union Members Bill", because its contents certainly enshrine a degree of rights that some enlightened unions have already adopted. If there is hypocrisy, I find a huge amount of hypocrisy among Labour Members, while unions such as the AEUW and others—
I apologise for getting it wrong, and I am glad to have that correction. As I said, the AUEW and others already have just such measures for ballots as the Bill seeks to introduce. It is therefore strange to hear rhetorical words of horror at the moves proposed by the Conservative Government about measures which are already largely accepted by the more enlightened unions and union leaders.
I have spent 18 years in industry, including spending quite a lot of time on the shop floor and at the drawing board. Moreover, I speak after a number of hon. Members on both sides who have industrial experience. I therefore do not take happily to incorrect accusations that the majority of Conservative Members have no industrial experience. Many of us have.
How sad it is to see a trade union movement, in which the principles are wholly believable and utterly right, so degraded by political ideals as to have lost the true essence of the representation of their membership. I am sure that all Conservative Members fully believe in the need for a free trade union movement which truly represents its members. Thank goodness the Bill will take a step towards making that a reality.
In the long debate that we have had this evening it is strange that so far no one has mentioned the customer. I wonder who that poor person is who buys the products and services that all this debate is about. We must surely include the rights of the customer when we consider the Bill. How sad it is, too, that a trade union movement with such honourable origins should not be prepared or able to achieve these measures by voluntary action, particularly as some trade unions have already done so. I shall repeat the words of my right hon. Friend the Member for Chingford (Mr. Tebbit) two years ago, when, as Secretary of State for Employment, he said:
I have no enthusiasm for heavy-handed regulation of the internal affairs of unions. But they are powerful and privileged bodies and there is real concern about the way that they conduct their affairs. It is in the spirit of friendship not confrontation that I say to them—I am ever ready to meet you, to offer my help in hastening the reforms which you feel may be necessary.
I am sure that my right hon. Friend the present Secretary of State has an equally open door. It is sad that that open door was not entered and that the examples of those emancipated unions was not followed.
Trade unionism must be based on the sound provision of consultation of its members who, in today's demographically and politically different world, will have changed. Trade union members have views supporting political parties right across the spectrum. How, then, can we talk of Opposition money being threatened, when that money has been contributed by people with differing political philosophies? It is not Opposition but members' money. Union members have a right to say where it should go. It should not be 70 years since there was consultation. For those members who were not alive at that time, there has been no consultation.
It is sad to see that once honourable and traditional party, the Labour party, becoming so narrow and doctrinaire in its views, and so desperate for the funds to continue. If Labour Members want to see Tory party fund raising in action, they should come to an excellent affair to be held next Thursday by the Meriden Conservative women's advisory association. We should be happy to teach Opposition Members how to raise money. I am sure that my hon. Friends will give them invitations if they want to learn how to raise money. Indeed, I see colleagues nodding. We should also be glad if Opposition Members bought raffle tickets.
The Government have taken not just steps, but strides forward in introducing two major pieces of legislation on industrial relations so far. I refer to the Employment Act 1980 and the Employment Act 1982. I and at least one of my colleagues now in the Chamber were happy to spend many happy hours in Committee listening to debates. We therefore welcome the Bill, and I hope that other Bills will follow as we watch the slow organic process of reform of a once traditional institution in order to give it the strength and the true representation of its members that it needs. We wanted to protect the weaker parties against the abuse of power by stronger parties, whether they are companies or trade unions. We provided the greatest legal protection for non-union employees working in a closed shop that there has ever been, and for employers and employees who are caught up in somebody else's industrial dispute.
I only wish that the hon. Member for Warrington, North (Mr. Hoyle) was here. Sadly, he did not mention the decision by the leader of the Labour party to dismiss the White Paper "In Place of Strife" only to find that the proof of the pudding was in the following winter of discontent. That surely must have been the best piece of decision-making ever carried out by a party leader. The 1979 general election was fought in the aftermath of that dreadful period of industrial disputes. Opposition Members will know that the the Labour Government were unable to make any progress in those industrial disputes and that that was a major factor in ensuring a large Conservative majority in the House. Concern is still widespread in the country. Again, in 1983 the Conservative party's manifesto and the literature supplied by almost every Conservative Member, including me, spelt out just what we planned to do. Therefore, there can be no doubt that the country was consulted. Indeed, the enormous number of Conservative Members returned to the House shows that not only traditional Tories, but often trade union members voted for them. In my constituency I have had great support from trade unionists both during the general election and between elections. That is proof that people should not assume that trade union members vote Labour. Many do not. It should not be assumed either that trade union members are happy with the way in which trade unions are often organised.
Trade unions can and do organise industrial action that causes serious economic damage to their members and to the community. Their powers and privileges are wider than those of most other organisations. They are certainly far wider than those of the NFU. Indeed, I am sure that the union would love to have some of the privileges and immunities enjoyed by the trade unions. If unions have such privileges and immunities, is it not essential that they should become more democratic, and be more responsive to the views and wishes of their members, as well as to the customers who buy the goods and services that make the industrial and commercial world go round? I repeat for the fourth time that some unions already consult their members. What is wrong with a Bill that suggests that all unions should do just that?
I represent a constituency in the midlands. In 1983, it is inconceivable that a show of hands in the early morning can be considered anything other than archaic. At a time when we talk of robotics and automation, and of a society that is advanced in both micro-technology and the intellectual appreciation of what it can do, trade unions apparently think that archaic practices that are more suited to the 1930s should be applied.
The Bill may not drag but it will at least shift and push trade unions in quite a reasonable way towards a 1983 style of making decisions. Trade unions are no longer small bodies. They are not party organisations based on voluntary workers. A comparison between a political party such as the Conservative party and a trade union movement that controls the lives of 12 million members, and may well lose them their jobs if they wish to leave the union, cannot be made. Rather, such a comparison could be made only in late night speeches in Committee, when everybody is asleep or in the corridor. It is clear that ordinary people and trade union members believe that some change is needed. In addition, it is fascinating to note that Frank Chapple—a reasonable and well-known trade union leader—was reported in the Daily Mail to have said:
So too was a shameful assault on the democratic rights of every member. Ballots were rigged, votes 'against' illegally disallowed, and outspoken opponents threatened and intimidated".
That scarcely sounds like the same decision-making practices that Opposition Members refer to. Are we talking about the same thing? A public test of opinion in recent polls showed that well over three quarters of those polled supported secret ballots to elect leaders. The figure is similar for strike ballots. Well over half the trade unionists supported this sort of legislation.
Therefore, it is correct to aim to secure those 12 million trade unionists the democratic rights already enjoyed—I repeat for the fifth time—by trade union members of certain unions. The election of their leaders by secret ballot is most welcome.
Does the hon. Gentleman accept that those opinion polls also show that the vast majority of people oppose any Government interference in imposing constitutions on trade unions? Will not he accept that that is part of the evidence that he should put before the House tonight?
I have not seen those polls. However, I shall look at their results if the hon. Gentleman cares to send me a copy of them. It is true that we canvassed in the 1983 general election on manifestos that clearly showed our intention. I only wish that people had expressed some disagreement, but they welcomed our intentions. My problem was that they thought that they did not go far enough, particularly on strikes in essential services. The block vote, votes at dawn and other undemocratic practices are just not on. Voting must be in secret and it must be by ballot paper.
I welcome the suggestion made by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State that voting need not be by secret ballot conducted through the post, but could be conducted at the work place. I am sure that many trade unionists will welcome that approach. However, it is clear that the Government money made available in the 1980 Act for the conduct of postal ballots has not been used. Nevertheless, many millions of pounds have been accepted in order to train shop stewards. What a strange anomaly or conundrum of disinterest in the conduct of democratic decision-making by ballot. It was at the cost not of members, but of taxpayers.
Most hon. Members have given the impression that a ballot that goes against a strike will stop it taking place. However, the ballot has no effect at all on the strike continuing. It only removes immunity against possible civil action. That is not a threat to the fundamental roots of the trade union movement. Most of our constituents would wish to take similar action if they felt aggrieved by the action of another party. Immunity is removed, thus opening up the possibility of a civil action.
It is said that the legislation will greatly increase the number of unofficial strikes, but that is a myth. In reality, there will always be both large strikes and unofficial strikes. Until a union adopts a strike, and until someone takes action against it as they can after the Bill becomes law, the position will be very little different. Much as I want to move into the areas of action that are detrimental to manufacturing or commercial process—for example, go-slow actions or some form of restrictions—it would be impractical to do so.
As my right hon. Friend said in a most significant phrase, any organiser of unofficial action is on his own. He is exposed to those whom he is supposed to represent. They are forgotten in the political argument. Under the legislation, and due to fear of civil action being taken, there is little doubt that unofficial action will he made official. That is an inhibition on any form of unofficial action that it is hoped will later be escalated.
I am not living in cloud-cuckoo-land. Many ballots have been held in controversial conditions—not least by the National Union of Mineworkers, whose president, Mr. Arthur Scargill, must have had a nasty shock at that demonstration of the democratic process. Do the NUM, AUEW or any unions which use balloting procedures suffer from huge numbers of unofficial strikes? That is a myth to oppose the Bill, and no doubt will be good stuff late at night in Committee.
Does the hon. Gentleman accept that most unofficial strikes are not led by shop stewards? They tend to be a reaction from the membership of the union. Often, shop stewards are forced into sorting out the trouble. They rarely lead the action. I was a shop steward until the recent general election. It would not have been correct procedure to try to lead unofficial action.
There are as many sorts of strikes as products in warehouses. The motives behind strikes are often diverse. I appreciate that the majority of good employers and good trade union officials do their best to inhibit such strikes. But in certain cases the use of a ballot to ensure union immunity must be logical. If members are in favour of action, the union has immunity and there is no problem.
Our main concern must be not the inhibition of unofficial action, which we can never eliminate because it is part of the industrial process, but the inhibition of larger scale strikes. The flexibility of balloting arrangements will be excellent for that purpose. I imagine that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State will consider large strikes in essential services separately.
Many of us are concerned that there should be a change in the immunities for those involved in monopolistic public supply concerns and essential industries. Perhaps my right hon. Friend will consider another Bill at some stage. It could be called "The Customer's Right to Public Services Bill." So far we have said little about the rights of customers. I hope that my right hon. Friend will consult widely about the removal of immunity for monopolistic supply concerns so that the customer has the right to challenge some of their decisions.
I am not sure how the mechanics of that could be arranged—[Laughter.] Opposition Members may laugh. I wish that some of them would get back on to their galleys and get out their oars because that is where they belong—centuries ago.
I have become so excited by Opposition interruptions that I have not yet reached my final point on political funds. I must be brief because other hon. Members wish to speak. I said at the beginning of my short contribution that there are no Labour party funds. They are trade union members' funds being given to the Labour party. Opposition Members have reached the conclusion that should there be a ballot to confirm political funds, they would not be confirmed. Not one of them has argued that the rightness of the fund would be supported.
To compare trade unions with companies is a spurious argument. If trade unions were to take on some of the obligations of company directors, and be bound by company laws and liabilities—which include criminal penalties for certain acts—they could then argue that comparison. But, as my hon. Friends have said, those investing in companies have the right to dismiss directors, and do not lose their jobs for doing so.
In recent years no Government have had so clear a mandate from the electors as this Government. Opposition Members should reflect on the fact that less than 40 per cent. of trade unionists voted for the Labour party. That is proof enough for me and I shall support the Bill.
I wish to confine my remarks mainly to part II of the Bill, which deals with secret ballots before strikes. However, before doing so I wish to make two brief observations about parts I and III of the Bill. The extraordinary proposition advanced by part I is that it is the proper role of Government to interfere in the due process of a voluntary organisation and not simply to tell unions that they should hold elections, but to tell them when, how, where and in what manner. It is an extraordinary proposition, because the issue in the debate on part I of the Bill is not whether elections are good or bad, but whether it is right for the state to intervene and dictate to trade unions how they should conduct their affairs. My hon. Friend the Member for Warrington, North (Mr. Hoyle) mentioned the ILO convention. That convention, which the Government have ratified, states that trade unions must look after their own rules. It is thought unconscionable and wrong for Governments to tell trade unions how to conduct their affairs.
Part III elevates hypocrisy to an art form. Not only is there an overt and blatant political bias—which means that no restrictions are placed on company contributions to the Conservative party, while trade unions are forced to go through an elaborate ballot on the political levy—the proposals are put forward under the guise of updating the definition of what comes within political activity, subject to the political fund. In fact, they make a crucial change in that definition.
The 1913 Act says, in essence, that if there is a campaign for a certain party candidate or political party, that activity falls within the activities regulated by the political fund. Clause 14 makes an important change to that. It provides that not only should a campaign positively in favour of a party or candidate fall within the definition of political funding, but a campaign against a political party or candidate should also fall within it.
The importance of that point can be illustrated by the current campaign of NALGO and the National Health Service unions against Government expenditure cuts. While it could be said that those campaigns are not in favour of the Labour party, it could equally be argued that they are against the Conservative Government. The hon. Member for Mid-Sussex (Mr. Renton) said that the NALGO campaign is one of the things that the Bill is designed to outlaw. Will the Minister say whether that is the case? If it is, is not the Bill an attempt to impose backdoor censorship upon those who seek to criticise the Government?
Part II of the Bill gives the lie to the fundamental deceit on which this Bill is founded. I shall read, from the Green Paper, the stated purpose of part II of the Bill. It says:
In principle the case for holding a secret ballot before a strike is called is as strong as the case for secret ballots for trade union elections. Indeed the argument is fundamentally the same in both cases. If trade unions are to serve and fairly represent the interests of their members, they should ensure that any important decisions are supported by the majority of the members voting in a secret ballot.
It has also been said by the Secretary of State that the purpose of part II of the Bill is to allow union members rights over their union. That is the stated purpose of the Bill but its actual purpose is different. The actual purpose of the Bill is to alter the industrial balance of power and to tilt it definitely and calculatedly in favour of the employer. I shall make four points to support my argument.
First, if the stated purpose of the Bill was correct, one would expect to find in part II rights being given to union members against the trade union. In fact, not a single right is given to a trade union member in part II of the Bill. Indeed, the entire mechanism of part II of the Bill is set out in clause 6. That mechanism does not give union members rights but rather withdraws immunity from trade unions or union members acting in furtherance of a trade dispute and allows employers a readier access to the courts for actions in tort. That gives the lie to the stated purpose of the Bill.
Secondly, on the actual provisions in clause 7 for the ballot that must be conducted if the immunity of the trade union is to be preserved, one would expect, if the purpose of the Bill was to give union members the right to have their union leadership in tune with their aspirations, that the question on the ballot paper would be, "Are you in favour of strike action or are you against strike action?" That would be the logical question, but it is not so. According to clause 7(4)(a), the question on the ballot paper must ask whether the trade unionist wishes to take part in a strike
involving him in a breach of his contract of employment.
Can hon. Members imagine such a question on the ballot paper? The ordinary trade unionist is not asked whether he is in favour of strike action but whether he is a contract breaker. If that is not a rigged ballot question, it is hard to think of one.
The hon. Gentleman said that the question does not ask whether the member wants to take part in a strike. The question in clause 7 is whether he is prepared
to take part … in a strike involving him in a breach of his contract of employment.
It does ask him whether he is prepared to take part in that strike. The hon. Gentleman said that it did not.
Clause 7(4) makes it clear that the voter must say:
by answering "Yes" or "No", whether he is prepared to take part … in a strike involving him in a breach of his contract of employment.
In Clause 7(4)(b) the words are used:
but involving him in a breach of his contract of employment or interference with its performance.
Therefore, the voting paper will ask whether the member is a contract breaker.
If the strike would involve a breach of contract, why should that be kept secret in the ballot? Why should that not be drawn to the attention of the potential striker?
There is always a danger when hon. Members intervene in that way. The hon. Gentleman has in effect said that he disagrees with the Secretary of State. The hon. Gentleman is asking whether it is not right that the member should be asked whether the strike involves a breach of the contract of employment. When the Minister replies, perhaps he will say who is right—the hon. Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Mr. Howard) or the Secretary of State. It is clear that they disagree.
I come now to a third reason that gives the lie to the proposals in the Bill. If the purpose of the Bill was to make union leaders true to the aspirations of their members, one would expect there to be an incentive to ballot the members before industrial action is taken, but there could be no conceivable reason—if the stated purpose of the Bill is correct—why they should not also be balloted on whether the strike should continue. If the wishes of union members is the paramount consideration, why should their wishes be taken into account when considering whether to take strike action but not when deciding whether to continue strike action?
My fourth point about the clear purpose of the Bill concerns the administrative obstacles that the Government seek to place in the way of effective trade union action. Part II of the Bill applies not only to major official strikes but to any strike at all. If any stike is called there must, before official strike action is taken, be a ballot that is conducted in a manner fair to and convenient for the members. In many cases a union will be required to take urgent, prompt and effective action. The essence of the union action will be swiftness. It will need to take action immediately. The Bill effectively prevents the union from doing so. If the true purpose of the Bill was to ascertain the views of the members, one would expect, where a union took industrial action without a ballot but, following the industrial action, balloted its members, and found them in favour, that the Bill would say that union members could ratify that industrial action. No such provision exists. A union can take action, could have it overwhelmingly ratified by its membership and still lose the immunity and be liable for up to £250,000 for each act.
The true purpose of the Bill is to shift the balance of industrial power. If the Opposition were in government and introduced legislation which required that every time a board of directors made a major decision it would have to ballot its shareholders, we would be justly criticised on the basis that that would lead to an inefficient and ineffective company. Such criticism would be right. That applies in exactly the same way to trade unions. The whole purpose of having a trade union executive is so that it can take charge of the conduct of the affairs of that trade union. The purpose of the Bill is to render the trade union movement ineffective and inefficient. Once this shroud of deceit is lifted from the Bill, its true nature is clear. It is a shabby, partisan stratagem designed to assist the Conservative party and employers in industry. It has nothing to do with democracy—it has everything to do with interfering with the rights of British trade unionists to organise freely in the association of their own choice.
It is a disgrace that we should be debating today the taking away of fundamental freedoms for which British trade unionists have fought for a long time. Having fought long and hard for them, they will not give them up lightly. We shall oppose the Bill, which is a scandalous and undemocratic measure against the trade union movement for partisan reasons.
The hon. Members for Dunfermline, East (Mr. Brown) and for Warrington, North (Mr. Hoyle) asked what evidence there was of a demand for the Bill. Every recent opinion poll has shown that not only most people but most trade unionists want secret ballots for the election of union executives, that they want ballots before strike action is taken and that they want the freedom to decide whether to pay into a political fund.
Many regard the Bill as the first real attempt for a long time to give trade union power back to the people to whom it properly belongs—the trade union members—and for that not only I but millions of trade unionists are grateful to the Secretary of State. Many of them voted for just these proposals in the 1979 election and again in June of this year, and Labour Members might care to consider the possibility — to them the awful possibility — that there might now be more trade unionists on the Government Benches than there are on the Opposition Benches.
I shall concentrate on what I regard as omissions from the Bill, and I hope that my right hon. Friend will forgive me for doing that. To put the cart before the horse, I deal first with the last item in the Bill, the political levy. I and my many colleagues in the Conservative trade union movement do not seek to deny anyone the right to political funds, but we want those contributions to be through positive, not negative, choice.
Labour Members have commented on the manner in which the Conservative party receives its funds. I have established that 20 per cent. of those funds come from industry and that the other 80 per cent. come from constituency and doorstep collections. Of the 80 per cent., a portion comes from small business, but that is perhaps because small business sees its future best under my party and the policies that we provide.
The right hon. and learned Member for Monklands, East (Mr. Smith) did not answer me when I asked in an intervention whether the Labour party was so bereft of attraction that it could draw funds in only through coercion. Labour Members have said throughout the debate that they regard this as a raid on Labour party funds. I find that arrogant beyond belief because there is no reason to suppose that trade unionists, of whom I am one, wish to contribute only to Labour party funds. It is possible, as the hon. Member for Truro (Mr. Penhaligon) suggested, that there are a few who might like to contribute to Conservative party funds, and I have no doubt that down in St. Austell there are a few who might even contribute to Liberal party funds as well. Thus, this cannot by any means be regarded as a raid on Labour party funds.
If the trade union movement wishes to establish a political fund, it should allow that fund to be voted on, and the Bill as drafted does not give members a positive choice. Unless the trade union movement is prepared to say by the end of the year, without qualification, that any member of any union shall have the right to opt into and not out of a political levy, that right should become part of the Bill, and I hope that my right hon. Friend will take a similar view.
In the area of disputes, we have sought the insertion of a clause giving every employee in his or her contract of employment a procedure for arbitration that is legally binding on employer and employee alike. There must be a legislative balance and that legislation must place responsibility on both parties to a dispute. That clause is also missing from the Bill.
In clause 6 provision is made for the pre-strike ballot. Where a union refuses to hold such a ballot or chooses to ballot only key workers in a small section that can still bring an industry to a standstill, no provision is given to the ordinary union member to demand, as of right, a ballot of the full membership affected. I believe that right to be essential to democracy in the trade union movement. That right is also missing from the Bill.
Perhaps the most important part of the Bill is the right to ballot for the election of a union's governing body. For the first time, my right hon. Friend has sought to enshrine in law the right that in national elections we take for granted—one man, one vote on a piece of paper and in private. Trade union members will congratulate my right hon. Friend on that provision.
As hon. Members who have been present all afternoon know, the internal machinery of the Conservative party has been discussed so frequently today that the matter is becoming a chestnut. No doubt the Minister of State will answer the question, because he is the most affected.
What voting power will the Bill give the union member to elect his local representative, his shop steward, in the same way as it outlines the power for him to elect his national governing body? The answer appears to be, none. That too is an omission from the Bill. The matter was raised by Labour Members earlier. I am grateful to them for doing so and I support that point of view. There is a loophole here that will allow similar shop floor elections that have taken place in the past and I hope that that matter will be attended to in Committee.
Above all, what voting power will the Bill give to the union member regularly to elect the speaking but not voting member of his executive, the general secretary? The answer is, none. To cite what is becoming the most infamous of cases to illustrate the point, I mention the Film Artists' Association, and I will not say anything in the House, with its protection, that I would not say outside. The general secretary of the FAA should, according to the rules of that association, have retired four years ago. In spite of a High Court provision, he is still in office. The facts of the case are public knowledge and its conduct makes a mockery of the concept of union democracy. But the Bill would do nothing to curb the power wealded undemocratically by Sean Brannigan—elected years ago and now out of time—and others, often unelected, like him.
Clause 2(2) denies the right to vote to union members who are not in employment. In the unions of which I am a member — the National Union of Journalists, the Association of Cinematograph and Television Technicians, of which Alan Sapper is a member, and British Equity—there are many full-time members who are not in full-time employment. [Interruption.] I should like to think that Opposition Members agree with me at least on this. In the election of their union's executive, it is wrong that those who are between jobs should be disfranchised, and in that respect I believe the Bill to be wrong.
Those of us who have sought for a long time the rights that the Bill will extend take great heart from it. It will do much to give the trade union member the power that properly belongs to him. Some years ago, I said that I believed that it was possible to bring about this change without legislation and within a union's existing rule book. Sadly, time has taught me that I was wrong. I believe that the trade union leadership has failed to respond to a growing call for change, has failed its members and has too often neither listened to them nor represented them. If it had, the Bill would not be before the House.
I and some of my colleagues in the Scottish group were able to visit a remarkable Scottish industrialist, Mr. William McCrindle, who left school at 16. In 1964, and with £10 in his pocket, he started to build up an organisation which is now competing with an American firm from Houston, Texas and with European companies for North sea contracts. When I asked him what he felt about the industrial relations legislation, he told me that he had an agreement on his shop floor that any skilled or unskilled man was interchangeable and could operate any machine. Industrial relations, because of this procedural agreement, are second to none. At the request of the Scottish Development Agency he has taken over factories which were going to the wall. The agreement is signed by the Amalgamated Union of Engineering Workers, the Amalgamated Society of Boilermakers, Shipwrights, Blacksmiths and Structural Workers and the Institute of Engineers and Technicians. Mr. McCrindle makes the valid point that it would suit the Government better if they gave him the types of subsidies that are given to the German and Norwegian contractors by their Governments. He feels that he has been successful in achieving good industrial relations, and that the Government and the law courts cannot provide the same success. The House will not take one man or woman off the dole by passing this legislation. It will do no good for industrial relations.
Each employer whom I have come across has argued that there are far too many independent unions in the Trades Union Congress. It is a pity that there are not a small number of unions in the TUC. Employers are faced with more and more union amalgamations. Forty years ago, the blacksmiths within the boilermakers union did not have their own union. In effect, the boilermakers union is an amalgamation of unions from the heavy trades. This union has now amalgamated with what was the General and Municipal Workers Union. The Transport and General Workers Union comprises vehicle builders and various other trades.
Members of smaller unions must have protection when unions amalgamate. If the argument for majority rule is followed, a small union would be afraid to amalgamate with a larger one because it would believe that the people who are conversant with its trade and skills would not win top positions.
Often, a protection agreement covers people who are in amalgamated unions. If the Secretary of State does not protect this aspect, smaller unions will be reluctant to amalgamate with larger ones for fear of being swallowed up. The president of a union normally has voting power. Sometimes unions expect the senior member of the executive to become the president, and so he moves up in position for one year. Great honour is attached to that position. There is no harm in that system. It is used by English local authorities in appointing a mayor. It would be a shame, though, if unions wanted to proceed along those lines. It could be argued that this measure is undemocratic, but is a way of giving some recognition to people who have devoted their lives to, for example, engineering.
This legislation would deny unions the right to appoint such people. The white collar unions represent people who are on very high salaries. Such people are reluctant to leave their jobs to take up office in a trade union. Sometimes, unions must appoint executives because they cannot find people willing to offer themselves for election. A difficulty may arise if the Government insist on this system and the proper talent does not come to jobs that carry much responsibility. Some of these jobs — including general secretary — are equivalent to those held by senior executives in many of the major companies.
Closed shops existed long before legislation making them legal. Many employers liked the idea of a closed shop, because they could negotiate with one union. They could go to the personnel officer or someone responsible for negotiating wages and agreements. Often someone said to management, "You are operating a closed shop." Management would reply, "I am not operating a closed shop. It just happens that everyone in the shop belongs to the associated metalworkers union or the boilermakers union."
Hon. Members should not kid themselves that by passing this legislation we shall abolish closed shops. There will be more unofficial strikes. When I was a trade union official and was told that some of my members were on strike, I literally broke sweat. I knew that my spare time would be devoted to paying out strike pay or persuading unionists to return to work. A trade union officer with a strike on his hands faces a hard slog. He does not see his wife or children, or get home at the weekend if the trade union members are far away. Trade union officers do not want to strike—that is a myth exploited by the Tory party.
A few trade union officers will say that they cannot instruct their members to go on strike. There may be a nod and a wink, and if they want to go on strike that will be their business. An old Glasgow saying is "You can't take the breeks off a Highlander." There is no point in sueing someone who is earning only £50 a week.
Many responsible employers who are faced by a strike will wait it out. Not many strikes last longer than a few days. A responsible employer who has something upstairs will say that he will not cause bother and go before the courts. He knows that he must operate in harmony with his work force.
What will the Secretary of State do about third parties? For example, taxi drivers may say that because of a strike they have not had any hirings by a company. Someone who delivers rolls may say that he will take the matter to court because of the effect of the dispute on his business. The so-called "organisations for freedom" will pick out not a responsible employer, but a weak one. All sorts of problems will arise. Once again, that does not lead to good industrial relations.
Many people talk about the trade union levy as being money that goes directly to the Labour party. A part goes directly to the Labour party; another part goes towards lobbying Parliament, which is a legitimate activity. We should encourage people to lobby their Members of Parliament because we want to know the problems of the outside world. If we do not, we are working here in a vacuum. If people come from Glasgow, which is where I live, they need the train fare and to be paid for two days off work. That money comes from the political levy. If we abolish the political levy there will be arguments such as those taking place in NALGO about what is or is not political.
If trade unions have a political levy, they can correctly say that a certain matter is "political". If a critical pamphlet is published, we in the House of whatever party must be prepared to stand up to that criticism. If we are afraid of a pamphlet we should not be in politics. Trade union secretaries who have access to political funds are entitled to become involved in that type of activity. Doing away with the fund will create difficulties.
I take exception to what the Minister said about a trade union member, either a Tory or a Liberal, who does not want to pay the political levy. That person should be able to contract out of paying it. Most unions make it easy to do so, in spite of what has been said. I do not want to get into that argument, but it is right that people should be allowed to opt out. If I make the decision to pay the political levy, my union should be allowed to have a political fund and I should be able to represent my union actively as a delegate to the Labour party.
The Minister is giving those people who are anti-Labour two bites of the cherry. They will not only withdraw from the political fund, they will deny my union the right to have a political levy.
If one third only of the union members want to continue paying the political levy, the general secretary should have the right to set up a political fund and it would be available for other activities related to the Labour party.
I have been involved since I was 15 with industrial relations as a shop steward, a full-time union officer and a sponsored union Member. If men and women feel that they have a grievance, no one will keep them at work. The Government delude themselves if they think otherwise.
I begin by dealing with the point mentioned by the hon. Member for Glasgow, Springburn (Mr. Martin) at the outset of his remarks. He did not want the law to play any part in industrial relations. That is a refrain that we have heard, not so much this afternoon and evening, but on other occasions from Opposition Members and trade union leaders. However, that argument leaves out of account the fact that the law, in particular statute law, which is passed by Parliament, is at the heart of the status of trade unions, because Parliament has conferred upon trade unions the privilege of immunity.
Parliament having conferred that privilege, it must be within Parliament's proper function to review it from time to time and to ensure that the bodies that are entrusted with that privilege are democratic. Let us reflect for a moment upon the nature of the privilege with which we are concerned. It is a unique immunity conferred upon trade unions, which protects them from the consequences of their actions that the common law — to which every other citizen is subject—would visit upon them.
When we consider such an important and far-reaching immunity it seems utterly reasonable that Parliament should consider from time to time whether the leaders of such bodies are democratically elected, that when they seek to exercise those privileges they do so having consulted their members, and that when they wish to devote some part of their members' funds to political purposes, they do so with their members' consent.
The privilege of immunity from the common law lies at the heart of the matter. In that privilege lies the answer to all the false analogies that Opposition Members have sought to draw during the debate. "Why have ballots not been made obligatory for this, that or the other bodies?" The answer is that none of those other bodies have had conferred upon them by Parliament the unique privilege of immunity from the common law that the trade unions have had.
The last thing that I would wish to do is to trepass upon what I know my hon. Friend the Minister will inevitably deal with when he replies, but dare I say it, that immunity provides the distinction between trade unions and the Conservative party. We wish my hon. Friend extremely well in his relatively new office, and although that office undoubtedly confers upon him great status and power, it does not stretch to the immunities which Parliament has conferred upon trade unions.
Many of my hon. Friends have said that the Bill is modest. Nowhere is its modesty more apparent than in part II which deals with the provision for balloting before official strike action. It could have extended to unofficial strike action, but it does not. It could have provided that immunities would be lost unless the result of the ballot was in favour of strike action, but it does not. It could have made strike action without the consent of the workers, as expressed by ballot, illegal per se, but it does not. All it does is remove the privilege of immunity from the consequences of common law.
I wish to deal with some of the points that have been mentioned by Opposition Members in relation to part II. The hon. Member for Warrington, North (Mr. Hoyle) wondered why there was no provision for ballots to take place at the work place. There is already such a provision. It is contained in section 28 of the Employment Protection (Consolidation) Act 1978 passed by the Labour Government, which provides for time off to be given by employers for trade union activities at the place of work, and there is the more recent legislation dealing with the provision of the opportunity for balloting at the work place for which the Government were responsible in the previous Parliament.
The hon. Member for Warrington, North tried to draw analogies with other European countries. He referred to Germany, but immunity from the consequences of the ordinary law of Germany is not provided to trade unions in that country. Therefore, it is not surprising that such provisions do not apply there, or at least that they do not apply there yet. In Germany trade unions have, as a matter of course and without being required so to do by law, balloted their members before taking strike action. There are now signs that some German trade unions may be departing from that practice, which caused a leading member of the German Government to say that if departure from the practice continues consideration will have to be given to introducing legislation along the lines of this Bill.
The points made by the right hon. and learned Member for Monklands, East (Mr. Smith) about clause 7(4) were followed to some extent by the hon. Member for Sedgefield (Mr. Blair), who I am delighted to see back in his place. The right hon. and learned Gentleman's first point was that it was necessary, if the provisions of clause 7(4) were to be followed, to include on the ballot paper a reference to the fact that the contemplated strike, in relation to which the intention of union member was being ascertained, would involve that member in a breach of his contract of employment. Why should that not be required? Why should it not be drawn to the attention of a member whose opinion was being canvassed about this matter that the strike would involve him in a breach of contract? Why should it be kept a secret? The right hon. and learned Gentleman suggested that it might frighten the trade union member, because he might, if the question was couched in that way on the ballot paper, obtain an inaccurate impression of the consequences of his joining the action. That is an entirely false suggestion. If that is a serious worry, the provision does not prevent it being made clear on the ballot paper that immunities would apply notwithstanding the fact that the strike was in breach of contract, and that such fears on the part of the union member were groundless.
That is how it looks to me at present, but the matter can be dealt with in detail in Committee. I made it clear that that was my opinion when I intervened during the hon. Gentleman's speech, and I asked him what was his objection to such a provision and why it should be kept a secret; answer I received none. There is no difficulty with clause 7(4).
I shall not deal now with the first point of the hon. Member for Sedgefield, because in the one reservation that I have about the Bill I might come close to what he said about the rights of members. He asked why there was no need for a ballot to call off strike action, and why it would not be possible to have a ballot after strike action commenced so as to ratify and confirm it respectively. The answers to those questions lie in what I suggest is the key to the Bill—the fact that it is part and parcel of the regulation of the privilege of immunity from the consequences of common law. The immunity would not be affected if strike action were called off, so there is no need to have a ballot for that purpose. As to the hon. Gentleman's latter point, if a trade union embarks upon action that would enable it to claim protection from the common law consequences of what it was doing, it is only right and proper that that should be the result of prior consultation with the union membership and not consultation after the immunity has already been claimed.
My substantial reservation about the measure relates to its failure to protect a category of citizens whom the Government, in their Green Paper, recognised that they had a special duty to safeguard. I refer to the interests of citizens who have been coerced into union membership as a direct result of the spread of closed shops. There is one particular respect in which such citizens are exposed to the risk of manifest injustice which it is a great regret that the Bill does nothing to remedy. I refer to the position of the individual worker who wishes to honour his contract of employment and refuses to take part in industrial action. It remains the position, and will remain the position even if the Bill becomes law, that there could be circumstances in which such a worker could be liable to lose his job with no compensation. His position is to be contrasted with the worker who is dismissed because he joins or wishes to join a trade union. That worker is entitled to elaborate protection under the law and to enhanced compensation under the Employment Protection (Consolidation) Act 1978. I do not quarrel with that, but it highlights the injustice suffered by the worker who is expelled from his union for honouring his contract of employment and who, in a closed shop, may lose his job.
It is right that the trade unions, on whom the great privilege of immunity from the common law is bestowed, should respect the views of the majority of their members in excercising that privilege. The Bill achieves that objective and is to be commended for it, but it is equally right that a body on which such a privilege is conferred should not oppress a minority of its members in the exercise of that privilege. The Government could have used the Bill to remedy that injustice which such a minority might suffer. It is a matter of great regret and disappointment that they have chosen not to do so. It is an omission which I urge them to remedy with the minimum of delay, though it will certainly not prevent me from supporting the Bill on Second Reading.
The cardinal feature of the Bill is that it provides for democracy to be freely exercised within trade unions and, throughout the debate, Labour Members have found themselves impaled on the horns of an inescapable dilemma. If everything in the trade union movement were hunky dory and if there were full exercise of democratic rights in the choice of their leaders, before engaging in strike action and before devoting funds to political purposes, the Bill would make no difference and all the indignation that we have heard from Labour Members would be a complete sham. But I suspect that they protest too much. I suspect that there are many occasions when the exercise of that democracy is less than perfect and that is what the Bill will remedy.
Since the inception of the Social Democratic party, alliance Members have fought for the reform of balloting on industrial action, for the election of union executives on the basis of one member, one vote, and for the reform of the political levy system as outlined in various policy documents that have been published. It is interesting that some of those proposals have been taken up in the Bill, and therefore we shall support it. Nevertheless, I have many reservations about some of the detailed proposals that the Government have brought before the House.
The Bill's most important defect is that the system for reforming the payment of the political levy is one-sided. It is being pushed through the House by a party with a substantial majority and rightly appears outside the House as a vindictive act against the Labour party. Therefore, it is highly likely that the reform that the Government are seeking to impose through the Bill will not stick. That is unfortunate because if they had done what they previously seemed to favour and which we would like to see—the introduction of a system of contracting in—they would have been reforming the political levy system in a palpably fair way, not to the advantage of any one party in the political spectrum. That is a major reservation.
We also have reservations about the system of balloting for industrial action.
The hon. Member for Truro (Mr. Penhaligon) and other hon. Members referred to the incidence of unofficial strikes. I cannot see how the Government can take the Bill through the House in its present form without dealing with the problem of unofficial action. As was shown by Donovan, and by others since then, unofficial action is the predominant problem in industrial relations. The Bill will be damaging if it encourages unofficial action, and does not deal with it. I hope that the Government will consider amendments to overcome the problem.
We should have preferred a trigger mechanism introduced in this part of the Bill for balloting when a percentage of the work force felt that it was desirable and necessary to do so. I was interested to hear the right hon. and learned Member for Monklands, East (Mr. Smith) mention that.
The third major aspect of the Bill deals with the election of trade union leaders. We have adopted in our party constitution a system of one member, one vote. The Secretary of State referred to an early-day motion that some of us tabled in 1975. I was one of the hon. Members who organised that motion, which many Opposition Members signed. We were fighting for one member, one vote in the trade union movement and also in the party. We have carried on that commitment and we hope that the provisions of one member, one vote will be introduced for elections. That is one of the major reasons why we hope that the measure will go on to the statute book. Some amendments need to be made in Committee, so I shall not deal with them now—
If the hon. Gentleman will forgive me, many of his right hon. and hon. Friends have been sitting here all evening, and I should like to hear them speak.
We regret that other provisions have not been made in the Bill to make it a balanced package. We have referred to one of those on the Order Paper, in an instruction asking the Committee to consider the method by which company donations to political parties are made.
I have made it clear to the hon. Gentleman that I shall not give way. There will be plenty of opportunities for the hon. Gentleman to make his points.
I hope that the Government will make it necessary for shareholders—I was interested to hear Labour Members say that that change is necessary and desirable—to give prior approval to political contributions made by companies. We have also made it clear in our instruction that pension funds and the institutions that are investing funds on behalf of workers in many industries should have their views taken into account and assessed before a vote is taken on political contributions. I hope that the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, who is responsible for company law, will respond to those pleas for changes in the provisions for political contributions from companies, to try to make the proposed reform more even-handed.
Another major reform that should have been introduced at the same time, which is long overdue, is the reform of industrial democracy. If we are to give people more democratic rights in their trade unions it is important that company workers should be given democratic rights to participate in running the enterprises in which they work. It is regrettable that the package has not been made more balanced with the announcement of the introduction of such proposals.
Finally, I believe that our proposal will help to change the whole nature of the debate on industrial relations and trade union affairs. I hope that we can bring into the debate in the House and in the country the reform that we have proposed for removing trade union immunities and replacing them, as in many other countries, with trade union rights. Such rights should be enacted in statutes so that people know where they stand. Trade unions have proposed a series of rights which I am sure that all hon. Members would wish to see enacted, thereby removing the curious position in which trade unions are immune from civil action and are then penalised for being immune. Such a provision would be a long overdue major reform in trade union legislation. Some Labour Members appear to have their heads in the sand and not to realise that social, economic, political and industrial conditions have changed since trade union legislation was first put on the statute book. They must seek and support reform in the trade union movement if the unions are not to be swept aside by the more vindictive proposals emanating from the Government.
The debate began five hours ago. I believe that I am the first hon. Member to be called who has for 25 years earned his living in industrial relations. Much has been said by banisters on both sides of the House, few of whom, I imagine, have had any shop floor experience.
Memories are short. Only five months have passed since the Government were elected with an overwhelming mandate. Opposition Members have asked on what mandate the Government introduce the legislation. It is the mandate of the British people who voted for the Conservate party which will enact legislation to make the trade unions far more democratic and representative than at present, and with their leaders taking notice of what their members say.
Whenever democracy is referred to, certain Opposition hon. Members on the far Back Benches try to interrupt.
I wish to differentiate between unions and national officials who frequently make decisions without any reference to their members. I wish to refer to my own experience in the furniture industry. Postal ballots have taken place in the union in that industry since 1947.
Sir Alfred Tomkins, who was general secretary of the union in 1947, was determined to guard the procedural agreement introduced in that year. So jealous was he of that agreement that he remained in office until he died at the age of 85. I am sure that Sir Alfred Tomkins was known to many Opposition hon. Members. He was succeeded by a general secretary almost as old as he was. No one in the union ever had the right to vote for a new general secretary. During Sir Alfred's tenure, the union membership had no rights by which they could remove him.
Since 1977, the general secretary of the union has been Mr. Benn Rubner. He was elected for life and will remain in office for life until legislation of the type before the House is enacted. If the union members then wish to remove Mr. Rubner they will have the democratic right to do so. If they do not wish to remove him, they will re-elect him to office.
I do not know why Labour Members are so frightened of the democratic process. Since the Conservatives came to office in June, every trade union has known that legislation was on its way. Every trade union leader has had the opportunity to organise some kind of ballot among the members to prove that the Government's proposals are wrong, but every union leader has shied away from that challenge. As a Member of Parliament, I have yet to receive a letter from anyone opposing legislation to reform the trade union movement.
Conservative Members constantly claim that the great mass of the public support the Government's proposals. If that is so, why have those decisions not been taken through the existing democratic channels in the trade unions? If the Government are right, such resolutions could easily be passed at branch meetings. Why has that not happened?
In my experience, most people are afraid to do that because of the closed shop practice which could deprive them of the right to earn a living. One of the purposes of Parliament is to protect the little person against the big organisation. Too often, trade union leadership is not concerned about individuals and their rights. I hope that that answers the question.
In the furniture industry the union has held postal ballots from the beginning. The present general secretary was elected for life by 13·4 per cent. of the membership. One can draw whatever conclusion one likes from that. One may say that postal ballots are good or bad, but those are the facts. The postal ballots were paid for by the union members, although no doubt they would be happy to take Government funds if they were made available.
Many people feel that the last general election was lost by the Labour party because it needed a chiropodist. No doubt by the time we reach the next general election it will be seeking the views of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons on how to deal with foot and mouth disease.
The Labour party's stance on industrial relations lacked credibility. [Interruption.] I am happy to give way to any hon. Member who has a meaningful contribution to make. If hon. Members merely wish to jib and jibe, I shall simply have to raise my voice. I did not wish to do that as I believed that this was a debate between rational people on a rational subject. I had forgotten that the hon. Member for Bolsover had come into the Chamber.
The hon. Gentleman has been spouting about democracy. Does he believe that all this democracy and balloting should extend to the 1,100 Members of the House of Lords? Should not they, too, come up for election?
I shall stick to the subject under debate today, but I will gladly debate the House of Lords with the hon. Gentleman on the appropriate occasion.
Money regularly collected from trade union members has been regarded as the right of the Labour party, but it is not. That has now been put to the test. I see nothing wrong in testing opinion so that trade union members can decide for themselves. Throughout the debate, Labour Members have given Pavlovian responses, looking back over their shoulders to the last century and trying to square the wheel in relation to trade union relations in such a way as to cause Conservative Members to come out in even greater numbers.
It has been suggested that Parliament has no right to interfere in what the trade unions are doing. It has every right to interfere when it also interferes in the activities of companies seeking to produce goods, sell them to customers and put the economy on a decent footing.
When the Labour Government introduced industrial tribunals and the legislation on unfair dismissal, they created an almost monstrous industry. I have been to a tribunal for a dismissal case but the appellant did not turn up. I was there. So were the convener, the shop steward, the foreman and the manager. They were all there to support management. When the appellant did not turn up, the tribunal decided to set another day in case he had got lost on the way or was ill. In fact, the man was a drug addict and we had fired him at the request of the trade union and the convener. They were very glad to see him go out of the factory.
That sort of interference was brought upon us by legislation. I can see nothing wrong in some of the provisions before us, although I have reservations from practical experience about some aspects of the Bill. On part II, I have reservations about people temporarily unemployed.
It has been suggested by Opposition Members that the law should be amended to give shareholders a better say in the allocation of funds to the Conservative party. I am confident that shareholders, if given the opportunity, would vote to give far more money to the Conservative party rather than have it stolen from them by Opposition Members, if they were ever to come to government.
As many other hon. Members have said, this is the third stage of the Government's trade union legislation. The previous two stages were the Employment Act 1980 arid the Employment Act 1982. I note with appreciation that the word "employment" has been dropped from the title of this legislation. Since the publication of the first Employment Act the Government may have noticed that unemployment has more than doubled. In my city, Leeds, only 30 per cent. of school leavers have been able to find employment this year.
This is a trade union Bill but its characteristics are similar to those of the previous legislation. They are simple. They are based upon ignorance of industrial relations and prejudice against the trade union movement.
I shall illustrate the ignorance by reference to the clauses that deal with strikes and compulsory strike ballots. It is worth remembering that, on average, 95 per cent. of industrial strikes take place on an unofficial basis. Some start unofficially and then become official disputes. I noticed with surprise earlier in the debate that the hon. Member for Truro (Mr. Penhaligon), speaking on behalf of the Liberal party, seemed to be confused.
Yes, they have disappeared again.
The hon. Member for Truro said that an official strike resulted from the members involved in the strike organising their own ballot. If he had had more experience of industrial relations he would have realised that an official strike is one that has been endorsed by the official national executive body or other appropriate body of the trade union. Of course, the hon. Member for Truro may be learning the brief that was carried so weightily before him by the hon. Member for Rochdale (Mr. Smith).
The legislation will introduce a compulsory ballot. It will be compulsory because the immunities enjoyed by trade unions would disappear if the ballot did not take place and we would be back to the legal position prior to 1906. In other words, there would be an element of compulsion on trade unions in regard to official strikes.
The Government have introduced the Bill against their own advice and that of most industrial relations experts. It is incumbent upon the Minister of State when he winds up to tell us why the Government have not pursued what the Green Paper proposed. It said that legislation such as that now proposed would put a premium on irresponsible behaviour.
The Bill will make it easy and necessary for trade unions to insist that they will not associate with a form of industrial action because if they do their funds will be subjected to legal action such as that which some of my right hon. and hon. Friends have explained. That must mean that we shall create circumstances in which disputes are harder to settle. Moreover, official union involvement will be put at a premium because the union dare not become involved. Why have the Government ignored their own sensible advice?
Experience of compulsory strike ballots shows that those ballots go in one direction. Some hon. Members will recall the evidence of the Industrial Relations Act 1971. The Government ordered a ballot, albeit in different circumstances but to the same effect, in the 1972 rail dispute. The result was that more than 80 per cent. of the railwaymen rejected the Government's offer.
We could go further and examine the American experience. In compulsory strike ballots there, union members are asked to put their loyalty to the union executive on the line. They do that and the result makes resolution of an industrial dispute that much more difficult. Has the Minister examined that experience? If so, what conclusions does he draw from it? Most academic experts and commentators on industrial relations argue that compulsory strike ballots make disputes more difficult rather than easier to resolve.
As the Secretary of State is trying to find means of resolving industrial diputes, I shall offer two suggestions. Perhaps he would like to comment on why the Government have not introduced legislation to deal with the often thorny problem of recognition. Why have the Government not introduced legislation to deal with recalcitrant employers such as George Ward at Grunwick who are not prepared to give basic and decent rights to trade unionists? Recognition is still a major source of industrial disputes. Why do not the Government legislate to deal with employers who refuse to keep agreements—especially agreements on job security? Many employers have ignored such agreements through the recent recession. The number of disputes could be limited if the Government legislated to prevent that.
Part III deals with political funds. I have noticed the alliance instruction which refers to shareholders. It would be more useful if alliance members bothered to talk about employees, as wealth created by companies is created not by the directors or shareholders but by those who work on the shop floor. I should like those people to have a right to a ballot on whether the company for which they work should contribute to Conservative party funds. Leeds has a major employer—Northern Engineering Industries—which donated £40,000 to the Conservative party in 1982. That company also made a significant number of its employees redundant in 1982 and 1983. It would be interesting to see whether those employees would vote for the Conservative party and for their company contributing to Conservative party funds if they were balloted on those issues.
I finish now, because I realise that time is running out, as time is running out for this Government and their prejudiced legislation. I suspect that the public will note of this legislation that it had been brought in in an unfair, undemocratic way with one objective—to damage the main Opposition party. Democracy depends on two, equally funded major parties. We do not have that equal funding at the moment, but afterwards there will be a terrible imbalance. The public will notice that and will come out against this legislation and support the trade union movement.
At the outset, I declare my interest and I declare it proudly. I am a section one member of the Amalgamated Union of Engineering Workers and I am sponsored as a Member of Parliament by that union. I have spoken in virtually every industrial relations debate that we have had since 1974 and I have always declared that interest and made it clear that I am proud of it.
I have another point to make clear, which on this occasion is unique. The Deputy Speaker who has just left the Chair, my right hon. Friend the Member for Doncaster, Central (Mr. Walker), has for many years represented the Labour party, either in government or in opposition, during industrial relations debates. I am a little sad that he has had to leave us.
Two views have been expressed in the debate. The view repeatedly expressed from the Conservative Benches is that we are talking about greater democracy within the trade union movement. Phrases such as "giving the unions back to their members" and "curbing the union barons" have fallen from the lips of every Conservative Member who has spoken. The other view, expressed by my right hon. and hon. Friends, is that this legislation is the third instalment in the long-running saga since 1979, the purpose of which is the crippling of the trade union movement.
My hon. Friend says that this is the third crippling blow at the trade unions, but it is the fourth, the first being section 6 of the Social Security Act 1981, which, for the first time in history, attacked the dependants of trade unionists who went on strike, and put them in a worse position than the dependants of murderers.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that important correction.
I have looked carefully through the legislation and read the various speeches on the Employment Act 1980 and the Employment Act 1982. I am driven to the conclusion that this is the third instalment of the Tory party long-running saga, the aim of which is the crippling of the trade union movement. It is not an exaggeration to say that we are well on the road to the corporate state under this Government. In almost every walk of life and sphere, restrictions from the Government are aimed at creating the most centralised state in the Western democracies. It used to be said that France was the most centralised state, but Great Britain has rapidly taken over that position.
Anyone who examines the proposition that the Bill would create great democracy in the unions quickly realises that the proposition is a sham. Part I talks about secret ballots for trade union elections, covered by clauses 1 to 5. Our first objection is to the Government's underlying concept that the ideal form of democracy in a union is putting a cross on a piece of paper every five years to elect officers to the executive committee. That in itself is nonsense. If any Tory Member took the trouble to study the British trade union movement, he would soon see that democracy takes many forms and that it means a variety of things within the movement. Democracy has developed in different ways in different trade unions, but always it reflects the historical development of that union.
It is interesting to examine the general structure of officers in the craft unions. One invariably finds that craft unions have many more elected officials than do the general unions, and there are sensible and understandable reasons for that. When a craftsman serves his apprenticeship as a fitter, electrician, boilermaker or joiner, he joins the union when he is 16 — certainly when he is 21—and stays in that union for the rest of his life. He has no particular reason or interest in joining another trade union. Throughout their history and because of their make-up, unions have created a democratic structure of elections and re-elections.
We see a different picture in the general workers' unions — again, for good reasons. The members of general unions tend to work in an industry and join the general workers' union that appertains to that industry. If the general worker leaves that industry and goes to another, he again joins the appropriate general workers' union. Because of the constant shift and flow, the unions for general workers generally tend to have appointed officials.
It is also interesting to look at the ways in which different unions have evolved a democratic structure. My hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) rightly drew attention to the National Union of Mineworkers. That union is virtually a federation of area trade unions. It is clearly common sense that the leaders of the NUM area federations should join the national executive committee of that union. It would indeed be remarkable if the national executive were made up of different members, rather than the leading area officials. However, it would appear that under this Bill—we shall have to examine the matter in detail in Committee—the NUM would he in difficulty and, contrary to what the Secretary of State said to my right hon. Friend in an earlier intervention, it appears that there would hive to be some rewriting of the NUM's rule book. The Secretary of State said that there would be no need to rewrite any rule book, but that is nonsense, as I hope to prove.
The Transport and General Workers Union, to which some of my hon. Friends have referred, is again a federation of trade union groups. It is common sense that the secretaries of the trade union groups that make up that union serve on the national executive committee of that body. Again, it would be remarkable if the various trade union groups that make up the TGWU were not on the executive committee.
The National Union of Railwaymen has an ideal form of democracy, but it is a different form of democracy. It has grown up there. The executive members of the NUR, elected from different areas and from the different groups that make up the NUR, serve a three-year term of office, but then have to retire to the shop floor to serve a further three years before they can stand for re-election. The reason is that the NUR decided long ago that it wanted to ensure that its members could always stay in touch with the rank and file.
I come to my own union, the Amalgamated Union of Engineering Workers. My union angrily rejects any suggestion from the Tory party that it can teach us anything about democracy. The union has grown up on the basis that every member and every full-time official shall be subject to election and re-election. Even the doorkeepers of the trade union branches have to come up for election every 12 months, as well as every shop steward and convener. That was not forced on us by Tory Governments. That was how our union evolved, because that was the wish of our members.
It is improper and impertinent for any Tory Member to suggest that the AUEW form of government should be forced on other unions. Other unions are different from the AUEW in form, shape and manner. That is what democracy is all about—the right of organisations to reach their own conclusions. There are many other forms of election and democracy, and in Committee the Secretary of state will no doubt learn what they are There are many variations in the way that presidents and general secretaries are elected. Some have executive committee votes and some have not.
In the AUEW, the general secretary is elected by the members, but he does not have a vote on the executive council. In other trade unions, the general secretary or president is elected and serves for the rest of his life, at the pleasure of that union's executive council. The same applies in many other walks of life and other aspects of industry and commerce. The one thing held in common, despite the differences in method, is each union's attempt to provide for democracy and accountability within it, taking into account its own circumstances and development. However, the Tory party is determined to upset all that with the introduction of this Bill.
In a democracy, it is not the Government's role to force on a trade union or any other organisation what the Government regard as the ideal form of democracy. The Government are removing the essential right of trade unionists to determine freely the rules, constitution and procedures of their organisations, and in so doing—as my hon. Friend the Member for Warrington, North (Mr. Hoyle) mentioned — they are contravening ILO conventions 87 and 98, which are concerned with freedom of association and the right to organise. In particular, article 3 of convention 87 states that workers' organisations must have
the right to draw up their constitutions and rules, to elect their representatives in full freedom, to organise their administration and activities and to formulate their programmes.
I remind the Government that they are signatories to that convention. When they enact this legislation, they will presumably renounce it.
I should like the Minister to deal with two points concerning part I. The Secretary of State said that no re-writing of rule books would be required. However, clause 1(1)(b) provides
that no person remains such a member'—
that is, of the executive council—
for a period of more than five years without being re-elected at such an election.
Four or five years ago the AUEW changed the rules about the executive council and the election of full-time officials. We said that if a full-time official reached the age of 60 and was still in office, he would not have to face re-election until he retired at 65. That rule was introduced for common-sense purposes and was agreed by our rules revision committee. It is obvious that that rule will have to be altered because of the diktat of the Tory Government. Why are we to embark on that course?
Clause 2(2) refers to the classes of members eligible to vote. Paragraph (a) says that
members who are not in employment
do not have the right to vote. At present they have the right to vote in those unions that have the vote. Why are their rights being taken away? Subsection (2)(c) says that
members who are apprentices, trainees or students or new members of the union
will not be allowed to vote. Will the Government define what they mean by
new members of the union?
How long will people have to be members of the union before having the right to vote? Obviously that phrase will have to be defined. I envisage a lot of argument and trouble when the Government attempt to define a new member.
Part III of the Bill deals with secret ballots before industrial action. We cannot understand how any allegedly intelligent or rational Minister could countenance the writing of such nonsense in a Bill to be laid before Parliament. The hon. Member for Mid-Sussex (Mr. Renton) was one of the few Tory Members to query anything in the Bill. I assume that the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry wrote those clauses into the Bill when he knew that he was leaving his post as Secretary of State for Employment to discover whether the new Secretary of State would have sufficient intelligence to remove them. We all know the answer now—he did not have that intelligence.
The clauses provide that if a union calls an official strke without balloting its Members it could lose its immunities under section 13 of the Trade Union and Labour Relations Act 1974. Yet if an unofficial strike takes place, no action can be taken against a union because it is not covered by the Bill. The hon. Member for Mid-Sussex referred to football-field democracy at British Leyland. He said that that would not be allowed under the Bill. I have news for him — it would be perfectly legal. Such action will probably increase if the Bill becomes law. At least 75 per cent. of all industrial disputes are unofficial, and are generally settled within three working days. Every Opposition Member has drawn the attention of the House to the fact that unofficial disputes will greatly increase under the Bill.
When an industrial dispute occurs now, and trade union members take action—especially if they walk out of a plant—the manager or boss of the factory immediately contacts the union office and demands that something be done to get its members back to work. If the Bill becomes law, trade union officials will have to say, "I dare not interfere because I am liable to put the funds of my union at risk." The Secretary of State cannot deny that.
If any Conservative Member doubts my word, I commend to him the Green Paper "Trade Union Immunities", published in January 1981 by the then Secretary of State, the present Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, where such questions were dealt with in detail in paragraphs 245 to 261. Paragraph 247 mentions the Donovan commission. Anyone interested in these matters pays great regard to the advice of the Donovan commission on industrial disputes. It studied strikes of every sort, however brief and spontaneous, and considered whether some action could be taken against both official and unofficial strikes. It concluded that
there was little justification for the view that workers were less likely to vote for strike action than their leaders. Experience in the USA and Canada had been that strike ballots were likely to go in favour of strike action.
Paragraphs 249 and 250 refer to experience gained under the Industrial Relations Act 1971. Paragraph 260 makes the most damaging comment of all:
If a compulsory ballot provision did not apply to unofficial action, which already constitutes the overwhelming majority of industrial action, such action would continue to enjoy immunity in which case a premium would be placed on irresponsible behaviour.
All Opposition Members have referred to that fact.
I have heard more hypocrisy in the Chamber about part III of the Bill than I have heard for a long time. Part III deals with political funds and political objects. That is the real issue of the Bill. I believe that parts I and II will be greatly amended in Committee. The Opposition have already said where they will seek to amend the Bill and I suspect that the Secretary of State will accept a considerable number of amendments, but on part III of the Bill we must all pause and ask ourselves what we are attempting to do and where we might be going.
According to Conservative Members, it is perfectly all right for the Tory party to receive massive contributions from business and commerce—nothing needs to be done about that—but the Labour party should be handicapped by an attack on the political fund. That is nothing short of disgraceful. As my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Springburn (Mr. Martin) pointed out, not all the political fund goes to the Labour party. A considerable proportion of the political fund is maintained by the trade unions for their own perfectly legitimate and proper political action.
We heard the dangerous contribution of the hon. Member for Mid-Sussex who boasted that he is president of the Conservative Trade Unionists. The hon. Gentleman brought to the attention of the Secretary of State the action of NALGO, a union that is not affiliated to the Labour party and has no political fund. The hon. Gentleman asked that the actions of unions such as NALGO should be brought within the terms of the Bill and that NALGO should be prejudiced for defending its members' interests, as the union saw them. That shows the way in which the Tory party is determined to go in the near future.
I am certain that the hon. Gentleman would not wish to misquote me. I pointed out that, because NALGO had no political fund and because the idea that it should have a political fund was defeated on a vote of about 8:1, the certification officer had no jurisdiction over the spending by NALGO of £1 million on supporting the Labour party. I therefore suggested that the certification officer's powers should be extended to include general union funds as well as political funds.
When the hon. Gentleman reads tomorrow in Hansard the words that he used, he will withdraw that outrageous suggestion. The hon. Gentleman is attacking a trade union, which is not affiliated to the Labour party, for defending its members. That points to the path down which some sections of the Tory party intend to go in the near future. If it is held to be wrong for one side of industry to fund one party, surely it is equally wrong for another party to receive massive funds from the other side of industry.
The Tories have two conflicting views about trade unions which they trot out at different times depending on the circumstances. On some occasions trade union leaders are said to be spineless, weak-kneed sycophants who do not have the guts to stand up to the militant wreckers who are destroying the fine British trade union movement and preventing the grand old British workman from getting on with his job of working hard for Britain and his employer. That is what we have heard tonight from certain Tory Back Benchers.
On other occasions, depending on the circumstances, trade union leaders are said to be power-mad political barons who neither know nor care what the good old British trade union member needs or desires. It is said that, if only the power-mad trade union leaders could be removed from his back, the grand British workman could get on with his job of working hard for his country and employer and putting the country back on its feet.
Apart from the contradictory nonsense of those two positions, the real absurdity of the lack of knowledge of the British trade union movement on the part of the Tories, the Liberals and the Social Democrats is that they delude themselves into thinking that it is run and owned by general secretaries. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] The enormous strength, endurance and flexibility of the movement lies in the fact that it is run by tens of thousands of unpaid volunteers at branch officer and shop steward level. That is why the British trade union movement will never be defeated. It is on behalf of those thousands of volunteers that we in the Labour party in Parliament speak tonight, and we shall proudly vote against this iniquitous and silly Bill.
The problem of debating serious issues which divide the House fundamentally is that we can all be swept away by passionate feelings, and, like anyone else, I can fall prey to that. Nevertheless, this debate deserves the most serious consideration, for on both sides of the House matters of real import have been raised and I shall deal with them as clearly and carefully as I can. In that spirit I take first, head on, the question of the party political—[Interruption.]
In that spirit I take head on the party political criticism with which the debate has been peppered—and which appears now to have reached a crescendo.
I will not give way at this stage. One hon. Gentleman who wishes to intervene has not been present during any part of the debate and I shall not give way. [HON. MEMBERS: "Give way".] Very few Opposition Members have been present during much of the debate and therefore they are not in a position to intervene.
It has been argued that we should apply the arrangements for balloting trade unions on political funding to companies as well. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear.] This is a serious proposal that should be taken seriously. Our whole approach to balloting on political funds has been based on giving the trade unionist the right to decide how he wishes his union to proceed. That is the approach of the 1913 Act. Anyone reading that Act must wonder whether its framers really envisaged that a ballot of so important a kind should be held once and once only and never reviewed. We have therefore brought forward proposals which merely provide for a review so that every 10 years the members can decide what they want.
The example of the ballot has been before us for 70 years, yet when the Labour party came to change the rules for donations by companies to political parties it did not choose the ballot as its method of control. Its reforms were different in kind. It did not consider owning shares in a company as being on a par with the importance of belonging to a trade union. Trade unionists on the whole have little choice as to the trade union to which they belong, while shareholders have considerable choice—[Interruption.]—as to the companies in which they wish to have shares.
The hon. Gentleman has not been present for any part of the debate, sitting down or standing up, so I shall not give way to him.
Above all, the Labour party admitted no parallelism with trade unions and felt no obligation even to review the arrangements over the political levy, even though there was evidence of considerable concern among trade unionists about the levy — [Interruption.] — and no evidence at all of widespread concern among shareholders in companies. The parallelism now advanced has nothing to do with reality. It is a party political parallel between companies and trade unions which the Labour party has to set out to make.
The right hon. and learned Member for Monklands, East (Mr. Smith) made an important point when lie said that the political objects which are mentioned in the Bill had been changed much to the detriment of trade unions. That was not the intention. If it is true that the objects are much tighter now rather than just brought up to date, we shall examine them. I look forward to examining them in Committee. However bad the right hon. and learned Gentleman may think our motives, there was no intention to do that to the trade unions. Perhaps he would allow me that point. The hon. Member for Sedgefield (Mr. Blair) concentrated on this matter. It is likely that opposition to a particular political party is already covered by the present arrangements, and that, therefore, the change is not material. If that proves not to be the case, we shall examine the matter, because we had no intention of circumscribing the trade unions.
The right hon. and learned Member for Monklands, East asked whether a vote for a strike meant that there would have to be a vote to go back to work after a strike. The National Union of Mineworkers must have a vote before a strike; it does not have to vote to return to work after a strike. [Interruption.] The right hon. Member for Blaenau Gwent (Mr. Foot) has not been present during the debate, apart from the last few moments, so perhaps he will contain himself.
The right hon. and learned Member for Monklands, East said that there have been no complaints.
It is difficult to believe that there have been no complaints. I choose the example of the Scottish Carpet Workers Union, which has only 1,836 members, because it operates not far from the right hon. and learned Gentleman's constituency. In that union, 100 per cent. of members are contracted in—or not contracted out. Does that mean that not one member of the Scottish Carpet Workers Union voted for the Scottish National party or for the Communists? Does that mean that not one member voted for anyone other than a Socialist? I find that difficult to believe as I believe does the right hon. and learned Member.
The right hon. and learned Gentleman talked about his adherence to the concept of freedom of association in trade unions. We are all anxious about this concept. Does it mean that the right hon. and learned Gentleman is now a convinced opponent of the closed shop? Will he now say that it is to his eternal shame that three railwaymen in the trade union movement had to go to the European Court of Human Rights?
The Minister will be aware that his remarks have nothing to do with the legislation. Since ancillary matters appear to be important to him, will he explain how he is able to argue for democracy in trade unions without a sense of shame when he holds the largest unelected office in Parliament?
Although the right hon. and learned Gentleman refused to answer my question, I shall answer his. I hold that office in an organisation which does not have immunity under the law, which is what we are debating today.
That question comes curiously from the vice president of ASTMS — [Interruption] — an organisation that said that it would use every penny that it had to stop one of its members from taking it to court because—[Interruption.]
The next question that the right hon. and learned Member for Monklands, East asked was about the particularity of the form of the election. He is correct when he says that the Bill demands that there should be elections within five years in each case. In that sense there is a particularity in the form of election.
In almost every other area the election and method of election are left to the union. It could be by secret ballot by post, secret ballot at the work place or it could be at a branch so long as all members have an equal chance to vote.
To suggest that there is some draconian, narrow system is to miss the point of the Bill. The right hon. and learned Gentleman mentioned white collar unions and the fact that they often drew in people from outside who would not therefore be subject to election. There is no white collar union of which I am aware whose general secretary has a vote. He will not therefore be subject to election and can continue as he does now.
The right hon. and learned Gentleman then mentioned limited liability companies. The limited liability company is already subject to a series of draconian rules which it must obey, and the result is a much more limited immunity. On more than a hundred occasions company directors are subject to criminal sanctions, but not one when trade union members are.
The hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) asked a question about the National Union of Mineworkers. He correctly pointed out that it is a federal union and that each representative is elected locally. As long as they are elected, they would be able to go forward to the executive because it is possible for a union to decide that it will reserve a seat for a particular area or part of the union. The hon. Gentleman is correct; there would be no need to change the rule book of the National Union of Mineworkers.
My hon. Friend the Member for Tatton (Mr. Hamilton) said that this was a modest Bill and asked us to do a number of other things. In support of the Bill's modesty, he gave the quotation from The Guardian. I was pleased that he had read it and was able to put it to good use in an excellent maiden speech. He referred to the important argument that if it is so wicked to interfere, as it is said, with trade unions, why is it that the provision of funds for training is all right and acceptable, but the provision of funds for voting is unacceptable and an interference in trade union affairs?
My right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Southport (Sir I. Percival) said that we were not going fast enough. I will certainly look at the points he mentioned. I know that he has raised one of them on several occasions. He said once again that it is perfectly proper for the Bill to be brought forward because trade unions have great privileges under the law, and it is therefore not unreasonable for their election to be according to the law and that the entire community should ask them to act responsibly when they have such privileges.
My hon. Friend the Member for Morecambe and Lunesdale (Mr. Lennox-Boyd) asked about the customer for sugar. When a customer buys a packet of sugar, he not only contributes a minuscule amount to the Conservative party but he contributes to the political levy payments of all those who made the sugar and who are not contracted out of the political levy. That is a very difficult argument to carry.
Lest the hon. Member for Warrington, North (Mr. Hoyle) believes that I have not answered the point that he rightly made about the ILO convention, which should be considered carefully, may I say that, in its general survey on the application of conventions and the freedom of association, the committee of experts of the ILO said that when legislation contained rules intended to promote democratic principles in trade union organisations, or to ensure that the electoral procedure is conducted in a normal manner and with due respect for the rights of members, such provisions do not involve a violation of the principles of the freedom of association. The hon. Gentleman's' point is wrong, as was that of the hon. Member for St. Helens, North (Mr. Evans). The committee of experts stated that this legislation is acceptable, and indeed the committee clearly believes that it is a good idea to have democracy in trade unions. The ridiculous concept that the legislation is parallel with that of Brazil shows how peculiar the Opposition's arguments are.
The hon. Member for Warrington, North said that it would be difficult to meet some of the requirements of the Bill in certain circumstances. That is why the phrase
as far as is reasonably practicable
was introduced at all points where those difficulties might reasonably be upheld. The hon. Gentleman will find that the Bill is not the draconian legislation that he fears. However, if he believes that the Bill will cripple the Labour party, it suggests that if put to the vote not enough people will wish to contribute to the Labour party. If that is the case, it is an odd democratic principle that they should be forced to contribute to the Labour party. However, I must be fair to the hon. Gentleman, who did not say that that would be the case; he laic that the present system was fine because all union members wished to contribute. Let us have the ballot and prove it.
Will the hon. Gentleman tell the House whether there has been a previous occasion in the House when the spokesman for the Department of Employment, which is an important Government Department, was a representative of the Conservative party—[Interruption.] Will he tell us in a sentence whether he is speaking as chairman of the Conservative party, or as a spokesman for the Department of Employment; and will he tell us from where he gets his money for each position?
The right hon. Gentleman should know the answer to that, because he appointed the treasurer of the Labour party as Front Bench spokesman on employment.
Although the right hon. Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Varley) was elected as treasurer of the Labour party, the right hon. Gentleman still found it possible to appoint him to speak on employment matters.
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving way. I must say that the comparison that he has made is absolutely false. I am saying that the hon. Gentleman's appointment to reply to the debate is a degradation of the House of Commons. He has had his salary enormously increased. He is put there as a spokesman for the Conservative party on a highly controversial matter. I suggest to the Government that the best thing that they can do is to withdraw the hon. Gentleman as a spokesman. We want to discuss these matters properly but as long as the hon. Gentleman is there it is a corrupt business.
I think that, on reflection, the right hon. Gentleman will feel that that is an unworthy contribution to the debate.
Large numbers of hon. Members who have been present during the debate have made contributions to it. There is no doubt that the individual and particular points that right hon. and hon. Members have made will be answered in Committee or I shall write to all those whose points I have not been able to cover.
This is a Second Reading debate and it is our purpose to consider the principle of the Bill. That principle must not be forgotten in the rush to pursue the party political differences that we have seen. We are talking about democracy and the right of every trade unionist to play a full part in the affairs of his trade union.
Labour Members might have grave doubts about the motives of Ministers and Conservative Members. That they entertain those doubts has been clear from the debate. That those doubts are ill-founded has also become clear. Even if Labour Members were correct in their suspicions about motivation, they still have to answer the fundamental challenge—why are they so frightened of equal, fair and secret voting in trade unions? That is surprising in a party that has been proud all evening to say how its birth and antecedents were indissolubly linked with the demand for wider democracy. The Labour party and the trade union movement have always insisted—the Labour party has insisted all evening—that they are democratic to their very heart. If democracy is at the centre of both the trade union movement and the Labour party, how can it be that those great organisations should seek to frustrate the purposes that are before us today?
No doubt the hon. Gentleman could not be present for the debate. None of the present free, fair and secret elections showed up during Labour's leadership campaign. Was it too much to expect support from the right hon. Member for Bethnal Green and Stepney (Mr. Shore) for the principle of one man, one vote? After all, it was he who told ITN viewers that the Labour party—[Interruption.]
The Labour party should be wholly in favour of the principles and strategy of the Bill. It is a question not just of democracy but of the reputation of the trade union movement. We all know the low public esteem in which the trade unions are now held. My hon. Friend the Member for Morecambe and Lunesdale made that point clearly. It should concern all trade unionists and also all their true friends and real allies. There should be no worry for trade unionists about a Bill that merely asks that their members should choose their main elected officers. There should be no worry for trade unionists about a Bill that states that every trade unionist should have the chance to vote in secret, on equal terms and freely for officers.
There should be no worry for the Labour party about a Bill that gives to every member of a trade union the right to decide whether he wants to subscribe to a political fund. There should be no worry for the Labour party about a Bill that sets out to carry out the same principles that the right hon. Member for Bethnal Green and Stepney demanded in his interview on ITN for the votes within the Labour party. There should be no worry about the Bill for any democrat.
The Bill is of vital importance to the trade union movement. We must make sure that the public take the movement seriously. It will not be taken seriously until the immunities that are given to it are properly and responsibly protected by democracy. The link between immunities and democracy must be absolute. The public will not treat union leaders seriously until they carry out their duties within that immunity after a democratic election. The trade union movement itself will not recover its proper place in our society until the public have confidence in it.
One of the things that amazes me about the debate is that the Labour party seems to think that only it is interested in the trade unions. However, we in the Conservative party would not be in government if it were not for the votes of trade unionists. However insulting the former Leader of the Opposition may have been to me, I would not be a Minister were it not for the votes of trade unionists. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] That is why I have a vested interest in the Bill. I want to continue to have the votes of those trade unionists. The division is not between those who seek to emasculate the trade union movement and those who champion its doughty independence, although no doubt that caricature will appear in tomorrow's edition of the Morning Star. The distinction is between those who seek to maintain a ramshackle trade union system and those who want to make the trade union movement democratically elected to do its job and to protect the people whom it represents.
|Division No. 62]||[10 pm|
|Adley, Robert||Colvin, Michael|
|Aitken, Jonathan||Conway, Derek|
|Alton, David||Coombs, Simon|
|Amery, Rt Hon Julian||Cope, John|
|Amess, David||Cormack, Patrick|
|Ancram, Michael||Corrie, John|
|Arnold, Tom||Couchman, James|
|Ashby, David||Cranborne, Viscount|
|Ashdown, Paddy||Crouch, David|
|Aspinwall, Jack||Currie, Mrs Edwina|
|Atkins, Rt Hon Sir H.||Dickens, Geoffrey|
|Atkins, Robert (South Ribble)||Dicks, T.|
|Baker, Kenneth (Mole Valley)||Dorrell, Stephen|
|Baker, Nicholas (N Dorset)||Douglas-Hamilton, Lord J.|
|Baldry, Anthony||Dover, Denshore|
|Banks, Robert (Harrogate)||du Cann, Rt Hon Edward|
|Batiste, Spencer||Dunn, Robert|
|Beaumont-Dark, Anthony||Durant, Tony|
|Beith, A. J.||Dykes, Hugh|
|Bendall, Vivian||Eggar, Tim|
|Benyon, William||Emery, Sir Peter|
|Berry, Sir Anthony||Evennett, David|
|Bevan, David Gilroy||Eyre, Reginald|
|Biffen, Rt Hon John||Fairbairn, Nicholas|
|Biggs-Davison, Sir John||Fallon, Michael|
|Blaker, Rt Hon Sir Peter||Farr, John|
|Body, Richard||Favell, Anthony|
|Bonsor, Sir Nicholas||Fenner, Mrs Peggy|
|Bottomley, Peter||Finsberg, Geoffrey|
|Bowden, A. (Brighton K'to'n)||Fletcher, Alexander|
|Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich)||Fookes, Miss Janet|
|Braine, Sir Bernard||Forman, Nigel|
|Brandon-Bravo, Martin||Forsyth, Michael (Stirling)|
|Bright, Graham||Forth, Eric|
|Brinton, Tim||Fowler, Rt Hon Norman|
|Brittan, Rt Hon Leon||Fox, Marcus|
|Brooke, Hon Peter||Franks, Cecil|
|Brown, M. (Brigg & Cl'thpes)||Fraser, Rt Hon Sir Hugh|
|Browne, John||Freeman, Roger|
|Bruce, Malcolm||Freud, Clement|
|Bruinvels, Peter||Fry, Peter|
|Bryan, Sir Paul||Gale, Roger|
|Buchanan-Smith, Rt Hon A.||Galley, Roy|
|Budgen, Nick||Gardiner, George (Reigate)|
|Bulmer, Esmond||Gardner, Sir Edward (Fylde)|
|Burt, Alistair||Garel-Jones, Tristan|
|Butcher, John||Gilmour, Rt Hon Sir Ian|
|Butterfill, John||Glyn, Dr Alan|
|Carlile, Alexander (Montg'y)||Goodhart, Sir Philip|
|Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)||Goodlad, Alastair|
|Carttiss, Michael||Gorst, John|
|Cartwright, John||Gow, Ian|
|Chalker, Mrs Lynda||Gower, Sir Raymond|
|Chapman, Sydney||Grant, Sir Anthony|
|Chope, Christopher||Greenway, Harry|
|Churchill, W. S.||Gregory, Conal|
|Clark, Hon A. (Plym'th S'n)||Griffiths, E. (B'y St Edm'ds)|
|Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford)||Griffiths, Peter (Portsm'th N)|
|Clark, Sir W. (Croydon S)||Grist, Ian|
|Clarke Kenneth (Rushcliffe)||Ground, Patrick|
|Clegg, Sir Walter||Grylls, Michael|
|Cockeram, Eric||Gummer, John Selwyn|
|Hamilton, Neil (Tatton)||Major, John|
|Hampson, Dr Keith||Malins, Humfrey|
|Hanley, Jeremy||Malone, Gerald|
|Hargreaves, Kenneth||Marland, Paul|
|Harris, David||Marlow, Antony|
|Haselhurst, Alan||Marshall, Michael (Arundel)|
|Havers, Rt Hon Sir Michael||Mates, Michael|
|Hawkins, C. (High Peak)||Maude, Francis|
|Hawkins, Sir Paul (SW N'tolk)||Mawhinney, Dr Brian|
|Hawksley, Warren||Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin|
|Hayes, J.||Mayhew, Sir Patrick|
|Hayward, Robert||Meadowcroft, Michael|
|Heathcoat-Amory, David||Merchant, Piers|
|Heddle, John||Meyer, Sir Anthony|
|Henderson, Barry||Miller, Hal (B'grove)|
|Hickmet, Richard||Mills, lain (Meriden)|
|Hicks, Robert||Mills, Sir Peter (West Devon)|
|Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L.||Miscampbell, Norman|
|Hind, Kenneth||Mitchell, David (NW Hants)|
|Hirst, Michael||Moate, Roger|
|Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm)||Monro, Sir Hector|
|Holt, Richard||Montgomery, Fergus|
|Hooson, Tom||Moore, John|
|Hordern, Peter||Morris, M. (N'hampton, S)|
|Howard, Michael||Morrison, Hon C. (Devizes)|
|Howarth, Alan (Stratf'd-on-A)||Moynihan, Hon C.|
|Howarth, Gerald (Cannock)||Mudd, David|
|Howell, Rt Hon D. (G'ldford)||Murphy, Christopher|
|Howell, Ralph (N Norfolk)||Neale, Gerrard|
|Howells, Geraint||Needham, Richard|
|Hubbard-Miles, Peter||Nelson, Anthony|
|Hughes, Simon (Southwark)||Neubert, Michael|
|Hunt, David (Wirral)||Newton, Tony|
|Hunt, John (Ravensbourne)||Nicholls, Patrick|
|Hunter, Andrew||Normanton Tom|
|Hurd, Rt Hon Douglas||Norris, Steven|
|Irving, Charles||Onslow, Cranley|
|Jackson, Robert||Oppenheim, Philip|
|Jenkin, Rt Hon Patrick||Oppenheim, Rt Hon Mrs S.|
|Jenkins, Rt Hon Roy (Hillh'd)||Ottaway, Richard|
|Jessel, Toby||Owen, Rt Hon Dr David|
|Johnson-Smith, Sir Geoffrey||Page, Richard (Herts SW)|
|Johnston, Russell||Parkinson, Rt Hon Cecil|
|Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)||Parris, Matthew|
|Jones, Robert (W Herts)||Patten, John (Oxford)|
|Joseph, Rt Hon Sir Keith||Pattie, Geoffrey|
|Kellett-Bowman, Mrs Elaine||Pawsey, James|
|Kennedy, Charles||Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth|
|Kershaw, Sir Anthony||Penhaligon, David|
|Key, Robert||Percival, Rt Hon Sir Ian|
|King, Roger (B'ham N'field)||Pink, R. Bonner|
|King, Rt Hon Tom||Pollock, Alexander|
|Kirkwood, Archibald||Porter, Barry|
|Knight, Gregory (Derby N)||Powell, William (Corby)|
|Knowles, Michael||Powley, John|
|Knox, David||Prentice, Rt Hon Reg|
|Lang, Ian||Price, Sir David|
|Latham, Michael||Proctor, K. Harvey|
|Lawler, Geoffrey||Pym, Rt Hon Francis|
|Leigh, Edward (Gainsbor'gh)||Raffan, Keith|
|Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark||Rathbone, Tim|
|Lewis, Sir Kenneth (Stamf'd)||Rees, Rt Hon Peter (Dover)|
|Lightbown, David||Renton, Tim|
|Lilley, Peter||Rhodes James, Robert|
|Lloyd, Ian (Havant)||Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon|
|Lloyd, Peter, (Fareham)||Ridley, Rt Hon Nicholas|
|Lord, Michael||Ridsdale, Sir Julian|
|Lyell, Nicholas||Rippon, Rt Hon Geoffrey|
|McCurley, Mrs Anna||Roberts, Wyn (Conwy)|
|Macfarlane, Neil||Robinson, Mark (N'port W)|
|MacKay, Andrew (Berkshire)||Roe, Mrs Marion|
|MacKay, John (Argyll & Bute)||Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight)|
|Maclean, David John.||Rossi, Sir Hugh|
|Maclennan, Robert||Rost, Peter|
|Macmillan, Rt Hon M.||Rowe, Andrew|
|McNair-Wilson, M. (N'bury)||Rumbold, Mrs Angela|
|McNair-Wilson, P. (New F'st)||Ryder, Richard|
|McQuarrie, Albert||Sackville, Hon Thomas|
|Madel, David||Sainsbury, Hon Timothy|
|St. John-Stevas, Rt Hon N.||Thornton, Malcolm|
|Sayeed, Jonathan||Thurnham, Peter|
|Shaw, Giles (Pudsey)||Townend, John (Bridlington)|
|Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb')||Townsend, Cyril D. (B'heath)|
|Shelton, William (Streatham)||Tracey, Richard|
|Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)||Twinn, Dr Ian|
|Shepherd, Richard (Aldridge)||van Straubenzee, Sir W.|
|Shersby, Michael||Vaughan, Dr Gerard|
|Silvester, Fred||Viggers, Peter|
|Sims, Roger||Waddington, David|
|Skeet, T. H. H.||Wainwright, R.|
|Smith, Cyril (Rochdale)||Wakeham, Rt Hon John|
|Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)||Waldegrave, Hon William|
|Soames, Hon Nicholas||Walden, George|
|Speed, Keith||Walker, Bill (T'side N)|
|Speller, Tony||Wall, Sir Patrick|
|Spence, John||Wallace, James|
|Spencer, D.||Waller, Gary|
|Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)||Walters, Dennis|
|Squire, Robin||Ward, John|
|Stanbrook, Ivor||Wardle, C. (Bexhill)|
|Stanley, John||Warren, Kenneth|
|Steel, Rt Hon David||Watson, John|
|Steen, Anthony||Watts, John|
|Stern, Michael||Wells, John (Maidstone)|
|Stevens, Lewis (Nuneaton)||Wheeler, John|
|Stevens, Martin (Fulham)||Whitfield, John|
|Stewart, Allan (Eastwood)||Whitney, Raymond|
|Stewart, Andrew (Sherwood)||Wiggin, Jerry|
|Stewart, Ian (N Hertf'dshire)||Winterton, Mrs Ann|
|Stradling Thomas, J.||Winterton, Nicholas|
|Sumberg, David||Wolfson, Mark|
|Tapsell, Peter||Wood, Timothy|
|Taylor, John (Strangford)||Woodcock, Michael|
|Taylor, John (Solihull)||Wrigglesworth, Ian|
|Taylor, Teddy (S'end E)||Yeo, Tim|
|Terlezki, Stefan||Young, Sir George (Acton)|
|Thomas, Rt Hon Peter|
|Thompson, Donald (Calder V)||Tellers for the Ayes:|
|Thompson, Patrick (N'ich N)||Mr. Carol Mather and Mr. Robert Boscawen.|
|Thorne, Neil (Ilford S)|
|Abse, Leo||Concannon, Rt Hon J D.|
|Adams, Allen (Paisley N)||Conlan, Bernard|
|Anderson, Donald||Cook, Frank (Stockton North)|
|Archer, Rt Hon Peter||Cook, Robin F. (Livingston)|
|Ashley, Rt Hon Jack||Corbett, Robin|
|Ashton, Joe||Corbyn, Jeremy|
|Atkinson, N. (Tottenham)||Cowans, Harry|
|Bagier, Gordon A. T.||Craigen, J. M.|
|Banks, Tony (Newham NW)||Crowther, Stan|
|Barnett, Guy||Cunningham, Dr John|
|Barron, Kevin||Dalyell, Tam|
|Beckett, Mrs Margaret||Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (L'lli)|
|Bell, Stuart||Davies, Ronald (Caerphilly)|
|Bennett, A. (Dent'n & Red'sh)||Davis, Terry (B'ham, H'ge H'I)|
|Bermingham, Gerald||Dewar, Donald|
|Bidwell, Sydney||Dixon, Donald|
|Blair, Anthony||Dobson, Frank|
|Boothroyd, Miss Betty||Dormand, Jack|
|Boyes, Roland||Douglas, Dick|
|Bray, Dr Jeremy||Dubs, Alfred|
|Brown, Gordon (D'f'mline E)||Duffy, A. E. P.|
|Brown, Hugh D. (Provan)||Dunwoody, Hon Mrs G.|
|Brown, N. (N'c'tle-u-Tyne E)||Eadie, Alex|
|Brown, R. (N'c'tle-u-Tyne N)||Eastham, Ken|
|Brown, Ron (E'burgh, Leith)||Ellis, Raymond|
|Caborn, Richard||Evans, John (St. Helens N)|
|Callaghan, Rt Hon J.||Ewing, Harry|
|Callaghan, Jim (Heyw'd & M)||Fatchett, Derek|
|Campbell, Ian||Faulds, Andrew|
|Canavan, Dennis||Field, Frank (Birkenhead)|
|Carter-Jones, Lewis||Fields, T. (L'pool Broad Gn)|
|Clark, Dr David (S Shields)||Fisher, Mark|
|Clarke, Thomas||Flannery, Martin|
|Clay, Robert||Foot, Rt Hon Michael|
|Cocks, Rt Hon M. (Bristol S.)||Forrester, John|
|Cohen, Harry||Foster, Derek|
|Coleman, Donald||Foulkes, George|
|Freeson, Rt Hon Reginald||O'Brien, William|
|Garrett, W. E.||O'Neill, Martin|
|George, Bruce||Orme, Rt Hon Stanley|
|Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John||Park, George|
|Godman, Dr Norman||Parry, Robert|
|Golding, John||Patchett, Terry|
|Gould, Bryan||Pendry, Tom|
|Hamilton, W. W. (Central Fife)||Pike, Peter|
|Hardy, Peter||Powell, Raymond (Ogmore)|
|Harman, Ms Harriet||Prescott, John|
|Harrison, Rt Hon Walter||Radice, Giles|
|Hart, Rt Hon Dame Judith||Randall, Stuart|
|Haynes, Frank||Redmond, M.|
|Healey, Rt Hon Denis||Rees, Rt Hon M. (Leeds S)|
|Heffer, Eric S.||Richardson, Ms Jo|
|Hogg, N. (C'nauld & Kilsyth)||Roberts, Allan (Bootle)|
|Holland, Stuart (Vauxhall)||Roberts, Ernest (Hackney N)|
|Home Robertson, John||Robertson, George|
|Howell, Rt Hon D. (S'heath)||Robinson, G. (Coventry NW)|
|Hoyle, Douglas||Rogers, Allan|
|Hughes, Mark (Durham)||Rooker, J. W.|
|Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)||Ross, Ernest (Dundee W)|
|Hughes, Roy (Newport East)||Rowlands, Ted|
|Hughes, Sean (Knowsley S)||Ryman, John|
|Hume, John||Sedgemore, Brian|
|Janner, Hon Greville||Sheerman, Barry|
|John, Brynmor||Sheldon, Rt Hon R.|
|Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside)||Short, Ms Clare (Ladywood)|
|Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald||Short, Mrs H.(W'hampt'n NE)|
|Kilroy-Silk, Robert||Skinner, Dennis|
|Kinnock, Rt Hon Neil||Smith, C.(Isl'ton S & F'bury)|
|Lambie, David||Smith, Rt Hon J. (M'kl'ds E)|
|Leadbitter, Ted||Snape, Peter|
|Lewis, Terence (Worsley)||Soley, Clive|
|Litherland, Robert||Stewart, Rt Hon D. (W Isles)|
|Lloyd, Tony (Stretford)||Stott, Roger|
|Lofthouse, Geoffrey||Strang, Gavin|
|Loyden, Edward||Straw, Jack|
|McCartney, Hugh||Thomas, Dafydd (Merioneth)|
|McGuire, Michael||Thomas, Dr R. (Carmarthen)|
|McKelvey, William||Thompson, J. (Wansbeck)|
|Mackenzie, Rt Hon Gregor||Thorne, Stan (Preston)|
|McNamara, Kevin||Tinn, James|
|McTaggart, Robert||Torney, Tom|
|McWilliam, John||Varley, Rt Hon Eric G.|
|Madden, Max||Wardell, Gareth (Gower)|
|Marek, Dr John||Wareing, Robert|
|Marshall, David (Shettleston)||Welsh, Michael|
|Martin, Michael||White, James|
|Mason, Rt Hon Roy||Wigley, Dafydd|
|Maxton, John||Williams, Rt Hon A.|
|Maynard, Miss Joan||Wilson, Gordon|
|Meacher, Michael||Winnick, David|
|Michie, William||Woodall, Alec|
|Mikardo, Ian||Young, David (Bolton SE)|
|Millan, Rt Hon Bruce|
|Mitchell, Austin (G't Grimsby)||Tellers for the Noes:|
|Morris, Rt Hon A. (W'shawe)||Mr. Ron Leighton and Mr. Allen McKay|
|Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon|
|Division No. 63]||[10.15 pm|
|Abse, Leo||Banks, Tony (Newham NW)|
|Adams, Allen (Paisley N)||Barnett, Guy|
|Anderson, Donald||Barron, Kevin|
|Archer, Rt Hon Peter||Beckett, Mrs Margaret|
|Ashley, Rt Hon Jack||Bell, Stuart|
|Ashton, Joe||Bennett, A. (Dent'n & Red'sh)|
|Atkinson, N. (Tottenham)||Bermingham, Gerald|
|Bagier, Gordon A. T.||Bidwell, Sydney|
|Blair, Anthony||Hughes, Sean (Knowsley S)|
|Boothroyd, Miss Betty||Hume, John|
|Boyes, Roland||Janner, Hon Greville|
|Bray, Dr Jeremy||John, Brynmor|
|Brown, Gordon (D'f'mline E)||Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside)|
|Brown, Hugh D. (Provan)||Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald|
|Brown, N. (N'c'tle-u-Tyne E)||Kilroy-Silk, Robert|
|Brown, R. (N'c'tle-u-Tyne N)||Kinnock, Rt Hon Neil|
|Brown, Ron (E'burgh, Leith)||Lambie, David|
|Caborn, Richard||Leadbitter, Ted|
|Callaghan, Rt Hon J.||Lewis, Terence (Worsley)|
|Callaghan, Jim (Heyw'd & M)||Litherland, Robert|
|Campbell, Ian||Lloyd, Tony (Stretford)|
|Canavan, Dennis||Lofthouse, Geoffrey|
|Carter-Jones, Lewis||Loyden, Edward|
|Clark, Dr David (S Shields)||McCartney, Hugh|
|Clarke, Thomas||McGuire, Michael|
|Clay, Robert||McKelvey, William|
|Cocks, Rt Hon M. (Bristol S.)||Mackenzie, Rt Hon Gregor|
|Cohen, Harry||McNamara, Kevin|
|Coleman, Donald||McTaggart, Robert|
|Concannon, Rt Hon J. D.||McWilliam, John|
|Conlan, Bernard||Madden, Max|
|Cook, Frank (Stockton North)^||Marek, Dr John|
|Cook, Robin F. (Livingston)||Marshall, David (Shettleston)|
|Corbett, Robin||Martin, Michael|
|Corbyn, Jeremy||Mason, Rt Hon Roy|
|Cowans, Harry||Maxton, John|
|Craigen, J. M.||Maynard, Miss Joan|
|Crowther, Stan||Meacher, Michael|
|Cunningham, Dr John||Michie, William|
|Dalyell, Tam||Mikardo, Ian|
|Davies, Ronald (Caerphilly)||Millan, Rt Hon Bruce|
|Davis, Terry (B'ham, H'ge H'l)||Morris, Rt Hon A. (W'shawe)|
|Dewar, Donald||Nellist, David|
|Dixon, Donald||Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon|
|Dobson, Frank||O'Brien, William|
|Dormand, Jack||O'Neill, Martin|
|Douglas, Dick||Orme, Rt Hon Stanley|
|Dubs, Alfred||Park, George|
|Duffy, A. E. P.||Parry, Robert|
|Dunwoody, Hon Mrs G.||Patchett, Terry|
|Eadie, Alex||Pendry, Tom|
|Eastham, Ken||Pike, Peter|
|Ellis, Raymond||Powell, Raymond (Ogmore)|
|Evans, John (St. Helens N)||Prescott, John|
|Ewing, Harry||Radice, Giles|
|Fatchett, Derek||Randall, Stuart|
|Faulds, Andrew||Redmond, M.|
|Field, Frank (Birkenhead)||Rees, Rt Hon M. (Leeds S)|
|Fields, T. (L'pool Broad Gn)||Richardson, Ms Jo|
|Fisher, Mark||Roberts, Allan (Bootle)|
|Flannery, Martin||Roberts, Ernest (Hackney N)|
|Foot, Rt Hon Michael||Robertson, George|
|Forrester, John||Robinson, G. (Coventry NW)|
|Foster, Derek||Rogers, Allan|
|Foulkes, George||Rooker, J. W.|
|Freeson, Rt Hon Reginald||Ross, Ernest (Dundee W)|
|Garrett, W. E.||Rowlands, Ted|
|George, Bruce||Ryman, John|
|Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John||Sedgemore, Brian|
|Godman, Dr Norman||Sheerman, Barry|
|Golding, John||Sheldon, Rt Hon R,|
|Gould, Bryan||Short, Ms Clare (Ladywood)|
|Hamilton, W. W. (Central Fife)||Short, Mrs R.(W'hampt'n NE)|
|Hardy, Peter||Skinner, Dennis|
|Harman, Ms Harriet||Smith, C.(Isl'ton S & F'bury)|
|Harrison, Rt Hon Walter||Smith, Rt Hon J. (M'kl'ds E)|
|Hart, Rt Hon Dame Judith||Snape, Peter|
|Haynes, Frank||Soley, Clive|
|Healey, Rt Hon Denis||Stewart, Rt Hon D. (W Isles)|
|Heffer, Eric S.||Stott, Roger|
|Hogg, N. (C'nauld & Kilsyth)||Strang, Gavin|
|Holland, Stuart (Vauxhall)||Straw, Jack|
|Home Robertson, John||Thomas, Dafydd (Merioneth)|
|Howell, Rt Hon D. (S'heath)||Thomas, Dr R. (Carmarthen)|
|Hoyle, Douglas||Thompson, J. (Wansbeck)|
|Hughes, Mark (Durham)||Thorne, Stan (Preston)|
|Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)||Tinn, James|
|Hughes, Roy (Newport East)||Torney, Tom|
|Varley, Rt Hon Eric G.||Winnick, David|
|Wardell, Gareth (Gower)||Woodall, Alec|
|Wareing, Robert||Young, David (Bolton SE)|
|White, James||Tellers for the Ayes:|
|Wigley, Dafydd||Mr. Ron Leighton and Mr. Allen McKay.|
|Williams, Rt Hon A.|
|Adley, Robert||Crouch, David|
|Aitken, Jonathan||Currie, Mrs Edwina|
|Alton, David||Dickens, Geoffrey|
|Amery, Rt Hon Julian||Dicks, T.|
|Amess, David||Dorrell, Stephen|
|Ancram, Michael||Douglas-Hamilton, Lord J.|
|Arnold, Tom||Dover, Denshore|
|Ashby, David||du Cann, Rt Hon Edward|
|Ashdown, Paddy||Dunn, Robert|
|Aspinwall, Jack||Durant, Tony|
|Atkins, Rt Hon Sir H.||Dykes, Hugh|
|Atkins, Robert (South Ribble)||Eggar, Tim|
|Baker, Kenneth (Mole Valley)||Emery, Sir Peter|
|Baker, Nicholas (N Dorset)||Evennett, David|
|Baldry, Anthony||Eyre, Reginald|
|Banks, Robert (Harrogate)||Fairbairn, Nicholas|
|Batiste, Spencer||Fallon, Michael|
|Beaumont-Dark, Anthony||Farr, John|
|Beith, A. J.||Favell, Anthony|
|Bendall, Vivian||Fenner, Mrs Peggy|
|Benyon, William||Finsberg, Geoffrey|
|Berry, Sir Anthony||Fletcher, Alexander|
|Bevan, David Gilroy||Fookes, Miss Janet|
|Biffen, Rt Hon John||Forman, Nigel|
|Biggs-Davison, Sir John||Forsyth, Michael (Stirling)|
|Blaker, Rt Hon Sir Peter||Forth, Eric|
|Body, Richard||Fowler, Rt Hon Norman|
|Bonsor, Sir Nicholas||Fox, Marcus|
|Bottomley, Peter||Franks, Cecil|
|Bowden, A. (Brighton K'to'n)||Fraser, Rt Hon Sir Hugh|
|Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich)||Freeman, Roger|
|Braine, Sir Bernard||Freud, Clement|
|Brandon-Bravo, Martin||Fry, Peter|
|Bright, Graham||Gale, Roger|
|Brinton, Tim||Galley, Roy|
|Brittan, Rt Hon Leon||Gardiner, George (Reigate)|
|Brooke, Hon Peter||Gardner, Sir Edward (Fylde)|
|Brown, M. (Brigg & Cl'thpes)||Garel-Jones, Tristan|
|Browne, John||Gilmour, Rt Hon Sir Ian|
|Bruce, Malcolm||Glyn, Dr Alan|
|Bruinvels, Peter||Goodhart, Sir Philip|
|Bryan, Sir Paul||Goodlad, Alastair|
|Buchanan-Smith, Rt Hon A.||Gorst, John|
|Budgen, Nick||Gow, Ian|
|Bulmer, Esmond||Gower, Sir Raymond|
|Burt, Alistair||Grant, Sir Anthony|
|Butcher, John||Greenway, Harry|
|Butterfill, John||Gregory, Conal|
|Carlile, Alexander (Montg'y)||Griffiths, E. (By St Edm'ds)|
|Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)||Griffiths, Peter (Portsm'th N)|
|Carttiss, Michael||Grist, Ian|
|Cartwright, John||Ground, Patrick|
|Chalker, Mrs Lynda||Grylls, Michael|
|Chapman, Sydney||Gummer, John Selwyn|
|Chope, Christopher||Hamilton, Neil (Tatton)|
|Churchill, W. S.||Hampson, Dr Keith|
|Clark, Hon A. (Plym'th S'n)||Hanley, Jeremy|
|Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford)||Hannam, John|
|Clark, Sir W. (Croydon S)||Hargreaves, Kenneth|
|Clarke Kenneth (Rushcliffe)||Harris, David|
|Clegg, Sir Walter||Haselhurst, Alan|
|Cockeram, Eric||Havers, Rt Hon Sir Michael|
|Colvin, Michael||Hawkins, C. (High Peak)|
|Conway, Derek||Hawkins, Sir Paul (SW N'folk)|
|Coombs, Simon||Hawksley, Warren|
|Cope, John||Hayes, J.|
|Cormack, Patrick||Hayward, Robert|
|Corrie, John||Heathcoat-Amory, David|
|Couchman, James||Heddle, John|
|Cranborne, Viscount||Henderson, Barry|
|Hickmet, Richard||Mitchell, David (NW Hants)|
|Hicks, Robert||Moate, Roger|
|Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L.||Monro, Sir Hector|
|Hind, Kenneth||Montgomery, Fergus|
|Hirst, Michael||Moore, John|
|Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm)||Morris, M. (N'hampton, S)|
|Holt, Richard||Morrison, Hon C. (Devizes)|
|Hooson, Tom||Moynihan, Hon C.|
|Hordern, Peter||Mudd, David|
|Howard, Michael||Murphy, Christopher|
|Howarth, Alan (Stratf'd-on-A)||Neale, Gerrard|
|Howarth, Gerald (Cannock)||Needham, Richard|
|Howell, Rt Hon D. (G'ldford)||Nelson, Anthony|
|Howell, Ralph (N Norfolk)||Neubert, Michael|
|Howells, Geraint||Newton, Tony|
|Hubbard-Miles, Peter||Nicholls, Patrick|
|Hughes, Simon (Southwark)||Normanton, Tom|
|Hunt, David (Wirral)||Norris, Steven|
|Hunt, John (Ravensbourne)||Onslow, Cranley|
|Hunter, Andrew||Oppenheim, Philip|
|Hurd, Rt Hon Douglas||Oppenheim, Rt Hon Mrs S.|
|Irving, Charles||Ottaway, Richard|
|Jackson, Robert||Owen, Rt Hon Dr David|
|Jenkin, Rt Hon Patrick||Page, Richard (Herts SW)|
|Jenkins, Rt Hon Roy (Hillh'd)||Parris, Matthew|
|Jessel, Toby||Patten, John (Oxford)|
|Johnson-Smith, Sir Geoffrey||Pattie, Geoffrey|
|Johnston, Russell||Pawsey, James|
|Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)||Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth|
|Jones, Robert (W Herts)||Penhaligon, David|
|Joseph, Rt Hon Sir Keith||Percival, Rt Hon Sir Ian|
|Kellett-Bowman, Mrs Elaine||Pink, R. Bonner|
|Kershaw, Sir Anthony||Pollock, Alexander|
|Key, Robert||Porter, Barry|
|King, Roger (B'ham N'field)||Powell, William (Corby)|
|King, Rt Hon Tom||Powley, John|
|Knight, Gregory (Derby N)||Prentice, Rt Hon Reg|
|Knowles, Michael||Price, Sir David|
|Knox, David||Proctor, K. Harvey|
|Lang, Ian||Pym, Rt Hon Francis|
|Latham, Michael||Raffan, Keith|
|Lawler, Geoffrey||Rathbone, Tim|
|Leigh, Edward (Gainsbor'gh)||Rees, Rt Hon Peter (Dover)|
|Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark||Renton, Tim|
|Lewis, Sir Kenneth (Stamf'd)||Rhodes James, Robert|
|Lightbown, David||Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon|
|Lloyd, Ian (Havant)||Ridley, Rt Hon Nicholas|
|Lloyd, Peter, (Fareham)||Ridsdale, Sir Julian|
|Lord, Michael||Rippon, Rt Hon Geoffrey|
|Lyell, Nicholas||Roberts, Wyn (Conwy)|
|McCurley, Mrs Anna||Robinson, Mark (N'port W)|
|Macfarlane, Neil||Roe, Mrs Marion|
|MacKay, Andrew (Berkshire)||Rossi, Sir Hugh|
|MacKay, John (Argyll & Bute)||Rost, Peter|
|Maclean, David John.||Rowe, Andrew|
|Maclennan, Robert||Rumbold, Mrs Angela|
|Macmillan, Rt Hon M.||Ryder, Richard|
|McNair-Wilson, M. (N'bury)||Sackville, Hon Thomas|
|McNair-Wilson, P. (New F'st)||Sainsbury, Hon Timothy|
|McQuarrie, Albert||St. John-Stevas, Rt Hon N.|
|Madel, David||Sayeed, Jonathan|
|Major, John||Shaw, Giles (Pudsey)|
|Malins, Humfrey||Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb')|
|Malone, Gerald||Shelton, William (Streatham)|
|Maples, John||Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)|
|Marland, Paul||Shepherd, Richard (Aldridge)|
|Marlow, Antony||Shersby, Michael|
|Marshall, Michael (Arundel)||Silvester, Fred|
|Mates, Michael||Sims, Roger|
|Maude, Francis||Skeet, T. H. H.|
|Mawhinney, Dr Brian||Smith, Cyril (Rochdale)|
|Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin||Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)|
|Mayhew, Sir Patrick||Soames, Hon Nicholas|
|Meadowcroft, Michael||Speed, Keith|
|Merchant, Piers||Speller, Tony|
|Meyer, Sir Anthony||Spence, John|
|Miller, Hal (B'grove)||Spencer, D.|
|Mills, Iain (Meriden)||Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)|
|Mills, Sir Peter (West Devon)||Squire, Robin|
|Miscampbell, Norman||Stanbrook, Ivor|
|Stanley, John||Wakeham, Rt Hon John|
|Steen, Anthony||Waldegrave, Hon William|
|Stern, Michael||Walden, George|
|Stevens, Lewis (Nuneaton)||Walker, Bill (T'side N)|
|Stevens, Martin (Fulham)||Wall, Sir Patrick|
|Stewart, Allan (Eastwood)||Wallace, James|
|Stewart, Andrew (Sherwood)||Waller, Gary|
|Stewart, Ian (N Hertf'dshire)||Walters, Dennis|
|Stradling Thomas, J.||Ward, John|
|Sumberg, David||Wardle, C. (Bexhill)|
|Tapsell, Peter||Warren, Kenneth|
|Taylor, John (Strangford)||Watson, John|
|Taylor, John (Solihull)||Watts, John|
|Taylor, Teddy (S'end E)||Wells, John (Maidstone)|
|Terlezki, Stefan||Wheeler, John|
|Thomas, Rt Hon Peter||Whitfield, John|
|Thompson, Donald (Calder V)||Whitney, Raymond|
|Thompson, Patrick (N'ich N)||Wiggin, Jerry|
|Thome, Neil (Ilford S)||Winterton, Mrs Ann|
|Thornton, Malcolm||Winterton, Nicholas|
|Thurnham, Peter||Wolfson, Mark|
|Townend, John (Bridlington)||Wood, Timothy|
|Townsend, Cyril D. (B'heath)||Woodcock, Michael|
|Tracey, Richard||Wrigglesworth, Ian|
|Twinn, Dr Ian||Yeo, Tim|
|van Straubenzee, Sir W.||Young, Sir George (Acton)|
|Vaughan, Dr Gerard|
|Viggers, Peter||Tellers for the Noes:|
|Waddington, David||Mr. Carol Mather and Mr. Robert Boscawen.|