I beg to move Amendment No. 1, in page 1, line 8, leave out paragraph (a).
With this we can also discuss the following amendments:No. 3, in Clause 2, page 1, line 22, at beginning insert:
'( ) For section 5(3) and (4) of the principal Act (Rights of workers as to arbitrary or unreasonable exclusion or expulsion from trade union) there shall be substituted the following subsections:
"(3A) A worker aggrieved by his exclusion or expulsion from any trade union, branch or section may apply to a Tribunal appointed for the adjudication of such grievances for a declaration that he is entitled to be a member of that union, branch or section.
(3B) The Tribunal shall be appointed by the General Council of the Trades Union Congress in consultation with the Secretary of State and the Chairman of the Conciliation and Arbitration Service and shall have an independent person with legal qualifications as chairman and two other members.
(3C) The procedure at such a Tribunal shall be in accordance with rules made by the Trades Union Congress and approved by the Council on Tribunals.
(3D) If at any time there is not existent such a Tribunal and such rules, such an application may be made instead to an industrial tribunal in accordance with industrial tribunal regulations.
No. 5, in Clause 2, page 1, line 22, at beginning insert:(4) Where any such declaration has been made or by the Tribunal or by an industrial tribunal, as the case may be and has not been implemented by the union, branch or section concerned within any period specified in the declaration or if no such period is specified within a reasonable period, the worker may apply to the High Court or, in Scotland, the Court of Session for an injunction, interdict or such other relief (including compensation) as the Court may think just and expedient in all the circumstances of the case"'.
'( ) For section 5(3) and (4) of the principal Act (Rights of workers as to arbitrary or unreasonable exclusion or expulsion from trade unions) there shall be substituted the following subsections:—
"(3A) A worker aggrieved by his exclusion or expulsion from any trade union, branch or section may apply to a tribunal appointed for the adjudication of such grievances for a declaration that he is entitled to be a member of that trade union, branch or section. (3B) The tribunal shall be appointed by the Secretary of State in consultation with the General Council of the Trades Union Congress and the Chairman of the Conciliation and Arbitration Service and shall have an independent person with legal qualifications as chairman and two other members. (3C) The procedure at such a tribunal shall be in accordance with rules made by the Trades Union Congress and approved by the Council on Tribunals. (3D) If at any time there is not existent such a Tribunal and such rules, such an application may be made instead to an industrial tribunal in accordance with industrial tribunal regulations.
(4) Where any such declaration has been made or by the tribunal or by an industrial tribunal as the case may be and has not been implemented by the union, branch or section concerned within any period specified in the declaration or if no such period is specified within a reasonable period, the worker may apply to the High Court or in Scotland, the Court of Session for an injunction, interdict or such relief (including compensation) as the court may think just and expedient in all the circumstances of the case".'
Amendment No. 1 is a paving amendment for the other amendments which you. Mr. Deputy Speaker, have indicated we can discuss with it.We regard this as a thoroughly bad Bill. We do not like any part of it. However, the House gave it a Second Reading and some minor changes were made in Committee. We seek by this amendment and by others which will be moved by us to improve the Bill. By this amendment we seek to maintain rights and safeguards for individuals who have been excluded or expelled from trade union membership in an arbitrary or discriminatory fashion. I think there is total agreement in the House that, though the numbers involved are small, the principle is important and it is right that the House should consider and seek ways of dealing with it in a proper fashion. Safeguards were written into the 1974 legislation when Parliament insisted that they be included. They were the subject of quite tight votes, but Parliament decided that provision for them should be made. Now the Governemnt are seeking, once again, to eliminate those safeguards, despite a series of undertakings given by the Secretary of State and others in our debates on these matters. The right hon. Gentleman has gone back on his repeated undertakings or indications that the Government would deal legislatively with the situation. I remind the House briefly of those commitments. On 22nd March 1974 we were informed that
that was the 1974 Bill—"Consideration is being given to providing either in this Bill"—
That was the trailer for something which was to follow either in the Trade Union and Labour Relations Act 1974 or in later legislation. On 7th May, in column 231 of the Official Report of that date, there was a clear implication that legislation would be prepared. On 23rd May, in columns 202 and 212 of the Official Report of the Standing Committee proceedings on the Bill, the Minister of State referred to this matter. I accept that he did not give an absolute assurance, but what was said on that occasion and on other occasions clearly indicated that the Government were considering a legislative solution. On 10th July, during the Report stage of the 1974 Bill, the Secretary of State said that the Government would deal with the matter"or a later one, safeguards against arbitrary exclusion or expulsion from union membership".—[Official Report, 22nd March 1974 Vol. 871, c. 1488.]
In column 1395 there was reference to the possibility that the method of dealing with it in a Bill would be by a code of practice. On 30th July, when the House considered the Lords amendments, we had a clear statement from the Secretary of State when he said:"either in this Bill or in the later Bill [Official Report, 10th July 1974; Vol 876, c. 1391.]
In other words, the matter would be deal with in a Bill. 4.15 p.m. On 3rd December, on Second Reading of this Bill, the Secretary of State said:"I repeat all the undertakings that we certainly intend to proceed to deal with it in some form or other, either in a code of practice or by some other means, but following consultations with the General Council of the TUC, when we introduce the next Bill in the autumn—the Employment Protection Bill."—[Official Report, 30th July 1974; Vol. 878, c. 503.]
After all that build-up, over every stage of the former legislation and during the Second Reading of this Bill, indicating that legislation would be forthcoming, the Government now say "We shall not legislate. We shall do nothing to protect and provide safeguards for the individual". The Government will be totally inactive and will leave the matter to the TUC. The Secretary of State indicated on Second Reading what the TUC had in mind. However, although it has put forward proposals for a review committee, it has vetoed any Government action. When the Secretary of State and other Ministers have said that they will do certain things, they meant that someone else would do them and that they would do nothing. We welcome the TUC initiative and the setting up of the review committee. It is reasonable for us to suppose that if it had not been for the debates initiated by the Opposition precious little would have come from the TUC. However, putting that on one side, I welcome the action it has taken. But that action alone is not enough. How can it be, in view of what the Secretary of State said last year; namely, that safeguards and protection for the small number of individuals who might be adversely affected would require legislative backing and authority and at least the barest bones of some enforcement provisions to ensure that decisions would be brought into effect? The good faith of the Government and of individual Ministers is at test, and for that reason we have tabled Amendment No. 3. It would make provision in the Bill for the review committee which the TUC has said will be set up. Indeed, we use the same words as were used by the TUC about the composition of the tribunal. We have given it just a touch of statutory backing by including it in the legislation and saying that the procedure it follows should be that approved by the Council on Tribunals. We have gone on to put in a minimum of enforcement or implementation backing for these arrangements. The amendment tabled by members of the Liberal Party, Amendment No. 5, goes beyond the proposal in our amendment. It reiterates the position adopted in earlier debates by the hon. Member for Rochdale (Mr. Smith), who felt that it would be right for the Secretary of State to appoint and to have responsibility for the review body, after consultation with the TUC and the CAS. I am sure that my right hon. and hon. Friends would be happy if the Government were willing to accept Amendment No. 5. We sought in our amendment to narrow the scope down to the smallest intervention by Government. I accept we may not have the drafting as satisfactory as it should be, but I hope that we will deal with the real issues rather than such pedantic points. There are ways in which these matters can be put right. There is a further argument used by the Secretary of State against provisions of this kind. On 3rd December he said that they would lead to industrial pressures. He referred to the effect of the 1971 Act. The right hon. Gentleman is guilty of grotesque exaggeration. The figures issued by his Department show that in the last four months of 1974 many more days were lost as a result of industrial disputes than were lost as a result of the existence of the Industrial Relations Act—or proposals for that Act—in the four-year period from the 1970 General Election until the repeal of the Act last year. Those are the figures contained in Hansard in answers to Questions and in the Department of Employment Gazette. The Secretary of State's argument that this legislative protection, this safeguard for the individual, can lead to damaging industrial clashes does not bear examination. If we take 1974 quarter by quarter and compare it with the previous year we can see that in the second quarter, after the Labour Government came into power, for every four days lost in 1973 five days were lost in 1974. That was when the Government had announced that the Industrial Relations Act would be repealed. In the third quarter of 1974, when the repeal measure was going through the House, for every four days lost in 1973 six days were lost in 1974. If we now take the fourth quarter of 1974, when the Industrial Relations Act had been fully repealed—and when the General Election of the autumn was over—for every four days lost through industrial disputes in 1973 nine days were lost in 1974. This cuts the ground from the Secretary of State's assertion that legislative proposals of this kind were leading to a large number of days being lost. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will respond positively to these amendments. Or is he so tightly constrained by the TUC that no departure, however small, is possible from what that body seeks to achieve in legislation? Is the TUC veto upon the Secretary of State so utterly complete that the right hon. Gentleman cannot move at all to give legislative backing to an attempt to provide safeguards for those who may be adversely affected by arbitrary exclusion or expulsion from a union? The test of the Secretary of State will be in his response to these amendments. I hope that he will find it in his heart to agree to them."… we have always claimed and said in all our debates that if we were to reinstitute the legaliy of the closed shop it would be necessary to have some kind of special further safeguard over and above the common law."—[Official Report, 3rd December 1974; Vol. 981, c. 1373.]
I support Amendment No. 1 but wish to speak to Amendment No. 5 standing in my name and the names of my hon. Friends. I would have thought that at the present stage the Government could have found a better use for their time rather than using it to insist upon having their own way in this Bill. All that the Bill is about is removing from the previous measure those things on which the Government were defeated when they were a minority Government, from February to October last year.
Is the hon. Gentleman suggesting that the Labour Party has no right to carry out its election promises?
No, certainly not. I am suggesting that there are certain parts of the election manifesto which I would have thought would have been considered to be more important than an attempt to deal with six fiddling little amendments all of which were inserted in an attempt to protect the individual against massive trade union power. Collectively they are not of such importance that the Government need to make their removal a priority. I do not challenge the Government's right to do this.Of course, when the Secretary of State says "We will do this and that" he is referring to the TUC. I am surprised that anyone should be in any doubt about that. It is becoming increasingly obvious, certainly to my right hon. and hon. Friends and me, that the Minister and the Department are very much in the hands of the TUC. The right hon. Gentleman is not prepared to move in any way if his view is not in accord with that of the TUC. It does not surprise me that he is not willing to make the slightest concession. This is not necessarily because he does not want to do so but because the trade union movement is not prepared to see any concession made. It is obvious that he is virtually a slave of the trade union movement.
There is such a thing as a mandate.
I am glad to hear that the hon. Member considers that 39 per cent. of the total vote cast is a mandate. I and my party have always made it clear that we are opposed to the principle of the closed shop and furthermore—
Play a different record.
If the hon. Member wishes to interrupt me I will let him. I am delighted to see that he is so keenly interested in industrial relations. I hope that he is as keenly interested in ensuring that unskilled labour is not paid at skilled rates and that Members who choose to employ people as private secretaries and draw their salaries for them will ensure that they employ qualified people. I am sure that the hon. Member gets the message.4.30 p.m. This clause is concerned about the exclusion or expulsion of an individual from a trade union in a closed shop situation. The Liberal amendment seeks to ensure that there is a statutory right of appeal for the individual in that kind of situation, and to ensure that the appeal tribunal, so set up, shall be set up statutorily and shall have statutory powers. As the hon. Member for Brent-ford and Isleworth (Mr. Hayhoe) said, our amendment goes much further than that of the official Opposition. It goes further because we take the view that justice must not only be done in this matter but must be seen to be done. While we appreciate very much the TUC's gesture in offering to set up a sort of voluntary tribunal, we believe that it is not sufficient for that tribunal to be set up by the very people against whom the appeal is to be made. In other words, if a person is expelled from or excluded from a union and he wishes to appeal against that, the body to which he appeals would be the trade union movement. What we are being asked to accept is that the trade union movement should have the right to appoint the tribunal that is to hear the appeal of the individual against the decision of a trade union. In our amendment we are arguing that it is right that such a tribunal should be set up but that it should be set up by the Secretary of State, and that its members should be appointed by him and not by the TUC. That, basically, is the only difference between us. Who shall appoint the tribunal? Shall it be the TUC or the Secretary of State? We believe that however independent may be a tribunal appointed by the TUC, and however it may attempt to give an honest, balanced view of the case before it, ultimately any person who appears before that tribunal and loses his case will inevitably say that he has had a raw deal because the people who tried his case were the people against whom he was appealing. I have heard Labour Members talking about the police in relation to such matters. I do not believe that complaints against the police should be investigated by the police, so nor do I believe that complaints against a trade union should be investigated by trade unionists. What the TUC suggests is that there should be three people on the tribunal and that one of them, the chairman, should be an independent man who has a knowledge of law. As I said on Second Reading, two from three or one from three means that inevitably, unless the two appointed by the TUC because they are trade unionists disagree, the views of the independent chairman will not be relevant in voting terms, as his vote will be relevant only if the other two are split. Our amendment has been tabled because we are extremely anxious about the individual case. We concede that the cases arising will be few. But even if there is only one, we believe that it is the duty of the House to protect the liberty of that individual. Even if only one person is affected adversely by exclusion from or expulsion from a trade union, we believe that it is a vital job for the House to protect that individual and his liberty and to give him or her the opportunity to appeal in that situation to an independent tribunal appointed by the Secretary of State. I hope that the Government will feel able to accept our amendment, even at this late stage. I hold out little hope, but with what little hope there is I hope that the Minister will accept the amendment. Neither on this amending Bill nor on the original Act has he made any concessions, or very few, to the views of minorities, or even to the views of substantial majorities. This is an opportunity for him to make a concession which would go a long way to alleviating the fears of many people that the trade union movement is really becoming too powerful. But whether or not it has become too powerful, it is at least necessary to have some sort of braking mechanism within the system to ensure that if the trade union movement were to use its power wrongly, at least the individual would have some right of appeal to an independent statutorily appointed tribunal.
The hon. Member for Brentford and Isleworth (Mr. Hayhoe) and the hon. Member for Rochdale (Mr. Smith) have spoken briefly on this subject, but I know that they attach great importance to it. I also attach the greatest importance to it. Therefore, if I reply also briefly that does not mean that I am seeking to minimise the importance of the question in any sense.It is the fact, however, as the hon. Gentlemen know as well as anyone, that we have discussed this subject on numerous occasions and, therefore, it is not necessary for us all to cover all the ground on each occasion. I say that in order that no one should think that I am trying to treat the subject in any derogatory fashion. That has not been the way in which I have approached the whole question throughout, or the way in which we have approached the discussions that we have had with the TUC about the matter. As I shall underline shortly, I believe that the agreement which has been reached, or the proposal that has been made by the TUC, is a great step forward and one which should be welcomed by the whole House. I am grateful that the hon. Gentlemen have welcomed the proposal, even if they would like something further. I believe that that, at any rate, is an important advance. Therefore, I hope that after the speeches we have now had, no one will say that the proposal of the TUC is in any sense being dismissed as a proposal which is not of considerable significance. Let me come to the speech of the hon. Member for Brentford and Isleworth. I could make some controversial remarks about the figures on strikes. The hon. Gentleman showed his marksmanship when he picked the year 1973 rather than 1972. If he had picked 1972, the first year of the Industrial Relations Act, when that Act was having, perhaps, its full immediate impact, he would have discovered figures very different from those he cited, and very different comparisons. He would have had to face the figure of 24 million days lost—I think it was—during that period. The comparison would be quite different.
Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?
I do not want to spend much time on this matter. We have other occasions on which to discuss these matters.But I underline the fact that many of the heavy figures on strike action and days lost owing to strikes during 1974 we certainly attribute, in the main—not entirely, because there are always complicated reasons which may be adduced to explain different figures—either to the operation of the statutory incomes policy or to the hangover of the statutory in- comes policy. For example, great numbers of the lost days in the National Health Service were certainly due to the way in which the statutory policy was still leaving its effects upon our economy.
There is misunderstanding about this matter. A Written Reply given on Tuesday 5th November by the Minister of State shows that during the period from 1st July 1970 until 31st July 1974 the days lost due to the Industrial Relations Act or proposals for the Act amounted in total to 4,199,000. Therefore, when the Secretary of State talks of 24 million he is not being accurate. In 1972 the number of days lost as a direct result of the Industrial Relations Act was about 400,000. The reason why the days were lost involved other matters concerned with pay and inflation, as was the same last year.
As I said, it would not assist the House if we spent a long time swapping figures. I am only correcting the hon. Gentleman. There is the number of strikes in 1972 and thereafter directly attributable to protests against the Act, and there is also the number of other days lost due to the industrial climate created by the Act. If hon. Members opposite have not understood yet that the 1971 Act helped to poison the industrial relations of this country, they still have a great deal to learn. But we can return to disputes about figures on other occasions.I would directly repudiate the hon. Member's accusations about me, especially the suggestion of any breach of faith in the way in which we have approached this question. Some of the quotations that he gave from me contradicted his claim, so it is not necessary for me to contradict it further. The hon. Gentleman was courteous and ill-advised enough to quote from a speech of mine in a section in which I said that we could do it by legislation or by a code of practice or by some other means. It is by some other means that we are seeking to do it, so there is no ground for an accusation of that sort. I am not complaining on personal grounds, but I have not misled the House in any particular throughout these discussions. I have sought to tell the House as plainly as I can the Government's thinking and what discussions we have had with the TUC. I have said many times that we took into account the industrial experience of the TUC. It would be foolish for us to approach this subject without doing so. I have tried to give a faithful account, as is my duty, about the form and terms in which we were having discussions with the TUC and the outcome of those discussions. So I deny in the plainest terms that I have been guilty of any breach of faith. Of course there are differences about how we are to approach the problem. In this sense I agree with hon. Members opposite, although I am loth to agree with them on this kind of question in any sense at all. My aim has been to secure the best possible protection for the individual who may fall foul of his trade union or get into difficulties, and to provide some safeguard which works, not one that pretends to establish a tribunal to give people satisfaction. What I have tried to do is achieve a means of protecting the individual which will successfully operate in the interests of the individual. Because reinstatement is the prize that someone who has fallen into these difficulties would want most, it is much better first to try to settle the issue within the internal machinery of the trade union itself as was recommended by Donovan and is mentioned in the amendment of the hon. Member for Rochdale (Mr. Smith). That is the first way in which the worker can be reinstated in circumstances most advantageous to him. The second way under the TUC's procedure is that, having exhausted all the machinery of his own union, he should have an appeal, and not, as the hon. Member for Rochdale said, to the same body as has already judged him. The General Council of the TUC which will be setting up this independent tribunal, in consultation with me and with the Chairman of the CAS and will guarantee its independence. They will see that it is not the same body as judged someone in the first place. It will be a body set up by the whole movement, judging what may happen within and between different unions. In many cases, there will be arguments about how it should be done; but the idea that justice will not be seen to be done on that account I do not believe. The Liberal amendment is slightly more appealing than the Conservative one, although there is not much in it—
Why is it?
There are some difficulties which the Liberal amendment slightly overcomes, but neither amendment is satisfactory. Both have the common defect of trying to amalgamate the TUC's voluntary system with the compulsory system of legal redress. That would merely injure the possibility of the voluntary system succeeding.Leaving aside the question of appeal to the High Court on grounds of breach of natural justice, which remains untouched by our proposals, it would alter the way in which the TUC system would operate if it were thought that there was another tribunal to which, after appeal to the TUC tribunal, a further appeal could be made. Therefore, the best way of dealing with the problems involved in the reinstatement of people who have fallen foul of their union is to give the TUC tribunal a fair chance of operating. I do not set any exact period upon this, but within a measurable time a few cases will have been heard. The cases themselves are not numerous, as we all agree, although that does not diminish their significance. After a number of cases have been heard and we have seen how the matter works in practice, people will understand that this was a sensible system and that it would have injured the possibility of success if we had tried to couple it with legal methods.
Does the right hon. Gentleman regard the trade union movement as unique in the sense that it should be self-policing, or should the principles that he has just enunciated apply with equal force, let us say, in the City in take-over matters and questions of shareholders' rights or when people are complaining against the police? Is it a universal principle, or are the trade unions special, as is so often the case?
It is not a question of the unions being special. There are circumstances in which outside bodies should have powers to intervene, but there are also many other bodies which have a perfect right to conduct their own affairs as long as they do so in the open. Under this proposed procedure, individual unions have agreed that if there is criticism of the way in which they have treated individual members, that allegation will be judged not by the individual's union but by a body of experts established by the whole movement. That seems a perfectly creditable way of going about it. I am concerned about the protection of the individual. I believe that it will be a better way of protecting individuals.The hon. Gentleman said that he was seeking to make only the slightest possible difficulty for the Government in the moderate amendment which he has put forward. I acknowledge that the Opposition have made a concession to the Government in that they have incorporated the proposal for the TUC tribunal in the amendment. That is correct, but, as I have already argued, I believe it is a hybrid proposal when it is allied with the legal sanction. My final objection to the amendment is of a more formidable nature than the objections which I have already put forward on the general grounds. That is particularly so in view of what the hon Gentleman said about the desire to make the slightest possible interference with our proposals and to make his proposal as appealing to us as possible. There is the difficulty that the Opposition's proposal retains subsection (5) of Section 5 of the Trade Union and Labour Relations Act 1974. That is the Act which this measure will amend. The subsection aims to preserve common law rights of action. I am not arguing whether it is necessary, desirable or superfluous to have that section to protect common law rights when there have been cases of a breach of natural justice. As we have argued with overwhelming success on previous occasions, it is not necessary to have such a section for that purpose. There is no interference with that concept in our Bill, nor was there ever any interference with common law rights in our previous Bill. Appeal to the High Court on the grounds that were available before was protected in the Act and there was no need for the clause to be inserted. In that sense it is superfluous. I have the highest authority in the land for saying that. The Lord Chancellor has repeated that view to me most strongly, as he has in another place. I do not think that we shall have any quarrel on that aspect of the matter. What the hon. Gentleman has not appreciated or what he has not fully understood—this is particularly so in view of his claim that he is seeking to make that his amendment as appealing to us as possible—is that Section 5 (5), which he seeks to retain, involves many other parts of the Act. If he has not understood that, it makes the matter all the more sinister. His amendment might undermine the long-standing legal immunities given by Section 2(5) of the Trade Union and Labour Relations Act to trade union members in respect of the purposes of their unions in restraint of trade and the legality and enforceability of trade union rules in restraint of trade. The assertion of common law rights in a comprehensive form as set out in the amendment subverts—I am told that that is the proper legal way in which to put it—the provisions for protecting trade unions in other matters. That is very serious. It is all the more serious when the hon. Gentleman says that he has done it by accident. Even by accident the Conservative Opposition try to interfere with the rights of trade unions. When they do it on purpose we get an Act such as the 1971 Act. When they do it by accident we get a clause such as the one before us. On that ground, too, I ask the House to reject the amendment. Section 5(5) of the 1974 Act undermines essential immunities for trade unions which, except for the 1971 Act, have existed unchallenged since 1871. Therefore, I hope on that ground at least that we can come to a speedy agreement to reject the amendment. It is a peculiar affair that the Opposition at this late stage should have tried to rush an amendment such as this through the House. That is surprising when my hon. Friend the Minister of State gave due warning of this matter in Committee. They have put forward on Report this amendment, which carries the threat that I have outlined—"threat" is not too strong a word in the context of normal trade union rights—not only in the face of common sense but in the face of the warnings that my hon. Friend gave in Committee.
The right hon. Gentleman is making a good deal of subsection (5). It is interesting to recall that when he was dealing with it on 30th July 1974, instead of producing the arguments that he now puts forward all he could say was:
Nothing was said then about subversion. The right hon. Gentleman is now making the sinister accusation that my hon. Friends and I are bringing something out of the bag at the last moment. I do not believe that there is any justification for what he has been saying."I cannot believe that subsection (5) is necessary. It is inconceivable that the courts would construe the existence of the clause as cutting down any common law rights."—[Official Report, 30th July 1974; Vol. 878, c. 504.]
There is no question of bringing it out of the bag at the last moment. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will do me and my hon. Friend the Minister of State the courtesy of looking up the discussion that took place in Committee. He will there see—
The Bill that is now before us, the Bill which we are discussing by an extraordinary coincidence. In the discussion in Committee the hon. Gentleman will discover the warning that was given by my hon. Friend. Unfortunately, that warning was neglected. That is a further reason for rejecting the amendment.My principal reason for asking the House to reject the amendment and to accept the Government's proposals is, however, that I believe the TUC proposals offer the best way of protecting the rights of individuals who may be in difficulties for the reasons that have been described. If the proposed tribunal to be set up by the trade unions works successfully, I believe that the few individuals who are involved in such cases will be better protected than they would be by any other means. But if we found—this has been said before—that after a period my prophecy proved to be incorrect, the Government would come to the House and propose further measures. I have said from the beginning that in a closed shop situation there must be protection for individuals who might be in the sort of difficulties that have been described. We believe that we have provided the best kind of protection. We ask the House and the country to give it a fair trial. We ask them to judge who was right. If we are proved wrong we will be prepared to consider the matter again. I believe that it is in the interests of the country, in the interests of good industrial relations and in the interests of the individuals concerned that we should give this proposition a fair trial.
It is clear from the right hon. Gentleman's speech that on aims there is not much which divides the two sides of the House. There are three issues which arise, and on each of those issues the aims are almost identical. I ask the right hon. Gentleman to bear in mind the possible advantage of achieving the aims which he has expressed by a method that claims all-party agreement. At any rate, that would be the position as far as the Labour. Conservative and Liberal Parties are concerned. Alternatively, the right hon. Gentleman's aims can be achieved by a process which divides the House. The right hon. Gentleman and the Prime Minister do not hesitate to use the word "divisive" when they think that it is appropriate. On this occasion, when we can so easily agree on the method, it is a pity that the right hon. Gentleman does not seize upon the opportunity of obtaining all-party agreement.I shall briefly invite the House to consider three relatively minor differences with which we are concerned. First, there is the declaration of rights of trade unions. The right hon. Gentleman and my right hon. and hon. Friends are agreed that members of trade unions should have certain rights in relation to their own unions, including the right not to be unreasonably expelled or excluded from their unions. The right hon. Gentleman, by his wholesale repeal of Section 5 of the 1974 Act, including subsections (1) and (2), is going to remove from the area of expression by Parliament of those rights this particular declaration of rights. He is going to leave it to the rules of trade unions to declare those rights. That is not progress. That is going back. That is regrettable, however much faith he or the rest of us may have in the undertakings which have been given by the TUC in his discussions with that body. It was spelt out in the statute, a statute which was passed by the right hon. Gentleman's Government in the last Parliament, and it is a pity that we should now have this repeal, especially as he agrees that these rights should exist. 5.0 p.m. There is the second question about the way in which those rights should be—if he will forgive the word—enforced. It is, after all, a question of enforcing the rights. We agree with him that in the first place a member of a trade union who looks like being unreasonably expelled should take the matter up with the union. That would be the normal process, and we agree that that should happen. It is only when he does not get satisfaction or feels that he is not being justly treated that there arises the question of the method of appeal which should be made available to him. Here again there is no great difference between us. The right hon. Gentleman has said that the Trades Union Congress agreed upon certain arrangements for considering these appeals within the trade union movement. My hon. Friends, in the amendment which they have submitted and which the Secretary of State himself has described as moderate—[Interruption.] I should be grateful if I could have the attention of the right hon. Gentleman. The right hon. Gentleman's attention seems to be elsewhere. On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I should be very grateful if I could have the attention of the right hon. Gentleman. We listened very carefully to him, and I am endeavouring now to reply to some of the points which he made. We say: very well, the right hon. Gentleman has had these discussions with the TUC, which agrees that a procedure should be established within the trade union movement. Why not spell this out in the way proposed in the amendment, in order that everybody can know that it has the backing of Parliament? That gives it a sanction—a sanctity, if you like—which I should have thought would be welcome, but the right hon. Gentleman says that he does not want that. At any rate, the gulf between us is very narrow. The only other point on the question of appeal is whether the existing machinery for going before an industrial tribunal, which is, after all a good deal more independent, should be made avail- able to a trade union member or somebody who is aggrieved by being excluded from a trade union. What is the objection to this well-established machinery which has helped a great many members of trade unions and those wanting to join trade unions to have doubts and differences settled? Why bring this procedure to an end? There seems to be no valid reason for doing so. I come to the third point, which arises on the fact that under the amendment Section 5(5) of the 1974 Act—and I notice that it is a subsection which preserves common law rights—is to be left as it stands. I am not sure how strongly my hon. Friends feel about this, but I think I am right in saying that they do not feel strongly about it if it gives rise to some technical or drafting difficulty. If the right hon. Gentleman could indicate that there is no difference between us in principle and that, therefore, a simple drafting amendment or a consequential amendment or two in another place would put the matter right, why does he not immediately say so and have the generosity and good will to try to achieve all-party agreement on this very important matter, on which it is far better that he should try to carry the House instead of obstinately digging his feet in on matters on which there is no great difference between us? I implore the right hon. Gentleman to think again. This is an important matter which affects millions of people. It must be of far greater satisfaction to them if these trade union rights are spelt out in a way which receives all-party agreement, instead of merely having the backing of the Government, who have the support of only 40 per cent. of the electorate.
I support these amendments. The Secretary of State has assured the House on this and other occasions in his most earnest manner that the procedure to be adopted by the TUC was a genuine attempt to provide an independent body to which appeal could be made if members of trade unions believed themselves to be unfairly excluded or expelled from trade unions. It is in the spirit of that statement that we on this side of the House speak today.Many of us have decided reservations about whether such an appeal tribunal appointed by the TUC is the most appropriate way of dealing with this matter. Many of us feel that there was no objection to having the matter dealt with by the industrial tribunals, which could comprise representatives from both sides of industry as well as an independent legally qualified chairman. However, for the purpose of this amendment we are prepared to accept that the solution favoured by the Secretary of State should be adopted, and all that we are seeking to do in this amendment is to render that solution slightly more acceptable to those who have genuine worries about the procedure and method of operation of the independent tribunal to be set up by the TUC. That is all we are doing. The arguments which are put forward against this solution by the Secretary of State are twofold. The second one relates to the implications of Section 5(5) of the 1974 Act. I suggest that the point made in relation to that by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Huntingdonshire (Sir D. Renton) is a complete answer to it. This is not something on which we on this side of the House seek to insist, though I have considerable doubts whether that section has the implication and the effect suggested by the Secretary of State. It is noticeable that in the Committee debates to which the Secretary of State referred, the Minister of State put the matter in a very tentative way. He said that Section 5(5) "may" undermine unity. He said that some who are expelled or excluded "may" find that they do not have protection in respect of their common law rights or restraint of trade. I doubt whether the consequences which are feared really flow from that section. It they do, the answer is the simple one put forward by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Huntingdonshire. It will not do for the Secretary of State in his most sinister manner to hold out in terrorem the consequences of that provision as if it were a dire threat to trade union rights. If that is the best argument that he can address against these amendments, they ought to be accepted without any hesitation whatsoever. Let us turn to the first argument advanced by the Secretary of State against these amendments. It was, as I understood, that in some sense the system of an independent body set up by trade unions to consider appeals would be undermined if it were made a hybrid body by some kind of statutory recognition or intervention. That is a very abstract and theoretical proposition, and it requires closer analysis in terms of the amendment. I could understand that the Secretary of State might feel that way if what was proposed was that the tribunal appointed by the TUC was constantly to be interfered with by the ordinary courts, that one could constantly go from that tribunal to the High Court or the Industrial Tribunal on interlocutory or intermediate points, that there would be constant interference and supervision. In that case I could understand the Secretary of State feeling that the TUC-appointed body was becoming so enmeshed by the ordinary legal procedure that for those members of the trade union movement who did not regard that procedure as appropriate for the resolution of a dispute it would become an unacceptable process. What is proposed, however, does not begin to go as far as that. It relates essentially to two matters. I thought that I heard the Secretary of State talk about an appeal from the trade union-appointed body. There is no provision for such an appeal in the amendment. Two provisions are made. First, the procedure of such a tribunal shall be in accordance with rules produced by the TUC and approved by the Council on Tribunals. The Council on Tribunals is not a court but an administrative body regulating the procedure of a wide variety of tribunals. It does not come within the judicial structure. Once those rules were approved the Council on Tribunals would in no way be involved with the TUC-appointed body. Its task would be finished. There would, therefore, be no hybrid body, simply a process at the beginning of the operation of the TUC-appointed body to ensure, as I am sure would be the wish of the trade union movement, that the rules were at least as fair as those of countless other bodies supervised by the Council on Tribunals. That does not make the body a hybrid, nor does it involve the taint of interference or admixture with the courts, if such a taint were thought to exist in the event that such a situation were to happen. The second matter relates not to any question of an appeal from the decision of the TUC body but to the situation in which the judgment of that body is not enforced. The Secretary of State thinks, and he may well be right, that the TUC-appointed body will have such authority and will command such respect that its conclusions will automatically be enforced by the trade unions concerned. I hope he is right. If he is, the other aspect of the amendment never even begins to come into play. In such a case a trade union enforces a decision of an independent body, and that is the end of the matter. There will be no admixture, no further intervention. This provision relates only to the situation which the Secretary of State believes will never arise, namely, that the decision of the tribunal is not implemented by the trade union concerned. Only in that case, or in the purely hypothetical case where the TUC-appointed tribunal has not been appointed, does it become possible for the individual concerned to apply to the High Court for relief and, in effect, for enforcement of the decision not of a judicial body but of the body that has been appointed by the TUC. The amendment therefore relates to a situation which the right hon. Gentleman says will never happen, so he surely has nothing to fear from that aspect of the amendment. To suggest that the amendments in any way taint the operation of this independent body is an unsupportable proposition which does not stand up to close scrutiny. The amendments do not taint the new body but support it and will give greater confidence to those who have reservations about it but wish it well if only it can be given certain procedural backing.
It might be for the convenience of the House if this debate ends fairly soon, but I underline the Secretary of State's view that the fact that speeches have been brief is in no way an indication that the subject is any the less important. There is great public interest in the amendments we are to discuss next, and it might be as well to begin the debate on them fairly soon.I wish to reply to two major points raised by the Secretary of State. I want, too, to underline what was said by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Huntingdonshire (Sir D. Renton) and my hon. Friend the Member for Cleveland and Whitby (Mr. Brittan). The question about the hybrid nature of the amendment was answered by the Secretary of State on Second Reading. He was then justifying the position of the TUC review body by saying that if its decision was not enforced it would be possible in some cases at least for the aggrieved party to seek a remedy in the High Court. He was quite happy then to have the courts involved and he seemed to be suggesting that the recommendation by the review body would be an important factor taken into account by the courts. The difference between us, therefore, is very small in this respect. The right hon. Gentleman made what appeared to be a more substantial point about subsection (5). Characteristically, perhaps, he was less than fair in his suggestion that the subsection subverted the very basis of trade union legal authority, and in basing that suggestion on what was said by the Minister of State in Committee, which, as my hon. Friend the Member for Cleveland and Whitby pointed out, was a very tentative suggestion that the proposal might have undesirable side effects. The Minister of State, with his characteristic fairness, in such sharp contrast to the attitude of the Secretary of State, said that he did not think it was the intention of those who proposed Section 5 to seek that side effect. Of course, the Minister of State was right. I think the point was covered by what I said in moving the amendment, that if there were drafting difficulties—and the Minister of State accepted that that might be the case—these were matters which could be adjusted. That is all there is between us. To talk of subversion and sinister motives is characteristic of the Secretary of State. There he is getting into the matters that he knows best. He is lost when he seeks to deal with the reality of the amendments, because it is clear that, in contrasting the Liberal amendment and my amendment, he does not understand them. He does not understand the difference between the two drafts, because the only difference between them is something for which he does not wish. My amendment deals with the review body to be established by the TUC, whereas the hon. Member for Rochdale (Mr. Smith) feels that the provisions should be tougher and that power should rest with the Secretary of State. So be it. The Secretary of State for Employment brings to these matters that characteristic technique of smear and half-truth which we are getting to know better from him, and it still serves the causes which he tries to defend in the House. I therefore hope that unless the Secretary of State can respond in a more constructive and positive manner we shall carry our views to a Division.
With the permission of the House I speak again in reply to hon. Gentlemen. I shall be brief, for the reasons which hon. Gentlemen have also underlined. That does not mean that we attach anything but the greatest importance to the subject.I leave aside the suggestions made about myself by the hon. Member for Brentford and Isleworth (Mr. Hayhoe). The evening is yet young, and we may be able to deal with all things later. I am glad to see that the hon. Gentleman has dropped the charge of breach of faith which he made against me. No doubt in a subsequent speech he will drop the reference to smears.
I reiterate the charge.
The hon. Gentleman has not produced any evidence to support what he said. He has not contradicted his charge. However, he was kind enough—was it kindness or innocence?—to quote my repudiation of his charges. That is satisfactory from my point of view.The right hon. and learned Member for Huntingdonshire (Sir D. Renton) made the constructive suggestion that an important part of his hon. Friend's amendment should be left out to improve it. I agree that that would have been the result. However it is harsh on me to be accused of engaging in a sinister practice in criticising an essential part of the Opposition amendment. That is a novelty. I have been a Member of the House of Commons for a long time. I do not think that accusations should be made against Ministers who apply their minds to an amendment. I should not have thought that that would be regarded as a deep offence by the Opposition. I was entitled to do that and to point out the ramifications and the possible effects of subsection (5). It should not be regarded as a parliamentary offence it I criticise an essential part of an amendment. It would have been a better amendment if the passage had been left out. I should not have been able to use that argument against it as appositely as I was able to do. I wish to traverse again the second argument. I believe that the proposals made by the hon. Gentleman and the Liberal Party, in different ways, will impair the possibility—I say that because I like to use moderate language—or the likelihood of the success of the TUC proposal. Although I am interested in whatever charges hon. Gentlemen make against me, I am also interested in protecting the individuals concerned. I believe that my way and the proposed TUC way of doing this will protect more individuals against injustice than what is proposed by the Opposition. If it does not, if my judgment is wrong, I think we shall have to look at the matter afresh for the reasons I have given.
To the extent that my hon. Friend's amendment gives parliamentary statutory endorsement to what the right hon. Gentleman has agreed with the TUC, what will be the objection?
The objection is that it carries the matter further in many respects. There is no mystery about the virtue of the method of the TUC, which is that it keeps the law out of the matter. That is what recommends the proposal to the TUC.Hon. Gentlemen must accustom themselves to the fact that the experience of the 1971 Act has influenced the attitude of the TUC to all these questions. This still leaves the matter of the appeal to the High Court. The TUC did not contest that before, during or after the passing of the 1971 Act. Nor has there been interference with that principle in the measures proposed in either the 1974 Act or the present Bill. The TUC does not want to interfere with that. However, that does not alter the fact that when the TUC set up the tribunal it believed—and I agreed—that it was right to try it. It is better to have it in a form which is not subject to the statutory control involved in the Opposition amendments. Despite the shortness of this debate, there is the advantage that the House has given a welcome to the TUC proposals. I am grateful that that should be so. Criticisms were made in some of the earlier debates, although the TUC's proposal was not decided. However, I am glad that the former attitude has departed. I am glad to hear that the House of Commons will now assist in going forward with this proposition and will agree, I trust, with our suggestions, so that the tribunal to be established by the TUC will have a fair start. The House of Commons will wish it Godspeed in dealing with these problems. I believe that it will succeed. However, if by any chance it should fail we shall have to think again. I think this is the best course to take in the interests of the freedom of the individual which the Government are protecting.
The last sentence of the Secretary of State's speech does not ring true for many of my hon. and right hon. Friends. We have travelled a long way to try to understand and meet the point of view of the TUC on this matter. We accept, albeit reluctantly and perhaps sadly, that the 1971 Act has damaged the belief of the TUC in the operation of the law. I do not think that that should prevent this House from putting into legislative form a body which the TUC has agreed to set up and which the Secretary of State has blessed, which is what our amendment will do.
Division No. 90.]
|Adley, Robert||Brotherton, Michael||Corrie, John|
|Aitken, Jonathan||Brown, Sir Edward (Bath)||Costain, A. P.|
|Alison, Michael||Buchanan-Smith, Alick||Crouch, David|
|Amery, Rt Hon Julian||Buck, Antony||Crowder, F. P.|
|Atkins, Rt Hon H. (Spelthorne)||Budgen, Nick||Davies, Rt Hon J. (Knutsford)|
|Baker, Kenneth||Bulmer, Esmond||Dean, Paul (N Somerset)|
|Banks, Robert||Burden, F. A.||Dodsworth, Geoffrey|
|Beith, A. J.||Butler, Adam (Bosworth)||Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James|
|Bell, Ronald||Carlisle, Mark||Drayson, Burnaby|
|Bennett, Sir Frederic (Torbay)||Carr, Rt Hon Robert||du Cann, Rt Hon Edward|
|Benyon, W.||Chalker Mrs Lynda||Durant, Tony|
|Berry, Hon Anthony||Channon, Paul||Dykes, Hugh|
|Biffen, John||Churchill, W. S.||Eden, Rt Hon Sir John|
|Biggs-Davison, John||Clark, Alan (Plymouth, Sutton)||Edwards, Nicholas (Pembroke)|
|Blaker, Peter||Clark, William (Croydon S)||Elliott, Sir William|
|Body, Richard||Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe)||Emery, Peter|
|Boscawen, Hon Robert||Cockcroft, John||Eyre, Reginald|
|Bowden, A. (Brighton, Kemptown)||Cooke, Robert (Bristol W)||Fairbairn, Nicholas|
|Boyson, Dr Rhodes (Brent)||Cope, John||Fairgrieve, Russell|
|Braine, Sir Bernard||Cordle, John H.||Farr, John|
|Brittan, Leon||Cormack, Patrick||Fell, Anthony|
The right hon. Gentleman says that he hopes that the TUC proposals will work, but if not he will come back to the House with fresh legislation. All we are suggesting is that that proposal should be put on the statute book. We know that cases of this kind are few and far between. They are generally brought by awkward people, some of whom are cranks and some of whom may be sensible.
I should have thought that the TUC would want the processes to be fair and within the law. They should not only be fair but should be seen to be fair. I suggest that the procedures for which the TUC asks should be written into the law in this form. Parliament will not do justice to a great organisation if it cannot put into the law what it wants, merely because the TUC does not want to have anything to do with the law. I am certain that it does not do justice to the TUC case.
I do not think the right hon. Gentleman has done justice to it in his reply to the debate. He has tried to score a number of petty drafting points. He has failed to grasp the great importance of the issue at stake. He has not even grasped the fact that we have come so far with him to try to get sense into a delicate situation. I hope that my hon. and right hon. Friends will vote in favour of the amendment.
Question put, That the amendment be made:—
The House divided: Ayes 257, Noes 299.
|Finsberg, Geoffrey||Latham, Michael (Melton)||Renton, Tim (Mid-Sussex)|
|Fisher, Sir Nigel||Lawrence, Ivan||Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon|
|Fletcher Alex (Edinburgh N)||Lawson, Nigel||Ridley, Hon Nicholas|
|Fletcher-Cooke, Charles||Lester, Jim (Beeston)||Ridsdale, Julian|
|Fookes, Miss Janet||Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)||Rifkind, Malcolm|
|Fowler, Norman (Sutton C'f'd)||Lloyd, Ian||Rippon, Rt Hon Geoffrey|
|Fox, Marcus||Loveridge, John||Roberts, Michael (Cardiff NW)|
|Fraser, Rt Hon H. (Stafford & St)||Luce, Richard||Rodgers, Sir John (Sevenoaks)|
|Fry, Peter||McAdden, Sir Stephen||Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight)|
|Galbraith, Hon. T. G. D.||McCrindle, Robert||Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey)|
|Gardiner, George (Reigate)||Macfarlane, Neil||Rost, Peter (SE Derbyshire)|
|Gardner, Edward (S Fylde)||MacGregor, John||Royle, Sir Anthony|
|Gilmour, Rt Hon Ian (Chesham)||Macmillan, Rt Hon M. (Farnham)||Sainsbury, Tim|
|Gilmour, Sir John (East Fife)||McNair-Wilson, M. (Newbury)||Scott, Nicholas|
|Glyn Dr Alan||McNair-Wilson, P. (New Forest)||Shaw, Giles (Pudsey)|
|Godber, Rt Hon Joseph||Madel, David||Shaw, Michael (Scarborough)|
|Goodhart, Philip||Marshall, Michael (Arundel)||Shelton, William (Streatham)|
|Goodlad, Alastair||Marten, Neil||Shepherd, Colin|
|Gorst, John||Mates, Michael||Shersby, Michael|
|Gow, Ian (Eastbourne)||Mather, Carol||Silvester, Fred|
|Gower, Sir Raymond (Barry)||Maude, Angus||Sims, Roger|
|Grant, Anthony (Harrow C)||Maudling, Rt Hon Reginald||Sinclair, Sir George|
|Gray, Hamish||Mawby, Ray||Skeet, T. H. H.|
|Grieve, Percy||Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin||Smith, Cyril (Rochdale)|
|Griffiths, Eldon||Mayhew, Patrick||Smith, Dudley (Warwick)|
|Grist, Ian||Meyer, Sir Anthony||Speed, Keith|
|Grylls, Michael||Miller, Hal (Bromsgrove)||Spicer, Jim (W Dorset)|
|Hall, Sir John||Mills, Peter||Spicer, Michael (S Worcester)|
|Hall-Davis, A. G. F.||Miscampbell, Norman||Sproat, Iain|
|Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury)||Mitchell, David (Basingstoke)||Stainton, Keith|
|Hampson Dr Keith||Moate, Roger||Stanbrook, Ivor|
|Hannam, John||Monro, Hector||Stanley, John|
|Harrison, Col Sir Harwood (Eye)||Montgomery, Fergus||Steel, David (Roxburgh)|
|Harvie Anderson, Rt Hon Miss||Moore, John (Croydon C)||Steen, Anthony (Wavertree)|
|Havers, Sir Michael||More, Jasper (Ludlow)||Stewart, Ian (Hitchin)|
|Hawkins, Paul||Morgan, Geraint||Stokes, John|
|Hayhoe, Barney||Morgan-Giles, Rear-Admiral||Tapsell, Peter|
|Heseltine, Michael||Morris, Michael (Northampton S)||Taylor, Teddy (Cathcart)|
|Hicks, Robert||Morrison, Charles (Devizes)||Tebbit, Norman|
|Higgins, Terence L.||Morrison, Peter (Chester)||Thatcher, Rt Hon Margaret|
|Holland, Philip||Mudd, David||Thomas, Rt Hon P. (Hendon S)|
|Hooson, Emlyn||Neave, Airey||Thorpe, Rt Hon Jeremy (N Devon)|
|Hordern, Peter||Nelson, Anthony||Townsend, Cyril D.|
|Howe, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey||Neubert, Michael||Trotter, Neville|
|Howell David (Guildford)||Newton, Tony||Tugendhat, Christopher|
|Howell, Ralph (North Norfolk)||Nott, John||van Straubenzee, W. R.|
|Howells, Geraint (Cardigan)||Onslow, Cranley||Viggers, Peter|
|Hunt, John||Oppenheim, Mrs Sally||Wainwright, Richard (Colne V)|
|Hurd Douglas||Osborn, John||Wakeham, John|
|Hutchison, Michael Clark||Page, John (Harrow West)||Walder, David (Clitheroe)|
|Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)||Page, Rt Hon R. Graham (Crosby)||Walker, Rt Hon P. (Worcester)|
|Irving, Charles (Cheltenham)||Pardoe, John||Walker-Smith, Rt Hon Sir Derek|
|James, David||Parkinson, Cecil||Wall, Patrick|
|Jessel, Toby||Pattie, Geoffrey||Walters, Dennis|
|Johnson Smith, G. (E Grinstead)||Penhaligon, David||Warren, Kenneth|
|Jones, Arthur (Daventry)||Percival, Ian||Weatherill, Bernard|
|Joseph, Rt Hon Sir Keith||Peyton, Rt Hon John||Wells, John|
|Kellett-Bowman, Mrs Elaine||Pink, R. Bonner||Whitelaw, Rt Hon William|
|Kilfedder, James||Price, David (Eastleigh)||Wiggin, Jerry|
|Kimball, Marcus||Prior, Rt Hon James||Winterton, Nicholas|
|King, Evelyn (South Dorset)||Pym, Rt Hon Francis||Young, Sir G. (Ealing, Acton)|
|King, Tom (Bridgwater)||Raison, Timothy||Younger, Hon George|
|Kitson, Sir Timothy||Rathbone, Tim|
|Lamont, Norman||Rees, Peter (Dover & Deal)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES|
|Lane, David||Rees-Davies, W. R.||Dr. Gerard Vaughan and|
|Langford-Holt, Sir John||Renton, Rt Hon Sir D. (Hunts)||Mr. Spencer Le Marchant.|
|Abse, Leo||Benn, Rt Hon Anthony Wedgwood||Brown, Ronald (Hackney S)|
|Allaun, Frank||Bennett, Andrew(Stockport N)||Buchan, Norman|
|Anderson, Donald||Bidwell, Sydney||Buchanan, Richard|
|Archer, Peter||Bishop, E. S.||Butler, Mrs Joyce (Wood Green)|
|Armstrong, Ernest||Blenkinsop, Arthur||Callaghan, Rt Hon J. (Cardiff SE)|
|Ashley, Jack||Boardman, H.||Callaghan, Jim (Middleton & P)|
|Ashton, Joe||Booth, Albert||Campbell, Ian|
|Atkins, Ronald (Preston N)||Boothroyd, Miss Betty||Canavan, Dennis|
|Atkinson, Norman||Bottomley, Rt Hon Arthur||Cant, R. B.|
|Bagier, Gordon A. T.||Boyden, James (Bish Auck)||Carmichael, Neil|
|Barnett, Guy (Greenwich)||Bradley, Tom||Carter, Ray|
|Barnett, Rt Hon Joel||Bray, Dr Jeremy||Carter-Jones, Lewis|
|Bates, Alf||Brown, Hugh D. (Provan)||Cartwright, John|
|Bean, R. E.||Brown, Robert C. (Newcastle W)||Castle, Rt Hon Barbara|
|Clemitson, Ivor||Huckfield, Les||Parker, John|
|Cocks, Michael (Bristol S)||Hughes, Rt Hon C. (Anglesey)||Parry, Robert|
|Cohen, Stanley||Hughes, Mark (Durham)||Pavitt, Laurie|
|Coleman, Donald||Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen, N)||Pendry, Tom|
|Colquhoun, Mrs Maureen||Hughes, Roy (Newport)||Perry, Ernest|
|Conlan, Bernard||Hunter, Adam||Phipps, Dr Colin|
|Cook, Robin F. (Edin C)||Irvine, Rt Hon Sir A. (Edge Hill)||Prentice, Rt Hon Reg|
|Corbett, Robin||Irving, Rt Hon S. (Dartford)||Prescott, John|
|Cox, Thomas (Tooting)||Jackson, Colin (Brighouse)||Price C. (Lewisham W)|
|Craigen, J. M. (Maryhill)||Jackson, Miss Margaret (Lincoln)||Price, William (Rugby)|
|Crawford, Douglas||Janner, Greville||Radice, Giles|
|Crawshaw, Richard||Jay, Rt Hon Douglas||Rees, Rt Hon Merlyn (Leeds S)|
|Cronin, John||Jeger, Mrs Lena||Reid, George|
|Cryer, Bob||Jenkins, Hugh (Putney)||Richardson, Miss Jo|
|Cunningham, G. (Islington S)||John, Brynmor||Roberts, Albert (Normanton)|
|Cunningham, Dr J. (Whiteh)||Johnson, James (Hull West)||Roberts, Gwllym (Cannock)|
|Dalyell, Tam||Johnson, Walter (Derby S)||Robertson, John (Palsley)|
|Davidson, Arthur||Jones, Alec (Rhondda)||Roderick, Caerwyn|
|Davies, Bryan (Enfield N)||Jones, Barry (East Flint)||Rodgers, George (Chorley)|
|Davies, Denzil (Llanelli)||Jones, Dan (Burnley)||Rodgers, William (Stockton)|
|Davies, Ifor (Gower)||Kaufman, Gerald||Rooker, J. W.|
|Davis, Clinton (Hackney C)||Kelley, Richard||Roper, John|
|Deakins, Eric||Kerr, Russell||Ross, Rt Hon W. (Kilm'nock)|
|Dean, Joseph (Leeds West)||Kilroy-Silk, Robert||Rowlands, Ted|
|de Freitas, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey||Kinnock, Neil||Sandelson, Neville|
|Dell, Rt Hon Edmund||Lambie, David||Sedgemore, Brian|
|Dempsey, James||Lamborn, Harry||Selby, Harry|
|Doig, Peter||Lamond, James||Shaw, Arnold (Ilford South)|
|Dormand, J. D.||Latham, Arthur (Paddington)||Sheldon, Robert (Ashton-u-Lyne)|
|Douglas-Mann, Bruce||Leadbitter, Ted||Shore, Rt Hon Peter|
|Duffy, A. E. P.||Lee, John||Short, Rt Hon E. (Newcastle C)|
|Dunn, James A.||Lestor, Miss Joan (Eton & Slough)||Short, Mrs Renée (Wolv NE)|
|Dunnett, Jack||Lever, Rt Hon Harold||Silkin, Rt Hon John (Daptford)|
|Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth||Lewis, Arthur (Newham N)||Silkin, Rt Hon S. C. (Dulwich)|
|Eadie, Alex||Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)||Sillars, James|
|Edelman, Maurice||Lipton, Marcus||Silverman, Jullus|
|Edge, Geoff||Litterick, Tom||Skinner, Dennis|
|Edwards, Robert (Wolv SE)||Loyden, Eddie||Small, William|
|Ellis, Tom (Wrexham)||Luard, Evan||Smith, John (N Lanarkshire)|
|English, Michael||Lyon, Alexander (York)||Snape, Peter|
|Evans, Ioan (Aberdare)||Lyons, Edward (Bradford W)||Spearing, Nigel|
|Evans John (Newton)||Mabon, Dr J. Dickson||Spriggs, Leslie|
|Ewing, Harry (Stirling)||McCartney, Hugh||Stallard, A. W.|
|Ewing, Mrs Winifred (Moray)||MacCormick, Iain||Stewart, Donald (Western Isles)|
|Faulds, Andrew||McElhone, Frank||Stewart, Rt Hon M. (Fulham)|
|Fernyhough, Rt Hon E.||MacFarquhar, Roderick||Stott, Roger|
|Fitch, Alan (Wigan)||McGuire, Michael (Ince)||Strang, Gavin|
|Fitt, Gerard (Belfast W)||Mackenzie, Gregor||Strauss, Rt Hon G. R.|
|Flannery, Martin||Mackintosh, John P.||Summerskill, Hon Dr Shirley|
|Fletcher, Raymond (Ilkeslon)||McMillan, Tom (Glasgow C)||Swain, Thomas|
|Fletcher, Ted (Darlingon)||McNamara, Kevin||Taylor, Mrs Ann (Bolton W)|
|Foot, Rt Hon Michael||Madden, Max||Thomas, Jeffrey (Abertillery)|
|Ford, Ben||Magee, Bryan||Thomas, Mike (Newcastle E)|
|Forrester, John||Marks, Kenneth||Thomas, Ron (Bristol NW)|
|Fowler, Gerald (The Wrekin)||Marquand, David||Thompson, George|
|Freeson, Reginald||Marshall, Dr Edmund (Goole)||Thorne, Stan (Preston South)|
|Garrett, John (Norwich S)||Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)||Tierney, Sydney|
|Garrett, W. E. (Wallsend)||Mason, Rt Hon Roy||Tinn, James|
|George, Bruce||Meacher, Michael||Tomlinson, John|
|Gilbert, Dr John||Mendelson, John||Tomney, Frank|
|Ginsburg, David||Mikardo, Ian||Torney, Tom|
|Golding, John||Millan, Bruce||Urwin, T. W.|
|Gould, Bryan||Miller, Dr M. S. (E Kilbride)||Varley, Rt Hon Eric G.|
|Gourlay, Harry||Miller, Mrs Millie (Ilford N)||Walnwright, Edwin (Dearne V)|
|Graham, Ted||Mitchell, R. C. (Soton, Itchen)||Walden, Brian (B'ham, L'dyw'd)|
|Grant, John (Islington C)||Molloy, William||Walker, Harold (Doncaster)|
|Grocott, Bruce||Moonman, Eric||Walker, Terry (Kingswood)|
|Hamilton, James (Bothwell)||Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe)||Ward, Michael|
|Hamilton, W. W. (Central Fife)||Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw)||Watkins, David|
|Hamling, William||Mulley, Rt Hon Frederick||Watkinson, John|
|Hardy, Peter||Murray, Rt Hon Ronald King||Watt, Hamish|
|Harper, Joseph||Newens, Stanley||Weetch, Ken|
|Harrison, Walter (Wakefield)||Noble, Mike||Weitzman, David|
|Hart, Rt Hon Judith||Wellbeloved, James|
|Hatton, Frank||Ogden, Eric||Welsh, Andrew|
|Hayman, Mrs Helene||O'Halloran, Michael||White, Frank R. (Bury)|
|Healey, Rt Hon Denis||Orbach, Maurice||White, James (Pollok)|
|Heffer, Eric S.||Orme, Rt Hon Stanley||Whitlock, William|
|Henderson, Douglas||Ovenden, John||Willey, Rt Hon Frederick|
|Hooley, Frank||Owen, Dr David||Williams, Alan (Swansea W)|
|Horam, John||Padley, Walter||Williams, Alan Lee (Hornch'ch)|
|Howell, Denis (B'ham, Sm H)||Palmer, Arthur||Williams, Rt Hon Shirley (Hertford)|
|Hoyle. Douglas (Nelson)||Park, George||Williams, W. T. (Warrington)|
|Wilson, Alexander (Hamilton)||Woodall, Alec||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Wilson, Gordon (Dundee E)||Woof, Robert||Mr. John Ellis and|
|Wilson, William (Coventry SE)||Wrigglesworth, Ian||Mr. David Stoddart|
|Wise, Mrs Audrey||Young, David (Bolton E)|
Question accordingly negatived.
I beg to move Amendment No. 2, in page 1, line 10, leave out paragraph (b).
With this we can also take Amendment No. 4, in Clause 2, page 1, line 22, at beginning insert:
'( ) For section 6 of the principal Act there shall be substituted the following:
"6.—(1) It shall be an implied term (superseding any express term to the contrary) of the rules of any trade union that any union membership agreement (whether made before, on or after the passing of this Act) to which such a union is a party, shall be void to the extent that it requires membership of a trade union by any of the persons specified in subsection (2).
(2) The persons specified in this subsection are—
(a) persons employed by a newspaper, newspaper proprietor or broadcasting organisation for the purposes of writing or editing any part of the text, drawing any picture or taking or assisting in the taking of any photograph for any newspaper or periodical, or preparing the text of or broadcasting any wireless or television programme that is designed to inform the public as to the news or any comment on the news or on current or political affairs; (b) persons who are the employers of any persons mentioned in paragraph (a).
Amendment No. 6, in Clause 2, page 1, line 22, at beginning insert—(3) In this section
(a) 'newspaper' and 'newspaper proprietor' bear the meanings ascribed to these terms in section 57 of the Fair Trading Act 1973; and (b) 'broadcasting organisation' includes the British Broadcasting Corporation, Independent Television News and the programme contractors, as defined by section 2(3) of the Independent Broadcasting Authority Act 1973"'.
'( ) For section 6 of the principal Act there shall be substituted the following section:—
"6—(1) It shall be an implied term (superseding any express terms to the contrary) of the rules of any trade union that any union membership agreement (whether made before, on or after the passing of this Act) to which such a union is a party, shall be void to the extent that it requires membership of a trade union by any of the persons specified in subsection (2) below.
(2) The persons specified in this subsection are—
(a) persons employed by a newspaper, newspaper proprietor or broadcasting organisation as editors of the written text and, in the case of broadcasting organisations, persons employed to edit the news programmes of such organisations; (b) persons who are the employers of any persons mentioned in paragraph (a) above.
Amendment No. 9, in Clause 2, page 3, line 4, at end insert 'and after the word "whatsoever" there shall be inserted the words(3) In this section
(a) 'newspaper' and 'newspaper proprietor' bear the meanings ascribed to these terms in section 57 of the Fair Trading Act 1973; and (b) 'broadcasting organisation' includes the British Broadcasting Corporation, Independent Television News and the programme contractors as defined by section 2(3) of the Independent Broadcasting Authority Act 1973"'.
Amendment No. 10, in Clause 2, page 3, line 9, at end insert—"or the dismissal is by the publisher of a newspaper or newspaper proprietor or broadcasting organisation and is of a person employed by a newspaper, newspaper proprietor or broadcasting organisation for the purposes of writing or editing any part of the text, drawing any picture or taking or assisting in the taking of any photograph for any newspaper or periodical, or preparing the text of or broadcasting any wireless or television programme that is designed to inform the public as to the news or any comment on the news or on current or political affairs,"'.
'(7) After the said paragraph 6(9) there shall be inserted the following sub-paragraph:—"(10) In this paragraph—
(a) 'newspaper' and 'newspaper proprietor' bear the meanings ascribed to these terms in section 57 of the Fair Trading Act 1973; and (b) 'broadcasting organisation' includes the British Broadcasting Corporation, Independent Telcvsion News and the programme contractors, as defined by section 2(3) of the Independent Broadcasting Authority Act 1973"'
It may be for the convenience of the House if I give a brief explanation of what the amendments seek to do.One of the main amendments is Amendment No. 4, which seeks to write into the original legislation rules which would specify that the closed shop provisions do not apply to persons employed by newspapers. That is an important matter with which I shall deal in greater detail a little later. Amendment No. 6 is a Liberal amendment which, if not in identical terms, is similar to the Conservative Amendment No. 4. Amendment No. 9 is an alternative way of dealing with the closed shop problem. It seeks to make dismissal unfair in the case of an employee dismissed by a newspaper publisher. In a closed shop situation the unfair dismissal procedures would continue to apply. Those are the two groups of amendments which we shall be discussing. This is an important debate. I hope that Labour Members will stay to listen to it since it goes to the heart of the Bill. It has attracted an enormous amount of interest in the Press. Indeed one could form a book of the articles and letters written on the subject. 5.45 p.m. A number of Labour Members have written to The Times on this subject in the last few days. The effect of much of the argument is that the Bill is neutral on the effect of the closed shop. I should like to examine whether that statement is justified. The justification appears to be that all the Bill seeks to do is to restore the position on the closed shop as it existed pre-1971. I understand that that is the position taken by the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for Employment. In Committee on the 1974 Act the right hon. Gentleman made it clear that he was seeking to clarify the law as it stood in 1906 and to block up the loopholes of the encroachments, as he described them, which the judges had made on the original intentions in 1906. This has been done in certain provisions of the 1974 Act. On those grounds it would not be fair to say that the Bill merely restores the situation to what it was before 1971. I do not see how one can remove the prohibiton of the closed shop in the 1971 Act and then say that everything is the same as it was before that time. The very fact that something which existed previously is being removed straight away implies that one is anticipating a movement towards a closed shop [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Certainly that is the view of a great many union members.
That is your view.
It is my view, but not my view alone. Resolutions put forward in the preliminary agenda at the anual delegate conference of the NUJ contained a motion on the closed shop tabled by the Tees-side branch, which read as follows:
The presumption must be that it sees in this legislation a movement towards a closed shop. It is arguable that that is what many Labour Members and, indeed, others outside the House, wish. I have never understood why Labour Members take the view that the matter is neutral when many of them do not wish it to be neutral. They are happy to see it pushed in the direction of the closed shop. I well remember in Committee on the earlier legislation the hon. Member for Feltham and Heston (Mr. Kerr) saying "What are Conservatives getting all worked up about, because many employers prefer a closed shop situation?" It is true that there are many employers who prefer to deal with a closed shop situation. It makes a good deal of sense in a large number of industries. Some employers say that they prefer the situation that way, and sometimes take the view that Conservative Members get too worked up about the closed shop. That is the view that they take, so I hope that we shall not hear quite so much in future about the neutrality of this measure. I do not think that it is neutral. There are good reasons for suggesting that the removal of the 1971 Act has tilted the position in the other direction. What is more, it is clear that some of the rules written into the Trade Union and Labour Relations Act, especially between Sections 13 and 17, blocked up the encroachments which the Secretary of State claimed were creeping in from the 1906 position."This annual delegate meeting instructs the NEC to mount a campaign to implement the closed shop in line with Government legislation."
Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that the 1971 Industrial Relations Act put very severe restrictions upon closed shops regardless of whether employers wanted them or employees wanted them? All that we are saying is that if that situation is restored, it makes the law neutral and does not rule out the possibility of closed shops.
I accept what the hon. Gentleman said in the earlier part of his intervention. He is right about that. But if a barrier has been erected against, in this case under the 1971 Act, the closed shop and it is then removed by the very nature of things the impression is bound to be given that the Government are in favour of the closed shop operating.Much more important than that are the other matters which I have mentioned. I am convinced that they make the closed shop situation more readily taken advantage of than before 1971 [Interruption.] I do not know why Government supporters are getting worked up about this. Presumably that is what they wish to see, and certainly the impression gained by trade unionists, judging by the resolution picked for the annual delegate meeting of the NUJ, firmly supports that point of view. Having said that and having said that many employers prefer the closed shop, this is emphatically not the case when it comes to the Press. There is 100 per cent. agreement by the employers and by the editors of the Press that they do not wish to see a closed shop. I think it is true to say that the whole of the newspaper industry is united in a way that it has never been before and is very unlikely ever to be again. The industry does not want to see a closed shop. For the Press, the effect of a closed shop would be that those who did not wish to join a union, those who were not allowed to join a union and those who might be expelled after joining a union would be prevented from writing for any paper or periodical.
The right hon. Gentleman is talking about those who work for the Press in general. I should like some clarification. Clearly, there are many more people involved in the production of newspapers than journalists and editors. There are those who work the printing presses, among whom pre-entry closed shops have been a feature for many years.
I am talking of editors and proprietors, who are unanimous in their wish not to see a closed shop. That is abundantly clear from all the information which right hon. and hon. Members will have had given to them.In discussing the effects of this proposal on the Press and on journalists, account must be taken of the fact that there are many people who wish to contribute to the Press but do not wish to join a union, that there are many who contribute to the Press who would not be allowed to join a union because it is not the major source of their income, and that if anyone should fall foul of a union under a closed shop situation he would be prevented as well from writing for any paper or periodical in that situation.
Will the right hon. Gentleman explain the origin of what he clearly believes, that someone somewhere has said "Unless you have an NUJ card, you can have nothing published"? What is the origin of that assertion?
I was coming to the origin in a moment, but if it will help the hon. Gentleman I shall deal with his intervention straight away. I was trying to discuss the matter in a logical manner. However, let me refer the hon. Gentleman to resolutions which were put down for last year's annual delegate meeting of the National Union of Journalists. Let me also refer him to a very important resolution which has been put down for debate this year—
But not decided.
It is on the preliminary agenda. The hon. Member for Hemel Hempstead (Mr. Corbett) will see clearly that this is the objective of very important sections of the National Union of Journalists.Government supporters suggest that this will not happen and that these are only resolutions. They ask what grounds there are for saying that these resolutions will be carried. That is the view of Mr. Ken Morgan, the General Secretary of the NUJ. He has given assurances that they will not be carried. I accept his assurances and the sincerity of them. I do not doubt that Mr. Morgan believes sincerely the assurances that he has given. But I do not think that he is necessarily in a position to carry through those assurances. All the signs, from the way that the NUJ has been moving over the past two years and from the way it is likely to move given the tone of many resolutions on the agenda for the next annual delegate meeting, are that Mr. Morgan is very likely to be repudiated. Resolution 352 is a complete repudiation of his sincerely held belief, and I do not think that Government supporters do themselves or their case justice if they say that this is not the way in which the NUJ is moving.
Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that there are a number of practical examples—one of which was the newspaper dispute last November—where newspapers have not merely threatened not to print but have actually refused to print copy unless it was submitted by a member of the NUJ? Does the right hon. Gentleman agree, further, that one of the people from whom copy was refused was the Chairman of the Parliamentary Labour Party?
I heard rumours to that effect. I do not know whether they were confirmed.Naturally, when Mr. Ken Morgan makes statements and gives assurances of this kind, he believes them, and we believe that he believes them. But that is not the point at issue here. There is a strong movement, which gained a good deal of ground before last November, to support the view that that is the avowed objective and the likely outcome of the movement of the NUJ over the next few years. There are rumours at the moment that the right hon. Gentleman, judging by the account in this morning's Press, now recognises that there could be a danger and he has moved from the position of a few weeks ago in which he did not recognise that there was any danger at all. We hope that this evening he will accept our amendment. 6.0 p.m. If we have a movement towards a closed shop, this will not happen in all the papers overnight. It will be a slow process. It will be a process from which there will be no turning back once it has started. I believe that legislation introduced at a later date to try to prevent this from happening would be much too late. It is better to have it on the statute book now.
Would my right hon. Friend agree that the process which he is describing would probably run parallel with a move to the Left within the NUJ?
Certainly. My right hon. and learned Friend is absolutely right. Later in my speech I was going to outline the way that certain members of the NUJ are seeking to move the NUJ to the Left and the methods that they are employing.If the Minister says that the preparation for talks is still going on and that he should not intervene, he really must not expect the House to accept that tonight and let him get away with it. Over the last few weeks that has become a recipe for doing nothing, and I greatly hope that he will not take that point of view tonight. Great efforts have already been made to get all the parties together to sort out a suitable amendment to the Bill. Hon. Gentlemen opposite must accept that one of the worries that a lot of people have, both in the House and outside it, is that the NUJ has not felt able to sit down round the same table with the Institute of Journalists. I would not want to be unfair to Mr. Morgan, because from all accounts he has proved himself to be a very reasonable man, but the fact is that he has not been able to get agreement amongst his colleagues for the National Union of Journalists to join in consultations with the other people concerned, including the Institute of Journalists. That is bound to arouse suspicions that some people at any rate in the NUJ wish to go for a closed shop in their own right and are not prepared to co-operate in any other effort. In a letter to me Mr. Frank Owens, of the Guild of Newspaper Editors, made it quite clear that not only would any round-table conference of this nature have to include all the interested parties and not only would it look at the possibility of an amendment to the Bill, but it would also have to take account of public concern regarding aspects of Press freedom other than those involving labour relations. That is important as well. What are the principles that need to be upheld in the present dispute that is taking place? Surely the first one is that there should be no exclusion or restriction of outside contributors. Everyone in the House must agree that that is something which we should not allow. It certainly would not be acceptable for Members of Parliament not to be able to contribute and it would not be acceptable for sports writers who were not members of the NUJ not to be able to contribute. In view of the countless number of people who subscribe to local papers, no one could support the point of view that there should be exclusion or restriction of outside contributors. The second principle is that the editor must always be responsible for the content of his newspaper. It must be his responsibility, and his alone. The editor should not be subject to industrial disciplines in the way that every other member of the paper is.
Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman, having raised the subject of editorial responsibility, will explain to the House to whom he thinks editors should owe responsibility.
I will come to that point later. If I do not, doubtless the hon. Gentleman will remind me. I suggest, with respect, that it is probably better for the House that one should be able to make one's speech in one's own way.The point about the editor not being subject to the same industrial disciplines was always maintained by having associated membership for editors and certain editorial staff. The fact that this status has been taken away from editors, so that they have now had to leave the union altogether or become full members, has aroused a good many suspicions on the part of editors and editorial staff. The editor must consider himself a custodian of the freedom of the Press. The editor has a duty at all times to get his paper published despite national emergency or industrial dispute. Those would be the principles by which every editor of any political complexion or of none would always try to operate. The Minister has made a good deal over the past few weeks of the power of owners or proprietors to control editors and what is written. There has been, and there may even now be, some truth in it, although I do not think there is much truth in that accusation today. In an article in the Daily Telegraph the other day Mr. Maurice Green pointed out that, although Lord Beaverbrook, whom the right hon. Gentleman will have experienced on a number of occasions, used his papers to espouse great political causes, it did not get him very far with those causes. Admittedly it did not stop him from trying but he did not succeed. I do not think that nowadays proprietors or editors of papers try those tactics. If it was thought necessary and desirable this is something that the Royal Commission could look at. Alternately, the question could be examined by the conference that I and others suggested should be called. This is something that could be looked at and the principles under which an editor operates could be more carefully drawn. Several editors have told me in the course of the last few weeks that they think that they have been too meek and mild in the past in exercising their rights and their positions. Hon. Members may laugh, but that is what these editors are saying. I believe that there is a reasonable constitution that could be laid down to protect the rights of editors where this is necessary. However, it is one thing to have some control from the dozen or so dailies and the 1,300 regional newspapers as well as the BBC and the IBA and another thing to consider that against the dangers of the single control that come about from the NUJ having a closed shop. That is a far more serious matter for the freedom of the Press than any control by newspaper proprietors. I turn now to a point which has been mentioned on many occasions over the last few weeks—the general problem of industrial relations in the newspaper industry. A number of journalists and members of the NUJ have put their views forcibly to me on this subject. They feel that industrial relations within the newspaper industry have been pretty bad and that the owners and management have in some instances been extremely weak in dealing with certain sections of it, including some of the printing unions. That has built up resentment among journalists because they feel that they have always suffered through bad wages, and so on. The whole problem of industrial relations within the newspaper industry, which goes wider than the NUJ and includes the printing unions, has not been handled well in the past. It has been the subject of many inquiries. The result has been to build up resentment among journalists against the treatment that they have received.
Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that some newspaper employers have been deliberately nonresistant to wage claims to make the pace too hot for their rivals?
I understand that just after the war it was so easy to sell advertising space that managements would go to almost any lengths to get their newspapers published on time. They would give almost anything away to make certain that the papers came out. The industry is liable to blackmail, because nothing is as dead as yesterday's newspaper. Sometimes I am glad that that is so. [AN HON. MEMBER: "Even today's?"] Even today's, yes. I am not by any means pretending that the industry has been well managed over the years. That has undoubtedly contributed to some of the problems to which journalists, at any rate, feel they have been victim.We now have added fears about future employment in the industry. Looking back over the years and recalling the newspapers which have gone out of circulation but which we would certainly have wished to keep in circulation, it is absolutely paramount that there should be better industrial relations. That means a good deal more information being supplied to all sections of the industry, whether on the printing or the journalists' side, so that they know precisely what the future holds. There is no doubt that the problems of the industry and of the journalists have become the vehicle by which some militants—[An HON. MEMBERH "Oh, God!"] The hon. Gentleman who said "Oh, God!" had better listen, because this is what is happening. Some militants and extremists, who are interested only in the political ambitions and changes which they might bring about through the newspaper industry, have used, and are using, the work that they do for the union for their own ends. They work well for the union, but they have looked on this particular small, democratic union as a means of getting control and, through that control, exercising their views on the Press. There is a good deal of documented evidence to support that view. Therefore, that is an additional danger against which we must safeguard. 6.15 p.m. I have tried to show that there is proper and reasonable concern about the freedom of the Press and that a closed shop should not be permitted in the newspaper industry. I have not tried to do that without understanding the problems of the journalists' profession. The freedom of the Press goes much wider than just the NUJ.
I understood, rightly or wrongly—I wish to be corrected if I am wrong—that the amendment was not about preventing a closed shop but about something else. Will the right hon. Gentleman please inform the House whether that is right?
I will with pleasure inform the House. The two important amendments are Nos. 4 and 9. Amendment No. 4 deals with the rules and specifically excludes certain people from a closed shop in the Press. Amendment No. 9 deals with unfair dismissal, and the hon. Gentleman will see that that again excludes newspaper editors and other people who work for newspapers. We are seeking to exclude this industry from the operation of the closed shop.I have tried to deal with this matter in a sympathetic way. I believe that great issues are involved. The position cannot be left as it is. This problem will not go away, but will get greater as time goes on. Why does not the Secretary of State heed the concern of editors? They are men of widely differing views but absolutely united on this point. Why does he not recognise that there is considerable concern on the Government back benches on this point? Why does he not share the concern of many distinguished people outside this House who have written to editors on this subject? Are they all wrong? Is he saying that there is no cause for alarm? Does he not recognise that this is a matter with which Parliament above all else, should deal? It is not enough to say that the industry will sort things out for itself, because it cannot sort them out. Parliament should not leave this matter to be sorted out. The Labour Party pamphlet. "The People and the Media" states:
"The freedom of the Press is not the private property of the newspaper owners"—
I am glad that the hon. Gentlemen opposite agree. I have been saying this. It goes on:
[An HON. MEMBER: "Quite right."] Absolutely right. It adds:"nor of their editors and journalists; it ought to belong to the public."
Those are first-class sentiments. Judging by the cheers they have aroused from the Secretary of State and his hon. Friends, the Government have no other course but to accept our amendment and to restore to the House the job which it should always do, and which is essential in a democracy—the protection of the freedom of the Press."It is an integral part of the public's freedom of expression, and the public has a right to secure that freedom."
There is a difference between the Liberal Amendment No. 6 and the Conservative amendment which the right hon. Member for Lowestoft (Mr. Prior) has just moved. I hope that the Minister will agree that there is a major difference, in so far as we have tried to narrow the field of exclusion so that the Government may find our amendment more acceptable. My task in drafting the amendment was to produce wording that the Government might be able to accept, because I suspected that the breadth of Amendment No. 2 might not be acceptable to them.Over the past few months the heat of the debate on the closed shop, the issue of people being excluded and so on, has been turned on the Press. I do not think that the issues are so clear-cut as has been suggested. Many other classes of employee are concerned about the effect of the closed shop on their professionalism, but they do not have the influence or power of the Press to call to their aid, which the editors have deployed over the past few months. It would be wrong not to take into account that many other people consider themselves to be affected in the same way as editors from a professional point of view. None the less, I said in Committee, and repeat now, that I have always taken the view—looking at me, hon. Members may not be surprised to hear this—that half a loaf is better than none. If the amendment can ensure that editors are not included in a closed shop, with all the dangers that that may have—I put it no higher, because I do not think that it is any higher—in terms of freedom of the Press, so be it. The Bill will be better for it. But whilst I entirely accept that the Press is a free Press, as I also said in Committee, and have written in certain articles since, which have been published in the only free newspaper in the country, the Liberal News—[Interruption.] Yes, it has instructions to close if it does not make a profit soon. As I have said, while we may have a free Press, we certainly do not have a fair Press. Anyone who tries to defend the Press on the basis that it is manifestly fair, and who confuses fairness with freedom, makes a grave error of judgment. For example, does anybody imagine that if the Editor of the Daily Telegraph were to praise the Secretary of State for Industry he would retain his job for long? Would anybody honestly say that the great Beaverbrook Press is fair? It produces the most biased newspaper I have ever read. Certainly, on many occasions I would gladly subscribe to the view that the Editor of the Sunday Express should be strangled. Let no one try to convince me that the British Press at present is fair. It is grossly unfair, particularly to minorities. Having said that, I will say, to be fair to editors, that I have more faith in them than I have in the owners. Our amendment deals with the exclusion from closed shops of editors as opposed to owners, which I think is a fair line to argue. I would not spring to the defence of the owners of newspapers, but there are still men of great principle among the editors of this country. I have more experience of the provincial newspapers than national newspapers. Many editors are men of high principle, prepared to give fair expression to the views of minorities and to ensure that, as opposed to editorial comment, they at any rate allow minorities to be reported in a fair and proper manner. In so far as that relates to editors, I am prepared to come to their aid in supporting their claims in this matter. My view is that monopoly power in any field is to be deplored wherever it comes from, whether it is in the hands of the owners or of a trade union. It is a fair argument that, whilst owners have a monopoly power, at least that power is spread among a number of them, whereas if it were to be concentrated in the hands of unions the odds are that the monopoly would be concentrated in the hands of one union. That is one of the strongest arguments in support of the amendments. Whether it is in the hands of a union or owners, monopoly power is wrong. The fact that there is no law to prevent one monopoly power—that of the owners—is no excuse for failing to introduce and implement a law which prevents the use or abuse of monopoly power by the other.
The hon. Gentleman's amendment will not solve the problem, because, as I understand it, it will not permit the editors, for instance, to continue in their own separate trade union if they so desire, but will merely ensure that if they wish individually to become members of the larger NUJ they shall have protection. Can the hon. Gentleman explain how the amendment goes as far as his speech?
The last group of amendments that the House debated was more applicable to the argument about a man's right to belong to the union of his choice. If I may say so to the hon. Gentleman without being rude, the House disposed of that argument when we considered the amendment dealing with the exclusion and expulsion of a person in a closed shop situation.Hon. Members will perhaps be surprised to know that I am not particularly keen on bigness. Perhaps they are not, either. I said in Committee that I saw great dangers, including the erosion of our society, in the constant drawing together of all sorts of things, whether in industry, the trade union movement or anywhere else. The constant concentration of power in the hands of a few, the constant growth of bigness, is bad for society as a whole. I am equally sure that it would not be a good thing for the Press.
What about the Common Market?
The hon. Member may be interested to know that I have not been a Member of this House when a vote has been taken on the Common Market, and he can rest assured that I have written for next Tuesday's edition of the newspaper to which I have referred a full article supporting the referendum on the Common Market. I have not yet declared myself on the Common Market as a Member of this House, so the hon. Gentleman must wait and see. It is something to which he can look forward with eager anticipation.The danger that the NUJ could exercise monopoly power in relation to editorial decisions is very serious. That is why I believe the House has a duty to legislate. It is no part of my case to argue the attitude of the NUJ. There is quite indisputable evidence that a small section—to be frank, I doubt whether it is more than 10 per cent.—of the executive of the NUJ has got into the hands of the Left wing. I am talking not about genuine, honest, democratic Socialists but about anarchists and totalitarian Socialists. I could name the members of the NUJ executive who are well known for their extreme views, but I accept entirely that they are very much in the minority. There are clear signs that over the last three or four years there has been an upsurge of Left-wing—and, I stress, genuine Left-wing—influence within the NUJ. Whether or not one argues, that it was by accident or design, the fact is that the annual conference of the NUJ passed a resolution in favour of the nationalisation of the Press. It may well be that it has proved to be an albatross round its neck. It may well be that the general secretary of the union wishes that the resolution had never been passed. The fact is that it was paced, and one cannot overlook trends of that kind. There have been attacks on the secretary of the union, whom I met for the first time last week. I was greatly impressed by his fairness. I confess that his fairness shaped and influenced my attitude to this matter considerably. What worries us is not him but what happens if he goes. Certainly there are pressures within the union to discipline him for the attitude has has adopted towards the Bill and towards attempts at conciliation which have gone on behind the chair. Certain of the newspaper proprietors are not entirely free from criticism for the fact that a conference of all interested parties has not been held. Certain newspaper proprietors have made it extremely difficult even in the last seven days, for a conference of all interested parties to be called. I know of one proprietor who told the leader of my party that he would not attend such a conference unless the NUJ conceded this, that and the other before the conference was held. A conference of conciliation cannot be held on the basis of one of the parties demanding concessions before the conference has even been called. I found the NUJ extremely willing to attend a conference of all interested parties, including the Institute of Journalists, on this matter. My information is that the problem of calling a conference, certainly in the last seven days, lays at the door of at least one newspaper proprietor rather than at the door of the NUJ. It is a disgrace that one proprietor took up the attitude he did. The pity is that this stage of this Bill is being taken before such a conference could have been called and held. Many of us could, and indeed would, have had our fears allayed if that conference could have been held and agreement could have been reached between the proprietors and the NUJ. What worries us is that we are being asked to pass a Bill before that conference has been held and to take on trust that the result of such a conference would be successful and in accordance with the wishes of the House. Although I accept that my personal appeal might be of little help, I would still appeal for all parties to this dispute—perhaps that is too strong a word—or heated discussion to get round the table, whatever happens to this Bill tonight, because every Member, whatever his politics or his party, is genuinely concerned to preserve the freedom and liberty of the Press, and anything that the proprietors and the unions can do between themselves towards that end should be encouraged. It would be much better if this House were to legislate against the possibility of a monopoly, of a closed shop, of the Press being in the hands of one union. However, since I believe that the amendments will be defeated—I understand that at least one of the minor parties in the House supports the Government on this matter, which is sufficient to ensure that the amendments are defeated—I hope that the parties will be able to get round the table. That would be in the best interests of the NUJ. The argument will continue tomorrow after we have dealt with this Bill. I have said before that the Liberal Party does not like and has grave suspicions of a closed shop situation, not merely in the Press but in any other area. However, we accept that we have to be practical politicians. Closed shops exist. We accept that in many instances and in many occupations they exist with the blessing of the unions and the employers, and therefore we must make the best of it. We need to draw limits round the closed shop. One of those limits, in my view and in the view of my colleagues, should be to exclude editors from the closed shop situation. I hope that the Minister will respond positively to the amendments and that, if he will not accept the Liberal amendment, he will continue to try to ensure that the liberty of the Press is maintained. I trust that he will give the House the assurance, which we understand from the national Press today he is willing to give, that if as a consequence of the Bill it is found that the liberty of the Press has been interfered with, he will not hesitate to introduce further legislation.
It might be of some help to the House, Mr. Speaker, if I intervene at this stage to state a view upon the effect of the amendments we are discussing in the knowledge that my right hon. Friend will be seeking to catch your eye later in the debate to deal with many of the issues which I know are concerning hon. Members.Before I turn to the effect of the amendments, may I respond to two points raised by the right hon. Member for Lowestoft (Mr. Prior), who continues to take the view he took in Committee and suggests that those who support the Bill are not entitled to claim that it is a measure which is essentially neutral on the question of the closed shop. The Government are convinced that the correct position for our industrial relations law on the issue of the closed shop is that that law should in no way provide anyone with an inducement to form a closed shop, nor should it provide any penalties or deterrent for those who wish to seek a closed shoo. That is what we mean by neutrality. We do not regard neutrality as a matter of erecting or taking down barriers. We recognise that legislative attempts in recent years to erect barriers to certain developments which come about by free negotiation in industry have caused a lot more trouble and done far more harm than good. On the basis of the record in recent years, they cannot be said to have done much to improve industrial relations. The right hon. Gentleman said that there was unanimity among editors and newspaper proprietors who do not wish to see closed shop agreements in newspaper offices. If that is the case, no closed shop union membership agreements will be formed under the provisions of the Bill because the definition of a union membership agreement is such that it must involve the agreement of the employer or proprietor. If it does not, it cannot be a union membership agreement for the purposes of the Bill. Amendments Nos. 9 and 10 have the effect of giving to anyone employed in the preparation of news and comment for Press or broadcasting a right to claim statutory unfair dismissal compensation if he or she is dismissed for a breach of a union membership agreement. That is precisely the effect. It is not limited to editors; it goes right across the preparation of news, comment and broadcasting. It must be recognised that this would not stop a closed shop. The amendments would enable a closed shop agreement to be made and would require broadcasting companies and newspaper proprietors to pay compensation in certain circumstances. Amendments Nos. 9 and 10 would operate only in circumstances where a journalist or broadcaster was dismissed. The view we have consistently taken is that this is not the way to deal with the problem. The way to deal with it is to ensure that our legislation on the subject of the union membership agreement for the purposes of unfair dismissal is sufficiently flexible and operates in such a way as to reduce to the minimum the possibility of people being dismissed. The Government's amendments, tabled in Committee to ensure that flexible union agreements can be made, have ensured that a union membership agreement can be made in a newspaper office which would exclude editors altogether. They have ensured that agreement can be made which could excludes grades of people other than editors. An agreement could be made which could exclude members of certain unions. 6.45 p.m. The Government's amendments allow a membership agreement to be valid even if its provisions are not operated so as to dismiss someone who is outwith an agreement. We did not do this because we were seeking to placate those who have raised such a hue and cry about the freedom of the Press in a manner which is not relevant to the provisions of the Bill. We did it because our knowledge, experience and discussions with those who operate closed shops—and it has to be borne in mind that they are a minority of trade unionists and employers—have convinced us that this is the only way in which closed shops will operate, provided that the law does not interfere and provided that the law does not attempt to set up barriers, create penalties or offer inducements to people to operate closed shops. In reaching a closed shop agreement, people are in practice prepared to exempt certain groups and categories and even certain individuals. We want our legislation to reflect that. To that extent the Government's amendments made in Committee are of far more help to those in the media than would be Amendments Nos. 9 and 10. It has not by any means been proven that editorial freedom is threatened by the closed shop. No editor in this country has been sacked for a breach of a union membership agreement. No editor has been sacked because he did not obey an NUJ instruction as to how he should write his editorial. No editor has been sacked because he did not obey an NUJ instruction as to whom he should allow to contribute. There is by no means a proven case that there is a threat to editorial freedom in the closed shop provisions of the Bill.
Although, technically speaking, the Minister is correct, may I ask him whether he has had his attention drawn to what happened in the case of the Cambridge Evening News editor, who was not sacked because he had failed to keep to an NUJ agreement but who in the end was either sacked or resigned because he refused to go to an NUJ meeting? The fact is that he was put under duress by the NUJ chapel.
I have carefully examined the case of the Cambridge editor and, in addition, the case of the Middlesbrough editor. Two complaints were laid against the Cambridge editor by members of his chapel. One related to the way in which he reported a dispute and the other related to the way in which he sought to run the newspaper during a dispute. He refused to use the appeal machinery of the NUJ to deal with the complaints made against him.In spite of that, the union set up the appeals machinery. It took a room in a Cambridge hotel and invited him to attend. When he did not attend, it appointed someone to act for him and it carried on with the case. It went through every stage and gave the benefit of the doubt to the editor on the first point but found he had done work over and above editorial duties in the dispute. [Interruption.] I am stating the facts because I want the House fully to understand that I have not only examined the case but I am prepared, even by the test of the only case of an editor having resigned or having been dismissed, to show that this was not related in any way to an attempt by the NUJ to deny editorial freedom. In that case, the only one that can be cited of an editor being thrown out of NUJ membership, it was as a result of work done during the course of a dispute.
I do not accept the hon. Gentleman's interpretation of those facts but I do not want to interrupt the course of his argument at this point. I prefer to let him finish and then revert to this case, because I do not accept what he is saying. The Minister is evading the point at issue. I shall try to develop my argument briefly but at rather more length than I can do in an interruption, if I catch your eye, Mr. Speaker.
If the point at issue here, to use the hon. Gentleman's own words, is not the question whether there is a threat to editorial freedom, I have signally failed to understand the speeches that a large number of hon. Members have made in the course of debates in the House and in Committee. I thought that that was the burden of a very large part of the argument.I finish on that point in this way. If the time ever comes in this country when there is a proven threat to the freedom of the Press which could be removed or even reduced by legislation, my right hon. Friend and other members of the Government would not be opposing such legislation in the House. They would be among its foremost advocates. But that would not be done by an amendment to pay compensation to everybody who was dismissed in a newspaper office. It would not, in my opinion, be legislation in any-think like the form of Amendments Nos. 9 and 10. To represent those amendments as being an attempt to defend editorial freedom is a move unworthy of those who have tabled the amendments. Amendments Nos. 2, 4 and 6 all operate upon the rule books of unions. Amendment No. 2 has the effect of leaving un-repealed the requirements of Section 6 of the 1974 Act, which specifies the provisions of trade union and employers' association rule books. Those legal requirements have done nothing whatsoever to improve the rule books of the unions. I can understand that the right hon. Member for Lowestoft may have been slightly reluctant to develop the effect of this amendment very much. Of course, we can appreciate that Conservative Members may be a little sensitive tonight about the regulation of rules for the election of leaders, as would be the case if we were to apply to rules of other organisations the rules which they seek to apply to unions in relation to membership. It is not only our view that the law cannot improve union rule books by requiring certain provisions of rules. It was the view reached by the Chief Registrar of Trade Unions and Employers' Associations. He reached that view after having tried in a most thorough manner to carry out the provisions of the 1971 Act, which required an examination by him of union rules and required him to ensure that the rules of unions were in accordance with an Act of Parliament. He came to the conclusion—it is there for everyone to read in his report—that one cannot usefully by legislation make model rules for unions. In the light of the amendments now before us he came to an even more interesting conclusion. That was that no interest of public policy existed which justified statutory enforcement of rules by the requirements of an Act. The Donovan Commission advanced adverse criticisms of union rules which have been very substantially met—almost entirely met—by the response of the TUC. The TUC, however, in responding to Donovan's criticism, was seeking to achieve standards of union rules far higher than those contained in Section 6 of the 1974 Act. It is also significant that Donovan was able to make those criticisms—some were very valid criticisms—despite the fact that there have been requirements of union rules on the statute book for nearly 100 years. When my right hon. Friend is criticised sometimes for wanting to go back to pre-1971 in his approach, it should be remembered that those who are advocating that union rules should be governed by law made in this House are wanting to go back to 1871 and not 1971. Another serious defect in this suggested approach is that in the way in which this particular amendment is framed there is no penalty. There is no offence created for a failure to comply with the Section 6 which is restored, because, unlike the previous occasions on which they have tabled this amendment, the Opposition have not this time created the accompanying amendment which would require the registrar to strike off the list people who do not comply with the provisions of Section 6. Our basic position is that we believe that trade unions, as free and democratically organised bodies, are capable of making their own rules and controlling their own relationship with their members and that the law has no place in regulating those rules and cannot be effective. Much more has been achieved by the TUC procedures in the few years since the Croydon conference than has been achieved by the 100 years of legal requirement for trade union rules. Turning to Amendments Nos. 6 and 4, I fully accept the point made by the hon. Member for Clitheroe as to the difference between these two amendments. It is the case that the amendment which he and his hon. Friends have tabled applies much more strictly to editors, whereas that tabled by Conservative Members—Amendment No. 4—goes much wider. Amendment No. 4 would make it a rule—
The Minister of State ought to have referred to the hon. Member for Rochdale. I interrupt only to put the record straight.
I apologise to the hon. Member for Rochdale (Mr. Smith). Amendment No. 4 would make it a rule of any trade union that a union membership agreement to which the union was a party would be invalid in so far as it required anyone connected with the news media to join a union. This, I believe, is based on the false premise that a union membership agreement restricts or could have the effect of restricting freedom of comment.The Bill does not require the establishment of closed shops. It does not give a right to a union to form a closed shop. What it does, where a union membership agreement is formed, is to enable the management to insist upon exclusion—as it would enable a union which was a party to a membership agreement—and it enables now any union to be a party to the agreement or to be recognised or to be specified for that purpose. I believe that the predictions, by many who are opposing the Bill tonight, of the terrible consequences which would flow if the Bill became an Act are fanciful, speculative and hypothetical. They are based on a series of assumptions as to what might happen, any one of which is questionable but which taken together amount to a gross distortion and a slander of the motives of the overwhelming majority of trade unionists in newspaper offices up and down the country. The NUJ, in discussions with us, has made it completely clear that it recognises that an editor is in a special position, that it values Press freedom and that, in seeking to make membership agreements, it would welcome any number of forms of agreement which recognise the special position of the editor. It has made clear that a union membership agreement which excluded the editor from a requirement to be a member of any union might well be an agreement acceptable to it, as would an agreement which enabled the editor to be a member of the union of his choice. If, however, the editor chose to be a member of the NUJ, within the union membership agreement, it would still recognise that he had a special position as an editor and that in that special position he should be protected from anything which interfered with his proper rights and duties. It would also recognise in particular that, in the event of the union being engaged in a dispute, he should not be required to join in the dispute or even to attend chapel meetings during the dispute.
Is it to be inferred from what the Minister has just said that the NUJ—[Interruption.] I am limiting myself to what I have heard. Hon. Members should know by now that I shall always do that. Are we to take it from what the Minister has just said that the National Union of Journalists has assured him that it will give freedom to editors not to belong to a union or to belong to a union of their choice, or, if they choose, to belong to the NUJ? If that assurance were given, many of us would regard the position rather differently.
In the discussions that my right hon. Friend and I had with members of the executive of the NUJ, they certainly made clear those things that I have mentioned but also that they would go much further in subscribing to a broad indication of aims that they would hold mutually with editors, which would contain matters appropriate to the union membership agreement and those which I have already mentioned.
Has the NUJ given any indication whether its definition of editorial freedom includes not only the editor's freedom to write what he wants to write but also the freedom to ensure that the newspaper is produced, so that others can read what he has written? That is the key point.
No, the NUJ has not given an assurance that in any declaration it makes in common with editors it will ensure that it will do its utmost, irrespective of any claims it has on salaries, wages and conditions, to see that the newspaper is produced. Frankly, I support it in that position. No union can reasonably be asked in a joint declaration with any body of people to say that, irrespective of its aims, it will always ensure that work goes on and, in this case, that the paper is produced.
I can understand that the NUJ would not be willing to say that its members should actively help in producing the newspaper, but a number of smaller newspapers can be and have been produced by the editor on his own doing all the jobs. Has the NUJ given any assurance that it will not take active steps to stop the editor doing that?
The NUJ has said on this matter that it is its policy, which it has pursued consistently, never to object to an editor who is one of its members carrying out his normal duties in a dispute. Presumably, therefore, if a paper appeared which was produced by the writing of the editor in his normal duties with such outside contributors as he normally used, that would accord with the union's assurance. I must, however, make it clear that the NUJ has given no undertaking that it will not attempt, short of that respect for the editor's position, effectively to prosecute its policies.
Could I clarify for the Minister what the NUJ's position is on the matter of editors. Whatever it might have said to him, it has given a clearer indication. In January of this year, Mr. Ted Simpson, a moderate member of the NUJ executive, put forward a resolution which sought to allow editors a free choice in joining the union and a 100 per cent. closed shop. It also pledged non-interference with executives deputising for editors. That resolution was defeated by the majority of votes in the national executive. That, therefore, is the true position of the NUJ with regard to the editors.
The NUJ position, as I understand it, is that it has consistently been cautious on the issue of people who may deputise for editors—with some justification, in the light of what has happened in one or two disputes. But that does not detract from the basic issue of the NUJ's recognition that the editor is in a special position. He is not, that is to say, in the same position as those who are in charge of administration in certain other areas, and one of the reasons for his special position relates to the freedom of the Press, which the union cherishes.May I make it clear on this point that grave concern has been expressed about the position of outside contributors and their rights of access to the Press? The amendment does not cover those people. On the best advice I can take, it could cover only those who are employees, and outside contributors are not normally employees. To that extent, they would not be covered by it.
Would my right hon. Friend agree that it is legitimate for the NUJ to be concerned about the number of outside contributors who are used and about the whole question of people "ghosting" articles? Does he not agree that many of the fears which have been expressed have nothing to do with this legislation but apply to any situation in which the union has a high-density membership? I understand that the union's membership can be over 90 per cent. and in some cases 100 per cent. I do not think that these are real fears, but the fact that they exist has nothing to do with the Bill, which provides that the closed shop is neutral.
I agree with my hon. Friend, particularly in his last point, which repeats what I have previously said. It is understandable that any union, faced with a contracting number of jobs for its membership, should weigh against other considerations the possibility of its members being put out of work. What is peculiar to the NUJ's situation is that it would be quite improper because of that consideration to say that, in order to maximise work for its members, it would have to block access to the Press to anyone else. That would obviously be interference with Press freedom.Since Amendments Nos. 4 and 6 can work only on an implied condition of the rule book of a union, it is presumably open only to individual members to use this provision. They would have to pursue the union in a court to operate it. That is not a situation which is conducive to good labour relations in the Press but it would clearly be required, because only members of the union would have the contractual relationship with the union under its rule book. The distinction between the two amendments is that one covers a very wide category, including proprietors, editors, sub-editors, journalists, broadcasters, artists and photographers, whereas the other is limited to editors. It cannot be argued that the amendment which includes the broad field creates a special position of editorial freedom. It certainly would not deal with the problem of blacking in a dispute.
It might help my hon. Friends and myself if the Minister answered two questions. I do not see that the point he has just made about outside contributors is valid. After all, if one is not a member of the union one will presumably be free to go on contributing. There would be no question of involving the union or its rules.The other point, which was raised by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Southport (Mr. Percival) and my hon. Friend the Member for Thanet, East (Mr. Aitken), was simply this. It may be that the NUJ at the moment has given certain assurances but that at the next annual delegate meeting those assurances will be overturned. What we are seeking to do is write into the Bill some form of words which will protect the freedom of the Press against the annual delegate meeting overturning what I accept is the sincerity of Mr. Ken Morgan and the present executive of the NUJ not to allow that to happen.
I shall deal with those points in reverse order. Irrespective of what the NUJ decides at this year's, next year's or the following year's annual delegate conference, those decisions will not alter one whit a union membership agreement already in existence. The union membership agreement will be altered only when the parties to the agreement come to alter it. The NUJ can pass as many resolutions as its members think fit without altering the basic proposition of the amendments before us.We are concerned in the first of the amendments with the right of people to obtain compensation under the unfair dismissal statutory provisions. In the second amendment we are concerned with whether an implied provision of a trade union's rules would make invalid any union membership agreement to which the union subscribed in that it required people working in the Press to become members of a union. It must be the case that such a provision could apply only to the members of the union. That is the only way anyone could claim that the membership agreement was invalidated. That would be by reference to the provisions in the rules if the union membership agreement were made between a proprietor and a union or a group of unions. If it went so wide as to preclude so many people from being members of unions, it could not be held to enshrine a special position for editors. Another interesting fact about the amendment is that it operates only upon the rules of unions and not upon the rules of employers' associations. To that extent it is different from many of the other rule provisions which we have embodied in our legislation. If the amendment were carried, an employer could go ahead and make a union membership agreement and nothing in the rules of the employers' association would make that wrong. No member of the association could bring an action against him and take him to court. But if a union were involved it would be a very different situation. I do not ask the House on that basis alone to reject the amendments. However, I ask the House to take seriously the fact that both amendments impinge on rules and principles. Amendment No. 2 is a clear breach of ILO Convention No. 87, Article 3 of which states:
This country has subscribed to that convention. In this Parliament we do not take lightly a decision to subscribe to an ILO Convention. Article 8 of the convention states:"workers' and employers' organisations shall have the right to draw up their constitution and rules, to elect their representatives in full freedom, to organise their administration and activities and to formulate their programmes. The public authorities shall refrain from any interference which would restrict this right, or impede the lawful exercise thereof."
What those who have tabled the amendments have done, albeit unwittingly, is to put us into the position of breaching a convention that was laid down internationally to protect the basic freedom of people to organise. On that basis, I hope that before the debate concludes they will withdraw the amendments."The law of the land shall not be such as to impair, nor shall it be applied so as to impair, the guarantees provided in this Convention."
I shall not follow the last red herring of the Minister of State. I wish briefly to support the amendments. The case for them has been well presented already, and there is no need for me to add much general argument to what has been said this evening and on earlier occasions by my right hon. Friend the Member for Lowestoft (Mr. Prior) and by others.7.15 p.m. At present democracy in Britain is having to go through a period of great strain. That is all the more reason for the House to ensure that the freedom of the media, and particularly the freedom of the Press, which is crucial to the foundation of our democratic system, should be reinforced rather than weakened. I am not satisfied that the necessary safeguards exist with the Bill in its present form, despite the amendments that the Government introduced earlier and despite the assurances that the Minister of State has mentioned this evening. On looking back at what has been said, and especially in Committee, I cannot accept the Government's protestations about their neutral attitude. I do not see how any normal member of the public who is concerned, as we all are, about Press freedom could follow the sequence of events in legislation in the past few years leading up to this Bill and come to the conclusion that the Government are being neutral. He would have to conclude that they are opening the door more widely to closed shop agreements. That is a door through which the present influential militants in the NUJ will be only too ready to walk. All of us, in our constituencies and here, are in regular contact with journalists. We have great respect for them. I hope that it is a mutual respect. The majority of journalists are men of reason and moderation. We are bound to be uneasy—this point has already been made by the hon. Member for Rochdale (Mr. Smith)—with the evidence of recent disturbing trends in the union among leading members of the executive. As the hon. Member for Rochdale put it, the Government are asking the House to take too much on trust. That must be the position if they are advising us to reject any further amendment of the Bill. I support the renewed suggestion of a conference. My right hon. Friend the Member for Lowestoft also mentioned the Royal Commission which is now sitting. It would have been better to hold the position and to give the benefit of the doubt to Press freedom by accepting an amendment of the kind for which we are pressing. That would enable the Royal Commission to consider the whole problem of industrial relations in the newspaper industry. I am disappointed with the attitude that the Secretary of State has taken all through this controversy. I believe that in 1965 he was considerably involved in monopolies and mergers legislation. At that time he was concerned, rightly, about the danger of proprietorial monopoly. Yet today, when there is clear evidence of a potential journalistic monopoly, he chooses to turn a blind eye. It is another regrettable example of the right hon. Gentleman's double standards. I hope that he has read in the past few weeks not only the useful article by the hon. Member for Leyton (Mr. Magee) but the letter in The Times today from Lord Goodman, from which I shall quote two passages. Towards the beginning of his letter Lord Goodman wrote:
A little later in his letter Lord Goodman is more specific. He writes:"One of the tragedies of the present controversy is that those proposing this ominous piece of legislation seem not to understand the real issues involved, or why such a vast and disparate group of other human beings are clamouring that it should not pass".
The other example that I shall quote as a reason for our anxiety is an episode bearing on editorial freedom. It concerns the experience of a former editor of the daily newspaper in my constituency. The fact that the events happened in my constituency has no special relevance. They could have happened anywhere in the country. What is disturbing is that they happened at all. The events having happened once, there is no certainty, unless we can write in further safeguards, that they will not happen again. I have had a long correspondence with the Minister of State, and I am grateful for the trouble he has taken in answering letters on this matter in the light of the remarks that he made in Committee, which in essence he has repeated today. But I am left dissatisfied. I think that he is evading the main issue. He may be correct within terminological limits but he is not facing the issue which was raised by the events in my constituency 18 months ago. There was a dispute in which the newspaper was concerned in October 1973, and early in 1974 the then editor was expelled from the NUJ. He subsequently moved to another post in the newspaper world. The main allegation against him was that he had exceeded his normal duties. Surely the House will accept that the normal professional duty of an editor is to give his readers the best possible newspaper every day or every week. That is the point which I think was in the mind of the hon. Member for Southampton, Itchen (Mr. Mitchell), who I am sorry, is out of the Chamber at the moment. The duty of an editor to give his readers the best possible newspaper seems to me to be the definition which is really consistent with the concept of the freedom of the Press. In the course of our correspondence, the Minister of State replied:"And the other argument that the journalists will operate their newly won power with liberality has to be examined in the light of current manifestations. At a recent meeting between journalists and newspaper publishers, the demand was made—under a threat of blacking the publication—that a particular part-time journalist, who had written for many years on a specialised topic with, I am told, great skill and knowledge, should be expelled from his job because he was not a member of the union. When it was pointed out that he had absolutely no objection to joining the union, the rejoinder was that he did not do enough journalism to qualify for entry. In short, here was a man who could not write because he was not a member of the union and could not join the union because he did not sufficiently infringe the monopoly."
It is in those words that I think the Minister of State is evading the point. He has made light of this episode, and it is a very unhappy episode with its implications for the future. The Minister of State argues that no threat to the freedom of the Press would exist unless all proprietors made closed shop agreements and all such agreements included editors and others. I do not accept that argument. If something of this kind happens in only one case—and we have no guarantee that it will not happen in other cases—the freedom of the Press is diminished."What constitutes normal professional duties can only be determined in the light of the facts of a particular situation."
Would the hon. Gentleman explain why the former editor to whom he referred did not avail himself of the rules of his union to which the Minister of State has referred and which the right hon. Member for Lowestoft (Mr. Prior) has described as a democratic union, and take this matter to the appeals tribunal which is made up of elected representatives, where he could have stated his case and obtained a fair hearing? Why did he not choose this freedom which is available to him?
I have the details of the whole saga, but other Members wish to speak. The short answer is that he did not do so because he believed that, if he had, he would have implicitly accepted the stand which the union was taking and which he maintained exceeded the union's rights. That was a perfectly fair attitude to adopt.I find the Government's general attitude—and I have mentioned some specific aspects of it—wholly unconvincing. They argue that if trouble develops it can be dealt with later on. That is a highly irresponsible attitude for a Government to take, particularly at a time like this. They resemble deaf and inelegant ostriches. My right hon. Friend the Member for Lowestoft has already quoted from the Labour Party pamphlet "The People and the Media":
It is a sad and shameful day when a Labour Government ask the House to pass unamended a Bill which represents in its implications such a clear potential threat to that freedom, and to resist the reasonable amendments which we have tabled. The risks of passing the Bill unamended have been well illustrated during the debates. They are risks which no Government truly concerned with the public interest should allow to be run. They are risks which this House, by accepting these amendments, would decisively avert."The freedom of the Press belongs to the people."
As a member of the National Union of Journalists of some 16 years' standing, I have awaited this debate with eagerness. I, like many other Members, have been fascinated by the orchestrated campaign waged by the opponents of this Bill prior to today's debate. They have sought to persuade us of three things—that the Bill will create closed shops, that the Naional Union of Journalists will force editors into membership, and that the union will begin dictating editorial policy and will exercise sweeping censorship.The National Union of Journalists' policy has been traditionally to seek to establish post-entry 100 per cent. houses, where any newcomer to a newspaper office is expected not necessarily already to be a member of the union but to be prepared to join the union on appointment. On introducing that organisation the National Union of Journalists has normally sought to recruit voluntarily any non-member working in a newspaper office, but it has not placed pressure on or taken action against any journalist already in the offices if that journalist refuses to join. The position of the National Union of Journalists is quite clear. It welcomes editors into its membership, but it is not determined to force him to join. That is clearly the policy of the National Union of Journalists. This was underlined recently by Ken Morgan, the General Secretary of the NUJ, in a public statement when he said:
I believe that is a reasonable position for any union to take, and it is an exceptionally reasonable attitude for a union like the NUJ to adopt. In the campaign which has been waged assiduously against this Bill there has been no evidence, or logic in the theory, that once journalists achieve 100 per cent. membership Press freedom flies out of the window. It has not happened before. The closed shop is not a new phenomenon in the newspaper industry. I worked in the old Odhams "empire" which subsequently became the IPC, where a closed shop was a practice which had been honoured and found to be most effective over 30 years. There are newspapers in Fleet Street today with closed shops. In the IPC, the Daily Express and other large national newspapers there are closed shops which have worked effectively and with good will, and none of the prognostications made by the opponents of this Bill have been borne out. We are faced with an objection not from newspaper proprietors but from some sections of the NUJ. That has been made abundantly clear in the debate. I may say in passing that the quality of the campaign waged outside has not been reflected in the campaign which has been waged in this building, particularly by the right hon. Member for Lowestoft (Mr. Prior), who put up a most lack-lustre performance in defence of the arguments which have been waged outside. Why has this case been argued only in relation to journalists in the newspaper industry? Why has it not been argued in connection with the production workers in the industry whose ability to disrupt the industry is much more effective and widespread than those in editorial offices? There is not a word about these constraints or restraints being put on the manual production workers or craftsmen within the industry. Unfortunately, a number of different events and circumstances have been cleverly woven into a sinister plot by some astute editors. They have sought, by all the powerful and influential means at their disposal, to convince the country that this Bill threatens to undermine Press freedom and the independence of every editor throughout Britain. I have found it most depressing that, while they are making all these assertions and demands for Press freedom, they have been singularly reluctant to open their columns to the people who take a different view from them. The whole of this argument within the Press and the media generally has been exceptionally lopsided and one-sided, with one or two notable exceptions."That is the tolerance in 100 per cent. houses, we could only reasonably extend to editors and those above them—editors-in-chief and editorial directors. It would be quite unreasonable and unrealistic of anyone to expect the tolerance to be shown in 100 per cent. houses to editors' subordinates. A trade union is not in business to allow the build up of a cadre of potential strike-breakers."
May I give a notable exception? The Editor of The Guardian has put the editors' case at greater length and more informatively than any other editor. Equally, the Editor of The Guardian has given enormous space to Mr. Ron Knowles in the letter columns. There has been an evenly and fairly divided presentation by The Guardian.
That may be the view of the hon. Member for Thanet, East (Mr. Aitken). It is not mine.May we look at some of the scares which have featured in this campaign? It is argued that the abolition of associate membership of the NUJ previously open to editors and other executives and their opportunity now to enjoy full membership of the union has undermined their freedom and placed them in jeopardy. It is is the complete opposite of the truth. Associate members and full members are subject, and always have been subject, to the same rules and regulations. There has been no change by the abolition of associate membership which came about because of the pressure from editors that they should be allowed the opportunity of full membership which would give them for the first time the chance to attend branch meetings, to speak and to vote. Democracy within the NUJ has been extended to editors for the first time so that they may play a much fuller part. 7.30 p.m. We are told that contributions to newspapers will be confined to NUJ members and that non-NUJ writers will be unable to submit more than two articles to a newspaper. It is not without significance that the right hon. Member for Lowestoft was unable to answer my hon. Friend the Member for Hemel Hempstead (Mr. Corbett), who asked for the source of this information, Of course, there is no authoritative source for this scare which has sent a flurry of concern around many golf clubs and women's institutes and various other organisations, not least the House of Commons, where there are people who earn money from the newspaper industry who fear these earnings might be curtailed.
I am sorry. I have given way to the hon. Member once and I want to be as brief as I can. [HON. MEMBERS: "Give way."]Opponents of the Bill argue that the union blacked all non-NUJ copy last year during a dispute and it will do so again the second the Bill becomes law. We have said, Ken Morgan has said and many other union spokesmen have said that that sanction was temporary and was imposed for the duration of the dispute with the provincial newspaper industry. That is the policy of the NUJ. This approach does not represent a new industrial sanction. It was imposed by the NUJ in 1973. There was not a whimper then about Press freedom, about editors being in jeopardy or anything else. It all fitted in with the scenario that we, the gullible public, were supposed to swallow hook, line and sinker, and I am glad now that other views have come to prevail. It is interesting to note that this highly politically-motivated campaign which we have faced has been led not by the editors but by others who have axes to grind in this great argument. In the past the NUJ has shown great understanding towards editors. It has given them exemption during official industrial disputes and has allowed them to do their normal work. That remains the view of the NUJ. The union and its members have a great regard for, and a fine record on, Press freedom. The union has sought to condemn all those who have tried to deny Press freedom throughout the world. Its members have been ready to put their money where their mouths are. They have offered financial assistance to many colleagues who have faced attacks upon their Press freedom and their freedom as journalists. The NUJ believes that Press freedom does not belong to newspaper proprietors, to editors, or to journalists but to the public, and I was glad that even that point has been taken on board by the right hon. Member for Lowestoft. Many journalists are desperately unhappy at the reduction in the number of newspapers in Britain. More than 30 important newspapers have died in the last 20 years. We must all be concerned that seven large companies now dominate 90 per cent. of the British Press. We must be alarmed that the business interests of those companies, which inevitably influence the opinions and policies of the newspapers, range from such things as oil to property. That must inevitably influence the opinions and views of editors who have the strongest control over newspapers. Those who care about Press freedom must lament, for instance, the strictures made upon the editor of Construction News in 1971. He was told in a note from his superiors that there should be no industrial relations stories printed on page 1 and he was told to take care to avoid knocking those who provided bread-and-butter advertising revenue. Those who care about Press freedom must be saddened that a national journalist who dared to write the truth about motor cars gave up in disgust when car advertisers leaned on his employer and told him either to tone down the articles or sack the journalist. It is not without complete insignificance that that paper was The Guardian. I believe that those who care about Press freedom must also be very concerned about the extent to which the British Press has to rely on advertising revenue, which totalled £375 million in 1971 and for the media as a whole was £529 million. Those who care about Press freedom must also care a great deal about what is going on on the Financial Times. Hon. Members may know of Mr. G. Gordon Tether, a distinguished journalist who has won much acclaim for his writing over the years and who wrote a regular column in the Financial Times under the name "Lombard". The new editor does not share the same enthusiasm for Mr. Tether as may be felt elsewhere, and during the course of 1974 12 of his articles were banned by Mr. Fisher, the editor. Others, to use Mr. Tether's words, were "mangled or vandalised". The editor wrote to Mr. Tether. All those who have worked in the industry are used to memos from editors. We get them like confetti, and they set out what is the policy of the newspaper and what is not, whom to lay off and whom not to lay off, what to write and how to present it. This is common practice within the British newspaper industry at both provincial and national levels.
What is an editor for?
If I read Mr. Fisher's note it will tell the hon. Member. He wrote to Mr. Tether saying:
To this directive from this distinguished editor Mr. Tether had the audacity to reply:"The first point to make here is that like any other journalist on this paper you are subject to the directives of the editor, who alone decides what appears or does not appear in the Financial Times. Secondly, the Lombard column should confine itself to those subjects in which you have expertise—the general financial, economic and banking scene and, since this is a subject on which you have written for many years, the EEC problem. In order to prevent a reaction of deja vu among our readers, I do not wish you to write about the EEC problem more than once a week after specific consultation with me."
That view is shared by many working journalists who cherish Press freedom most dearly. That is why so many of them are deeply interested in opening up the British Press as widely as possible so that all minority groups have access to the Press, so that all opinions may be fairly represented, so that all matters, whether they are an embarrassment to the advertisers or to those whom the publishers have an interest in not representing fairly or honestly or in not probing them or exposing them to investigative journalism, may be aired. That is why working journalists are not frightened of the implications of the Bill. They welcome the opportunity, where appropriate, to introduce 100 per cent. membership. I believe that British working journalists are not as afraid of the Bill as some editors are saying they are. It goes a long way to upholding a longstanding tradition in the newspaper industry and does not give rise to the fears which many, both inside and outside the House, would have us believe it does."I am not going to see my rights swept aside on the manifestly absurd argument that an editor has such absolute and unquestionable power as a dictator that he can perpetrate any excesses he likes against a member of his staff even to the point of assassination of that member's professional reputation."
I relish the chance to follow the speech made by the hon. Member for Sowerby (Mr. Maddan) because he presented a view of the National Union of Journalists and its policies which is both tendentious and inaccurate. He said that the position of the NUJ on these issues was quite clear, but he did not present that clear view.I should like to correct two major inaccuracies in the hon. Member's speech. He spoke eloquently about Mr. Ken Morgan's assurance that the NUJ would not put pressure on editors to join the union. He omitted to mention that that assurance was supported by only four of the 24 members of the national executive of the NUJ. The omission of that fact destroys the whole validity of the hon. Gentleman's point. The hon. Member's second major inaccuracy was that there was no reliable source for the statement of my right hon. Friend the Member for Lowestoft (Mr. Prior) that some NUJ chapels intend to limit the number of contributions from non-NUJ contributors. I shall give the source. My branch of the NUJ, of which I am proud to be a member, referred in its January circular and newsletter to two motions, The following is an extract:
In the Journalist's report of the debate it was said that on a paper such as the Daily Mirror the chapel might well refuse to allow more than a couple of contributions in one year from any individuals who are not union contributors. In other words, the hon. Gentleman's point was completely fallacious. He did a great injustice to my right hon. Friend the Member for Lowestoft."This ADM instructs the NEC to issue the following guidelines to all branches and chapels on non-NUJ contributors:
'(a) where a contributor is eligible to join the union, he or she shall be expected to do so should he so be requested. Wherever circumstances permit members shall refuse to handle the work of eligible non-members; (b) contributors ineligible by reason of earning the majority of their income from non-journalistic sources shall be able to make a specified number of contributions to publications and broadcasting channels in any period of 12 months, this number to be determined by individual chapels.'"
Does not the hon. Gentleman agree that many political parties hold conferences where resolutions are tabled although they are not necessarily passed? They do not necessarily reflect the majority view of the members belonging to those organisations. Can we concentrate on official policies rather than on motions which may or may not become union policy at some future date?
The hon. Gentleman is skating on thin ice, and he well knows it. The only indication he gave of official NUJ policy was a statement made by Mr. Morgan supported by only four out of 24 members of the national executive.The NUJ is dominated by the central governing body, the national executive. It is dominated by resolutions passed by its chapels. That will be true of negotiations on the closed shop. The truth is that each chapel can be a rogue elephant which is out of control. In many cases chapels which are out of control are in the hands of militant international Socialists. The Minister of State also produced one or two fallacious arguments. He repeated that the Bill was neutral as regards the closed shop. An exchange took place during the Committee proceedings on the Bill which gave away the Government's game. My right hon. Friend the Member for Lowestoft said at one point during the fourth sitting:
The hon. Member for Feltham and Heston (Mr. Kerr) said "Quite right". My hon. Friend replied:"So he was making it easier to have a closed shop."
That is, indeed, a strange form of neutrality. I believe that the word "neutral" has been much abused. However, this Bill is not neutral on the issue of the closed shop. It is dangerously permissive as regards the issue of Press freedom. Many Government Members wish for total permissiveness in the law on industrial relations relating to closed shops. I do not believe in permissiveness. The line must be drawn somewhere. The amendments seek to draw that line at the point where Press freedom begins to be challenged. 7.45 p.m. The basic principle we speak of tonight is whether access to the Press and the air waves should be left in the hands of one monopoly union. I believe the answer is "No". That is why this Bill, which makes the creation of a closed shop in journalism so much more likely, has such dangers for Press freedom. The Minister of State said that all editors and managements are against closed shops and that there would be no closed shops because this was a matter for negotiations between each union, each union branch and each management. I do not accept the argument that managements and editors will successfully try to resist the creation of a closed shop. In his excellent letter in today's edition of The Times Lord Goodman said that there were grave dangers in the probability that unions would have to give in to the creation of the closed shop. He said that with a weak industrial position there can be no certainty of success and a high prospect of failure. Indeed, with the present economic situation in Fleet Street, with every national newspaper losing money, it is clear that managements are in a very weak position to stand firm on the question of the closed shop against such pressures as the banning of non-union copy and other unpleasant sanctions. Nothing is more perishable and unsaleable than newspapers the production of which is held up by sanctions such as blacking imposed by the NUJ or any other union."It is a strange form of neutrality."—[Official Report, Standing Committee E, 16th January 1965; c. 161.]
Will the hon. Gentleman tell us in which national newspapers 100 per cent. closed shops do not already exist? Is he aware that closed shops exist in every national newspaper published in this city, and were in existence while the Industrial Relations Act was on the statute book?
In common with the hon. Member for Sowerby, the hon. Member for Hemel Hempstead (Mr. Corbett) has produced the kind of inaccuracy for which, if he were a reporter, he would be sacked.It is true that there are closed shops in one or two Fleet Street newspapers. However, there are some newspapers which do not have closed shops. The Evening Standard, for example, does not have a 100 per cent, closed shop. The question of outside contributors is of great importance. Many gaps in the columns of today's newspapers are filled with the work of people who are not members of the NUJ, and members of the Institute of Journalists also work on newspapers.
That is my point.
Such people will not be allowed to work. However, that is not a closed shop. If members of both the National Union of Journalists and the Institute of Journalists are allowed to work on the same newspaper that is not a closed shop. The trouble with the closed shop is that one union will be able to impose its will.
If the hon. Gentleman will read the union membership agreement, he will see that any number of independent unions can be covered, so that there can be a union membership agreement within the terms of the Bill embracing any number of independent unions.
I know that is the principle. However, in practice the NUJ will not recognise the IOJ. The NUJ refuses to admit the existence of the IOJ. Therefore, the NUJ will not allow the IOJ to form part of a closed shop.The trouble is that the NUJ—and I make no complaint about this—is pressing for 100 per cent. closed shop in the interests of its members. However, a newspaper must take into account, above all, the interests of its readers. It is an astonishing condemnation of the present Government that they are prepared to support the interests of one monopoly union while disregarding the interests of the wider public, the readers, contributors and editors, who are hurt if there is a closed shop. The question is: who benefits? The answer is: "The NUJ". What are the interests and intentions and ambitions of the NUJ? It is not the rosy picture given by the hon. Member for Sowerby. Much has been happening in the NUJ since 1971. Associate membership of the NUJ, which was the device which preserved the special position of editors, has been abolished. Annual delegate meetings have passed resolutions demanding nationalisation of the Press. There has been the blacking of non-union copy, cartoons and so on. That was described in the January issue of Journalist in a four-page supplement euphemistically called "Freedom of the Press" as an "extension of Press freedom". That is a staggering label to put on it. My hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge (Mr. Lane) spoke of the disciplinary action taken by the NUJ against the editors of the Cambridge News and the Middlesbrough Evening Gazette. Above all, the moderate man we all praise, Mr. Ken Morgan, has been under constant attack, and is in a precarious position as a result of feuding inside his own executive. He had only four out of 24 votes for his solemnly-given assurance not to put pressure on editors and that the blacking of NUJ copy was only a temporary measure. The militants of the NUJ are in power. They want worker control. One has only to look at the resolution of the Freelance Branch of the NUJ and at the January issue of Journalist to see how serious is the threat of militancy. The Government's duty is to hold the ring and not to side automatically with the union. Parliament has a public duty to stand up for the liberty of the Press. We are sent here not just to pass laws but to preserve the freedom of the Press. That is why we should stand firm and pass these amendments.
Inevitably, on a matter so controversial as this, one expects the Opposition to have a view, and that view has been expressed by several Opposition Members. It becomes all the more important for Government supporters to tread cautiously and to be absolutely fair. With respect, it does not help to ignore fears which are expressed outside the House or to assume that people's motives are necessarily wrong.There are fears, and the Minister said that perhaps in the application of the Bill some of those fears will be removed. That may be so, but other arguments have been put forward since the Minister spoke and it is conceivable that we might wish to look for further assurances. Some of us feel that we may need more than trust. Implicit in what the Minister said is that there should be some degree of trust between partners—the trade unions, the Government and the employers. It has been pointed out that no exemption is being argued for production workers. I have been in craft unions within the industry for nearly 30 years, and I know that in fact this happens. Someone who held a card in the National Graphical Association for a long time, having had promotion to a supervisory or management grade, would no longer need to be a member of that union. We have to recognise that there are certain levels of editorial work, just as there are certain levels of managerial work, which do not require the same degree of involvement in the work of the union. That is perhaps where Ministers can give us some reassurances about the whole question of exemptions within the industry. The issue is not just Press freedom; it is not the property of journalists and the defence of journalists. The issue is public interest and public freedom. My plea is simple. A free Press and free access to the Press are critical to a democracy, and editorial staff in the context of what has been said should be excluded from the Bill. I give five reasons for that which I offer with respect to and appreciation of my five colleagues who wrote today in The Times. First, the Press is a unique industry. It is an industry requiring skill and a public utility requiring free access. It is an industry which is subject to trade union and management negotiation, and it is a public service. Those who have ignored that should recognise that there is a trade union already in the industry and that negotiation occurs. Surely there is already a sufficient check on what happens between management and trade union. I believe that freedom is fragile in the modern world. Nevertheless, it is a constitutional right and not a matter for bargaining between employer and trade union, however enlightened. My second reason concerns the NUJ. The General Secretary of the NUJ has sought to help, perhaps at the risk of being censured by his own members or at the annual delegate meeting. His proposal for a round-table conference is a good one. Whatever happens tonight, I hope that that round-table meeting will soon take place. Here is the nub of the problem. If the NUJ is to be in such a unique position, can we ignore the sanctions which are being proposed now? The Cambridge example, which was well answered by my hon. Friend the Minister, does not quite represent the fear expressed by many people outside the House. What happened in Cambridge was that the man was fired and he left his employment. There are many other ways in which anxieties are created. There is the softening-up process. At 7 o'clock this evening in one national newspaper office a meeting of the NUJ chapel was convened to discuss, among other things, a not unremarkable leader which appeared in this newspaper on Monday dealing with this very issue. That is the sort of fear I have, where no motives and no extraneous matters are involved. The leader was a fine piece of writing. The editor was right to do it, yet within a couple of days a meeting of the chapel is called to consider that editorial and to propose action. That is wrong, and those of us who believe in freedom of expression should make a much greater noise about it. Thirdly, there is a the Royal Commission on the Press. I do not want to delay the findings of the Royal Commission, but if it is not possible to reach a satisfactory conclusion tonight I hope that the Government will consider referring the question to the Royal Commission. My fourth suggestion is most important and has been referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for Sowerby (Mr. Madden). Newspapers are diminishing in number. In 1914 there were seven London evening papers, and now the likelihood is that there will be only one by the end of the year. If we want to maintain a variety of newspapers it will mean that greater responsibility will be placed on editors. We come back to the anxiety that with a reduced number of newspapers we are probably at greater risk if the editorial staff are unable to say what they want to say. It is said that editors have not always been independent. Correct. If we had the time and the debate were more wide-ranging we might consider the way in which employers have set standards of behaviour, but we have limited terms of reference. Fifthly, and perhaps most imporant, is the general interaction between Government and Press. I suggest that we do not take that lightly. The Press is not notably sympathetic to a Labour Government because the Press is generally weighted to the right. Yet Labour can, and must, work to improve understanding of its policies and ideas. The Labour Party does not benefit from antagonism towards the Press. If Labour gets a bad handling in one newspaper, it may not matter very much if it is in the Daily Mail or the Daily Express but we should take note if the criticism appears in the more serious-minded newspapers. Whatever appears in leader columns, what we should be interested in is the information and facts that appear in the Press because, in the end, they are much more important. If that were not the case, we would not have had so many Labour Governments since 1945. Some of the confusion which has been evident in many Opposition speeches—and those Members have only themselves to blame—arises from the fact that their arguments on this set of amendments have not been entirely clear. The amendments which they have tabled do not cover the fears which they allege are being experienced. Perhaps the amendments have been written between leaders. But if we want to give the Government Front Bench a chance to put right what appeared in our manifesto—and we cannot ignore that factor—we must support the Bill. Again, however, I appeal for a further review and a response.
The hon. Member for Basildon (Mr. Moonman) did the House a great service by encapsulating the issues on these amendments in five main points—and I thank him for helping me to shorten my speech.For those who had the privilege of serving on the Committee on the Bill—and, indeed, for those who have watched the controversy developing—one central point emerges. The Press must be accorded a special position if editors and editorial staff are to be free to carry out their work. This point was clearly made by the hon. Member for Rochdale (Mr. Smith). The key to the issue is the maintenance of a Press which is not only free but also effective. When we look at the Press of this country compared with the Press throughout the world, we see there has been an undoubted decline in our newspapers. A newspaper such as Le Monde is owned as to 50 or 60 per cent. by outside shareholders. Compared with newspapers such as the New York Times and some of the great German newspapers, I think it must be said that our Press poses something of a problem. This flows from a whole variety of economic and other reasons. The Secretary of State, as an editor in the past under Lord Beaverbrook, seems deaf to the arguments put to him by such a wide variety of distinguished men such as Lord Goodman, Mr. Hetherington of The Guardian, the Editor of The Times and the editors of other newspapers. Those gentlemen do not speak with a collective political voice, but only from the point of view that they see the freedom of the Press being endangered. For the right hon. Gentleman—a man who prizes liberty so highly—to sweep those arguments aside as matters of no importance displays an extravagant contortion of his inner thoughts. I hope the House will adopt the simple amendment tabled by the Liberal Party which seeks to draw a line round the editorial staff to ensure that they are free from outside pressure, from wherever it may come. The duty of Parliament is not to conduct a conference to achieve good will between one side and the other. Parliament's duty is to lay down the law so that the law cannot be abused in the way that the present law as it stands can be abused. That is the whole point of the amendments which are now being proposed. There is a feeling among some people that all we need to do is to set up a conference of all those concerned and to come to an agreement in that way. But the duty of Parliament is not to set up conferences but to legislate—and to legislate clearly. If the Minister of State, Department of Employment, cannot see that there is any doubt in the minds of many people about the liberty of the Press being undermined, he should examine his conscience and that of his colleagues. But surely if there is a serious doubt—and that doubt has been expressed on all sides of the House—it is the Government's duty to come forward with an amendment which will safeguard the freedom of our Press and our institutions.
The right hon. Member for Stafford and Stone (Mr. Fraser) has invoked the spirit of Lord Goodman in the letter to The Times today, and I shall return to that topic in a few moments.The two issues in this debate are, first, the freedom of the Press and, secondly, the fact that many Conservatives are now engaged in the final kick in the fight to preserve the last relic of the Industrial Relations Act. What is being challenged is the right of the workers who work for the Press to combine together. It is a long and old struggle, and therefore it is worth continuing that struggle tonight. That is one of the central issues of this debate.
Will the hon. Gentleman, since he alleges that this debate is the last vestige of the fight to preserve the 1971 Act, explain which section of the 1971 Act excludes editors from a closed shop situation?
I am concerned with the nature and tenor of the debate—and that is the way in which so far much of the debate has been conducted.I believe that the attack on the National Union of Journalists is also an attack on a group of workers who are seeking to combine to defend their legitimate interests, their wages and living standards. They are seeking to take issue with anybody outside who hinders them in that task or who is prepared to enjoy the fruits of their struggle without having made any contribution to that struggle. That is the fight in which NUJ members are engaged. What struck me particularly about the speeches of some Conservatives was the way in which they appeared to suggest that somehow or other there should be some kind of test of eligibility in a political sense in terms not only of freedom to write but of freedom to speak. The attack on freedom of speech comes from those who have tried to invoke militancy among members of the NUJ as a disqualification from their participation in this argument and discussion. What we have seen has been a great campaign of vilification conducted against the NUJ. It is no good Conservatives on the one hand advancing the argument that some of their Press friends in the NUJ are moderates and on the other hand advancing the view that the militancy that now exists will develop into a raging plague which will undermine freedom of speech. I do not believe that that will happen. I believe that the majority of NUJ members are moderate men concerned with freedom of speech—certainly as concerned as is any Conservative Member—and that the attack on them, spearheaded, to the astonishment of many, by editors, is not only ill-founded but misdirected. Many Conservatives have spoken about extremism among journalists. What about the extremism among editors and proprietors in the past? The Opposition have spoken of Left-wing militancy. What about the Right-wing militancy that existed in such a flagrant form before the war? Again, Opposition Members talk about Trotskyists and Communists. What about the open Fascists who declared their support for the blackshirts in the years before the war?
That is precisely the point that I and others have been trying to make. We have been trying to protect editors against those forces, and that is why we are trying to amend the Bill in this way.
I remind the right hon. Gentleman that the editors who are spearheading the attack on the National Union of Journalists are the very men who in the past weakly and supinely acquiesced in the conditions imposed by their proprietors, and there is no reason to believe that they will behave any differently in the future. They talk about the risk of editors being sacked without compensation. In the past, when the heads of editors have rolled, it is true that they have been paid out with golden handshakes, but some of them have been exiled to far places on the humiliating understanding that they would never write another line. Others have been dismissed and sent to other far places in the hope that they would never reappear and write their memoirs.Those are the very people who today are taking the line which, I am sure, is the line taken by the proprietors, who are lurking in the background. I do not believe for a moment that the editors are speaking merely for themselves. I am convinced that although the proprietors have been lying low their spokesmen are the editors and Lord Goodman, whose letter in The Times today I wish presently to discuss. Some of these editors are men who in the past have tolerated black lists. It is useless to pretend that those black lists did not exist. They existed, and they were accepted and tolerated by editors. When they talk now about security of employment, they ought to look into their own souls to see how they themselves have behaved in the past. Today they have the opportunity to join the National Union of Journalists, and I am sure, from what my hon. Friend the Minister of State said, that they can do so without any fear that they will be inhibited in their editorial tasks and editorial performance by any form of discipline that the NUJ will exert against them. Contrary to what Opposition Members have said, the NUJ has been quite explicit in saying that its concern in inviting the editors to join is to involve them in the general industrial safeguards which a trade union can offer. There is no intention to inhibit them in the performance of their editorial duties.
Surely the hon. Gentleman can see that a situation could arise in which an editor's responsibilities to his management, to his readers and to the law itself might easily conflict with his new-found responsibilities to the union which he had been compelled to join—for example, in circumstances where a branch meeting was called at edition time.
The hon. Gentleman ignores the fact that the NUJ has been explicit. It was the hon. Gentleman who referred to the January edition of the Journalist. The NUJ has been explicit in its exclusion of editors from any form of trade union interference when they are concerned with their editorial activities. That should be affirmed tonight, because it is cardinal to this debate. Therefore, if the Opposition continue to assert that somehow, even in a closed shop situation, the NUJ would try to interfere with editors and the performance of their duties, they are going against the facts and against the declared intentions of the NUJ.I return to the subject of freedom of speech and Lord Goodman's letter in The Times today. As hon. Members will know, Lord Goodman has a two-column letter today under the title
He writes about this Bill:"A closed shop for journalists".
I do not know whether Lord Goodman is dismissing the struggle of trade unionists to maintain their standard of living and protect their legitimate interests. But at any rate it is clear that in that part of his letter he is addressing himself to such matters as freedom of speech. 8.15 p.m. The letter goes on:"It means that the rights and freedoms bought by the historical exertions of heroes and martyrs are dismissed with a contemptuous shrug by those too preoccupied with industrial matters to realise what they may be doing in other liberties at least as vital—and to some of us more vital."
That comes strangely from Lord Goodman, who is the most notorious frightener of Fleet Street. He is the man who in his career has leaned most heavily on journalists and editors in order to impress his views upon them. To use his own expression, he has done it by seeking to impose a form of censorship against which any censorship that the NUJ could apply would seem feeble and vapid. It is curious that Lord Goodman should be regarded as an authority on freedom of the speech when, as everyone knows, he has consistently exerted his authority and power on what he has regarded as appropriate occasions to inhibit editors and journalists in what they might regard as their duty. Lord Goodman accuses a number of my hon. Friends of hypocrisy. Because of that I feel obliged to say that if I have to assess how far that hypocrisy goes and who is responsible for it, I and those of my hon. Friends named in Lord Goodman's letter may well decide where that hypocrisy really lies."If it is unthinkable that in this country in 1975 a man should be prevented from expressing his views or his opinions or his knowledge by a small group of persons possessing no special qualification—if anyone could possess such qualifications—to operate a censorship, it is doubly unthinkable that the editor of a newspaper should be open to the pressures involved by his membership of a closed shop union and the libertarian case on this issue is faithfully presented in the pamphlet For Freedom of the Press and Broadcasting'."
Will the hon. Gentleman explain the mysterious power which Lord Goodman wields in this sinister fashion?
Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman can explain it as well as I can.
The hon. Gentleman has made an accusation. I should like him to expatiate upon it.
The fact is that Lord Goodman in the past has leaned on editors and on journalists, no doubt with the best of intentions, to promote his point of view on given subjects. Therefore, in my view, we must make a clear distinction between the validity of trade unions carrying out their proper duties and those who simultaneously attack them for what they call their hypocrisy.
The hon. Gentleman has made a serious allegation against Lord Goodman. I am sure he is sincere in his view, but can he produce one hard fact to back up his allegation?
I am not disposed to offer illustrations. I do not think that they are appropriate—
I shall certainly not withdraw what I said. I said it with knowledge of the subject. I see no reason to withdraw what I said. I said it, and I take responsibility for it—
Is the hon. Gentleman prepared to make that statement outside this Chamber?
The privilege of a Member of Parliament in representing his constituents is to speak in Parliament under the privilege of Parliament. That is why I have said what I have today, and I have said it with a full sense of responsibility.I regard Lord Goodman's letter to The Times as a calumny against a trade union which I represent. To charge some of my hon. Friends with hypocrisy in their attitude towards freedom of speech is to add yet another calumny. I am concerned that the attack on the NUJ should be exposed for what it is. It is motivated by considerations other than abstract concern for freedom of speech. The attack is motivated by a desire to undermine the power of combination in an important and significant trade union. The attack is motivated not by a purpose of defending the freedom of speech in the abstract but by the aim of trying to diminish public respect for a trade union which has always concerned itself with freedom of speech and with the rights of journalists. For those reasons I support the Government in resisting the amendments tonight. I support the Government because I believe that they have defended and are defending a legitimate trade union interest and, in a most fundamental sense, the freedom of speech.
The speech of the hon. Member for Coventry, North-West (Mr. Edelman) has provided the House with an example of one of the most shameful abuses of parliamentary privilege. It is bad enough that a man's reputation outside the House should be subject to a personal attack of this kind, but when that attack is made without any attempt to sustain it by fact or argument one can only begin to wonder what impulse caused that attack to be made.This is not a campaign that is being waged on this side of the House against the National Union of Journalists. I am sorry that I did not have the privilege of serving on the Committee that considered the Bill, but I rise tonight because I feel that the public are intensely concerned with what the Government are seeking to do and because for a number of years I was employed on provincial and national newspapers as a member of the National Union of Journalists. In those days—they were many years ago—one recognised that in that union, as no doubt in other unions, there were people who were or who could be described as extremists. We had to put up with their views and, if we could, compromise with their views. From what I have heard today—I am outside the trade or profession of journalism now—it seems that many of the extremists have taken over. It is their voice that we are hearing and not the voice of the moderates. I cannot believe that the majority of members of the National Union of Journalists would regard what has been said and done on this side of the House as something which is aimed at injuring the union. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Lowestoft (Mr. Prior) reminded the House earlier when he quoted from a Labour publication, the freedom of the Press is a public right and a public freedom. There was published recently a pamphlet written by three distinguished national editors in consultation with editors and newspapers throughout the country. That pamphlet said exactly the same thing, namely that the freedom of the Press is a public right. It is not for journalists to undermine that right. It is not for the House to undermine it. It is the duty of the Government to protect that freedom and to see that nothing is done to diminish or destroy it. It is because we on this side of the House feel so strongly and deeply about this principle that we oppose tonight what the Government are seeking to do and we try to persuade the House to accept the amendments which we have tabled. One of my major fears is that, unless the Government bend to the arguments which have been advanced from this side, we shall be in difficulties, because no one who is not a member of a union will in the end be allowed to make any contribution to the Press. In case there are any Labour Members who think that this is an exaggeration or a fear that is without substance, I remind the House that a recent report in the Journalist suggested that the chapel of the Daily Mirror, for example, might ultimately refuse to accept contributions from those who were not members of the union; possibly it might allow two contributions a year, but not more than that. This would be an abuse of trade union power. I like to think that in saying that I speak for both sides of the House. What is the purpose of keeping out of the Press and denying a forum of discussion to the person who is not a member of a trade union? If it is argued that it is to protect the jobs of members of the NUJ, all that can be said is that it is a misconceived purpose. If it is an attempt to restrict the views that can be published in newspapers, it is something that everyone of us should resist to a man. Only recently in the Observer Sir Dingle Foot, the former Member for Ipswich who is not unrelated to the Secretary of State for Employment, reminded his readers that 60 years ago Kipling wrote
"That the King over all the children of pride
Any Government who bow to the pressure of trade unions and thereby allow a new and sinister form of censorship will do something which must offend the conscience of us all and raise the fears of everyone who has any concern for democracy.Is the Press—the Press—the Press!"
It may be an unusual way of beginning a speech, but I should like to begin by confessing that when I took part in the debate on Second Reading I thought that the Bill had something to do with British industry and with millions of workpeople who would be affected by it. I commenced my speech by saying that I knew nothing of editors' problems. That has been corrected. Within the last two or three weeks I have heard the words "freedom of the Press" 200 to 300 times.It is sensible that the passage relating to "reasonable grounds" was deleted in Committee. I hope that it will remain deleted. It is sensible because it affects 5 million trade unionists who already operate a closed shop and millions of others who want the right to do so. The Bill is neutral as regards the closed shop. It neither stops anyone from operating a closed shop nor forces anyone to operate one. Everyone knows that, law or no law, closed shops will operate. In 1971 the Conservative Government with their Industrial Relations Act failed to kill off closed shops even when one of the specific intentions of the Act was to do just that. The subject of the closed shop has led to a lot of hullabaloo about the freedom of the Press. My hon. Friend the Member for Sowerby (Mr. Madden) in an excellent speech pointed out that a closed shop for journalists was not such a terrifying proposition except for those newspapers, including the Fleet Street nationals, which already operate one without any undue interference from editorial staff. What a death blow that journalists might have a closed shop like the closed shops already enjoyed by lawyers, doctors, and the like. 8.30 p.m. On Second Reading the right hon. Member for Farnham (Mr. Macmillan) said that at one time he thought he was at a branch meeting of the NUJ. Some of us have tried to lead the discussion out of the newspaper offices of Fleet Street into the wider sphere of industrial relations where it rightly belongs. That was done on occasions with some difficulty. But no sooner had it been achieved than we were taken back to the Evening Gazette in Middlesbrough or the editorial offices of the Kentish Times, which, it would seem, are more important than the universal effect of the Bill on the total British work force. In Committee and in the House today we have been told that Parliament's prime function is to defend the individual, to defend the weak against the strong and minorities against majorities and, when it comes to the choice of a trade union, to protect the small unions from the big and powerful unions. We are then accused of putting too much power into the hands of the NUJ, a small union with approximately 25,000 members. Why draw the line on individual liberty at journalists? What confusion this is; how misleading. Journalists are seeking a closed shop to improve their pay and conditions on the newspapers for which they work. The NUJ has clearly stated its objection and complete opposition to any form of censorship or vetting for political purposes. It cares as much about Press freedom as do editors. Whose freedom of the Press are we talking about? Is it the editors' freedom from the journalists or from the proprietors who have inherited or bought their right to exercise the freedom of the Press? At a time when everyone is talking about worker participation, worker directors and advisory boards, what is wrong with people who write for newspapers having a voice on the boards? Perhaps the Royal Commission on the Press will throw some light on that matter. I can well understand the fears of the editors and the proprietors. The NUJ, which was loosely knit and under strength and whose members were underpaid, has become alive and more militant in recent years. Even so, a legal prohibition on closed shops to quell the fears of proprietors and editors cannot be made effective. The law might make closed shops void, but, as we have seen, this in itself does not necessarily deprive them of practical effect. Governments cannot legislate either to promote or destroy militancy in the NUJ or anywhere else. The newspaper industry has it within its own hands to promote good industrial relations with the freedom of the Press and within the terms of the Bill. Much has been made by Conservative Members about the Donovan Report. We had its findings quoted chapter and verse in Committee. Donovan's principal exercise, as hon. Gentlemen opposite might know, was to examine the collective bargaining system in British industry which appeared to be breaking down. The central defect was the existence of two collective bargaining systems, known as the formal system and the informal system. The informal system concerned itself with national agreements such as joint industrial councils and wages councils, which are limited in their use and in the main deal only with wage rates, hours and conditions. The informal system was the description given to widespread factory and local agreements which covered many more aspects of industrial relations. With the growth of informal collective bargaining there has been, and still is, some decentralisation and loss of control by unions and employers. What was further revealed in Donovan was that in the main, particularly with regard to wages councils, the formal system negotiated national wages for unorganised workers in low-pay industries. I quote the Retail Food Trades Wages Council agreement effective from 21st October 1974. The male rate in the London area for shop assistants was £18·45 a week and the female rate was £17·65. This is what the strengthening of collective bargaining is all about. Those people have no closed shop. The informal system negotiated better rates and conditions for organised workers in high-pay industries in a closed shop situation. The Government's first duty is to bring—
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Can you explain what this part of the hon. Gentleman's speech has to do with the amendments?
It is not for the Chair to explain the purpose of a speech or an amendment, but I think that the hon. Gentleman is somewhat wide of the amendment and unless he relates his speech to the amendment he will be going out of order.
I am trying to point out that we are talking about collective bargaining as a whole and not freedom of the Press. We are talking about closed shop situations. The greater number of British working people are neither organised nor in closed shops. The Bill will give some of them an opportunity so to be. That is one of the strong reasons why I support the Bill.
Order. The hon. Gentleman is under a misapprehension. We are not discussing the Second Reading. We are discussing a specific amendment. The hon. Gentleman is under an obligation to keep in order by addressing himself to the terms of the amendment.
Unions actively encourage closed shops because they are well-tried and successful. All employers find them useful, and some openly encourage them, as we saw even during the period of the Industrial Relations Act. Governments have had occasion to deplore their restrictions on a few individuals, but they cannot effectively legislate against them, as we have seen. This we all know. It is the most powerful reason why the Bill should be supported.
It is rare to follow one's usual pair in debate. Therefore, the hon. Member for Birmingham, Yardley (Mr. Tierney) and the House will not expect me to be uncomplimentary about his speech. However, I hope that he will not expect me to share his view of the trade union movement, which he seems to think requires some defence. Most people in the country feel that we need some defence against excessive trade union power.I trespass into a debate on this subject, where normally I do not venture to tread, because a local experience has convinced me of the need for the amendments, or provisions very much like them. I have experienced a practical example which has caused me to take a major interest in something which otherwise would have been a matter of academic argument. It is right to consider the effects of passing this Bill if these amendments are not passed. It is all very well for the Government spokesman to use legalistic language to say that the freedom of the Press is not being threatened by the Bill because this Bill does not enforce the closed shop. How far are we to stretch our credibility? Are we to believe that as a direct result of this Bill the closed shop will not be actively sought and gained, even by industrial action if necessary? Only if we can genuinely believe that this will not be the case should we refuse to listen to those newspaper editors who clearly regard the issue as one of fundamental liberty of the Press. The Government make light of the criticisms and the worries expressed outside the House and on this side of the House. Indeed, they appear to take a high view of the National Union of Journalists. I received a letter from the hon. Member the Minister of State, Department of Employment in which he says:
I am certain that the Government hold this view sincerely. It is relevant to this debate to consider how the NUJ or some of its branches operate. Towards the end of last year there was an industrial dispute which affected the Evening Telegraph in Kettering. This newspaper has a wide circulation in Northamptonshire. At that time any work that was not produced by members of the NUJ was blacked. During this period there was a bomb outrage in Northampton and the police asked the local newspaper editors to print an Identikit picture to warn the public as there was danger of further bomb outrages. Because there was a dispute, they went to the trouble of sending an NUJ photographer to the local police station where a policeman held the Identikit picture, which was photographed and then published in the local newspaper. It was clearly the product of a member of the NUJ. At this point the two versions of the story diverge a little. It was either on the instructions of the NUJ headquarters in London or on a decision of the local branch of the NUJ that the photograph was blacked and not produced in the local newspaper that night. It meant that people of Northamptonshire could not be warned or put on their guard. It is possible that the bomber could have struck again and people could have been killed or maimed by what was a political action either of the NUJ headquarters or of the local branch. The chairman of the branch, a prominent international Socialist and, I am sure, no friend of the workings of this House, persuaded the fathers of the printing chapel not to produce the picture. This is an instance of how serious the situation could become. After I had made my views felt on this event, I received a letter from a local NUJ branch which stated that the local branch"The National Union of Journalists is a responsible union with clear rules and a code of professional conduct, which specifically repudiate deliberate censorship of any kind".
It said that the branch viewed with alarm the fact that I had this information. In effect, it felt that an apology was in order. It wanted an explanation from me as to the source of this information. I find it incredible that journalists, who presumably fight to the end on the confidentiality of the information they are given, should refuse it to a Member of this House. That is a serious commentary on that local branch. If any apology is due, I suggest that it is from those who made the decision which could well have endangered the lives of my constituents and many other people in Northampton-shire. One can only think, being very charitable, that those responsible for this decision have a most distorted set of values. I cannot believe that there was any possible justification for their action which endangered lives in the county. 8.45 p.m. Therefore, this incident raises the question of the actions and motives of some members of the NUJ, however small a minority they may be. It is not surprising that many editors are nervous because their fears could well be justified by activities such as those I have outlined and could be made real because locally many NUJ branches appear to have a right of independent interpretation of national rulings which can lead to surprising results. I should have thought that the incident I have outlined showed that there was a threat to editorial freedom. If these amendments are defeated, we shall simply encourage the militants of the NUJ to repeat such incidents. I cannot, therefore, accept the Government's view that it would not be right to legislate on the lines of the amendments. The Government have a duty to legislate. They owe it to the people to help to preserve and not to destroy the fundamental liberty of the Press. If they are not prepared to act on their own account, it is the Opposition's duty to attempt to insert amendments such as these in the Bill."are concerned to know where you obtained this strictly inter-union—firm information".
It is a reprehensible habit for Government back-bench Members to speak on amendments which the Government oppose. It is as bad a social habit as sniffing. Indeed, judging by the admirable campaign of the wife of my hon. Friend the Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Radice), it also has domestic consequences. It could be that I am keeping some of my colleagues away from their connubial bliss. Even if that did not worry me, the thought that some of the people waiting for them at home might come here would certainly encourage me to be brief, because we all see the consequences of that.Therefore, whatever differences there may be between the Secretary of State and myself, I am sure he will feel that it is thoroughly wrong that Government back-bench Members should absorb the time of the House by speaking on amendments. I do it very seldom, so it may be taken that I am doing it now because I am not wholly at one with the thinking of the Secretary of State on this matter. I listened with great care to the extremely clear speech of the Minister of State, and there is a genuine prospect that I shall be wholly at one with the Secretary of State when I hear him wind up the debate. But I am not yet sure, and I think that there is a great issue involved here. The argument is regrettably complex because it has to do with the doomed and fatal subject of industrial relations. The Opposition know well my views on what they did in 1971. The principal reason why they are the Opposition now is what they did in 1971. I told them so at the time. Let us hope that we can get debates on industrial relations off the Floor of the House. It is not a very appropriate place for them. When discussing anything to do with industrial relations, we at once sink into a bog of recrimination and counter-recrimination and, without in any way being patronising, a lack of understanding, on my part as much as on anybody else's, about pre-entry closed shops, post-entry closed shops and the differences between one agreement and another. That is the first reason why we get into trouble in debates of this kind. The second reason is that too many high principles are involved for the good of logical discussion. It is always a bad thing when some of our great freedoms are in jeopardy. As "Mr. Dooley" once said,
Whenever we reach the situation in which we feel that a freedom is foredoomed unless an amendment is enacted we do not on the whole get a terribly coherent discussion. It is not only a question of principles being involved. There are all sorts of complexities about the NUJ and militancy. I listened with delight to the hon. Member for Rochdale (Mr. Smith) trying to work out what a member of the real Left was. That was of especial fascination to me. The hon. Member ended up with a definition of a member of the real Left as being an out-and-out totalitarian. That is a view I should like to discuss with him privately at some other time. It is an issue often discussed in my party. We had the issues of the real Left, the militants, freedom of expression, the possibility that we might lose free speech, and what is a closed shop. My hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Yardley (Mr. Tierney) brought up all sorts of issues about the values of workers combining together in their own interests. Somehow, in all of this that little nugget of disagreement which the Secretary of State and I think is important and which lies between us—that small pebble of discord which I feel sure he will sweep away—has been lost sight of. I want to be fair to my right hon. Friend. I do not think that the reports I read in this morning's paper of yesterday's meeting—I was at that meeting although I am in no way responsible for the reports—do justice to his point of view as I have heard it in private. I do not intend to go into those private conversations. I believe I know what lies between myself and the Secretary of State on the issue which particularly concerns me. I also want to do justice to the National Union of Journalists. I do not simply say, as many have done, that of course the overwhelming majority in the union are perfectly sensible people with as great a love, possibly greater, for the freedom of the Press as anyone else. Of course that is the case. It would be nonsensical to suggest that the NUJ is likely to be taken over by a body of people who hold views wholly dissimilar from the average journalist whom we know and the average journalist who makes up the NUJ. I will add this one warning. I am not as complacent as some of my hon. Friends about the actions of individual chapels. It is not as true as it is sometimes claimed that the NUJ can entirely control the activities of its chapels. Again in fairness to the NUJ, I must say that Mr. Morgan in private conversations with some of us certainly went a long way to alleviate our fears on this issue of chapels. It is true, and it is right that it should be said clearly, that there is no thought in Mr. Morgan's mind, and no thought currently in the minds of many of the leading figures in the NUJ, of misusing any of the powers which they might get under the Bill. The Secretary of State has a quite unanswerable argument in my opinion when he says that the Bill is only restoring a situation that once existed. The only thing that might be wrong with that argument, and it would be a rare error for my right hon. Friend to commit, is that it is slightly Chamberlainesque in that it does not accept that sometimes situations change. My right hon. Friend may be right in saying that it only restores a situation that once existed, but things could have happened in the meantime which call for something from him. In my opinion that is the case. It is my belief, as he knows, that something is called for from him, namely, an absolutely unequivocal statement about something to which I will come. At least the Secretary of State is right in claiming that it is nonsense to pretend that we did not have in this country for many years a situation which he is now restoring. I must frankly say to the right hon. Member for Lowestoft (Mr. Prior), to whom I listened with great interest, that I am not in the least attracted to his amendments, since they do not touch at all the point that concerned me most. Indeed, I do not think the right hon. Gentleman grasped what it is that principally worries most of my hon. Friends. I really do not think he understood what was at issue in our minds. Let me tell him what is not at issue. I am not in the least bit concerned to prevent the National Union of Journalists from establishing a closed shop. I have always been absolutely in favour of closed shops—indeed in a somewhat ruthless way, as those who heard me speak in debates on the 1971 Act will know. They will know my reasons for feeling like that. So I do not worry in the least about the NUJ having a closed shop. That does not concern me. Nor do I think that there is any serious problem in regard to editorial freedom in the normal sense—that is, the freedom to print editorials and the freedom of the paper to have a policy. It is highly unlikely, even if all those wicked and silly young men from the IS grow in numbers, that they will grow in sufficient numbers that the editorial staff of the Daily Express will arrive in the editor's office and say "We do not like that leader on the gold standard. You must take it out and put in this one that we have just written, otherwise we shall go on strike". That is not a scenario that seems at all probable. We must consider hypothetical and fanciful situations, but that is a little too hypothetical and fanciful for me to worry about. I am certain that in the end the NUJ will have an agreement which will allow editors to join or not to join and which, even if they join, will exclude them from having to take part in industrial disputes. Incidentally, that is an exclusion which rightly should be confined to the editor himself. I am on the NUJ's side in saying that it should not be confined to something called "the editorial staff". That would possibly be a significant number of scabs. I take the NUJ's view that if it is conducting an industrial dispute it should be able to have its blokes out. The NUJ has a right to have its blokes out. None of that worries me. In nothing of what I have said am I being anti-NUJ, anti-union or even anti-closed shop. I have never hidden from my political colleagues, whatever my political views may be on other things, my views on closed shops. I represent an extreme Left-wing point of view, and I always have done. I see enormous power in having closed shops. I have never believed that legislation would have any significant impact on them at all. I thought that what was done to try to inhibit them was pure folly. The sooner we all get away from the idea of trying to do that, the better. I was at one with my hon. Friend the Minister of State when he talked about the neutrality of the Bill. Therefore, what is it that worries me? What worries me is something which is of very great importance and which is a significant practical possibility—not a hypothetical chimera that might happen but something which, if we are not very careful, will happen. It is the question, of course, of access, which the amendments of the right hon. Member for Lowestoft do not deal with at all. That is what matters. I interpret as a vital editorial function—quite rightly and to my mind not to be abridged; a vital function of the editor—the ability to be able to determine who writes in his newspaper. That is crucial. If one takes that right away from editors, one severely restricts the access of people to the media, certainly to the Press. It is said "Oh yes, but there have been some most outrageous abuses in this respect in the past by proprietors", and, indeed, there have. There have been, I may add—as they are not saintly characters—some shocking abuses by editors on entirely their own volition. I do not think that Mr. Geoffrey Dawson's editorship of The Times was exactly distinguished much, shall we say, by a clear view of the freedom of the Press, which should be thrown open to all points of view. He used busily to spend his time censoring the copy of his own Berlin correspondent because he did not like it. Of course there have been abuses. But I say to those of my hon. Friends who put that as a strong point, as if it carries the weight of the argument, that two blacks do not make a white. The fact the proprietors and editors have abused the right of people to have free access to the media does not mean that it does not, therefore, matter if someone else now comes along and does it. It does matter. 9.0 p.m. I do not in the least want to be unjust to the NUJ. The NUJ's record in comparison with what we have seen in the past is admirable. But there are some rather ugly and ominous signs—they cannot be shugged off or pushed aside and said not to exist, because they do exist—that a minority in the NUJ interprets Press freedom in exactly the sense in which the hon. Member for Rochdale interpreted the "real Left"—namely, in the sense that they do not intend that people other than themselves shall have access to it. The first step towards that is to restrict access to all non-NUJ members. I should declare an interest here as I have in the past earned money from writing in the newspapers, as has my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State. Indeed, I recall a holiday that he and I had in Venice during which, late one night, tired and emotional, we both agreed that writing for newspapers was a mug's business. So it is not much of an interest that I wish to declare. Unless they wish to have their name in fame, I do not advise any hon. Members who wish to make their way in the world to write for the newspapers, because they are lousy payers. Nevertheless, I have done that in the past. I am particularly concerned about that aspect of the matter, though it would be a pity for myself if I did not have the discipline occasionally of writing an article. However, I am worried also about the specialist Press. We should remember that much of the specialist Press is very largely produced by non-NUJ labour. I do not know how many NUJ members write in The Times Literary Supplement. It cannot be an awful lot, in terms not only of Members of Parliament but of public figures in general. It would seem a quite intolerable situation if we had chapels of the NUJ deciding that the hon. Member for somewhere or other—let us cay, Thanet, East (Mr. Aitken)—could do two articles a year in the Daily Express and one a year in the Sunday Express. It would be intolerable if a chapel of the NUJ decided that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, if he should ever leave the Cabinet—as we shall all hope never occurs—could not be accepted back except on the basis of two articles every quarter or an article a week for three months and then no more restriction on articles at all. Let us face it: that begins to look like the reality of the situation which my right hon. Friend and I know exists in certain chapels. If one looks at it fairly, from the point of view of the NUJ, why should it not exist? The NUJ, after all, is having to look after its members in a contracting profession. Journalism is not in a healthy or happy state, as has been mentioned. There will be fewer jobs in journalism. It seems perfectly reasonable to some people in the NUJ, who are neither militants nor Marxists, nor even real Socialists, that what work there is should be restricted to NUJ members. One can understand a trade union thinking like that. It is vitally important that the union knows that we do not. Let it be quite clear that the House of Commons could not stand by and see such a view put into operation by anyone—not simply by the NUJ, but by anyone. That, frankly, is what I want the Secretary of State to say, so clearly and unambiguously that there can be no doubt in anyone's mind that if the very wise and sensible advice of Mr. Morgan, who is such a strong advocate of the best interests of his union, were neglected by a group of hotheads or militants, or whatever one cares to call them, who decided that this Bill now gave them the right to restrict the contributions of non-NUJ members and that they would use that right, since there was nothing that Parliament could say about it because the Secretary of State says that he would not say anything, they would be in error. It should be said clearly that the neutrality of which we speak in the Bill is a neutrality on the basis of the facts as we now know them, and that if those facts were to change in such a way—I am now quoting, I think, my hon. Friend the Minister of State—as would alarm both my hon. Friend and myself, the Government would act. I do not wish to misquote my hon. Friend. I think he said something like "Her Majesty's Government would be leading the House to safeguard editorial freedom if it were shown to be under threat." If we can have it absolutely clear from the Secretary of State that the words "editorial freedom" clearly include the right of free access to the paper, any worries that I might have as to what I think are the real problems which are likely to arise will have disappeared, because we shall have given clear notice that the Act is neutral, that it was not even mainly thought of, indeed at all thought of, in terms of the Press, that the issue has come up in this form, that we see no evidence at the moment that it requires Government legislative action, but that if we did the parliamentary demand to take it would be absolutely irresistible."The Republic is going to hell again this week."
Let me first assure the hon. Gentleman that I do not count him a real Socialist. I have followed his argument with great interest and rapt attention. Assuming that he was satisfied that there was such evidence as he has mentioned, how in terms of legislation would he deal with that situation other than by ensuring the freedom of editors?
I will answer that question head on. First, however, in view of the hon. Gentleman's definition of a real Socialist, which seemed to me to be a totalitarian idiot, I should like to say that I am delighted that he does not include me in that category.I will meet the hon. Gentleman's question head on. It is one that I have pondered at great length. I almost pre-resumed to put down an amendment myself. The issue is simple. The Secretary of State says that it is much better not to deal with industrial relations by law. I agree. If we can possibly avoid drafting legislation to stop people from doing things which we know they will do anyway, we are wise to do so—first, because it brings the law into contempt, and, second, because the law will not survive, as hon. Members opposite have learned. If they recall it, that was the basis of what I said to them some years ago, that they had no hope of making such legislation work and that no such legislation ever can be workable so long as our society is as it is. So I am wholly at one with the Secretary of State there. Moreover, I am wholly at one with the NUJ, because it is entirely right for it to be able to say, "Why should we have a law which says that you can do this and this and this unless you are a member of the NUJ? Then you cannot, you are under a different sort of law." So the thing would be much better left alone, with, however, a powerful 16-inch shell in the big gun of the Secretary of State to make it clear not just to the NUJ but to anyone who may be concerned to listen throughout the media that our right hon. Friend could not reconcile to Labour Party policy or to his conscience that this House should permit access to the media to be denied by any group, except—
How would the hon. Gentleman stop it?
In the end, the answer is that one has to bite into the sour apple. I will say publicly what I have said privately to the Secretary of State. If access to the media were denied in that way after a clear Government intention had been stated here tonight in unambiguous terms which could not be misunderstood, if then what is now merely a threat and a supposition became a reality, I would legislate.The National Union of Journalists would then be put into a position that would be different from that of other trade unions. That I would greatly regret, as I believe it would cause endless trouble. That would not be the end of the matter. We would then have to set up endless commissions and have general Press laws of the kind that obtain in Scandinavia. To most of my hon. Friends and to most Opposition Members it would be an intolerable situation. I believe that certain restrictions should be placed on the NUJ which should also be placed on proprietors, editors and others. I would deeply regret having to use the law. I was asked a straight question, and I think that I have answered it straightforwardly. I want a declaration from my right hon. Friend that is absolutely decisive. If we do not get that I shall want to consider my position on the whole issue. If we get such a declaration, that will be enough. If it did not prove enough I would legislate. It should always be the greater rather than the lesser. It is more important that we preserve hope and access in the media than not to legislate on industrial relations. However much trouble it might cause, I would do it. What is at least in prospect as a threat is that the worst could possibly happen. I can think of no situation more intolerable than that a small group of people should determine throughout the entirety of the Press to impose certain restrictions. Proprietorial abuses, which are well known, are confined, because not one man yet owns all the Press, whereas the NUJ, if it had such a policy, would be able to deny access throughout the entire Press if it chose to do so. However, I do not believe that it will do any such thing. A great deal of trouble will be saved if it is made clear to the NUJ that if it did such a thing the Secretary of State would find a lot of people sitting behind him who would find the situation quite intolerable. They would demand legislation to put it right, knowing full well that the House was involved.
The hon. Gentleman keeps saying that he would introduce legislation in the last resort. He has criticised our amendments but he has not suggested what form his legislation would take. His legislation would have to create access to the Press for the outside contributors about whom he has been talking. With that we would agree. Our amendments deal with the point by not allowing the operation of the closed shop. We would thereby allow outsiders to contract without the fear of NUJ blacking.
The right hon. Gentleman and myself are riding two completely different horses up two completely different race tracks. The right hon. Gentleman wants to stop the closed shop. I do not want that. I want to maintain access to outside contributors. The right hon. Gentleman has said that he is less concerned with that. He believes that that would be a by-product of a system in which no closed shop existed. I believe that the NUJ has a right to have a closed shop in a newspaper office if it can get one.I agree entirely with my hon. Friend the Minister of State. It is not the case that the Bill means that the NUJ will have a closed shop everywhere. That is nonsense. It means that the Government are neutral as between its right to try to get one and its right not to get one. The NUJ is not given a special inducement and it is not presented with a special deterrent. I am certain that that is right. That is why I do not agree with the right hon. Member for Lowestoft. I still say that he is insufficiently aware that access is the key. There can be no objection to an NUJ closed shop provided it is not being used to deny access to the Press to non-NUJ members and provided editorial responsibility is not being interpreted in such a way as to exclude access, that being the most vital of all editorial responsibilities.
Is the hon. Gentleman not aware that the danger of his proposed legislation is that it will clearly be a case of shutting the stable door after the Press freedom horse has bolted? He has already suggested that he is worried about access. He has fairly acknowledged that he is worried about some chapels which have said that they will restrict contributors to a fixed number. He is worried on those two fronts. How is he so complacent that a few words from the Secretary of State will make everything all right?
In no sphere of life do I like to give the advantage to the "real Socialists", as the hon. Member for Rochdale calls them. The people who would gain most if we passed the amendment would be the militants in the NUJ. I think it would put Mr. Morgan and people like him in a very difficult position indeed. They would have to go back to their membership and say "Every other union is treated differently from us. We, and we alone, are not allowed to have a closed shop." If that happened, the "real Socialists" would love it. The hon. Member for Thanet, East is sufficiently politically astute to know that in no time at all the "real Socialists" would be running the NUJ, and once that happened the situation would be that much worse. I am prepared to take a reasoned gamble that if the NUJ were warned in advance that the situation would be intolerable if it acted in certain ways, it would not act in those ways, especially if that warning were to come from my right hon. Friend.I do not think we should deal with this matter by legislation. I hope that a situation will never arise which would lead us to do so. But it is enormously important that my right hon. Friend should make his well-known views about access to the Press so clear to all who may be interested that nobody can say that there is doubt and ambiguity and everybody will know that it is the committed view of the Government Front Bench that if the power of the NUJ were ever misused to restrict access of non-NUJ members to the Press there would be legislation in this House, and there is nothing that my right hon. Friend could do to stop it. Indeed, I would hope that he would introduce it.
Will the hon. Gentleman explain how a closed shop is closed if it is open?
I warned hon. Members before the hon. Gentleman came into the Chamber that there is nothing worse than becoming involved in industrial relations nomenclature. The situation in journalism is well known. Some—indeed, most—national newspapers have closed shops. There are two major unions in journalism but one is much larger than the other. Editors can belong, but often do not belong, to a trade union. I am sure that what was said by the Minister of State is correct and that eventually there will be an amalgamation whereby they may or may not join, as they choose. If they become NUJ members they will not be required to act in industrial disputes, other than in a manner in which their normal editorial responsibilities permit them to do so.However, do not let us get involved in old arguments about closed and open shops. All I would say is that there is very little indeed that the law can do about it unless we put in an absolutely specific provision to meet a specific case. I would be loth to do that, but whether I decide that that is the best thing to do depends entirely upon what my right hon. Friend says when he winds up.
Order. Whilst offering no criticism of the length of the speech of the hon. Member for Birmingham, Ladywood (Mr. Walden), may I remind hon. Members that at the moment there are still about 10 hon. Members who wish to participate in the debate. If each takes the same length of time as the hon. Member for Ladywood and then we have the winding-up speeches, we should have a vote about six hours from now.
I agree that the question of access is most important, but I do not agree that it can be dissociated from this amendment. In the interests of brevity, however, I shall incorporate that in a later part of my speech.I agree that the amendment raises questions of immense importance, taking us into two fields which give rise to strong feelings in this House—those of industrial relations and the freedom of the Press, the protection of which we all feel so strongly about. The Minister will probably agree that it has been very encouraging to have had so long a debate in which so many hon. Members have spoken about industrial relations with feeling but without acrimony. In this kind of debate there is no monopoly of interest in the freedom of the Press in any one part of the House. I base my argument on the assumption that all hon. Members are concerned to safeguard the freedom of the Press as one of the important privileges of the people we represent. The issue tonight is whether the amendments are necessary and proper for safeguarding that freedom. The hon. Member for Sowerby (Mr. Madden) made a statement which was potentially immensely significant. He said that the NUJ was "determined not to force editors to join the union", and I am sure that he believed that to be right. If that were true, these amendments might not be necessary. However, my hon. Friend the Member for Thanet, East (Mr. Aitken) then quoted evidence which clearly cast doubt on that statement. The Minister of State clearly believes that the amendments are unnecessary because he believes that the situations which we fear will prejudice this freedom will not arise. I hope that he will now accept that those of us who feel sceptical about that assurance are not being too unreasonable. I am glad that so much tribute has been paid to Mr. Ken Morgan. I have met Mr. Morgan, and I know that he says with great courage and sincerity those things that the Minister of State attributes to him. He is a very moderate man. I have also had the experience of listening to Mr. Knowles, another important official of the union, who said quite frankly that his objective was to secure a single union closed shop up to and including editors in order to secure workers' control of the industry. It is difficult to understand what possible objection there can be to the amendments if the majority of the NUJ membership do not wish to impinge upon the freedom of the Press. The amendments would not prevent them from doing anything they would want to do, and would not prevent them from conducting what they would regard as legitimate trade union practice. They would only prevent others from doing what they themselves say they do not want to do. If these protestations are genuine, and I am sure they are in many of those concerned, why not have this safeguard? But for cases where those views are not held genuinely by some who profess them, or are openly repudiated by those who hold a different view, surely it is necessary to have provisions of this sort as a safeguard. My hon. Friend the Member for Thanet, East said that the Minister must hold the ring here. The Minister can do what we are asking whilst genuinely remaining neutral and holding the ring. We are asking him only to introduce restrictions, which the responsible members of the NUJ would not mind anyway, to guard against a danger we believe may be present. But even if it is not present now, may we have a better and more practical answer to the point raised by my right hon. Friend the Member for Lowestoft (Mr. Prior)? Let us assume that there is no danger at the moment; but what if the annual conference of the NUJ the next time or the time after changes its policy and decides to do something which it has at present no intention of doing? The Minister of State said that that would not make any difference. I wish to point out the error of that statement. Supposing the annual conference of the NUJ passed a resolution making it its policy to go flat out for a single union closed shop for all employees up to and including editors—as has, in fact, been proposed by more than one important member. To carry out that resolution it must then squeeze out all contributors who are not members of the union and all members of the Institute of Journalists, and insist upon all editors becoming union members. Whether it can do so depends primarily not on the contents of the Bill but on the industrial strength of the union and the limits to which the union is prepared to use that strength to succeed in its objectives. But it is not right to say that the Bill is neutral. It does not oblige anyone to enter into an agreement but it does have this effect on the situation. It assists those who want to carry out a resolution of that kind by removing the right to compensation of those who are dismissed. When the union says to the employer "You must sack all the members of the Institute of Journalists because we want not only an all-union shop but a single union closed shop", the editor and the proprietor can no longer say "We cannot afford to pay compensation to all of them." Thus the measure weakens the hand of the employer should he wish to resist while strengthening the hand of the union which puts into effect a resolution of the kind I have mentioned. That happens at the expense of the individual who would be happy to continue doing a responsible job but is squeezed out by the course of events.
How does that differ from the pre-1971 position? Does the hon. and learned Member suggest that prior to the 1971 Industrial Relations Act there was not a position of legal neutrality in regard to closed shops?
The hon. Gentleman falls into the error of testing everything against whether or not it existed before 1971. He has forgotten that the 1971 Act introduced a considerable number of innovations which were so good that the Labour Government, while professing to repeal them, re-enacted approximately 45 sections of the 1971 Act, including the provisions that if a man was dismissed he should have a prima facie right to compensation for unfair dismissal. The Government are now taking away that right, so that a man may be dismissed without compensation simply because he does not want to belong to a union or a particular union. The Minister of State knows that what I am saying is right. The provisions of this Bill have the effect I have stated, and to that extent make it easier for a union which passes a resolution of the kind I have described and goes into action to put it into effect.
. Does not the hon. and learned Gentleman agree that it is a little confusing for us to listen to him—a lawyer—arguing that other people should not have the right to a closed shop? Is not his own organisation one of the tightest, most closely knit, Mafia-like closed shops in the country, if not in the world? Does he not recognise that there is a great difference between what he is arguing and what he practices?
When one says that one is "glad to have been asked that question" one may not usually mean it, but I do in this case. There is no comparison. Those of us who practise at the Bar are members of a closed shop. But we have not yet reached the stage of insisting that the judges should also be members of the closed shop and amenable to our directions.The provisions of the Bill are not neutral. They give a helping hand to the strong at the expense of the weak. We should not do that anyway, but there is a particular reason for not doing it in the case of the Press, and that is where I cross swords with the hon. Member for Birmingham, Ladywood (Mr. Walden). The reason is that we are not simply talking about the rights of journalists to indulge in trade union activities; we are also considering a public right, the right to a free Press. I think that all hon. Members would agree with the proposition that, just as we recognise that it would be intolerable to allow monopoly control of editorial content by one proprietor, so it would be intolerable to allow a situation in which there might be a danger of potential monopoly control in one union. The amendments are modest. They safeguard the position if any union tried to achieve what, by common consent, judging from the speeches we have heard today, most of us would regard as reprehensible. Will the Government, even at this late stage, not recognise that we really are dealing with a practical possibility? We have the opportunity to do something which would be no detriment to those who act according to the principles which we should want them to follow, but which would provide a safeguard for the people of this country against those who might be tempted to stray outside those principles.
The debate touches extremely important issues, and it is not surprising that it has gone on for so long. Like many of my hon. Friends, I am in a dilemma. The dilemma is a little less painful now, thanks to the speech made by my hon. Friend the Minister for State, than it was when the debate began but it has not yet been totally removed. I hope, therefore, that the Secretary of State will be able to remove it when he winds up.My dilemma is that I do not like the amendments which have been put down by the Opposition. They deal with the problem in the wrong way. I agreed with my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Ladywood (Mr. Walden) that it would be anomalous to pass an Act of Parliament which, in effect, said that all trade unions except the journalists' unions should be put in the position that they were in before 1971. This would be an anomalous and a provocative thing to do. It would exacerbate the dangers which have been seen by hon. Members in all parts of the House. Secondly, it is an implicit assumption in the amendments that the chief threat to the freedom of the Press comes from the activities of the unions in the industry. I do not believe that is true. There are other, and I would say greater, threats to the freedom of the Press than those posed by the activities of the unions. For that reason I do not think that the course proposed in the amendments is the right way to proceed. Finally, as my hon. Friend the Minister of State demonstrated with total success, the amendments do not in any case cover the heart of the matter—namely, freedom of access of the widest possible range of citizens to the Press and broadcasting media. For all those reasons, I do not like the amendments and want to be able to vote against them. On the other hand, I cannot accept that the position would be satisfactory if the Bill went through unamended and if nothing else at all were done about the situation. I believe that there is a real danger to freedom of access to the Press. Access to the media is one of the fundamental cornerstones of democracy; it is also one of the main guarantees of the quality of the cultural life of this country. If the dangers which hon. Members in all parts of the House have seen lurking in the background were to come to pass, not only would the quality of our democracy be impaired but the quality of our nation would also be at stake. Therefore, I believe that the dangers are real and should be safeguarded against. It has been said that many of the dangers may be remote and fanciful, but I believe that the House of Commons has a duty to guard against them. Certainly the Government of the day have a clear duty to make it clear that we take a stand against those dangers, however remote and fanciful they may be thought to be. I urge my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment in his reply to go into a little more detail on these matters than did my hon. Friend the Minister of State. The Minister of State said that if the fears which had been expressed about the freedom of editors and the freedom of access were to be realised the Government would consider legislation. What will the Government consider to be reasonable grounds for legislation? That is a question which the House has a right to have answered. What criteria will the Government use to determine whether freedom of access is likely to be in danger? The Minister of State said that the NUJ had given assurances in private consultations with the Government about the position of editors; he said nothing to suggest that the union had given similar assurances about freedom of access. I should like to know from the Secretary of State what position the NUJ has taken up with the Government on this crucial question of freedom of access. My final question to my right hon. Friend is probably the most important of all. What is the Government's attitude to the informal discussions which have been going on between the NUJ and the other interested parties? I understand that it is hoped that out of the discussions will finally emerge what seems to be the best solution to the problem, namely, the charter of Press freedom agreed by all the parties involved. That would be by far the best way of solving the problem and of meeting the fears which have been expressed. But what would the Government do if by some mischance a charter of that kind was not accepted by the union's delegate conference? Would they regard that as some proof that the fears expressed in this Chamber might come true? If necessary, would my right hon. Friend be prepared to give legislative expression to the outcome of the discussions, assuming that that was thought reasonable and proper by all the parties to them? Those are the specific questions which I hope that my right hon. Friend will be able to answer. If he can give satisfactory answers, I think that this will be the best way to proceed.
I intend to be extremely brief. In fact, it was not my intention to intervene in this debate. On doing so, naturally I declare an interest.I want briefly to comment on the speeches of the hon. Members for Ash-field (Mr. Marquand) and Birmingham, Ladywood (Mr. Walden) because in my view they go to the very heart of the matter, which is the question of access. It must be admitted at the outset that the Press is in a different position from that of many other occupations. It is concerned with wide questions of freedom, with the carrying on of government and with the dissemination of information of all sorts. It is not true that simply because the closed shop may be generally accepted throughout industry, it must be carried over to the Press. It is also true that circumstances have changed in the last few years, and that point was fairly made by the hon. Member for Ladywood. I welcome the suggestion that there should be a charter. I am certain that those members of the NUJ who are associated with The Guardian and the Manchester Evening News would be the last people to deprive an accepted contributor of access. The Guardian and the Manchester Evening News are controlled by trustees, of whom I am one. We have no equity. The trust has no financial gain. We have working journalists on the trust. It has a long tradition that the independence of the editors is safeguarded by the trustees, and the journalists on the trust would be in the forefront of any move deploring a departure from that tradition. I am sure they would be opposed to a union which, operating right through the Press, tried to stop any form of outside contribution. Nevertheless I believe that the solution proposed by the hon. Member for Lady-wood and supported by the hon. Member for Ashfield poses certain problems. It would be difficult for any Government to propose specific legislation to deal with what they regarded as being specific cases of infringement of freedom of access. I am not even certain that that would be desirable. In any event, I doubt whether the Government would do it. 9.45 p.m. Therefore, there is a case for the House coming in now before the difficulties have arisen and trying to prevent the situation from arising if there should ever be any danger of it. Although I welcome the idea of a charter, I believe that the Government must go further than simply making a statement that they would deplore any such attack upon free access to the Press and might take steps to stop it. They might want to make some suggestion in another place as to how they would deal with it. I am not at all sure that it would be right for the House to leave the matter with the Government making a promise to intervene in particular cases. It is difficult to see how these cases might arise, but one can certainly envisage some cases in which it would be almost impossible for the Government to say to the House "There has been an incident and, therefore, we intend to introduce special legislation to deal with it." Therefore, while wholly sympathising with the speeches of the hon. Members for Ladywood and for Ashfield and believing that they have put their finger on the real difficulty, I believe that we must go further than merely having a Government declaration. I hope that the Government will indicate that they will look at the matter again and that if they do not like these amendments they will make some concrete proposals of their own.
As a member of the National Union of Journalists I take seriously the issue of the freedom of the Press and I am prepared to accept that Conservative Members are sincerely concerned about the problem. However, I believe that the right hon. Member for Lowestoft (Mr. Prior) and his hon. Friends have confused principle with process. The principle they are concerned with in their amendment is the principle of the closed shop, which, they allege, would strike at the heart of Press freedom.The evidence that right hon. and hon. Members have adduced is nothing to do with the closed shop. It concerns the process which they allege has been taking place within the National Union of Journalists within recent years—that is, a movement towards the far Left. I do not believe that Opposition Members can be serious in suggesting that a closed shop is of itself a threat to the Press. There is, as everyone knows, more than one union concerned with the printing and production of newspapers. The absence of a closed shop on that side of the industry has not prevented recurring and fundamental threats to the freedom of the Press in the form of printing strikes which have prevented newspapers from coming out. In the say way, if the Opposition really believed that the possibility of an NUJ closed shop was a threat to Press freedom, they should surely have legislated during the 13 years of government they had in the 1950s and 1960s. The reason why they did not legislate is simply that they were not at that time concerned about the political complexion of the NUJ. I would share the concern of hon. Members if there was a prospect of, say, the International Socialists dominating the NUJ or some of its chapels. However, if that situation were to eventuate the existence or non-existence of the closed shop would be totally irrelevant. Let us suppose that the IS were to gain complete control of the Financial Times chapel—an unlikely eventuality, as my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Ladywood (Mr. Walden) has suggested. However, let us suppose that it happened and that the IS-dominated chapel confronted the Editor of the Financial Times and stated that it did not like the editorial line he was pursuing or that it ordered him not to publish more than two articles by, say, the hon. Member for Thanet, East (Mr. Aitken) in one year. I suggest that in such a situation it would be irrelevant whether the Editor of the Financial Times was a member of the NUJ, because even if he was not a member and, therefore, was not subject to NUJ discipline, given that this IS-dominated chapel existed on that paper it could still threaten him with the closing-down of the paper. That would be a threat which he would be unable to do anything about given the present financial state of the newspaper industry, upon which Conservative Members have dilated. In other words, if there is a problem it is the question not of the closed shop but of the political complexion of the NUJ. That being so, legislation or amendments to legislation will be of limited avail. The only way to stop extremists, if they were to gain control of the chapels or the central organs of the NUJ, would be for moderate members of the NUJ to fight against them in the union. It was not legislation that changed the complexion of the leadership of the ETU; it was the fact that men like the late Les Cannon and Frank Chapple were prepared to fight for the leadership of that union. Freedom of the Press can only be preserved within a framework of legislation. I was glad to hear my hon. Friend the Minister of State say that the Government would be prepared to legislate if there were any sign that the freedom of the Press were abused. Like my hon. Friends the Members for Ladywood and for Ashfield (Mr. Marquand), I should welcome that statement reiterated even more clearly by the Secretary of State. But I re-emphasise, especially to my hon. Friends, that in the analysis no such legislation will be of any use against true extremists if there are not tough-minded, moderate journalists in the NUJ like the present general secretary, to whom many hon. Members have rightly paid tribute, who are prepared to take on such extremists and struggle for the soul of their union. I suggest that free journalists, not simply free editors, are the best protection for a free Press.
The hon. Member for Belper (Mr. MacFarquhar) gave us the parallel of the ETU and paid tribute to the late Les Cannon. It was not until individual members of the ETU took their case to a court to expose ballot rigging that anything happened. Therefore, it is not always possible for members of unions or, indeed, the general public to survive without recourse to law.
I was not suggesting that legislation or the law was relevant. I said that a framework was important, but that if no one was prepared to stand up and fight and take advantage of the law, the law was irrelevant.
Equally, however much people are prepared to stand up and fight, if there is no law to protect them there is not much that they can do.The hon. Members for Ashfield (Mr. Marquand) and Birmingham, Ladywood (Mr. Walden) made two or three points which require a certain amount of consideration. The views that they expressed appear to cross the Floor. However, they left me in the position of a Pearl White serial: if they get satisfactory answers to their questions they might decide to support the Government. It will be interesting to see what satisfaction they get. One point disturbs me. I thought for a moment that the hon. Member for Ladywood, had a valid point when he said that he was willing to gamble in the sense that he would not support the amendments in the hope that all would go well. How far is he willing to gamble? Would it not be wiser, for example, for the Government to take powers in this Bill, if necessary, to introduce a regulation should things go wrong? There is no point at all in the fine speech and rhetoric of the hon. Gentleman because he is not in the Government and does not have to find parliamentary time. We know how Leaders of the House of all parties jealously say "There is no time available". Therefore all the fine words about giving a warning and, if the warning is ignored, the Government introducing legislation mean nothing, because in the end the Government control time. On the other hand, if a regulation could be laid, which would be debatable under the affirmative or negative order procedure, at least the safeguard would be there. I am not prepared to allow the remarks made by the hon. Member for Coventry, North-West (Mr. Edelman) to pass without comment, because I regard them as some of the most vicious words that I have heard in this House since I became a Member in 1970. The hon. Gentleman made a personal attack upon Lord Goodman and, when challenged, was not brave enough to say what the allegations of censorship and leaning on journalists were or to justify himself outside the privilege of this Chamber. That is a most dangerous thing for a well-respected Member to say. One wonders what his motives were. I warned the Secretary of State that I would make some unkind remarks about him. When I watched him on television many years ago, when he was in the company of Messrs. Brown, Boothby and Alan Taylor, I thought he was a democrat, because he said so, and I believed him. I believed that he valued freedom. I recall some words that I heard many years ago which seem to apply to what the right hon. Gentleman is trying to get the House to accept, today:
"His honour rooted in dishonour stood,
He is trying to apply double standards. If any one man is in danger of letting freedom down, it is the Secretary of State, who seems unwilling or unable to see the point. I very much hope that it is the latter. As one of my constituents, the right hon. Gentleman will be as well aware as I am of the existence of the Hampstead and Highgate Express, and will be an equally avid reader of that journal. Along with, I think, 23 of his Labour colleagues, whom I have the honour to represent in Parliament, he will know that the political views of that newspaper are not always mine. More often than not it supports their party. I want to quote from the editorial of 22nd November, talking about the then strike called as a result of a pay dispute. The newspaper said:And faith unfaithful kept him falsely true."
"Nevertheless, the journalists refused the option to strike. Instead, the NUJ, a badly split union in which the militants are gaining increasing power, imposed sanctions which 'blacked' the copy of non-NUJ journalists and contributors.
This raised the question of censorship. Indeed, we are amazed that the minor Institute of Journalists has not sought a High Court injunction to prevent its members from being discriminated against and their livelihoods put at stake.
The IoJ, after all, is a recognised union and one with which the NUJ made an abortive attempt to amalgamate. It surely must be illegal for one union to threaten the existence of another in this deplorable way. … But the status of editors as such has now also entered the issue with the Government's proposed closed shop legislation.
There are real fears—and Employment Secretary Michael Foot has yet to dispel them—that editors may be forced to join the NUJ and that this will denude them of their traditional freedom. It is a freedom that must be jealously guarded and the government stopped from bashing the press that Harold Wilson hates so much.
Following that editorial, I have had quite a number of discussions with the editor. He will not mind my saying that he is on the opposite side of the political fence to me. In a letter dated 14th January he said:And that freedom can only be maintained by legislation which gives editors an exact legal status that neither managements nor unions can usurp."
"I think it fair to say that while I may not be opposed to a closed shop in principle—it does help in some industries—it cannot work in newspapers unless there is a built-in guarantee that the freedom of the press will be unaffected.
I believe he is right. The Government have not satisfied us that they are taking this matter as seriously as it should be taken. We all know why the Bill is with us. It was only hinted at once today—Despite what Mr. Foot has already said on the subject, I believe that such a guarantee must be written into the legislation and that Editors are given an exact legal status that neither management nor union can usurp."
It being Ten o'clock, the debate stood adjourned.
That the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Amendment) Bill may be proceeded with at this day's sitting, though opposed, until any hour.—[Mr. Stoddart.]
Question again proposed. That the amendment be made.
The Bill is with us because it repays the unions for their support and their vote. I remind the House that Danegeld has a habit of increasing. What price will next be demanded, and for how long can not simply the freedom of editors but freedom itself survive?I accept, as every member of an Opposition must accept, that amendments drafted by Oppositions are defective. But it is the intentions behind them that are important. I am prepared to accept from the Minister of State that these amendments are defective and will not achieve what my right hon. Friend the Member for Lowestoft (Mr. Prior) believes they will achieve. But I am not prepared to accept that the Government should not think again about this matter. Nothing concentrates the Government mind, even the Civil Service mind, more than having to put right defective provisions which a vote of the House has imposed on them. It puts the Government under a duty to put them right. Defective though the amendments may be, their intention is right. The idea behind them is right. The House should accept them and put the onus on the Government, in another place if necessary, to reword them so that they satisfy the parliamentary draftsmen and the purists. Liberty should not depend on vague promises which cannot stand up to the determined efforts of some people to destroy the freedom of the Press.
A number of my hon. Friends hope to catch your eye, Mr. Speaker, and therefore I shall not detain the House for long.It is as well to remember that the Bill covers over 5 million people who are working in establishments where they have negotiated or agreed a closed shop procedure, and, further, that the Bill's purpose is to restore the labour laws to more or less what they were before the introduction of the Industrial Relations Act 1971. But we seem to have focused our attention, not only in Committee but in this debate, on the position in the newspaper industry. Before the passing of the 1971 Act, every union had the right to negotiate or establish a closed shop. That right had existed for over 100 years. It was confirmed in 1924 by a court case which decided that it was a legitimate objective of a trade union to strive for a closed shop. Therefore, the first question which we must ask those who are putting forward the views of newspaper proprietors is this: whatever happened to Press freedom prior to 1971? Why did not Lord Goodman write to The Times about Press freedom in 1971? Before the passing of the Industrial Relations Act the NUJ had every right to establish a closed shop in its industry. As my hon. Friend the Member for Sowerby (Mr. Madden) has said, the national newspapers printed in London have enjoyed a closed shop for many years. Every journalist is a member of his trade union—the NUJ or the Institute of Journalists. We are entitled to ask why it is that in 1975 there is suddenly a great threat to Press freedom when it did not exist in 1971. The only answer we have had is that the union is today more militant and more extreme. Is this why Tory Members are against the closed shop? If so, let me remind them that there are militants and extremists in other unions. Why is this a problem only for the newspaper industry? The discussion is taking place in an atmosphere which suggests that the closed shop is imposed on industry as a whole. The proprietors can reject the closed shop. They have three methods of approach. They can agree to a closed shop, they can come to some compromise with the union on who should be in the closed shop and so on, or they can reject it. This point was made in an article by the Labour Editor of the Financial Times, John Elliott, who puts the case well. His was one of the few articles to put a case in favour of the Bill out of the many that have appeared in the Press recently. He writes:
That seems to sum up the position of the Government, which is quite neutral. In the newspaper industry, as in other industries, the closed shop is a matter for negotiation between employer and employee. It cannot be set out in law. My hon. Friends have raised the question of free access to the Press. What do we mean by that? Certainly many of us do not have free access to the Press. If we see an article in favour of the Common Market we can write to the editor putting an anti-Common Market point of view, but it is doubtful whether we shall get that published. We have all had experience of trying to induce an editor to publish a statement or a letter from us. We do not have free access to the Press. It is a little unreal for some of us. What I think my hon. Friends are on about is whether the secretary of the local Women's Institute will be prevented from writing her monthly report and sending it to the editor. We have it on the authority of a pamphlet sent out by a number of editors, which most of us have read, that specific assurances have been given by the General Secretary of the NUJ and by Mr. Ron Knowles, the editor of the NUJ Journal, to the effect that the union never suggested that it would not allow public figures or others to contribute to newspapers. The pamphlet goes on to say:"once a union or a group of workers has decided to try to obtain a closed shop, each employer is entitled to deal with this as he would with any other union claim—by negotiation or outright rejection. It is also open to an employer and a union to decide on specific provisions—for example, excluding existing employees from any requirement to join a union or allowing time for new recruits to join—and to write in any extra specific unions which are to be recognised."
this is good journalese—"The real objection to Mr. Foot's Bill is that it leaves the power lying around. And a power lying around is a blunderbuss"—
That is a thunderer if ever there was one. This blunderbuss, this power, has been lying around for 100 years until 1971, until the Industrial Relations Act put another power in the hands of the employers. We gave a pledge in our manifesto that if we were returned to power we would abolish the Industrial Relations Act. This legislation on the closed shop is the last vestige of the Industrial Relations Act. We on the Government side of the House are pledged to abolish that Act. We want to return to the world of free collective bargaining, of open negotiation between employers and employees. This can be done in every area, including the newspaper area. I am convinced, therefore, that the amendment is totally unnecessary and I am particularly pleased that my hon. Friends are resisting it."likely to be picked up, whether for occasional use in times of dispute, or in furtherance of other ends."
My hon. Friend the Member for Belper (Mr. MacFarquhar) said that what this matter really comes down to is the question of the political complexion of the NUJ. I do not agree with that. In some of its organisations the NUJ has been infiltrated, and even here and there, perhaps, taken over by members of revolutionary Marxist parties; and those members of anti-democratic parties, not surprisingly, are not concerned with the democratic freedoms of the Press.However, I do not think that it is in that source that the greatest danger lies. Much more important than that is the fact that the Press is now drastically contracting. This is an area of shrinking employment, with ever-growing threats of unemployment. It is the job of a union in these circumstances to use its powers to protect the jobs of its members. That is what trade unions are for. In these circumstances the NUJ is almost bound by the logic of this situation to use ever tougher and tougher measures to protect the jobs of its members. These are bound to include—indeed, they have already in some cases included—excluding non-union members from writing for newspapers. That is not because it wishes to censor their political views but because it wishes to preserve for its members all the paid employment that there is going. The Secretary of State is entirely right in saying that under the existing legislation it is within the power of the NUJ to bring about closed shops. There are already many closed shops in Fleet Street, and we know that it is the policy of the NUJ to go for the closed shop everywhere. The Secretary of State is quite right when he says that the Bill does not affect that position. Where the Bill does connect up with that position—I have not heard this connection spelled out in the debate, although I have been in the Chamber for several hours—is that if the NUJ succeeds in negotiating a closed shop agreement with proprietors—who, as Lord Goodman has rightly told us today, are often very weak in the face of a powerful union—and if the NUJ then uses that agreement to demand that the editor belong to the union, then if the editor refuses, under this legislation he will be liable to dismissal without compensation. It is the provisions for unfair dismissal compensation that establish the real connection that we ought to be discussing but which, as I say, I have not yet heard one person discuss in the Chamber this evening. That situation puts the editors, or can put them, in thrall to the unions. I am afraid that we already have reasonable evidence to give us grounds for fearing that the unions may abuse that power, not only, I repeat, because some of them have anti-democratic motivations, but, much more important, out of an entirely non-political concern for the employment of their members.
Even in such a situation, what is there to prevent the proprietors from making editors the kind of ex-gratia payments which they have done so frequently in recent years?
There is nothing to prevent their doing so, and there is nothing to require their doing so. Editors would be left entirely at the mercies—probably the untender mercies—of the union, on the one hand, and the proprietors on the other. We ought not to do that. There is no justification for doing that.10.15 p.m. To come back to my main point, editors in this situation will be very weak relative to the union. We have reason to suppose that the union may, and will be increasingly under temptation to, abuse the power that it has over editors. The freedom of the Press should not be left to the good will of a union, a good will which we may have at the moment but which we cannot be guaranteed for the future. I am one who thinks that we should legislate the freedom of the Press. My chief criticism of the amendments is that they do not make an adequate job of it.
I see an hon. Member on the Front Bench opposite nodding agreement with that.The Secretary of State has said that it is unreasonable for us to exempt one union from provisions required to apply to all the others, but I do not see why that should be so. When the Labour Government passed the Monopolies and Mergers Act in 1965, they made an exception of the Press, taking the view that the Press constituted a unique case in monopoly situations. It was right to do so in the case of proprietors and it would be right to do so in the case of unions. It would be utterly wrong if there were ever one organised body with the power to decide who did and did not write in newspapers. Most of my hon. Friends would say, "What about the abuses of Press freedom by proprietors and editors?". I am no friend of editors and proprietors, as I have said elsewhere in the last few days, but there is one fundamental difference. There is a multiplicity of editors and of proprietors, and if any journalist offends his editor or his editor's boss, there are a thousand other places where he can work and write. But there is only one National Union of Journalists, and to make matters worse that one union is currently refusing to recognise the existence of the other association, the Institute of Journalists, which gives us additional ground to fear that it wishes to become, as editors and proprietors never could become, one unitary body controlling all access to the medium.
My hon. Friend says that the NUJ refuses to recognise the Institute. Is he aware that the NUJ and the IoJ sit together on the Press Council and on the National Council for the Training of Journalists?
I am well aware of that, but my hon. Friend will know that in discussions on the very issue which we are debating tonight, the NUJ has repeatedly refused to take into account the views of the Institute—[An HON. MEMBER: "That is not so."] It is indeed so.There is an alternative view to mine, which I respect. It is that the freedoms that we enjoy in this country, because we do not have a written constitution, are not mainly enshrined in laws or defended by laws, that they depend on custom and convention, on unwritten rules and agreements, and that the best way of safeguarding the freedom of the Press is not by law but by having just such a clear understanding, a gentlemen's agreement, embracing the NUJ and the editors. That is not my view—I am a legislation man—but it is a reasonable alternative view and I believe that it is the view that the Secretary of State holds. If that is so, I would ask him to say two things when he sums up. First, if he wishes our Press freedoms to be safeguarded solely by an unwritten gentlemen's agreement between the NUJ and the editors and proprietors, will he use all the power and influence of his office to bring pressure to bear on the parties concerned to come to precisely such an agreement? If he is doing so, will he tell the House what success he is having? Secondly, I ask my right hon. Friend, as he was asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Ladywood (Mr. Walden), to make it unambiguously clear that if the powers that the Bill provides to the NUJ or any other organisation—I am not singling out that union alone—are abused by anyone, he and the Government of which he is a member will not hesitate to bring forward legislation which at the moment, on grounds which I do not share but respect, they are hesitating to introduce. If it is shown by experience that only legislation will safeguard our freedoms, will the Government have no objection in principle to legislating? Will they legislate in such circumstances? If my right hon. Friend will give us those assurances I shall vote with him tonight. If he cannot give those assurances I cannot give him my vote.
The name of Lord Goodman has been mentioned on a number of occasions in this debate in reference to a letter that appeared in today's copy of The Times in reply to a letter which I and nine of my colleagues signed. Perhaps the House will forgive me if I make one comment on that letter. It is clear that the noble Lord did not meet one basic simple point that we made in our letter—namely, that the effect of the Bill and of the parent Act is to return to a legal position of neutrality in regard to the closed shop. I know that that has been repeated ad nauseam not only during this debate but during preceding debates.Those whose only knowledge of this debate has come through the media might be forgiven for thinking that this is a Bill which positively enforces closed shops. The hon. Member for Hampstead (Mr. Finsberg) quoted a leader from a newspaper with which I must confess I am not familiar—namely, the Hampstead and Highgate Express.
Perhaps the hon. Gentleman would like to know that it is printed in his constituency.
I am grateful for that piece of knowledge. We live and learn. This is a place in which we can learn many things. If I noted it correctly, I believe the editor of that journal used the phrase "Mr. Foot's closed shop legislation". That clearly implies that the effect of the Bill is to encourage if not to enforce closed shops. The plain fact is that the effect of the Bill and the parent Act is to remove the prohibitions and the difficulties put in the path of closed shops. If that is not returning to a position of neutrality, what is? That must be the position unless the 1971 Act is to be regarded as the embodiment of neutrality.When we were debating the removal of closed shop prohibitions and difficulties in the 1971 Act during the passage of the parent Act I do not recall the Opposition objecting in principle to what we were doing. For example, when we were removing Section 7, the ban on pre-entry closed shops in the 1971 Act, I do not remember the Opposition dividing the Committee. I agree that we had our differences on how best to protect the rights of individuals in closed shop situations, but in principle the Opposition did not raise objections even to the pre-entry closed shop. I thought that they had seen the light. I thought that they recognised that, whether or not there is a pre-entry closed shop or any other kind of closed shop, the matter should be left to the parties concerned in any company or industry and that the law had no useful part to play. That was my understanding of the position. The question was not whether closed shops were desirable or not. About that we may differ. The question was whether there should be laws purporting to prohibit them or make it difficult to achieve them. The Opposition must make up their minds about closed shops. Do they want to revert to the 1971 Act position in regard to closed shops in general or are they genuinely making out a special case concerning the editorial function? Which is it? Listening to the debates not only today but those which have preceded it in this Chamber and in Committee, I find it difficult to make up my mind. Hon. Members opposite seem to vacillate—if that is not too strong a word—from one position to another. Some of us even have doubts about whether their conversion which we thought was genuine had really occurred. Has a counter-conversion taken place? Were they kidding us all along? It is all very confusing to some of us on this side of the House. I do not want to reopen the debate on legislative prohibitions and restrictions on closed shops in general. Let us take it that whatever may be the secret hankerings after the 1971 Act which may well lurk in the breasts of some hon. Members opposite, a genuine case for special treatment has been made. If we accept what I said earlier about the restoration of legal neutrality in regard to closed shops in general, the question is: what has happened since before 1971 to alter the position with regard to newspapers and other media? As has been said by my hon. Friend the Member for Darlington (Mr. Fletcher), pre-1971, when the legal position was the same as it will be after the passage of this Bill, I do not recall the same outcries from editors which are now reaching our ears. We are told of all kinds of resolutions which have been passed at NUJ conferences since 1971. We are told about the domination of the NUJ by various extremists, by Marxist bodies—presumably not Groucho Marxist bodies. As has been pointed out in many debates, there are not lacking hon. Members opposite who are very quick to wave their NUJ cards metaphorically in our faces when we mention the subject. We have been told by my hon. Friend the Member for Leyton (Mr. Magee) in this debate and in an article a few days ago in The Times that the newspaper industry is facing great difficulties and that, therefore, the balance of power has shifted decisively to the NUJ. If journalists' jobs are threatened, we are told, the NUJ will be prepared to take extreme measures to defend the jobs of its members. There is a sense in which this would be very understandable. It is understandable for any trade union to do this. But I think that at the base of my hon. Friend's argument there is a fallacy. The idea that the weaker an industry is, the stronger is the position of a trade union is not borne out by practical experience. It would be more true to say the reverse—that the stronger an industry, the stronger will be the trade union in that industry.
Would my hon. Friend not agree that experience of the last two years has exploded this long-held belief that high levels of unemployment and powerful trade unions cannot co-exist?
I am not saying that the argument is wholly true one way or the other. I am saying that one can make out a case for asserting that the stronger an industry the stronger the trade union. One can make out a case for that proposition as readily as one can make out a case for the opposite contention—the one for which my hon. Friend was arguing. However, I do not wish to get involved in the pros and cons of that argument because I do not think it is of the essence of the question before us.The Conservatives claim that things have changed since 1971. They may be right. I think that Adam said to Eve "My dear, we live in an age of transition." Things are constantly changing, but we are not tonight dealing with the changing nature of relationships in the industry or with technological changes. The point is what part the law should play in this matter. 10.30 p.m. Our basic contention is that the Industrial Relations Act was wrong in trying to legislate in matters where legislation is not appropriate, and they include the closed shop. Such matters are properly dealt with through voluntary negotiation between the parties concerned. I am not suggesting that there are no problems or difficulties in the industrial relations of newspapers and the other media. There are, but such matters are best dealt with by those concerned, untrammelled by legal difficulties and prohibitions. The purpose of the Bill is to get rid of the paraphernalia of the 1971 Act and to clear the ground. If a special case is being made out we must ask why confine a remedy to the editorial aspect of newspaper production. Why not, as the hon. Member for Thanet, East (Mr. Aitken) argued in Committee with commendable logic, extend it to all aspects of newspaper production? Why should we not include the printers? Here history has lessons to teach us. Section 7 of the Industrial Relations Act made void agreements enforcing a pre-entry closed shop. The print unions have operated such a closed shop for many years, and the effect of Section 7 on them has been precisely nil. That section has been a dead letter in that respect. That raises one or two questions. If the law has not been effective in the case of the print unions' closed shops why should it be effective in other cases? If such closed shops have operated all these years what evidence is there of real infringement of editorial freedom? If industrial relations problems exist in an industry the best way to deal with them is by non-legislative means, and that is as true of the media as it is of any other industry. Those who support the amendments have no monopoly of concern with freedom of the Press or of the media generally. Some of my hon. Friends disagree over the interpretation of the term "freedom of the Press". That freedom is not so much an accomplished fact which must be defended, but more a goal at which we should aim. We could have a less free Press than we have, but obviously we could have far greater freedom too. Just consider the reporting of the debate. The newspapers have devoted far more column inches to presenting the editorial side of the case than to any other aspect of it. We should consider the freedom of the Press in a far wider context. Let us devise ways of increasing and developing freedom: freedom of choice: freedom of access; freedom from the present bias of the news media. Let us complete the job of getting rid of the 1971 Act and build a far better and healthier framework of industrial relations.
I speak briefly only to express my deep concern about the freedom of access to the Press which my hon. Friend the Member for Darlington (Mr. Fletcher) dismissed too lightly in terms of the contributions to the Press made by secretaries of women's institutes. My hon. Friend was right to say that we were suffering the consequences of the Industrial Relations Act that the previous Conservative Government forced through. I share his opposition to that Act and commitment to its repeal. I shared with my hon. Friend the dreary task of tramping through the Division Lobbies to demonstrate opposition to the Industrial Relations Bill. We on the Government benches are at one in being committed to the repeal of that Act.To me the repeal of the Act means a return to the previous situation. My concern is that we may be going back to a different position in which a union may restrict access to a principal medium of communicaion. I for one would not tolerate that situation, and I hope that my right hon. Friend will assure the House that he, too, would not tolerate it. If our worst fears are realised action will have to be taken to safeguard access to the Press for all people, including minorities and people holding all views, and I hope that my right hon. Friend will give that reassurance.
I am a member of the National Union of Journalists. I was a full member, that membership was transmuted into associate membership and, by resolution of the annual conference, I am now a full member. I have been involved on both sides, as a shop steward—a father of the chapel—and also in management on newspapers and magazines.I understand the genuine concern of the right hon. Member for Lowestoft (Mr. Prior) and his hon. Friends and of some of my hon. Friends. My reason for intervening is to state briefly my experience on the ground and to say what happens when members of the NUJ and the Institute of Journalists are at work. The tragedy of the argument is that it forces people into trenches in which they have no place. I see from a pamphlet called "For Freedom of the Press and Broadcasting" one of the authors of which is Alastair Hetherington, the Editor of The Guardian, that on 22nd January at a meeting of the Royal Society of Arts in London Mr. Hetherington is reported as arguing for the involvement of journalists and workers on newspapers in the management and decision-making process, short of editorial decisions. He went on to say:
I am well aware that Mr. Hetherington subsequently withdrew that statement, but a lot has been made about the credentials of Kenneth Morgan, General Secretary of the NUJ, and how far he can be trusted. It is right that hon. Members should not cast aspersions on Mr. Morgan. We also have the right to ask why Mr. Hetherington, having made that statement, then withdrew it. If that is the case, how can we be sure he will not in future put that statement ino practice?"We further accept that, to the extent that staff views may bear on the manner and conduct of a newspaper or broadcasting organisation, employers are within their right in seeking information about the political affiliations and activities of applicants for any journalistic job."
I have already declared my interest in this matter. The hon. Gentleman should make it clear that Mr. Hetherington withdrew that statement at once in a footnote to a letter written to Mr. Morgan and he then explained the position.
I accept what the right hon. Gentleman says. But the fact remains that Mr. Hetherington said it and withdrew it subsequently only when challenged. I am delighted that The Guardian's editor withdrew that statement.I may make the same point about the Sun newspaper. They devote the best part of page 2—making sure not to disturb the contents of page 3—to this matter. I think I can say without fear of contradiction that the last proprietors to read lectures on the protection of the Press and its standards are the proprietors of News International. They are the most censured by the Press Council of any of the proprietors in Fleet Street. When they are not playing peeping tom on Lord Lambton, they are paying fat cheques to the girl friends of villains to retail their stories, and they are censured by the Press Council for their activities. I say with all humility that I sometimes sit in my bath wondering what all the argument and debate is all about. It is my firm belief that it is founded on a total misunderstanding of the position. It has been said by a number of Conservative speakers that the difficulty arose when the NUJ decided to do away with associate membership and when editors were accorded full membership. It has been alleged—and my hon. Friend the Member for Luton, East (Mr. Clemitson) implied this—that somehow or other this altered their position in the NUJ. The fact is that the change of rule did no such thing. Associate members of the union were subject to the rules of the union in the same way as was any other member. That fact appears to have been overlooked. It was said by those who sought to change the rule in the union that it would enable those who previously held associate membership to be able to play a much fuller rôle in NUJ affairs—a union which has been described by the right hon Member for Lowestoft (Mr. Prior) as very democratic. Whether they choose to is up to them. It is for them to decide whether that is the best way to do it. 10.45 p.m. It is suggested that if the Government's proposals are accepted, they will open the floodgates to the NUJ to beat employers round the ears until they declare that they are willing to have a closed shop in every newspaper in that street just at the end of the Strand. But every newspaper along that street already has an agreement providing for a closed shop arrangement of some form—not just with the NUJ but with all the other unions involved. Many hon. Members do not understand the difference on the ground between the various forms of closed shop agreements. For example, there are what are known as "pre-entry" closed shops, which are a form of "Catch 22". No one can get a job until he has a union card, and he cannot get a union card until he has a job. That is not the form of closed shop to which the NUJ is committed. It is not the policy to which the union's policy-making body, the annual delegate meeting, gives its support. Instead, it encourages people who are given appointments to become members of the union. To hear the Opposition talk, anyone would think that the closed shop was new to Fleet Street. It is not. When the hated Industrial Relations Act was enacted and enforced, not one employer along Fleet Street lifted a finger. Not one of them ran to the National Industrial Relations Court seeking to undo the existing closed shop arrangements. At the time, I was working in magazines. I happen to think that they matter. A number of journalists decided to relinquish their membership of the NUJ and to join the Institute of Journalists. This was when the Industrial Relations Act was on the statute book. But there was no strike. In this House, we overlook what happens on the ground. It is sensible relations between men and men and men and women at work which matter. In the section of the business in which I was working, the situation was contained and lived with, and both the NUJ and the Institute of Journalists have rights of negotiation with the management. That is what has happened in practice, and that is why it is wrong to theorise about these matters. Anyone who has been at the sharp end knows that people have a way of making these situations work. It does no service to industrial relations in a very difficult industry if hon. Members seek to make them worse. Nothing in this proposed legislation will open the door to a closed shop. With the experience of the Industrial Relations Act behind us, we know that the right place to take decisions on these matters is on the shop floor, between those who work there and the management. Do not we have enough confidence in trade union members and managements being able to sort out these matters sensibly? I shall vote for confidence in the people who have to run these businesses. They are the people on whom this responsibility should be placed.
We have had an important debate on the freedom of the Press and on the issues associated with it. I do not think that those who have listened to the debate—and I have listened to practically all myself—will deny that. I shall do my best to answer the serious issues raised.Perhaps I might begin by remarking, as I have before, in some of the debates on the Bill, that when we embarked on the repeal Bill, which we introduced in March last year, we never thought—certainly I never thought—that we were introducing a Bill which would impinge at all on the freedom of the Press, and that was the view of most London editors for several monthes after we had introduced the Bill last year. We introduced that Bill in March for quite a different purpose, and we are persisting with its completion now, because we were seeking—if I may mention so indelicate a matter—to carry out a pledge in our election manifesto. We thought it a proper purpose. It is the major purpose of this Bill, but I do not deny for a moment that widespread anxieties have been expressed in the Press. They have been voiced effectively in this House today. It is the Government's business today, and mine particularly, to make sure that we reply to them. From the way the debate has gone, most people would agree that the aspect which has given rise to the greatest anxiety is the question of access to the newspapers. It has been stressed in the speeches of my hon. Friends the Members for Birmingham, Ladywood (Mr. Walden) and Ashfield (Mr. Marquand) and others. I shall seek to reply to the questions they have put to me on that subject especially, but I hope they will understand when I say that it is extremely difficult for anyone to see how one can deal with the question of access to the Press by legislative action. That has always been the anxiety I have had on the matter. When the London editors came to see me, they raised at the beginning the question of contributions to the Press, and of access, but I put to them in turn the question: were they asking that we should take legislative action on this matter? They said that they were not. They were raising other—as they might think associated—matters, but were not asking for legislative action to deal with contributors to the Press, or access to the Press. That was the attitude they expressed. I have felt throughout the controversy—and I hope my hon. Friends who press me will also understand—that my anxiety about it is because it is extremely difficult to discover how one would deal legislatively with access to the Press. It would not be merely to legislate to deal with the NUJ or journalists who interfere. It is a much wider question. If we were going to have a law which laid down provisions about access to the Press and percentages of space in the Press which was to be allocated—in one of the letters, a London editor went into this and cited a country in eastern Europe where they have a provision about percentage access to the Press, which I cite merely as an illustration—I do not believe that anyone who looks at the matter seriously can deny that it would be extremely difficult to design. It is partly for that reason that I have taken the view that the law cannot deal with these matters. I will come later to the law as it applies to existing or proposed closed shops. It is partly for that reason that I have said—it has been the principal ground upon which we have argued the case, not only the case affecting this part of the Bill, but affecting other parts of the Bill—that we do not think that the law can deal with many of these questions. It is very difficult to see how the law can deal with questions of access. I will come to that very matter when I reply to the direct questions asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Ashfield. Although we never intended that the Bill should have anything to do especially with the freedom of the Press, and although in that sense the whole of the controversy has broken out much to my surprise, none the less I believe that beneficial by products for the Press have resulted from the whole controversy. Indeed, it may very well be that, as a result of the whole controversy and the encouragement that the Government have given to dealing with this matter by non-legal means, editors, newspapers and the public generally will secure provisions about access to the Press and other questions of freedom which this country has not had since Caxton. If that is achieved, who will claim the credit? Modestly, I will claim some of the credit, because it so happens that on Second Reading, without much encouragement from others, although I was not altogether dissuaded on that account, I gave a full-hearted welcome on behalf of the Government to the initiative taken by the National Union of Journalists for a non-legal way of dealing with this matter, which I believe is the best way of dealing with it. The Government have played their part in seeking to further that course. If we achieve a protection for editors and the Press which we have never had before in our history and people look for the author or authors, they will have to give credit, certainly, to Mr. Ken Morgan and to the NUJ for the initiative they took in writing to the other parties concerned. The Government, too, will claim some of the credit, because we sought to help the process along. How far has this process proceeded? This is the most important question. The hon. Member for Rochdale (Mr. Smith), who made a very constructive and helpful speech, emphasised his belief that this would be a good approach to the matter and he welcomed the idea that we should proceed with it as fast as we could. We are certainly in favour of having a charter for journalists to cover the many questions that we have been discussing. I am glad to say that progress has been made with that charter. I shall now refer to the part played by Mr. Alastair Hetherington, the Editor of The Guardian. I will not go into the controversy of the McCarthy section, where a paragraph was put into his charter and withdrawn immediately in what I think they describe in Fleet Street as a Keith Joseph gesture. However, it was done; that part of it has been withdrawn; and the rest of the document is a most admirable document. I wish to quote a part of the document which refers to the question of access to the Press, which has caused so much anxiety in various quarters of the House. I am sure that those who have followed the matter closely know that this charter for the Press drawn up by Mr. Hetherington, but after consultation with Mr. Ken Morgan, and drawing liberally on the code of conduct of journalists of the NUJ, states on the question of access:
11.0 p.m. I certainly agree with Mr. Hetherington's admirably expressed views. I think that Mr. Ken Morgan agrees with those views and is prepared to sign them and there is every possibility that he will persuade his union to be prepared to support them. Of course, that is only one of many provisions in that charter, as hon. Members who have followed the matter closely will know. If that charter were to be signed by all the parties concerned—the proprietors, the editors, the National Union of Journalists and the Institute of Journalists—or if a meeting were called, under some independent chairman, at which they decided to draw up this charter, that would be a very fine step forward. That is what I hope we will secure. If we move in that direction, I think that we will move towards solving some of the difficult problems which hon. Members have been talking about tonight."We acknowledge that while normal newspaper work and the preparation of news broadcasts must be reserved for trained journalists, access to a newspaper's columns and to broadcasting time ought not to be barred to any citizen or group of citizens. Within the limits of space and time and the requirements of commercial viability, editors ought to give fair representation to opposing and minority points of view. While the NUJ and the IOJ are entitled to protect their members' earnings, restraints must not be placed on the right of editors to publish contributions from a wide range of authors."
Will the right hon. Gentleman tell the House what evidence he has to support the view that Mr. Morgan and the NUJ are willing to sign such a document?