As amended ( in the Standing Committee), further considered.
Determination Of Fairness Of Dismissal
I beg to move amendment No. 43, in page 7 leave out lines 5 to 13.We are grateful for the fact that Mr. Speaker has allowed us to have a debate on what is an important clause, albeit a small one, not least because it is one of those clauses which have been widely ignored as a consequence of the style and manner of the Government's presentation of their legislation and the way in which he media have responded to that. The impression has been built up that the Bill deals with some of the alleged abuses of picketing, some of the aspects of the closed shop, that it provides Government assistance for ballots, and that that is about it. As I said on Second Reading, that ignores the way in which, needlessly and provocatively, the Bill attacks a whole range of hard-won workers' rights which have been provided by statute in recent years. For example, there are women's rights such as maternity leave, the right to have time off, and so on; and there are questions relating to compensation for unfair dismissal, guaranteed payments and a whole range of matters. Not least, the Bill is an attack on workers' protections against unfair dismissal. In looking at the technicalities of the legislation we may overlook the human realities which it may bear upon. I make no apology for quoting, as I did in Committee, a relevant passage from the Donovan report, which, in regard to the need for statutory provision to safeguard workers against unfair dismissal, said:
No one gave a warmer welcome than I did to the statutory provisions, when they were first introduced in 1971. Those statutory provisions have enjoyed the support of all parties in the House and have been widely regarded not only as having made a significant contribution to the necessary protections for workers but as having contributed to a much-needed improvement in the climate of industrial relations. Therefore, it is beyond comprehension that the Government should in this way deliberately seek to weaken those protections and at the same time add yet a further drop of acid into an already polluted industrial relations climate. The Government are doing two things in the clause. First, they are returning to the form of words that was employed in the 1971 Act about the onus of proof in relation to an alleged unfair dismissal. Those words have been recognised as being unjust to the applicant and inappropriate to the necessities of industrial relations. The Government are making the position significantly worse by including a requirement on the tribunal which deals with unfair dismissal cases to take account of the size and administrative resources of the employer's undertaking. As I understand it, that is argued to be a concession to small firms, which in recent years have understandably and properly conducted a vigorous lobby on their behalf through a number of organisations. It is right that we should take account of the special problems of small firms, but, as I said in Committee, the new words apply not merely to small firms but to a whole range of employers. They apply equally to the small employer in a back street—the building contractor with a boy, cart and ladder—and to the multi-million pound multi-national corporation which perhaps employs 100,000 people or more, as well as to the whole range in between. That means that instead of dispensing justice with regard to the impact of unfair dismissal on the individual, the tribunal will have to grade it according to the size and administrative resources of the employer's undertaking. In other words, there will be variations in what might otherwise have been equitable treatment, and what ought to be equitable treatment. I should like, for a few minutes, to deal with the argument that these words were introduced in response to complaints from small firms about the burden of employment protection legislation and the Government's declared response to those complaints. I remind the House yet again that these complaints are not new. The previous Labour Government sought to ascertain the facts and to discover how well-founded those complaints were. Two independent surveys were commissioned from highly reputable bodies outside the Department of Employment. It was obviously necessary to seek the services of an outside agency to free the Government from the allegation of bias. For the same reason, it was equally important that reputable bodies be employed. I doubt whether many hon. Members would challenge the bona fides of the Opinion Research centre, which was commissioned by the Department to investigate complaints about the effects of employment legislation on small firms which employ fewer than 50 people. As I have said before, only 2 per cent. of those employers interviewed said that employment legislation was the main difficulty in running the business. ORC asked" In reality people build much of their lives around their jobs. Their incomes and prospects for the future are inevitably founded in the expectation that their jobs will continue. For workers in many situations dismissal is a disaster. For some workers it may make inevitable the breaking up of a community and the uprooting of homes and families. Others, and particularly older workers, may be faced with the greatest difficulty in getting work at all."
I accept that that was in 1978, nearly two years ago. However, 20 per cent. of the respondents said " Lack of money ". They did not say " Unfair dismissal " or " Employment protection legislation ". Another 7 per cent. gave VAT as the reason. Of course, at that time VAT was about 8½ per cent. It is now 15 per cent." What would you say have been the main difficulties you have faced in the past year in running your business? "
The Government were not going to double it!
My hon. Friend reminds me that little did employers know that VAT would be doubled and that it would go up to 15 per cent. Had they known that, I wonder how many would have complained then. Lack of money was the first reason, at a time when the interest rate was 7 per cent. The primary cause of concern for small employers was their inability to borrow money, but the interest rate then was significantly lower than it is now.These employers then went on to cite high running costs. In 1978 they complained of electricity costs and such items as the rent burden. I wonder what they are saying today? It would be interesting, if we could persuade the Secretary of State to have a re-run of the ORC survey, to see what those employers are saying now. Inflation was a prime source of complaint among small firms in 1978, when the inflation rate was less than half the present rate. Way down the list of complaints from employers in those small businesses covered by the survey—below lack of money, electricity and rent burdens, inflation, VAT and the cost of borrowing money—employment legislation was cited by only 2 per cent. of respondents as a problem. The respondents to the survey were then invited to list the main difficulties that they faced. They mentioned 597 problems, and yet employment legislation was mentioned by only 6 per cent. of respondents. It ranked equal twelfth in the list. Financial difficulties were mentioned by 44 per cent. of respondents, and 35 per cent. of them referred to labour problems. Of the small firms, only 4 per cent., as compared with 9 per cent. of large firms, cited employment legislation as a problem.
My right hon. Friend is quoting telling and valuable information from the survey. I wonder whether he noticed in the business section of The Observer of 30 March this year a long interview with Mr. Sean Mayo, the chairman of the Union of Independent Companies—the small businesses organisation. In that interview Mr. Mayo said that the two big problems facing small businesses this year were the unwillingness of banks to involve themselves in small businesses and high interest rates. In a long interview, Mr. Mayo made no mention of employment legislation.
My hon. Friend's intervention confirms and reinforces my argument, and I have a suspicion that my hon. Friend may later contribute even more telling arguments to the debate.I was saying that employment legislation as a problem came way down the list in the survey that I have quoted. At the top of the list were complaints about lack of money, and 16 per cent. of respondents complained about VAT. Lack of orders was cited by 21 per cent., inflation as a problem was cited by 9 per cent. of the respondents and employment legislation was a non-runner. The survey asked specifically whether Government measures had helped or caused difficulties to small firms. In this context, the most frequently referred to problems were VAT, regulations concerning drivers' log books and EEC regulations Other taxation problems were referred to by 9 per cent. of respondents, and 7 per cent. of them spoke of national insurance contributions. Unfair dismissal as a problem was way down the list, being cited by only 4 per cent. of the respondents. Evidence from the ORC survey does not stand alone. The industrial relations research unit at Warwick university carried out an investigation, and in a survey dealing specifically with unfair dismissal—among employers who had been involved in actions for unfair dismissal—it found that 25 per cent. of employers questioned said that the system was biased against them. However, only 5 per cent. of employers spoke of the onus of proof—the concept that an employer is " guilty until proven innocent "—as an unfavourable feature of the tribunal system. If there is a widespread feeling about the system among employers, it must exist among those who have experienced that system at first hand. Perhaps that is an indication of the need for education rather than for legislative change. I return to the survey undertaken by the unit from the University of Warwick and to the other aspect of the clause which gives strong grounds for anxiety. The reason for that anxiety is the proposed change in the onus of proof. The proposals concerning proof, as I understand them, are a response to allegations by employers that, contrary to the principles of natural justice, when they go before a tribunal they feel that they, as respondents, are regarded as guilty persons who must prove their innocence. The supposition of the law, they say, is that a person is innocent until proven guilty. What is too often overlooked is that, proceedings having reached the tribunal stage, it is the employee who has already suffered as the victim of an arbitrary action by his employer. Often the employee has had no chance to defend himself. He is the person who—often without the chance to say anything in his defence—has been declared " guilty " by his employer.
He has also been sentenced.
An employee appears before a tribunal to protest against an arbitrary act which, as I have said, may have far-reaching consequences for his life and career. In Committee I gave a specific example of a person in my constituency who had been a victim of such an arbitrary act. I shall resist the temptation to go over that case again, save to say that, unhappily, that individual—who was grossly and unfairly treated by his employer—has not received justice.We are now discussing the serious consequences of dismissal for a worker. Dismissal deprives a man of his livelihood. It also deprives his family of their livelihood. Dismissal deprives a man of his self-respect and can have a totally destructive effect on his career. It can be demoralising and leave a scar for life. This is a serious issue, to which an employer should be required to give equally serious consideration. Part of that consideration must be the likelihood that he will be required to explain his actions before an industrial tribunal. As I said in Committee, it is curious that the very thing that has been criticised in relation to statutory provisions for protection against unfair dismissal—which the Government now seek to change—has been present as an integral part of the Redundancy Payments Act 1965. There was an obligation on the employer under the provisions of that Act to prove redundancy. That concept has never been challenged, and I am glad that the Government are not seeking to challenge it now. Were they minded to do so we would fiercely resist such a change; just as we resist these provisions. The Government's approach is inconsistent. They are not only inconsistent, but they demonstrate an inability to recognise the seriousness of dismissal for any employee. The attempt by the Government to weaken these provisions is not only contrary to the need for consideration to be given to workers in those circumstances, but is part of their needless attack on the fundamental rights of workers. That attack is contributing to a worsening and a souring of the industrial relations climate in this country, and the Opposition will continue to resist the Government's attempt to make this change.
The clause, together with other clauses, reduces the protection that employees have against unfair dismissal. Running through each of the clauses there is a regrettable attack upon those who work for small firms. It is an attack that is couched in terms of protection for the small employer.
Clause 5 will make it much more difficult for an employee to claim damages for unfair dismissal against his employer. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Doncaster (Mr. Walker) has said, the burden of proof has been altered. It will no longer be necessary for the employer to establish that he acted reasonably. Instead, the tribunal will be obliged to act in what might benevolently be called a neutral manner. None the less, it will be more difficult for the employee to claim damages for unfair dismissal—in other words, to establish his case.
As my right hon. Friend has said, the employee has a great deal at stake. He has lost his job and he has lost his livelihood. The claim that he is trying to establish before the tribunal is important for him not only in financial terms; it is a matter of pride especially in a small community where there is a stigma attached to losing one's job.
Is my hon. and learned Friend aware that there is an additional problem? In many areas there is a great deal of unemployment. If an individual loses his job through unfair dismissal in an area in which there is heavy unemployment, he will be in grave difficulty when he attempts to get another job in the same area. The prospective employer will obviously ask " Why did you leave your last job? " The individual will have to reply " I was dismissed." No doubt he will protest that it was unfair dismissal. Nevertheless, the chances of the employer taking him on in those circumstances are remote.
My hon. Friend is right. He has a great deal of experience in these matters. In communities where there is high unemployment, which is true of the area that I represent and true of the area represented by my hon. Friend the Member for Newton (Mr. Evans), there is great difficulty in finding a job when the individual has been dismissed by another firm. The difficulties that the employer faces in establishing that his actions were reasonable are not as great or as onerous as those faced by the employee in establishing his rights. That is because they appear before the tribunal in different circumstances. There is not as much at stake for the employer as there is for the employee. I do not think that even the Under-Secretary of State, the hon. and learned Member for Tunbridge Wells (Mr. Mayhew), who can crush many propositions with a great deal of charm, can dismiss my proposition by claiming it to be outrageous.Secondly, the clause makes it more difficult for the employee because the tribunal is charged with taking account, before it comes to its decision, of
of the firm in question. That has the effect of setting apart different employees. It provides that the legal rights of an employee who works for a small firm will be less in terms of unfair dismissal than the rights of those who work for a larger undertaking. That is creating two different sets of employee. That is bound to cause resentment, especially in a small community, between those who work for small firms and those who work for larger firms. If I worked for a small firm and I felt that it was more difficult for me to obtain damages to compensate for unfair dismissal—not because I worked less hard, not because the nature of my work was different, but purely because I worked for a firm with fewer employees than my neighbour—obviously I should be resentful and disgruntled. I should feel that the law was treating me less favourably than my neighbour in a larger firm. That cannot be right. What evidence have the Government produced that it is right to establish two different sets of principles for two different sets of employee? There is no evidence that the tribunals act unfairly. All that the Government are saying is that some employees are not fully aware of the fairness of the tribunals and that they will ensure that they are made aware of it by introducing this legislation. Surely that is an argument for making the employer more aware of his legal rights and his legal obligations. If the tribunals are acting fairly, as they are at present, why should the system be altered to the detriment of the employee? The Minister evinced no evidence in Committee that the employee will benefit from the Bill. The evidence from the Low Pay Unit and from those who have engaged in research is that the clause and the Bill will harm him, hurt him and make it more difficult for him to claim his legal rights. That is why I fully support the amendments." the size and administrative resources "
I have attended a couple of unfair dismissal hearings before tribunals. The score is two-nil for me. I am especially interested in the clause and the amendments because I am left wondering whether the decisions would have gone against me rather than for me if the provisions contained in clause 5 had been operable at the time.One case that I remember vividly involved a waiter who worked in a small restaurant who was sacked unfairly. It did not take the tribunal long to decide that he had been sacked unfairly. It gave him a reasonable sum in compensation. However, given the inclusion of the words to which my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Accrington (Mr. Davidson) referred—
I do not think that a capable legal representative of an employer would have had much difficulty in arguing that a small restaurant came within that notion and, therefore, should be protected against having to pay compensation. My hon. and learned Friend was right when he said that the Government are deliberately inserting double standards into the Bill. The trade union movement should take serious note of these insertions if the Bill becomes part of the new employment legislation. It will have to begin to advise its members not to take up employment in small firms if they are to be placed in a situation less favourable than that enjoyed by employees in other firms because of" the size and administrative resources of the employer's undertaking) "—
of the firm involved. It may be argued that clause 5 is at least consistent with the philosophy of the Government. The Government are anxious to assist small firms and that anxiety stretches to the right to exploit workers in more favourable circumstances. They believe that the provision will assist firms to pursue their activities without the fear that they may be guilty of unfair dismissal. Within our society firms such as Imperial Chemical Industries and Unilever are just as likely to be guilty of unfair dismissal as smaller firms. However, small firms will have the knowledge that this measure will protect them against the possibility of the employee seeking access to the courts and obtaining a favourable judgment. The provision illustrates clearly that when Conservative Members talk about freedom they are talking about a complete myth. Such employees do not have freedom of choice. The workers at Grun-wick did not have that choice. No doubt the hon. Member who assisted Grun-wick's owner would have considered this provision a tremendous advantage. The size of that undertaking would probably fit into this clause. I hope that some of the legal experts among the Opposition will come to my aid, because I do not understand how the individual giving judgment will interpret the words " size and administrative resources ". No example has been given. Are we talking about firms that employ one to 100 employees, or those that employ 501 to 600 employees? I can think of several small firms that appear to have inadequate administrative resources, but when we investigate them more closely we find that they are subsidiaries of other firms that have considerable resources. The Government should spell out the meaning of that phrase." the size and administrative resources "
I hope that my hon. Friend appreciates that the Government have said that they have incorporated that phrase into the Bill for the sake of clarity. Perhaps the Under-Secretary can help us. However, when questioned, he has said that we can leave the interpretation of that phrase to the good sense of the tribunal.
Many trade unions will be worried about that. They may find their future and their rights determined by a court. That reminds me of a decision about which Parliament has argued for eight or nine years. As a trade unionist I would never expect—in this type of society—to obtain justice in a court of law. Laws are made to buttress the system, and in this society the law is more favourable to the employer than the employee. It is usually class legislation, and this provision is another illustration of it.I am not under any illusion about what the Minister may say in reply. He will defend the legislation according to his preferences. He will find little difficulty in doing so. I have heard him speak in Committee on other issues, and he can argue an effective legal case. However, he is generally in support of the status quo and of maintaining the balance of power in favour of the employing class. Clause 5 pursues that aim and is against the interests of the majority of trade unionists. It is therefore unacceptable to the Labour Party.
I am sorry that, because of other parliamentary business, I was not present when the amendment was moved. I have had considerable professional experience of working in industrial tribunals and of dealing with the burden of proof, which lies at the heart of this provision. I therefore feel that it is right for me to raise a few points.I cannot agree with the hon. Member for Preston, South (Mr. Thorne) about the ability of tribunals to determine matters, in the light of this provision. Nor do I agree with some of his observations about class-based legislation. My experience stretches over several years. I have acted for applicants and for respondent companies, and I feel that industrial tribunals do their job extremely well. One of the most useful and interesting aspects of their work is that the legally qualified chairmen work well with their two lay associates, one of whom is a trade unionist and one of whom is an employer. Perhaps it is cruel to bring reality into the hon. Gentleman's observations. However, I do not understand how on earth he can talk about class-based justice when a member of the panel has been nominated by the TUC. Perhaps we should not expect logic when discussing such topics in the light of the observations of certain Opposition Members. The nub of the issue is on whom should the burden of proof lie in establishing a case of unfair dismissal? Clearly it is wrong that the burden should be placed—as at present—on the employer. That sets on one side the rule governing the whole of civil law, namely, that the plaintiff must come to court with a grievance and prove his case. If a worker is knocked down on his way to the factory and wishes to maintain a claim for negligence against the driver, he must establish that, on the balance of probabilities, the driver had been negligent. If he is in dispute with someone who has supplied him with a television set or a motor car, he must go to court and satisfy the court that, on the balance of probabilities, a breach of contract has occurred. It was wrong to reverse that situation in the first place. There might have been a case for arguing that the burden of proof should be placed on the applicant. Indeed, to judge from the strictures on the Government, one might have thought that that was being proposed. However, that is not so. It is being said that the burden should be neutral and that tribunals, as industrial juries and commonsense people, should be left to decide the case according to the circumstances.
Does my hon. Friend agree that, despite the amendment contemplated by my right hon. Friend, the burden still rests on the employer to show the reason for the dismissal and that the dismissal falls within one of the designated classes? Does he further agree that if the employer is unable to discharge that burden, the dismissal will be deemed unfair?
I agree with my hon. Friend. The Government do not seek to change dramatically the way in which tribunals operate. The measure is a piece of fine tuning and is not the dramatic change that has been suggested. The hon. Member for Preston, South referred to the phrase:
If he had done more than two tribunals, he might have understood them better. I cannot understand why he should think that the provision will cause problems for industrial tribunals. Courts up and down the land—no matter what they deal with—must always look at the decision that they make in the light of certain factors that have been set down by the court." including the size and administrative resources of the employer's undertaking "
If the hon. Members' point is valid, why should the Government put in this provision? In Committee the Minister said that the tribunal would take these matters into account anyway. Therefore, it is difficult to see the reason for this provision.
As I understand it, the Government must respond to the pressure that they are under—quite rightly—from small firms with particular problems. The hon. Member for Islington, Central (Mr. Grant) should not look so smug, because it is usual in any form of legislation to put in certain points that the courts are asked to bear in mind. For example, in the Matrimonial Causes Act dealing with the break-up of a marriage and the distribution of property, there is a long list of factors, such as the duration of the marriage and the standard of living that the parties enjoyed, that courts must look at specifically. That does not mean that if these provisions were not included a sensible tribunal would not look at them, but as a matter of common sense it is necessary for Parliament in its wisdom properly to direct the courts to the points that it feels they should bear in mind. Aggrieved parties can look with rather more strength to the Court of Appeal if they think that these crucial social factors have not been borne in mind.It is quite wrong that this clause should be deleted, it is a sensible clause, a piece of necessary fine tuning, and it will make a system that is working well work even better.
I wish to take up one or two points made by the hon. Member for Putney (Mr. Mellor). Legal protection from unfair dismissal is one of the essential rights of a civilised industrial society. This Bill attacks that protection at two key points: first, on the test of circumstance—and taking this clause together with clause 7 we find that employees in small firms will be far worse off than they were before—and secondly, on the change in the burden of proof. My hon. Friend the Member for Islington, Central (Mr. Grant) has just made the point that the tests of circumstances are already taken into account by industrial tribunals. Therefore, it is not necessary to change the law in this way.Let us look at the Government's case that this is a deterrent to small firms taking on labour. I believe that this is a very crude case, and there is very little evidence to support it. In fact, there is so little evidence that the Minister, who conducted himself extremely skilfully in Committee, found himself having to fudge the evidence on this matter. I have the Committee record with me and I have just referred to it. We tested him sharply and he revealed that there was very little evidence for the Government's case. What is really important to small firms is the high interest rates. Small business men are concerned about whether banks will lend them money. They are concerned about the state of the industrial markets which, as everyone knows, are extremely bad at present. In many areas small firms are facing catastrophe. They are faced with redundancies, particularly in the North and other areas of high unemployment. The Government should not be tinkering around with the fine tuning. They should be doing something about bringing down interest rates and making finance more readily available to small firms. If the Government are interested in doing something about the Employment Protection Act, they should tell small firms what the Act actually involves. If the Minister would tell the House that he would withdraw the clause and ensure that small firms really know the implications of the Employment Protection Act. we would go along with him. The evidence that we have indicates that small firms do not understand the Act. If the Department of Employment would at least tell them what the Act is all about we might get somewhere. I wish to make a few comments on the change in onus of proof. We regard this as a retrograde step because in a dismissal case this factor is extremely important for employees and not so important for employers. When an employee is dismissed he is at his weakest and the employer is at his strongest. That is why the Employment Protection Act singled out dismissal cases as those where the onus of proof should be placed on the employer. In Committee the Minister said that this was only a small but useful change because there were other protections as well. There were four other tests which an industrial tribunal must take account of. In any case the court would be looking at the question in accordance with equity and the substantial merits of the case. If it is such a small change, why bother with it? Why bother to upset the trade unions and make employees feel less secure? I know what the Minister will say because I have just refreshed my memory and looked at his speech in Committee. He will say that this is important psychologically. Small firms will rush around taking on labour because they will not be worried about the onus of proof. I agree that it is important psychologically, but in a different way. The psychological problem that will now arise is that employees will feel far less secure than they were before. I do not think that anyone would suggest that employees are not facing difficulties. It has been forecast that there will be 2 million unemployed and unemployment is rising all the time. If the hon. and learned Gentleman came with me to the North I could show him that redundancies are being announced almost every day. The situation is very difficult for employees, but they at least have the comfort of the Employment Protection Act. They know that they have the security provided by that Act. But suddenly they will find that their security is weakened by this clause and by clause 7, and as a result there will be two classes of employees. If employees now feel more insecure, the Government have only themselves to blame.
This is a very short clause but it is nevertheless important. We are talking about people losing their jobs. We are talking about people being dismissed—not only dismissed but specifically unfairly dismissed.Last night the Conservative Benches were full of hawks and others who were worried about the possibility, in certain circumstances, of people losing their jobs as a result of the closed shop. They regarded it as an infringement of personal liberty. Today the Conservative Benches are empty. The Tories are not in the least worried about people being dismissed unfairly by their employers. That is very instructive to me. The purpose of this short clause is to alter the law. At the moment the determination of fairness depends on whether the employer can satisfy the tribunal that he has acted reasonably. Instead, it is proposed to amend the 1978 Act to read
5.30 pm A small firm gets a let-out. It has been suggested that tribunals already take this factor into account. Why is it therefore to be included in the Bill? In the words of the Under-Secretary of State, often heard in Committee, it is to give a steer to the tribunals. It means, in relation to small firms, that the provisions will be weakened and rendered nugatory. There will be a form of legal apartheid with two classes of citizens, those with one set of rights and others with lesser rights. It will be a sliding scale of justice. There is no evidence that small businesses are worried about this legislation. My right hon. Friend the Member for Doncaster (Mr. Walker) quoted evidence of a couple of years ago. I am sorry that the hon. Member for Putney (Mr. Mellor) came in late, made a speech and left early. I hope that he will soon return. We are fond of him and appreciate his presence. Like other Members, including myself, the hon. Member for Putney will have received a communication from the Greater London Council that is temporarily controlled by the Conservative Party. The document is headed " Small Businesses ". It is sent to hon. Members for their information. An accompanying letter states:" in the circumstances (including the size and administrative resources of the employer's undertaking) "
" Early last year the Council produced a consultation document entitled ' Small Business ', which was distributed to London MPs, borough councils and relevant organisations for comments.
The council wrote to me on 11 April. No document could be more up to date or relevant. It lists six points relating to comments that have been received. The document reads:" You may be interested in the enclosed copy of a report summarising the outcome of the consultation process which was considered by the Council on 11 March 1980."
I shall not bore the Minister by quoting all of them; I shall merely give the heading. The first was" A wide range of valuable points emerged in responses to the discussion paper. Those that seemed to be particularly worthy of note are summarised in the following paragraphs:"
The second issue about which respondents were worried was" Taxation—The majority of respondents considered that the tax system worked against the healthy development of small businesses."
I am not in the least surprised when there is a minimum lending rate of 17 per cent. What sort of profit do they need to earn with a minimum lending rate—some of them probably pay more—of that order? I am not surprised that it raised considerable comment. The third point about which the small businesses were concerned was" Finance—The problems of and limited possibilities for raising finance generated considerable comment."
I suppose that they should be directed to the Secretary of State for Industry, who has a special interest in entrepreneurs. The fourth issue was" Information—Information, advice and training for entrepreneurs."
The fifth concern was" Premises—A major difficulty identified was a lack of suitable premises the right size and at the right price and lack of information about what was available."
The sixth and last concern was" Planning—Major simplifications of planning procedures were advocated."
and other issues, including shortages of skilled labour, traffic and transport problems and high rates. Virtually nowhere is found the onerous obligations of employment protection legislation. There is no evidence that it is necessary, in the interests of small businesses and in order to stimulate small businesses in London, to take away the rights of people to protection against unfair dismissal. No evidence was produced in Standing Committee. The GLC, after consulting small business men, finds that the business men are not concerned about employment protection legislation. They are concerned about high interest rates and other burdens that the Government have placed upon them." Bureaucracy and other issues—A number of suggestions were made regarding the removal of onerous form-filling."
The speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Newham, North-East (Mr. Leighton) and that of my right hon. Friend the Member for Doncaster (Mr. Walker) illustrate that there is no demand from small businesses for this clause. I hope, therefore, that the House can devote some attention to other aspects of the problem.I wish to deal with a matter that has not been discussed, namely, the reaction of trade unions to discrimination between one trade unionist and another. The Government often rush into legislation without any regard for the likely reaction of the trade union movement. The unions will obviously not allow discrimination between their members. They will endeavour to steer workers away from small industries where their members are not properly protected against unfair dismissal. My hon. Friend the Member for Newham, North-East read from a list provided by the GLC, setting out some of the problems facing small businesses. One problem is that small businesses cannot recruit skilled labour. That problem will become even more difficult if the Bill is allowed to go through unamended. Many trade unions keep lists in their district offices of firms that they advise their members not to join. It is a black list of firms which, in many cases, pay much below trade union rates and where conditions are not up to union standards. The unions advise their members not to seek employment with those firms. Now, further firms will be added to the list. The unions will advise their members that they will not be protected against unfair dismissal if they seek employment with small firms, in contrast to colleagues working for larger firms who are fully protected by the Act. I do not know what is meant by the words
There will be great debates at the tribunal; debates concerned not with the merits of whether a man has been unfairly dismissed, but with whether the administrative resources of the firm entitle it to special consideration." the size and administrative resources of the employer's undertaking ".
I shall develop this argument before giving way to the hon. Gentleman. He referred to his experience in appearing on behalf of applicants and employers before industrial tribunals. Now he has another task. His job will be to plead poverty and to say that the firm that he represents does not possess the resources to meet its full obligations. There may be problems with exports to Iran, over the fact that high rate of the pound is interfering with exports, or over high interest rates and increased charges for gas and electricity. The firm will plead that it has to be considered a special case. There is no doubt that such pleadings will be made. The tribunal will not ask for audited accounts to discover a company's financial position or whether it has the resources to meet the costs or awards made by the tribunal.
The hon. Gentleman has got the wrong end of the stick. The argument has nothing to do with the financial resources of a company. The reality of all the cases is that the question whether an employer is reasonable or unreasonable often depends on the size of the undertaking, how big its personnel department is, and whether the management knows the individual worker. A tribunal must take those aspects into account when deciding whether a dismissal is reasonable. It has nothing to do with whether a company can pay the costs.
That is debatable. No cases have been heard under the new legislation. There could be a debate about what resources are. Are they financial re- sources, or personnel resources? Many small firms do not have a personnel department. It is easy to estimate the size of a company, but it is more difficult to estimate its resources.The clause will make it more difficult for firms to recruit labour, because it discriminates. When employers realise—as they already have in London—that they need to recruit skilled labour and that that will be more difficult because trade unions are steering their members away from secondclass firms which do not have the same facilities regarding unfair dismissal as large firms, they will ponder whether the Conservative Government are doing them a good turn by the legislation. We condemn the clause. There is no demand for it, as research sponsored by the Department of Employment shows. Only 2 per cent. of small firms are anxious about this matter. It is ironic that more small firms than ever are becoming bankrupt every day because of the Government's policies. The number of bankruptcies has doubled since the Conservatives came to power, and yet they pay lip-service to small businesses and say that they will help them. If small businesses have friends in the Conservative Party, they do not need any enemies. The Government intend to make it more difficult to recruit labour. They are introducing legislation that will make it more difficult for small firms to operate, in addition to high interest charges and other factors, and these firms are adamant that they do not want this legislation. That is reflected in the statistics given by my right hon. Friend the Member for Don-caster. I hope that small businessmen will recognise where their true friends are. They are on the Opposition side of the Chamber. We are trying to protect them against irresponsible legislation. We are trying to encourage them in their desire to build up their businesses and to employ the labour that they need. We want to protect trade unionists against the discrimination between first-class citizens, entitled to all the rights of the legislation, and second-class citizens who, because they happen to work for a small firm, are deprived of protection against unfair dismissal. I hope that the amendment will be carried. I hope, too, that the Government will ponder what has been said here and in Committee, and have second thoughts.
Much has been said with which all sensible people will agree. For example, the hon. Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Radice) said that an employee is at his most vulnerable when he is dismissed. The right hon. Member for Doncaster (Mr. Walker) said that to be dismissed was to suffer a great disruption in one's life. He said that if dismissal takes place in unfair circumstances that can lead to a scar for life. I agree with those sentiments, as will most sensible people.It is right for the concept of some property in one's job to be introduced into our law in addition to the protection that the common law has always given. It is not enough for an employer to say " I have sacked you. I gave you the notice that I contracted to give you and therefore you have no complaints against me ". The employment protection legislation provides that, if someone is not sacked for one of the four justifiable reasons and an employer has not acted reasonably overall, the employer must pay compensation. We support that. It is a welcome addition to our industrial law. However, we part company with the Opposition in their allegation that the provision in some ways weakens the rights and protection conferred upon employees. The whole purpose of the changes that we are seeking to make to the employment legislation in this modest Bill is to strengthen the employment prospects of people who work in small businesses especially, but in businesses generally. It is not sensible to say that the Government are embarking on a direct attack upon working people, as the hon. and learned Member for Accrington (Mr. Davidson) said uncharacteristically. I accept that it would be beyond comprehension, as the right hon. Member for Doncaster said, if the Government were seeking to weaken significantly the rights of employees. The purpose of the legislation is to encourage people to employ more staff. It rests upon the Government's assessment that there is a belief that the present legislation is unfairly biased against employers. It was right for the right hon. Member for Doncaster to begin his speech by saying that human realities must always be taken into account and must never be lost sight of. That is what it is all about. I can explain that by summarising the effect of the amendment. It is to delete clause 5. The amendment returns the onus of proof as to the reasonableness of a dismissal to the employer. It removes the requirement that tribunals should take into account
of a firm in determining whether the employer acted reasonably. The right hon. Gentleman was right to say that human realities must never be left out of account, and among the human realities to be taken into account in this context is what we believe to be the widespread feeling—it may be challenged; certainly, the basis for it can be challenged without much difficulty—that under this jurisdiction on unfair dismissal an employer is assumed to be guilty until he has proved himself to be innocent. It is widely felt that this is an unfair jurisdiction and that the results of these cases are unfairly biased against employers. I say at once that the tribunals have no difficulty in rebutting the charge that they are unfair in their operations. Not only is there the point already forcefully made by my hon. Friend the Member for Putney (Mr. Mellor), that the tripartite basis of the tribunals, with an independent chairman presiding over a TUC nominee and a CBI nominee, ensures their impartiality, but one has knowledge if one is in the know, if I may so put it, having to look at the outcome of these cases, that about 70 per cent. of claims for unfair dismissal are decided against the claimant. For those who are in the know, that disposes of the suggestion that the tribunals are biased against employers. The trouble is that so many of those who today fulfil the extremely important function of employing people in this country are not and cannot be in the know. It is therefore important, if one can do so without significantly or seriously diminishing the proper protection which the 1978 Act gives to the interests of workers, to do what one can to mitigate that which is seen, perhaps inaccurately, as being a source of unfairness. That is exactly what is proposed in the clause." the size and administrative resources "
Let me be sure that I understand the hon. and learned Gentleman. He says that the tribunals work on the basis of common sense, having no bias one way or the other, and we have had corroboration on that score from the Government Benches. Second, he says that the majority of claims fail.If, therefore, there is nothing for the employer, and especially the small employer, to worry about, the Minister's purpose ought to be to get the message across to the small employer that he will receive justice. Is there not a better way of doing that than by altering the legislation? Is it not better to do it by information instead of by changing the law, which seems to give a steer against the employee? Is not what the hon. and learned Gentleman says a rather disingenuous rationalisation for what he is doing?
It is a question of doing everything one can. I should not dream of saying that the changes which we propose in the Bill are enough, any more than I should dream of saying that we ought not to do all we can to bring interest rates down, for example, to bring taxation rates down and to do all the other things which the right hon. Gentleman and various of his hon. Friends have dwelt upon as serious matters for anxiety on the part of small businesses.We must do everything we can, and we must do our best to educate business men about what the Employment Protection Act does. We recognise this need, and we are in the Department currently preparing a guide for employers which should more or less coincide with the enactment of the Bill. This guide will pay particular attention to the position of smaller employers. If I now turn to what the clause proposes and then examine what the consequences of the amendment would be, that will, I think, establish the point which I am making and which I tried to make in Committee. In the first place, it is not right to say that the clause reverses the burden of proof. It does not. As has already been pointed out by my hon. Friend the Mem- ber for Putney, the burden of proof is fairly and squarely upon the employer to show that a dismissal was for one of what we called in Committee the OK reasons—one of the four justifiable reasons. That is put fairly and squarely on him, and it marks our recognition of the special position of an employee who has been dismissed. I do not quarrel with the point made by the hon. Member for Bethnal Green and Bow (Mr. Mikardo) that the employee has already been sentenced and tried by his employer. It is a vivid way of putting it, but I do not quarrel with it, and we reflect that situation by putting the burden on the employer to show, first, that it was a justifiable reason which led to the dismissal. The trouble is that section 58 then goes on to say that the employer must show that he acted reasonably in treating that justifiable reason as a ground for dismissal, and it is this which has given rise to the belief, which reaches out very strongly, that one is guilty all the way down the line until one has proved oneself innocent. I say at once that there are precious few cases decided in the industrial tribunals where the formal burden of proof determines the issue. There are jolly few cases in the civil courts where the burden of proof actually decides the issue. But what we are doing by the clause—if I may put it in a rather loose way—is taking off the shoulders of the employer the burden of proving that he acted reasonably in treating the OK reason as ground for dismissal. We are certainly not putting the burden on to the employee and making him show that the employer acted unreasonably. We leave it for the tribunal to decide whether the employer acted reasonably. That is putting it into the middle, and it takes away what can be seen in the terms of the existing section to be an unfair bias in the shape of the legislation. That is all that the clause does. The second effect of the clause—we have already been reminded of this—is that it tells the tribunal in express terms that it must take into account the size and administrative resources of the firm when assessing the reasonableness of the employer's actions. Perhaps I may risk wearying the House by reminding it that under section 57 of the 1978 Act the tribunal is already obliged to take the circumstances into account, and that means all the circumstances. Subsection (3) lays down that the question whether the dismissal was fair or unfair
We are therefore not saying to the tribunal that it must take into account something which it would hitherto have been entitled to disregard. What we are doing is giving special prominence to one of the circumstances by spelling it out, and that is a perfectly proper thing to do. I do not altogether quarrel with the suggestion that this is a cosmetic change. No one has quite put it like that today, but it does not amount to very much more. There are very few circumstances in which one knows that the tribunal has not taken this into account, but the purpose of putting it in is that the layman reading the legislation will see that the tribunal must take into account among the circumstances the size and administrative resources of the firm." shall depend upon whether the employer can satisfy the tribunal that in the circumstances (having regard to equity and the substantial merits of the case) he acted reasonably"
If it is such a small change, why bother to make it?
That was a small intervention but it prevented me from coming to that very point. As I have already tried to explain, the purpose is that those who have to look at these matters as lay people, as business people, or perhaps as those in business associations giving advice, shall at least see that under this part of the legislation which deals with unfair dismissal the tribunals are enjoined to have regard to sensible every-day considerations, for example, the size and administrative resources of the undertaking.I was rather hoping that the hon. Member for Chester-le-Street, having asked the question, would be interested in the answer, but, as he knows very well, we went round this buoy at some length in Committee. I tried to deal with the matter then. This clause does not empower tribunals to do something that most do not do at present. It may be asked why we are going to the trouble of including this provision in the Bill. I shall provide an answer. Although the industrial tribunals are empowered to take all the circumstances into account in the way I have explained, they are not all seen to do so. Nor is it apparent to many people, who are not lawyers or substantial business men, that they are empowered to do so. It is because it is not widely or generally understood, particularly among smaller business, that this power exists that the Government believe that it should be spelt out. 6 pm A practical example of why this may be important can be found in the guidance given by ACAS in its code of practice. The code sets out guidance on the kind of disciplinary procedures which should be followed. In paragraph 12 recommendations are given about the warnings. First, there is an oral warning, then, for a second offence, there is a written warning. A structure is built up which, in the case of a very small business, may seem to be unrealistic. We feel that it is right to make this change in order to draw attention to the fact that tribunals are not expected to apply to small businesses the kind of structure for warnings that would apply to large businesses. We are making it clear that smaller firms are not necessarily acting unreasonably if they adopt procedures that are appropriate to their resources. I believe that this will result in a positive response from small businesses which may feel that the present code of practice is aimed only at large firms. I recognise the need to educate. I wish to make that clear, and I repeat that the Department is in the process of producing a guide which we hope will be published at the same time that the Bill is enacted.
The Minister wants to reassure small business men, but is this the most effective way of doing so? Does he believe that small business men are waiting with bated breath for this legislation to be placed on the statute book, and that they will all rush to the Stationery Office to buy a copy and read it? I do not think that they will read it, or that the press will report it. Would it not be more efficacious to distribute a leaflet explaining these matters rather than to change the statute?
No, I do not suppose that they are waiting with bated breath. I recognise that we must do all we can to publicise the changes that we are making, and we shall try to do so. However, we are not in a position, as a responsible Government, to turn down any proposal that we reasonably believe will have the desired effect of encouraging companies to employ more people. In view of the high unemployment—which is expected to get worse—we must not turn aside any reasonable proposal that may result in stimulating employment. I agree that the surveys show plainly that these matters are not at the forefront of small business men's anxieties. But they are there, and we must not neglect them. However, we cannot take a survey of people who have not started a business.
Of the many circumstances that the tribunal has to take into account, why has the Minister pinpointed only two? Is there not a danger that the employee, seeing these provisions in legislation, will feel that the tribunal will give excessive weight to those circumstances over and above the others?
There is less chance for employees to scrutinise the legislation than for employers to do so. Since the number of circumstances which are relevant and which should be taken into account are legion, we can hardly pinpoint all of them. Therefore, a judgment has to be formed as to what needs to be emphasised. For the reasons, I have given, we believe that these circumstances are properly emphasised.This is not an attack on anyone. It is an attempt to make the expression of the law relating to unfair dismissal in the employment protection legislation more reassuring to those to whom we look to provide employment today. The hon. Member for Preston, South (Mr. Thorne), who manages to bring what he perceives as a class war into every topic that he discusses, said that this was another round in the class war and that this legislation favoured the employer class. I point out to him that, by definition, unless there is an employer class there cannot be an employee class. It is because we wish to stimulate and enlarge the number of employees that we believe that this clause is proper, and that the amendment should be rejected.
My right hon. and hon. Friends have made it clear that the policies of the Government are putting more and more businesses—particularly small firms—into difficulty. High value added tax, the minimum lending rate, charges and rates generally, the construction of order books—not least because of the public sector squeeze—combine to make life extremely difficult for small businesses. The steeply rising unemployment figures do not simply reflect a harsh regime for workers, but for many employers also. Yet the best that the Government can do in the face of that is to bring forward these lamentable measures which undermine the Employment Protection Act, which, they claim will reduce the burden on the small firm. It is all part of a pattern which is contained within the Bill. We saw part of the pattern last night when schedule 11 was replaced. That pattern will be followed when we reach the clauses on the restriction of maternity benefits, and it is being followed on this clause now.Despite what the hon. and learned Gentleman says, this is an attempt to offer a sop to employers whom the Government are hurting in other ways. If it does not weaken employees' rights, why is every employees' organisation opposed to this change? The case on unfair dismissal is ill-founded. Unlike his efforts in Committee, at least the hon. and learned Gentleman is not now seeking to justify the changes by relying on evidence. He knows that he is totally unable to produce relevant evidence, and even if he could produce evidence that employers were seeking this change, I would still argue that this is a further disgraceful attack on individual workers' rights. The Government are flying in the face of their consultative document. I am sure that the hon. and learned Gentleman read that consultative document. It said that it was generally undesirable to give special treatment to small firms because that would create a second tier of employees with reduced protection. But that is what the Government are doing. This is an extraordinary and rapid rebuttal of their views. Perhaps a funny thing happened to the Secretary of State on his way to the Cabinet, or, as is more likely, a funny thing happened to him when he arrived. It is a very quick change of view. Workers in small firms most need protection. If that is not so, why are there wages councils to look after the minimum wages and conditions of about 3 million workers? That need has been recognised by successive Governments. Even though we know of the difficulties which are experienced—under-payment and so on—one matter which is again causing concern is the apparent intention to run down the size of the Wages Inspectorate. If that happens, protection for low-paid workers will again be reduced. It is right to point out that in that area there is a lack of trade union organisation. Low-paid workers just do not have protection. My right hon. Friend the Member for Doncaster (Mr. Walker), referred to the various surveys that have been carried out—in particular, the ORC survey. I do not intend to dwell on that. He also referred to the Warwick university industrial relations research unit's study. My hon. Friend the Member for Newham, North-East (Mr. Leighton) quoted the GLC document, which I too, have received. There is ample evidence to show that these are not matters of paramount importance to employers. They are very much down the list. There has been a great deal of criticism of the Government's proposals, particularly that the tribunals have to take into acount size and administrative resources. The Association of County Councils—a Tory-dominated body if ever there was one—is opposed to the Government's proposals. The Royal College of Nursing, the Migrants Action Group and the Equal Opportunities Commission are concerned because many women work in small firms. All these organisations have made written protests about these proposals. We know that the Under-Secretary of State wrote to some of the small firms' pressure groups, as it were, to whip up support for the proposals. The National Federation of the Self-Employed, for instance, said that the Employment Protection Act had damaged 50 per cent. of its members. Of course, 98 per cent. of the membership did not reply to the questionnaire. Therefore, not a very meaningful result was produced. We had other similar unrepresentative examples, with which I shall not weary the House, but they were trotted out in Committee. My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Accrington (Mr. Davidson) asked the valid question: what encouragement are these changes to people to work for small firms where they know that their rights are to be lessened? My hon. Friend the Member for Preston, South (Mr. Thorne) made a similar point. My hon. Friend the Member for Darlington (Mr. Fletcher) pointed out that there will be a tendency for trade unions to steer their members away from this area of employment. There is also the matter of the onus of proof. It is a fact—again, my right hon. Friend the Member for Doncaster touched on this matter in his opening remarks—that only the employer is likely to know the full reason for dismissal. That is why it has always been for the employer to satisfy the tribunal that it was fair dismissal. It is the worker who gets the chop. That is the situation when it reaches the tribunal. The action has been taken by the employer, not the employee. We have no real evidence that the system has been working unsatisfactorily. I do not recall the Under-Secretary at any stage telling us about any advice that he had received from the members or the chairmen of tribunals on this matter. I should have thought that would have been the first place to look for advice on the satisfactory nature of the working of this feature of the legislation. We cannot take these proposals in isolation. They must be seen in conjunction with clause 7, to which we shall come later, which takes away the right of complaint of unfair dismissal from all new recruits to firms with 20 or fewer workers until they have worked continuously for the firm for two years. They must also be taken in conjunction with the changes introduced by the Government last July extending the qualifying period of service from six months to 12 months for all employees. This is a package. It is not fine tuning, as the hon. Member for Putney (Mr. Mellor) put it. It is far from fine tuning. It is a very nasty package. 6.15 pm The Under-Secretary said that these latest changes were being made for psychological reasons. I think that he probably did not use the word " psychological " this afternoon—perhaps he was careful not to use it—but he used it in Committee. The implication of his remarks was that it would not have much effect in law. The hon. and learned Gentleman did not put it quite like that, but the idea was that it would make employers feel that the Government had in some way given them another boost. That is, in effect, what he said. But I wonder whether he seriously believes, as my hon. Friend the Member for Newham, North-East pointed out, that employers are waiting to seize on this measure and that it will influence them. If the Government think that, I can only suggest that they do not know how small firms work. I do not know of any small employers—there are many in my constituency—who are interested in the fine tuning of the legislation. I welcome the news that the Department is to issue a new guide—I am sure that it must do so as a consequence of the Bill—but I cannot help feeling that the guide should be a guide to where to find a lawyer. At any rate, I welcome the fact that the Department is making this additional educative effort. However, I do not think that employers will be unduly concerned about it in the sense that the Under-Secretary has put it. We can only assume that the Government hope that these unfair dismissal procedures will act as a sweetener for traditional Tory voters in the small firms sector—traditional voters who must be turning away in droves at the moment as a result of this and other Government policies. It is almost as crude as that. I want to refer to some figures that I have taken from the Employment Gazette, because they prove the case for the legislation as it is being maintained. Indeed, I think that it is fair to suggest that, if these changes are made,
Division No. 262]
|Abse, Leo||Bagier, Gordon A. T.||Bray, Dr Jeremy|
|Adams, Allen||Barnett, Guy (Greenwich)||Brown, Hugh D. (Provan)|
|Allaun, Frank||Barnett, Rt Hon Joel (Heywood)||Brown, Robert C. (Newcastle W)|
|Anderson, Donald||Benn, Rt Hon Anthony Wedgwood||Brown, Ron (Edinburgh, Leith)|
|Archer, Rt Hon peter||Bennett, Andrew (Stockport N)||Buchan, Norman|
|Armstrong, Rt Hon Ernest||Booth, Rt Hon Albert||Callaghan, Rt Hon J. (Cardiff SE)|
|Ashley, Rt Hon Jack||Boothroyd, Miss Betty||Callaghan, Jim (Middleton & P)|
|Ashton, Joe||Bottomley, Rt Hon Arthur (M'brough)||Campbell, Ian|
|Atkinson, Norman (H'gey, Tott'ham)||Bradley, Tom||Campbell-Savours, Dale|
they are likely to result in increased industrial action.
The statistics for the years 1973 to 1979 show that stoppages arising from dismissal and disciplinary matters have steadily fallen from 383 in 1973—that accounted for 7·3 per cent. of all workers directly involved in total stoppages for that year—to 197 stoppages in 1979—or 2·9per cent. of all workers directly involved in stoppages last year. That shows that the unfair dismissal procedures have been working increasingly satisfactorily. It is also a fact that just under two-thirds of unfair dismissal applicants can be regarded as low paid. The majority are certainly from the low paying industries. Once again, in tampering with this legislation, we are talking about the most vulnerable workers.
In the end we come back to two basic points. First, dismissal is either fair or unfair. It is as simple as that. No diversionary discriminatory legislation about size and administrative resources should cut across that position. Justice should not be measured on the basis of some arbitrarily chosen yardstick to suit the convenience of either the Government or employers. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Doncaster said, we are talking about the sack—people's livelihood
Finally, the Government are clearly seeking to play footsie with the employers' organisations which, as I said, are daily becoming more disenchanted with the Government in other ways and will soon start to say that openly. The Government are hoping that, by making life more difficult for working people by restricting their rights, they will, as it were, redress the balance a little. We are talking about dirty work by the Government. Therefore, we shall certainly divide the House on the amendment.
Question put, That the amendment be made:
The House divided: Ayes 232, Noes 312.
|Canavan, Dennis||Holland, Stuart (L'beth, Vauxhall)||Parry, Robert|
|Cant, R. B.||Home Robertson, John||Pendry, Tom|
|Carmichael, Neil||Homewood, William||Powell, Raymond (Ogmore)|
|Carter-Jones, Lewis||Horam, John||Prescott, John|
|Cartwright, John||Howell, Rt Hon Denis (B'ham, Sm H)||Price, Christopher (Lewisham West)|
|Clark, Dr David (South Shields)||Huckfield, Les||Race, Reg|
|Cocks, Rt Hon Michael (Bristol S)||Hudson Davies, Gwilym Ednyfed||Radice, Giles|
|Cohen, Stanley||Hughes, Mark (Durham)||Rees, Rt Hon Merlyn (Leeds South)|
|Coleman, Donald||Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen North)||Richardson, Jo|
|Concannon, Rt Hon J. D.||Hughes, Roy (Newport)||Roberts, Albert (Normanton)|
|Conlan, Bernard||Janner, Hon Greville||Roberts, Allan (Bootle)|
|Cook, Robin F.||Jay, Rt Hon Douglas||Roberts, Ernest (Hackney North)|
|Cowans, Harry||Jones, Rt Hon Alec (Rhondda)||Roberts, Gwilym (Cannock)|
|Craigen, J. M. (Glasgow, Maryhill)||Jones, Barry (East Flint)||Robertson, George|
|Crowther, J. S.||Jones, Dan (Burnley)||Rodgers, Rt Hon William|
|Cryer, Bob||Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald||Rooker, J. W.|
|Cunliffe, Lawrence||Kerr, Russell||Roper, John|
|Cunningham, George (Islington S)||Kilroy-Silk, Robert||Ross, Ernest (Dundee West)|
|Dalyell, Tam||Kinnock, Neil||Rowlands, Ted|
|Davidson, Arthur||Lamborn, Harry||Sever, John|
|Davies, Ifor (Gower)||Lamond, James||Sheerman, Barry|
|Davis, Clinton (Hackney Central)||Leighton, Ronald||Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert (A'ton-u-L)|
|Davis, Terry (B'rm'ham, Stechford)||Lestor, Miss Joan (Eton & Slough)||Shore Rt Hon Peter (Step and Pop)|
|Deakins, Eric||Lewis, Arthur (Newham North West)||Short, Mrs Renée|
|Dempsey, James||Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)||Silkin, Rt Hon S. C. (Dulwich)|
|Dewar, Donald||Litherland, Robert||Silverman, Julius|
|Dixon, Donald||Lofthouse, Geoffrey||Skinner, Dennis|
|Dobson, Frank||Lyon, Alexander (York)||Smith, Rt Hon J. (North Lanarkshire)|
|Dormand, Jack||Lyons, Edward (Bradford West)||Snape, Peter|
|Douglas, Dick||Mabon, Rt Hon Dr J Dickson||Soley, Clive|
|Douglas-Mann, Bruce||McCartney, Hugh||Spearing, Nigel|
|Dubs, Alfred||McDonald, Dr Oonagh||Spriggs, Leslie|
|Dunn, James A. (Liverpool, Kirkdale)||McElhone, Frank||Stallard, A. W.|
|Dunnett, Jack||McKay, Allen (Penistone)||Stoddart, David|
|Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth||McKelvey, William||Stott, Roger|
|Eadie, Alex||MacKenzie, Rt Hon Gregor||Strang, Gavin|
|Eastham, Ken||Maclennan, Robert||Straw, Jack|
|Ellis, Raymond (NE Derbyshire)||McMahon, Andrew||Summerskill, Hon Dr Shirley|
|English, Michael||McNally, Thomas||Taylor, Mrs Ann (Bolton West)|
|Evans, loan (Aberdare)||McNamara, Kevin||Thomas, Jeffrey (Abertillery)|
|Evans, John (Newton)||McWilliam, John||Thomas, Mike (Newcastle East)|
|Ewing, Harry||Marks, Kenneth||Thomas, Dr Roger (Carmarthen)|
|Faulds, Andrew||Marshall, David (Gl'sgow, Shettles'n)||Thorne, Stan (Preston South)|
|Field, Frank||Marshall, Dr Edmund (Goole)||Tilley, John|
|Fitt, Gerard||Marshall, Jim (Leicester South)||Tinn, James|
|Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)||Martin, Michael (Gl'gow, Springb'rn)||Torney, Tom|
|Foot, Rt Hon Michael||Mason, Rt Hon Roy||Varley, Rt Hon Eric G.|
|Ford, Ben||Maxton, John||Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne Valley)|
|Forrester, John||Maynard, Miss Joan||Walker, Rt Hon Harold (Doncaster)|
|Foster, Derek||Meacher, Michael||Watkins, David|
|Fraser, John (Lambeth, Norwood)||Mellish, Rt Hon Robert||Wellbeloved, James|
|Freeson, Rt Hon Reginald||Mikardo, Ian||Welsh, Michael|
|Garrett, John (Norwich S)||Millan, Rt Hon Bruce||White, Frank R. (Bury & Radcliffe)|
|George, Bruce||Mitchell, Austin (Grimsby)||White, James (Glasgow, Pollok)|
|Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John||Mitchell, R. C. (Soton, Itchen)||Whitehead, Phillip|
|Ginsburg, David||Morris, Rt Hon Alfred (Wythenshawe)||Whitlock, William|
|Golding, John||Morris, Rt Hon Charles (Openshaw)||Wigley, Dafydd|
|Gourlay, Harry||Morris, Rt Hon John (Aberavon)||Williams, Rt Hon Alan (Swansea W)|
|Graham, Ted||Moyle, Rt Hon Roland||Wilson, Rt Hon Sir Harold (Huyton)|
|Grant, George (Morpeth)||Newens, Stanley||Wilson, William (Coventry SE)|
|Grant, John (Islington C)||Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon||Winnick, David|
|Hamilton, James (Bothwell)||Ogden, Eric||Woodall, Alec|
|Hamilton, W. W. (Central Fife)||O'Halloran, Michael||Wrigglesworth. Ian|
|Harrison, Rt Hon Walter||O'Neill, Martin||Wright, Sheila|
|Hart, Rt Hon Dame Judith||Orme, Rt Hon Stanley||Young, David (Bolton East)|
|Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy||Owen, Rt Hon Dr David|
|Haynes, Frank||Palmer, Arthur||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Healey, Rt Hon Denis||Park, George||Mr. Joseph Dean and|
|Hotter, Eric S.||Parker, John||Mr. George Morton.|
|Hogg, Norman (E Dunbartonshire)|
|Adley, Robert||Bell, Sir Ronald||Boyson, Dr Rhodes|
|Aitken, Jonathan||Bendall, Vivian||Bradford, Rev R.|
|Alexander, Richard||Benyon, Thomas (Abingdon)||Braine, Sir Bernard|
|Alison, Michael||Benyon, W. (Buckingham)||Bright, Graham|
|Amery, Rt Hon Julian||Best, Keith||Brinton, Tim|
|Ancram, Michael||Biffen, Rt Hon John||Brittan, Leon|
|Arnold, Tom||Biggs-Davison, John||Brocklebank-Fowler, Christopher|
|Aspinwall, Jack||Blackburn, John||Brooke, Hon Peter|
|Atkins, Rt Hon H. (Spelthorne)||Blaker, Peter||Brotherton, Michael|
|Atkins, Robert (Preston North)||Bonsor, Sir Nicholas||Brown, Michael (Brigg & Sc'thorpe)|
|Baker, Kenneth (St. Marylebone)||Boscawen, Hon Robert||Browne, John (Winchester)|
|Baker, Nicholas (North Dorset)||Bottomley, Peter (Woolwich West)||Bruce-Gardyne, John|
|Beaumont-Dark, Anthony||Bowden, Andrew||Bryan, Sir Paul|
|Buck, Antony||Heath, Rt Hon Edward||Page, Richard (SW Hertfordshire)|
|Budgen, Nick||Heddle, John||Parkinson, Cecil|
|Bulmer, Esmond||Henderson, Barry||Parris, Matthew|
|Burden, F. A.||Heseltine, Rt Hon Michael||Patten, Christopher (Bath)|
|Butcher, John||Hicks, Robert||Patten, John (Oxford)|
|Butler, Hon Adam||Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L.||Pattie, Geoffrey|
|Cadbury, Jocelyn||Hogg, Hon Douglas (Grantham)||Pawsey, James|
|Carlisle, John (Luton West)||Holland, Philip (Carlton)||Penhaligon, David|
|Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)||Hooson, Tom||Percival, Sir Ian|
|Carlisle, Rt Hon Mark (Runcorn)||Hordern, Peter||Pink, R. Bonner|
|Chalker, Mrs Lynda||Howell, Rt Hon David (Guildford)||Pollock, Alexander|
|Channon, Paul||Howell, Ralph (North Norfolk)||Porter, George|
|Chapman, Sydney||Howells, Geraint||Powell, Rt Hon J. Enoch (S Down)|
|Churchill, W. S.||Hunt, David (Wirral)||Prentice, Rt Hon Reg|
|Clark, Hon Alan (Plymouth, Sutton)||Hunt, John (Ravensbourne)||Price, David (Eastleigh)|
|Clark, Sir William (Croydon South)||Hurd, Hon Douglas||Prior, Rt Hon James|
|Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe)||Irving, Charles (Cheltenham)||Proctor, K. Harvey|
|Clegg, Sir Walter||Jenkin, Rt Hon Patrick||Pym, Rt Hon Francis|
|Cockeram, Eric||Johnson Smith, Geoffrey||Raison, Timothy|
|Colvin, Michael||Jopling, Rt Hon Michael||Rathbone, Tim|
|Cope, John||Joseph, Rt Hon Sir Keith||Rees, Peter (Dover and Deal)|
|Cormack, Patrick||Kaberry, Sir Donald||Rees-Davies, W. R.|
|Corrie, John||Kimball, Marcus||Renton, Tim|
|Costain, A. P.||King, Rt Hon Tom||Rhodes James, Robert|
|Cranborne, Viscount||Kitson, Sir Timothy||Rhys Williams. Sir Brandon|
|Critchley, Julian||Lamont, Norman||Ridley, Hon Nicholas|
|Crouch, David||Lang, tan||Ridsdale, Julian|
|Dean, Paul (North Somerset)||Langford-Holt, Sir John||Roberts, Michael (Cardiff NW)|
|Dickens, Geoffrey||Latham, Michael||Roberts, Wyn (Conway)|
|Dorrell, Stephen||Lawrence, Ivan||Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight)|
|Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James||Lawson, Nigel||Ross, Wm. (Londonderry)|
|Dover, Denshore||Lee, John||Rossi, Hugh|
|du Cann, Rt Hon Edward||Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark||Rost, Peter|
|Dunlop, John||Lester, Jim (Beeston)||Royle, Sir Anthony|
|Dunn, Robert (Dartford)||Lloyd, Ian (Havant & Waterloo)||Salisbury, Hon Timothy|
|Durant, Tony||Lloyd, Peter (Fareham)||St. John-Stevas, Rt Hon Norman|
|Dykes, Hugh||Loveridge, John||Scott, Nicholas|
|Eden, Rt Hon Sir John||Luce, Richard||Shaw, Giles (Pudsey)|
|Edwards, Rt Hon N. (Pembroke)||Lyell, Nicholas||Shaw, Michael (Scarborough)|
|Eggar, Timothy||McCrindle, Robert||Shelton, William (Streatham)|
|Elliott, Sir William||Macfarlane, Neil||Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)|
|Eyre, Reginald||MacGregor, John||Shepherd, Richard (Aldridge-Br-hills)|
|Fairbairn, Nicholas||MacKay, John (Argyll)||Shersby, Michael|
|Fairgrieve, Russell||Macmillan, Rt Hon M. (Farnham)||Silvester, Fred|
|Faith, Mrs Sheila||McNair-Wilson, Michael (Newbury)||Sims, Roger|
|Fell, Anthony||McNair-Wilson, Patrick (New Forest)||Skeet, T. H. H.|
|Fenner, Mrs Peggy||McQuarrie, Albert||Smith, Cyril (Rochdale)|
|Finsberg, Geoffrey||Madel, David||Speed, Keith|
|Fisher, Sir Nigel||Major, John||Speller Tony|
|Fletcher, Alexander (Edinburgh N)||Marland, Paul||Spence, John|
|Fletcher-Cooke, Charles||Marlow, Tony||Spicer, Michael (S Worcestershire)|
|Fookes, Miss Janet||Marshall, Michael (Arundel)||Sproat, lain|
|Forman, Nigel||Marten, Neil (Banbury)||Squire, Robin|
|Fowler, Rt Hon Norman||Mates, Michael||Stanbrook, Ivor|
|Fraser, Rt Hon H. (Stafford & St)||Mather, Carol||Stanley, John|
|Fraser, Peter (South Angus)||Maude, Rt Hon Angus||Steel, Rt Hon David|
|Freud, Clement||Mawby, Ray||Steen, Anthony|
|Fry, Peter||Mawhinney, Dr Brian||Stewart, Rt Hon Donald (W Isles)|
|Galbraith, Hon T. G. D.||Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin||Stewart, Ian (Hitchin)|
|Gardiner, George (Reigate)||Mayhew, Patrick||Stewart, John (East Renfrewshire)|
|Gardner, Edward (South Fylde)||Mellor, David||Stokes, John|
|Garel-Jones, Tristan||Meyer, Sir Anthony||Stradling Thomas, J.|
|Glyn, Dr Alan||Miller, Hal (Bromsgrove & Redditch)||Tapsell, Peter|
|Goodhart, Philip||Mills, Iain (Meriden)||Taylor, Robert (Croydon NW)|
|Goodlad, Alastair||Mills, Peter (West Devon)||Taylor, Teddy (Southend East)|
|Gorst, John||Miscampbell, Norman||Tebbit, Norman|
|Gow, Ian||Mitchell, David (Basingstoke)||Temple-Morris, Peter|
|Gower, Sir Raymond||Moate, Roger||Thatcher, Rt Hon Mrs Margaret|
|Gray, Hamish||Molyneaux, James||Thomas, Rt Hon Peter (Hendon S)|
|Greenway, Harry||Monro, Hector||Thompson, Donald|
|Griffiths, Eldon (Bury St Edmunds)||Montgomery, Fergus||Thorne, Nell (Ilford South)|
|Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth N)||Moore, John||Thornton, Malcolm|
|Grimond, Rt Hon J.||Morris, Michael (Northampton, Sth)||Townend, John (Bridlington)|
|Grist, Ian||Morrison, Hon Charles (Devizes)||Townsend, Cyril D. (Bexleyheath)|
|Grylls, Michael||Morrison, Hon Peter (City of Chester)||Trippier, David|
|Gummer, John Selwyn||Murphy, Christopher||Trotter, Neville|
|Hamilton, Hon Archie (Eps'm & Ew'II)||Myles, David||van Straubenzee, W. R.|
|Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury)||Neale, Gerrard||Vaughan, Dr Gerard|
|Hampson, Dr Keith||Needham, Richard||Viggers, Peter|
|Hannam, John||Nelson, Anthony||Waddington, David|
|Haselhurst, Alan||Neubert, Michael||Wainwright, Richard (Colne Valley)|
|Hastings, Stephen||Newton, Tony||Wakeham, John|
|Havers, Rt Hon Sir Michael||Nott, Rt Hon John||Waldegrave, Hon William|
|Hawksley, Warren||Oppenheim, Rt Hon Mrs Sally||Walker, Bill (Perth & E Perthshire)|
|Hayhoe, Barney||Page, Rt Hon Sir R. Graham||Walker-Smith, Rt Hon Sir Derek|
|Waller, Gary||Whitelaw, Rt Hon William||Wolfson, Mark|
|Walters, Dennis||Whitney, Raymond||Young, Sir George (Acton)|
|Ward, John||Wickenden, Keith||Younger, Rt Hon George|
|Warren, Kenneth||Wiggin, Jerry|
|Watson, John||Williams, Delwyn (Montgomery)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Wells, John (Maidstone)||Wilson, Gordon (Dundee East)||Mr. Spencer Le Marchant and|
|Wells, Bowen (Hert'rd & Stev'nage)||Winterton, Nicholas||Mr. Anthony Berry.|
Question accordingly negatived.
Dismissal Relating To Trade Union Membership
I beg to move amendment No. 53, in page 7, line 22, leave out ' unfair if ' and insert
' fair unless he can prove that '.
With this, we may take the following amendments:
No. 113, in page 7, leave out lines 23 to 25 and insert
' unless the industrial tribunal is satisfied that the employees reason or if more than one, she principal reason for not being a member of the specified union or one of the specified unions or for refusing or proposing to refuse to become or remain a member of that or one of these unions, was unreasonable '.
No. 108, in page 7, line 23, leave out from ' if to ' to ' in line 24 and insert
on reasonable grounds he objects '.
No. 49, in page 7, line 23, after 'he', insert
can prove to the tribunal that he '.
No. 50, in page 7, line 23, after 'of, insert ' long-standing',
No. 52, in page 7, line 23, leave out '
or other deeply-held personal conviction'.
No. 51, in page 7, line 23, after ' other ', insert ' long-standing'.
No. 54, in page 7, line 25, leave out
' whatsoever or of a particular trade union '
' and can satisfy the tribunal that his objections were reasonable in all the circumstances '.
As we had a fair run round clause 6 in Committee, I shall, in the interests of saving time, be reasonably brief, but as the clause is one of the nuttier parts of an unnecessary Bill, it is right to raise again the issues involved in it.It is the sort of clause that is put in to placate the wilder spirits in the Conservative Party, some of whom have unfortunately, managed to get elected to the House. A similar provision was included in the Industrial Relations Act and employers and trade unions generally ignored the Act's attempts to outlaw the closed shop, which is the basis of the clause. As democrats, we recognise that the Conservatives won the election and have the right to put the legislation before the House. We have tried to point out its dangers, but the Tories have decided to go ahead with the Bill, which will cause untold harm. We therefore have a duty to tighten up the loose drafting in parts of the Bill, especially in clause 6. That is what the amendments are aimed at. We are concerned about the impossible task facing the tribunals that will have to consider the cases outlined in clause 6. Almost everyone recognises that industrial tribunals have done a first-class job in often difficult and sometimes emotional circumstances. Anything that will make their task more difficult should be avoided, and clause 6 will make their job virtually impossible. In Committee, we repeatedly pointed out to the Government some of the dangers involved in trying to define a " deeply-held personal conviction " and how long it had been held by an individual. One of my hon. Friends said that he visualised tribunals having to employ psychiatrists, lie detectors, truth drugs and a variety of new instruments to find out for how long an individual had held his " deeply-held personal conviction ". We all accept the spirit of a religious exemption and the trade union movement has managed to meet any difficulties in that area over the years. That should have been recognised by the Government, but they have tried to rewrite a section of the Industrial Relations Act to undermine the closed shop in order to placate some of their wilder spirits. We wish to redefine some of the words in clause 6. We discovered in Committee that when the Under-Secretary had a weak case he invariably argued it at inordinate length. When his case was strong he was sharp and to the point, but when he was on weaker ground he took a tremendous amount of time to try to avoid our arguments. He avoided most of our arguments on clause 6. The hon. and learned Gentleman said:
It remains a mystery to us how a tribunal is to do that." In the final analysis, it will be for a tribunal to determine on the facts of any particular case whether an individual's objections to union membership constitute grounds of conscience or other deeply held personal conviction."—[Official Report, Standing Committee A, 28 February 1980, c. 790.]
How can the hon. Gentleman say that it is any more difficult for a tribunal to deal with that matter than it is for it to deal with the tests, to which he lends his support, in section 58 of the 1978 Act which refers to genuine objections on grounds of religious beliefs? What is the difference between the two concepts?
It is fairly easy for an individual to prove that he is a longstanding member of the Jehovah Witnesses, Plymouth Brethren or another religious organisation, the members of which are not prepared to join a trade union. I have not met a member of any of the more mainstream religious organisations who feels that his religious beliefs debar him from membership of a trade union.As a convener, I have dealt with individuals who have joined the Jehovah Witnesses. We all know what sort of conversion they feel that they have had when they join such an organisation. It is relatively easy to prove that an individual is a member of such an organisation. For example, he could provide a card or take his religious leader with him to the tribunal. But let us suppose that an individual announces at the factory one morning that in bed on the previous night he had walked his road to Damascus and arrived at the " deeply-held personal conviction" that he did not want to belong to the AUEW or any other union. How can one disprove that he has arrived at that point? It will be an impossible task for a tribunal to make sense of the provisions in clause 6. The hon. and learned Gentleman went on to say:
Will the Minister tell us what circumstances would be likely to arise? He went on to say:" We believe that a tribunal will not in practice have difficulty in determining whether there is a ground of conscience or a deeply held conviction in the circumstances likely to arise."
It is not made clear in the clause. The chances are that the individual who has a " road to Damascus" conversion will be the type of individual who exists in all walks of life, the person who is looking for easy money. Sums of money up to £16,000 per case are involved. The crimes of murder, rape, arson and inflicting grevious bodily harm have been committed for much less than £16,000. A number of individuals will be tempted down this road for the sake of the jackpot that lies at the end of it. Not every member of a trade union is a devout Socialist who believes in all the activities of the trade union movement. There are individuals who join a union because of the benefits they will derive from membership, and there are individuals who would like to enjoy those benefits without contributing to the trade union funds. This causes bitter feeling among trade union members who pay their dues. They are not willing to allow others to live off their backs. If the clause adds insult to injury by allowing an individual to make a substantial sum of money out of his union because he has had a death-bed conversion to non-unionism it is likely to cause great problems within industry and the trade union movement. We think that the clause is unnecessary and will cause problems. We have tried to make some sense of the clause by tabling our amendments." In widening the current religious exemption in the way the clause does, we do not intend that leeway should be given to any sort of spurious objection that could result in industrial disruption by the undermining of well established agreements. We believe that the intention is made clear in the clause."—[Official Report, Standing Committee A; 20 February 1980, c. 791.]
Amendment No. 53 is self-explanatory. It will be for the individual who is appearing before a tribunal to prove that he has this deeply held personal conviction or strong beliefs as to why he should not be a member. That is probably the best of the amendments and one that the Minister will be able to accept. It is right that the burden of proof should be upon the individual who is seeking to make substantial sums of money out of this situation.
In amendment No. 49, again the onus is placed on the individual to prove his case. I will not go through the amendments in detail but the thrust of the amendments is to say that it will be for the individual who has arrived at this deeply-held personal conviction to prove his case.
We feel that we have a right to know from the Government what is meant by " deeply-held conviction " in the context of the clause. Those words will cause problems and industrial disputes. They are unhelpful to the employer, the employee and the trade union.
Amendment No. 54 deletes words which we regard as particularly dangerous. An individual employed in a firm in which, for example, the Amalgamated Union of Engineering Workers has negotiating rights can say that he has no objection to being a member of a trade union, but he has a deeply-held personal objection to being a member of the Amalgamated Union of Engineering Workers. Hon. Members will have read in the press that there has been a change in the make-up of the national committtee of my union. Someone might take the view that as the make-up of the national committee has changed he does not wish to be a member of that union but would prefer to be a member of another union, but that other union would not necessarily have negotiating rights in that establishment.
It is significant that the hon. Member for Grantham (Mr. Hogg) in his amendments also wishes to take out the words " deeply-held personal conviction " and " grounds of conscience ". I do not know what would be the effect of his amendments. I do not imagine that he wants to go as far as we do, but he recognises the dangers that would flow from the words in clause 6. We shall be interested to see whether he will support us in the Lobby if the Government do not accept his amendments.
I recognise that the Secretary of State has had difficulties with the Bill. He has had more difficulties with his own side than he has with the Opposition. He had a majority of three, and four on the rare occasions when the hon. Member for Rochdale (Mr. Smith) was present in Committee. Although the Secretary of State had a substantial majority in Committee, the situation has changed since the Bill has been discussed in the House. In the House, the Secretary of State's arguments have won the day for the Conservative Party. He contained the so-called revolt last night in a handful of 45. Now that he recognises that he has far more power and influence in the Conservative Party than he realised in Committee, I hope he will accept the helpful amendments which we are putting forward to remedy the difficulties which will arise from clause 6.
I hope that we can rely on the Secretary of State to see the force of our arguments and to appreciate the dangers which will flow from what he is creating in this clause. I know that words are always emotive to the Tory Party, just as they are to people such as myself. However, there is no question but that clause 6 is a charter for scabs and blacklegs. It is a charter for those who seek to benefit from institutions without ever wishing to contribute a penny towards them. I am sure that Conservative Members will accept that from time to time the trade union movement deals with that sort of individual, who invariably is always on the look-out for fast money, who never contributes to anything and who simply takes whatever is given to him. This clause has been created for his benefit.
Now that the Secretary of State recognises the changed circumstances which exist within the Tory Party, and the power which he now has—I think we are seeing a resurgence of the wets and a recognition that they are far stronger than the hawks—I hope that he will accept our helpful and useful amendments.
Before I deal with the amendments standing in my name, which I shall seek to support, I should like to deal with a question which the hon. Member for Newton (Mr. Evans) posed. He asked whether I would support him in the Lobby. The answer is "No, manifestly not ", because the Opposition amendments are singularly mean and show a singularly mean attitude to human liberty.The undoubted effect of the Opposition amendments would be to reduce the class of people entitled to compensation. Indeed, they would make it more difficult for ordinary people to claim compensation when they are unfairly dismissed. The views expressed by Labour Members, and the views which underlie the amendments tabled by them, are wholly inconsistent with the views which they expressed in the debate that has just taken place on amendment No. 43. In that debate, the Opposition represented themselves as being anxious and determined to make it easier for ordinary people to claim compensation when they suffered injustice.
The hon. Gentleman must not misrepresent our views. In the previous debate, we sought to retain the status quo and to resist the Government's intention to worsen the position of workers who claimed that they were unfairly dismissed.
I am surprised that the right hon. Gentleman should disavow the intention that I have ascribed to him. I was saying that in the previous debate, Labour Members were trying to protect and enhance the ability of ordinary people to claim compensation when they had been unfairly treated. Yet we find a wholly different attitude in this debate.
I intend to make the same point myself. Does my hon. Friend recall the occasion on Second Reading, when we attacked the generality of the closed shop on the basis that it would not withstand the strictures of the European Convention on Human Rights, yet in the very week before that Labour Members attacked us because they said that our proposals on immigration offended against the European Convention on Human Rights? Surely that was a total inconsistency.
That is a valuable point which emphasises the main burden of what I want to say. Whenever we come to the question of trade unions and the closed shop, we see sheer, unmitigated prejudice from Labour Members. The House and the country should know that.I turn now to the two amendments which I seek to support.
Will the hon. Gentleman give way?
No, I have given way twice.
The hon. Gentleman is usually very generous.
I have only just begun my speech, as the hon. Gentleman must know. In drafting the two amendments standing in my name, I sought to enlarge the class of people who, when dismissed by reason of their refusal to join a trade union, have a claim for compensation. I am extremely sorry that on this important matter I depart from the approach which has been adopted by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State. On most aspects of the Bill I am in complete sympathy with his approach. He is surely right when he argues that we should adopt a conciliatory and gradualist approach to issues which are as contentious as industrial relations. That is of particular importance with regard to the closed shop. However objectionable the concept of a closed shop may be, this House should never seek to prohibit it because we could not enforce a prohibition of that kind, and this House should never seek to pass laws which cannot be enforced in practice.Therefore, one must ask what the appropriate approach is to problems of that kind. It is the approach which has been adopted by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State. It has two important elements, first, to confine the circumstances in which closed shop agreements can come into existence and, secondly, and no less important, to provide a proper scheme for compensation for those relatively few people who will lose their employment because of their refusal to join a trade union.
Does not my hon. Friend agree that the major defect in our right hon. Friend's approach to this problem is that he is not prepared to deal with existing closed shops? Because of his decision not to do that, it becomes necessary to look for second-best solutions to the problem of the man who is locked into a closed shop and who finds that he has no way of disputing the decisions which are taken on his behalf.
I always hate to dissent from the views expressed by my hon. Friend because I have a great respect for his knowledge in this area. When he made that observation, I wonder whether he fully understood the provisions of clause 6, particularly the proposed subsection (3B). I think that takes account of the pre-entry closed shop problem to which my hon. Friend has just referred me. If I am wrong on that point, I am certain that he will address the House upon it and we can consider it when he does.The point that I am seeking to make is that in general terms I support what my right hon.. Friend has said on this issue. He is right to say that we should not try to prohibit a closed shop. Where I disagree with him is with regard to the scheme of compensation which clause 6 provides, because I personally think that it is insufficiently generous. The main problem to which the attention of the House is now directed arises from section 58 of the 1978 Act, which was passed by Labour Members when in Government. That is a singularly brutal and unattractive piece of legislation, because in effect it says that a man or a woman dismissed by reason of a refusal to join a trade union has no right to compensation whatever unless his or her objection to joining a trade union is, first, an objection to joining all trade unions and is, secondly, an objection founded on religious conviction. I happen to believe that that is oppressive and tyrannical. It gave rise to some quite extraordinary, and I hope unintended, anomalies. 7 pm The casebooks are full of employees dismissed for larceny, immorality, violence and abuse who obtained compensation. At the same time, honourable long-serving employees were dismissed solely because they would not join a trade union; and they had no right of redress. Such a situation was, and is, unacceptable. It was for that reason that the Secretary of State brought his present proposals forward. The House must now seek to resolve the question whether clause 6 goes far enough. I do not believe that it does. The effect of clause 6 is to enable a person who is dismissed for refusing to join a trade union to claim compensation provided that his refusal to join a trade union was founded
That is a narrow test. Perhaps more importantly those who have to interpret and construe those criteria—and in particular industrial tribunals, employment appeal tribunals and the House of Lords, if not the court of appeal—will certainly take a restrictive approach. The clause probably does not cover those employees who do not wish to join a trade union because they disapprove of the local or national leadership. It probably does not cover the employee who does not like the policies of affiliations of a trade union. The clause probably does not cover the employee who believes that the tactics of the union involved are disruptive of industry and the clause certainly does not cover the employee who does not choose to submerge his own personality into a collective unit. Yet all of these things are perfectly reasonable. They provide good reasons why a person should not wish to join a trade union. But, in the end, the test is this. Why should a person have to satisfy such stringent criteria in trying to justify what should be the exercise of free will? It was for that reason that I tabled the amendments which stand in my name. The effect of amendment No. 108 is to enable an employee who has lost his job because of his refusal to join a trade union to claim compensation provided only that his reasons for refusing to join were reasonable. That approach has received quite a lot of illustrious support in the past both within and without the House. To begin with, we had the support for such an approach by the Royal Commission chaired by Lord Donovan. The Commission's report recommended in express terms as follows:" on the grounds of conscience or other deeply-held personal conviction."
That was an express and unanimous recommendation of the Royal Commission. But we do not have to look so far for such support. Words similar to those I now propose were incorporated in the 1974 Act. Indeed, they remained the law until 1976 when, despite strenuous attempts by my right hon. and hon. Friends to prevent their deletion, the words were deleted. Prominent among those who tried to prevent the deletion of those words was my hon. and learned Friend who now sits on the Government Front Bench as Under-Secretary. I shall tell the House what he said because he made a truly memorable speech. He made a speech which in the context of this debate is a pleasure to read today. My hon. and learned Friend began by defining his general policy—a view with which I wholly agree. He said:" Our view is that the employee should be able to succeed against the employer so long as he can show that he has reasonable grounds for refusing to join the union."
Then my hon. and learned Friend became a little more specific. He said:" It is the policy of the Government, as I understand it, to encourage all workers to join a trade union. I agree with that policy, but I agree with no more than that. The Government encourage so long as they advocate, so long as they urge, so long as they persuade and so long as they advise, but when they provide for dismissal without compensation as the price that a workman must pay for refusing to join a trade union they have passed beyond encouragement and resorted to blackmail."
Perhaps, rather uncharacteristically, my right hon. and learned Friend ended on a rather plaintive note:" The Bill is designed to make blackmail lawful. As it stands at the moment, the Act says that it shall be lawful to dismiss a worker for refusing to become a member of a specific trade union. But the Bill removes the saving clause which protects a worker who genuinely objects, on any reasonable grounds to joining that union."
I say to my hon. and learned Friend, who is sitting so comfortably on the Front Bench, that the principles which were true in 1975 are as true today." I ask the Secretary of State why, if he is prepared to make a concession for those with religious beliefs, he will not retain the concession in favour of those who have objections based upon reasonable grounds?"—[Official Report, 9 December 1975; Vol. 902, c. 342–43.]
I wonder if I can help my hon. Friend—since he is naming names—by referring to what my right hon. Friend said in Committee. He told us that
What my right hon. Friend never told us in Committee was the reason for his departure from that standpoint. I wonder if my hon. Friend will press him to give some reasons?"At one time I thought in terms of 'reasonable' grounds. Those were the sort of grounds that we felt we should seek to protect."—[Official Report, Standing Committee A, 26 February 1980; c. 738.]
It is not for me to press the Secretary of State. I was going on to give the answer to that question because I feel certain that my hon. and learned Friend, with his track record, will wish to rise and give unqualified support to my amendment.I turn briefly from amendment No. 108 to amendment No. 113. In amendment No. 108 I intended a fairly modest change in my right hon. Friend's proposals. On that basis I hoped that the amendment might be more acceptable to my hon. Friend.
Amendment No. 113 is intended to have a more dramatic effect. If it is accepted it will greatly enlarge the class of persons entitled to claim compensation. In such circumstances if an employee is dismissed by reason of a refusal to join a trade union he will be entitled to claim compensation unless some other party can establish that his reasons for refusing to join were unreasonable. This amendment, taken in conjunction with the various provisions in clause 6 will largely eliminate and remove the evils associated with the closed shop.
Will my hon. Friend tell the House the circumstances in which he envisages that the amendment, if written into the Bill, will be used? As I understand it, clause 6 comes into operation only for new closed shops. All existing employees are excluded. When a new closed shop agreement is made, it comes about after a ballot and in circumstances in which any existing employee is automatically excluded. We are talking not about a person's refusal to join a union. If there has been a ballot and it is a new closed shop, that closed shop could not have come into being with existing members being forced in against their will, whether on reasonable grounds, grounds of conscience or any other grounds. They would be excluded because of their being existing employees. Therefore, in what circumstances does my hon. Friend say that the amendment will be used? It seems that those whom he seeks to protect are already protected by being existing employees.
My hon. Friend is an ingenious man. He has raised an ingenious argument, which I have already thought about, I shall deal with it in specific terms because it is important.
No. I have given way on five occasions and I do not propose to do so any more. However, I shall deal with the argument advanced by my hon. Friend the Member for Chippenham (Mr. Needham).I deal briefly with the various arguments that have been advanced against amendments of this type. In view of the speech made in 1975 by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Royal Tunbridge Wells (Mr. Mayhew), who is now the Under-Secretary of State, I do not have to argue that the amendments are unworkable. If they were not unworkable in 1975, they are not unworkable now. It is said that the amendments are unnecessary because they do not deal with the real problem. That is the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Chippenham. My hon. Friend suggests that no one would lose his job in the circumstances that he postulates. He is wrong. There will be a small number of employees who, after the implementation of a closed shop agreement, join the union and who subsequently decide to leave it. The class is a small one, but the law should be as quick to protect the few as it is to protect the many.
No. I have given way a great deal and I do not propose to give way again.The second argument which is usually advanced by Labour Members is that it is morally culpable for those who derive some benefit from trade union negotiations not to join the trade union. I have always taken the view that that is an unmeritorious argument. It fails on two grounds. First, what do we say to those who suffer unemployment and poverty as a result of trade union practices? Even more to the point, what do we say about democracy itself? Democracy implies choice. It implies the right to choose the least worthy course as well as the most worthy course. That is an essential element in democracy. 7.15 pm The final objection is based on convenience. It is suggested that it is convenient to have a trade union closed shop. Convenient it may be, but it is oppressive. The amendments that I seek to support do not abolish the closed shop. They merely put a price upon it. The price is the liability to compensate those persons who lose their job as a result of it. We cannot assert an unqualified right to association unless we concede a right to non-association. The arguments, the logic and the principles that require the one also demand the other. To deny people the right to claim compensation when they are dismissed merely because of a refusal to join a trade union is to perpetuate an injustice to which the House should not be a party.
From time to time every political party finds itself stuck with superficially attractive slogans that are passed on, if the party becomes the Government, to an unfortunate Minister who has to endeavour to put flesh on their bones.Throughout the passage of the Bill we have been witnessing the endeavours of the Secretary of State to put some thinking into a slogan to give it reality. During the debate there has been a conflict between theory and practice. We saw it last night, and we are witnessing it again today. It is a conflict involving those who are dealing with something in theory, who are anxious, as I understand it, and if I understood the hon. Member for Grantham (Mr. Hogg), to have justice before the law. That is a laudable objective, but one which in practice, should be dealt with long before it reaches that stage. That is what has happened for many years. We hear Conservative Members waxing righteous about the rights of a small minority. In the course of doing that they are prepared to ignore, or to push to one side, the views of the majority. However, we are all in this place as a result of the exercise of that operation, namely, the use of a majority. I wonder what the reactions of Conservative Members would be if, in their anxiety to please one or possibly two out of thousands of employees in a given factory, they found that the vast majority were saying " We do not want to work with those who do not want to belong to the union ". That is precisely the reaction that one meets. In my experience, closed shops are not set up arbitrarily. They are set up after full consultation and with the agreement, expressed by a majority, of the employers in the establishment. There is the opportunity for individuals to advance their points of view. Again, in my experience, it is only on odd occasions that someone finds that he is prevented from joining a trade union because of genuine religious beliefs. I have always found that members of trade unions are willing to accommodate such a person by allowing him, for example, to pay the equivalent of his trade union dues to a charity. I have known that happen time and time again. Judgment is based on the observation of the members of the trade union of the depth of the individual's religious belief. They see him day after day. They notice how he acts. They notice his speech especially. If they come to the conclusion that he, or she, has deeply-held religious beliefs, they will not want to be awkward with that person. An arrangement is arrived at whereby the individual does not take on the mantle of the others, who are free-riders. That is what they amount to, because they are prepared to take the benefits negotiated by trade unions, but are not prepared to make a contribution towards the unions. The acceptance of people's religious views and beliefs is based on the experience of their workmates. Where they are genuine, people are prepared to accommodate them. If the Bill is enacted in its present form, it will provide a charter for those who wish to take the benefits but not to contribute. I have not heard many complaints from managements about closed shops. The idea that there are such complaints has been generated at Tory Party annual conferences. Managements can negotiate sensibly with their employees. Conservative Members should stop and con- sider what would happen if managements were forced to negotiate not only with the unions but with a variety of other people about their wages and conditions. Conservative Members say that they are concerned about time wasting and about costs, yet they are cheerfully prepared for personnel departments, wages departments and works managers to spend hours and weeks negotiating with individuals. If managements were willing to go through with that charade they would end up with the same deal as had been negotiated with the trade unions. The important difference is that those individuals would not have paid their dues.
Will my hon. Friend tell us, from his great industrial experience, whether he has ever come across anyone who has said that his principles would not allow him to join the appropriate trade union and that therefore he could not take advantage of the hours and conditions that the union had negotiated?
I regret that I have never found anyone who was not prepared to hold out his hand at the end of the week and accept those benefits.Concern has been expressed about democracy. Last night concern was expressed about secret ballots, and it was said that we should know the wishes of the workers before allowing a dispute to take place. However, Conservative Members will disregard a ballot that shows that the majority wish to have a closed shop. They think that it is all right to accept the wishes of the majority in one instance, but not in another. They should make up their minds about what they wish to do. If one aim of an employment Bill is to improve industrial relations, the Secretary of State should—as my hon. Friend the Member for Newton (Mr. Evans) said—give full consideration to the amendment that has been put forward in the names of my right hon. and hon. Friends.
Clause 6 will lead not to better industrial relations but to acrimony on the shop floor. If the Secretary of State is true to himself and to his softly-softly approach, he will go along with the idea that those who are genuinely religious can be accommodated on the shop floor. He will agree that there is no need to write such provisions as these into the letter of the law.
My hon. Friend the Member for Grantham (Mr. Hogg) has pointed out the extraordinary way in which Opposition Members are able to forget their pronouncements on almost every other topic. It is tempting to follow my hon. Friend down that road but I do not wish to detain the House.The hon. Member for Coventry, North-East (Mr. Park) spoke with measured contempt about minorities. If he were to hear from a Conservative Member about a minority of sexual deviants, criminals or social security scroungers, he and his hon. Friends—who listened so complacently to his remarks—would be on their feet and foaming at the mouth in a way that is only too familiar to my hon. Friends. I am amazed that they cannot grasp the fact that one cannot pick and choose the freedoms to be allowed in a free society.
I had not wished to give the impression—if I did so, I regret it—that I was contemptuous of minorities. That is far from the truth. I was trying to convey the point that there was no need for the provision because those with genuine religious conviction could be catered for by those who knew that they held such beliefs.
I accept the hon. Gentleman's point. I shall return to the question of religion later, as I had intended. The hon. Member for Newton (Mr. Evans) properly put the view, strongly held by some on the shop floor, that there is bitter resentment about those who will not join trade unions. I accept that. However, should the law pander to that resentment any more than to the resentment that many people feel about " easy-riders? " There are many " easy-riders " in almost every aspect of human affairs. However, is not the price of a free society the freedom of some to opt out? Is not the price that we have to pay the freedom of some to refuse to join their union and yet to take all the advantages that that membership confers? Once one starts to breach that type of freedom, one is on a slippery slope.The drafting of new clause 6 is a consequence of the narrowness of clause 58 of the Employment Protection Act. It allows an exemption only on the narrow ground that the employee genuinely objects because of his religious beliefs. I am sorry that the hon. Member for Preston, South (Mr. Thorne) is not in the Chamberer, because he seems to believe so strongly in the class bias of judges. It is interesting that the courts have given a restrictive definition of that phrase. It affects those who seek to argue that they have a proper ground for objecting to membership of a trade union. A court will not accept the individual's perception of his religious belief. It will invite the individual to say which religion he subscribes to, and it will then consider whether that religious group prohibits trade union membership. In a free society, why should that be the only reason for not compelling someone to join a union? I can think of no logical argument to support that provision. I welcome two aspects of clause 6. It gets away from the belief that religion is the be-all and end-all of the issue. The grounds of objection have been widened to include conscience not restricted by religion, " or other deeply-held personal conviction ". Indeed, it goes further and deals with the question whether the test should be subjective or objective. Are we concerned with the passionate, if misguided and mistaken belief of the individual, or are we concerned with whether that belief is an objective ground and a reasonable basis for saying that one will not be a member? I disagree in one respect with the amendment proposed by my hon. Friend the Member for Grantham. By injecting the word " reasonable " an objective test will once again be imposed on an issue that I believe should he purely subjective. There are no doubt other objections to that word and I apprehend that my hon. and learned Friend the Under-Secretary will refer to them and to the difficulties which judges may experience. I am happy to support the proposal affecting subsection (2) because it will allow an individual to make up his mind.
It is interesting to hear Conservative barristers-at-law going through the question of the rights of individuals. Will the hon. Member concede that particularly in industrial relations, where I accept that the rights of the individual are important, the rights of the majority are equally important? Do they not have a right to refuse to work with any individual who is not prepared to join their organisation?
I do not think that that is the point that we are dealing with. The question that concerns us is the basis on which a man's employment can be terminated. My right hon. and hon. Friends have dealt with that in the provisions that they have laid down for payment of compensation. As my hon. Friend the Member for Grantham (Mr. Hogg) said so effectively, it is extraordinary that thieves and people of that sort can walk off a job with compensation from an industrial tribunal, but someone whose only crime was that he did not join a trade union must leave a job that he may have held for decades empty handed. Also, the hon. Member must agree that we are all responsible for the legal consequences of our actions. If the work force refuses to work with a particular individual, there can be no objection to its union's paying, and not the employer, at the end of the day when the matter comes to the tribunal.
Is it not a fact that person joins a company for employment and not to become a trade union member?
Yes, that is absolutely right. As someone who has two grandparents who are members of the National Union of Railwaymen, I find it most distasteful that the trade unions should pursue this wretched vendetta against individuals. When they say that these people form a tiny minority, does that not emphasise just how wretched their vendetta is? That is why I support my right hon. and hon. Friends.
Some Conservative Members are chameleons. One day they talk about minorities not being allowed to persuade the majority to take industrial action, and the following day they say that minorities should be able to go against the view of the majority. That is most peculiar. Under this Bill it will require 80 per cent. of the employees to decide that there should be a closed shop. Clearly the remaining 20 per cent—if 20 per cent. vote against it—will be a minority. I cannot understand why the Conservatives change their minds from day to day.Many Conservative Members and some Labour Members belong to clubs, and those clubs lay down rules, perhaps by a 50 per cent., two-thirds or 80 per cent. majority. If members will not obey the rules they are expelled from the club without compensation. Coming nearer to home, if an hon. Member refuses to obey the rules which have been laid down by a simple majority, he will be excluded for as long as he is named and he will lose his salary. There is a precedent for people having to obey the rules of the majority, and that is what happens with the closed shop.
It is not rubbish; it is absolutely true. In a closed shop the majority have decided how they wish to conduct their affairs vis-a-vis their employers in their place of work.
If an hon. Member does not obey the rules of the House, he will still be a Member of Parliament; he is not expelled.
I have no doubt that you would be able to correct the hon. Member, Mr. Deputy Speaker. As long as an hon. Member refuses to obey the rules of the House and continues to be named by the Speaker, he is excluded from the premises and does not receive a salary. If the hon. Member for Burton (Mr. Lawrence) wants to prove it he might try to get himself named. He might make more money on television to start with, but that would not go on for long.I have been in a trade union all my life. I have negotiated at local, regional and national level. I know well that the people who refuse to belong to a trade union—and I worked in an industry where there was not a closed shop—are not backward in coming forward for the conditions of service and the rates of pay that have been negotiated for them. My guess is that in any situation where the qualification for receiving a negotiated increase in wages or improved conditions of service is that a person should be a member of the negotiating trade union the secretary of that union would be killed in the rush to join.
The hon. Member says that it is morally reprehensible for people to derive benefits from negotiations and not to join the union. Is it not the essence of democracy that people should be free to choose, and to choose between the less worthy as well as the worthy? Is not the choice for them?
That may well be. In all societies where there are rules laid down by the majority there are penalties for the minority who will not obey the rules. Take the case of the rules we make in this House by way of legislation. The penalties can be very severe. For example, we say that a person must have a driving licence. Perhaps a minority do not think that they need to have a driving licence, but because we believe that we have a majority in the country, and certainly a majority in this House, we have laid it down that they must have one and there is a penalty if they do not.The same situation applies in the closed shop. There is a penalty which is agreed, not only by employees, but by employers as well.
Perhaps the hon. Member could help me. I attended the inquiry which was chaired by my hon. Friend the Member for Hen-don, North (Mr. Gorst) when Mr. Arthur Scargill was answering questions. Mr. Scargill made it quite clear that he regarded it as a matter of personal conscience that he had the right to break and stand up against what he considered to be an unjust law. He felt that that was right in a democracy. When another of my hon. Friends referred to the deeply-held personal convictions of people who did not wish to join a closed shop, Mr. Scargill said that he did not know what " deeply-held personal convictions " meant. He was well aware what it meant when he was to take a decision on whether to obey a law of Parliament, yet he seemed unclear about its meaning when another individual wanted to disregard his rules. Perhaps the hon. Member would like to comment on that.
I shall not answer for Arthur Scargill. He must answer for himself. I was explaining that rules are made. There is a penalty for not obeying those rules. That applies in the closed shop as it does in many other situations.
Would my hon. Friend care to dwell on the example, for instance, of lawyers, barristers and solicitors? A Birmingham barrister recently appeared before a disciplinary hearing. If the hearing had gone against him, he would have been disciplined and lost his livelihood. Does not my hon. Friend think it interesting that lawyers should be sitting comfortably in the Chamber, organising the tightest and most lucrative closed shop in the world while pontificating about workers trying to organise themselves to obtain decent working conditions that do not match up to one-tenth of the income of some parasitic lawyers?
I was coming to that. It is a well-known fact that one of the tightest closed shops exists within the legal profession.
I cannot give way. Time is getting on, and other hon. Members wish to speak. I have given way a good deal. I think I should proceed to conclude my speech.The fact is that the legal profession operates a closed shop. If a lawyer will not belong to the requisite professional association, he can lose his livelihood.
I have said that I shall not give way. I cannot see why Conservative Members will not recognise the similarity of the situation. Chameleonlike, they support the one and oppose the other. The closed shop is recognised by employers and employees and trade unions alike to be an efficient way of conducting negotiations within a given situation. In my experience, employers are most happy when they know those with whom they are negotiating and know that they speak on behalf of all, or at least a great majority of employees. That is important both from the employer's and the employee's point of view. It is efficient. The very fact that many employers encourage the closed shop makes that point for itself.
I have said that I shall not give way. It would be unfair if I were to give way to one of my hon. Friends. I want to show the House that I am a fair man. On that note, I conclude my remarks.
I had not intended to intervene in this debate, but I am provoked to do so by the deliberately misleading remarks of Conservative Members who, I suspect, wish to misrepresent the Opposition's position. Echoing the remarks of my hon. Friend the Member for Keighley (Mr. Cryer), I recall saying yesterday that there was nothing more nauseating or absurd in this House than the spectacle of lawyers denouncing the closed shop.
I should be allowed at least to complete my opening remarks. The hon. Member for Grantham (Mr. Hogg) fulminates in a hysterical denunciation of the denial of compensation for someone dismissed for refusing to belong to a trade union. It strikes me as extraordinary that 10 years ago Conservative Members were not in the least interested in providing compensation for unfair dismissal. It was Barbara Castle who laid the basis for statutory provision for unfair dismissal. There were no expressions of concern from Conservative Members about providing compensation for people unfairly dismissed.7.45 pm I hope that I may be forgiven for echoing words that I have used in Standing Committees. I used them deliberately. They indicate that the Opposition have a different approach from that attributed to us by Conservative Members in relation to this clause. I do not regard the closed shop as an article of faith within the trade union movement. I understand the reasons why workers seek what arc now called " union membership agreements ". I use that phrase carefully and deliberately. There is a great deal of difference. The concept of the union membership agreement was intended to be much wider than that usually associated with the idea of a closed shop. The Trade Union and Labour Relations (Amendment) Act 1976 was deliberately framed in a way that enabled union membership agreements to be applied with flexibility and tolerance. As the responsible Minister, often from the Government Dispatch Box, I appealed for closed shops and union membership agreements to be practised in a flexible and tolerant way. I can recall being especially critical on at least one occasion of a union membership agreement that I felt had not been applied in the flexible and tolerant way that I had hoped. I am the first to recognise—perhaps in a way that is not recognised by Conservative Members—that we are dealing with a difficult and sensitive matter. Much though some of the behaviour seen in the pursuant and practice of union membership agreements is to be regretted, I doubt whether changes in behaviour can be brought about by altering or tinkering with the law. I have referred previously to the wise views of Lord Blakenham when, as John Hare, Minister of Labour, he made the point in 1961 that Acts of Parliament seldom make men good. It is a fallacy to believe that human behaviour can be changed merely by altering the law.
I have always assumed that the right hon. Gentleman is a good international Socialist as well as a British Socialist. I have never understood why closed shops, or union membership agreements, that are not permitted in Europe are nevertheless supported by the right hon. Gentleman and his party in this country.
I referred in Standing Committee to the experience of other countries. The hon. Gentleman may have been absent then. If so, he can read the record. A submission of the British Government to the European Commission of Human Rights indicated that in a number of countries where in theory, at least, the closed shop is prohibited by law, it is practised with full vigour. The example is quoted of the United States.I recall visiting a typical engineering factory in the United States 18 months ago. I asked the managing director what proportion of his work force was unionised. He replied that all had to be members of the UAW. He added: " That is a goddam condition of employment"—if Mr. Deputy Speaker, you will forgive the expression. I said "Do you mean that you operate a closed shop?", and he replied " I do not know what you call it, but every guy who works here has to be in the UAW ". I said " Suppose a guy drops out of the UAW?", and he said " He drops out of employment here because it is a condition of employment and he would be in breach of that". Yet it is said that the closed shop is prohibited in the United States. I have visited factories in Western Europe where the closed shop is supposed to be prohibited, but where there are de facto closed shops. Even when closed shops were prohibited by the 1971 Industrial Relations Act they flourished as never before, with the connivance of some employers, many of whom see great benefit in a closed shop. That is not my purpose in addressing the House. My purpose is to recognise the difficulties. One must recognise the compelling strength of the arguments about the sense of solidarity, the objections to the free-rider and the group conscience of workers, which is demonstrated nowhere more than in the mining industry. I shall not mention the national trade union official's name in the coal mining industry who, when asked his view of the closed shop, said " Closed shop? I am not bothered one way or t'other. But I can tell you this. No one will go down the pit without an NUM card." Miners whose lives are at risk underground depend on the solidarity of their colleagues. They will not work with men who are not coal miners. It is sometimes said that people flagrantly defy the law. I recall the wise words of the hon. Member for Carshalton (Mr. Forman) who, in a letter to The Times on 12 February—I remember the date because it is my wife's birthday—said that to be effective the law must have the tacit acceptance of those to whom it applies. A few days later the hon. Member for Chippenham (Mr. Needham) said something similar in an article in The Times. As I said in Committee, if two-eyed people passed a law which discriminated against one-eyed people, who could blame the one-eyed if they made a rude Chur-chillian gesture to the law? That is what it boils down to. I am talking about the way in which we deal with these difficult problems and whether we pass laws in the belief that they will somehow solve the problems. I do not believe that they will. We must keep chipping away, trying to persuade people and applying common sense. In Committee I quoted views that had been sent to the Secretary of State by the Association of British Chambers of Commerce. That association said that the Government were approaching the problem in the wrong way and that they should act with more rigour. My hon. Friend the Member for Newton (Mr. Evans) was asked how he would defend the right to be exempt on religious grounds and not on the ground of " deeply-held personal conviction ". The question was whether an atheist or agnostic had the right to be exempt, and whether such a person did not have as strong a conviction as a Jehovah's Witness or a member of the Plymouth Brethren. Religious belief can be tested against some external standards. One can ask an applicant " What sect do you adhere to and how long have you been a member? ", but conscience is unrelated to religious conviction. One can hold a deep conviction for many reasons. One must look into the heart and mind of an individual. How can an industrial tribunal examine what is in a person's heart and mind? That was the theme of the document submitted by the Association of British Chambers of Commerce. It said:
I hope that the hon. and learned Gentleman will say whether that it is right and whether the onus will be on the applicant to demonstrate consciencious objection—" The fundamental problem with conscience is that it is personal and not always entirely rational. This presents real difficulties in determining borderline cases. Although the onus will be upon the employee to demonstrate conscientious objections "—
" if he makes a statement under oath that he has such an objection, it will presumably be up to either members of the tribunal or to the employer to question this statement.
I shall quote from another document to which I did not refer in Committee, in spite of the temptation to do so. My argument is that we should deal with the difficulties and problems not by passing laws but by applying the common sense of ordinary people who are represented by working-class organisations. In 1977 the General Synod of the Church of England discussed this matter. I see that the hon. Member for Grantham (Mr. Hogg) is sneering. Does he wish to intervene and discredit the Church of England?" This will introduce a virtually unknown element into legal proceedings. The entire thrust of English law has been to avoid questioning a man's beliefs. Even in the times of religious persecution the law was concerned with action, not thoughts."
I hope that the House will accept that by using selective quotations I am not misrepresenting the Synod and its document. I am trying to be fair. I wish to show that it shares the approach that I have expressed to the House. The document states:
In other words, the Synod says that the Act enables union membership agreements to be drafted in such a way as to cater for, and make allowance for, the difficulties to which we have referred. The statement continues:" In relation to closed shops in particular, we have made the point that they can only be introduced by negotiated agreement, that the parties concerned may include exemption clauses with reference to any characteristics or circumstances whatsoever and that this flexible provision could allow for objection on grounds other than religious belief, itself provided for in the Act."
The Synod, in better and more eloquent language than I can employ, reflects the view that I put to the Committee and the House. It says:" With the safeguards for individuals described above, we judge that closed shops may be legitimately negotiated in our society … Indeed the churches encourage positive participation in responsible social organisations. But where such exclusive groups do exist, the mainstream Christian position should be to seek to ensure that their views are respected. We therefore welcome the exemption clause present in the 1976 Act. The fact that broader tolerance is left to the parties themselves as they establish Union Membership Agreements, is, in our view, also to be approved. It places the emphasis on the parties themselves; it places responsibility where it belongs; and it allows a flexibility in arrangement that can best suit local circumstances. We urge that individual Agreements deal adequately with the local situation in an atmosphere of understanding and tolerance."
[Interruption]—I keep hearing gibes, sneering and noises from the Government Benches." It is the argument of this Paper that strong democratic institutions including trade unions, which deal tolerantly with dissenting minorities, and whose power is checked by adequate social mechanisms to ensure this tolerance"
The right hon. Gentleman is making an important point. It is that the question would not arise if closed shops were operated responsibly by responsible unions.
I am afraid that the hon. Gentleman has not been listening to or following what I have been saying. This document points out that closed shops have been in existence for many years. In fact, there has been no significant change in the law relating to the closed shop over the whole period of existence of the trade union movement.The Church of England document which I am quoting argues exactly the case that I put to the House, that much the most sensible way to deal with the difficulties that undeniably arise is for the parties to the agreement themselves to make such arrangements as will enable a proper response to be made to those difficulties. I quote again:
and the conclusion is that" We urge that individual Agreements deal adequately with the local situation in an atmosphere of understanding and tolerance ",
I believe that the essentially voluntary stance, which is supported by the Church of England, is a wiser course than the legalistic approach adopted by the Government." strong democratic institutions, including trade unions, which deal tolerantly with dissenting minorities, and whose power is checked by adequate social mechanisms to ensure this tolerance, are the best means of enhancing the sort of free and responsible society which we all so earnestly desire."
Like the right hon. Member for Doncaster (Mr. Walker), I had not intended to take part in this debate, and my speech will be short. I intervene principally because I hope that the Under-Secretary of State will clarify for me what these amendments mean, even if he intends to advise the House to reject them.All the arguments that I have heard this evening from the official Opposition seem in some way to indicate that if the amendments were passed the closed shop would become illegal. However, as I understand them, all that the amendments do is broaden the grounds on which one could claim compensation if one lost one's job as a consequence of a closed shop, and in no way would they do away with the closed shop principle or make the closed shop illegal. My views on the closed shop are well known. In Committee I moved an amendment to make the closed shop illegal, and I shall later tonight support an amendment with the object of at least trying to ensure that closed shop agreements are subjected to some sort of machinery to test the desire of employees to support them. However, whether that amendment be carried or not, it seems to me that the amendment now before us does no more than give people the opportunity on a wider basis than under the present law or under the clause as drafted to claim for unfair dismissal if they are dismissed as a consequence of a closed shop and if they refuse to join a union in that situation. I want the Minister to make the position clear to me, because all the argument that I have heard tonight about the closed shop, about free-riders and the rest seems not to apply at this stage. We may go into those arguments later, but I should not have thought that the present amendment was the one on which to be defending the principle of the closed shop, since it would not make the closed shop illegal.
Not for the first time, I welcome what has been said by the hon. Member for Rochdale (Mr. Smith), because although this has been an extremely interesting, valuable and wide-ranging debate, it is not about the principle of whether there should or should not be a closed shop as a legitimate institution under our industrial relations law. Many of my hon. Friends have acknowledge that the closed shop, distasteful though it may be and is to myself and, I believe, to virtually all my right hon. and hon. Friends [HON. MEMBERS: " Oh."] yes, on the most basic of libertarian grounds is something which it would be folly to try to legislate away. My hon. Friend the Member for Grantham (Mr. Hogg) began his speech with that acknowledgement.The hon. Member for Rochdale was absolutely right to say that amendment No. 113, tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Grantham, would simply widen over and above what the clause at present provides the basis upon which somebody could claim, and be entitled to compensation for, unfair dismissal if he were sacked for not being a member of the specified trade union where there was a closed shop agreement in existence. It may help if I begin by saying a word or two about the structure of the clause, which deals with the closed shop and its position in our law at present, just setting the framework, moving on thereafter to explain why the amendments moved and spoken to by the hon. Member for Newton (Mr. Evans) are not acceptable, in the Government's view, and also why—although it is a very different type of amendment—we do not feel able to advise the House to accept the amendment tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Grantham. We are talking here about section 58 of the 1978 Act. The scheme of that section—subsection (3) is the one that matters—is to make it unfair to dismiss someone because of trade union membership or activities but to make it fair to dismiss for not being a union member where a union membership, as defined, is in force. The only exception applies where the employee genuinely objects on grounds of religious belief to being a member of any trade union whatsoever. In these circumstances, it is unfair to dismiss him for non-membership of the union. The scheme of clause 6 is to enlarge the circumstances in which, where a closed shop agreement is in force, it shall be unfair to dismiss someone for non-membership of the specified union. The clause achieves that purpose by adding a new subsection. In fact, there are three new subsections, but we are dealing with only one at the moment, namely, new subsection (3A), which provides what one might call an expanded conscience clause. Therefore, the question for our concern in this debate is not whether there ought to be provision for a closed shop agreement which, in practical terms, leads to the consequence that if somebody is sacked for not being a member of the trade union, then, if there is a closed shop agreement in existence, he shall not be entitled to compensation for unfair dismissal. There are deeply held views on either side of the House about that, but it is not the subject of the present debate. We are talking simply about whether there ought to be any let-out—whether, in other words, the right to compensation for unfair dismissal for somebody who has been sacked for not joining a union should be restored to him in any circumstances at all. The Employment Protection Act 1978 has, as it were, sold the pass to those who believe that there should be no exemption at all and that the will of the majority should always prevail lest free riders should get the benefits that union negotiations provide without paying the subscription. That pass has been sold because section 58 of the 1978 Act says that if someone has religious grounds for not wanting to join the union he is entitled to compensation if he is sacked for not joining it. Therefore, the question is not one of principle at this point. It is one of practicality or of justice. Is that exemption wide enough? Once one has accepted, as the previous Government accepted, that a subjective test ought to be applied—Has this person got a religious belief which makes it wrong, in his view, for him to join a union?—it seems to me that one has then to ask whether that is sufficiently wide. Is it the only subjective test which ought to be applied if we are to have a just law? The view which the Government have taken—we have taken it for a very long time—is that it cannot be said that the only people with, so to say, conscientious objections which ought to be respected in this context are those with religious objections. That cannot be right. It cannot be right to say that the only people with a principled objection are those who base their objection upon religion. It cannot be said that the only people who have consciences are those who believe in one religion or another. I do not believe that I should find many hon. Members on the Opposition Benches who would say that, and I am sure that I should not find any on the Benches behind me. Therefore, it seems to us that once the pass has been sold, or, as I would choose more positively to put it, once the principle has been established that there ought to be provision for compensation for somebody who declines to join a union notwithstanding that there is a closed shop agreement in force, one must see how it can best be done. The debate on that aspect has been interesting. Amendments have been put forward by the hon. Member for Newton, which dealt principally with the question of verbal proof, and by my hon. Friend the Member for Grantham who says that reasonable grounds are sufficient. The clause states that religious objection should be expanded and that it should henceforward read:
We have thought a great deal about that, and it has taken us longer to reach a final conclusion on that than on almost any other feature of the Bill. It is an extremely difficult matter. We have considered the question of reasonable grounds for a long time, not least because that was the formula that the 1974 Act first relied upon. I hope, since there has been substantial quotation of what was said in Committee, that I will be forgiven for mentioning two or three points that I made then, not least because it will help me to finish my speech more quickly. The principles on which we worked were that the objections" On grounds of conscience or other deeply-held personal conviction."
Therefore, the objection must be an objection of principle and not simply that a person does not like the area or district convener or that he does not like the newly increased subscription." certainly ought not to extend to what is trivial or transient, insubstantial or of a passing character."—[Official Report, Standing Committee A, 28 February 1980, c. 790.]
Will my hon. and learned Friend confirm that in Committee he said that a politically, deeply-held conviction would not come within the terms of a transient conviction?
I do not propose to repeat everything that I said in Committee, but I am prepared to repeat that I said that the political purpose of a trade union would, in certain circumstances, be accepted by a tribunal as a deeply-held personal conviction—but not necessarily. It must always be borne in mind that it is for the tribunal—based upon the advice of the TUC or CBI nominee or the independent chairman—to decide, in relation to the facts of each case whether the test set down by Parliament has been established. We believe that the objections should not be transient, insubstantial or passing in character.The centre of our philosophy on this clause is the notion that the individual objection must always be based on personal conviction—a conviction that is deeply felt rather than one that is toyed with, or picked up or experimental. That bears upon the point made about the time for which a person must have held his conviction. No one can say that a week is too little, or that a fortnight is enough. It is for the tribunal to determine whether the test is met. Not all deeply-held convictions are religious in nature, but I have already dealt with that point. It might be argued that an objection on the grounds that the policy of the union would involve a member in conflict with the occupational, professional, vocational or even statutory duty binding upon him—the hon. Member for Rochdale was concerned about that in Committee—is not an objection of conscience. Yet that sort of objection should qualify for exemption. Therefore, in order to defeat that possible suggestion, conscience has to be inserted into the clause. In order to avoid uncertainty, we have added the words:
8.15 pm I understand those who say that that is imprecise. We try to be precise in the language that we use in legislation, although we generally seem to fail. Where relatively simple words are used, it is generally a mistake to use less simple words to explain them. There must be faith in the tribunals which both Labour and Conservative Governments have set up, and which we support. We believe that this is one test or set of criteria that gives rise to much anxiety in the abstract, but when one is called upon to apply it in the face of individual sets of facts it does not give rise to a great deal of difficulty. That is what is likely to occur in this case. The amendments are grouped, but they affect different concerns. The Opposition amendments are varying in character. I shall deal first with amendments Nos. 53, 49 and 54. Taken together amendments Nos. 53 and 49, put forward by the hon. Member for Newton, seek not only to provide that the employee must prove his objections before his plea is upheld, but that he is entitled to compensation for unfair dismissal, but that his dismissal shall be regarded as fair unless he" or other deeply-held personal conviction."
genuinely objects. That cannot have been intended, and it must be a drafting error. The guts of the amendments are that the employee must prove that which he relies upon. That is something that the employee has to do under the clause as it stands. The essence of the matter is that an employee can say that he knows that there is a closed shop agreement, but that he has a deeply-held conviction or ground of conscience which leads him not to join the union. No one can say whether he has such a conviction. He is capable of giving the best evidence, and he must do so. Therefore, there is no ground for this group of amendments. The burden of proof is, and always has to be. upon the claimant in those circumstances. I hope that the hon. Member for Newton will accept that assurance. We discussed in Committee the form that the conscience clause should take, and I do not think that I need to say more now. The essential point is that the burden of proof is upon the complainant, and in our view there must be a much wider statement of the exemption than the words " religious grounds " provide. I turn now to what was said by my hon. Friend the Member for Grantham in support of reasonable grounds. I am always flattered when an hon. Member takes the trouble to look at a speech that I have made, but there are occasions when I wish that that were not done. My hon. Friend quoted from a speech that I made in 1975. We were discussing the Trade Union and Labour Relations Bill, which was amending the 1974 Bill so as to take out the saving clause covering " any reasonable grounds ". It was a case of all or nothing. I could hardly be expected to go along with the Government's removal of " any reasonable ground " when there was no alternative. I said then that it was far better to have " reasonable ground " as the basis for an exemption than to have nothing. That is the answer to my hon. Friend's point. However, he stopped at a significant point. He said, when quoting from my speech:" can prove to the tribunal that he "
But my hon. Friend stopped at a comma. I went on to say:" the Bill removes the saving clause which protects a worker who genuinely objects on any reasonable grounds to joining that union,"
The significance of Ferrybridge, in the context of my hon. Friend's amendment, is that the tribunal had to apply the test whether those concerned had reasonable grounds for not wishing to join the relevant union. The tribunal's reasons for giving that judgment have importance and relevance to the debate because, in paragraph 62, it said:" and we now know from Ferrybridge that there exist in real life workers who say ' We are not against joining any trade union. We are against joining or remaining in this one.' Alas, we also know what can happen to them if they are dismissed."—[Official Report, 9 December 1975; Vol. 902, c. 342.]
" The next and extremely difficult problem is as to what constitutes an objection on any reasonable grounds. There is no guidance whatsoever from Parliament on what constitutes such grounds, and we all three strongly resent being given the task of deciding this question. It is contrary to the conventions of the constitution of this country, as I understand them, for a judicial body to have to decide such a question which carries political and controversial implications. Parliament should say what are reasonable grounds—for example, religion, conscience or any other specified reason—and then a tribunal, after hearing evidence, can make their findings of fact and say whether the statutory grounds exist. Such findings would not create any doubt as to the impartiality of the tribunal who are merely applying tests laid down by the legislature."
If this omission is troubling my hon. and learned Friend, would he agree that under clause 2, which gives the Minister power to issue codes of practice, the contents of the codes of practice could include guidance on precisely this point?
That is right. We intend that a code of practice shall give guidance on what shall be regarded as reasonable in relation to unreasonable expulsion or exclusion from a union.We are dealing with a much wider area. We are dealing with the grounds upon which somebody may not wish to belong to a trade union. It is important that the tribunal, which found for the Ferrybridge six, thought it right to set out the grounds for what it described as its resentment at being left without any steer. I agree that we could, through a code of practice, give a steer. However, the important point is that the concept of reasonable grounds imports an objective test into something that is essentially subjective, because we are talking about something that is generally based upon conscience.
I am following the Under-Secretary's line of argument very carefully. Would he use the same approach to a lawyer or to a doctor who refused to join his professional organisation?
I would use it in relation to any closed shop. I do not want to take up the time of the House on an irrelevance, but so many hon. Members have referred to the Bar that I suppose they regard it as relevant. Curiously, I noticed that in the speech that I made in 1975 I made the point that, although I belong to my trade union—the General Council of the Bar—I do not have to do so. I can practice at the Bar if I do not belong to the General Council of the Bar. Indeed, I believe that quite a proportion of people do not belong to it.What hon. Members are confusing is that, in order to practice at the Bar I had to pass an examination—which, happily, was of a much lower standard than it is nowadays—but that is for the protection of the public. They are also confusing the fact that, if I put a foot wrong, I can be disciplined by the disciplinary procedures of the Bar, just as chemists, doctors and dentists can be disciplined by their organisations, and I can be sued for negligence. Lest it be said that the internal disciplinary procedures make it a closed shop, I should point out that there is always a right of appeal to the judges. [Interruption.] There are many instances where an appeal to the judges produces a more just result than applies with disciplinary proceedings in many trade unions and other bodies. I do not mind what the truth of the matter might be one way or the other, but—and I correct the record for the sake of accuracy—the Bar does not constitute a closed shop. We are confronted with making a difficult and serious decision. We recognise not only that the closed shop should continue as a lawful institution in our statute law, but that there has to be some conscience clause and that it must be adequately wide. It is not wide enough in the 1978 Act, and the purpose of clause 6 is to enlarge and widen it. We must give a sufficiently clear guideline to the tribunals which will try and determine these cases. I ask my hon. Friends to accept that the phrase " reasonable grounds ", about which we thought quite a lot, is not sufficiently precise. That is exactly what the tribunal in the Ferrybridge case said. Therefore, acknowledging how difficult a decision this is and how impossible it is to be absolutely sure that we have it right, I invite my hon. Friends to say that, on balance, the formula in clause 6 is the best one and, accordingly, to reject the amendments and support the clause.
I shall be brief as I recognise that the House wants to come to a decision on this amendment.At the outset of my remarks, I said that in Committee we learnt that whenever the Under-Secretary of State had a weak case he tended to expand the length of his speech in direct proportion to the weakness of his argument. He has done that again tonight. He has not answered any of the questions that were posed in the debate. I am sure that my hon. Friends the Members for Coventry, North-East (Mr. Park) and Swindon (Mr. Stoddart) and my right hon. Friend the Member for Doncaster (Mr. Walker), who made excellent speeches and whose views I share—like me, they are sponsored Members—will not expect me to repeat the points that they made. But it is interesting that, as in Committee, the Under-Secretary refused to touch with a barge pole what was involved in a " deeply-held personal conviction ". As he said in Committee, it will be left to the tribunals to evaluate what that means. Again, the hon. and learned Gentleman did not deal with the type of people who would be appointed to the tribunals and what aid they would need to arrive at a conclusion as to what a " deeply-held personal conviction " was. Listening to the extravagant and vivid language used by the hon. Member for Grantham (Mr. Hogg), I got the impression that he would not be coming into the Lobby with us. As my hon. Friend the Member for Keighley (Mr. Cryer) correctly said, it is a bit much that we have to listen to barristers and lawyers pontificating at length about industrial relations and the freedom of the individual. It is significant also that they never tried to deal with the problem of the rights of the majority, or to understand the realities that are involved in a closed shop system. They do not understand why groups of workers want to form a closed shop. Nor did the Government deal with the free-loaders. A significant feature of the debate tonight is that none of the Conservative Members with some knowledge of industrial relations and industry has attempted to participate in the debate. It is interesting to note that the hon. Member for Chippenham (Mr. Needham), who proposed a solution in Committee—he suggested that a levy should be imposed upon those who opted out of the trade union, which should then be paid to a charity—also did not participate in the debate. At least in Committee he recognised the force of the arguments of those who were deeply concerned about these matters. Yet he has not put forward his argument tonight. Of course, he received no support in Committee from his colleagues or from the Secretary of State. 8.30 pm As is usual when the Minister has a weak case, tonight he put up an Aunt Sally simply to knock it down. No one had raised the Aunt Sally of the religious clauses. We made it perfectly clear that we accepted, and have always accepted, the principle that those who hold deeply-felt religious convictions need not participate in trade union activities. That has never been a difficulty in the trade union movement. It is something that has always been encompassed. The Minister spent more time putting up the Aunt Sally and knocking it down than he spent in dealing with the issues before the House. I accept the point made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Doncaster in his quite remarkable speech. He made it clear that these are complex and difficult issues. They must be settled by human beings, one in consultation with another. To impose laws of this nature will only cause anarchy, industrial chaos and further industrial disputes. The Secretary of State, during the passage of the Bill, has suggested that he is attempting to improve industrial relations. This clause and other clauses in the Bill will harm and damage industrial relations. I ask my hon. Friends to divide the House and support amendment No. 53 in the Lobby.
Division No. 263]
|Abse, Leo||Garrett, John (Norwich S)||Newens, Stanley|
|Adams, Allen||George, Bruce||Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon|
|Allaun, Frank||Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John||Ogden, Eric|
|Anderson, Donald||Ginsburg, David||O'Halloran, Michael|
|Archer, Rt Hon Peter||Golding, John||O'Neill, Martin|
|Armstrong, Rt Hon Ernest||Gourlay, Harry||Orme, Rt Hon Stanley|
|Ashley, Rt Hon Jack||Graham, Ted||Palmer, Arthur|
|Ashton, Joe||Grant, George (Morpeth)||Park, George|
|Bagier, Gordon A. T.||Grant, John (Islington C)||Parker, John|
|Barnett, Guy (Greenwich)||Hamilton, W. W. (Central Fife)||Parry, Robert|
|Barnett, Rt Hon Joel (Heywood)||Harrison, Rt Hon Walter||Powell, Raymond (Ogmore)|
|Benn, Rt Hon Anthony Wedgwood||Hart, Rt Hon Dame Judith||Price, Christopher (Lewisham West)|
|Bennett, Andrew (Stockport N)||Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy||Race, Reg|
|Bidwell, Sydney||Haynes, Frank||Radice, Giles|
|Booth, Rt Hon Albert||Healey, Rt Hon Denis||Richardson, Jo|
|Boothroyd, Miss Betty||Heffer, Eric S.||Roberts, Albert (Normanton)|
|Bottomley, Rt Hon Arthur (M'brough)||Hogg, Norman (E Dunbartonshire)||Roberts, Allan (Bootle)|
|Bray, Dr Jeremy||Holland, Stuart (L'beth, Vauxhall)||Roberts, Ernest (Hackney North)|
|Brown, Hugh D. (Provan)||Home Robertson, John||Roberts, Gwilym (Cannock)|
|Brown, Ron (Edinburgh, Leith)||Homewood, William||Robertson, George|
|Buchan, Norman||Hooley, Frank||Robinson, Geoffrey (Coventry NW)|
|Callaghan, Jim (Middleton & P)||Horam, John||Rodgers, Rt Hon William|
|Campbell, Ian||Howell, Rt Hon Denis (B'ham, Sm H)||Rooker, J. W.|
|Campbell-Savours, Dale||Huckfield, Les||Roper, John|
|Canavan, Dennis||Hudson Davies, Gwilym Ednyfed||Ross, Ernest (Dundee West)|
|Cant, R. B.||Hughes, Mark (Durham)||Rowlands, Ted|
|Carmichael, Neil||Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen North)||Sever, John|
|Carter-Jones, Lewis||Hughes, Roy (Newport)||Sheerman, Barry|
|Cartwright, John||Janner, Hon Greville||Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert (A'ton-u-L)|
|Clark, Dr David (South Shields)||Jay, Rt Hon Douglas||Short, Mrs Renée|
|Cocks, Rt Hon Michael (Bristol S)||Jones, Rt Hon Alec (Rhondda)||Silkin, Rt Hon John (Deptford)|
|Cohen, Stanley||Jones, Barry (East Flint)||Silkin, Rt Hon S. C. (Dulwich)|
|Coleman, Donald||Jones, Dan (Burnley)||Silverman, Julius|
|Concannon, Rt Hon J. D.||Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald||Skinner, Dennis|
|Conlan, Bernard||Kerr, Russell||Smith, Rt Hon J. (North Lanarkshire)|
|Cook, Robin F.||Kilroy-Silk, Robert||Snape, Peter|
|Cowans, Harry||Kinnock, Neil||Soley, Clive|
|Craigen, J. M. (Glasgow, Maryhill)||Lamborn, Harry||Spearing, Nigel|
|Crowther, J. S.||Lamond, James||Spriggs, Leslie|
|Cryer, Bob||Leighton, Ronald||Stallard, A. W.|
|Cunliffe, Lawrence||Lestor, Miss Joan (Eton & Slough)||Stoddart, David|
|Cunningham, George (Islington S)||Lewis, Arthur (Newham North West)||Strang, Gavin|
|Dalyell, Tam||Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)||Straw, Jack|
|Davidson, Arthur||Litherland, Robert||Summerskill, Hon Dr Shirley|
|Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)||Lofthouse, Geoffrey||Taylor, Mrs Ann (Bolton West)|
|Davies, Ifor (Gower)||Lyon, Alexander (York)||Thomas, Jeffrey (Abertillery)|
|Davis, Terry (B'rm'ham, Stechford)||Lyons, Edward (Bradford West)||Thomas, Mike (Newcastle East)|
|Deakins, Eric||Mabon, Rt Hon Dr J Dickson||Thomas, Dr Roger (Carmarthen)|
|Dean, Joseph (Leeds West)||McCartney, Hugh||Thorne, Stan (Preston South)|
|Dempsey, James||McDonald, Dr Oonagh||Tilley, John|
|Dewar, Donald||McElhone, Frank||Torney, Tom|
|Dixon, Donald||McKay, Allen (Penistone)||Varley, Rt Hon Eric G.|
|Dobson, Frank||McKelvey, William||Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne Valley)|
|Dormand, Jack||MacKenzie, Rt Hon Gregor||Walker, Rt Hon Harold (Doncaster)|
|Douglas, Dick||Maclennan, Robert||Watkins, David|
|Douglas-Mann, Bruce||McMahon, Andrew||Wellbeloved, James|
|Dubs, Alfred||McNally, Thomas||Welsh, Michael|
|Dunn, James A. (Liverpool, Kirkdale)||McNamara, Kevin||White, Frank R. (Bury & Radcliffe)|
|Dunnett, Jack||McWilliam, John||White, James (Glasgow, Pollok)|
|Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth||Marks, Kenneth||Whitehead, Phillip|
|Eadie, Alex||Marshall, David (Gl'sgow, Shettles'n)||Whitlock, William|
|Eastham, Ken||Marshall, Dr Edmund (Goole)||Wigley, Dafydd|
|Ellis, Raymond (NE Derbyshire)||Marshall, Jim (Leicester South)||Williams, Rt Hon Alan (Swansea W)|
|English, Michael||Martin, Michael (Gl'gow, Springb'rn)||Wilson, Gordon (Dundee East)|
|Ennals, Rt Hon David||Maxton, John||Wilson, Rt Hon Sir Harold (Huyton)|
|Evans, loan (Aberdare)||Maynard, Miss Joan||Wilson, William (Coventry SE)|
|Evans, John (Newton)||Meacher, Michael||Winnick, David|
|Ewing, Harry||Mellish, Rt Hon Robert||Woodall, Alec|
|Faulds, Andrew||Mikardo, Ian||Wrigglesworth, Ian|
|Field, Frank||Millan, Rt Hon Bruce||Wright, Sheila|
|Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)||Mitchell, Austin (Grimsby)||Young, David (Bolton East)|
|Foot, Rt Hon Michael||Mitchell, R. C. (Soton, ltchen)|
|Ford, Ben||Morris, Rt Hon Alfred (Wythenshawe)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Forrester, John||Morris, Rt Hon Charles (Openshaw)||Mr. James Hamilton and|
|Foster, Derek||Morris, Rt Hon John (Aberavon)||Mr. James Tinn.|
|Fraser, John (Lambeth, Norwood)||Morton, George|
|Freeson, Rt Hon Reginald||Moyle, Rt Hon Roland|
Question put, That the amendment be made:—
The House divided: Ayes 225, Noes 304.
|Adley, Robert||Fell, Anthony||Madel, David|
|Aitken, Jonathan||Fenner, Mrs Peggy||Major, John|
|Alexander, Richard||Finsberg, Geoffrey||Marland, Paul|
|Alison, Michael||Fisher, Sir Nigel||Marlow, Tony|
|Amery, Rt Hon Julian||Fletcher, Alexander (Edinburgh N)||Marshall, Michael (Arundel)|
|Ancram, Michael||Fletcher-Cooke, Charles||Marten, Neil (Banbury)|
|Arnold, Tom||Fookes, Miss Janet||Mather, Carol|
|Aspinwall, Jack||Forman, Nigel||Maude, Rt Hon Angus|
|Atkins, Rt Hon H. (Spelthorne)||Fox, Marcus||Mawby, Ray|
|Atkins, Robert (Preston North)||Fraser, Rt Hon H. (Stafford & St)||Mawhinney, Dr Brian|
|Baker, Kenneth (St. Marylebone)||Fraser, Peter (South Angus)||Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin|
|Baker, Nicholas (North Dorset)||Freud, Clement||Mayhew, Patrick|
|Beaumont-Dark, Anthony||Fry, Peter||Mellor, David|
|Bell, Sir Ronald||Galbraith, Hon T. G. D.||Meyer, Sir Anthony|
|Bendall, Vivian||Gardiner, George (Reigate)||Miller, Hal (Bromsgrove & Redditch)|
|Benyon, Thomas (Abingdon)||Gardner, Edward (South Fylde)||Mills, lain (Meriden)|
|Benyon, W. (Buckingham)||Garel-Jones, Tristan||Mills, Peter (West Devon)|
|Best, Keith||Glyn, Dr Alan||Miscampbell, Norman|
|Biffen, Rt Hon John||Goodhart, Philip||Mitchell, David (Basingstoke)|
|Biggs-Davison, John||Goodlad, Alastair||Moate, Roger|
|Blackburn, John||Gorst, John||Molyneaux, James|
|Blaker, Peter||Gow, Ian||Monro, Hector|
|Body, Richard||Gower, Sir Raymond||Montgomery, Fergus|
|Bonsor, Sir Nicholas||Gray, Hamish||Moore, John|
|Boscawen, Hon Robert||Greenway, Harry||Morgan, Geraint|
|Bottomley, Peter (Woolwich West)||Griffiths, Eldon (Bury St Edmunds)||Morris, Michael (Northampton, Sth)|
|Bowden, Andrew||Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth N)||Morrison, Hon Charles (Devizes)|
|Boyson, Dr Rhodes||Grimond, Rt Hon J.||Morrison, Hon Peter (City of Chester)|
|Bradford, Rev R.||Grist, Ian||Murphy, Christopher|
|Braine, Sir Bernard||Grylls, Michael||Myles, David|
|Bright, Graham||Gummer, John Selwyn||Neale, Gerrard|
|Brinton, Tim||Hamilton, Hon Archie (Eps'm&Ew'll)||Needham, Richard|
|Brittan, Leon||Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury)||Nelson, Anthony|
|Brocklebank-Fowler, Christopher||Hampson, Dr Keith||Neubert, Michael|
|Brooke, Hon Peter||Hannam, John||Newton, Tony|
|Brotherton, Michael||Haselhurst, Alan||Normanton, Tom|
|Brown, Michael (Brigg & Sc'thorpe)||Hastings, Stephen|
|Browne, John (Winchester)||Havers, Rt Hon Sir Michael||Oppenheim, Rt Hon Mrs Sally|
|Bruce-Gardyne, John||Heath, Rt Hon Edward||Page, Richard (SW Hertfordshire)|
|Bryan, Sir Paul||Hawksley, Warren||Parkinson, Cecil|
|Buck, Antony||Hayhoe, Barney||Page, Rt Hon Sir R. Graham|
|Budgen, Nick||Heddle, John||Parris, Matthew|
|Bulmer, Esmond||Henderson, Barry||Patten, Christopher (Bath)|
|Burden, F. A.||Heseltine, Rt Hon Michael||Patten, John (Oxford)|
|Butcher, John||Hicks, Robert||Pattie, Geoffrey|
|Butler, Hon Adam||Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L.||Penhaligon, David|
|Cadbury, Jocelyn||Hogg, Hon Douglas (Grantham)||Pink, R. Bonner|
|Carlisle, John (Luton West)||Holland, Philip (Carlton)||Pollock, Alexander|
|Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)||Hooson, Tom||Porter, George|
|Carlisle, Rt Hon Mark (Runcorn)||Hordern, Peter||Powell, Rt Hon J. Enoch (S Down)|
|Chalker, Mrs Lynda||Howell, Rt Hon David (Guildford)||Prentice, Rt Hon Reg|
|Channon, Paul||Howell, Ralph (North Norfolk)||Prior, Rt Hon James|
|Chapman, Sydney||Hunt, John (Ravensbourne)||Proctor, K. Harvey|
|Churchill, W. S.||Hurd, Hon Douglas||Pym, Rt Hon Francis|
|Clark, Hon Alan (Plymouth, Sutton)||Irving, Charles (Cheltenham)||Raison, Timothy|
|Clark, Sir William (Croydon South)||Jenkin, Rt Hon Patrick||Rathbone, Tim|
|Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe)||Johnson Smith, Geoffrey||Rees, Peter (Dover and Deal)|
|Clegg, Sir Walter||Jopling, Rt Hon Michael||Rees-Davies, W. R.|
|Cockeram, Eric||Joseph, Rt Hon Sir Keith||Renton, Tim|
|Colvin, Michael||Kaberry, Sir Donald||Rhodes James, Robert|
|Cope, John||Kimball, Marcus||Ridley, Hon Nicholas|
|Corrie, John||King, Rt Hon Tom||Ridsdale, Julian|
|Costain, A. P.||Lamont, Norman||Rippon, Rt Hon Geoffrey|
|Cranborne, Viscount||Lang, Ian||Roberts, Michael (Cardiff NW)|
|Critchley, Julian||Langford-Holt, Sir John||Roberts, Wyn (Conway)|
|Crouch, David||Latham, Michael||Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight)|
|Dean, Paul (North Somerset)||Lawrence, Ivan||Rossi, Hugh|
|Dickens, Geoffrey||Lawson, Nigel||Rost, Peter|
|Dorrell, Stephen||Lee, John||Royle, Sir Anthony|
|Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James||Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark||Sainsbury, Hon Timothy|
|Dover, Denshore||Lester, Jim (Beeston)||St. John-Stevas, Rt Hon Norman|
|du Cann, Rt Hon Edward||Lloyd, Ian (Havant & Waterloo)||Scott, Nicholas|
|Dunlop, John||Lloyd, Peter (Fareham)||Shaw, Giles (Pudsey)|
|Dunn, Robert (Darttord)||Loveridge, John||Shaw, Michael (Scarborough)|
|Durant, Tony||Luce, Richard||Shelton, William (Streatham)|
|Dykes, Hugh||Lyell, Nicholas||Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)|
|Eden, Rt Hon Sir John||McCrindle, Robert||Shepherd, Richard (Aldridge-Br-hills)|
|Edwards, Rt Hon N. (Pembroke)||Macfarlane, Neil||Shersby, Michael|
|Eggar, Timothy||MacGregor, John||Silvester, Fred|
|Elliott, Sir William||MacKay, John (Argyll)||Sims, Roger|
|Eyre, Reginald||Macmillan, Rt Hon M. (Farnham)||Skeet, T. H. H.|
|Fairbairn, Nicholas||McNair-Wilson, Michael (Newbury)||Smith, Cyril (Rochdale)|
|Fairgrieve, Russell||McNair-Wilson, Patrick (New Forest)||Speed, Keith|
|Faith, Mrs Sheila||McQuarrie, Albert||Speller Tony|
|Spence John||Thatcher, Rt Hon Mrs Margaret||Ward, John|
|Spicer, Michael (S Worcestershire)||Thomas, Rt Hon Peter (Hendon S)||Warren, Kenneth|
|Sproat, lain||Thompson, Donald||Watson, John|
|Squire, Robin||Thorne, Nell (Ilford South)||Wells, John (Maidstone)|
|Stanbrook, Ivor||Thornton, Malcolm||Wells, Bowen (Hert'rd & Stev'nage)|
|Stanley, John||Townend, John (Bridlington)||Wheeler, John|
|Steel, Rt Hon David||Townsend, Cyril D. (Bexleyheath)||Whitelaw, Rt Hon William|
|Steen, Anthony||Trippler, David||Whitney, Raymond|
|Stevens, Martin||Trotter, Neville||Wickenden, Keith|
|Stewart, Rt Hon Donald (W Isles)||van Straubenzee, W. R.||Wiggin, Jerry|
|Stewart, Ian (Hitchin)||Vaughan, Dr Gerard||Williams, Delwyn (Montgomery)|
|Stewart, John (East Renfrewshire)||Viggers, Peter||Winterton, Nicholas|
|Stokes, John||Waddington, David||Wolfson, Mark|
|Stradling Thomas, J.||Wakeham, John||Young, Sir George (Acton)|
|Tapsell, Peter||Waldegrave, Hon William||Younger, Rt Hon George|
|Taylor, Robert (Croydon NW)||Walker, Bill (Perth & E Perthshire)|
|Taylor, Teddy (Southend East)||Walker-Smith, Rt Hon Sir Derek||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Tebbit, Norman||Waller, Gary||Mr. Spencer Le Marchant an|
|Temple-Morris, Peter||Walters, Dennis||Mr. Anthony Berry.|
Question accordingly negatived.
I beg to move amendment No. 55, in page 8, leave out lines 12 to 30.
With this it will be convenient to take the following amendments:No. 56, in page 8, line 18, leave out
and insert' not less than 80 per cent. of those entitled to'
No. 57, in page 8, line 25, after ' class' insert' a simple majority of those voting '.
No. 58, in page 8, line 28, after ' conducted ', insertfor which the union, or unions seek the agreement'.
' under the joint supervision of the applicant union or unions and the employer.'.
In support of this amendment I adopt many of the arguments which were used in the previous debate, but I shall not inflict them again on the House. In Committee we were concerned about the provisions set out in subsection (3) and we tried to discover from the Secretary of State why he had set the limit at 80 per cent. of those entitled to vote. The main purpose of the amendment is to delete subsection (3) because if it came into operation it would be virtually impossible to arrange union membership agreements. It is arranged in such a way that I cannot think of any other section of society or organisation which would require 80 per cent. of those entitled to vote to vote in favour before any arrangement could come into operation.8.45 pm During our discussions in Committee, my hon. Friend the Member for Newham, North-East (Mr. Leighton) asked from where the Secretary of State and the Government got the 80 per cent. figure. Was it plucked out of the air? Is there some rationale behind it? In reply, the Secretary of State said:
He did not say why it should be 80 per cent., 75 per cent., or even a simple majority. It is our judgment that if the figure of 80 per cent. is left in the Bill no new union membership agreements will come into operation. That is probably the Secretary of State's intention. If so, it would be better that he said it." We have deliberately chosen a high figure of 80 per cent. to ensure that a new closed shop will be approved only where it is genuinely and positively wanted by a large majority of those who will be affected".—[Official Report. Standing Committee A, 4 March 1980; col. 892.]
Amendment No. 56 in effect says that if the Government were to go down the path of holding ballots to establish union membership agreements, at least they ought to rely on nothing more than
" a simple majority of those voting ".
I suspect that that is not acceptable to the Secretary of State, but it is good enough for most other organisations. It is certainly good enough for our electoral system. In fact, from time to time the Government claim that they have the wholehearted consent of the electorate in carrying through this and many other pieces of legislation. Yet only 35 or 40 per cent. of the electorate voted for them. Therefore, I do not know why the Government should want to inflict such a high figure on the trade unions. This debate will give the Secretary of State an opportunity to tell us again.
I had intended to refer to the problem of the free-rider. However, having listened to the previous debate, I should like to emphasise the point that was made by the hon. Member for Chippenham (Mr. Needham). He took the argument seriously in Committee and said that if someone had strong, conscientious, deeply-held convictions for not belonging to a trade union he should pay something to charity. That idea was rejected by the Government, and also by his hon. Friends, mostly lawyers, who spoke in the previous debate.
I shall not take up much time because we are anxious to get on to the amendments to be moved by the hon. Member for Hendon, North (Mr. Gorst). However, the Donovan Commission, to which we have referred throughout these debates, said of the closed shop:
" In our view prohibition of the closed shop must be rejected. It is better to recognise that under proper safeguards a closed shop can serve a useful purpose and to devise alternative means of overcoming the disadvantages which accompany it. W have also borne in mind that throughout this report we advanced a number of proposals to assist trade unions to organise effectively and to reduce the incidence of strikes ".
That is also the view of quite a number of responsible employers' organisations.
The most recent information that we have about union membership agreements, if there is concern about whether they are operating properly, is contained in the article published in the Employment Gazette in November last year. It was compiled by Mr. Gennard, Mr. Dunn and Mr. Wright of the industrial relations department of the London School of Economics. [ Interruption.] The right hon. Member for Farnham (Mr. Macmillan), who used to be Secretary of State for Employment, is muttering. I do not know whether he wants to intervene or to say something complimentary, either about the gentlemen I have just mentioned or about the industrial relations department of the London School of Economics. At least I think I shall carry the right hon. Gentleman with me in saying that the Employment Gazette is a responsible journal. I do not believe that irresponsible articles would be allowed to appear in it and I commend it to the right hon. Gentleman if he has not yet had the chance to look at it.
The article is a responsible piece of research about the operation of the closed shop. The authors had this to say in summary:
" Negotiators have concluded increasingly sophisticated post-entry UMAs to define precisely the obligations and rights of workers whose union membership agreement exists as a condition of employment, and despite enormous variation in detail there appears to be a growing standardisation in the broad content matter which is only partly attributable to legal considerations. For example, where new closed shops have appeared, it has increasingly become the norm to exclude existing non-unionists from compulsion to join the union. Over 63 per cent. of the sample fall into this category. Moreover, procedures specially designed to handle difficulties arising from the operation of the UMA and often incorporating provisions for an independent arbitrator have become a regular, if seldom used feature."
That summary should allay the fears of Conservative Members about how union membership agreements have operated. They have been used responsibly and proper provisions can be made for those who have religious or deeply-held convictions and who do not wish to belong to a trade union. Their position is negotiable.
I hope, therefore, that the Secretary of State will say why he has set the figure so high. Perhaps he will tell us why he wishes to eliminate all closed shops and why he cannot accept amendment No. 56 if he wishes to go down this road.
As the right hon. Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Varley) has said, we are now to have a brief debate on these four amendments. That does not alter the fact that they are important and that the Government must answer them.The first of the amendments would wreck this part of the clause and would remove ballots altogether. The second amendment would make it a simple majority instead of 80 per cent. and I shall return to that issue. The third amendment would, as it were, broaden the class to which the ballot applied and the fourth amendment would deal with joint supervision. The main Opposition argument is that we do not need a ballot at all or that, if we do need one, we should have a simple majority and that the figure of 80 per cent. is far too high. On this point I said in Committee:
I was challenged on the figure of 80 per cent. and I said that industrial experience was that a union was most unlikely to apply for a closed shop until it had between 80 per cent. and 90 per cent. union membership. An employer is unlikely to agree to a closed shop—or to try to obtain a closed shop himself—and I put it in that light—unless there is that sort of membership. When such a substantial change is being made, it does not seem unreasonable that there should be a considerable majority. I do not know whether the requirement will have an effect on the number of new closed shops. I suspect that it will, because it will not be easy to achieve the required majority. If it is not possible to achieve it, I do not think that there should be a closed shop. If it can be achieved and if there is that majority of 80 per cent., I do not think it unreasonable that there should be a closed shop. We believe that it should be shown that it is the desire of a large majority of the work force involved to have a closed shop. If it can be shown that there is such a majority, we shall have much more settled industrial relations than if the proposal is bulldozed through with many people not having the right to make their views known in advance. The right hon. Member for Chesterfield enlarged the issue. He referred to the article in the Employment Gazette. I do not have it with me, but I have read it. It refers to increasingly sophisticated arrangements for closed shops and the number of closed shops that are now based on sensible and reasonable arrangements—for example, existing members of the work force not being asked to join and wider conscience clauses. The right hon. Gentleman is making my case for me. He is saying that the majority of closed shops will not be affected by the Bill when it is enacted because certain matters will be taken into account in advance. If they are so taken into account, the legislation will not bite on them. If he accepts, as he does, that these are reasonable matters to include in a closed shop agreement, he can have no real objection to the standards that we are seeking to lay down for closed shops." The view of the Government has always been that the introduction of a new closed shop marks such a substantial change in the terms and conditions of employment that it is right that a very large percentage of those who will be covered by it vote in its favour. It is a very important step when a closed shop is brought in ".—[Official Report, Standing Committee A, 4 March 1980; c. 872.]
May I support my right hon. Friend's argument? I have had the opportunity of reading some more recent research than that to which he has referred. Miss Helen Jackson and Dr. Charles Hanson have investigated more than three times as many agreements as those investigated by John Gennard. It appears that a considerable underestimate has been made by John Gennard, and that it is much more likely that there are twice as many written agreements in existence than one was led to suppose by the Gennard research.
That is helpful of my hon. Friend. It substantiates the weight of public opinion and parliamentary opinion over the past few years—namely, that there should be reasonable grounds for exemption from the closed shop and that closed shop agreements should be drawn up that win the support of the work force. In so far as at present they do not do that and in so far as in the past few years, as a result of the 1975 and 1976 Acts, things have gone wrong, I believe that we all have a duty to seek to put matters right.The way in which we are now dealing with the closed shop is an approach that can be broadly supported by industry. I do not want to trespass on what I might say when debating the next amendment. However, my hon. Friend the Member for Hendon, North (Mr. Gorst) has said that research that supersedes the Gennard research indicates that there are twice as many written agreements in existence as we have been led to suppose. When we discuss the next amendment I think that my hon. Friend should be more content with the present position and should not try to follow a too legalistic route. I shall argue that with some strength when we turn our attention to the next group of amendments. We have the balance reasonably right. I do not believe that the 80 per cent. requirement is too high for such a great change.
Amendment No. 57 is unnecessary. A closed shop agreement cannot be made unless discussion has taken place between the parties. If the parties cannot agree, no closed shop will be formed. A closed shop can therefore be formed only by agreement of those parties.
Amendment No. 58 calls for joint supervision. This is probably for a code of practice. However, I would have thought that as this is an important ballot, and as we wish to get more ballots in operation, it would be wise to use an outside body to carry out the ballot and for it to be supervised by the Electoral Reform Society or by some other body of that nature. That certainly means that the ballot would be conducted fairly and properly and that it would win the confidence of all those involved.
The right hon. Member for Chesterfield has said that he does not wish to spend a lot of time on these amendments. However, we are not prepared to accept them. We believe that the last amendment is unnecessary and that two of them would wreck our purpose. He has made a conciliatory speech and I am trying to make one in return. It is right to get these amendments out of the way and to move on to what I hope will not be an unduly controversial number of amendments standing in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Hendon, North (Mr. Gorst). I therefore ask the House to reject these amendments.
The clause goes to the heart of the Government's vicious attack on the trade union movement. It represents an attempt to tinker with the voting system in order to stop the closed shop. The Government's justification has nothing to do with democracy or with the other platitudes that we have heard. They wish to inhibit the effectiveness of the trade union movement. People belong to a trade union because they have only their labour to sell and they need to face the might of capital.The Secretary of State is presented as the compromiser of the Conservative Party. However, this clause is an example of the lengths to which the Government will go to crush the trade union movement, without incurring a backlash similar to that which toppled the Heath Government in 1974. One group says that the Government must be careful, while the hawks, having successfully mounted an assault on the coloured workers at Grunwick think that they can extend their tentacles of repression to- wards the trade union movement. That group wishes to go further. Most people cannot work in the privileged surroundings in which we work. Most working people find life a struggle. They therefore see the trade union movement as part of that struggle and use it to obtain gains in the day-to-day battle. It may be said that there should not be a battle. In some circumstances capital and labour work together. However, the existence of a Tory Government has meant that many employers have hardened their attitudes. They see this legislation as a means of crushing trade union activity wherever possible. Why 80 per cent.? The Secretary of State has given a pretty pathetic explanation. It is certainly an example of double standards. There appears to be a different standard for ordinary working men and women. They must be an extraordinary collection of people if legislation is needed to ensure that 80 per cent. of the electorate vote in favour of a proposition. That standard does not apply to Parliament. Our legislation affects everybody in the country. Most legislation affects millions of people. We do not insist on an 80 per cent. vote in favour of it. The Tories will not have an 80 per cent. vote in favour of this legislation. If they get it through by one vote they will say that that is all right. Why should there be different standards for trade unionists? Of course it is deliberate.
The hon. Member asked why we have this provision for an 80 per cent. ballot. He is trying to interpret our thinking, therefore he should understand that we seek to protect people on the shop floor from their own unions. In a sense, the union is unlike a club or other organisation, because when a man is deprived of his union card, for whatever behaviour, he is deprived of a living for his family and himself. Therefore, it is important that there should be an overwhelming majority in favour of a closed shop, to safeguard the man on the shop floor.
If that is the case, why is there not an 80 per cent. vote in favour of all the statutory instruments that regulate the various professions? When a doctor is struck off by the General Medical Council for disciplinary reasons, and thus loses his livelihood, we do not insist that the order should be passed by an 80 per cent. vote in favour of it. In fact, such orders are almost certainly negative procedure instruments, which never even get debated.I understand the position of the hon. Member for Huddersfield, West (Mr. Dickens). He must put himself back into the mainstream of Tory thinking. He has given approval to pickets who are fighting a vicious employer in Huddersfield. I understand that he is pursuing a difficult path, but I am afraid that his argument does not strengthen his case.
Does my hon. Friend agree that the position is even worse than he says? It is not just 80 per cent. of those who vote, but 80 per cent. of those who are eligible to vote. In our experience, most elections do not attract 80 per cent. of those eligible to vote. Therefore, one could have a ballot in which 21 per cent. of people did not vote. In other words 79 per cent. of those voting might vote 100 per cent. in favour of a closed shop, but that would not meet the requirements of this clause.
I thank my hon. Friend for his useful comments. There was an argument during the referendum on the Common Market, which was not supported by the Euro-fanatics in the Conservative Party at the time, or those in the Labour Party, that we would take the decision on the basis of those who voted, not on the percentage of those eligible to vote, as clause 6(3) lays down. It is a question of gerrymandering the voting to suit the political position of the Tory Party. That is the naked, straightforward truth, and it is time that we cut through the platitudes that swamp this place.Of course the Conservatives do not want to consider the feelings of trade unionists. If they wanted to consider trade unionists they would look at the statistics. They know that during the four years of the last Conservative Government 55 million days were lost in strikes. When we came to power we passed legislation to give trade unions the right to operate as trade unions and combine—we did not give them any special privileges in law; we only allowed them to exist. We did not make the closed shop compulsory, we only allowed it to exist. As a result, the days lost in strikes in the first four years of the Labour Government totalled 29 million—roughly half the number lost under the Conservatives. On a legislative basis it makes sense to improve industrial relations, not by penal legislation, such as this Bill, but by allowing trade unions to get on with their jobs. The Tories say that theirs is a non-interventionist Government. In speech after speech, at Question Time after Question Time, they say " We are not going to intervene. We have given tax concessions. We are helping entrepreneurs to provide jobs." Yet they get their dirty little fingers into the trade union movement. They are selective about intervention. It is part of their philosophy not to intervene in industry. Why does not that attitude carry across to the trade union movement? The answer is that they want to intervene to crush the trade union movement. That is what the clause is about. That is why we want to delete it. It is no good the Secretary of State coming to the House and delivering a bleeding-heart speech about concern for improved industrial relations. The right hon. Gentleman knows as well as anyone that this country, each year, loses more days through industrial injury than in strike action. What are the Government doing about industrial injury legislation? The answer is absolutely nothing. They could improve the position for people, cut the number of days lost from work and improve productivity, but they do nothing. They produce, instead, comprehensive legislation that must have taken thousands of man hours to prepare and nurture. They spend hours in Parliament over restrictive clauses such as clause 6, especially subsection (3). Since the Government are so concerned about democracy and the right of trade unionists to have a ballot on the closed shop, they will no doubt be aware that I have put forward a Ten-Minute Bill to extend the rights embodied in section 58A. I claim that my Bill is a more important matter and that the internal affairs of the trade union movement should be left alone. I wish to give people living within 30 miles of the proposed cruise missile sites the right to vote to discover whether 80 per cent. favour cruise missiles. The hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Griffiths) believes so much in democracy that he tried to stop a local authority from holding a referendum. That is quite apart from his attitude to my legislation. The hon. Member for Eye (Mr. Gummer) said that I should keep my nose out of the matter. He claimed that it was a constituency affair and that the location of cruise missiles was no concern of the rest of the nation. I have given the Government an opportunity. They claim to be concerned about important matters, I think it will be agreed that cruise missiles are at least on a par with the internal organisation of trade unions. I would say that they are far more important. The future of mankind may rest on what I hope will be their temporary installation on our shores. The Government may say that they are not picking on trade unions. They may say that people should have an opportunity
Division No. 264]
|Abse, Leo||Dubs, Alfred||Jones, Barry (East Flint)|
|Adams, Allen||Dunn, James A. (Liverpool, Kirkdale)||Jones, Dan (Burnley)|
|Anderson, Donald||Dunnett, Jack||Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald|
|Archer, Rt Hon Peter||Dunwoody, Mrs Gwynett||Kerr, Russell|
|Armstrong, Rt Hon Ernest||Eadie, Alex||Kilroy-Silk, Robert|
|Ashley, Rt Hon Jack||Eastham, Ken||Kinnock, Nell|
|Ashton, Joe||Ellis, Raymond (NE Derbyshire)||Lamborn, Harry|
|Bagier, Gordon A. T.||English, Michael||Lamond, James|
|Barnett, Guy (Greenwich)||Ennals, Rt Hon David||Leighton, Ronald|
|Barnett, Rt Hon Joel (Heywood)||Evans, loan (Aberdare)||Lestor, Miss Joan (Eton & Slough)|
|Benn, Rt Hon Anthony Wedgwood||Evans, John (Newton)||Lewis, Arthur (Newham North West)|
|Bennett, Andrew (Stockport N)||Ewing, Harry||Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)|
|Bidwell, Sydney||Faulds, Andrew||Litherland, Robert|
|Booth, Rt Hon Albert||Field, Frank||Lofthouse, Geoffrey|
|Boothroyd, Miss Betty||Fitt, Gerard||Lyon, Alexander (York)|
|Bottomley, Rt Hon Arthur (M'brough)||Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)||Lyons, Edward (Bradford West)|
|Bray, Dr Jeremy||Foot, Rt Hon Michael||Mabon, Rt Hon Dr J Dickson|
|Brown, Hugh D. (Provan)||Ford, Ben||McCartney, Hugh|
|Brown, Ron (Edinburgh, Leith)||Forrester, John||McDonald, Dr Oonagh|
|Buchan, Norman||Foster, Derek||McElhone, Frank|
|Callaghan, Jim (Middleton & P)||Fraser, John (Lambeth, Norwood)||McKay, Allen (Penistone)|
|Campbell, Ian||Freeson, Rt Hon Reginald||MacKenzie, Rt Hon Gregor|
|Campbell-Savours, Dale||Garrett, John (Norwich S)||Maclennan, Robert|
|Canavan, Dennis||George, Bruce||McMahon, Andrew|
|Cant, R. B.||Ginsburg, David||McNally, Thomas|
|Carmichael, Neil||Golding, John||McNamara, Kevin|
|Carter-Jones, Lewis||Gourlay, Harry||McWilliam, John|
|Clark, Dr David (South Shields)||Graham, Ted||Marks, Kenneth|
|Cocks, Rt Hon Michael (Bristol S)||Grant, George (Morpeth)||Marshall, David (Gl'sgow. Shettles'n)|
|Cohen, Stanley||Grant, John (Islington C)||Marshall, Dr Edmund (Goole)|
|Concannon, Rt Hon J. D.||Hamilton, James (Bothwell)||Marshall, Jim (Leicester South)|
|Conlan, Bernard||Hamilton, W. W. (Central Fife)||Martin, Michael (Gl'gow, Springb'rn)|
|Cook, Robin F.||Harrison, Rt Hon Walter||Maxton, John|
|Cowans, Harry||Hart, Rt Hon Dame Judith||Maynard, Miss Joan|
|Craigen, J. M. (Glasgow, Maryhill)||Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy||Meacher, Michael|
|Crowther, J. S.||Haynes, Frank||Mellish, Rt Hon Robert|
|Cryer, Bob||Healey, Rt Hon Denis||Mikardo, Ian|
|Cunningham, Dr John (Whitehaven)||Heffer, Eric S.||Millan, Rt Hon Bruce|
|Dalyell, Tam||Hogg, Norman (E Dunbartonshire)||Mitchell, Austin (Grimsby)|
|Davidson, Arthur||Home Robertson, John||Mitchell, R. C. (Soton, Itchen)|
|Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)||Homewood, William||Morris, Rt Hon Alfred (Wythenshawe)|
|Davies, Ifor (Gower)||Hooley, Frank||Morris, Rt Hon Charles (Openshaw)|
|Davis, Terry (B'rm'ham, Stechford)||Horam, John||Morris, Rt Hon John (Aberavon)|
|Deakins, Eric||Howell, Rt Hon Denis (B'ham, Sm H)||Morton, George|
|Dean, Joseph (Leeds West)||Huckfield, Les||Moyle, Rt Hon Roland|
|Dempsey, James||Hudson Davies, Gwilym Ednyfed||Newens, Stanley|
|Dewar, Donald||Hughes, Mark (Durham)||Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon|
|Dixon, Donald||Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen North)||Ogden, Eric|
|Dobson, Frank||Hughes, Roy (Newport)||O'Neill, Martin|
|Dormand, Jack||Janner, Hon Greville||Orme, Rt Hon Stanley|
|Douglas, Dick||Jay, Rt Hon Douglas||Palmer, Arthur|
|Douglas-Mann, Bruce||Jones, Rt Hon Alec (Rhondda)||Park, George|
to express a view on an important issue and that the Bill of the hon. Member for Keighley should therefore be supported, but my guess is that they will do nothing of the sort. They want to make decisions about defence independently of Parliament, and independently of the people. They want this shabby little clause, gerrymandering the vote, to attack the trade union movement. That is how the issue will be seen by the trade union movement, and that is why it will express its oppositions to these policies on 14 May, and will continue to do so until a Labour Government repeal this shoddy measure.
Question put, That the amendment be made:—
The House divided: Ayes 214, Noes 290.
|Parker, John||Skinner, Dennis||Walker, Rt Hon Harold (Doncaster)|
|Parry, Robert||Smith, Rt Hon J. (North Lanarkshire)||Watkins, David|
|Powell, Raymond (Ogmore)||Snape, Peter||Wellbeloved, James|
|Price, Christopher (Lewisham west)||Soley, Clive||Welsh, Michael|
|Race, Reg||Spearing, Niger||White, Frank R. (Bury & Radcliffe)|
|Radice, Giles||Sprlggs, Leslie||White, James (Glasgow, Pollok)|
|Richardson, Jo||Stallard, A. W.||Whitehead, Phillip|
|Roberts, Albert (Normanton)||Stewart, Rt Hon Donald (w isles)||Whitlock, William|
|Roberts, Allan (Bootle)||Stoddart, David||Williams, Rt Hon Alan (Swansea W)|
|Roberts, Ernest (Hackney North)||Strang, Gavin||Wilson, Gordon (Dundee East)|
|Roberts, Gwilym (Cannock)||Straw, Jack||Wilson, William (Coventry SE)|
|Robinson, Geoffrey (Coventry NW)||Summerskill, Hon Dr Shirley||Winnick, David|
|Rooker, J. W.||Taylor, Mrs Ann (Bolton West)||Woodall, Alec|
|Rowlands, Ted||Thomas Jeffrey (Abertillery)||Wrigglesworth, Ian|
|Sever, John||Thomas, Mike (Newcastle East)||Wright, Sheila|
|Sheerman, Barry||Thomas, Dr Roger (Carmarthen)||Young, David (Bolton East)|
|Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert (A'ton-u-L)||Thorne, Stan (Preston South)|
|Short Mrs Renée||Tilley, John||TELLERS FOR THE AYE|
|Silkin, Rt Hon John (Deptford)||Torney, Tom||Mr James Tinn and|
|Silkin, Rt Hon S. C. (Dulwich)||Varley, Rt Hon Eric G.||Mr. Donald Coleman.|
|Silverman, Julius||Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne Valley)|
|Aitken, Jonathan||Dean, Paul (North Somerset)||Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L.|
|Alexander, Richard||Dickens, Geoffrey||Hogg, Hon Douglas (Grantham)|
|Alison, Michael||Dorrell, Stephen||Holland, Philip (Carlton)|
|Amery, Rt Hon Julian||Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James||Hooson, Tom|
|Ancram, Michael||Dover, Denshore||Hordern, Peter|
|Arnold, Tom||du Cann. Rt Hon Edward||Howell, Rt Hon David (Guildford)|
|Aspinwall, Jack||Dunlop, John||Howell, Ralph (North Norfolk)|
|Atkins, Rt Hon H. (Spelthorne)||Dunn, Robert (Dartford)||Hunt, John (Ravensbourne)|
|Atkins, Robert (Preston North)||Durant, Tony||Irving, Charles (Cheltenham)|
|Baker, Kenneth (St. Marylebone)||Dykes, Hugh||Jenkin, Rt Hon Patrick|
|Baker, Nicholas (North Dorset)||Eden, Rt Hon Sir John||Johnson Smith, Geoffrey|
|Beaumont-Dark, Anthony||Edwards, Rt Hon N. (Pembroke)||Jopling, Rt Hon Michael|
|Bell, Sir Ronald||Eggar, Timothy||Joseph, Rt Hon Sir Keith|
|Bendall, Vivian||Elliott, Sir William||Kaberry, Sir Donald|
|Benyon, Thomas (Abingdon)||Eyre, Reginald||Kimball, Marcus|
|Benyon, W. (Buckingham)||Fairbairn, Nicholas||King, Rt Hon Tom|
|Best, Keith||Fairgrieve, Russell||Lamont, Norman|
|Biffen, Rt Hon John||Faith, Mrs Sheila||Lang, Ian|
|Biggs-Davison, John||Fell, Anthony||Langford-Holt, Sir John|
|Blackburn, John||Fenner, Mrs Peggy||Latham, Michael|
|Blaker, Peter||Finsberg, Geoffrey||Lawrence, Ivan|
|Body, Richard||Fisher, Sir Nigel||Lawson, Nigel|
|Bonsor, Sir Nicholas||Fletcher, Alexander (Edinburgh N)||Lee, John|
|Boscawen, Hon Robert||Fletcher-Cooke, Charles||Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark|
|Bowden, Andrew||Fookes, Miss Janet||Lester, Jim (Beeston)|
|Boyson, Dr Rhodes||Forman, Nigel||Lloyd, lan (Havant & Waterloo|
|Braine, Sir Bernard||Fox, Marcus||Lloyd, Peter (Fareham)|
|Bright, Graham||Fraser, Rt Hon H. (Stafford & St)||Loveridge, John|
|Brinton, Tim||Fraser, Peter (South Angus)||Luce, Richard|
|Brittan, Leon||Fry, Peter||Lyell, Nicholas|
|Brocklebank-Fowler, Christopher||Gardiner, George (Reigate)||McCrindle, Robert|
|Brooke, Hon Peter||Gardner, Edward (South Fylde)||Macfarlane, Neil|
|Brotherton, Michael||Garel-Jones, Tristan||MacGregor, John|
|Brown, Michael (Brigg & Sc'thorpe)||Glyn, Dr Alan||MacKay, John (Argyll)|
|Bruce-Gardyne, John||Goodhart, Philip||Macmiilan, Rt Hon M. (Farnham)|
|Bryan, Sir Paul||Goodlad, Alastair||McNair-Wilson, Michael (Newbury)|
|Buck, Antony||Gorst, John||McNair-Wilson, Patrick (New Forest)|
|Budgen, Nick||Gow, Ian||McQuarrie, Albert|
|Bulmer, Esmond||Gower, Sir Raymond||Madel, David|
|Burden, F. A.||Gray, Hamish||Major, John|
|Butcher, John||Greenway, Harry||Marland, Paul|
|Butler, Hon Adam||Griffiths, Eldon (Bury St Edmunds)||Marlow, Tony|
|Cadbury, Jocelyn||Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth N)||Marshall, Michael (Arundel)|
|Carlisle, John (Luton West)||Grimond, Rt Hon J.||Marten, Neil (Banbury)|
|Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)||Grist, Ian||Mather, Carol|
|Carlisle, Rt Hon Mark (Runcorn)||Grylls, Michael||Maude, Rt Hon Angus|
|Chalker, Mrs Lynda||Gummer, John Selwyn||Mawby, Ray|
|Channon, Paul||Hamilton, Hon Archie (Eps'm&Ew'll)||Mawhinney, Dr Brian|
|Chapman, Sydney||Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury)||Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin|
|Churchill, W. S.||Hampson, Dr Keith||Mayhew, Patrick|
|Clark, Sir William (Croydon South)||Hannam, John||Mellor, David|
|Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe)||Haselhurst, Alan||Meyer, Sir Anthony|
|Clegg, Sir Walter||Hastings, Stephen||Miller, Hal (Bromsgrove & Redditch)|
|Cockeram, Eric||Havers, Rt Hon Sir Michael||Mills, lain (Meriden)|
|Colvin, Michael||Hawksley, Warren||Mills, Peter (West Devon)|
|Cope, John||Hayhoe, Barney||Miscampbell, Norman|
|Corrie, John||Heath, Rt Hon Edward||Mitchell, David (Basingstoke)|
|Costain, A. P.||Heddle, John||Moate, Roger|
|Cranborne, Viscount||Henderson, Barry||Molyneaux, James|
|Critchley, Julian||Heseltine, Rt Hon Michael||Monro, Hector|
|Crouch, David||Hicks. Robert||Montgomery, Fergus|
|Moore, John||Rippon, Rt Hon Geoffrey||Thatcher, Rt Hon Mrs Margaret|
|Morgan, Geraint||Roberts, Michael (Cardiff NW)||Thomas, Rt Hon Peter (Hendon S)|
|Morris, Michael (Northampton, Sth)||Roberts, Wyn (Conway)||Thompson, Donald|
|Morrison, Hon Charles (Devizes)||Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight)||Thorne, Nell (llford South)|
|Morrison, Hon Peter (City of Chester)||Rossi, Hugh||Thornton, Malcolm|
|Murphy, Christopher||Rost, Peter||Townend, John (Bridlington)|
|Myles, David||Royle, Sir Anthony||Townsend, Cyril D. (Bexleyheath)|
|Neale, Gerrard||Sainsbury, Hon Timothy||Trippier, David|
|Needham, Richard||Scott, Nicholas||Trotter, Neville|
|Nelson, Anthony||Shaw, Giles (Pudsey)||van Straubenzee, W. R.|
|Neubert, Michael||Shaw, Michael (Scarborough)||Vaughan, Dr Gerard|
|Newton, Tony||Shelton, William (Streatham)||Waddington, David|
|Oppenheim, Rt Hon Mrs Sally||Shepherd, Richard (Aldridge-Br-hills)||Wakeham, John|
|Page, Rt Hon Sir R. Graham||Shersby, Michael||Waldegrave, Hon William|
|Page, Richard (SW Hertfordshire)||Silvester, Fred||Walker, Bill (Perth & E Perthshire)|
|Parkinson, Cecil||Sims, Roger||Walker-Smith, Rt Hon Sir Derek|
|Parris, Matthew||Skeet, T. H. H.||Waller, Gary|
|Patten, Christopher (Bath)||Smith, Cyril (Rochdale)||Walters, Dennis|
|Patten, John (Oxford)||Speed, Keith||Ward, John|
|Pattie, Geoffrey||Speller Tony||Warren, Kenneth|
|Penhaligon, David||Spence John||Watson, John|
|Pink, R. Bonner||Spicer, Michael (S Worcestershire)||Wells, John (Maidstone)|
|Pollock, Alexander||Sproat, lain||Wells, Bowen (Hert'rd & Stev'nage)|
|Powell, Rt Hon J. Enoch (S Down)||Squire, Robin||Wheeler, John|
|Porter, George||Stanbrook, Ivor||Whitelaw, Rt Hon William|
|Prentice, Rt Hon Reg||Stanley, John||Whitney, Raymond|
|Prior, Rt Hon James||Steel, Rt Hon David||Wickenden, Keith|
|Proctor, K. Harvey||Steen, Anthony||Wiggin, Jerry|
|Pym, Rt Hon Francis||Stevens, Martin||Williams, Delwyn (Montgomery)|
|Raison, Timothy||Stewart, Ian (Hitchin)||Winterton, Nicholas|
|Rathbone, Tim||Stewart, John (East Renfrewshire)||Wolfson, Mark|
|Rees, Peter (Dover and Deal)||Stokes, John||Young, Sir George (Acton)|
|Rees-Davies, W. R.||Stradling Thomas, J.||Younger, Rt Hon George|
|Renton, Tim||Tapsell, Peter|
|Rhodes James, Robert||Taylor, Robert (Croydon NW)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Ridley, Hon Nicholas||Taylor, Teddy (Southend East)||Mr. Spencer Le Marchant and|
|Ridsdale, Julian||Tebbit, Norman||Mr. Anthony Berry.|
Question accordingly negatived.
I beg to move amendment No. 8, in page 8, line 13, after ' 58A' insert—
' (1) A union membership agreement which came into force on a day prior to this Act coming into operation shall be deemed to be null and void if it has not been confirmed by a secret ballot carried out by not later than two years after the passing of this Act, and in accordance within the provisions of this section.'.
It will be convenient for the House to consider at the same time the following amendments:No. 33, in page 8, line 17, after ' question ', insert
No. 9, in page 8, line 30, at end insert—' within the previous three years '.
"(4) Existing union membership agreements shall cease to have effect three years after the passing of the Employment Act 1980 unless re-approved by a ballot to which the conditions specified in subsections (1) to (3) above shall apply.
No. 34, in page 8, line 30, at end insert—(5) All future union membership agreements shall lapse three years after they come into effect unless they are re-approved by a ballot to which the conditions specified in subsections (1) to (3) above shall apply.'.
' (4) If not so approved in strict accordance with the provisions of subsections (1), (2) and (3) above, the union membership agreement proposed shall be null and void and the contract of employment between the employer and the employees concerned shall be unenforceable in that respect, and if the trade union and employer concerned shall nevertheless conclude such an agreement, the trade union shall be regarded for the purposes of the Trade Union and Labour Relations Act 1974 and all its provisions as having forfeited registration as an independent trade union.'.
I shall be brief, because I do not think that a great deal needs to be said about the amendment; it is quite simple. Its purpose is to extend to those already locked in a closed shop the right to vote on whether they wish to be in that closed shop. Under the Bill, that right will be conferred on those who are not yet in a closed shop. They will be given the opportunity to vote on the issue. If 80 per cent. say " Yes ", there will be a closed shop. If 80 per cent. say " No ", there will not be a closed shop. The amendment provides that those who are already in a closed shop will be given the same opportunity as those not yet in a closed shop. It does not go beyond the principle which is already enshrined in the Bill. We are not asking my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State to do anything that is not already a principle enshrined in the Bill.If 80 per cent. of a union's membership should in future be the qualifying number for a closed shop, why should not 80 per cent. also be a pass mark for closed shops already in existence? All the amendment does is, first, to require an affirmation after not more than two years, and secondly, to provide that that affirmation, endorsement, confirmation—whatever it is called—should be available to those who presently do not have the opportunity to express an opinion. I wish to make the position and context clear. At present, about 30 to 40 per cent. of the entire work force in Britain are locked in closed shops, either formal or informal. That is an enormous proportion of a work force of 22 million. I do not know what will be ray right Friend's attitude to the amendment, but I received a certain indication from him in Committee as to what he regarded as being the right procedure if we were to consider regularly testing the position. I asked my right hon. Friend
He replied:" whether … it would be desirable to have regular testing of the situation?"
9.30 pm I do not mind leaving to a code of practice a periodic review of a closed shop. On the other hand, my right hon. Friend is insisting that when a closed shop is first initiated there should be a significant ballot in favour of it. Therefore, I ask that we should legislatively ensure that there is ballot for those already in existence. That is the purpose of the amendment. There are only two other points that I wish to make. First, let us assume that by the autumn of this year someone has been forced to join a closed shop, or otherwise lose his job, and that he has been in that position for a year or two. I maintain that it is extremely unlikely that an industrial tribunal will accept that he then genuinely objects on grounds of conscience or " deeply-held personal conviction" if he raises the matter on appeal before such a tribunal. Therefore, the effect of the Bill on existing reluctant members of closed shops will be virtually non-existent They will remain disfranchised unless the amendment is made. In a sense, they will remain under-privileged. I believe that they have the same right to treatment as future generations of closed shop trade unionists. Without the amendment the Bill will condone existing closed shops. It will do nothing for those who have been dragooned into closed shops—possibly against their will or under the threat of losing their jobs. Equally, regrettably, it will be totally inconsistent with the Bill, because its approach to new and old closed shops will be based upon no discernible rational tenet of philosophy other than perhaps a philosophy of dealing softly, softly with trade union reform—softly, softly, not to ruffle the trade union movement which, if one is to understand Opposition Members, is already sufficiently ruffled. I suggest that there is no point of policy or principle which is not already enshrined in the Bill which ought to constitute an argument against acceptance of the amendment." This is very much a matter for a code of practice."—[Official Report, Standing Committee A, 4 March 1980; c. 898.]
I wish to speak to the amendment moved by my hon. Friend the Member for Hendon, North (Mr. Gorst) and to amendment No. 9 which has been tabled in my name and the names of 26 other hon. Members.The purpose of amendment No. 9 is to allow those who are currently in closed shops to have a vote within three years of the Bill becoming an Act to say whether they want to stay within closed shops and, on top of that, that those in any closed shop so agreed, or any future closed shop, should have the right every three years to have a ballot to see whether they still want to remain within a closed shop. There is nothing that the press likes more than what it thinks is a political revolt or a party rebellion. Its nostrils flare at the very feeling of potential parliamentary bloodshed, and it likes, above all, the sight of ministerial entrails dangling from the Gallery.
Gallows, not Gallery.
On this occasion, sadly, our friends in the press have got it completely wrong.
I wonder whether my hon. Friend means " Gallery " or " gallows ".
I take my hon. and learned Friend's intervention as he would like. On this occasion our friends in the press have got it wrong. They are rather out of date. The self-same press that for years has been castigating Members of Parliament as being Lobby fodder, ciphers, placemen, men of straw, men of no account, people who will do anything for a bribe, should have noticed during the term of the previous minority Government that individual Members of Parliament realised once again that they had a role of their own that they could play in affecting the future of Government policy. This is wholly good for the country.During that Parliament, and during this Parliament, hon. Members may have voted against the Government while at the same time being wholehearted supporters of the Government, and having every confidence in the programme that the Government put before the people. The press would say that those hon. Members who voted in favour of new clause 3 last night were voting against the Government. In fact, we were voting for the new clause, and I should like the press to take note that most hon. Members who so voted are amongst the strongest supporters of the Government. I have the highest regard for, and the greatest confidence in, the Bill as now amended. Together with deeming, this is a courageous step that has previously been flunked by the Labour Party. The measures that have been proposed will do more than measures that have been introduced by, I was going to say, any Government but in reality by all Governments to transform this country from the industrial backwater into which it has been pushed into the industrial mainstream of Europe.
Order. I consider the first part of the hon. Gentleman's remarks to be an argument in justification, but he is now making a Second Reading speech. He must address himself to the amendment.
I concur entirely with what you say, Mr. Speaker. The Bill seeks, through the encouragement of ballots, through the provisions against some of the abuses of the closed shop, and the control of the intimidation and anarchy of the mass of indiscriminate picketing—this is where I am coming to the point, Mr. Speaker—to protect individual British citizens—workers, trade unionists—from being bullied and pushed around. In the words of the immortal Citizen Smith of the Tooting Popular Front, we are trying to give power to the people. We are trying once again to establish real democracy at the grass roots, so that the responsibility for trade unionism, will rest with the individual trade unionist rather than with the trade union bureaucrats. This is highly germane to the amendment that we are now discussing. The Bill—and the amendment—is exceptional and yet they are entirely unexceptionable.I should like to say a word to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, because I am taking a slightly different view from him. I have the greatest respect for my right hon. Friend. I should like to congratulate him on an excellent speech yesterday, and I look forward to hearing another excellent speech today. His speech was logical, moving, passionate and persuasive. I congratulate him on the esteem in which he is held in the House and on the inestimable value that that esteem bears for the Government and the country in his actions with the trade unions. Why have I been active in pursuing these amendments? My right hon. Friend is rightly approaching the matter of trade union reform on a step-by-step basis. The amendments that have been put forward by my hon. Friends and myself are part of that step-by-step approach. In fairness, we do not expect my right hon. Friend to accept these amendments at this stage. Among other things, before such amendments, which are far reaching and significant, are brought in, they must be discussed with the various parties who would be affected by them. However, it is up to us to set out the next stage. My right hon. Friends the Secretary of State and the Prime Minister have said that if necessary we shall introduce further new measures, step by step, in this area. It is up to us on the Conservative Benches to prepare the ground, dig the soil and get ready for the next measures, so that we can have argument and discussion in the country on the basis of solid support from the House for measures that we may wish to introduce in future. I am sure that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State will be helpful and will tell us that some of the things that are being suggested will be introduced into the code of practice. If he says that, I shall bless him for it and be pleased. However, I imagine that the code of practice will be voluntary. Some of the worst abuses—and there are abuses—occur when a closed shop is in the hands of a tyrant. I can hardly believe that if measures that are against his interest are put into a code of practice, that man will implement them. If someone has his fingers on a vice and the law does not tell him to take his fingers off, he will keep them on. People have very strong feelings on this matter and want us to discuss it in the House. They would like to know that a large number of hon. Members have great concern for their feelings and are prepared to react accordingly. I believe that, in a way, for the amendments to be discussed and voted on will facilitate the difficult and sensitive job that my right hon. Friend has to do. The purpose of the amendment is to allow those who are already in closed shops to have the same privileges as those about to join a closed shop and to vote on whether they wish to stay in. I understand that there are about 25 million in work in this country, of whom about half are trade unionists. Half of those trade unionists are in closed shops. I do not think that it is disputed that one-third of all trade unionists voted Conservative at the last election. [HON. MEMBERS: " More ".] Correction, more. If one-quarter of the trade unionists who voted Conservative at the last election and are in closed shops do not wish to be in them, that then means that ½ million people are forced to be in closed shops that they do not want to be in. That is a serious matter. Most hon. Members do not share the blind hatred for closed shops of some people in the country. We all agree that they are rooted in the traditions of this country and that people have strong views on either side of the argument. I think that we all agree that, as far as possible, we should move along common ground in the House.
Is not the hon. Gentleman aware that there is nothing to stop any person in a closed shop from leaving his job and going to a lower-paid job as, for example, a farmworker, where there is no closed shop? That is why people will not leave. They do not want to go to lower paid jobs.
I entirely agree with the hon. Gentleman's first point, which is not something of which he can be proud, that there is nothing stopping anybody in a closed shop from leaving his job. The problem is that there is a lot stopping people from staying in a closed shop job when they want to.Closed shops have their advantages. In many situations managements get a lot of benefit from closed shops. They know who they are talking to. There is also a great deal of concern, from the trade union point of view, about freeloaders who accept the work and advice of shop stewards and the benefits accruing from negotiations without paying for them. I should love to have free legal advice, but I doubt whether my hon. and learned Friends would be prepared to give it to me, and I quite see their point. 9.45 pm There are a great number of disadvantages to the closed shop. What does a closed shop mean? It means that a person who does not do what the closed shop tells him to do will be thrown out of a job. Whereas a person who conflicts with the laws of the land goes before a judge and jury and may lose for a time his liberty or be fined, a person who goes against the massive power of the closed shop loses his livelihood, perhaps for ever. There are other disadvantages. In our less productive industries there is a preponderance of closed shops. The measure that we are proposing is simple and liberal. I think we would all agree that the closed shop on the whole is not a good thing. It would not be right or possible for us to seek to ban the closed shop. That was tried in 1971 and the attempt was ineffective. It would not be right because it is up to the people in each individual closed shop to decide whether they want that closed shop to remain. Then let the ballots take place. The fact that a ballot is about to take place would make the union shop stewards and anyone involved in the union far more responsive to the wishes of the membership than they are in many places at present. If the ballot is positive, well and good. That has been decided, and the closed shop would have an element of authority and dignity that it does not have now. If the ballot is negative, should we not be interested in the fact that people are currently in closed shops that they do not wish to be in? Do not we in this country believe in freedom and democracy? Where in some circumstances there is corrupt power within a closed shop, should not that power be destroyed? Where there is a degree of tyranny, should not that tyranny be emasculated? Where there are slavery and serfdom, should we not introduce freedom? Where there are inefficient restrictive practices, would it not be better if people had productive and satisfying employment?
Has the hon. Gentleman ever negotiated a closed shop? Has he ever belonged to a closed shop? Has he been an employer who has resisted a closed shop? Has he ever had anything to do with a closed shop, or is he talking from a theoretical standpoint on a subject about which he knows nothing?
I answer the hon. Gentleman by saying that I have never committed rape or had an abortion and yet I am called upon with him to take parliamentary action on these measures.If this measure becomes law——
Supplementing the question posed by the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer), has the hon. Member for Northampton, North (Mr. Marlow) received, as I have, letters from people who have suffered severely as a consequence of being penalised through a closed shop?
That is a serious intervention, as opposed to the intervention made by the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer), which was stupid and flippant. Yes, I have, and I find it very moving and disturbing. That is one reason why I am supporting the amendment.If the amendment becomes law, it will not be hon. Members who will decide what should happen with each individual closed shop; the people themselves will decide. The House takes great pride in letting the people decide wherever possible.
The hon. Member for Hendon, North (Mr. Gorst) always speaks in gentle tones when he is moving the most extreme measures, whereas the language of the hon. Member for Northampton, North (Mr. Marlow) is a little more intemperate. The hon. Member for Hendon, North always starts by saying that his motion is very simple. I want to show that his motion is not so simple. The hon. Gentleman wants to extend voting to all existing closed shops. I presume that he wants the 80 per cent. concept to apply to existing closed shops. Incidentally, I notice the distinction here between 80 per cent. for closed shops and 15 per cent., which was the figure that we discussed last night on another issue with regard to ballots. It is an interesting distinction.I believe that the hon. Gentleman's proposal would be disruptive for the new arrangements and extremely disruptive in respect of existing closed shops.
Will the hon. Gentleman bear in mind that the correct comparison in percentage terms is not 80 per cent. as against 15 per cent. but rather 80 per cent. as against 20 per cent.?
I am sorry, but I do not follow the hon. Gentleman. The point I am making is that if one applies the 80 per cent. test to existing arrangements it will be extremely disruptive to industrial relations. I hope that Conservative Members are interested in industrial relations. If they are, they should take into account the figure of 30 to 40 per cent. which the hon. Member for Hendon, North has just mentioned. They should think about what that would mean. It would mean that ballots would have to be held up and down the country. It would be extremely disruptive to industrial relations.The case for having closed shops is twofold. First, they give employees an additional strength, and, secondly, employers are strongly in favour of them.
Does the hon. Gentleman agree that Krupps were very much in favour of having slave labour from the rest of Europe?
I am not prepared to respond to that intervention. As usual, it seems totally irrelevant.Most employers are worried about the changes which are already contained in the Bill. They will be even more worried if the amendment of the hon. Member for Hendon, North is passed. They are strongly against the idea of tampering with closed shops, because if employees speak with one voice it solves one industrial relations problem for employers. The hon. Member for Hendon, North is trying to disrupt the existing pattern of relationships. That would be a disastrous step. Of course, there are libertarian issues with regard to the closed shop. I wish that Conservative Members who are so interested in liberty would, when it comes to trade unions, apply that concept a little more widely. We would then perhaps listen to them with a little more conviction. My view, and the view of most trade unionists, is that these problems should be solved through voluntary arrangements. I do not know whether any Conservative Members have read the survey by the Department of Employment, which shows that most existing closed shop arrangements now take account of libertarian and conscience issues, but the view is that existing non-trade unionists do not have to join a trade union. Therefore, existing closed shops are already dealing with these issues. My fear is that most Conservative Members who have tabled amendments of this kind are against all closed shops. Furthermore, I believe that they are merely paving amendments towards the goal of abolishing all trade unions. What worries me is that the Conservative Party seems to believe that trade unions were all right in the nineteenth century but that they are now out of date and unnecessary. That is basically the view they discuss with their wives in the middle of the night.
Will the hon. Gentleman give way?
No, I will not. What really worries me——
No, I will not give way. What worries me is that——
Will the hon. Gentleman give way?
Order. It has been made quite clear by the hon. Member for Ches-ter-le-Street (Mr. Radice) that he does not intend to give way to the hon. Member for Louth (Mr. Brotherton).
Would it not be in order for me to point out that the hon. Gentleman——
Order. It is only in order for me to point out that the hon. Member for Chester-le-Street, (Mr. Radice) has the floor.
What has worried me about the tone of this debate and that of the debate last night is that it reveals that the Right wing of the Conservative Party is trying to set the agenda for the Secretary of State for Employment. It is attempting to decide what will be in the next legislation. That worries me, it worries the Labour Party, it worries the trade union movement and it worries employers. Right-wing members of the Tory Party know nothing about industrial relations, and if the Secretary of State listens to their siren voices it will be dangerous and a disaster for the country. I strongly oppose the amendment.
This is the first time that I have had the opportunity of contributing to the long debates on the Bill. It is also the first occasion on which any of the many amendments that I have tabled have been selected by you, Mr. Speaker. I shall certainly seek an early occasion to ascertain why some of the other excellent amendments I have tabled have not been selected for debate.
Order. I could tell the hon. Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Winterton) now why his amendments have not been selected but I shall not; I am much too kind. I can tell the hon. Member only that this amendment has been selected for discussion.
You always win out in these exchanges, Mr. Speaker. You always have the upper hand and I always stoop to your advice and to any requests which you make. I fully appreciate that my two amendments have been called only for discussion.Perhaps I can answer straight away one of the questions posed by the hon. Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Rad-ice). I am indeed utterly and entirely opposed to closed shops. I believe that they are evil and that they are an unacceptable infringement of personal liberty. What is more, I believe that the closed shop is the basis of most of the abuse of trade union power in this country.—[Interruption.] I am not a lawyer. I say openly to Opposition Members below the Gangway that it is perhaps a good thing that there are some hon. Members who are not lawyers. I have taken a consistent view on this subject and I say to Opposition Members that I have every respect for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State. I believe that he has been sincere, genuine and consistent in his approach to the reform of industrial relations. But I say to him that I believe that he has got it wrong. I disagree with him fundamentally. Therefore, I say to the hon. Member for Chester-le-Street that there are some Conservative Members who are prepared to stand up and be counted and who are prepared to justify our stand. We are prepared to say openly that there is perhaps a difference of view within our party. I also say openly that I hope that my right hon. Friend, who has obviously carried the day, with the majority of the parliamentary party behind him, proves to be right and that this legislation will be successful. The future of our country depends upon peace, harmony and stability in industrial relations. If we do not get that, I do not know how we shall achieve the progress that Britain needs.
When the hon. Gentleman talks about peace and harmony in industrial relations, does he honestly believe that his amendment would bring peace and harmony to industrial relations? What about the freedom and the democratic right of an individual who refuses to work with a non-trade unionist?It being Ten o'clock, the debate stood adjourned.Ordered,
Bill, as amended (in the Standing Committee), again considered.That, at this day's sitting the Employment Bill may be proceeded with, though opposed, until any hour.—[Mr. Boscawen.]
Question again proposed, That the amendment be made.
That was an extra ordinary intervention. I was referring to the intervention made by the hon. Member for Penistone (Mr. McKay). I rarely query the suspension of the 10 o'clock rule. That is not a matter for me. It is extraordinary to suggest that those who choose to remain outside a closed shop and who oppose a closed shop are un-democratic. That cannot be equated with wishing to give people freedom and responsibility. We have also been asked why trade unionists should vote with non-trade unionists. Probably slightly less than half the British people are trade unionists. Why cannot we all work together both inside and outside trade unions? There are some trade unionists in unions that are associated and affiliated to the TUC and some who are not. There are staff associations and all the other——
No, I shall not give way.
Very well, I give way to my hon. Friend the Member for Louth (Mr. Brotherton).
Is my hon. Friend aware that the hon. Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Radice), who talked about land, is a landowner not only in the North-East of England but in France? It ill becomes him to talk about the way in which British people——
Order. That is a long way from the question of the closed shop.
If there is a closed shop of landowners, I do not fall into that category. I am not really interested whether the hon. Member for Chester-le-Street owns land in Spain, France or any other part of the world. That has no relevance to the debate.I am behind the general principle contained in the amendment. Obviously, I wish to see my amendments, Nos. 33 and 34, included in the Bill. I believe that their inclusion would bring genuine democratic rights to British working people. No doubt the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer), the hon. Member for Chester-le-Street or others who have participated, including the hon. Member for Newton (Mr. Evans), who has been so active on Report, could give me the precise number of those who are members of closed shops in various places of work. However, that is not basically relevant. Many of those who are part of closed shops never had an opportunity to vote for the closed shops in the first place. It is right that we allow those in an existing closed shop to vote within a specified period whether they want the closed shop to continue. My critical amendment is No. 33, the one upon which No. 34 hangs. It seeks to insert
after " question " in clause 6 on page 8, line 17. If Opposition Members, including the right hon. Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Varley), believe that the closed shop is correct and that it will lead to peace and harmony, they should be prepared to put that idea to the test. They should allow existing members of closed shops to vote on that issue. In 1953, Britain formally became a member of the Council of Europe of 21 nations. In January 1966 the Labour Government, under the leadership of the right hon. Member for Huyton (Sir H. Wilson) accepted that all rulings emanating from the European Court of Human Rights would be considered binding on the British Government. If cases in the long-running saga of the British closed shop are referred to that court by the European Commission or by the Council of Ministers, and if it is ruled that compulsory closed shops contravene articles 9, 10, 11 and 13 of the charter, the Government must respond or face the humiliation of possible expulsion from the Commission. However, we would not face expulsion from the EEC, because that is a separate entity. Indeed, that may be a matter for further debate at a later stage. If Britain makes no effort to show the European Court or Commission that we are prepared to allow those who have become part of a closed shop to indicate whether they wish to remain such, our case within Europe will be lost by default; the ruling of the European Court will go against this country. These amendments are therefore serious. The hon. Member for Chester-le-Street did a great disservice to my hon. Friend the Member for Hendon, North (Mr. Gorst) when he said that he was moving an extreme amendment, even if he did so in dulcet and moderate tones. My hon. Friend the Member for Hendon, North stood up for a principle that is enshrined within the European Court of Human Rights. If hon. Members do not have a right to refer to these matters as often, as positively and as constructively as they wish, this House will not be doing its duty or serving our people." within the previous three years "
The hon. Member for Hendon, North (Mr. Gorst) was associated with the Grunwick dispute. Is the hon. Gentleman saying that those employed by Grunwick will be allowed to join a trade union? Is he suggesting that they will be allowed to decide every three years whether there should be a closed shop?
I was under the impression that the majority of workers at that firm had clearly demonstrated that they did not want a closed shop. [Interruption.] I wish hon. Members would listen and not get carried away by party dogma. A sizeable number of employees at Grunwick may have wished to become members of the union. No doubt they would have voted for a closed shop. However, the majority of employees voted against a trade union and against a closed shop.
Will the hon. Gentleman consider another relevant example? It should first be placed on record that the majority of those at Grunwick who had wished to join a union were sacked. In my constituency the firm of Chix has refused to recognise that the overwhelming majority of its work force, consisting mainly of Asian women, wish to join a union and have that union recognised. They have been on strike since last October. According to his argument, the workers at Chix are right and the employer is wrong.
I seek to get legislation on the statute book that has meaning and that can restore sanity to industrial relations in this country. I do not pretend to know everything about the case that the hon. Member for Eton and Slough (Miss Lestor) has just mentioned. It would be presumptuous of me to suggest that I do. I am simply giving my views in general on the issue of the closed shop, and the amendments which Mr. Speaker, in his infinite wisdom, has brought forward for debate tonight. There is no doubt that the employees of the company to which the hon. Member referred could take advantage of this enlightened piece of Conservative legislation when it goes on the statute book.In supporting the four amendments, I stress that the issue at stake tonight is one of great concern to the vast majority of people in this country. I regret that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, who has paid considerable attention to industrial relations over a long time, has not grasped the fact that most people in this country are strongly opposed to the closed shop for the evils that it has brought. I am sure it has been said before that, whether it appeared in the Conservative manifesto or not, most people believed that the Tory Government would reduce the power of the closed shop by legislation. Sadly, they have not done so. For that reason, some of us have taken the opportunity of the Report stage of this Bill to highlight the evils and abuses of the closed shop. Many amendments have not been called and the amendments in my name are very modest. Amendment No. 33 merely seeks to ensure that within three years there is a ballot where there is an existing closed shop. Amendment No. 34 clarifies that and states that it is important that all matters that are already part of this clause should be adhered to, otherwise the trade unions concerned would not be recognised as fully fledged. My right hon. Friend should realise that, whether he accepts the amendments or not, the feeling in the country is very strong. I hope that legislation will be brought forward during the lifetime of this Parliament to protect those people who find it obscene—and I use the word advisedly—to be forced to join a trade union, because their place of work is a closed shop, that is affiliated to a political party that they do not support. That is morally and fundamentally wrong. Labour Members may say that such people can contract out of the political levy. I agree. But by doing so they identify themselves, and it is possible that others will pick on them and their opportunities to progress in the trade union or in the company will be jeopardised as a result. I hope that my right hon. Friend grasps the principle behind these amendments.
I am opposed to the closed shop. I believe that this is an occasion on which those who oppose it should speak out. I fail to understand how anyone who believes in personal liberty could possibly be in favour of the closed shop. I am totally unmoved by arguments that the employers like it.I have long thought that there is a great danger that the worst bureaucratic features of the employers' and trade union organisations are reflected in one another. I have no evidence that the closed shop is necessary for efficient business. It is not the custom in Europe. As hon. Members know, Europe is much more efficient, in many ways, than British industry. We may soon be arraigned, as the hon. Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Winterton) has said, before the European Court for this practice. It is odd to hear the argument that one cannot bring in reforms by legislation. This used to be the prime argument of the most die hard Tory lawyers of the last century. It was rightly resisted by the Labour and Liberal Parties. It is now said that it is wrong to legislate for reform and that, at all costs, we must remain conservative and stick to existing practices. I wish, however, to tread on the toes of my colleagues of the English Bar. I have long maintained that the English Bar has certain elements of a closed shop. I have never understood why a litigant in court should not be allowed to select a man who is not a member of the English Bar to speak for him. I see a distinguished and learned right hon. Member about to rise to his feet.
I was only going to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether, if he was suffering—I hope that he never will—from cancer, he would submit himself to an operation by some totally unqualified person. If he would, the analogy is complete.
If I suffered from cancer, I do not see why I should be prevented from seing some quack in whom I believed, who might possibly do me good. There are some quacks whom I would prefer to some highly qualified doctors.It is alarming that the present development is spreading into public authorities. For public authorities to enforce a closed shop among employees is totally against not only the principles of liberty but the principles of good administration and government. We are not debating, I understand, the principle of the closed shop. We are debating an amendment that would extend provisions already in the Bill to those already in a closed shop. I cannot see any objection to that proposal. I cannot pretend to understand the enthusiastic support I am receiving, notably from the Government supporters below the Gangway. I join them, however, in hoping that the Minister, upon whom so many compliments have been showered, will see his way to extending the principle already in the Bill to people who at the moment are outside the provisions. If the closed shop is a matter for ballot, these people should be entitled to ballot.
This appears to me to be a great parliamentary occasion. I am delighted to follow the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond), my hon. Friend the Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Winterton) and others who have spoken. I fully appreciate the difficulty in which my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State finds himself with regard to the closed shop. I feel that he is basically in sympathy with the philosophy that many of us express on the question of the closed shop. I recognise and appreciate but cannot accept the arguments that he has put forward during the passage of the Bill and earlier about the reasons why the closed shop cannot be outlawed. This is not the place to argue the merits and demerits of the closed shop.It is a good idea for hon. Members to bear in mind what they said during the election campaign. I am conscious that I represent an industrial working-class constituency where many thousands of my constituents who work for the British Steel Corporation, are in a closed shop. The corporation has 16,000 employees in my constituency. I told those people when offering myself for election last year that I was against workers being compelled to join a union as a condition of employment. I consider that if a union is doing a good job, people will join voluntarily. I agree to some extent with the arguments of my right hon. Friend on the Bill. My right hon. Friend has decided, rightly, that if there is, for better or worse, to be a closed shop, it should be endorsed by at least 80 per cent. of the work force. The 16,000 people who work for the British Steel Corporation in my constituency have already been conscripted against their will into a closed shop—at least, their will has not been tested. They should have the same rights and privileges as are to be afforded under the clause to trade unionists who may have a closed shop thrust upon them in future. I associate myself with the amendment in the names of my hon. Friend the Member for Northampton, North (Mr. Marlow) and others. It provides that closed shop agreements be tested every three years. The hon. Member for Keigh-ley (Mr. Cryer) compared ballots for closed shops with ballots at general elections. The views of people change. At general elections, people vote one way one year and another way another year. I do not anticipate that that will happen for some time. People changed their minds between 1974 and 1979, thank goodness. It is reasonable to assume that many steel workers in my constituency have changed their minds after 13 weeks of being led—some might say misled—by the Iron and Steel Trades Confederation. I have great respect for the local union leaders in my constituency. They did not seek deliberately to mislead, but the effect of their actions was to mislead their members. As a result of the closed shop and because the confederation had such power over its members, those who disagreed with the confederation could not opt out of membership because they would lose their jobs. After 13 weeks' experience and because more job losses are likely as a result of the strike, many people might not afford the confederation the confidence that they once gave it. If a union has to seek endorsement for the closed shop—if that dreaded principle is to become a fact of life for the time being—that will ensure that union leaders are more responsive to the wishes of their members. People change their minds about how they vote in a referendum. Many hon. Members, particularly Opposition Members, argue that people have changed their minds about the Common Market. They would like the opportunity to express their views again in another referendum. Union members might change their minds about the effectiveness of their union in a closed shop. I commend the amendments. I understand that there has not been much public discussion on them and that my right hon. Friend might not be able to accept them. As my hon. Friend the Member for Northampton, North said, we are to some extent ploughing a furrow to ensure that the Government will take account of public opinion. For the last three or four months I have been at the sharp end of public opinion in my constituency. At surgery after surgery I have received many trade unionists who are extremely anxious about their position if they dare to speak out against their union's views. On the whole, Scunthorpe is a moderate town and its union leaders, even though I disagree with them, are moderate men. I am pleased to place on record that there has been no victimisation in my constituency in this instance. The fact is, however, that many ordinary trade unionists have been worried about the possibility of victimisation. The very possibility of having one's union card withdrawn because of a closed shop is in itself sufficient to cause ordinary trade unionists to worry. I am conscious that time is pressing, so I shall draw to a conclusion. I believe that this proposed test of the closed shop is a reasonable test. In my view, the test of a closed shop which my right hon. Friend has accepted and enshrined in the Bill for future closed shops should be available to those who have been unfortunate enough to become members of a closed shop already where they have not had the opportunity for the ballot now provided for in the Bill. I understand the difficulty which my right hon. Friend may be in with regard to these amendments, but I think that they are well worth considering and I shall find myself able to support them. I believe that the Bill will go a considerable way towards solving the problem of industrial relations, but there is still room for some improvement and I consider that these modest amendments indicate the room for that improvement.
I am sure that the whole House has enjoyed the knockabout speeches from hon. Members on the Government Back Benches. Perhaps they did not make much sense, but they certainly gave us some entertainment and amusement.I greatly enjoyed the characteristically ebullient speech of the hon. Member for Northampton, North (Mr. Marlow). Perhaps, with his agricultural background, he does not appreciate all of the nuances of industrial life, but there was only one thing on which I would disagree with him. In fact, only one thing that he said would I disbelieve. I am sorry that the hon. Gentleman is not here, but he said, prompted by the hon. Member for Rochdale (Mr. Smith), that he had letters from people who had suffered under closed shops. I say now that I do not believe that. I do not believe it, and I should like to see them. We heard about this in Committee. Such letters are very few in number. The hon. Member for Rochdale has one, but I should like the hon. Member for Northampton, North to show me his. I say that just in passing. The hon. Member for Hendon, North (Mr. Gorst), again characteristically——
Will the hon. Gentleman give way?
No. Sit down.
Order. Give way.
I am much obliged. Is not the hon. Gentleman aware that several hundred railwaymen lost their jobs when the NUR and British Rail formed a closed shop and that several of them have had to go as far as the European Court of Human Rights in order to seek justice? Is it not a shocking indictment of our present legislation on industrial relations that individuals can be victimised in that way and that they have up to now had no redress in this country?
I am not impressed by that intervention, and I am certain that the hon. Member for Northampton, North does not need the hon. Gentleman's assistance. I have made my statement, and I should like to see those letters. I leave it at that.
The hon. Member has no interest in the liberty of the individual.
Again characteristically, the hon. Member for Hendon, North went slightly too far, as he sometimes does. I think he will agree that he does not like trade unions. He told us in Committee that he does not want to destroy them completely, but I am sure that he will agree that he does not like trade unions. He certainly does not like closed shops and would like to abolish them completely.Unlike some hon. Members, I worked for 33 years before I came here on 3 May, and I never worked in anything but a closed shop. I have spent the whole of my working life in closed shops, so I speak with some experience. Perhaps hon. Members might care to know something about real life and real experience—or perhaps they might not. In Committee—this may be of interest to the hon. Member for Stretford (Mr. Churchill), who just told me about the railwaymen—I issued an invitation. I offer the same invitation to him. I invited all the members of the Standing Committee to come with me to Fleet Street at night, because that is when we work printing newspapers, and meet people who work in closed shops and ask them what they think. That is an invitation which hon. Members can take up—or live in a dream world of their own. 10.30 pm Why are these ideas unworkable? The Secretary of State does not need me to help him, and I am certain that he would be embarrassed if I were to do so. In Committee, the Secretary of State said:
As a result of the 1971 Act, all the closed shops in which I worked were rendered void. That Act had no effect. There were no changes. So there are limits to what can be done by law. The CBI gave evidence in a letter of 26 February, which the Secretary of State quoted in Committee. It said:" The approach that we have sought to adopt … is a different approach from that of 1970–71. partly because it did not work. Whatever our views may have been at that time, the fact of the matter is that it did not work. I have asked countless employers what they did about the closed shop following the passage of the 1971 Act. They look at one rather sheepishly and say ' We never actually got round to getting rid of it.' That is another reason why I want to be careful this time that what we do we can actually enforce."
In Committee we discussed practices in other countries. In many European countries the closed shop is illegal, yet when my right hon. Friend the Member for Doncaster (Mr. Walker) pointed out that in many of those countries closed shops operate the Under-Secretary said " Hear, hear." In other words, he agrees that they still exist in countries on the Continent where they are illegal."The CBI recognise that the closed shop is an established feature of industrial relations practice in some areas of employment. We do not therefore feel that the time has yet come to make union membership agreements unenforceable."—[Official Report, Standing Committee A, 26 February 1980; c. 724.]
Is the hon. Gentleman trying to say that once a closed shop is established it cannot be destroyed? I give the example of the Humberside county council, where a closed shop was imposed by the Labour authority. The Conservative group on that council, of which I was the leader, said in its manifesto that it would abolish the closed shop. It won the election and during its first week of office it tore up the closed shop agreement, and many people in that county council no longer belong to a union.
Tearing up agreements is not the way to obtain good industrial relations. The borough in which I live—which is Tory-controlled—has just introduced such an agreement, but I shall not go into that.Why do trade unionists seek 100 per cent. membership? A lawyer speaking for the British Government at a European institution said on behalf of the Government—a Labour Government at the time—that
I have worked in a closed shop for 33 years. I worked for very rich men. I was a very poor man. The power of the employer was larger than mine, but if an injury to one man was an injury to all, the employer was careful when deciding whether to pick on any individual worker. I did not feel that I lost any freedom or liberty by being a member of a closed shop. I felt that I had more freedom and liberty. I should explain how we run our affairs. We call our branches chapels. That goes back to the time when the monks did the printing. I worked for two newspapers. I shall not advertise them. One had the largest Sunday circulation. The hon. Member for Stretford, who is laughing, featured in that paper quite recently, boosted the circulation and gave employment to members of my union. The other was the largest daily selling newspaper. In one chapel there were 600 members and in the other there were 400. We had quarterly meetings. [Interruption.] Conservative Members are not perhaps interested to know how closed shops are run. If they are willing to listen and understand, I shall explain. We meet quarterly and we fine people if they do not attend the meetings. They are obliged to attend. If any member misses three meetings on the trot, he may be expelled from the union. The only hall in London large enough to accommodate our chapel is the Beaver hall, which costs £400 a time. Therefore, it costs at least £1,600 per annum to accommodate our chapels and get workshop democracy. The convener and shop stewards on the committee—I have taken part in this myself—are elected quarterly by secret ballot. Why should anybody be afraid? Where is the loss of liberty? Our own people are running our affairs. We had many managerial prerogatives. Discipline was applied not by the management but by the chapel. There was seniority on the job. If anyone wanted to change anything, he moved a motion. Indeed, after listening to Conservative Members I can say that the standard of debate in our chapels was much higher than in this House. This is the nearest thing that I have seen, in what is called a closed shop situation, to Athenian democracy. In Athens the regions for local government were made up of 5,000 people, because an orator's voice could reach 5,000 people. That is how the printing unions run their closed shops. Any idea that it is an infringement of freedom or that we feel insecure is complete nonsense. If we had people coming in from outside, we wanted to know that they were competent for safety reasons. Their union cards were their bona fides. They showed that they were capable of doing the job. It is the same with the National Union of Mineworkers. Miners are not prepared to have anyone go in the cage and work underground with them if they are not assured that he is capable and able to do the job. The idea that closed shops are tyrannical is nonsense. I give an open invitation to Conservative Members to meet the members of my union and ask them about this matter." There is inherent in any capitalist society—and perhaps in any society—an inequity of bargaining power between employer and employee, and it can only be reduced by a closed shop."