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."
I have one acceptance. Are there any more? We shall do it through the Heritage group. The hon. Gentleman can meet ordinary workers and see for himself whether they feel that closed shops are tyrannical.
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. In a remark that I made about 45 minutes ago from below the gangway, I said that the hon. Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Radice) was a landowner in France. I was entirely wrong. It is his mother who is a landowner in France. Therefore, I apologise to the hon. Gentleman.
Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I am grateful to the hon. Member for Louth (Mr. Brotherton) for distributing land so grandly across the Chamber this evening. However, I do not have land in France, and neither does my mother. She is fortunate enough to have a house in France, which is a little different, regrettably, from having land.
I do not wish to become involved in these conveyancing transactions. The hon. Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Radice) in his interesting speech, made a serious point when he said that this important debate was primarily about whether the libertarian wing of the Tory Party would be able to persuade the present Government that further legislation was required.I regard the debate on amendment No. 8 as the most important debate that we have had in these three days. In discussing the principle of the closed shop, we have dealt with many of the more important arguments that have been swirling around in connection with the trade union movement. I have considerable sympathy with some of the arguments that have come from Opposition Members. I agree, for instance, with the hon. Member for Newton (Mr. Evans) that over many years the trade union movement has been most strongly and dishonestly blamed for many of the evils of this country—evils which it did not commit. It is true that year after year Governments have blamed the trade unions for the creation of inflation. Year after year they have been blamed for lack of productivity, for bloody-mindedness and for all sorts of things that are no part of their burden to bear. The trade unions have been deeply disturbed in their own contractual relations because of the effect of inflation. Trade unionists, like all other members of our society, feel the sense of instability and desperation that we all feel when we are uncertain about whether we will keep our relative position or whether we will catch up in the next wage round. We should beware of blaming the trade union movement in a general way. Nonetheless, I much regret the way in which my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State accepts, so easily and so readily, the principle of the closed shop. I am entirely in agreement with the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond), who is opposed to the whole principle. There may be good reasons for the Tory Party accepting that principle, but there is one really horrifyingly bad reason, which I hope will not be in anybody's mind tonight—namely, the argument that many industrial managers find the closed shop acceptable and useful. Whatever the Tory Party is or is not, it is not the party of industrial gaffers. It is a national party. It should be concerned with the libertarian interests of all the people. When I hear people say "Oh, but I have been speaking to such and such a manager in ICI, or the director of environmental services in the Tiddlypush urban district council, and they would like to have an extension of the closed shop ", I understand that. It is an inevitable follow-on from the years of statutory wage control. The House has not made the trade unions the natural advocates of those who are industrial workers but has made the trade union leaders the policemen. We have said to Jack Jones, Len Murray and the rest " It is 5 per cent. this year and we appoint you as the policemen to impose that 5 per cent. on your members." The trade union leader has said " But there might be a few chaps in the awkward squad who do not like 5 per cent." and we have replied " Then let us shelve our libertarian instincts and allow you to impose the closed shop upon them. That should shut up the awkward squad." 10.45 pm We want no more of that. We want most of all further legislation that considers the whole principle of the closed shop. I have voted in disagreement with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State on two other important matters during the Report stage. For example, I voted for the new clause dealing with immunities in tort in respect of secondary action. One hon. Member dealt with the situation that occurred at Hadfield's. The Bill deals with secondary picketing at Hadfield's but does not deal effectively with the attitude that might be adopted by Hadfield's own workers. If they have to balance the damage that they might do to their firm with their desire to act in solidarity with their friends in other steelworks, they may conclude that they do not want to get involved in secondary action. But if they are to lose their jobs anyway—because they are in a closed shop—it becomes even more important that we review the law on immunities in tort. We have also considered the compulsory secret ballot, and I was attracted by the arguments of the hon. Member for Bethnal Green and Bow (Mr. Mikardo) that if we oblige everybody to have a secret ballot in all circumstances we shall tie the hands of trade union leaders and make it difficult for them to act quickly and efficiently in bringing their arguments to bear upon managements. But unless members can say to their trade union leader " We have considered the past five or six strikes. On balance, I do not like the way that you do things and we intend to leave the union ", they have no discipline over their leader. Once again, some of my hon. Friends and I were forced to vote for a new clause which, in detail, we rather disliked. I say to any of my hon. Friends who have voted in disagreement with my right hon. Friend " Please vote for the amendment. It is the most important." We should be united on the amendment. It goes to the core of the matter. It is not a Right-wing amendment but a libertarian amendment. We are the true repositories of the Disraelian spirit in the Tory Party. Let us unite and ensure that this is not, as my right hon. Friend said, the last chance, but the first chance and that there will be a second and more comprehensive chance to get it right.
My views on the closed shop have been put on record, not only during the Report stage but in Committee, where I moved an amendment to make the closed shop illegal. I was supported by the hon. Member for Hendon, North (Mr. Gorst) but by no other Conservative Members. Indeed, they did not even abstain but voted against the amendment and supported the Labour Members who opposed it.I believe that the closed shop is an infringement of the liberty of the individual. Any individual should have the right to belong to a trade union and, equally, any individual should have the right not to belong to a trade union. All those views I expressed in Committee. I dealt with the issue of the free rider, and I readily conceded that that was the hardest argument to answer. I expressed the view that there was a price to be paid for most liberties, and the price we had to pay for liberty in trade union matters was the price of the free rider. If the Official Opposition were saying that that was the only reason for supporting the closed shop, I should be more than willing to consider an amendment that ensured that people who were not in a union but none the less worked in a unionised factory could pay their financial dues to an acceptable cause. None of those arguments was accepted, and the net result is that the Bill does nothing to make the closed shop illegal. All that it does is to provide that anyone who loses his job as a consequence of the closed shop can claim compensation for unfair dismissal, whereas before he could not. If the Bill does not make the closed shop illegal, it is not unreasonable for it to make the principle of the closed shop more acceptable to some hon. Members and to the British public. It can never be acceptable to me in the sense that I agree with it, but, if I have to accept it, I should be able to be satisfied that the people who are required to join a union have the opportunity to say whether they wish to be forced to join a union or whether they wish to force others with whom they work to join a union. The latter principle is accepted in clause 6 in relation to future closed shop agreements. The Bill provides that, in future, for a closed shop agreement to be made legal it will have to be voted for in a ballot by 80 per cent. of the work force in the place where the closed shop is to be enforced.
Which is impossible.
I do not think it is impossible. We are not dealing here with large constituencies in the sense of people living miles away. We are talking about people employed under one roof. All they have to do is to walk from their machine to a ballot box in the middle of the factory and put the ballot paper in. I do not think that is impossible.
Does not the hon. Gentleman understand that to get a majority of 80 per cent. of the people eligible to vote in any ballot anywhere is almost an impossibility, wherever they live and whatever they do, because some people will be away ill, some will be on holiday and some will not believe in voting? In any event, does not the hon. Gentleman understand that the chances of this provision working are almost nil and the closed shop in future will be killed off by the Bill? The object of the clause is to kill off future closed shops, and the present ones as well.
With great respect to the hon. and learned Gentleman, what I know is that if there is not to be a closed shop agreement in the future it will be because at least 21 per cent. of those who work in the workshop have not indicated that they wish to have a closed shop. That is what the clause means, and 21 per cent. is a substantial minority. I intervened in the speech made by the hon. Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Radice) when he said that last night we were talking about 15 per cent. having to approve a secret ballot and now we are saying that 80 per cent. have to approve a closed shop. I intervened to say that the comparison should be between 80 per cent. and 20 per cent., not between 80 per cent. and 15 per cent.Last night, we were trying to protect the rights of minorities. That is what the clause attempts to do. It seeks to ensure that if a substantial minority—in this case, 20 per cent. or 21 per cent.—is not prepared to indicate by putting a cross on a piece of paper that it wishes to have a closed shop in its establishment, the closed shop should not be legal. That is what the Government have accepted for future closed shops. What they have not done is to make the slightest provision in the Bill to deal with existing closed shops. They have done absolutely nothing to deal with those cases. The amendment which I am supporting simply says that within two years of the passage of the Bill—I shall be perfectly frank, I prefer two years to three years because it means before the next general election—anyone working under an existing closed shop agreement shall have the right to have that closed shop agreement tested under the Bill's provisions for new closed shop agreements. I could understand it if the amendment said that it should should be re-tested every three or four years. Frankly, I would not be desperately unhappy about such a provision. But that is not what the amendment says. Therefore, one cannot argue that an amendment of this kind will cause constant industrial unrest and upsets and that we shall keep on having ballots and one thing or another, because that is not the case under the terms of the amendment. It is a one-off test of the closed shops which were approved before the operation of the Bill. At present, more than 5 million people are members of closed shop agreements. My information is that it is something like 5.3 million. A Labour Member said earlier that most of those closed shop agreements included an " easy " clause which allowed people to opt out on grounds of conscience and so on. My information is that 37 per cent. of the agreements which already exist are tight agreements which do not allow members to opt out, except in very rigid circumstances. Therefore, 37 per cent. of those agreements are known to be " tight " as opposed to " loose ". It is no use saying that all existing closed shop agreements are all right. We also hear the argument that a lot of people like them and that there have been no upsets. The fact is that many people have suffered very seriously as a result of being forced out of their jobs because they refused to join a trade union under a closed shop agreement.
The hon. Gentleman asks " How many? ". I do not know. But I do know that when this House approved the agreement for the Post Office to have workers on its board, it was approved only in order to save the Post Office union from carrying out a witch-hunt against those workers, some of whom had worked there for 30 years, who refused to join a trade union, despite the fact that a closed shop had been introduced. [HON. MEMBERS: " Rubbish ".] It is all very well for hon. Members to shout " Rubbish ", but it may interest them to know that I personally negotiated that agreement with Tom Jackson and Bryan Stanley before it came to the Floor of the House.It is no good hon. Members asking " How many?" I cannot say whether the figure is 300, 400, 500 or even three or four. However, I know that such people exist. With great respect to the hon. Member for Newton (Mr. Evans), it matters even if only one person is affected. One individual matters. We cannot say that if a half-dozen people are crucified it does not matter because only six people are involved. It matters to that half-dozen. It is important to them. 11 pm I believe, as I said last night, that the House has a responsibility to protect minorities as well as to uphold the rights of majorities. There is no doubt that even though they are a minority there are people who have suffered badly as a consequence of the closed shop. I appeal to the Secretary of State to think seriously about the amendment in the name of the hon. Member for Hen- don, North, myself and other right hon. and hon. Members on the Conservative side. It is a reasonable amendment which attempts to do something about the operation of the existing closed shop. It does not establish a new principle for approving closed shops. It merely puts into operation the principle which the Secretary of State has advocated in the Bill for new closed shops. The amendment will ensure that if we must suffer closed shops we have at least made sure that the people who are caught up in the mesh of closed shops have the opportunity to express agreement about continuing with them.
Despite the levity earlier in the debate, it has been an important and interesting discussion. Unlike some of our debates, it shows the clash of two genuine principles—that of group solidarity and loyalty versus individual liberty. They are principles which are often in conflict in society, and society has to find—and usually does—its own informal balance. That balance differs in different sectors and at different times, but my belief is that if the law is to intervene in helping to find a balance, it should do so to protect the individual, as the clause, unamended, proposes to do. For it is the individual, as opposed to the group, who is in the weaker position.Dedicated trade union activists see the need to unite in a common purpose as a prime virtue which finds its crowning expression in the closed shop. I was interested in the views of Opposition Members when we discussed the Bill in Committee, because when their minds were freewheeling and they were filling in time making points about each clause they tended to speak as the hon. Member for Newham, North-East (Mr. Leighton) has just done of the closed shop as warm, humane and mutually supportive. Such people simply do not recognise the picture of the closed shop drawn by libertarians as a means whereby employees are dragooned and marshalled against their will—and against their best interests—by shop stewards armed with the ultimate power of tearing up their union cards. I do not believe that either of those extreme views corresponds to reality. Few union members see the union as father and mother. Most of them are critical of their union and find membership rather a nuisance most of the time. But—I say this to my hon. Friend—they do not believe that union solidarity and effectiveness spring primarily from the closed shop. I believe that that solidarity is often strengthened by the closed shop at the expense of extremists, just as often, as at the expense of moderates. I suggest to my hon. Friends that if the closed shop disappeared tomorrow at the wave of a legislative wand, the forces of loyalty would still be there. Reluctant to let down colleagues would still be a strong binding factor. So, of course—one should not underestimate this—would the readiness of almost everyone to believe that he was worth even more than his representatives were arguing for him. The only real question for us is what the law should be. I believe that the ideal is quite clear. People should be free to belong to a union or not to belong to a union. [HON. MEMBERS: " Hear, hear."] Some of my hon. Friends say " Hear, hear." I hope that that will be their response to my next remark. That principle, if enforced by law, would mean banning the closed shop. Our experience in 1971 showed that that could be done. Where closed shops were well established, unions and employers acted in concert to maintain them. I do not approve of that, and most of my hon. Friends do not approve of that, but that is exactly what happened. There was no deliberate flouting of the law. Personnel managers who do their job properly select from the applicants those who they think will fit in best with the interests of the company and the work that it is doing at the time. Where a closed shop already existed in 1971, it was inevitable that that meant taking on those who were members of the union or those who were going to join it. This clause recognises that reality. It also ensures that those who do not want to join a union in a brand new closed shop will have a remedy if they lose their jobs. It ensures that those who leave a union, for whatever reason, after a closed shop has been established when the Bill is an Act will have a remedy if that closed shop has not been approved by an 80 per cent. vote. That is a high hurdle to overcome, as Labour Members have indicated. I have one reservation. Such ballots have the real disadvantage of making it possible for a minority to be denied rights at law which others have, as a result of this workmates. That is not a wholly admirable arrangement. However, it is a concept that we have to accept because of the larger virtue that it produces. But that is one reason why I am reluctant to support the amendment of my hon. Friend the Member for Hendon, North (Mr. Gorst). My hon. Friend wants to re-ballot both old and new closed shops after three years. I do not believe that that could be done without real disruption to existing industrial relations. What would happen if a re-ballot were organised and 75 per cent. voted in favour of maintaining a closed shop that had been long established?
May I make it clear to my hon. Friend that it is not necessarily a matter of re-ballotting? In many instances it is a matter of holding a ballot for the first and only time.
The question that I am putting still remains valid. What happens if 75 per cent. are in favour? Under my hon. Friend's amendment, the closed shop would become null and void. That would bring about strife and dislocation of which the public would not approve. They would not regard it as democratic if 75 per cent. had voted for the continuance of existing arrangements. They would not thank the Government for gratuitously creating conflict where it had not existed and would not exist had it not been for the amendment.
Will my hon. Friend explain why the Humberside county council had no problem when it abolished the closed shop?
Order. I cannot hear what the hon. Member for Bridlington (Mr. Townend) is saying as he has his back to me.
I apologise, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Will my hon. Friend deal with the issue that I raised earlier? When the Humberside county council abolished a closed shop that had been in operation, there were no problems. How does he account for that?
There was a determined employer who correctly judged the mood of his workpeople, acted on his principles and ended the closed shop. I hope that many other employers will operate in the same way. That can be done under the law as it exists.
What my hon. Friend is saying is sound. The denial of rights to the 75 per cent. would cause conflict, and the suggestion that this measure sought to deny the 75 per cent. rights would create the conflict that helped to destroy the 1971 Act.
That is right. My hon. Friend has put his finger on the problem posed by the amendment and the reason why the terms of the amendment do not appear in the Bill as it stands.There is a second most important argument against the proposed change. Many of my hon. Friends won their seats with trade union votes and they will know that union members are extremely conservative. They have a tendency to stick to the status quo. They would vote " Yes " in most of these ballots. A combination of union and management pressure would encourage them to do so. Hon. Members may say that we should give them the chance to choose. However, the purpose of the clause is not merely that people should vote but that they should reach a particular conclusion. I oppose the principle of the closed shop. I do not want existing closed shops to be sanctioned at regular intervals by ballots. If Opposition Members were sharp, they would support these amendments in order to confound my hon. Friends. For once, the Whigs could dish the Tories. The Bill will do as much as it can within the law. It will provide compensation for those who lose their jobs as a result of unreasonable exclusion from a union. It will give compensation to those who hold strong personal convictions that they should not belong to a union. Where a demonstrable injustice has taken place, it will provide a remedy. The Bill cannot go further without running into insoluble problems or becoming ineffective. If that were to happen, it would provide no protection. I urge my hon. Friends to oppose the amendment because it will not achieve its objective. I urge them to support the clause in its original form, because it is realistic and has been shrewdly drafted.
I congratulate the hon. Member for Fareham (Mr. Lloyd) on a courageous speech. Some Conservative Members have been wrongly called " wets ". They have come forward and expressed a reasonable point of view. The hon. Member for Hendon, North (Mr. Gorst) is inspired not by liberty but by his pathological hatred of the trade union movement. He has demonstrated that hatred on many occasions. The test of whether oppression exists is whether people kick against it. No one has yet shown that a significant body of people have said that they are oppressed by their trade union agreement. We have not seen any demonstrations, petitions, marches or lobbying of Parliament. As far as we know, hon. Members have received little correspondence on this issue.Why is there such great debate? It may result from the pathological hatred of Conservative Members for the trade union movement.
Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will deal with the point raised by the hon. Member for Rochdale (Mr. Smith) concerning the protection of minorities. Does it matter whether 4,000 people march round Parliament Square, or is it more important that four people have complained of trade union oppression? It is a matter of principle. Not one Opposition Member appears to consider that important.
I was just about to discuss that point. Many Tory Members not only hate the trade union movement but have no confidence that the people of Britain can look after themselves. By attending their trade union branches and by taking an interest in trade union affairs, people can do whatever they wish within that movement. That they do not do so is an exercise of freedom on their part. They will defend their rights if they feel that they are being taken away.11.15 pm It goes further than that. We have heard the boast ad nauseam that 5 million trade unionists voted Tory at the last general election. Are Conservative Members suggesting that those 5 million Tories are so pathetic and inactive that they cannot take over trade union branches or executives? If they have 5 million people in the trade union movement, they do not need legislation—they could run the trade union movement tomorrow. If the Tories believe what they say, why do they not get off their bottoms and organise the country instead of making stupid amendments to a Bill which will undermine the rights that trade unionists have enjoyed for more than 100 years? Trade union agreements are not just one-sided. They exist because they have been agreed between employers and trade unions. These membership agreements could be ended by either side at any time. We do not know the consequences of this—they may be bad, and they may be good. The hon. Member for Bridlington (Mr. Townend) undermined his hon. Friend's case when he said that his Tory friends, on taking control of the county council, ended the union membership agreement within a week. It is already open for trade union membership agreements to be ended if the people involved do not wish them to continue. It is nonsense that we should spend so much time debating these amendments. Many Tories really want to smash trade union membership agreements because they wish to undermine and weaken the organisations protecting the rights of workers. They have been trying to do this for a long time, and if they pass these amendments they will be well on the way to achieving that goal. I shall vote against the amendments on that basis.
At the time of the general election, I was under the impression that the biggest swing to the Conservatives was among trade unionists and that they voted for us because they believed that we would protect them from some aspects of their trade union leadership. It is our duty to fulfil that expectation that they expressed by voting for us.I had considerable hesitation about supporting the amendment of my hon. Friend the Member for Hendon, North (Mr. Gorst) this evening because, like the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond) and the hon. Member for Rochdale (Mr. Smith), I am absolutely opposed in principle to the closed shop. The effect of the amendment is to provide that where 80 per cent. of people in employment vote for a closed shop, there shall be a closed shop. I felt some difficulty in casting my vote in support of that inference. However, one is limited by the practicalities of a Bill at this stage, and the principle embodied in the amendments is embodied in the Bill in relation to future closed shops. Therefore, at the risk of being misunderstood, I shall support the amendment. The hon. Member for Newham, North-East (Mr. Leighton) gave us a description of the operation of a closed shop in the printing industry. Instead of being reassured, I got the feeling that I was listening to some sort of " Gulag Archipelago ". Everybody had to attend. A person who failed to attend for three meetings running was expelled. In a closed shop, I presume that he was not merely expelled from the union but expelled from the job in which his skill rested and was turned out on the labour market with, I assume, virtually no chance of re-employment at comparable level. That does not seem much of an argument in favour of closed shops. The objection to the closed shop is not only that of libertarian principle—that people should be free to join or not to join. It is also the link between membership of the union and employment. It is tyrannous that anyone who gets into bad standing with his union can be deprived of his employment or his career without any remedy. I did not hear any arguments from the Opposition Members addressed to that point. I cannot see how this can be reinforced with the practice of a free society. I had reached that conclusion on principle. I am reinforced in it by the fact that the other nations of the world appear to take the same view. This is something that we have almost to ourselves. Something so remarkable must be justified either by the general practice of mankind or by some cogent, specific and logical arguments explaining why it is right. The House has heard neither. It is a little surprising that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has not thought it possible to face up to this problem in the Bill. I believe that he has not done so because he fears that there would be a powerful reaction from trade union leaders and that it is not altogether acceptable to some managers. I agree strongly with hon. Members, on both sides of the House, who have commented on the irrelevance of the attitudes of certain managements. It is due primarily, I believe, to laziness. It is easy for a management to deal with the closed shop. It saves all the trouble of dealing with people individually. It has led to the rate for the job. It has led to the bad worker being paid as much as the good worker because the management is too lazy to make distinctions. On the trade union side, it is obvious that it would diminish the power of the most militant union leader. I do not believe that the division of opinion on this matter coincides with political parties. I believe that plenty of hon. Members in the Labour Party think as I do about the closed shop. It is, however, more difficult for them to say what they think than it is for me. On my side, in politics there is a certain temptation to appear to be on the middle ground by adopting some of the postures of trade unionism. I cherish the memory, in the same month, in 1951, when I heard Sir David Maxwell Fyfe, on behalf of the Conservative Party, say that the Tory Party would go to the stake for the right to strike and Aneurin Bevan say that strikes were an anachronism in the second half of the twentieth century. Aneurin Bevan was right. A strike in our highly complicated, interdependent society is like taking a sledgehammer to a computer. It is lunacy to conduct our affairs in this way. Somehow, we must find a sensible answer which is not so destructive of an advanced society. A small but real contribution will be made to that achievement by supporting the amendment which my hon. Friend the Member for Hendon, North has put forward. I shall support it.
At least, the hon and learned Member for Beacons-field (Sir R. Bell) has a refreshing honesty and candour about his libertarian approach. No one would accuse him of adopting the posture of a trade unionist. He makes it plain that he dislikes all closed shops and would be rid of the lot. He is clear that he is trying to destroy that form of trade union activity.The proponents of the clause maintain and pretend that that is not what they are doing. They say that they are pre- pared to preserve closed shops, provided that they adhere to certain rules. The hon. Member for Rochdale (Mr. Smith) said that 80 per cent. was reasonable. I invite hon. Members to consider whether any of them would be in the House if they had to achieve 80 per cent. of the vote—whether 80 per cent. of those who voted or, still less, 80 per cent. of those who were eligible to vote. Unfortunately, 80 per cent. of those eligible never vote, even in the bluest of blue areas in the most Tory of Tory constituencies. I see that there is an exception.
Is the hon. and learned Gentleman aware that in my constituency there is a vote in excess of 80 per cent. regularly?
The hon. Gentleman has every reason to be proud of the turnout, and his electorate has every reason to be amazed at its result.We must consider what closed shops mean. Conservative Members are right to say that a closed shop applies a restriction on freedom. A person who does not join a union does not have the freedom to work where a closed shop exists unless he can opt out under the agreement or has a religious objection. There is a clash of freedoms. Members of a trade union also have a freedom. It is not unrerasonable for them to say " We do not want to work with people who will not join our union. We pay our dues and have made our sacrifices. You may have a freedom to work, but we have the freedom to say that we do not want to work with you." If Conservative Members do not recognise that view, they have no understanding of the basic philosophical difference which lies at the root of this important debate. There is a clash throughout our law. There is a clash between those who want to have freedom of speech and those who do not wish to be defamed. There is a clash between those who wish to march through our streets with then-banners, crying racist slogans, and the freedom of others not to have their lives disturbed. The question is where we should draw the line. The hon. and learned Member for Beaconsfield draws the line in favour of people who say that there should be total freedom to work without closed shops. He is entitled to be wrong—it is a free country. We take a different view. We say that on balance we consider that ordinary working people have the right to say that they have built up their trade union movement and have induced their employers to agree to a closed shou which the Bill rightly refers to as a union membership agreement, under which workers agree to join a union, pre-entry or post-entry. They are entitled to that freedom.
Will my hon. and learned Friend make it clear that when someone approaches a closed shop and does not particularly want to join a union, he has a freedom? The shop steward will inform that person that certain wages and safety conditions have been established for the benefit of members. He will say "You are free to join us and join our trade union, or you are free to find a job elsewhere. The choice is yours."
Yes, I agree, but the choice is, of course, a limited one, in the same way as we have a limited choice in all other aspects of our life.I take the view that, when there is a substantial majority of people in favour of a closed shop, it is on balance right that the closed shop should be allowed to exist if the union and the management agree to it. The logical outcome of the amendment is that we should return to the situation which existed between 1971 and 1974. I wonder whether hon. Members recall that. At at that time, in the absence——
Were there ballots on closed shops between 1971 and 1974? Will the hon. and learned Gentleman accept that throughout the country there are probably at this moment a great number of closed shops the members of which do not want to be in a closed shop? How on earth can they get out of a closed shop situation unless they have the ballot which we are suggesting?
There are millions of people who deeply regret having this Government, but they have to put up with them for the moment. In our democracy we have to put up with things that we do not necessarily like, because no democracy and no system is perfect. Any system which allows the present lot to be elected as the Government is far from perfect, but people have to put up with it until the next election. [HON. MEMBERS: " Yes, a ballot."] Sometimes a ballot takes place and the results are very unsatisfactory.From 1971 until 1974 closed shops were to all intents and purposes unlawful. With the exception of those arrangements which were called agency shop agreements, of which there were only a couple, one of them being among seamen, all closed shops were theoretically unlawful. What happened in reality was that the closed shops remained in being in spite of their being unlawful, because a management wanted them to remain. They remained in being partly because the trade unions said that they would not have these arrangements destroyed, and they remained in force also—hon. Members ought to recognise this—because practical people who work in industry, as one hon. Member on the Government Back Benches courageously said, ordinary personnel managers and industrial relations managers, generally prefer to work in a closed shop situation. That is the view taken by managements not, as the hon. and learned Member for Beaconsfield said, because they cannot be bothered to negotiate with individuals. In the large organisations in which people work, one cannot do that. It is not merely convenient but right to have these arrangements, because one can then negotiate with an integrated work force and its elected representatives. That is the way to have good industrial relations. The divide-and-rule system so beloved by Conservatives destroys good industrial relations, and the sort of system now proposed, tacked on to a Bill which is bad enough already, will achieve the ultimate destruction of such industrial relations in exactly the same way as they were destroyed between 1971 and 1974. Conservative Members are fully entitled, as we are, to have their philosophical beliefs, but when they are dealing with legislation they ought to have regard to the havoc that those beliefs may cause if they are implemented through the sort of action recommended by hon. Members tonight, whose speeches reveal that they have not a clue about the way that industrial relations operate on the shop floor and how the law forces people into situations where it is not the responsible trade union leaders, as they call them. who succeed, but the breakaways, the independents, the wildcats, as they choose to call them, or what they regard as the extremists, who can take action because the others do not have the power.
Will my hon. and learned Friend also refer to another freedom—the freedom or licence of employers not to have a trade union at their place of work?
My hon. Friend is correct. The removal of the recognition procedures by the Bill without their replacement by other measures is a further invitation to chaos.These are bad amendments, tacked on to a bad Bill. If they are implemented, the result will be disastrous. I trust that the House will recall what happened in the past when similar arrangements were made and that hon. Members will join together to reject this extremely ill-thought-out and bad amendment.
I hope that the House will forgive me for a moment if I pay a short tribute to Sir John Methven, who died this afternoon. He was a powerful personality, and he made an immense contribution to British industry and to the Confederation of British Industry. In public he was a powerful advocate for his case, and in private he was a warm and very gentle man. The nation is very much the poorer for his passing from us. I thought that the House would like to join tonight in sending our sympathy to his widow. [Hon. Members: " Hear, hear."]Once again, we have had a serious debate, at times quite light-hearted, but underlying the light-heartedness a serious debate. It was not an easy debate for me to answer. I am grateful to many of my hon. Friends who have made kind remarks about me—but who have then said that despite those kind remarks they intend to vote against the Government tonight.
Do not worry. You have friends over here.
That is the sort of remark that always worries me.Passions have always run high on the subject of the closed shop. The debate has been wide. I should like to try, within the rules of order and within the rules of the amendments, to find a message to convey to my hon. Friends, to the House and to the country. All Conservative Members—and, I suspect, some Labour Members also—find the closed shop objectionable. Therefore, in Opposition we gave considerable thought to how best we should proceed on this issue. There was much debate and discussion on the subject, and we always came back to the approach that is embodied in the Bill. Our paramount concern throughout has been to provide effective and proper safeguards for the individual. But we also had to recognise that a simple attempt to ban closed shops would be ineffective. Worse, trying to outlaw the closed shop would sometimes be harmful to the individuals concerned. The evidence of the 1971 Act in this regard suggests that informal agreements-agreements under the counter—may continue even if formal ones are banned. Speaking about closed shops, my hon. Friend the Member for Grantham (Mr. Hogg) said that it is tremendously important—he was speaking as a lawyer—that we do not pass legislation that we cannot enforce. There is a real danger—this was borne out by the experience last time round—of passing legislation which cannot be enforced. Such informal agreements as then result may restrict the individual's right to work far more than an open agreement which is regulated and limited. The belief of my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, Southwest (Mr. Budgen)—which we all share—is consistent with what we seek to do in the Bill. We are seeking to protect the rights of the individual within a closed shop situation.
Will my right hon. Friend give way?
I will, but I do not want to give way too many times.
I am grateful to my right hon. Friend. I shall be extremely brief. Does my right hon. Friend accept that the consequence of the legislation as now formed is to protect—and rightly protect—the 54 per cent. of the manual work force not yet in closed shops but to abandon with no hope for the future the 46 per cent. who are now in closed shops?
I do not accept that for one moment. I shall, I hope, go on to convince my hon. Friend why that is not so. From the Government's point of view, the proposal, which could make formal agreements null and void, is fraught with dangers and risks.There is another vital consideration that the Government have to bear in mind. The Bill deals with specific union abuses and bad practices, and I believe that it does so adequately and effectively. At the same time, we must see that in doing that we do not hamstring industry and prevent employers and managements from getting on with the job. In seeking to tackle the problems of industrial relations, we must make sure that we do not create more problems than we solve, that we do not undermine managements and responsible union leadership and that we do not create more disruption and unrest rather than less. That consideration is reflected in the whole character of the Bill. That is why we are not setting out to impose rigid blueprints from on high. Rather, our whole approach has been to establish satisfactory ground rules which can be built on by all concerned throughout industry. In an earlier debate, my hon. Friend the Member for Hendon, North (Mr. Gorst) recognised in what he said that that was happening. He went into some detail about a recent survey which showed that the vast majority of closed shops were now recognising that proper protection for individuals must be written in. That is something that we need to see, and it is beginning to happen. It is an approach which seeks to provide workable remedies and to restore the opportunity for people in industry to sort out their own problems in a flexible and practical way. I believe that this approach fits in well with the mood of the time. The new approach does not reveal itself simply in a change in attitude to the closed shop or in a secession by employers from closed shop agreements, though employers are free unilaterally to end such agreements. My hon. Friend the Member for Bridlington (Mr. Townend) talked about Humberside doing just that. That was their judgment. Obviously, in their case it was correct. Other manage- ments are free at any time, if they believe in their judgment that it is right for their industrial relations and for their work force, to do so. It is increasingly clear that employers and managements, where they think it necessary to maintain closed shop arrangements, are paying more attention to the protection of individual rights and are not inhibited in their bargaining stance by the fact that a closed shop may exist. The TUC has shown its awareness of the possible dangers in inflexible closed shop arrangements by the guide that it put out a year ago. The general approach of the Government has two main strands. First, we want to support employers in adopting a firm and responsible approach to closed shops which may be proposed or to which they are already party. Secondly, we intend to deal with the abuses of existing as well as new closed shops by providing individuals with rights which will deter unions or employers in the circumstances of the closed shop from unreasonably seeking to deprive a man of his right to work because of his sincere beliefs. 11.45 pm. I come to the points that I wish to draw to the attention of my hon. Friend the Member for Hendon, North. The Bill contains a number of important provisions. It does not do justice to the Bill simply to point—as some of my hon. Friends have done tonight—to that part of clause 6 which deals with ballots for new closed shops entered into after the Bill becomes law. The hon. Member for Rochdale (Mr. Smith) was quite wrong to say that the Bill does nothing for existing closed shops. I hope that in the next five minutes I shall prove that it does a good deal for individual protection within closed shops. First, the Bill provides protection for those who may be unreasonably excluded or expelled from their union in a closed shop. The impact of that should not be underestimated. It will reinforce responsible trade union behaviour, diminish the possibility of intimidation in closed shops and support individual members in resisting what they regard as unreasonable demands from their unions. Secondly, clause 6—in addition to providing for ballots where new closed shops are entered into—will provide protection for existing non-union employees in both existing and new closed shops and for those who object, on grounds of conscience or any other deeply held conviction, to being members of any trade union whatsoever or to a certain trade union. That significant new protection will apply also to existing as well as new closed shops. Together with the other measures, it will help to prevent the closed shop from being exploited to the detriment of individual rights. Thirdly, the protection afforded by clause 6 against unfair dismissal in a closed shop will be reflected in, and reinforced by, the protection provided by clause 14 against action by the employer short of dismissal. Fourthly, clauses 9 and 14 will have the effect of deterring trade unions from exercising pressure by way of forming, organising, procuring or financing industrial action, or even threatening to secure dismissal. Fifthly, there is clause 16. My hon. Friends have said much about employees and employers who may find themselves locked into closed shops against their will. There is the notorious example of those employers and employees who have been the victims of the activities of SLADE and who have been dragooned into closed shops. Nobody has been more vehemently critical than I of such tactics. Clause 16 will enable employers who have been affected by the action of SLADE and any similar employers to terminate the closed shop arrangements into which they may have entered unwillingly, without fear of secondary industrial reprisals being taken against them. Finally, I have undertaken to produce a code of practice on the closed shop under the provision of clause 2. That will cover the question of a periodic review of support for closed shop arrangements. Major employer groups have said to us that reviewing the level of support for closed shop arrangements will need careful handling if it is not to be exploited and that is should, therefore, be handled in a code. I endorse that view, and the code will provide clear guidance for employers and unions on the matter. The Government have to consult widely under clause 2, and later this year further advice and guidance will be given in the code of practice. The Government will be looking to the various people who should be consulted on the matter, and I am confident that, on a broad front, they will encourage managements to reappraise, on a continuing basis, whether the closed shop agreements to which they may be party are really necessary in current circumstances. That voluntary effect, together with the statutory back-up that I have described, will lead us progressively, and in a practical and realistic way, towards the goal that my hon. Friends and I have in common. The Bill incorporates a range of provisions that will help to prevent the abuses to which the closed shop can give rise, to encourage responsible employer and trade union behaviour and to support employers in taking a hard and realistic look at their existing closed shop arrangements.