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Volume 983: debated on Wednesday 30 April 1980

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.

Amendment made: No. 20, in page 24, line 25, at end insert ' Section 13(3) '.—[ Mr. Prior.]

9.1 pm

I beg to move, That the Bill be now read the Third time.

This is without doubt, a much better Bill now, both in substance and in detail, and we are grateful for the manner in which its provisions have been scrutinised and debated both in Standing Committee and on the Floor of the House. It is worth looking back, in a brief speech, to its origins. At the general election and for some years before, I think that there was no subject that the whole country found more important than industrial relations. Nearly everywhere people could be found who believed that in one respect or another our country was getting the balance wrong. Millions, I believe, thought that the unions were allowed to get away with things that were unfair to ordinary working people. Millions of people—I shall be frank—were worried as to what would happen if a Conservative Government sought to curtail those privileges. Many more millions of people were deeply afraid of what would happen if a Labour Government did not try to curtail those privileges—as they knew would be the case. My right hon. Friend, when in opposition, gave years to exploring how a fairer balance might practicably be obtained, and I can think of no political task making greater demands upon good judgment. Its consequences were that our manifesto set out an unusually detailed programme. That programme's scheme was to make changes that were limited, certainly, but which were none the less vital. It seemed to find some useful approval. We were supported at the general election by not far short of 5 million trade union members. That scheme is now implemented in the Bill.

I doubt whether any Bill in modern times has been preceded by more detailed consultation. Its final form incorporated features reflecting views which had been pressed upon us from very many quarters, including the TUC. The stakes that we are playing for surely warranted that degree of deliberation. We want the Bill to stick. The heart of it lies in the proposals for public funds for secret ballots; the proposals for mitigating the injustices caused by the closed shop—yet without outlawing that all too deeply-rooted institution; for controlling secondary picketing; and for restricting trade union immunity for blacking and other secondary industrial action.

I do not place much faith in polls. However, these measures seem remarkably popular among trade unionists. The support for these measures is not surprising. People want secret ballots. To have them paid for is hardly to suffer a crippling attack on a fundamental human right.

We have widened the scope of the Bill to take account of valuable points raised by the Opposition in Committee. People want sensible safeguards and exemptions in closed shop agreements. They are frightened of the power of expulsion that their unions hold. Why should they not be compensated for unreasonable expulsion, when a card torn up a is a right to work denied? Why should religion provide the sole ground for conscientious exemption?

People are frightened by secondary picketing. It is intended that they should be frightened. They see it as a bullying intrusion by outsiders. Lawful picketing should be restricted to the place where the picket works. However, we have improved clause 15, so that appropriate union officials can take part.

People are resentful of secondary blacking, and are often gravely harmed by it. The new clause restricts immunity in a way that accords with industrial reality and industrial expectations. Beyond that line, it restores the protection that common law has always afforded. It is up to employers affected by secondary blacking to make use of the common law rights that are now being returned to them.

The Bill owes much to comments that we received from industry on secondary blacking, during consideration of the February working paper. It represents our immediate response. We had to make an immediate response to the McShane decision given in the House of Lords, which was made after the Bill had been published. However, immunities are immensely difficult. We shall discuss them further in a Green Paper to be published later this year.

The function of the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service in recognition issues, and of the CAC in awarding terms and conditions, has given rise to great difficulties in practice. In Committee, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State was pressed strongly to consider any further representations that might be made about the CAC. He agreed to do so. On both these issues the Bill reflects our view that, on balance, these matters are best left to negotiation and conciliation between the parties. We think that that is right.

I turn lastly to the job protection provisions in the Bill. Two years ago, Lord Lever said that we should take care that the Employment Protection Act did not become an employment destruction Act. We cannot afford to neglect any means that can be achieved—without seriously restricting the job protection rights that we support—of encouraging employment and of encouraging the small business in particular to expand. That is the purpose of the useful and practical adjustments that we are making. Our good faith is illustrated by the new clause—widely welcomed—which gives pregnant women a right to a reasonable amount of time off with pay, for the purpose of visiting a prenatal clinic, where that is medically advised.

The purpose of the Bill is to help to establish a practicable and balanced framework of law, within which people may bargain with each other within in- dustry upon a fair legal footing. The Bill is practical, balanced and fair. Its Third Reading is deserved.

9.8 pm

I shall not take up much time, as several hon. Members wish to address the House. The Bill has been before Parliament for four and a half months. During that time the Opposition have tried to expose its provocative and damaging nature. We have also tried to expose its irrelevance. We could not have done that without the support of my right hon. Friend the Member for Doncaster (Mr. Walker), my hon. Friend the I Member for Islington, Central (Mr. Grant), and the other members of the Standing Committee.

We have exposed the fact that it is a damaging measure, which fails to deal with the economic problems that face the nation. I suspect that the Secretary of State has not derived much satisfaction from our proceedings over the past few months. Day after day he has had to face the insults and goading of the Tory press, especially the Daily Express. That, in turn, has encouraged some of the extremists who sit on the Conservative Benches. I see that the hon. Member for Reigate (Mr. Gardiner) is in his place. No doubt the hon. Gentleman will seek to catch your eye, Mr. Deputy Speaker. It is the hon. Gentleman's opinion that at least 100 Tory Back Benchers will not be satisfied with the Bill. Last weekend the Sunday People stated:
" the dogs having tasted blood are unlikely to stop now."
It has amazed me that over the past few months not one of the Secretary of State's senior colleagues has taken the trouble to support him in any speech made outside the House.

There may have been one or two, but they have been largely silent outside the House. I shall give way to the hon. Gentleman if he can tell me which senior Cabinet colleague has supported the right hon. Gentleman in any weekend speech on this measure. The hon. Gentleman's reaction indicates the isolation of the right hon. Gentleman.

My right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science was speaking in my constituency recently, and he was fulsome in his praise of my right hon. Friend.

That must have been one of the few Tory speeches that was not reported. All the so-called moderates in the Cabinet—for example, the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, the Secretary of State for the Home Department and the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs—have been silent. That is to be deeply regretted.

It worries me that some of the right hon. Gentleman's colleagues may be afraid to incur the displeasure of the Prime Minister. At Bournemouth on 22 March the right hon. Lady used the same platform as the right hon. Gentleman to undermine his approach. She said:
" We shall be making further reforms ".
That indicates that the Government will be introducing further measures.

We have enjoyed this ritual several times in Committee. Will the right hon. Gentleman be kind enough to tell the House which provision in the Bill he supports?

It is customary on Third Reading to make some introductory remarks before turning to the measures included in the Bill. Conservative Members—[Interruption.] I can understand the difficulty of Conservative Members. They are trying by their frivolity to disguise the great divisions within the Conservative Party. The hon. Member for Hendon, North (Mr. Gorst) called the Secretary of State a coward, or referred to a cowardly act. It was something of that sort. I shall, of course, give way to the hon. Gentleman if he wishes to intervene.

Surely there is no dispute that the hon. Member for Reigate said in a speech during the weekend—it was well reported—that 100 Conservative Members in one way or another do not support the right hon. Gentleman. Indeed, they have defied him on more than three occasions. It is surely legitimate for the Opposition to say that that is the position and that there are great divisions within the Conservative Party.

I wish to set the record straight. Far from questioning my right hon. Friend's courage, I admire not only his courage but his temerity.

Does the hon. Gentleman categorically deny using the word " cowardly " in relation to his right hon. Friend?

The hon. Gentleman is wriggling.

I say all this to point out the divisions. Hon. Gentlemen may laugh now, knowing that they will escape to their Division. However, if the Prime Minister has her way, we shall be back here before too long with further legislation.

The Secretary of State does not want to bring forward further legislation on industrial relations. Last week, in answer to one of his hon. Friends, the right hon. Gentleman said that although he would produce a Green Paper there was no guarantee that legislation would result. That is not what the Prime Minister is saying. The House will be faced with a further measure before the year is out.

I shall not give way again. Other hon. Members wish to take part in the debate, and I understand that we are anxious to move to a vote.

Free trade unionism is a right to be enjoyed and exercised responsibly. Having listened to debates, I have increasingly formed the impression that a sizeable proportion of Conservative Members regard trade unionism as a crime to be punished. The Bill has started the punishing process. It will have a far-reaching impact on trade union and individual rights. Most of its provisions are a recipe for trouble making and legalistic formulae. The courts, particularly the Court of Appeal, will have a field day with this legislation. That is why the trade unions and some sensible employers' associations oppose it. The weakening of the Employment Protection Act by clauses 10 and 11, which relate to women's rights, maternity pay, and the right to return to work after having a baby, is petty, spiteful and mean. History will record with disbelief that a Government headed for the first time by a woman approved such squalid measures.

The Secretary of State has been thumbing through the Conservative Party manifesto. I am sure that he will say that the Bill had the approval of the electorate, but I defy the right hon. Gentleman and any other hon. Gentleman to point out where in any of their publications prior to the Election it was stated that they would take away women's rights to maternity pay and the right to return to work. Without strong backing from a strong trade union no woman will have a hope of getting her job back after having a baby. The Prime Minister will be able to boast that her Government reduced employment rights for women in Britain and that they became far worse off than most of their European counterparts.

The proposals for so-called secondary picketing and secondary action will mean that more industrial disputes go before the courts than ever in the past. I do not believe that a judge should be asked to inspect all the complexities of trade union-employer disputes. It will certainly not improve industrial relations. Experience shows that when the courts are involved industrial relations deteriorate. The Government's record on industrial relations is already disastrous. I have given chapter and verse for disputes in previous debates. At the last count 27 million working days had been lost. The Employment Gazette has not yet been published, so we do not know the up-to-date figures. That is twice as bad as the performance in the period of the last Conservative Government, headed by the right hon. Member for Sid-cup (Mr. Heath).

In this short debate I can only highlight a few of the far-reaching implications that this Bill will have for industrial relations. The Government have missed an opportunity to win the support of the trade union movement. They have missed the chance to persuade the trade unions to implement their own voluntary guides and build on them. Only a couple of hours ago the Minister was paying tribute to those guides, but the Government have missed the opportunity. If they say, as they have, to the trade union movement " We will not take any notice of your guides—we do not regard them very highly and we will move immediately to legislation ", the trade union movement will say " Get on with it, and do not expect any help from us." That is precisely what is likely to happen.

I do not remember a period in the last 20 years when co-operation with the trade union movement was more important and more urgently required. With inflation running at 20 per cent. and going higher, with investment and business confidence at the lowest ebb for many years, with unemployment rising to 2 million, and with young people leaving school only to be told that society has no use for them, we are debating a measure that is a great irrelevance. This is a Bill to satisfy the irrational emotional vendetta that the Prime Minister has against the trade union movement.

When this Bill becomes law, it will be a failure. It will cure no industrial disputes, but it will cause many. Along with many other measures that the Government are putting on the statute book, it will cause ill feeling and contribute further to our relative industrial decline. That is why we shall vote against it tonight.

9.22 pm

I cannot help feeling that when the right hon. Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Varley) reads his speech in Hansard in the morning, he will be rather ashamed of it. We are entitled to believe that he knows something about industrial relations, but tonight he did not contribute one iota to the debate on Third Reading. Coming from the Labour Party, there can be no doubt that he is an expert on the question of party splits. He certainly tried his hardest to make what he could of the fact that not all members of the Conservative Party, or of any party, agree completely with everything that is in this Bill. There are some things in it that I do not agree with, but I shall unhesitatingly vote in favour of the Third Reading tonight.

Having said that there are parts of the Bill with which I disagree, I wish to congratulate my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State very sincerely, because he has done a Herculean task. From the very start the Bill was bound to cause opposition from all parts of the House for all kinds of different reasons. After all, this is an extremely difficult and sensitive area and there is no place for a bull in the china shop of industrial relations.

That view is not imcompatible with the honourable intention of carrying out our election promises, nor with adhering to certain basic principles for which the Conservative Party stands. A major part of my political philosophy is a deep and passionate love of freedom. I could not live in a country where individual freedom did not exist. I accept that, paradoxically, there cannot be true freedom without some restrictions, notably the restriction that one must never infringe the rights and liberties of others in pursuing one's own freedom. However, that does not arise in this context.

In a free country it cannot be right to compel people to join trade unions against their will, or to stay in them in contravention of all they believe. I would no more seek to force a pacifist to fight than force a man or woman with fundamental objections to what a union is doing to belong to that union. It is monstrous that a man should be denied the ability to earn his living in his chosen trade unless he joins the union and does exactly what he is told. We are dealing with a very important freedom here. A man has the right to pursue his trade and if he may only pursue it as a union member, then there is something very wrong because some union rules are quite unacceptable. I have had a very interesting time reading some of the rules of our trade unions and I find that almost all of them have rules pledging the union and its members to political ends. The NUR, in rule 4(a)——

Order. The hon. Lady is, of course, addressing herself to what is in that Bill.

I do not, Mr. Deputy Speaker, with the greatest respect, think that I can be faulted in this matter, because I am talking about the fact that individuals must join unions and, within the context of the Bill, I am worried that there is insufficient freedom to avoid union membership. Surely it is perfectly relevant and, I submit, most important, to point out that, if one can work only by joining a union and the rules of the union say what they do, some of us should be concerned that the Bill itself does not in all degrees protect people from——

Order. That is what I rather feared the hon. Lady was leading up to. It is not the matters that are not in the Bill which are relevant tonight; it is the matters which are in the Bill that are relevant.

None the less, I think you would agree, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that one is perfectly entitled to answer questions put from the opposite side of the House. I was specifically asked which parts of the Bill I did not agree with. I shall pass on, of course, and take your guidance, save only to say that it cannot be right only to have very limited protection from being forced to pursue a certain political end.

I want to ask my right hon. Friend whether he will let me know about certain constituency cases I have and whether his Bill will or will not protect these people. I raise the case first of a man named John Carney, a quiet, decent. hard-working man, an uncomplaining member of the ASTMS for many years. In fact, he has had to be, because if he had not been he would not have worked. I am not saying for a moment that the membership did not confer benefits, and the Bill itself recognises all the way through that this has been the case.

This man has paid his dues for many years but felt very strongly about a particular issue of conscience, namely abortion. Because of the complexity of this Bill I have been unable to find out whether he will be protected when it is passed. Whichever side of that argument his beliefs fall does not alter by one iota the case I am putting forward. As a Roman Catholic—which I am not—he believes very strongly that this particular union's activities in pushing the cause of abortion on demand is something that he cannot support. His dues also support that campaign. He has tried very hard within his rights, to leave the union. I am most anxious to know what the Bill will do for him.

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Will the hon. Lady tell us where in this Bill there is anything about abortion? Are we not getting into ridiculous areas now?

I have already pointed out to the hon. Lady what would be in order. I am just waiting to see how her argument is developing.

The argument is perfectly in order, I submit, because a basic tenet of this Bill and what it is trying to do for trade union members as well as for the public is the alteration of the situation from what it is at present——

No, I will not give way, because other hon. Members wish to speak and I want to be quick

The point is that if a union member has a point of conscience——

No, I will not give way.

If a member of a trade union has a perfectly legitimate conscientious objection to membership of that union, will he still be forced to be in it? This particular man has been trying for five years to be allowed to leave that union. He was told that he could not leave the union. The firm has an agreement with that union that if there are religious objections the person can pay his union dues into a charity. He has tried to do this and has nominated a charity, because he has no wish to avoid paying his union dues.

In January he completed the official form of resignation. Now I come to the thing that worries me, and to what I want to know about with regard to this Bill There was actually a vote within the union, which decided that he could not leave the union. So he has had to leave his job. Can I tell him that this Bill will help him or not?

Last month the Transport and General Workers Union branch at Davenports in Birmingham voted for a 24-hour official strike. The engineering department voted unanimously not to strike and the management said there would be work for the engineering branch, but it had to back down because force was exerted by the union. Can I tell my constituents that this Bill will not stop situations of that kind and protect their right to work?

In Birmingham there is a scandalous state of affairs in the printing industry. All recruitment must be done through the union office. No person is allowed to apply for or accept a job except under the terms laid down by the unions—that is either SLADE or NGA. This can, and indeed does, give rise to all sorts of coercion of individuals and companies and gives the unions a monopoly in the supply of labour, which, there can be no doubt at all, strikes at the very roots of individual freedom.

What I am asking is whether the Bill will help the widow who came to me for advice. She had taken on her husband's printing firm and had to recruit to replace him and also another person who had retired. She had been told by the unions that they would not permit her to take on any new labour unless the unions—and the firm was not unionised—were allowed to nominate the people she should employ. Will the Bill stop that? To my mind the closed shop is an evil. The Bill encompasses the closed shop and does certain things to help people with regard to sackings through closed shops.

But what of the situation of the person who cannot move because of the diktat of the unions? Will the Bill help that person? The closed shop is an evil. Managements may find it convenient and I know that this has been a very important point to my right hon. Friend in weighing up the Bill's content, but it is still an evil. The unions are, I think, the most powerful estate in our land, and to operate such force on the backs of bound men cannot be right. Certainly, it is not compatible with freedom. My reservations about the Bill lie in that area. However, as I have said, I shall have no hesitation in supporting it.

I want people to have freedom from coercion, violence and fear with regard to union membership and the use of their labour. But I well understand my right hon. Friend's difficulties. He has tried to reach, through the prickly and easily offended topsoil, to the strata of reason and moderation of the ordinary trade unionists. However, the man to whom I referred has experienced the kind of terrorism of which I have spoken. He looks to us—there is no glimmer of hope for him in looking to the Labour Party—to protect him, his jobs, his wife and his family from fear. Does the Bill do that?

9.35 pm

I was beginning to think that we were back at Question Time. That was a most remarkable Third Reading speech. It consisted of a series of questions to which, no doubt, the right hon. Gentleman will reply in due course. However, it would have been appropriate to use a different occasion for putting questions.

What has worried me ever since the Bill began its tortuous course is that the public, who are dependent on the press, television and radio for their information, know very little about its contents or about its implications.—[HON MEMBERS: " They are on strike."]—Well, the press has not been on strike for the last three months. I do not wish to be unduly critical of the press, because I realise that with the plethora of Bills which the Government are pushing through in their headlong rush to create a new record for the amount of legislation in one session—I am sure they are aiming to get into the Guinness Book of Records—it would be impossible for any newspaper to give more than cursory attention to any Bill. But even the most avid reader of the national daily press—I notice that the press is sparsely represented in the Gallery at present—is unlikely to have any knowledge of what the Bill is about.

The 32 sittings of the Committee received hardly any coverage at all, and press descriptions of the Bill have been generalities. It has described it as a Bill to curb trade union power, to reduce trade union immunities and things such as that. The impression has been assiduously cultivated that it is a fairly moderate measure, that the Secretary of State is a very moderate chap and that this is all part of the " softly, softly " approach. That just is not true.

I appreciate what my right hon. Friend the Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Varley) said about the right hon. Gentleman's difficulties in Cabinet, but it is all a matter of relativity. It simply means that those who are against him are even more extreme than he is. The fact is that this is an extreme measure. There should be no doubt about that in people's minds. It is clearly calculated not merely to curb powers but also to shackle the trade union movement by placing many traditional practices beyond the protection of the law. It goes very much further, and this is a point which the public have not yet grasped. It is also a measure to erode the rights of individual employees, whether trade unionists or not, by taking away rights which in many cases they have enjoyed for generations. Sooner or later, people will realise what is happening.

Many Conservative Members are fond of telling us that they have a mandate for this and that they were elected on their manifesto. But, in large measure, the contents of the Bill were not foreshadowed in the Conservative manifesto. Its provisions were not spelt out. I accept that in principle the Government have a mandate so far as mandates exist under our constitution, and I accept that they promised to reduce the power of trade unions. But so far as I can recall, they did not promise to launch an onslaught on the hard-won rights of individual citizens. That is what the Bill will do.

I do not remember the Conservatives promising in their manifesto that they would make it much more difficult, and in some cases impossible, for a woman to get her job back after she had left work to have a baby. I do not remember their promising that millions of people employed by small firms would lose their rights to claim compensation for unfair dismissal if they were sacked within the first two years of employment.

I am sure that they did not promise the electorate that they would do away with the right of every worker to receive the recognised wage for the job that he does. That right has existed for centuries in one form or another. If Conservative Members doubt that, they should read their history books, because they will find ordinances from the Crown in the Middle Ages on the question of fair wages. The whole concept of fair wages will be destroyed, at a stroke, by the Bill. That right of individual citizens is being taken away.

There will be a considerable backlash from thousands of people who thought that they were voting for a party that would curb the power of trade unions and will find that they have elected a Government who are taking away the rights of individual employees. Many people failed to understand when they were carried away on the wave of antiunion hysteria in May that trade unions came into existence solely for the purpose of protecting individual workers in a society in which all the organs of power were weighted against them. Trade unions still exist for that purpose and no other.

Every time that we debate these matters, Conservative Members show that they do not understand the nature of trade unionism. That is largely because of the different social backgrounds of those Members. I do not blame them for not understanding; I do not criticise anyone for ignorance. But I criticise them for using their ignorance to make attacks on the rights of those in different social classes.

Conservative Members seem to think that a union is separate and apart from its members. A union is not a machine, controlled by robots, which exists to oppress and tyrannise human beings. A union consists of its members.

It has often been claimed that the Government have learned the lessons from the terrible mistakes that the previous Conservative Government made over the Industrial Relations Act. However, the Bill proves that they have learnt nothing. In some ways, the Bill will be even worse. It will certainly provide lucrative employment for the legal profession. Perhaps that is why it is called the Employment Bill. Lawyers are the only people to whom it will give any employment. The Bill will certainly increase the decision-making powers that will be left in the hands of learned judges, instead of being left to experienced representatives of employers and workers who know something about what they are discussing.

The Secretary of State, who has now left the Chamber, and the Under-Secretary have spoken more than once about the desirability of finding common ground for the legislative framework of industrial relations. But while proclaiming a belief in a consensus approach, they have recklessly pushed through a measure which, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Chesterfield pointed out, is opposed not only by the whole trade union movement, but by the more enlightened employers' organisations.

The inevitable result of the Bill will be more industrial strife, more strikes, more disruption and more lost production. Such is the Government's animosity to the trade union movement that they have concentrated on finding ways of defeating workers who take industrial action instead of concentrating on preserving, developing and improving the machinery that would make industrial action unnecessary. The Government's philosophy and approach is wrong.
" They have sown the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind."
Unfortunately, the country will suffer the consequences of the Government's monumental folly.

9.45 pm

I am grateful for the opportunity to speak briefly in support of the Bill. I have had the pleasure of listening to the speech by the right hon. Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Varley) on at least half a dozen occasions in Committee. I listened with particular interest on this occasion to see whether he criticised any particular provisions of the Bill. I assumed that he did not disapprove of anything that he did not mention in detail. I do not blame him for using generalities.

The secret ballot, closed shop, secondary picketing and trade union immunity provisions will make a fair and balanced contribution to putting into proper perspective the grossly excessive powers and privileges of the trade unions.

The hon. Member for Keighley, (Mr. Cryer), who contributes to debates on numerous occasions, will be aware of one of the Bill's provisions. When trade unionists, who frequently speak of democracy, come to contemplate the Bill, can they do anything but approve the provisions which make secret ballots easier on issues which are important to trade union members? Too frequently do hon. Members opposite say that secret ballots are an expensive and cumbersome method of ascertaining the views of trade unionists. The Bill rules out that expense. I hope that ballots will be used when there is divided opinion among trade unionists on important issues, whether they involve questions of union control or a decision to call a strike.

Few of my hon. Friends do not have an instinctive feeling that the closed shop is contrary to their principles..

The hon. Member would be wise to remember that the legal profession is open to anybody with the ability to join it. If it were true that the right to work in businesses where closed shops prevail is open to anybody who is willing to work, and do the job, the problems of the closed shop would not loom as large as they have recently.

The provision to restrict new closed shops to those who have the support of the overwhelming majority of trade unionists who are affected by them must be applauded. We must look with interest to see whether there is not a further call for the same measures to be applied to existing closed shops so that people have the opportunity to vote upon them.

I applaud the Bill's strategy in not pushing that extra measure at this stage. The skill of the Secretary of State is that he has introduced measures which are exclusively beneficial, but the country will wait to see whether further measures are needed. That is why I welcome the Green Paper on immunities as a whole.

The issue of immunities is genuinely an exceptionally difficult problem. One looks forward to seeing what the right hon. Member for Doncaster (Mr. Walker) has to say on this particular aspect because he must have, at least, considered the whole question of immunities when he was in a position of responsibility in the Department of Employment.

The right hon. Gentleman must have agonised about whether his own party had not gone too far in removing all immunities and granting unrestricted privileges. He may find it inconvenient during this short Third Reading debate to make any particular comment but I should have thought that the whole country believes that the blanket——

Order. The hon. Member for Hemel Hempstead (Mr. Lyell) must relate his remarks to what is in the Bill.

I am grateful for your guidance, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I was concentrating, I hope correctly, on the point which the Bill sought to cover within the context of that which it might have sought to cover.

To coin a phrase, the most striking feature of the Bill is its restriction of picketing to the place of work and to those who are involved in the industrial action. Recalling the excesses at the Saltley coke works—and I suspect there are only two Members of this House who did not regard that as disgraceful—and having seen, more recently, the effects of secondary picketing at Hadfield's, in Sheffield, and at Sheerness, the whole country will applaud the fact the such picketing has now been restricted to an employee's own place of work.

Furthermore, the whole country will applaud the fact that it has now been recognised that the existing criminal law provides considerable protection if only it is properly applied and enforced. The combinations of the reasonable restriction of secondary picketing and the realisation—as has often been said by Labour right hon. and hon. Members—that the criminal law should be enforced, along with the new measures and the three points that I have mentioned, demonstrates how important it is that this Bill should receive the support of the whole House.

9.53 pm

If this Bill is, as the Under-Secretary said, a better Bill now than when it started its life, that fact does not owe much to the hon. Member for Hemel Hempstead (Mr. Lyell). During almost 100 hours of debate in Committee the hon. Gentleman firmly maintained a Trappist silence. Having heard him this evening, I understand why that was the case.

Since I have mentioned the Under-Secretary I am going to say something that may surprise my right hon. and hon. Friends. I wish to express my thanks and appreciation to him for the way in which he did his share of the work of getting the Bill through the House.

Inevitably, in Committee it is the Under-Secretary rather than the Minister who has the biggest job to do. Although I, of course, disagreed with about 90 per cent. of what the Under-Secretary said in every speech that he made, I think that all members of the Committee, whether they agreed with him or not—and there were hon. Members on both sides of the Committee who disagreed with him—should be grateful to him for the patience and the clarity with which he advanced his own arguments and sought to rebuff the arguments of those with whom he disagreed.

This is a pernicious Bill. To steal a phrase from the French, it is worse than a crime; it is a mistake. From the Government's point of view, it is worse than a crime; it is a mistake—because it will succeed brilliantly in achieving objectives that are precisely the opposite of what the Government had in mind when they introduced the Bill. I think that that will happen in four ways.

First, the Bill is aimed at trade unions and trade unionists. It is absolutely clear that it will adversely affect the interests of all workers—trade unionists, non-trade unionists and anti-trade unionists alike. That is the first way in which it will achieve an objective different from what was sought.

Secondly—I speak from some little first-hand experience of these matters as a result of sitting through 100 hours in Committee going through the Bill with a small tooth comb and discussing it with management and worker friends in industry—the effect of this measure will be to increase the number of unofficial strikes. There will be more unofficial disputes, they will be longer and more bitter, and they will be more difficult to resolve. That is the second way in which the Bill will achieve exactly the opposite objective from what the Government want.

The third objective was to try to clarify the law once and for all. Of course, we can never clarify the law once and for all, but the Bill was supposed to make a big advance in that direction. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Varley) and my hon. Friend the Member for Rotherham (Mr. Crowther) said, there will be more industrial relations matters in the courts as a result of this measure.

That will lead to a fourth problem. I prophesy that ere long somebody will be imprisoned as a result of the Bill. It is no good talking about taking the criminal law out of it. One day someone will refuse to pay a fine, will refuse to be distrained, and will be imprisoned.

I have considerable regard for the Secretary of State—much more than some of his hon. Friends have for him—but he should now be getting his right hon. and learned Friend to increase the staff of the Official Solicitor's Department, because many more official solicitors will be needed—[Interruption.] The hon. Gentleman has obviously dined very well. When he gets on a bit, he will learn to take his roast beef better without being the worse for it. I suggest that the right hon. Gentleman will need more official solicitors because he will have more Pentonville fives. He will be on the same hook as was his predecessor in a previous Conservative Government, and he will have the job of getting off that hook.

I said that this was a pernicious Bill. It is a mean Bill, too. Although it is aimed in general at all workers and will adversely affect them, three groups will be most adversely affected. They are the three groups who are most vulnerable. I worry about this matter, because I have an inner city constituency where there are many workers who fall into these three groups. The three groups are the low-paid, the women workers and the employees of small firms. On average, they will be more adversely affected than other workers. In inner city areas, such as the one in which my constituency is situated, that effect will be felt very sharply.

When we came out of Standing Committee—where we had good debates with very good arguments—and got on to the Floor of the House, most of the stuff that we heard from the Government Benches was highly theoretical and grossly uninformed.

The speeches that we heard were based not on reality but on mythology. We heard the sort of chit-chat that goes down very well over the brandy and cigars in an expensive city luncheon club. We heard the sort of chit-chat that goes down well over the pre-Sunday lunch gins and tonics at the nineteenth hole of a Surrey golf club—or, if one looks to the female of the species, the sort of chit-chat that goes down well under the dryer——

It being Ten o'clock, the debate stood adjourned.