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while the disputes procedure is being followed. If the agreed procedures fail to resolve the dispute, an independent arbitrator, sometimes ACAS, either must or may be called upon to make a final decision.

Some agreements specify the use of pendulum arbitration, whereby the arbitrator must choose between the employer's offer and the union's demand rather than strike a compromise between the two. Many industrial relations experts point out that there is not much difference between a no-strike agreement and the type of collective agreements involving peace clauses and provision for arbitration which have been negotiated in many industries in the past. Perhaps the present situation is best summarised by a recent article on single-union deals in the Industrial Relations Review and Report dated 27 June 1989. It said :

"There is nothing new about peace clauses or disputes procedures which set out the steps through which disputes and grievances must proceed".

It continued by analysing the 1984 workplace industrial relations survey and found that nearly 80 per cent. of unionised workplaces had such arrangements. In many cases, these arrangements are specifically referred to as procedures for the avoidance of disputes.

It is difficult to see why the public should be inconvenienced where these procedures are adopted. The right hon. Member for Blaenau Gwent (Mr. Foot) said in a television interview on 11 December 1974 :

"naturally the trade unions see their clearest loyalty to their own members but the social contract is their free acknowledgement that they have other loyalties to the members of other unions, to pensioners, to the lower paid, to invalids and to the community as a whole".

It is interesting that loyalty to the community as a whole came last. The convenience and needs of the public always seem to come last during industrial disputes. I suggest that it is the duty of the House to ensure that the needs of the public come not last, but first in order of priority.

Like other hon. Members, I have recently received a letter from the secretary of the National Union of Railwaymen that stated, in its second paragraph :

"I am only too well aware of the considerable inconvenience caused to the travelling public by the current industrial problems so let me begin by emphasising once again that the NUR is anxious to achieve the earliest settlement of the dispute".

Later in the same letter comes the statement :

"We have consistently argued that ACAS is the necessary and appropriate forum for such negotiations".

What that letter does not, and cannot, explain is why it is necessary to have a strike, such as the one today, while both the tribunal and ACAS procedures are still available to the parties concerned. As my right hon. Friend the then Secretary of State observed on 30 June :

"Use the established procedures if you are so keen for a settlement--start talking and now. The British public is waiting." I am well aware that other countries have different approaches to these problems. As Mr. Philip Bassett observed in the Financial Times as long ago as 2 January 1986 :

"In West Germany it is illegal not only to break an agreement, but also to encourage others to do so. In the US, all agreements are legally enforceable and most contain elaborate grievance procedures and no-strike peace clauses. In France agreements are enforceable as civil contracts."

Until major legislation is introduced--that was mentioned in our 1983 manifesto--and until our position on those major issues is made clear, we surely cannot continue to allow the public to be blackmailed. The man

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or woman on the tube, on the railway or, quite literally, on the Clapham omnibus, should not face strike action until all procedures to avoid such strikes have been exhausted. Some 80 per cent. of unionised workplaces already have peace clauses for disputes procedures. The very least we should ensure is that those engaged in providing essential public services should not strike before such procedures have been fully explored. It is the duty of this House to protect the public.

5.11 pm

Mr. David Winnick (Walsall, North) : This is yet another attempt by Tory Back Benchers to restrict or take away the right of employees, especially those in the public sector, to take strike action. It was interesting that the hon. Member for Stroud (Mr. Knapman) made no reference to the wages of those involved in today's dispute. Even after an 8.8 per cent. increase, many railway workers would have a basic wage of £116 a week before tax. I note that the hon. Gentleman is a partner in a family firm of builders. He is a member of a Lloyd's underwriting syndicate. He is an associate partner in a firm of chartered surveyors. What income does he take home, and how does it compare with some of the railway workers who take home less than £100 a week, which often includes overtime?

No group of workers takes industrial action lightly, although I do not expect Tory Members to understand that. Some of my hon. Friends take the view that Tory Members are opposed to all forms of strikes. Perhaps that is a slight exaggeration, so I shall make the qualification that they are opposed to all forms of strike action--unless it happens to take place in eastern Europe. The very powers that the hon. Gentleman advocates were, in fact, part of the emergency provisions of the Industrial Relations Act 1971 --a very discredited piece of Tory legislation. There was a dispute, as a matter of fact, on the railways in 1972 and strike action was to be taken. The then Secretary of State for Employment applied to the National Industrial Relations Court--we all remember that body--which granted a cooling-off period of 14 days. That is exactly what the hon. Gentleman is now advocating.

During those 14 days, the union complained that there was only minimal negotiation with the employers. The Government then ordered a postal ballot of all those eligible to take strike action. Some 85 per cent. of NUR members voted, and of those, 84 per cent. voted in favour of industrial action. The Government, realising that the game was up, authorised British Rail to go beyond the previous offer, and fresh negotiations soon resulted in a satisfactory settlement. I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman has done his homework and whether he is aware of what happened in 1972. Nevertheless, it demonstrates that what he advocates has already been tried. It could not prevent strike action, and the Government recognised that a further offer was necessary.

The hon. Gentleman is keen on arbitration. Is he aware that there has been arbitration in the Civil Service since the 1920s? Since 1982, however, the Secretary of State has refused the Civil Service unions permission to go to arbitration, always arguing that, as there was no further money on offer, there was no purpose in arbitration. In a democratic society, the employers and the unions should negotiate for the kind of agreement that they want. The hon. Gentleman referred to various existing

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agreements, and that is fine, but it is surely for the employers and the trade unions, as part of the collective bargaining process, to agree on the procedures that they want, whether it be arbitration or something else. ACAS plays an important role, but that role would undoubtedly be discredited if compulsory arbitration was imposed. The current problems do not call for compulsory arbitration ; they call for a recognition by the Government that many workers, including those in the constituencies of Tory Members, are deeply dissatisfied with what they take home. That is part of the reason for the large amount of industrial unrest at present, and more so because of the rising inflation rate.

It is no good dismissing those people as troublemakers and anarchists who want only to cause the public the maximum inconvenience. It is nothing of the kind. As I said earlier, no group of working people takes industrial action lightly, and certainly those employed on the railways have not done that. Strikes are part of the price that a society pays for remaining free and democratic-- [Interruption.] Tory Members may jeer, but they should remember that in the Soviet Union and Poland, as those societies improve and reforms are undertaken, the working people have resorted to the strike weapon. The only way to end strikes is through a dictatorship. Hitler, Mussolini and Stalin had their ways of dealing with industrial disputes, but in a democratic society people should have the right to take industrial action if they so wish.

What the hon. Gentleman advocates in his Bill, far from resolving industrial unrest, will only further aggravate it. It is all part and parcel of the determination of Tory Members to take away the right to strike action from workers in the public sector. We will oppose the Bill in the Lobby.

Question put, pursuant to Standing Order No. 19 (Motions for leave to bring in Bills and nomination of Select Committees at commencement of public business) :

The House divided : Ayes 118, Noes 109.

Division No. 322] [5.17 pm


Alexander, Richard

Alison, Rt Hon Michael

Alton, David

Ashdown, Rt Hon Paddy

Atkinson, David

Banks, Robert (Harrogate)

Barnes, Mrs Rosie (Greenwich)

Beaumont-Dark, Anthony

Bendall, Vivian

Bevan, David Gilroy

Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich)

Bowis, John

Braine, Rt Hon Sir Bernard

Brandon-Bravo, Martin

Buchanan-Smith, Rt Hon Alick

Buck, Sir Antony

Burns, Simon

Butler, Chris

Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE)

Carlisle, John, (Luton N)

Carttiss, Michael

Cash, William

Conway, Derek

Coombs, Anthony (Wyre F'rest)

Coombs, Simon (Swindon)

Couchman, James

Cran, James

Davis, David (Boothferry)

Day, Stephen

Dover, Den

Dykes, Hugh

Fairbairn, Sir Nicholas

Favell, Tony

Fearn, Ronald

Fenner, Dame Peggy

Finsberg, Sir Geoffrey

Fishburn, John Dudley

Forsythe, Clifford (Antrim S)

Gardiner, George

Gill, Christopher

Glyn, Dr Alan

Goodhart, Sir Philip

Grant, Sir Anthony (CambsSW)

Greenway, John (Ryedale)

Gregory, Conal

Griffiths, Sir Eldon (Bury St E')

Hague, William

Hanley, Jeremy

Hargreaves, A. (B'ham H'll Gr')

Harris, David

Hicks, Mrs Maureen (Wolv' NE)

Hill, James

Holt, Richard

Howarth, G. (Cannock & B'wd)

Howell, Ralph (North Norfolk)

Hughes, Robert G. (Harrow W)

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Hunt, Sir John (Ravensbourne)

Irvine, Michael

Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey

Johnston, Sir Russell

Jopling, Rt Hon Michael

Kennedy, Charles

Kilfedder, James

King, Roger (B'ham N'thfield)

Kirkhope, Timothy

Kirkwood, Archy

Knapman, Roger

Latham, Michael

Lord, Michael

McCrindle, Robert

Macfarlane, Sir Neil

Maclennan, Robert

McNair-Wilson, Sir Michael

Martin, David (Portsmouth S)

Miller, Sir Hal

Mills, Iain

Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling)

Molyneaux, Rt Hon James

Morris, M (N'hampton S)

Nicholson, Emma (Devon West)

Owen, Rt Hon Dr David

Page, Richard

Paisley, Rev Ian

Pawsey, James

Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth

Porter, David (Waveney)

Raison, Rt Hon Timothy

Riddick, Graham

Ross, William (Londonderry E)

Shersby, Michael

Skeet, Sir Trevor

Smith, Sir Dudley (Warwick)

Speller, Tony

Spicer, Sir Jim (Dorset W)

Stanbrook, Ivor

Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John

Steel, Rt Hon David

Stevens, Lewis

Stewart, Allan (Eastwood)

Stewart, Andy (Sherwood)

Summerson, Hugo

Taylor, Ian (Esher)

Taylor, Matthew (Truro)

Taylor, Teddy (S'end E)

Thompson, D. (Calder Valley)

Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)

Townsend, Cyril D. (B'heath)

Walker, A. Cecil (Belfast N)

Walker, Bill (T'side North)

Wallace, James

Wardle, Charles (Bexhill)

Wells, Bowen

Widdecombe, Ann

Wiggin, Jerry

Wilkinson, John

Wolfson, Mark

Wood, Timothy

Woodcock, Dr. Mike

Tellers for the Ayes :

Mr. Jacques Arnold and

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