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Column 848what that means? How long is "well in advance"? What would constitute not being sufficiently "well in advance"? Why, when it is in everyone's interests for industrial disputes to be resolved as quickly as possible, does the Minister want to institute further delays in industrial relations procedures? Within the four-week period in which a successful ballot would be effective--these are perhaps the most worrying parts of the code of practice--the union would have to notify its own members of the result of the ballot, it would have to consider a wide range of factors about whether it should proceed with industrial action, it would have to examine all the options and then, if it decided to take action, it would have to inform its members why that action was appropriate, inform any employer, on request, about the result of the ballot and give time for the employer to take the necessary health and safety steps. The Minister must understand that it is in nobody's interest to build in this kind of delay. This is a charter for frustration and ultimately a charter for unofficial action. If that is what the Minister wants, he should understand that that is precisely what will happen under this code of practice.
I have already said that it is very difficult for Opposition Members to understand why this code of practice is so one-sided. Conservative Members have said that this is nothing to do with the employer, but paragraph 2 of the code says :
"The code should assist unions and their members who are directly involved in such ballots, and employers, and their customers and suppliers who may be affected by industrial action organised by a union."
Of course, employers have an interest in industrial action. If Conservative Members seriously believe that employers are somehow immune to such action, they live in a very different world from the real industrial relations world in Britain. The employer has a direct interest, and that is where the Government should have been even-handed in their approach.
It is not just we in the Opposition who demand that evenness of approach ; the British Institute of Management made the powerful point that to leave the employers the power of recourse only through the courts was very one- sided. The BIM stressed that it was not comfortable with recourse to the law as the means of resolving industrial disputes. It said :
"Any code of practice concerned with industrial disputes should seek to avoid conflict, not generate it."
In reality, the Government are not concerned with the process of conciliation. They are not concerned, as we know from the ambulance dispute, with getting all sides round the table. They are concerned with conflict, with making sure that one side can win at the expense of another and that in all circumstances the odds are so loaded against the trade union movement that the unions are put on the defensive from beginning to end. That is why I say to the Minister that, for all his fine words, the code of practice is destructive to industrial relations. The most sensible advice that the Minister can take is to accept the comments of my hon. Friend the Member for Makerfield (Mr. McCartney) and take this code of practice away, because it is unfitted to the reality of industrial relations in this country.
Column 84910.51 pm
Mr. Tim Janman (Thurrock) : I very much welcome the opportunity to debate this code of practice and thus to debate the whole topic of democracy on the shop floor and within industrial relations. As my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State has mentioned, we have a reasonably satisfactory position in primary legislation. The spirit of that primary legislation is also satisfactory. We must ask, however, if the spirit of the law is being implemented on the shop floor. Although in many instances I suspect that it is being implemented in that way, and that what now appears in the draft code of practice is already best practice on the shop floor, there will also be many instances where this is not the case. I hope that the publication of this code of practice will ensure that things are done more often in accordance with the recommendations of the code. My concern about this first arose when I received a letter from the chief executive of the port of Tilbury during the dispute on the dock labour scheme. My hon. Friend will remember that at the time I sent him a copy of the letter. The chief executive expressed concern about local voting procedures and about the problems experienced with workplace ballots. I would like briefly to quote a couple of paragraphs from the letter that he sent to me. He said that "a very significant point" was that the voting procedures of the Transport and General Workers' Union were to be questioned, and he added : "At national level the counting of votes was probably correctly carried out and reflected the information from local level. However, the two ballots at Tilbury were anything but satisfactory. Voting forms were supplied in very large quantities, and the procedure was, over the days of the voting period, for each man to be given a voting slip which he marked in a private booth. This seemed to be fine but we now understand that the completed slips were then placed in a cardboard box, kept in the custody of a shop steward, which had a hole in the top large enough to put a hand through."
He went on to say, in the concluding paragraph :
"I have no doubt that if the ballot had been conducted by an independent organisation by post then the outcome would have been totally different. The present system of workplace ballots cannot give the quality of balloting that should be insisted upon by law." Therefore, I am particularly pleased with paragraph 20 in section C of the code of practice which says :
" fully-postal' balloting should be the preferred choice wherever the ballot is about the authorisation of industrial action by a union or wherever the balloting constituency' covers all the members of the union, unless this is impracticable in the time available (for example because it is necessary to obtain members' views sooner than its use would allow)".
Mr. Skinner : I have looked at the Register of Members' Interests and I see that the hon. Gentleman is a consultant to Pinpoint International. Can he tell me whether there was a ballot under this code of practice, a previous code of practice or any code of practice before the company appointed him to that job?
Mr. Janman : I do not think that is a serious question. That question and the question that the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) put to my hon. Friend the Minister reduce the standing of the House in the eyes of the public. We are trying to have a serious debate about an important
Column 850issue. All the hon. Member for Bolsover can do is try to trivialise the issue by the sort of silly remark that he has just made. It is not worth considering further.
The position of the Conservative party on industrial relations is clear--to encourage responsible trade unions, working within the current legal framework, to ballot their members properly within a balanced industrial relations setting, unlike Labour, who, if ever in power, will stop employers obtaining injunctions against illegal strikes, and will scrap pre -strike ballots. We have heard a lot of nonsense about democracy in the Conservative party. We all know that, in the unlikely event of the Opposition winning the next election, they will end the opportunity for people in trade unions to have pre-strike ballots.
The reason Labour Members get so upset in these debates is that they know that it has taken a Conservative Government, under the leadership of my right hon. Friend the Member for Finchley (Mrs. Thatcher), to bring genuine democracy into the trade union movement. They know that the vast majority of trade union members support that democracy and wish it to continue. They know that their continued threats to undermine it are a serious threat to them losing support at the next election. It is also the Labour party which welcomes secondary industrial action, and whose leader said that secondary picketing is a right that should be enjoyed. It is the Labour party which will prevent the courts from taking effective action against unions via sequestration when those unions break the law. This code of practice is consistent with the philosophy behind the approach that we have been enacting on a step-by-step basis over the past 10 years to make trade unions more accountable to their members. That approach has been consistently successful and successfully consistent. The proposed code of practice will not alter that position.
Mr. James Wallace (Orkney and Shetland) : Hon. Members will be aware, certainly those who were in the House during the last Parliament, that my right hon. Friends have long supported the idea of proper ballots for trade unions. During the proceedings on the Trade Union Act 1984 we tabled amendments to secure a preference for postal ballots, while recognising that there should be flexibility and that they should be mandatory in all cases. For example, the National Union of Seamen, for obvious reasons relating to its work, needs some flexibility so that other means of communication can be used.
The hon. Member for Stretford (Mr. Lloyd) said that, with the code of practice, the Government were trying to make law. However, during the passage of the 1984 Act, much against the wishes of my right hon. and hon. Friends who proposed a preference for postal ballots and their independent scrutiny, the Government failed to include such measures. The provisions have been given a place in the code of practice, although that is second best to being included in primary legislation. Therefore, we will support the code of practice in the Division Lobby this evening. However, it is important to sound some caveats about its provisions and the general approach adopted by the Government.
It is well established, and has already emerged during the debate, that in this country--unlike many others--there is no right to strike. I often feel that the Government
Column 851would like to move towards a position in which striking would be so frowned upon and deplored that, if they wanted to use stronger measures against anyone who dared to strike, they could attempt to get away with using them.
The code of practice lacks any sense of proper proportion and balance. Paragraph 34 states that
"A union should take steps to ensure that any information it supplies to members in connection with the ballot is accurate and does not mislead voters in the process of forming their opinions" It goes on to specify matters which the union should consider. By itself, I would not find that objectionable. However, if a strike takes place and employers wish to communicate with union members, there is no obligation on employers in the code of practice to ensure the accuracy of the information that they give to union members. Therefore, the provision is unbalanced.
It may well be argued that the employers would not dream of providing inaccurate information, but the document is meant to ensure good practice which should oblige employers to provide their employees with accurate information. There should be proper provision to ensure that accurate information is supplied by employers to their employees in those circumstances.
There is a whiff of hypocrisy in some of the Government's proposals. In paragraph 8 they say that
"An industrial action ballot should not take place until" certain procedures have been completed, and that
"where no such procedures are available, or have been exhausted, consideration has been given to resolving the dispute by other means, including where practicable seeking advice from the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS)."
It takes two to tango and come together.
In the ambulance dispute, the unions are perfectly prepared to proceed and take the advice given in the code of practice, but the National Health Service, speaking through the Government, is not prepared to meet in that forum and follow the very recipe for proper industrial relations that the Government prescribe.
Another point which should be made perfectly clear is that if unions pursue a proper course through the law and the code of practice with regard to ballots, it can strengthen their hand in negotiations--if there is a successful outcome to the ballot. Many of us can remember in the summer, at the height of the railwaymen's dispute, listening to commuters who had obviously been grossly inconvenienced and had to bring their cars and park them in Hyde park. Those commuters said that because the Government had put all the barriers in the way of unions taking strike action, the fact that the unions had got so far and crossed all the hurdles meant that they probably had a good case. In that instance they had, and their position strengthened their hand in negotiations.
If, having followed all those procedures, and having obeyed the law and the code's specific provisions, the union proceeds to ballot in favour of industrial action, that will be indicative of the strength of the membership's views on a particular set of negotiations and should strengthen the union's hand.
The code also encourages unofficial action, and we shall debate that aspect when the House considers the Employment Bill. At this stage I only remind the House of
Column 852the speech made by my late friend David Penhaligon on Second Reading of the Trade Union Bill in 1983, when he said :
"The second part of the Bill worries me most However, the Government's basic point sounds reasonable. To say that there should be no immunity for official strikes without a ballot sounds so reasonable that any platform speaker in Britain could carry his audience with him. However, will it work out as well as Conservative Members think on the shop floor, inside the factory gate? It will make wildcat strikes more likely. The Minister said that it would make them less likely, but I would be interested to hear his evidence. At best, the position will be much as it is now."--[ Official Report, 8 November 1983 ; Vol. 48, c. 187.]
My late friend, with his customary foresight, put his finger on a flaw in the previous proposals that the Government are taking steps to remedy, but that are not in the best interests of industrial relations.
However much we support the concept of properly balloting trade union members when industrial action is in the offing, the law and codes of practice are no substitute for proper and constructive industrial relations. The more that the Government embark on the road to further legal quagmires, as they are in the Employment Bill, the more likely it is that some smart lawyer will find a way around their legislation. There is no substitute for proper industrial democracy and partnership in industry-- which the Government have ignored for the whole of their 10 years in office by relying not so much on the law but on high unemployment in restraining strike action and enforcing an apparent degree of good industrial relations.
That approach has failed, as is evidenced by the new phase of ever- increasing wage demands, skills shortages and a fall in unemployment that is not nearly as big as it should be. It is clear that the Government's whole industrial relations strategy is coming unstuck. The law is not a substitute for a proper industrial partnership.
Mr. Ian Bruce (Dorset, South) : If all that the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Wallace) said about the Government's industrial relations record was true, they would already have been confronted by massive strikes--and wildcat strikes at that. However, the statistics clearly show that the opposite is true. Even in difficult times, when there has been a greater threat of industrial action and people have wanted to improve their rates of pay, there has been little in the way of industrial action.
Mr. Wallace : If the hon. Gentleman is suggesting that there has been little in the way of official and unofficial industrial action, why are the Government taking up the time of the House next week to consider legislation for dealing with such strikes?
Mr. Bruce : The hon. Gentleman knows very well that Opposition Members, desperate for Britain to adopt the European social charter, need the Government to get rid of the pre-entry closed shop that the charter outlaws. However, I do not want to stray into aspects of the Employment Bill in a debate on a code of practice.
I sat through the previous Employment Bill, in 1988, when many of the Opposition speeches in Committee took the approach, "You are introducing legislation that will ensure different rights for trade union members and ballots for this and that. But what will happen in this event, or that event?" The Government are reacting correctly in saying "Here is a code of practice that all sides of industry
Column 853agree is sensible. If the trade unions keep to this document, it will protect the rights of individuals in the unions, and that is what our industrial legislation has often been about."
The document will help people to know the right way to go about things so that they do not fall foul of the law. I find it incredible that the Government have been criticised for producing such a helpful document, as that is precisely what many hon. Members were demanding during the debates on the previous Employment Bill.
I was a work study engineer, and I advised management when they were faced with the possibility of industrial action in the 1960s and 1970s. At that time we did not have this type of secret ballot. Often, the employer listened to the militant voice of trade union officials and shop stewards, but did not believe that the union members would back up the militants. The advantage of the present full procedure and the secret ballot is that many employers now understand the strength of feeling behind what they see as unreasonable or militant action. Therefore, the employers have settled many disputes at the 11th hour becaue they realise that the union members have expressed their sentiments clearly and fairly.
The number of trade disputes has been reduced because the procedure takes time. How many Labour Ministers at the Department of Employment came to the Dispatch Box when they were in government and talked about cooling-off periods and trying to stop people going on wildcat strikes? I am sure that Barbara Castle, if she were in this place today, would admit that it is a great thing that we have cooling-off periods and a reduction in the speed with which people go out on strike, because it has been extremely good.
The Opposition's claim that all our legislation would cause more strikes has been disproved. During the previous Labour Government, when there were so many strikes, the real rise in wages and employment was very low. We lost jobs and prosperity, and the lowest-paid and unskilled workers were affected most. That trend has been reversed by the Government.
Some hon. Members have spoken about democracy, and compared democracy within political parties with that in trade unions. I do not believe that any hon. Member would vote for a document if every shop steward, because of his position within a trade union, had 100 votes in a strike ballot, but the ordinary member had only one vote. There has been a comparison of what happened in Clwyd, North-West, Birkenhead and St. Helens, South. There is clearly a big difference between them. In each case there was a rule book, under which the ballots were carried out. There was a secret ballot in Clwyd, North-West and the hon. Gentleman who came through the ballot, having seen that the rule book was adhered to, knowing that there was one man, one vote, agreed that it was a fair ballot and accepted the result.
We all know what happened in Birkenhead and in St. Helens, South--
Column 854point that industrial ballots are seen to be fair if the rules behind them are seen to be fair. Clearly the Labour party has not convinced its own Members of Parliament of that.
Mr. Bruce : The hon. Gentleman has got it wrong. The chairman of the Conservative and Unionist party is voted for by the membership, and constitutes the liaison between the parliamentary party and the grass roots.
This is a sensible document, designed to protect the interests of individual union members, and I cannot understand why any Opposition Member should want to vote down such an excellent measure. 11.15 pm
Mr. Eric S. Heffer (Liverpool, Walton) : It amazes me that any work study engineer--I met such people in my days in the trade union movement-- can come here and talk about the freedom of the trade unions and trade union ballots. All that those people ever did was to tell us that we should work harder, with less pay, at the expense of the working class. I remember them very well, and I never took kindly to them.
How hypocritical Conservative Members are. They are saying now that there should be union ballots on industrial action, but I have heard the Prime Minister and others speak in the House about how they have supported the Solidarity members in Poland over the years. I supported them, too, but they never had a ballot ; they went on strike because they felt that they had to. Workers in Czechoslovakia also went on strike recently, because they wanted democracy and freedom, and the same has happened in East Germany and elsewhere. They did not have ballots ; they took that action because they did not want to live in industrial slavery. Conservative Members are suggesting that we should get rid of our democratic practices and replace them with just that--industrial slavery. That is what it comes down to.
I have studied the document carefully. One section refers to "statutory requirements", and states that
"for example a show of hands" is not sufficient even if it appears to show overwhelming support for taking industrial action". I have been a member of my union for 51 years. That is a long time. I remember many occasions when mass meetings of the workers reached decisions through a show of hands. That was not undemocratic. I do not need any lessons from Conservative Members about democratic practices in the trade union movement. We know about democratic practices : we were the ones who fought for them. Conservative Members are learning about democracy only now. They are in favour of democracy only when it suits them. When it does not suit them--in Chile,
Column 855Spain and Germany, for instance--their people go against it. I want to put that on the record, because it is what has happened over the years.
I am not ashamed of the trade union movement's record on democratic practices. We have always employed such practices : we have fought for them against Conservative Governments and Conservative class politics in the past. We have always fought for democracy and we shall continue to do so.
The Employment Act and the code of practice based on it represent class legislation against our people in the working-class movement in Britain. The Government do not believe in trade unions. They want to tie us up so that we can never take industrial action when it is necessary. What will happen if a trade union shop steward is elected by the workers in his or her factory and the employer uses the legislation to sack that shop steward? What will the workers do? Will they simply let it happen or will they take action in support of their fellow worker? I know what they will do ; they will take action. Never mind the industrial ballot--the Government are proposing legislation to deal with any worker who takes such action. That is industrial slavery. The Government believe in the power of employers against the working class. That is what it is all about. The hon. Member for Dorset, South may laugh, but I spent years fighting people like the hon. Gentleman and I shall continue to fight people like you for as long as I live-- [Interruption.] I did not mean Mr. Deputy Speaker, as he is part of my movement. We have fought on the same barricades against such legislation.
I have read the legislation very closely. It adds up to the fact that Conservative Members are underlining their class legislation with further restrictions against ordinary working people in Britain. I am glad that my party will vote against it tonight and I hope that next week we shall go further and vote against legislation that would further restrict workers in Britain.
Mr. Ian McCartney (Makerfield) : I rise to support my hon. Friends. The speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) typifies a lifetime of struggle in the labour movement--a daily struggle against the iniquitous activities and industrial power of unscrupulous employers. If Conservative Members have ever fought for anything in their lives it is usually for a couple of seats at Ascot. They have no understanding of the daily activities of working people in the trade union movement fighting for their rights in the workplace.
Throughout the 1980s the Government tried to create the myth and the lie that trade unions did not belong to their membership but to some trade union barons. First, they introduced the principle of ballots to decide political activities. Unfortunately for them, the Government were proved wrong. The unions belonged to the members who voted in massive numbers to continue the political activities of the trade unions. Then the Government argued that trade unionists were being led by the nose in industrial activities. Throughout the 1980s 90 per cent. of trade union members who were balloted on industrial action supported the views of the union as expressed by their shop stewards or full-time officials.
Column 856Having preached a lie and been found to be dishonest, the Government now want to introduce a code of practice not to improve industrial relations or to facilitate better activities in the workplace to prevent industrial action, but to cripple the ability of trade unions to take industrial action. During industrial action unscrupulous employers will exploit the code to take trade unions and individual trade unionists to court.
This code of practice attempts to impose on trade unions additional obligations in respect of the Employment Act 1988 and the Trade Union Act 1984. It tries to create the longest possible delays in the implementation of decisions by the work force. It facilitates that process by providing as many grounds as possible for injunctions by unscrupulous employers. It attempts to induce ballot votes against industrial action, and when that cannot be done it attempts to discourage official action by trade unionists. That is the reality of this piece of legislation.
If the Government were really honest about parliamentary scrutiny and about the need for a code of practice, they should have been prepared to include such provision in clause 5 of the Employment Bill which the House will be discussing on Monday. In that way there could have been proper parliamentary scrutiny of their activities, instead of an hour-and-a-half's debate to rubber-stamp an instrument that will be used by unscrupulous employers and by the courts to hamstring trade unions involved in legitimate activities.
Mr. McCartney : No. The hon. Member will have an opportunity to make his speech as he wants to make it. Other hon. Members on this side want to contribute. On various occasions the hon. Member for Elmet (Mr. Batiste) has refused to give way to me, so he has given up the right to debate with me on matters such as this.
The reality is that it is not just trade unionists or employers who are saying that the Government's code of practice is unjust and will promote confrontation instead of good industrial relations. Of this proposal, the International Labour Organisation, which is probably less popular in Britain than even General Noriega, had this to say : "The effect of piecemeal reforms, often introduced in order to achieve quite narrow objectives, has been to generate uncertainty in some areas of the law. This in turn may lead to unintentional breaches of Convention 87 and may inhibit lawful industrial action". That is the International Labour Organisation's view of the Government's attempt to impose this type of industrial law on trade unionists.
Throughout this instrument there are paragraphs whose wording shows that the Government are attempting, formally and informally, to undermine the ability of workers to take action. For example, paragraph 8(a) places on unions an obligation to complete "any agreed procedure, whether formal or informal, which might lead to the resolution of a dispute"
before a ballot is held. That is absurdly wide. What is meant by an "agreed procedure, either formal or informal"? Does it mean all procedures or only those agreed for the avoidance of disputes? What if an employer breaches the agreed procedures? There is nothing here to protect trade unionists in that situation. Unscrupulous employers will use paragraph 8(a) to obstruct and
Column 857undermine, and to prevent trade unionists from taking specific action that is allowed under current legislation. Those people will be able to go to the courts and obtain support in their attempts to neuter trade unionists.
This code is not about improving industrial relations or the right of workers to take legitimate industrial action. As my hon. Friends have said, it is the latest item in a long catalogue over a decade during which trade unionists have been undermined in their attempts to improve conditions in the workplace.
But the Government have not crushed working people. They have not crushed industrial trade unions, and they will never crush them. While there are Conservatives and unscrupulous employers, working people in the East and in the West will never bend to any kind of legislation that would undermine them. That has been proved by the history of the working-class struggle. In a decade's time this shoddy piece of legislation will be in the dustbin of history. Unfortunately, in the meantime many of the positive things that need to be done to improve industrial relations in this country are being neglected by the Government.
With the return of a Labour Government, it will be up to people who are now on this side of the House and to trade unionists to restore the rights of trade unionists, and to ensure that there is a clear understanding of the right of people in the workplace to go about their lawful business without having their position undermined by unscrupulous employers and an unscrupulous Government.
Mr. Alexander Eadie (Midlothian) : In a debate such as this the only contribution that can be made is to give one's opinion and experience. The main criticism and the main thrust of opposition to the code of practice on industrial ballots is that it is defective, because it does not consider what, after all, is the hallmark of solving industrial disputes-- conciliation. I make no apologies for saying that throughout my industrial life I have believed in conciliation rather than confrontation. I shall explain later why the legislation is defective.
It is an abuse of this mother of Parliaments to present the code to us in a debate of one and half hours. It cannot be debated adequately in that time. I paid particular attention to the Liberal spokesman, the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Wallace). Some of the criticisms that he invoked are the same as mine. The only difference is that he will vote with the Government whereas I shall oppose them.
The code is defective and will not provide for any measure of conciliation. It will not solve the problem of industrial relations and industrial action. Certainly it will not solve the problem of what is generally described as rag-outs, or unofficial action. The more that one examines it in detail, the more it seems that it will be a prescription for unofficial industrial action and rag-outs. The Minister made extravagant claims about what the code will achieve. It will not solve our industrial problems. We could ballot until the kings come home and at the end of the day the employer can still say, "Yes, you have a ballot, but you will get nothing." There is no provision in the legislation to compel the employer to seek conciliation rather than confrontation. I was thinking during the
Column 858debate about an experience that I had. One can have all the ballots under the sun, but if the men decide to take action they will take action to resolve the problem.
I have belonged to a trade union since 1934. My union is the National Union of Mineworkers, about which the Minister made some snide comments. Before I came to the House, my trade union had not had a national official industrial strike for more than 40 years. That is as good a record as that of any trade union in Britain. I know what I am talking about when I say that we should seek conciliation rather than confrontation.
We had a particular problem in the mines--rats. They are rather filthy things to have in the mines. As a boy of 14, I remember being terrified. I was with my father and the roof was coming in. A flitting of rats came rushing out of the road. Despite the fact that I was only 14, I shall never forget that experience for as long as I live. The miners knew that if there was a flitting of rats in the pit, the place was unsafe and they should not go into it. I remember my father saying to me, "We'll sit here. I know what's going to happen. The roof is going to collapse", and an hour or two later the whole place collapsed and the roof came in.
Over the years we put up with the inconveniences of being down the pit and with the rats. A miner might be sitting having his piece when a rat would crawl across his leg. If a miner went out for his piece, he might discover that a rat had been in his jacket and stolen his piece. We could see them in the waste, looking at us as we were eating our piece. It was unpleasant and, of course, rats in pits cause both industrial and health problems. Rats are infectious animals. If a miner who was working in a low seam which was wet should happen to cut his finger, he ran the risk of getting what is called Weil's disease, which we knew as "rat jaundice".
We had meeting after meeting with the management for years and years, saying, "It is absolutely intolerable that we should work trying to wrest the treasures of nature from the earth, and have to do so alongside these diseased creatures." But then a crisis erupted when a couple of miners in my pit, who had been working in a low seam and had cut their fingers, developed Weil's disease, or rat jaundice, which is caused by the urine of rats. I advise those who have not seen anybody who has developed Weil's disease that it is a pretty horrible sight because the victims slowly get blacker and blacker and then they die.
We said that we were absolutely fed up with it in our area. We had tried to negotiate and conciliate. The whole coalfield was alive with unofficial industrial action. We said to the board, "Look, we've lost a couple of lives. We're no longer going to work down the pit if there are rats in it. You must do something about it." It was strange that after 40 or 50 years we had to sacrifice four or five days' wages and then, like magic, the employers came up with an answer. They said that they would clear the pit of rats. They developed something that many people with heart disease know about nowadays, Warfarin, and within a week there was not a rat in the place--
The Minister is saying that, if an industrial work force is thinking about industrial ballots, it will stand still once it has tried to negotiate and conciliate, but I must tell him
Column 859that if he is developing these provisions as a panacea to prevent industrial action, he is living in cloud-cuckoo-land.
Mr. Mike Watson (Glasgow, Central) rose --