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Lord Campbell of Alloway: That was a most fortunate interval, because my noble friend Lady Hanham assured me that she is party to no agreement such as I suggested. I am very relieved because that releases me from a direct confrontation with my own party, which is never a very attractive position to be in, although I find myself in it at times. That sort of thing happens on a complex Bill that contains intricate industrial relations terms, on which, unfortunately,
The main question arising is whether the imposition of the conditions of service as proposed in the Bill is acceptable, not only in principle but as a means to resolve disputes and to avoid disruption in this industry in these circumstances. Whether the imposition, or the threat of imposition by decree, shall notas I suggest it shallinevitably engender further disruption and strife, which would be self-defeating and regrettable, as noble Lords know, there is no way in which individual members of fire brigades may be compelled to work. That was expressly acknowledged by the right honourable gentleman the Deputy Prime Minister in another place on 20th March. This fundamental question simply does not lie within the remit of a local government. Is not, such as I have put it quite shortly, the essence of the reality of the situation of which, when I was considering the reality of some political consensus, that I would have suggested that that political consensus, if it had existed, could not have taken into account the actual reality?
So one comes to the question as to how (a) and (b) interact. This is a matter, again, of industrial relations. It has nothing to do with local government. I ask: is it not inevitable and acceptable that the restructuring process, which I welcome as requisite, will give rise to a variety of local disputes on use of equipment; extra duties; provision for terrorist emergencies, and conditions of service? Is it not possibleI do not say inevitablethat these local disputes could engender another general union dispute? Is it not requisite that resolution of these disputes should be sought by the traditional process of collective bargaining in the first instance, and if such resolution may not be had by collective bargaining, that some effective means of resolution be devised to avoid disruption of this public service, such as that proposed by this amendment?
So much for the interaction between (a) and (b); an interaction which does not fall within the remit of local government but industrial relations. The purpose of the amendment is to seek your Lordships' viewsI am trying to put it very simply and shall very soon concludeon the essence of the argument rather than to produce a detailed presentation.
The purpose of the amendment is that in a state of emergency the Bill, as drafted without amendment, could apply by affirmative resolution of both Houses of Parliament. Otherwise, the provisions of the Bill would not apply to disputes as to conditions of service. When I say that the Bill would not apply, Clause 1(1)(a) is what I am concerned with. If disputes are not resolved by collective bargaining, they would be settled by mandatory arbitration independent of government and the award would be binding on the parties and on Government as a measure of last resort to avoid disruption of services. Anyone who reads the Official Report of Second Reading will see that, on the question of the setting up of some form of mandatory abitral tribunal, the noble Lord, Lord McCarthy, and
The other matter relevant to the amendment is that collective action, taken at the instigation of any trade union with the intention of disrupting these services and no other, be unlawful. However, the individual entitlement to withhold or withdraw labour shall of course be retained.
I want to raise only one other matter, which I think is on common ground but perhaps I should be uncertain about saying so. These particular disputes must be resolved, and disruption of the services must be avoided. The Government have devised one way of direct imposition that would work very well if it worked. It is a bit Irish to say so, but I shall try to explain why it might not. At least it has the same approach as me. My approach on the amendment is, as I have described, with the tribunal and so on. Come what may, I want to have a quick word in this context only about the series of amendments tabled by the noble Lord, Lord McCarthy, which I suspect must have been drafted by the noble Lord, Lord Wedderburn.
Lord Wedderburn of Charlton: Does the noble Lord think that it might be more appropriate to discuss forthcoming amendments when they arise or in the groups to which they have been allocated by agreement?
Lord Campbell of Alloway: I have taken the advice of the Table, and I am perfectly within my remit. I am not speaking to any particular amendment, but on a comparative effect. I have only a few more sentences to say. I am speaking about common ground where the noble Lord, Lord Rooker, and I agree, and where we disagree. We agree on the end; we do not agree on the means.
I am not going to criticise the series of amendments. I easily could and may do so in future, but that is not the purpose. The purpose is to say that the amendments afford no effective means of resolution of last resort to avoid disruption, and are dependent on the agreement of the union. Therefore, they are useless. They do not add up. They do not fulfil the common ground between the noble Lord, Lord Rooker, and myself, so I cannot accept them. I do not suppose that he will. I beg to move.
Lord McCarthy: I was going to say nice things about the noble Lord, Lord Campbell, but he almost defeats me before I begin. I welcome the amendment because it starts us off talking about third-party dispute resolution. That is the way out of the woods. The Government pretend that their imposition, their third bite of the cherry, is independent arbitration. That is the scandal about the Bill. That is hypocrisy. There is no provision in the Bill for what the noble Lord, Lord Campbell, and I want, which is third-party dispute resolution.
Therefore, despite everything the noble Lord, Lord Campbell, said, I welcome the fact that he tables the amendment and I welcome the speech he made at Second Reading. He then said that there would be no way forward unless we tried to introduce as a specific initiative on the part of the Government, if necessary, a form of third-party dispute resolution.
There are things about the noble Lord's proposal which, if it did not go on to say the things it goes on to say, one could welcome. He is trying to restrain the scope of this monstrous Bill. He proposes that you should be able to invoke the powers in the Bill only if
Lord Campbell of Alloway: Perhaps I may clarify the issue. This used to happen in the days when I conducted such cases quite a lot. What was the intention of the union? Did it instigate it? It is a question of fact. The noble Lord is more experienced of trade unions than I. There are 101 intentions or motives, but if there is the intention to disrupt these services, that is it.
Baroness Turner of Camden: Perhaps I may say in support of my noble friend Lord McCarthy that I understand the intentions of the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Alloway, and I commend him for the speech he made at Second Reading. That was on the side of myself and my noble friends who believe, quite rightly, that the Bill should never have been put before us.
The problem is that almost any industrial action disrupts services. When calling a dispute, one of the objectives is to disrupt the service that your members were originally providing. But, as the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Alloway, knows, the right to strike is necessary and part of the ILO conventions. The ILO conventions, although not specific on the issue, make it clear as a corollary of the major conventions, that ultimately there should be the right to withdraw services.
I accept that paragraphs (a) and (b) are benevolently motivated, but he knows, because I have discussed it with him, that subsection (2) is not acceptable to myself and my noble friends. However, I know that the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Alloway, speaks from a basis of considerable experience in the industrial relations field and has a great deal of knowledge of industrial relations law.
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