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Baroness Hanham: The usual channels on my side—partly me and partly the Chief Whip—agreed to go to eight o'clock if that was appropriate in terms of the groupings. It seems to me that it is not as we have finished the grouping. I agreed to that. I was happy if we had started a group we would finish, but if not we would not start another big group of amendments at this late hour, up to eight o'clock.

Lord Rooker: I say to my noble friends and colleagues that we are in the same boat on Monday. This Bill is going through this House. I do not care how long it takes. The policy is that the Bill is going through, amended or otherwise, whatever. And the fact of the matter is that what will happen on Monday, or Tuesday, or Wednesday, or Thursday—however long we take in Grand Committee—we will go through the list. It does not make sense to waste the time that the Hansard writers have made available to us.

Lord McCarthy moved Amendment No. 11:

"(3B) No order shall be made under this section pursuant to any proposals made by him if the Secretary of State has been notified that one of the members of the negotiating body requests him to refer a disagreement with his proposals to an independent person or body for mediation, conciliation or arbitration with a view to resolving the disagreement and that person or body has issued advice or a report proposing terms different from the proposals, which terms have been accepted by the members.
(3C) Where the Secretary of State is notified under subsection (3B), he shall consult the Advisory Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) and with the agreement of the members of the negotiating body appoint an appropriate person or body for the purpose of mediation, conciliation or arbitration as appropriate.
(3D) Where the appropriate person or body gives advice or makes a report which is accepted by the members of the body, the Secretary of State shall take it into account before he publishes any further proposals for an order."

The noble Lord said: Amendment No. 11 is grouped with Amendment No. 13, so I shall speak to both of them—at least for part of the time. They are different from the previous amendments because they deal with

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new agreements. Nevertheless, they deal with them in a related way. And because they are new agreements, it does not seem to me—though I am getting a little more ambitious, so perhaps I have made a mistake—that I would be far forward if I made them as firm and restrictive on the Ministers as the two agreements relating to disputes of application. So they are not quite the same.

Amendment No. 11 in effect provides that the Minister cannot use his order-making power if he is asked to respond to a request for third-party dispute resolution. In fact, he must facilitate a method of third-party dispute resolution and wait for the report from the parties on that dispute and on his position, and publish that.

It may produce a solution or it may not, but as the amendment states, the body shall make a report and the Secretary of State shall consider it before he publishes any further proposals for an order.

Amendment No. 13 is a little more complicated. The Secretary of State submits his proposals. This time the initiative comes from the parties, who are opposed and ask for third-party dispute resolution. Again, there is a time ban, but if the parties co-operate, the Secretary of State proposals are withdrawn until they know the results of the intervention—conciliation, mediation or arbitration. The outcome and the contact report is considered by the parties and by the Secretary of State.

But of course, this time the Secretary of State can disagree, even if the parties come to an agreement or say that they will accept whatever has happened in arbitration or mediation. The Secretary of State can disagree and go on and impose his order. The provisions are therefore a little more permissive.

The argument I want to make is that I believe that the Government misunderstand the limitations of such suggestions. In the debate, the Minister has frequently said that this, that or the other is not appropriate by deciding or mediating by a third party. It is said that it is too complicated. That is to misunderstand what the process is about.

The third party listens. They do not necessarily consider that they know as much as the parties. They do not consider that they have a solution. They listen; they cross-question; they examine. The object of the exercise is to find whether a form of words can be found which the parties will agree.

As I have said previously, it was so evident—and it would certainly be evident in a period of third-party dispute resolution—that the Government would be there. Perhaps they would be a ghost at the bargaining table, but I would have thought that if there was anything of significance or importance the Government would want to be inside the negotiations. Indeed, I believe that on major disputes, it is probably better that the Government should be inside as it is their money. There is no reason why they should not be if there is an independent person who is going to assess the validity of their arguments. That is the difference.

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So any complexities or difficulties, and anything that cannot be put into an agreement because they are subject to further discussion and debate, will be accommodated in the division. That is simple and happens every time. There is an important historical parallel which the Government should consider if they continue to take the view which I believe they take and practice shows they take towards third-party dispute resolution.

It is driven into a system of imposing settlements on trade unions and working people because they have turned away from the only way of providing an independent assessment of validity of their arguments, which is third-party dispute resolution. That is what they did in this dispute. There was no independent assessment of the dispute. No one was chosen by both sides to assess the dispute and was given agreed terms of reference. I make no criticism of the Bain report—it was not its problem; it was given an impossible task.

When there was continued disagreement, no attempt was made to bring in any independent assessment. The Government finally achieved an agreement, I think, by threatening to enforce it through the Bill. That is not fair or equitable and it is not what has been done by this Government—I am sorry I will correct that; by this party—in the past.

The last time this party got into this situation, it established the Clegg comparability commission. It established it at a bad time—immediately after the disastrous winter of discontent. It was my opinion at the time, and it remains my opinion, that if the Clegg commission had been in situ six months earlier, there would not have been anything like the winter of discontent. It would have been even better if we had had a realistic incomes policy, but we will not go into that.

The fact is that the Clegg commission, in a matter of six or nine months, dealt with some 2.5 million public servants, mostly non-trading. Professor Clegg, in his final report, said that the great majority of workers who came before the commission accepted what the commission said, although they had not been bound in advance. That is what usually happens, otherwise they would not go. They asked to go to the commission, and when they reached the settlement, they accepted it.

They often required a strike threat to get there, but they got there—and when they got there, they settled. The results which were achieved by the Clegg commission were modest. And in any public interest evaluation, they were justified. When Professor Clegg's commission was dismantled and disbanded by Margaret Thatcher, he said—and he was wrong—"You will have to come back to it". But she never came back to it.

What we had instead was a series of major public-sector disputes between the Government of the day and the trade union movement. Unless there is some effective alternative, some independent assessment, I warn this Government that something like that will happen ultimately. It should happen and it need not

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happen, but they have to embrace the principle of third-party dispute resolution if they are to find their way out. I beg to move.

Baroness Turner of Camden: I want briefly to support my noble friend in relation to these two amendments. For a number of years, I was a member of the Central Arbitration Committee, and we dealt with a large number of disputes during my time in office. I am a supporter of these methods of dealing with dispute resolution. If you are interested in dispute resolution rather than in any kind of conflict, third-party arbitration is the way forward. I am glad to learn from the Minister that he accepts that in principle because he has accepted the principle of the amendment that has been spoken to by my noble friend Lord Lea.

These amendments will spell it out in more detail and will involve the Advisory Conciliation and Arbitration Service, which has lengthy experience in dealing with these matters. I feel sure that if something of that kind could be written into the Bill, it would enormously help to make it more acceptable.

During the course of responding to a previous amendment, the Minister said that the Bill is intended to deal with specific and extreme situations and that it is an emergency measure. The point about that is that the Bill does not refer to specific or extreme situations. Therefore, we need to ensure that something to that effect is written into the Bill so that everyone understands that that is its purpose.

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