HC Deb 18 December 1962 vol 669 cc1077-9
Q1. Mr. Brockway

asked the Prime Minister if he will give instructions to Ministers responsible for Departments of Her Majesty's Government that contracts shall not be given to firms which disallow trade union membership among their employees.

The First Secretary of State (Mr. R. A. Butler)

I have been asked to reply.

In accordance with the Fair Wages Resolution passed by this House on 14th October, 1946, the Standard Conditions for Government Contracts contain a Clause providing that … the contractor shall recognise the freedom of his work people to be members of trade unions If the hon. Member has any particular case in mind, perhaps he will raise it with the Minister concerned.

Mr. Brockway

Is the First Secretary aware that I have already done so? Is he aware that this firm has contracts with most of the Government Departments and with most of the nationalised industries; that its managing director called the staff together at its Slough depot, presented them with a statement withdrawing from the trade union, and asked them to sign it; that when seven members of the staff refused to sign the statement they were instantly dismissed; that the managing director refused to see the industrial relations officer of the Ministry of Labour; that it was only after this Question was put on the Order Paper a month ago that the Minister of Labour intervened, and that, subsequently, the firm has said that it will allow trade union membership? Will the right hon. Gentleman see that this promise is carried out in practice as well as in letter; and that the seven dismissed men have the opportunity of reinstatement?

Mr. Butler

Yes, Sir. I think that the hon. Member has expressed almost exactly the situation that arose in this firm. Officers representing my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour visited the firm, and I understand that the company has given an assurance that all its employees are free to join any trade union they wish. I hope that the hon. Member will keep in touch with my right hon. Friend and, in view of his request, I will also do so.

Mr. G. Brown

Will the First Secretary bear in mind that freedom to join a trade union is not of much use if the firm concerned then also says, "We are not willing to negotiate terms and conditions"? I understand that that is what this company was saying. Will he ask his right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour to make clear to the firm that any question of freedom to join a trade union must also involve willingness on the part of the firm to negotiate on salaries, terms and conditions?

Mr. Butler

Yes, Sir. I will discuss with my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour with a view to contact with the firm.