HC Deb 08 May 1962 vol 659 cc193-4
8. Mr. R. Edwards

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what was the reason for the arrest and imprisonment of Ali Alswadi, Deputy General Secretary of the Aden Trades Union Congress.

10. Mrs. Hart

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what were the reasons for the arrest and imprisonment in Aden of Mr. Abdul Latif, the President of the British Forces Local Workers' Union.

Mr. Maudling

Both men were sentenced to three months' imprisonment for encouraging a strike in contravention of the Industrial Relations Ordinance. The charges arose out of speeches by the accused which showed that the strike of the Forces Local Employees Union on 11th April was planned in defiance of Aden law.

Mr. Edwards

Is the Secretary of State aware that the Aden T.U.C. is affiliated to the International Federation of Free Trade Unions? Is he also aware that the imprisoned leaders of the Aden trade union movement are now being described as the "Tolpuddle martyrs of Arabia"? Is not this policy the nth degree of stupidity, because it has failed everywhere in the British Commonwealth so far?

Mr. Maudling

The fact is that this Ordinance was passed by the Legislative Council which has an elected majority. In 1960 there were complaints by the International Federation, as a result of which the governing body of the I.L.O. examined the provisions of the Ordinance and found that they were not incompatible with the international labour convention on the right to organise collective bargaining.

Mrs. Hart

Does the right hon. Gentleman remember that as recently as 13th March he said in the House that he did not believe that there was industrial unrest in Aden? Is he further aware that, following the imprisonment of these two trade unionists, a forty-eight hours' strike is being called as from tomorrow by the union concerned? Does not the right hon. Gentleman regard this as a matter of the utmost gravity and would not he agree that, whatever the I.L.O. says, it cannot be satisfactory to the trade union movement in this country that strikes should be illegal in Aden? Will the right hon. Gentleman institute an immediate inquiry and order the release of these men?

Mr. Maudling

No, Sir. I think that the due process of law has been gone through and the Ordinance itself is satisfactory and working well. In reply to the first part of the hon. Lady's supplementary question, I cannot remember the exact words off the cuff, but I think that she was alleging much wider industrial unrest in Aden than in general existed.

Mr. Thomson

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that his comment that the Ordinance banning strikes was working well is a very shocking one indeed in contemporary circumstances? Although the Legislative Council may have had an elected majority, is he not aware that the Act under which the Tolpuddle Martyrs were made martyrs was passed by a Government which also had an elected majority? Will the right hon. Gentleman take action to ensure that if the law forbids strikes it is changed and brought into line with modern conditions?

Mr. Maudling

I said that this Ordinance was working well. It is promoting the successful settlement of disputes by agreement, which is what we want.

Mr. Edwards

In view of the unsatisfactory nature of the reply, I beg to give notice that I shall raise the matter on the Adjournment at the earliest opportunity.

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