HC Deb 26 April 1965 vol 711 cc21-2
24. Mr. Dudley Smith

asked the Minister of Labour how many trade union amalgamations have taken place since the passing of the Trade Union (Amalgamation) Act of last year; and if he is satisfied that proper advantage is being taken of this legislation.

Mr. Thornton

One merger has been registered and another is about to be registered; progress is being made towards a number of other proposed mergers. It is too early yet to judge the full effect of the Act.

Mr. Smith

Would the hon. Gentleman agree that further amalgamations would go some way towards helping to stop restrictive practices? Would he encourage the Minister to do everything possible to push them forward?

Mr. Thornton

My right hon. Friend is, of course, prepared to render what assistance he can to the Trade Union Congress, but I think it must be appreciated that this House has not a monopoly of tradition and that there is tradition and pride in the trade unions. Because of that, inevitably, I am afraid, progress will be slow. It is not a problem on the trade union side only, for—I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman is aware of it—there are more employers' organisations than there are trade unions. I am sure that it is the intention of responsible leadership both amongst the trade unions and the employers' organisations to reduce the number of organisations and bring them more into line with the second half of the twentieth century.

Mr. Ronald Bell

Surely the hon. Gentleman is not praising traditional pride in restrictive practices? Is not this very slow progress indeed? Would he bear in mind, in relation to restrictive practices of the employers, that this House and Parliament have taken action in two ways? Is it not time that his right hon. Friend took some positive action over restrictive practices?

Mr. Thornton

I was not praising tradition. I was merely stating a fact. I think, sometimes, that this House is not the best place to talk about restrictive practices. Let me remind right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite that when we introduced the new system of the House meeting on Wednesday mornings it did not receive much applause from them.