§ 1. Mr. Raphael Tuck
asked the Secretary of State for Employment and Productivity what representations have been made to her recently in her consultations on the proposed Industrial Relations Bill about the legal enforceability of collective bargaining agreements against trade unions; and what reply she has given.
§ 14. Mr. Howie
asked the Secretary of State for Employment and Productivity what representations have been made to her in the course of her discussions on the proposed Industrial Relations Bill to the effect that trade union funds should become liable for payment of damages for breach of collective agreements; and what reply she has given.
§ The First Secretary of State and Secretary of State for Employment and Productivity (Mrs. Barbara Castle)
The Confederation of British Industry proposed that selected procedural agreements might be made enforceable by order of the Secretary of State. I have also received suggestions from some individual employers, notably in the motor industry, that collective agreements should be legally enforceable.
The Government reject the idea that responsibility for deciding which agreements should be enforceable, and for taking action to enforce such agreements, should rest with the Government themselves. The Government's view is that it is for the parties themselves to decide whether the agreements they reach should be enforceable in the courts.
There is, of course, nothing in the present law to prevent a company and a union from entering into a legally enforceable contract, and under the Industrial Relations Bill, published this morning, it will be possible for employers' associations to enter into similar contracts with trade unions if both parties so desire.
§ Mr. Tuck
Would my right hon. Friend agree that to attempt to encourage 1427 better industrial relations by allowing employers to sue trade unions would be at best foolish and at worst disastrous? Is not the real answer to the industrial relations problem an attack on the root causes of industrial unrest, as my right hon. Friend is doing in her Industrial Relations Bill?
§ Mrs. Castle
I would repeat to my hon. Friend that there has been no obstacle in the present law for many years to prevent a union and an individual employer from entering into a legally enforceable contract. The reason why they have not done so, as my hon. Friend says, is that this is not the most effective way of dealing with industrial relations problems.
§ Mrs. Castle
I entirely agree with my hon. Friend. This is why employers have not exercised the possibilities open to them under the present law. Nor, indeed, as was said by Mr. Pat Lowry, of the British Leyland Motor Corporation, in his very interesting document " Greener Grass ", is it found in the United States that the employer wants to sue.
§ Mr. Dudley Smith
Is it not a fact that the employers sue very rarely and that it is the unions which mostly sue in those countries where the policy works successfully?
§ Mrs. Castle
If I were the hon. Gentleman, I would not be quite so emphatic about the success of the policy in other countries. His supplementary question proves what I have said—that the attempt of the Opposition to make a panacea for all our industrial relations troubles out of legal enforceability of contracts is just a gimmick which is meaningless.