HC Deb 10 December 1970 vol 808 cc653-5
18. Mr. Hugh Jenkins

asked the Secretary of State for Employment if it is his intention in his proposed legislation to make it illegal for employers and trade unions to agree that all persons engaged in an occupation shall be required to have an agreed qualification of experience or skill.

Mr. Bryan

No, Sir.

Mr. Jenkins

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that such a policy would be ridiculous and disastrous? Is he aware that in all areas of employment it would result in a decline of skill? Is he aware that in some areas it would be positively dangerous? Is he aware that the whole standard of British performance, with its considerable contribution to the balance of payments, rests upon these agreements between employers and employees?

Mr. Bryan

I think that the hon. Gentleman misunderstands the Bill. There will be nothing in the Bill to prevent unions from making agreements with employers about conditions of entry into certain trades or employment, provided that the agreement does not make union membership or union approval a prerequisite of employment.

Mr. Rose

As union membership must be a prerequisite to keeping up standards, would the hon. Gentleman at least match his unfairness and irresponsibility by some consistency and apply the same rules to the Bar Council, the Law Society, and the British Medical Association?

Mr. Bryan

I do not accept the hon. Gentleman's view that it must be a prerequisite to preserving standards. However, this will no doubt be discussed when we reach the Bill. I do not think that the analogy is fair.

Mr. McBride

We are talking of the closed shop. Would not the hon. Gentleman agree that the closed shop has been of inestimable value to the country in maintaining high standards of skill and qualifications? Is he not abrogating to the employer the sole right to be the labour recruiting agent?

Mr. Bryan

I acknowledge that the closed shop has had its advantages for industry, but what we are doing in the Bill is to include the fundamental right of the individual employee to freedom of choice. The Government's proposals on agency shop agreements strike a fair and reasonable balance between an individual's right not to join a union and his social responsibility to contribute towards union negotiations from which he will benefit.

Mr. Gorst

Will my hon. Friend make it clear that the Bill will spell out in absolute detail that strikes with purely and solely political objectives will be unlawful?

Mr. Bryan

That is something we can debate during the course of discussing the Bill.

Sir G. de Freitas

On a point of order In view of the totally unsatisfactory nature of the hon. Gentleman's reply to the supplementary question about professional trade union qualifications, I beg to give notice that I shall raise the matter on the Adjournment.

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