§ 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. 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 654 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. 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.
§ 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.