HC Deb 04 February 1970 vol 795 cc403-4
11. Mr. Gwilym Roberts

asked the Secretary of State for Defence if he will take steps to amend Queen's Regulation 675 to enable members of the Armed Forces to take part in the trade union movement; and if he will seek to extend the methods by which rank-and-file military opinion can effectively play a part in shaping day-to-day decisions and conditions of military service generally.

Mr. Hattersley

No, Sir. Service men are not forbidden to belong to trade unions at present provided their obligations are limited to the payment of subscriptions, and many do so with resettlement in mind.

Mr. Roberts

Would not my hon. Friend agree that there is a need to democratise the forces, so that people feel that they are something more than just a number? Does he not think that the first step would be to introduce some reasonable level of effective consultation and also to allow people to play some active part in a trade union branch, and not to have the hypocrisy which exists at the present time?

Mr. Hattersley

I certainly want members of the Armed Forces to feel that they are more than a mere number, and I have no doubt that they feel that now. The second Report of the N.B.P.I. remarked with fervour and favour on the ability which officers in the Ministry of Defence showed in representing the Armed Forces. That seems to me to be a wholly good thing, and I believe that it will continue.

Rear-Admiral Morgan-Giles

The Minister will remember his right hon. Friend saying that he was, in effect, both a Minister and the trade union representative for the men in the Forces. Will he assure us that his right hon. Friend will make sure that the Service man does not fall behind in the free-for-all of the present civilian wage race?

Mr. Hattersley

If that is a comment on payment in the Armed Forces I am sure that we shall all be very anxious to secure it. I have read with interest things in the Press in the last few days, some of which may be reported to this House if in the end they turn out to be true.