12. Mr. R. C. Mitchell
asked the Secretary of State for Employment and Productivity when she proposes to introduce legislation on industrial relations.
§ 52. Mr. William Hamilton
asked the Secretary of State for Employment and Productivity if she will now give the date for the publication of the legislation providing for trade union reform.
In the light of recent experience, will my right hon. Friend consider including in the legislation provision for compulsory strike ballots?
§ Mrs. Castle
I am well aware that this has been one of the main arguments of hon. Members opposite in facing our industrial relations difficulties, but they have always been very imprecise about how this would apply in practice. In many of the recent disputes which have caused anxiety to us all it has been quite clear that the legal enforceability of contracts would have had no relevance, because the unions—the people who would have signed the contract—were using their best endeavours to get their people back to work.
§ Mr. R. Carr
Can the right hon. Lady be a little more precise about the phrase she used about doing this as quickly as she can? In view of the fact that she was apparently ready to introduce legislation last summer, why has there been this delay? Does she realise, in view of Lord Stokes' comments yesterday and the very bad strike figures for January announced by her Department today, that there has been an upsurge since last summer? Is not the need for effective legislation now desperately urgent?
§ Mrs. Castle
Yes, and I shall be glad to have the support of the right hon. Gentleman in introducing the legislation, but the operative word he used was "effective". If we are to have a good Bill we must allow proper time for consultation. I cannot for a moment accept that there has been any delay. [Interruption] If the right hon. Gentleman would listen he might learn something. I am still receiving replies from the C.B.I. and the T.U.C. to the consultative documents which were sent out months ago. That is because legislation in this field is bound to be very complex, and side issues arise out of what might seem quite simple and straightforward issues. The drafting of the Bill is in progress. It cannot be completed until the consultations have been completed.