HC Deb 27 May 1971 vol 818 cc563-4
12. Mr. Sillars

asked the Secretary of State for Employment if he will list the provisions in the Industrial Relations Bill which enable a trade union legally to refuse to operate a legally binding procedure agreement imposed upon the union and its membership against their will.

Mr Dudley Smith

The Bill contains no such provision.

Mr. Sillars

Is the Minister aware of the provisions in the Industrial Relations Bill which impose procedure agreements on trade unionists against their will? Has he read the speech of his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State in New York earlier this week, in which he put our strike record in a much truer perspective than he has done in this country? Does not the hon. Gentleman agree that that speech clearly indicates that there is no need for the Government to make such an absurd proposition in the Bill?

Mr. Smith

No, Sir, I will not accept that. My right hon. Friend made a very good speech, reiterating many things which he has said in the House. The hon. Gentleman has been an assiduous attender at our debates on the Bill, and he knows full well that this imposed procedure is only for exceptional cases and as a last remedy after a great deal of conciliation.

Mr. Tom King

Does not my hon. Friend agree that the last supplementary question is yet another example of the distortion to which my right hon. Friend is exposed, and that this procedure would be invoked only in the most intractable and difficult situation when all other reasonable measures included in the Bill had been pursued?

Mr. Smith

Yes, but my right hon. Friend, fortunately, is more than capable of dealing with such distortions.

Mrs. Castle

Is not the hon. Gentleman aware that we have been fascinated to hear of the right hon. Gentleman in the United States correcting some of the distortions which he and his hon. Friends have been busily spreading about our strike record as a justification for the introduction of the Bill? The right hon. Gentleman said in the United States that to give the impression that British industrial relations are diseased—which is a favourite word of hon. Gentlemen opposite—is to give a wildly inaccurate impression. May a copy of this speech be placed in the Library so that we on this side, in particular, may enjoy reading it?

Mr. Smith

Yes, certainly; if it is possible, it will be placed in the Library. I am amazed at the right hon. Lady's nerve in asking such a question, in view of the supine attitude which she adopted when she was trying to put through legislation on industrial relations.