HC Deb 01 August 1972 vol 842 cc337-40
15. Major-General Jack d'Avigdor-Goldsmid

asked the Secretary of State for Employment how many complaints of alleged unfair dismissal for refusal to join a trade union have been made to the industrial tribunals since the relevant sections of the Industrial Relations Act came into force.

20. Mr. Fidler

asked the Secretary of State for Employment how many complaints of infringement of rights to trade union membership and activity have been made to the industrial tribunals or to the conciliation officers of his Department since 28th February; and what results have been achieved in these cases to the latest convenient date.

21. Mr. David

Mitchell asked the Secretary of State for Employment how many complaints of unfair dismissal have been made to the industrial tribunals or to his Department's conciliation officers since 28th February; and how many settlements have so far been reached.

Mr. Maurice Macmillan

Between 28th February and 30th June, 2,581 complaints of unfair dismissal were made direct to conciliation officers of my Department or referred to them by industrial tribunals; of these, 971 were settled or withdrawn as a result of conciliation action. The corresponding figures for complaints about infringement of rights in regard to trade union membership and activity were 186 and 37. I am circulating with the OFFICIAL REPORT a table giving detailed figures.

Major-General Jack d'Avigdor-Goldsmid

I thank my right hon. Friend for his answer. Do not those figures show the individual confidence of the workers in the Act and in the tribunals?

Mr. Macmillan

My hon. and gallant Friend is right and the figures bear him out. Between 28th February and 30th June the tribunals heard a total of 2,154 cases. The monthly average showed an increase of 100 per cent. compared with the previous months and clearly the Industrial Relations Act accounted for a considerable part of this increase.

Mr. Whitehead

In what proportion of these cases was compensation awarded by the tribunal?

Mr. Macmillan

The actual results of cases which have been to tribunals are not yet available from the tribunals.

Mr. Fidler

Will my right hon. Friend agree that the figures show that the safeguards in the Industrial Relations Act for trade union rights and membership are becoming increasingly appreciated by members of the trade unions and, more important, will he agree that this illustrates the transparent dishonesty of those, inside the House and out, who claim that the Industrial Relations Act is designed to do other than benefit the trade unions and their membership?

Mr. Macmillan

One of the problems is that we shall not be able to provide detailed figures of the results of references to tribunals until the end of the year since these records have become computerised. [Interruption.] I regret that technological advance has produced this result.

Mr. Robert C. Brown

Will the Minister give serious consideration to finding a new Parliamentary Private Secretary who will probably persuade his hon. Friends not to put down these helpful Questions until the Minister has the answers?

Mr. Macmillan

The Question and Answer showed quite clearly that since over 900 cases were settled or withdrawn as a result of conciliation over unfair dismissal and since about the same proportion applied to actions for infringements of trade union rights, this part of the Act is working very effectively.

Mr. Mitchell

In view of the remarkable figures which my right hon. Friend has given—[Interruption.]—of the use which is being made of the Act by individual trade unionists—[HON. MEMBERS: "Repeat the figures."]—over 2,500 in so short a time—[HON. MEMBERS: "Reading."]—will he say whether he has had representations from trade unions or their members that employers should not obey the law?

Mr. Macmillan

No. As the information I have shows that in a majority of the cases of unfair dismissal with which the tribunals have dealt the employee concerned has had judgment in his favour, it is quite clear that the employee and the court and, I am sure, the whole House, think that employers as well as employees should obey the law.

Mr. Prentice

We have unreserved admiration for the gallantry of the Minister's hon. Friends who clutch at these little straws of comfort in a week when the Industrial Relations Act has caused a quite unnecessary dock strike and brought us to the verge of a general strike.

Mr. Macmillan

I do not accept the right hon. Gentleman's diagnosis of the causes of the dock strike. His right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) was much more accurate. He was supported by some of the most militant dockers when they appeared on "Panorama". They did not support the diagnosis of the right hon. Member for East Ham, North (Mr. Prentice).

Mr. John Page

May I suggest to my right hon. Friend that he asks his PPS to analyse the figures, because I am sure he would obtain quicker and better results than from the computer?

Mr. Macmillan

I shall bear the suggestion in mind.

Following are the figures:

Unfair dismissal (Section 22) Infringement of rights in regard to trade union membership and activity (Section 5)
Cases in which conciliation was not attempted or was unsuccessful 897 119
(a) Settled 359 8
(b) Withdrawn 612M 29
as a result of conciliation action.
Still being dealt with 713 30
Totals 2,581 186