HC Deb 06 June 1972 vol 838 cc221-3
16. Mr. Leslie Huckfield

asked the Secretary of State for Employment who will have access to the names and addresses of workers collected by his Department for the Commission on Industrial Relations for ballot purposes.

Mr. Chichester-Clark

I understand from the Commission on Industrial Relations that arrangements are being made to destroy its copies of the lists of names and addresses of railway workers collected for purposes of the recent ballot. The unions and Railways Board have been informed of these arrangements. Lists held by my Departmental officers have already been destroyed.

Mr. Huckfield

Is it not a fact that these names and addresses were collected by the Minister's Department without a court order from the National Industrial Relations Court, without consulting the unions and without all of the Board of the CIR even knowing about it? Is it not also a fact that this was done to coerce the railway unions? As not all the staff involved in the handling of the recent ballot are covered by the Official Secrets Act, how can the Minister give the guarantee which he has given?

Mr. Chichester-Clark

I already answered the hon. Gentleman on this matter on 9th May. As far as the CIR was concerned and the compilation of this list, I would not disagree with its view that it was sensible contingency planning. The compilation of the list of employees is a matter for the management of British Railways. Access during the ballot was confined to members of the CIR staff directly concerned with the ballot arangements, trained staff working under their supervision, and observers from the Railways Board and the unions checking entitlement to vote. Only the CIR staff I have mentioned and 16 Departmental staff engaged in counting votes saw the papers.

Mr. Edwin Wainwright

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the carrying out of this ballot was farcical? Does he know that in my constituency we have a Swinton and also a Wath, that there are plenty of Swintons and Waths throughout the country but that no other identifying name or town was attached to the letters, not even the word "Yorkshire?" Is he aware that many ballot papers went astray and that many of my constituents were unable to vote, which made a farce of the whole thing?

Mr. Chichester-Clark

There are bound to be areas of this kind. I have been given information about the case in Swinton.