HC Deb 06 June 1972 vol 838 cc215-7
10. Mr. Rost

asked the Secretary of State for Employment what assistance his Department is able to give to trades unions wishing to train union officials and members in the operation of the Industrial Relations Act.

28. Mr. Jessel

asked the Secretary of State for Employment if, in the discharge of his responsibilities for promoting good industrial relations, he will arrange for his Department to make available training facilities for union officials.

Mr. Chichester-Clark

A course for shop stewards and union officials is available under my Department's "training within industry" scheme.

Mr. Rost

Is there not an urgent need for more courses for trade unionists on the workings of the Industrial Relations Act? Would this not help to improve industrial relations and to make it clear that the Act works to the advantage of trade union members and to the public interest as a whole? Would it not also be useful if some hon. Members opposite could attend some of these courses and therefore give less misleading advice to their trade union colleagues?

Mr. Chichester-Clark

As my hon. Friend says, there are a number of courses which hon. Members opposite could most usefully attend. A number of courses of the type which my hon. Friend has in mind are available, and they are worked out with the full knowledge and approval of the unions concerned. Union approval is always secured before a course is presented. A revised course is being prepared at present in consultation with the Commission on Industrial Relations, the major unions concerned and the industrial training boards. The initial courses for shop stewards were well received but the unions are increasingly making their own arrangements.

Mr. Ashton

Is it not a fact that the architect of the Act was the Solicitor-General, who used all his ingenuity to frame a loaded question which was, nevertheless, rejected by a majority of six to one in the ballot during the rail dispute, and is it not clear, therefore, that the union leaders know their men and the Act better than the Government do?

Mr. Chichester-Clark

The architect was not the Solicitor-General but the court, but in any case it is true to say that these facilities for trade unions have been available for about 10 years and that quite a number of shop stewards and union officials have taken advantage of them. It seems to me a great pity that many more did not do so. I suppose that one could say that that shows a lack of responsibility by some of those concerned in not having taken advantage of the opportunities which were offered.

Mr. Jessel

Will my hon. Friend see what can be done particularly to encourage shop stewards to take the courses to which he has referred, and can he give any indication how many shop stewards have already taken such courses?

Mr. Chichester-Clark

Of course we shall give every possible support to this. In the last 10 years 700 shop stewards have taken the union job relations courses and nearly 50 union officials have been trained to present the course.

Mr. Heffer

Have the hon. Gentleman or his Department approached the TUC to ask whether it might perhaps organise some courses on industrial relations which Ministers and some hon. Gentlemen on the back benches opposite could attend?

Mr. Chichester-Clark

I have no doubt that there would be great advantage in cross-fertilisation, and I am sure that note will be taken of what the hon. Member said.

Forward to