§ 8. Mr. Leslie Huckfield
asked the Secretary of State for Employment whether provisions for the preservation of the confidentiality of information in the Industrial Relations Act include both his Departmental staff and those from the Commission on Industrial Relations.
§ Mr. Bryan
Yes, Sir, with the exception of Departmental conciliation officers not appointed under the Act. The President of the Industrial Court has stated publicly that the Court will respect the confidentiality of discussions between the parties and conciliation officers of the Department or of the C.I.R.
§ Mr. Huckfield
But is not the Minister aware that despite the statement by the President of the Industrial Relations Court there is tremendous concern about the provisions, not only among staff of his own Department and the staff of the C.I.R. but particularly in the trade union movement? Does not the Minister accept that the success of the commission and his own staff in dealing with these matters depends upon trade unionists feeling that they can talk freely? How can they talk freely when there is a growing fear that any information they give to C.I.R. staff and to staff of his Department may have to be given to the Industrial Relations Court as evidence against them under subpoena?
§ Mr. Bryan
I can only repeat the firm assurance given by no less a person than Sir John Donaldson—there is no greater authority—in his public statement at the opening of the court on 1st December, 1971, when he said that any fears that the court would require conciliation officers, C.I.R. staff or others to reveal confidential information were completely without foundation. I very much hope that this will give the hon. Gentleman the reassurance he seeks.