HC Deb 02 May 1972 vol 836 cc174-7
3. Mr. John Page

asked the Secretary of State for Employment what consultations he has had since 2nd March with the Trades Union Congress on the law of picketing.

Mr. Maurice Macmillan

None, Sir.

Mr. Page

Does my right hon. Friend recall that his predecessor answered a similar question and said that he would have consultations with the CBI about picketing? Will he continue these consultations with some urgency as it is important that the law regarding picketing and its practice should be clearly understood by all concerned?

Mr. Macmillan

We are carrying out a review internally as quickly and urgently as possible. It is best to keep to our original plan of consulting the TUC and the CBI after that internal review is completed.

Mr. Ewing

Can the right hon. Gentleman give the House an assurance that his efforts will be directed towards finding jobs for people rather than further restricting the powers of the trade unions?

Mr. Macmillan

I am happy to say that there is some evidence that this is already taking place. I see in the newspapers that there is a considerable increase in new jobs as a result of the success of British Leyland Motors in the Midlands and that other jobs are being created in the North and North West.

8. Sir F. Bennett

asked the Secretary of State for Employment how long he now expects his review of the law of picketing will take.

9. Sir J. Rodgers

asked the Secretary of State for Employment if he has yet completed his review of the law on picketing.

64. Mr. John Page

asked the Secretary of State for Employment when he expects to announce the results of the review of the law on picketing which is at present being carried out within his Department.

Mr. Maurice Macmillan

As my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State informed my hon. Friend the Member for Torquay (Sir F. Bennett) on 11th April, the review is in hand but it is too early to say how long it will take.—[Vol. 134, c. 158.]

Sir F. Bennett

Can my right hon. Friend assure us that the result of this report will be forthcoming in the present Session? More important, in the interim, can he confirm that pending this review and any legislative changes that may arise because of it, the law with regard to the picketing of industries not directly involved in a dispute will remain as it is, having been decided in a High Court case, subsequently confirmed in the Court of Appeal, and involving a leading hotel in my constituency and a no-less-well-known trade union?

Mr. Macmillan

I can assure my hon. Friend that we are carrying out the review within the Government as fast as we can. He will realise that this is a complicated matter which, if it is to be done at all, must be done properly. It is not for me to interpret a High Court judgment, but naturally my hon. Friend may rest assured that the law is not altered in any way by what the Government are doing in an internal review.

Sir J. Rodgers

Will my right hon. Friend give an assurance that when his departmental review is completed, he will publish it either immediately or after he has had further talks with the CBI and the TUC, and that it will be debatable in the House?

\Mr. Macmillan

We must await events for that. Certainly we shall consult the TUC and the CBI. Naturally I would expect the review to be a matter of concern to the House, but I would not like to say at this stage in precisely what form we shall carry it forward.

Mr. Tinn

Will the right hon. Gentleman not yield to the reactionary pressures behind him and will he, in considering the review, bear in mind that peaceful picketing is an essential part of peaceful legal striking which in itself is an essential part of free industrial relations and a free society? I recognise that the law on picketing may require clarification, but will the right hon. Gentleman resist any temptation or pressure to use the law or to strengthen it to hinder the free operation of collective bargaining, striking and peaceful picketing?

Mr. Macmillan

I assure the House that I shall resist all pressures, from whatever side of the House they come, to anticipate the findings of this extremely careful review and the consultations about it which we propose to hold with the CBI and the TUC.

Mr. Page

Will my right hon. Friend arrange for the interesting and informative speech of his right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General on the subject of picketing to be made available in the Library?

Mr. Macmillan

I do not know about that. I should have thought that it probably was available.

Mr. Haffer

Will the right hon. Gentleman take careful note of the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Cleveland (Mr. Tinn)? Is he aware that the trade union rank and file as well as the national officers are getting increasingly bitter as a result of the use against them of the Industrial Relations Act? Will he bear in mind that any further moves to restrict legitimate trade union activity will create even greater bitterness and make industrial relations problems even worse than they are now under this Government?

Mr. Macmillan

Neither I nor the Government have any intention of restraining legitimate trade union activity, and that is not the purpose of the Industrial Relations Act. The inquiry is about the extension of that activity to the point at which it infringes upon the liberties of others.