HC Deb 19 April 1973 vol 855 cc660-2
Q2. Mr. Wyn Roberts

asked the Prime Minister if he is satisfied with the co-ordination between the Department of Trade and Industry and the Department of Employment over worker participation in industry.

The Prime Minister

Yes, Sir.

Mr. Roberts

Would my right hon. Friend give some indication of his views on this subject of worker participation? For example, does he think that it is a suitable subject for the future agendas of talks with the TUC and CBI? In view of the current diversity of opinion on the subject, does he not think that we should have an early opportunity to discuss it in the House?

The Prime Minister

I should welcome a discussion of this subject in the House, because it is of great importance, but a debate is a matter for my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House. We touched on the subject in the original Chequers talks with the CBI and the TUC. We did not carry it very far, but I hope that in future meetings we shall be able to discuss it.

Mr. Heffer

As a step towards greater worker participation in industry, would the right hon. Gentleman like to indicate what steps are now being taken to amend the Industrial Relations Act until such time as Labour gets power and repeals it altogether? Would he say what discussions have already been held between the Secretary of State for Employment and Sir John Donaldson—I understand that they have taken place—and what has come out of those discussions and what proposals the Government are now making in relation to the Industrial Relations Act?

The Prime Minister

I have told the House on many occasions that we are prepared to consider detailed and specific proposals for amending the Industrial Relations Act. I know, as it has become public, that the TUC has been discussing the matter. We have not had any recommendations from the CBI on specific matters. We remain ready to consider any proposals.

Mr. David Steel

In view of the Prime Minister's earlier encouraging reply about the need for a debate on this important subject, may I ask whether he is aware that after the Easter Recess I shall introduce a Workers Council Bill under the Ten Minutes Rule? One constructive step that the Government could take would be to allow the House to have a full debate on that constructive measure, which is modelled closely on the successful legislation of West Germany.

The Prime Minister,

That, too, is a matter for my right hon. Friend. The Commission is now considering this matter in Brussels. It was one of the matters decided at the summit in Paris. We are also considering proposals that the Commission has been working out. I fully appreciate what has been done in West Germany. As I told the House previously, I talked to Chancellor Brandt about it. I do not think it necessarily follows that a pattern that is suitable for one member of the Community should be completely transferred in its existing form to another member. If there is to be a debate, one would want a wider debate on various forms so as to make some sort of judgment as to what might be suitable for our own arrangements.

Sir D. Dodds-Parker

In view of my right hon. Friend's known personal interest in this subject may I ask whether he will urge the CBI and the TUC and others to hasten their studies and so help others in the European Parliament working on this important subject?

The Prime Minister

I have said that I hope we can discuss this at meetings with the TUC and the CBI. I hope that they will note what my hon. Friend has said.

Mr. Benn

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the position whereby workers may lose their jobs as a result of factory closures or be made redundant without there being any consultation or any legal rights arising is a major source of anxiety in industry? Can he tell the House when he expects a reply from the CBI and the TUC about the proposals that have been put forward? Do the Government intend to legislate by means of a Companies Act during the next Session?

The Prime Minister

I cannot tell the right hon. Gentleman when the other organisations will be letting us have their views. It would obviously be a matter for consideration as to whether it is possible to fit these matters into the next Companies Act. The right hon. Gentleman will know that closures and redundancies are covered by the code of practice. I would not accept his allegation that this is causing widespread anxiety in industry because more and more firms are carrying out full consultation. We had a case raised last Tuesday in which it was claimed that the need for speedy action to avoid a takeover had not given time for consultation. We all regretted that. I do not think that that is an accusation which can be levelled across the whole of British industry.