HC Deb 09 July 1974 vol 876 cc1121-3
6. Mr. Skinner

asked the Secretary of State for Employment whether he now expects to secure the repeal of the Industrial Relations Act before the end of July 1974.

Mr. Foot

I certainly hope so.

Mr. Skinner

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the Industrial Relations Act has been one of the longest running farces in parliamentary history? Does he further agree that millions of pounds have been spent on this lavish production, that hundreds of people have been engaged in chasing one another from confrontation to confrontation and that finally the ageing comic hero, like Falstaff, in the guise of the Leader of the Opposition has abandoned the stage saying that he never meant it after all?

Mr. Foot

My hon. Friend makes the farce so attractive that I am almost sorry it is going to end.

Mr. Pardoe

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that his confidence that the Act will be repealed by the end of July conflicts with his weekend statement that the opposition of the Liberal Party and Conservative Party together has made government virtually impossible and has made it inevitable that there should be an early General Election? Will the right hon. Gentleman state exactly what things in his Department have been made impossible by the activities of the Opposition?

Mr. Foot

One of the things made impossible was the restoration to the trade unions of the £10 million which the previous Government took from them. What I was referring to in my weekend remarks was the prospective abolition of the Pay Board. I hope that we shall have Liberal support in carrying through that operation. Perhaps the Liberals have changed their minds about this, as they did about the Industrial Relations Act.

Mr. Roy Hughes

Does my right hon. Friend appreciate that there will still be serious misgivings about the loss of the £10 million by the trade union movement, that this involves losses for pension funds, widows and educational trusts and that the Opposition seem intent on withholding this money? Will my right hon. Friend give an assurance that this question will not be forgotten and that it will be resurrected at a later date?

Mr. Foot

I fully appreciate my hon. Friend's feelings on this matter. I certainly hope that we will be able to deal with this as soon as we have an assured majority for justice in this House of Commons.

Mr. Peyton

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware how interesting we found his remarks just now that the £10 million repayment to the trade union movement was a cardinal point and one on which he presumably wishes to fight? Is he also aware that when he produces his new Bill, of which he is making such a cardinal feature, we will be very interested to hear his own personal explanation of it instead of the kind of general sermon which he preached on Second Reading?

Mr. Foot

The right hon. Gentleman will have to possess his soul, if that is what it is, in patience until tomorrow and Thursday, when we shall discuss these matters. As for the first part of his supplementary question about the £10 million, the protestation of the right hon. Gentleman and others of his right hon. and hon. Friends was that they never wanted to see the trade unions lose the money. Therefore, all that we were attempting to do was to carry out their good intentions, if their intentions were good.

Mr. Hayhoe

Will the right hon. Gentleman acknowledge that substantial sections of the 1971 Act are being reenacted by the legislation at present before Parliament and that the important questions before this House at the moment are the amendments needed to that legislation during the Report stage to make it broadly acceptable to the country?

Mr. Foot

The hon. Gentleman's interpretation of the Bill now before the House is incorrect, but we shall have a chance to debate that. The only substantial part of the 1971 Act which reappears in our Bill is that dealing with unfair dismissals, and that part was taken from the Bill of 1970 of the previous Government.

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