HC Deb 01 February 1977 vol 925 cc218-9
9. Mr. Ridley

asked the Secretary of State for Employment if he will make a statement on his policy toward the operation of the closed shop in industry.

Mr. Harold Walker

As we have said before on many occasions, the Government's policy is one of neutrality, and that policy is reflected in current legislation.

Mr. Ridley

Does it square with the Minister's idea of social justice that Mr. Clifford Darbyshire should be sacked by his trade union for criticising the output of his fellow workers, making it virtually impossible for him ever to get another job? Is the Labour idea of the sanction against free speech perpetual unemployment?

Mr. Walker

The hon. Gentleman is scarcely qualified to lecture me on social justice. He should know that in the case to which he referred the company itself has said that the reasons given in the Press and reflected in his remarks are not the reasons for the dismissal at all.

Mr. Moate

Is the Minister aware that his attitude of neutrality on this issue is unacceptable from a Government who should, in a democracy, be committed to individual freedom? Is he aware that the attitude of neutrality towards enforcement of the closed shop is about as unacceptable to us as the attitude of neutrality towards Nazism.

Mr. Walker

The abandonment of that neutrality could only lead down the disastrous path of the Industrial Relations Act. Opposition Members seem incapable of learning from the most bitter experience. The Industrial Relations Act led to the loss of 24 million working days' production in 1972, yet hon. Members opposite want us to return to that sort of situation. It seems that they have learned nothing from having had their fingers burned then.