HC Deb 04 July 1978 vol 953 cc207-8
1. Mr. Silvester

asked the Secretary of State for Employment whether he is now in a position to announce a date for the publication of the Press Charter.

The Minister of State, Department of Employment (Mr. Harold Walker)

I am not yet able to say when the draft Press Charter will be published.

Mr. Silvester

Is it not disgraceful that the Government should hesitate in making clear their attitude towards the freedom of the Press and the closed shop issue before the end of the Session, or, perhaps, before a General Election?

Mr. Walker

The House debated these matters on 18th May. On that occasion I set out the position very fully. I recalled that it made obvious sense for the Government to wait until the Royal Commission had published its report before setting in hand the very lengthy series of consultations required by the statute, and which it makes good sense to undertake.

Mr. Corbett

Will my hon. Friend confirm that one of the problems is the continuing inability of the Newspaper Publishers Association to speak with a united voice? Will he also confirm that he has no intention of having a provision in the charter which would give a right not to belong to a trade union because of the damaging effect which that would have on industrial relations?

Mr. Walker

Yes. In the debate on 18th May, I mentioned the way in which the consultations had inevitably been lengthened by the inability of Fleet Street to speak with a single unified voice and by the number of employers and proprietors who wished to make separate representations. I have said repeatedly in the House that I think such a proposal as that advanced by the right hon. Member for Lowestoft (Mr. Prior)—to give journalists a statutory right not to belong to a trade union—would not only be to repeat the follies of the Industrial Relations Act but would be quite inconsistent with the provisions of the parent Act.

Mr. Prior

Does not the Minister of State agree that it would be far better if the National Union of Journalists used its efforts to persuade people to join rather than have to use compulsion as the only means of getting 100 per cent. membership?

Mr. Walker

I wholly agree with the right hon. Gentleman, and I always have done, that the case for trade unionism and trade union membership must rest on its merits and on its own appeal.