HC Deb 18 July 1979 vol 970 cc1776-7
71. Mr. Kenneth Lewis

asked the Minister for the Civil Service what discussions he has had with leaders of the trade unions covering the Civil Service with a view to securing a no-strike agreement within the Civil Service.

Mr. Channon

I refer my hon. Friend to the answer that I gave him yesterday.

Mr. Lewis

It was a surprise to me when I got an answer twice. There is a feeling among the general public that the limited agreement that my hon. Friend is seeking to reach does not go far enough. There is a feeling among the public that the public service is no longer—

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman knows that he must ask a question and not give information.

Mr. Lewis

Is the Minister aware that the public feel that the public service generally, including the Civil Service, now goes on strike too easily at the drop of a file? If the Civil Service wants the privileges and all the advantages that it possesses, it should show loyalty to the public and to the Crown.

Mr. Channon

I have a great deal of sympathy with that view. As I said to my hon. Friend yesterday, I hope that it may be possible to conclude no-strike agreements in a few essential services. We shall certainly examine the position of the Civil Service in the light of this decision.

Mr. John Evans

Does the Minister accept that a fundamental part of democracy is the right to strike? Is he also aware that within the engineering profession of the Civil Service there is a great deal of ill feeling at the way that the Government are handling its pay claim? If the Government wish to create a society based on good engineers and scientists, why do they not settle this claim?

Mr. Channon

There is a later question on that very point. I note the views expressed by the hon. Gentleman in the first part of his question. There is also some obligation on those in the public sector to try to serve the public and not to inconvenience it if it can genuinely be avoided.

Mr. Fletcher-Cooke

Whatever the idea of a no-strike agreement may be, what sort of sanction does my hon. Friend think he can write into such an agreement, and how enforceable would such a sanction be?

Mr. Channon

Those are some of the problems that I have in mind, and I shall seek my hon. and learned Friend's advice before proceeding further.