HC Deb 22 January 1980 vol 977 cc186-7
7. Mr. Adley

asked the Secretary of State for Employment what further steps he intends to take to promote industrial harmony.

The Under-Secretary of State for Employment (Mr. Mayhew)

We shall continue to encourage management and unions to develop better communications and greater employee involvement within industry. We shall ensure through our Employment Bill that there is a fairly balanced framework of law within which these improvements can be achieved.

Mr. Adley

Does not greater employee involvement imply that employees would have the right to be consulted over matters that affect their livelihood? Does not my hon. and learned Friend think that in any democracy all employees should have the unfettered right to be consulted in a secret ballot on matters such as whether they should come out on strike? Will he see whether the steel workers in the private sector can be given that right at the earliest opportunity?

Mr. Mayhew

Secret ballots for important union decisions and elections are highly desirable and, indeed, are widely desired. As my hon. Friend knows, the Employment Bill makes provision for public funds to be made available to pay for that. I cannot hold out any prospect of an advanced implementation of that provision in the Bill.

Mr. Barry Jones

Are not the Government deliberately setting a course for 2 million unemployed? Does not that carry with it the risk of grave social consequences? Do not the Minister and his right hon. Friend despair of the inflexible and aggressive policies of the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for Industry? Is not the steel industry a case in point?

Mr. Mayhew

The Government are not setting the deliberate course that has been suggested, nor do we accept the description of the policies that have been mentioned. Therefore, the rest of the question does not call for an answer.

Mr. Emery

With regard to industrial harmony, can my hon. and learned Friend quantify the harm that is being done to industry by secondary picketing in the steel strike? What action does he intend to take?

Mr. Mayhew

As everyone knows, there has been widespread secondary picketing during the course of this damaging strike. One has only to look at reports on television and in the press to see how effective a weapon secondary picketing is. That underlines the importance of the provision in the Employment Bill to restrict privileged picketing to the place at which the picket works.

Mr. Gwilym Roberts

Does not the hon. and learned Gentleman accept that Government policies in general are creating industrial disharmony and creating a divisive society by making the very rich richer through massive tax handouts and the great mass of the population much poorer?

Mr. Mayhew

The taxation reforms, especially those in regard to income tax, were substantially voted for by those who work on the shop floors of industry.