HC Deb 22 January 1980 vol 977 cc192-4
11. Mr. David Price asked

the Secretary of State for Employment, in view of the House of Lords' judgment in Express Newspapers Limited versus McShane and Another, whether he intends to bring forward any additional proposals for the law on blacking.

15. Mr. Les Huckfield

asked the Secretary of State for Employment whether he will make a statement on his proposed response to the judgment in Express Newspapers Limited versus McShane on trade union immunities.

Mr. Mayhew

The judgment has interpreted the Labour Government's legislation in a way which, when in opposition, my right hon. Friend foresaw and warned against.

We are considering what changes are needed to protect from secondary blacking and other forms of secondary action employers and employees who may be far removed from the dispute, and we shall shortly be consulting.

Mr. Price

In view of my hon. and learned Friend's reply and the fact that the House of Lords rejected the Court of Appeal's concept of remoteness in connection with blacking, will he take advantage of the Employment Bill now before Parliament to introduce a suitable amendment to ensure that there is some limit on how far from the point of dispute blacking can be carried?

Mr. Mayhew

It is clear that there is a need to restrict the now very wide interpretation of immunity that derives from the recent judgment. The route to that objective which my hon. Friend has suggested—I know that he takes great interest in these matters—is one of the routes that we are considering.

Mr. Huckfield

As the test of what constitutes action in the furtherance of a trade dispute was clearly intended to be subjective in the Trade Disputes Act 1906, the Act of 1976 and in the recent House of Lords' judgment, why cannot the Minister leave it as it is?

Mr. Mayhew

There is more than one means by which it is open to the Government, in the interests of employees as well as employers who may be remote from the origination of the dispute, to restrict that immunity. We are looking at all available routes and will be consulting shortly.

Mr. Budgen

Does my hon. and learned Friend agree that the main reason for the effectiveness of secondary action is that few men who come from a closed shop are prepared to break blacking or cross a picket line when they know that by so doing they risk losing their job? Does he also agree that until the Government are prepared to bite on the bullet and say that the closed shop will be illegal no effective action will be taken against any form of secondary picketing or blacking?

Mr. Mayhew

My hon. Friend is right to point to the significance of the closed shop in the effectiveness of secondary picketing. However, I do not agree that it would be practical or wise to make the closed shop illegal. There is great significance in the proposal contained in the Employment Bill, which will give the right of appeal to an independent tribunal to anybody who considers that he has been unreasonably expelled from his union because of a closed shop.