HC Deb 22 July 1980 vol 989 cc258-60
7. Mr. Needham

asked the Secretary of State for Employment when he expects to issue the code of practice on picketing and the closed shop.

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

My right hon. Friend expects to publish consultative drafts of these codes as soon as the Employment Bill receives the Royal Assent. After consultations he intends to seek Parliament's approval for the codes as soon as it reassembles after the Summer Recess and to issue the approved codes as soon as possible thereafter.

Mr. Needham

Will my hon. and learned Friend tell the House what process of consultation he intends to undertake, and with what parties, before the introduction of the codes?

Mr. Mayhew

My right hon. Friend intends to follow the process of consultation that he followed on the working paper on which the Bill is based. He will consult bodies such as ACAS, the CBI, the TUC and all bodies representing the police. We hope that as many people and organisations as possible will advise us on these codes.

Mr. Pavitt

Is the Minister aware that if a code of practice appears to the work force to be patently biased, and if it is backed by the powers of law and order, that will quickly bring the powers of law and order into disrepute with the ordinary person who is trying to operate successful relationships with management?

Mr. Mayhew

Of course if a code practice appears to be patently biased people will not pay much attention to it. We are determined that the codes will not be biased but will provide greatly needed guidance about the conducting of picket lines. Picket lines with mass pickets are intimidatory.

Mr. John MacKay

Is my hon. and learned Friend aware that in the Central region of Scotland employees have had two ballots on the closed shop? In the first one, all the employees who were balloted rejected the closed shop. The union leaders and the Socialist council did not like that so they held another ballot, concentrating on the NALGO members only. The second ballot also rejected the closed shop. Will the code of practice stop that kind of gerrymandering, with one ballot after another until the unions get the result that they want? Will that not put even more people in the dole queues because they do not want to join a union?

Mr. Mayhew

I am well aware of the ballots to which my hon. Friend has referred. I am glad that the second attempt, which restricted the ballot to existing members of the trade union only, was rejected by the members of that union. We have, in another place, amended the Employment Bill to prevent that stratagem of taking the ballot only from the members of the trade union. We shall consider very carefully the provisions in the codes of practice.

Mr. R. C. Mitchell

Why is the Minister worried about the closed shop? If the present rate of unemployment continues all the workshops will be closed anyway.

Mr. Mayhew

The Government worry about the closed shop because they dislike it as a particular illustration of the dangers of infringing personal liberty—[Hon. Members: "What about the right to work?"]

Mr. Speaker

Order. Hon. Members must listen to the reply.

Mr. Mayhew

In that context the Government share the concern of large numbers of trade union members.

Mr. Varley

Is the hon. and learned Member aware that the people who are destroying liberty are himself and his colleagues in the Government, who are destroying hundreds of thousands of jobs? [Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker

Order. This only wastes Question Time.

Mr. Mayhew

I believe that Parliament's proper concern for unemployment and for jobs should extend beyond the unemployed to those who have jobs to go to and only need to be allowed to get to them. [Hon. Members "Out, out."]