HC Deb 04 November 1980 vol 991 cc1080-2
4. Mr. Neubert

asked the Secretary of State for Employment what reactions he has received to his published proposals for a voluntary code on picketing and other matters under the Employment Act.

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

We have received representations from more than 70 interested organisations and individuals. The vast majority have welcomed the draft codes. In addition, the Select Committee on Employment has just published its report. Drafts revised in the light of comments made will be laid before Parliament for approval very shortly.

Mr. Neubert

Since the idea of voluntary restraint by the unions was widely criticised as being likely to be ineffective when it was prescribed by the previous Prime Minister in the winter of discontent, since the Select Committee has pronounced the latest proposals to be constitutionally undesirable, and since the TUC proposes to drive a container lorry through them anyway, what confidence has my hon. Friend and learned Friend that these voluntary codes are the right answer to industrial disruption?

Mr. Mayhew

The guidance issued by the TUC had the disadvantage of having to operate in conjunction with law which, at that time, condoned many important abuses in industrial relations. The Employment Act has remedied those abuses. My right hon. Friend will pay careful attention to what has been said in response to the draft codes, including what has been said not only by the majority but the minority of the Select Committee.

Mr. J. Enoch Powell

In revising the voluntary code for publication, will the Secretary of State, among other matters, take into account the suggestion that I made through the Select Committee, that there should be a sharper distinction between those parts that are statutory, those that are interpretations of statutes, and those that are neither?

Mr. Mayhew

My right hon. Friend has noted the memorandum that the right hon. Gentleman placed before the Select Committee and the evidence that he gave. It is important that the distinction to which he has referred should be clearly made. It is also important to remember that the Secretary of State is empowered to issue codes to give such guidance as he thinks fit for promoting improved industrial relations. That is their status. We shall do our best to make sure that the distinctions are clear.

Mr. Aitken

Is my hon. and learned Friend aware that these codes will be widely welcomed. and indeed, have been widely welcomed, by some of us who sat on the Select Committee, precisely because they are full of sound practical common sense and likely to be just as valuable to the future of good industrial relations as the Highway Code has been to good motoring?

Mr. Mayhew

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. The status of this code is identical to the status of the code of practice on industrial relations issued under the 1971 Act and still in force, and the ACAS codes of practice issued under the 1975 Act. I believe that industrial relations will be improved as a result of these draft codes.