HC Deb 15 December 1981 vol 15 cc139-40
6. Mr. Knox

asked the Secretary of State for Employment if he will meet the Confederation of British Industry to discuss the long-term improvement of industrial relations.

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

My right hon. Friend has had a number of discussions with representatives of the Confederation of British Industry about the long-term improvement of industrial relations. He expects to meet them within the next few weeks to discuss his proposals for legislation.

Mr. Knox

Does my hon. and learned Friend agree that greater employee participation has an important role to play in the long-term improvement of industrial relations? Is he satisfied that the CBI is doing enough about that? When he meets its representatives, will he emphasise the urgency of the need for action in the matter?

Mr. Waddington

I agree that one cannot overestimate the importance of new initiatives in employee participation. It is important to try to get rid of the "them" and "us" attitude in industry and to create an atmosphere of partnership. Recently the CBI carried out a survey that showed that progress was being made and that there was a recognition in industry of the benefits that can come from greater participation. There is no reason to be complacent. Every possible effort should be made to proceed further along those lines.

Mr. Bidwell

Does the Under-Secretary realise that many industrialists are fearful of what is rumoured to be the Government's forthcoming legislation on the closed shop? Is he aware that they see it as a needless diversion in industrial affairs which will cause much upheaval in normal industrial relations and as a sort of distraction that will have nothing to do with greater efficiency in industry?

Mr. Waddington

I assure the hon. Gentleman that I have spent many hours reading the enormous number of representations that we received following the Green Paper. The vast majority of those who made representations called for action on the closed shop. The CBI put the matter at the top of its list of things that needed to be done.

Mr. Lyell

In furtherance of the cause of participation, will my hon. and learned Friend reconsider the proposal that company annual reports should contain a statement from the chairman about the action that has been taken during the year to further participation and progress in that direction?

Mr. Waddington

We shall certainly consider that proposal. I would add only that not all the problems can be solved by legislation. I am sure that my hon. Friend agrees with that. It is essentially an area in which there must be new initiatives from management.

Mr. Harold Walker

Is it not regrettable that in all the discussions that the Government claim to have had, Members of Parliament have not been consulted? We have not been given the opportunity in the House to debate either the Green Paper or the proposals put forward by the Secretary of State last month. Is it not clear that the Government are proposing an open attack on the trade union movement, which will have disastrous consequences for those afflicted by the Industrial Relations Act 1971 and is nothing more than an attempt to distract attention from the appalling economic consequences of the Government's policy?

Mr. Waddington

It is remarkable that the right hon. Gentleman should complain of not being able to make his views known. The Opposition could at any time have used a Supply day for a full debate on the Green Paper. Any Opposition Member could make personal representations to us. The right hon. Gentleman's views on the matter are well known. They are not our views. We do not believe that it is an attack on the trade union movement. These are essential measures to improve the competitiveness and performance of British industry and to ensure that individual rights are safeguarded.