HC Deb 17 November 1981 vol 13 cc151-2
9. Mr. Hal Miller

asked the Secretary of State for Employment if he will have discussions with the Trades Union Congress about the practice of reaching strike decisions at mass meetings.

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

My right hon. Friend is always happy to meet the TUC and would welcome the opportunity to discuss the widespread concern felt about this practice.

Mr. Miller

Does my hon. and learned Friend agree that it is offensive to our ideals of democracy, injurious to personal liberties and livelihoods and, in the case of a major dispute, such as British Leyland, prejudicial to the whole economy, that such decisions should be reached at open meetings, in open parks, with no check on those attending? Does he agree that something should be done to rectify that situation?

Mr. Waddington

The Government feel that strike decisions should not be taken at huge outdoor meetings. There is too much risk of intimidation and vote rigging. The time has certainly come for the TUC to remove its absurd boycott on the provision of Government funds for secret ballots. That is absurd and irresponsible when the TUC is prepared to accept money from the Government for training and for the Welsh TUC to take a trip to Spain.

Mr. Ashton

By what democratic process did British Leyland decide to cut the relaxation time of its workers from one hour to 51 minutes? Is it not true that all too often car manufacturers, when they have surplus stocks, deliberately create strikes on the shop floor to run down those stocks? There is a strong feeling that British Leyland is doing exactly that now to get rid of its stockpile.

Mr. Speaker

Order. That question is not related to the main question. It is a separate question.

Mr. John Evans

Will the Under-Secretary take this opportunity to explain to his hon. Friends that if the Government, through legislation, insist that ballots take place before strikes are called, there will have to be ballots to call off strikes? Would that not lead to a dangerous position for industry, the trade union movement and industrial relations?

Mr. Waddington

The hon. Gentleman will have to contain his impatience and await the announcement of my right hon. Friend's proposals.

Sir Albert Costain

Does my hon. and learned Friend agree that employment in the motor car industry depends on the number of motor cars that are sold? How can we get across to employees that strikes merely stop the public buying motor cars and cause more unemployment?

Mr. Waddington

It may be that the message has come across to employees. The difficulty is to ensure that true democracy is restored within trade unions.

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