§ 7. Mr. Whitney
asked the Secretary of State for Employment if he will make a statement about the code of practice on the closed shop.
§ Mr. Tebbit
A draft of a revised code of practice on the closed shop was published for public consultation on 8 December. The consultation period extends until 31 January, after which I intend to lay a revised version of the code before Parliament for approval. Changes to the existing code are needed both to bring it into line with the Employment Act 1982 and to increase the protection available to workers in closed shops who may be threatened by their union with expulsion and thus with the loss of their jobs for failing to take part in industrial action.
§ Mr. Whitney
I thank my right hon. Friend for that reply. Does he agree that the abuse of certain powers by 815 members of many unions during the so-called TUC day of action underlines still more clearly the need for measures to protect union members against the anti-democratic tyranny of the closed shop?
§ Mr. Tebbit
Indeed, yes. There has been widespread concern about the way in which many working men and women are intimidated into taking unlawful industrial action. My Department and many Members of Parliament have received many letters, and it is a comfort that some trade unions also received many letters of protest. The NGA journal had to print many of them because of the massive protests by its members.
§ Mr. Harold Walker
The next time that the Secretary of State goes on about those who lose their jobs because of possible union action, such as the four Walsall dinner ladies, will he spare a thought for the 1,300 dinner ladies who have been sacked by the Cambridgeshire county council and employed on a casual basis, to be paid by the hour?
Will he confirm also that paragraph 61 of the new draft code seems to be an attempt to introduce mandatory strike ballots by the back door? It seems to take us a long way along that road. We have not debated it and it would be intolerable if there were an attempt to slip such a major change in the law through by a debate of one and a half hours late at night instead of by a proper and adequate debate.
§ Mr. Tebbit
The right hon. Gentleman knows that the code cannot change the law. The code offers advice to tribunals on how the law might be interpreted. That advice is intended to be helpful. It seems that the right hon. Gentleman is in favour of forcing men and women out on strike without ballots.