HC Deb 18 January 1982 vol 16 cc14-5
16. Mr. Canavan

asked the right hon. Member for Middlesbrough, as representing the House of Commons Commission, whether the House of Commons Commission is satisfied with the state of industrial relations in the House of Commons.

Mr. Arthur Bottomley

The Commission and the trade unions are not always in total agreement, but there are no current difficulties which cannot ultimately be resolved.

Mr. Canavan

Why was a retired civil servant appointed as House of Commons staff inspector even before the terms of reference of the appointment were announced to the trade unions representing the staff of the House? Has there not been a deplorable lack of industrial democracy in the place, which is supposed to be the mother of democracy?

Mr. Bottomley

The Commission must be left to appoint its own staff. It has taken the step of ensuring that the management will consult the trade unions on the way in which the inspector will carry out his duties and the scope of them.

Mr. Alan Williams

Does my right hon. Friend accept that none of us wants to see avoidable tensions develop in industrial relations in the House? However, does he recognise that there seem to be excessive delays in negotiations with the trade unions that represent the servants of the House? There has been less than adequate consultation on the changes that have taken place in the administration of industrial relations within Parliament. Surely this should concern all hon. Members as we have not extended to the servants of the House the same range of rights as exist for workers generally.

Mr. Bottomley

The Commission has done its best to meet the trade unions' requirements. The Commission alone is not responsible for the delay. There was a meeting between the Commission and representatives of the trade unions, and it took some time before replies were received. Those matters are now being considered. One of the reasons for the delay in considering the fundamental part of the trade unions' difference is a grading scheme. The company that made the report tended to give more benefits to the higher grades of the staff in the Commons service than to the lower grades. We wanted to examine that more carefully.