HC Deb 12 April 1983 vol 40 cc649-51
2. Sir William van Straubenzee

asked the Secretary of State for Employment what responses he has had to the Green Paper "Democracy in Trade Unions".

8. Mr. Bill Walker

asked the Secretary of State for Employment what response he has had to his recent Green Paper on trade unions.

The Secretary of State for Employment (Mr. Norman Tebbit)

I have received 147 representations on the Green Paper "Democracy in Trade Unions". The period for consultations ended on 8 April.

Sir William van Straubenzee

In his consideration of these representations, will my right hon. Friend give due weight to the representations that I have received from industrialists in my constituency to the effect that compulsory ballots before strikes might introduce rigidity at the point where flexibility would be more desirable?

Mr. Tebbit

I understand my hon. Friend's point, which has been made by a number of people who have responded to the consultations. I assure my hon. Friend that the measures that are eventually brought forward will be not only effective but highly flexible.

Mr. Walker

Following the responses that my right hon. Friend has received, is there a likelihood of further legislation being introduced?

Mr. Tebbit

The overwhelming thrust of the responses that we have received in the consultations suggests that legislation is needed to improve the practices and to ensure an adequate measure of democracy in trade unions.

Mrs. Shirley Williams

In the light of the disturbing indications from the National Economic Development Council about growth and employment prospects for the next part of this decade, will the Secretary of State seriously consider looking again at his Green Paper with a view to combining proposals for industrial democracy with the proposals for secret ballots that he took from my party and a proposal for an adequate vote by shares before corporate financing is made to the Conservative party?

Mr. Tebbit

I am not sure to which of her parties the right hon. Lady refers—the old one or the new one.

Mrs. Williams

The new one.

Mr. Tebbit

The new one, the right hon. Lady says.

I had come to the conclusion that these ballots were needed before the right hon. Lady swapped parties after she was defeated. The right hon. Lady is unfortunately confusing democracy in trade unions, which is the subject of my Green Paper and is about returning the property of the unions to those who rightly own it—the trade unionists—with her proposal to give away the property of companies to people who do not own that property.

Mr. Varley

When will the Secretary of State produce a Green Paper on democracy in employers associations, and especially on the undemocratic and unauthorised company donations to the Conservative party that have neither the consent nor the approval of ordinary shareholders?

Mr. Tebbit

The right hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well that these matters are governed by the Companies Acts and that such contributions must be reported to the shareholders, who have absolute power over them.

Mr. Robert Atkins

Has my right hon. Friend received representations from Conservative Trade Unionists—an organisation that represents more moderates in industrial relations than almost any other in the country—in favour of opting into rather than out of political levy and the election by secret ballot of trade union committee leaders at all levels? Does he agree that those representations carry more weight than any of the nonsense from the Opposition?

Mr. Tebbit

My hon. Friend is correct. I have received comments on the proposals from Conservative Trade Unionists and from a number of individual trade unionists of perhaps any or no party. They all point in the same general direction—that proposed in the Green Paper.

Mr. James Lamond

If the Secretary of State was listening to the answer to the previous question, he will know that his hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State said that trade unionists and workers were becoming better behaved because the number of days lost through strike action was constantly falling. In the light of that satisfaction on the part of the Government, why is there any need to press ahead with further legislation?

Mr. Tebbit

It is desirable to reduce the level of strikes still further, but what is even more desirable in these matters is that the ordinary members of trade unions should have control over their own property—the trade unions.