HC Deb 24 July 1984 vol 64 cc853-905

Lords amendment: No. 1, in page 3, line 31, leave out subsection (6) and insert— (6) Every person who is entitled to vote at the election must—

  1. (a) be allowed to vote without interference from, or constraint imposed by, the union or any of its members, officials or employees; and
  2. (b) so far as is reasonably practicable, be enabled to do so without incurring any direct cost to himself.
(6A) So far as is reasonably practicable, every person who is entitled to vote at the election must—
  1. (a) have sent to him, at his proper address and by post, a voting paper which either lists the candidates at the election or is accompanied by a separate list of those candidates; and
  2. (b) be given a convenient opportunity to vote by post."

Read a Second time.

5.32 pm
Mr. Edward Leigh (Gainsborough and Horncastle)

I beg to move, as an amendment to the proposed Lords amendment, in line 1, at beginning, insert— '(5A) In accordance with Section 3 of the Employment Act 1980, the Secretary of State may issue Codes of Practice containing practical guidance on procedures for the issuing and counting of ballot papers. Such guidance shall stipulate certain minimum criteria and preclude certain practices. Failure by a union to meet the requirements of the Code of Practice shall give a union member the right to apply to the Certification Officer or to the court under section 3(1) of this Act for a declaration that the union has failed to comply with those requirements.'.)

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Ernest Armstrong)

With this it will be convenient to take the following:

Amendments (a), (b), (c), (d), (e) and (f) to the proposed Lords amendment.

Lords amendment No. 3, after Clause 2 insert the following new clause — Modification of section 2 requirements .—(1) Where a trade union proposes to hold an election and is satisfied that there are no reasonable grounds for believing that the requirements of section 2 of this Act would not be satisfied in relation to that election if subsection (6A) of that section were to apply as modified by this section, it may proceed as if for paragraphs (a) and (b) of subsection (6A) there were substituted— '(a) have made available to him—

  1. (i)immediately before, immediately after, or during, his working hours; and
  2. (ii)at his place of work or at a place which is more convenient for him;
or be supplied with, a voting paper which either lists the candidates at the election or is accompanied by a separate list of those candidates; and (b) be given—
  1. (i) a convenient opportunity to vote by post (but no other opportunity to vote);
  2. (ii) an opportunity to vote immediately before, immediately after, or during, his working hours and at his place of work or at a place which is more convenient for him (but no other opportunity); or
  3. (iii) as alternatives, both of those opportunities (but no other opportunity).'"

Amendments (a), (b), (c), and (d) to the proposed Lords amendment No. 3.

Lords amendments Nos. 7, 8, 10 and 13 to 16.

Mr. Leigh

I believe that the considerable evidence of malpractice in workplace ballots gives ample justification for such an amendment to the Bill.

Mr. Ron Davies (Caerphilly)

What is the evidence?

Mr. Leigh

The hon. Gentleman asks for evidence. I shall be delighted to provide it. The recently published pamphlet of Aims of Industry, under the heading Trades Union Bill is ballot riggers' charter", said: In last year's ballot in NALGO where the papers are issued in bulk for distribution in the place of work one member boasts of having cast 129 votes. His main strategem was going round the waste paper baskets filling in discarded ballot papers. This is known as 'putting to good use' ballot papers half of which are generally thrown away. If the hon. Gentleman is not prepared to accept that, perhaps he will listen to Kate Losinka, the president of the Civil and Public Services Association, the largest Civil Service union, who said that in the 1983 elections militants in her union held meetings in several rooms, harangued members and then immediately debated a ballot in that emotionally charged atmosphere. It is not surprising that, although Communists can achieve only 1 per cent. of the vote at general elections, in the CPSA they won many posts.

I believe that all that is required—this is what my amendments seek—is a trenchant booklet setting out some answers to questions which moderate trade unionists and the House should be asking. For instance, will each faction fighting elections in trade unions have to appoint returning officers and scrutineers? How will neutrality be achieved in the collation of votes? How will voters identify themselves? Will they have to prove who they are? How will impersonation of those who are abroad or ill be prevented? Most important of all, how will voters at these elections know whether an election is to take place? Will it be advertised on page 3 of The Sun? I doubt it. Of course, under the Bill as at present drafted, they can always go to the certification officer, but a poll last year showed that 87 per cent. of trade unionists had never heard of the certification officer. Under the Bill, will the ballot papers carry a warning from the Government, Government health warning —rigging may damage your union health."? Of course they will not.

My amendment (b) to the proposed Lords amendment No. 3, reads as follows:

In line 2, leave out from 'union' to end of line 25 and add 'proposes to hold an election other than by means specified in section 2(6A) of this Act the trade union shall show cause to the Certification Officer that the proposed method of election is fair, equitable and effective, and if the Certification Officer is so satisfied he shall allow the election to be held as proposed by the trade union. (2) The Secretary of State shall, within three months of the commencement of this Act, make by a statutory instrument subject to approval by resolution of both Houses of Parliament, regulations specifying the procedure for claiming exemption under this section from the requirements of subsection (6A) of section 2 of this Act. '. The effect of the amendrnent is to give power to the certification officer to prevent a workplace ballot proposed for no good reasons. Lord Gowrie in another place said that the Government hoped that postal as opposed to workplace ballots would become the norm. Indeed, under the Government-inspired Lords amendment No. 1 a trade unionist is given a right to be sent a voting paper at his address. However, in the next breath, by Lords amendment No. 3, the trade union leadership is given a right to throw that overboard. It can satisfy itself that workplace ballots would be free, fair and effective. It is a judge in its own court. It is rather like giving an accused person the chance to choose trial in front of a nobbled jury or in front of a freely selected jury, and then giving the innocent victim the opportunity to appeal. If that is not sophistry, what is?

I predict that when ballots are held in 1986 under the provisions of the Bill, postal ballots will simply be found not to have become the norm. What do the Government mean by the norm? Do they mean 50 per cent.? That is an optimistic figure by any count. They will not achieve 50 per cent. Do they mean a mere handful? Of course it will be a mere handful, possibly what we have at present; that is, basically the Electrical, Electronic, Telecommunication and Plumbing Union.

Baroness Cox, who led the revolt initially in the Lords, and who to the very last held out, said: What is causing deep disappointment to many moderate trade unionists is especially the fact that the presumption for postal ballots is so weak that it can easily be ignored, and the fact that there is no requirement whatever for any form of independent scrutiny to forestall potential malpractice. These omissions highlight perhaps the basic characteristic of both the Bill and the Government amendments—that they provide for a constructive change on a premise of goodwill and good faith, but they fail to give adequate safeguards for situations where these do not pertain. Indeed, these omissions are so serious that one experienced trade unionist has commented that, 'The wheelers and dealers and bully boys will be laughing:" —[Official Report, House of Lords, 12 July 1984; Vol. 453, c. 1090.] They will be laughing at this.

Mr. Eddie Loyden (Liverpool, Garston)

Can the hon. Gentleman tell me whether the noble Baroness was elected by postal ballot or by a workplace ballot?

Mr. Leigh

This is a serious debate, and anybody who knows the Baroness will know her concern for those who are fighting the militants. The hon. Gentleman knows all about militants. The Baroness is concerned for those who are fighting the militants in the workplace, and it is people like the Baroness whom we should be supporting.

Assuming that the Government get their Bill today, I hope that, at least, the Minister will offer to review the working of the Bill. If, as is likely, there are no more ballots in two or three years' time than there are now, I hope that the Goverment will offer to bring in new legislation.

Amendment (d) to the proposed Lords amendment No. 3 says: '(2) Where a trade union wishes to vary the method of voting in subsection (6A) of section 2 of this Act, the trade union shall submit to the Certification Officer an explanation as to why the requirements of that subsection are not being followed and if the Certification Officer is not satisfied with that explanation his report shall be evidence in any court proceedings as to the validity of the subsequent workplace ballot. ' . In a spirit of compromise, I offer this to the Government. If the reason why they are not prepared to accept my other amendments is that they do not want to force the certification officer into telling the trade union what to do, surely they can at least accept this compromise. It puts the onus on the trade union to justify a workplace ballot. If the certification officer is not satisfied with that explanation, his adverse comments can be used in proceedings in court.

During the passage of the Bill, in order to convince the unconvinced of the unconvincable, the Government have produced a series of spurious arguments, with which I now deal.

The first and real reason why they are not prepared to make secret postal ballots mandatory is what I would describe as the "two fingers argument". In other words, the Government are concerned that legislation passed in this Parliament will meet the same fate as legislation passed in the early 1970s. Of course trade unionists will object to secret postal ballots, because such ballots will ensure that militants will not be elected. That is the first and only reason for proposing them. If militants in the trade unions are not prepared to accept secret postal ballots as stipulated in my amendments, why should they be prepared to accept workplace ballots as stipulated in the Bill? I do not believe that they will.

The next argument adduced by the Government is that workplace ballots produce a higher turnout. That is simply not so. There is, of course, a high turnout among the miners, but that is a unique industry, with a limited number of workplaces. The industry is heavily unionised, but even in this industry the practice of dishing out ballot papers at the workplace has been called into question.

The other union often quoted by Ministers is the CPSA—the only major Civil Service union to hold workplace ballots. In 1981 there was a 40 per cent. turnout in that union, but by 1982 that had declined to 30 per cent. and this year it was as low as 25 per cent.

The third argument is that of impracticality. It is said that some unions, such as the National Union of Seamen, cannot use postal ballots. That is fine. Let those unions justify themselves to the certification officer.

The fourth argument is that some workplace ballots are, or could be, genuinely fair. So be it, but that should be justified to the certification officer.

The fifth argument, that the unions cannot produce central registers, is, I believe, nonsense. The electricians' union succeeded in doing so long before the age of efficient computers and, incidentally, saved itself £1,000,000 in arrears.

Mr. Michael Fallon (Darlington)

There is surely a stronger point in favour of my hon. Friend's amendments than he claims credit for. A secret postal ballot would result in correct and up-to-date union membership records, which some of us have long wanted. That would avoid the possibility of the Mickey Mouse branches and membership counting that we have seen in the past.

Mr. Leigh

I am grateful to my hon. Friend, who makes a fair point.

The next argument is that we should leave it to the moderates such as Frank Chapple. He is a once-in-a-lifetime figure, and we simply cannot expect the average man on the shop floor to approach the union bully boys and to demand a secret postal ballot. That simply will not happen.

The last argument is that we shall fall foul of the ILO if we insist on secret postal ballots. That is nonsense. All countries regulate trade unions. If we are to be taken to the ILO simply for insisting on fair secret postal ballots, what are we to fear from that august body?

5.45 pm
Mr. Keith Best (Ynys Môn)

I am somewhat confused. Have not the Government said that they will extricate themselves from the ILO in any event as soon as they are able to do so?

Mr. Leigh

If that is so, it makes my point even stronger. I do not understand why Ministers are so exercised about the ILO.

As the Bill has progressed, the denizens of Caxton house have used all these arguments, but I prefer to listen to a man who fought militants on the shop floor. Writing in The Sunday Times, Frank Chapple said: MPs should be under no illusion when they vote on Tuesday on the question of workplace versus postal ballots in union elections … MPs should insist on reinstating the earlier plan to make secret postal ballots the rule, rather than the exception. The Governmet's behaviour on this vexed issue is as remarkable as it is disturbing. It has warbled, waffled and prevaricated. Ministers who once enthusiastically backed the postal ballot moved inexplicably to prefer workplace ballots … There is no practical case against postal ballots — only the left's covert anxiety to prevent the extension of democracy to the privacy of the union member's home. Yet the Government will still leave the union to decide on whether the ballots should be postal or at the workplace. True, a complaints procedure will exist. But the onus will be on the individual member to buck the system. We are being asked to adopt the policy of the preemptive cringe. Like the chandeliered ballroom of the dictator's palace, where gentle persuasion is used to hide the torture chambers below, so the Government by their arguments give respectability to all that is most shady and disreputable in the trade union movement. They turn their backs on men such as Frank Chapple and women such as Kate Losinska, who for years have battled against the militants in our trade union movement.

In a letter to The Times, moderate trade unionists said that militants fear secret postal ballots like Dracula fears the crucifix. I would add, "Or like Frankenstein the powercut and Habgood the thunderbolt." Are we to have the courage of our convictions, or will the supporters of "The Resolute Approach" be dismissed in terms used by a Prime Minister to which the present Prime Minister is often equated: Decided only to be undecided Resolved to be irresolute Adamant for drift Solid for fluidity All powerful to be impotent"?

Mr. Ian Mikardo (Bow and Poplar)

It is not my function to defend the Secretary of State against the vicious attack of his hon. Friend the Member for Gainsborough and Horncastle (Mr. Leigh). I leave the right hon. Gentleman to do that for himself. However, the hon. Gentleman made some observations on which I feel bound to comment.

He used a number of terms in almost shorthand pungency without for a moment seeking to define them. Terms used in a dogmatic way, confusing dogmatism with authority—as the hon. Gentleman did—without being defined, obscure any discussion or debate. I want to turn my attention to two of the terms that he used and to invite the House to think about them.

The hon. Gentleman used the word "militant". In some ways we live in a strange age, in which "do-gooder" has become a pejorative term. When I was a youngster, one was proud to be called a do-gooder, but now one is sneered at. Presumably one gets applauded for being a do-badder. In exactly the same way, someone who joins an organisation but makes no contribution to the work and welfare of that organisation, apart from his subscription, and who leaves it to others to do the work, is somehow considered to be a desirable person, whereas a chap who does the work is dismissed sneeringly with the term "militant" — [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] As the hon. Member for Gainsborough and Horncastle used the term without defining it, I am entitled to make my definition.

Under my definition, I have been a militant for more than half a century. By that I mean that I have done my share of the chores. I have regularly attended branch meetings. Presumably the hon. Member for Gainsborough and Horncastle admires those who stay away. When necessary I have taken office, sometimes even when it has been inconvenient and taken up too much of my leisure time. That is the basis on which trade unions work. I have never sacrificed enough to be a branch secretary. I am amazed at the self-sacrifice of branch secretaries, many of whom give up their leisure time for four evenings a week and even one or two mornings at the weekend. They are the militants——

6 pm

Mr. Christopher Hawkins (High Peak)


Mr. Mikardo

I shall give way in a moment, although I have a strong suspicion that what the hon. Gentleman wants to say is not important.

I have been militant when it has been necessary. I have participated in many delegations and have volunteered—although perhaps not as often as I should have done—to take collections. After all, someone must do that. Many people do not realise that 95 per cent. of the work of trade unions is carried out voluntarily, without reward, by people in their leisure time. They are the militants. We need militants to keep the unions operating. When I hear hon. Members or anyone else speaking with contempt about militants in trade unions, I know that they have never been involved in the work of trade unions.

Mr. Hawkins

Does the hon. Gentleman accept that Frank Chapple, the Prime Minister, myself and many others would be termed militant under the hon. Gentleman's definition? He defined a militant as someone who takes part actively in the institutions in which they work.

Mr. Mikardo

That is marvellous. The hon. Gentleman is anticipating my next point. That is the fate of hon. Members who give way too readily.

My next definition is that of a moderate. I find the use of the word "moderate" to be rather strange. I know Frank Chapple very well, and although we are at odds on many matters, we get on well. We both have East End connections. Frank Chapple does not think of himself as a moderate. Anyone who describes him as a moderate and me as an extremist is turning the truth on its head. No one is a more moderate old geezer than me. Sometimes I think that I am too moderate. Frank is undoubtedly an extremist and I do not think he would object to that description. Conservative Members are falling for Fleet street newspeak. When dealing with political matters, they never use the term Right-wing—they only refer to Left-wing extremists on the one hand and moderates on the other. No one is ever Right-wing. Anyone who is a Right-winger is automatically a moderate and anyone who is a Left-winger is automatically an extremist. That is why a distinction must be drawn.

I remind the House that Frank Chapple was one of the Communist gang who did the original ballot rigging in the ETU. Trade union reform came about because of Frank Chapple, Frank Haxell and Leslie Cannon. I knew them well; they were the fiddlers three. Only the newcomers to trade union matters, such as the hon. Member for Gainsborough and Horncastle, who still has his mother's milk wet on his lips, look upon Frank Chapple as a great pillar of respectibility.

The hon. Member for Gainsborough and Horncastle dismissed all the Government's arguments rather brusquely. I wish to deal with the argument about the electoral register. The hon. Gentleman said that he did not think it was impossible to have an accurate register. One hon. Member said that ballots would help to put the registers straight. I must say that they will not do that, even though I wish that they would. Trade unions need accurate lists of members, but it is difficult to compile them because people change their jobs and move homes without notifying their branch secretaries.

My union distributes a journal by post, but, unhappily, a large percentage are not delivered because members have changed their addresses without notifying their branch secretaries. Someone might move, not simply into the next borough, but, because of a change of job, to another part of the country. Some people have followed the advice of the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, got on their bikes and gone somewhere else to work. Those people register in a different branch and branch transfers have to be made. However, branch secretaries work in their spare time, without the aid of typewriters, duplicators and word processors—therefore, branch transfers take a considerable time and electoral registers are not updated.

At the last election, the electoral register in my constituency was about 8 or 9 per cent. inaccurate, leaving aside deaths. In one ward it was 15 per cent. out, despite the fact that the register is compiled by professional people with considerable resources. They spend a great deal of money sending out forms, they employ many clerks and people to knock on doors. Yet the register is still inaccurate. Therefore, we cannot expect too much when the register is composed by amateurs in their spare time.

Mr. Fallon

The register for my constituency may be inaccurate, but at the general election 77 per cent. of the electorate managed to vote — which is a much higher figure than those voting on trade union matters. Some pathetic arguments are being put against the amendment, but the hon. Gentleman's argument is easily the most pathetic. He claims that because members have changed their addresses branch secretaries cannot keep their registers up to date. Surely it will be a strong incentive to members who change their addresses to register their new addresses if they know that they might lose their vote in any ballots.

Mr. Mikardo

If the hon. Gentleman had ever been a trade union member he would know that there are more compelling reasons for persuading people to notify a change of occupation or address than having a vote once in a blue moon, yet people still do not do so. There is a great deal of inertia and lethargy. All that Conservatives Members have said is highly theoretical.

Mr. John Evans (St. Helens, North)

Is my hon. Friend aware that in the Amalgamated Union of Engineering Workers, of which I am a member, we have postal ballots not only for executive council members but for every other paid officer in the union. Each union member has about 20 postal ballots a year. Nevertheless, every month our union journal carries long messages from the general secretary and other officials begging members to notify the union of their change of address, often to no avail. Despite all the efforts of the officers in our union, the register is at least 10 to 15 per cent. out.

Mr. Mikardo

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for telling me that his union has exactly the same problem as mine. Not only does that happen in trade unions, but it is a common complaint among secretaries of all voluntary organisations, especially those who work in their spare time. They find a register difficult to keep up to date.

In the ordinary way, it would not matter to be 1 or 2 per cent. out, but once it becomes a matter of law anybody who claims not have been sent a ballot paper can cause endless problems by going to law. We have seen how sea lawyers in all sorts of organisations can exploit such a situation. What Conservative Members may say shows that their approach is not based on their experience of life and the organisation and management of trade unions.

It is irrelevant that the percentage turnout at trade union votes is so low. I deplore that. I have spent a lot of time in my union working hard to increase that percentage. I have addressed meetings and begged people to vote. I have said that I do not care how people vote, as long as they vote. I have given a lot of my time to doing that. If the hon. Gentleman has not done that, he should not be complaining about the low level of ballots. That is to be regretted and we should all aim to make democracy more participatory. Too many people in all walks of life are prepared to let others do the chores and even make the decisions.

A trade union is no different from this honourable House in one respect — [Interruption.] If the hon. Member for Northampton, North (Mr. Marlow) lets me finish, if he shuts his mouth and opens his ears, he will learn something to his advantage. A trade union is full of willing people—a few are willing to work and the rest are willing to let them. Hon. Members know that that is true of the House, a trade union, all voluntary organisations and some non-voluntary organisations as well. We all know that. Those of us who are the workers regret it, but we bear our share of the burden. It is no good being theoretical about all this.

Mr. Martin Stevens (Fulham)


The Minister of State, Department of Employment (Mr. John Selwyn Gummer)


Mr. Mikardo

Is it more important, Mr. Deputy Speaker, to give way to a Front Bencher or a Back Bencher? I shall give way to an old friend, the hon. Member for Fulham (Mr. Stevens).

Mr. Stevens

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his kind gesture. I warn him against saying that I still have my mother's trade union milk splashing over me. I do not think that I have missed more than four or five meetings of my branch of the Association of Professional, Executive, Clerical and Computer Staffs in the past eight years, so I am all right.

Mr. David Winnick (Walsall, North)

The hon. Gentleman does not attend the union's annual conference when he is the delegate.

Mr. Stevens

If anybody is interested, that intervention is untrue.

With all the imperfections, and in the interests of being practical, does the hon. Member for Bow and Poplar (Mr. Mikardo) think that more trade union members, or fewer would vote if we had a personal ballot than if we used the workshop ballot, the branch ballot, or another method?

Mr. Mikardo

I cannot understand why the hon. Gentleman defends himself so vigorously against an accusation that I never made. I was not referring to him when I spoke of people not knowing how the unions work. I was speaking of somebody else. Nevertheless, he had better be careful or he might be run down as militant. The answer to the hon. Gentleman's question is that I do not know, nor does anyone else. But there would be a lot more complaints, rows and a lot more time taken up of busy honorary branch secretaries. I do not want to see that happen. It is difficult enough to get chaps to volunteer for such jobs now. I do not want to make it any worse.

Mr. Gummer

The hon. Gentleman said that his union's journal was sent out by post to his members. No doubt that is because he feels that his members would be more likely to receive the journal. Why is it that he does not send the ballots out by post or give out the journals at the branch meetings when the votes are cast in the election? At the branch meetings only 2 per cent. of his members bother to vote. Therefore, it is difficult for the House to understand his argument when he is prepared to send his journals out by post but does not want to send his ballots out by post.

Mr. Mikardo

I was not surprised to see the hon. Gentleman bob up. He was on the same theme during the Committee and Report stages, literally ad nauseum. The answer to the hon. Gentleman's question is simple. It is not that I am prepared to do this or that. I do not decide the union's procedure. They are decided by the members. The journals are sent out by post because that is what the members ask for. The ballots are conducted at branch meetings because that is what the members ask for. As I have given that answer to the hon. Gentleman goodness knows how many times since we started the Committee stage, I hope that it will now have penetrated even his concrete and will have sunk in at last.

Those who support the amendment do so without cognisance of the practicalities. One has to deal with life as it is and not see it as some ideal picture of life which is much better organised than it actually is. If the amendment were agreed to it would cause endless trouble for little gain. I suspect that that is one reason why the Government are resisting it. No doubt we shall hear about that in due course from the Secretary of State.

Mr. Peter Thurnham (Bolton, North-East)

I have much sympathy with the argument advanced by my hon. Friend the Member for Gainsborough and Horncastle (Mr. Leigh), but we are dealing with a carthorse which, even if taken to water, cannot be made to drink. Union postal ballots have a notoriously poor response from the members. I support the Lords amendments on the assumption that the register of addresses of union members will be available to the public and not be secret. I should welcome an assurance from my right hon. Friend that the register will be open to the public in the same way as a list of shareholders in a limited liability company.

Mr. Derek Fatchett (Leeds, Central)

Does the hon. Gentleman understand that a person who joins a union may have an employer who is opposed to trade unionism? There are many employers of that sort who contribute financially to the Conservative party. Is the hon. Gentleman saying that the employer should have access to information that will reveal that this employee has joined a trade union?

Mr. Thurnham

Certainly. I further query the presumption that ballots will be postal unless the union is satisfied that workplace ballots will meet all the necessary requirements. Surely the employer, not the union, should be so satisfied. The employer is providing the jobs, and he should be fully satisfied that his employees have been properly balloted. I look forward to my right hon. Friend's assurances on that point.

Mr. Ian Wrigglesworth (Stockton, South)

It is appropriate that the debate is taking place against the background of the industrial action that has been with us over recent weeks. We have seen some of the events and actions which have given rise to public pressure for the changes which are encompassed in the Bill and which some of us believe should be made to go further along the lines of the amendments which we have tabled.

On our television screens we saw the dockers balloting by a show of hands at Dover. It was a disputed ballot which brought out the men in that port, held up trade to the continent for a considerable period and almost stopped nearly 250,000 people travelling to the continent on their holidays. That is clearly an inadequate system for balloting union members on whether industrial action should be taken. The Bill will deal with such ballots. I acknowledge that the Bill will have that effect. I hope that balloting by a show of hands will be brought to an end if the Bill succeeds in its purpose. Those of us who want to see more democratic procedures will welcome that.

We have not seen a proper ballot being taken in the miners' dispute, despite that being provided for in the rules of the union.

Mr. Richard Holt (Langbaurgh)

We know that members of the National Union of Mineworkers who have had the opportunity to vote have voted against the strike.

Mr. Wrigglesworth

I acknowledge that. However, the National Union of Mineworkers has not organised a national ballot. I think that it is the view of most people that the leadership of the NUM has sought deliberately to avoid such a ballot, because it fears that the outcome would be a rejection of the industrial action that it is proposing.

6.15 pm

Much has been said about the workplace ballots that have taken place within the NUM. I do not want to embarrass the Minister of State, Department of Employment too much, but in Committee he presented the NUM's workplace balloting as an example that deserved support. That was the view of the chairman of the Conservative party. It is worth while considering the way in which that balloting has operated in the past, especially in the election of the union's general secretary, Mr. Peter Heathfield. There was a close fight, and the contender lost by slightly more than 3,000 votes. I have brought the facts of that ballot to the attention of the House on a previous occasion. I shall merely say now that there are grave doubts about the way in which the workplace ballot of the NUM was carried out on that occasion. What happened to the spoilt ballot papers that were referred to by the defeated candidate? He said that he would make inquiries about the ballot papers that were not received by some members. How did the press know about the ballot papers in individual boxes at the pitheads? How did that information appear in the press before the votes were counted in London three or four days later?

Mr. Patrick Nicholls (Teignbridge)

The hon. Gentleman is making an impassioned speech about the rights of the individual over those of the union, and I have no doubt that his views are shared by his right hon. and hon. Friends. How does he square his present views with the fact that in 1974 he voted for the repeal of the Industrial Relations Act 1971, which represented a high-water mark in the rights of trade unions over their members? On that occasion, he was joined by every member of what is now the alliance. What has changed in the past 10 years—his sense of what is right, or of what is politically expedient?

Mr. Wrigglesworth

If the hon. Gentleman studied the record, he would know that my right hon. and hon. Friends and I voted for the repeal of the 1971 Act because we believed that it was deeply damaging to industrial relations. That Act did not incorporate the legislation that is in the Bill. The hon. Gentleman may not be aware that in 1975 my right hon. and hon. Friends and I tabled a motion calling for postal ballots for trade unions. If he wants to check back, he should read the Secretary of State's Second Reading speech. Some of us have been in favour of postal ballots for trade unions for many years. The amendments that we have tabled represent no recent change in our view.

There is experience of postal balloting within the trade union movement. The Electrical, Electronic, Telecommunication and Plumbing Union and its general secretary Mr. Frank Chapple, are advocates of postal balloting, and the experience of that union shows how it works in practice. The AUEW's postal balloting has dramatically improved participation in elections when comparison is made with the old system. It has led to a voting turnout in that union comparable with the turnout in local government elections. I accept that that is not an acceptable level, because we want every union member to participate in all the ballots of his or her union, but voting turnouts have a great deal to do with the size, organisation and history of the union and the procedures that it has adopted over a long period. I have no doubt that some unions will continue to have low voting turnouts while others, by the very nature of their organisation, will have much higher turnouts.

There have been a number of arguments against the proposal——

Mr. Mikardo

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Wrigglesworth

If the hon. Gentleman will forgive me, I shall not give way. I am aware that many hon. Members wish to contribute to the debate, and I want to draw my remarks to a close.

I shall take up some of the reasons why the Government have opposed the proposal for postal balloting. The amendments propose that postal balloting should be the norm and that workplace balloting should be the exception. The Government have wobbled all over the place in a remarkable way since the Bill was introduced. They have been under pressure from their supporters and from those in the trade union movement who represent the broad spectrum of opinion. I cannot understand the Government's behaviour. There is an overwhelming case for postal balloting, and I cannot understand why they did not provide for it in the Bill. As with so many other issues, they have placed themselves in a dreadful predicament, for which there was no need. If sections of the trade union movement support postal balloting, is it too much to ask a Conservative Government to do so? I hope that Conservative Members will show that they agree with the proposition when the Division takes place.

We are asking in the amendments for the independent supervision of postal ballots. That is vital, as Frank Chapple observed in The Sunday Times. The Minister claims that independent supervision would give rise to a substantial quango. It seems that the Government have shot themselves in the foot yet again. It is the Government who are proposing giving much greater powers to the certification officer. I welcome that, because we pressed for such a system throughout the consideration of the Bill in this place. We want the certification officer to have a greater role. I hope that the Secretary of State will ensure that that officer can carry out that role. I hope also that his right hon. and hon. Friends will note that it is important that the running of such ballots should not be in the hands of union activists—I do not use the word "activists" in a pejorative sense — who are, by definition, partisan people with a preference for one candidate or another from the Right, the Left, or wherever. An independent body should run those ballots, and proposals in our amendments cater for that.

There is a need also for some flexibility in the operation of postal ballots. We accept that it is wrong that postal ballots should be imposed upon every union. Some unions — for instance, the National Union of Seamen—may find other methods — for example, using their employers' communications systems — to get ballot papers to and from union members within an organisation. Our amendments propose measures whereby that flexibility is allowed, but we do so according to strict criteria, assessed by the certification officer. There can be exceptions to the general rule of imposing postal ballots if the circumstances warrant it and the certification officer approves them.

Contrary to what the hon. Member for Bow and Poplar (Mr. Mikardo) said, there is great evidence of abuse of balloting procedures within the trade union movement. One does not need to look very far to find such abuses. That is probably only the tip of the iceberg. I have been active in the trade union movement for a large part of my life. I was an adviser to the Civil and Public Services Associations for a number of years. During the CPSA's recent election, 82 branches with 13,000 members sent in ballot boxes too late, so their members were effectively disfranchised, and 112 small branches with 7,000 members sent in no ballot papers at all. How can that be satisfactory? What happened in that election? The political complexion of the largest Civil Service union in this country has dramatically turned about, and the Left is in control. The Left has sacked the general secretary from the TUC general council and put a Communist party member of the executive in his place.

Mr. Tony Blair (Sedgfield)


Mr. Wrigglesworth

I believe, from my knowledge of the Civil Service trade unions, that that person is totally unrepresentative of the members whom he purports to represent.

Mr. Blair

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Wrigglesworth

No. I have a lot to say, and I must quickly draw my remarks to a close. That is one outstanding example of branch balloting working defectively. As Frank Chapple said, the only way in which one can overcome those defects is by introducing a system of postal balloting.

I hope that the House will support the view that I believe was inherent in the decision in the other place and go for postal balloting. It is remarkable to look at the way in which the other place took that decision. It was remarkable to see Conservative and Labour Front Benchers going arm-in-arm through the Lobby and being defeated by a coalition of members of the Labour party, including Lord Houghton of Sowerby, the former chairman of the parliamentary Labour party and former general secretary of a trade union and Lord Howie; distinguished members of the Conservative party, including Lord Thorneycroft; and members of the alliance. I hope that the same will happen in the House tonight. Back-Bench Members should show the two Front Benches that they are prepared to accept what the whole country wants—postal ballots for trade union elections.

Mr. Nicholas Budgen (Wolverhampton, South-West)

The hon. Member for Stockton, South (Mr. Wrigglesworth) feels strongly about the arguments between postal ballots and ballots at the workplace. I am bound to say that this afternoon I came into the House without any strong view about that matter. I thought, for perhaps personal tactical reasons, that I would do my best to support the Government. It seemed to me that there was quite a lot to be said for the Government's general argument that one might look slowly at trade union law and, if a particular proposal did not work out, one might reconsider it and perhaps move to a different position.

There has been constant pressure from Conservative Back Benchers upon successive Secretaries of State to go a little faster, and in the past I have been part of that movement. I believe that the success of this legislation depends most of all not upon the enactment of the criminal law but upon the willingness of individuals to take remedies under the civil law. Therefore, there is something to be said for the inherited position of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State of moving step by step. When I came into the Chamber this afternoon, I was concerned to hear my hon. Friend the Member for Gainsborough and Horncastle (Mr. Leigh) say that one of the arguments that had been put forward by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State was that the proposed amendment was not lawful, because it would be in breach of the International Labour Organisation convention. I hope that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State will say that he has never used that argument either publicly or privately. I hope also that he will say that my hon. Friend the Member for Gainsborough and Horncastle is entirely wrong about that argument. That argument is an affront to the dignity of the House, and the sooner the House votes in favour of this amendment to demonstrate that it wishes to be free of the ILO convention, the better.

Next year we have the opportunity of getting out of the ILO convention. There is, of course, a general argument against the ILO to the effect that the two Houses of Parliament are best able to judge the ways in which our country shall be ruled. We do not need, thank you very much, rule by abstract principles from foreign powers.

Mr. Mikardo

What about Brussels?

Mr. Budgen

In relation to other institutions, the hon. Gentleman has been a doughty proponent of the general arguments that I have been putting forward. Let me keep to the ILO for the time being.

Mr. Winnick

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the words he used a moment ago about the ILO could have been used, word for word, by some spokesman in Poland denouncing any attempt by the ILO to look into the claims of Solidarity?

Mr. Budgen

I am not one of those who believe that we have the right to interfere in the internal arrangements of other nations. I am not one of those who speak consistently about the need to conform to human rights in Russia. I am, of course, aware that internal arrangements within another nation state may plainly represent a threat to our security, but I do not believe that it is our duty to impose our views about the balance between individual liberty and the power of the state in other countries. For the sake of argument—I see that the right hon. Member for Lagan Valley (Mr. Molyneaux) is nodding—I point out that I do not welcome, for instance, the advice that is so generously showered upon those who live in Northern Ireland about the way that they manage their domestic affairs.

We have the good fortune to be able to withdraw from the ILO next year. As I understand it, the Government have not yet taken a decision about that matter. There will be many on these Benches who do not like the idea of being ruled by abstract principles from the ILO. But there is another important point. Conservative Members are not indifferent to the scourge of unemployment. We, most of all, want people to be able to price themselves into work. Ten per cent. of the present, sadly diminished, work force is ruled by various forms of minimum wages councils. We are obliged to continue those councils because of the ILO. I am explaining why that argument is important. If today we——

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. The hon. Member is straining the rules of order. We are not discussing the ILO, except in relation to the words used by the mover of the amendment.

Mr. Budgen

I accept your rebuke, Mr. Deputy Speaker.

I hope that my hon. Friends will see this as another opportunity to express their deep resentment at the interference of the ILO. I hope that anyone who has heard, publicly or privately, any argument that this amendment is in breach of the ILO will vote for it. I hope that they will do that in the belief that the decision as between class cohesion and individual liberty, the question as to whether postal or workplace ballots are practical and whether this amendment is enforceable, are subsidiary. The most important thing is that this Parliament should be able to decide what is right for our people.

6.30 pm
Mr. Reg Prentice (Daventry)

I support the amendment moved by my hon. Friend the Member for Gainsborough and Horncastle (Mr. Leigh). Although, like others, I shall speak mainly on the amendment dealing with postal ballots, the amendment dealing with codes of practice is also one on which the House would welcome a reaction from my right hon. Friend. With or without postal ballots, I should have thought that that contained the germ of an idea which should be pursued if possible.

This is a good Bill. It will do a great deal to carry out improvements in the conduct of trade unionism in Great Britain which the trade unions ought by now to have made for themselves. It is their failure to improve their own procedures which has made it necessary for Parliament to legislate.

If the Lords amendments are carried as they stand, the Bill will be better than it was when it left the House a few weeks ago, particularly in relation to this clause, but not quite as good as it might have been if Lord Beloff's amendment had stood. It seemed to me that he had the better of that argument, and so have my hon. Friend the Member for Gainsborough and Horncastle and the hon. Member for Stockton, South (Mr. Wrigglesworth).

I was intrigued by the speech of the hon. Member for Bow and Poplar (Mr. Mikardo). After many years in the House, including some in the Labour party, I attended many meetings with the hon. Gentleman, some of them at sub-committees of the national executive, of which he was chairman. I was always intrigued by his verbal facility. I have never heard such a remarkable phrase as the one in which he described himself as being a moderate old geezer. Sitting here, I thought that I probably agreed with the second and third words, but not with the first. Then he went on to explain—this is where the verbal facility became even more extraordinary—that being moderate meant that one did not try hard and did not work hard in one's organisation. The chaps who were militant, by definition, were those who worked hard; the chaps who took home the chores of being branch secretaries and the rest. That is extraordinary.

When I consider, and invite the House to consider, the change in the leadership of the Amalgamated Union of Engineering Workers when Lord Scanlon, as he now is, ceased to be president and Terry Duffy became president —there have been other changes of other senior officers and members of the national committee of the union and so on—I realise that it was a change from militant to moderate membership in the ordinary use of language. It was not a change from people who worked hard to people who had not worked hard. They had all worked hard in the union. It was a change brought about because postal balloting was substituted for workplace balloting after a courageous member of the union took the matter to court and the court ruled that that was what the union's rules had meant all along.

That led, of course, to a change in the union's policy, a change towards a leadership which has been more moderate in the ordinary sense of the word, more representative of the membership, less disruptive of the economy and which gives a better service to the members of the AUEW.

Mr. Evans

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that Lord Scanlon, or Mr. Hugh Scanlon as he then was, was elected by postal ballot of the AUEW? Heplayed a leading role in persuading the union to change from branch to postal ballot. Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the AUEW has never had a workplace ballot?

Mr. Prentice

The method of holding the ballot before the election of Mr. Duffy was laid down by the court after Mr. Wheakley had taken the matter to court.

A similar change took place in the history of the Electrical, Electronic, Telecommunication and Plumbing Union, or the Electrical Trade Union as it then was. I am going back many years and speaking of the change led by the late Leslie Cannon and Frank Chapple against a Communist leadership, involving a change in the method of balloting, along the lines suggested by these amendments. Since that change, that union has given better service to its members and to the wider community in which it operates. I believe that those are two cases which are relevant to what is being discussed.

I shall take up one further issue in the speech of the hon. Member for Bow and Poplar. He spoke about the difficulties of having a complete register of members. It will not have escaped his notice, or the notice of other hon. Members, that Lords amendment No. 4 lays a duty upon every trade union to compile, by the date appointed under Section 18(2A) of this Act, and thereafter maintain a register of the names and addresses of its members". I need not repeat the wording, but the trade unions have a duty to ensure that the register is accurate.

If that had been an obstacle to accepting postal balloting, it will no longer be an obstacle when the amendment is incorporated in the Bill. If we are to have an up-to-date computerised membership record of every trade union, why not use that record as the basis of postal balloting?

I wish to advance two arguments, one general and one particular, in support of the change. I shall speak, if I may, as someone who joined a trade union when I left school, voluntarily and not in a closed shop, and I have been a trade unionist ever since. I am sad at the declining influence and strength of trade unionism in this country. I believe that on balance trade unionism has done a great deal to raise the status and dignity of men and women at work. In the past 10 or 20 years it has been losing voluntary membership. It may have gained membership by new closed shop arrangements, particularly in the mid-70s, but it has lost membership in recent years. It has lost much more membership than would have been expected from rising unemployment. The main reason has been that the trade union leaders have not been talking sense to their members. The unions have thus attracted less loyalty from their members than in the past and consequently have had less influence on the community at large.

The trade unions need to carry through many far-reaching reforms of attitude. It would not be in order to go into detail, but they would include becoming less party political and more concerned about improving productivity and ensuring that their members enjoy the benefits of improved productivity. Many changes of that kind are needed, but the unions will not make them unless they become more democratic internally. To carry out the other reforms that are needed, they must first become more responsive to the rank and file in the real sense of the word — that is, the entire membership, not just branch officers, committee members, and so on.

It is a pity that all the unions did not make changes along the lines of those made by the AUEW and the ETU. Most of them, however, have not done so and do not intend to do so. The Lords amendments will leave the existing power brokers in the unions with the option of changing to postal voting or continuing with the existing system. Naturally enough, most of them will go for the latter. We should be legislating to require a postal system unless the unions concerned can prove to the certification officer that they have special reasons for adopting some other procedure.

I agree with the SDP spokesman about the present industrial situation. After the fiasco of the dock strike, there should be a major debate in the branches of the docks section of the TGWU and some heads should roll as a result. The dockers concerned were led into an entirely unnecessary strike and they and their families went without wages for a period of time—fortunately not very long—during which great damage was inflicted on the community, including fellow trade unionists and especially fellow members of the TGWU in the road and commercial section.

Mr. Loyden

Before any dispute can take place in the docks and waterways section of the TGWU, of which I am a member, there must be a national committee meeting, followed by a recalled delegate conference composed of delegates elected by the docks branches. That is the form of democracy that exists in that union. Even after the national committee has met, the delegates from the docks branches must be recalled before any dispute can take place. In both scheme and non-scheme ports the recalled delegates ultimately make the decision, returning to their ports to get it confirmed by the membership. In my view, that is the proper form of democracy and decision making within the union.

Mr. Prentice

As an ex-member of staff of the TGWU I know what the rules are, but the rule book was short-circuited in the most disgraceful way when the strike was called. The dock delegate conference met to call off the strike, but most of the dockers had already gone back to work that morning without waiting for the conference to take place.

6.45 pm

My argument, however, is that a real debate capable of leading to real changes should now be going on among the members of the relevant branches. They should be asking why things went wrong and why they were led into a disastrous strike which gained nothing for the ordinary docker. They cannot call Mr. Connolly to account, because he is appointed, not elected. That will not be changed by the Bill. For the same reason, they cannot take that walking disaster, Alex Kitson, to task. The national docks committee is elected from the area docks committees, which in turn are elected by the membership, but not by postal ballots. The elections are supervised by shop stewards on the spot. Anyone who follows dockland matters will know that the Bill will not change the situation. Even if the Bill were already law it would not bring about the kind of inquest and consequent changes in leadership that should follow the dock strike.

Mr. Mikardo

Has it occurred to the right hon. Gentleman that if all the dockers got together and held a post mortem as he suggests they would not necessarily reach the same conclusion as he does? On the contrary, they might think that the strike was well justified. Has he forgotten that the dispute was started by an important member of the Port Employers Association breaking the contract into which he had entered as part of the dock labour scheme? If the union had signed a contract and then broken it, that would have made headlines in every newspaper in the country. Yet Conservative Members manage to discuss the entire strike without mentioning that it was the result of a breach of contract by an employer.

Mr. Prentice

I had not intended to discuss the entire strike. I was simply suggesting that there should be an inquest by those affected. As for the breach of contract, there are procedures to deal with that. Strike action should have been the last resort, not the first resort. Of course, if an inquest were held it might not reach the same conclusions as I do. I am simply suggesting that the law should provide a framework to allow such an inquest to take place in circumstances of this kind. It is no use people grumbling in the bosom of their families or to their friends at the pub if they cannot do anything through their union machinery.

If that is true of the dock strike, it is even more true of the miners' strike. After Scargill's inevitable defeat. there should be a massive inquest throughout the NUM. In this case, I believe that the majority of members of the union oppose the strike. Some 30 per cent. of them are bravely going to work in appallingly difficult circumstances and it is clear that many thousands of others are reluctant strikers who would rather be at work. If there had ever been 50 per cent. in favour of the strike, Scargill would have held the ballot. He funked it because he knew that he would lose. Nevertheless, it should be possible: afterwards, not just to hold an inquest, but to bring about changes of leadership at all levels of the NUM, especially the dismissal of Scargill, who is one of the most disgraceful trade union leaders in the history of trade unionism. That should be possible through postal ballots in which people can vote in secret without the bully boys now committing violence on the so-called picket lines and blackmailing miners' families being in a position to oversee in any way the conduct of the next round of ballots.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. I remind the right hon. Gentleman that the clause to which the amendment relates is about balloting for union office, not about disputes.

Mr. Prentice

In the next round of elections within the NUM for union officers and members of the national executive committee and the area committees, the membership will want to take recent events into account. Given the views of a large number of the members, they may well wish to make changes. They should have a chance to make those changes if they wish, and to do so in a way which is conducive to a fair and unfettered choice. All trade unionists should be able to do that.

Mr. Julian Amery (Brighton, Pavilion)

Is my right hon. Friend advocating a truly democratic form of reselection?

Mr. Prentice

Yes, I am. I shall resist the temptation to discuss other aspects of reselection. That debate will be continued elsewhere.

I believe that thousands of NUM members will want to restore their union's self-respect. They will be best able to do that if they have the most democratic procedure—in other words, the postal ballot. That is a general principle, and I am sorry that the Bill falls short of that principle. It is a good Bill, and it is a better Bill with the amendments, but it could be better still. I wish that there were still time for the Government to think again and advise us to take a more radical step towards trade union democracy.

Mr. Michael Foot (Blaenau Gwent)

The speech that we have just heard was a remarkable one, even in the mouth of the right hon. Member for Daventry (Mr. Prentice). As I heard him press the House to accept these amendments, even against the wish of the Government, and heard him suggest that he would like to go even further, I could not help recalling the remark of a famous Lord Halifax — a respectable Lord Halifax who lived centuries ago — that the impudence of a bawd is as nothing to that of a convert. The right hon. Gentleman has sought to show that he is even more extreme than the hon. Member for Gainsborough and Horncastle (Mr. Leigh) in the way in which he wishes to deal with the trade union movement which gave him every opportunity that he has ever had.

The right hon. Gentleman attacked Arthur Scargill in strong personal terms. I dare say that Arthur Scargill can stand that, especially from the right hon. Gentleman. However, I assure the right hon. Gentleman and others who discuss the miners' strike in those terms that they will not be advancing the cause of a settlement of the dispute. I believe that the orchestrated outburst last year against the miners' leaders—Arthur Scargill in particular—did great damage to the possibility of achieving an early settlement.

Sir Paul Hawkins (Norfolk, South-West)

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker.

Mr. Foot

I am replying to what was said by the right hon. Gentleman.

Sir Paul Hawkins

Do the right hon. Gentleman's pontifications about what would or would not help to settle the miners' strike have anything to do with the business that we are discussing?

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. I must confess that I did not hear the right hon. Gentleman, but I shall listen very carefully now.

Mr. Foot

I am most grateful, Mr. Deputy Speaker, for your protection, even if it is unnecessary.

The right hon. Gentleman continued to make comments about the docks strike and the terms of its settlement. My comments are relevant, because it is likely that even the Minister who replies will seek to discuss how these provisions may affect the immediate industrial situation. That is something that we are entitled to discuss.

The right hon. Gentleman discussed the docks strike without referring to its origin. Nothing could have been more absurd. The strike originated in a breach of the agreement, and the settlement fortified the system which prevails in the docks. The House should welcome that outcome just as dockers throughout the country have welcomed it.

Sir John Biggs-Davison (Epping Forest)

If the dockers felt that there had been a breach of the scheme, why was it not possible for them to discuss it? Why was it necessary immediately to go on strike?

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. I was becoming rather anxious while the right hon. Member for Blaenan Gwent (Mr. Foot) was addressing the House. I become even more anxious when another hon. Gentleman attempts to persuade him to follow a path which takes us well away from the amendments on clause 2, which relates to the election of trade union officers.

Mr. Foot

I am grateful to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, for your invitation to all who intervene in my speech that they should at the same time be in order.

I have listened carefully to the whole debate, although I did not have the advantage, as my hon. Friend the Member for Bow and Poplar (Mr. Mikardo) had, of hearing the debates in Committee. However, when the hon. Member for Gainsborough and Horncastle moved his amendment, I did not think that we were supposed to take him seriously. I thought that he was there to make the Government look moderate. It may be that that purpose will be achieved.

Similarly, I thought that some of the amendments moved in the House of Lords—where the manoeuvring is even more skilful—were designed to prove to the country how moderate is the Government's approach to these matters. However, despite their efforts to keep to the narrow road of moderation, the Government keep slipping into extremism. They have done it again in the other place, and in the measures which we are now asked to approve. It has been illustrated once again today that all these measures——

Viscount Cranborne (Dorset, South)

Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Foot

I will give way in a moment.

These measures are largely irrelevant to the industrial situation. Insofar as they are relevant, they are designed solely to impose restrictions on the rights of trade unionists—rights that have been accepted for generations and are enshrined in the International Labour Organisation charter. I know that the hon. Member for Gainsborough and Horncastle does not wish this country to abide by its undertakings under that charter, but some of us believe that when we commit ourselves to a proposition we should stand by it, unless we go to the organisation and ask to be relieved of it.

The important principle established when we signed the ILO charter is relevant to the Bill. That principle was accepted by multitudes of countries all over the world. It is that there shall be no interference by Governments in the way in which trade unions run their affairs. Hundreds of countries manage to abide by it, but the Conservative Government are departing from it. The more we hear from Tory Members this afternoon, the less we can doubt that that is what is happening. The Government are breaking the charter. They are making the country break its word, and seeking to interfere more and more in the ways in which trade unions run their affairs.

Mr. Budgen

Is it the right hon. Gentleman's view that, as far as possible, trade union law in this country should be decided by the ILO?

Mr. Foot

No, I do not believe that trade union law should be settled by the ILO, but it is my view that when this country signs such charters—charters which have helped to raise union standards in this country and elsewhere—we should stand by that signature and not abandon it.

7 pm

It is not a question of handing over to the ILO. We seek to abide by provisions which we have agreed to, partly in the interests of people in this country and partly in the interests of people throughout the world. I subscribe to that principle. I know that it does not appeal to the hon. and neolithic Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Budgen), who would not agree with any such proposition. Like Government Members at one stage, we are in favour of subscribing to the ILO charter. Perhaps the Minister will argue that the provisions that his immoderate hon. Friends wish to insert in the Bill will further infringe Britain's obligations under the charter.

That is not the only reason why the Bill is irrelevant to the present industrial situation. The Department of Employment is engaged in producing Bill after Bill to interfere with the rights of trade unions and trade unionists instead of seeking to avoid disputes before they happen. If a proper Department of Employment had been operating, we should not have had a docks strike because there would not have been a threat to the dock labour scheme. If we had had a proper Department of Employment, we should not have had a coal miners' strike because it would have been foreseen.

Mr. Christopher Hawkins

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. The right hon. Member's speech is beginning to sound like a Second Reading or bad Third Reading speech. It has nothing to do with the amendments that we are discussing. He is presenting us with a load of homilies from the past about how Governments and miners should operate. His speech has nothing to do with the Bill.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

I take the point. I was myself becoming a little anxious. I hope that the right hon. Member for Blaenau Gwent (Mr. Foot) will relate his remarks to the amendments.

Mr. Mikardo

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. You were not in the Chair when the right hon. Member for Daventry (Mr. Prentice) made a long speech, nearly all of which was about the docks and coal miners' strike. I was interested in what the right hon. Gentleman said, but, if it was in order, it cannot be out of order, with respect, to reply.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

I was not in the Chair earlier, but I am sure that the hon. Member for Bow and Poplar (Mr. Mikardo) wishes me to follow the normal rules of debate and to ensure that the Standing Orders and procedures are adhered to.

Mr. Foot

I shall do my best to abide by the rules which you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, uphold. As you will know from our long association, I am eager to relieve any of the Chair's anxieties. I was trying to remove something worse than anxieties from the minds of Government Ministers. I thought it relevant to draw attention to the fact that we are about to spend hours and hours discussing the precise mechanism by which Governments and judges are to interfere with trade union affairs when trade unions should be left to run their own affairs. Trade unions should be left to get on with their business and the Government should perform their proper role in industrial affairs by reestablishing mediation and conciliation, for which, in part the Department of Employment was established to assist.

The Government have become enmeshed in infantile, interfering trade union legislation. As a result we have not had proper assistance from the Department of Employment to deal properly with industrial disputes before they become a crisis. Anyone who has followed the progress of the Bill will know how deeply the Government have got into a mess. If they follow the advice of some they will get into a deeper mess. I hope that the Government will rescue themselves from it.

The Government are running grave risks. I warn the Government, as the House of Lords warned them, that they are in danger of repeating the mistakes made in the 1971 Act. When that Act was discussed warnings were given that the Government——

Mr. Christopher Hawkins

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I know that the right hon. Member has respect for the rules of the House and for your judgment, but he has made no change in the drift of his speech which has nothing to do with the amendments.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

That shows that given an inch someone will take a yard. I am trying to follow the right hon. Member for Blaenau Gwent (Mr. Foot) carefully, but I am not assisted by points of order at frequent intervals. However, I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will relate his remarks to the amendments.

Mr. Foot

I did not have the advantage of being present during all of the Committee stage, but I have followed carefully what was said in another place and what gave rise to the Lords amendments and the amendments to them. One of the dangers, fully described in the other place, was that involved in the role of the certification officer. The more amendments that are moved to deal with the issue, the deeper the Government get into the mire of having to refer all issues to the certification officer. The more that the Government become entangled in the question whether there should be a workplace ballot, the more that they have to refer issues to the certification officer. The House of Lords explained that that was the legal ramification of the Government's proposals.

During the passage of the 1971 Act, the Government were warned, but they took no notice, that they would destroy some of the institutions such as the central register of trade unions which was accepted as an impartial body. The Government were warned that they would undermine the position of the registrar of trade unions and destroy the whole system of registration.

If the Government proceed to use the certification officer more and more to decide when an individual or union wants to appeal against a decision they will destroy their impartiality. They will destroy the credit of that office which is one of the instruments that we could use to try to get out of the mess left by the 1971 Act.

If the Bill goes through, and if these amendments are added to what is offensive enough, the Government will again destroy faith in arbitration institutions such as the certification officer and in the idea that trade unions can get a fair deal in the courts. All that will be undermined, and a new Administration will have to come in and start from the bottom to build it all up again. What folly it is for the Government to tear down the very institutions that should prevent the kind of industrial crisis that we now have. However, that is what the Government are doing, that is what this measure will make worse, and that is what these amendments will carry still further. Let us throw out the amendment and throw out the Bill at the same time.

Mr. Renton

It is a great privilege for any Conservative Member to follow the right hon. Member for Blaenau Gwent (Mr. Foot), particularly when he speaks from the Back Benches. He is much better on the Back Benches than he ever was on the Front Bench. He was getting into a period of what I can only call vintage Foot in the last few minutes of his speech. Listening to him, it was hard to remember that it was he, as Secretary of State for Employment, who introduced two Bills that grossly increased the privileges of the trade union movement, from which much of the trouble we now have stems, and the effects of which it has been necessary for this Government slowly to undo. He did all of this while unemployment was doubling in his constituency.

As I listened to the hon. Member for Stockton, South (Mr. Wrigglesworth), I was reminded that the SDP and the Conservative Trade Unionists have vied with each other for some time in their determination to increase the number of postal ballots that are available to ordinary members of trade unions. When I heard, two or three weeks ago, of the amendments that were passed in the other place, I could not help thinking of those words of Gilbert in Iolanthe The House of Peers, throughout the war, Did nothing in particular, And did it very well. In recent weeks, my right hon. Friends on the Treasury Bench must have wished that those words held true for the House of Lords in time of peace. The House of Lords in this instance has shown how wrong Gilbert could be, and how effective it can be by amending this Bill for the better.

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, when he had considered the amendments introduced by Lord Beloff, managed to snatch compromise from the jaws of defeat, with his usual success. Today, he has introduced an amended Bill that is, most Conservative Members would agree, very much better on secret postal ballots than it was when it went from this place to the House of Lords. I am glad that my right hon. Friend and his colleagues on the Front Bench have had the good sense to look at what the other place has done, to see some of the impracticalities in what it suggested as an immediate measure, but then to build on that to give us the amended Bill.

This is a complicated Bill, and many of its clauses are not at all easy to understand. However, the insistence that there shall, in normal circumstances, be a postal ballot, unless the union thinks that is inappropriate, and that the ordinary member of the trade union, if he thinks that the trade union has not acted properly, shall be able to appeal to the certification officer are good points. Here I disagree with the right hon. Member for Blaenau Gwent. I think that the right of appeal to the certification officer by the ordinary trade union member is an enormous advance. It is the appeal to the High Court, with all the cost that that involves, which has put off many trade union members from protesting against trade union procedural irregularities. There are not many who have the courage or the cash to go on fighting for years against irregularities in their trade union. The insistence on the right of appeal to the certification officer is an improvement.

7.15 pm

I am sorry that I was not present to hear the speech made by my hon. Friend the Member for Gainsborough and Horncastle (Mr. Leigh). However, I like his idea of reinforcing what is in the amended Bill with a code of practice. That seems to make a great deal of sense. Most of us, unlike those who express fanatical fears from the Labour Benches, wish to improve the procedure in the trade unions. It will be possible for people to send the Secretary of State suggestions as to how the code of practice should work and, in particular, the practice of holding postal ballots could be improved.

I hope, for example, that the EETPU will co-operate in working out the code of practice. I know that the Conservative Trade Unionists would be pleased to have the chance to play a part in this process. Therefore, I hope that my right hon. Friend will think hard about the suggestion of a code of practice and will give us a strong reassurance that he will consider it seriously. Only a fool would pretend that the precise circumstances in which ballot papers are issued, who controls their issue and what happens to them after issue, are set out in a watertight procedure. It is quite the opposite.

Hon. Members have already given instances of what can happen to ballot papers. Often, what happens is enough to make one's hair curl. Apart from the disputes that have been mentioned this afternoon, there was the water workers' ballot last spring. It is clear that in that ballot the union procedure was grossly abused, and most of those who were trying to conduct the ballot did not know what happened to the ballot papers or did not know the proper rule book procedure.

The hon. Member for Bow and Poplar (Mr. Mikardo), who unfortunately is not in his place, has on many occasions in debates on employment Bills said about my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State's intention to change slowly the immunities of the trade unions that it would not work and that such things are easier said than done. I remind him and the right hon. Member for Blaenau Gwent of the phrase used by the Opposition Front Bench spokesman on trade and industry matters last week in the debate on the Gower report. The hon. Member for Dagenham (Mr. Gould) said: self regulation is a privilege". — [Official Report, 16 July 1984; Vol. 64, c. 106.] That remark applies equally well to the trade union movement. When that privilege is abused, it has to be enshrined and reinforced in statute. That is precisely what successive Conservative Ministers have done in the past five years. In my right hon. Friend's phrase, they have had to go with the grain. Equally, they have tried to ensure that, while self-regulation is allowed to stay, it is a privilege that must be strictly monitored. When that privilege is abused, it must be enshrined or supported by statute. I fail to see how Opposition Members can quarrel with that principle, which the Bill, much improved in the other place, seeks to follow.

Mr. Evans

There was a curious omission from the speech of the hon. Member for Mid-Sussex (Mr. Renton). He did not tell us whether he was elected as chairman of the Conservative trade unionists group by postal, workshop or branch ballot, or whether ballots are used at all in that organisation.

History will record that the two Bills introduced by my right hon. Friend the Member for Blaenau Gwent (Mr. Foot)— I was proud to be a member of both of the Standing Committees—will be remembered long after the Bills introduced by the Conservative Government have been thrown into the dustbin, where they belong, along with the industrial relations legislation.

It is nauseating hypocrisy for Tory Members constantly to insist upon self-regulation for the City of London, despite the appalling scandals within that institution, but to deny to the British trade union movement self-regulation of its own affairs. I might add that British trade unionism is admired by trade unionists throughout the world.

I rise at this stage in the debate because I am sure the House agrees that it is time to draw to a close our discussion on this series of amendments. We must consider 13 more sets of amendments. My right hon. and hon. Friends are quite prepared to sit all night while we discuss them, but I suspect that at about 2 or 3 o'clock in the morning Conservative Members will be moaning and groaning to their Whips.

I shall deal briefly with amendment (g), tabled by the hon. Member for Gainsborough and Horncastle (Mr. Leigh). It is a disgraceful and outrageous attack upon thousands of honest volunteer trade unionists, who are working seven days a week to conduct the affairs of their unions. The hon. Gentleman should not denounce them in such emotional and sensational language.

I remind the hon. Gentleman that we know that there are spivs and crooks in the legal profession, but we do not carry on continuously as if every solicitor and barrister were a crook and a spiv. Yet the hon. Gentleman, who is a barrister, was only too prepared to launch an outrageous attack on honest working men and women who do a very good voluntary job.

Mr. Budgen

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that if the British people decided that there was, sadly, a great deal of criminal conduct among spivs and crooks at the Bar, or among solicitors, it would be right for the House to deal with that? It would be monstrous if the ILO came along and said, "You cannot do that."

Mr. Evans

I was merely making the point—I am sure that the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Budgen) will agree with me—that we are all aware that there are a few spivs and crooks in the legal profession, but we do not go on continuously as if every member of that learned profession was a spiv or a crook.

The amendment tabled by the hon. Member for Gainsborough and Horncastle has clearly been taken from "Aims of Industry", as the hon. Gentleman was good enough to admit in his introductory speech. I also suspect that the amendment came from the managerial professional staff liaison group — the MPG — which circulated similar propositions to hon. Members a few days ago. I, for one, have always suspected that there were close links between the MPG and the Conservative Trade Unionists. The amendments were suggested by the MPG and tabled by Right-wing Tory Back Benchers. The MPG is as anti the TUC unions as are Right-wing Tories, the Liberals or the SDP. I am sure that every member of a TUC-affiliated union has taken cognisance of that.

The sum and substance of the amendments is that they will further restrict and diminish the freedoms of trade unions, which the Right wing of the Tory party—often aided and abetted by the Prime Minister—has been doing for the past five years. We utterly reject the concept of the amendments. If necessary, we shall vote against them in the Lobby tonight.

Viscount Cranborne

We heard the hon. Member for Bow and Poplar (Mr. Mikardo) speak about the importance of definitions. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will define what he means by "Right wing", so that I can understand his speech a little better.

Mr. Evans

I suggest that the hon. Gentleman should take a good, hard look in the mirror when he leaves the House, and he will see precisely what I mean by the phrase "Right wing". If he is still in doubt, I suggest that he reads some of his earlier speeches. Then he will know precisely what I mean.

The SDP amendments, tabled by the hon. Member for Stockton, South (Mr. Wrigglesworth), aim to restrict the freedoms of trade unions, and to bring in outside bodies to manage and run trade union affairs. That never ceases to amaze me. I am convinced that the British trade union movement has proved conclusively over many years its ability to run its own affairs.

If the trade union movement wanted to bring in outside bodies to count votes in elections—some unions do so now—why do we need that put into statute? Why can we not leave it to the trade unions? Why do we seek to regulate only trade unions with vicious measures like this? Why do we not regulate companies and have postal ballots for company directors, officers of learned societies or for local authority and parliamentary elections? Far from suggesting that we should have compulsory postal ballots for elections, the Government are trying to resist the use of postal ballots for local authority and parliamentary elections.

I turn to the more serious amendments that we have tabled. First, I must make a major complaint to the House. The Bill introduces many substantial changes. It has five new clauses and 10 major amendments. The Government were still tabling amendments last Wednesday 18 July. It is disgraceful that a major Bill that will affect millions of men and women in all walks of life, which has been extensively debated in the Commons, with more than 100 hours spent on it in Committee and two days on Report, and altered substantially, should be given only one day for consideration of Lords amendments. We are entitled to far more time to consider the major changes in the Bill—[Interruption.] Conservative Members should not worry. There are plenty of Labour Members present to speak tonight.

The fact that it has been necessary to make such widespread changes to the Bill justifies the charge that we made on Second Reading, in Committee and on Report that it was bad—and badly drafted, too. Those charges have been fully justified because the Bill has had to be extensively redrafted.

7.30 pm

We all know the reason for such Bills. This Bill is the product of the Prime Minister's paranoid hatred of trade unions, to which she testified in her speech last week when she denounced trade unions and trade unionists as the enemy within. It is a bit much when the Prime Minister uses such emotive language. That same attitude was displayed towards GCHQ, but once again the Government's handling of trade union affairs has been judged unlawful by the courts.

Mr. Kenneth Hind (Lancashire, West)

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Is the hon. Gentleman speaking to the amendment or making a Third reading speech?

Mr. Deputy Speaker

So far I have not heard anything out of order.

Mr. Evans

I am grateful to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker.

Mr. Hind

Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. In the past few minutes not one word has been said about the amendment.

Mr. Deputy Speaker


Mr. Hind


Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman must resume his seat when I am on my feet. I heard him the first time, and I have nothing to add to the reply that I gave him then.

Mr. Evans

I am grateful to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker. The hon. Gentleman should recognise that it is the Chair that governs the conduct of hon. Members, not Back Benchers who drift in and out of the Chamber from time to time.

The truth is that the Government flatly refuse to listen to reasoned arguments about trade unions, trade unionists and their affairs. However, some of the amendments that were accepted in the other place were taken from the arguments that we made in Committee. Some of the arguments that we put forward in Committee were denounced by Ministers at the time as being irrelevant, unacceptable, otiose, and so on, yet they have now quietly been worked into the Bill.

Lords amendment No.1 is the Government's response to the Right-wing peers who sought to impose compulsory postal ballots for the election of members to unions' executive councils. However, all of us know that it is something of a con. There are many amendments, words, legalistic phrases, consequential amendments and new subsections, but when the verbiage is stripped away it is clear that in future there will be workplace ballots for the membership of executive councils unless the unions decide to hold postal ballots. We applaud that sensible and intelligent approach, which reflects our philosophy throughout.

The Secretary of State for Employment (Mr. Tom King)

The hon. Member is in for a surprise.

Mr. Evans

However, perhaps the Secretary of State will tell us that he is going to renege once again. Throughout the Bill's passage he has reneged on his promises. In Committee and on Report we put forward that philosophy and suggested that the best way of proceeding was to try to set a framework in which trade union members could govern their own affairs.

I personally favour ballots. My trade union, the Amalgamated Union of Engineering Workers, holds ballots. However, it holds ballots not only for the executive council. Every member of the AUEW who holds paid office is subject to election and re-election by the members, using a postal ballot. So no one in the AUEW will listen to any lectures by Tory, SDP or Liberal Members about democracy in the trade union movement. But, sadly, the AUEW has found that the number of members participating in ballots is steadily falling. We started from a high point of about 60 per cent. participation, but unfortunately that figure has now fallen to about 25 per cent.

Conservative Members fail to understand that that lack of participation is due in part to the nature of the elections being held. For example, there may be seven candidates in an election for the entire executive council area of Scotland. The vast majority of the members of the AUEW will scarcely have heard of any of them. At best, they can obtain a brief resume of the candidate's life, and some information about his age, the length of time that he has been in the union and the branch offices that he has held. Unfortunately, union members tend to think that, as they do not know anything about the candidates, they would rather not vote for any of them.

It is an incontestable fact that far more people participate in workplace ballots than in postal ballots. Despite all the allegations of some Conservative Members, the reason for that is that when union members discuss the candidates in their workplace, those who know something about them can give some of the details. All the evidence is that workplace ballots produce a much higher turnout. However, I stress that I personally am in favour of postal ballots. The Bill removes branch ballots. Conservative Members will say "Hear, Hear" to that. But Opposition Members, who have some knowledge of trade union affairs, recognise that there is a place for such ballots in trade union affairs.

Who has asked the employer for his opinion about holding ballots at his place of work? What about the problems and expenditure that he will face? In multi-union plants, in which workers are represented by many unions, it is more than likely that there will be quite frequent elections. That means that the employer will lose quite a lot of time because his employees, instead of producing, will be voting. After all, those employees will have to receive and consider the ballot papers, discuss their contents and then have time in which to vote. Have the Government discussed the issue with the CBI or with the employers? Have they done anything to take the employers' arguments into account?

What would the position be if an employer refused to allow ballots to take place on his premises? What would happen if an employer made it clear that his factory existed to produce goods, not trade union officers? That question must be answered. I suspect that so far no answer has been given.

Far from improving the Bill, the other place has damaged it. It was not a very good Bill to start with, but it is now worse. If it is enacted in its present form, in what way will it be more successful than the Bills that were enacted in 1980 and 1982? In the recent industrial disputes, they have not had any impact. So why should anyone take any notice of this Bill?

No matter how elections are arranged, or what methodology is employed, they are about getting individuals to vote. We have problems, for instance, in local government elections, where we are lucky to get a 30 per cent. turnout. Even in parliamentary elections we are lucky to get a 72 per cent. turnout. All hon. Members had better keep quiet about the European elections, which were the lowest in Europe, with only a 28 per cent. turnout.

Evidence for workplace ballots shows that we can get a 70 to 80 per cent. turnout. If, as the Government have constantly told us since November, the purpose of the Bill is to persuade trade union members to participate in union affairs and to give unions back to their members, a method that encourages the majority of members to take part in a ballot for union officials is the right one to adopt.

These cobbled-together Lords amendments show how bad and ill-thought out the Bill is. We told the Secretary of State, when he took over the Bill from his predecessor, that it was a bad Bill. We suspect that the future will prove that he has made it even worse. The amendment of the hon. Member for Gainsborough and Horncastle, if accepted, will cripple the Bill completely.

Mr. Hind

I began by listening to the debate as an agnostic. It is interesting to note how support for the Bill appears to be dying down. The hon. Member for St. Helens, North (Mr. Evans) talked about the amendment at great length. Only 10 Opposition Members who claim to feel strongly about the amendments are here. The rest have not even bothered to turn up to debate them.

One of the most importat aspects of the debate, about which I feel strongly, is that the trade union movement — this was typified by the speech of the right hon. Member for Blaenau Gwent (Mr. Foot)—regards itself as a state within a state, sacred and untouchable by the law of the land and believes therefore that it should not be required by Parliament or anyone else to put its house in order and alter its regulations.

The most important issue in the debate is that of postal ballots. It is significant that the debate about ballots, whether workplace or postal ballots has arisen in the House. It is necessary for the House to inflict on the trade union movement alterations to its rule book, because it is incapable of doing so itself.

We have heard the classic arguments from the Opposition, such as, "Leave us alone, we shall manage to put our own industrial relations in order." Ballots on the National Union of Mineworkers' strike and the dock strike were mentioned. They are relevant to the debate only because they prove 100 per cent. that the trade union movement is incapable of imposing any form of democratic discipline on its schemes and members. If ever it were necessary to alter its rule book, it must surely be now.

I sympathise with my hon. Friend the Member for Gainsborough and Horncastle, (Mr. Leigh). He has a good point but I, like other Tory Members who have had much experience of trade union activities, am prepared to accept that there may be a slower and more reasonable way which will not drive the middle ground of the trade union movement into the hands of extremists, many of whom sit on the Labour Benches.

Many Conservative Members will reluctantly support the Government because we foresee that eventually the workplace ballot must be shown to fail, so that we can justify to the general public that it is necessary to have postal ballots. We shall therefore eventually, before the end of this Parliament, have to impose postal ballots on the trade union movement and re-write its rule book.

When we last debated this matter—I stand by what I said and did then—we sought to introduce a clause to enable union members to opt into paying the political levy, rather than have to opt out of so doing. Any future Bill should cover both matters I have severe reservations about this clause. My spirit is with the amendment, but I shall give the Government the benefit of the doubt and my support.

7.45 pm
Viscount Cranborne

Today I was approached in the friendly spirit in which such approaches are often made in the Tory party by a good friend in the office of the Patronage Secretary. He said with the wry and tolerant smile that I have come to expect from those in that office, "I see you have become an instant expert on trade union law." I was flattered by his animadversions on the subject. I should like to reply to him in public. Many hon. Members are called upon to make judgments on matters of which they may have little experience. [Interruption.] Opposition Members should listen longer before they scoff. That is inevitable, as it is in the nature of the House.

I am the first to admit that many hon. Members have had little practical experience of everyday trade union matters. I submit that this is a proper subject for all of us to consider for many reasons and, above all, for one which has led me and several of my right hon. and hon. Friends to support the excellent amendments tabled and debated with such eloquence by my hon. Friend the Member for Gainsborough and Horncastle (Mr. Leigh).

Over the past decade many Conservative Members have watched a group of extremely courageous people fighting the results of the legislation introduced by the right hon. Member for Blaenau Gwent (Mr. Foot). It leads us to say, "These people, in order to fight their fellow trade unionists, have had to show immense courage and dedication." That is an indictment of British trade unionism. Indeed, it would be an indictment of any British institution.

I listened to the opinions of courageous people, such as Mrs. Losinska of the Civil and Public Services Association, Mr. Frank Chapple of the Electrical, Electronic, Telecommunication and Plumbing Union and representatives of the Amalgamated Engineering Workers Union. All of them came to us and said, "We admire many of the things that the Secretary of State is putting in his Bill, but there is one matter of overwhelming importance which is not included and which is the key to his success." That forces me to listen, if only because of my respect —all Conservative Members have this respect—for the courage with which those people have fought for the rights which those involved in parliamentary elections take for granted, and rightly so.

Those people say with the greatest possible emphasis that workplace ballots do not and cannot embody the safeguards which can make for a safe and democratic election in any union. When I listened to the right hon. Member for Blaenau Gwent, all that he lacked to remind me irresistibly of Old Father Time shaking his hoary locks was a scythe and a lantern with which to tread us back over the paths of 1974 and 1976.

Mr. Barry Sheerman (Huddersfield)

The hon. Gentleman would take us back to the feudal system.

Viscount Cranborne

The hon. Gentleman had better watch out. The hon. Member for St. Helens, North (Mr. Evans) has already repaired some of the damage that I might have done to my reputation by rebelling this evening. He called me a Right-winger, and that sort of remark can do nothing but help me. I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for what he said.

Those people who have condemned the absence of secret postal ballots in my right hon. Friend's otherwise admirable Bill, point out three matters. They say that there can be no secrecy, no freedom from manipulation, and no freedom from pressure in the elections that my right hon. Friend will allow to continue if the amendments are rejected. My right hon. Friend has produced many arguments during the past few days to show why the Bill, as it returned from another place, should remain as it is. I wish to refer him to two such arguments.

First, postal ballots do not produce the size of turnout that makes for a good election. All of us want high turnouts in elections. We deplore the fact that the turnout in parliamentary elections is less than 80 per cent. The experience of the CPSA, which already has workplace ballots, is that there has been a regular decrease in voting since the introduction of that system; and, depending on how one measures the vote, the best estimate of the turnout in its previous election was between 28 and 31 per cent. That is not a distinguished figure when one considers how it compares unfavourably even with the turnout in local government elections.

A high turnout is by no means a guarantee of a fair election. To take an extreme example, one need only consider elections behind the iron curtain to realise that high turnouts do not guarantee fair elections. We must also consider politics in such elections. My hon. Friend the Member for Gainsborough and Horncastle proposes an enhanced role for the certification officer. He already has a role given to him by my right hon. Friend and in another place. If my right hon. Friend fears that if the certification officer is given the role envisaged in my hon. Friend's amendment he will be regarded as the 'Government's poodle — I suspect that that is his fear — he should reconsider whether the role of the prudent man or the man who is after justice suits him better. The man who is after justice might consider that there is nothing shameful in a Conservative Member putting forward a solution which enhances the possibility of a fair election. Conservative Members should stand pat on that, if on nothing else.

It is too late for us to introduce the amendments which my hon. Friend and I have in mind, but I beseech the Government to consider two matters. The first is to consider how this system is working in a year or 18 months' time——

Mr. Budgen

The Government will come out of the ILO.

Viscount Cranborne

My hon. Friend refers to the ILO, but he must not tempt me down that path. I would only repeat what he said. His appeal to the chauvinists in the Conservative party, and the resistance by the chauvinists of the Opposition, was remarkable to behold.

If my right hon. Friend can give us such an assurance this evening, it will be at least some comfort to know that a formal inquiry will ensure that a proper election can take place as a result of the Bill, or that it will have a better chance of doing so.

My hon. Friend's final amendment does something extremely important. It transfers the onus of proof from the individual fighting the union establishment to the union establishment justifying its conduct of a workplace ballot. I began my speech by talking about courage. We all know the enormous courage that it takes for an individual, whether anonymous or not, to complain about the procedures in some unions. It would be a further guarantee that one does not need courage to exercise the rights which all of us wish to believe our citizens possess. If the Government accepted my hon. Friend's amendment, it would show how much in earnest they were.

I urge my hon. Friends to support this amendment when we divide the House this evening, because I look forward to being able to note an absence of comment in the daily press and in this place on how courageous it is for the members of trade unions to take on those unions if they believe that their practices are unfair. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, thank goodness, has said that she hopes that the brave people who go to work, although their fellow miners are on strike, will not be penalised as a result of the settlement. I hope that if it becomes normal practice, not an act of courage, to exercise one's rights to appeal, we can be assured that all is right in the state of Denmark. At present that is not so. If we are to do the right thing by the courageous people who have fought the good fight for 10 years or more, we must ensure that the amendments which will give them a chance are passed by the House tonight.

8 pm

Mr. Eldon Griffiths (Bury St. Edmunds)

I am sure that it is the wish of the House that we reach a conclusion on this matter, so I shall speak briefly.

The amendments demonstrate to Conservative Members the value of the other place. Lord Beloff and his supporters have struck a blow for democracy and freedom, and we owe them a great deal for doing so. I congratulate my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and the Government on improving the Bill. I shall nonetheless find it difficult to support my right hon. Friend's position. It is not because I dislike the Bill. On the contrary, I believe it is a good Bill, and the better for having been amended by the House of Lords. Nor is it because I disgree in any way with the administration of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State or indeed of my hon. Friend the Minister of State (Mr. Gummer), who is my near neighbour in Suffolk. I admire them both very much.

But on the question of postal ballot, there is to my mind an issue of principle. The Bill will create the presumption that it will be the norm that henceforth postal ballots shall take place for the election of union leaders. The difference between us, I suspect, is that the Government are satisfied that the unions shall determine whether that postal ballot shall take place, whereas my hon. Friend's amendment will require it to take place unless the unions can show good reason why it should not.

I concede that there will be many cases in which unions can and will make out a case for a postal ballot not taking place. But there is a great deal of difference between requiring a union to show cause that a ballot should not take place and requiring, as the Government would, some individual, some small person, subject to the kind of intimidation that we have all seen in the country, to make his way first to the certification officer and thereafter perhaps to the High Court to change a union's decision. I believe that that would put an unfair onus upon the individual. It is far better to leave the onus on the union to show why a postal ballot ought not to take place.

As I understand it, the Government have three principal objections to the amendment. The first is administrative difficulties. In the 20 years that I have been in the House, administrative difficulties have been given as a reason why there should not be postal ballots for holidaymakers or, indeed, for Britons abroad. But the Government, to their credit, have recently published a White Paper that provides for such postal ballots, despite the vast administrative labryinth needed to cover Britons who are abroad and those who are on holiday. If the administrative difficulties can be overcome in the case of postal votes for these people, they can and should be overcome in the case of postal votes for union leaders.

The second principal objection, as I understand it from the Whips, is that the Government have already made a great step forward in requiring the compulsory register. That I accept. It is an important step forward, and it will be effective. However, if a union's leaders decide—the militants, the Marxist groups, the broad Left front—that it will not have postal ballots, the register will be of no account because the union will not use it, and will not be required to use it. Thus the step forward that the Government have made, which I recognise to the full, is effective only to the extent that the unions choose to use it. In my judgment, many of them will not do so.

The Government's third principal objection has been touched upon already by my hon. Friend the Member for Dorset, South (Viscount Cranbourne). It is the fear that the certification officer, like Lord Donaldson before him—and we all remember the experience of the Government of which I was a member—in effect would be run ragged by the unions in that virtually all of them would attempt to go to the courts and thereby to complicate matters. I understand that argument, but if the unions would make a monkey of the certification officer, how on earth can we expect anything different if individuals are expected to go to him with their personal cases? The argument that the certification officer is Thatcher's poodle will be made just as strongly in the case of individuals who go before him as it would be in the case of unions that go before him.

On balance the Government have come a long way. Even if my hon. Friend's amendment proves to be unacceptable to the House, the Bill will still be a good one. The Government will still have achieved a great deal for union democracy. But I ask my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State to accept the amendment. If he cannot let him deal precisely with one argument. Over the past 20 perhaps 25 years, the militant Left has been seeking to obtain power in this country via the ballot box. But it has failed at every stage because the British people have rejected it.

They have done so because in free secret ballots the British public will not accept the Fascist Left that is on the march. So what has the Fascist Left done? Failing at the front door, it has gone to the back door of union penetration. The strength of the militant Left has been achieved largely by the undemocratic nature of the elections of leaders of trade unions.

It is precisely because I believe that the postal ballot is the one sure way of allowing the vast majority of union members to reject the hard Left, as the British people have rejected the hard Left, that I believe that as a matter of principle the amendment should be carried.

Mr. Ron Leighton (Newham, North-East)

I do not know whether this is a private argument on the Conservative Benches or whether we can all join in. I do not know whether Conservative Members want to hog and monopolise the debate or whether any other hon. Member can join in. I had not intended to intervene, and I shall speak only briefly.

I wish to correct a couple of myths that I have heard, not least from the hon. Member for Gainsborough and Horncastle (Mr. Leigh). I am a member of a union which lived by secret postal ballots. All our officials were elected every three years. Our executive was elected every year. Every offer from the employers in industrial negotiations was referred back to the members for secret postal ballot. In what we call the chapel., the chapel officials were elected by secret workplace ballot every three months. Indeed, I was one, and I had to be re-elected every three months. I never heard any complaints about those workplace ballots, and there was a high turnout.

I believe that trade unions should be free and independent bodies. The trade unions should determine their own method of elections. I do not think that it is for the state to interfere and to impose one particular method. The Bill does that on the hypothesis that if there are postal ballots, there will be a higher turnout, and the result will be more moderate union leaders. There is no evidence for that. The suggestion comes oddly from the Conservative party, whose chairman is elected not by any secret postal ballot but by an electoral college of one. I do not know by what secret postal ballot the chairman of the Conservative Trade Unionists was elected. Perhaps someone could tell us the answer to that. Hon. Members were not elected by a secret postal ballot. No hon. Member, when selected as a candidate, was selected by secret postal ballot of all the members of the relevant party. These methods were not imposed in the selection and election of hon. Members.

I wish to correct the hon. Member for Gainsborough and Horncastle to some extent on his research. He perpetuates the myth that two groups exist in the unions—the Left wing and Right wing, or the militants and the moderates. It was suggested that the militants and the Left wing were afraid of elections and fought against them, whereas the moderates and the Right wing were all for them. If the hon. Gentleman studies the history of the trade union movement—I hope that he does—he will find that that is not true. In general, the Right wing—I do not accept these labels, but they are shorthand terms that we all understand—did not want officials to be elected at all. It wanted those officials appointed. In some unions the Right wing was a self-perpetuating oligarchy. Instead, the Left wing fought for elections in an attempt to change the officers.

Mr. Leigh

Then why is the Left now opposing secret postal ballots?

Mr. Leighton

I am not opposed to secret postal ballots. Indeed, my union operates them, although other unions do not. My hon. Friend the Member for St. Helens, North (Mr. Evans) belongs to a union which lives by postal ballots, and he does not oppose them in principle. He is however, opposed to the state interfering in free independent unions and imposing by diktat the method of' election.

Let us consider the experience of the four unions which now operate postal ballots. In two of them—the EETPU and the AUEW engineering section—the Right wing has come out on top. But members of other unions have fought for free postal ballots, including the Furniture, Timber and Allied Trades Union.

Mr. Leigh

Hear, hear.

Mr. Leighton

If the hon. Gentleman knows anything about that union, he will confirm that the Left wing has thrived and prospered under postal ballots. I do not seek to make any specific point. I am merely trying to educate Conservative Members so that they understand these things better.

Mr. Richard Hickmet (Glaford and Scunthorpe)


Mr. Leighton

I shall give way in a moment.

In the Bakers, Food and Allied Workers Union, the Left wing fought for secret postal ballots, including both types of militant—those with a capital M and those with a small m. They achieved postal ballots, as a result of which that union now has Militant officials. I give that example to show that it does not follow that secret postal ballots will necessarily result in the election of Right-wing leaders.

In addition, those four unions—two with Right-wing leaders and two with Left-wing leaders — achieved virtually the same percentage vote in their elections.

Mr. Holt


Mr. Leighton

I was about to give way to the author of this myth.

Mr. Leigh

I am not for a moment saying that secret postal ballots will prevent the election of a popular Left-winger, as in the case of the Furniture, Timber and Allied Trades Union. I am saying that such ballots will ensure that unpopular Left-wingers are prevented from being elected. Such ballots will prevent intimidation by the bully boys, as could and does happen in workplace ballots.

8.15 pm
Mr. Leighton

When the hon. Gentleman moved his amendments, I did not gain the impression that only unpopular Left-wingers would not be elected. The hon. Gentleman put a different gloss on it.

The National Union of Seamen is an interesting case. If the hon. Gentleman wishes to study the history of a union and learn about ballot rigging, he should look at that union. Those who fought against ballot rigging and for the extension of postal ballots to more officials were helped in their election campaign by being mentioned by the then right hon. Member for Huyton. The Left wing in that union succeeded in extending secret postal balloting, and it is now prospering and thriving as a result.

The CPSA has been mentioned as a union which has workplace voting. It was said that initially such workplace ballots achieved a 40 per cent. turnout. I am glad that the hon. Member for Stockton, South (Mr. Wrigglesworth) has returned, because he is an expert on the CPSA. He will confirm that initially there was a 40 per cent. vote. The hon. Member for Gainsborough and Horncastle said that afterwards that vote dropped — [Interruption.] I hope that the right hon. Member for Daventry (Mr. Prentice) will not prevent the hon. Member for Gainsborough and Horncastle from listening to the valuable things that I am saying. It is true that the CPSA vote dropped to 25 per cent., but my hon. Friend the Member for St. Helens, North will confirm that, after the AUEW introduced postal voting, its voting turnout dropped in subsequent years.

The hon. Member for Gainsborough and Horncastle said that it was dreadful that only 25 per cent. of members should vote in a workplace ballot, so I shall give way to him if he can tell me which union achieves a 25 per cent. vote under a postal voting system. It seems that the hon. Gentleman does not know.

Mr. Leigh

The hon. Gentleman deliberately seeks to misunderstand. It may be true that in certain circumstances — perhaps in all circumstances — a workplace ballot achieves a higher turnout than a secret postal ballot. If, as in the case of NALGO, that is due to one man voting 129 times by picking unused ballot papers out of dustbins, what exactly does the hon. Gentleman's point prove?

Mr. Leighton

The hon. Member for Gainsborough and Horncastle is blushing. That is the most wriggling, unpersuasive argument that I have heard. The hon. Member for Stockton, South, who was a consultant for that union, will tell us whether it is possible for one man to vote 100 times, although I know that there were once irregularities in that union.

I shall, however, read Hansard tomorrow and send the hon. Member for Gainsborough and Horncastle the appropriate cutting, because he argued that in workplace ballots the turnout dropped to 25 per cent. whereas it would be higher under the postal ballot system. However, the hon. Gentleman cannot name one union which operates postal voting and which achieves anything like a 25 per cent. turnout. It is not surprising, if the hon. Gentleman gets those simple facts wrong, that he reaches the wrong conclusion at the end of the day.

The workplace ballot is valid and legitimate. When the National Union of Mineworkers elected Mr. Scargill in a workplace ballot there was a turnout of 80 per cent. I see the hon. Gentleman nodding agreement. It is convenient to vote at the workplace. I was elected through a proper system of ballot boxes in the canteen. It is not for the hon. Gentleman to tell free and independent trade unions how to conduct their affairs, or to say that one method is better than another.

I urge the hon. Gentleman further to study the fascinating subject of trade union elections. No other institution in Britain consults its members more systematically, regularly or frequently than does the trade union movement. It sets us all a good example.

Mr. Best

The hon. Member for Newham, North-East (Mr. Leighton) said that the Left wing is in favour of secret postal ballots, and that they did not lead to either the Right or the Left being elected. He makes a point in favour of the amendment.

My hon. Friend the Member for Dorset, South (Viscount Cranborne) mentioned courage during his excellent speech. I shall not be faint-hearted tonight. However, ultimately my hon. Friend has another place to which he can go—I do not, but I shall not be deterred because of that. I am given extra heart by the comments of Opposition Members who wish to retain the Bill as it stands and reject the amendment moved by my hon. Friend the Member for Gainsborough and Horncastle (Mr. Leigh).

Both the hon. Member for St. Helens, North (Mr. Evans) and the hon. Member for Newham, North-East said that turnout was more important than unimpeded democratic rights. The gravamen of their speeches was that the all-important matter was turnout. The logical conclusion is that the hon. Member for St. Helens, North would argue for compulsory voting in national elections, such as there is in Australia. He gave the impression that elections in trade union matters were too much trouble—too much trouble to distribute the ballot papers, too much trouble for people to take cognisance of those standing for election, and too much trouble to learn a little about the matter. As one of my hon. Friends said from a sedentary position, they want everything done for them. I am, therefore, persuaded in favour of the amendment.

Although it is awkward to have certain matters articulated in the publicity of this place, I think that my hon. Friends would regard me as a moderate. However, the hon. Member for Bow and Poplar (Mr. Mikardo) appears to believe me to be a militant Right-winger. Such a description could be of assistance in certain cases, and I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman. However, I fear that what little good the description may have done me has been undone by the fact that it came from the hon. Gentleman.

The hon. Gentleman painted a fascinating scenario. With respect to him, I shall go into the Lobby tonight with a far greater sense of adventure than I have during the past five years. He likened this place to a trade union. When we go through the Lobbies tonight, that will be akin to a workplace ballot. In likening this place to a trade union, the hon. Gentleman is saying that there is no intimidation—which we know to be true—and no pressure—which we all know. Therefore, the hon. Gentleman's analogy has some validity.

I am forced to suspect the Opposition's wish to oppose the amendment and their over-support for the Bill as it stands. If I had any doubt previously on how I should vote, that doubt has been resolved by the comments of Opposition Members which I did not find persuasive. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will not take offence if I say he is the white queen of the Labour party, and that if he says something three times we must believe it to be true. I suspect that most of us will not fall for that.

Mr. Mikardo

I do not wish to comment on the hon. Gentleman's observations about my speech. I find it strange that someone who says that he does not wish to be offensive, can then make an extremely offensive remark. However, I shall not lose any sleep over the hon. Gentleman's burblings.

I agree with the hon. Gentleman that turnout is not the most important matter. However, he should not be surprised that a great deal of attention has been paid to turnout, because throughout the Committee and Report stages the Minister did not make one speech that did not concentrate on turnout. I am sorry that so many hon. Members on both sides of the House have followed that idiotic example.

Mr. Best

I am glad that I gave way to the hon. Gentleman because he is obviously on the horns of a dilemma. He seeks to criticise the Minister for concentrating on turnout, yet he deploys that argument in opposing the amendment. My remark about the white queen was not intended to be offensive, as he will discover if he reads "Alice in Wonderland". Indeed I am surprised that he has not read it, because it is compulsory reading for the Labour party.

The Bill is important; it is a tribute to the Government that it is before the House tonight. It redresses so many wrongs. It is intolerable in a democratic society that people achieve and remain in office without being subject to the democratic will of those whom they purport to represent. It is a matter of individual freedom. Anyone would be moved by the representations that we heard earlier today from moderate members of trade unions—all of whom are staunch Socialists. One hon. Member spoke of his experience of six trade unions and the need for secret postal ballots. Other hon. Members referred to the engineering section of the AUEW, which is in favour of postal ballots.

The hon. Member for St. Helens, North is in great difficulty. He says that he is in favour of secret postal ballots, but at the same time he is seeking to dissuade his hon. Friends from supporting the amendment. If, as is envisaged in the Bill, the courts can order a postal ballot, why is it not right for a secret postal ballot to exist ab initio? That is a fundamental point which has not been fully addressed this evening. Indeed, it was my noble Friend Lord Gowrie who said: The Government wish to do everything practicable to ensure the spread of postal balloting … the best safeguard against intimidation and malpractice … wherever possible the union member should be allowed to cast his vote away from the … workplace."—[Official Report, House of Lords, 20 June 1984; Vol. 453, c. 277.] What is wrong with postal ballots? It has been suggested that they would put us in difficulty with the ILO.

8.30 pm
Mr. Budgen

Is my hon. Friend aware that the handout from the Conservative party's research department helpfully pointed out that in the other place Government spokesmen argued against the amendment on the ground that it represented an unacceptable degree of state interference in union affairs in contravention of our obligations to the ILO?

Mr. Best

My hon. Friend has made his point. I have some care and regard for international obligations that Britain enters into. We should look carefully at those obligations before we seek to contravene them. By the same token it must be right that there are at times— I hope many — when we in Britain can add something beneficial to the corpus of international law rather than merely accepting its formation by others and as it stands at present. That is what the House should be doing tonight. We should be saying that the ILO convention is not necessarily holy writ which should be observed at all costs, but that it is capable of being ameliorated.

Postal ballots are the only safeguard to individual rights. They are the best way of conducting trade union elections. Those are not my words and views alone but those of the personification of the Conservative party in the Chamber tonight.

Mr. Tom King

I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Ynys Môn (Mr. Best) for that gracious introduction. I hope that I shall in no way seek to intimidate him tonight but that, by his vivid intelligence, he will be able to appreciate the force of the points that I seek to make in support of the Lords amendments that are before the House and in inviting the House not to accept the range of amendments that have been tabled to the Lords amendments.

Many speeches have kindly welcomed the return of the Bill. It has been much enhanced by the amendments that have been made in another place. I shall refer to certain improvements that any fair-minded person would recognise as a major achievement and improvement in the corporations of industrial law. The debate has dealt particularly with the arrangements for ballots for the election of members of the principal executive committees of trade unions. The Bill includes the important provision that for any strike or other industrial action to have immunity there should have been a ballot beforehand. Nobody in Britain, after the recent events in the ports or the continuing events in the mines, is in any doubt about the appropriateness and value of that provision. I know that I speak for my right hon. and hon. Friends, and I hope for every hon. Member, when I say that the sooner that that becomes the law of the land the better. The Bill also includes arrangements for periodic ballots for political funds which we debated at some length on Report and earlier.

Quite apart from the merits of the arguments, not the least of my considerations is my wish that the Bill should become the law of the land at the earliest possible date. It will not have escaped the attention of those of my hon. Friends who have taken a close interest in the Bill that, provided that we are able to agree with their Lordships in their amendments, the Bill can achieve the Royal Assent and part II of the Bill will take effect two months after that. That is a not unimportant consideration at present and I am most anxious to see that we achieve it.

As the Bill has been away from the House for a while and as some of my hon. Friends may not have it freshly in their minds, it is important to understand that the whole basis on which we have embarked on this further reform, initiated by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and carried forward by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, is a step-by-step approach by which we are steadily establishing not impossible hurdles for people to overcome, not inevitably and incredibly complex laws and regulations which then give an excuse for the militants and extremists to plead the impossibility of observing, but what by any fair and reasonable test ought to apply in any democracy and free institution. The legisation has sought to balance that against what my right hon. and hon. Friends will defend to the death—the freedom of the individual and the proper rights and freedom of that individual in a free society.

Although we had a little jovial xenophobia from my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Budgen) in his cracks about the ILO, and in the remarks of my hon. friend the Member for Ynys Mon, the complexity of international law to which Britain is a signatory under convention 87 is contained in this simple sentence: Workers and employers' organisations shall have the right to draw up their constitutions and rules, to elect their representatives in full freedom, to organise their administration and activities and to formulate their programmes. I do not regard that as a gross interference with our national law but as something that certainly every Conservative Member would wish to see established and available more widely around the world. I hope that I speak for all my right hon. and hon. Friends in paying tribute to the work that the ILO is doing in its condemnation of the treatment of Solidarity in Poland because it is in the universal application of that freedom and the freedom of the individual that we seek to support it.

The right hon. Member for Blaenau Gwent (Mr. Foot) berated my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West for his criticisms. I know that my hon. Friend will not confuse the denunciation, were it to be so, of a convention covering wages councils with the question of secession from the ILO, which is a separate matter. I am sure that he does not wish to deride the value of international organisations. I am sure that he will remember with me our appreciation of the fact that it was the European Court of Human Rights that pilloried the right hon. Gentleman for his fundamental breach of the convention when, by his own closed shop legislation, he affected the freedom and rights of choice of individual members.

It is against that background that I put this important issue to my right hon. and hon. Friends. We must balance the proper freedoms of individuals if they wish to combine together in their own associations and to fix their own rules with the responsibility that they have to society to see that those rules and organisations are conducted in conformity with basic democractic principles.

I demand for society and express through the House the right to certain basic standards and principles. It is Parliament that gives privileges to trade unions. It gives them immunity from prosecution in industrial action. Therefore, Parliament is entitled to see that certain minimum tests are observed in that situation. That does not infringe the basic freedoms that people shold enjoy in Britain.

I have already referred to society's right to ask — indeed, to expect—that those who lead trade unions are properly elected by proper democratic principles. If society is to be disrupted by strikes and other forms of industrial action, it is right that the simple and basic test of a vote and a secret ballot before such action is taken is observed and implemented if society is to confer on that action immunity from prosecution. The tests that we are imposing in the Bill are not objectionable. They pass the test that I put before the House for they are manifestly reasonable and acceptable to the overwhelming majority of the British people.

The amendments from another place have at their heart a concern that we all share. I trust that all hon. Members are concerned about the fairness of union elections. When my hon. Friend the Member for Gainsborough and Horncastle (Mr. Leigh) moved the amendment one or two Opposition Members chose to heckle him when he presented any evidence of intimidation, mischief and malpractice. I do not think that there is a Member of this place who has taken any close interest in industrial matters who does not know that in some union elections there is abuse and malpractice and, in some instances, gross intimidation. It is difficult for any Opposition Member to suggest that that is never so when we observe the behaviour that is taking place and the lengths to which individuals are prepared to go in the miners' dispute to impose their will on what may often be an unwilling majority.

Mr. Evans

The Secretary of State has made a grave allegation. We are discussing the election of trade unions' executive councils and the right hon. Gentleman has talked about intimidation. Can he give the House one example of intimidation in the election of any executive council of any trade union?

Mr. King

One of the features of successful intimidation is the success with which intimidators are able to cover their tracks. There is a host of malpractices in the conduct of union elections and some of them have appeared in print. However, I do not intend to take up the time of the House by dealing with them individually. I hope that the House in its entirety is committed to freedom and fairness in trade union elections.

Mr. Foot

Will the Secretary of State give way?

Mr. King

I should like to complete this part of my speech before doing so. There is evidence of intimidation, mischief and malpractice, and distortions can flow from low turnouts. I have no evidence of any postal ballot that has achieved a higher turnout than a workplace ballot.

The real evil that the Bill is designed to eliminate, and which it specifically proscribes as it returns from another place, is the branch ballot. It is unfortunate that the debate has tended to suggest that we are confining ourselves to the relative merits of the postal ballot and the workplace ballot. The majority of union elections are conducted by means of the branch ballot. The Association of Scientific, Technical and Managerial Staffs provides a good example of the results of branch ballots. The president of the ASTMS was elected on a 2 per cent. poll of the members. Branch ballots are often held in the back rooms of pubs at late hours on November nights.

8.45 pm
Mr. Leighton

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. The Secretary of State is making the most extraordinary statements. I understand that my right hon. Friend the Member for Blaenau Gwent (Mr. Foot) wants to intervene in his speech. It is my understanding that the entire House wishes to hear my right hon. Friend.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Paul Dean)

Order. The hon. Gentleman is not raising a point of order. Many extraordinary statements are made in the House.

Mr. King

I give way to the right hon. Member for Blaenau Gwent (Mr. Foot).

Mr. Foot

The right hon. Gentleman has made serious charges of malpractice. When he was challenged by my hon. Friend the Member for St. Helens, North (Mr. Evans), he could not produce one instance of malpractice. This is a repetition of what happened in another place when similar charges of malpractice were levelled. They were challenged time and again by Lord Wedderburn of Charlton and Lord McCarthy, who asked Government spokesmen to substantiate their charges. Like the Secretary of State, they could not substantiate what they had said. Will the right hon. Gentleman have the courtesy to withdraw?

Mr. King

I did not wish to deal in detail with allegations of malpractice. I am more interested, in establishing the most appropriate basis—I thought that in this instance I would have the support of the right hon. Gentleman—for eliminating the possibility of intimidation. The right hon. Gentleman might care to study a few appropriate chapters in Mr. Sid Weighell's book entitled "On the Rails". The right hon. Gentleman should study some of his evidence and comments. I do not wish to enlarge on allegations of malpractice, for it is not ray purpose to vilify trade unions. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Daventry (Mr. Prentice) has said, it is the Government's purpose to establish principles on which we can achieve fairer elections. The abuse of the open meeting and the show of hands and the abuse of the branch meeting——

Mr. Laurie Pavitt (Brent, South)

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Is it not the custom of the House that anyone speaking from the Front Benches shall address the Chair? You will be aware, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that the reporters find this practice helpful. The right hon. Gentleman will persist in addressing the other end of the Chamber.

Mr. King

That is a fair comment to make, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and I apologise to you and the hon. Gentleman.

The abuse of the branch ballot and the holding of meetings at inconvenient times at inconvenient places such as the back room of a pub on the night a European cup final is being shown on television, a meeting that may well be badly advertised and which ensures that only a minute number of members attend, are practices that do not encourage full participation. Such practices do not lend themselves to participatory democracy in trade union elections. The prime objective of our proposals is to eliminate the branch ballot. That practice will be ruled out by the Bill.

I must accept that my hon. Friend the Member for Gainsborough and Horncastle grossly overstated the difference between the Bill's provisions and the amendments which he is proposing. I think that he was considerably less than gracious to those in another place who considered the Bill in great detail and tabled a number of amendments. We should pay tribute to their work. Opposition Members are all too ready to pay tribute to their Lordships when they like what they do and all too ready to criticise hem when their actions do not suit their position.

My hon. Friend the Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Griffiths) was suitably appreciative of what the noble Lords did in that respect. There is a difference between the Lords amendments and the position of my hon. Friend the Member for Bury St. Edmunds and other hon. Members who have spoken. The amendments to the Lords amendment ask for mandatory postal ballots — not universally—with exemptions for those circumstances in which it would not be appropriate to have a mandatory postal ballot. The proposals that I recommended to the House have a presumption in favour of a postal ballot. There will be a workplace ballot only if that ballot can pass the tests of being free, fair, convenient, secret, free from intimidation, and involving the marking of a piece of paper. Those are the clear tests. Those who believe that the workplace ballot is inevitably capable of massive manipulation do not appear to include Mr. Scargill in the number. It is significant that Mr. Scargill seems now not to have the same confidence that he has the power to rig the outcome of the ballot.

I believe that my hon. Friend the Member for Gainsborough and Horncastle recognises a problem involving exemptions. Who is to grant them? On what basis, rules and detailed procedures are those exemptions to be granted? Are not the courts of the land sufficient? That is the key to the Government's proposals. Must we set up another body? It has been suggested that the Secretary of State of whatever Government are in power will have the power to determine the rules of election of individual trade unions. It has been suggested that the state officer in the shape of the Certification Officer—that is the route suggested by my hon. Friend the Member for Gainsborough and Horncastle — should determine the exact arrangements for elections in individual trade unions. I believe that that would lead to considerable difficulties. It provides considerable scope for "militants" on the Left as well as the Right to challenge the rulings of such a certification officer. I believe that that measure would make the whole procedure much more complicated.

Mr. Leigh

Will my right hon. Friend give way?

Mr. King

May I explain the merits of the proposals that we are putting forward, and then my hon. Friend might like to comment.

I do not believe that some of my hon. Friends have quite understood the full ramifications of the range of amendments that have been tabled by their Lordships and the way in which they interact significantly to encourage the presumption in favour of the postal ballot. I refer to the amendment supported by the hon. Member for St. Helens, North (Mr. Evans) who believes that the insertion of "the employer" is necessary. That is not so. The measure is intended as a protection for the trade union. If the hon. Gentleman's amendment were carried, intimidation by an employer would become the liability of the trade union, and I know that the hon. Gentleman does not wish to do that. I would not recommend to the House that that amendment should be accepted.

Mr. Evans

Will the right hon. Gentleman deal with my point about the position that could arise if an employer refused to co-operate during the workplace ballot?

Mr. King

The employer has a duty under section 2 of the Employment Act 1980 to make facilities available for workplace ballots if they are conducted in conformity with the requirements of that Act. I shall give the full details to the hon. Gentleman. I understand this point.

The amendment supported by the hon. Member of Stockton, South (Mr. Wrigglesworth) will omit the words, "so far as reasonably practicable".

I hope that the hon. Gentleman will not pursue that amendment. His measure would automatically disqualify the AUEW and the EETPU from every postal ballot that now exists. Those of my hon. Friends who have consciously taken the decision, as I have, to prefer the method of postal ballots must accept the fact that, despite their belief that a postal ballot is the perfect answer, the AUEW estimates that 200,000 of its members who are entitled to vote never receive a voting paper and 25,000 members who are not entitled to vote receive a voting paper. That is one of the difficulties of maintaining a register. That is why the phrase so far as reasonably practicable must, in all honesty, be left in the Bill.

Mr. Wrigglesworth

I reassure the Secretary of State that we do not intend to press that amendment. I simply wanted to put down a marker on the form of the words that has been debated in the other place and in Committee.

Mr. King

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman.

At the core of the amendment moved by my hon. Friend the Member for Gainsborough and Horncastle is the question of the code of practice. My hon. Friend invites the House to encourage the insertion of a requirement for a code of practice which will have minimum criteria and preclude certain practices. I believe that the House understands that I am not keen to include in the code of practice points that I can have in the Bill. Those minimum criteria which I have just spelt out to the House are in the Bill as part of its legal requirements. I do not see the point of repeating them in a code of practice.

Mr. Leigh

My right hon. Friend has asked me to comment. I shall, therefore, take this opportunity to congratulate their Lordships on improving the Bill. Surely that does not stop the House from improving the Bill still further, especially by removing the central fallacy which still remains after their Lordships' amendments. The point is that a trade unionist concerned about intimidation must himself go to the High Court via the certification officer. Should there not be a duty on the trade union leadership to justify a workplace rather than a postal ballot? I do not see why the Bill should not be improved in that respect.

Mr. King

I shall seek to explain that point to my hon. Friend, but I certainly accept his first point that the House has, of course, an absolute right to improve the Bill further if it believes that the grounds justify that improvement.

I have sought to make clear the position on the code of practice. Hon. Members have referred also to an independent agency which would issue ballot papers, have those papers returned to it, count the votes, issue the results, and presumably in some way patrol the address list and check the accuracy of registers of members. In other words, that agency would effectively take over the trade union the running of all trade union elections for principal executive committees. Our slogan was "Giving the unions back to their members". It was not to give the unions to a state agency to run. I do not believe that that is the right approach. I shall explain why the further measures that we have included genuinely help union members in their responsibilities within their union.

Some of my hon. Friends have not understood how strong and effective is the phrase that the union is satisfied that there are no reasonable grounds for believing that the requirements … would not be satisfied. by not holding a postal ballot. The effect of that is to oblige any union that is not prepared to adopt a postal ballot to consider whether a workplace ballot — the only alternative that the legislation allows — can possibly need all the stringent, democratic safeguards that the Bill provides.

9 pm

Can a workplace ballot be secret? Can the union guarantee that none of its members will be at risk of intimidation or that there will be no other constraint on the voter's freedom to vote for the candidate of his choice? Can a workplace ballot be free of malpractice or manipulation? Above all, will the workplace ballot give members the opportunity to vote at a time and place convenient to them? Only if all those requirements are satisfied will it be safe for a union to opt for a workplace ballot. That is a serious decision that they must reach, because the next proposal that I recommended to their Lordships as a Government amendment is now incorporated in the Bill. If the unions decide to go for the workplace ballot, consciously deciding that they can meet those requirements, they are open to challenge. Any union member in advance of the ballot can go to the certification officer or the courts. They will have to be satisfied that the union has thought the matter through fully.

If the union does not succeed and is found not to have complied with the requirements, and is taken to court, the requirement that I have inserted in the Bill, which is a significant enhancement of the Bill since it left this place, is that a court then not "may" but "shall" require a re-run of the election. It will have the power to quash the previous election and require the re-run to be held by postal ballot, unless it determines that it is inappropriate to work in that way. There is an onus to hold a postal ballot.

Mr. Best


Mr. King

The next step we have taken — I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Sussex (Mr. Renton) who is aware of what a significant step forward this is — and one which will be widely welcomed is that we have provided that a trade union member who has a problem and previously may have felt inhibited and worried about going to the courts can now go to the certification officer to have his complaint investigated, provided that he has shown that he is a valid union member and have his anonymity preserved, if necessary.

If the complaint is upheld, the certification officer will be able to issue a legal declaration which will plainly be of assistance to the member when pursuing a just complaint. I do not see that as something that should frighten trade unions. We know that people have unjustified grievances and the certification officer may help in weeding out the frivolous and irrelevant complaints.

In addition,—I believe that all right hon. and hon. Members welcome this further step forward—there is the requirement for the establishment of accurate registers of their members by every trade union. I make no apology for having included this proposal in the Bill. It seems to me incredible that organisations with assets of £50 million, £40 million or £30 million, and with members subscribing £25, £50 or £100 a year can turn round and say that they have no record of membership. That is something which will be of great benefit to unions. The duty to compile the register will start with the Royal Assent. I hope that, with the support of my right hon. and hon. Friends, that could be next week. It would be an important step forward.

Mr. Ron Davies

The Minister was asked earlier by his hon. Friend the Member for Bolton, North-East (Mr. Thurnham) whether that register would be confidential to the trade union or whether it would be available to the public. Will the Minister answer that question?

Mr. King

It will not be available to the public, but it will be the trade unions' duty to keep such a register, and a union member will be entitled to seek access to it to see whether his entry was properly included. I hope that the House will feel that that is the proper answer.

Mr. Wrigglesworth

Can the Minister tell the trade unions whether under the Employment Act 1980 the Government will provide the means for them to set up these registers and administer them as part of the balloting?

Mr. King

We have no such proposals. The evidence from unions that have set up these registers has shown that by using modern methods of establishing registers they have improved the collection of subscriptions, which has benefited them. I do not see the need to fund them in that way.

My hon. Friend the Member for Ynys Môn picked up a phrase in an article about who the courageous ones are now, and who the cowards. I have never regarded the question of the approach that we adopt as a question of courage or cowardice. As my hon. Friend the Member for Bury St. Edmunds will remember, we tramped through the Lobbies night after night in 1970 and 1971 in the bravest show of determination to achieve trade union reform that this country has ever seen. What are the results? I have to tell my hon. Friends—some of whom wish to go further than we think would be sensible or effective—that we went much further in 1971. We did not just appoint a certification officer with power to establish the rules for elections. We set up a registrar with an oversight over all the rules of a trade union. What did that achieve? Our proposals ran into major obstruction. The step was ineffective.

I want to bring democracy., fairness and better practices to trade union elections. I believe that, if we take the further steps that some of my hon. Friends wish to take, we will play into the hands of the militants who seek more complicated and difficult arrangements because they could challenge them endlessly in the courts. I want to see clear, fair and effective measures which would be of real help to trade union members in this country who are entitled to such help. We want to give union members the opportunity to vote.

The hon. Member for St. Helens, North (Mr. Evans), must find himself in an embarrassing position tonight. I have a quotation for him. Those who oppose the change will have to explain how.in the name of democracy they can deny the chance to vote to the people who make up the party … Do those who oppose the proposals for direct membership voting think that the great majority of party members cannot be trusted to make a judgment? That is a reference not to a trade union but to a party. The letter is signed "Yours fraternally, Neil Kinnock". It was published today, and sent to hon. Members as part of the campaign for one man, one vote in the Labour party.

The least that we can do is to carry that campaign into trade union elections as well. I believe in the measures in the Bill. I invite my hon. Friends to support them in the Lobby.

Question put, That the amendment be made:—

The House divided: Ayes 52, Noes 467.

Division No. 424] [9.08 pm
Alton, David Fairbairn, Nicholas
Amery, Rt Hon Julian Fallon, Michael
Ashdown, Paddy Forsyth, Michael (Stirling)
Beith, A. J. Fry, Peter
Bendall, Vivian Gardiner, George (Reigate)
Bevan, David Gilroy Goodhart, Sir Philip
Body, Richard Greenway, Harry
Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich) Gregory, Conal
Bruinvels, Peter Griffiths, E. (B'y St Edm'ds)
Budgen, Nick Ground, Patrick
Carlisle, John (N Luton) Grylls, Michael
Cartwright, John Hamilton, Neil (Tatton)
Cranborne, Viscount Howarth, Gerald (Cannock)
Dicks, Terry Howell, Rt Hon D. (G'ldford)
Dover, Den Hughes, Simon (Southward)
Jenkins, Rt Hon Roy (Hillh'd) Stanbrook, Ivor
Johnston, Russell Steel, Rt Hon David
Kennedy, Charles Thurnham, Peter
Kirkwood, Archy Vaughan, Sir Gerard
Leigh, Edward (Gainsbor'gh) Wainwright, R.
Maclennan, Robert Wallace, James
Murphy, Christopher Warren, Kenneth
Owen, Rt Hon Dr David Wiggin, Jerry
Penhaligon, David Wrigglesworth, Ian
Prentice, Rt Hon Reg
Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight) Tellers for the Ayes:
Shepherd, Richard (Aldridge) Mr. Keith Best and Mr. John Butterfill.
Sims, Roger
Adley, Robert Carlisle, Rt Hon M. (W'ton S)
Aitken, Jonathan Carter-Jones, Lewis
Alexander, Richard Carttiss, Michael
Alison, Rt Hon Michael Cash, William
Amess, David Chalker, Mrs Lynda
Ancram, Michael Chapman, Sydney
Anderson, Donald Chope, Christopher
Arnold, Tom Clark, Hon A. (Plym'th S'n)
Ashby, David Clark, Dr David (S Shields)
Ashley, Rt Hon Jack Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford)
Ashton, Joe Clark, Sir W. (Croydon S)
Aspinwall, Jack Clarke, Rt Hon K. (Rushcliffe)
Atkins, Rt Hon Sir H. Clarke, Thomas
Atkins, Robert (South Ribble) Clay, Robert
Atkinson, David (B'm'th E) Clegg, Sir Walter
Atkinson, N. (Tottenham) Cocks, Rt Hon M. (Bristol S.)
Bagier, Gordon A. T. Cohen, Harry
Baker, Nicholas (N Dorset) Coleman, Donald
Baldry, Anthony Colvin, Michael
Banks, Robert (Harrogate) Concannon, Rt Hon J. D.
Banks, Tony (Newham NW) Conlan, Bernard
Barron, Kevin Conway, Derek
Batiste, Spencer Cook, Robin F. (Livingston)
Beckett, Mrs Margaret Coombs, Simon
Bell, Stuart Cope, John
Benn, Tony Corbett, Robin
Bennett, A. (Dent'n & Red'sh) Corrie, John
Benyon, William Cowans, Harry
Bermingham, Gerald Craigen, J. M.
Berry, Sir Anthony Critchley, Julian
Bidwell, Sydney Crouch, David
Biffen, Rt Hon John Crowther, Stan
Biggs-Davison, Sir John Cunliffe, Lawrence
Blair, Anthony Currie, Mrs Edwina
Boothroyd, Miss Betty Dalyell, Tam
Boscawen, Hon Robert Davies, Ronald (Caerphilly)
Bottomley, Peter Davis, Terry (B'ham, H'ge H'l)
Bottomley, Mrs Virginia Deakins, Eric
Bowden, A. (Brighton K'to'n) Dewar, Donald
Boyes, Roland Dickens, Geoffrey
Boyson, Dr Rhodes Dixon, Donald
Braine, Sir Bernard Dobson, Frank
Brandon-Bravo, Martin Dormand, Jack
Bray, Dr Jeremy Dorrell, Stephen
Bright, Graham Douglas, Dick
Brinton, Tim Dubs, Alfred
Brown, Hugh D. (Provan) Duffy, A. E. P.
Brown, M. (Brigg & Cl'thpes) Dunwoody, Hon Mrs G.
Brown, R. (N'c'tle-u-Tyne N) Durant, Tony
Brown, Ron (E'burgh, Leith) Dykes, Hugh
Browne, John Eadie, Alex
Bryan, Sir Paul Edwards, Bob (W'h'mpt'n SE)
Buchan, Norman Eggar, Tim
Buchanan-Smith, Rt Hon A. Ellis, Raymond
Bulmer, Esmond Emery, Sir Peter
Burt, Alistair Evans, John (St. Helens N)
Butcher, John Evennett, David
Butler, Hon Adam Ewing, Harry
Caborn, Richard Eyre, Sir Reginald
Callaghan, Rt Hon J. Farr, Sir John
Callaghan, Jim (Heyw'd & M) Fatchett, Derek
Campbell, Ian Faulds, Andrew
Campbell-Savours, Dale Favell, Anthony
Canavan, Dennis Fenner, Mrs Peggy
Carlisle. Kenneth (Lincoln) Field. Frank (Birkenhead)
Fields, T. (L'pool Broad Gn) Hughes, Sean (Knowsley S)
Fisher, Mark Hunt, David (Wirral)
Flannery, Martin Hunt, John (Ravensbourne)
Fletcher, Alexander Hunter, Andrew
Fookes, Miss Janet Hurd, Rt Hon Douglas
Foot, Rt Hon Michael Irving, Charles
Forman, Nigel Jackson, Robert
Forth, Eric Janner, Hon Greville
Foster, Derek Jenkin, Rt Hon Patrick
Foulkes, George Jessel, Toby
Fowler, Rt Hon Norman John, Brynmor
Fox, Marcus Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey
Franks, Cecil Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside)
Fraser, J. (Norwood) Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)
Fraser, Peter (Angus East) Jones, Robert (W Herts)
Freeman, Roger Jopling, Rt Hon Michael
Freeson, Rt Hon Reginald Joseph, Rt Hon Sir Keith
Gale, Roger Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald
Gardner, Sir Edward (Fylde) Kershaw, Sir Anthony
Garrett, W. E. Key, Robert
George, Bruce King, Roger (B'ham N'field)
Gilmour, Rt Hon Sir Ian King, Rt Hon Tom
Glyn, Dr Alan Kinnock, Rt Hon Neil
Godman, Dr Norman Knight, Gregory (Derby N)
Golding, John Knight, Mrs Jill (Edgbaston)
Goodlad, Alastair Knowles, Michael
Gorst, John Knox, David
Gould, Bryan Lambie, David
Gourlay, Harry Lamont, Norman
Gow, Ian Latham, Michael
Gower, Sir Raymond Lawler, Geoffrey
Grant, Sir Anthony Lawrence, Ivan
Griffiths, Peter (Portsm'th N) Lawson, Rt Hon Nigel
Grist, Ian Leadbitter, Ted
Gummer, John Selwyn Lee, John (Pendle)
Hamilton, Hon A. (Epsom) Leighton, Ronald
Hamilton, James (M'well N) Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark
Hampson, Dr Keith Lester, Jim
Hanley, Jeremy Lewis, Sir Kenneth (Stamf'd)
Hannam, John Lewis, Terence (Worsley)
Hardy, Peter Lightbown, David
Hargreaves, Kenneth Lilley, Peter
Harman, Ms Harriet Litherland, Robert
Harris, David Lloyd, Ian (Havant)
Harrison, Rt Hon Walter Lloyd, Peter, (Fareham)
Hart, Rt Hon Dame Judith Lloyd, Tony (Stretford)
Harvey, Robert Lofthouse, Geoffrey
Haselhurst, Alan Lord, Michael
Havers, Rt Hon Sir Michael Loyden, Edward
Hawkins, C. (High Peak) Luce, Richard
Hawksley, Warren Lyell, Nicholas
Hayhoe, Barney McCartney, Hugh
Haynes, Frank McCrindle, Robert
Healey, Rt Hon Denis McCurley, Mrs Anna
Heathcoat-Amory, David McDonald, Dr Oonagh
Heddle, John MacGregor, John
Heffer, Eric S. McGuire, Michael
Henderson, Barry McKay, Allen (Penistone)
Heseltine, Rt Hon Michael MacKay, John (Argyll & Bute)
Hickmet, Richard McKelvey, William
Hicks, Robert Mackenzie, Rt Hon Gregor
Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L. Maclean, David John
Hill, James McNair-Wilson, P. (New F'st)
Hind, Kenneth McNamara, Kevin
Hirst, Michael McQuarrie, Albert
Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm) McTaggart, Robert
Hogg, N. (C'nauld & Kilsyth) McWilliam, John
Holland, Sir Philip (Gedling) Madden, Max
Holland, Stuart (Vauxhall) Madel, David
Holt, Richard Major, John
Hordern, Peter Malins, Humfrey
Howard, Michael Malone, Gerald
Howarth, Alan (Stratf'd-on-A) Maples, John
Howe, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey Marek, Dr John
Howell, Rt Hon D. (S'heath) Marland, Paul
Howell, Ralph (N Norfolk) Marlow, Antony
Hoyle, Douglas Marshall, David (Shettleston)
Hubbard-Miles, Peter Marshall, Michael (Arundel)
Hughes, Dr. Mark (Durham) Mates, Michael
Hughes, Roy (Newport East) Maude, Hon Francis
Mawhinney, Dr Brian Rogers, Allan
Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin Rooker, J. W.
Maynard, Miss Joan Rossi, Sir Hugh
Meacher, Michael Rost, Peter
Merchant, Piers Rowe, Andrew
Meyer, Sir Anthony Rowlands, Ted
Michie, William Rumbold, Mrs Angela
Mikardo, Ian Ryder, Richard
Millan, Rt Hon Bruce Ryman, John
Miller, Hal (B'grove) Sackville, Hon Thomas
Miller, Dr M. S. (E Kilbride) Sainsbury, Hon Timothy
Mills, Iain (Meriden) St. John-Stevas, Rt Hon N.
Mills, Sir Peter (West Devon) Sayeed, Jonathan
Miscampbell, Norman Shaw, Giles (Pudsey)
Mitchell, Austin (G't Grimsby) Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb')
Mitchell, David (NW Hants) Sheerman, Barry
Moate, Roger Shelton, William (Streatham)
Monro, Sir Hector Shersby, Michael
Moore, John Shore, Rt Hon Peter
Morris, Rt Hon A. (W'shawe) Short, Ms Clare (Ladywood)
Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon) Silvester, Fred
Morris, M. (N'hampton, S) Skeet, T. H. H.
Morrison, Hon C. (Devizes) Skinner, Dennis
Mudd, David Smith, C.(Isl'ton S & F'bury)
Neale, Gerrard Smith, Sir Dudley (Warwick)
Needham, Richard Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)
Nellist, David Snape, Peter
Nelson, Anthony Soames, Hon Nicholas
Neubert, Michael Soley, Clive
Newton, Tony Spearing, Nigel
Nicholls, Patrick Speed, Keith
Norris, Steven Speller, Tony
Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon Spencer, Derek
O'Brien, William Spicer, Jim (W Dorset)
Onslow, Cranley Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)
Oppenheim, Philip Squire, Robin
Oppenheim, Rt Hon Mrs S. Steen, Anthony
Orme, Rt Hon Stanley Stern, Michael
Ottaway, Richard Stevens, Martin (Fulham)
Page, Sir John (Harrow W) Stewart, Allan (Eastwood)
Page, Richard (Herts SW) Stewart, Andrew (Sherwood)
Park, George Stewart, Ian (N Hertf'dshire)
Parkinson, Rt Hon Cecil Stokes, John
Parris, Matthew Stradling Thomas, J.
Parry, Robert Straw, Jack
Patchett, Terry Sumberg, David
Patten, Christopher (Bath) Tapsell, Peter
Patten, John (Oxford) Taylor, John (Solihull)
Pattie, Geoffrey Temple-Morris, Peter
Pavitt, Laurie Thatcher, Rt Hon Mrs M.
Pawsey, James Thomas, Dafydd (Merioneth)
Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth Thomas, Rt Hon Peter
Pendry, Tom Thomas, Dr R. (Carmarthen)
Percival, Rt Hon Sir Ian Thompson, Donald (Calder v)
Pike, Peter Thompson, J. (Wansbeck)
Pollock, Alexander Thompson, Patrick (N'ich N)
Porter, Barry Thorne, Neil (Ilford S)
Powell, Raymond (Ogmore) Thorne, Stan (Preston)
Powell, William (Corby) Thornton, Malcolm
Powley, John Tinn, James
Prescott, John Torney, Tom
Price, Sir David Townsend, Cyril D. (B'heath)
Proctor, K. Harvey Tracey, Richard
Pym, Rt Hon Francis Trippier, David
Raffan, Keith Trotter, Neville
Raison, Rt Hon Timothy Twinn, Dr Ian
Rathbone, Tim van Straubenzee, Sir W.
Redmond, M. Viggers, Peter
Rees, Rt Hon M. (Leeds S) Waddington, David
Rees, Rt Hon Peter (Dover) Waldegrave, Hon William
Renton, Tim Walden, George
Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon Walker, Rt Hon P. (W'cester)
Richardson, Ms Jo Waller, Gary
Ridley, Rt Hon Nicholas Walters, Dennis
Ridsdale, Sir Julian Ward, John
Rippon, Rt Hon Geoffrey Wardell, Gareth (Gower)
Roberts, Ernest (Hackney N) Wardle, C. (Bexhill)
Roberts, Wyn (Conwy) Wareing, Robert
Robinson, G. (Coventry NW) Watson, John
Roe, Mrs Marion Watts, John
Weetch, Ken Woodall, Alec
Wells, Bowen (Hertford) Woodcock, Michael
Welsh, Michael Yeo, Tim
Wheeler, John Young, David (Bolton SE)
White, James Young, Sir George (Acton)
Whitfield, John Younger, Rt Hon George
Whitney, Raymond
Williams, Rt Hon A. Tellers for the Noes:
Winnick, David Mr. Ian Lang and Mr. Tristan Garel-Jones.
Wolfson, Mark
Wood, Timothy

Question accordingly negatived.

Amendment (d) proposed to the Lords amendment, in line 11, after 'him', insert 'by an independent body approved for the purpose by the Certification Officer'.—[Mr. Wrigglesworth]

Question put, That the amendment be made:—

The House divided: Ayes 46, Noes 469.

Division No. 425] [9.24 pm
Alton, David Howell, Rt Hon D. (G'ldford)
Amery, Rt Hon Julian Hughes, Simon (Southwark)
Ashdown, Paddy Jenkins, Rt Hon Roy (Hillh'd)
Bendall, Vivian Johnston, Russell
Best, Keith Kennedy, Charles
Bevan, David Gilroy Kirkwood, Archy
Body, Richard Leigh, Edward (Gainsbor'gh)
Bruinvels, Peter Maclennan, Robert
Budgen, Nick Murphy, Christopher
Carlisle, John (N Luton) Owen, Rt Hon Dr David
Cranborne, Viscount Penhaligon, David
Dicks, Terry Prentice, Rt Hon Reg
Dover, Den Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight)
Fallon, Michael Shepherd, Richard (Aldridge)
Forsyth, Michael (Stirling) Sims, Roger
Fry, Peter Stanbrook, Ivor
Gardiner, George (Reigate) Steel, Rt Hon David
Greenway, Harry Wainwright, R.
Gregory, Conal Wallace, James
Griffiths, E. (B'y St Edm'ds) Wiggin, Jerry
Ground, Patrick Wrigglesworth, Ian
Grylls, Michael
Hamilton, Neil (Tatton) Tellers for the Ayes:
Hickmet, Richard Mr. John Cartwright and Mr. A. J. Beith.
Howarth, Gerald (Cannock)
Adley, Robert Berry, Sir Anthony
Aitken, Jonathan Bidwell, Sydney
Alexander, Richard Biffen, Rt Hon John
Alison, Rt Hon Michael Biggs-Davison, Sir John
Amess, David Blair, Anthony
Ancram, Michael Boothroyd, Miss Betty
Anderson, Donald Boscawen, Hon Robert
Arnold, Tom Bottomley, Peter
Ashby, David Bottomley, Mrs Virginia
Ashley, Rt Hon Jack Bowden, A. (Brighton K'to'n)
Ashton, Joe Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich)
Aspinwall, Jack Boyes, Roland
Atkins, Rt Hon Sir H. Boyson, Dr Rhodes
Atkins, Robert (South Ribble) Brandon-Bravo, Martin
Atkinson, David (B'm'th E) Bray, Dr Jeremy
Atkinson, N. (Tottenham) Bright, Graham
Bagier, Gordon A. T. Brinton, Tim
Baker, Nicholas (N Dorset) Brown, Hugh D. (Provan)
Baldry, Anthony Brown, M. (Brigg & Cl'thpes)
Banks, Robert (Harrogate) Brown, R. (N'c'tle-u-Tyne N)
Banks, Tony (Newham NW) Brown, Ron (E'burgh, Leith)
Barron, Kevin Browne, John
Batiste, Spencer Bryan, Sir Paul
Beckett, Mrs Margaret Buchan, Norman
Bell, Stuart Buchanan-Smith, Rt Hon A.
Benn, Tony Bulmer, Esmond
Bennett, A. (Dent'n & Red'sh) Burt, Alistair
Benyon, William Butcher, John
Bermingham, Gerald Butler, Hon Adam
Caborn, Richard Flannery, Martin
Callaghan, Rt Hon J. Fletcher, Alexander
Callaghan, Jim (Heyw'd & M) Fookes, Miss Janet
Campbell, Ian Foot, Rt Hon Michael
Campbell-Savours, Dale Forman, Nigel
Canavan, Dennis Forth, Eric
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln) Foster, Derek
Carlisle, Rt Hon M. (W'ton S) Foulkes, George
Carter-Jones, Lewis Fowler, Rt Hon Norman
Carttiss, Michael Fox, Marcus
Cash, William Franks, Cecil
Chalker, Mrs Lynda Fraser, J. (Norwood)
Chapman, Sydney Fraser, Peter (Angus East)
Chope, Christopher Freeman, Roger
Clark, Hon A. (Plym'th S'n) Freeson, Rt Hon Reginald
Clark, Dr David (S Shields) Gale, Roger
Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford) Gardner, Sir Edward (Fylde)
Clark, Sir W. (Croydon S) Garel-Jones, Tristan
Clarke, Rt Hon K. (Rushcliffe) Garrett, W. E.
Clarke, Thomas George, Bruce
Clay, Robert Gilmour, Rt Hon Sir Ian
Clegg, Sir Walter Glyn, Dr Alan
Cockeram, Eric Godman, Dr Norman
Cocks, Rt Hon M. (Bristol S.) Golding, John
Cohen, Harry Goodhart, Sir Philip
Coleman, Donald Goodlad, Alastair
Colvin, Michael Gorst, John
Concannon, Rt Hon J. D. Gourlay, Harry
Conlan, Bernard Gow, Ian
Conway, Derek Gower, Sir Raymond
Cook, Robin F. (Livingston) Grant, Sir Anthony
Coombs, Simon Griffiths, Peter (Portsm'th N)
Cope, John Grist, Ian
Corbett, Robin Gummer, John Selwyn
Corbyn, Jeremy Hamilton, Hon A. (Epsom)
Cormack, Patrick Hamilton, James (M'well N)
Corrie, John Hampson, Dr Keith
Cowans, Harry Hanley, Jeremy
Cox, Thomas (Tooting) Hannam, John
Craigen, J. M. Hardy, Peter
Critchley, Julian Hargreaves, Kenneth
Crouch, David Harris, David
Cunliffe, Lawrence Harrison, Rt Hon Walter
Currie, Mrs Edwina Hart, Rt Hon Dame Judith
Dalyell, Tam Harvey, Robert
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (L'lli) Haselhurst, Alan
Davies, Ronald (Caerphilly) Havers, Rt Hon Sir Michael
Davis, Terry (B'ham, H'ge H'l) Hawkins, C. (High Peak)
Deakins, Eric Hawksley, Warren
Dewar, Donald Hayes, J.
Dickens, Geoffrey Hayhoe, Barney
Dixon, Donald Healey, Rt Hon Denis
Dobson, Frank Heathcoat-Amory, David
Dormand, Jack Heddle, John
Dorrell, Stephen Heffer, Eric S.
Douglas, Dick Henderson, Barry
Dubs, Alfred Heseltine, Rt Hon Michael
du Cann, Rt Hon Edward Hicks, Robert
Duffy, A. E. P. Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L.
Dunwoody, Hon Mrs G. Hill, James
Durant, Tony Hind, Kenneth
Dykes, Hugh Hirst, Michael
Eadie, Alex Hogg, N. (C'nauld & Kilsyth)
Eastham, Ken Holland, Sir Philip (Gedling)
Eggar, Tim Holland, Stuart (Vauxhall)
Ellis, Raymond Holt, Richard
Emery, Sir Peter Hordern, Peter
Evans, John (St. Helens N) Howard, Michael
Evennett, David Howarth, Alan (Stratf'd-on-A)
Ewing, Harry Howell, Rt Hon D. (S'heath)
Eyre, Sir Reginald Howell, Ralph (N Norfolk)
Fairbairn, Nicholas Hoyle, Douglas
Farr, Sir John Hubbard-Miles, Peter
Fatchett, Derek Hughes, Dr. Mark (Durham)
Faulds, Andrew Hughes, Roy (Newport East)
Favell, Anthony Hughes, Sean (Knowsley S)
Fenner, Mrs Peggy Hunt, David (Wirral)
Field, Frank (Birkenhead) Hunt, John (Ravensbourne)
Fields, T. (L'pool Broad Gn) Hunter, Andrew
Fisher, Mark Hurd, Rt Hon Douglas
Irving, Charles Michie, William
Jackson, Robert Mikardo, Ian
Janner, Hon Greville Millan, Rt Hon Bruce
Jenkin, Rt Hon Patrick Miller, Hal (B'grove)
Jessel, Toby Miller, Dr M. S. (E Kilbride)
John, Brynmor Mills, Iain (Meriden)
Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey Mills, Sir Peter (West Devon)
Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside) Miscampbell, Norman
Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N) Mitchell, Austin (G't Grimsby)
Jones, Robert (W Herts) Mitchell, David (NW Hants)
Jopling, Rt Hon Michael Moate, Roger
Joseph, Rt Hon Sir Keith Monro, Sir Hector
Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald Moore, John
Kershaw, Sir Anthony Morris, Rt Hon A. (W'shawe)
Key, Robert Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon)
King, Roger (B'ham N'field) Morris, M. (N'hampton, S)
King, Rt Hon Tom Morrison, Hon C. (Devizes)
Kinnock, Rt Hon Neil Mudd, David
Knight, Gregory (Derby N) Neale, Gerrard
Knowles, Michael Needham, Richard
Knox, David Nellist, David
Lambie, David Nelson, Anthony
Lamont, Norman Newton, Tony
Lang, Ian Nicholls, Patrick
Latham, Michael Norris, Steven
Lawler, Geoffrey Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon
Lawrence, Ivan O'Brien, William
Lawson, Rt Hon Nigel Onslow, Cranley
Leadbitter, Ted Oppenheim, Philip
Lee, John (Pendle) Oppenheim, Rt Hon Mrs S.
Leighton, Ronald Osborn, Sir John
Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark Ottaway, Richard
Lester, Jim Page, Sir John (Harrow W)
Lewis, Sir Kenneth (Stamf'd) Page, Richard (Herts SW)
Lewis, Terence (Worsley) Park, George
Lightbown, David Parkinson, Rt Hon Cecil
Litley, Peter Parris, Matthew
Litherland, Robert Parry, Robert
Lloyd, Ian (Havant) Patchett, Terry
Lloyd, Peter, (Fareham) Patten, Christopher (Bath)
Lloyd, Tony (Stretford) Patten, John (Oxford)
Lofthouse, Geoffrey Pattie, Geoffrey
Lord, Michael Pavitt, Laurie
Loyden, Edward Pawsey, James
Luce, Richard Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth
Lyell, Nicholas Pendry, Tom
McCartney, Hugh Percival, Rt Hon Sir Ian
McCrindle, Robert Pike, Peter
McCurley, Mrs Anna Pollock, Alexander
McDonald, Dr Oonagh Porter, Barry
MacGregor, John Powell, Raymond (Ogmore)
McKay, Allen (Penistone) Powell, William (Corby)
MacKay, John (Argyll & Bute) Powley, John
McKelvey, William Prescott, John
Mackenzie, Rt Hon Gregor Price, Sir David
Maclean, David John Proctor, K. Harvey
McNair-Wilson, P. (New F'st) Pym, Rt Hon Francis
McNamara, Kevin Raffan, Keith
McQuarrie, Albert Raison, Rt Hon Timothy
McTaggart, Robert Rathbone, Tim
McWilliam, John Rees, Rt Hon M. (Leeds S)
Madden, Max Rees, Rt Hon Peter (Dover)
Madel, David Renton, Tim
Major, John Rhodes James, Robert
Malins, Humfrey Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon
Malone, Gerald Richardson, Ms Jo
Maples, John Ridley, Rt Hon Nicholas
Marek, Dr John Ridsdale, Sir Julian
Marland, Paul Rippon, Rt Hon Geoffrey
Marlow, Antony Roberts, Ernest (Hackney N)
Marshall, David (Shettleston) Roberts, Wyn (Conwy)
Marshall, Michael (Arundel) Robinson, G. (Coventry NW)
Mates, Michael Roe, Mrs Marion
Maude, Hon Francis Rogers, Allan
Mawhinney, Dr Brian Rooker, J. W.
Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin Rossi, Sir Hugh
Maynard, Miss Joan Rost, Peter
Meacher, Michael Rowe, Andrew
Merchant, Piers Rowlands, Ted
Meyer, Sir Anthony Rumbold, Mrs Angela
Ryder, Richard Thome, Neil (llford S)
Ryman, John Thorne, Stan (Preston)
Sackville, Hon Thomas Thornton, Malcolm
Sainsbury, Hon Timothy Thurnham, Peter
St. John-Stevas, Rt Hon N. Tinn, James
Sayeed, Jonathan Torney, Tom
Shaw, Giles (Pudsey) Townsend, Cyril D. (B'heath)
Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb') Tracey, Richard
Sheerman, Barry Trippier, David
Sheldon, Rt Hon R. Trotter, Neville
Shelton, William (Streatham) Twinn, Dr Ian
Shersby, Michael van Straubenzee, Sir W.
Shore, Rt Hon Peter Vaughan, Sir Gerard
Short, Ms Clare (Ladywood) Viggers, Peter
Silvester, Fred Waddington, David
Skeet, T. H. H. Waldegrave, Hon William
Skinner, Dennis Walden, George
Smith, Sir Dudley (Warwick) Walker, Rt Hon P. (W'cester)
Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield) Waller, Gary
Snape, Peter Walters, Dennis
Soames, Hon Nicholas Ward, John
Soley, Clive Wardell, Gareth (Gower)
Spearing, Nigel Wardle, C. (Bexhill)
Speed, Keith Wareing, Robert
Speller, Tony Warren, Kenneth
Spencer, Derek Watson, John
Spicer, Jim (W Dorset) Watts, John
Squire, Robin Weetch, Ken
Steen, Anthony Wells, Bowen (Hertford)
Stern, Michael Wheeler, John
Stevens, Martin (Fulham) White, James
Stewart, Allan (Eastwood) Whitfield, John
Stewart, Andrew (Sherwood) Whitney, Raymond
Stewart, Ian (N Hertf'dshire) Williams, Rt Hon A.
Stokes, John Winnick, David
Stradling Thomas, J. Wolfson, Mark
Straw, Jack Wood, Timothy
Sumberg, David Woodall, Alec
Tapsell, Peter Woodcock, Michael
Taylor, John (Solihull) Yeo, Tim
Temple-Morris, Peter Young, David (Bolton SE)
Thatcher, Rt Hon Mrs M. Young, Sir George (Acton)
Thomas, Dafydd (Merioneth) Younger, Rt Hon George
Thomas, Rt Hon Peter
Thomas, Dr R. (Carmarthen) Tellers for the Noes:
Thompson, Donald (Calder V) Mr. Michael Neubert and Mr. Douglas Hogg.
Thompson, J. (Wansbeck)
Thompson, Patrick (N'ich N)

Question accordingly negatived.

Lords amendment agreed to.

Lords amendment No. 2 agreed to.

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