HC Deb 24 July 1984 vol 64 cc913-30

Question again proposed, That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said amendment.

Mr. Ron Davies

I take this opportunity to express my thanks to my hon. Friend the Member for Workington (Mr. Campbell-Savours) for his encouragement to me during the past 10 or so minutes.

Before the interruption I was giving my reasons for opposing Lords amendment No. 4. I said that I had three principal reasons for doing so. The first reason to which I was drawing the attention of the Minister of State was the fact that in debates on the Bill on Second Reading and in Committee the hon. Gentleman said time after time that the principal purpose of the legislation was to use the minimalist approach to ensure, first, that elections to the national executive committee of trade unions were held in accordance with what he determined were fair and accepted practices, and, secondly, that in the event of any industrial action being contemplated by a trade union that union would have to legitimatise its action by the use of a ballot. In justification of that case, the hon. Gentleman said that he strongly favoured, personally and on behalf of the Government, what he called the minimalist approach.

At no time during the debates on Second Reading and in Committee, and during consideration by the other Chamber, was any thought given to launching an attack on the internal organisation of British trade unions such as is encapsulated in Lords amendment No. 4. I put it seriously to the Minister that the content of the amendment takes the Government a long way from their original intention. The amendment is not about democracy. It is not seeking to achieve the objectives which the Government have set for themselves. On the contrary, the measure is moving in another direction. Because the other place has set the Government in that other direction, we are considering consequential amendments Nos. 41 and 43. Amendment No. 43 amends the long title of the Bill.

10.15 pm

My second objection is that the proposal that trade unions should be required by law to set up a register of their members, including their names and addresses, offends all principles of natural justice, and I shall return to that point. There will be many practical difficulties. The net effect of the amendment will not achieve greater participation, ensure wider democracy, or a wider enfranchisement of trade unionists in elections for their national executive committees or in a strike ballot. It will achieve the disruption of British trade unionism. It will impose an intolerable burden upon the voluntary officers of the trade union who, as my hon. Friend the Member for St. Helens, North (Mr. Evans) said earlier, bear a heavy burden in ensuring that trade unionism functions on the basis of the voluntary efforts of its members.

The origin of the amendment will come as no surprise to hon. Members. The Minister will appreciate that the Government had an uncomfortable time when the legislation was considered in the Lords. The Government were forced to accept postal ballots and they beat a hasty retreat from the principle of enforced or mandatory postal ballots when they realised the enormity of the task upon which they had embarked and the problems they would face if the legislation were passed unamended.

When the Government had taken the steps necessary to retreat from that position — that is why we had the previous debate—they had to salvage something from the proposals. They had to have something to offer their more extreme supporters, whom we have seen in full cry this evening. They had to offer them a guarantee of the Government's determination to embark on further and more bitter legislation.

That offer is contained in Lords' amendment No. 4, which stands independently. It is not linked to the proposal for mandatory postal ballots. The Government are aware of the difficulties which they are creating. On 19 June, speaking in the Lords' debate, Lord Beloff said: The other reason which apparently moves the Government is that it is difficult to keep proper records". — [Official Report, House of Lords, 19 June 1984; Vol. 453, c. 258.] Clearly, proper records are required for a postal ballot. I am prepared to believe that the Government would have taken Lord Beloff to one side and explained the Government's anxiety about the practical difficulties. If the Government were in a position to do that on 19 June and persuade Lord Beloff of the wisdom of their case and of the immense burdens that will be placed on trade unions, why are they not prepared in July to come to the House of Commons and say that those arguments are equally valid? I hope that the Minister will answer that point. I have my views on why the Government should have embarked on the amendment on the way that they have.

We have seen the way in which the Government have changed the long title of the legislation with Lords' amemndment No. 43. They have left their principles of minimal involvement and of ensuring what the Minister called time after time in Committee "minimum standards of democracy". They have gone a long way from that. I shall remind the Minister what he said in January in Committee, and I shall remind the Minister later of other words that he used.

On 17 January the Minister of State said: It is worth underlining that the Government prefer a minimalist approach … which means the least possible interference". — [Official Report, Standing Committee F, 17 January 1984; c. 484.] How can the Minister of State say that in January and now, in July, after the deliberations in the other Chamber, come here and say that he and his Government wish to require British trade unions to embark on a programme of listing by name and address all their individual members?

Given the best will in the world, that will pose a challenge that will be beyond the organisation of the British trade unions. The chaos that will ensue will be the responsibility of the Government. They will be called upon to reconcile their oft-stated objective of pursuing a minimalist approach with their requirement that the trade unions should accept this onerous and intolerable burden.

No new evidence was offered in the House of Lords for a changed approach. That being so, we are entitled to ask the Minister what other consultations he has had. Has he consulted the TUC? Has he consulted the largest trade unions? Has he consulted his friends in the management and professional liaison group? Has he consulted any of those groups about the problems which may ensue from the legislation? I suspect that he has not. Certainly the Minister has not undertaken any public consultation. He has not asked the hon. Members who opposed him in Committee whether they have any observations to make. The debates in the House of Lords did not demonstrate that there was a case to be made.

Finally, we are entitled to ask whether the Minister has received any unsolicited representations. We are told time and time again that the Government receive complaints and letters, that there is a seething mass of discontent within the trade union movement and that people are crying out for protective legislation. If the Minister is prepared to advance such arguments on Second Reading and in Committee, we are entitled to ask what unsolicited representations he has received which prove that there is an overwhelming demand in the trade union movement for legislation to require lists of names and addresses of trade union members to be drawn up. I suspect that the Minister will have no answer to that question.

The reason why the Minister is now supporting the Lords amendments is the same as the reason why we had the earlier debate. The Bill received a mauling in Committee. Incidentally, I am in something of a quandary now, because I pointed out to the Government some of the deficiencies in the legislation and now those deficiencies have been corrected, and yet I still oppose the Bill in principle. That is one of the difficulties of parliamentary democracy.

Because the Government were savaged in Committee and in the House of Lords, they have to find a sop to throw to their Back-Bench Members. Those hon. Members are now conspicuous by their absence. Earlier today they treated us to a disgraceful display of brawling and braying in support of mandatory postal ballots, but now that we are discussing the practicalities they are absent. The Minister has to find a sop for those on the Right wing of his party without whom he would not be able to get the legislation through the House. That is the reason for his change of heart.

My second objection is based on the principle of natural justice. It may be that the Department of Employment does not wish to talk about the principles of natural justice. The treatment of the rights of trade unionists at GCHQ showed how the Department viewed those principles. The Department had to be reminded of them.

I remind the Minister of a statement in a Green Paper issued by his Department in January last year. It said: The Government is conscious that any legislation must take into account the wide variety and complexity of existing electoral arrangements. What has changed since then to lead the Government to impose this uniform, mandatory practice on all trade unions regardless of their history, their constitutions, their existing practices, their rule books and all the principles of electoral reform enshrined in their rule books in past decades? What has changed the Government's mind and led them to bring in this draconian measure which I believe is a breach of the principles of natural justice?

Government supporters claim to have received telephone calls from trade unionists complaining of intimidation and the denial of their rights, but although they have been challenged many times to produce evidence, none has been forthcoming. The only objective, independent study was the Donovan report about 15 years ago, which concluded: Dependent as trade unions are on voluntary labour to a large extent it cannot be expected that their elections will be conducted impeccably in every detail. In the light of that, why have the Government decided to impose this obligation on trade unions but on no other organisation? No parallel obligation is to be imposed on employers or on the Conservative party. One of my hon. Friends reminded me earlier of a letter from the Conservative party soliciting funds from a former supporter. I say "former" not because the supporter had defected, but because he had died five years earlier. Is it reasonable for the Government to impose on the trade union movement standards of probity and propriety which they cannot observe in their own political organisation?

More important in terms of natural justice are our obligations to the ILO. It was a source of merriment to Conservative Members earlier that the Opposition should take our international obligations seriously, but some of us believe that if we have obligations for the protection of workers here and elsewhere we should respect those obligations. The fifth report of the ILO committee of experts sitting last year concluded in paragraph 172: The committee considers that legislation which regulates in detail the internal election procedures of trade unions is incompatible with the rights of trade unions recognised by Convention No. 87. Does the Minister accept that if he argues for the Government's proposals he is arguing that we should abrogate our international responsibilities? Will he at least confess that the Government have had to make an abject concession to the Right wing of the Conservative party and express his regret that this means that our international obligations have to go by the board?

The practical implications for trade unions are among my principal reasons for opposing the amendment. The House of Lords said in effect that it did not matter if this onerous burden was placed on trade unions because modern technology could resolve the problems. It is difficult for Members of this House and members of British trade unions, many of whom have spent a lifetime coping with the problems of maintaining a register with pen and pencil, to accept lectures about computers from unelected Members of the House of Lords.

The Minister will be interested to hear that, speaking on this very amendment, Earl De La Wan described his experience with computers as follows: I know what it was like getting 1.25 million television subscribers on to a computer. It was jolly difficult; and, my goodness, did we not make some mistakes over the first two years, did not the customers squawk, and did we not get their accounts wrong? Of course we did".—[Official Report, House of Lords, 19 June 1984; Vol. 453, c. 274.] The noble Lord was speaking in favour of the amendment.

The consequences for the trade union movement if the amendment is not rejected will involve not only the customers squawking or the accounts being wrong but the trade unions being hauled up before the courts for not being able to comply because, in the nature of their organisation, they are unable to comply with an unreasonable request and imposition.

10.30 pm
Mr. John Golding (Newcastle-under-Lyme)

My hon. Friend referred to the difficulties of unions. Has he considered what happens if members refuse to give their addresses? Flow does a union in a free society force its members to give their proper addresses? Is it open to a union, particularly in a closed shop, to expel members if they refuse to give their addresses? If a union has that sanction, how can it operate under the legislation?

Mr. Davies

I am grateful for that observation, but I cannot answer the question. The legislation puts responsibility on the trade unions, but not on individual members. It does not place responsibility on employers. Many employers are the sole holders of the names and addresses of trade unionists. I refer to the 70 or 80 per cent. of trade unionists who pay their contributions through the check-off system.

The Secretary of State let the cat out of the bag when replying to the earlier debate. I am not sure whether he was aware of what he was saying, but in reply to a question from the hon. Member for Bolton, North-East (Mr. Thurnham) he said that individuals would be entitled to go to the certification officer or to the trade union and demand a list of names and addresses of trade unionists. The Minister should not look surprised, though there is no provision in the Bill for that. If the Secretary of State is to treat the civil rights of British trade unionists in such a cavalier manner, the movement is not safe in his hands.

I have a shrewd idea that the Minister will say that, given good will, trade unions will be able to overcome the problems. I remind the Minister of Thatcher's first law, enunciated at the 1922 Committee last week. She said: Just when you think nothing else can go wrong —something will. That is exactly what will happen with this amendment. An individual will find that he is missed off the register, that his name is recorded correctly, but that his address is recorded incorrectly and that his papers have been sent to a previous address. He will not receive a ballot paper. He will then go to the certification officer and the trade union.

I remind the Minister of a further statement that he made in Committee. He said: I understood from the hon. Gentleman's speech that he considered that the Government should encourage the use of computers as an integral part of the Bill. The amendment states that the register may be kept by means of a computer. The Minister continued: I see that as an attempt at interference … I have rarely heard in a debate a proposal which is further removed from reality."—[Official Report, Standing Committee F, 17 January 1984; c. 496.] I have no doubt that the same Minister will put the case for acceptance of the amendment.

There are many practical difficulties. I have received representations from the Transport and General Workers Union. It has 500,000 members, a turnover of 1,000 members a day, and well in excess of 1,000 branches. These branches are largely run by volunteers, holding down a job if they are fortunate enough to have one, and trying to cope with their other social responsibilities. The Minister is telling us that such people will be required to comply with the provisions of this amendment, on penalty of being called to a court of law.

This amendment makes legislation which is unacceptable and impractical and which will lead to litigation. It is a proposal which will lead to the disfranchisement of more trade union voters than it will enfranchise. It will lead to disruption, and it will be a diversion. The Minister is aware of that. The purpose of the amendment is to appease those recalcitrant Members without whose support this legislation will not get through, and it is intended to cause discord and disarray within the trade union movement so that it will be less able to resist the onslaughts by the Government on the economic and social welfare of the 10 million trade unionists in this country. I urge the House to reject this amendment.

Mr. Andrew Rowe (Mid-Kent)

The hon. Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Davies) has spoken at some length, as he did in Committee. Yet again, he has painted a picture of trade unions that is curiously at odds with the perception of trade unions by a larger number of people. We were given an image of trade unions as bodies that are so simply run and so crudely organised that it is impossible for them to keep a list of the names and addresses of their members. My parish church has no difficulty in keeping a list of its members, and earlier this evening we heard that many trade unions have journals that they send out at regular intervals to their members, presumably in some scattered way, as they have neither the names nor addresses of the people to whom they are to be delivered.

Mr. Golding

How many people are there in the hon. Gentleman's church? Is he not aware that union journals are often distributed at the base of the organisation of the trade union movement—the workplace?

Mr. Rowe

My parish has a rather small membership, of perhaps 500 to 600. I agree that that is disappointingly small for a parish church in an area as large as mine.

Mr. Gummer

For the elucidation of the hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Mr. Golding), who was not present at the time, will my hon. Friend point out that the hon. Member for Leeds, Central (Mr. Fatchett) said clearly that, although his Members were not allowed to ballot by post, all were sent a copy of the union journal direct to their home addresses by post. The point made by the hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme is ill founded.

Mr. Rowe

We were asked what has changed since the legislation started its way through Parliament. One answer is that during that period a trade union leader who set out from the beginning to say that if the general election produced a result of which he disapproved it would be necessary to take to the streets to reverse that result has done precisely that. Although all his members' names and addresses could not be listed, he has nevertheless managed to organise thousands of people to travel all over the country for no other purpose than to intimidate those who want to work. Yet Opposition Members say that that organisation is so incompetently run that it cannot list its members' names and addresses. That is one of the things that has changed.

Mr. Winnick

The hon. Gentleman should control himself.

Mr. Rowe

I find it much easier to control myself than the leader of the National Union of Mineworkers finds it to control his members.

It was also said that the Conservative party found it difficult to organise centrally a list of its members' names and addresses. That was somehow thought to be an adequate reason for trade unions not being able to do it. There are two things to be said about that. First, the Conservative party is busily engaged in computerising its membership. Secondly, it does not claim to want to exercise the sort of power that the trade unions gladly welcome.

It is interesting to note that, when it suits Opposition Members, the trade union movement is portrayed as a small, hole-in-the-corner voluntary organisation that is incapable of organising its affairs, but that it is often also portrayed by them as the exclusive voice of the working class which is capable of holding the country to ransom at the drop of a hat.

Mr. Winnick

The hon. Gentleman seems very concerned about trade unions, democracy, and so on. But when will the Tory party elect its chairman?

Mr. Rowe

Members of the Standing Committee will have heard that question asked and answered before. Again, two things have to be said. First, the chairmanship of the Conservative party is the chairmanship of the office which is the leader's office. [Laughter.] That has always been so. For the Opposition Members to laugh as though I had made some extraordinary admission is absurd. Anybody with even a slight grasp of history—unlike the hon. Member for Walsall, North (Mr. Winnick)—would understand that, because that has been the position since the chairmanship of the Conservative party was inaugurated. It may, however, be of interest to the hon. Gentleman—not that much appears to be of interest to him — that there is also a chairmanship within the Conservative party that is elected——

Mr. Speaker

Order. I know that the hon. Gentleman was provoked, but his speech does not have a great deal to do with the amendment.

Mr. Rowe

I apologise, of course, Mr. Speaker, for trying to give Opposition Members some information.

I hope that my hon. Friend the Minister will confirm that the courts are unlikely to intervene in the administration of a trade union—even if they are asked to do so—on the basis of one or two misdirected ballot papers, because everybody understands that one cannot expect 100 per cent. success when directing mail or anything else to many people where there is a rapid turnover.

All those things are perfectly clear, and I am sure that my hon. Friend the Minister will confirm that it is not the Government's intention to take trade unions to court to punish them for being unable to do what any sensible person would concede could not be done with 100 per cent. success. But that does not mean that we should not make an attempt to ensure that organisations which wield the sort of power that trade unions seek to organise should operate in a way that almost every other organisation in this country does regularly and without difficulty. If trade unions are incapable of recording the names and addresses of their members, it is time that they went home.

10.45 pm
Mr. Wrigglesworth

The hon. Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Davies) raised some important points which the House must consider seriously, because this amendment will have a profound impact upon the trade union movement. I was amused by the hon. Gentleman throwing back at the chairman of the Conservative party his replies to some of the points that I made in Committee. But the hon. Gentleman undermined his case by exaggerating the difficulties which the trade union movement will face.

Under this legislation, it is inevitable that such a register will have to be established, and I have believed for a long time that it is desirable for unions to have records of their membership if they are to give them the service that they deserve in 1984 and, indeed, in the latter part of this century. There is no doubt that the introduction of registers will have a profound impact upon the administration of trade unions, upon the volunteer force that has been mentioned, and upon the central and regional organisations that must keep the records and service the membership register, which is a substantial job.

The hon. Member for Caerphilly exaggerated his case, because of course we have trade unions which already have efficient computerised records of their membership. The first and best example is the EETPU; if the hon. Gentleman wishes, he can obtain from that union a document which I have here and which describes its computerised system, how it has operated, and how it has been an effective means of administering its membership and of contacting its members over the years.

Mr. Ron Davies

Does the hon. Gentleman accept that the EETPU's structure and organisation is highly centralised? That highly centralised structure is different from the devolved structure of, for example, the Transport and General Workers Union. It may be perfectly feasible for the EETPU to accept within its constitution a computerised system, but it would not be feasible for a different union with a different decentralised structure.

Mr. Wrigglesworth

The hon. Gentleman is again exaggerating the point. As he says, the EETPU is a rather more centralised union than are many others; but the hon. Gentleman must know that modern technology makes it possible for a decentralised union to keep its records well up to date, either with mini-computers round the country or with on-line facilities, as can be demonstrated by many organisations that have such registers. If 12-year-old children can have computers in their homes, I see no reason why branch secretaries and others should not do the same. Indeed, that is what the trade union movement needs to do. It needs to be ahead of the rest in new technology, especially in its own administration.

The Minister tried to reject my main point in Committee, but he has now changed his mind and come round to the view that these registers should be established and computerised. I raised that matter with the Secretary of State. The House and the Government are imposing upon the trade union movement the installation of registers. If the Government are asking for that, they should provide the resources for the movement to introduce those facilities. The Government, rightly in my view, have introduced provision for financial assistance for balloting in the trade union movement because they said that, as the House was imposing this upon the trade union movement, financial assistance should be given to unions that wished to carry out such ballots to entice them to go down that road. That was a good proposal, and I regret that the trade union movement has not taken up that offer to carry on ballots.

I was interested to note that the Labour Front Bench in the House of Lords was also strongly of the opinion that the trade union movement should take up those funds and use them for balloting. I hope that under the Bill it will do that. However, the trade union movement should also be able to use development funds from the Government to install the facilities and the systems that will be necessary to implement the legislation. An unfair burden is put not only on the volunteers but also on the purses of trade unionists and on the central administration of trade unions if that resource is not provided by the Government.

I ask the Minister in his reply to tell us that he will reconsider this in an attempt to persuade the trade union movement to modernise its facilities and to carry out these ballots and the administration of the register in an up-to-date and efficient way that will satisfy not only its members but the House and the general public. I hope that the Minister will reconsider that, and tell us that he is willing to bring forward proposals to provide funds for trade unions to make these changes.

Mr. Gummer

I congratulate the hon. Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Davies) on his first appearance on the Front Bench at least on the Floor of the House. We sparred hard in Committee, and it is a pleasure to start again.

It was odd that, in his comments about computers, the hon. Gentleman should have failed to remark that my comments to the hon. Member for Stockton, South (Mr. Wrigglesworth) specifically covered his suggestion that the Government should in some way provide money and, as it would seem from his speech, the equipment, on a development basis for trade unions. I said that that would be a very odd departure from practice, and I still say that. It was odd that he did not mention that in his extensive quotations from my speech at that time.

However, that is nothing like as odd as the basis of the argument that the hon. Gentleman now puts forward. He is arguing that it is an onerous and intolerable burden upon a trade union to get the name and address of someone who pays at least £40 or £50 a year to be a member. It is an odd concept that one should ask £40 or £50 a year from someone but that one cannot keep his name and address. It is not a question of quill pens. It is a question of a world in which the simplest computers cost small sums of money, and can be used not only by 12-year-olds but by 6-year-olds and 7-year-olds. Such computers could keep the branch records which would lead on to a centralised list. It seems an odd argument to suggest that that is onerous and intolerable.

It is even odder that that should be so in a movement that finds it perfectly possible to find the names and addresses of its members if it wants to. I notice that the hon. Member for Bow and Poplar (Mr. Mikardo) is no longer present. In his speech, he let the cat out of the bag. He said that it was possible to send his union newspaper by post to every member. He did not explain why the newspaper was not available at the back of the branch meeting so that members could collect it on their way out. The reason is that a sufficient number of people do not go to the branch meeting to pick up the newspaper. Evidently it is possible to hold ballots at the branch meeting but not for the Journalto be distributed at the branch meeting.

It becomes even odder when one finds that in the middle of the Journal are to be found the election addresses. They can go by post. It is possible to have a register of the members of ASTMS so that they can receive the election addresses, but, unless they write in specifically—and 240, I believe, did so out of the total membership—they may not have a postal ballot. Is the answer that it is possible to have the kind of register suitable for sending out the bi-monthly journal but not possible to use the register for the purposes of holding a ballot?

It seems much more likely that Labour Members try to use this excuse because they do not want a ballot. The fact that unions need a ballot is very noticeable, because, despite the fact that on a number of occasions I have asked the hon. Member for Bow and Poplar why at the last ASTMS election 98 per cent. of the members did not vote, he still has not given me an answer. Indeed, the hon. Gentleman has complained that I have asked him so often that he is fed up with the question. However, I bet that 98 per cent. of the members got their Journal. It seems that some unions are happy to have the names and addresses of their members so that they can get the money and send out their newspapers but are not interested in those names and addresses when it comes to giving democracy.

Mr. Ron Davies

Does not the Minister accept that the root of our objection is that the Government are now, by statute, requiring unions to prepare the register? It is perfectly acceptable for trade unions to prepare a mailing list of their members. Naturally and obviously, every trade union wants to do so. Earlier the Secretary of State quoted the AUEW membership figures. It is widely acknowledged that the AUEW has a good system, but it is 20 per cent. inaccurate. Does not the Minister accept that by its very nature this proposal will remove the voluntary decision of a union to keep such a register and will replace it with a strict statutory code, breach of which will bring a union before the courts?

Mr. Gummer

If the hon. Gentleman wishes to advance the argument that trade unions wish to be voluntary bodies on that basis, he must also accept that they do not need the special protections which the law provides. If the argument is that these are merely organisations of the cricket club variety, let them be such organisations without the special legal privileges. However, if unions want those privileges, it must be accepted that they are given to the members of the unions, not to a small, elite group which runs them—not to the 2 per cent. who voted in the ASTMS elections, but to the 100 per cent. who ought to have had the opportunity to vote.

Mr. Ron Davies


Mr. Gummer

The hon. Gentleman may say that, but it is true. It is appalling that 98 per cent. did not vote.

Mr. Golding

The Minister said that 98 per cent. of ASTMS members received the Journal. I bet the Minister £5 that that figure is incorrect.

Mr. Gummer

I would simply say that the 98 per cent. who did not vote had much more chance of getting the Journal than they did of casting a vote, because the Journal was sent to them. If the hon. Gentleman can prove that the ASTMS Journal was not sent out to all the members on the list, I shall be happy to provide him with the £5 for which he asks.

Mr. Golding

Will the Minister give way?

Mr. Gummer

I shall give way no further. I have offered the hon. Gentleman the £5, and no doubt he will prove that the Journal was not sent out to some members on the union's list.

The argument of the hon. Member for Caerphilly would be much more effective if he could convince me that by opposing this Lords amendment he is suggesting that members of a trade union should not be given the opportunity to vote and should be denied the opportunity to have a ballot because it is too onerous and intolerable a burden, that the practical difficulties are too great and that it is contrary to the principles of natural justice.

The hon. Gentleman asked what has changed since we had these debates in Committee. What we have had since then is a series of examples where trade unions have taken action without asking their members whether they wanted to do so.

Let us take one example about votes, which we shall discuss in greater detail later — the dockers in Felixstowe. — [Interruption.] Opposition Members do not want to hear that the dockers in Felixstowe were taken out on strike without a vote, but asked for a vote before they returned to work.

Mr. Loyden

That is not true.

Mr. Gummer

Felixstowe is in my constituency. Were the dockers allowed to vote before they went on strike?

Mr. Loyden

Conservative Members are displaying ignorance. After the recall docks delegates conference, which is the appropriate constitutional body, I spoke to a Felixstowe steward who had to return to Felixstowe to inform the dockers of the decision of the conference, and the dockers had to decide whether to support the recommendation.

Mr. Gummer

The hon. Gentleman means that the delegate returned to Felixstowe and told the dockers that they did not have a vote because the matter had already been decided by the conference. All that verbiage means is that the Felixstowe dockers did not get a vote——

Mr. Evans

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Should we not maintain the debate on the amendment before the House, rather than embark upon a debate that will take place on the next series of amendments? The Minister is out of order.

Mr. Gummer

Opposition Members asked what had changed between the debates in Committee and the debates tonight. Throughout the country there have been opportunities for ballots that have not been taken. Therefore, many people have reached the conclusion that only by insisting on a proper register can we ensure that proper votes are taken in an atmosphere where ballots are used instead of intimidation and violence.

Mr. Ron Davies

The Minister asked why Opposition Members object to the register. I thought that I had given the Minister the reasons why we had objected to the register. We are now dealing with amendment No. 4, which is not about postal ballots. However much the Minister may wish to impress his right hon. and hon. Friends, he must accept that the amendment has nothing to do with ballots; it requires a trade union to keep a register of names and addresses, regardless of whether it is used for a ballot.

Mr. Gummer

The amendment is required because Opposition Members say that ballots cannot be held because unions do not have registers of names and addresses. Therefore, we shall make it necessary for unions to have names and addresses. If someone refuses to give his name and address, he cannot take part in the ballot and the trade union will have done all that is reasonably practical and will not be liable under the law. It is a question of reasonable practicability. It is only because Opposition Members claim that unions do not have names and addresses that the register becomes necessary.

I was especially pleased to hear the hon. Member for Caerphilly refer to international obligations. If he accepts our international obligation, no doubt the Opposition will accept the judgment of the European Court of Human Rights in the case of the British Rail closed shop. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh, no."] It is all right for Opposition Members to say that, but it is interesting how they pick and choose their international obligations.

Let me read the ILO statement. Clause 169, on election procedures, says that the legislation in some countries contains certain rules intended to promote democratic principles within trade union organisations or to ensure that the electoral procedure is conducted in a normal manner and with due respect for the rights of members in order to avoid any dispute arising as to the result of the election. Provisions of this kind clearly do not involve any violation of the principles of freedom of association. That is precisely what we are enacting in the Bill. We are simply saying that individuals, if they are to vote, ought to have a ballot paper, in which case it would be helpful to have a name and address to which to send that ballot paper. It would also be useful if the name and address were kept up to date centrally. That is what we are doing, and that is in complete conformity with the ILO.

Mr. Hind

Does my hon. Friend agree that the trade union movement has no problem in keeping a record of its members when it comes to collecting the levy for the Labour party and in estimating how many votes it has in the block vote for the Labour party conference?

Mr. Gummer

My hon. Friend is right. The trade union movement has no difficulty in getting the names and addresses of its members when it wants to get money out of them, to send its publication to them, to exclude them because it happens not to like what they do, and to get the political levy out of them. It is only when it comes to giving them a democratic right that it seems to be so extremely difficult.

My hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Kent (Mr. Rowe) raised an important point when he showed that it is not impossible to get the names and addresses of members in other organisations. There are many charities with fewer resources than those of the trade union movement which keep central records of large numbers of members on computers which are cheap to run and buy. It is not sensible for Labour Members to say that that is impossible.

As we have heard the argument of Labour Members it has become increasingly obvious that they want to stop a democratic ballot of all the members of a trade union. I find that odd because I read in The Guardian today a letter from the leader of the Labour party in which he lays down how democracy ought to operate in the Labour party. I have many quotes other than those raised by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State. As this is a letter supporting a motion put forward by the hon. Member for St. Helens, North (Mr. Evans)——

Mr. Evans

What has that to do with trade union registers?

Mr. Gummer

When it comes to trade unions, Labour Members want to deny the vote to their members, but when it comes to talking about the Labour party they are desperate to extend the vote to the members — [Interruption.] Some of them are. The question before the House this evening is how that register ought to be kept. the register is an essential part of democracy in the trade unions. If the leader of the Labour party is able to beat off his Left wing tomorrow, he will have to have a register as well. He will have to find a way of keeping the members' names and addresses, otherwise the Labour party will not be able to have one man, one vote.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Ernest Armstrong)

The hon. Gentleman must keep to the amendment.

Mr. Gummer

I accept that, Mr. Deputy Speaker.

The question before the House is simply whether we want democracy in the trade unions. The Conservative party supports the members of the trade unions. The Labour party supports those who are unelected by their members.

Question put, That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said amendment:—

The House divided: Ayes 341, Noes 169.

Division No. 428] [11.09 pm
Adley, Robert Ashby, David
Aitken, Jonathan Ashdown, Paddy
Alexander, Richard Aspinwall, Jack
Alison, Rt Hon Michael Atkins, Rt Hon Sir H.
Amess, David Atkins, Robert (South Ribble)
Ancram, Michael Atkinson, David (B'm'th E)
Arnold, Tom Baker, Rt Hon K. (Mole Vall'y)
Baker, Nicholas (N Dorset) Gale, Roger
Baldry, Anthony Gardiner, George (Reigate)
Banks, Robert (Harrogate) Gardner, Sir Edward (Fylde)
Batiste, Spencer Garel-Jones, Tristan
Beith, A. J. Gilmour, Rt Hon Sir Ian
Bendall, Vivian Glyn, Dr Alan
Benyon, William Goodhart, Sir Philip
Berry, Sir Anthony Goodlad, Alastair
Best, Keith Gorst, John
Bevan, David Gilroy Gow, Ian
Biffen, Rt Hon John Gower, Sir Raymond
Biggs-Davison, Sir John Grant, Sir Anthony
Body, Richard Greenway, Harry
Bottomley, Peter Gregory, Conal
Bottomley, Mrs Virginia Griffiths, E. (B'y St Edm'ds)
Bowden, A. (Brighton K'to'n) Griffiths, Peter (Portsm'th N)
Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich) Grist, Ian
Boyson, Dr Rhodes Ground, Patrick
Braine, Sir Bernard Grylls, Michael
Brandon-Bravo, Martin Gummer, John Selwyn
Bright, Graham Hamilton, Hon A. (Epsom)
Brinton, Tim Hamilton, Neil (Tatton)
Brown, M. (Brigg & Cl'thpes) Hancock, Mr. Michael
Browne, John Hanley, Jeremy
Bruinvels, Peter Hannam, John
Bryan, Sir Paul Hargreaves, Kenneth
Buchanan-Smith, Rt Hon A. Harris, David
Buck, Sir Antony Harvey, Robert
Budgen, Nick Haselhurst, Alan
Bulmer, Esmond Havers, Rt Hon Sir Michael
Burt, Alistair Hawkins, C. (High Peak)
Butcher, John Hawksley, Warren
Butler, Hon Adam Hayes, J.
Butterfill, John Hayhoe, Barney
Carlisle, John (N Luton) Heathcoat-Amory, David
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln) Heddle, John
Carlisle, Rt Hon M. (W'ton S) Henderson, Barry
Carttiss, Michael Heseltine, Rt Hon Michael
Cartwright, John Hickmet, Richard
Cash, William Hicks, Robert
Chalker, Mrs Lynda Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L.
Chapman, Sydney Hill, James
Chope, Christopher Hind, Kenneth
Clark, Hon A. (Plym'th S'n) Hirst, Michael
Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford) Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm)
Clark, Sir W. (Croydon S) Holland, Sir Philip (Gedling)
Clarke, Rt Hon K. (Rushcliffe) Holt, Richard
Clegg, Sir Walter Hordern, Peter
Cockeram, Eric Howard, Michael
Colvin, Michael Howarth, Alan (Stratf'd-on-A)
Conway, Derek Howarth, Gerald (Cannock)
Coombs, Simon Howell, Rt Hon D. (G'ldford)
Cope, John Howell, Ralph (N Norfolk)
Corrie, John Hubbard-Miles, Peter
Crouch, David Hunt, David (Wirral)
Currie, Mrs Edwina Hunt, John (Ravensbourne)
Dicks, Terry Hunter, Andrew
Dover, Den Hurd, Rt Hon Douglas
du Cann, Rt Hon Edward Jackson, Robert
Durant, Tony Jessel, Toby
Dykes, Hugh Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey
Eggar, Tim Johnston, Russell
Emery, Sir Peter Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)
Evennett, David Jones, Robert (W Herts)
Fairbairn, Nicholas Jopling, Rt Hon Michael
Fallon, Michael Joseph, Rt Hon Sir Keith
Farr, Sir John Kennedy, Charles
Favell, Anthony Kershaw, Sir Anthony
Fenner, Mrs Peggy Key, Robert
Finsberg, Sir Geoffrey King, Roger (B'ham N'field)
Fletcher, Alexander King, Rt Hon Tom
Fookes, Miss Janet Knight, Gregory (Derby N)
Forman, Nigel Knight, Mrs Jill (Edgbaston)
Forsyth, Michael (Stirling) Knowles, Michael
Forth, Eric Knox, David
Fox, Marcus Lamont, Norman
Franks, Cecil Lang, Ian
Fraser, Peter (Angus East) Latham, Michael
Freeman, Roger Lawler, Geoffrey
Fry, Peter Lawrence, Ivan
Lee, John (Pendle) Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon
Leigh, Edward (Gainsbor'gh) Ridley, Rt Hon Nicholas
Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark Ridsdale, Sir Julian
Lester, Jim Rippon, Rt Hon Geoffrey
Lewis, Sir Kenneth (Stamf'd) Roberts, Wyn (Conwy)
Lilley, Peter Roe, Mrs Marion
Lloyd, Ian (Havant) Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight)
Lloyd, Peter, (Fareham) Rossi, Sir Hugh
Lord, Michael Rost, Peter
Lyell, Nicholas Rowe, Andrew
McCrindle, Robert Rumbold, Mrs Angela
McCurley, Mrs Anna Ryder, Richard
MacGregor, John Sackville, Hon Thomas
MacKay, Andrew (Berkshire) Sainsbury, Hon Timothy
MacKay, John (Argyll & Bute) St. John-Stevas, Rt Hon N.
Maclean, David John Sayeed, Jonathan
McNair-Wilson, P. (New F'st) Shaw, Giles (Pudsey)
McQuarrie, Albert Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb')
Madel, David Shelton, William (Streatham)
Major, John Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)
Malins, Humfrey Shepherd, Richard (Aldridge)
Malone, Gerald Shersby, Michael
Maples, John Silvester, Fred
Marland, Paul Sims, Roger
Marlow, Antony Skeet, T. H. H.
Marshall, Michael (Arundel) Smith, Cyril (Rochdale)
Mates, Michael Smith, Sir Dudley (Warwick)
Maude, Hon Francis Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)
Mawhinney, Dr Brian Soames, Hon Nicholas
Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin Speed, Keith
Merchant, Piers Speller, Tony
Meyer, Sir Anthony Spencer, Derek
Miller, Hal (B'grove) Spicer, Jim (W Dorset)
Mills, Iain (Meriden) Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)
Mills, Sir Peter (West Devon) Squire, Robin
Miscampbell, Norman Stanbrook, Ivor
Mitchell, David (NW Hants) Steen, Anthony
Moate, Roger Stern, Michael
Monro, Sir Hector Stevens, Martin (Fulham)
Moore, John Stewart, Allan (Eastwood)
Morrison, Hon C. (Devizes) Stewart, Andrew (Sherwood)
Morrison, Hon P. (Chester) Stewart, Ian (N Hertf'dshire)
Mudd, David Stokes, John
Murphy, Christopher Sumberg, David
Neale, Gerrard Tapsell, Peter
Needham, Richard Taylor, John (Solihull)
Nelson, Anthony Tebbit, Rt Hon Norman
Neubert, Michael Temple-Morris, Peter
Newton, Tony Thatcher, Rt Hon Mrs M.
Nicholls, Patrick Thomas, Rt Hon Peter
Norris, Steven Thompson, Donald (Calder V)
Onslow, Cranley Thompson, Patrick (N'ich N)
Oppenheim, Philip Thome, Neil (Ilford S)
Oppenheim, Rt Hon Mrs S. Thornton, Malcolm
Osborn, Sir John Thurnham, Peter
Ottaway, Richard Townsend, Cyril D. (B'heath)
Page, Sir John (Harrow W) Tracey, Richard
Page, Richard (Herts SW) Trippier, David
Parkinson, Rt Hon Cecil Trotter, Neville
Parris, Matthew Twinn, Dr Ian
Patten, Christopher (Bath) van Straubenzee, Sir W.
Patten, John (Oxford) Vaughan, Sir Gerard
Pattie, Geoffrey Viggers, Peter
Pawsey, James Waddington, David
Penhaligon, David Wakeham, Rt Hon John
Percival, Rt Hon Sir Ian Waldegrave, Hon William
Pollock, Alexander Walden, George
Porter, Barry Wallace, James
Powell, William (Corby) Waller, Gary
Powley, John Walters, Dennis
Prentice, Rt Hon Reg Ward, John
Price, Sir David Wardle, C. (Bexhill)
Proctor, K. Harvey Warren, Kenneth
Pym, Rt Hon Francis Watson, John
Raffan, Keith Watts, John
Raison, Rt Hon Timothy Wells, Bowen (Hertford)
Rathbone, Tim Wheeler, John
Rees, Rt Hon Peter (Dover) Whitfield, John
Renton, Tim Whitney, Raymond
Rhodes James, Robert Wiggin, Jerry
Wolfson, Mark Younger, Rt Hon George
Wood, Timothy
Woodcock, Michael Tellers for the Ayes:
Wrigglesworth, Ian Mr. Carol Mather and Mr. Robert Boscawen.
Yeo, Tim
Young, Sir George (Acton)
Abse, Leo Garrett, W. E.
Anderson, Donald George, Bruce
Ashley, Rt Hon Jack Godman, Dr Norman
Ashton, Joe Golding, John
Atkinson, N. (Tottenham) Gould, Bryan
Bagier, Gordon A. T. Gourlay, Harry
Banks, Tony (Newham NW) Hamilton, James (M'well N)
Barnett, Guy Hamilton, W. W. (Central Fife)
Barron, Kevin Hardy, Peter
Beckett, Mrs Margaret Harrison, Rt Hon Walter
Bell, Stuart Hart, Rt Hon Dame Judith
Benn, Tony Healey, Rt Hon Denis
Bennett, A. (Dent'n & Red'sh) Hogg, N. (C'nauld & Kilsyth)
Bermingham, Gerald Holland, Stuart (Vauxhall)
Bidwell, Sydney Howell, Rt Hon D. (S'heath)
Blair, Anthony Hoyle, Douglas
Boothroyd, Miss Betty Hughes, Roy (Newport East)
Boyes, Roland Hughes, Sean (Knowsley S)
Bray, Dr Jeremy Janner, Hon Greville
Brown, Hugh D. (Provan) John, Brynmor
Brown, R. (N'c'tle-u-Tyne N) Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside)
Brown, Ron (E'burgh, Leith) Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald
Buchan, Norman Lambie, David
Caborn, Richard Leadbitter, Ted
Callaghan, Rt Hon J. Leighton, Ronald
Callaghan, Jim (Heyw'd & M) Lewis, Terence (Worsley)
Campbell, Ian Litherland, Robert
Campbell-Savours, Dale Lloyd, Tony (Stretford)
Canavan, Dennis Lofthouse, Geoffrey
Carter-Jones, Lewis Loyden, Edward
Clark, Dr David (S Shields) McCartney, Hugh
Clarke, Thomas McDonald, Dr Oonagh
Clay, Robert McKay, Allen (Penistone)
Cocks, Rt Hon M. (Bristol S.) McKelvey, William
Cohen, Harry Mackenzie, Rt Hon Gregor
Coleman, Donald McNamara, Kevin
Concannon, Rt Hon J. D. McTaggart, Robert
Conlan, Bernard Madden, Max
Cook, Robin F. (Livingston) Marek, Dr John
Corbyn, Jeremy Marshall, David (Shettleston)
Cowans, Harry Maynard, Miss Joan
Cox, Thomas (Tooting) Meacher, Michael
Craigen, J. M. Michie, William
Crowther, Stan Mikardo, Ian
Cunliffe, Lawrence Millan, Rt Hon Bruce
Dalyell, Tam Miller, Dr M. S. (E Kilbride)
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (L'lli) Mitchell, Austin (G't Grimsby)
Davies, Ronald (Caerphilly) Morris, Rt Hon A. (W'shawe)
Davis, Terry (B'ham, H'ge H'l) Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon)
Deakins, Eric Nellist, David
Dewar, Donald Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon
Dixon, Donald O'Brien, William
Dobson, Frank Orme, Rt Hon Stanley
Dormand, Jack Park, George
Dubs, Alfred Parry, Robert
Duffy, A. E. P. Patchett, Terry
Dunwoody, Hon Mrs G. Pavitt, Laurie
Eadie, Alex Pendry, Tom
Eastham, Ken Pike, Peter
Evans, John (St Helens N) Powell, Raymond (Ogmore)
Ewing, Harry Prescott, John
Fatchett, Derek Redmond, M.
Faulds, Andrew Rees, Rt Hon M. (Leeds S)
Field, Frank (Birkenhead) Richardson, Ms Jo
Fields, T. (L'pool Broad Gn) Roberts, Ernest (Hackney N)
Fisher, Mark Robinson, G. (Coventry NW)
Flannery, Martin Rogers, Allan
Foot, Rt Hon Michael Rooker, J. W.
Foster, Derek Rowlands, Ted
Foulkes, George Ryman, John
Fraser, J. (Norwood) Sheerman, Barry
Freeson, Rt Hon Reginald Sheldon, Rt Hon R.
Shore, Rt Hon Peter Thompson, J. (Wansbeck)
Short, Ms Clare (Ladywood) Thorne, Stan (Preston)
Silkin, Rt Hon J, Tinn, James
Skinner, Dennis Torney, Tom
Smith, C.(Isl'ton S & F'bury) Wardell, Gareth (Gower)
Snape, Peter Wareing, Robert
Soley, Clive Weetch, Ken
Spearing, Nigel Welsh, Michael
Straw, Jack White, James
Thomas, Dr R. (Carmarthen) Wigley, Dafydd
Williams, Rt Hon A.
Winnick, David Tellers for the Noes:
Woodall, Alec Mr. Robin Corbett and Mr. John McWilliam.
Young, David (Bolton SE)

Question accordingly agreed to.

Lords amendments Nos. 5 to 16 agreed to. — [Some with Special Entry.]