HC Deb 12 March 1984 vol 56 cc18-20
37. Mr. Dalyell

asked the Minister for the Civil Service what subjects he expects to discuss at his next meeting with the Civil Service trade unions.

Mr. Hayhoe

Plans for my next meeting with the Civil Service unions have not yet been made.

Mr. Dalyell

Is it true or proper for ACAS, in the form of Mr. Lambert, to be drawn into the controversial mire of Cheltenham?

Mr. Hayhoe

I am glad to be able to explain the precise formal circumstances, despite the fact that this question should properly be addressed to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment. I am advised that the official concerned, who is a career civil servant in the Department of Employment group and who has most recently been employed in the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service for just over one year, returned to the Department of Employment last week. He has been made available by the Department to advise GCHQ management on future management-employee relations there. ACAS itself is in no way involved.

Dr. McDonald

Is the Minister aware that he has just given an answer that in no way satisfies the House and is clearly a sleight of hand? Is he further aware that the decision to release an official of ACAS for work at GCHQ was taken entirely without consultation with the Council of Civil Service Unions? Is he further aware that the utter insensitivity of sending an ACAS official, even under the conditions that he has outlined, to set up a staff association following the ban on trade union membership at GCHQ is bound to cast doubt on the role of ACAS as a neutral mediator in all future industrial disputes and is extremely damaging to industrial relations?

Mr. Hayhoe

Although I can understand the hon. Lady misunderstanding the position before I answered the question in such clear terms, it is incredible that she should persist with her supplementary question, which was obviously written before she heard my answer.

Mr. Dalyell

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. In view of the unsatisfactory nature of that reply, I beg to give notice that I shall seek to raise this matter on the Adjournment at the earliest opportunity.

38. Mr. Teddy Taylor

asked the Minister for the Civil Service when he last met representatives of the Civil Service unions; and what subjects were discussed.

Mr. Hayhoe

My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister had a meeting about GCHQ with trade union representatives on 23 February; and on 14 February I met representatives of the non-industrial unions to discuss Civil Service catering.

Mr. Taylor

Since the events at Cheltenham are largely in the past, will my hon. Friend make every endeavor to maintain and improve relations with the Civil Service trade unions, first, because of their responsible conduct over a long period and, secondly, and more important, because of the importance of maintaining high morale in the Civil Service, which is vital to the efficient operation of government?

Mr. Hayhoe

I entirely agree with what my hon. Friend said. That is what we are doing.

Mr. Barron

When the Minister next meets the Civil Service unions, will he assure them that before a disgusting decision, such as was taken at Cheltenham, is taken again, he will sit down and discuss civil liberties, which were taken away from employees at Cheltenham?

Mr. Hayhoe

When I next meet the Civil Service unions, I expect to discuss the matters which are on the agenda for that meeting.

39. Mr. Winnick

asked the Minister of State for the Civil Service what subjects he will be discussing at his next meeting with the Civil Service trade unions.

Mr. Hayhoe

I refer the hon. Gentleman to the reply I gave a few moments ago.

Mr. Winnick

Why does the Minister not realise that to ask an official who was for a time connected with the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service to set up the new staff association is highly deplorable and deeply offensive to the trade union movement? Is the Minister aware that no matter what decision is taken by the Government about GCHQ, the trade unions will campaign, and will never give up campaigning, to have the ban removed, in much the same way as the Civil Service unions fought the ban imposed by a Tory Government in 1927 against their being affiliated to the Trades Union Congress?

Mr. Hayhoe

No, Sir. However, I criticise the hon. Gentleman for his persistence in seeking to misrepresent the position regarding ACAS and the official going to GCHQ. The hon. Gentleman ill serves the cause of ACAS by behaving as he does.

Sir Kenneth Lewis

When the new staff association is set up at GCHQ, will those members of the staff who are still members of trade unions be allowed to stand for election to the council of the staff association?

Mr. Hayhoe

My hon. Friend should address that question to my right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary.

Mr. Janner

Will the Minister give a firm undertaking to the House that the Government have no plans whatever to introduce further bans on trade union activity anywhere in the United Kingdom like the ban they saw fit to introduce at Cheltenham?

Mr. Hayhoe

The assurance has been given in the clearest of terms by both the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary. There is no intention to introduce similar action elsewhere. This action is confined to those agencies whose primary function is security and intelligence.

Dr. M. S. Miller

When the Minister next meets the Civil Service unions will he put their minds at rest, especially in Scotland, about the dispersal of Overseas Development Administration jobs in East Kilbride, where there is a shortfall because the Government have not fulfilled their pledge?

Mr. Hayhoe

The Government stand firmly by the undertakings that they gave in July 1979 for the dispersal programme, especially for the dispersals that have been announced for Scotland.