§ 10. Mr. Robert Atkins
asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if he will make a statement on the progress on health authority recognition for negotiating purposes of the Association of Professional Ambulance Personnel.
§ Mr. Kenneth Clarke
Local recognition is in the first instance a matter for the health authorities concerned, but in my view they should recognise trades unions whose membership comprise a significant proportion of the relevant group of staff, and I have written to several chairmen of these lines. To date only one authority has recognised this association, but I expect others to do so. I am glad to say that 14 authorities in England have now granted the Association of Professional Ambulance Personnel the facility for trades union subscriptions to be deducted at source.
§ Mr. Atkins
Is it not a disgrace that this association is being rejected by the Preston district health authority, acting on behalf of the Lancashire health authorities, and that trade unions such as the National Union of Public Employees, the Confederation of Health Service Employees, the General, Municipal, Boilermakers and Allied Trades Union and the Transport and General Workers Union are refusing to sit down and discuss this problem? Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware that these organisations are refusing to acknowledge the existence of the APAP and will boycott it and take industrial action if it is recognised? What is his department going to do about this?
§ Mr. Clarke
As I understand it, APAP is now the largest single union in the Lancashire ambulance service and I made it clear to the chairmen of the health authorities that I expected the union to be given recognition if it holds the confidence of the staff. It is up to the staff to decide which organisations it wishes to represent them, and that should be the deciding factor in all this.
§ Mr. Clarke
It is up to those who work for health authorities to decide which unions they wish to join. The Whitley structure cannot be frozen for all time if it transpires that a significant number of staff want to be represented by another organisation. The Government and the employers are wholly neutral and the chairmen have been addvised to be guided by the wishes of their staff.