HC Deb 01 May 1984 vol 59 cc181-2
10. Mr. Pike

asked the Secretary of State for Employment when he next intends to discuss methods of improving industrial democracy with his European Community colleagues.

Mr. Tom King

Some aspects will be discussed at the forthcoming meeting of Ministers at the Council of Social Affairs on 7 June.

Mr. Pike

Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that it is important that there should be full discussion with the workers to ensure that we get the technological change in industry that is essential if we are to compete in the world? Does he further agree that our partners in the EEC have, in the main, accepted the Vredeling directives, and is it not time that the British Government also accepted those proposals? Does he think that 1 May would be an appropriate day for the Government to announce that they intend to move towards genuine industrial democracy?

Mr. King

I had thought that I was going to be able to agree completely with the hon. Gentleman's supplementary question. I believe profoundly in the importance of involvement and communication between management and workers. It is a clear sign of a successful company when that involvement and communication operates effectively. However, I do not believe in imposing directives that put a straitjacket on the ways in which involvement and communication can be undertaken, Such directives would make inoperative some of the most successful operations in the United Kingdom in which consultation and communication are especially effective.

Dr. Mawhinney

Will my right hon. Friend draw to the attention of the CBI and other employers' organisations any shared participation schemes that operate within the EC, in the hope that they will be encouraged to advance industrial democracy in Britain by that means?

Mr. King

I take note of my hon. Friend's comments. He has introduced a useful ingredient. The steps taken by right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer in his Budget should be extremely helpful in that respect

Mr. Evans

How do the Tory Government, who constantly pontificate about the alleged lack of democracy in trade unions, avoid the charge of hypocrisy if they reject even the modest proposals of the Vredeling directive on democracy in the workplace? Will the right hon. Gentleman confirm that if he vetoes the Vredeling directive he will do so for the rest of Europe apart from Britain?

Mr. King

As the hon. Gentleman knows, we have already legislated in one respect of the Vredeling directive in requiring every company—this requirement is not restricted to companies over a certain size—to publish in its report and accounts its activity and involvement in communication. That requirement was placed in the 1982 Act. My hon. Friend the Minister of State and I will be monitoring extremely carefully all company reports and accounts to ascertain how the involvement is being pursued. I was involved in communications in industry in the past and I believe that the most effective approach is the voluntary one. The hon. Gentleman can wrap himself up in legislation and directives if he wishes, but I want to see positive results within industry.