HC Deb 03 November 1987 vol 121 cc816-79

Order for Second reading read.

Mr. Speaker

I must announce to the House that I have not selected the amendment in the name of the Leader of the Liberal party.

5.42 pm
The Secretary of State for Employment (Mr. Norman Fowler)

I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second Time.

I shall be brief in opening the debate. The Bill is being presented against the background of two welcome trends — the largest sustained fall in unemployment since records began, and the lowest monthly total since the war of days lost because of industrial disputes.

Unemployment has fallen not just over one month, or even two or three, but for 15 months in succession. In the year to September adult unemployment fell by over 400,000, which is a record for this country, and faster than in any other major industrial country. This summer there were 370,000 more people in jobs than last year.

Nor has that improvement been confined to just one area or region. The biggest falls in the rate of unemployment have been in Wales, the west midlands and the north-west. Within the overall total, the number of long-term unemployed people—the number of people who have been out of work for more than a year—has fallen by 110,000 in 12 months to the lowest level for three years. There are fewer unemployed 16-year-old school leavers this September than in any year since 1974.

Mr. Eric S. Heffer (Liverpool, Walton)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. We are discussing the so-called Employment Bill, which is an anti-trade union Bill, yet the Minister is quoting employment figures that have nothing to do with the Bill. Will the Minister get to the point?

Mr. Speaker

The Secretary of State has been on his feet for two minutes: I imagine that this is his preliminary explanation.

Mr. Fowler

With no particular respect to the hon. Gentlemen, that is the most bogus point that I have heard him make for a long time. He does not want to hear about the welcome trends in the fall in unemployment, and for him to argue that on the Second Reading of the Employment Bill I cannot talk about unemployment takes him into new realms of foolishness.

Mr. Heffer

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. With due respect, that has nothing to with the Bill, which is about trade unions and the effects on them. The employment issue has nothing to do with the Bill. If the right hon. Gentleman is to keep within the rules of the House, he should talk about the Bill and not spread propaganda about the so-called levels of employment that does not affect my area, because unemployment has increased.

Mr. Speaker

Perhaps the Secretary of State will help the House by concentrating on the Bill. Every hon. Member is responsible for his speech and must draw up his remarks in the way that he chooses, but we should concentrate on the Bill.

Mr. Fowler

The hon. Gentleman ignores the fact that part II is concerned with training and employment. His actions reveal that he has not read the Bill. Our challenge is to improve further these trends and to bring unemployment down even lower. The Bill takes up that challenge with a range of measures.

The Bill also tackles the area of industrial relations. The legislation enacted by the Government since 1979 has done much to improve industrial relations. Thanks to that legislation, many more trade union members have had the chance to vote on whether they want to strike, and union members are now more ready to tell their leaders that it is a risk that they do not want to take.

The statistics on days lost due to industrial action again tell their own story. The figures for 1986 show the lowest number of working days lost because of disputes for over 20 years. There were fewer strikes during 1985 and 1986 than at any stage since the war.

No one would suggest that Britain's economic recovery could have been achieved or, once achieved, sustained by trade union law reform alone. Equally, we would have achieved very little without that reform. This country has turned its back decisively on industrial anarchy, which reached its culmination in the winter of discontent in 1978 and early 1979. It was such strike action that not only reduced industrial output in this country but exported British job after British job overseas.

The decline in the number of days lost because of strikes is a key element in Britain's new-found economic strength. The changes that have been made since 1979 have made an undoubted and real contribution to that. The extraordinary legal immunities that have been enjoyed by trade unions have been removed.

The Bill takes the process of industrial relations law reform a stage further. The essence of this step-by-step process of change and reform is a determination to ensure that the framework of law is appropriate to match the needs of the day and to respond to any omissions that have become apparent.

It was in that spirit that the Government published the Green Paper, "Trade Unions and Their Members", last February and put forward a number of issues and suggestions for change as the basis for public consultation. During the election we made it entirely clear, and in detail, on what issues we intended to legislate. No one can claim that we have in any way hidden our intentions. The Bill puts into effect the promises that we made. Many of its provisions simply build upon the examples that some unions have given us of how the rights of members can be secured. The Bill aims to spread that good practice throughout the trade union movement.

The Bill is concerned with the right framework of law for trade union affairs. By that I mean the framework that is necessary, above all, to protect and ensure the right that ordinary trade union members want and need. It puts the interests of the individual trade union member first and foremost. At times, precisely this approach has caused alarm to some trade union leaders in this country.

A fundamental point must be made—trade unions are powerful and unique institutions. They are not, in spite of what the hon. Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Meacher) suggests, like social clubs or sports clubs, which concern themselves with the individual's leisure activities. Trade unions can influence the employment of their members and affect the viability of the workplace, and thus the entire future of the individual trade union member.

Although there have been substantial improvements in industrial relations over the past few years, there have also been some remarkable abuses. For example, it is absurd that some trade unions should claim the right to be able to transfer their funds through the international banking system to avoid the jurisdiction of the British courts. Yet that is precisely what took place during the miners' strike. The NUM did precisely that. As long as "Artful Dodger" devices of that kind are used, the process of law reform cannot be complete.

The Employment Act 1980 was concerned with adjusting the balance of power between employers and trade unions. The Employment Act 1982 set out new responsibilities for unions and employees. The theme of the Trade Union Act 1984 was to promote democratic practices in trade union affairs. The Bill is essentially concerned with giving new rights to trade union members and setting out new ways in which such rights can be enforced.

Mr. Ian McCartney (Makerfield)

Does the Secretary of State agree that the reality of the Government's approach has been, not to balance power, but to shift it from the trade union movement—that is, from labour to capital? In recent years we have seen more and more power acquired by capital rather than by the generality of the trade union movement. I do not instance individual unions, but the union movement in general. It has been weakened by the shift of power from labour to capital. That has been the Government's sole intention with this and other measures.

Mr. Fowler

The purpose of the legislation that we have introduced since 1979 has been to shift power to members of trade unions. It may be that one or two Opposition Members do not agree with that. All the opinion polls show that the overwhelming majority of people support what we have done in reforming trade union law.

Mr. Richard Caborn (Sheffield, Central)


Mr. Fowler

I shall continue my remarks for a moment, if I may.

Trade union members must have protection from abuses of power by their unions and must have the right in respect of their unions that they are entitled to expect in a free society. That provides the first major theme of the Bill.

Clause 1 provides union members with the right not to be called out by their union without a properly held secret ballot which produces a majority in favour of industrial action. Clauses 3, 4 and 5 give the union member the right not to be disciplined by his union because he chooses to go to work rather than to take industrial action.

Mr. Heffer


Mr. Fowler

I shall not give way at the moment.

Clause 6 gives the union member the right of access to his union's accounting records and the right to have professional advice when inspecting them. Clauses 8 and 9 give trade union members the right to stop their unions' funds being applied for unlawful purposes or the union handing out indemnities to those who are found guilty of criminal offences.

Mr. David Clelland (Tyne Bridge)


Mr. Fowler

I shall give way in a moment.

Clauses 12, 13 and 14 give the trade union member the right to a postal vote in elections for union governing bodies, and for the elections of general secretaries and presidents, with the assurance that such elections will be subject to proper standards of independent scrutiny. In addition, clauses 7 and 29 give the union member who resigns the right to know that the deduction of union subscription from his wages by his employer will cease as soon as that resignation takes effect.

Mr. Heffer

Has the right hon. Gentleman worked out this matter on the basis of logic? The Government insist that there must be a ballot. A majority of members may decide to take certain action, and a minority may decide not to do so. Will the Secretary of State apply that principle to a regiment of soldiers? A minority may say that they will not go over the top and not participate in a certain battle. What would happen to them? [Interruption.] Exactly. They could be shot. If the right hon. Gentleman applies that principle to a regiment of soldiers, why does he not apply it to a majority of workers who decide to involve themselves in a battle for higher wages?

Mr. Fowler

For the very good reason—I shall refer to the precise point later—that a member of a trade union owes a certain duty, as well as other duties, not only to his union, but to his employer.

Mr. McCartney


Mr. Fowler

I shall not give way for the moment. I shall come back to precisely the point that the hon. Gentleman asked me about.

The rights that we are providing will be available to all trade union members. Many trade unionists have some such rights under their contract of membership with their union, and to that extent the Bill merely confirms that, but there are examples of union rule books and union practices that do not guarantee such fundamental rights.

The first clause provides an example of the protection of rights. The clause gives a union member the right not to be called out on strike or to take other industrial action in breach of his contract of employment without a proper secret ballot. Even the Labour party, as I understand its position, recognises the need to come to terms with this demand from union members, though till now it has fudged the question of exactly how it would use the law to guarantee it. At the moment, only employers and their customers and suppliers have the right to stop industrial action which has not been supported in a properly conducted secret ballot. Under the Bill that right is extended to the individual trade union member, and in this respect it provides a natural complement to the 1984 Act.

Mr. Caborn

As the Secretary of State said, some people will support the principle of a strike ballot, but, once a decision is taken to strike, to allow people to go against a democratic decision seems to be alien to all institutions in the United Kingdom. During consultations on the Green Paper, what representations did the Secretary of State receive, particularly from employers, on that important principle? Many employers who would have supported the Government on the principle of the secret ballot are now concerned about the whole industrial relations set-up if we negate the principle of the democratic process.

Mr. Fowler

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman if what he has said is that the Opposition are now in favour of clause 1. That is precisely what we have been fighting for over the past eight years. Until now the official Opposition have not distinguished themselves in supporting that principle.

Mr. Stuart Randall (Kingston upon Hull, West)


Mr. Fowler

Let me answer the question.

Clauses 3 to 5, the ones with which the hon. Member for Sheffield, Central (Mr. Caborn) is concerned, provide that where a union has taken disciplinary action against an individual for refusing to strike, he will have the right of complaint. Once a declaration has been obtained that such discipline is unjustifiable, the union member will be able to apply for compensation. As the hon. Gentleman said, we consulted on that proposal. He is perfectly right. Some employers are opposed to it, and some are in favour of it. Again, the majority of the public are in favour of what is being proposed.

Mr. Randall


Mr. Fowler

I shall not give way for the time being.

A number of points are to be put in respect of the proposal. There is the basic legal position that, although, in general unions are protected against the legal consequences of inducing employees to break their contracts of employment, the individual trade union member has no such protection. That gives the hon. Members for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) and for Sheffield, Central one distinction between the positions that they set out.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Fowler

I shall continue the argument and then I shall give way to one or other of the hon. Members.

The union member has many obligations. Under his contract of employment he certainly has an obligation to his trade union, but he also just as certainly has an obligation to his employer. Of course, he has a wider obligation to the community and, indeed, to his own family. Such separate duties and obligations can obviously pull an individual in different directions. Our view is that, in coming to a decision, he should not be influenced by the fear of disciplinary action being taken against him by his own trade union. The House should not be in any doubt whatsoever that there have been instances when unions have disciplined members for not striking, and some such instances were set out in the Green Paper.

I give way to the right hon. Member for Salford, East (Mr. Orme), but I fear that he will have to be the last.

Mr. Stanley Orme (Salford, East)

Will the Secretary of State disclose, first, the number of replies that he has had on clause 3 and from whom they were received? Surely we are entitled to know that, following the issue of the Green Paper. Secondly, he is a member of a Government who were elected on a minority vote. Therefore, if some people disagree with legislation that the Government propose, such as the poll tax legislation or that on education, is the right hon. Gentleman saying that they have a right to dissent? He is dealing here with the central democratic issue of a majority and a majority vote. He pressed for a secret ballot, and we now have that ballot. How on earth can he justify what he is saying?

Mr. Fowler

For a very good reason. I shall ask my hon. Friend to give what figures or analysis we have on this, but the position that I originally described is no secret. The right hon. Gentleman asks what the distinction is. A union member has not only an obligation to his union, but a contract of employment with his employer, which he is being urged to break. There is a whole set of examples in the Green Paper, and I shall give just one.

In the summer of 1982, obviously before the requirement for secret ballots, but nevertheless indicative of the kind of action that can be taken, about a quarter of the NUR's membership declined to obey a strike call by their union. The union disciplined about 12,000 members. The "NUR News" from that period states that the penalties suffered included loss of the right to hold office, loss of the right to participate in certain elections, loss of the right to be represented at disciplinary hearings and a whole range of other things. Whatever else we disagree about, let there be absolutely no doubt that unions have taken, and are prepared to take, action in a discriminatory way against their own members.

Mr. David Winnick (Walsall, North)


Mr. Randall

Will the right hon. Member give way?

Mr. Fowler

I shall give way on one last occasion to the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, West (Mr. Randall), who has been trying to intervene, but if I give way any more I feel that I shall extend the debate far too long.

Mr. Randall

Many reasonable people will find that the Secretary of State's proposal is quite unacceptable. There is a basic principle at stake which many Labour Members and, I am sure, Conservative Members too, believe is fundamentally important, in that if there is a collective vote and the minority decide on a particular matter to undermine it, that is basically undemocratic. I have listened carefully to the Secretary of State's counter-argument. Nevertheless, when the Bill is debated in Committee I believe that many people will assume that the Government are attempting to undermine the trade union movement and to weaken it further; in other words, that this is just an ideological line that the Government are taking.

Mr. Fowler

I shall obviously listen to what is said in the debate. I do not run away from the fact that this will be an issue that will be debated at some length in Committee.

The Bill gives new rights to trade union members, but it goes further than that. Whatever rights are given to trade union members, they are of little practical use to them unless they have the ability where necessary to enforce those rights, and that is a further major theme of the Bill—the removal of obstacles that stand in the way of union members taking complaints to the courts against their unions. The Bill improves the position of individual trade union members in a number of important ways.

Clause 2 will ensure that unions will no longer be able to delay a case from being heard in the courts simply by spinning out their own internal procedures for dealing with members' grievances so that these are still grinding on more than six months after the member started the process of complaint. Clauses 3, 4 and 5 will ensure that unions will not be able to take disciplinary action against a member simply because that member has sought advice or assistance from the Certification Officer or the Commissioner for the Rights of Trade Union Members. Clauses 18, 19 and 20 and schedule 1 set up a Commissioner for the Rights of Trade Union Members, and clause 21 provides that the Certification Officer will be able to refund expenses incurred by people attending hearings at his office.

Of those provisions, the most important is the role and function of the new Commissioner for the Rights of Trade Union Members. The case for action here is clear. Because the whole process of application to the court can be expensive and daunting for the individual, trade union members with complaints about elections are already offered another route for complaint — through the Certification Officer—

Mr. Winnick


Mr. Fowler

I shall not give way again. The Certification Officer issues decisions and is given power to make declarations, but he cannot issue enforcement orders. He cannot operate as a court. To obtain such an enforcement order it is necessary for the trade union member to make separate application to the court. Anyone taking that action requires exceptional determination and faces substantial expense.

There is now an additional reason for action. The Bill creates a new duty owed by trade unions to their members not to authorise industrial action without obtaining majority support through a secret ballot. That is the very first clause of the Bill. In a case like that, the individual must take a complaint to the High Court to get an injunction. The Bill proposes that the commissioner's financial help will be available to him. It is in the public interest that the statutory duties in industrial relations legislation are observed, and basically what is being proposed is that a public authority should play a role in securing observance of the law. Trade union members should not be deterred from bringing cases to the courts because of their complexity and the financial costs involved.

My hon. Friend will deal with a number of other issues in part I, but I draw the attention of the House to one other area in part I—the closed shop. The Bill removes all legislative support for the closed shop. It protects the employer against the use of union muscle to force him to dismiss or refuse to employ a non-trade union member. It also protects the employee by providing that dismissal for non-union membership will always be unfair.

Clause 10 removes the present legal immunity applying to industrial action to create or maintain any sort of closed shop or closed shop practice, while clause 11 changes the law so that any dismissal from a job on the grounds of a person's non-union membership will always be unfair dismissal for which the victim can get compensation. Taken together, those clauses bring to an end any legal protection of the closed shop in this country.

At the same time, I also draw the attention of the House to the provisions in clause 29. The object of the clause is to ensure that in appropriate cases it will be possible to take legal action against a Civil Service union that induces its members to take unlawful industrial action. The clause does no more than confirm the legal position thought to apply before a recent judgment of the divisional court and puts Civil Service unions in exactly the same position as any other union with respect to industrial relations law.

Part II deals with another vital theme — the importance of training. We should be clear on the position that we face. We need training to help unemployed people take full advantage of the job opportunities that are now available, but we also need training for those in work to ensure that we remain competitive. In other words, we need training for the employed as well as for the unemployed, and we need training at all ages—training through life. We certainly need training and a skilled work force if we are to hold on to our existing markets overseas and if we are to win new ones.

The background to clause 23 is that the jobcentres have now been transferred to my Department so as to make possible the creation of a comprehensive new employment service that covers both helping unemployed people to find jobs and the payment of benefit. The functions remaining with the commission are primarily now concerned with training. The Bill provides for the Manpower Services Commission to be renamed the Training Commission to signal that new role as the focus of our national training effort.

The restyled commission will obviously have a special responsibility for the training programmes that it runs direct, but its remit will go much wider than that. It must act as a catalyst for training provision by employers as a whole. Training in work is primarily the responsibility of employers. It is employers who create the demand for training and are the customers for it. That is why I also intend to use the powers provided in clause 23 to appoint additional employer members to the new Training Commission. I want to ensure that all the new major sectors of employment, including the new and expanding service sectors, are actively involved in the development of our training arrangements and can play a direct part.

There is one area of our training provision that is already both well established and well able to stand up to international comparison — our provision for young people. Since 1979 we have developed comprehensive training arrangements for 16 and 17-year-olds. Nineteen eighty three saw the launch of YTS, with a guarantee of a place for every 16-year-old school leaver by Christmas. In 1986 YTS became a two-year programme, giving increased opportunities for vocational training. In 1987 we extended our guarantee to unemployed 17-year-old school leavers. Next year we will guarantee every unemployed 16 and 17-year-old a YTS place at any time before their 18th birthday.

The position for 16 and 17-year-olds is that in future they can go into employment, continue in full-time education or have a guaranteed place on a youth training scheme.

Mr. Bruce Grocott (The Wrekin)

What sort of scheme?

Mr. Fowler

Schemes that are currently providing more and more permanent jobs for those who participate. A total of 75 per cent. of those leaving youth training schemes now go into jobs or on to further training. On average, 60 per cent. take up jobs. Eighty per cent. of YTS trainees who were asked about the scheme when they had completed it said that they were satisfied and were happy with the training that they had been given.

Mr. Grocott

Will the right hon. Gentleman tell the House whether any of his colleagues have found the schemes so attractive that their own children are currently employed on them?

Mr. Fowler

I do not have the first idea about the answer to that question. Everyone to whom I have spoken during the months that I have been doing this job has spoken highly of YTS and the standards that are now being attained. It is a pity that the Opposition do not put their muscle behind YTS and the increased opportunities for young people in this country.

In the circumstances that I have laid out, the Government see no reason why we should continue to allow a young person who is able to take up a YTS place and who is guaranteed a place to refuse the offer and choose to live on benefit. It is that option that the Social Security Bill, debated by the House yesterday, will be taking away. We recognise that there are some young people who cannot hope to find a job or take up a YTS place. That may be because they are chronically disabled or a single parent. They will continue to be eligible for income support. In addition, child benefit will continue to be paid for three or four months until the school leaver finds a job or YTS place.

Clause 24 ensures that young people under 18 who become unemployed at a later stage are paid a bridging allowance of £15 a week for a maximum of eight weeks in a year until they can be found a suitable YTS place.

Ms. Clare Short (Birmingham, Ladywood)

The right hon. Gentleman probably knows, or I hope he does, that under the existing provisions young people who are unemployed but claiming benefit can study for 21 hours a week if they prefer that as a way of obtaining qualifications. Many take up that opportunity and obtain O-levels and A-levels and go on to obtain further qualifications. I assume that the right hon. Gentleman is wiping out that option. Is he not concerned about that?

Mr. Fowler

That is a matter for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Services. I am ensuring that young people obtain a bridging allowance. However, I will ensure that the hon. Lady's point is answered in the reply to the debate.

The Bill gives effect to specific commitments in the manifesto on which the Government were re-elected five months ago, but it does more than that. It marks an important step forward in guaranteeing the democratic rights of trade union members. What is significant in the steps that we have already taken to reform industrial relations law is that the process of reform has been carried out with the support of the public. That same support is evident again for the Bill.

A MORI opinion poll published by Times Newspapers shows that 70 per cent. of trade union members, and 64 per cent. of those voting Labour, back the strike ballot proposal in clause 1. Only 31 per cent. of trade unionists oppose the proposal to protect non-strikers against union discipline, and an earlier poll showed that this had the support of nearly three out of four members of the general public. In other words, the reform of industrial relations law has the support of the public, including the support of many trade union members.

The Bill also develops further the training strategy of the Government. We now have excellent training for young people, and increasingly those training opportunities are leading to permanent jobs. Our next priority must be to make further improvements in training and retraining for the long-term unemployed, while at the same time ensuring that the employed work force is trained in the skills that are needed to compete in world markets.

The Bill is an important step towards that goal. It will help create a labour market where excessive union power is held in check, where industry can thrive, and where the talents of working men and women are developed to the full. That is what the Bill is about, and I commend it to the House.

6.16 pm
Mr. Michael Meacher (Oldham, West)

Despite its title, this Bill is not a pro-employment Bill. It is an anti-trade union Bill. It owes its existence to the obsession of the Conservative party to try to resurrect the anti-trade union bandwagon at every election. It is only fair to say to the Secretary of State that, in my view, he did not give one good reason today as to why another Bill is needed for any new and necessary industrial relations purpose. We shall be pressing him hard in Committee. He manifestly failed to answer several of the fundamental questions asked by my right hon. and hon. Friends.

Even the employers recognise that with this Bill the Government have really gone over the top. For example, the British Institute of Management describes it as undemocratic and possibly obstructive to good industrial relations. Indeed, contrary to all the Government's claims about democratising the unions, the Bill is profoundly antidemocratic. For the first time in the history of English statute the Bill proposes, as several of my right hon. and hon. Friends have pointed out, to enshrine in law the principle that minorities shall be legally protected if they disobey a majority decision democratically reached after a secret ballot. There is no other country in the world that has seen fit to legislate for such a principle. There is no other organisation in this country, statutory or voluntary, that is legally prohibited from enforcing its own rules. Such is the bottomless pit of the Government's unique hostility to trade unions.

Clause 1 is thoroughly objectionable on several counts. It destroys the deep-seated respect for majority decisions that is held universally throughout the country. It devalues the ballot. What is the point of having a ballot if those who disagree with it can then safely set it aside? It will actually encourage workers to take industrial action without bothering with ballots so that they can be seen not to decide anything. If the clause discredits a ballot to strike, it must, by the same token, discredit a ballot to return to work. Therefore, it may well result in protracted strikes even after negotiated settlements have been reached.

It is the Government's hypocrisy, above all, that stands out so sharply in all this. They are happy, indeed anxious, for union members to take their unions to court to uphold the rule book. However, as soon as the union seeks to apply the contents of that same rule book, the Goverment will not have it. It is the David Owen principle of industrial relations: one plays the game until it comes up with results that one does not like and then one walks off with the ball. That principle will be no more conducive to harmony in industrial relations than it has been to harmony in the SDP.

There is not a golf club in the country—let alone organisations responsibly representing millions of workers—that operates on the principle of requiring a secret ballot and then encouraging people not to abide by the outcome. Even the Government's staunchest supporters—the CBI, the British Institute of Management, the Institute of Personnel Management, the Conservative trade unionists, the Engineering Employers Federation and even the Freedom Association—cannot stomach that principle. I hope that there will be enough fair-minded Conservative hon. Members—perhaps even right hon. Members—with the decency and honesty to recognise that this clause represents a standing repudiation of democracy so that we can defeat it in the House.

It is all the more important that the Bill should be defeated, because the Government now propose to give wrecking minorities even greater powers. Clause 16, to which the Secretary of State gave little attention, rules that a ballot for industrial action must command not only a national majority but a majority at each workplace. The Government have no mandate for that proposal. There was no mention of it in the Green Paper last February or in the Tory election manifesto. There is no justification for it because it flies in the face of democratic theory and practice. There is no precedent for it as no other organisation in this country, voluntary or statutory, is hobbled by such unreasonable impediments.

It is as if it had been decided at the last election that constituencies that produced a winner who was not Tory could opt out of the decisions made by the Tory Government returned with an overall majority of seats throughout the country. I wonder what the Prime Minister would feel about that. The Bill goes even further than that in its obsession with the blocking tactics of minorities. It is as though it had also been decided at the last general election that, even in constituencies where the Tory won, the minority who voted for another candidate were not to be bound by the majority decision. Then, to cap it all, when the Tory majority in any constituency tried to discipline the minority to comply with the majority verdict they were to be told that they were legally prohibited from taking any such action to bring the minority into line. Do the Government really think that such a system is fair arid reasonable? Of course they do not. They would be the first to be outraged by it. It is monstrous that they can force trade unions to abide by procedural distortions which, if they were applied to them, they would bawl out of court as arrant nonsense that stood democracy on its head.

The truth is that no Cabinet, board of governors, company board room or voluntary society can operate on such principles. Why, therefore, are the unions to be singled out for these perverse and anti-democratic rules? The Bill has been dubbed by many a scab's charter. It is more accurately described as an anarchists' charter.

Mr. Jonathan Sayeed (Bristol, East)

Although I have some sympathy with the hon. Gentleman in that I think that the measure may be undemocratic, he should not tell the House that the proposal was not in the February Green Paper. The suggestion that Members should have the right to retain membership of a union and yet not to strike appears on page 7 of the Green Paper.

Mr. Meacher

The hon. Gentleman seems to be confused. He is referring to the proposals in clauses 3 and 5, which are, indeed, referred to in the Green Paper. I referred to clause 16, and I assure him that there is no mention of that proposal in the Green Paper. I am glad to see the Secretary of State nodding assent. I repeat that there is no mandate for this denial of democracy in the Green Paper or in the Tory election manifesto.

Mr. Nicholas Bennett (Pembroke)

Does the hon. Gentleman accept that we cannot draw an analogy between trade unions and democracy? In fact, Scottish Labour Members have been demanding what the hon. Gentleman says we have been demanding from the trade unions. They have told us that we do not have the right to rule in Scotland because they have a majority there. Does not the hon. Gentleman agree that in trade union affairs, where a trade union may instruct a man to break the law—to break his contract of employment—that man must have the right to decide for himself whether he wishes to follow that instruction?

Mr. Meacher

The trouble with the Government is that they want to have their cake and eat it. They want to ensure that the rights of minorities are protected under so-called employment legislation, which is actually anti-trade uinion legislation, but they will have no truck with the rights of minorities in the House. For them, there is no question of the large majority of Labour Members in Scotland being allowed to opt out. The hon. Gentleman has drawn attention precisely to the hypocrisy at the root of the Government's policy.

The denial of democratic choice is apparent in another of the Bill's main provisions. Union membership agreements or closed shops, as they are normally described, are already covered by secret ballot established under this Government's previous legislation and requiring an electoral threshold of approval far in excess of what the Prime Minister regards as sufficient for her tenure of office. Such ballots require the support of 85 per cent. of those voting, which is more than twice the 42 per cent. voting support which the Prime Minister received and which she regards as adequate. The Government now propose to abolish their own balloting provisions, established only three years ago, simply because those engaging in such ballots had the nerve to commit the unforgiveable sin of voting overwhelmingly in favour of continuing with the closed shop.

The Government have disregarded the employers' wishes. The British Institute of Management memorandum says: it is believed that the closed shop can provide a stable focus for negotiations where it takes into account the natural groupings that occur in an industrial environment. If the majority of employees vote for it and continue to do at regular intervals, the closed shop should be allowed to exist. Those are the words not of the Labour Party but of the British Institute of Management. Disregarding the views of employers and those at the sharp end of industry, the Government decided that if members did not come up with the right choice in the ballot that they had given them, they would take away that ballot. That is the moral of it.

Mr. Fowler

The hon. Gentleman has made much of the fact that the proposals in clause 16 did not appear in the Green Paper. However, he will concede that the proposal concerning the approved closed shop was in the Green Paper and, indeed, in the election manifesto. In fact very few people indeed have taken advantage of the approved closed shop arrangements.

Mr. Meacher

The Secretary of State makes my point for me. Of course it was in the consultative Green Paper. The purpose of the Green Paper was to consult opinion in industry, but when the employers said that the closed shop should be continued, the Secretary of State ignored the evidence. What is the point of having a Green Paper? That is always the problem with this Government. They completely ignore even what their supporters say about industrial matters.

Mr. Fowler

The hon. Gentleman is taking his argument to absurd lengths. He must recognise that the proposal was set out in the election manifesto and that the Government were re-elected, with an overwhelming majority, on that manifesto.

Mr. Meacher

It is far more relevant that, with regard to the consultation exercise on the closed shop, not only the TUC but most, if not all, of the employer organisations—the Secretary of State should have published the results of the exercise—recognised that the closed shop has a valid role to play and do not want it to be abolished.

The Bill is not only anti-democratic. The second fundamental objection to it is that it thoroughly discriminates against trade unions. Contrary to the central principle of English statute, that similar persons or bodies should be treated in a similar manner, the Bill singles out trade unions from all the major institutions for unprecedented and prejudicial state regulation of their internal affairs. The unions will be subjected to rules which the Tory party would never accept for itself. The Bill outlaws the closed shop, but does the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, the main author of the Bill, accept that for himself? He is a member of the Bar, which is perhaps the foremost example of the closed shop.

The Bill insists that unions are answerable to their electorate. Does the previous Secretary of State for Employment, who was responsible for the Bill, accept that for himself? He owes his position entirely to patronage and is not answerable in another place to any electorate. The Bill requires that the unions' principal executive committees should be subject to election. Does the Cabinet, which is the Government's principal executive committee, accept that for itself when not one of its members is directly elected? The Bill insists on secret ballots for union presidents and general secretaries. Did the former Secretary of State for Employment, the right hon. Member for Chingford (Mr. Tebbit), who was responsible for initiating secret ballots for unions, accept that for himself when he was the non-elected chairman of the Tory party?

The Tory party—I noted what the Secretary of State said today—likes to say that trade unions are different. The Green Paper refers to the considerable importance to individuals of their position in the labour market. I agree, but how do they explain why private employers, whose importance to individuals in the labour market is without question, are free from even the most basic electoral accountability to their staff or customers? How does the Secretary of State explain that shareholders normally choose their directors and make other key decisions by show of hands at their annual general meetings, which is precisely what the Bill would outlaw?

Mr. Winnick

Is my hon. Friend aware that the Conservative Charter Movement, led by Mr. Eric Chalker, has complained bitterly that the position of chairman of the Conservative party is not subject to election and is appointed by one person? Is it not the height of hypocrisy for the Conservative party to lecture trade unions on how they should conduct their internal business when the Conservative party is one of the least democratic organisations in the country?

Mr. Meacher

My hon. Friend makes a good point, and I look forward to the Minister's response—if he can give one.

Mr. Edward Leigh (Gainsborough and Horncastle)

After raising some delightful red herrings, will the hon. Gentleman tell us whether the Labour party is in favour of secret postal ballots for the election of trade union leaders?

Mr. Meacher

; I suggest that the hon. Gentleman reads "New Rights, New Responsibilities", which is our precise statement on that point. We are in favour of secret ballots before industrial action.

Mr. Leigh

Secret postal ballots?

Mr. Meacher

If the hon. Gentleman listened to my speech, he might be persuaded that, although the Government are obsessed with postal ballots, they are probably less democratic and rather unwise.

The same meticulous over-restrictiveness towards trade unions, combined with blind disregard of similar faults on a far bigger scale in other bodies, is present everywhere in the Bill. Although there is no evidence of trade unions refusing to comply with previous trade union Acts, the Bill set up a so-called Commissioner for the Rights of Trade Union Members, who will no doubt spearhead a public campaign, aided and abetted by the Freedom Association, to provoke complaints against trade unions. But the Government make no move to set up a commissioner for the rights of small shareholders in the City which, after the recent spate of financial scandals, might be needed more. The Bill legislates to give a right of access to trade union accounts, although that has never been denied, yet the Government do nothing to secure for employees the right to see their company's accounts, which is far more important. The Government have even vetoed the proposed EC legislation which would have given employees minimal rights in that respect. The Bill provides for independent supervision of union ballots, yet the Government turn a blind eye to the far greater and more serious corruption and misbehaviour in the City.

Mr. Nicholas Bennett


Mr. Meacher

The Government should recognise, if they have not already, that Tory Members are far more likely to make multiple share applications than trade unions are to exercise multiple votes.

Mr. Sayeed


Mr. Meacher

It may be cheap, but it is true.

The Bill goes out of its way to assure union members that they will not be deprived of access to the courts if there has been a breach of statutory rights or the common law, although there is no evidence that they have been denied access. But the Government deliberately ignore the fact that hundreds of thousands of ordinary citizens are denied access to the courts to get their basic legal rights because of Government restrictions on legal aid and the cuts in law centres.

The Bill not only discriminates against trade unions but contains instance after instance of the Government stepping up hostile action against unions and individuals in direct defiance of their previously stated clear decision. The 1983 Green Paper stated: The wide variety and differing circumstances of trade union electoral arrangements suggest that it would be unrealistic to attempt to achieve the desired standards by requiring through legislation a single method for all types and levels of union elections. But without advancing a shred of evidence since that date, that is exactly what the Government are demanding in the Bill.

In 1985, the former Secretary of State for Employment—now Secretary of State for Northern Ireland—firmly rejected postal ballots. I hope that the hon. Member for Gainsborough and Horncastle will listen to this. On 23 April 1985 he said: I understand from the research … that, in a fully postal ballot conducted by the AUEW, which has confirmed these findings, 200,000 members never received a vote and 20,000 received a vote to which they were not entitled."—[Official Report, 23 April 1985; Vol. 77, c. 775.] However, in this Bill the Government are enforcing compulsory postal ballots.

On YTS, the Tory election manifesto made it clear that the Government would remove benefit from those under 18 who deliberately choose to remain unemployed". However, the Government are now being much harsher and are putting forward a proposal to remove benefit from all young people under 18, irrespective of the circumstances and even if they have done what is expected of them and got a job but then had the misfortune to be laid off.

The Secretary of State for Social Services has made a strong speech denouncing dependency. However, under the Bill the waiting allowance will reduce income and make school leavers more dependent on their parents. The Secretary of State for Education keeps coming to the House to preen himself about choice in schools. However, the Secretary of State for Employment is abolishing choice in the post-school YTS, and so on and so on.

Indeed, part II of the Bill, on training schemes and the Manpower Services Commission, which is really a separate Bill in itself, displays exactly the same characteristics of an over-domineering Government further restricting rights, centralising power to itself and again going back on its own previous commitments. I remind the Secretary of State that it was a Conservative Government of more generous aspirations who, in 1973, separated benefit payments from jobcentres to enhance the image of job creation. Today a Conservative Government of much meaner intent are bringing them together again because they are far more concerned to restrict benefit entitlement to reduce artificially the unemployment figures than they are to create new jobs.

None of the changes that are being made to the MSC was sought or approved by it, or even desired by the employers. They will transform the commission from an independent body into the Government's pliant poodle, centralise power in the hands of the Secretary of State for Employment and open up the Government's ultimate objective—the privatisation of training.

Clause 25 is a real Trojan horse. It paves the way for the Secretary of State to define community programme workers as "non-employed". They will therefore receive "benefit-plus" payments, as they are called, instead of the current hourly rate for the job. It is yet another major wage-cutting exercise as well as, no doubt, being designed to mop up the JTS which has proved such a monumental flop.

Nor are the YTS changes, which are tantamount to job conscription, any more acceptable to the employers than they are to the unions. Perhaps scheme quality will suffer because of the influx of unwilling trainees, or those trainees will be forced into the more charitable but overstretched voluntary sector schemes, or they will lose all income support. The Government are directly defying strongly held MSC views that the voluntary nature of YTS is central to its purpose.

The Government defend the Bill as extending individual rights and giving protection to union members. In fact, almost everything in the Bill does precisely the opposite. If the Government were genuinely concerned about extending rights, why cannot the new commissioner, unlike the equal opportunities commissioner or the race relations commissioner, with whom the Government compare him, take action where necessary on behalf of the employee against either the union or the employer? Why is the new rights commissioner limited to grievances about a union, for the existence of which the Government have not provided any evidence, when the employers are engaged in a far more serious undermining of employees' rights through defective health and safety arrangements and widespread illegal underpayments of wages?

If the Government were genuinely concerned about individual rights, why do they not provide fair and proper protection against unfair dismissal, which must now be feebler in this country than in many Third world countries? Why do they not provide a right to reinstatement when an industrial tribunal so orders? Why do they not provide the right for women to receive equal pay for work of equal value, or maternity rights so that they can return to their jobs after having a baby? Why do they not provide protection against victimisation by an employer when an employee complains of a breach of statutory employer duties? [Interruption.] Perhaps I could have the Secretary of State's attention. Above all, if the Government are serious about rights, why do they not provide a right not to be dismissed when involved in industrial action after a majority ballot—a right that exists everywhere in the West except in Thatcherite Britain?

Because the Government are not genuinely concerned about employment rights, because their excuses for the Bill are opportunistic humbug, and because the Bill will greatly worsen industrial relations, we shall unreservedly vote against it tonight.

6.46 pm
Mr. Edward Leigh (Gainsborough and Horncastle)

I am delighted to have the opportunity of following the hon. Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Meacher). I shall make a short speech and deal only with the conduct of elections for trade union officers. Rebelling against one's own Government and being proved right is not the way to win friends and influence the hon. and right hon. Members on the Treasury Bench. However, some hon. Members may remember that during the passage of the Trade Union Act 1984, 35 Conservative Members rebelled against the Government because they wanted to insist on the provision of secret postal ballots. I was assured by the then Secretary of State for Employment that he hoped that secret postal ballots would become the norm as a result of that Act. I predicted then: 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 account. 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;"—[Official Report, 24 July 1984; Vol. 64, c. 855.] I am sorry to say that recent research, conducted by a barrister, Mark Loveday, for Policy Research Associates, which was a survey of the 22 largest trade unions, shows that, as I predicted, only a handful of trade unions had adopted secret postal ballots although the Secretary of State thought that that might become the norm. Indeed, only four major trade unions have adopted them. Of them, the Royal College of Nursing already had secret postal ballots, and the Union of Construction and Allied Trades Technicians adopted them only because workplace ballots were unsuitable because they did not have the sites.

Clearly, there is a necessity for the Bill and I warmly welcome it. I pay due tribute to the Secretary of State for moving the Second Reading today. To give some credit to the Government, secret ballots are much more practical in 1987 than they were in 1984 because the 1984 Act required trade unions to compile a central register.

Mr. Graham Allen (Nottingham, North)

I take it that the hon. Gentleman wishes to increase participation in trade union matters. Is he aware that where there are full postal ballots rather than workplace ballots fewer people become involved? Might that not be one reason why most trade unions have not adopted them?

Mr. Leigh

Surely democracy is more important than anything else. I refer the hon. Gentleman to the investigation into the Transport and General Workers Union ballot and to an article in The Observer of 14 April 1985 which stated: One shop steward, for example, said that he had not voted, nor had his members. When he raised the matter following press allegations, he was told by a friendly union official that the ballot forms for his members and members in other companies had not left union headquarters but had been filled in on their behalf in the union's offices. We were also told of one official who was complaining of 'writer's cramp' from filling in the ballot forms. Is that what the hon. Gentleman wants? We want democracy and believe that it has a vital part to play in our national affairs.

I turn now to two small points that concern me. Firstly, I am concerned that when a member receives a ballot form in the privacy of his own home, he should have some idea about the position of the candidates for whom he is being asked to vote. Therefore, I hope that, in Committee, this Bill might be amended to make it a requirement that candidates should have the right to provide a short manifesto to union members. We cannot have a situation in which the militant is allowed to achieve, by stealth, in the privacy of the member's home, what he was unable to achieve by intimidation in the union branch or the workplace.

My second point concerns clause 14(2), which states: The trade union in question—must, before the ballot is taken or the election held, appoint a qualified independent person ("the scrutineer") We must ensure that the scrutineer is truly independent. I believe that the Bill should be amended in Committee to require that the scrutineer has no connection with the trade union movement. I illustrate my case by referring to the Unity bank, which is the trade union movement's bank. It provides a number of worthwhile services for the trade union movement. In the promotional literature for all those services it stresses its close links with the trade union movement. However, it has also set up a new service called Independent Balloting Services.

It is interesting that, in the promotional literature for Independent Balloting Services, the Unity bank makes it quite clear that that organisation is totally independent of the trade union movement. However, I suspect that this so-called independent service has been set up to circumvent the intentions of this Bill.

Miss Marjorie Mowlam (Redcar)


Mr. Leigh

No, I shall not give way, but I shall sit down in a moment.

When this Bill becomes an Act we must ensure that we have a truly independent scrutineer.

I believe that the trade union militant fears democracy, fairness and secrecy of ballots as Dracular fears the approaching dawn. I believe that this Bill will ensure that we finally rid our industry and trade union movement of the militant scourge that has plagued us for so many years.

6.51 pm
Mr. Michael Foot (Blaenau Gwent)

When I first read this Bill I thought that it was a shabby and shameful proposal for any Minister to bring before the House. When I listened to the Minister speaking about the Bill I thought that it was also explosively dangerous. I believe that unless we can alter it substantially as it goes through the House it will lead to great difficulties in industrial relations. I believe it is a great tragedy that the Minister, speaking on behalf of the Department of Employment, should have dared to introduce this measure to the House.

Perhaps I can assist the Minister and everyone else, by explaining how it is that we have the extraordinary proposal—the main topic of discussion so far— that a member who has voted in the minority should have the right to upset the majority decision. The Government believe that proposition should be accepted. My hon. Friend the Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Meacher) has already said that this proposition is opposed by a whole range of bodies, including what I had always previously thought to be a laughable organisation, the Conservative Trade Unionists' National Committee. Even that committee is opposed to this proposition. However, I can explain how clause 3 came to be put forward.

I have the highest respect for the lawyers at the Department of Employment. Indeed, over many years, I have been assisted by them. I am sure they know what they are up to and for that reason I call clause 3 the "wager clause". I believe there was a wager between the lawyers who were advising the Secretary of State. I believe that one of them said to the other, "I bet you cannot introduce or frame a clause of such anti-trade union dedication that it would be opposed by the Conservative Trade Unionists' National Committee." That was the wager and it was accompanied by another wager that they could get such a clause past the new Minister. Perhaps they thought that that wager was a good deal easier.

Such is my explanation for clause 3. I hope that that clause will be known as the wager clause throughout the discussions on the Bill. I cannot believe that the Secretary of State seriously brought that clause forward—he made few defences of it today. I hope that he will withdraw that. clause from the Bill—it will still be a bad Bill for other reasons—because that would be the best way forward If the Government persist in trying to put that clause on the statute book they will make a laughing stock of the Bill, a laughing stock of themselves and a laughing stock of a great deal of the rest of their industrial relations measures. Therefore, I hope that the Government will take my early advice. It could all be fixed in Committee. We could have an early vote, a few of the Ministers could be taken off to the races and we could defeat the clause. That is the best advice I can give to the right hon. Gentleman and I am sure that he will consider it carefully. Indeed, I am sure that his advisers will, even if he does not.

My hon. Friend the Member for Oldham, West dealt admirably with the proposal for a commissioner. I am not. sure of the size of the staff for that commission. This is the Government who have been curtailing all the services that are provided for carrying out health and safety regulations, regulations that might assist the labour market and regulations that provide for the protection of decent conditions for people in work. The Government have refused to provide resources for such work, indeed they have curtailed such services, and I should like to know how much the commissioner will be paid and how big a staff he will be able to employ. Perhaps some of the people serving him will be transferred from the health and safety inspectorate or some other organisations as the right hon. Gentleman, in common with his predecessors, tries to injure the way in which some previous excellent legislation., passed by the Department of Employment, is put into effect.

I have another simple solution to the problem of the commissioner. It is clear, as my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham, West has already said, that this commission is quite different from any other that operates. We could have a simple amendment in the Bill that would say that the post of commissioner should always be occupied by the current chairman of Conservative Central Office, unless of course, the right hon. Member for Chingford (Mr. Tebbit) was again asked to undertake that responsibility. Indeed. as long as the right hon. Member for Chingford is around I suppose he might take on that post. It would keep him out of other kinds of mischief.

One way or another, this clause was obviously devised to assist the Conservative party. I do not see why it should not be plainly stated—it certainly would not make any difference to the operation of the Bill—that, with the establishment of this kind of commissioner, the Government's intention is to give every kind of support to every kind of dissident in a union who is opposing the general policy of his union—strike action or any other action.

If the Secretary of State persists with this proposal it will make the whole Bill ridiculous. It is a further illustration of the shocking nature of part I of the Bill. Indeed, part I of the Bill certainly cannot be called an Employment Bill. It would be better called the Vendetta Against Trade Unions Bill or the Miscellaneous Vindictive Provisions Bill. I believe that the House of Commons will have the sense, over time, to alter and transform this Bill if possible or, better still, kill it.

The Secretary of State tries to pretend that the second part of the Bill has some honourable pretensions. Certainly, it is not as bad as the first part of the Bill, but nothing could be. However, I do not believe that the origins of the second part of the Bill are quite as the right hon. Gentleman describes.

I believe that, over many years, the Department of Employment has had many fruitful ideas regarding carrying through measures for training and for assisting the employment market. Indeed, I believe that, on the whole, those ideas have been better than the ideas of many other countries and I believe that they should have been encouraged. However, I do not believe that there has been much encouragement from Lord Young. Previously he was at the Manpower Services Commission. Then he went on to the Department of Employment and his fingerprints are on this measure. He has taken part of the operation away to the new Ministry which he is occupying and he has left behind part of it for the resident Minister to operate.

It is a strange transformation because away back in 1974 when the Manpower Services Commission was established the move was in the opposite direction; that is to say, a new body was to be established at one remove from the Department of Employment. Whether that was right, I do not know. At any rate, when we came into office in 1974 we said that it would be ludicrous to tear all that up; we felt that it was better to let it continue. We did not try to alter the organisation and control of the commission. We did not try to push in trade unionists or push out the others. We did not try to use the subversive method that the right hon. Gentleman is using.

The Minister pretends that he is not altering the balance of control over this body even though he wants greatly to reduce the proportion of trade union representation. He knows well that after he has carried through this reform the impartiality of the body will be greatly impaired. It has been difficult enough for trade unionists to co-operate with many of the measures imposed upon the Manpower Services Commission by the Government. If effective control over that body is to be watered down in such a way that the power of the Minister becomes much greater and the power of the trade union representatives much weaker, the body will be weakened altogether.

All that was not taken into account when Lord Young's proposals were carried through. Lord Young has had a malign influence on the whole of these operations for many years. He has not applied his mind properly to the problems. Wherever he has been, whether at the Manpower Services Commission or the Department of Employment, he has always been looking over his shoulder at the master, or rather the mistress, behind him to see what she is demanding that he should do. Therefore, what should have been an objective operation of the Department of Employment to deal with the unemployment crisis facing the nation has been distorted by the way in which Lord Young has done his job. He is continuing these malignant and malign influences.

Lord Young has never had to face the person who may be subjected to the tyrannies which he has imposed. Extra inquisitions will be imposed by the second part of the Bill. I get the impression—I do not think it is false—that Lord Young would much rather find one alleged scrounger than provide 10 real jobs. He would much rather use the power of the state and all its mechanisms to find ways to remove a young boy or a young girl from some register so that he could go along to the Prime Minister a week later and say that he had got another 100,000 off the unemployed list. That is the way he has applied his mind.

If Lord Young had had any imagination he would have applied his mind to the real problems of the huge increase in short-time work. We are all in favour of short-time jobs as well as long-term work but we do not want the long-term figures mangled by the creation of part-time jobs. The majority of people in part-time employment are women and they have as much right to decent conditions and to protection as any other citizen. If the Government continue with the policy of removing protection from the growing numbers of people in part-time employment, they will create much greater and more explosive problems.

From what the Secretary of State has said, it seems that these matters are being dealt with in a prosperous way. But in my constituency, where there has been chronic unemployment of 17 per cent., 18 per cent. and 20 per cent. since 1979, there is very little sign of any diminution. There has been some reduction but it has been very small. We have still got far more young people without a real prospect of a job than we had seven or eight years ago. As the problem piles up year by year it becomes very serious. At the end of it the Government say, "We will not provide anything fresh for you. What we will provide is a fresh mechanism by which we will get at you." Some people will be frightened of going to unemployment offices. We set up jobcentres where people could go and consult properly. We made the system much more civilised. One of the best things that happened over the past 10 years was getting jobcentres into the best places, in main streets, away from the back streets and away from indignities. We gave people encouragement to come in and the knowledge that they would get the best possible aid. That is what the right hon. Gentleman is interfering with if he proceeds with some of these proposals.

The right hon. Gentleman also wants to alter the training system. There have been some improvements in training, but many more young people were being trained properly 10 years ago than there are today. They had decent apprenticeships in different industries. The Government smashed all that to pieces in their first two or three years in office. They took away regional grants. They made the problem infinitely greater in areas which have had to face persistent unemployment. Now they come along not with a remedy but with a measure which will be regarded up and down the country as a piece of vindictiveness, hitting the trade union movement when it is down.

I can remember longer than many hon. Members. I was not a Member then but I know what happened after the 1926 strike when a Conservative Government thought that they had got the trade union movement down. They said, "Now that they are down we will kick them because we want to kick any life or spirit out of them. Now we have got them down, let us screw them down and keep them down." So legislation was introduced which became the Trade Disputes and Trade Unions Act 1927. It took away a great range of trade union powers. The Government thought that they had got the trade union movement down for ever, but they had not, because the Labour movement pledged that one of its first acts when it got a full majority in the House would be to sweep those vindictive measures off the statute book.

I hope I do not strike too much terror into the Government Benches when I recall the militant, revolutionary figure who came to that Dispatch Box to propose the abolition of the 1927 Act. It was Sir Hartley Shawcross who introduced that as one of the first measures proposed by the 1945 Labour Government. He was the revolutionary figure, the well-breeched leader of the "sans culottes". It was he, with all his legal knowledge at his disposal—I think he is still alive and kicking but not quite in the same cause that he was then—who introduced the measure. The House was proud to wipe out such a bitter piece of class legislation. That is what it was in 1927 and that is what this is today.

H. G. Wells said that the class war was an old practice of the English ruling classes. Every now and then they have spasms when they forget, such as in the days of Macmillan and his sort, when the "wets" were in charge. But they return to their roots—to the old game of saying, "Once we have the power, we will use it to take away rights that people in this country have had for 20 or 30 years."

We are going to get those rights back. One day—I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman will be here to see it—there will be a Labour Minister at the Government Dispatch Box, who will wipe away these measures. They are hitter, vindictive and utterly opposed to all the decencies that we accept in British public life.

7.10 pm
Mr. James Paice (Cambridgeshire, South-East)

In rising to address the House for the first time I am mindful of the honour and privilege of being a Member of it. The trepidation with which I make my first speech is tempered only by the knowledge that even the greatest statesmen who have served the country have had at some stage in their careers to rise and address the House for the first time.

Indeed, I follow in the footsteps of a great statesman: Francis Pym represented the old constituency of Cambridgeshire and, more recently, Cambridgeshire, South-East, for some 26 years. During that time he occupied many of the highest offices in the land, and for all that time he served both his constituency and country to the very best of his ability. He did so in a way which is an example to us all, and which I shall find it very difficult to emulate over the years in which I hope to represent my constituency. It is only right and proper that Francis Pym has now taken his place in the Upper House, where his counsel can still be heard.

The constituency that I am proud to represent includes many of the features that are at the forefront of Britain's revival. In it have taken place, and are taking place, many of the technological developments and the advances in research that are at the forefront of our economic recovery. The enterprise culture has blossomed and boomed there perhaps more than in any other part of the country. The very atmosphere seems to breathe and encourage success. However, it is a very large constituency and, geographically, a very rural one—stretching from the Essex-Suffolk border to around Newmarket and taking in the vast majority of that great centre of the British bloodstock industry, and extending upwards into the Fens and the city of Ely, including the magnificant cathedral that makes it the centre of tourism in that part of Britain.

However, the area has its problems. Fortunately. they are the problems of success. The pressures of development. if not handled properly, threaten to destroy the very fabric of our community. There is a further problem: the businesses that are currently booming, expanding constantly and providing massive numbers of extra jobs face an even greater threat to their continued development. The great perversity of our current economic scene is the shortage of skilled staff. That is why I am addressing myself to the Bill, and particularly to part II, which deals with training. I am sorry that much of the vehemence of the Opposition is concentrated on part I. I can only assume that they support most of the section on training, which, in my view, is of much longer-term importance to the country. I welcome the clauses on training and the greater emphasis placed on it by my right hon Friend in appointing a Training Commission.

Before I was elected, I was general manager of a company specialising in training and management development. My duties included running a substantial youth training scheme and many other MSC schemes. I also served for a time as a member of an area manpower board, and I have seen many of the MSC schemes from different perspectives. In my view, the youth training scheme that my right hon. Friend has already developed is one of the Government's greatest achievements over the years since they were elected in 1979. However, I have a few caveats.

First, and probably most important, if, as we all hope, the number of young people in strict unemployment is coming down, partly because of the improving employment picture and partly because there are slightly fewer school leavers, the challenge to us all to ensure that the youth training scheme continues to develop is even greater as the necessity for it appears to diminish. The YTS is not concerned merely with keeping people out of the dole queue, which is the accusation thrown at it by those who wish it ill. More important, it is a means of ensuring that all young people who leave school at the age of 16—or, now, at 17—whatever their level of academic ability or achievement, can go into work and gain the skills that are necessary for work. That does not mean only the manual and practical skills, essential though they are. It also means the skills of working discipline—personal skills, which are equally important to holding down a job and doing it well. All those skills are vital if young people are not only to obtain jobs in the future, but to play a full and lasting role in Britain's economy.

Many firms and businesses with which I have been associated understand that and use YTS as the normal route of entry for 16-year-olds, not simply as a means of paying only £28.50 a week. It is, of course, open to an employer to pay any figure above that minimum, and, in my experience, many do so. The framework of YTS provides an opportunity of training in a combined programme lasting for up to two years, to ensure that when young people reach the age of 18 they have learnt many of the basic skills that will stand them in good stead for the rest of their working career. That is a good basis on which to build, and I hope that in the next few years the Training Commission will take steps to develop it into a three-year scheme. It would then compare favourably with the apprenticeship schemes that it is now replacing in many industries. It is a pity that only about 10 per cent. of trainees have formal employee status, as opposed to trainee status, and I hope that the commission will set an increase in that figure as one of its chief targets over the next few years.

My second caveat is that we must ensure that industry takes up its own responsibilities for training. One of the sadnesses that I faced in my career, until my election, was the low level of importance attached by some industries to training. They pay considerable lip service to it, but when it is time to come up with the goods they are found wanting. That is their loss and the loss of the country and the economy.

It is no use threatening to institute massive levies on every business so that the Government, through some different arm, can redistribute and dispense those levies as they see fit. Contrary to what we have hard, and no doubt will hear again, it just does not work. Seen from the grass roots, it is not a good use of resources. What we have to do is to encourage, persuade and cajole industry to recognise its own responsibilities for the development of its staff — to recognise that it must make a major investment, which is worth every penny. The most important investment that a company can make is in training its staff for the future.

As the number of people on the youth training scheme declines, the Government and the Training Commission will be tempted to begin to reduce the financial input. I know that it is the Government's policy to move the burden of training more to the employers. That is right, and is as it should be, but we must be careful to ensure that we do not go too fast too soon. We must make sure that the slack is gradually taken up by industry so that the developments that have been at the forefront of the advances in the youth training scheme in the last few years are not lost.

Even with inflation down to its present highly satisfactory level, the costs of training, especially in rural areas, where YTS trainees can be spread over many square miles, are considerable. Like everything else, the costs keep rising and I hope that my right hon. Friend will recognise the great cost and only gradually shift the burden to the employers. The burden should be shifted, but we must not do it too quickly, because if we do something will be lost in the middle.

My final caveat is that the development of YTS in the last few years has spawned a number of private training operators. I listened to the speech of the hon. Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Meacher), who has left the Chamber, and noted the cynical way in which he spoke about privatised training. One of the major factors in the success of the scheme has been the development of private training operators, often in competition with established colleges of further education. Many colleges succumbed to the temptation of simply tacking the YTS on to their existing courses of study. Over and over again that failed miserably, because the very ethos of YTS and its concepts of integrating work and training into a combined package and of appraisal and assessment were new and could not simply be tacked on to existing programmes.

Fortunately, professional trainers were there, as opposed to professional educators. They were able to take up the opportunities offered and in many cases they forced colleges of further education to recognise the great differences. The colleges now understand that if they are to run the youth training scheme and provide the level of service that young people deserve and require, a rethink is necessary. The results of that rethink are now beginning to show in the efforts of many of those traditional providers.

In the proper shifting of the burden that is bound to come, I urge my right hon. Friend to make sure that private providers are not put at risk. We have already heard expressed the great antipathy of the area manpower boards, the trade unions and the established institutional providers against the private sector. It would be a great shame if private sector competition were lost. The private sector has taken great steps towards moving the whole ethos and understanding of the skills of training forward into the future. It is not good enough for the Opposition to say that we should hark back to 1974 when the Manpower Services Commission was first developed. Today, everything to do with training is totally different, because training is a different ball game. The skill training profession has moved a whole street ahead of where it was in 1974. We must recognise that. There is no point in looking back, because in those days training did not do half the job that it professed to do.

I welcome the clauses in the Bill to ensure that every young person will have the opportunity to train and to make a responsible choice. They will be able to go into the planned programme of training and work provided by the Government, or choose to be unemployed. The social security changes that were given their Second Reading yesterday are welcome. It is estimated that about 6 per cent. of young people refuse YTS and that about 7 per cent. pull out of the scheme because they believe that it is doing them no good. That is about 40,000 people a year, and we must try to reduce that figure. If the young people who dither and wander, or who become sceptical or disenchanted with YTS, are to be persuaded that the scheme has something to offer, we must make sure that the developments that have taken place in the last four or five years continue at the same pace.

The opportunities are there and the importance of the YTS has not diminished even though, perhaps, its original purpose begins to fade. We must ensure that industry takes up the challenge of using YTS as the normal route for training and accepts the responsibility for gradually paying a greater share of the costs. We must ensure that young people will accept the concept of YTS as being in their best interests. We are already moving fast down those roads. If we can do those things we will have taken the first step towards ensuring that the successful, booming industries and businesses in constituencies such as mine are not continually faced with the problem of a shortage of skilled staff. Sadly, such shortages are even now beginning to hamper development. That is not in Britain's interests, and I urge my right hon. Friend to ensure that the skills are available for the future.

7.26 pm
Mr. Cyril Smith (Rochdale)

I am pleased to follow the hon. Member for Cambridgeshire, South-East (Mr. Paice), and to compliment him on his maiden speech. Interestingly, it is 15 years today since I made my maiden speech. During those 15 years I have taken part in may employment debates. The hon. Gentleman clearly brings to the House a wealth of experience that will be useful. He is certainly worth listening to when he speaks about training. I detected from his speech a certain rebelliousness that may manifest itself as the years go on. I warn him to look at what happened to his predecessor in his constituency. He had the courage to rebel and had his head chopped off for doing so.

Perhaps it is not inappropriate to mention in this debate that it has always amused and interested me to note that the Conservative Government have constantly said that they will take a step at a time in industrial relations. It intrigues me to know that the man who advocated the policy, planned it and carried it out was shifted from the job 18 months after he had started it. He has now been promoted to the House of Lords and many of us think that that is quite proper.

Like most employment Bills, this one is good in parts and poor in others. On Second Reading one has to decide how to vote. If this Bill consisted only of part I, I am certain that I and my hon. Friends would vote for it. We would certainly have sought to amend it during its passage. However, when we added to it part II and coupled to it our objection to clause 3 in part I—about which I shall say more shortly—we were persuaded to table the reasoned amendment that has not been selected. That means that we shall vote against the Second Reading of the Bill.

Before I deal with the clauses of the Bill, I must put on record my serious doubts about its timing. We are told that the Government's employment policy has proceeded step by step, but the man who advocated that policy did not last very long in the job. Bearing in mind the amount of employment legislation introduced by the Government since 1979—much of which, incidentally, has been supported on these Benches—it would have been wise to give us a breathing space and a period of consolidation. That is what is now called for in respect of employment and industral leglislation.

Like other employment Bills introduced by this Government and previous Labour Governments, this Bill does not lay the foundations for good, sound, industrial relations to see us through into the next century. I anticipated that the Minister would claim, as he has done, that, under this Government, the number of days lost through strikes has been considerably reduced. I gladly concede that point and welcome it, because the strike weapon is a crude weapon which must always be available, but should be used as a last resort rather than a first resort. The Government would be wrong to assume that the reduction in the number of days lost through strikes is due entirely to their employment policy because it has as much to do to do with their unemployment policy as with their employment policy. The Government have been content to have unemployment as a weapon in their armoury against the abuse of trade union power, which undoubtedly existed in the early 1970s, and to use it as a weapon in their economic policy. It is a pity that this Bill takes no steps to encourage industrial democracy and worker participation or to recognise the importance of good, modern trade unionism as practised, for example, by the EEPTU.

However, we must deal with the Bill as it is, and I shall start with part I. I welcome clauses 10 and 11 which remove the two remaining legal supports for the closed shop. I was surprised that the Minister allowed the Labour Front Bench to give the impression that the Bill made the closed shop illegal. It does not do so, but it removes immunity from people who work in a closed shop. It does not mean that there can no longer he a closed shop.

I have always opposed the closed shop. When the Employment Bill was debated in Committee in 1980. I moved that the closed shop should be made illegal and, on 23 April 1980, I voted for an amendment tabled by the hon. Member for Hendon, North (Mr. Gorst) to make the closed shop illegal. I welcome the Government's ultimate, although belated, conversion. I do not like the closed shop, and I have said so frequently since 1974. I said so in 1980 and I said so again in 1982, as reported in column 784 of the Official Report on 8 February in the debate on the Employment Bill.

The Bill does not make the closed shop illegal, but I welcome the removal of legal support for it. I wish that it dealt more specifically with the pre-entry closed shop, but it does not. Apparently, the only way round the problem is for a person to get a job and then resign from the union, but the union may refuse membership initially, thereby preventing him from getting the job. The Bill ought to have dealt with the pre-entry closed shop, but it does not and it is a poorer Bill for that. The Government cannot claim that they overlooked this point because, in the evidence submitted by my party in response to the Green Paper, we made it clear that the Green Paper did not deal with the pre-entry closed shop and, in our opinion, it should have done.

We welcome clauses 12 and 13. My late lamented colleague Mr. David Penhaligon attempted to deal with the principles now proposed in clause 12 during the passage of the Trade Union Act 1984, as column 81 of the Official Report for 26 March 1984 will show. If David is anywhere about now, he must be smiling and thinking, perhaps correctly, that what the Liberals said in 1984 others think and act on in 1987.

On 23 April 1985 the right hon. Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Dr. Owen) moved a motion during the alliance Supply day calling for postal ballots. There is a moral in that. That shows that the right hon. Gentleman is not always wrong and that he can be correct on occasion. More importantly, it demonstrates yet again that such a sensible proposition could and should have been introduced years ago in previous legislation. Before leaving my consideration of part I of the Bill, I want to refer to clause 3. We will certainly vote against the clause as the Bill proceeds in the House, assuming that the Bill receives its Second Reading this evening, as I am sure it will.

The SDP-Liberal alliance rejected the proposal in clause 3 in its written response to the Green Paper. People have been shouting for the evidence to be made available. They need only go to the Library and get the Library brief, as much of the evidence sent in response to the Government's proposals is contained in it. It is interesting that, in response to the Green Paper, the TUC, CBI, the Freedom Association, the British Institute of Management, the Industrial Society, the Engineering Employers Federation and, yes, even the Conservative trade unionists all opposed the suggestion made in clause 3. Despite all that advice, the Government have persisted in including the clause in the Bill.

Clause 3 states that a vote on whether to strike can be taken. However, if people do not want to strike, they should not worry because, whatever the result of the vote, they can please themselves and ignore it with total immunity. That is shaking the shilling. No one, certainly not I, is in favour of kangaroo courts. I have considerable doubts about union fines, sending people to Coventry and other action that some unions take. However, I would have thought that a union should at least have the right to expel a member or refuse continued membership to someone who, after a ballot has been taken, refuses to accept the ballot's result. I should have thought that that refusal of membership could be carried out bearing in mind clauses 10 and 11 about the closed shop. Therefore, as many Opposition Members have said, we must conclude that the clause displays the Government's hatred of the trade union movement.

I very much hope, for the sake of future industrial relations, that the Government will have the sense to withdraw or seriously amend clause 3 before the Bill has its Third Reading. The Minister must be aware that good industrial relations cannot be achieved by encouraging weak unions. My Liberal colleagues and I and, I understand, SDP Members are against clause 3. SDP Members, like us, believe in the majority decisions of a postal ballot being recognised by all members. I understand that tonight even the Sainsburyites also agree with that conclusion.

In addition to clause 3, we have serious reservations about part II of the Bill. If the Government were seriously to introduce a policy for all 16 to 18-year-olds—and I repeat "all"—we would be delighted. However, as it is, part II appears unfair and even unworkable in some parts of the country. It is very badly thought out. For example, the implementation of part II will differentiate between education and training. If a youngster stays on at school until he is 18, he will get nothing. If he takes Government training, he will be paid. If he refuses training, however inadequate, irrelevant or far from home, he will get nothing. If he attends a training course, quite irrespective of its quality or of his progress on it—that is a very material point when people are made to undertake a course that they do not voluntarily want to undertake—he will still get paid.

Part II is not well thought out. The Liberal party has taken some expert advice on this. Over the weekend I telephoned more than one person. Indeed, there are people who know a lot more about this than I do.

Mr. Foot

The hon. Gentleman should beware of the advice of the right hon. Member for Devonport.

Mr. Smith

I did say "expert advice", so the hon. Gentleman may assume that I did not telephone the right hon. Member for Devonport.

I have been told that, while the quality of available training has improved over the years—and we concede that—there are still some areas in the country where it is not good enough. We cannot forget or overlook the Government's record on training. A Conservative Government, for party political reasons, abolished some excellent industrial training boards. I opposed their abolition, as did my colleagues. Therefore, we are highly suspicious of and doubtful about the Government's basic attitude to training and especially the quality of training.

The present so-called training was motivated by a desire to occupy idle hands. That is not a bad thing. I can say that as the windows of my house were put in at midnight last night. It would not be a bad thing to occupy idle hands. However, when the training was first brought in, its object was to occupy idle hands and reduce the size of dole queues. I am not decrying that as an objective. However, I submit that that is the wrong basis and wrong motivation for a national training scheme to be successful.

There is no guarantee in the Bill about the quality of training. There is no guarantee about the choice of training course that can be followed. Indeed, some of my colleagues advise me that in their areas there is no choice of type of training. Is a young person to be compelled to leave home if no suitable training course is available in his area? Is he compelled to leave home to obtain payment?

The hon. Member for Birmingham, Ladywood (Ms. Short) made a valid point from the Opposition Front Bench. No doubt the Minister will respond to it in his reply. What about a young person who at the moment can resit O-levels and still obtain unemployment benefit? Where will he or she stand once the Bill reaches the statute book? The principle is riddled with holes. The real solution would be training and education, including industrially based training, with cash allowances for all. Until we have such a policy, we must reject a major section of the Bill. We reject it because of its lack of vision and because there is no guarantee of quality, choice or relevance of training.

I repeat that we welcome some parts of the Bill, However, there are other parts that we oppose. As I have said, we regret the Bill's failure to lay a long-term basis for good industrial relations based on a real partnership between employees and employers.

The Government had a wonderful opportunity in 1987 to start on the path of a modern approach to industrial relations. They have failed to take that path and, instead of bringing Britain's trade unions to better and more modern practices by persuasion, and by financial help and encouragement where necessary, they have chosen once again, particularly with clause 3, the path of confrontation. That is why we shall be voting against the Government and the Bill this evening. Their policy lacks vision. It is not properly thought out, and what is needed tonight is not Second Reading but second thoughts.

7.44 pm
Mr. Spencer Batiste (Elmet)

This is an interesting and significant debate tonight in a number of ways. First, it is significant for a truly exceptional maiden speech by my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridgeshire, South-East (Mr. Paice). He showed a wide experience and knowledge of employment and training and spoke with authority about his constituency and its people. He is an eloquent and worthy successor to Francis Pym and I am sure that all hon. Members will look forward to his future contributions to our debates.

Secondly, the debate is significant for the courage of the hon. Member for Rochdale (Mr. Smith) in seeking to predict so early in the Session how the alliance will vote on this or any other Bill during the life of this Parliament. We welcome the support that he gave to parts of the Bill and, as always, his detailed comments strike well with his experience and knowledge. One does well to listen carefully to what the Liberals have to say because in many aspects of industrial relations law they have signposted a faster speed in many of the reforms that we have introduced.

But perhaps the debate is most significant of all for the contribution that took place in the opening moments when the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) intervened in the opening speech of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State. He is not in his seat now. He left the Chamber immediately after his rather noisy interruption. Indeed, he has a reputation for leaving platforms rather suddenly. The sadness of that interruption was his saying that he could see no connection between unemployment and restricive trade union practices. That casts a searchlight on the problems of Liverpool as they have developed over the years. There is the closest and most fundamental relationship between unemployment and restrictive trade union practices, which our legislation has sought to address.

This legislation, and that which has preceded it, arises from the serious abuses within the trade unions that must he addressed. That is not something we invented out of the blue. The step-by-step approach has been in response to specific abuses. Just as most of the main planks have now been laid in place, so now we are looking at the loopholes that have been opened up by some union leaders, or, in the case of some, the bolt-holes to which they have run to avoid facing re-election. It is now well time that those loopholes were closed and, as was presaged by the hon. Member for Rochdale, doubtless other steps will be taken in the future to address further abuses as they become apparent.

The right hon. Member for Blaenau Gwent (Mr. Foot) spoke with some humour of the organisation of Conservative Trade Unionists. If he addresses seriously the lessons of the Labour party's election defeats in 1983 and 1987, he will laugh on the other side of his face. It is the Conservatives who have banked the votes of millions of trade unionists because it is our legislation that addresses their real concerns.

Mr. Allen

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Can the remainder of us in the Chamber continue with the debate on the Employment Bill while the hon. Gentleman gives us his world tour? This is an important Bill and the hon. Gentleman has yet to address it.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Harold Walker)

I have not heard any thing out of order so far.

Mr. Batiste

It is interesting to observe already in this debate, as in every previous debate on trade union reform in the House, that the Labour party will do everything within its power to avoid progress simply because its policy is to return absolute power to union leaderships, to abuse a rank and file bound hand and foot. It is that progress of reform that the Bill is taking forward, however much as they fight against it.

I am sure that every Conservative Member welcomes interventions such as has just been made because, as they are broadcast to the country, rank and file trade union members know that that is the face of today's Labour party, just as it has been in the past.

The CTU has been referred to by two previous speakers. To put the record straight as vice-president of CTU, the Bill, as a package, is widely welcomed by all CTU members. It is equally true to say that there are some mixed feelings about parts of it, and they have been referred to. But let us make no mistake, the bulk of the Bill's proposals arise out of representations by CTU members as a result of their own experience on shop floors and in their unions and as a result of abuses of which they have first-hand experience. They strongly welcome the Government's wholehearted and comprehensive response to the complaints that they have put forward.

Mr. Ian McCartney (Makerfield)

I have listened with interest to the hon. Gentleman about the CTU's submission on the Green Paper. He has said that there was universal support from members, with or without a secret ballot. Is he therefore repudiating the CTU's response in the Library, which makes it clear that it opposes the Government's proposals in clause 3?

Mr. Batiste

If the hon. Gentleman had listened, he would have heard me say that the package as a whole enjoys the CTU's support, but there are mixed feelings about certain aspects of it. [Interruption.] I shall deal with that in my time, not in the time given to me by the Opposition. It is fairly typical in the trade union movement, whenever a speaker is saying something unpopular, to shout them down.

The Bill addresses some specific and important abuses. You will recall, Mr. Deputy Speaker, the problem that has been posed in recent times by the practice of some unions of not making their accounts readily available to the public. In the last year, I fear that I strained your patience—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman must not bring me into these matters.

Mr. Batiste

Let it suffice to say that I am most grateful to the Government whose legislation, in making accounts more readily available, has ensured that I shall never again have to strain your patience in referring to such matters.

The protection of union funds is another important factor. It cannot be right that trade unionists' money is available as an indemnity to their leaders who choose to break the law and expect to be bailed out from the consequences of their actions. That is another reform that is long overdue.

Another overdue reform is to ensure that all members of union executive committees face regular re-election. I wonder whether, in Committee, Labour Members will oppose the amendment that will ensure that Mr. Scargill once again faces election, or has he told them not to? We shall wait to see what the Labour party's attitude is in Committee, but I reckon most Conservative Members know what it will be. Labour Members will knuckle under and do what the militant union bosses tell them. As to secret postal ballots and the independent scrutiny of them, one must accept what the hon. Member for Rochdale said. The Liberal party has consistently argued for the postal ballot and it is right that it exists now. I am delighted that the Conservative party is in unison with the hon. Gentleman's comments.

Mr. Patrick McLoughlin (West Derbyshire)

Does my hon. Friend agree that this measure should have the support of Mr. Arthur Scargill? During the election [n which he became the president of the National Union of Mineworkers, he said he would welcome election. It was only after he had been elected that he changed the rules so that he would not have to face re-election.

Mr. Batiste

I am delighted that the Government are now giving Mr. Scargill the opportunity to fulfil his dearest wish and face his members for re-election. It is a pity that that union, which has a long tradition of democracy, will face a ballot of its members only because of Government legislation. That highlights the fact that this legislation is being introduced in response to abuses.

I was interested in the comment of the hon. Member for Rochdale about the closed shop. He must be aware that in the view of Conservative Members a closed shop is an abuse. It does not fit well into a democratic society.

The hon. Member for Rochdale mentioned the pre-entry closed shop and the lack of protection against it in the Bill. In the eyes of Conservative Members, if we do not take steps now, such a measure will undoubtedly have to form the basis of a further step forward.

I was looking through the Bill for some mention of the political levy. When it was debated previously we were told that we should not press for an opting-in system instead of the opting-out one. We were told that unions were going to improve their procedures and people would be able to opt out more easily, but we hear that, in some unions, people find it increasingly difficult to opt out. Almost despairing, I turned to schedule 3 which is headed, "Minor and Consequential Amendments", and found reference to changes to the Wages Act 1986. I would be most grateful if the Minister, in summing up the debate, could say whether he considers that those minor and consequential amendments will improve the ability of union members effectively to opt out of the political levy, and whether this will provide some solution for the obstructions which, all too often, they face.

Mr. Allen

Is there any shred of evidence of obstruction about the political levy after the recent ballot?

Mr. Batiste

Many people in the CTU keep telling us that they find it difficult or impossible to opt out. That evidence really matters. It is not the bogus academic research that the Opposition continually quote.

I am sure that the Opposition are waiting for my next point, which relates to disciplining those who refuse to take part in strikes. Happily, in the Conservative party nobody is mandated to follow anyone else's point of view and nobody casts block votes for other people. The MORI poll quoted by the Secretary of State shows clearly that large numbers of trade unionists support the Bill, as I do. The ballot has considerable significance because it determines whether immunities from the normal laws of the land in the area of contract will apply.

Society is entitled to ensure that a damaging strike does not occur unless there has been a properly conducted ballot and the majority of the members of that union want a strike. However, it is quite another matter to say that everyone in that union must strike, whatever the conflicting interests. Why should people be forced to give up membership of a union that they value? Unions are not just about strikes. They are about a great deal more than that. Why should those who return early from a strike—having listened to an offer by the management but not having had a further ballot—be thrown out of their union? Fundamental issues of human rights are involved, so the Government are right to press ahead. The MORI poll will show that the majority of the population—and, indeed, the majority of trade unionists—will support the measure when it is explained properly. Most of all, we support the creation of the ombudsman. In so many other aspects of our society, he has given power to the individual to make his voice effectively heard. All too often, the large battalions grind down the individual. Therefore this is, perhaps, the most important single provision in the Bill.

Parties are judged by what they say and do. Our trade union policy, thus far, has brought us the support of large and growing numbers of trade unionists in election after election. That is not surprising because, as we have witnessed tonight, the Labour, party sits on the side of intimidation and oppression. That is the Labour party's alternative, and was clearly put in the speech of the right hon. Member for Blaenau Gwent. He said that one day a Labour Minister would stand at the Government Dispatch Box and sweep away this legislation. If trade unionists want to hear in one sentence what this debate is about, that is it. But they do not want this legislation swept aside because they know that it is a Tory Government with Tory legislation who have given them the rights that they deserve.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. The debate got off to a late start and a large number of right hon. and hon. Members are seeking to take part. Brief speeches will reduce the number of disappointments.

8.2 pm

Mr. Peter Archer (Warley, West)

The uncomprehending complacency of the hon. Member for Elmet (Mr. Batiste), especially his suggestion that the present levels of unemployment have nothing to do with the Government's policies, would have tempted me to take issue had it not been for the appeal that you have just made, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and of which I am very conscious.

The hon. Gentleman reminded us of the exchange between the Secretary of State and my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer). I wonder whether a Government should have the unfettered right to decide the title of a Bill. If a document is headed "Employment Bill", one might be forgiven for thinking that it has something to do with creating employment. This Bill creates employment for no one other than an army of legal advisers. My right hon. Friend the Member for Blaenau Gwent (Mr. Foot) suggested an alternative title. My candidate for the most honest title would be Industrial Relations (Victorian Values) Bill.

I am sorry that I follow the hon. Member for Elmet because I had hoped to begin on a conciliatory note. I wanted to explore whether there was any common ground remaining in this Chamber. I believe that there remain some propositions on industrial relations that have not been questioned, certainly not since 1906 or even 1875. The most fundamental of those is that to treat terms of employment, rates of pay or working conditions as matters for contract negotiation between an employer and an individual employee would be wholly unrealistic because a contract presupposes two parties with roughly equal bargaining rights—something that has not obtained in this country since the industrial revolution.

To suggest to a school leaver in my constituency, to a man or woman in his or her 50s, or to a housewife seeking part-time employment that, in 1987, they are free individually to negotiate the terms of their employment with an employer would be like telling a mouse that it is free to negotiate with the cat. The only way that employees can achieve any bargaining position is by acting collectively. If that is disputed, I hope that the Government will say so honestly because then, at least, we will know where we stand.

But if that is accepted, the ability of employees to bargain even collectively depends, if all else fails, on having some collective sanctions—the right to take some form of individual action. If we destroy that right, they are as much at the mercy of their employers as were the serfs of the 13th century. That is why virtually every country that claims to be free expressly recognises the right to strike. In this country, for historical reasons, we have sought the same result by recognising immunities in trades disputes from the legal consequences which otherwise would have followed. Throughout this century, the debate has centred on the proper extent of those immunities.

I said that I wanted to be conciliatory, and I say that I accept that part of that debate has been about the rights of individuals who do not wish to take part in collective industrial action — although by definition, those individuals have seen fit to join a trade union. Of course their rights must be recognised, but they must be balanced against the rights of all the other individuals who, when it is appropriate, wish to avail themselves collectively of industrial action. That is what this debate is about.

When the Secretary of State introduced the Bill, he said that he was concerned to protect the rights of individuals. That is a commendable objective—I wish that he would do it more often, and I certainly do not wish to discourage him. Indeed, I wish that the Government would do it more often. I wish that they had been concerned with the rights of individuals when they introduced the new regulations on immigration. We were trying to persuade them to be concerned about the rights of individuals when we discussed the Social Security Bill last night. We only wish that they would be less selective in their concern. But we do not complain about their concern for the rights of individuals, provided that the rights of individuals who do not want to take part in industrial action are balanced against the rights of those who think otherwise and who will, by definition, be the majority.

All the arguments over the years about scab labour, the extent of the right to picket and so on have arisen because everyone knows that a strike can be busted if it is not a collective strike and if there are enough people who will not join it. So even when the majority has taken a decision, that decision can be made ineffective. Even majorities have rights, and I did not think that the Opposition would have to remind the Government of that. I remember that, in Standing Committee on the 1982 Employment Act, we tried to point out to the Government that the ballot was not a universal panacea for every problem. They did not agree; they thought that majority rights were the last word on the subject. Of course, we were talking then about majority approval for the closed shop, and I agree with the hon. Member for Rochdale (Mr. Smith) that we are now talking not about abolishing the closed shop — only about making it wholly ineffective. That is a distinction without a difference.

Clauses 10 and 11 would be my candidate for the Booker prize, and I still venture to hope that they will be awarded the Nobel prize for literature. Those clauses provide that even if the Government's balloting procedure has been followed, and the majority is in favour of a closed shop, it still cannot be enforced. During the 1984 Trade Union Act, the Government applied their enthusiasm for the rights of the majority to industrial action and said that that should depend on the wishes of the majority. Again, the Government were not wholly consistent. They said that a strike could not begin without a vote, but one did not need a vote to end it. They rested their case on the rights of the majority and they prescribed in great detail how the ballots should be conducted. Unions which had been running ballots for years without any complaints had to change their procedures.

Now the Government are saying that they did not really mean what they said about the rights of the majority. Even if the majority vote to take industrial action, the minority can make it completely ineffective. That manifest unfairness has been apparent not only to the TUC and the Labour party but to the CBI, which said that that unfairness would undermine the balloting process, and the other organisations and societies that were mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Meacher) and my right hon. Friend the Member for Blaenau Gwent.

When considering whether the Government believe that the law should regulate industrial relations the list of inconsistencies becomes worse. Some employees are fortunate enough to have good relations with their employers. Since the Donovan commission, those who have attempted to consider this matter objectively have recommended improving the arrangements for resolving differences, and then the question of industrial action would rarely arise. I have some professional experience in these matters and I believe that such an improvement could be achieved if the Government wanted it. But some employees have genuine grievances, and the Government are creating situations that will lead to yet more grievances.

In the Local Government Bill, the Government are proposing to compel councils such as Sandwell council in my constituency to invite competitive tenders for public catering arrangements which everyone agrees are running perfectly well. I believe that the council will receive some low tenders, and they will come from companies which achieve their low costs by reducing the earnings of catering staff or by replacing them with people who feel compelled to work for platters. Those employees will have a genuine grievance.

We have always believed that there are two possible responses to such grievances. The first is for the Government to say, "We will ensure that the law is capable of redressing your grievance", and the other is for them to say, "This is not a matter for regulation by the law; it is better if the law stays out of it." That was the philosophy that the Government have adopted on self-regulation for the City; it was their view on wages councils and it was their view when they reduced the staff of the Health and Safety Executive. But the Government are not choosing either course. They are not saying, "The law will redress your grievance" or, "The law will stay out of it." They are saying, "The law will not redress your grievance, but if you take steps to redress it yourself in any other way the law will intervene to ensure that those steps are ineffective."

The Government want the law to intervene in the affairs of trade unions. The rights of the majority are not so vital after all, that union rules which have been approved by a majority should be enforced. Indeed, in the 1984 Act, and still more in this Bill, the Government are in flagrant breach of International Labour Organisation convention No. 87, which is a point that we shall develop in Committee.

Now the Government are anxious to encourage any disaffected member — whatever his reason for being disaffected—to seek redress in the courts, and they are appointing a commissioner to encourage him. There will be no commissioner to help employees enforce their rights against bad employers; there will be no commissioner to help them cut through the morass of social security regulations when they are made redundant.

In his previous incarnations, I had to write to the Secretary of State on more than one occasion to complain that the staff at the DHSS office in my constituency were so desperately over-stretched that people were kept waiting for decisions and for their money, yet no resources are being given to solve that problem. The commissioner will simply be dedicated to disrupting the smooth working of the unions and frustrating the wishes of the majority.

Some of us have spent our political lives urging people to respect the law—even in places where it was not popular to do so. I believe that the vast majority of people want to respect the law. They want only to be assured that the law will respect them. The Government's proposals will ensure that they will see the law as intervening only to frustrate their attempts to redress their grievances.

The Bill has nothing to do with the rights of individuals. Those of us who care about the rights of individuals resent that principle being used as a wrapper to conceal what is in the package. The Bill relates to the Government's obsessive feud with the trade unions; it is not directed at any problems. We have not heard of any problems to which the proposals will relate. It is not a measure that has been asked for by employers. They want to get on with meeting their orders and most of them are not complaining about their work force. The Bill is a piece of pure class spite.

If all the officials who have been busily engaged on the Bill had been engaged in creating employment, the Secretary of State would have earned himself a better place in history.

8.15 pm
Mr. Stephen Day (Cheadle)

I consider it a pleasure and privilege to be able to make my maiden speech this evening. I apologise to the House for missing some of the opening remarks of the Secretary of State. I shall acquaint myself with them by reading Hansard tomorrow.

Many hon. Members knew Tom Normanton, who represented Cheadle for 17 years. I was very pleased—many hon. Members have expressed similar sentiments—when Tom was granted a knighthood. Tom was well liked in the House and in the constituency of Cheadle. He was a well-known figure, and when he walked about the constituency people would recognise him, which demonstrated the sort of following that he built up over those 17 years of dealing with constituents' problems. I am sure that our increased majority at the general election had a lot to do with his work over those 17 years, and I certainly do not underestimate the task that lies before me.

For hon. Members who do not know Cheadle, it is located in the north of England and is a very prosperous part of the country. It is proud of its historic links with Cheshire, although it currently resides in the county of Greater Manchester. I must point out to the House—hon. Members will have to decide for themselves the reason for this — that many of my constituents still regard Cheadle as being in Cheshire. They are keeping a watchful eye on the fact that Manchester's boundaries are close, and I make a plea that they stay exactly where they are. My constituents react with horror at the prospect of Manchester's boundaries moving further south.

Hon. Members may find it surprising that Cheadle had an agricultural past. It has developed tremendously, particularly as a residential area, and there are exciting economic developments ahead" Cheadle gives the lie to the generally held view that the north is an industrial and commercial desert. It does a grave injustice to the problems of the north to draw a line across the country and say that below that line everything is all right, but above it everything is wrong. That often happens, yet if any hon. Member visits Cheadle he will see that it is a prosperous part of the north of England. I know that Cheadle has its fair share of entrepreneurs, because for 20 years I worked in sales and marketing in the export and home markets and I built up many contacts in the Cheadle area.

It is my intention, if I have the chance to do so, to draw attention not only to the problems that the north faces—we must draw attention to them—but to its successes. It is important that people know that success can happen there. Otherwise, how on earth will we attract all the people whom we need to avail themselves of the advantages that await them in the north? People must go to Cheadle and have a look.

Although Cheadle is a prosperous constituency, it recognises that other parts of the north and south do not share that prosperity. I recently appealed for professional personnel managers to come forward and offer to link their services with the YTS scheme to help to train youngsters, particularly the long-term unemployed, who do not have skills that relate directly to their employment. My commercial experience has shown that young people are quite capable of doing a job. They have the necessary skills, but they do not always have the ability to communicate them when they go for job interviews. Twenty people immediately stepped forward to offer their services free of charge to those who were less fortunate than themselves. That says a lot about my constituency. It is one of the reasons why I am proud to represent it.

At the last general election, well over 50 per cent. of Cheadle electors voted Conservativee. On the Cheadle doorsteps it was obvious to me that one of the Government's greatest successes was their industrial relations achievements and improvements. In large measure, they were brought about by a reform of trade union law. Trade unions belong to their members. They do not belong to anybody else — not to trade union leaders, or even to executive committees. They belong to individual trade union members.

Cheadle will welcome the latest Employment Bill as another step forward in the process of improving trade union democracy. I particularly welcome clause 6, which creates a duty on trade unions to have their acccounting records available for inspection, particularly by their members. It is right that trade union members should be able to avail themselves of that right.

Of further interest to me is clause 12, which extends to non-voting members of a union's principal executive committee, general secretary and president the requirement for regular elections. That must be the case. It is difficult to perceive how any hon. Member could object to that clause.

Like its predecessors, the Bill provides an extended democracy within the trade union movement. It is a natural progression in a legislative sphere that has shown great success, which has been recognised throughout the trade union movement, and particularly by the membership. Ten years ago we were told that it was not possible to bring such democracy to trade unions. We were told that the trade union leadership would not wear it, but we have seen great changes, and all of them have been to the benefit of trade union members. How different now are industrial relations and the freedoms that are available to trade union members.

Although I shall support the Bill, wiser and more experienced hon. Members have said that amendments and alterations can be considered in Committee. Therefore, I hope that we shall look carefully at all the clauses to ensure that we get things absolutely right and succeed again where we succeeded before.

If I must say anything to the Secretary of State and, indeed, to the Government, it is that the intent of the Bill is to strengthen the rights of individual union members. The most effective way of ensuring that is to outlaw the closed shop in all its forms.

I thank the House for listening to me so politely.

8.24 pm
Mr. David Clelland (Tyne Bridge)

I congratulate the hon. Member for Cheadle (Mr. Day) on his maiden speech. I note that one of his interests is industry. Coming from the north-east, I agree that success can happen in the north. Our complaint is that, all too often, the Government's activities have denied our ability to exploit our potential. However, the hon. Gentleman displayed a confidence and competence—if, unfortunately, a rather jaundiced view of the subject—that will stand him in good stead and enhance the quality of debate in the House. I am sure that he will represent his constituency and party in the way in which we would expect. I understand his feelings. It is barely two years since I made my maiden speech. Like the spokesman for the Liberal party, the hon. Member for Rochdale (Mr. Smith), I expect to be here in 15 years, listening to other maiden speeches. However, in that time, I do not expect that I shall grow in stature in quite the same way as the hon. Member for Rochdale has done.

In his initial remarks the Secretary of State referred to the number of working days lost through strikes and the importance to industry of getting the number of strike days down. Yet the number of days lost because of injury and illness, as the right hon. Gentleman will be aware, is about five times the number of days lost through strikes. Indeed, every year, the number of days lost through unemployment totals a massive 700 million. If the right hon. Gentleman had paid as much attention to the problem of illness and accidents when he was Secretary of State for Social Services and to unemployment now that he is Secretary of State for Employment rather than the somewhat minor problem of strikes, he would have served the country rather better.

The first sentence of the Bill refers to new rights for trade union members. That sentence is so cynical that it is laughable. The Government, representing the interests of big business and profiteers, have about as much interest in working people as Adolf Hitler had in the rights of Jewish people. In every piece of employment legislation the Government have weakened working people's rights by preventing their organisations from being able efficiently to represent their interests. That is what the further measure is all about, and Conservative Members are quite aware of it.

If the measures in the Bill were applied to other organisations, societies or clubs, it would be impossible for such entities to function in the way in which they were intended to do by those who formed and control them. Indeed, it is interesting to note the Tory party's double standards in insisting that ballots and democratic accountability are essential to the running of trade unions, while its chairman is appointed out of the blue—I hope that hon. Members will pardon the pun—without any say whatsoever by members of the party or even its elected Members of Parliament.

Conservatives might hasten to say that how they choose to run their organisation is a matter for them. If that is true for the Tory party, it is equally true for other organisations, including the trade union movement. It is for trade union members to decide, as the hon. Member for Cheadle said. Trade union members have more opportunity than Tory party members have to influence and change the administration of their organisation.

The Bill is based on the Government's Green Paper, entitled "Trade Unions and Their Members", which opens with a statement about the Government's achievements in limiting trade union activities. However, the Green Paper does not detail—it is conspicuous in not doing so—what the Government will have achieved by limiting and reducing the rights that working people have enjoyed. The result will be a serious worsening of the right to pursue unfair dismissal claims, taking young people out of the limited protection of wages councils and forcing them to undercut adults for low-paid jobs, and a worsening of the maternity rights of pregnant women by denying them the right to return to work in their old jobs and by generally making the return to work provisions more complex.

The Government propose to pursue further achievements. One of the achievements of the Employment Act 1982 was to give employers the right to sack striking employees and selectively to rehire. The same Tory party that introduced that legislation proposes in the Bill that workers need protection against that possibility and should therefore be able, first, to insist that a legal ballot be held before industrial action is taken, and, secondly, to ignore the result of the ballot if it is in favour of action, but again have legal protection against discipline by the union for defying the result. That is turning democracy on its head. It is nonsense, hypocrisy and a recipe for bitterness and recrimination.

Conservative Members had a majority at the time of the 1982 Act. Does that mean that those who did not vote Conservative at the last election need not obey laws passed by the Government? That is exactly the same principle as the Government propose in the Bill. No Government or law can ever make people respect one another, co-operate with one another, or work with one another if they do not support one another in hard times as well as in good times. That is a fact of life, and nothing in the Bill can change that. I have no doubt that the Government will be forced to back down from those anti-democratic proposals when the Bill reaches the Committee stage.

The Bill aims to weaken the unions and to strengthen the ability of individuals to wreck the unions. There are individuals who would relish the opportunity to do that in furtherance of their own selfish ends and political prejudices; people such as Mrs. Irene McGibbon, who came to prominence during the miners' strike when she organised the "miners back to work" movement. Both she and her husband were paid-up members of the Tory party. She was a Tory local government candidate in 1983 and received a standing ovation at the 1984 Tory party conference. [HON. MEMBERS: "So what?"] I am explaining the motives of some of those individuals who are supposed to benefit. Arthur Dungate received £10,000 in a case against Hounslow council over a closed shop agreement. He was an active member of the Right-wing Freedom Association. There was also Joanna Harris, who took Sandwell to court over its closed shop and was rewarded with a candlelit dinner with the Prime Minister. We are told that those and others are the poor innocents whose interests the Bill will protect.

The Bill is intended to deny rights and freedoms to millions by curtailing the effectiveness of the organisations that were formed to protect their interests, rights and freedoms that are recognised in most civilised countries but which the Secretary of State said today were extraordinary. In Spain the right to take industrial action is protected in its constitution. In France, unlike in Britain, workers cannot be dismissed while they are on strike. In Italy, similarly, there can be no dismissal during a dispute. In Greece and Portugal it is illegal for an employer to substitute employees during a strike, unlike in Tory Britain, where workers such as those at HFW Plastics in my constituency were sacked and replaced for standing up for their rights and dignity.

HFW Plastics knew very well how to use the Tory legislation. Its work force had agreed to a wages standstill for two years to help it out. It promised improvements when the work position improved. When it failed to live up to that promise, the workers—mostly young men and women on low pay—decided that they no longer felt obliged to work extra hours. They stopped working overtime—after a ballot, I might add—in the hope that that would encourage the employer to negotiate. They were then threatened individually by letter and told to promise in writing to, as the employer put it, "work normally". Most were intimidated and did sign, but a few stood up for their right to work only contracted hours. They were sacked for their trouble and that was more than the majority could take, so they went out on strike in support of their sacked colleagues.

The employer used the powers under the 1982 Act and replaced them all with young people desperate for work in that area of high unemployment and little job prospects, at a rate of pay considerably below the already low rate of pay of the sacked workers. The new work force was bussed into the factory every morning under heavy police protection. After many months of bitter confrontation, the workers lost their fight. That is the freedom that the Government seek to strengthen further in the Bill—the freedom of employers such as HFW Plastics to exploit people and play off one section of a desperate community against another. For people who have to go out to work that is not freedom. That is an erosion of freedom, and the Bill seeks to continue that erosion.

The Green Paper states: The right of the individual to choose to go to work, despite a call to take industrial action, is an essential freedom. What about the rights of the 3 million or more who are out of work? Is it not an essential freedom that they be allowed to work, or is that freedom essential only when they are taking the job of someone who is perhaps fighting to improve the conditions of his job, not only for himself, but for others?

Who supports the essential freedom that the Green Paper talks about? It appears that no one other than the Government approves of the inclusion of that essential freedom in the legislation. Against the proposed right to go to work despite a ballot to strike is the Institute of Personnel Management, the TUC, as one might expect, the CBI, the British Institute of Management, the Industrial Society, the Engineering Employers Federation and even the Conservative Trade Unionists and the Freedom Association. It is a measure of the extremism of the Government that they are taking this action and including this measure despite the opposition of so many powerful organisations. It is important that all those organisations recognise the danger to industrial relations that these measures pose. They are a recipe for industrial chaos. Many of those powerful organisations are experts in industrial relations and they know that, but this arrogant, power-mad Government are going blindly on despite their advice.

There are all the other measures that have been referred to by my right hon. and hon. Friends. One proposal is to give the Secretary of State the power to appoint a Commissioner for the Rights of Trade Union Members, who would be able to assist a trade union member contemplating or taking legal action against a union, and even pay the legal costs involved. Only recently a constituent attended my advice service to ask about legal aid. Her teenage handicapped son had been found dead in bed at a handicapped home at which he was staying. Despite assurances about his death by the authorities responsible for the home, she wanted an inquiry into the circumstances of her son's death. That death certainly left questions unanswered. She was told that she did not qualify for legal aid to pursue the case even though she did not have the money to finance her own inquiry. The reason for the refusal was that the amount of compensation involved did not warrant legal aid. In our popular capitalist society, apparently her son was worth only £60. That is only one example of thousands where people have been unable to get justice or peace of mind because they do not have the money.

Such is the determination of the Tory party to do all that it can to eliminate its political opponents that it ignores the pleas for help from such people, yet it spends taxpayers' money on enabling the further undermining of trade unions by politically motivated individuals such as those that I described earlier.

Apart from those direct attacks on the unions, there are also proposals to impose almost impossible and extremely costly administrative burdens. Under the Bill, that some member who will be able to defy the express wishes of hundreds or thousands of his or her colleagues will also be empowered to inspect the accounting records, audited or otherwise, of the union. Unions will have a duty to keep such records available for inspection by any member, who may be accompanied by an accountant.

Which large organisation could possibly function under such a legal duty? Even the CBI, in its response to the Green Paper, recognised the administrative nightmare that that could be. The Government apparently disagree. If that is such a good idea, why not impose the same duty on other organisations? After all, there is no obligation on the part of companies to give shareholders the same sort of detailed information as it is proposed unions should give.

Provision is also made to facilitate the selfish by obliging employers who deduct union dues from pay to stop making those deductions if a member indicates his or her intention to resign from the union. There is no duty on the member or the employer to inform the union of that resignation. The union will have the administrative burden of tracing individual resignations from among thousands of members in order to inform officials, correct records and so on. In spite of that, the unions will be obliged by other parts of the Bill to keep records constantly up to date in order to facilitate compulsory postal ballots.

The Government intend to threaten individual officers of the union—full-time, paid employees—by denying them the support of their employer if they are caught up in legal proceedings as a result of doing their job. I did not notice the Secretary of State for the Environment volunteering to pay his own legal costs on the numerous occasions on which he ended up in court because of his lawlessness. However, it is to be different for trade union employees.

Most people, even those who would argue for the right of an individual not to belong to a trade union even though all his or her workmates are members, would probably agree that those who do not wish to be part of the organisation cannot, in fairness, insist on benefiting from the activities of the organisation, particularly if they positively oppose its activities. Yet clause 10 proposes that non-union members should not be treated less favourably than members. Those who are paying their dues and supporting the union will pass on any benefits in terms of improved conditions or remuneration to those would-be leeches, who already have a larger take-home pay because they do not pay union dues.

The Government propose to outlaw the closed shop. What for? How big is the so-called problem of people being allegedly intimidated into union membership? The Green Paper states that since August 1980—seven years—there have been only sixty complaints of dismissal for non-union membership. Thirty of those cases were settled by conciliation. The Government hope to encourage resignations from unions because, in the words of the Green Paper, on which the Bill is based: Further restrictions on the closed shop would provide greater flexibility in the labour market and increased freedom of choice for employers when recruiting. Working people who might be tempted to save their union dues because they think that they are all right or those who might not be in unions and wonder why it should be necessary, should ponder those words carefully. Therein lies the whole philosophy of the Tory party in relation to working people. They are items to be traded on the market; to be played off one against another; to be used and discarded at the will of the employers and in the interests of profit. That is what the Bill is all about and the Government may inadvertently have done working people a big favour by alerting them to the real nature of Tory freedoms.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. There is not much time left. I repeat my plea for brevity, please.

8.44 pm
Mr. David Evennett (Erith and Crayford)

I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Cheadle (Mr. Day) on his excellent and interesting maiden speech. Making one's first speech in the Chamber is always an unnerving experience, but I think that we would all agree that he acquitted himself with distinction. We look forward to further contributions and frequent participation in debates in the future. It is interesting to compare my hon. Friend's maiden speech, which was so constructive, with the destructive speech of the Opposition Front Bench spokesman, the hon. Member for Oldham. West (Mr. Meacher). He not only refused to say what the Labour party would do on trade union matters if it was in office, but spent the whole time in destructive discussion rather than in being constructive, which is what we would have hoped.

I regret the speech of the right hon. Member for Blaenau Gwent (Mr. Foot). It was an interesting and entertaining speech and it was certainly to the fore, but he was the poodle of the trade union barons and the trade unions when he was the Secretary of State for Employment. We must never forget that.

I am grateful for the opportunity to participate in the debate on the Bill. It is a relatively short measure but it is of considerable significance. I support it and the general philosophy behind the Government's approach to a step-by-step reform of trade union legislation, which has been so successful to date. I want to confine my comments to a brief discussion of four of the provisions in the Bill: postal ballots, the commissioner, the closed shop and the Training Commission.

During the last Parliament I served on the Standing Committee which considered the Bill that eventually became the Trade Union Act 1984. We had many lengthy debates in Committee and in the House on the method of the postal ballot. One view expressed forcefully was that the workplace ballot was the most effective means of obtaining the view of union members and that a postal ballot would be ineffective because members would receive their ballot papers at home, place them behind the clock on the mantelpiece and never get round to completing and returning them. That is a quaint view of modern trade unionism and one that needed reform. We are looking at the reform proposal today in order to change the method of balloting to a postal ballot. That will be much more effective than ballots conducted in the workplace.

There was another view debated at great length and that is the one we have heard from the Opposition this evening. It is the old Labour party idea that the old system is the correct one where the views of union leaders and shop stewards are paramount and the membership is ignored and is expected to toe the line. Apart from the—

Mr. Allen


Mr. Evennett

I am sorry, but I cannot give way. Opposition Members have spent so long in diatribes against the Bill that those of us who have sat here for many hours have only a short time in which to make our points.

I welcome the fact that postal ballots are now to be instituted. I am pleased to see that the Bill requires ballots on political funds and for the election of senior union officers and executive members to be conducted by post. Secret postal ballots must be the order of the day. A fully postal method of elections and independent scrutiny will enhance the democracy within the trade union movement. It is no good for the Opposition to state that they believe in democracy within the trade unions but thwart every proposal to increase democracy within the trade union movement and give the results of the ballots greater legitimacy.

We all share the view that every union exists to serve its members and the members of every union should have the right to exercise control over that union. Unfortunately, that is not always the case. Individuals often find themselves in direct conflict with their union in which the individual is isolated and poorly equipped to fight against the financial, legal and administrative resources of the union. Several constituents have raised that problem with me. I hasten to state that they do not always share my political persuasion. They have a genuine concern and grievance with their union. They look to the Government to change the law so that they can obtain redress for their problems. Although individual union members have been provided with legal remedies against the worst excesses of union misbehaviour, often the aggrieved individuals cannot pursue those remedies because they are unable to challenge the union on equal terms.

Unions are powerful bodies. To an individual member seeking to take them on, they appear to have limitless resources. Individual union members need help and protection from an appropriate quarter if they are to fight effectively for their rights. Therefore, I am pleased that the Bill provides for the appointment of a Commissioner for the Rights of Trade Union Members. Previous employment legislation has attempted to redress the balance so that unions are the servants of their members rather than their masters. Unions are now required to conduct proper elections and to ballot their members before taking industrial action or operating a political fund with their money.

The changes have blown the wind of democracy through union practices and made unions more accountable and responsive to their members. The reforms have been welcomed by the vast majority of trade union members and have attracted widespread support. If a union fails to obey the requirements of the law in dealing with its members, those members must be able to challenge it. Because of the nature of the union's behaviour, that challenge will necessarily be a legal one. There can be few people who relish the thought of litigation and to the individual the idea of taking a powerful body to the law must be unnerving. That individual needs advice, support and perhaps representation and I hope that the commissioner will be able to offer that help to union members.

Mr. Allen

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Evennett

No. I am sorry, but I have not time.

It is always difficult to debate the closed shop. I have a great deal of sympathy with the hon. Member for Rochdale (Mr. Smith) when he says that the closed shop provision in the Bill perhaps does not go far enough. I hope that we shall be able to debate other measures in Committee to take the matter further.

All Conservative Members, I believe, oppose in principle the idea of a closed shop because it represents a denial of the individual's freedom of choice. It is wrong that anybody should be compelled to join a union against his wishes, and yet, until the passage of recent legislation, that was exactly what was happening. Only union members were employed and the person who failed to join a union would be dismissed.

Thankfully, the worst excesses of the closed shop have been removed by provisions of the Employment Acts of 1980 and 1982. Cases of workers being dismissed for nonmembership of a union are becoming more rare. However, regrettably, the unacceptable practices of the closed shop have not been completely eradicated.

Mr. Allen

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Evennett

I am sorry, but I cannot. I have no time.

Some trade union members still face difficulties at work. They face harassment, discrimination and abuse simply because they wish to exercise their free will and not become union members. I cite the case of one of my constituents who has never been, or wished to be, a union member. In the recent past his firm was taken over by another firm which operates a closed shop. Since then, he has been harassed constantly at work because of his views. His employer is unwilling or unable to prevent such abuse. As a consequence, his health has deteriorated, largely because of stress and worry. The only thing saving him from being forced out of his job is that he will shortly reach retirement age. A hard-working man with strong principles has suffered considerably and unfairly and that cannot be right in this day and age.

I have been unable to consider all of the points that I wished to raise because of the time factor, but I must conclude by saying that we have heard a lot of artificial opposition from Opposition Members. Conservative Members are determined to reform where that is necessary in the best interests of individual union members and of the future of the country. The proposals are not draconian or oppressive, as Opposition Members wail. They merely continue the programme of step-by-step reform that has been so popular among trade union members and so successful in dealing with the abuse of the power that the unions have exercised.

The broad outline of the Bill should be welcomed and supported. I hope that we shall have much more debate in Committee so that at the end of the day we shall get another Employment Bill on the statute book in the interests of trade union members.

8.45 pm
Mr. Ron Leighton (Newham, North-East)

With this nasty and unnecessary Bill the Government are behaving like a dog returning to its vomit. No one can claim that the country's problems—the lack of investment and training or the crash on the stock exchange—are the fault of the unions or that the unions are too powerful in relation to the employers. At a time when rampant fraud and crime in the City are to be dealt with by self-regulation, the Government, motivated by malevolence, spite and ideological dogma, are introducing yet another anti-trade union Bill—the fourth in eight years—to entangle and ensnare the trade unions in even more restrictive and oppressive legislation.

The Government should spare us the cant about protecting the rights of individual workers and employees, given their shameful record of reducing employment rights. They have abolished the fair wages resolution in schedule 11 to the Employment Protection Act 1975. They have restricted the role of the wages councils in guaranteeing minimum terms and conditions for workers in low-paid and poorly organised industries. They have raised the qualifying period for unfair dismissal complaints. They have made things more difficult for workers at industrial tribunals. They have reduced maternity rights for women and advance notification of redundancies. As a result of the Government's reduction of the scope and effectiveness of statutory employment rights, British workers have fewer rights than those of any other west European country. At a time of mass unemployment that worsens the imbalance of power between the worker and his or her employer.

It is against that background that we must consider the one-sided and hostile nature of the Government's attitude to the trade unions as displayed in the Bill. It is pathetic that the Secretary of State should play with words such as democracy. If the Government believed in democracy, they should have started with a postal ballot of members for the post of chairman of the Conservative party. But we know that that was decided by an electoral college of one. Everything to do with the Conservative party is decided by that autocratic one. Hence the servility, sycophancy and toadying on the Government Front Bench. The Government should be the last to talk about democracy.

Trade unions live by ballots. They hold them every day on a myriad of issues. For all their faults, they are probably the most democratic organisations in Britain. They are manifestly more democratic than most companies. They are more democratic than universities, the Jockey club or the Conservative party. Few Conservative Members have any experience of union life. When they discuss union matters they enter a fantasy land, a mythical world of their own, which is a parody of reality. Trade unions were invented in this country. They are native to it. They are not the alien enemy within, and any sensible Government would treat them as partners.

Who wants the Bill? Do the employers or their organisations want it? Have they been demanding it? We all know that the answer to that is no. We all know that the CBI and the managers' organisations like the IPM and BIM—every reputable body in the field—have warned the Government that they are going over the top and that the measures will be counter-productive. They have pointed out that there is little point in ordering the unions to conduct ballots if they are then to be undermined by the legislation. The employers do not want the legislation, the unions do now want it, the practitioners concerned with industrial relations in the field do not want it. Why, then should the Government force it upon them regardless of their express wishes? It can only be out of ideological dogma and malice, because they think there is some political mileage in it, whatever damage it might cause to industrial relations.

Let us consider how the Government propose to undermine ballots. Clauses 10 and 11 deal with the closed shop. In some cases, closed shops have been traditional, as the lawyers in the Conservative party well know. Previously, the Government said that they could exist only if workers voted for them by unprecedented majorities of 80 per cent. or 85 per cent. of those participating—this from a Government who won the support of only 42.3 per cent. of those who voted at the general election.

In practice, where such ballots were held, they were uniformly successful. Do the Government propose to abide by the ballots and to respect the wishes expressed at the ballot box? Precisely the opposite. They propose to abolish the ballots. They say that there can be no closed shops whether the workers vote for them or not. That is hypocrisy. The only ballots which the Government favour are those which they think they will win. When reality intervenes and they lose, they abolish the ballots and rule by diktat instead. What perverted so-called democrats they are.

Clause 3 denies to unions the right to discipline their members if they work when the majority of members have voted to strike in a proper secret ballot. What is the point of having a ballot if it has no effect? Let us consider what is proposed. If the ballot goes against industrial action, it is binding and has to be abided by on pain of the union being savagely penalised if it takes action. But if the ballot goes in favour of industrial action, it is not binding, it has no validity and everyone can do what they like. No doubt the minority will be aided by a small army of police in riot gear. How disingenuous can one get? Why have ballots at all? This is precisely the worry of the CBI and the other employers' organisations, which have said that this undermines the principle of balloting. Why are the Government so pigheaded that they cannot listen to those at the sharp end of industry? The Bill is bound to be seen as a scabs' charter and as hopelessly one-sided.

Like other organisations, trade unions have rules. The rules are the contract between the members and the union. The rules should be honoured and should govern matters such as discipline. Do the Government say that unions should have no discipline or cohesion? No; that should happen only in this partial instance, because previous legislation has decreed that if union members picket other than at their place of work, or in too great numbers, the unions must take action to discipline their members or face legal action which could lead to swingeing fines or the sequestration of their funds. There was a recent example of this at Wapping. Sometimes the Government chatter about giving the unions back to their members, but moving in the sequestrators takes away the unions from their members. That can be done if a union does not discipline its members.

Clause 3 is an aid to strike-breaking. It gives rights to minorities and takes them away from majorities. There must be a balance of collective as well as individual rights. The tradition of democracy is that majority votes prevail. We accept that in every company boardroom, in every organisation in the land and in the House. That is the basis of democracy. There would be chaos if votes were meaningless and minorities went their separate ways, but that is the length to which the Government will go to help scabs to break strikes. Contrary to the impression that the Government are trying to create, we should appreciate the fact that disciplinary rules are used sparingly. In addition, those involved are already protected by the rules of natural justice which, if breached, are grounds for action against the union in the High Court.

The Government want to have their cake and eat it: requiring a secret ballot and then encouraging people not to abide by it when the majority is for industrial action. If the Government believed in equity in industrial relations, they would legislate for the right to strike, which does not exist now. That would mean that during a lawful strike the contract of employment would be suspended and could not be torn up by the employer, as happened at Wapping. Instead, the Government are interested only in stacking the cards against the unions and making it difficult to operate coherent trade unions.

There are other thorns to be driven into trade union flesh. Clause 6 would enable members to inspect the unions' accounts with a professional adviser. Unions should and do publish their accounts, but here again they are being singled out to meet standards which no comparable organisations must meet. Shareholders of companies do not have such rights, nor will the Government allow employees the right to company information. The Government have a dismal record on the freedom of information.

Clauses 18 and 19 contain the extraordinary proposal for a new commissioner for trade unions to assist and fund legal action by members against their trade unions. At present, there are few such complaints, so Government policy is to encourage, incite and provoke such complaints and to aid them with a publicity campaign and money. We already have a Certification Officer, who is quite adequate, so this commissioner will be a trade union harassment officer. As my right hon. and hon. Friends said, at a time when health and safety inspectors and wages inspectors, who are there to deal with employers who break the statutory provision, are being cut and at a time when law centres are being cut, money is being made available to single out and attack trade unions. What more graphic evidence could we have of the Government's animus against trade unions?

Other damaging causes include clauses 23, 24 and 25, which deal with the emasculation of the MSC. I advise hon. Members who are interested to read the report of the debate on 13 March 1973 when Maurice Macmillan set up the MSC. He said that it should be an organisation of the parties concerned—the employers, the unions, the local authorities and the education authorities, but not the Government. He said that that organisation should be independent of the Government, and that Government should have a "hands off" attitude. That is now to be destroyed. Its functions are to be taken back and centralised in the Department of Employment. The name of the organisation is to be changed. Six more employers' representatives are to serve in the organisation, and instead of being independent it will now become the tool and the handmaiden of the Government. It is to be neutered and undermined. That will largely be the end of the MSC as we have known it. Another backward and reprehensible step is making YTS financially compulsory.

The Secretary of State knows that the MSC is strongly opposed to making the YTS financially compulsory. He knows that the MSC gave evidence to the Select Committee opposing the withdrawal of benefit and the attempts to make it compulsory. The voluntary nature of YTS was designed in at its inception. People were to be attracted to it by the quality of the training and not by financial compulsion. The Secretary of State also knows that he has recently received a letter from the chairman of the MSC, Sir Bryan Nicholson, opposing what the Secretary of State is doing. However, what has happened to Sir Bryan Nicholson? He has been kicked out. The MSC does not have a chairman. Instead there is a stopgap, who is not a proper chairman. When a chairman is appointed, we shall have to have a look at him because he will be yet another person to have been appointed by an electoral college of one. He will be another stooge; a tool and a handmaiden of the Government, who seek to destroy the MSC as it was set up by Maurice Macmillan in 1973.

The Bill is vile and odious. The Government cannot tolerate any independent thought or any independent centre of power. We saw that when they abolished the Greater London council. If we believe in a democratic pluralist society, we should support free and independent trade unions, not only in Poland, but in Britain. If we believe that, we should throw out this Bill with contempt.

9.7 pm

Mr. Jonathan Sayeed (Bristol, East)

I fear that you and I, Mr. Speaker, are suffering from the same complaint. I wish you well.

The Government's reform of trade unions has been an outstanding and popular success. The evidence for that assertion is clear. We now have the lowest level of strikes for 50 years. Many moderate trade union leaders recognise the need for reform. Trade union members have rejected those of their leaders whose ambition and arrogance have tempted them to assume powers to which they were not entitled and to ride roughshod over the wishes of those who elected them. All those facts—fewer strikes, greater responsibility, and power that is exercised by the previously powerless membership—are clear evidence of the welcome that is afforded to the Government's step-by-step approach as embodied in the Employment Act 1980, the Employment Act 1982, and the Trade Union Act 1984.

The Government have been so successful in combating the industrial anarchy of the past and revivifying the nation's economy because their reforms have been demonstrably fair and clearly non-partisan. The concept of fair play has always been one of this country's greatest strengths. The widespread welcome that has been given to the Government's trade union legislation by all shades of unbigoted political opinion would never have happened had not the proposals been so obviously equitable.

Past legislation has not been partisan because it has not meant a transfer of power back to the Government from the unions, but a shift of power within the unions away from the leadership back to the mass membership. In the main, the measures before us today continue this process of essential reform, but contained in the Bill is one proposal that runs contrary to the purpose and spirit of previous widely welcomed trade union reforms. It is contrary to both the purpose and spirit of those reforms as it fails the twin tests of enhancing the rights of the majority of trade union members and fails to be demonstrably fair. I refer to the proposal to permit a union member, without penalty, to ignore a democratically reached decision to strike, yet still retain all the benefits of union membership.

It has been suggested that that proposal is an extension of democracy, that it enhances a basic freedom and that it will lead to greater peace and harmony within the workplace. It will do none of those things.

I trust that we all agree on three basic premises: first, that membership of any organisation imposes duties as well as conferring benefits; secondly, that within any complex society there is no such principle as an absolute right; and thirdly, that in a free and democratic system it is for the good of all that decisions reached democratically are abided by universally. This proposal would permit a person to retain the privilege of union membership while evading the possible penalties. If we believe that a person should be unable to retain his employment after renouncing union membership, for any reason, including their wish not to strike, we should say so and take remedial action.

Mr. Eddie Loyden (Liverpool, Garston)


Mr. Sayeed

I am sorry, but I shall not give way. I intend to speak for a short time so that other hon. Members may take part in the debate; otherwise I would give way.

If we believe that unions are still inadequately democratic, let us say so and act. However, let us not undermine democratic decision making. After all, we do not permit members of CND to withhold that proportion of their taxes that we spend on defence. We do not permit the people of this country to decide which laws they will or will not obey. Rather, we say that the privilege of membership of a fair and democratic society imposes obligations that must be met by all. Having determined that fact generally, we are wrong to undermine it specifically.

I believe that this measure will prolong rather than limit strike action. There is no doubt in my mind that some employers will be tempted to gamble that a gradual drift back to work will absolve them of the need to face the root cause of strike action.

I believe that this proposal will sour relations within the workplace. When those who take strike action return to work, we can imagine their feelings about those colleagues who will share in any benefits from that strike, but who have suffered none of the financial difficulties of that strike.

Democratically run trade unions, run for the benefit of their members, have a right and proper place in our society. They fulfil a necessary and valuable function. Hitherto the Government have been careful to enhance and entrench democracy in trade unions. Hitherto we have enacted legislation that is demonstrably fair. If we are to continue along that path, we should amend clause 3.

9.13 pm
Mr. Ronnie Campbell (Blyth Valley)

I see that tonight I have something in common with the "Unemployment Minister"—I have a poppy on my coat. In fact, other hon. Members also are wearing poppies tonight.

While I have been listening to the debate I have looked at my poppy and I began to think back to what it really meant. It meant that a lot of people died and a lot of people went to war. Quite a few of those people who went to war were from the trade union movement of the 1930s—the era when the trade union movement began to strengthen. I ask the Secretary of State to remember that it was those same people who built up one of the best trade union movements in the world.

Some of them gave their lives fighting a fascist state that took trade union rights away from its people in Germany. The Secretary of State and the Tory Government should not go down the same path as Hitler. Taking freedoms away from people, especially working people, is a dangerous course.

Someone listening to Tory Members might think that trade unions are unpopular, but the results of a Gallup poll published last week showed that 71 per cent. of those interviewed thought that trade unions were a good thing. They were even more popular than the royal family. I hope that the Secretary of State takes that on board when he replies.

Clause 3 is nothing more than a scabs' charter. I worked down the pit for 27 years and I have been a union official for 20 years. I have always honoured agreements with managers but the managers have not always honoured agreements with us. We always had proper strike ballots in the miners' union. Two or three people, perhaps members of the Tory party, might have disagreed with the result and might have wanted to take the union to court, as happened during the miners' strike. We saw what happened to the National Union of Mineworkers. We saw how it was dragged through the courts under law after law and how the courts did it in every time they got a chance.

I hope that when the Bill is in Committee Tory Members will oppose some points in the clauses. It is a disgrace that such a Bill has been introduced. We have one of the finest trade unions in the land. Some hon. Members have referred to Arthur Scargill. They can call him what they like but he is the finest union leader we have had for decades. That same union leader was defending the working class and jobs. Thousands of miners have lost their jobs since the miners' strike.

There have been references to postal ballots. Tory Members have not had a ballot. When did they have a ballot for their leader? When did they have a ballot for the party chairman? When have doctors, lawyers and barristers had a ballot? Some hon. Members said that they were elected on a secret ballot; they may have been, but not on a secret postal ballot. If we can have secret postal ballots for unions, surely we can have them for local government elections and general elections as well.

Finally, let me mention the compulsory nature of the so-called YTS, in which young people are to be thrown into jobs because it is their only alternative to not being paid. It is a disgrace that the Government call that good training—dragging a youth by the scruff of his neck on to a scheme which he has no wish to join. It is deplorable and undemocratic. The Government are going down the wrong path, the path of undemocratic thinking; and I warn them that the trade union movement will not stand for it.

9.20 pm
Mr. Gavin Strang (Edinburgh, East)

Although the debate has not been as long as we should have liked, because of the earlier statements, it has been constructive and valuable, and at least a dozen hon. Members have had a chance to contribute.

I pay especial tribute to the two maiden speeches that have graced the debate. I had the pleasure of listening to the hon. Member for Cambridgeshire, South-East (Mr. Paice), who succeeded a distinguished Conservative Member. He was able to draw on his experience of training in the work that he did before his election, and I am sure that he will make many valuable contributions in the future. I was sorry that I was not present to hear the speech by the hon. Member for Cheadle (Mr. Day), but I understand that his was also a valuable contribution,. arid I hope that that he too will continue to make such contributions.

Although the Secretary of State has referred to clause 29 of the Bill, I do not believe that any other hon. Members have done so. The right hon. Gentleman described the clause as giving civil servants the same relationship with their unions as other workers have with theirs. We shall discuss that in Committee, but it is fair to say now that the clause deems civil servants who may not have a contract of employment as having such a contract for the purposeses of certain clauses in the Bill, and of anti-trade union legislation generally. We shall want to pursue in Committee whether that means civil servants having the worst of all worlds.

Part II of the Bill, which I believe the Government decided to incorporate only a month or so ago, is of enormous significance. It seeks to implement the Government's new policies on training, and should therefore be taken in conjunction with clause 4 of the Social Security Bill which was debated yesterday. Let me make it clear again that the Opposition are utterly opposed to the policy of denying young people under the age of 18 their entitlement to supplementary benefit, or income support, as it will be called. I could quote the Minister for Health, the hon. Member for Braintree (Mr. Newton), who spelled out clearly in the Committee debate on the Social Security Act 1986 that such a measure would amount to making YTS compulsory, and said that the Government rejected totally the idea of denying young people supplementary benefit.

The Secretary of State managed to raise a great cheer at the Conservative party conference when he attacked young people for pursuing a career filling up benefit forms. To many of us both inside and outside the House, that was a deeply offensive statement. Many hon. Members represent areas where there is youth unemployment on a deplorable scale—areas where, perhaps 10 or 20 years ago, only one or two people in a school class did not obtain a job when they left school, and where now only a handful of a class of 30 have any hope of obtaining a decent job. It is utterly untrue that young people do not want to work, or to take part in training schemes—if they are valuable and will enhance their chances of obtaining a job. There is no evidence from research commissioned by the Department of Employment or anyone else to suggest other than that young people desperately want to work. If they are given the chance and given decent wages, they will do so. It certainly ill becomes any hon. Member to make such attacks on any of our young people.

We are opposed to this measure on the fundamental issue of social justice, but we also oppose it because of the effect that it will have on the training schemes. Hon. Members must recognise that it will not be conducive to more effective training. It will not lead to better arrangements in individual schemes if some young people are there because they have been compelled under the duress of being denied their benefit. Surely hon. Members recognise that the challenge should be to make these training schemes sufficiently attractive so that young people will want to go on them. By introducing this element of compulsion one removes that incentive. If the schemes enhance young people's chances of getting jobs, and if they can see that and get a decent allowance, they will enter them.

It is a mistake to create a new situation in which young people will be compelled, as the Minister for Health said in the previous Parliament, to enter these schemes rather than choose to take part in them in order to achieve better training. The House should be reminded that on every occasion when it has been asked the question the Manpower Services Commission has opposed this measure. I hope that the Minister of State will refer to the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Ladywood (Ms. Short) in an interjection. There are many other ways in which young people can better themselves and improve their prospects of obtaining employment apart from participating in a youth training scheme. The 21-hour and 12-hour rules are important and I hope that the Minister of State will answer that point, as the Secretary of State said he would.

Part II of the Bill seems to give enormous powers to the Secretary of State. In that sense, it is an autocratic measure and it seems as if the role of the new training commission will be very different—perhaps more of an advisory role—from the role of responsibility that presently resides in the Manpower Services Commission. We are deeply concerned about clause 25 which gives the Secretary of State power to designate people on these schemes as either being employed or unemployed. It seems likely that this clause will be used to deny trainees their employment status and many of the rights that go with that status.

The Secretary of State spoke about the Government's decision to take the jobcentres back into the Department of Employment and to combine that function in the local unemployment benefit offices. We suspect that this is another measure aimed at harassing people to take part in these schemes. It is a way of trying to make more effective the means whereby civil servants can prevent people from getting benefit on the grounds that they are refusing a job, perhaps because it is totally unsuited to them or because the wages are much lower than those which they previously obtained or, indeed, that they refused to accept a training place. Instead of improving the quality of training and attracting people to it on that basis, the whole emphasis of the Government is to erect an administrative structure as a means of harassing the unemployed and coercing them into accepting places on these Government schemes.

The most important part of the Bill, and the part that has rightly taken up most of the time of hon. Members who have spoken, is part I, which seeks to implement the Government's proposals on the trade unions, most of which were contained in the Green Paper. As my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Meacher) said in opening this debate, the genesis of these trade union legislative measures goes back to last autumn, if not the summer, when the Government took a major strategic decision to fight the forthcoming election not on the basis of their record but on the basis of new policies that would seek to carry to even further extremes the ones that they enacted during that Parliament and the Parliament before. At the same time, the Government decided that there were still votes to be had from bashing the trade unions. That was the motivation for the Green Paper.

Many of us hoped that, when the right hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield (Mr. Fowler) took up office as Secretary of State for Employment, he might have provided an opportunity for the Government to reconsider the measures contained in the Green Paper, inserted largely for electoral purposes. Sadly, that has not been the case and we are saddled with a Bill which seeks to implement these proposals. Hon. Members must surely recognise how extreme these measures are. We support the views of the Trades Union Congress. We recognise that hon. Members do not often pay much attention to the TUC's views on these matters, but when organisations such as the CBI and the Engineering Employers Federation are united in their opposition to some of the key proposals in the Bill, hon. Members must ask themselves what is the purpose of these proposals. Surely hon. Members will think again when professional organisations such as the institute of Personnel Management, the British Institute of Management and the Industrial Society, to name only three, are united in their opposition to many of the proposals in the Bill in respect of trade unions. Hon. Members may ask themselves why such organisations as the CBI and the EEF oppose some of the key proposals in the Bill. Surprising as it may seem, some of them, as employers' organisations, oppose the measures because of their basic unfairness to the trade unions. That shows just how extreme these proposals are.

I wish to take two examples which have not been developed at great length in the debate because, understandably, most hon. Members have concentrated on the outrage contained in clause 3. First, I shall take the proposal which requires all officials who attend meetings of trade union executives to be directly elected. This is an outrageous interference in the affairs of our trade unions. As the Green Paper stated in 1983, it is reasonable for a general secretary to be appointed by a trade union not on the basis of a ballot, but on the basis of his competence and effectiveness in performing his job. It could be argued that executives believe that they are more likely to find the right person through appointment rather than direct election.

Trade unions have different approaches to this matter. Some, such as the AEU, elect virtually all their officials, some appoint them, and others have a mixed arrangement whereby some senior officials are elected and others are not. There is a good case for a system whereby employees elect their executive, who are lay members accountable to the membership, and appoint their senior officials. There is then a very clear relationship—the officials are the servants of the democratically elected executive. If we insist on the direct election of some of those officials, they acquire a different status and therefore a different relationship with the executive. I do not claim that that formula of appointed officials and elected executives is necessarily the better one, but the case for that system is sufficiently strong for it to be outrageous that the Government are legislating to make such an arrangement illegal.

The second example I wish to quote is that of the balloting arrangement. We could spend the whole night quoting Ministers' statements, uttered in the last Parliament, which contradict these proposals.

Mr. Edward Leigh

They were wrong.

Mr. Strang

The hon. Gentleman says that Ministers were wrong. He is wrong, but he is entitled to argue that point because, as he reminded us this evening, he was one of the few Tory rebels who supported postal ballots in the last Parliament. During the Committee stage of the Trade Union Bill, the right hon. Member for Suffolk, Coastal (Mr. Gummer) spelt out at great length the case for workplace ballots and why they should not be disallowed. The most recent Green Paper states: There is some evidence from the political fund review ballots to suggest a greater percentage poll in a ballot held at a workplace than by post. Some evidence. That is an understatment, and anyone who studies the data knows perfectly well that with a workplace ballot, in general there is a much higher percentage poll than with a postal ballot. There are good reasons why that happens. Some of the reasons were spelt out by the Minister of State before the election. In passing, I should state that some workers do not want to give their home addresses. Postal lists are difficult to maintain, especially when there is a high turnover of young people, and that problem arises in trade unions with a large number of young people moving from address to address. Even with the most efficient system in the world, a high percentage poll is difficult to achieve.

What is the objective test of a good balloting arrangement? Surely the only objective test lies in the percentage poll that it achieves.

Mr. Leigh


Mr. Strang

That is democracy. The higher the percentage poll, the better the ballot.

The Government are legislating to make illegal those ballots that we know on average produce a higher poll. That is an outrageous and monstrous interference in the affairs of our trade unions. Hon. Members have referred to many other problems in the Bill. For example, they referred to the Commissioner for the Rights of Trade Union Members and the requirement that there should be different ballots at different working places and, of course, reference was made to the notorious clause 3.

The other reason why the employers' organisations are opposed to certain parts of the Bill is that they honestly believe that parts of the Bill will be inimical to good industrial relations. If I had the time, I would have liked to read out the important statement made by the Engineering Employers Federation. That statement spells out how clause 3 will lead to poorer industrial relations or undermine the role of trade union officials who play a constructive role in the relationship with employers. The statement spells out how the Bill will discredit the whole basis of the pre-strike ballot and almost certainly lead to more unofficial action.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Newham, North-East (Mr. Leighton) spelt out a few moments ago, the Government have systematically whittled away a whole range of working people's rights. They have eroded rights against unfair dismissal; they have eliminated many workers from the protection of the wages councils and have refused to give the wages councils the resources necessary to maintain minimum wages. They have also refused to give the Health and Safety Executive adequate resources. The erosion of workers' rights is one reason why the need for constructive and positive trade unionism in this country is greater now than it has ever been. Another reason for that stems from the growth of temporary, low-paid part-time work. To their credit, the trade unions are turning their attention to that to organise those workers and try to end or minimise the degree of exploitation to which they are subjected.

If anyone studies health and safety at work in this country since the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974, they will see the crucial role that the trade unions have played in this area. In areas such as asbestos and the rubber industry, to take two well-known examples, the trade unions have played a major role in reducing hazards at work. I could describe the whole matter systematically, but time does not allow. However, that is not to say that the trade unions did it all themselves. The trade unions and workers have a vested interest in higher safety standards at work. It is therefore natural that the trade unions should invariably be in the vanguard in seeking improved legislation and improved working practices to reduce the number of deaths and accidents at work. We stand four square behind the case for positive and constructive trade unionism in this country. That is why we deeply resent the measures in the Bill.

The Government and their predecessors have sought to suppress any democratic institutions which disagree with their approach to the way to deal with our problems. We have had the abolition of the GLC and the metropolitan authorities. We have had the shackling of those local councils that are elected by turning local councillors into virtual puppets of the Government. We have had legislation to limit the extent to which local authorities can communicate with their electorates. Now, the trade unions, those great independent organisations which are fundamental to a plural society, are again to be subjected to further legislation designed to undermine them and weaken their contribution to society.

Throughout the debate, speaker after speaker from the Opposition Benches has spelt out the intensity of the Labour party's opposition to the Bill. Earlier this afternoon, in his public expenditure statement, the Chancellor revealed the scope that he had for increasing public spending or cutting taxation. Instead of taking the opportunity to provide additional resources to improve the quality of training in Britain, it is clear that the Training Commission will be forced to provide training places on the cheap and that most of the women and men who will enter the schemes will be paid at a lower rate than under the present community programme.

Instead of making training schemes more attractive and relevant for young people, they are to be coerced on to the schemes by denying them state benefit. Instead of listening to the views of the TUC, the CBI, the Engineering Employers Federation and the Institute of Personnel Management, the Government are going ahead with certain proposals in the Green Paper which all of them have rejected. Instead of providing a legal framework for constructive and positive trade unionism, we shall have another piece of vindictive anti-union legislation which can only damage industrial relations in Britain. It is for those reasons that the Opposition will vote against the Bill tonight.

9.41 pm
The Minister for Employment (Mr. John Cope)

Let me start on a non-controversial note. It was a pleasure to hear the maiden speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridgeshire, South-East (Mr. Paice). He paid a warm tribute to his predecessor, Francis Pym, who made a distinguished and individual contribution to the House. His successor clearly brings to the House great experience, particularly in training, and will, I am sure, continue to be listened to with care.

We also welcome the maiden speech of the hon. Member for Cheadle (Mr. Day). His predecessor, Tom Normanton, was industrious here, in Cheadle and in Europe. After hearing his successor's speech, I am sure that the new hon. Member for Cheadle will be a worthy successor as a representative of the north-west.

None of the Bill's provisions will have come as a surprise to anyone who follows these matters. The Bill carries a step forward popular policies which have the approval of the electorate and which have worked for Britain's benefit.

I have given up some of my time to let some more hon. Members speak in the debate because it started late. I apologise in advance if I cannot cover everything, but I shall do my best to respond as fully as I can. For the same reason, I shall be reluctant to give way.

We have discussed training a lot, but nobody today has argued that it is not important. However, some Members have challenged the Government's chosen methods. The new Training Commission will reflect the fact that the training provided for employed and unemployed alike is about the skills required by employers. My hon. Friend the Member for Cambridgeshire, South-East emphasised that employers retain the primary responsibility for the training of their employees and, in their own way, the Opposition appear to support that point.

When Opposition Members criticise training schemes as being Mickey Mouse schemes, time fillers and so on, they presumably mean that they are not sufficiently directed to employers' demands for skills—the real requirements of those who create the jobs—and that is the reason for the changes in the Training Commission.

There is not a new power in the Bill to pay training allowances, with the exception of the bridging allowance. Hon. Members have mentioned today and yesterday the Government's proposal—recommended by Beveridge in 1942—to stop paying benefits to 16 and 17-year-olds who do not stay at school or college, take up a job or a guaranteed YTS place. The bridging allowance and the provision of the Social Security Bill for 16 and 17-yearolds should not be confused with clause 26 which applies to those over 18. The clause restates the power for benefit sanctions to be imposed on people who unreasonably refuse the offer of an approved training place. It brings the treatment of training in line with employment, but I emphasise that it is not a new power. The power exists under section 20 of the Social Security Act 1975. Therefore, there should be no confusion in the Liberal party, or in what used to be referred to as the alliance.

The Liberal amendment supports the industrial relations part of the Bill, although the hon. Member for Rochdale (Mr. Smith) was more choosy in his support. The amendment suggests that the House should decline to give the Bill a Second Reading because it seeks to disqualify those who refuse to take part in an approved training scheme from receiving unemployment benefit. As I explained, this is not a novelty. The withdrawal of benefit from 16 and 17-year-olds who refuse YTS is a novelty and is not in this Bill, but it was in yesterday's Bill. If Liberal Members are worried about it, they should have tabled an amendment to yesterday's Bill, although they voted against it. If, on the other hand, they are against the power affecting those over 18, they should have thought of that in 1975, or earlier.

The right hon. Member for Birmingham, Ladywood (Ms. Short) asked me to comment on the effect of yesterday's Bill on the so-called 21-hour rule under which someone has to be available for work and give up benefits and studying if offered a job. In future, 16 and 17-yearolds who have left school and not found a job are guaranteed a place on YTS. We consider that they should be treated no differently from other youngsters. Income support will continue for those who cannot take a YTS place because of physical handicap or family situation, but it is not intended as an educational maintenance grant.

Ms. Clare Short

The right hon. Gentleman must be aware that some youth training schemes are good and some are not so good. At present young people have the option of YTS, a job—if they are lucky—or supplementary benefit and studying for academic qualifications which lead to real jobs and skills. What the right hon. Gentleman said tonight means that the latter option is closed. He should admit it because poor YTS compared with City and Guilds, real skills and O and A-levels is not good enough. The Bill takes away that choice from industrious young people who want to increase their qualifications and life opportunities.

Mr. Cope

I have explained the position as clearly as I can. The hon. Lady knows that YTS leads increasingly to qualifications or a step towards qualifications.

Part I deals with industrial relations. We have heard the expected complaint that all this is union bashing, and that other countries' unions do not have such legislation. Indeed, we have heard the prediction that international opinion will condemn it. These assertions are well worn, but they are wrong. The claim that other countries do not have comparable legislation does not stand up to serious scrutiny. The people of this country want us to devise our own law and not to copy others. The fact is that a number of our major competitors, including France, West Germany and Italy, long ago rejected the closed shop as this Bill does and as other developed countries have done.

We have also heard tonight comparisons with company law. Some Opposition Members appear to think that it would be a good idea if trade union law was a little more comparable with company law. If that is what they really want, they should remember that company law involved Department of Trade and Industry inspectors, inquiries, penal clauses, massive fines and imprisonment, disqualification and compulsory winding-up. I would be interested to hear whether that is really the sort of law that the Opposition want for trade unions.

The right hon. Member for Blaenau Gwent (Mr. Foot) made an entertaining speech, although it was marred by personal abuse of my right hon. and noble Friend the Lord Young. The right hon. Gentleman asked about the spending of taxpayers' money on a trade union commissioner, and contrasted it with spending on health and safety. In fact, expenditure on the commissioner is expected to be just over £1 million, while only today we have increased expenditure on health and safety at work of several times that amount. Indeed, we spend more than £100 million a year in that way.

The right hon. Gentleman's contribution had beguiling features and one almost forgot that he was the author of the closed shop legislation that was so tight that it led to this country being held to be in breach of the European Convention on Human Rights. Under the Bill's proposals on the closed shop, no employer will be prevented from hiring someone who does not belong to a union, or to the right union. Similarly, there will be no immunity for any strike that is intended to pressurise an employer into treating someone less favourably because he does not belong to a union, or to the right union—

Mr. Loyden


Mr. Cope

I am not giving way. I can summarise—

Mr. Loyden


Mr. Speaker

Order. The Minister is not giving way.

Mr. Cope

The hon. Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Strang) was given a clear run by the House, and I ask for the same.

Under existing legislation—

Mr. Loyden


Mr. Cope


Mr. Loyden


Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Member must not persist; he knows the rules.

Mr. Cope

Under existing legislation—

Mr. Loyden


Mr. Heffer


Mr. Cope

No, I will not give way. Under existing legislation no one can be—

Mr. Heffer


Mr. Loyden


Mr. Speaker

Order, order.

Mr. Cope

Under existing legislation, no one can be fairly dismissed for being a member of a trade union. I n future, no one can be fairly dismissed for not belonging—

Mr. Heffer


Mr. Loyden


Mr. Speaker

Order. I must tell both Liverpool Members that they well know the rules of this place and that they must not persist if the Minister clearly is not giving way.

Mr. Cope

The hon. Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Meacher) appeared to have misunderstood clause 16. He thought that it would be necessary for a union to win both nationally and locally to obtain immunity for a strike. In fact, there is no proposal to change the law when a ballot on industrial action is confined to a single workplace or where it involves all the members of a union. In respect of a particular employer's work force, the clause comes into effect when two or more workplaces are being balloted and not all union members in the same occupational group or grade are being balloted. Where the ballot is selective in this way, separate workplace ballots will have to be held. That will prevent the votes of one workplace from being swamped by those of another.

Clauses 3 to 5, the so-called disciplinary clauses. have attracted much attention. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State promised that I would tell the House about the representations that we received following the Green Paper. Of the employers and employers' organisations that commented on the proposals, 10 were against and six were in favour. The hon. Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Meacher) mentioned the closed shop provisions. On that point 13 employers or employers' organisations were in favour and two were against.

Much has been made of the CBI and its views. I shall remind the House of what one of its officials said in a letter to The Times. He said: Amongst our membership there was a strong recognition that an individual should be free to honour his contract of employment without fear of coercion from any source. As the House is aware, I was a member of the silent service—the Whips' Office—which is the only group of MPs who consistently listen.

Mr. Heffer


Mr. Cope

I was a member of the silent service, which is why I want my say now. I was a member of that office from April 1979 until this summer. As a result, almost the last speech that I made in the House concerned industrial relations law. In what proved to be the last weeks of the Labour Government—February 1979—I introduced a ten-minute Bill to check the abuse of picketing. I am glad to say that, with the vote of one Labour Member, I won the vote, although the Bill did not get anywhere.

We all remember how violent mass picketing was used—some have tried to use it since—to stop people working during strikes. With the overwhelming support of the country, I hope that all hon. Members believe that individuals should not be intimidated into striking against their will.

These clauses are part of the same protection of an individual's right to choose whether to strike, to work on or to return to work during a strike. The decision to strike is of the greatest importance and it can have many individual and collective consequences. Some hon. Members have said that they regard this provision as being undemocratic and that it might make unions less inclined to have strike ballots or individuals less inclined to vote, but I doubt it. A strike ballot will remain important to unions and individuals alike. The clause will make unions ensure that they have their members' support at all times, not only in the particular circumstances of a ballot.

We have been told that the provision will make the law unbalanced, yet it remedies an imbalance. The law already provides unions with the right to induce a strike and remain immune from the legal consequences that would otherwise follow, but it should also provide the individual with the right not to strike and remain immune from the consequences that the union may inflict. A man or woman should have the right to strike, the right to work on and the right to stick by his or her contract of employment, insofar as it lies within our power to guarantee that right. That is what the clause does, and it is right to do it.

Mr. Loyden


Mr. Cope

I went to the TUC conference at Blackpool and listened to the searching debates about the movement's future. I cannot predict what that future will be, but I know who will decide it—the members of the unions themselves.

The Bill strengthens the rights and influence of ordinary union members. It does things that they and the public want to be done. It draws on the best practice of unions to give them all a greater spur to put things right. Unions should welcome the Bill, and I hope that the House will also welcome it.

Question put, That the Bill be now read a Second time:—

The House divided: Ayes 335, Noes 233.

Division No. 39] [10 pm
Adley, Robert Alison, Rt Hon Michael
Alexander, Richard Allason, Rupert
Amess, David Dykes, Hugh
Amos, Alan Emery, Sir Peter
Arbuthnot, James Evans, David (Welwyn Hatf'd)
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham) Evennett, David
Arnold, Tom (Hazel Grove) Fairbairn, Nicholas
Ashby, David Fallon, Michael
Aspinwall, Jack Farr, Sir John
Atkins, Robert Favell, Tony
Atkinson, David Fenner, Dame Peggy
Baker, Nicholas (Dorset N) Field, Barry (Isle of Wight)
Baldry, Tony Fookes, Miss Janet
Banks, Robert (Harrogate) Forman, Nigel
Batiste, Spencer Forsyth, Michael (Stirling)
Beaumont-Dark, Anthony Forth, Eric
Bellingham, Henry Fowler, Rt Hon Norman
Bendall, Vivian Fox, Sir Marcus
Bennett, Nicholas (Pembroke) Franks, Cecil
Benyon, W. Freeman, Roger
Bevan, David Gilroy French, Douglas
Biggs-Davison, Sir John Fry, Peter
Blackburn, Dr John G. Gale, Roger
Blaker, Rt Hon Sir Peter Gardiner, George
Body, Sir Richard Gill, Christopher
Bonsor, Sir Nicholas Gilmour, Rt Hon Sir Ian
Boswell, Tim Glyn, Dr Alan
Bottomley, Peter Goodhart, Sir Philip
Bottomley, Mrs Virginia Goodlad, Alastair
Bowden, A (Brighton K'pto'n) Goodson-Wickes, Dr Charles
Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich) Gorman, Mrs Teresa
Bowis, John Gorst, John
Boyson, Rt Hon Dr Sir Rhodes Gow, Ian
Braine, Rt Hon Sir Bernard Gower, Sir Raymond
Brandon-Bravo, Martin Grant, Sir Anthony (CambsSW)
Brazier, Julian Greenway, Harry (Ealing N)
Bright, Graham Greenway, John (Rydale)
Brittan, Rt Hon Leon Gregory, Conal
Brooke, Hon Peter Griffiths, Sir Eldon (Bury St E')
Brown, Michael (Brigg & Cl't's) Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth N)
Browne, John (Winchester) Grist, Ian
Bruce, Ian (Dorset South) Ground, Patrick
Buchanan-Smith, Rt Hon Alick Grylls, Michael
Buck, Sir Antony Gummer, Rt Hon John Selwyn
Budgen, Nicholas Hamilton, Hon A. (Epsom)
Burns, Simon Hamilton, Neil (Tatton)
Burt, Alistair Hampson, Dr Keith
Butler, Chris Hanley, Jeremy
Butterfill, John Hannam, John
Carlisle, John, (Luton N) Hargreaves, A. (B'ham H'll Gr')
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln) Hargreaves, Ken (Hyndburn)
Carrington, Matthew Harris, David
Carttiss, Michael Haselhurst, Alan
Cash, William Hawkins, Christopher
Chalker, Rt Hon Mrs Lynda Hayes, Jerry
Channon, Rt Hon Paul Hayhoe, Rt Hon Sir Barney
Chapman, Sydney Hayward, Robert
Chope, Christopher Heath, Rt Hon Edward
Churchill, Mr Heathcoat-Amory, David
Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford) Heddle, John
Clark, Sir W. (Croydon S) Heseltine, Rt Hon Michael
Colvin, Michael Hicks, Mrs Maureen (Wolv' NE)
Conway, Derek Hicks, Robert (Cornwall SE)
Coombs, Anthony (Wyre F'rest) Hill, James
Coombs, Simon (Swindon) Hind, Kenneth
Cope, John Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm)
Cormack, Patrick Holt, Richard
Couchman, James Hordern, Sir Peter
Cran, James Howard, Michael
Critchley, Julian Howarth, Alan (Strat'd-on-A)
Currie, Mrs Edwina Howarth, G. (Cannock & B'wd)
Curry, David Howell, Ralph (North Norfolk)
Davies, Q. (Stamf'd & Spald'g) Hughes, Robert G. (Harrow W)
Davis, David (Boothferry) Hunt, David (Wirral W)
Day, Stephen Hunt, John (Ravensbourne)
Devlin, Tim Hurd, Rt Hon Douglas
Dickens, Geoffrey Irvine, Michael
Dorrell, Stephen Irving, Charles
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James Jack, Michael
Dover, Den Jackson, Robert
Dunn, Bob Janman, Timothy
Durant, Tony Jessel, Toby
Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey Powell, William (Corby)
Jones, Robert B (Herts W) Price, Sir David
Kellett-Bowman, Mrs Elaine Raffan, Keith
Key, Robert Raison, Rt Hon Timothy
King, Roger (B'ham N'thfield) Rathbone, Tim
King, Rt Hon Tom (Bridgwater) Redwood, John
Kirkhope, Timothy Renton, Tim
Knapman, Roger Rhodes James, Robert
Knight, Greg (Derby North) Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon
Knight, Dame Jill (Edgbaston) Riddick, Graham
Knowles, Michael Ridley, Rt Hon Nicholas
Knox, David Ridsdale, Sir Julian
Lamont, Rt Hon Norman Rifkind, Rt Hon Malcolm
Lang, Ian Roberts, Wyn (Conwy)
Latham, Michael Roe, Mrs Marion
Lawrence, Ivan Rossi, Sir Hugh
Lawson, Rt Hon Nigel Rost, Peter
Lee, John (Pendle) Rowe, Andrew
Leigh, Edward (Gainsbor'gh) Rumbold, Mrs Angela
Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark Ryder, Richard
Lester, Jim (Broxtowe) Sackville, Hon Tom
Lightbown, David Sainsbury, Hon Tim
Lilley, Peter Sayeed, Jonathan
Lloyd, Sir Ian (Havant) Scott, Nicholas
Lloyd, Peter (Fareham) Shaw, David (Dover)
Lord, Michael Shaw, Sir Giles (Pudsey)
Luce, Rt Hon Richard Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb')
Lyell, Sir Nicholas Shephard, Mrs G. (Norfolk SW)
McCrindle, Robert Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)
Macfarlane, Neil Shepherd, Richard (Aldridge)
MacGregor, John Sims, Roger
MacKay, Andrew (E Berkshire) Skeet, Sir Trevor
Maclean, David Smith, Sir Dudley (Warwick)
McLoughlin, Patrick Soames, Hon Nicholas
McNair-Wilson, M. (Newbury) Speller, Tony
McNair-Wilson, P. (New Forest) Spicer, Jim (Dorset W)
Madel, David Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)
Major, Rt Hon John Squire, Robin
Malins, Humfrey Stanbrook, Ivor
Mans, Keith Steen, Anthony
Maples, John Stern, Michael
Marlow, Tony Stevens, Lewis
Marshall, John (Hendon S) Stewart, Allan (Eastwood)
Marshall, Michael (Arundel) Stewart, Andrew (Sherwood)
Martin, David (Portsmouth S) Stewart, Ian (Hertfordshire N)
Mates, Michael Stradling Thomas, Sir John
Maude, Hon Francis Sumberg, David
Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin Summerson, Hugo
Mayhew, Rt Hon Sir Patrick Tapsell, Sir Peter
Meyer, Sir Anthony Taylor, Ian (Esher)
Miller, Hal Taylor, John M (Solihull)
Mills, Iain Taylor, Teddy (S'end E)
Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling) Tebbit, Rt Hon Norman
Mitchell, David (Hants NW) Temple-Morris, Peter
Moate, Roger Thompson, D. (Calder Valley)
Monro, Sir Hector Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)
Moore, Rt Hon John Thorne, Neil
Morris, M (N'hampton S) Thornton, Malcolm
Morrison, Hon C. (Devizes) Thurnham, Peter
Moss, Malcolm Townend, John (Bridlington)
Moynihan, Hon C. Townsend, Cyril D. (B'heath)
Mudd, David Tredinnick, David
Neale, Gerrard Trippier, David
Nelson, Anthony Trotter, Neville
Neubert, Michael Twinn, Dr Ian
Newton, Tony Vaughan, Sir Gerard
Nicholls, Patrick Waddington, Rt Hon David
Nicholson, David (Taunton) Waldegrave, Hon William
Nicholson, Miss E. (Devon W) Walden, George
Onslow, Cranley Walker, Bill (T'side North)
Oppenheim, Phillip Walker, Rt Hon P. (Wcester)
Paice, James Waller, Gary
Parkinson, Rt Hon Cecil Ward, John
Patnick, Irvine Wardle, C. (Bexhill)
Patten, John (Oxford W) Warren, Kenneth
Pawsey, James Watts, John
Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth Wells, Bowen
Porter, Barry (Wirral S) Wheeler, John
Porter, David (Waveney) Whitney, Ray
Portillo, Michael Widdecombe, Miss Ann
Wiggin, Jerry Woodcock, Mike
Wilkinson, John Yeo, Tim
Wilshire, David Young, Sir George (Acton)
Winterton, Mrs Ann
Winterton, Nicholas Tellers for the Ayes:
Wolfson, Mark Mr. Robert Boscawen and Mr. Tristan Garel-Jones.
Wood, Timothy
Abbott, Ms Diane Faulds, Andrew
Adams, Allen (Paisley N) Fearn, Ronald
Allen, Graham Field, Frank (Birkenhead)
Alton, David Fields, Terry (L'pool B G'n)
Anderson, Donald Fisher, Mark
Archer, Rt Hon Peter Flannery, Martin
Armstrong, Ms Hilary Flynn, Paul
Ashley, Rt Hon Jack Foot, Rt Hon Michael
Ashton, Joe Foster, Derek
Barnes, Harry (Derbyshire NE) Fraser, John
Barnes, Mrs Rosie (Greenwich) Fyfe, Mrs Maria
Barron, Kevin Galbraith, Samuel
Battle, John Galloway, George
Beckett, Margaret Garrett, John (Norwich South)
Beith, A. J. George, Bruce
Bell, Stuart Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John
Benn, Rt Hon Tony Godman, Dr Norman A.
Bennett, A. F. (D'nt'n & R'dish) Golding, Mrs Llin
Bermingham, Gerald Gordon, Ms Mildred
Bidwell, Sydney Gould, Bryan
Blair, Tony Graham, Thomas
Blunkett, David Grant, Bernie (Tottenham)
Boyes, Roland Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)
Bradley, Keith Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Bray, Dr Jeremy Grocott, Bruce
Brown, Gordon (D'mline E) Harman, Ms Harriet
Brown, Ron (Edinburgh Leith) Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy
Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon) Haynes, Frank
Buchan, Norman Heffer, Eric S.
Buckley, George Henderson, Douglas
Caborn, Richard Hinchliffe, David
Callaghan, Jim Hogg, N. (C'nauld & Kilsyth)
Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE) Holland, Stuart
Campbell, Ron (Blyth Valley) Home Robertson, John
Campbell-Savours, D. N. Hood, James
Canavan, Dennis Howarth, George (Knowsley N)
Carlile, Alex (Mont'g) Howell, Rt Hon D. (S'heath)
Cartwright, John Howells, Geraint
Clarke, Tom (Monklands W) Hoyle, Doug
Clay, Bob Hughes, John (Coventry NE)
Clelland, David Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)
Clwyd, Mrs Ann Hughes, Roy (Newport E)
Cohen, Harry Hughes, Sean (Knowsley S)
Coleman, Donald Hughes, Simon (Southwark)
Cook, Robin (Livingston) Illsley, Eric
Corbett, Robin Ingram, Adam
Cousins, Jim John, Brynmor
Cox, Tom Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside)
Crowther, Stan Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S W)
Cryer, Bob Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald
Cummings, J. Kennedy, Charles
Cunliffe, Lawrence Kilfedder, James
Cunningham, Dr John Kinnock, Rt Hon Neil
Dalyell, Tam Lambie, David
Darling, Alastair Lamond, James
Davies, Ron (Caerphilly) Leadbitter, Ted
Davis, Terry (B'ham Hodge H'l) Leighton, Ron
Dewar, Donald Lestor, Miss Joan (Eccles)
Dixon, Don Lewis, Terry
Dobson, Frank Litherland, Robert
Doran, Frank Livingstone, Ken
Douglas, Dick Livsey, Richard
Duffy, A. E. P. Lloyd, Tony (Stretford)
Dunnachie, James Lofthouse, Geoffrey
Dunwoody, Hon Mrs Gwyneth Loyden, Eddie
Eadie, Alexander McAllion, John
Eastham, Ken McAvoy, Tom
Evans, John (St Helens N) McCartney, Ian
Ewing, Harry (Falkirk E) Macdonald, Calum
Ewing, Mrs Margaret (Moray) McFall, John
Fatchett, Derek McKay, Allen (Penistone)
McKelvey, William Robinson, Geoffrey
McLeish, Henry Rogers, Allan
Maclennan, Robert Rooker, Jeff
McNamara, Kevin Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)
McTaggart, Bob Rowlands, Ted
McWilliam, John Ruddock, Ms Joan
Madden, Max Sedgemore, Brian
Mahon, Mrs Alice Sheerman, Barry
Marek, Dr John Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert
Marshall, David (Shettleston) Shore, Rt Hon Peter
Marshall, Jim (Leicester S) Short, Clare
Martin, Michael (Springburn) Skinner, Dennis
Martlew, Eric Smith, Andrew (Oxford E)
Meacher, Michael Smith, C. (Isl'ton & F'bury)
Meale, Alan Smith, Cyril (Rochdale)
Michael, Alun Smith, Rt Hon J. (Monk'ds E)
Michie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley) Snape, Peter
Michie, Mrs Ray (Arg'l & Bute) Soley, Clive
Millan, Rt Hon Bruce Spearing, Nigel
Mitchell, Austin (G't Grimsby) Steel, Rt Hon David
Moonie, Dr Lewis Steinberg, Gerald
Morgan, Rhodri Stott, Roger
Morley, Elliott Strang, Gavin
Morris, Rt Hon A (W'shawe) Straw, Jack
Morris, Rt Hon J (Aberavon) Taylor, Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)
Mowlam, Mrs Marjorie Taylor, Matthew (Truro)
Mullin, Chris Turner, Dennis
Murphy, Paul Vaz, Keith
Nellist, Dave Wall, Pat
Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon Wallace, James
O'Brien, William Walley, Ms Joan
O'Neill, Martin Wardell, Gareth (Gower)
Orme, Rt Hon Stanley Wareing, Robert N.
Patchett, Terry Welsh, Andrew (Angus E)
Pendry, Tom Welsh, Michael (Doncaster N)
Pike, Peter Wigley, Dafydd
Powell, Ray (Ogmore) Williams, Alan W. (Carm'then)
Prescott, John Wilson, Brian
Primarolo, Ms Dawn Winnick, David
Quin, Ms Joyce Wise, Mrs Audrey
Radice, Giles Worthington, Anthony
Randall, Stuart Wray, James
Redmond, Martin Young, David (Bolton SE)
Rees, Rt Hon Merlyn
Reid, John Tellers for the Noes:
Richardson, Ms Jo Mr. Frank Cook and Mr. Tony Banks.
Roberts, Allan (Bootle)
Robertson, George

Question accordingly agreed to.

Bill read a Second time, and committed to a Standing Committee pursuant to Standing Order No. 61 (Committal of Bills).