HC Deb 16 January 1990 vol 165 cc145-6
5. Mr. Michael Brown

To ask the Secretary of State for Employment if he will make a statement on the code of practice for trade union ballots for industrial action.

Mr. Nicholls

Following representations on the draft published at the end of 1988, a modified draft of the code of practice has now been laid before Parliament. The draft code deals with a matter of great importance—the conduct of union ballots on industrial action. The next step is to move approval resolutions in each House.

Mr. Brown

Does my hon. Friend agree that that is an encouraging reply? Does he accept that it is absolutely essential that any union that does not accept the need for a proper ballot, under the terms of the code of practice, should risk legal action being taken against it?

Mr. Nicholls

My hon. Friend makes a valuable point. Many of the contributions that were made to the code of practice were drawn from the best practice of certain trade unions. Any union that is prepared to conduct its ballots fairly and democratically will find the code of great assistance.

Mr. John Evans

Will the Minister confirm that more than 90 per cent. of the ballots that have been held since the passage of the Trade Union Act 1984 have confirmed the unions' positions? Will he guarantee that the so-called code of practice is not just a back-door attempt to make ballots and official industrial disputes more difficult?

Mr. Nicholls

No, as I said, many of the ideas contained in the balloting code have been drawn from the best practice of better unions. Nothing in the code should cause any concern to any union if it wants to conduct itself fairly and democratically.

Mr. Ian Bruce

Does my hon. Friend agree that it is rather strange that the provision on workplace ballots that were passed by the House were attacked at every stage by Opposition Members and by trade unions but that, today, they appear to be in favour of what has worked well to bring industrial peace to this country?

Mr. Nicholls

That is certainly what we are asked to believe. When the Labour party poses as the champion of individual liberties, I find it about as convincing as the idea of a piranha turning vegetarian.