HC Deb 19 January 1993 vol 217 cc248-9
6. Mr. Trend

To ask the Secretary of State for Employment what assessment she has made of the effect of the Trade Union Reform and Employment Rights Bill on the rights of individual union members.

Mr. Michael Forsyth

The Bill gives union members important new rights, including greater freedom to decide which union they join and the right to a full postal ballot before a strike. It also introduces important new rights for individual employees.

Mr. Trend

Will my hon. Friend confirm that the legislation is another positive step towards establishing individual rights for trade union members and that it is in the best traditions of the Conservative party since 1979? Will he also confirm that every extension of trade union democracy has been opposed by the TUC and the Labour party?

Mr. Forsyth

I agree, with one qualification: Labour Members have opposed such legislation and then—before a general election—have turned round and said that they have experienced a sudden conversion on the road to Damascus. Where we have progressed forward step by step, the Opposition have progressed backwards step by step. Our action has benefited the economy as a whole and is undoubtedly the reason for the current high levels of inward investment in Britain.

Mr. Eastham

Why do not the Government act more evenhandedly when it comes to the rights of trade unionists? Is not it a fact that some employers will not recognise trade unions in their companies? What protection will the Government give to workers?

Mr. Forsyth

The hon. Gentleman is confused. He is confusing the interests of workers with those of trade unions—and that is why he and his hon. Friends sit on the Opposition Benches.

Mr. Nicholls

Will my hon. Friend remind the House that the conversion to which he referred is not total? Does he recall that for the first time in its history there is now a proposition from the Labour party that it should be illegal to sack strikers? Is not it remarkable that Opposition Members take that position, which goes further than any Labour Government have in history?

Mr. Forsyth

My hon. Friend has great experience in these matters and I agree with him. The Labour party has always been the striker's friend and the Conservative party has always been the trade union member's friend. The Conservative party has given the trade unions back to their members and has enhanced the rights of those members in the teeth of opposition from the Labour party.