§ 'In fulfilling the functions specified in section 3 of this Act, staff at GCHQ shall enjoy trade union rights in accordance with Convention 87 of the International Labour Organisation.'.—[Dr. John Cunningham.]
§ Brought up, and read the First time.3.49 pm
§ Dr. John Cunningham (Copeland)
I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.
This is not a new issue; indeed, it is a long-standing issue, and one on which Government and Opposition are completely divided. It involves what we consider to be the fundamental right of everyone to belong to a trade union: that is a basic principle in any democracy, and we make no apology for reasserting our view on it today.
In 1949, the United Kingdom ratified convention 87 of the International Labour Organisation, which set out this right along with many others. From the time of that Labour Government onwards—through many Conservative Administrations—that presented no problems to us as a nation; only in 1984 did the Conservative Government led by Lady Thatcher decide to remove the right from a group of workers at the Government communications headquarters at Cheltenham.
Understandably and properly, those people have been fighting for its re-establishment ever since—with the support of the Labour party, the Trades Union Congress and, I believe, the Liberal party, along with other parliamentary parties—in the face of the consistent and obstinate opposition of an obdurate Government. The new clause would re-establish the right unequivocally.
§ Mr. Roger Evans (Monmouth)
The right hon. Gentleman has stated in very broad terms that everyone has the right to join a trade union. Is he seriously suggesting that members of the armed forces should have such a right? That would go well beyond the terms of the International Labour Organisation convention, quite apart from being rather a startling proposition.
§ Dr. Cunningham
In fact, it would not terrify me if they had such a right. In this instance, however, it was arbitrarily removed from people who had formerly enjoyed it.
§ Dr. Cunningham
As usual, the hon. Member for Torbay (Mr. Allason) is intervening from a sedentary position. He says that the action was not arbitrary, but it was taken without consultation. It was pointed out in the courts that the decision was against all natural justice: if that is not arbitrary, I do not know what is.
The matter has been discussed at great length over the years, most recently in 1993. It is to the credit of the unions 250 involved that they have been willing to make considerable concessions about ring-fencing the members involved and no-strike agreements; they have gone as far as anyone could realistically expect them to go in trying to meet the point on which the Government insisted.
Originally, the Government's position was that trade union membership somehow presented a threat to the security of our country, which was patent and absolute nonsense. No one ever explained why men and women at GCHQ who belonged to trade unions were a threat to our security, while members of the First Division Association in Whitehall—an organisation affiliated to the TUC, and probably handling a much greater volume of more sensitive and secret information—remained perfectly acceptable, and presented no such threat. That completely exposed the fallacy of the Government's argument.
The concessions were offered during a series of discussions, first with the Cabinet Secretary and then with the Prime Minister himself. The Prime Minister retreated to the position that being a member of a trade union at GCHQ would present a "conflict of loyalty." That is another general phrase that has not been defined or explained. If a conflict of loyalty is involved in belonging to a trade union at GCHQ, why does not the same apply to the Ministry of Defence and, indeed, the Cabinet Office?
That was simply another excuse to get the Government out of having to concede that the decision was wrong in principle when it was made, that it remains wrong in principle and that it has become a kind of political totem pole for a Conservative Government, and a Conservative party, with no credible or respectable arguments or evidence to support their position.
That puts Britain in a unique and unenviable position. Alone among western democracies, Britain has been isolated because it is in conflict with not only convention 87 of the ILO but that body's decision in 1991, when the conference voted by 160 to one against Britain. A decision similar to that taken by the Government has not been and would not be contemplated by any of our neighbours and partners in the European Union, by the United States of America or by any other democratic country.
A further bit of double-speak, if that is the appropriate phrase—it generally is for Ministers of this Government —is that the Government are sometimes moved to express criticism of other countries' human rights records. We often join the Government in doing so, but the reality is that, as long as the ban persists, the Government's own human rights record will always be open to criticism, and that criticism will continue.
It was recently the 10th anniversary of the decision, first, to remove the right to trade union membership, and, secondly, to dismiss a number of people from their employment when they refused to surrender what they regarded as an inalienable right for them, their colleagues and for people in general. That anniversary was commemorated in a rally, and we wish to make it clear —it is obvious, in any event—that those people and the unions that represent them intend to continue their campaign until they have succeeded in their aim.
It is now clear to them, and, I think, to the country at large, that they will succeed only when the Government have left office and been replaced by a Labour Government who will restore rights to people working at GCHQ. We would lose no time in doing so.
It is not tenable for the Government to persist in their mulish obstinacy, especially as, following the discussions 251 that took place and the concessions that were made, there is not a shred of evidence to suggest that Britain's security would be threatened in any way if the Government were finally to admit that they had made a mistake, and reversed their decision.
§ Mr. David Winnick (Walsall, North)
My right hon. Friend may remember that, on the 10th anniversary of the decision, I was given leave, after a Division, to bring in a ten-minute Bill. Will he take this opportunity to pay tribute to the 14 employees who were sacked because they refused to give up their trade union membership but who defended their principles, as dissidents have done in different circumstances in, for example, the Soviet Union? Those people continue their campaign to this day. Are they not the very best of our citizens, people who refuse to be intimidated but who stand up for their principles and wait for the time when victory will be theirs?
§ Dr. Cunningham
I certainly pay tribute to those men and women, because they are willing to make sacrifices to fight for what they believe to be right. It is exactly such people—those with determination and principles—that our country needs above all others. It is on such determination to defend democratic rights and principles that our long-term survival as a democratic society depends. They deserve a generous and fulsome tribute and they have it from the Labour party as a whole and from its individual members. We shall continue to give them the support which my hon. Friend has outlined, and which was so admirably conveyed to the House when he introduced his Bill.
Both in Britain and in the international community, the Government have no arguments, no friends and no credibility on this issue. They have no reason not to admit that the original decision was wrong, and was a violation of people's democratic rights—one that could easily be corrected without people being further humiliated by the Government's claim that somehow they simply could not be trusted to safeguard the interests of our country.
We regard that as not only nonsense but a real denial of the long and honourable record of so many people who worked at GCHQ, precisely because they were interested in defending the democratic rights of our country 'and of all its citizens.
§ Mr. Allason
Does the right hon. Gentleman not accept that the Government's decision was not arbitrary, but was a response to a specific request initiated by Sir Brian Tovey, who was then director of GCHQ, that the Government should ban unions if they were unable to give the assurances required following the industrial action taken when the Soviets imposed martial law in Poland and invaded Afghanistan?
§ Dr. Cunningham
I have already dealt once with the hon. Gentleman's assertion that the decision was not arbitrary. It was arbitrary, and a judge in court decided that it was. As for the merits or otherwise of industrial action, that matter is behind us now.
§ Dr. Cunningham
The hon. Gentleman knows as well as I do about the discussions between the Cabinet Secretary and representatives of the unions, and the discussions involving the Prime Minister. In those discussions, the 252 unions gave undertakings that they stand by. Even if I conceded that there was a problem in the first place, which I do not, there is no such problem any more.
Far more working time is lost at GCHQ because of sickness and other valid reasons for absence from work than has ever been lost because of industrial action. A previous Conservative Secretary of State for Defence, Lord Nott—
§ The Parliamentary Secretary, Office of Public Service and Science (Mr. David Davis)
Sir John Nott. He has not got a peerage yet.
§ Dr. Cunningham
He had better get one soon, because his chances will run out after the next general election.
Sir John Nott is on record as having said unequivocally that at no time had the operational efficiency of GCHQ ever been in jeopardy.
§ Mr. Douglas French (Gloucester)
Is the right hon. Gentleman in a position to identify which of the 14 people referred to by the hon. Member for Walsall, North (Mr. Winnick)—the people who declined to give up their trade union membership—took part in the strikes of 1979 to 1981?
§ Dr. Cunningham
No, but I am not sure why the hon. Gentleman asks. This is not a question of who did and who did not take part in industrial action. People have a legitimate right to take part in industrial action; that is another right in a democratic society.
The fact is that those people stuck to their principles, refused to resign their membership of a union of their choice, and were dismissed as a result. That is the issue of principle here, not whether they or their colleagues were involved in industrial disputes. I suppose that the hon. Gentleman's intervention means that he does not believe that people should have the right to take industrial action in a democratic society. If so, we disagree with him about that too.
Having re-read our exchanges on Second Reading and in Committee, and having studied the record of the negotiations and discussions between the unions and the Government, I can say that the Government have not got a leg to stand on. They have no arguments, no justification, no support and no credibility.
§ Sir Peter Emery
The right hon. Gentleman claimed that the opinion must be for protecting the human rights of the individuals in question. Was not an appeal made to the European Court of Human Rights? If so, what was the outcome?
§ Dr. Cunningham
The reference to the European Court of Human Rights was rejected, but not on its merits. The application to the International Labour Organisation was supported in international law—the Government are always priding themselves on taking a stance based on international law. Britain is a signatory to the convention but the Government reneged on it. I believe that the matter will, justifiably, return to the ILO later this year. I have no doubt that the case and the democratic rights of the individuals in question will be upheld once more.
253 The Government have no case in international law or on the basis of democratic rights. They have no evidence to support their allegations about conflict of loyalty. The Government have no supporters and no friends. If they had any sense—sadly, they do not have any of that either—they would accept new clause 1, and we could put this sad, sorry and squalid episode behind us.
§ Mr. Roger Evans
The right hon. Gentleman began by making the extravagant observation that everybody in a democratic society has a right to join a trade union. If he will pledge a future Labour Government—if ever such a fantastic creature came to office—to permitting trade unions in the armed services of this country, he should clearly say so. When I put it to him that that was perhaps a little embarrassing, or even a little controversial, he sidestepped the question by saying this was a case of taking away existing rights. I am glad that the right hon. Gentleman has some Tory respect for existing rights. That is a reactionary viewpoint but at least one that I respect.
Convention 87, to which a Labour Government signed up, specifically excludes the armed services from its ambit. In most countries, organisations engaged in highly confidential matters— [Interruption.] I will happily give way to the right hon. Gentleman.
§ Dr. Cunningham
I will try to shorten the hon. Gentleman's bogus argument. When people enlist in the armed forces, they do so as volunteers, and they know in advance that the right to union membership does not apply to them.
§ Mr. Evans
The right hon. Gentleman should try arguing that in France, which has conscription; or in any country where there is conscription. The right hon. Gentleman makes an utterly spurious point. In most countries, an organisation of the type of GCHQ is, rightly and properly, run by the armed services. The fact that it is historically not so in this country in modern times is an accident.
§ Mr. Allan Rogers (Rhondda)
The hon. Gentleman should investigate the matter a little further. Different categories of people work for the state. Those who work for MI6, for example, are Crown servants—and as such are precluded from joining trade unions. People who join the armed forces know that they are not allowed to join trade unions. The ILO convention specifically acknowledges that provision. Other countries in Europe, such as Holland and France, may allow trade unionists in their armed forces. That is their business and has nothing to do with the argument.
§ Mr. Evans
I was making the point that a secret intelligence-gathering by interception operation of the type of GCHQ is often run by the armed services in other countries, because such an operation is of fundamental national importance.
Another Labour Government signed up in 1978 to ILO convention 151. Perhaps realising that armed forces and police was too narrow an exemption, it added workers engaged in work of a highly confidential nature. It has always been the Government's case that they are not in breach of those two conventions taken together. At committee and conference level, the ILO has been critical, but it has not appointed a commission of inquiry or taken 254 the British Government to the International Court of Justice, which ultimately would be able to rule on whether there has been a breach of the convention.
§ Mr. Rogers
Again, the hon. Gentleman has shown appalling ignorance. The ILO did not proceed to take action against the United Kingdom because the British members gave an assurance that they would reconsider the issue. That happened last year. There will be a report again this year because of the way in which the matter was dismissed.
§ Mr. Evans
More huff and puff by those who wish to create a protest.
The campaign that has been mounted by Opposition Members is wholly without merit. It is an unconvincing argument to liken to the Tolpuddle martyrs the 14 who refused the offers made to them. It is being suggested that the 14 are victims of a democratic process going wrong. In fact, they were paid generous compensation by the Government. The background suggests that there is something extremely odd about the campaign of protest that has been mounted.
If certificates were signed by the Secretary of State under employment protection legislation—the right hon. Member for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham) did not take this point on board—that would implement the arrangements that the Government have proposed, and were that power to be removed, there would be the possibility of industrial tribunals having jurisdiction to try cases arising out of employment arrangements. That is quite apart from any question of trade union organisation leading to the unacceptable disruption that took place from 1979 to 1981. Anyone who has had any connection with the process of industrial tribunals will be well aware that large amounts of information can be requested properly—it is extremely difficult to stop it being produced by means of public interest immunity certificates—and the entire operation of an organisation can be examined in public.
§ Mr. Alex Carlile (Montgomery)
Is the hon. Gentleman able to cite any industrial tribunal hearing during which the chairman and members of the tribunal rejected an argument founded on national security?
§ Mr. Evans
I have no doubt that it would be argued powerfully that it was not an issue of national security. That would be the applicant's case. He would argue that he had been unfairly treated for a host of reasons, including the decisions of his superiors and the processes and procedures within the organisation. As a result, everything would be laid bare for the public to see. That would be wrong.
This is an issue of public duties, not of human rights, that bear on those who serve their country in GCHQ extremely well. They should not be allowed to behave in the way in which trade unionists in GCHQ conducted themselves from 1979 to 1981. The Government were driven to do what they did by the needs of the public and the interests of the Government and the state. The argument mounted by Opposition Members is complete nonsense.
§ Mr. Rogers
I wish that the hon. Gentleman would get his facts right. The industrial disruption to which he refers took place in 1981. The arbitrary reaction, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham) said, 255 took place in 1984. If the disruption was such a bad thing in 1981, why did the Government wait three years before introducing the banning of trade unions at GCHQ?
§ Mr. Winnick
There is a basic conflict between Labour Members and Conservative Members. It is unfortunate—I think that my assertion will be proved right—that no Conservative Member will today support the lifting of the ban on trade union organisation at GCHQ. We question the democratic credentials of Tory Members time and time again, and their reaction to this particular issue demonstrates the criticism that we make of them.
Unfortunately, there are far too many Members—certainly this is the position on the Conservative Benches —who do not understand human rights issues. They did not understand human rights issues in South Africa during the long horror of apartheid in that country. Here at home they seem not to understand the basic right of individuals to belong to a trade union at their place of employment.
Until the ban in 1984 the Government had no difficulty with the issue. I know that Conservative Members and the Minister will refer to industrial action, but one thing is certain—and I think that the records will bear this out: no Minister came to the House and complained about what was happening at GCHQ. I agree that the Government were not happy with the industrial action that took place in the early 1980s, but we were not prepared for the statement in the House on 25 January 1984 by the then Foreign Secretary, now Lord Howe, announcing that there would be a ban on all trade unions at GCHQ.
§ I said in an intervention during the speech by my right hon. Friend the Member for Copeland that one pays tribute to the 14 who refused to sign. Can one imagine the amount of pressure that there must have been on all employees at GCHQ? I do not criticise those employees—the majority —who signed. They obviously wanted to continue to work. No doubt they took the view that it would have been extremely difficult to find alternative work. Like other people throughout the country, they had commitments. No matter how much they would have liked to have stuck with their trade union membership, in the prevailing circumstances they had no alternative. They did not want a transfer. They wanted to continue the work in which they were experts, so they signed. They were given a certain amount of time to sign the document and some money. If they belonged to a trade union, they had to sign a document giving up that right. It is disgraceful that in our democracy citizens should be forced into the dilemma of whether to stick by their principles or by their jobs.
Like my right hon. Friend the Member for Copeland, I pay tribute to the 14 who refused to sign. They are loyal citizens, as loyal as anyone in the House or outside. They have only the interests of the country at heart. All were extremely skilled in their job. Some were experts and recognised as such. One was an expert in the Chinese language and, from 1984, played a leading role in the campaign for the lifting of the ban.
256 Some countries have remained under dictatorship, but others have not. In the former communist regimes, there were people like Dr. Sakharov, who reached a point where he could no longer serve the regime because he knew that it was unjust. I may be wrong—one cannot, of course, be certain about such matters—but had those 14 GCHQ workers lived in the Soviet Union, had they been Russians or Soviets, they would have stood out. The matters of principle and justice would have been similar to those they were facing, although the circumstances were very different there. They could not sign the document and allow themselves to be intimidated, even if it cost them their jobs. That is why we pay tribute to those 14.
Conservatives Members may sneer about such people, but we remember those in the last century, such us the Tolpuddle martyrs, who were persecuted and who stood by their principles. I would guess that in years to come the 14 will be seen in the same light. Certainly, I hope that they will live long enough to see their campaign succeed. Indeed, I hope that it will be only two or three years before that happens. A Labour Government will lift the ban.
My right and learned hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition reaffirmed Labour's commitment and made our position clear on the 10th anniversary of the ban when he spoke at Cheltenham. He said that one of the first actions of a Labour Government would be to lift that ban. I have not the slightest doubt that that pledge will be kept. [Interruption.] I thought that the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. Carlile) wanted to intervene, but he does not wish to do so.
When the ban was announced Ministers may have felt that there would be some commotion in the House and at GCHQ—and in the trade union movement—but that it would die down within two or three years. It has not died down, however. On the 10th anniversary of the ban there was the demonstration at Cheltenham. I note that the hon. Member for Clwyd, North-West (Mr. Richards) is either nodding or shaking his head—I am not sure which.
One thing is certain: no one can claim that the issue has gone away. It will not go away until victory has been secured. The hon. Member for Monmouth (Mr. Evans) tried to play down the position of the International Labour Organisation. He tried to give the impression that this was not a matter of great significance. But that is not the view of the ILO, which has clearly said that the British Government seem to be in breach of convention 87.
Time and again in the past 10 years there have been attempts in the ILO to avoid coming to a conclusion on this matter, in the hope that an agreement can be reached between the British Government and the trade unions. Indeed, a meeting took place last December. The unions went to the meeting at Downing street in the hope of reaching an agreement. They were flexible; they were willing to negotiate an agreement that would involve no striking at GCHQ. Even if Conservative Members are right to say that a ban was necessary because of the risk of industrial action—I do not accept that—the unions were saying that they were willing to reach an agreement on union recognition with no industrial action to be taken at GCHQ.
The Government seem to have said that this is not good enough. The Government, I understand, insisted that when unions sign such agreements they must also agree to ban industrial action everywhere by their members. No union could possibly agree to those terms; they would be a denial of basic democratic and union rights.
257 The Government were clearly not willing to come to an agreement, therefore. The only reason why the Secretary of State for Employment—and previous Secretaries of State —has given the impression that there could ever be an agreement is to prevent the ILO reaching a conclusion on convention 87.
§ Mr. Edward Garnier (Harborough)
It would help me if the hon. Gentleman would tell us whether he thinks that the industrial action taken in 1979 was justified. I am not sure of his stance on that.
§ Mr. Winnick
It is not for me to pass judgment on whether industrial action is right or wrong. Neither I nor other hon. Members are asked for their opinions on such matters. It is not my job to pass judgment. If the hon. Gentleman is genuinely concerned about industrial action at GCHQ, and not just using it as an excuse for a continued ban, the remedy is clear—the unions have offered the sort of agreement that I have described.
§ Mr. Garnier
I am sure that the hon. Gentleman can see the distinction between the principle that he supports and the question that I have asked him. Does he believe that the industrial action, taken in 1979 before there was any question of a ban, was justified or not? I am sure that the hon. Gentleman has in his time supported a number of cases of industrial action, such as the miners' strike, and has claimed that they were justified or otherwise. I am asking for a simple answer, to see how it informs the principle.
§ Mr. Winnick
I will not take lectures from Conservative Members who have never defended trade union rights and who, moreover, sometimes refuse to recognise trade unions in the companies that they run. A Government Whip, the hon. Member for Staffordshire, South-East (Mr. Lightbown), sometimes known as "the heavy", was quoted in my local newspaper—his constituency and mine are not far apart—as having said that he would rather see his factory closed down than recognise trade unions. We need no lectures about trade unions from Conservative Members.
§ Mr. Rogers
I know that my hon. Friend would not want to pass judgment on anyone taking industrial action. As he has said, it is not his business to do so. I am sure, however, that he would want to tell the hon. Member for Harborough (Mr. Garnier) that the action took place as a result of the arbitrary suspension of the pay scheme that was in operation for civil servants. The Government say that the number of man days lost was 10,000. In fact, with 7,000 people working at the establishment, it was just over one. In addition, as only 10 per cent. of GCHQ's business is data collection, there was virtually no loss of any material.
§ Mr. Winnick
I am grateful to my hon. Friend. People can rest assured that the industrial action was not taken in jest. Trade unions do not take such action in jest. In this case they had good reason to take the action that they took, as has been explained by my hon. Friend.
I want to talk about what happened after the industrial action.
§ Mr. Alex Carlile
Does not the hon. Gentleman recall that on 14 April 1981 the then Secretary of State for Defence asserted that the dispute had not affected operational efficiency or capability in any area?
§ Mr. Winnick
The hon. and learned Gentleman is right. This remark has been quoted previously. The fact is that work at GCHQ continued despite the industrial action. The real test is what happened in 1982, the year after the action. I refer to the Falklands war. Of course, that conflict could have been avoided if the Government had not sent to the junta political signals giving the impression that the Falklands were not important to Britain. At the time of the war— a year after the industrial action— GCHQ fulfilled its duties. Hon. Members do not have to take just my word—
§ Mr. Winnick
I shall give way to the hon. Gentleman in a moment. No doubt he will make his own remarks in due course.
When the Falklands war had ended, Sir Brian Tovey, the then director of GCHQ, sent a message to every employee. This occurred a year after the industrial action which, we are told, caused such disruption that GCHQ could not carry out its duties and which, it is asserted, made necessary the ban that occurred three years after the action. Sir Brian Tovey's message said:High level praise. There can be no doubt that this praise has been well deserved. It has been earned by hard and dedicated work by you as individuals.The great majority of those individuals were trade unionists. A year after the industrial action no Conservative Member—not even the Minister—would have had the effrontery to suggest that the excellent work done by GCHQ during the war was in any way undermined or hampered by trade union membership. No Minister could say anything of the kind and be telling the truth.
§ Mr. Garnier
The hon. Gentleman has been most courteous in giving way to me, and I shall not interrupt him again. Before leaving the Chamber to attend a meeting of the Select Committee on Home Affairs I invite him to tell us whether he interprets the intervention of his hon. Friend the Member for Rhondda (Mr. Rogers) as amounting to justification of the strike that took place in 1979?
§ Mr. Winnick
The hon. Gentleman seems to be obsessed with industrial action. I doubt whether, in his entire life, he has supported any action by trade unions in defence of their members' jobs. My hon. Friend gave the reason for the action. It is not for me, as a Labour Member of Parliament, to pass judgment, and I do not intend to do so.
If, as I hope, the International Labour Organisation comes to the conclusion that the British Government are in breach of convention 87 it should be noted that no other democracy has been so reprimanded. This would be the first time for any democratic country to be found to be in breach of convention 87. What sort of regimes have been reprimanded for breaches of convention 87? They include El Salvador, Brazil and other dictatorial and tyrannical countries. It will not improve Britain's reputation to be linked to such regimes if the ILO concludes that we have breached that convention.
§ I began by saying that a fundamental right is at issue. What divides the two sides of the House is whether people have the right to belong to a trade union. I believe that, in a democracy, people at their place of employment have such a right. Ten years ago, that right was taken away without any justification. I am clear in my mind that the continuing campaign, together with what we are saying today, is fully justified. Of course, the Minister will not budge today. In Committee, there was not even the slightest sign that the Government would budge.
Following a meeting at Downing street last December, the general secretary of the TUC wrote to the ILO explaining what was happening and asking it to proceed accordingly. I hope that it will do so. Unfortunately, our new clause will be lost today, but in the end victory will be ours. No matter how many defeats we suffer now, the time will shortly come—perhaps in two or three years—when there will be another Government who will respect human rights and one of whose first actions will be to ensure that the right that was taken away 10 years ago is restored as quickly as possible.
§ Sir Peter Emery (Honiton)
I had not intended to speak, but there appears to be an accusation that Conservative Members are against trade unions and I do not believe that to be true. Indeed, if trade unions did not exist, the Conservative party would have had to invent them. I hold a trade union record that no other hon. Member has ever achieved: I am the only person who, as a rank-and-file member of a trade union, defeated a member of his own executive to win a seat in this place. I achieved that by defeating Mr. Ian Mikardo in Reading in 1959—so my views about trade unions should not come under any attack.
We need to think seriously about whether it is correct to consider the employees of GCHQ in the same terms as we consider the military. That is the basis of the argument and it is the Government's view that they should be put in the same category. I understand the Opposition's argument that they should be treated separately. One of the dangers of being somewhat independent is that one can often appreciate the arguments on both sides. At this moment, however, the question is which of the arguments is more important to the security of this country.
§ Mr. Peter Kilfoyle (Liverpool, Walton)
The right hon. Gentleman, like other hon. Members here today, did not have the privilege of serving on the Standing Committee. I want to put to him a question that was put to the Minister in Committee. If membership of a trade union at GCHQ is a threat to our national security, how does the right hon. Gentleman view the current practice of market testing—for example, for the maintenance of RAF strike aircraft, which could mean private companies maintaining the engines? Would the same argument—that membership of a trade union is inimical to the interests of national security—apply to the private companies?
§ Sir Peter Emery
The straight answer to that is no and I shall therefore press on.
I spoke on Second Reading and, although I was not on the Committee, I followed its debates in Hansard. The Prime Minister's statement of 13 January is of the greatest importance in considering these questions. My right hon. Friend said: 260Against that background, however, I indicated that the Government were prepared to enable the Government Communications Staff Federation, the registered trade union for GCHQ staff, to affiliate to the Council of Civil Service Unions, subject to conditions to guarantee its continuing independence. This would have allowed the staff of GCHQ to be represented in discussions between the Government and the unions on matters affecting the civil service generally in a way in which they are not at present."—[Official Report, 13 January 1994; Vol. 235, c. 255.]Can my hon. Friend the Minister confirm whether that offer remains?
§ Sir Peter Emery
I see from his nod that it does, and that is important in the balance of the matter. That is a long way from emotive suggestions to the effect that the 14 people were similar to Mr. Sakharov in Russia. I have been to Gorky and seen what Mr. Sakharov had to go through, and there is no comparison. It is important that the House should not debate important matters with such a division of political views. I believe that there is not an absolute division of political views. I believe honestly that both sides want to see what is best for the defence of the country. I do not doubt that at all, and I would not suggest that those on the Opposition Front Bench wanted otherwise. It seems to me that it comes down to a difference of opinion, and how that difference is best summed up.
§ Mr. Winnick
Let there be no misunderstanding. I made a comparison with the case of the late Dr. Sakharov, but I accepted when I spoke—at least, I hope I did and I will check my remarks—that the circumstances were very different. I was not attempting to compare like with like. I tried to compare—I believe I was right in doing so—the case of Dr. Sakharov, who, under dictatorship conditions, stood by his principles, with that of the 14 who, in a democracy, were willing to sacrifice their jobs because they, too, believed in basic human rights and in justice. I see some likeness between the two cases.
§ Sir Peter Emery
The hon. Gentleman was clearly not making the sort of suggestions that I thought might have been drawn from his remarks; it is good to have that cleared up.
I return to the question that I put originally: should we treat the employees at GCHQ in the same way as we treat those who are working in the defence and military forces of this country? The Government take the view that we should. I happen to believe—certainly at this moment—that that is the right decision. I urge those who are working at GCHQ to take up the offer made by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, which is still open; they could then make specific representations in a normal civil service fashion. I believe that, if that were to happen, the House ought to be satisfied.
§ Mr. Alex Carlile
I start by paying tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Cheltenham (Mr. Jones). He is not here this afternoon as he unfortunately had to attend the funeral of a friend, but he will join us later. It is right to pay tribute to his hard work—both as a councillor in Cheltenham and latterly as the Member of Parliament representing that constituency—on behalf of those at 261 GCHQ who lost their jobs as a result of the struggle for trade union membership, one of whom is now a Liberal Democrat councillor on the local district council.
John Cook was a communications and cipher operator at GCHQ and is, perhaps, a good talisman for what has occurred there and for what ought to occur in the future. He is one of the 14, and he could hardly be criticised for any suggestion of disloyalty to his country. John Cook was positively vetted and, despite the dispute over trade union membership, has remained loyal to his oath of secrecy, as have all the 14. His loyalty goes without question, as does that of the other 13.
John Cook was a communications and cipher operator on Ascension island during the Falklands war. He worked hard in difficult conditions and with extreme effect, so one understands, while he was there. His loyalty was judged afterwards when he was invited to Buckingham palace to be honoured for his work, yet he is one of the 14 people who lost their jobs because it was thought to be against the national interest that they should be allowed to be members of a trade union.
What Mr. Cook and his colleagues proposed was not some outrageous new theory. They were not claiming some new right. They were not relying on some newly ratified convention from which the Government might have wished to derogate when it was created. Mr. Cook was relying on an established right which he had exercised fairly throughout his period at GCHQ.
Yes, there was an industrial dispute at GCHQ, but it was a lawful one. I do not think that it has ever been suggested that there was any suspicion of illegality about the dispute or the way in which it was conducted. All lawful trade disputes militate against someone's interest. That is in the nature of trade disputes, but they remain lawful in Britain, and rightly so, within certain limits.
Successive Governments had plenty of time to react to the dispute and to say that it redounded in a way which was contrary to the national interest and should be the direct cause of removing the right to trade union membership. However, that did not happen. It was about five years later that the Government decided to abolish—
§ Mr. Carlile
I am sorry, three years later. It was about three years later that the Government decided to abolish trade union membership at GCHQ. That could hardly be described as a reaction. It seems to me that, in this instance, the Government are simply tilting at windmills—but they are invisible windmills. It is not sufficient to argue that they suddenly discovered that GCHQ should be treated in the same way as the military—with great respect to the right hon. Member for Honiton (Sir P. Emery). For years —indeed, throughout most of the right hon. Gentleman's distinguished and long membership of the House—the GCHQ work force were members of trade unions without ill effect.
§ Sir Peter Emery
I do not mean to interrupt the hon. and learned Gentleman's flow, but there is a difference between the time before 10,000 hours of work were lost at GCHQ and the time after it. Until that moment, trade union membership was never questioned but after that moment questions were raised. That was the watershed.
§ Mr. Carlile
I do not understand that point. If one analyses the time lost in the context of the whole work force of GCHQ, a very small number—a handful—of man years were lost. And it was always a lawful trade dispute.
§ Dr. John Cunningham
I want to help and support the point that the hon. and learned Gentleman makes. In the period to which the right hon. Member for Honiton (Sir P. Emery) referred, almost 5 million working days were lost at GCHQ. Only 0.2 per cent. of them were lost during the dispute. Far more time was lost because people were absent ill and certainly because at weekends they were not there at all.
§ Mr. Carlile
The right hon. Gentleman makes his point well. He underlines my point that what occurred was a perfectly normal lawful trade dispute. Nor should we forget that the Intelligence Services Bill deals with the position as it is in 1994. Much has changed in the trade union world since 1978. I suspect that even the right hon. Member for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham) would admit that to be true, albeit reluctantly. I see that he shrugs his shoulders at that proposition.
§ Mr. Carlile
The fact is that much has changed. We are considering the position in 1994. There have been the highest level negotiations between those who wish to be trade unionists at GCHQ, the trade unions and the Government. Undertakings have been given—I have not heard the Minister suggest that they were dishonourably given—that GCHQ would be able to function securely, as it always has in the past, and that there would not be disruption at GCHQ through industrial action. I do not know what more the Government can ask. I really do not know at what windmill the Government are tilting. What are they afraid of?
We have heard two cogent speeches from Conservative Back-Bench Members, but neither of them identified a single item that could cause the Government even so much as concern if trade union membership were permitted at GCHQ.
The hon. Member for Monmouth (Mr. Evans) may be right. There may be no technical breach of the International Labour Organisation conventions, but that has not yet been determined, nor is it the issue. The issue is the principle whether it is right that workpeople who were more loyal to this country than most workpeople are ever asked to be should have been removed from their job, their rights and their livelihood because the Government did not like the notion of having trade unions at GCHQ.
§ Mr. Rogers
With all due respect to the hon. and learned Gentleman, the workers who participated in industrial action at GCHQ were not disloyal in any way. It is important to emphasise that national security was never put at risk and that at GCHQ—this is one of the things that are not always obvious, certainly to Conservative Members, who never even try to find out—only 10 per cent. of the work force is involved in data collection. When the industrial action took place, none of the members involved in strategic data collection went on strike. The fundamental process of GCHQ continued right through that one-day industrial action.
§ Mr. Carlile
I have made the point twice that none of the workers at GCHQ was disloyal. Indeed, I think that I am right in saying that it has never been claimed that a single worker at GCHQ was disloyal. [Interruption.] The Government have never claimed with an iota of evidence to show any disloyalty or any effect of any alleged disloyalty.
I would find the arguments of the hon. Member for Monmouth more convincing if there were some evidence of a single incident of disloyalty that affected the interests of this country in any significant way. Perhaps I can best close my remarks by referring to the words of the then Secretary of State for Defence, now Sir John Nott. One notes that he has not been given the ermine shawl—perhaps because he has been a little too frank in expressing his views about the performance of the Government of which he was a member. He said that the dispute at GCHQ had notin any way affected operational capability in any area."— [Official Report, 14 April 1981; Vol. 3, c. 136.]If that was true—
§ Mr. Carlile
No. I have almost finished. If Mr. Nott was stating the facts accurately to the House, why are the Government spending so much time raking over the coals of a lawful industrial dispute that took place about 15 years ago?
§ Mr. Richard Shepherd (Aldridge-Brownhills)
Trade union rights at GCHQ have been a major cause celebre which has rattled down the 10 years since the withdrawal of trade union recognition. The issue has dominated debates on the Bill in both Chambers of the Palace of Westminster and new clause 1 shows the Opposition's strength of feeling here as well as in another place.
I understand the grievance that informs the argument. Clearly if any one of us had joined a trade union in the knowledge that membership was acceptable, it would seem to be part of an acquired right, we would think nothing of it and would therefore feel aggrieved if the right were withdrawn. I understand and respect that feeling of grievance, but I must refer to the basic principle.
The House understands that I have also run up against the Government, but they are accountable to an electorate and their perception of the defence of the nation gives them the right to make arrangements for those whom they employ. I am mindful of that right because when I read the Committee Hansard reports I could not see a distinction as regards national security. Hon. Members across the Chamber rightly accept that GCHQ is an integral part of our national defence or early warning system. It has been argued that it is crucial and that the information that it delivers is important to the nation. We say the same of our armed forces and accept that it is intolerable that they should strike, even for one day, and that it might hinder our capability—not last time, but it might next time. Governments must look forward as well as refer back.
§ Dr. John Cunningham
I have been listening to the hon. Gentleman, but I do not understand his argument. He says that Governments are entitled to take such decisions. The same Government have a Joint Intelligence Committee, which handles the most precious secrets of the nation. Its members are members of a trade union. I guess 264 that they belong to the First Division Association, which is affiliated to the Trades Union Congress. Their membership conflicts with the hon. Gentleman's argument.
§ Mr. Shepherd
That is why I approached the subject fairly diffidently. Until 1984, the same judgment applied to GCHQ. I understand the matter of principle that the Opposition have identified, which dominated the thrust of the attack on the Bill—attack is probably the wrong word. However, when the Government identify what they believe to be the essential interest for defence, although the right hon. Gentleman and I might disagree with the particular, the Government have a right to act. They must justify their actions to the Chamber and to the country.
I must contradict the new clause. I recognise that, where national security or organisations such as the Army are concerned—as the right hon. Gentleman said, there is a seeming contradiction—and the Government cites that, for example, GCHQ should not have the benefit of trade unions, but should work through staff organisations, that is a right of Government.
The Opposition are right to challenge the decision if they feel strongly about it. They have made it clear that if they form a Government they will restore the right. That is a respectable argument. I am saying that both arguments are respectable. However, the judgment falls to the Government and I will back them on it because I think that it is acceptable. It is the Government's perception that, although 10,000 hours lost in one day is not significant, they cannot be in that position again and they have made arrangements to that effect.
§ Mr. Winnick
If we do not carry the hon. Gentleman with us on the issue of civil liberties, we can reasonably assume that no other Conservative Member will vote with us in the Lobby. Does the hon. Gentleman accept, however, that the Government should give strong and compelling reasons for taking away a basic right?
All those employees were highly praised for their role in the Falklands campaign in 1982 and, furthermore, no one has argued that their capabilities were not at full strength during the cold war when they were trade union members. For the hon. Gentleman to prove his case he would have to say that the Government argued that GCHQ's capabilities had been undermined, but no such argument has been put forward.
§ Mr. Shepherd
I guess that I implicitly accepted that point. The resurrection of details of GCHQ's history obviously informs our views on the subject. I accept that the Opposition take an entirely different standpoint. I reiterate that the Opposition Front-Bench team have stated that, when they have the opportunity of being in government, they will restore the right.
I am merely arguing that, as a matter of principle, each Government responsible for national security must make decisions and judgments about it. The strike might not have had consequences for national security at the time, but we must all look forward and decide how we would meet such a contingency in the future. The trade union's offer of a no-strike bargain was a subsequent undertaking.
The Government made a judgment in 1984 and it is no secret that I was not happy with it. I may have taken a different judgment, but that is not the point. The nation commissions the Government to look after our national security and accepts that GCHQ is an integral part of it. The Government can therefore argue, and feel strongly 265 justified in doing so, that it is part of the country's defence forces and as such should be inhibited from forming unions and striking.
§ Mr. Rogers
I cannot follow the hon. Gentleman's argument. Is he saying that the Government have the right to override the international conventions and treaties that they have subscribed to? If he is saying that they can do so willy-nilly, it is a pretty awful state of affairs. The Government have subscribed to conventions laid down by the International Labour Organisation, which is an arm of the United Nations. We cannot subscribe to an international treaty that acknowledges that people have a right to join an organisation of their choosing and then decide to override it. If that is the case, why do not the Government withdraw from those international agreements? After all, the ILO was set up to safeguard workers' rights. It was originally thought that it would be necessary only in third-world countries, but that is just about the level that we are getting to in this country under this Government.
§ Mr. Shepherd
I am trying to illustrate the distinction of principle. I notice that the Opposition do not suggest for one moment that when they come into office they will allow the armed forces to have the right to join a trade union.
§ Mr. Kilfoyle
The hon. Gentleman is telling the House that he is trying to make a distinction of principle. May I ask him the question that I asked the right hon. Member for Honiton (Sir P. Emery)? Is he saying that he regards members of GCHQ as members of the military establishment and in a separate category in terms of national security and membership of trade unions? How does he square that view with the fact that employees of a private firm who might be maintaining aircraft engines —I gave the example of bomber command—might be union members? Is it not contradictory to say, as the right hon. Member said, that they can belong to a union when employees at GCHQ cannot because their membership somehow affects our national security? Does not the hon. Gentleman see the inconsistency in his argument?
§ Mr. Shepherd
Yes, but life is full of inconsistencies. That is not meant to be a glib response. The Government directly employ a huge establishment at GCHQ who are dedicated, as hon. Members on both sides of the House accept, to the defence of our nation. I attended the Standing Committee and carefully read the reports. I know that that is accepted and common ground.
I am merely saying that there is a distinction of principle and that the Government adopted a reasonable position. I am not saying that it is unreasonable for the Labour party, which was founded by the trade union movement, to stand staunchly by the right of those 13 GCHQ employees. That is perfectly honourable. I understand why a future Government might take an alternative or a contrary view. That is the distinction that I am acknowledging. I do not think that it is the major issue in the Intelligence Services Bill; that is the essence of my remarks.
§ Mr. Rogers
Will the hon. Gentleman then follow the logic of his argument and ask the Government to ban trade unions in atomic weapons establishments, for instance? Due to the contractorisation of atomic weapons establishments to private companies, civil servants are involved only in monitoring certain situations and the 266 general work force are now not Government servants. Is the hon. Gentleman saying that the Government could, in the interests of national security, ban trade unions in that industry?
§ 5 pm
§ Mr. Shepherd
We are going round in a circle. I am saying that the Government of the day—whether Labour or Conservative—have a right to determine which matters affect directly the national security of the nation and they stand accountable to the electorate and to the House. That Governments may have different views about different organisations at different times is wholly appropriate and consistent with the argument that I am mounting.
However, I find it slightly curious that this is the dominating debate about the Intelligence Services Bill which is linked to the security services legislation. I accept that it is a major cause celebre, but it is not the essence of the debate about the Bill.
§ Mr. Kilfoyle
Is not the whole purpose of the intelligence service to protect the very liberties which are being undermined in the case of those people who, under an international convention, have an established right to belong to a trade union at Government communications headquarters? What is the point of having an intelligence service if those liberties are not protected in this of all places?
§ Mr. Shepherd
That is a powerful argument and I treat it with respect. That is why I think that the remit is very important. That is why I think that national security, in definition, is very important and why I think that the Committee of parliamentarians and its remit is important. That is why I think that the tribunal is important. I have lots of views about the Bill, but I do not see this as the crucial issue in it.
I understand the passion that is expressed about the matter. I think that it is legitimate and fair. But I also think that the counter view is legitimate and fair. If Opposition Members wish, they may implement recognition of trade unions at GCHQ when they come to government. I think that I have made my point in my small contribution to the debate.
§ Mr. Stuart Randall (Kingston upon Hull, West)
I am one of those who believe that we must always maintain the security of our nation. We debated the main security services—the intelligence service, Government communications headquarters and the military—during the Second Reading of the Bill. We have to make sure that they work well.
When I was 15 years old I joined the shipyard at Devonport and I have been a member of a trade union ever since. Frankly, I cannot understand what Conservative Members are going on about. I cannot see any conflict whatsoever regarding national security and membership of trade unions. I say to the hon. Member for Monmouth (Mr. Evans) that I do not think that we can bridge the gap between us on this issue.
The Government must take action to resolve the problem with the rights of staff at GCHQ. They should be able to become members of a union of their choice which can be regarded as being an Independent union. They are the key points of convention 87: the ability to choose which union to join and the recognition of a union as being independent.
267 The Government could be censured by the International Labour Organisation. The ILO is scheduled to meet again in the autumn and I would be ashamed if it were to censure this country. The censure could take the form of awarding a "special paragraph". That is very serious as it is the ILO's highest form of censure. In practice, it would mean that Britain would be seen to be in breach of an ILO convention—in this case, convention 87, which deals with the rights of individuals to be members of trade unions of their choice. The ILO is an international organisation of great repute and, in my view, it would be very damaging to Britain's interests if we were seen to disregard or belittle in any way the rulings or advocacy of that organisation.
The awarding of a special paragraph is used very rarely by the ILO. Therefore, when it is used we can assume that the ILO views the breaching of the convention very seriously. In the past, special paragraphs have been issued over such violations as slavery in the Sudan, forced labour in Brazil and the murder of trade unionists in El Salvador. If the ILO censures us in that way, Britain will be seen as ignoring human rights. Additionally, it will be seen as flouting an important international convention to which it is a signatory.
What therefore is the current position? A censure in the form of the special paragraph was proposed by the ILO in 1992, but it was withdrawn when the Government declared their intention to reach a solution that was satisfactory to all parties. They said that they hoped fora substantive, frank and constructive dialogue carried out in good faith.The Government agreed to undertake such dialogue following the statement in 1992 by an important ILO committee. It said three things: first, the committee was unanimous about the need for a renewal of dialogue between the Government and trade unions; secondly, it deplored the fact that it was unable to note any tangible progress on the question of the breach of convention 87, or even a resumption of discussions; and, thirdly, it urged the Government to resume in the very near futureconstructive discussions calculated to lead, through genuine dialogue, to a compromise acceptable to both sides.The Government have agreed to create such a compromise. But what are they doing now? In 1992 they said that they would take action to resolve the problem—they are committed to doing that. In January, in a parliamentary answer, the Prime Minister said that the overriding concern was the maintenance of the continuing operation of GCHQ —we all agree with that—in order to protect national security.
However, there is no evidence that the industrial action taken between 1979 and 1981 damaged national security. We have already heard the quotes from Sir John Nott, so I will not repeat them. But, essentially, no operational activity was affected in any area during the dispute. I estimate that about 15 people per year did not work during the period. If one calculates that there are 300 working days a year, only a tiny number of people were involved in industrial action.
In this context, the Prime Minister said that the Government Communications Staff Federation—the registered union. for GCHQ staff—should become affiliated with the Council of Civil Service Unions. The right hon. Member for Honiton (Sir P. Emery) also referred to that suggestion in his speech. It was rejected by the trade 268 unions for one key reason—it was absolutely irrelevant because, even if it were regarded as a solution, convention 87 would still be violated. There was no way in which the trade unions could accept that offer. The Prime Minister went on to say that there were no plans at that time to hold further meetings.
What the Government are doing—seemingly via the office of the Lord Chancellor—is creating all sorts of legal arguments. They are wriggling by saying that convention 87 cannot be applied directly to the GCHQ case and that it is necessary to consider the words of convention 152. It is clear that they are raking in all sorts of legal arguments. I do not believe that such arguing and that kind of court stuff will enhance the esteem of Britain.
I shall ask the Minister three questions. First, do the Government fully support the principles laid down in convention 87? It is rumoured that the Government might even withdraw from the ILO. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman can confirm whether that is true. Does he agree that people should be free to choose to which union they want to belong and that those unions can be independent? I should like to know the Government's thinking on that.
Secondly, will the Minister tell the House exactly under what circumstances the Government could allow staff at GCHQ to join independent unions of their choice? I am sure that the House will wait to hear the Minister's replies because we need some help from the Government to see if we can break the logjam.
Thirdly, I hope that the Minister will admit that progress is slow. Is it the Government's intention to put forward some proposals to form the basis for constructive dialogue?
I should like the answers to those three simple little questions, because I am one of those people who genuinely believes that the argument about trade union membership was a political mistake created a number of years ago. It has nothing to do with national security and it is completely fallacious to rake in such an argument. What we are talking about has nothing to do with the security services; we are talking about basic individual rights. For that reason I support the new clause.
I see no conflict between trade union membership and national security. I have seen no evidence and heard nothing today to suggest that being a member of a trade union affects national security. That is a load of old rubbish. The mistake was made by Lord Howe, who was probably being pushed at the time by a certain lady. The Government now cannot dig themselves out of the great hole into which they have got themselves.
One thing is clear: the ILO will consider the matter again this autumn and it will be up for consideration at next year's conference. We therefore have a year in which to sort the whole thing out. I ask the Government to get stuck in, have some discussions and come up with a sensible solution to the problem. We can then put it to bed once and for all.
Will the Minister please answer my three questions?
§ Mr. French
There is a striking contrast between the posture adopted by the right hon. Member for Copeland (Dr Cunningham), who opened the debate—it was reinforced by the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, West (Mr. Randall)—and the views held by the current employees at GCHQ. Many of them are my constituents; 269 they live in Gloucester and work at GCHQ in Cheltenham. Very few of those employees have any complaints about the prevailing situation at GCHQ.
The attitude of the Labour party, and, to an extent, that of the Liberal party, is yet another example of an attempt to whip up this issue into a major problem, some years after it has ceased to be a major problem locally. That was well illustrated by the recent demonstration on the 10th anniversary of the trade union ban. Several Opposition Members have referred to that demonstration and any of them who witnessed it would have noticed two things. First, the Leader of the Opposition, the right hon. and learned Member for Monklands, East (Mr. Smith), was at its head and spoke to the assembled multitude. Secondly, if those witnesses had looked more carefully, however, they would have noted that the number of local people and, particularly, the number of local employees of GCHQ who attended the demonstration was very small.
The hon. Member for Rhondda (Mr. Rogers) will no doubt repeat the point that he made in Committee that those employees were not at the demonstration because, as they are not permitted to be members of a trade union, they should not have been there. I cannot see that membership of a trade union would or should have prevented them from expressing their views by taking part in that demonstration. I must emphasise, however, that the majority of people who attended that demonstration were drafted in from other parts of the country. Some were drafted in at the behest of certain members of the Labour party, who wished to give the impression and convey a national message that GCHQ is still a matter of great concern locally and, therefore, nationally. That was a false message, because it did not represent local views accurately.
§ Mr. Rogers
May I suggest to the hon. Gentleman that, if he quotes what I said in Committee, he should make use of the relevant column in the Official Report? I do not recall saying what he claimed I said in Committee.
§ Mr. French
I regret that I do not have the precise column reference to hand, but if I can find it before the end of the debate, I will quote it to the hon. Gentleman.
The right hon. Member for Copeland should understand that approximately half of the current employees at GCHQ joined it some time after the ban had come into effect. They joined in the full knowledge of the conditions of service to which they had to agree. Those people are not complaining, because they joined in the full knowledge that they would be unable to join a trade union. That ban has not prevented them from taking up their employment. That fact, too, reveals that there is a yawning gap between views held locally and those expressed by the Opposition today and in Committee. The Opposion are trying to foist their views on the House and the nation.
§ Mr. Rogers
For the purpose of the exercise, I accept the argument that the hon. Gentleman has put forward—the wishes of the employees at GCHQ should be paramount. In that case, why would he object to a ballot being held there on whether employees wanted to join a trade union? That could be held according to the law that the Government have prescribed. Why not allow the workers at GCHQ the right to a ballot under the rules and regulations drawn up by the Government?
§ Mr. French
As the hon. Gentleman knows, those employees are eligible to join the staff federation, which I shall discuss later. I am arguing that the views of those people, as represented by the Labour party, purporting to express views held locally, are being grossly and seriously distorted. From local knowledge and from constant contact with employees at GCHQ in a local context, I am confident that my argument is sound.
Several Opposition Members have ridiculed Conservative Members for, they claim, holding the view that trade unions at GCHQ would constitute a threat to security. It very much depends on what one understands by a threat to security. It is not a threat to security in the sense that Conservative Members are speaking about something equivalent to reds under the bed. Anyone who understands the procedures in GCHQ will realise that there is a possibility of a threat to national security.
§ Mr. French
Before I am interrupted, perhaps I could be allowed to explain why and how I can substantiate that remark. Then I will give way to the hon. Gentleman—to both hon. Gentlemen, if necessary.
We have heard comments by the Opposition that there never has been any interruption to the data collection. The data collection is a vital part of what GCHQ does, although it performs many other services. The continuity and non-interruption of that data collection is vital. If one is involved, as people are in GCHQ, in gathering a continuous collection of information, which, having been gathered, is subject to code-breaking and interpretation, it becomes clear that an interruption of any type in that data collection can completely destroy the capacity to interpret the rest of the information that is collected.
If I may give a simple illustration, if data has been collected continuously for seven days but there is then an interruption for as much as seven minutes, that can render the interpretation of the seven days' data difficult, if not impossible or invalid.
§ Mr. Kilfoyle
If it is so important to maintain the continuity of the collection and interpretation of data, why was one of the people who were dismissed so summarily as a result of the attitude of the Government towards trade unions at GCHQ the only Chinese technical expert available to GCHQ, and why, subsequently, was the body of expertise that had been built up around that individual allowed to be dissipated? The department was closed. If it was so important to maintain that data, why did the Government act so vindictively?
§ Mr. French
I am speaking about the continuity of collection of data. I do not think that the hon. Gentleman has fully understood that. I am fairly sure that the task of the gentleman to whom he refers was interpreting data, not collecting it. That is all the difference in the world. Even the best interpreter of data cannot interpret correctly if the collection is not complete.
§ Mr. McWilliam
May I tell the hon. Gentleman, as a sponsored member of the National Communications Union, and someone who has worked on national security and defence communications over the years and has never broken the Official Secrets Act 1911, first, that I do not 271 know where he gets the basis for the statements that he has just made. Secondly, there has been no break in the continuity of data at GCHQ during the strike.
Thirdly, people such as me who have worked in national security and defence communications for all these years who are active trade unionists find the attitude of the Government of the previous right hon. Member for Finchley, now Baroness Thatcher, and others towards trade unionists deeply and personally objectionable. The only traitors that we have had, and the ones that have been prosecuted, are not trade unionists, active trade unionists, socialists or members of the Labour party. They have been members of the classes represented by the hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friends.
§ Mr. French
I am not sure that the concluding remarks by the hon. Gentleman have a correct place in the debate.
Several Opposition Members—the hon. Member for Blaydon (Mr. McWilliam) has added to that—have argued that there has been no breakdown in the collection of data. The hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. Carlile) pointed out earlier that the fact that no harm had been done as a result of any—
§ Mr. French
May I just finish my argument?
The hon. and learned Member for Montgomery pointed out to us that no harm had allegedly been done as a result of any interruption, and a reference was made to the remarks allegedly made by the then Defence Secretary, Sir John Nott, quoted recently in debate. The argument that Sir John Nott made at the time was not that there had been no damage done as a result. It was made clear in Committee and made clear by the then Prime Minister, commenting on Sir John Nott's remarks, that hewas referring only to military operationsandGCHQ did not come under his then Department and does not now."—[Official Report, 31 January 1984; Vol. 53, c. 136.]Therefore, the comments of Sir John Nott do not support the argument that no damage was done at the time.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Michael Morris)
Order. The hon. Member for Rhondda (Mr. Rogers) has intervened a great many times and, if the hon. Member for Gloucester (Mr. French) is not giving way, he must respect that.
§ Mr. French
I have given way to a large number of Opposition Members, including the hon. Member for Rhondda and I want to answer an argument that he made earlier before giving way to yet a further intervention from him.
272 The hon. Member for Rhondda and other Opposition Members referred to the fact that, if 10,000 days were lost and there are 6,500 employees, that amounts to only 1½ days per employee. They seem to pray in aid, as an argument, that that is not serious and could not have done very much damage. Continuing my argument about the interruption of data, the loss of 1½ days by one employee is a lot. It is not a little, as the Opposition Members seemed to argue.
§ Mr. French
It is a large, serious interruption, and to interpret it as 1½ days instead of the 10,000 days that it was gives a misleading picture.
§ Mrs. Bridget Prentice (Lewisham, East)
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving way on the point about days. I wonder whether he would tell the House whether 1½ days lost as a result of strike action is better or worse than 1½ weeks lost as a result of illness.
§ Mr. French
The fundamental difference is that proper cover can be given when 1½ weeks are lost as a result of illness, to ensure the continuation of the collection of data, for the simple reason that a large proportion of the work force is not ill simultaneously. Those 10,000 lost days represented a significant number of employees—not all, but a significant number—not working at the same time. That is what makes it potentially very damaging.
The hon. and learned Member for Montgomery is not present, but no doubt he is ably represented by the hon. Lady. He said that it must be accepted that all lawful trade disputes militated against someone's interests. This is why the comparison made earlier between GCHQ employees and members of the military is so important. If we indeed accept the hon. and learned Gentleman's proposition—as his party seems to—the "someone" referred to is, in this instance, the nation's security. That places his argument on a different level from some of the other arguments that may be advanced in an understandable attempt to justify legitimate trade union action.
I said earlier that I wished to deal with the question of the staff federation, whose role has been significantly underestimated in the debate so far. It has been in existence for nearly 10 years, having been established in 1985; in 1988, it was granted sole recognition in regard to the representation of staff. All the local evidence suggests that it represents their interests very satisfactorily.
§ Mr. French
No; I want to continue with what I am saying.
The federation is, after all, completely democratic. Its officers and members of the general executive council are elected by secret ballot, and it is a representative organisation. Since 1985 it has been listed as a trade union, with the certification officer, under the Trade Union and Labour Relations Act 1974. It operates independently, and is elected independently; it fulfils the task that it was set up to fulfil—the representation of employees. The only requirement involved is that it must not be affiliated to a political organisation, and there is nothing so unreasonable 273 about that stipulation. Those who do not agree with it must present an argument against it, and there is no sound argument to that effect.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. Hon. Members seem to be forgetting some of the courtesies of the House. When it is clear that an hon. Member is not going to give way, there is no point in other hon. Members' continually shouting "Will the hon. Gentleman give way?" across the Chamber. On this occasion, the hon. Member for Gloucester (Mr. French) is clearly not going to give way.
§ Mr. Martin Redmond (Don Valley)
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. If an hon. Member is making statements that need to be clarified, is it not beneficial for him to give way so that another hon. Member can correct them if necessary?
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
That is nothing to do with the Chair. The winding-up speeches provide a facility for hon. Members who wish to challenge any points made by others.
§ Mr. French
Thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Let me place on record that I have already given way five or six times, as Hansard will show. I consider that perfectly reasonable, and I do not think that I should be forced to give way further by misconduct on the part of Opposition Members.
My final point relates to comments made by the right hon. Member for Copeland and the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, West (Mr. Randall). Both were extremely dismissive about the Prime Minister's efforts. It is obvious from all the available information that the Prime Minister has made strenuous attempts to reach an accommodation with those who want full trade union representation, and that he has done so for a long time.
First, Sir Robin Butler was authorised to hold discussions to try to find a way out of the problem. A good many discussions were held with national unions in the attempt to find a formula; they began in 1992, and continued in 1993. Meetings were held with the general secretaries of a number of national unions, and various possibilities were considered. The main issue remained the same, however: the national unions' desire for the right to recruit at GCHQ could not be reconciled with the Prime Minister's understandable view that the overriding desire should be for the continuity of data collection. I very much hope that Opposition Members will come to appreciate—given all the available facts—that that is essential to national security.
§ Mr. James Molyneaux (Lagan Valley)
I have a good deal in common with the views of the hon. Member for Aldridge-Brownhills (Mr. Shepherd). My wartime experience of contacts with the intelligence services persuaded me that there were wide variations in both the scope and the status of the different sectors, but, like nearly every other hon. Member who is present, I am constrained in what I can say, publicly.
In present-day Northern Ireland, an increasing number of the functions of the armed forces and the police are being civilianised or privatised. The right hon. Member for 274 Copeland (Dr. Cunningham) mentioned civilians employed in sensitive posts in Whitehall. Very few such civilians, either in Whitehall or on our island, have betrayed their trust as servants of the Crown; I believe that the vast majority of trade unionists are loyal to the Crown, and to their country.
Indeed, that is not in dispute. This is not a question of loyalty; it is not really a question of security in the broader sense, that people cannot be trusted. The problem for my party is the fact that the continuity and smooth working of the establishment at GCHQ are essential.
It has been said that hours lost through sickness vastly outnumbered those lost through industrial action; but, as has also been said, that is not the point. Even a flu epidemic would not immobilise GCHQ at one fell swoop. Admittedly there might be some reduction in efficiency, a backlog in decoding and a delay in the provision of transcriptions; but there would not be a complete closedown.
The hon. Member for Walsall, North (Mr. Winnick)—who sometimes agrees with me—assured us that the 10,000 staff days lost during the strike between 1979 and 1981 did not fatally damage operations: he provided written evidence whose validity I accept. The potential for damage remains, however. Presumably a complete closure was avoided in 1981 by the existence of—I hesitate to use the term—strike breakers: not every member of staff joined in. We must ask, however, whether we can be certain that such disunity within the unions will not be repeated.
I accept the Opposition's assurances that industrial action is a thing of the distant past; I think that they honestly believe that. None the less, I have a niggling reservation. Whatever the cause of the 1981 stoppage—we have not been greatly enlightened about that cause today; there is some mystery about it—some such cause could surface again, with the best will in the world. Next time there could be a complete stoppage. I accept what the hon. Member for Gloucester (Mr. French) said, and we all know that an effective stoppage, for even a few hours, could do serious damage which it would be impossible to retrieve.
§ Mr. Rogers
The right hon. Gentleman makes an important point, and it is the reason that I was trying to intervene on the hon. Member for Gloucester (Mr. French).
I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman will accept that the official Opposition are also concerned about the continuity of collection of sensitive material. The collection of material is carried out electronically; it is not necessary for someone to be present for material to be collected. At the weekend, for example, the number of staff present is very much diminished. Only 10 per cent. of the work force are involved in data collection, so the idea that the collection of material ceases if someone is away is entirely false.
§ Mr. Molyneaux
I hope that, in view of the rumoured cuts, the hon. Gentleman is not accidentally going to incite the Treasury to tell us that a much smaller work force would be acceptable at GCHQ. However, I accept some of what he said. If we need all those employees at GCHQ, it disproves his idea that tape recorders can run of their own accord—because of my limited experience of modern technology, I prefer the old pencil stub.
It has been suggested that new clause 1 could lead to a stoppage in the maintenance of aircraft engines by private 275 workmen or a stoppage in a Whitehall Department, even at the Ministry of Defence. I accept that it could mean that an aircraft's take-off was delayed for 48 hours, that a payment order from the Paymaster General might be delayed, or that a cheque might not be issued and tenders not collected by the appropriate date, but the continuity that usually applies in those instances is very different from that at GCHQ where it is absolutely essential. Disruption at GCHQ would cause a great blank in the intelligence picture, which could never be filled from any other source.
§ Mr. Peter Mandelson (Hartlepool)
I appreciate the fact that the right hon. Gentleman is drawing a distinction between the production of important engines and the work of GCHQ. Is that not precisely why the employee representatives involved offered a no-strike, no-disruption, agreement at GCHQ if their independent union were to be properly recognised again?
§ Mr. Molyneaux
I am grateful for the civilised way in which the hon. Gentleman asked his question. I should be greatly reassured if I knew what caused the earlier strike, and what guarantee there was that such a strike would not occur again.
§ Mr. McWilliam
The earlier strike was caused by management's insistence on imposing unacceptable working hours and conditions on employees of GCHQ. The union said that it was not prepared to accept them, so the management imposed them. That was the cause of the strike, so it seems perverse to blame the trade unions.
§ Mr. Molyneaux
I was careful not to blame the unions, because I have a great deal of respect for them. I expect that my party comprises a greater proportion of trade unionists than any other party represented in the House, so I do not discount the unions' attitude.
It would have been a great help if we had heard the hon. Gentleman's explanation earlier, but it does not entirely remove my worry. I want to be certain that GCHQ will not be put in jeopardy, and that the collection of information will not be interrupted, even for a matter of hours, because of some mysterious cause or even bloody-mindedness on the part of either side in a dispute. It is for that reason, not because I believe that trade unions are disloyal—I hope that I have made that clear—that I must with some reluctance oppose new clause 1.
§ Mr. Allason
GCHQ understandably dominated the Bill's Second Reading and the Committee stage. New clause 1 goes to the heart of the issue of trade union recognition at GCHQ and, of course, of convention 87 of the International Labour Organisation. However, there are two reasons why the new clause should be opposed.
First, GCHQ is a special case. One must go back not just to its origins as the Government code and cipher school during the second world war but to room 39 of the naval intelligence division during the first world war, when the division achieved disproportionate success in the prosecution of war. I remind the House that, in 1917, it was as a direct result of the decryption of enciphered traffic by room 39 that the Zimmermann telegram brought the 276 United States into the war. Room 39 then had a considerable impact on the battle of Dogger Bank and, of course, on the battle of Jutland.
Thereafter, there was enormous sensitivity about the interception of communications. The official secrets legislation of 1919 spells it out in black and white that the Government were authorised to intercept cables, telephone calls and other communications, so it was something of a surprise that Mr. Chapman Pincher should have made such a fuss about the D-notice affair with Lord Wilson, who was then Prime Minister.
The Government were perfectly entitled to intercept communications, but there was a great deal of sensitivity about the issue. Of course, the moment that someone becomes aware that his communications are being intercepted, he becomes a great deal more discreet.
The 1924 White Paper was arguably one of the gravest breaches of security that this country has ever faced—a Prime Minister decided to compromise national security by disclosing details of secret communications that had been passing between the Soviet embassy in London and Moscow. They revealed that the trade agreement that had been made was going to be ignored by the Soviet authorities. There was a short-term advantage for the Government in that, but, in the long term, it had the effect of preventing the operation of GCCS. That is why I mention it now.
Much has been said to the effect that new clause 1 will not interfere with the continuity of operations at GCHQ. That is not the case. It is worth remembering that, in 1938, during the Munich crisis, the Prime Minister's first opportunity to know whether he had achieved any success with Adolf Hitler was when the Deutschland left the Spanish port of Vigo. GCCS was monitoring radio traffic from the Deutschland, a very large German naval vessel.
The question was whether it was going to turn west and south and continue its intended cruise to South America with a crew of trainees, in which case Mr. Chamberlain could be assured that he had achieved what he wanted from Munich and there was not to be immediate war; or whether the Deutschland turned north and east from Vigo, in which case it would be assumed that the Deutschland, returning to port, was crewed by a crack crew of naval seamen, which meant that war was fairly imminent.
That is the kind of crucial undertaking never disclosed at the time, or in any history book, but it is a communication between the cryptographers and analysts, and the individuals who advise the Prime Minister and the Cabinet of such sensitive activities. Nobody would underestimate the achievement of GCCS, and thereafter GCHQ, during the second world war at Bletchley park, where a disproportionate contribution was made to the prosecution of the war by about 12,000 people who worked at thatv establishment.
However, the difficulty that faces us today, which also faced the GCHQ employees in 1984, is the fact that they are in a sense victims of their own success.
One of the questions raised earlier in the debate was why, when the industrial action took place between 1979 and 1981, the Government took no action until 1984. People ask whether that is evidence of some kind of paranoia, or at least unreasonable behaviour, on the part of the Government and the Prime Minister of the day. However, at no time in the post-war period was GCHQ ever described as or admitted to be a cryptographic organisation. It was never mentioned as an organisation 277 devoted to the interception and decryption, or indeed to the security, of communications. It was listed simply as the communications department of the Foreign Office.
The change between 1981 and 1984 was brought about by the criminal prosecution of Geoffrey Prime. For the first time in the history of GCHQ and GCCS, somebody had compromised security and provided secrets to the Soviets. As a result of his criminal conduct, Geoffrey Prime was the subject of an investigation and a prosecution at the Old Bailey. It was the disclosures then made publicly at the Old Bailey that enabled the Government to introduce the ban that would have brought, indeed did bring, GCHQ into common parlance.
Opposition Members may have a distant recollection of a Labour Administration, and it is worth remembering that it was a Labour Government who brought criminal proceedings against three people who disclosed the work of GCHQ, and a Labour Government who arranged for the deportation of the two people who wrote the notorious article in Time Out.
All that is neatly forgotten now, but at that time Labour Ministers were persuaded of the enormous importance of the work of GCHQ, and of keeping its activities secret. There was some controversy during that period but, to their undying credit, Labour Ministers were willing to go the whole hog.
The two people were expelled from this country. They exhausted their appeals procedures, but the Home Secretary of the day never lost his backbone. Thus, between 1979 and 1981, the Government were extremely reluctant to draw more attention to GCHQ. Regardless of whether the right decision was made, that was the explanation. The proposition that in 1984 the Prime Minister and the Government took arbitrary action is utter nonsense.
As for the International Labour Organisation, many Conservative Members who have studied its history will have considerable reservations about any judgment or criticism from that quarter. Certainly, until the mid-1950s, the ILO was regarded virtually as a branch of Soviet military intelligence. [HON. MEMBERS: "What?"] Yes. I shall not detain the House with a long list of the intelligence connections, but a clear link was established by a royal commission, through, for example, some work conducted in Canada in 1945. ILO members were identified as obvious Soviet intelligence personnel.
§ Mr. Winnick
I do not understand the logic of the hon. Gentleman's case. Even if it is possible—and indeed, in view of the nature of the Soviet Union, likely—that there were agents in the ILO, so what? No doubt the same was true of the United Nations. During the period of communism in Russia and elsewhere, should we have abolished the United Nations, or discontinued our membership of it, simply because the Soviet Union was doing its usual work of destabilisation, along the lines that the hon. Gentleman has suggested?
§ Mr. Allason
I am grateful for that intervention. I merely add that I recall the ILO being surprisingly quiet about the rights of workers who wanted to exercise their right to work at Grunwick. The political discrimination of the ILO has been remarkable when it looks for particular issues on which to go in to bat.
GCHQ is an important organisation, and its work must not be undermined by any interruption, albeit temporary. 278 The issue of continuity has rather been missed in the debate hitherto, so I shall give the House a brief analysis. Continuity is not a matter of simple data collection, or of one individual hunched over a machine—or indeed, if the hon. Member for Walsall, North (Mr. Winnick) is to be believed, switching it on on a Friday and switching it off on a Monday when he comes in to work. There is the matter of collateral.
First, there is the collection of electronic data. That involves more than one person. Several people have to do it to ensure that it is accurate. If there is any corruption, the rest of the text may well be lost. That is the lesson that history teaches us.
Secondly, there must be continuous analysis of the data product. There should be no interruption of that. Finally, none of it is at all relevant unless it can be received in time by the appropriate departments and politicians. Anyone who doubts that should simply look at the history books. It is perfectly clear that, in December 1941, there was an enormous amount of cryptographic evidence of an impending Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour, but none of the material was analysed in time. The White House did not receive it until nine days after the attack.
The statistical suggestion has been made that, as there are 6,500 or 7,000 employees at GCHQ, where only 10,000 days have been lost, one can extrapolate that that is the equivalent of everybody not working on one particular day during the year. Things do not work like that. The importance of intelligence is that it saves lives. It is not any kind of game.
If there had been good intelligence, we should not have had to fight the Falklands war or the Gulf war. Back beyond that, good intelligence would have meant that the Israelis would not have been taken by surprise during Yom Kippur in October 1973, and the allies would not have been taken by surprise in Korea, the Americans during the Tet offensive in 1968.
Good intelligence saves lives and prevents bloodshed. Surely that is the point. Any disruption of GCHQ's activities will inevitably compromise intelligence.
§ Dr. John Gilbert (Dudley, East)
Good intelligence by itself does not save lives. Whether lives are saved depends on whether people have the will and the sense to act on that intelligence.
§ Mr. Allason
If the right hon. Gentleman has the honour to serve on the Intelligence and Security Committee, I hope that he will make a greater contribution than that. I fear that his remarks will be remembered by members of the Security Service, Secret Intelligence Service and GCHQ, who have saved tens of thousands of lives.
If the right hon. Gentleman is ever a member of the committee and gets to see classified information, I hope that he will return to the House and acknowledge the extraordinary work of MI5, MI6 and GCHQ in saving lives and preventing terrorist bombs being placed. Even within the right hon. Gentleman's short memory, he should be able to recall specific incidents. In one instance, a suspect was followed through the west end carrying bombs—he left bombs in wastepaper baskets, and lives were lost. In particular, one person was killed in a pub. Good intelligence saves lives, and is exceptionally important.
§ 6 pm
§ Sir John Nott said that GCHQ had operated continuously, and that there had been no threat to its operational efficiency during his term of office. He was talking about the Falklands war, but I described a scenario in which good intentions prevent bloodshed.
The right hon. Member for Dudley, East (Dr. Gilbert) will recall that, when Lord Owen was Foreign Secretary, he presided over a considerable intelligence success. In 1977, there was clear evidence of an Argentine attack in the Falklands, and Britain deployed two hunter-killer submarines in the south Atlantic. The news of their deployment was deliberately leaked in Buenos Aires, and no Argentine attack took place.
§ Mr. Rogers
I remind the hon. Gentleman that the statement by Sir John Nott, then Secretary of State for Defence, that was much quoted on Second Reading, in Committee and today was made on 14 April 1981.
§ Mr. Allason
That may be the case, but Sir John did not have responsibility for GCHQ. That brings me neatly to the difference between the status of GCHQ personnel and that of their military counterparts.
A large number of GCHQ's activities are conducted by military personnel—Air Force analysts, two special signals regiments and naval interception operators. There is a difference between them. In legal terms or in terms of the trade union ban, there would have been no difference at all if it had been clear at the time that it would be impossible to disclose the nature of the work undertaken by GCHQ. That relates to my reference to GCHQ as the victim of its own success. Its work was of such priority that it was impossible to disclose its exact nature.
I do not impugn the loyalty of GCHQ staff members, and neither, I am sure, do my right hon. and hon. Friends. Personal disloyalty is not an issue here. All GCHQ staff were given the right of abandoning the opportunity to join an outside trade union, and many exercised it. They also exercised their right to join a staff association. Our earlier discussion related to just 14 people who, for one reason or another, decided against both options. That matter is for them. The Government certainly bent over backwards to provide them with alternative employment and to give them opportunities in a non-classified field outside GCHQ.
Of the many thousands of people who opted to accept financial compensation for the loss of their right to join an outside trade union, a tiny minority chose exclusion. It was entirely self-imposed.
GCHQ is an extraordinarily significant organisation. It makes an enormous contribution to this country's security, and it is on a par with the Security Service and Secret Intelligence Service. I have not heard Opposition Members demand that members of MI5 or SIS should have the right to join the First Division Association. Through their membership of the federation, GCHQ staff enjoy a far greater chance of obtaining better pay and conditions.
When I recently interviewed Yuri Modin, who was for many years a Soviet intelligence officer based in this country, he said, "MI5 officers run the very best union in the country." I asked him what he meant and he replied, "Whenever I wanted to be active, I arranged to have breakfast in exactly the same café in Holland Park avenue every day. It was entirely agreed with my MI5 counterparts that they would be there at 8 o'clock each morning to start work. When I was under surveillance in any pub, I gave an 280 agreed sign when I was finishing my last drink, so that the MI5 watchers would have an opportunity to drink up in time."
That may be a slightly backhanded compliment from Yuri Modin, for whom I have been trying to obtain a visa for some time, but MI5 has a good union. The SIS and GCHQ have every reason to expect that their own staff associations will exercise a disproportionate amount of influence over the Government of the day. Accordingly, I urge the House to oppose new clause 1.
§ Mrs. Bridget Prentice
I find myself in the same unfortunate position as on Second Reading of following the hon. Member for Torbay (Mr. Allason) in his forage through history—not all of which was accurate.
I am a member of a trade union, as are all my right hon. and hon. Friends, and I am proud of it.
§ Mrs. Prentice
That is probably true.
Some Conservative Members have been trade union members, and may still be, and I am sure that they are equally proud of their membership. That is why this debate is so strange. Conservative Members seem to believe that, while it is perfectly acceptable for them to be trade union members, it is unacceptable for other groups—particularly for people who perform important, professional and patriotic work.
The Government's reason for banning trade unions at GCHQ had nothing to do with national security, but was a product of an innate hatred of trade unionism and collectivity by the then Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher. Unfortunately, the present Prime Minister does not have the gumption to stand up and say that that was wrong.
What is it about the Government that makes them so afraid of people who like to work together in a collective and co-operative fashion? What makes the Government unable to realise that that can have a positive outcome on those people, collectively and individually?
Mention was made of the breach of ILO convention 87 that the Government made or are about to make, and it has been said that, by the end of this year, it is likely that the Government will have taken the United Kingdom into the same group as the Sudan, which was censured for slavery, and El Salvador, which was censured for the murder of trade unionists.
It is both disgusting and despicable that the Government are prepared to accept that censure. They should be thoroughly ashamed of themselves, but they are not. They care nothing for the people who work on their behalf to ensure our national security. Indeed, they do not care for anyone who works in the public service. It has been clear over the past 15 years that the Government, throughout all their strands, have no conception of what it is to work on behalf of others, which so many people believe to be the right thing to do.
Much has been made of the 10,000 days lost at GCHQ through industrial action. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham) said, that number is tiny when compared with the days lost as a result of sickness. The days-lost argument was dismissed by Sir John Nott, when he explained that operations had not been affected. Days lost stand as nothing when we remember those who have been sacked for being trade unionists at GCHQ.
281 The hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. Carlile) talked about one of the 14 men who were sacked at GCHQ. I shall mention Mike Grindley, who was the only Chinese technical linguist. What was the disruption to operational services when the Government sacked Mike Grindley? As I have said, his sacking meant that there was no technical Chinese linguist at GCHQ. What was the Government's response? They chose to close the department.
So much for the collection of data. So much for the need to have that data collected day in and day out for the consistency that Conservative Members have talked about this afternoon. The department was simply shut down. Suddenly, it was no longer important. It is clear that the Government's arguments are fallacious.
What was the basis on which trade unions at GCHQ were banned? It took the Government three years to come to that decision following the industrial action between 1979 and 1981. It is incomprehensible that there is a connection between the ban and the industrial action that took place three years earlier.
What was happening to national security between 1981 and 1984? Were the Government not concerned about national security during that period? Is that why it took them so long to get round to deciding that everything was the fault of trade unions, and that trade unions had to be banned?
I am not surprised that Conservative Members become excited when they find that people have principles and are prepared to stand by them. It was interesting that Conservative Members had little to say in Committee except on trade unions at GCHQ. When the issue arose, they suddenly became fired up. It seems that they do not understand that people might put principles before money. Perhaps that should not surprise us. That attitude or philosphy has driven the Government for the past 15 years. It is beyond their comprehension that people might believe in things that matter to them as individuals rather than in a material fashion.
My right hon. and hon. Friends and I want to put it on record that the employees of GCHQ are both loyal and patriotic. Unfortunately, Conservative Members are incapable of understanding that. The Government's actions in 1984 were shameful. The Government continue to cover themselves in shame while they ban workers at GCHQ from having the right to choose to be a member of a trade union.
When Conservative Members troop through the Lobby this evening to ensure that the ban remains in place, they will be covering themselves with the same shame that should attach to the Sudan, to Brazil, to El Salvador and to any other countries whose Governments do not allow their workers the freedom of expression that we ask for the workers at GCHQ.
Conservative Members may vote down the clause, but the time will come, sooner rather than later, when a Labour Government will return the right of trade unionism to the patriotic, professional and principled men at GCHQ. We shall be proud to do so.
§ Mr. Thomas Graham (Renfrew, West and Inverclyde)
When I was 16 years of age, I served my apprenticeship in a firm at Govan called Matthew Wylies. When I was presented with my first union card, I was a 282 proud young man. I am now 50 years of age, and I am proud that I still hold the same card. I come from a family of trade unionists. My late father was a trade unionist. He served in the Royal Navy for nine years. He was on HMS Medway when it sank.
I heard that the hon. Member for Torbay (Mr. Allason) is getting together the bones of a new book. Bearing in mind what he had to say, it will not be a best seller among trade unionists.
I have had many conversations with friends and members of my family about their belief in trade unionism. We have never seen trade unionism as a threat to the nation's security. I am not kidded by the comments of some Conservative Members. I believe that the Government have inherited a vindictive policy from the former Prime Minister, whose hatred of trade unions and anything that smacked of trade unionism was well known. She used trade unionism at GCHQ as a lever.
It is appalling that the folk at GCHQ have had their democratic right to be members of a trade union withdrawn in the name of national security. The argument that the Government have advanced is spurious and undemocratic. The blanket ban is completely illogical.
Thousands of men and women laid down their lives to beat Hitler. Many folk have laid down their lives since for our country in the Falklands and other wars. I am sure that many of those people were members of trade unions. How can we deny those who work in GCHQ the membership of a trade union on the basis that that could jeopardise national security? The Government's approach is appalling. It is a travesty of justice.
Before I entered the Chamber, I explained to a couple of trade unionists what I was about to do and say. They are workers in a royal ordnance factory. I am sure that such people are involved in work that is sensitive in terms of our country's defence. I am sure also that they never exploited their positions by telling others what they are doing. We know that in a crisis they will ensure that ammunition is ready and available for soldiers, sailors and whoever needs it to defend our nation.
People say to me, "Tommy, to be a member of a trade union gives us a sense of pride. We are proud to be part of the great trade union movement of this country. It is an organisation that has always put the country to the fore." More important, it has put people to the fore. It continues to fight for the rights of the people, but not for folk who give away secrets, people who are prepared to see our country invaded and dominated by an enemy.
When I was a young man, I worked at Rolls-Royce. I was involved in the production of military equipment. None of the people with whom I worked was a traitor. Indeed, they would have been angry if they had even been thought of as traitors. Yet the Government have banned the folk at GCHQ from being members of a trade union.
Why are they being denied that right? I have not heard a Conservative Member state clearly why the folk at GCHQ are not entitled to be democratic members of a trade union. The Government's stance is unbelievable.
§ Mr. Jim Cunningham (Coventry, South-East)
Does my hon. Friend find it strange that Conservative Members supported the rights of Solidarity in Poland yet denied the same rights to workers in this country? Does he agree that it is only right-wing Governments, if we bear in mind history, and especially events in Latin America, who attack trade unionists? That is because the positive role of trade 283 unionists is the defence of democracy. Nevertheless, Conservative Members have had much to say about reds under the bed, for example.
§ Mr. Graham
My hon. Friend is right. In the past, the Government have used anything to support their arguments for what they feel is right. They support trade unions in Poland, but they do not support them here. Trade unions in Poland can go on strike, but those in Britain cannot. I find such logic distasteful, to say the least.
It would be great if we all had hindsight and could look back and say, "If we had known this, we would not have done that." It would be magic if we had a crystal ball and we could see what faces the world and Britain—we would perhaps see an important step forward in the restructuring of Britain—but while the Government maintain their view on civil rights, particularly the civil rights of those at GCHQ, we shall never have democracy and we shall never make Britain great. The Government do not trust our people. They do not trust the men and women who work at GCHQ to be good solid citizens who will not stoop to treachery. They tell us that they do not believe that those folk should be members of a trade union because it would put national security at risk. I could go on, but I do not wish to speak for too long.
No matter how often the Government try, they cannot justify the trade union ban at GCHQ. We used to hear the statement that trade union decisions for the Labour party conference were reached in a smoke-filled room. We all know that that was nonsense. Even if it did contain an element of truth, the Government's decision was reached over champagne glasses and big cigars by people who do not understand what trade unionism is about. They do not understand that trade unionists see themselves as a part of the country and want to take part in the building of the country.
Only with the engine of trade unionism and with the solid backing of workers with rights will Britain ever become a good place in which to stay. Only then will we see decent pensions and decent education for young people. Only if we give folk democratic rights will they have a sense of pride in their nation and work hard to create a good Britain in which to live. The Government should do the right thing and restore the democratic right of every citizen in this country to be a member of a trade union if they so desire.
§ Dr. Gilbert
I feel that I should start by apologising to the hon. Member for Torbay (Mr. Allason), who is not in his place. I clearly over-taxed his mental equipment when I intervened in his speech. I promise never to intervene on him again. I would have liked to have been able to say that to the hon. Gentleman's face, but as he was so discourteous as to leave the Chamber only a couple of moments after my hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, East (Mrs. Prentice) began her speech, I feel that I owe him no courtesy on this occasion.
I will not detain the House for long. I support virtually everything that has been said with such eloquence, knowledge and passion by Labour Members, except for one thing. I do not necessarily pray in aid any of the authorities that they have prayed in aid this evening. I do not give a toss what the International Labour Organisation says about the issue at Cheltenham and I am not panting to 284 know what the European Court of Human Rights has to say about it. I do not need either of those organisations, however august they may be, to tell me that what was done was sleazy and vindictive, had nothing to do with defence considerations and sprang from the Government's mentality, which has left, among other things, this great city of London without any proper governance for many years.
The only other reason that I am on my feet is to make it clear that even those Labour Members who could be regarded as pretty hawkish on defence and security matters—I make no apology for that, never have done and never will do in this place—are enthusiastically at one in support of the new clause and will vote for it with great enthusiasm. We will not do so simply because we are Lobby fodder.
§ Mr. David Davis
I agree with the hon. Member for Walsall, North (Mr. Winnick) on one thing—I, too, pay credit to the work of the staff at GCHQ. I hope that he will take it well that I also agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Torbay (Mr. Allason), who said the same thing, as did a number of others.
There have been some well-informed speeches this evening, not least by my hon. Friend the Member for Gloucester (Mr. French), who has a direct constituency interest and who made some excellent points about the whole debate. I particularly associate myself with one of those points—the credit that he paid to the staff federation. I do not want to labour that point, just to reinforce it. Although he is not here, I appreciate the remarks of the right hon. Member for Lagan Valley (Mr. Molyneaux), who has more reason than most to have a special interest in the matter.
§ Mr. Winnick
I am grateful to the Minister for allowing me to intervene at such an early stage in his speech. Since the hon. Member for Gloucester (Mr. French) did not give way, will the Minister confirm that the staff union, which to us is just a company union, was refused recognition as a genuine, independent trade union by the certification officer? Its application was turned down and rightly so. On appeal, the employment appeals tribunal upheld the decision of the certification officer. As he made clear, that union, if it can be described as such, exists only because the director general allows it to continue as an organisation.
§ Mr. Davis
I shall answer the hon. Gentleman exactly. He was rather inexact in his question because he used a variety of words such as "genuine", as well as "independent". The one word that he was right about was "independent". About 80 trade unions are listed as not independent. Like the staff federation, many of them have been commended by the certification officer for being effective, which they are, but they are not certified as independent. They include the National Union of Mineworkers area unions. I do not think that the hon. Gentleman has any reason to run those down.
Clearly, it is the first duty of the Government to safeguard the security of the nation. In the context of the new clause, it is the principal responsibility of Government to maintain the security and effectiveness of GCHQ. The Government set out their objective in 1981—to ensure the continuous undisrupted operation of GCHQ. The Government's action in 1984 has been effective in ensuring the continuous operation of GCHQ since then.
Disruption of GCHQ operations posed a substantive risk to the country's security. Industrial action was taken 285 with the express intention of causing disruption and it succeeded in doing so. The Government clearly had a duty to act.
The continued effective and efficient operation of GCHQ requires that there is no division or confusion of loyalties.
§ Mr. Davis
I will give way in a moment. I want to make at least a little progress.
In practice, membership of external unions has led to a risk of divided loyalties, a point that I shall make in some detail later. That is not a theoretical matter—it has happened in the past. Labour's case today, and to some extent that of the Liberal Democrats, has rested on arguments that go something like, "The strikes did not do any material harm and if they did, that was not really intended anyway, it was just a spat with the management locally". All those arguments are fatuous.
The Opposition's position is that industrial action involving GCHQ in the period 1979 to 1981 did not harm national security. How can they be so sure? The point of GCHQ is to listen continuously for possible threats to the country or to its citizens. Any break in its vigil poses a potential threat. With modern techniques, vast amounts of data can be sent in a short space of time. A few seconds' gap is enough to miss a vital instruction to terrorists.
§ Mr. Davis
In these days of burst transmission, even a speech by the hon. Member for Rhondda (Mr. Rogers) could be transmitted in a few seconds. We should bear in mind that one could be trying to intercept, for example, one-word instructions that may launch an operation, a terrorist action or something of that nature. The whole point about GCHQ is that it operates seven days a week, 24 hours a day, 60 minutes in the hour.
§ Mr. Carlile
Are we hearing a Minister say for the very first time that there were some gaps in communications—that they were not received? He should answer that directly, because if there were, this is the first time that the claim has been made in the 16 years since the dispute began.
§ Mr. Davis
I shall come back to the point in a minute.
It is not possible to forecast when a state-sponsored terrorist organisation will communicate with its masters, or when other actions by an antagonistic state will occur. In pursuit of the maintenance of continuous operations, it is vital that staff at GCHQ do not face conflicts of loyalty that may lead to a loss of efficiency, or to a loss of coverage, or to any breakdown of GCHQ activities.
In 1979–81, 10,000 man days were lost as a result of union action, and they were lost in critical areas of work. The right hon. Member for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham) made a rather fatuous point in this connection. He said that the 10,000 days lost were fewer than the number of days lost owing to sickness or holidays, but the latter, of course, were not targeted. GCHQ, like any properly run organisation, is designed to allow for absences for jury days, holidays and so on.
The industrial action was set against the background of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, the Iranian hostage 286 crisis, Soviet troops on the border of Poland and rising state-sponsored terrorism in a number of countries. The Opposition must accept that there was a least some disruption. The unions themselves accepted as much.
§ Dr. John Cunningham
Does the hon. Gentleman agree with the statement by the former Secretary of State for Defence, Sir John Nott, that the effectiveness of GCHQ was never put in jeopardy?
§ Mr. Davis
I happen to have Sir John's exact words to hand, as reported in the Official Report:The selective action by non-industrial civil servants has hindered some defence activities, but neither training exercises nor essential operations have been interrupted."—[Official Report, 14 April 1981; Vol. 3, c. 136.]Later, the then Prime Minister said that Sir John was referring only to military operations:GCHQ did not come under his then Department and does not now."—[Official Report, 31 January 1984; Vol. 53, c. 136.]As I told the Committee, about 3,000 soldiers act on behalf of GCHQ gathering military data. The industrial action did not interfere with their duties because they could not go on strike in any case.
As I was saying, the Opposition must accept that there was some disruption because the unions themselves accepted that. At the Employment Select Committee meeting on 8 February 1984, at page 39 and section 77, it was reported that Mr. McCall of the Council of Civil Service Trade Unions had been asked:have you disrupted security in the past, by industrial action?"—and that he had repliedI think the straightforward answer to that is yes, we have.The Opposition clearly feel that all this was not a risk to security. I should be interested to know what degree of disruption they believe is acceptable at GCHQ. The Government's view is: none.
§ Mr. Alex Carlile
Will the Minister now answer my straight question? Does he claim for the first time that there was any interruption to any message, or that any transmission was not recorded, as a result of this action? The Minister has made the implication; now that he has made it, the House is entitled to a straight answer.
§ Mr. Davis
I must tell the hon. and learned Gentleman again: there were some reductions in cover. Some material may therefore have been missed—[HoN. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] Opposition Members seem to think that unimportant, yet we are talking about a time of state-sponsored terrorism and of the Soviet Union being on the borders of Poland. Opposition Members clearly believe that some drop in cover was all right. Now we know what price to put on the Labour party's commitment to patriotism—[Interruption.]
§ Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Janet Fookes)
Order. It is getting to the point where I cannot hear the Minister. I, at least, wish to do so.
§ Mr. Davis
I have dispatched Labour's point about there having been no loss of cover and about the industrial action having caused no damage.
The other Labour argument is that the action was not intentional. What happened at GCHQ between 1979 and 1981 was a deliberate attempt on the part of the civil service unions to disrupt the operations of a vital national defence asset. I shall tell the story not in my words but in those of the trade unions involved. A national officer of the Civil and Public Services Association was quoted as saying, under the Labour Government in February 1979: 287The strike would completely paralyse Government communications, both internally and externally.A local official was quoted a few days later as saying:Our action will seriously affect operations by at least 80 per cent., as our members are specialists."—[Official Report, 27 February 1984; Vol. 55, c. 27–28.]That point seems to have been overlooked by many Opposition Members. This is not Government propaganda; it is what the trade unions themselves had to say.
I should like next to quote evidence given to the Select Committee on Employment:During the period of industrial action in 1981 there was one occasion on which an approach was made by a senior official of GCHQ … to … one of the national Civil Service trade unions … The reply … was 'Thank you. You are telling me where I am hurting Mrs. Thatcher the most."There was no lessening of pressure as a result. The unions announced in the same month:There will be a range of selective and disruptive action which will affect Britain's secret communications surveillance network. There will be both national and international repercussions.And on 3 April a senior union official said:This is the most crucial station we have hit so far. We are going to hit this Department 'as hard as we can.—[Official Report, 27 February 1984; Vol. 55, c. 27–28.]So the areas of attack by industrial activity had clearly been carefully selected. The civil service unions' campaign report No.1 of 1981 clearly stated:The use of selective strike action by members in sensitive areas is a key part of our campaign. Our ultimate success depends on the extent to which…defence readiness is hampered.That indeed was the intent. The unions may not have been in a position to know precisely how effective their action was, but it could hardly have been called accidental.
There is thus clear evidence of the effects of divisions of loyalty on the staff of GCHQ and of how those effects could be adverse for the operations of GCHQ. There is also clear evidence of the willingness of past union movement leaders to misuse their position to damage the country's security in pursuit of their own goals. I do not say that today's union leaders would necessarily behave in the same way, but that is really not the point. The new clause proposes a change in the law that would presumably apply for the foreseeable future. We cannot guarantee that there would not be similar industrial action at some point in that future.
The right hon. Member for Copeland made a number of points that I could not follow. He said, for instance, that there was a 1991 vote at the ILO. I can find no evidence of such a vote. The last one was in 1989, and we won that one. He also claimed that the ban was arbitrary. The decision of the European Commission on Human Rights stated, on page 31, in the second paragraph:The action taken was in no way arbitrary.Several hon. Members talked about the International Labour Organisation. In his excellent contribution, my hon. Friend the Member for Monmouth (Mr. Evans) highlighted the complete humbug of Labour Members' speeches, as exemplified by the comments made by the right hon. Member for Dudley, East (Dr. Gilbert).
The hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, West (Mr. Randall) asked me to comment specifically on some matters. The Government do not accept that they are in breach of convention 87, which must be read in conjunction with convention 151, which explicitly provides separate arrangements for public servants employed on work of a highly sensitive nature. If GCHQ 288 public servants are not employed on work of a sensitive nature I do not know who is. The Government have noted the comments of the ILO, have engaged in substantive discussions with the unions—those were taken on in good faith by both sides—and are still willing to consider any proposals that the unions bring forward.
In a written answer of 13 January 1994 the Prime Minister said:I met representatives of the civil service unions to discuss trade union membership at GCHQ at their request following a series of discussions they had held with officials. I explained that the Government's overriding objective remained to ensure the maintenance of continuous operations at GCHQ necessary for the protection of national security. In that context it was necessary also to ensure that the staff were not subject to potential conflicts of loyalty.Against that background, however, I indicated that the Government were prepared to enable the Government Communications Staff Federation, the registered trade union for GCHQ staff, to affiliate to the Council of Civil Service Unions, subject to conditions to guarantee its continuing independence…The national trade unions have indicated that they do not regard this as acceptable. There are no plans for further meetings, but the Government remain willing to discuss any further proposals that the unions may wish to put forward."—[Official Report, 13 January 1994; Vol. 235, c. 254–55.]In answer to my right hon. Friend the Member for Honiton (Sir P. Emery), I say that that is still the case.
I advise the House to oppose the new clause.
§ Mr. Rogers
Although we agreed to share the available time, unfortunately the Minister has taken up a great deal of it. As many hon. Members want to go to the memorial service for our late colleague, Ms Jo Richardson, which is due to start very soon, I shall confine my remarks to one or two points.
The hon. Member for Torbay (Mr. Allason) said that the question of GCHQ had dominated the Committee proceedings. As members of the Committee know, that is absolute nonsense. We dealt with other aspects. The hon. Member for Gloucester (Mr. French) talked about the rights of people currently working at GCHQ. I simply reiterate a point that was made to the hon. Gentleman: if the rights of GCHQ workers are so important, why do not the Government, under their own legislation, allow them a ballot on the question of their joining a trade union of their choice? The staff federation, regardless of what the Minister has said, is almost like a Stalinist trade union: the workers can have it so long as it is approved by the director. That is why the certification officer has not recognised the federation as a full and proper trade union. The Government's argument is absolutely spurious.
The whole debate is based on whether GCHQ is under threat if people take any action or are not there. Apart from the fact that the trade unions have given the Government a firm no-strike undertaking—a firm undertaking of exactly the same type, for example, as that which the police give —it should be remembered that data collection at GCHQ occupies less than 10 per cent. of the work force. The industrial action that took place in 1979 and between 1979 and 1981—in this connection I remind the House of remarks made by the right hon. Member for Lagan Valley (Mr. Molyneaux)—arose because the management had overturned a national pay agreement without any consultation whatever.
The number of days lost, in relative terms, was about 0.2 per cent. of the total work time during a period of two years. Over that period, up-front operations were at no time affected in any way. That is something that the Minister 289 can check quite easily. The majority of people at GCHQ work a 9 to 5.30 shift. There are other operations. Various electronic devices are used in data collection, and the idea that someone with a pencil sits listening to what our enemies are saying on the other side of the world is absolute nonsense—as much as is the Government's argument against trade unions at GCHQ.
I reiterate a point made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham): one of the first acts of the Labour Government when they come to power in a couple of years' time will be to restore this basic human right to the workers at GCHQ.
§ Question put, That the clause be read a Second time:—
§ The House divided: Ayes 222, Noes 283.
|Division No. 221]||[6.44 pm|
|Adams, Mrs Irene||Eagle, Ms Angela|
|Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE)||Eastham, Ken|
|Anderson, Ms Janet (Ros'dale)||Enright, Derek|
|Armstrong, Hilary||Etherington, Bill|
|Ashdown, Rt Hon Paddy||Evans, John (St Helens N)|
|Ashton, Joe||Field, Frank (Birkenhead)|
|Austin-Walker, John||Fisher, Mark|
|Banks, Tony (Newham NW)||Foster, Rt Hon Derek|
|Beckett, Rt Hon Margaret||Foster, Don (Bath)|
|Beith, Rt Hon A. J.||Foulkes, George|
|Bell, Stuart||Fraser, John|
|Bennett, Andrew F.||Fyfe, Maria|
|Benton, Joe||Galbraith, Sam|
|Bermingham, Gerald||Galloway, George|
|Berry, Roger||Garrett, John|
|Blair, Tony||George, Bruce|
|Blunkett, David||Gerrard, Neil|
|Boyes, Roland||Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John|
|Bradley, Keith||Godman, Dr Norman A.|
|Bray, Dr Jeremy||Godsiff, Roger|
|Brown, Gordon (Dunfermline E)||Golding, Mrs Llin|
|Brown, N. (N'c'tle upon Tyne E)||Gordon, Mildred|
|Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon)||Graham, Thomas|
|Burden, Richard||Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)|
|Byers, Stephen||Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)|
|Caborn Richard||Grocott, Bruce|
|Callaghan, Jim||Gunnell, John|
|Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge)||Hall, Mike|
|Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V)||Hanson, David|
|Campbell-Savours, D. N.||Hardy, Peter|
|Cann, Jamie||Harman, Ms Harriet|
|Carlile, Alexander (Montgomry)||Harvey, Nick|
|Chisholm, Malcolm||Heppell, John|
|Clapham, Michael||Hinchliffe, David|
|Clarke, Eric (Midlothian)||Hoey, Kate|
|Clelland, David||Hogg, Norman (Cumbernauld)|
|Coffey, Ann||Hood, Jimmy|
|Cohen, Harry||Hoon, Geoffrey|
|Connarty, Michael||Howarth, George (Knowsley N)|
|Cook, Frank (Stockton N)||Howells, Dr. Kim (Pontypridd)|
|Corbyn, Jeremy||Hoyle, Doug|
|Corston, Ms Jean||Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N)|
|Cousins, Jim||Hughes, Roy (Newport E)|
|Cox, Tom||Jackson, Glenda (H'stead)|
|Cummings, John||Jamieson, David|
|Cunliffe, Lawrence||Janner, Greville|
|Cunningham, Jim (Covy SE)||Johnston, Sir Russell|
|Cunningham, Rt Hon Dr John||Jones, Ieuan Wyn (Ynys Môn)|
|Dafis, Cynog||Jones, Lynne (B'ham S O)|
|Darling, Alistair||Jones, Martyn (Clwyd, SW)|
|Davidson, Ian||Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald|
|Davies, Bryan (Oldham C'tral)||Keen, Alan|
|Davis, Terry (B'ham, H'dge H'l)||Kennedy, Charles (Ross, C&S)|
|Denham, John||Kennedy, Jane (Lpool Brdgn)|
|Dewar, Donald||Kilfoyle, Peter|
|Dixon, Don||Kirkwood, Archy|
|Dobson, Frank||Lestor, Joan (Eccles)|
|Dowd, Jim||Lewis, Terry|
|Dunnachie, Jimmy||Litherland, Robert|
|Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth||Livingstone, Ken|
|Lloyd, Tony (Stretford)||Radice, Giles|
|Llwyd, Elfyn||Randall, Stuart|
|Loyden, Eddie||Raynsford, Nick|
|Lynne, Ms Liz||Redmond, Martin|
|McAllion, John||Reid, Dr John|
|McCartney, Ian||Robertson, George (Hamilton)|
|McFall, John||Robinson, Geoffrey (Co'try NW)|
|McKelvey, William||Roche, Mrs. Barbara|
|Mackinlay, Andrew||Rogers, Allan|
|McLeish, Henry||Rooker, Jeff|
|Maclennan, Robert||Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)|
|McMaster, Gordon||Rowlands, Ted|
|McWilliam, John||Ruddock, Joan|
|Madden, Max||Salmond, Alex|
|Maddock, Mrs Diana||Sedgemore, Brian|
|Mahon, Alice||Sheerman, Barry|
|Mandelson, Peter||Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert|
|Marek, Dr John||Simpson, Alan|
|Marshall, David (Shettleston)||Skinner, Dennis|
|Marshall, Jim (Leicester, S)||Smith, Andrew (Oxford E)|
|Martin, Michael J. (Springburn)||Smith, C. (Isl'ton S & F'sbury)|
|Martlew, Eric||Smith, Rt Hon John (M'kl'ds E)|
|Maxton, John||Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)|
|Michael, Alun||Soley, Clive|
|Milburn, Alan||Spearing, Nigel|
|Miller, Andrew||Spellar, John|
|Mitchell, Austin (Gt Grimsby)||Squire, Rachel (Dunfermline W)|
|Moonie, Dr Lewis||Steinberg, Gerry|
|Morgan, Rhodri||Stevenson, George|
|Morley, Elliot||Strang, Dr. Gavin|
|Morris, Rt Hon A. (Wy'nshawe)||Straw, Jack|
|Morris, Estelle (B'ham Yardley)||Taylor, Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)|
|Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon)||Taylor, Matthew (Truro)|
|Mowlam, Marjorie||Thompson, Jack (Wansbeck)|
|Mudie, George||Turner, Dennis|
|Mullin, Chris||Wallace, James|
|Murphy, Paul||Wardell, Gareth (Gower)|
|Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon||Wareing, Robert N|
|O'Brien, Michael (N W'kshire)||Wicks, Malcolm|
|O'Brien, William (Normanton)||Wigley, Dafydd|
|O'Neill, Martin||Williams, Rt Hon Alan (Sw'n W)|
|Parry, Robert||Williams, Alan W (Carmarthen)|
|Patchett, Terry||Wilson, Brian|
|Pendry, Tom||Winnick, David|
|Pickthall, Colin||Wise, Audrey|
|Pike, Peter L.||Worthington, Tony|
|Pope, Greg||Wray, Jimmy|
|Powell, Ray (Ogmore)||Wright, Dr Tony|
|Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lew'm E)||Young, David (Bolton SE)|
|Prentice, Gordon (Pendle)|
|Prescott, John||Tellers for the Ayes:|
|Primarolo, Dawn||Mr. Jon Owen Jones and|
|Purchase, Ken||Mr. Eric Illsley.|
|Ainsworth, Peter (East Surrey)||Boswell, Tim|
|Alison, Rt Hon Michael (Selby)||Bottomley, Peter (Eltham)|
|Allason, Rupert (Torbay)||Bottomley, Rt Hon Virginia|
|Amess, David||Bowden, Andrew|
|Arbuthnot, James||Bowis, John|
|Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham)||Boyson, Rt Hon Sir Rhodes|
|Arnold, Sir Thomas (Hazel Grv)||Brandreth, Gyles|
|Ashby, David||Brazier, Julian|
|Aspinwall, Jack||Bright, Graham|
|Atkins, Robert||Brooke, Rt Hon Peter|
|Atkinson, David (Bour'mouth E)||Brown, M. (Brigg & Cl'thorpes)|
|Atkinson, Peter (Hexham)||Browning, Mrs. Angela|
|Baker, Nicholas (Dorset North)||Bruce, Ian (S Dorset)|
|Baldry, Tony||Burns, Simon|
|Banks, Matthew (Southport)||Burt, Alistair|
|Banks, Robert (Harrogate)||Butcher, John|
|Batiste, Spencer||Butler, Peter|
|Beggs, Roy||Carlisle, John (Luton North)|
|Bendall, Vivian||Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)|
|Beresford, Sir Paul||Carrington, Matthew|
|Biffen, Rt Hon John||Carttiss, Michael|
|Blackburn, Dr John G.||Churchill, Mr|
|Body, Sir Richard||Clappison, James|
|Bonsor, Sir Nicholas||Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford)|
|Booth, Hartley||Clarke, Rt Hon Kenneth (Ruclif)|
|Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey||Hughes Robert G. (Harrow W)|
|Coe, Sebastian||Hunt, Sir John (Ravensbourne)|
|Congdon, David||Hunter, Andrew|
|Conway, Derek||Hurd, Rt Hon Douglas|
|Coombs, Anthony (Wyre For'st)||Jack, Michael|
|Coombs, Simon (Swindon)||Jenkin, Bernard|
|Cope, Rt Hon Sir John||Jessel, Toby|
|Cormack, Patrick||Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey|
|Couchman, James||Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)|
|Cran, James||Jones, Robert B. (W Hertfdshr)|
|Currie, Mrs Edwina (S D'by'ire)||Jopling, Rt Hon Michael|
|Davies, Quentin (Stamford)||Kellett-Bowman, Dame Elaine|
|Davis, David (Boothferry)||Key, Robert|
|Day, Stephen||Kilfedder, Sir James|
|Deva, Nirj Joseph||King, Rt Hon Tom|
|Devlin, Tim||Kirkhope, Timothy|
|Dickens, Geoffrey||Knapman, Roger|
|Dicks, Terry||Knight, Greg (Derby N)|
|Dorrell, Stephen||Knight, Dame Jill (Bir'm E'st'n)|
|Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James||Knox, Sir David|
|Dover, Den||Kynoch, George (Kincardine)|
|Duncan, Alan||Lamont, Rt Hon Norman|
|Duncan-Smith, Iain||Lang, Rt Hon Ian|
|Durant, Sir Anthony||Legg, Barry|
|Eggar, Tim||Leigh, Edward|
|Elletson, Harold||Lennox-Boyd, Mark|
|Emery, Rt Hon Sir Peter||Lidington, David|
|Evans, David (Welwyn Hatfield)||Lightbown, David|
|Evans, Jonathan (Brecon)||Lilley, Rt Hon Peter|
|Evans, Nigel (Ribble Valley)||Lloyd, Rt Hon Peter (Fareham)|
|Evans, Roger (Monmouth)||Lord, Michael|
|Evennett, David||Luff, Peter|
|Faber, David||Lyell, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas|
|Fabricant, Michael||MacGregor, Rt Hon John|
|Fairbairn, Sir Nicholas||MacKay, Andrew|
|Fenner, Dame Peggy||Maclean, David|
|Field, Barry (Isle of Wight)||McLoughlin, Patrick|
|Fishburn, Dudley||McNair-Wilson, Sir Patrick|
|Forman, Nigel||Madel, Sir David|
|Forsyth, Michael (Stirling)||Maitland, Lady Olga|
|Forsythe, Clifford (Antrim S)||Malone, Gerald|
|Forth, Eric||Mans, Keith|
|Fox, Dr Liam (Woodspring)||Marland, Paul|
|Fox, Sir Marcus (Shipley)||Marlow, Tony|
|Freeman, Rt Hon Roger||Marshall, John (Hendon S)|
|French, Douglas||Marshall, Sir Michael (Arundel)|
|Fry, Sir Peter||Martin, David (Portsmouth S)|
|Gallie, Phil||Mates, Michael|
|Gardiner, Sir George||Mawhinney, Rt Hon Dr Brian|
|Garel-Jones, Rt Hon Tristan||Mayhew, Rt Hon Sir Patrick|
|Garnier, Edward||Merchant, Piers|
|Gill, Christopher||Mills, Iain|
|Gillan, Cheryl||Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling)|
|Goodlad, Rt Hon Alastair||Moate, Sir Roger|
|Goodson-Wickes, Dr Charles||Molyneaux, Rt Hon James|
|Gorst, John||Monro, Sir Hector|
|Grant, Sir A. (Cambs SW)||Montgomery, Sir Fergus|
|Greenway, Harry (Ealing N)||Nelson, Anthony|
|Greenway, John (Ryedale)||Neubert, Sir Michael|
|Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth, N)||Newton, Rt Hon Tony|
|Grylls, Sir Michael||Nicholls, Patrick|
|Gummer, Rt Hon John Selwyn||Nicholson, David (Taunton)|
|Hague, William||Nicholson, Emma (Devon West)|
|Hamilton, Rt Hon Sir Archie||Norris, Steve|
|Hamilton, Neil (Tatton)||Onslow, Rt Hon Sir Cranley|
|Hampson, Dr Keith||Oppenheim, Phillip|
|Hanley, Jeremy||Ottaway, Richard|
|Hannam, Sir John||Page, Richard|
|Hargreaves, Andrew||Paice, James|
|Harris, David||Patnick, Irvine|
|Hawksley, Warren||Patten, Rt Hon John|
|Hendry, Charles||Pattie, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey|
|Heseltine, Rt Hon Michael||Pawsey, James|
|Hicks, Robert||Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth|
|Hill, James (Southampton Test)||Porter, David (Waveney)|
|Hogg, Rt Hon Douglas (G'tham)||Portillo, Rt Hon Michael|
|Horam, John||Rathbone, Tim|
|Hordern, Rt Hon Sir Peter||Redwood, Rt Hon John|
|Howell, Rt Hon David (G'dford)||Renton, Rt Hon Tim|
|Howell, Sir Ralph (N Norfolk)||Richards, Rod|
|Rifkind, Rt Hon. Malcolm||Taylor, John M. (Solihull)|
|Robathan, Andrew||Taylor, Sir Teddy (Southend, E)|
|Roberts, Rt Hon Sir Wyn||Thomason, Roy|
|Robertson, Raymond (Ab'd'n S)||Thompson, Sir Donald (C'er V)|
|Roe, Mrs Marion (Broxbourne)||Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)|
|Rowe, Andrew (Mid Kent)||Thornton, Sir Malcolm|
|Rumbold, Rt Hon Dame Angela||Thurnham, Peter|
|Ryder, Rt Hon Richard||Townend, John (Bridlington)|
|Sackville, Tom||Townsend, Cyril D. (Bexl'yh'th)|
|Sainsbury, Rt Hon Tim||Tracey, Richard|
|Scott, Rt Hon Nicholas||Trend, Michael|
|Shaw, David (Dover)||Trotter, Neville|
|Shephard, Rt Hon Gillian||Twinn, Dr Ian|
|Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)||Vaughan, Sir Gerard|
|Shepherd, Richard (Aldridge)||Viggers, Peter|
|Shersby, Michael||Waldegrave, Rt Hon William|
|Sims, Roger||Walden, George|
|Skeet, Sir Trevor||Walker, Bill (N Tayside)|
|Smith, Sir Dudley (Warwick)||Waller, Gary|
|Soames, Nicholas||Wardle, Charles (Bexhill)|
|Speed, Sir Keith||Waterson, Nigel|
|Spencer, Sir Derek||Watts, John|
|Spicer, Sir James (W Dorset)||Wells, Bowen|
|Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)||Wheeler, Rt Hon Sir John|
|Spink, Dr Robert||Whitney, Ray|
|Spring, Richard||Whittingdale, John|
|Sproat, Iain||Widdecombe, Ann|
|Squire, Robin (Hornchurch)||Wiggin, Sir Jerry|
|Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John||Wilkinson, John|
|Steen, Anthony||Willetts, David|
|Stephen, Michael||Winterton, Mrs Ann (Congleton)|
|Stern, Michael||Winterton, Nicholas (Macc'f'ld)|
|Stewart, Allan||Wolfson, Mark|
|Streeter, Gary||Yeo, Tim|
|Sweeney, Walter||Tellers for the Noes:|
|Sykes, John||Mr. Sydney Chapman and|
|Tapsell, Sir Peter||Mr. Timothy Wood.|
|Taylor, Ian (Esher)|
§ Question accordingly negatived.