HC Deb 17 May 1994 vol 243 cc667-9
11. Mr. McAllion

To ask the Secretary of State for Employment when he last met the TUC to discuss matters relating to the right to belong to trade unions.

Mr. Michael Forsyth

I met Mr. John Monks on 29 November last year.

Mr. McAllion

Does the Minister accept that, by banning trade unions at GCHQ, the Government are denying those workers their democratic right of freedom of association? Will he try to understand that a Government who deny democratic rights to their citizens, and who arm dictators around the world who genuinely threaten this country's security, are in no position to lecture GCHQ trade unionists about disloyalty or national security?

Mr. Forsyth

Workers at GCHQ are able to join a staff association, as the hon. Gentleman knows. It is the Conservative Government who have given everyone the right to join a trade union of their choice—something which Opposition Members have opposed.

Mr. Jenkin

At his meeting with Mr. John Monks, did my hon. Friend obtain an explanation as to which unions oppose a national minimum wage?

Hon. Members


Mr. Forsyth

Oddly enough, that was not a subject for conversation, but my hon. Friend is right to point out that there are some people in the trade union movement whose concern for jobs makes them oppose a minimum wage, unlike some Opposition Members, whose concern for dogma perhaps gives jobs second priority.

Mr. Janner

Does the Minister accept that in a decent democratic country, workers should have the right to be represented by the unions of their choice?

Mr. Forsyth

This is a decent democratic country. It is the Conservative Government who have given workers the right to join a trade union of their choice, and it is the Conservative Government who got rid of the wicked closed shop legislation, which prevented people from working when they did not wish to join a trade union.

12. Mr. Streeter

To ask the Secretary of State for Employment what assessment his Department has made of the effects of trade union legislation since 1979.

Mr. David Hunt

The legislation has transformed industrial relations.

Mr. Streeter

Does my right hon. Friend agree that, freed from trade union shackles, British workers now produce more and compete better than many of our overseas counterparts? Is not it true that, in the 1990s, as a result of Conservative trade union legislation, many American and Japanese companies, which would not have touched us with a bargepole in the 1970s, bring to the country new investment, new factories and new jobs?

Mr. Hunt

I agree with my hon. Friend. It is a stark set of facts that productivity growth in the UK is higher today and was higher in the 1980s than productivity growth in Japan and that the UK strike rate is now lower than in Germany. So not only is the United Kingdom leading Europe through recovery into a sustained period of non-inflationary growth, but it is leading the way in putting harmony in place of strife and increasing the growth in productivity.

Ms Eagle

Will the Secretary of State give the House the answer which the Minister did not give to the question of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Leicester, West (Mr. Janner)? Does he believe that, in a democratic society, an employee has the right to be represented at work by the union of his or her choice?

Mr. Hunt

We have just answered the point by making it clear that we believe in a free democratic society. Employers should not be compelled to accept a negotiator who may not necessarily be the representative of the work force. It is very much up to trade unions to earn an increasing membership by appealing to their members and by selling their services to them. I take great pride in the fact that days lost through industrial action are now 20 times fewer than the average in the 1970s.