HL Deb 28 June 1979 vol 400 cc1604-5

3.8 p.m.


My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether, in the light of the undertaking given on behalf of the previous Government on 17th January 1978, they are now in a position to disclose the cost to public funds of the appeal to this House by ACAS in the Grunwick case.


My Lords, I understand from ACAS that the question of costs is still before the taxing master, and it therefore does not yet know the cost to public funds of its appeal to this House in the Grunwick case.


My Lords, while thanking my noble friend for that reply, I should like to ask him two questions. First, why—in view of the long lapse of time since the ACAS appeal failed—has taxation taken place so slowly? Secondly, in the meanwhile will my noble friend and the Government exercise their benign influence to restrain ACAS from plunging into further expensive and unsuccessful litigation?

The Earl of GOWRIE

My Lords, as regards my noble friend's first point, my information is that the company concerned has not yet submitted an account of its costs to the taxing master. I understand that, when it does so, there will be a speedy resolution. However, the House must appreciate that, under the separation of powers, that is not properly a matter for the Government. As regards the second point raised by my noble friend, the ACAS provision in this respect is under the Employment Protection Act, and we are engaged in reviewing the workings of that Act at present.


My Lords, does the Minister agree that the role of ACAS is an extremely valuable one in the whole matter of industrial relations, and that ACAS itself, before embarking on proceedings, takes the advice, as a rule, of the legal advisers to Her Majesty's Government?

The Earl of GOWRIE

Yes, my Lords.


My Lords, does the Minister not agree that ACAS, in fact, is in an impossible position as a result of a series of decisions and the ambiguity of the Act, and that it is driven to go to the law in this way?

The Earl of GOWRIE

Yes, my Lords; but I hardly think that that is the fault of the present Government.


My Lords, will the Minister give an assurance to your Lordships' House without any equivocation, that no pressure will be brought by the Government upon ACAS not to pursue its legal rights in the courts, as was rather suggested by the noble Lord who asked the Question?

The Earl of GOWRIE

My Lords, my noble friend can, of course, speak for himself, but he made no such suggestion as I understood it.