HL Deb 05 May 1983 vol 442 cc185-6

3.14 p.m.

Lord Renton

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

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government how many non-industrial civil servants are now engaged full-time on trade union activities, and what is the estimated cost to the Exchequer of their incomes, accommodation, telephones, typewriters. et cetera.

The Lord Privy Seal (Baroness Young)

My Lords, I regret that central figures are not available at present, but are due to be collected in the summer in order to monitor the effects of the new national framework agreement on facilities introduced in 1982. I gave the last available figures in answer to the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, on 1lth March 1982.

Lord Renton

My Lords, is not the expense involved in employing these civil servants entirely on trade union duties quite considerable, and should the cost to the Exchequer still be justified when the unions can now well afford to bear it?

Baroness Young

My Lords, with regard to the first part of the noble Lord's supplementary question, I should like to make it quite clear that the greater part of time off is for industrial relations duties, and not in fact trade union activities. But I should also say that the new national framework agreement provides for greater control of facility time through increased accountability for individuals' time off, and through provision for a review at least annually of the facility time allowances.

Lord Renton

My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend.

Lord Brockway

My Lords, may I ask the Leader of the House whether it is not the case that in Civil Service departments highly paid, full-time officers are engaged in watching worker relationships, and should not the workers themselves have the same right to representation?

Baroness Young

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, has made an allegation about what might be going on in Civil Service departments on which I would rather not comment. The object of this particular exercise is to negotiate not only the new national framework agreement, as has been agreed, but also agreements within departments, and this is intended to encourage both responsible activities of trade unions and responsible debate on industrial relations matters.

Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos

My Lords, can the noble Baroness confirm that she is satisfied with the state of industrial relations in the Civil Service at the present time, and does she agree that the national facilities agreement will assist towards improving industrial relations in the Civil Service? Does she also agree that the amount of money spent is negligible and is well worth it in terms of achieving good industrial relations in the Civil Service?

Baroness Young

My Lords, I believe that industrial relations in the Civil Service are good. The national framework agreement has been agreed. It is now being discussed with departments. Over 60 per cent. of non-industrial civil servants have now reached agreements with departments, and, as I indicated in my original Answer, we expect the rest to be completed later on in the summer.

So far as the expense is concerned, this was the point of the Question that was asked originally by my noble friend Lord Boyd-Carpenter, and I stated the sums of money involved. However, in answering today's Question, I should like to make it clear that the paid time off allowed to union representatives for trade union activities is strictly limited, and that, under employment legislation, employers are required to allow reasonable time off for trade union activities.

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