HL Deb 13 February 1985 vol 460 cc188-9

2.58 p.m.

Lord Tordoff

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 staff in scientific and technological grade have left GCHQ, Cheltenham, since the ban on trade union membership.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Young)

My Lords, in 1984 83 staff in scientific and technical grades at GCHQ resigned for reasons other than retirement, transfer to another department, maternity or marriage.

Lord Tordoff

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness for that Answer. Can she perhaps also tell me how many linguists have left in the same period; and how many of the people who have left in both categories had already taken the £1,000?

Baroness Young

My Lords, it would not be in the interests of the security services, as I am sure the noble Lord will understand, to give any further detailed information of this nature.

Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos

My Lords, will the noble Baroness confirm that at the end of January in a referendum held at GCHQ, only 38 per cent. of the workforce voted for joining the new staff association? Would she not agree that this is an extremely serious development in what is a very important unit indeed in the national interest? Will she say what steps the Government are taking to seek to create a united and not a divided workforce there?

Baroness Young

My Lords, the turnout for the referendum, to which the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, referred, was 66 per cent., and this is very good by usual union standards. A clear majority voted in favour of forming a staff association. I am of course glad to confirm to the noble Lord that the staff at GCHQ continue to carry out their duties with their usual dedication and to their usual high standards.

Lord Rochester

My Lords, is the noble Baroness willing to disclose to the House how many of the staff at GCHQ who declined to exercise any of the options offered to them a year ago are still employed in the same occupation and remain liable to dismissal without compensation?

Baroness Young

No, my Lords, I cannot add any further figures to the ones I have given.

Lord Jenkins of Putney

My Lords, is the refusal of the noble Baroness to give any further figures because the figures are not available or because she deems it unwise to give us those figures? Is she aware that the confusion of the Government's interest with the national interest is a confusion which is natural for her to make but that noble Lords cannot be expected to share it?

Baroness Young

My Lords, I should like to think that the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins, would understand—but perhaps not—that it would not be appropriate to go into all this detail about an intelligence agency.