HL Deb 06 March 1979 vol 399 cc164-5WA

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What will be the position following paragraph 10 of Guide Three of the Joint Statement by the TUC and the Government of an employee dismissed under a union membership agreement who objects to joining a union on grounds of deeply held conscientious belief and whose dismissal may be held to be fair under Section 58(3) of the Employment Protection Act 1978 because his refusal may not be on grounds of religious belief, and whether they propose that the Act shall be amended to provide the newly agreed measure of flexibility in this matter.


The Government have always urged that those negotiating union membership agreements should do so in a flexible and tolerant manner. The Government have reiterated this view in the Joint Statement and welcome the similar commitment of the TUC and the latter's advice to affiliates in its Guide Three, which similarly aims for flexibility and tolerance in this area.

Dismissal of an employee for refusing to join a union under Section 58(3) of the Employment Protection (Consolidation) Act 1978 would not be unfair—under the terms of that subsection—if this is in accordance with the relevant union membership agreement; where union membership agreements reflect the Government and TUC advice, the dismissal of the kind referred to in the Question would not normally meet this criterion.

The Government have no proposals to amend the current statutory provisions and consider that the desired flexibility in this area is best achieved by negotiation between the parties directly concerned rather than by attempted legal regulation. Categories of excluded workers would be difficult to define in legislation without undermining the legitimate operation of closed shops and the experience of the legal regulation of closed shops attempted by the 1971 Industrial Relations Act does not encourage further experiments in this field.