HC Deb 21 March 2000 vol 346 cc493-4W
Dr. Godman

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what discussion he has had with other NATO countries about allowing members of the armed services to become members of trade unions; and if he will make a statement. [115145]

Mr. Spellar

There have been no discussions with other NATO countries about this issue. Due to the unique nature of Service life it is Ministry of Defence policy not to have a Service trade union, or federation, for members of the Armed Forces. There are no plans for change.

The Ministry of Defence has agreements with a number of major trade unions, as well as concessions with professional associations, whereby Service personnel may be recognised as eligible for membership. No restrictions are placed on attendance at meetings of civilian trade unions, professional associations, or courses of instruction run by them intended to enhance trade skills and professional knowledge, provided Service uniform is not worn, Service duties are not impeded and no action is taken which would bring the Services into disrepute. It is important that the Armed Forces maintain a position of political neutrality. Service personnel may not therefore participate in industrial action, or any form of political activity organised by a civilian trade union, or professional organisation, to which they belong.