§ Harry Cohen
To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what assessment he has made of the impact of European Union law on the right of soldiers to join a trades union; and if he will make a statement. 
§ Mr. Ingram
Article 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights provides for a right to peaceful assembly and association, including the right to form a trade union. The Article does allow for the imposition of lawful restrictions on the exercise of those rights by 817W members of the armed forces. No restrictions are placed upon Service personnel attending meetings of civilian trade unions, professional associations, or courses of instruction run by the same that are intended to enhance trade skills and professional knowledge. However, as the armed forces must be seen to maintain a position of political neutrality, personnel may not participate in any form of political activity organised by a civilian trade union or organisation to which they belong.