HC Deb 08 February 1988 vol 127 cc39-78

`Provisions analogous to those made by section 19 of this Act (Assistance by the Commissioner) shall apply to—

  1. (a) proceedings in an industrial tribunal brought by a union member against his employer under section 58 of the Employment Protection (Consolidation) Act 1978 as amended (complaint by an employee of unfair dismissal by reason of trade union membership, activities or non-membership); and
  2. (b) proceedings in an industrial tribunal brought by a union member against his employer under section 23 of the said Act of 1978 as amended (complaint by an employee of action short of dismissal by his employer for the purpose of deterring him from becoming a union member or taking part in trade union activities or in order to compel him to remain or become a union member, or for the purpose of penalising him for doing one of the above or for non-membership of a union).'.—[Mr. Meacher.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

4.31 pm
Mr. Michael Meacher (Oldham, West)

I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

The new clause relates to the new so-called commissioner for trade union members and it aims to provide a right to assist union members to enforce certain rights against employers, in a Bill which is drafted to limit the target to trade unions.

Obviously, the title of commissioner for the rights of trade union members is a misnomer if the commissioner exists solely for the purpose of enforcing rights against trade unions. By itself that role would scarcely provide the commissioner with even a part-time job. In Committee we argued that if the evidence of union abuse was as extensive as the Government's paranoia would suggest, union members would be beating down the Certification Officer's doors with complaints. As it is, we read with a slight sense of anti-climax in paragraph 6 of the Green Paper that the total number of cases since 1984 in which the Certification Officer has issued a decision is a mere 19. The total number of cases in which unions have been found not to have met their statutory duties is precisely 10. If the Certification Officer has not been beating back hordes of vexatious litigants, or any litigants, the courts, which are the second avenue of redress, have been even less overburdened. Paragraph 6 of the Green Paper admits that not a single union member has sought a declaration or enforcement order from the courts. That compares—this is the whole purpose of our amendment—with the 30,000 complaints of unfair dismissal made every year against employers, one tenth or 3,000 a year of which are upheld by tribunals.

If the Government are genuinely solicitous about the rights of trade union members, why will they not extend the powers of the commissioner to help union members enforce their rights against employers? Is not the right not to be unfairly dismissed extremely important? Why should the commissioner not help a trade union member enforce what is perhaps the most basic employment right of all: the right to uphold the contract of employment under which the employee earns a living? What about the collective rights to consultation and information about redundancies or proposed takeovers, and the job losses that might be involved? What about the right to be a member of a union in the first place? What about the right to have recognition of a trade union representative to look after the interests of trade union members in respect of health and safety? It is well known that many employers ignore their statutory responsibilities in that area, which is a major reason why in recent years there has been an increase in serious injuries at the work place.

Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover)

For example, King's Cross.

Mr. Meacher

King's Cross is certainly one example and there are many others in the construction industry and in many areas of manufacturing.

Perhaps the commissioner could have played a useful role in supporting court action over GCHQ. What better example could there be of the need for a commissioner to protect trade unionists against their employer? There could not be a better case for the involvement of the commissioner than when the Government, as the employer at GCHQ, sought abitrarily and unilaterally to remove the right of employees to be a member of a union. From the Carlton club memoirs it seems that the Government may intend to consider some sort of unilateral removal of trade union rights in respect of union members in the National Health Service.

Mr. Bob Clay (Sunderland, North)

Does my hon. Friend agree that the commissioner could have assisted trade union members or their families who died as a result of the sinking of the Herald of Free Enterprise, which was owned by P and 0? Is it not interesting to note what difficulties those people have had, while P and 0 can snap its fingers every five minutes and summon judges to slap injunctions here, there and everywhere against the National Union of Seamen.

Mr. Meacher

My hon. Friend raises an interesting point. P and 0, which is held responsible for the Zeebrugge disaster, with the loss of nearly 190 lives, is now in dispute with the seamen, insisting on changes in working conditions which, I understood, include lengthening work shifts by 50 per cent. from 12 to 18 hours, allowing a maximum of five hours which must be taken in two shifts — not as a continuous period — for sleep before the seaman must start another shift. In other words, P and 0 is using Tory anti-union laws to enforce changes in working practice which put at risk the health and safety of seamen. It is precisely in that area that workers need the support of a commissioner against such aggressive and perhaps hazardous demands of employers. Anyone who is relatively unbiased cannot but conclude that the Government's concern for the rights of trade union members is just a little selective.

In our first sitting in Committee we moved an amendment to clause 1 to make it unlawful for employers to interfere with ballots on industrial disputes. The Government refused to accept it, showing, as they did so often in Committee, where their true interests lie. If such an amendment succeeds in another place— I certainly hope that it will—surely the commissioner should help to enforce that right.

Clause 6 gives union members full access to all union accounting records. Why should we not have a right of access for all union members to the accounting records of their employer? Surely the commissioner should help to enforce that right. If the Government are really concerned about the rights of trade union members they should realise that union members would be much more interested in that information.

Clause 15 concerns the improper conduct of union ballots on political funds. We believe that the commissioner should play a role in ensuring that companies ballot their shareholders before forking out vast sums to the Tory party or some shady group of industrial spies such as the Economic League. There are many other examples that I could give.

Mr. David Winnick (Walsall, North)

Does my hon. Friend agree that the lack of response in Committee from Conservative Members was because, in the main, those Conservative Members who are involved with a company do their utmost to ensure that either there is no trade union in that company or, if there is one, to try to minimise its activities? Time and time again one comes across Conservative Members with vast interests in the City and elsewhere and it is clear that there is no trade union organisation in the places where they have a substantial commercial interest.

Mr. Meacher

It is difficult to make an assessment of the attitude of the Conservative Members on the Committee because they sat there like a lot of sitting ducks and never said anything. They virtually never contributed to the debate except to stick up their hands when the Whip snapped his finger.

I believe that my hon. Friend the Member for Walsall, North (Mr. Winnick) is right in his general presumption that the attitude of the Government is that they would, first of all, prefer to reduce the number and effectiveness of trade unions—this is the fourth Bill in eight years to try to do so. If they have to put up with trade unions they are seeking to institute a new commissioner. They have the gall to describe the commissioner as the Commissioner for the Rights of Trade Union Members but that commissioner is a commissar whose purpose is to reduce the power and effectiveness of the trade union as an effective organisation for working people. No doubt the commissar will aid and abet organisations such as the Freedom Association to take out actions against union members and to do as much damage as possible.

Mr. Frank Haynes (Ashfield)

Does my hon. Friend agree that, if such a commissar for trade unions is introduced, his first case should be British Coal? British Coal is denying members of the National Union of Mineworkers in Nottinghamshire the right to vote on pit premises like anybody else in the coal industry. Elsewhere British Coal has provided the facilities for that voting, but NUM members in Nottinghamshire were denied those facilities. Why should British Coal interfere with trade union ballots?

Mr. Meacher

My hon. Friend eloquently makes the precise point that I made a few moments ago.

One of the objectives of the amendment that we moved in Committee was precisely that employers should not have the right to interfere in industrial dispute ballots or any other union ballot. In recent weeks, British Coal, to name one employer, has certainly interfered in respect of miners in Nottinghamshire. British Coal has denied them the right to vote at the workplace and that is just the kind of interference that should be a matter for the commissioner. If the commissioner acted against such interference that would improve the rights of trade union members but, of course, the Government intend no such thing. The Government are concerned not about the rights of trade union members, but about the rights of employers.

4.45 pm

We also believe that the commissioner could play a useful role in the jurisdiction of the industrial tribunals. Obviously, we favour the industrial tribunals in principle, but access to them and the speed and exercise of obtaining rights from them is often not what it should he. The tribunals concern equal pay, health and safety at work, sex discrimination, employment protection, race relations, transfer of undertakings as a result of a take-over or merger, and industrial training. They relate to key areas of importance. It is interesting to note that clause 3 is the only clause that gives union members new rights against their union, and the commissioner cannot be involved. It relates to the notorious and iniquitous provision that minorities shall have the right of protection to opt out of majority decisions.

Mr. Skinner

The "Owen" clause.

Mr. Meacher

My hon. Friend was not on the Committee, but he obviously heard about our description of the clause. With due respect to the right hon. Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Dr. Owen), the clause was known as the "David Owen view of industrial relations—if you cannot win the ballot or the game, walk off with the ball." That is also the way in which the Government believe disputes should be undertaken. The important thing to note is that clause 3 is the only clause wherein such rights are enforced through tribunals rather than through the courts. In Committee we argued that that rather curious omission had been made for a rather subtle political reason.

Mr. Skinner

Since my hon. Friend mentioned the alliance in a manner of speaking, I wonder whether he can tell me if the commissioner would have any powers to deal with mergers, break-ups and so on, taking into account that the alliance has not got any representatives here again today? I know that it is called the party that dare not speak its name, but it should be present to take part in the debate.

Mr. Meacher

It is true that the hon. Member for Rochdale (Mr. Smith), a member of the so-called alliance— I am not sure what those members now refer to themselves as; they are anything but an alliance—came to part of the first sitting of the Committee—I believe that there were around 25 in all—but, as far as I can recall, never appeared again. Certainly it would be difficult to miss the 22 stone of the hon. Gentleman if he were here. His absence and that of other Members, for whatever reason, illustrates the total lack of interest or concern on the part of the Liberals or that other party with regard to the central issues of employment and industrial relations.

It is clear that clause 3 is the only clause wherein the rights of trade unionists are enforced through tribunals rather than the courts. In Committee we argued that that decision had been made for a certain political reason. Once the Government conceded that the commissioner might have a role to play in the tribunal system as a result of clause 3 it would be impossible for them to resist the conclusion that he might have a role in the jurisdiction of other tribunals. That would involve rights against the employer. That is the key to the argument. However, Ministers hotly denied that, particularly the Parliamentary Under-Secretary, and they argued that the commissioner was concerned with cases of public rights. They claimed that tribunals were all about private grievances.

The Government also argued that the legal aid system, by which applicants get such a bad deal in comparison to those to be helped by the commissioner, dealt only with private rights. That argument, which was retailed at some length in Committee, is wholly bogus. The Committee rapidly exposed it. Legal aid is available in many cases of judicial review that involves public rights of the first importnce. All the alleged rights that the commissioner will assist in enforcing will contain elements of private grievance. For example, under clause 1, the applicant may be a trade union member claiming that he has been denied his personal right to ballot. However, perhaps that rather technical legal argument is best left to another place.

Much more important are the moral objections to the Government's position. Do they believe that cases brought by employees against employers raise no moral issues? What about dismissal for trade union membership? What about sex and race discrimination? What about cases where the employer unfairly dismisses workers on the transfer of an undertaking after takeover or merger?

Even if the Government will not allow the commissioner a role in the industrial tribunal system, he could play a role in enforcing rights against employers in the courts. If the Bill was fair—by that, I mean evenhanded between unions and employers—that is exactly what he would do. That is what the new clause proposes.

None of us who sat through the dozens of hours in Committee will be in any doubt about the outcome. The Government will have none of this. They have no intention of giving the commissioner any power over employers. They are not truly interested in the rights of trade union members; rather they are interested in the rights of employers, or in tilting the balance in favour of employers and against trade unions. In that battle, it suits Ministers' purposes to use surrogates. It would not pay them to go into the political front line and admit what they are up to. They would rather sit back in their Tothill street staff headquarters and give the hospitality cabinet a bashing while their infantry — the dissident union members whom the Bill is designed to encourage— go over the top.

But as the Bill ground its weary way through Committee, the Government's true purpose became more evident. Trade union members and the wider public will greet the new commissioner with contempt. His title, "Commissioner for the Rights of Trade Union Members", will pass into the limbo that awaits failed political euphemisms, hotly following the phrase "community charge". "Commissar for Keeping Trade Unions in their Place" would be more apt. Considering the current industrial scene, it does not seem likely that he will succeed in doing that.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Employment (Mr. Patrick Nicholls)

I was unable to convince the hon. Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Meacher) about many of these matters on previous occasions and, although hope springs eternal, I am not sure whether I can convince him now. But I will do my best.

The hon. Gentleman used a wide range of examples, but he asked one question which he will concede goes to the heart of the debate: if the Government are prepared to extend powers to the commissioner to help in cases against trade unions, why not extend powers to trade unionists to use against their employers? The question is perfectly fair. The answer amounts to this: as in so many of the areas which the hon. Gentleman mentioned, workers or trade unions already have recourse against their employers, and the main way is through the industrial tribunal. This is neither the time nor the place to set out the history of industrial tribunals, but it is generally recognised that they provide a cheap, efficient and expeditious way for trade union members to air a wide range of grievances against their employers. As for the matters that the hon. Gentleman has in mind in the new clause, often trade union members who are thinking of going to an industrial tribunal might have the assistance of their trade union in doing so.

This is the key to the entire debate. We wish to set up a commissioner for the rights of trade union members because there is a gap in the present system. A person who wished to exercise the rights given to him under clause 19(7) would not have available to him the remedies that are available to a trade union member who wished to go before an industrial tribunal.

Mr. Graham Allen (Nottingham, North)

Does the Minister concede that there is a great range of powers in the courts and that the Certification Officer also exists? The Minister's comments are almost an insult to the Certification Office, implying that it could not take on the added responsibilities to which he referred. There is provision, or the law could be so amended, for the office to take on the role that the Minister mentioned, so there must be other reasons for the introduction of this trade union commissar.

Mr. Nicholls

That point has been made by the hon. Gentleman's colleagues, and I shall certainly answer it later in my speech. If I do not, no doubt the hon. Gentleman will ask me to give way again later.

The rights with which the trade union commissioner will be helping people start in the High Court, not in the industrial tribunal. I do not wish to shoot down one of the hon. Gentleman's favourite and sincerely held points so glibly, but clause 3 rights are private rights which belong properly within the province of an industrial tribunal. The powers of the trade union commissioner, as set out in subsection (7), are exclusively matters which start from the High Court. Therefore, it is appropriate that the commissioner should give some assistance in respect of them.

The hon. Member for Oldham, West said that we should not draw a distinction between public and private rights. He said that that might not be a matter for us to clarify today, but that it might be a matter for another place. I like to agree with the hon. Gentleman when I can. I am sure that he is right to say that such considerations will exercise the members of another place in detail, but there is no doubt that the legal aid system is designed to take care of the enforcement of private rights. It is not there to take care of the enforcement of public rights. In a previous incarnation, I, with other members of my profession, exercised considerable ingenuity to pretend that what were essentially private rights had a public dimension to them so that one could bring them within the ambit of judicial review. The legal authorities where judicial review seems to be biting on private rights are usually a tribute to the lawyers conducting the case who tried to construct the matter in that way.

I return to my central point: the commissioner is all about the enforcement of public rights, so analogies with industrial tribunals cannot be appropriate.

Mr. Meacher

The Under-Secretary has not answered my central point that legal aid is available in many cases of judicial review which involve public ri.21its of the first order. Many of the rights which the commissioner will help to enforce will have elements of private grievance. How can he continue to make the distinction and try to prevent the commissioner from taking on the role in respect of the employer?

Mr. Nicholls

I understand the hon. Gentleman's point. I concede that, at first sight, the authorities on judicial review show that it is available only for private matters. But that usually represents a distortion— sometimes a successful distortion—of the law by the lawyers who are trying to assist that person.

There will he grey areas where matters are finely balanced and where one can argue that one is dealing with a public or a private right. In practice, if it is more private than public, one can tack enough private elements on it to bring oneself under the scope of the law. That is the middle ground. But if one considers the rights that the commissioner might be called upon to enforce, for instance under clauses 1, 6, 9 or 15—hon. Gentlemen may disagree with my opinion—it is highly unlikely that anyone interested in enforcing those sorts of rights would be able to find a sufficiently private element in them to be able to use the legal aid system. So if there is not something like the commissioner, there will be rights without those affected by them being able to have them enforced. That is why we believe it is necessary to have a commissioner.

I appreciate that the hon. Gentleman has always been four square against the Bill in general and its provisions in particular—and against the role of the commissioner. However, even if he is not prepared to accept all the Bill's implications, I hope that he will accept that there is a grey area here. When dealing with rights that are wholly public, the legal aid system cannot possibly be an appropriate vehicle.

5 pm

The hon. Member for Oldham, West, gave other examples and talked about some sort of unilateral alteration of the terms and conditions of employment of people employed by P and O. It would he quite inappropriate for me to judge those sorts of matters here and now. One aspect, however, shows why the hon. Gentleman cannot rely on his analogies. If someone's terms and conditions of contract are being unilaterally altered—if he is essentially saying that his contract has been broken—he has his remedies. No doubt he will have assistance from the trade union of which he is a member, and he may well be able to bring himself within the scope of legal aid. So in such cases remedies already exist. We say that a commissioner is necessary because, without him, there will be no appropriate mechanism for enforcing these rights.

I come to the point that the hon. Gentleman made about industrial tribunals and the reason why clause 3 rights will not do. Clause 3 deals with what is essentially a private right, which should not properly fall within the commissioner's scope. It is all too easy to miss the following essential points. The hon. Gentleman and his Friends are convinced that there is something sinister about the trade union commissioner and the role he will play. Two points about that must be made time arid again. First, the commissioner cannot act on his own volition but only if asked to do so by a trade union member. I do not know whether we should call him a black or white knight—he cannot canter around looking for agro. He must be brought in by a trade union member.

Secondly, except in the single case of the finding of a certification officer, the commissioner has complete discretion about whether to lend his assistance. So the hon. Gentleman's concern about the commissioner going out and looking for trouble, and his—possibly justified— concerns about the tiny minority of vexatious, frivolous people who may try to make trouble for a trade union, can be put aside. The commissioner cannot act unless brought in by a trade union member and that member cannot demand the commissioner's help. The commissioner has the discretion to extend or not to extend his help.

Mr. Allen

I want to bring the Minister back to the central point of why we need a commissioner, because he has not answered that satisfactorily. The Certification Officer has all the qualities that the Minister has mentioned, with the added advantage of a long tradition of being perceived as relatively neutral. Does the Minister agree, therefore, that the Certification Officer would be the ideal person to whom to extend the powers? That would certainly be preferable to the imposition of a commissioner, which comes with all the rest of the dogma in the Bill. He will not be trusted by the majority of trade unionists, and will be used only by those seeking to cause trouble for trade unions.

Mr. Nicholls

I concede at once what the hon. Gentleman said is arguable. I appreciate the way in which he put his point. Without being unduly pessimistic, it is safe to say that it was always a reasonable bet that the Labour movement would not be too keen on the commissioner and all his works. One did not have to be a clairvoyant to spot that. The hon. Member for Nottingham, North (Mr. Allen) graciously and fairly paid tribute in Committee to the work done by the Certification Officer and his staff. There is obviously a good working relationship between them and the trade union movement.

Given the misgivings that some people in the Labour movement would have about the role of the commissioner, would it be a good idea to tack these powers on to the Certification Officer? In one sense it would have been logical and tidy, but it would have driven a wedge—I use the word in a non-pejorative sense— between the trade union movement and the Certification Officer, which would have done no good. So the hon. Gentleman's point is arguable, as is my response to it.

Ms. Clare Short (Birmingham, Ladywood)

The Minister should know that we do not believe the Government's protest that the commissioner is merely to assist trade union members, and I shall explain why not. The Government have run down the wages inspectorate, which is supposed to enforce legal standards in low-paid sectors. They do not care whether the law is enforced in that area. The Health and Safety Executive has too few officials, so there are more and more accidents and deaths in British industry. The Government do not care about that or about the law being broken. Suddenly, however, they can find resources for a new official who can back dissident trade union members who want to cause difficulties for their trade unions in this way, rather than taking up the issues in a democratic way through the movement.

Mr. Nicholls

I am not sure how far you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, will allow me to get away with broadening the debate into one about wages councils or the Health and Safety Executive. In passing, on the subject of the number of fatalities, I ask the hon. Lady to have another look at the figures for industrial fatalities, which are now at an all-time record low.

Ms. Short


Mr. Nicholls

The figures speak for themselves. I wonder how far I shall be allowed to go down this road— the hon. Lady can go off and check the rate of industrial fatalities—

Mr. Meacher


Mr. Nicholls

I can understand the misgivings of the hon. Lady and her hon. Friends, but I made the point that the commissioner does not act on his own volition and has the discretion about whether to render assistance, and I hoped that that would go a long way to satisfying the hon. Lady's concerns.

Mr. Meacher

My hon. Friend made an important point about the need for protection because of the Government's poor record on health and safety at work—

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Harold Walker)

Order. Perhaps we have gone far enough down that road. New clause 3 deals with proceedings in industrial tribunals, and we should get back to that.

Mr. Meacher

The Minister said incorrectly that the number of industrial deaths had fallen; it has not. It has been roughly stationary for the past four or five years, and the number of severe accidents and maimings has been rapidly increasing. That would be affected by a commissioner who could take up the lack of the provision of health and safety measures by an employer on behalf of his employees.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman's point has nothing to do with clause 3. I hope that both Front Benches will agree to differ and return now to new clause 3.

Mr. Nicholls

I hear what you say, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and I know what is good for me.

The issue comes down to whether one believes that if these rights exist they should have a proper mechanism for enforcement. We believe that they should, and we have to be able to satisfy the world at large—if not the hon. Member for Oldham, West and his hon. Friends—that there is nothing sinister about the role of the commissioner. Given his discretion and the fact that he cannot act of his own volition, I believe that we have got the balance right, and I hope the House will reject the new clause.

Mr. David Clelland (Tyne Bridge)

I should like to preface my remarks by saying that the Government have not produced a shred of evidence that there is a need for the commissioner for the rights of trade union members, whereas there is ample evidence of the need for the protection of the rights of employees. It is obvious to the most casual of observers that the creation of the commissioner is to facilitate deliberately proved actions sometimes by politically motivated organisations such as the Right-wing Freedom Association, and sometimes by employers, against trade unions and their officers.

An example of what I mean can be found in Sir Ian MacGregor's book, "The Enemies Within", when he refers to the Gulliver concept, wherein his hired agent David Hart was used to organise so-called dissident members of the National Union of Mineworkers to institute waves of legal proceedings against the union because each one of the many actions tied another tiny legal rope around the NUM until it woke up one day and couldn't move. The encouragement of such tactics is what the creation of the commissioner is all about. If it is not, we look forward to the Minister telling the House that he can accept new clause 3. The Bill deals with the so-called rights of union members only in so far as they relate to the union. The same members will not be able to avail themselves of the services of the commissioner in relation to any matters connected with their employment or their employer.

Mr. Allen

Is it not a fact that David Hart performed those duties in a privatised manner, and all that the Government are doing are nationalising the services of Mr. Hart? He may be the first commissioner.

Mr. Clelland

My hon. Friend makes an excellent point.

The legal aid that the commissioner will willingly provide for action against the union will not be available to assist in any action against the employer. The resources of the taxpayer, to the tune of some 1.5 million per year, are to be made available to those who wish to take issue with their union, while at the same time the same Government are planning to save about £10 million per year on the legal aid system, which is there to help those who cannot afford the legal costs involved in obtaining justice on a host of infinitely more important, more legitimate and more personal issues.

The Government's Legal Aid Bill, currently going through its parliamentary processes, is in sharp contrast to the measures proposed in the Employment Bill, and clearly shows the prejudiced nature of the Employment Bill and the Government's determination to pursue their political enemies at the taxpayers' expense, while cutting back on public expenditure for more creditable and essential services, and services in more demand. It is also in sharp contrast to the rights of employees that the Government have whittled away during the past eight years.

If the Government are really interested in fairness and justice, let Ministers explain why employees' rights have been eroded to such an extent. Let them explain why there is no proposal to give the "commissar for trade union harassment" the power to help members unfairly disciplined by their employers. Do not let Ministers tell us that the unions should give legal assistance to such members. We know that they do. That is one of the major benefits of trade union membership. We also know that the Government— by this measure and in every Act concerned with trade unions—have deliberately set out to weaken the ability of trade unions so to do.

What about those who are not trade union members, those whom the Government have done everything in their power to discourage and dissuade from trade union membership? What about their rights? Who is to assist them if they are unfairly disciplined by their employers? Why should not the commissioner be able to help those people, too, to take action against unfair employers? The reason is that the Bill is not about fairness or justice; it is about encouraging litigation against unions. It is about giving state support to the Gulliver concept, so that unions will be further weakened and unable to give proper representation and protection to their members. The fact that the commissioner for the rights of trade union members will not be empowered to assist those union members against their employers is ample proof of that. However, if further proof is necessary, it lies in the extent to which the proposal goes to see to it that nothing stands in the way of encouraging action against trade unions.

5.15 pm

I return to the legal aid system, to compare its provisions with the proposals in the Bill to demonstrate the Governments double standards and hypocrisy. Clause 19(4) states: The matters to which the Commissioner may have regard in determining whether, and to what extent, to grant an application under this section shall include, in particular— (a) whether the case raises a question of principle; I should have thought that there was plenty of room for manoeuvre there. Subsection (4)(b) states: whether it is unreasonable, having regard to the complexity of the case, to expect the applicant to deal with the case unaided; Again, that is completely at the discretion of the commissioner. Paragraph (c) states: whether, in the opinion of the Commissioner, the case involves a matter of substantial public interest. That is interesting because I can imagine that if a trade union member wanted to take action against the shop steward that would not be particularly interesting to the public, but if he wanted to take action against Arthur Scargill that would be very interesting to the public and the commissioner might think that it was in the public interest.

I should like to refer to part IV of the legal aid regulations, headed, "Determination of Applications". The regulations make aid conditional and refer to financial eligibility and eligibility on merit. They also refer to Refusal where advantage trivial or proceedings simple". The regulations refer to refusal where other facilities are available.

The regulations on financial eligibility state:

  1. "(1) Where the assessment officer determines that an applicant has disposable income of an amount which makes him ineligible for legal aid, the [secretary](a) shall refuse the application.
  2. (2) Where the assessment officer determines that an applicant, having disposable income of an amount which makes him eligible for legal aid, has disposable capital of an amount which renders him liable to be refused legal aid, the [secretary] … shall refuse the application if it appears to [him] … that the probable costs of the applicant in the 50 proceedings in respect of which the application was made would not exceed the maximum contribution payable by the applicant under the Act."
Then the applicant has to satisfy eligibility on merits: Without prejudice to the generality of section 7(5) or (5A) of the Act (which provides that a person shall not be given legal aid unless he has reasonable grounds for taking, defending or being a party to proceedings, and may also be refused legal aid if it appears unreasonable that he should receive it in the particular circumstances of the case), an application for a certificate, shall not be approved except after consideration by the [secretary] … of all questions of fact or law arising out of the action, cause or matter to which the application relates and the circumstances in which it was made. The regulation headed: Refusal where advantage trivial or proceedings simple states: Without prejudice to regulations 29 and 33 an application may be refused where it appears … that only a trivial advantage would he gained by the applicant from the proceedings to which the application relates, or that on account of the simple nature of the proceedings a solicitor would not ordinarily be employed. Then we come to the regulation headed: Refusal where other rights or facilities available. It states:
  1. " — (1) Without prejudice to regulations 29 an application may be refused where it appears … that the applicant has available rights or facilities making it unnecessary for him to obtain legal aid or has a reasonable expectation of obtaining financial or other help from a body of which he is a member, and has failed to take all reasonable steps to enforce or obtain such rights, facilities or help including permitting the [secretary] … to take those steps on his behalf.
  2. (2) Where it appears that the applicant has a right to be indemnified against expenses incurred in connection with any proceedings, it shall not, for the purposes of paragraph (1), be deemed a failure to take reasonable steps if he has not taken proceedings to enforce that right, whether for a declaration as to that right or otherwise."
Therefore, financial aid through the legal aid system is complicated. Legal aid is also means tested to the extent that valuation is made of the capital available to the client as well as of the annual income that is available to him. Nor is it open-ended assistance, unlike that provided by the commissioner for the rights of trade union members. Where a solicitor feels that more advice or assistace would go over the limit already granted, he must not give it without going back to the board. Recipients of legal aid, unlike recipients of aid from the commissioner, must pay a contribution. It is calculated first on the basis of capital. That is not only cash savings but sums that could be borrowed against insurance policies, jewellery, caravans, and so on, but excluding household furniture and the value of an owner-occupied house. The assessment is made by the DHSS. If disposable capital is over £4,850, legal aid will probably be reduced.

The DHSS also looks at disposable yearly income. It is assessed as weekly household income, net of tax and national insurance, and must include child benefit and family income supplement if applicable. Then reasonable expenses must be deducted—travelling to work, trade union dues and weekly rent or mortgages—and there is a deduction for dependants. For those aged 11 it is £13, for those aged 11–15 it is £19.50, for those aged 16–17 it is £23.40 and for those over 18 it is £30.45. That gives the weekly disposable income, and it is multiplied by 52 to give the yearly income. Over £5,585 is not eligible for legal aid and under £2,325 is eligible. If income is between those two figures, £2,325 is deducted from yearly disposable income and the remainder is divided by four to give the maximum contribution out of income.

It will be easy to be in a position whereby an applicant on family income supplement will have to make a contribution. Only those in receipt of supplementary benefit will not have to make a contribution. No such tests will apply to those seeking help from the commissioner.

Another interesting comparison between the legal aid system and the operation of the commissioner is malicious representation—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. The speech that the hon. Gentleman is making might be more appropriate if the Question before the House were that the clause stand part of the Bill. That is not the Question, nor is it likely to be. The hon. Gentleman should direct his remarks to the new clause, which seeks to extend the provisions of clause 19 to proceedings before an industrial tribunal.

Mr. Clelland

I accept your ruling, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I am trying to draw a comparison between the legal aid system and the operation of the commissioner. To some extent, there must be a parallel—the inherent unfairness of what will be provided under the commission compared with the more serious cases under the legal aid system. I am trying to show the need to make the operation of the commissioner fairer by the inclusion of the new clause.

There are qualifications with regard to certain cases that can be funded under the legal aid system. Aid to pursue cases relating to unfair action by employers through industrial tribunals is such an example. That is the point of new clause 3.

In contrast, clause 19(7)(e) says: such other proceedings, being proceedings against a trade union, an official of a trade union or the trustees of the property of a trade union, as may be specified in an order made by the Secretary of State. With regard to the operation of the commissioner, the only qualification is that the Secretary of State will be unable to order assistance in cases against employers. No doubt that is protection against some sudden brainstorm. The commissioner will be almost unfettered in taking any action or pursuing any mischief at the taxpayers' expense, so long as it is in pursuance of a trade union or a trade union official, but not against an employer.

In Committee we argued strongly that there was no case for the introduction of such a service. Even if the Government came up with the slightest evidence that there was, there is no case for it taking priority over the many injustices in society on which the Government turn their back.

If, as it would appear, the Government are determined to press ahead with this dogmatic nonsense, the least that they could do would be to give some balance to the service and give equal rights to trade union members pursuing cases of injustice at the hands of their employers.

I hope that the Minister will be able to say that he will accept new clause 3.

Mr. Michael Foot (Blaenau Gwent)

Most hon. Members who listened to the Second Reading debate realised what a disgraceful Bill it was and how it had been devised to hit the trade union movement when the Government thought that it was down. That was its sole purpose.

I recall a precedent for a Government behaving in such a manner. Just after the general strike the Government thought, "We have got them down and we will kick them as hard as we possibly can. We will deprive them of rights that they have held since 1906, or rights that they have held since Disraeli's first trade union legislation. We shall take away those rights, and now that they are down we shall kick and fetter them even more."

No doubt my hon. Friends strove as hard as possible in Committee to overcome and to expose the difficulties, but the Bill has returned in almost as bad a shape as it was when it went into Committee. The Minister tried to adopt a perfectly reasonable manner when he put his case, but he did not deal with the realities. We are faced—the country should know this—with a bad Bill. It is a vindictive Bill and it will produce bitter reaction throughout the trade union movement. Far from assisting in overcoming industrial disputes or difficulties, it will add greatly to the dangers of industrial disputes over the next four or five years.

The proposition with regard to a commissioner will add to those difficulties. My hon. Friend the Member for Nottingham, North (Mr. Allen) referred to David Hart. His appointment is not a fanciful proposition. Whom will the Government appoint to do the job? Do they think that any reputable trade unionist, or any reputable civil servant, will take the job of commissioner, particularly if they reject the proposition in the new clause, which is making a belated attempt to restore some semblance of balance to the operation that the commissioner will have to undertake? Apparently, even that will be rejected out of hand.

The commissioner will be established for the purpose of causing trouble for individual trade unions. As soon as the commission is in operation there will be trouble. The Government need not think that the trade union movement will be as fettered as it has been in the past. More serious fetters have been placed on the trade union movement. Over the past five or six years the greatest fetter placed on it has been that of unemployment. It weakens trade unions and prevents them overcoming their difficulties.

What has always happened in British industrial history when a malicious and vindictive Government, such as this one, have sought to impose legal fetters on trade unions and bind their hands to prevent them from protecting their members is that eventually the trade unions have worked their way out of it and managed, once again, to stand up for their rights.

Whoever is appointed as commissioner by the Government will be an industrial buffoon. He will be laughed at from one end of the country to the other. The idea that he will be able to assist in dealing with industrial disputes is nonsense.

Mr. Allen

My right hon. Friend should be informed that in Committee the bets were even between Sir Ian MacGregor, Lord Frank Chapple and John Moore, who came in as a late runner as a possible appointee to the job.

Mr. Foot

I think that David Hart is the man. He is the most likely appointee. I agree that it will be a strong competition. Perhaps the Government will introduce a clause in the House of Lords for the appointment of two or three commissioners—they want the matter covered properly.

It is especially disgraceful — my hon. Friend the Member for Nottingham, North underlined this fact—that money should be available for such a post when less money is being provided for the essential services that are trying to operate health and safety procedures throughout British industry. It is being done at a time when the number of inspectors is nothing like it should be or what it was when we started the operation. The need for health and safety inspectors is constantly increasing because of the growing mechanisation of British factories and because of the greatly extended health and safety provisions. I do not need to say this in your presence, Mr. Deputy Speaker, because nobody played a greater part in passing those procedures, when we had a decent House of Commons, than you did in a previous office.

We always envisaged that if that task were to be done properly there would have to be a proper provision of assistance and that there would have to be a number of inspectors. There would have to be proper support over an increasing period, because the demand would be increased. Instead, the Government, who have been such skinflints in these matters, are prepared to provide funds for someone to do this squalid little job for them. It is utterly disgraceful and it will never succeed. They have contrived a strike at Ford's which derives essentially from the rigid ballot provisions imposed by the Government. The right hon. Member for Chingford (Mr. Tebbit) should get the bill for the £17 million per day that it costs, unless it can be shared properly and fairly among the sycophants who supported him in taking that measure through the House.

5.30 pm

The Minister has sought to appear reasonable today. He may also have done so in Committee. In a few years' time, however, every Member who has been associated with the Bill will be utterly ashamed of it. There will have been the first industrial dispute associated with the commissioner's operations. The commissioner may think that he is protecting someone's rights, but his activities will rightly be seen as a deliberate attack by the Government on the trade union movement. The best thing that the Minister could do would be to knock this miserable bit out of the Bill or to accept the new clause. As that would make a mockery of the Government's intentions, I do not suppose they will agree to it. I hope that the Minister and his colleagues will consider what will happen to them when the trade union movement recovers its strength and self-reliance and turns to rend those who attacked it in its moment of weakness. When the movement has regained its strength it will deal with those who have introduced squalid, miserable measures such as this.

Mr. Henry McLeish (Fife, Central)

I am pleased to follow my right hon. Friend the Member for Blaenau Gwent (Mr. Foot). He has a distinguished record in these matters and speaks with passion of the iniquities and inadequacies of the Bill.

With regard to the role of the commissioner, I wish briefly to take up some of the points that were raised in Committee but received no response from the Government. This measure is profoundly prejudiced and fundamentally flawed. The provision for the commissioner is merely a further attempt to hogtie the trade union movement under the bogus guise of extending individual freedom. It is just one more step down the road towards the strangulation of our trade union movement. The Under-Secretary of State laughs, but that is nothing new—he did the same in Committee.

New clause 3 seeks to bring some balance to an absurd measure. It is nonsense to suggest that trade union members should have such enormous powers to tackle the trade unions but very little assistance in tackling difficulties caused by employers. The Government's proposal is over the top and has nothing to do with industrial relations. It is political prejudice masquerading as practical policy. We mounted a lengthy attack on these provisions in Committee. Today I shall highlight various key issues to which the Minister has failed to respond, either in Committee or today.

The Green Paper contained a long section on the benefits of the work of the Certification Officer, but no case was made for a commissioner to handle trade union members' difficulties and especially the interface with the court system. Paragraph 6.9 of the Green Paper gives the game away. It states: However, it has also become apparent that the present arrangements are deficient or inadequate to some extent. The Certification Officer's powers are not comprehensive and the courts are not being used. The sole criterion for the Government's proposal is that there is too little court involvement in trade union affairs and the work of the Certification Officer. That shows why the proposal is being introduced and it belies the arguments of fairmindedness, evenhandedness and the extension of individual rights that are constantly pushed down our throats by a Government who daily abuse all those concepts.

My second point relates to costs. It was argued in Committee that if the commissioner's role was so vital, the £1.2 million or £.1.3 million cost of setting up that office would be justified. Yet when we asked exactly what the commissioner's role was, on no occasion was an answer given. Ministers merely parroted the claim that there was a deficiency and the courts were not being used, so there must be a commissioner to satisfy the Government's prejudices. It is extraordinary that we are expected to accept a proposal involving public expenditure for which no justification has been given.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Meacher) has said, the Bill is the fourth instalment of the Government's attempt to dismember the trade union movement. Although we disagree with the malice and vindictiveness behind it, we might have expected the Government to produce some reasoned justification for this intrusion into trade union affairs and industrial relations. Sadly, the Government have so little pride in their political craft that they have failed to produce any justification for this unsavoury contribution to the sea of flawed argument represented by the Bill.

Mr. Allen

I am pleased to follow my hon. Friend the Member for Fife, Central (Mr. McLeish). It is also a privilege to follow my right hon. Friend the Member for Blaenau Gwent (Mr. Foot), whose work in this area is well documented and widely respected. As a new Member, I find many unfamiliar things in the Chamber and some that are familiar. One unfamiliar sight is the faces of Back Bench Conservative Members who were on the Standing Committee. For three months, I saw only the piles of correspondence with which they were dealing during the Committee stage rather than the fresh, charming faces before us today. It is a delight to see them. It is also a delight to see the Secretary of State, albeit somewhat late—we were used to that in Committee, so, again, it is something familiar to make one feel at home.

Mr. Don Dixon (Jarrow)

Perhaps the Secretary of State has been on the picket line at Ford's.

Mr. Allen

That may be so. The hon. Member for Thurrock (Mr. Janman) may also have been there, as he used to work at Ford's. I picked up that morsel of information on the one occasion when the hon. Gentleman spoke in Committee. Whether the number of industrial disputes at Ford has gone down since the hon. Member came to the House, or whether all these disputes are the result of his absence from Ford, we cannot really say.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. I cannot see the relevance of what the hon. Gentleman is saying to the new clause that we are debating. Perhaps he will look at the new clause and direct his remarks to it.

Mr. Allen

I apologise, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I was referring to the familiar points in this debate. The unfamiliar point about the debate is that there is an SDP-Liberal alliance Member here today. There may even be two. I am trying to be charitable, but on the occasion when the alliance was represented in Committee it may have looked as though there were two of its members present when there was only one. Unfortunately, that was just for two or three hours of one Committee sitting.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. I doubt whether the Committee debated new clause 3, and perhaps we ought to be debating it now.

Mr. Allen

There is little logic in this clause. The powers given to the new trade union harassment officer are powers that could have been made available to the Certification Officer. As I have said, this is a slight upon those who work in the Certification Office, and I have had some dealings with them over a number of years with some tricky and delicate industrial relations matters. The Certification Officer has always proved to be an extremely reliable person in dealing with such queries. Such an office will always be accused of being biased in one way or another, but, in general, the Certification Officer has always proved that that is a worthy office. In my view, and that of many other Members, that office would have been the appropriate place to which to extend these powers. The fact that the Government have chosen to separate the Certification Officer from the new trade union harassment officer demonstrates the dogma that lies behind this clause. They could not bring these powers to bear with the Certification Officer—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman has been speaking for six minutes. The new clause before the House refers to extending the provisions of clause 19 to proceedings in an industrial tribunal". I have yet to hear him comment on that matter, and I hope that the hon. Gentleman will address his remarks to that.

Mr. Allen

Thank you for your guidance, Mr. Deputy Speaker. This refers to the assistance by the commissioner. The thrust of my argument is that the commissioner need not be the person who gives this assistance. That power could go to the Certification Officer, were it not for the dogma of the Government.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. I point out to the hon. Gentleman that that is not contained in the new clause that the House is debating. The new clause contains nothing about transferring to the Certification Officer the responsibilities that are proposed for the commissioner. The hon. Gentleman would do well if he would quickly glance at new clause 3 and address his remarks to it.

Mr. Allen

The new clause relates to assistance by the commissioner in actions against employers, and those matters were previously dealt with by the Certification Officer. I feel that it would be in order to ask, when talking about this new trade union harassment officer and the commissar who will take on this role, whether we shall be at liberty to hear how this person will be appointed to carry out the duties in the clause. What will the wages of this person be, and what qualifications will he have?

Mr. Dixon

How will he be appointed?

Mr. Allen

As my hon. Friend says, how will he be appointed?

In Committee, we were endlessly told that any person who exercises any responsibility in the trade union movement, even down to giving minor advice at an executive committee meeting, should be elected. There is no provision for that democratic process to be applied to this person. Therefore, it may strike people as being a little humorous that David Hart, or Ian MacGregor, or even John Moore if he falls out of favour, or any number of people, will be put up for this job. The job is completely within the gift of the Secretary of State. He may choose to give away one of these "jobs for the boys" to people such as Ian MacGregor or someone whom he feels deserves a little sinecure.

5.45 pm

We also need to be careful about unfair dismissals. My right hon. Friend the Member for Blaenau Gwent said earlier that there is little that the trade union commissioner or commisar or harassment officer can do on behalf of a member to secure redress for unfair dismissal. The unfair dismissal that is relevant to this clause is the potential unfair dismissal of, God help him, the trade union commisar. Schedule 1 (2)(3) says: If, when any person ceases to hold office as the Commissioner, the Secretary of State determines that there are special circumstances which make it right that he should receive compensation, there may be paid to him a sum by way of compensation of such amount as may be determined. That can be read in two ways. Either the person, being an acolyte of the Secretary of State, could be thrown out on his ear, or he could be the beneficiary of a tremendous golden handshake. However, the clause says nothing about his taking on these other, more important and relevant duties.

Many of my hon. Friends have referred to the number of cases laid before the Certification Officer. There is not enough for a trade union harassment officer to do unless he goes out on his white charger to try to find work. Nothing in the clause says anything about that. The Certification Officer has had just a handful of cases on such matters as political funds. Those cases could be dealt with by the Certification Officer, and cases arising out of the clause may also be dealt with in that way. Therefore, a new office is undesirable.

We have heard a lot about performance-related pay from the Government, and I have asked the Minister— and I ask him again — whether, if the trade union harassment officer deals with just five or six cases a year, that will affect his pay. Will the Minister undertake to review the value for money that the trade union harassment officer is giving the Government after his first year? The legislation gives the Government the power not to reappoint this trade union harassment officer.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. All this is of great interest to the House, but has nothing to do with the subject under discussion. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will start to address himself to clause 3, or resume his seat.

Hon. Members

Hear, hear.

Mr. Allen

I thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, for that advice, supported by Conservative Members. It is nice to hear that they are in good voice because we were a little worried that they had nothing to say. These clauses are put forward out of malice. They are yet another attempt to stir the pot—

Mr. Tony Favell (Stockport)

Would the hon. Gentleman like to remind the House who put forward this new clause?

Mr. Allen

The new clause relates to the trade union harassment officer. That may not be within the hon. Gentleman's knowledge, but that is what we are talking about. He was not on the Committee, so I understand his lack of knowledge.

This is another attempt to stir the pot and incite individual dissident trade union members to take action against trade unions. As such, it is undemocratic, it is uncalled for and unnecessary. I hope that we shall throw it out.

Mr. Haynes


Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. I hope that the hon. Gentleman intends to address himself to new clause 3.

Mr. Haynes

I resent that remark, Mr. Deputy Speaker. When you called me, I was about to say that I intended to address myself to clause 19, which deals with assistance by the trade union commissioner—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. That is just what I feared. I remind the hon. Gentleman that the House is considering new clause 3.

Mr. Haynes

All I said was that clause 19 deals with assistance by the commissioner. I hope that I shall not say anything that may tempt you to tell me to sit down, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I shall kick off by saying, in passing, that I notice that not many of the Conservative Members who served in the Committee are on the Benches today. One or two of them were here earlier — the little boys, as I called them in Committee — —[Interruption.] It is true. They have not lived yet. They do not know what life is about; they do not know what work is about; and they certainly do not know what trade unions are about. They are no longer here, they have gone —[Interruption.] They have gone; there are only some of the more elderly Conservative Members on the Benches opposite.

The Bill is the responsibility of the Secretary of State. I have made a few notes about him. For example, the right hon. Gentleman arrived in the Chamber at 5.37 pm and departed two minutes later. He is not really meeting his responsibility, is he? He has left his junior Ministers to take responsibility for the Bill. My right hon. Friend the Member for Blaenau Gwent (Mr. Foot) — he is from that beautiful country of Wales, the Principality —mentioned the junior Minister. I can tell my right hon. Friend that the Under-Secretary is a nice chap — [Interruption.] Yes, he really is a nice chap, but politically he is vicious. There is no doubt about that.

Ms. Short

He is not nice.

Mr. Haynes

My hon. Friend wants to jump in and talk about the junior Minister.

The two junior Ministers are up front today. Of course, they were up front in Committee because the Secretary of State hardly ever attended. From the Conservative point of view they have not done a bad job, but we have done a better job. We did a better job in Committee, we are doing a better job today and we are pulling the Bill to pieces.

The new clause clearly shows what lies behind the appointment of the commissioner chappie and the sort of assistance that he will give trade unionists. It is a scabs' charter — [Interruption.] I wish that Conservative Members would listen. Some of the young Tories in Committee were given a bit of an education. I am surprised that the more elderly Tories are turning round and gasbagging when they should be listening.

By talking about the young laddies in Committee, I am reminded of my school days—as I am sure you are, Mr. Deputy Speaker — when little fellows used to sneak around looking at what everybody was doing. It is the same today — little Tory sneaks in trade unions. The Government will give them the opportunity to go to the commissar so that he can really take the trade unions to town. That is what it is all about.

The Government change the rules and regulations again and again. They have not yet said anything about the national vote at Ford not so many days ago. They keep saying that they want everybody to have ballots. Well, there was a ballot at Ford, a decision was made and it was carried out. I am waiting for the Government to say something—

Mr. Favell

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I came into the Chamber bursting to hear about new clause 3, but so far I have heard about the Ford strike, the youth of the hon. Member for Ashfield (Mr. Haynes) and even your youth, Mr. Deputy Speaker. May we please return to the new clause?

Mr. Deputy Speaker

The hon. Gentleman has a point. The hon. Member for Ashfield (Mr. Haynes) must address himself much more closely to the provisions of new clause 3.

Mr. Haynes

That is what I am trying to do. Mr. Deputy Speaker. I do not need the hon. Member for Stockport (Mr. Favell) to encourage you. That is just not on. In any case, the hon. Gentleman was not even here at the start of the debate, and he was not a member of the Committee either. He is a new boy to the Bill. He need not tell me when I am out of order; that is the job of the Chair. I respect the Chair at all times.

There has been massive infiltration of the trade union movement by the Conservative Trade Unionists. That has been the cause of the problems. They have attended branch meetings and stirred up trouble. Now, they can run to the commissar to try to bring the unions into disrepute. That is not on, and the Government jolly well know it. When the Opposition return to office, we will know what to do with this legislation—[Interruption.] Oh yes we will. This Government preach freedom, but they have introduced this Bill to take away freedom from the individual. That is what the Bill is all about.

Mr. Allen

I am sure that my hon. Friend would like to mention that the trade union commissar will not even have to refer any complaints to the trade union involved. Complaints—and they may, of course, be frivolous—will be made to the trade union harassment officer, but there will be absolutely no referral to the trade union in the first instance.

Mr. Haynes


Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. I hope that the hon. Member for Ashfield will not be persuaded to go too far down that road. I remind both him and the House that the new clause under discussion seeks to extend the provisions of clause 19 to proceedings before an industrial tribunal. I hope that the House and the hon. Gentleman will address themselves to that.

Mr. Haynes

I am going down no road other than the right one, Mr. Deputy Speaker, because you asked me to do that. You asked that right at the beginning of my speech. Indeed, you have pulled up hon. Members for going down the wrong road. I shall not allow myself to be persuaded to go down the wrong road by either Conservative Members or my hon. Friends. I intend to stick to the rules, of course — [Interruption.] Hon. Members are trying to put me off because I want to tell the House about the CTU and its massive infiltration of the trade union movement. Its members are stirring up trouble throughout the country, and not just in my industry.

Before I came here I worked in a heavy industry, so I know what work is all about. I also know what trade unions are about. They look after their members, negotiate with the employers, and do this, that and the other. The employer is not even mentioned in clause 19. My experience of industry was that workers and management worked together and if something went wrong they sat round the table and sorted it out. They did not run down the road to the commissar saying, "That is it. I am not going back to work until you sort things out." That was the last resort if we did not get anywhere with management. There was co-operation from day one. The problems stirred up by the CTU should never have happened, but they were encouraged by the Government to join trade unions and cause trouble.

The question of cost has been raised. This is interesting. In Committee, a figure of £1.25 million was mentioned as the cost of running the commissioner's office. The Minister does not nod or shake his head in response to say yea or nay. He will probably respond to that point when he rises to the Dispatch Box. If these sneaky trade unionists keep running to and fro between the commissioner and their jobs, it will obviously increase the cost. The more work that the commissioner takes on, the higher will be the cost. As the Government keep reminding us, they were elected to reduce public expenditure. If that expenditure increases, there must be a reason. We want to know how much the Government are prepared to spend on the commissioner and his office.

6 pm

Mr. Allen

I hope that my hon. Friend will accept this piece of information. With his usual modesty he has underestimated the financial effects of the measure. The figure for 1988–89 is estimated at £1.5 million, and the figure for each of the following two years is £1,700,000. That relates to the new commissioner for the rights of trade union members to be established and to operate under those clauses. I am sure that my hon. Friend will appreciate that.

Mr. Haynes

That is interesting. It shows that, as time goes on, it will cost more and more. Given that membership of trade unions is dropping, many people will run to the commissioner to complain about various matters in respect of their trade unions. The Government are obviously prepared to set up a scabs' charter.

Mr. Clelland

Does my hon. Friend agree that, although there is no upper limit in the Bill in respect of the cost of the commissioner to the taxpayer, the Government propose to save £10 million a year on the legal aid system? Surely this again shows the Government's priorities when it comes to justice and fairness.

Mr. Haynes

That is what Conservatism is all about. My right hon. Friend the Member for Blaenau Gwent reminded us about what happened in the early 20th century. The message is coming over to the Labour Benches loud and clear. We shall go back to those days of the early 20th century, when the Government shackled the trade unions. This is what it is all about, yet the Government talk about freedom of the individual.

Finally, some names have been suggested for appointment as commissioner. My right hon. Friend the Member for Blaenau Gwent picked the right one when he suggested David Hart, given the marvellous job that he did for the Government in Nottinghamshire during the miners' dispute. He was running from pit to pit, and from branch to branch, convincing chappies that they should be doing this, that and the other, contrary to what the National Union of Mineworkers had decided. Is it any wonder that we had a dispute?

Mr. Foot

He was at No. 10 Downing street, too.

Mr. Haynes

Yes, that is right. He was under instructions from No. 10. I understand that he used to work there. There is a clear connection.

What experience is required for such a job? Will this commissioner have trade union experience, management experience or financial experience? Will he have anything like CAB experience? We want to know.

Mr. Clelland

Does my hon. Friend agree that the only qualifications needed are those of an agent provocateur? That is why Mr. David Hart fits the bill so well.

Mr. Haynes

I take my hon. Friend's point. The Minister must tell the nation that taxpayers' money is being used to appoint this fellow and his staff and to run his office. We want to know how much money will be spent, and how it will be spent. If the Bill is enacted and a commissioner—or, as we like to call him, a commissar—is appointed, he will be a tool of the Government. He will not be a tool of the trade union member. He will be answerable to the Secretary of State.

The Secretary of State is assuming more powers under the Bill. One of those powers will enable him to control the commissioner and to tell him exactly what he is to do. I do not care what the Minister says when he rises to the Dispatch Box. I welcome the Secretary of State back at 6.5 pm. I, my colleagues and people outside the House want to know, before his appointment, what kind of experience the commissioner will have. We may want to play a part. We want to find out exactly what kind of qualifications are needed.

Mr. Clay

There is a slight difficulty in respect of this clause. I support it, but, given the function that it should perform, it is narrowly drawn. I wish to draw the attention of my Front Bench colleagues to this point and put one or two suggestions to them.

As I understand it, only an existing trade union member who has been unfairly dismissed by reason of trade union membership or activities can seek the commissar's assistance and go to the tribunal. What about those people who do not get a job in the first place because of their trade union membership? This is a serious new clause to which the Government have not responded in any way.

I recall last Monday night's "World in Action" programme about the Economic League and the extraordinary situation in which a spy can be involved in a trade union for years, go to meetings and collect names, all of which are used to form employers' blacklists. It is not just the Economic League and Aims of Industry which do that. When an unemployed trade union activist goes to an employer seeking work, the employer can get out his blacklist and say, "We're not having you". As a trade unionist, will that person have the right to go to the commissar? If there was a genuine commissioner for the rights of trades unionists, he would serve no more essential purpose than for people to be able to complain to him that they have been blacklisted for trade union activity. The Bill does not cover that situation. Unfortunately, new clause 3 does not appear to cover it either, although I am sure that that is a technical oversight.

Mr. Allen

Surely this is the ideal opportunity for the Government to condemn such activity openly from the Dispatch Box.

Mr. Clay

My hon. Friend is right. If the Government were serious in their wish to assist trade unions, rather than continually to harass them, they would accept this new clause and table amendments to widen the scope of the measure. The Government must explain why there is no legal provision to prevent this practice. Why do the Government shed crocodile tears from time to time in Committee about those people who do not wish to belong to a trade union, yet are happy to reap the benefits of this provision and to insert legal protection and the opportunity to go to the commissioner if things do not go their way? If the Government feel so much sympathy for people in that position, why do they feel no sympathy for people who are hounded out of work and are prevented from working for years—sometimes for the rest of their lives — simply because they have been known as members of trade unions? If the Government had the slightest sincerity, they would do something about that. The clause represents an excellent opportunity to do so.

It seems also that the clause could be widened to deal with many other matters apart from unfair dismissal. For instance, why not give the so-called commissioner—the commissar — the power to enforce some other trade union rights? It is interesting that, in other parts of the Bill, there will be provisions to allow trade unions to be harassed, particularly, I suspect, lay representatives of trade unions, by having to produce seven years of accounting records, down to branch level. That will make the life of the average, decent, hard-working lay trade union officer, such as a branch secretary or branch treasurer, quite impossible. As such onerous obligations are being laid upon them, it is interesting that trade union officials can go to the commissioner to say that they want the right to have time off work—thereby enforcing that part of the employment legislation—so that they can cope with all the additional onerous harassments that the rest of the Bill places on them.

Obviously, a full-time trade union officer is provided with some facilities by the trade union that he represents, but many lay trade union representatives, such as shop stewards and conveners, have extremely poor facilities. Their employers are so hostile to the existence of trade unions that they make it as difficult as possible for them to carry out their functions. It is about time we had some legislation that obliged employers to provide proper facilities for trade unions in work places. If we had such legislation, new clause 3 could be widened a bit so that if employers fail to provide satisfactory facilities and sufficient time off, which they are obliged to provide, for them to cope with all the onerous, aggressive and malevolent practices that the Bill imposes on them, trade union members could go to the commissioner and ask for assistance. That would be a serious purpose of the Bill. There is no reason why the Government, if they were in the slightest way serious about trade union rights, should not concede all such purposes.

Mr. Allen

Is that not an even greater reason for a trade union harassment officer, if he is to be the sort of person whom the Government say he should be, to have great experience in the trade union movement, to have a track record and know the ins and outs of the trade union movement, rather than merely act as the acolyte of the Secretary of State in such narrow terms? A broader range of knowledge, which was not evident among Conservative Members in Committee, would give some credibility—not a lot of credibility—to the office.

Mr. Clay

I entirely agree with my hon. Friend. If the Government were serious about a Bill or a clause to assist the rights of trade union members, the person who had the job of carrying it out would, by definition, have had considerable experience of the way in which trade unions operate, and know their ideals, objectives and practices. Of course we know all that is not so, because we have referred to the proposed person not as the commissioner, as the Government do, but as the harassment commisar or the harassment office. As we have said in Committee and in the House, the clause has nothing to do with the rights of trade union members. It is concerned with the rights of mavericks, and is to be manipulated by Conservative organisations, industry, the Economic League, people such as David Hart, who may get the job—that is the irony of it—and by the Freedom Association to harass trade unions.

Of course, the new clause gives the Government the opportunity to say, "Hold on. You are wrong. We have a little bit of balance, much as we hate and detest trade unions, and wish the Bill to make life as difficult as possible for them. We recognise that some elementary philosophical balance is required, and we shall at least make some small gesture towards recognising that if we describe a job as that of a commissioner for trade union rights. We shall at least enable the commissioner occasionally to do some small thing to assist trade union rights." In effect, without clause 3, the commissioner will never do anything to assist any genuine trade union rights. All he will do is harass trade unions.

I am slightly unhappy about the wording of the clause in respect of non-trade union members. We should talk also about the rights of non-trade union members, but not in the way in which the Government do. I do not refer to people who enjoy the benefits of collective organisation and are quite happy to work in conditions that have been negotiated by trade unions and receive pay, but do not wish to be a member of the club. I refer to people—very often young people, women, ethnic minorities, and those who work for small and often unscrupulous employers—who have never had the opportunity to join a trade union in the first place. If there is a genuine commissioner for trade union rights, such people should have the opportunity to seek advice from the commissioner and, possibly, representation at an industrial tribunal, in the way in which the clause suggests for others, to pursue a case.

We have had a long debate in Committee and in the House about the comparison between the functions of the commissioner and legal aid. Many valid points have clearly demonstrated the Government's bias. But another point has not been sufficiently stressed. In reality, compared with legal aid applicants, those who complain to the commissioner against a trade union and those who wish to get the commissioner's assistance in harassing a trade union will find it easier to do so than to get legal aid. In respect of legal aid, it is not always entirely clear to people whether they will have to pay something. Not everyone entirely understands that the first brief interview is free. Many people think, "It will take a lot more than that. I shall probably end up paying." It is difficult to work out whether, depending on one's circumstances, one is entitled to legal aid. With the trade union harassment officer, people will know it will not cost them anything. The Government have made sure of that. In a sense, it will be a much more open door.

We need a representative for workers' rights who will give the kind of assistance that the harassment officer will give mavericks, and who, in the same open way as the commissioner, will assist people who are genuinely concerned about trade union rights.

6.15 pm
Mr. Bob Cryer (Bradford, South)

Does my hon. Friend agree that legal assistance in tribunals was not wished upon trade union members as a result of some quirk on their part? Does my hon. Friend agree that the development of industrial tribunals has meant that, at tribunal after tribunal, employers have employed barristers and solicitors to represent their side? In effect, they have corrupted what was meant to be a largely informal arrangement whereby workers could represent themselves. Employers have so biased, shaped and prejudiced tribunals that workers are now desperately looking around to try to obtain some sort of legal representation.

Mr. Clay

My hon. Friend has made an extremely valuable point. He reminds me of the debate that is taking place at the moment in which trade union members of tribunals are beginning to say that the whole thing is so rigged now that their job is impossible. They say that it is pathetic to observe the complete imbalance between the barristers and all the rest representing employers on the one hand and trade union officials or lay representatives doing their best—or, on some occasions, a trade union member acting on his own behalf for some reason—on the other. They say that the imbalance is so appalling that they wonder whether it is really worth carrying on with the farce. They wonder whether they should pull out and expose the hypocrisy of the whole process because the bias is so great.

We have another difficulty with which the commissioner might be able to deal. Those representing employees' interests at a tribunal sometimes have difficulties with their employers—for example, in getting time off work or after they have had time off work. If the Government are serious about trade union rights, they could examine that possibility, and it could perhaps be worked into the new clause.

I was talking about non-trade union members. If we are to have a commissioner, there is huge scope for him to protect workers' rights. I shall refer to one example, about which I have written to the Minister, to illustrate the sort of work that the commissioner could usefully do, instead of harassing trade unions. Some young people contacted me saying that they had answered an advertisement for a job, in which they thought they would be properly employed. They went along and found out that it was not a proper job but a salesman's job. They were told that they would be paid £120 a week and would start to receive bonuses when they started selling things. They found that they could not sell anything. After a week or two they had not been paid a penny, and the employer said, "Well you had better go on signing on." In fact, they had been told not to sign off the dole in the first place.

As I have said this outside the House, I am happy to say it inside the House. Effectively, the employer had induced them illegally to claim benefit. The young people came to me because they did not have a commissioner to go to, as they might under new clause 3. I wrote to the Minister saying, "How about giving them an amnesty so that they can provide evidence against this crooked employer?" I asked him at least to agree that they would not be prosecuted because for a week or two they had wrongly claimed benefit. They had not received any other income while they had been claiming benefits, so it was only a technical offence. The Minister replied that he could not give an amnesty.

It is interesting to note the contrast between the attitude of the Department of Employment to fraudulent employers and its attitude when it is hounding and chasing people who it thinks have illegally claimed social security or unemployment benefit. That is something else with which the commissioner could help trade union members and others.

Ms. Short

We have touched on this subject before, and I agree with my hon. Friend that it is a growing problem, which affects not just one small group of people in his constituency. It is a growing malpractice among employers, who use the desperation of those on benefit to force them to work illegally and thus trap them. Once they are claiming benefit and getting payment from the employer, which they know is illegal, the employer has them trapped. He can threaten to report them if they protest about any injustice at work. I am coming across more and more cases in my constituency; I am sure that the practice is growing.

Mr. Clay

I agree with my hon. Friend. There is no proper statutory avenue for such people to take. That is why it would be useful to widen the new clause to provide a commissioner to deal with workers' rights—and if ever there was a case of workers' rights being under threat, this is one. Although the Minister told me that the young people could not have an amnesty, one or two of them were courageous enough to put their names to statements.

I was appalled when the regional fraud officer of the Department of Employment told me that the Department had never managed to produce a successful prosecution against an employer. He said that he knew that the practice went on and, as my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Ladywood (Ms. Short) said, that it is growing, but that in the northern region there had never been a successful prosecution. I am not surprised, because the young people were in a very difficult position. They did not want to go to a solicitor. They did not understand all that. What use would a solicitor have been anyway? They did not have a trade union to protect them. They had come off the dole and gone for a job in desperation. All that they could do was to turn to a local advice centre funded by a hard-pressed local authority that is heavily penalised and then seek the advice of their Member of Parliament.

That is the sort of case that a commissioner for workers' rights could usefully deal with. He could help people who are told that they cannot join a union or that, if they do, this, that or the other might happen to them. He could help people who have been dismissed for joining a union. He could help those who, when trying to organise a union, are put on impossible shifts so that they cannot talk to other employees. He could help the person who has a known trade union record and is immediately transferred somewhere else to work on his own—the person who is told, "You will have to move to another factory 20 or 30 miles from where you live. There is not a place here for you any longer." When faced with the malpractices that employers get up to, employees could go to the commissioner to seek assistance in court and at tribunals.

Mr. Allen

Is not my hon. Friend's suggestion completely consistent with what Conservative Members said in Committee? They said that they were not about bashing the trade union movement even though they have tried to create the trade union movement in their own image. Therefore, everything that my hon. Friend suggests should be wholly supported by Conservative Members.

Mr. Clay

Of course. As I said, if we were seriously talking about the rights of trade unions, the Government would accept that trade unions are best able to judge for themselves the rights that they want. They certainly do want the right to litigate against each other for alleged minor infringements of balloting rules and so on. They want not only to exercise their existing rights under the health and safety legislation but to have more rights under better health and safety legislation. They want the right to organise. They want the right to time off and facilities in the workplace. They want to be able to hold union meetings.

The question of rights is an interesting one. The Bill is enthusiastic in its assertion that everyone must hold ballots for everything and that there must be postal ballots. However, if the Government were serious about trade union rights, they would insert into the Bill a little clause to say that meetings could be held when required in any work place. It is no good the Government saying that that would be too complicated; one has only to consider what they have done to try to get round alleged selective balloting and the tangle that they got into to over that. It was clear that they did not even understand their own Bill for quite a long time. There is no reason why we should not have a simple provision giving the automatic right to have mass meetings on full pay. The Government allege that they are keen on unions being able to consult their members. Therefore, when a union wants to consult its members, it should be able to have a mass meeting in or out of normal time and paid by the employer. That would be a very good provision. The commissioner could enforce that important aspect of trade union rights under the new clause. Of course, no such rights appear in the Bill, which is about nothing but harassment.

I hope that my hon. Friends on the Front Bench and my hon. Friend the Member for Bradford, South (Mr. Cryer), who is chairman of the parliamentary Labour party employment committee, will agree with me that we should develop the ideas in the new clause. We should expand the trade union rights that could be enforced by a genuine commissioner for trade union and workers' rights rather than the disgusting and pathetic harassment commissar whom the Government are appointing.

Mr. Andrew Welsh (Angus, East)

I hope that the Minister will respond to the specific point raised by the hon. Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Clay) about the alleged activities of the Economic League. It is a matter of basic democracy that citizens should be free from a potential threat to their lives and livelihoods from a secret "big brother" type of activity such as seems to be emerging from that organisation. If true, such activities are causing widespread concern beyond the House. Therefore, I hope that the Minister will address those points.

Mr. Allen

I thank my hon. colleague for giving way, but I ask him not to raise his hopes too high, as many of the organisations that donate money to keep the Economy League afloat also donate to the Conservative party. I, too, will be interested to see whether the Minister takes the opportunity to condemn from the Dispatch Box the activities of the Economic League. However, I ask my hon. colleague not to hold his breath and wait for that.

Mr. Welsh

I understand the hon. Gentleman's point, but my faith in human nature always tries to come through. This matter goes beyond party politics and to the basic democratic rights of citizens to be free from such "big brother" type activities, especially when they affect their lives and livelihoods. I hope that, as requested, the Minister will exercise his mind on that point.

6.30 pm

It is significant that opposition to the proposal for a commissioner comes from a wide range of sources. That leads to reasonable questioning of the setting up of the post of commissioner. The new clause is merely an attempt to patch up and improve what is basically a flawed Government proposal. As proposed, the commissioner will be a figure of possible division and dispute within unions. He could be used by individuals deliberately to disrupt joint action and the overall business of trade unions. Such a situation would not be in anyone's interest. If the Bill remains unamended there is the problem that, instead of producing all the benefits that the Government claim would come from such a post, the commissioner would, on the contrary, himself become the subject of controversy and division, leading to distrust. Indeed, we have heard the beginnings of that in the debate, and if that came to pass it would detract from any case made by the commissioner. Surely the post must be non-political, but there is no guarantee, in any shape or form, in the Bill of such a non-political appointment. The new clause goes at least some way towards giving the commissioner a more balanced role.

There is also a danger that the new external agency could detract from and harm any new democratic rights given to trade union members. I believe that that is exactly the opposite of what the Government say they are trying to achieve.

We are entitled to ask what real case was made for extending the role of the Certification Officer. Why did the Government reject that simpler and easier move, which builds on existing institutions, rather than creating instead a whole new system of bureaucracy?

There are massive inbuilt difficulties in the Government's proposal to which they have not really addressed themselves. The appointment must be fundamentally non-political. It is hard enough for trade unions to swallow the idea of a commissioner, but it would lead to enormous problems if the person appointed were seen to be anti-trade union. We have all heard the beginnings of such feelings towards that person, unless that person is beyond all suspicion. It will be an almost impossible task for anyone appointed to gain the good will and good faith of the trade unions and their members unless that person is seen to be above such suspicions. Given that, how does the Minister intend to proceed in choosing such a "perfect" commissioner? The proposed legislation puts any appointee in an impossible one-sided position unless the commissioner looks at the employers, as this new clause seeks to allow him to do.

New clause 3 should be supported as a medicine for improving a bad and ill-thought out proposal. I hope that it will be supported.

Mr. Cryer

I should like to make a few brief comments about the new clause that my hon. Friends have tabled. It is a valuable addition to the debate on the Bill. I do not expect the Government to give it their support because the basic thrust of their legislation is to attack the trade union movement: not to make it more accountable or more democratic, but to smash it. The Government will not succeed, but that is their point and purpose. Therefore, I suspect that any new clause such as this, which seeks to redress the balance which is weighing heavily against trade unionists, will receive short shrift from the Government. I am willing to be proven wrong and if the Minister would like to cut short my remarks by intervening to say that the Government will accept the new clause, I shall welcome that and forgo my few moments of comment.

On the question of assistance for trade unionists, the new clause simply and modestly —I am surprised that my hon. Friends have tabled such a modest new clause and shall discuss its modest nature shortly—attempts to give some sort of advice and guidance to trade union members who are facing the sack or the threat of dismissal because of their trade union activities or their non-membership of a trade union. Again, I shall elaborate on that shortly.

As my hon. Friend the Member for—

Mr. Clay

Sunderland, North.

Mr. Cryer

That's right, for Sunderland, North. I knew that it was somewhere in the north-east region, which has produced many distinguished Socialists, such as my hon. Friend.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Clay) pointed out, the fact is that when trade unionists go to an industrial tribunal, which was intended as an informal discussion and decision on difficulties such as unfair dismissal, referred to in the new clause, they now face the difficulty that they are up against barristers employed by the employers, who can afford the huge and lavish fees that barristers command, or against solicitors, who charge whatever they do charge, but it can amount to several hundred pounds for a tribunal appearance.

Sometimes, trade unions can provide a legal service but the reality is that with a declining level of employment, trade union membership is declining, as is trade union income, so the sort of service that trade unions would like to provide to a member going to a tribunal is, of necessity, limited. Therefore, trade unionists going before a tribunal find themselves up against paid legal hacks who know the ropes, but they have to present their own case.

In fact, employers often comment, outrageously, that an unfair dismissal tribunal is an expensive business because they have to hire a solicitor. However, it was not in any way intended that that would be the case. The sort of provision contained in the new clause would enable some guidance to be given by a powerful figure.

The Government are to appoint the commissioner and he or she will not be receiving supplementary benefit levels. He or she will not be paid at, for example, the level of a caretaker in a state-maintained school. The salary of the commissioner will be in the stratosphere. If the commissioner works part-time, for two or three days per week, that person will receive about £30,000 or £40,000. If the commissioner works full-time, he or she will probably earn £50,000, £60,000 or £70,000 per year. In our society, that sort of money is meant to give status and, therefore, power.

If a trade unionist goes to the commissioner and obtains advice under the terms of the new clause, that advice alone will assist the trade unionist in arguing his case. If the commissioner says, "I think that you have a very good case", that alone would pre-empt any further action because an employer will accept the position of the commissioner.

I must make my position clear. I do not think that the commissioner is necessary at all. I think that it is an unfair interference in free-standing organisations that, over the years, by and large, have run their affairs with democracy and fairness. Of course there have been exceptions, but no one in the Conservative party can say that there have been no exceptions to the normal standard of conduct that we expect from members of the Conservative Cabinet, whose conduct has not been unflawed. However, all Conservative Cabinets are not to be condemned because one or two Ministers, from time to time, have erred in their public and private behaviour.

We can say with confidence that the vast majority of trade unions have been conducted honourably and have carried out their duties well, and that there is absolutely no case for the commissioner. He will be a spy for the Government because the commissioner, who we are asking to carry out duties under the new clause and to give balance, will be appointed on the same principle that the Government have appointed every area health authority chair and every chair for every public body on which they can lay their dirty hands.

They will appoint convinced Tories who will carry out the decisions of the Tory Government, and who will be like puppets pulled by strings from No. 10. If the Government have appointed people who are not Tories to a wide range of positions, let the Minister respond and give us a list of people who have not been carefully politically vetted by the Government. We can assume that the commissioner will not be some wonderful, neutral person who will do his or her job without any prejudice.

The commissioner will have a set of prejudices. He will go through the usual hypocritical motions that we in Britain are rather too fond of accepting. He or she will say "Of course I shall do my best by both sides, by the employers, and, of course, by the employees." We know, by virtue of the legislation and by virtue of the fact that the Government are the most Right-wing Government ever—

Mr. Michael Jack (Fylde)

That is why we are so successful.

Mr. Cryer

The hon. Gentleman says that that is why they are so successful. They are not successful in electoral terms. The Opposition is divided, but that will end. The Government are not successful in economic terms, because in Scotland, where the hon. Gentleman comes from, there are lengthy dole queues. They are not successful in terms of the National Health Service because every other Conservative Member—

Madam Deputy Speaker (Miss Betty Boothroyd)

Order. The hon. Gentleman has been very good up to now in keeping to new clause 3. I hope that he will not allow himself to be detracted from it by sedentary remarks.

6.45 pm
Mr. Cryer

I was provoked by the intervention of the hon. Member for Fylde (Mr. Jack). I should not have allowed myself to be drawn, because I am concerned solely with new clause 3. Before I was rudely provoked, I was saying that the commissioner will not be a paragon of neutral virtue. He or she will be prejudiced, and those prejudices will match the prejudices of the Right-wing Government.

Therefore, it is important that the Bill should have some balances and checks. After all, we are always told that the British constitution — that vague and amorphous collection of rules—is full of balances and checks so that we maintain glorious neutrality. However, it is not quite like that, and we know it. We are trying to produce constitutional checks in the Bill. My guess is that the Government, in their Right-wing extremism, will not accept new clause 3 because it is a check to bring something to bear on the side of labour.

New clause 3 seeks to provide a balance between capital and labour. Trade unions are simply bodies of people trying to organise sufficient strength to equal the power of capital. The power of capital can determine the disposition of production factors—the location of the factory, the machinery inside it, the hours of work and the level of wages. The trade union movement attempts simply to equal that power by saying that people, throughout their lives, should try to equate that power and modify those decisions in the interests of the community in the factory, the offices or the shop premises. The new clause is trying to bring something to bear on the side of David against the Goliath of the employers.

Conservative Members have maintained that trade unions are all-powerful. That simply is not true. It never has been true. It is a myth that British trade unions have been extremely powerful. Since the Conservative Government came to power, with one or two isolated exceptions where we have had minor victories, trade unions have never been able to halt the ruthless programme of closures and the massacre of the British manufacturing industry that has cost 2 million jobs since 1979, mostly in the north of England.

New clause 3 clearly is necessary to put some weight on the side of those who continually battle, day in and day out, against the onslaught from employers who are confident in their attacks against the trade union movement because the Government are organising it through legislation.

Mr. Allen

I have been looking at the references in the Bill to remuneration for the trade union harassment officer. The Bill states: There shall be paid to the Commissioner such remuneration and such travelling or other allowance as the Secretary of State may determine … Payments required and made under this paragraph shall be made by the Secretary of State out of money provided by Parliament. There is also a lengthy paragraph about the payment of travelling expenses and so on to applicants. It seems that the £20,000, £30,000, £40,000, £60,000 or £70,000 to which my hon. Friend the Member for Bradford, South (Mr. Cryer) referred may be merely speculation. There is absolutely no ceiling on the expenses and salary for this job.

Mr. Cryer

My hon. Friend has made a point that emphasises the need for new clause 3. We are discussing people who will live in the stratosphere of incomes. Such people will not be aware of or understand the struggle on the shop floor. They will not be aware of the little indignities that people have to suffer. People have to wait outside doors to ask for time to go to meetings or to discuss health and safety at work, as such matters are left to the discretion of employers and not to the employees or workers. They will not have had to face the possibility of dismissal because of trade union activities.

Lord Wedderburn, an accepted expert on industrial relations and industrial law, has pointed out that people are not normally dismissed for trade union activities. The employer usually waits for something to latch on to in order to get rid of a person for some infringement and not because he is a shop steward. We know who normally heads a list of redundancies — the shop stewards. Employers will say that it is merely chance, but we know that it is part of the intimidation process to stop people participating in trade union activities.

Recently a relative of mine was asked to work three weekends in a row. When she said, "What about trade union membership?", the managing director said that it would be frowned on. What was she to do? Was she to go against the managing director? What would the consequence of that have been? It would almost certainly have meant that her work would have come under close scrutiny and some opportunity taken to dismiss her, not because she was a trade union member, but for some other entirely spurious reason.

The new clause would provide guidance and assistance from this highly paid commissioner to people who face double jeopardy. They include sacked miners. Several miners have been picked on viciously and vindictively by the vicious and vindictive management of British Coal. Following the miners' strike, miners found not guilty of any offence were given their cards and sent down the road. They were not re-employed. As they had been to a court and had been found not guilty, that should have been the end of the matter. Equally, if they had been found guilty and punished that should have been the end of the matter. Miners have faced double jeopardy because the NCB, now British Coal, has used that excuse not to allow them to return to work.

The commissioner under the new clause could put his weight behind those people who were merely carrying out trade union activities. The miners were simply plucked from a picket line by police activists who wanted someone to arrest, and had a charge stuck on them. Even where the charge was not sustained, the miners were dismissed. At present the miners have only the support of the NUM under its president Arthur Scargill who has maintained a principled attitude towards this. With new clause 3 that sort of injustice would at least come a step nearer rectification.

Mr. Clay

Does my hon. Friend know that on several occasions some Labour Members from the northern region have visited British Coal management in that region about these matters and have drawn attention to the names of sacked miners, who were not only found not guilty in the courts but ordered to be reinstated by industrial tribunals, which British Coal has refused to do? Is he aware that on one such occasion a senior figure in British Coal implied that British Coal understood what was right and wrong better than the courts? In other words, he implied that British Coal felt it was above the courts. When one considers employers like that, does it not make out a case for the tremendously powerful commissioner figure to be directed against such employers, rather than to harass trade unions?

Mr. Cryer

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. That would fall exactly under new clause 3(a) which deals with any complaint by an employee of unfair dismissal by reason of trade union membership, activities of non-membership. Obviously, it would be right to bring in the commissioner on the side of the employee.

When my hon. Friend made his intervention I was reminded of a note which I have with me. Last night, I was talking to a friend who was telling me about his firm. I shall not mention its name because of the possibility of repercussions. A man has been unemployed for about five years although he is skilled, and we are always told that there is a shortage of skilled people. The firm he worked for, machine tool manufacturers, was closed — part of the booming Thatcher economy—and the other people at the firm found jobs, but he did not. Why? Because he was the convener of the shop stewards. This new clause would help such people.

It angers me because I can see the Ministers sitting ready to bring out the clichés. The Minister will stand up and say, "The Government are concerned about all these things and about innocent parties who happen to be members of a trade union and who for one reason or another or because of the intransigence of their employers, which we do not like, have been unemployed for years." We know that the Government are aiming at that. The consequences flow from their legislation.

The attacks on the trade union movement which the Government have instituted consistently since 1980 have reduced the power of organised labour, which has never been as great as that of organised capital in our history. The Government have beaten the heads of ordinary working men and women who have nothing more than their labour to offer. They do not have factories, machines or offices. Most of them are lucky if they have half a mortgage for a house, and the houses are not grand detached houses, but ordinary terraced or council houses. Those are the people who will be affected.

The Government will reject the new clause because they cynically discard the aspirations and hopes of ordinary working people. That is why we shall continue to treat the Government with the contempt that they so richly deserve.

Mr. Nicholls

I shall try to do justice to the many speeches that we have heard. It says much for the ingenuity of hon. Members that they have been able to have such a wide-ranging debate and yet remain in order.

The hon. Members for Tyne Bridge (Mr. Clelland) and for Sunderland, North (Mr. Clay) raised particular points about legal aid, some of which I dealt with in my opening remarks. Legal aid certainly is means-tested, and should be, because it is being applied for and, if granted, will be used to obtain private rights and, indeed, possibly monetary compensation, too. If one is talking about a system that should be made available to obtain public rights, obviously means-testing would not be appropriate.

The right hon. Member for Blaenau Gwent (Mr. Foot) treated us to a display which we all richly enjoyed. He had some particular suggestions about whom we might appoint as the trade union commissioner, and that was taken up by other hon. Gentlemen. I am not entirely sure what they want me to make of those recommendations. Perhaps I should not speculate at this stage. The essence of the right hon. Gentleman's speech was that he regarded the legislation as being motivated by sentiments which were both bad and vindictive. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and my hon. Friend the Minister for Employment cannot be accused of being bad and vindictive, and whatever sinister suspicions the right hon. Gentleman may harbour about me, in no sense can I be said to be the author of the legislation. In all seriousness, I cannot accept the idea that we are bad and vindictive.

The hon. Member for Fife, Central (Mr. McLeish) quoted from paragraph 6(9) of the Green Paper with some idea that he might embarrass us. If time permitted I would read the rest of that paragraph, because it points out why it is necessary to have a trade union commissioner. The hon. Member for Nottingham, North (Mr. Allen) made a number of points which amounted to the fact that he was convinced that the trade union commissioner would be a commissar for trade union harassment. He repeated that on a number of occasions. However, the fact that the commissioner cannot act on his own volition and has discretion whether or not to take up cases referred to him should be a safeguard.

7 pm

The hon. Member for Ashfield (Mr. Haynes) shared a doubt expressed by the hon. Members for Bradford, South (Mr. Cryer) and for Angus, East (Mr. Welsh) regarding the political impartiality of the trades union commissioner. It was suggested that it might be a Tory appointment. I do not believe that it would be appropriate to go round prying into the political allegiances or otherwise of anyone who accepted any form of public office. Unless statute provides, no statutory authority can be directed by a Minister of the Crown and that is the best safeguard against any political partiality.

The hon. Member for Ashfield was also concerned about Conservative Trade Unionists infiltration. I can only believe that he has such a concern because he believes that it is impossible for Conservatives to be members of a trades union, and that is a bizarre idea to hold. However, I should like to thank the hon. Gentleman for concluding his remarks by describing me as "politically vicious". Listening to his other remarks I was afraid he might cut short a political career before it had started. Although he believes that I am personally nice, I thank him for describing me as "politically vicious". However, I must formally deny that I am politically vicious, but I certainly would not deny his other claim.

The hon. Member for Sunderland, North spoke of blacklisting or the right not to employ people because they are trade unionists. Obviously there is a distinction to be made between dismissing people for trade union activity and trying to dress it up as something else. There is no doubt where we all stand. One cannot be dismissed for trade union activities. The only fetters that we put on the right of an employer to discriminate against somebody, even before he has employed him, are based on either sex or race. We regard that as correct. However, for the reasons that I stated in Committee, possibly as compulsively as I do now, we do not believe that an employer should be fettered if he decides to employ someone because he is or is not a member of a trade union.

In the end one must return to the words of the new clause and see what it hopes to address. We believe that there is a fatal underlying fallacy throughout the new clause in so far as it tries to equate the legal aid system with the assistance provided by the commissioner. For all the reasons that I have tried to lay before the House, we cannot regard that approach as valid. Therefore, we urge the House to reject the new clause.

Mr. Meacher

With the leave of the House, I will reply to the debate.

A number of my hon. Friends have referred to the Minister as being conciliatory and congenial. I believe that they were rather generous, especially having listened to his rather discursive and dismissive remarks, which in no way sought to answer the major points that have been made by my hon. Friends.

I listened with great care to the Under-Secretary, but he has put forward only three arguments in defence of the Government's position. The first was that, despite the existence of the courts and the Certification Officer, trade unionists need the commissioner to assist them in actions against trade unions while industrial tribunals are already available for actions against the employer. The Minister also said that industrial tribunals were expeditious and helpful, but the fact is that there are considerable delays. Indeed, in their White Paper on reducing the barriers to business the Government are proposing a £25 access fee.

The Minister has not answered the key point. Indeed, there is no answer. If trade union members have access to a Certification Officer and the courts, but still need the commissioner, surely trade union members who have access to industrial tribunals also need the commissioner in respect of actions against the employer. That is our central argument.

Secondly, the Under-Secretary said that the commissioner cannot look for trouble, but that is a disingenuous statement if ever there was one. The clauses are drafted as positive encouragement to litigation rather than to conciliation. I draw the attention of the House to the tell-tale phrase in paragraph 6 of the Green Paper: the courts are not being used. No doubt that was written by the last civil servant at the Department of Employment with a grasp of reality, the last man in a universe of Ionesco's rhinos frantically signalling the Government's real intentions to the outside world. If we had some truth and honesty from Ministers when they come to the Dispatch Box they would say that trade union members are not using the courts against their unions and that, of course, there is much abuse. There may not be any evidence of it, but the Government know about it because they read about it every day in the Daily Mail. The Government's view is, "The courts have got to be used and we will jolly well make sure that they are." That is the role of the commissioner.

The third argument advanced by the Minister was that the commissioner would use discretion on whether to take up issues. That may be true, but I believe that the Minister will forgive us if, taking account of the Government's hostility towards trade unions and given that the Government will exercise the same kind of partisan patronage in making the appointment, we believe that the commissioner will exercise a malevolent discretion against trade unions. Indeed, my hon. Friends have repeatedly referred to the appointment and one described the commissioner as the nationalisation of the privatisation role of that agent provocateur, David Hart. Therefore, it is hardly surprising that we suppose that the commissioner will exercise such malevolent discretion.

The true grievances of the trade union members are not against their unions. That is why they do not use the Certification Officer or the courts. Their real grievances are in respect of employers and concern the lack of consultation and information over unfair dismissals — 30,000 cases every year are heard and one tenth are upheld by the tribunals. They concern health and safety matters. There has been a major reduction in the number of health and safety inspectors and a consequential rise in the serious maiming of many workers. Trade union members have grievances about the illegally low wages — below what is agreed by the wages inspectorate—that are paid by employers. They have grievances about the right to trade union membership in the first place, as instanced at GCHQ.

None of those issues will be within the purview of the commissioner as drafted in the Bill. This is a dissident's charter and that is what the Government want. We are opposed to that, and for that reason we propose to push the new clause to a vote.

Question put, That the clause be read a Second time:—

The House divided: Ayes 198, Noes 243.

Division No. 168] [7.7 pm
Adams, Allen (Paisley N) Foot, Rt Hon Michael
Allen, Graham Foster, Derek
Alton, David Foulkes, George
Anderson, Donald Fyfe, Mrs Maria
Archer, Rt Hon Peter Galbraith, Samuel
Armstrong, Ms Hilary Garrett, John (Norwich South)
Ashdown, Paddy Garrett, Ted (Wallsend)
Ashley, Rt Hon Jack George, Bruce
Ashton, Joe Godman, Dr Norman A.
Banks, Tony (Newham NW) Gordon, Ms Mildred
Barnes, Harry (Derbyshire NE) Graham, Thomas
Barnes, Mrs Rosie (Greenwich) Grant, Bernie (Tottenham)
Barron, Kevin Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)
Battle, John Grocott, Bruce
Beckett, Margaret Hardy, Peter
Beggs, Roy Haynes, Frank
Bell, Stuart Healey, Rt Hon Denis
Benn, Rt Hon Tony Heffer, Eric S.
Bennett, A. F. (D'nt'n & R'dish) Henderson, Douglas
Bermlngham, Gerald Hinchliffe, David
Bidwell, Sydney Hogg, N. (C'nauld & Kilsyth)
Boateng, Paul Holland, Stuart
Boyes, Roland Home Robertson, John
Bradley, Keith Howarth, George (Knowsley N)
Bray, Dr Jeremy Howells, Geraint
Brown, Gordon (D'mline E) Hughes, John (Coventry NE)
Buchan, Norman Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)
Buckley, George Hughes, Roy (Newport E)
Caborn, Richard Hughes, Sean (Knowsley S)
Callaghan, Jim Hughes, Simon (Southwark)
Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE) Illsley, Eric
Campbell, Ron (Blyth Valley) Ingram, Adam
Campbell-Savours, D. N. Janner, Greville
Carlile, Alex (Mont'g) John, Brynmor
Clark, Dr David (S Shields) Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside)
Clay, Bob Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S W)
Clelland, David Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald
Clwyd, Mrs Ann Kinnock, Rt Hon Neil
Cohen, Harry Kirkwood, Archy
Coleman, Donald Lambie, David
Cook, Robin (Livingston) Lamond, James
Corbett, Robin Leighton, Ron
Corbyn, Jeremy Lestor, Miss Joan (Eccles)
Cousins, Jim Lewis, Terry
Cox, Tom Litherland, Robert
Crowther, Stan Lloyd, Tony (Stretford)
Cryer, Bob Lofthouse, Geoffrey
Cummings, J. McAllion, John
Cunliffe, Lawrence McAvoy, Tom
Cunningham, Dr John McCartney, Ian
Dalyell, Tam McCrea, Rev William
Darling, Alastair Macdonald, Calum
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli) McFall, John
Davies, Ron (Caerphilly) McKay, Allen (Penistone)
Dewar, Donald McKelvey, William
Dixon, Don McLeish, Henry
Dobson, Frank McNamara, Kevin
Doran, Frank McTaggart, Bob
Duffy, A. E. P. Madden, Max
Dunnachie, James Mahon, Mrs Alice
Dunwoody, Hon Mrs Gwyneth Marek, Dr John
Eadie, Alexander Marshall, David (Shettleston)
Fatchett, Derek Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)
Faulds, Andrew Martlew, Eric
Fearn, Ronald Maxton, John
Field, Frank (Birkenhead) Meacher, Michael
Flannery, Martin Michael, Alun
Flynn, Paul Michie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley)
Michie, Mrs Ray (Arg'l & Bute) Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert
Millan, Rt Hon Bruce Shore, Rt Hon Peter
Mitchell, Austin (G't Grimsby) Short, Clare
Morgan, Rhodri Skinner, Dennis
Morley, Elliott Smith, Andrew (Oxford E)
Morris, Rt Hon J (Aberavon) Smith, C. (Isl'ton & F'bury)
Mowlam, Marjorie Smith, Rt Hon J. (Monk'ds E)
Mullin, Chris Snape, Peter
Murphy, Paul Steinberg, Gerald
Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon Stott, Roger
O'Brien, William Strang, Gavin
O'Neill, Martin Taylor, Matthew (Truro)
Parry, Robert Thompson, Jack (Wansbeck)
Patchett, Terry Turner, Dennis
Pendry, Tom Wall, Pat
Pike, Peter Walley, Ms Joan
Powell, Ray (Ogmore) Warden, Gareth (Gower)
Prescott, John Wareing, Robert N.
Radice, Giles Welsh, Andrew (Angus E)
Redmond, Martin Welsh, Michael (Doncasfer N)
Rees, Rt Hon Merlyn Wigley, Dafydd
Reid, John Williams, Rt Hon A. J.
Richardson, Ms Jo Williams, Alan W. (Carm'then)
Roberts, Allan (Bootle) Wilson, Brian
Robertson, George Winnick, David
Robinson, Geoffrey Wise, Mrs Audrey
Rogers, Allan Worthington, Anthony
Rooker, Jeff Wray, James
Ross, Ernie (Dundee W) Young, David (Bolton SE)
Rowlands, Ted
Ruddock, Ms Joan Tellers for the Ayes:
Sedgemore, Brian Mr. Frank Cook and
Sheerman, Barry Mrs. Llin Golding.
Adley, Robert Chalker, Rt Hon Mrs Lynda
Alexander, Richard Chope, Christopher
Alison, Rt Hon Michael Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford)
Allason, Rupert Clark, Sir W. (Croydon S)
Amos, Alan Cope, John
Arbuthnot, James Couchman, James
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham) Cran, James
Ashby, David Currie, Mrs Edwina
Aspinwall, Jack Davis, David (Boothferry)
Atkins, Robert Dickens, Geoffrey
Atkinson, David Dorrell, Stephen
Baker, Nicholas (Dorset N) Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James
Baldry, Tony Durant, Tony
Batiste, Spencer Emery, Sir Peter
Beaumont-Dark, Anthony Fairbairn, Nicholas
Bellingham, Henry Favell, Tony
Bendall, Vivian Fowler, Rt Hon Norman
Bennett, Nicholas (Pembroke) Fox, Sir Marcus
Benyon, W. Gale, Roger
Biffen, Rt Hon John Garel-Jones, Tristan
Biggs-Davison, Sir John Gill, Christopher
Blackburn, Dr John G. Goodhart, Sir Philip
Blaker, Rt Hon Sir Peter Gorst, John
Bonsor, Sir Nicholas Gow, Ian
Boscawen, Hon Robert Gower, Sir Raymond
Boswell, Tim Grant, Sir Anthony (CambsSW)
Bottomley, Peter Greenway, Harry (Ealing N)
Bottomley, Mrs Virginia Greenway, John (Rydale)
Bowden, A (Brighton K'pto'n) Gregory, Conal
Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich) Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth N)
Bowis, John Grist, Ian
Boyson, Rt Hon Dr Sir Rhodes Ground, Patrick
Braine, Rt Hon Sir Bernard Grylls, Michael
Brandon-Bravo, Martin Hamilton, Hon A. (Epsom)
Brazier, Julian Hampson, Dr Keith
Bright, Graham Hannam, John
Bruce, Ian (Dorset South) Hargreaves, A. (B'ham H'll Gr')
Buchanan-Smith, Rt Hon Alick Hargreaves, Ken (Hyndburn)
Buck, Sir Antony Harris, David
Budgen, Nicholas Hawkins, Christopher
Burns, Simon Hayes, Jerry
Butterfill, John Hayhoe, Rt Hon Sir Barney
Carrington, Matthew Hayward, Robert
Carttiss, Michael Heathcoat-Amory, David
Cash, William Hicks, Mrs Maureen (Wolv' NE)
Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L. Price, Sir David
Hill, James Raffan, Keith
Hind, Kenneth Raison, Rt Hon Timothy
Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm) Redwood, John
Holt, Richard Rhodes James, Robert
Hordern, Sir Peter Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon
Howard, Michael Riddick, Graham
Howell, Rt Hon David (G'dford) Ridsdale, Sir Julian
Howell, Ralph (North Norfolk) Roe, Mrs Marion
Hughes, Robert G. (Harrow W) Rossi, Sir Hugh
Hunt, John (Ravensbourne) Rost, Peter
Hurd, Rt Hon Douglas Rowe, Andrew
Irvine, Michael Ryder, Richard
Jack, Michael Sackville, Hon Tom
Jackson, Robert Sayeed, Jonathan
Janman, Timothy Shaw, David (Dover)
Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey Shaw, Sir Giles (Pudsey)
Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N) Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb')
Jones, Robert B (Herts W) Shelton, William (Streatham)
Kellett-Bowman, Dame Elaine Shephard, Mrs G. (Norfolk SW)
Key, Robert Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)
King, Roger (B'ham N'thfield) Shepherd, Richard (Aldridge)
Knapman, Roger Shersby, Michael
Knight, Greg (Derby North) Skeet, Sir Trevor
Knight, Dame Jill (Edgbaston) Smith, Sir Dudley (Warwick)
Knowles, Michael Speed, Keith
Knox, David Speller, Tony
Lamont, Rt Hon Norman Spicer, Sir Jim (Dorset W)
Lang, Ian Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)
Latham, Michael Squire, Robin
Lawrence, Ivan Stanbrook, Ivor
Lee, John (Pendle) Steen, Anthony
Leigh, Edward (Gainsbor'gh) Stern, Michael
Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark Stevens, Lewis
Lightbown, David Stewart, Allan (Eastwood)
Lilley, Peter Stewart, Andrew (Sherwood)
Lloyd, Peter (Fareham) Stewart, Ian (Hertfordshire N)
Lord, Michael Stradling Thomas, Sir John
Luce, Rt Hon Richard Sumberg, David
Lyell, Sir Nicholas Summerson, Hugo
MacKay, Andrew (E Berkshire) Taylor, Ian (Esher)
Maclean, David Taylor, John M (Solihull)
McLoughlin, Patrick Taylor, Teddy (S'end E)
McNair-Wilson, M. (Newbury) Tebbit, Rt Hon Norman
McNair-Wilson, P. (New Forest) Temple-Morris, Peter
Madel, David Thatcher, Rt Hon Margaret
Major, Rt Hon John Thompson, D. (Calder Valley)
Malins, Humfrey Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)
Mans, Keith Thornton, Malcolm
Marland, Paul Thurnham, Peter
Martin, David (Portsmouth S) Townend, John (Bridlington)
Maude, Hon Francis Tracey, Richard
Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin Tredinnick, David
Mayhew, Rt Hon Sir Patrick Twinn, Dr Ian
Mills, Iain Waddington, Rt Hon David
Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling) Wakeham, Rt Hon John
Mitchell, David (Hants NW) Waldegrave, Hon William
Moate, Roger Walden, George
Morris, M (N'hampton S) Walker, Bill (T'side North)
Morrison, Hon Sir Charles Waller, Gary
Moss, Malcolm Ward, John
Mudd, David Wardle, C. (Bexhill)
Neale, Gerrard Warren, Kenneth
Nelson, Anthony Watts, John
Neubert, Michael Wells, Bowen
Newton, Rt Hon Tony Wheeler, John
Nicholls, Patrick Whitney, Ray
Nicholson, David (Taunton) Widdecombe, Miss Ann
Nicholson, Miss E. (Devon W) Wiggin, Jerry
Onslovv, Rt Hon Cranley Wilshire, David
Paice, James Winterton, Mrs Ann
Patnick, Irvine Winterton, Nicholas
Patten, Chris (Bath) Wood, Timothy
Patten, John (Oxford W) Woodcock, Mike
Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth Young, Sir George (Acton)
Porter, Barry (Wirral S)
Porter, David (Waveney) Tellers for the Noes:
Portillo, Michael Mr. Kenneth Carlisle and
Powell, William (Corby) Mr. Alan Howarth.

Question accordingly negatived.

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