HC Deb 01 February 1984 vol 53 cc209-10W
Mr. Winnick

asked the Prime Minister what are Her Majesty's Government's powers in existing legislation to take away the right to belong to a trade union or prevent an employee in Government service from joining a trade union.

The Prime Minister

Section 23 of the Employment Protection (Consolidation) Act 1978 provides that every employee has the right not to have action, short of dismissal, taken against him as an individual by his employer for the purpose of preventing or deterring him being or seeking to become a member of an independent trade union, or penalising him for doing so. Section 58 of that Act provides that the dismissal of an employee shall be unfair if the principal reason for the dismissal was that the employee was, or proposed to become, a member of an independent trade union. Those sections apply to the Crown. But section 138(4) enables a Minister to issue a certificate for the purpose of safeguarding national security and this has the effect of disapplying the provisions of the Act, including sections 23 and 58, to the specified Crown employment. Such a certificate has been issued in the case of GCHQ. Conditions of service in the Home Civil Service are regulated by Order in Council made under the royal prerogative. The current Order in Council is the Civil Service Order in Council 1982. This gives the Prime Minister, as Minister for the Civil Service, power to give instructions relating to the conditions of service of members of the Home Civil Service. It will be a condition of service that members of GCHQ should belong only to an approved staff association. Employees are being given the option of accepting the revised conditions or, if they wish to retain the statutory rights and their membership of existing unions, of requesting a transfer to another part of the Home Civil Service.