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County Council Staffs, Durham (Trade Union Membership)

Volume 481: debated on Wednesday 29 November 1950

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May I ask the Leader of the House a question on a matter of business, which has some urgency? As he is aware, a debate took place on the Motion for the Adjournment on 15th November, when the hon. Member for Luton (Dr. Hill) raised the question of the decision of the Durham County Council to dismiss any employees who were not members of a trade union. In reply, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Health indicated that he would draw the attention of the council to a Ministry of Health circular issued by this Department which was in conflict with this decision. It is now reported that the Durham County Council intend to adhere to their decision. This raises the urgent question of whether the employees of the Durham County Council may not be, at this moment, under pressure to join a union against their will. May I ask the right hon. Gentleman when we can have a statement on this question?

I understand that a Question has been put down for tomorrow to my right hon. Friend the Minister of Education, and one to my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister on Monday, when, I have no doubt, adequate answers will be given. I think the House will be aware that both Ministers have taken a line in opposition to the proposed policy of the Durham County Council, and the House may be assured that the Government will follow it up. Therefore, perhaps we could wait for the answers to the Questions. I think those answers will meet the general sentiments of public opinion.

Perhaps, however, a little later, we can raise the question whether the matter should not be discussed in the House at some convenient opportunity. Naturally, we are not discontented with the course the Government have taken.

I admit that this almost depends on the nature of the answers. What we all want is an opportunity of settling the matter. It may be that direct ministerial discussions with the county council may effect it; that is the ambition of my right hon. Friends in both Departments.

May I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether, in view of the Government's declared attitude, he will give support to the Private Bill which I have presented, and which deals with this subject?

We must not pursue this matter now. It is to be discussed through the usual channels, I believe.