asked the Secretary of State for Employment when he proposes to implement the provisions of the Employment Protection Act concerning disclosure of information to trade unions during the course of collective bargaining.
My right hon. Friend has approved the draft code of practice sent to him by the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service and proposes to lay it before both Houses as soon as printed copies are available. I expect this to be within the next four to six weeks.
I welcome that announcement. In the circumstances, will my hon. Friend confirm that as the days of secre- tive and authoritarian industrial rule are clearly numbered, managements that are not making disclosures to trade unions should start doing so?
Yes, I think that is sensible. The code will have to be approved by both Houses. It will be for the House to make a decision. In the recognition that this was one of the less controversial aspects of the Employment Protection Act, it will probably be welcomed by both Houses. It will make sense for all employers to study ways and means of anticipating and fulfilling the provisions of the Code.
Although I accept that this move is probably now inevitable, will the hon. Gentleman take on board the real fears of certain firms that information circulated to trade unions for the purpose to which the Question refers might some-how gain wider circulation, to their commercial disadvantage? Has the hon. Gentleman been able to take on board in any way these genuine fears?
If the hon. Gentleman reads the Employment Protection Act he will see that protection is provided in respect of matters of a confidential nature, of the kind to which he referred. On that ground he will find that his fears are unjustified.
Will the hon. Gentleman confirm that full account has been taken of the representations that have been made and that the many criticisms that the first draft attracted will have been met in the final draft? As I understand it, this is something that is broadly acceptable within industry.
Yes. By the very nature of ACAS it carries with it support from both sides of industry. The hon. Gentleman will find that this is a matter that has the backing of both sides of industry. There has been wide consultation. More than 140 organisations have expressed views to ACAS. In the last resort it will be for the House to make a decision.