asked the Secretary of State for Employment whether the Civil and Public Services Association is registered as an independent trade union.
In view of the disturbing revelations about elections in the CPSA, what steps do the Government intend to take to ensure that the public are reassured about the correctness of election procedures? Would it not help if the Government were to assist with free postal ballots and matters of that kind, in order to reassure the public that future union elections will be straight?
On the subject of assistance with ballots, if the trade unions made a general request for such help the Government would give it every consideration. Until that happens, we do not think it right to seek to impose ballots on the trade union movement. We think that in that respect lessons should have been learnt from the past. I am sure that the CPSA will give the hon. Gentleman's views the attention that they deserve.
Is my hon. Friend aware that the matters to which the hon. Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury (Mr. Ridley) referred were the result of a regrettable mix-up in the operation of new rules adopted by the union, that new elections are being called, that manifestos have gone out to all members and that a proper ballot will take place shortly?
It is not for the Government to comment on the internal affairs of trade unions. However, what has taken place shows that individual members have the ability to challenge their unions if they feel that the rules have been broken. As I understand it, that is what has happened.
May I press the hon. Gentleman a little further about secret ballots? Will the Government give as much attention to trying to persuade trade unions, both at shop floor level and at national level, to adopt secret ballots as they are apparently prepared to give to applying sanctions to a company such as Ford?
I think the right hon. Gentleman knows that those two matters are in no way comparable. It is not for us to persuade the unions to take that course. I have said that there is no question but that the Government would respond to a request for help. However, persuasion can be counter-productive. Secondly, the right hon. Gentleman, above all others, should have learnt some lessons from the past.