asked the Secretary of State for Employment what reply he has received from the TUC in response to his inquiries about that body's pay agreement with its staff, which appears to breach the Government's pay guidelines.
As I informed the hon. Member in my reply on 20th November, the main features of the TUC's settlement with its staff were reported to me by the TUC and I am awaiting a reply to my subsequent request for additional information.
Since it was possible to take sanctions against the Ford company within a week of its pay settlement, why is it that, 11 weeks after the TUC deal was published in The Observer, the Secretary of State still does not know the details and still has not told the TUC that he will operate sanctions against it unless it comes into line?
The issue of any discretionary action is not related to the obtaining of details in this instance. If the Government decided to do so, they would still have no appropriate discretionary action to take in the case of the TUC.
Can the right hon. Gentleman tell the House what additional information he has asked the TUC to supply and what difference it will make to the Government?
I do not think that any additional information will make any particular difference. The TUC has provided the Government with information about all the main features of the settlement. There is some further detailed information, but it is not on that basis that the Government have had to make any decision whether to take action.
Is not the Secretary of State thoroughly ashamed of that abysmal reply? Why is he dragging his feet on this matter? What are the criteria animating the Government in regard to sanctions? Is one of the criteria the fact that trade unions are exempt when demanding high wage increases or when they are granting them to their own employees?
The principal consideration in this case, as in so many others, is whether discretionary actions are available to the Government. In this case discretionary actions are not available.
Will my right hon. Friend go back to his colleagues at the next Cabinet meeting or before and tell them that the policy with which they have landed him on sanctions and so on is becoming increasingly difficult to answer logically in the House of Commons? Will he tell them that he is at the sharp end of this matter, and that the sooner they get rid of it the better it will be for everybody?
I would be the last to deny to my hon. Friend that there are difficulties in operating the pay policy. But I find no difficulty whatsoever in answering the Opposition's questions on this matter.
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. In view of the patently unsatisfactory nature of the Minister's reply, I beg to give notice of my intention to seek an early opportunity to raise the matter on the Adjournment.