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Post Office (Industrial Democracy)

Volume 975: debated on Monday 10 December 1979

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20.

asked the Secretary of State for Industry whether he will make a statement on the continuation of the Post Office industry democracy experiment.

The views of all interested parties are at present being considered. My right hon. Friend expects to make a statement shortly.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that there is a great deal of suspicion that his Department is about to terminate this experiment? Is he also aware that there is a great deal of concern, because many in the trade union movement feel that it has been a valuable experiment? Will he give an undertaking that he will assure trade union members who have been appointed to the Post Office Board that they have done valuable work and that, because of that work, this experiment will be continued?

First of all, I can assure the hon. Gentleman that I am well aware of the views on this subject, because I have consulted widely, I have spoken to the Post Office management, the trade union members on the board, other trade unionists, and others who are interested. I remind the hon. Gentleman that this arrangement was set up by agreement between the two parties concerned for an experimental period of two years. If there is no agreement between the two parties about its continuation, the experiment lapses.

In view of the Secretary of State's most recent announcement that he does not believe that fiats from Government do anything to help industrial relations, will the Minister of State advise the House whether his right hon. Friend intends to vote against the Employment Bill due to be introduced next Monday?

I do not think that that is relevant to this question. The hon. Gentleman is disagreeing with his hon. Friend the Member for Nuneaton (Mr. Huckfield), who appears to be asking for intervention by the Minister concerned—myself or my right hon. Friend—over the continuation of this agreement. We are saying that this is a matter between the parties concerned. It is much better that experiments such as this continue by agreement and not by diktat.