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Trade Unions (Immunity)

Volume 986: debated on Friday 20 June 1980

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asked the Secretary of State for Employment whether the proposed Green Paper on trade union immunities planned for the autumn will allow for the possibility of revoking the particular immunity made lawful, if clause 16 of the Employment Bill becomes law.

Clause 16 does not confer any new immunity on secondary action in furtherance of a trade dispute, but severely restricts the almost unlimited immunity established by the last Government's legislation. However, the Green Paper will review the whole question of trade union immunities, including the extent, if any, to which there should be immunity in respect of such secondary action.

asked the Secretary of State for Employment whether he is satisfied that under clause 16 of the Employment Bill there will still remain lawful opportunities for unions to take sympathetic or blacking action designed to increase pressure on an employer, his customers and suppliers.

The clause removes immunity from the indiscriminate secondary action which has been a common feature of recent disputes. It confirms immunity, as regards secondary action in furtherance of a trade dispute, to action whose purpose and likely effect is directly to prevent or disrupt the supply of goods or services to or from the employer in dispute under a subsisting contract.

asked the Secretary of State for Employment whether it is his intention that, under clause 16 of the Employment Bill as presently drafted, a union in dispute with "A" but not with "B" or "C" can lawfully instruct its members not to handle the goods of "C" at "B's" premises in order to bring pressure upon "A". and that neither "B" or "C" will have any legal redress against the union.

It is my right hon. Friend's intention by clause 16 to restrict very severely the almost unlimited immunity for secondary action in furtherance of a trade dispute established by the last Government's legislation, but not to withdraw immunity in all circumstances from all such action.Accordingly, clause 16 confines such immunity to action whose sole or principal purpose, and likely effect, is directly to prevent or disrupt the supply of goods or services to or from the employer in dispute under a contract then in existence. Whether the action described in the question would attract immunity would depend upon whether on the full facts of the case these conditions were fulfilled.The clause provides no immunity for instructing action by "B's" employees with the sole or principal purpose of disrupting business between "B" and "C" as an indirect means of disrupting "B's" business with "A".