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Clause 6

Volume 172: debated on Thursday 17 May 1990

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Responsibility Of Trade Union For Acts Of Officials, &C

Amendments made: No. 7, in page 6, line 7, leave out 'is'

and insert

'was at the material time'.

No. 8, in page 6, line 7, leave out 'include' and insert 'included'.— [Mr. Howard.]

I beg to move amendment No. 27, in page 6, leave out lines 22 to 27 and insert—

  • '(b) the union must do its best to give written notice of the fact and date of repudiation, without delay, to the employer of workers taking part, or likely to take part, in industrial action as a result of the act.
  • (c) on being notified of repudiation by the union, the employer must, without delay, inform his employees who are members of the union of the fact and date of the union's repudiation.'.
  • With this it will be convenient to consider amendment No. 28, in page 6, line 29, leave out `(b)(i)' and insert '(c)'.

    This deals with the procedure that a union must follow in order to repudiate any suggestion of industrial action. When these provisions were debated in Committee, the Under-Secretary of State said that their purpose was to be fair to unions. Many Committee members pointed out that onerous duties would be placed on unions under subsection (5)—not least to inform every union member who might take part in industrial action.

    The amendment seeks to oblige a union to give written notice of repudiation and the date of that repudiation without any delay to the employers of the workers taking part in industrial action. It would then be the duty of the employer without delay to inform his employees who are union members. The employer undoubtedly has more direct access and quicker means of communication with his employees than the union. It would undoubtedly be in the employer's interest to impart that information. If he could do so more efficiently and quickly than the union, it would relieve the union of an additional burden and responsibility. It might also be in the interest and to the benefit of the employer. In the interests, therefore, of achieving a fair balance, I hope that the Minister will accept the amendment.

    We welcome the amendment. We are unhappy about the clause, but the Minister knows the arguments. The amendment is designed not to undermine the clause but to provide limited help to trade unions. I hope that the Minister accepts that it is in the interest of maintaining a proper balance, even though the clause is very unbalanced, that the amendment has been tabled.

    On other occasions and at another time of day I should have had rather a lot to say about the amendment. I cannot accept it. The hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Wallace) is concerned that the obligations placed on unions are unduly onerous. We certainly do not accept that. The obligation is to take steps to repudiate what is effectively official action. If the union does not want to stand by that action and wants to repudiate it, it seems entirely right that it should draw that to the attention of those to whom the call has been made. The obligation is not absolute, even on the face of the Bill; it is merely that the union has to do its best and to proceed without delay, so that is not particularly onerous.

    The hon. Gentleman says, in a moment of brevity—I wondered whether it was in a moment of levity—that the obligation should be given to the employers; let them deal with it, as it is their problem. It would also have the ingenious, and I assume unintended, effect——

    It being Ten o'clock, the debate stood adjourned.


    That, at this day's sitting, the Employment Bill may be proceeded with, though opposed, until any hour.—[Mr. Nicholas Baker.]

    As amended (in the Standing Committee), again considered.

    Question again proposed, That the amendment be made.

    All the employer would have to do would be to ensure that he did not give the employees notice. That would mean that the repudiation had not been effective and that the union would remain liable. Some might think that that would appeal to the Government, but they would be entirely wrong. I cannot accept the amendment.

    On the first day of the Committee, the Minister was generous enough to say that he would try not to make cheap debating points on the basis of inadequate drafting. He could not help himself in the last gasp, but I forgive him. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

    Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.