Skip to main content

Union Assets (Sequestration)

Volume 173: debated on Tuesday 22 May 1990

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.


To ask the Secretary of State for Employment whether he has any plans to restrict the power of courts to sequestrate union assets.

No, Sir. Sequestration is a penalty which may be imposed by the courts, where appropriate, for any contempt of court. Any proposal to restrict that power would enable trade unions to flout the law with impunity.

Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that it is essential that the courts should have full power to sequestrate the assets of trade unions if trade union law is to be enforced, and that any attempt to diminish those powers would draw the teeth of legislation that has served us so well in trade union reform since 1979?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. It is not without significance that in the very week that Arthur Scargill calls once more for industrial action the Labour party will be introducing proposals to make it easier for him to put his bully-boys back on the streets of Britain.

But does not the Minister acknowledge that for any court to sequestrate all the assets of a trade union and thus prevent that union from paying its elderly members their pensions and superannuation benefits would be totally unjustified, and that any even-handed Government should legislate to make sure that that could not happen?

All that a union need do to avoid those consequences is obey the law. I hope that the hon. Gentleman and all his hon. Friends will encourage trade unions to obey the law so that none of those consequencies ever arises.

Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that those who wish to repeal the legislation are

"frozen fossils locked in a time warp",
to use the words of Eric Hammond, leader of the electricians' union?

I agree with my hon. Friend, but there is perhaps one difference. Unlike frozen fossils, those proposals have the potential to wreak infinite damage on the British economy and on the economic prospects of every man, woman and child within it.