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Points Of Order

Volume 202: debated on Friday 24 January 1992

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2.31 pm

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. This point of order relates to a matter that has arisen in the past 24 hours. I ask that the Secretary of State for Employment come before the House at the first available opportunity to explain a matter affecting those employed as security guards by the Ministry of Defence. Hitherto, they have always had the right to belong to a trade union, and the trade unions involved are the Transport and General Workers Union and the General, Municipal, Boilermakers and Allied Trades Union, in respect of both of which I should declare an interest.

It now appears that, having negotiated the new arrangements for the security guard force at the Ministry of Defence sites—arrangements to which all union members agreed—the Ministry of Defence has announced that security guards will no longer have the right to belong to trade unions and will withdraw that right. The reason given is that the two unions are affiliated to the Labour party.

Order. We cannot debate the matter now. Do I understand that the hon. Gentleman is asking for a statement?

Indeed, and I am asking for a statement because it appears that, once again, the Government are flying in the face of the rights of all trade unions and in the face of all European agreements and in the face of liberty. It is GCHQ mark 2, and that is a disgrace.

Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I hope that you will take the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for St. Helens, South (Mr. Bermingham). Two issues are involved in this that make it essential that there is an immediate statement in the House before we rise today. The first is the withdrawal of the rights of people at work to join, and maintain membership of, a trade union. The second is the unacceptable reason given—that the unions are affiliated to the Labour party. The inference of that is that these people are unpatriotic. That is a disgraceful slur on members of those trade unions, just as it is on the Labour party. I hope that the Secretary of State will explain what has happened and apologise to the House.

There has been no request for a statement today, but I am sure that the points that have been raised will have been heard.