Statutory Ballots

Oral Answers to Questions — Employment – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 10th May 1983.

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Photo of Mr Norman Atkinson Mr Norman Atkinson , Haringey Tottenham 12:00 am, 10th May 1983

asked the Secretary of State for Employment if he has had any further discussions with the Confederation of British Industry on the question of statutory ballots prior to strike action.

Photo of Mr Norman Tebbit Mr Norman Tebbit , Waltham Forest Chingford

No, Sir. But I have had the benefit of the CBI's written observations on this issue in its response to the Green Paper "Democracy in Trade Unions".

Photo of Mr Norman Atkinson Mr Norman Atkinson , Haringey Tottenham

Does the Secretary of State now realise that if secret ballots are statutorily enforced, the outcome of statutory ballots must equally be enforced? Does the right hon. Gentleman understand the implications that will arise when the police not only supervise a strike but enforce the outcome of a secret ballot?

Photo of Mr Norman Tebbit Mr Norman Tebbit , Waltham Forest Chingford

I have heard some quite extraordinary pieces of convoluted logic from the hon. Gentleman, but never one quite as absurd as that. The hon. Gentleman must not allow his imagination to run completely wild, even in the atmosphere of an election. I intend to maximise the possibilities for trade unionists to secure strike ballots before strike action.

Photo of Mr Timothy Renton Mr Timothy Renton , Mid Sussex

Does my right hon. Friend agree that recent experience at the British Leyland works at Cowley shows the need for strike decisions to be taken by a better and more democratic means than mass meetings where there may be intimidation by shop stewards? Can we expect early legislation on that subject from the next Conservative Government?

Photo of Mr Norman Tebbit Mr Norman Tebbit , Waltham Forest Chingford

There is no doubt that anybody who saw on television some of the scenes during many recent strikes — car park meetings with no real check against outsiders, the cry, "Which way is it, brothers?", or whatever the question may be, and someone on the same level, not able to see across the meeting, shouting "Carried" before anyone has had an opportunity to see how many votes are cast — will be convinced of the desirability of secret ballots before strikes. I do not understand why the Opposition are so reluctant to help people to achieve the right to a secret ballot.

Photo of Mr George Park Mr George Park , Coventry North East

Does the Secretary of State agree that if compulsory strike ballots had been in operation during the recent water workers' strike, that incident would have been unduly prolonged?

Photo of Mr Norman Tebbit Mr Norman Tebbit , Waltham Forest Chingford

The hon. Gentleman may make that assertion, but, to my knowledge, at no time during that dispute were the workers invited to vote in secret so that we could be sure that there was no intimidation. Therefore, we cannot know the answer to his question.