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Requirement of Postal Ballot for Certain Ballots and Elections

Part of Orders of the Day — Employment Bill – in the House of Commons at 4:26 pm on 10th February 1988.

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Photo of Michael Meacher Michael Meacher Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee 4:26 pm, 10th February 1988

The only further argument which has been advanced in the Green Paper for clause 13—Ministers leaned heavily on this argument in Committee—is that there is scope for subtler forms of pressure in a workplace ballot and there is a real question whether such ballots can ever be totally free from suspicion. I am sure that the House will take note of those words in the Green Paper. Despite the paranoia of the hon. Member for Lancaster (Dame E. Kellett-Bowman), the Green Paper offers not a shred of evidence to justify that assertion. That is not especially surprising. We are now leaving the realms of reason and entering the dark areas of conspiracy theory which always lurk deep in the Government's collective psyche. Faced with this, perhaps the Opposition should offer counselling, because I do not think that we shall be able to convince by reason alone.

What the Government regard as subtle pressure a rational person might regard as the legitimate and wholly democratic attempt by the union and its members to secure by persuasion a vote in line with the union's declared policies. In other words—I say this especially to the hon. Member for Lancaster—if it is blustering editorials in The Sun trying to influence a postal ballot, it is legitimate pressure; but if it is talking with other people at the workplace and other union members and activists, it is illegitimate and dangerous brainwashing. We condemn such utter rubbish.