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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 4:45 pm on 10th February 1988.

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Photo of David Winnick David Winnick , Walsall North 4:45 pm, 10th February 1988

One of the Government Whips, the hon. Member for Staffordshire, South-East (Mr. Lightbown) says, "Hear, hear." In a previous debate on the Bill, I made a sedentary intervention to the effect that some Conservative Members were involved in businesses that did not recognise trade unions. At that time, the hon. Gentleman nodded his head. We know that when hon. Members are appointed to the Government, they have to give up their shares and their directorships.

When the hon. Gentleman was conducting a business, no trade union was allowed to operate. Moreover, I imagine that the firm in which the hon. Gentleman was involved in a leading way would have victimised trade unionists if they had tried to organise their employment. So let us not have any lectures about democracy from the Conservative party when so many Conservative Members are directors of firms in which trade unionism is not allowed.

I have not the slightest doubt that this modest amendment will be defeated. If the Government are not willing to listen to reason on other matters, they will not listen to reason on this. It is nauseating to see trade unions being lectured day in and day out by an organisation such as the Conservative party, which does not believe in democracy in its own internal affairs.

The Minister is not sympathetic to Mr. Eric Chalker. Hon. Members may wonder, "Who is Eric Chalker?" I can tell hon. Members that he runs an organisation called the Tory Reform Movement, which is putting forward modest proposals. It believes, for example, that the chairman of the Conservative party should be elected. Surely there is nothing revolutionary about that. However, I imagine that if the Minister were lobbied by the Tory Reform Movement and by people such as Mr. Eric Chalker, he would show no sympathy whatever.

The Minister is not at all interested in democracy in the Conservative party and is the last person to lecture trade unions about how they should conduct their affairs. Trade unions have always been run on democratic lines. The members of trade unions are mere human beings and when occasionally there have been allegations of ballot rigging, the matter has been decided by a court. One type of ballot rigging, which I or my hon. Friends would be the last to defend, was decided against the people responsible, and rightly so, in the early 1960s in a court of law. As I say, trade unions do not require lectures about democracy, least of all from the Conservative party.