TUC

Oral Answers to Questions — Employment – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 5th July 1988.

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Photo of Mr John Bowis Mr John Bowis , Battersea 12:00 am, 5th July 1988

To ask the Secretary of State for Employment when he last met the Trades Union Congress; and what matters were discussed.

Photo of Mr Norman Fowler Mr Norman Fowler Secretary of State for Employment

I last met representatives of the Trades Union Congress on Wednesday 18 May, when we discussed the new programme, employment training, which will be launched on 5 September. As a result of that meeting, the general council of the TUC decided to give the employment training programme its support.

Photo of Mr John Bowis Mr John Bowis , Battersea

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for that answer. Was he able to commiserate with the TUC at the failure of the TGWU, NALGO and NUPE to support the TUC on that line? Does not the attitude of those unions show a callous disregard for the interests of the unemployed who need to be trained for tomorrow's job world?

Photo of Mr Norman Fowler Mr Norman Fowler Secretary of State for Employment

I certainly believe that the opposition to employment training which came from one or two unions is wholly disreputable and contrary to the interests of long-term unemployed people. Employment training will provide training for about 600,000 people a year at a cost of about £1·5 billion. The programme will go ahead in September and I very much hope that the Opposition will stop wobbling on this issue and give it their backing.

Photo of Graham Allen Graham Allen , Nottingham North

When the Secretary of State meets the TUC, will he discuss its document relating to 1992 and the changes regarding the EEC? He will be more aware than anybody that the Government have dragged their feet on implementing previous EEC employment directives on health and safety, discrimination at work, workers' rights in multinational companies and a host of other subjects. Will he give the TUC guarantees that he will implement the current six draft EEC health and safety directives?

Photo of Mr Norman Fowler Mr Norman Fowler Secretary of State for Employment

I am happy to talk to the TUC on any subject that it wants to discuss, including 1992, but it seems to me that we in Britain will gain from a deregulated market in which job creation and opportunities for business are greatest, not which are the kind of provisions that the hon. Gentleman is talking about.

Photo of Mr David Madel Mr David Madel , South West Bedfordshire

Is it the Government's view that existing trade union legislation is perfectly adequate to deal with industrial relations problems and has contributed to an improvement in industrial relations? If so, does my right hon. Friend agree that, apart from possible changes in the dock labour scheme, further trade union legislation is not necessary?

Photo of Mr Norman Fowler Mr Norman Fowler Secretary of State for Employment

We obviously keep trade union legislation and trade union law reform under consideration. There is no doubt that the Acts that the House has passed have contributed substantially to the improvement in industrial relations in Britain. We have taken a step-by-step approach, but we shall continue to keep trade union legislation under review.

Photo of Clare Short Clare Short , Birmingham, Ladywood

When the Secretary of State met the TUC, did he discuss the current consultation on the possible abolition of wages councils? Can he tell the House what is going on? We had legislation in the previous Parliament. After consultation, it was decided to weaken protection for the lowest-paid workers in Britain. We understand that there is now consultation with employers and a threat to the remaining protection for 2 million of the poorest-paid people in Britain. May we know what is planned?

Photo of Mr Norman Fowler Mr Norman Fowler Secretary of State for Employment

We certainly did not discuss the wages councils. They are kept under review, as the hon. Lady knows. I think that what she has in mind is a review which has been carried out, not by the Government, but by the Confederation of British Industry.

Photo of Mr David Bevan Mr David Bevan , Birmingham, Yardley

Will my right hon. Friend confirm the severity of the damage that will be felt if the TGWU and NUPE do not come in and discuss these matters and join the approval situation and how it will particularly have a very adverse effect on the opportunities offered by the tourism industry?

Photo of Mr Norman Fowler Mr Norman Fowler Secretary of State for Employment

I deplore what the TGWU and one or two other unions are doing in this respect. It seems to me that it is in no one's interests that unions should come out and oppose what is——

Photo of Mr Norman Fowler Mr Norman Fowler Secretary of State for Employment

—by any standards a major programme for the long-term unemployed. Those who, like the hon. Member for Birmingham, Ladywood (Ms. Short), egg the unions on carry a disreputable and heavy responsibility. The employment training programme will go on because the Government are not prepared to turn their back on the long-term unemployed.