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Workers' Representation

Oral Answers to Questions — Employment – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 7th February 1995.

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Photo of Andrew Miller Andrew Miller , Ellesmere Port and Neston 12:00 am, 7th February 1995

To ask the Secretary of State for Employment when he next expects to meet representatives of the Trades Union Congress to discuss representation of workers.

Photo of Mr Philip Oppenheim Mr Philip Oppenheim , Amber Valley

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has regular contact with the TUC to discuss a range of issues.

Photo of Andrew Miller Andrew Miller , Ellesmere Port and Neston

When the Minister met representatives of my union—Manufacturing Science Finance, or MSF—just before Christmas, he gave no comfort to the workers at G.S. Scott who were dismissed following attempts to gain union recognition when the vast majority of workers in that small company wanted that recognition. Is that not yet another example of the Government attempting to protect the interests of the privileged? Does the Minister accept that in this day and age if the majority of workers want union recognition it should be given by the employer?

Photo of Mr Philip Oppenheim Mr Philip Oppenheim , Amber Valley

There is a fundamental difference between the right to belong to a trade union and the right not to be discriminated against for belonging to a trade union. There is redress—[Interruption.] The union should have advised its members to go to an industrial tribunal, where they would gained some redress legally. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman should address his question to the union leader who failed to give that advice, because redress is available.

There is a difference between the right to belong to a trade union and politicians telling employers that they should deal with unions rather than dealing directly with employees, which they prefer to do. That voluntarist approach of allowing employers to make the choice does not seem to be causing any problems with the Opposition spokeswoman, as she has just sent her child to a school which has refused to recognise a trade union.

[Interruption.]

Photo of Miss Betty Boothroyd Miss Betty Boothroyd Speaker of the House of Commons

Order. Sit down. That is a total abuse of Question Time. I have asked not only for questions and answers to be brief, but that they should be to the point and deal with the substantive question on the Order Paper.

Photo of Mr Dale Campbell-Savours Mr Dale Campbell-Savours , Workington

On a point of order, Madam Speaker

Photo of Mr Dale Campbell-Savours Mr Dale Campbell-Savours , Workington

The record should be corrected. What the Minister said is not true.

Photo of Miss Betty Boothroyd Miss Betty Boothroyd Speaker of the House of Commons

Order. The hon. Gentleman must resume his seat. I have dealt with the matter and reprimanded the Minister, as well as Back Benchers who take a long time to ask their questions. It is absolutely essential that Ministers should answer the questions that are on the Order Paper or are asked as supplementaries and not to try to sidestep those questions by introducing irrelevant material.

Photo of Mr Roger Knapman Mr Roger Knapman , Stroud

When my hon. Friend meets the TUC, will he mention the subject of Mercedes-Benz, which may well wish to move its manufacturing plants to this country because of the high cost of the social chapter? Given that the TUC seems to believe in the social chapter, is it perhaps left in something of a dilemma?

Hon. Members:

Resign.

Photo of Mr Philip Oppenheim Mr Philip Oppenheim , Amber Valley

It is not only Mercedes; Sabena also wants to move workers out of Belgium because of the high levels of labour regulation. The sooner that our partners in the European Union realise that the more one adds to employers' costs, the more one will cost employees their jobs, the better the job prospects of people in Europe will be.