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Mr. Riddick : The hon. Member for Preston (Mrs. Wise) has made the mistake made by a number of Opposition Members in suggesting that new clause 11 will tackle the problems presented by the Economic League, but will do

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nothing else. In fact, it is all-embracing. For example, if the shadow Leader of the House or the shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer wanted to take on a research assistant, it would be illegal for them to check with the Labour party to see whether a prospective research assistant was a Trotskyist infiltrator. The new clause is all- embracing and would not do what it sets out to do.

Do the Opposition think that it would be sensible for an employer with many workers from ethnic minority backgrounds not to check to see whether a prospective employee had any connections with, for example, the National Front? It would be perfectly sensible for an employer to make such a check. We have recently seen how an extremist revolutionary Trotskyist cell tried to infiltrate British Telecom. It is sensible for that employer to make reasonable inquiries to discover whether a potential employee had a background that was likely to lead him into disrupting the company.

It is simplistic to think that such a new clause will have the desired effect. It has provided an opportunity for Opposition Members to attack an organisation that they do not like. The new clause is thoroughly counterproductive and I urge my hon. Friends to vote against it.

Mr. Lee : The main purpose of the proposed new clause is to stop employers getting information about prospective or existing employees from organisations which have as one of their functions the collection of information about the trade union, political activities or political views of individuals. It is clearly aimed at preventing employers from using information from organisations such as the Economic League to vet potential employees before offering them a job, or obtaining information from such sources about existing employees. Hon. Members will recall that we had an Adjournment debate about the activities of the Economic League in December.

An indirect effect of the new clause would be to place restrictions on employers' recruitment procedures. The Government's position is that employers must be free to choose how to go about recruiting and selecting new employees, provided that they do not discriminate unlawfully on the basis of race or sex. After all, it is employers who know their own businesses best, and it seems perfectly reasonable that they should be able to choose whom they wish to employ. If they choose to seek information from an independent source about a particular individual, that seems to be a sensible way of ensuring that those selected are suited to the job in question. After all, selection of the wrong person can have a disastrous effect on a business.

I have already stated my view that this clause is aimed at the activities of organisations such as the Economic League. Let me make clear that there is nothing illegal about an organisation setting itself up, as the Economic League has done, and providing a service. Nor is there any reason why employers should not be able to use the services of such organisations. But I emphasise that there is a heavy responsibility on those who compile such information to ensure that it is accurate. Equally, employers who use such information must satisfy themselves about its quality and accuracy.

There is another very important reason why employers should have freedom to recruit who and how they wish and why this new clause should be rejected. Too many

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restrictions only add to the burdens on employers and make them reluctant to take on new recruits. That can only be bad news for the unemployed because it reduces the number of new employment opportunities.

The Economic League confirms that it is willing to send to a person on request and after proper identification a complete list of all the league's references under his name, and that this should normally be free of charge.

Question put, That the clause be read a Second time :

The House divided : Ayes 170, Noes 238.

Division No. 207] 10.54 pm]


Abbott, Ms Diane

Allen, Graham

Anderson, Donald

Archer, Rt Hon Peter

Ashdown, Rt Hon Paddy

Ashton, Joe

Barnes, Harry (Derbyshire NE)

Barron, Kevin

Battle, John

Beckett, Margaret

Benn, Rt Hon Tony

Bennett, A. F. (D'nt'n & R'dish)

Bermingham, Gerald

Bidwell, Sydney

Blair, Tony

Boateng, Paul

Bradley, Keith

Brown, Gordon (D'mline E)

Brown, Nicholas (Newcastle E)

Buckley, George J.

Caborn, Richard

Callaghan, Jim

Campbell, Ron (Blyth Valley)

Campbell-Savours, D. N.

Canavan, Dennis

Carlile, Alex (Mont'g)

Clarke, Tom (Monklands W)

Clay, Bob

Clelland, David

Clwyd, Mrs Ann

Cohen, Harry

Cook, Frank (Stockton N)

Cook, Robin (Livingston)

Corbett, Robin

Corbyn, Jeremy

Cousins, Jim

Cryer, Bob

Cummings, John

Cunliffe, Lawrence

Dalyell, Tam

Darling, Alistair

Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)

Davies, Ron (Caerphilly)

Dixon, Don

Dobson, Frank

Doran, Frank

Douglas, Dick

Dunnachie, Jimmy

Dunwoody, Hon Mrs Gwyneth

Eadie, Alexander

Eastham, Ken

Evans, John (St Helens N)

Ewing, Harry (Falkirk E)

Ewing, Mrs Margaret (Moray)

Fatchett, Derek

Field, Frank (Birkenhead)

Fields, Terry (L'pool B G'n)

Fisher, Mark

Flannery, Martin

Flynn, Paul

Foot, Rt Hon Michael

Foster, Derek

Foulkes, George

Fraser, John

Fyfe, Maria

Garrett, Ted (Wallsend)

George, Bruce

Godman, Dr Norman A.

Golding, Mrs Llin

Gordon, Mildred

Gould, Bryan

Graham, Thomas

Grant, Bernie (Tottenham)

Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)

Grocott, Bruce

Hardy, Peter

Haynes, Frank

Henderson, Doug

Hinchliffe, David

Hogg, N. (C'nauld & Kilsyth)

Home Robertson, John

Howarth, George (Knowsley N)

Howells, Dr. Kim (Pontypridd)

Hughes, John (Coventry NE)

Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)

Hughes, Simon (Southwark)

Ingram, Adam

Janner, Greville

Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside)

Jones, Ieuan (Ynys Mo n)

Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald

Kinnock, Rt Hon Neil

Kirkwood, Archy

Lamond, James

Leadbitter, Ted

Lestor, Joan (Eccles)

Litherland, Robert

Lloyd, Tony (Stretford)

Lofthouse, Geoffrey

Loyden, Eddie

McAvoy, Thomas

McCartney, Ian

McFall, John

McLeish, Henry

McNamara, Kevin

McWilliam, John

Madden, Max

Mahon, Mrs Alice

Marek, Dr John

Marshall, David (Shettleston)

Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)

Martin, Michael J. (Springburn)

Maxton, John

Meacher, Michael

Meale, Alan

Michael, Alun

Michie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley)

Mitchell, Austin (G't Grimsby)

Moonie, Dr Lewis

Morgan, Rhodri

Morris, Rt Hon A. (W'shawe)

Mullin, Chris

Murphy, Paul

Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon

O'Brien, William

O'Neill, Martin

Orme, Rt Hon Stanley

Parry, Robert

Pendry, Tom

Pike, Peter L.

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