|Previous Section||Home Page|
The clause is important. We are trying to elicit from the Government the true intention behind their proposals. In his detailed analysis, my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Strang) clearly showed that in practice on the shop floor it is vitally important that trade unions are able to use legislation when their legal rights are challenged. That applies particularly in industries where trade unions are in a weak position, not necessarily because of low membership but because of the way in which that membership is situated in particular industries and the relationship between employees and the companies in those industries.
It is important that legislation does not create further imbalances which reduce the ability of working people to join a trade union and to make recognition of that union effective by the way in which an employer provides resources and facilities, such as time off, for the trade union representatives to carry out their duties.
As a former shop steward, I have always taken the view that it is paramount in good industrial relations that an employer recognises the work of trade unions in the workplace and the way in which they can make a positive contribution to the development of the company and, in the day-to-day management of a company, their contribution in terms of developing strategies and improvements in work force techniques, the development and use of new technology, and the way in which relationships and communications can be improved in an industrial setting.
All that can be done only by the active co-operation and involvement of trade unions. Where that co-operation is sought, it can be effective only when trade unions have the right to ensure that their contribution is underpinned by time off and other resources. As my hon. Friend the Member for Derbyshire, North-East (Mr. Barnes) said, in Committee the Minister said that all those matters were covered by recognition agreements. That is significant, because recognition agreements are central to whether trade unionists have any rights under current legislation.
For example, the first part of clause 10 says :
"In section 27(1) of the 1978 Act (duty of employer to permit employee who is an official of an independent trade union recognised by employer to take time off to carry out certain trade union duties)"
That recognition is vital to whether a trade unionist can, in reality, effectively carry out his or her work on behalf of the trade union and the work force.
The reality is that under the Government ACAS, in its handbook for small firms, says that there is no statutory obligation on the employer to recognise the trade union. An employer who refuses to recognise a trade union undermines completely what the Minister said, because it, follows from that that there is no recognition of statutory rights.
Column 153Again, hedging its bets and advising on representation rights, on page 57 of the handbook, ACAS says :
"Sometimes employers do not think there is enough strength of feeling for trade unions within the workforce to justify full recognition."
We all recognise that as the first excuse by employers to prevent trade unions being recognised.
It goes on :
"Instead they may agree to representation rights which do not provide for full negotiations with the employer but entitle members to be represented by their union individually eg, in disciplinary cases or if the employee has a grievance".
Here we are talking about a situation where an employer may give certain rights, but there is no full recognition agreement. That agreement does not, therefore, meet the test set out by the Minister in Committee because it does not deal with facilities, training and time off. If the trade union does not accept that, the result is no union recognition.
In giving an example of what can happen, I will not name the company because the individual concerned is still employed, albeit tenuously, by the firm. I wrote to the Minister some time ago about this case and received an unsatisfactory reply, in which I was sent a leaflet about the employment of disabled workers, was reminded that an employer did not have to recognise a trade union and was told that the Government could not intervene.
My example involves a woman who was employed by a company which was taken over by a large retail organisation. The original employer had employed her under the provisions for employing disabled workers ; the lady in question has suffered from major disabilities since birth. The original employer recognised trade unions and the value of employing disabled people. Following the takeover, the new employers informed the trade unions concerned that the company would no longer recognise unions in negotiation proceedings and would not offer the right of representation to individual employees.
The new company told the employees in the company in Wigan which had been taken over that working arrangements would be changed in a significant way. For example, the girl in the example I am giving had been employed as an assistant at a cash desk. Her job description was changed and she was to become a sales person with a weekly and monthly sales target to reach. Her disabilities were such that she was unable to reach those targets and she became liable to disciplinary proceedings by the company.
The company told her that it would not recognise her trade union and attempted through harassment to discipline her because, as I say, her disabilities prevented her from selling sufficient television sets, video recorders and other machines to the public.
When I wrote to the company pointing out the previous arrangements and claiming that the young lady should at least have the right to be represented by the trade union concerned at a disciplinary hearing, I was told that, because there was no recognition agreement, it had no requirement to allow her to be represented. However, the company said that it would allow her to have present a friend who was not employed by the company.
At that stage I wrote to the Minister claiming that that was unsatisfactory, with the harassment of a disabled person whose statutory rights were being undermined. The Minister washed his hands of the whole affair. He turned a blind eye and would not intervene, even though a major
Column 154national company was harassing a disabled worker because it was claimed that she was not reaching sales targets.
It is in such cases, where partial agreements exist or where no agreement exists, that the rights of trade unions to represent individuals are undermined. In Committee, the Minister said that all would be well so long as there was an agreement. I have shown that employers who do not want to provide facilities for trade unionists just do not make agreements or they restrict such agreements as they are prepared to make. The Government amendments represent further restrictions on agreements, which will be interpreted in such a way that the rights that unions have to represent their members will be further eroded.
My hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Strang) raised the issue of 1992, which is vital to all trade unionists in the United Kingdom. I will use an example here too from my own constituency.
Heinz is one of the major employers in Wigan and we have a good relationship with it as a company. This example is not an indication of what Heinz may or may not do in the sense of the many policy statements that have been issued, but it shows what could happen after 1992 unless the Government give some clear guidelines to employers such as Heinz.
Currently Heinz has two factories in the United Kingdom and has acquired over a number of years factories in Portugal, Spain, Holland and Italy. The factory in Wigan, which is the largest manufacturing base in Europe, is the area for the production of baby foods--where a controversy has recently been raging--baked beans, ravioli and the like. The factory at Harlesden in north London produces pastas, such as spaghetti, Weight Watchers and other such lines and pickles. In 1992 these units could be in competition with factories in Europe. For example, the factory in Holland has almost the same production capacity as that in Wigan and a very similar product range.
The production capacity of the factories in Spain, Italy and Portugal is such that it could lead to significant changes by switching production from the United Kingdom to the European sector, as has happened with the Ford Motor company and other companies in the engineering industry. Come 1992, will there be obligations and rights for trade unionists in Britain to sit down with their counterparts in Europe to discuss the implications of 1992, the overall level of production in Heinz as a company, the role of each of the production bases in Europe and the benefits or otherwise of switching production between factories?
Unless there are statutory rights as between factories, the rights of workers after 1992 in this sector of the food industry will be radically undermined even if the employer is a decent employer, so it is vital that there is a clear indication from the Minister that he is not going to rely on the so-called recognition agreements, because in many instances they will not be agreed between employers and trade unionists, but will set down specifically the right of
Column 155workers to have their trade union recognised and specify that minimum standards must be provided for the trade union to operate on behalf of its members.
That brings me to an issue on bargaining and training. [Interruption.] Does the hon. Member for Sheffield, Hallam (Mr. Patnick) want to intervene? I know he is a champagne lout
Mr. McCartney : The hon. Gentleman needs your protection from these remarks, Madam Deputy Speaker ; he is very sensitive. I do not want to take the time of hon. Gentlemen if they want to make a positive contribution to the debate, as I am genuinely attempting to do. On the issue of training, in terms of both bargaining and health and safety, many instances of a breakdown between employers and employees are the result of inadequate consultation over the bargaining system and the rights of employees within that system in terms of their being specifically involved in bargaining and of how those systems are refined in the sense of interpreting them. It happens both in terms of those specifically involved in bargaining and how those bargaining systems are refined in the sense of interpreting them, which involves the general work force, and in interpreting bargaining representation.
Good employers--and there are many in the United Kingdom--prefer to provide the opportunity to ensure that where bargaining arrangements exist, the trade unions involved in them are training to ensure that they have an absolute knowledge and grasp of the bargaining procedures and that they also understand and are involved in how decisions are transmitted to the work force. The Minister has not responded positively to my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Strang). He has not said that there must be specific protection in the Bill for training on bargaining agreements. The same is true of health and safety and other matters. Unless the Minister becomes more positive, the Opposition can continue only with the clear understanding that this Government use employment legislation to weaken the rights of trade unionists and employees, and do so specifically to change the balance of power in industry and to weaken and undermine the ability of employees to negotiate. In doing that, rather than protecting and enhancing industrial relations, they are undermining industrial relations.
Mr. Michael Welsh (Doncaster, North) : It is of great importance to industrial relations that workers are educated about them. The average age of people working for British Coal is about 34. The chairman of British Coal has said that he will welcome the opportunity to give courses to educate young people in trade unions in industrial relations and collective bargaining. I believe that you would welcome that, Madam Deputy Speaker, although the Government will not.
Mr. McCartney : My hon. Friend is right. I welcome the fact that British Coal has recognised the error of its ways in previous years and is now attempting to improve the ability to communicate and the involvement of trade unions.
Another area in which I would welcome a greater degree of training and involvement of trade unions and
Column 156employees is in negotiations and discussions on pension provisions. Here again, it is vital in the bargaining procedures and in the recognition agreement, by which the Minister lays great store, that there is clear recognition of the need for time off with pay for employees' representatives to be involved in the negotiations on pension provisions for employees. That is vital, given the changes in legislation in recent years about rights in connection with pensions and the ability of employers and employees to switch pensions between companies and divisions of individual companies. Unless employers recognise the need for time off for training and involvement in the negotiations and administration of pension schemes, employees will again be at a distinct disadvantage.
Mr. Harry Barnes : The Trade Union and Labour Relations Act 1974 has now been altered as a result of the changes that took place in Committee. The position now is that the definition of trade disputes will determine what it is that employees are allowed to be educated about. There are seven categories in the 1974 Act, but none of them makes any direct reference to pensions being a possible item under discussion. It would have to be argued that terms and conditions of employment, which are one category under the Act, should be considered. It is possible that, within law, the terms and conditions of employment do not include pensions because they are not directly part of working, but are a benefit that people receive when they have left work.
Mr. McCartney : My hon. Friend is right. He referred earlier to the Minister's remarks in Committee, and to the great store that the hon. Gentleman set by recognition agreements. If a recognition agreement is all that an employee can rely upon in his relations with his employer, it must include his absolute right to involvement in the determination and administration of any pension scheme that the company may operate independently of, or in conjunction with, other companies. That right must be included if the recognition agreement is to mean anything.
We must also consider what would happen under the Bill as amended if an employee who was up on a disciplinary charge were sacked by the company and went to a tribunal. Let us suppose that the shop steward wants to represent that employee against the company. Would the amendment prevent a shop steward or workplace representative from having time off with pay to act on behalf of the employee?
Mr. Cryer : The brutal new law passed by the set of savages who are in government at the moment removes benefit for 26 weeks. Because of that, employers often send representatives to tribunals dealing with cases amounting, in effect, to cases of unfair dismissal, to claim that the employee has been fairly dismissed and was in breach of some disciplinary procedure or other. That allows employers to disbar employees from 26 weeks' benefit. If the worker does not have the right to similar representation, the employer can make a one-sided case, in which the worker comes off worse. My hon. Friend the Member for Makerfield (Mr. McCartney) is making an important point.
Column 157employee who has been dismissed or disciplined, that employee should still have the right to call on fellow workers as witnesses in any disciplinary proceedings. Will the Minister give a commitment that employees will be given time off with pay to act as witnesses on behalf of the disciplined employee or employees? If not, it can be argued that significant changes are afoot in trade unionists' right to representation.
What happens if a trade union representative proposes to represent an employee at a Department of Social Security appeal tribunal concerning the payment of a benefit in respect of an absence resulting from an industrial accident or injury? An employee who has sustained an accident at work may have been excluded from claiming a number of benefits for which he is, in fact, eligible, and he may ask for his trade union representative to represent him at the tribunal. There is a direct correlation between the accident at work and the employee's right to claim the benefit and his workplace trade union representative therefore has a right to represent him. In such circumstances, is it not fair and right that the employer should allow that trade union representative time off with pay to represent the employee at the tribunal? It is not at all clear whether the amendment would undermine that basic principle.
I know that a number of my hon. Friends wish to participate in the debate. Let me finish, therefore, by asking the Minister a specific question about the rights of disabled workers, particularly in respect of recognition. Does he agree that it is about time that the Department of Employment made it clear that there is a duty on major employers to make provision for disabled people in the workplace? Where there is evidence that the rights of those disabled people have been undermined, should not the Department take it upon itself to ensure that that state of affairs does not continue?
It would be absolute nonsense and a sham if the Department were to issue leaflets telling employers of the need to recognise the rights of the disabled in the workplace while at the same time the Minister writes to Members of Parliament saying that if employers undermine existing rights it is nothing to do with the Department, but a matter between the employer and the employee. Have we really reached the stage when the disabled can be so flagrantly disregarded by the Government and their position so undermined that there is harassment to get rid of disabled employees? That is wholly unacceptable. I hope that the Minister will assure us that he will take steps to strengthen the rights of the disabled in the workplace.
Mr. Cryer : It often strikes me that Tories are much more interested in machinery than in people. If, for example, an employer wished to introduce new machinery, there would be long discussions in the board room, new training provision and assessments of the machines' output, the installation costs and the degree of protection for the machinery--most of it imported under the Tory Government. Yet the Government rarely understand that there must be the same degree of scrutiny and education on behalf of the employees.
This nation's most important asset is its people. The relationship of people to machines and to each other is a continuing process of negotiation in industrial relations. If
Column 158people are to be allowed to retain their dignity, they must operate within independent trade unions. The Government love the trade unions to operate anywhere other than in the United Kingdom. The Prime Minister dances with delight about the trade union movement in Poland--not because she is concerned with trade unions or, indeed, anyone in particular in Poland, but because she thinks that any movement among the people in Poland must inevitably lead to the breakdown of the system so that private enterprise capitalism and the enterprise culture can be instituted.
The right hon. Lady claims concern for the trade unions. We are members of a party that sprang from a trade union movement, that came into being because the factor of production called labour--a collection of people-- demanded dignity and the right to participate, at the very least, in the productive processes. I work to make labour superior to capital. I hate the process in which the owners of capital dictate to labour in that list of the factors of production. However, because that process exists, I seek to give working men and women--labour--an opportunity to exercise some dignity. Time off for trade union activities is part of that pattern of preserving human dignity.
Tory Members know that the board rooms where most of them spent many years are not tatty or badly ventilated. The directors make sure that they are well furnished, well lit and well ventilated, so that discussions can be held in quiet circumstances. If they concede reasonable canteen conditions for the workers, it is sometimes done with enthusiasm but sometimes with an ill grace.
The clause and the amendments are trying to take away some established rights that have been built up over the years for trade unions to participate in a limited range of activities, with time off from work with pay. As I mentioned in an intervention to my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Strang), who made a good, comprehensive speech, the proposal, which will mean that the terms and conditions for time off with pay will depend on local collective agreements, is a formula for further conflict.
If a national code of conduct is produced by ACAS or another reputable organisation, it has the imprimatur of a code of guidance even though it may not be legally enforceable. There would be standard terms and conditions for time off for each factory. Therefore, if there was a meeting of trade unionists to reach a collective understanding, there would not be an argument about why Fred Smith or Charles Jones, convenors from the factory in Birmingham, Norwich or Nelson, were not there because their employer would not give them time off. Otherwise, argument might start about why A should be given time off and B should not, and why C should get only half the time necessary for the discussion on training or whatever. Inevitably there would be pressure from the workpeople and from the individuals themselves, or perhaps from the individuals to start with, spreading to the work force, who would say that their
representatives should have the same rights as representatives of other firms doing the same sort of work and seeking the same sort of training.
A union might organise a conference on 1992. The Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, Lord Young of Graffham, did not start the campaign on 1992--with glossy pamphlets and massive public expenditure--in a back street. As I recall, he set it off with a series of
Column 159breakfasts, all paid for by the taxpayer, for industrialists. He thought that he would give industrialists a chance to chat together about it. But if an employer decides that a trade unionist is not to be allowed to attend a conference on 1992, that will be the sole decision of the employer.
Amendment No. 32 refers to
"any other duties of his, as such an official, which are concerned with the performance, on behalf of employees of the employer, of any functions that are related to or connected with any matters falling within that provision and that the employer has agreed may be so performed by the trade union".
The phrase "the employer has agreed" means that it will be a unilateral decision. I do not think that that is right. The best arrangements in a workplace are made by collective discussion and agreement.
The unilateral decision of the employer will apply to an activity that might well cover the obsession of the current Government advertising campaign with the wonderful benefits of 1992. The textile unions might want to organise a conference on burden-sharing arrangements for textile imports by 1992 after the renegotiation of the existing multi-fibre arrangement. That would be a legitimate discussion because it would be a matter about which both the employers and the employees in the textile industry would be very much concerned. The discussion could be about other things, such as the high interest rates created by the Government's economic policies, short-time working, loss of jobs or lack of investment.
However, under these proposals, in the textile industry, for example, Courtaulds may have a collective agreement that allows its shop stewards time off, but another firm, such as Bulmer and Lumb or Benson and Turner in my constituency, might say, "We do not think that you should have time off." Therefore, a conflict will arise. The trade union movement will naturally attempt to obtain standard terms and conditions for every one of the organised workplaces, and it is only right that it should do so. It would be unjust if there was a disparity in attendance at such a conference as I have outlined, where the discussion would concern the future of the textile industry, which is still important to northern areas, such as Yorkshire and Lancashire. The Minister's proposal to alter the Bill, which is not a very fruitful Bill in any event, is, therefore, likely to cause conflict.
Mr. McCartney : Will my hon. Friend consider the situation whereby employees are now having to consider involvement in competitive tendering in the Health Service and in local government services? It is necessary for them to be involved for the first time in the tendering procedure and their ability to be so involved is linked to their ability to have paid time off to secure the right education and background to develop ideas for submitting tenders, for checking tenders and for validation of tenders. I know already of situations where trade unionists are being told that they will not be allowed paid time off for such activity. Will my hon. Friend indicate whether he believes that the amendment will undermine that position even further?
Mr. Cryer : Clearly, if there was a trade union conference called about those circumstances, in which the aim of the trade unions would be almost certainly to secure tenders and to obtain jobs for their members, paid time off should be allowed. We must remember that the
Column 160background to the discussions is not a deep underlying antagonism of the trade union movement to capitalism and all its works, but the aim of protecting its members, to preserve jobs and, indeed, to improve the efficiency of the enterprise in which its members work. There are many examples where trade unions have entered into agreements on productivity arrangements. For example, in the textile industry, three- shift working, changes in staffing, the flexibility of staff and the introduction of new machinery have all been accepted because the trade unions have been co-operative. As a matter of interest, many thousands of textile workers who lost their jobs did not have the co-operation of their employers, which they so richly deserved.
My point is that the trade unionists may well wish to go to a conference, because they see a conference about public procurement as an important means of securing the future viability of the factory in which they are working. However, under amendment No. 32 it would be entirely up to the employer as to whether they would be allowed to go or not, which is wrong.
There are many moves which will vitally affect jobs in our country. For example, there is the public procurement directive of the EEC, in which it states that tenders of public bodies will have to be put out to the whole of the Common Market. That could be a threatening provision for jobs in the United Kingdom, which has a massive balance of payments deficit. If the directive is introduced without safeguards, the proportion of our public procurement trade from non-member states could rocket from its present level of 2 per cent. of £4 billion. The trade union movement would hold meetings at weekends and outside working hours, but inevitably part of the working week would have to be used. I am talking about activities which fall within the amendment and which would be mounted because of concern by trade unions for their members' jobs.
It is wrong that the employer should have the sole decision-making capacity. As my hon. Friend the Member for Makerfield (Mr. McCartney) said, trade unions need to be independent so that they cannot be suborned or silenced when representing their members at disciplinary hearings. An employer may say, "I will not give you time off to represent a trade union member in a case appealing against my decision." In all fairness, that must happen. An industrial or social security tribunal hears evidence from both sides. The outcome of discussions that take place before a tribunal hearing is not a matter for the employer.
It is similar to a plaintiff in court being denied representation when a defendant has representation. Everyone would say, "That is unjust." Under this legislation, a one-sided case can be presented by an employer, who can afford to employ a solicitor. Industrial tribunals have been legalised away from the basic formality that they were established to provide--not by workers but by employers, who obtained and paid for the services of solicitors and barristers. That is one reason why the right of trade union officials to time off should be made clear. That would provide the justice that most people recognise as important in a court of law and in social and industrial tribunals.
Column 161Friend the Member for Makerfield (Mr. McCartney) on the role of trade unions in discussions on local authority privatisations? Apart from local authority privatisations being forced through Parliament by the Government, a growing number of management and employee buy-outs are taking place, encouraged by the Government. Has it occurred to my hon. Friend that in many ways the Government's proposal operates against their competition policies? Management could use the discretion that they will have if the amendment is passed to discriminate between one employee or management buy-out and another. Sometimes trade union officials would be allowed time off to develop business plans and prepare buy-outs and sometimes they would not. That would be not merely unfair but corrupt.
Mr. Cryer : My hon. Friend is right. In a sense, it would amount to insider dealing, with employers using their position under apparently unconnected legislation to manipulate decisions and keep trade unionists out of one set of negotiations while allowing them to participate in another. That is an important point, because yet again the decision-making apparatus is in the hands of the owners of capital, while labour is, in every sense, at their mercy. Many important moves are taking place in legislation due to the Government's decisions.
For example, it would be reasonable for employees of the National Health Service to have time off to discuss the takeover of the cleaning services. I have an exact case in point. Trade unions were, as it were, privatised by an organisation called Taylor Plan. Employees to whom a wage award had been made during their period of service found that, if they left service before the payment was handed over, Taylor Plan refused to make the payment. That happened to employees who worked when the award was negotiated and when it was operative, but had not been paid out because of delays in computer programming, the post or whatever excuse the administration produced.
If people are struggling from week to week to meet payments for rates, electricity and gas, and are driven to get electricity tokens from the Yorkshire electricity board to feed their electricity meters because they are scrimping and saving week by week, a back payment is important. It is essential that their trade union representatives should be able to participate in discussions to ensure that collective agreements on privatisation are at least equal to those agreements that they have already negotiated with the public authority.
The Government produce the change in circumstances because, by the back- door privatisation of the Health Service, they require health authorities to sell off their cleaning and other services. They did it first to cleaners and are now trying to do it to doctors, from whom, I am delighted to say, they are encountering enormous resistance, and to local authorities. Therefore, there are more reasons why trade unions need the opportunity to discuss the changes taking place in working practices, ownership and negotiations which arise solely out of the mad theological doctrines of the gangsters who currently govern our nation, but whose time, I am happy to say, is running out. It is important to clarify the trade unions' position.
My hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, East, and no doubt the Minister, would say that different rules affect health and safety at work. Time off is allowed for health
Column 162and safety at work matters but is in the process of becoming highly qualified for other matters. I wonder why. Is it because, with health and safety at work, there is a clear link between the loss of hours of work and industrial injury, and, therefore, it is sensible, even to the class warriors of the Right wing in the Government, to give time off to discuss health and safety at work to prevent a loss of hours? However, the relationship between time off and industrial relations, and the panoply of associated ideas, is not quite so plain.
Good industrial relations spring from the confidence of two sections of industry, employers and workers, in each other. If employer and employees are bickering over who is to have time off in every circumstance, week after week, it erodes that confidence. It reduces morale on both sides, leading almost inevitably to a lowering of productivity, and is entirely counter-productive. I should have thought that the rationale for allowing time off to cover health and safety provisions should apply across the board.
As I have said before in the House, it is difficult to examine the statistics relating to industrial injury and those relating to strike action because the Government have removed from the 1984 statistics those relating to time lost through injuries requiring three or more days off work. If the Minister examines those statistics, however, he will find that in any average year more days are lost through industrial injury than through strike action. The Government should cast aside their shibboleth that trade unionists are always organising strikes, and look at the reality in industry : that trade unionists want to protect their members' jobs, want a wide range of interests to be associated with those jobs and want an educated and confident work force in a factory where some mutual trust and confidence exists. The Government's qualification for time off will not produce that.
As my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Strang) pointed out, the Government have provided no assessment or calculation as a basis for that qualification. Although I was not on the Committee, I understand that there, too, no information was produced to enable the Government to point to a lowering of productivity or an increase in industrial disputes as a result of the existing legislation and code of practice. If that is the case--as I firmly believe--it is another instance of the blind prejudice of a Government who provide the men and women working in the diminished number of factories still remaining with the best example of class warriors. It is the Government who want to attack organised working men and women, and to diminish their aims of dignity and parity with the owners of capital.
I have no doubt that the Government will proceed with their amendments, but we shall still have won the arguments, and the arguments here will be transferred to the factories. The Government amendments are a first-class formula for disputes between employer and employee, and for a lowering in morale, tone and output wherever the new rules apply.
Mr. Nicholls : Running through the debate has been the theme that the Government amendments are not technical, and I accept that that is a justifiable concern on which I shall try to satisfy the House. The hon. Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Strang) put his finger on it when he talked about the way in which the system should operate, and when he said that the purposes for which people would be able to take paid leave
Column 163would be determined by the existing collective agreement. I think that the implication was that the matter should be left to the common sense of employers and employees alike, without Government interference. For all I know, that may have been the intent of those who drafted the 1978 Act, but in practice it worked out in precisely the opposite way.
It became clear at a relatively early stage, and certainly in the Court of Appeal case of Beale and others v. Beecham Group Ltd., not that unions were able to reach agreement with an employer as to the matters for which an employee would be entitled to paid leave but that the matter went further than that. The effect of the Court of Appeal's decision in the Beale case was that, once there was recognition of collective bargaining, it became virtually impossible for the employer to say, "I did not mean collective bargaining in its entirety but particular aspects of collective bargaining." Once there was recognition of agreement on collective bargaining, it meant whatever the union wanted it to mean. Clearly use was being made of the original purposes of the 1978 Act, which was far too wide, and the Government felt that that scenario should be addressed. In the context of the Bill, the Government introduced clause 10 whose purpose- -despite the inevitably complex drafting--is easy enough to understand in layman's terms, even if the lawyers are not always satisfied. Its purpose is to ensure that employers will have only to provide paid leave for matters that they recognise in respect of the unions concerned. That is why clause 10 was originally drafted in the way that it was.
However, even while the Bill was in Committee, and as clause 10 itself was being debated, the Court of Appeal made a good attempt, as it turned out, to address the problem that Beale brought to prominence. It did so in the case of Adlington v . British Bakeries. The rationale was that, even in respect of an item covered by a recognition agreement, and notwithstanding the dictum in the Beale case, there should still be a degree of proximity between what was being claimed in relation to paid time off and actual negotiations. The Adlington case introduced the concept not only of theoretical recognition but proximity to actual negotiations. In the context of that decision, the Court of Appeal addressed the same problem that the Government attempted to address with clause 10.
At that stage, parliamentary counsel clearly had to examine the drafting of clause 10 and decide whether it needed adjusting in the light of Adlington ; or, in layman's terms, to see whether any useful ingredient in the Adlington case had not been taken into account in clause 10. Parliamentary counsel reached the conclusion that the concept of proximity was useful and one that clause 10 alone would not address. It was with a view to retaining that concept of proximity that the amendments now before the House were devised. Amendments Nos. 30 to 34 fall into two distinct groups. Amendments Nos. 30, 31 and 32, within the intention of clause 10, preserve the proximity concept contained in Adlington, whereas amendments Nos. 33 and 34 deal with a different matter entirely.
The hon. Member for Derbyshire, North-East (Mr. Barnes) raised the issue of associated employers, and in
Column 164doing so he identified the purpose of amendments Nos. 33 and 34. Incidentally, I correctly described amendments Nos. 30 to 34 as technical because they are, in the sense that, once one accepts the purpose of clause 10--which I realise Opposition Members do not --and the fusing of the proximity concept with Adlington, the amendments become a purely technical exercise, but in the way of these things, it is not a simple one. They are technical amendments to that extent.
Amendments Nos. 33 and 34 take the opportunity to remedy a defect in the drafting of section 32 of the Employment Protection (Consolidation) Act 1978. The irony is that that defect would have been apparent on the face of the 1978 Act. Section 32 sets out the definition of the term "recognised" as it applies to independent trade unions for the purposes of sections 27 to 31(a)--the time-off provisions. Amendment No. 31 would amend section 32 of the 1978 Act because the definition of "recognised" is redundant and has been so since 1978, because "recognised" means
"recognised by an employer or two or more associated employers". But sections 27(1) and 28(2) of the 1978 Act to which the definition applies speak of "an employer" and
"an independent trade union recognised by him".
So the reference in the statutory definition to "associated employers" is clearly otiose, and this is a good opportunity to remove it. That is the purpose of amendments Nos. 33 and 34. Amendments Nos. 30, 31 and 32 would preserve the proximity concept in Adlington. Notwithstanding that, the hon. Member for Derbyshire, North-East asked me specifically about amendment No. 32.
I reiterate that the purpose of clause 10 is to give a right to time off for duties which are connected not with negotiations but with the performance of other functions such as representation through a grievance procedure which the employer has agreed to allow the union to perform. Amendments Nos. 31 and 32 are connected. They both seek to ensure that that proximity concept is retained. I appreciate that the amendments are not easy amendments, but I assure the House that all they do is ensure that clause 10 stands, while at the same time clearing up an anomaly in the 1978 Act and making sure that the concept of proximity is retained.
In all fairness, the point made by the hon. Member for Bradford, South (Mr. Cryer) needs to be addressed. In effect, the hon. Gentleman was saying that he had spotted what the clause was all about. He did not refer to paid time off, although that is what we are debating, but he disapproved of the fact that the employer should decide and he suspected that that is what the clause is all about. The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right. He spotted precisely what the clause is all about. Despite the words that the lawyers choose for us, the principle is simple enough. If the employer is expected to give paid time off for matters for which he has recognised the union, it is right that it should be only for those matters for which he has recognised the union. The employer has decided to recognise the union for those purposes, so it is complete nonsense that, merely because an employer recognises a union for one purpose, he should suddenly find that in practice he is obliged to pay for some other purpose. The underlying purpose of clause 10 and the amendments is to ensure that, if an employer recognises a