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Lord Evans of Parkside: My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that interesting and informative reply. Does he agree that any question of trade union recognition in the workplace would best be resolved by a secret ballot of those employees in that workplace? Does he further agree that any suggestion that abstentions should be regarded and counted as votes against recognition would be utterly unacceptable?

Lord Clinton-Davis: My Lords, strong views are held on this issue by both the CBI and the TUC. I think it would be wrong, in advance of the publication of the White Paper, to take any pre-emptive position on any of the points raised by my noble friend. I know that he feels very strongly about this issue, too. What we are seeking here is an approach based on flexibility on the part of both sides, and including the Government, because this issue ought to be decided on a partnership basis if it possibly can be. That is our approach and that will be reflected in the White Paper which will be issued before the end of the first half of this year.

Lord Campbell of Alloway: My Lords, I agree with the noble Lord's sentiments about this. It is a very important topic. It was, if he can remember, satisfactorily resolved as between the employers and the employees by the machinery of the Act of 1971. It was one of the few parts of that Act that worked satisfactorily. Could that be taken on board in an effort to find not the same resolution--it is too complex for that--but a similar one?

Lord Clinton-Davis: My Lords, we have, of course, moved on a good deal since 1971. Any positive

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suggestion for reconciling the parties concerned would be positively welcomed. One of the positive things that has emerged from the discussion so far is the wide area of agreement. What we are now considering is one of the few difficulties standing in the way of agreement. But the identification of points of common interest is rather remarkable, and I alluded to that when I last answered a Question on this point.

Lord Razzall: My Lords, in the light of his previous answer, and in the light of the comments about what happened in the early 1970s, does the Minister agree that these issues are far more complex than the press are currently acknowledging? Is there not a danger that, in the current climate, issues of significant principle may be turned into disputes over arithmetical formulae as to the percentages of votes? What is the Government's position with regard to what are clearly complicated issues which in the 1970s were often resolved more by voluntary agreement in the workplace than by these arithmetical formulae? Does he agree that this is a complex issue which requires much greater consideration than it is currently being given in the press?

Lord Clinton-Davis: My Lords, under the guise of complexity the noble Lord has introduced a very simplistic argument. Of course, he is right when he says that this matter is shrouded in complexity. There are very strongly held opinions on both sides. Of course, the Government would prefer an approach based on a voluntary agreement reached between the parties, but whether that is capable of being achieved remains to be seen. We are still confident that further common ground can be identified and that a positive result will be achieved in these negotiations. That is what we are seeking to do and we are doing our best to achieve it.

Lord Murray of Epping Forest: My Lords, do the CBI and the Government agree that only an acceptable alternative, in a legal form, to the traditional way of securing recognition will be appropriate in these circumstances? Does the Minister acknowledge that in practice the most effective way of securing recognition is by ensuring that the employer enters into collective bargaining, but, if he refuses to do that, that his employees decline to work except on terms and conditions that have been agreed? If no acceptable form is found in legislation, then do the Government acknowledge that that will be the only way open to trade unions? Will the Minister ensure that blame is not laid at their door for the failure of employers to be more sensible and reasonable in this discussion?

Lord Clinton-Davis: My Lords, my noble friend is very well qualified to enter this debate because his work in practice as General Secretary of the TUC was quite outstanding in bringing parties together on a voluntary basis. It did not always work, but he certainly used his best endeavours. The noble Lord raises a lot of separate questions in his intervention. I do not believe that I can go further than this at this stage: as a result of the deliberations that have taken place so far, the parties have unquestionably moved closer together in a large number of quite contentious areas, and that is good.

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Whether in fact we can bridge this particular gap on recognition remains to be seen. I am still confident that that will be possible.

Lord Fraser of Carmyllie: My Lords, the noble Lord is a distinguished lawyer and a parliamentarian of great renown. Can he offer us an opinion as to whether he considers the wording of the party manifesto contained any ambiguity which could have caused distinguished leaders of the trade union movement and the Prime Minister to have reached apparently completely contradictory views?

Lord Clinton-Davis: My Lords, when the noble and learned Lord tries so hard to flatter me into submission, I shall resist it. It was very interesting that Mr. John Edmonds, in an interview this morning, said that it was not true that he was being very critical of the Government. He said that it was inappropriate to make criticisms of the Government at the moment. He showed that the Government were in fact using their best endeavours to arrive at a settlement. However much the noble and learned Lord was trying to dress up his question as a positive contribution to this debate, I must say that I thought it was imbued with mischief rather than with hope.

Lord Fraser of Carmyllie: My Lords, will the noble Lord answer my question?

Lord Clinton-Davis: My Lords, I thought that I had. Anyway, if I have not, the question was incapable of answer because it was not really on the ball.

Bull Bars

2.53 p.m.

The Earl of Kinnoull asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What progress is being made on the control of the use of bull bars on private and commercial vehicles.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Baroness Hayman): My Lords, last October we announced the launch of a consultation process on the options for national action on bull bars. That process closed at the end of last year. There were about 250 responses to the consultation document and we are currently considering the appropriate way forward.

The Earl of Kinnoull: My Lords, while thanking the Minister for her reply and recognising that to achieve a 100 per cent. ban is a complex matter, does she agree that, in view of strong public opinion in favour of ridding our roads of these lethal accessories on vehicles, to start by tackling part of the problem is better than tackling none of the problem?

Baroness Hayman: My Lords, I am very grateful for the comments of the noble Earl, who has had a long-standing interest in this area, and for his

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recognition that it is a complex matter. That was reflected in some of the contributions to the consultation document. But as the noble Earl pointed out, there was overwhelming support for taking all possible action. I am personally anxious to make progress in this area.

Lord Steel of Aikwood: My Lords, have any of the consultation documents revealed whether any bulls have actually been fended off by these elaborate instruments?

Baroness Hayman: My Lords, the noble Baroness, Lady Gardner of Parkes, is not here today to tell us of her Australian experience. However, she usually tells us that bull bars were originally roo bars. I can certainly say that no kangaroos have been warded off by bull bars. In the responses to the consultation a point was made about legitimate agricultural off-road use of vehicles with these accessories. That is one of the areas of complexity that we have to take into account, if we choose to do so, in drawing up regulations that will be generally accepted as reasonable.

Lord Brabazon of Tara: My Lords, can the Minister say whether any progress has been made in Europe on this matter? She referred to that the last time this subject was raised, which I believe was last June, and particularly to a Dutch proposal. Can the Minister say whether this matter is going to be made a priority of the United Kingdom presidency in the transport field? Can she say, if a national solution is sought, what is there to stop anybody importing a vehicle with bull bars from a European country? Will that be covered?

Baroness Hayman: My Lords, the European convention is yet another of the complexities that we have to deal with. If a whole-vehicle type approval has been given to a vehicle at European level, then we shall have to recognise that approval. The issue is what we can do at a national level in terms of vehicles which are not imported. The noble Lord referred to the issue on a wider front and to the European pedestrian protection directive. That would be a much broader way of tackling the needs of vulnerable road users, particularly pedestrians and cyclists. There has been some progress in that area. Through the Transport Research Laboratory, the United Kingdom is involved in refinements to the technical content of the proposal. We are very keen to assist the Commission on any aspect of that work. Discussion of that directive is continuing, but we accept that the implementation date is some way off. That is why I am anxious to make what progress we can at national level.

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