Sunday, June 20, 2010
The Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) is a British intelligence agency that provides signals intelligence to the British government and armed forces. Prior to the early 1980s its existence was not acknowledged, despite the fact that it openly recruited graduates. Following a spy scandal in 1983, the organisation became known to the public, and the government of Margaret Thatcher decided a year later that employees would not be allowed to join a trade union for national security reasons. This was enforced through an Order-in-Council, an exercise of the Royal Prerogative. Despite an extensive publicity campaign by trade unions, the government refused to reverse its decision, instead offering affected employees the choice between £1,000 and membership of a staff association or dismissal. Those employees dismissed could not rely on an industrial tribunal, as they were not covered by the relevant employment legislation. As such, the Council of Civil Service Unions decided judicial review was the only available route.