[Albert Owen in the Chair] — Trade Union Funding
Alec Shelbrooke (Elmet and Rothwell, Conservative)
Thank you very much Mr Owen. We have seen in the past couple of minutes where my frustration has lain, with people saying, “Unions do this” or “Union bashing”. That is not what the debate is about; it is about funding and how public sector money is used. Politics is about perception, and if there is a perception that public money given to the unions is then given to the Labour party, the best way to solve that problem is to tinker with the rules and have an opt-in, so that people can say where they want the money to go. Then the unions can say, “We have this many people opted in and this pot of cash, and we have decided to give it to the Labour party.” No one would argue with that. We cannot argue with that.
There may need to be some reform. The balance needs to be redrawn for some of the public sector workers working full-time purely on union business, but that is a different debate. Please do not make this an argument about union bashing. That is offensive to many Conservative Members who believe in the work of trade unions. I am not here to speak for everybody on the Government Benches, but I know that a great many of my hon. Friends very much believe in the work of the trade unions. A great number of us have been members of trade unions and have worked in places where we have seen their work, but that does not mean that the situation is completely okay; there are aspects that need reform, but debate is the best way to examine that.