Transparency of Lobbying, Non-Party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:00 pm on 3rd September 2013.

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Photo of James Duddridge James Duddridge Chair, Regulatory Reform Committee 4:00 pm, 3rd September 2013

I gently say to the hon. Lady, 13 years and nothing done, three years and we are doing something, and the Opposition in large part are saying, “We don’t want to do it now,” or “It’s the wrong thing.” It is contradictory. I am not saying that the Bill is perfect, but it is a contradictory position that the Opposition are putting forward.

The second part of the Bill deals with third-party funding. The Leader of the House skirted around the subject a little. I referred to it in an earlier intervention as the elephant in the room—the trade union movement. The hon. Member for Glasgow North West is right to ask why the Government are doing this. Clearly, I have a slightly more benign impression of the Government than do Opposition Members. One can think that natural, but looking at the facts and going through the House of Commons Library research paper, I wanted to know who these third parties were. I shall list some of them.

Unison spent £671 million in the year running up to the general election in 2010. The National Union of Teachers spent £121 million—sorry, £122 million if one rounds up the £100,000. The Public and Commercial Services Union spent £84 million. Unite, which receives a bad press, was not spending very much money at all compared with some of the big guns, at £16 million. The Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers spent just under £5 million and Wales TUC £4.3 million. That list is not absolutely in order. There are about 20 names and I am less familiar with a number of them, such as Vote for a Change Ltd. I mention it because, under the proposed threshold of £388,000, only it and Unison would have been unable to do what they were already doing, so it is not a major issue.

I also note that 38 Degrees is on the list. It spent either £10.8 million or £10.9 million—I do not know which because of my poor eyesight, but it was a sizable amount. I reflect on the e-mails that I have received about the Bill. Ian Lavery said that it was not just the unions that had written to him, but other constituents more generally. The vast majority of the people who have written to me about the Bill have been from one of the third-party funders: 38 Degrees. It was said earlier that the Wikipedia entry had changed and that the organisation was set up by Labour supporters and members. There is nothing wrong with that, but I think we need transparency.