Transparency of Lobbying, Non-Party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Bill — Report (1st Day)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 6:45 pm on 13th January 2014.

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Photo of Lord Martin of Springburn Lord Martin of Springburn Crossbench 6:45 pm, 13th January 2014

I support the noble Lord, Lord Monks, and others who have spoken regarding these amendments. At one time it went without saying that anyone who had private information or was privy to it would not divulge that information except when obliged to do so in legal circumstances. Recent matters have come up in the media—I will not stray into the sub judice area—exposing people who have been involved and pleaded guilty to misconduct in public office where they have handed over private and confidential information to those who are not entitled to that information and received payment for it. We need assurances from the noble Lord the Minister that things are going to be kept very tight indeed.

I notice in the Bill that the removal of the officer concerned has to be carried out either by a meeting of the whole membership or of the delegates. That can be a very cumbersome area. If the executive of a trade union found that such an officer was wanting in his or her behaviour, it would take a long time to get all the delegates together, find a venue for them and check their credentials before they met. If it was going to be the membership, bear this in mind: it used to be the cry of the employers and the Conservative Party—a cry they were entitled to make—that there were too many small unions. I belonged to a small union, the metalworkers’ union, which was only a few thousand members and everyone said, no, we should have larger trade unions. As a result, my own circumstances changed and I now belong to the union called Unite, which is an amalgamation of many other unions. I have got to be careful because perhaps next week the name might change—I have to keep track of the name of the union to which I belong. The downside of all those amalgamations means larger membership and if we carried out the legislation to the letter by saying we should have an aggregate membership meeting, it would be some venue that we would have to create.

The important thing is that sadly we have people in confidential situations who have divulged information, and some sides have done it in what we in Scotland call a very sleekit way because they put out information by e-mail. If an e-mail goes out in a certain way, you have a trail of other e-mails which divulges a great deal of information. This matter has got to be looked at.