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 Stevenson of Balmacara Lord Stevenson of Balmacara Shadow Spokesperson (Business, Innovation and Skills), Opposition Whip (Lords), Shadow Spokesperson (Culture, Media and Sport) 6:45 pm, 13th January 2014

I declare an interest as a retired member of a large union. As the noble Baroness has just said, it is common ground that the unions in Britain play a significant part in the modern economy. They should be cherished, not castigated. As has been mentioned, if the Government had brought forward such a burdensome set of duties on any other section of civil society, there would have been an outcry. Well, there is an outcry and the Government should listen.

For many employees, their membership or lack of membership of a trade union is a private choice, and one which they desire to keep confidential for what may be very legitimate reasons. The knowledge that under these new powers, trade unions could be required to provide their membership register to a government-approved official for “good reason” may act as a disincentive for workers to join unions, particularly in light of the current concern over union blacklisting. As my noble friend Lord Monks said, the Government are introducing this series of measures at the same time as the full extent of the scandal of blacklisting in the construction industry is gradually coming to light. This is by no means the only industry in which members of a union may wish to keep their membership confidential for fear of being subject to discrimination.

These measures clearly go beyond what is necessary and they are certainly not proportionate if they are to achieve any legitimate aim behind the proposals, if indeed there is one.