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Committee (4th Day)

Part of Trade Union Bill – in the House of Lords at 1:15 pm on 25th February 2016.

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Photo of Lord Stoneham of Droxford Lord Stoneham of Droxford Liberal Democrat 1:15 pm, 25th February 2016

My Lords, I am fearful of keeping noble Lords from their lunch, but I have several points that have not already been made in the debate. I agree absolutely with what the noble Lords, Lord Balfe and Lord Kerslake, said about how the Bill, particularly this clause, is designed principally to make life difficult for the unions. It is not about modernising industrial relations.

I challenge the Minister to explain some of the statements made in the impact assessment. It is extraordinary that it states:

“Removing the check off provision is not expected to have a negative impact on industrial relations”— we have heard arguments to the contrary in this debate. It also states:

“The impact of transition on the trade unions will be minimal”.

How can that be? It further states that:

“We assume that the amount of time taken to become familiar with the proposals will be small as changes introduced in the Bill are straightforward”.

We have heard in the debate that these are complex and difficult procedures that the unions will be inveigled into if the proposals are passed.

I accept that we have moved on a long way from when union dues were collected in cash. I remember in the sector in which I worked, staff had for years been paid in cash and the father of chapel used to go around collecting dues regularly. The only problem was that he was also acting as a bookie’s runner in the plant, so the union was very grateful when the management agreed to accept check-off.

We have moved on from that, but we want union representatives to concentrate on improving industrial relations. We know that, whatever happens, there will be a huge muddle and administrative problem. No one has mentioned that we now have ballots for strikes and industrial action. The complication of not having agreed lists of who can vote in those ballots will be much more difficult in the public sector without check-off. No one has mentioned that there is a huge problem with people not cancelling direct debits when, in this case, they move jobs to different sectors and may even need to join another union. We know that those direct debits are often not cancelled.