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Committee (4th Day)

Part of Trade Union Bill – in the House of Lords at 1:30 pm on 25th February 2016.

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Photo of Lord Leigh of Hurley Lord Leigh of Hurley Conservative 1:30 pm, 25th February 2016

My Lords, I approach this from a slightly different angle. I looked at the Bill for the first time with a particular interest in Clauses 10 and 11 and learned about check-off only from reading Clause 14 later. Frankly, I was surprised to see check-off still taking place, as it does not sit comfortably with many people. My noble friend Lord Balfe’s story of its history is very illuminating and extremely interesting; it explains to us why it came about, as opposed to the cash collection that predated it. Clearly, no one starting today would use a check-off system; the way everyone is moving is towards direct debit.

I have spent time trying to understand why check-off is not appropriate. One reason I discovered is that apparently in 1998 legislation came out that did not require changes in the amount paid under check-off to receive notice—whereas, of course, direct debit under the direct debit guarantee requires 10 days’ notice. So people are assured that any change to the amount paid by direct debit gets 10 days’ notice. It seems to me that unions are moving in the direction of direct debit. The Public and Commercial Services Union briefed its members on that subject, stating in its own material:

“Trade unions in general are no stranger to Direct Debit. POA members currently pay via this method after the previous Tory Government attacked their trade union rights and forced them to halt ‘check off’. The following Labour Government offered to reinstate it for them, but the POA chose to stick with Direct Debit. Many other large trade unions collect subscriptions in this way … such as Unite and GMB”.

Indeed, Unite offers incentives to people to move to direct debit; currently, it offers an incentive of £25.