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Committee (4th Day)

Part of Trade Union Bill – in the House of Lords at 2:00 pm on 25th February 2016.

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Photo of Baroness Wheeler Baroness Wheeler Opposition Senior Whip (Lords) 2:00 pm, 25th February 2016

My Lords, I thank the Minister for her response. This has been a powerful, detailed and consensual debate. She says that she is in listening mode and I will carefully read her comments in Hansard, although I am sorry that she has not felt able to respond to the consensual nature of the debate. In fact, the only thing she has listened to is the issue concerning the implementation date, and she has not moved on that because we knew that the Government were moving implementation from six months to a year anyway. Therefore, there has not been any movement. I seriously struggle to detect any real change in the Government’s fundamental understanding of the role and work of trade unions in a modern society, or their simplistic consideration of the two options only approach in their check-off ban.

As speaker after speaker has demonstrated, the proposals are unfair, unjustified and unworkable. They have simply not been thought through. The Government have failed to address the Joint Committee on Human Rights’ call for objective justification of the proposals. The Minister simply has not addressed the arguments that have been made across in the House. We have had support from throughout the House: from the Lib Dems, from the Cross Benches—from my own Benches, obviously—from all noble Lords. I thank them, particularly the noble Lords opposite for the range of support and opinion that they reflect. It is a particular first for me to have such unequivocal support from the noble Lord, Lord Forsyth. His analogy regarding the Conservatives’ reaction if they sought to ban contributions to private health insurance was telling and appropriate. He mentioned the review of the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde. I draw his attention to the debate we had on Tuesday on facility time. Clause 13 seeks reserved powers over capping facility time, which the Government say they will not use unless they have to. The Minister observed that the affirmative procedure would be used in that case. Therefore, we are in quite a bit of difficulty.

I will not go into all the arguments again. It is frustrating that the Minister has not been able to address the consensual nature of the debate, for which I am certainly very grateful. This is about fairness and justice. Amendments 92 and 93 provide the reassurances that are needed if the Government’s agenda is openness, transparency in procedures and costs and no burden on the taxpayer. If these amendments are supported in principle, the Government could succeed in achieving their objectives. They would in fact be regulating a system that regulates itself pretty well already, which is an interesting position for a Government who declare an abhorrence of red tape to be in. However, aside from that issue, if they do not support the amendments or move towards accepting them in principle, the only conclusion to draw is that they want to destroy effective trade union organisation, to prevent unions representing their members in the workplace and to attack and seriously weaken their finances. This issue is vital to the future of industrial relations, trade unions and their members, and as noble Lords across the House have said, it is about members’ choice. The Government are offering a top-down solution to a problem that does not exist. We will pursue the issues raised today with vigour and determination on Report, and with that I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 92 withdrawn.

Amendments 93 to 97ZA not moved.

Clause 14 agreed.

House resumed. Committee to begin again not before 3.07 pm.