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Trade Union Bill - Third Reading

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 3:15 pm on 25th April 2016.

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Photo of Lord Burns Lord Burns Crossbench 3:15 pm, 25th April 2016

My Lords, I support Amendment 1. The Select Committee, which I chaired, agreed that union members were entitled to more detail about the political expenditure of the unions in the annual returns to the Certification Officer. However, we were concerned by the Certification Officer’s prediction of the amount of extra work which the existing clause would cause both for the unions and for the Certification Officer himself. There was also quite a lot of confusion in Committee about exactly what the clause required and the significance of the £2,000 threshold. This seemed disproportionate to the committee and we proposed that the Government should consult the Certification Officer and come back with revised proposals which would give a better balance between accountability and proportionality.

Unlike the Minister, we have clearly not had the opportunity to have further information from the Certification Officer, but my personal interpretation is that the amendment produces a much better balance, by aggregating items of expenditure under headings which are, I hope, manageable. It is less onerous for the unions and deals with the practical concerns of the Select Committee.

I understand the concerns of the noble Lord, Lord Collins, and the issue of burdens. However, given that we are going in the direction of looking at aggregates of expenditure, it seems reasonable that all expenditure from political funds should be accounted for. Where this falls outside political parties’ expenditure and the categories in Section 72, they should be included. I support Amendment 1.