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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 Baroness Neville-Rolfe Baroness Neville-Rolfe The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills 3:15 pm, 25th April 2016

My Lords, Amendment 2 to government Amendment 1 seeks to reduce the level of transparency on all expenditure from a union’s political fund. Of course, during debates in this House noble Lords have referred to unions supporting various campaigns, causes or organisations from their political funds that are not clearly linked to the categories of expenditure under Section 72(1) of the 1992 Act. As I explained, we are seeking to make things clear.

The noble Lord, Lord Collins, whose knowledge of this area has been extremely helpful during the passage of the Bill, asked about the Certification Officer’s view on what I think has rightly been named the “Lord Leigh amendment”. The Certification Officer acknowledged that this may mean some additional reporting for some unions. However, he welcomed the proportionate approach and clarity of the overall package, and supported the change. I am also extremely grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Burns, for his support, given all the expertise he developed during his splendid committee inquiry.

The noble Lord, Lord Stoneham, asked—as he always does—about burdens, a point on which he and I tend to agree. I will write to him but I think the one-in, two-out rule applies to business costs and therefore on a point of detail may not apply, but I will certainly check that and write to him. What I would say is that in this amendment we are trying to get away from the bureaucracy and detail of the individual recording of bus tickets. That has been the whole point.

We are not seeking changes to the political arrangements in relation to expenditure by the Conservative Party, for example, or changes in the Electoral Commission rules. We have brought in an amendment which I think improves things, and agree with my noble friend Lord Leigh that better transparency is required across all expenditure from political funds to enable union members to decide whether or not to contribute and, importantly, that it does so in a clear and proportionate way. I believe that the package of amendments I have set out today achieves that.