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Trade Union Bill - Third Reading

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 3:30 pm on 25th April 2016.

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Photo of Lord Collins of Highbury Lord Collins of Highbury Opposition Whip (Lords), Shadow Spokesperson (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs), Shadow Spokesperson (International Development) 3:30 pm, 25th April 2016

I appreciate the noble Baroness’s remarks, and I am going to repeat them, because I think the purpose of her amendment is undoubtedly to make things clearer. Certainly, defining the reporting mechanism in accordance with Section 72 of the 1992 Act is entirely appropriate. That is a good thing, and it is best practice. But this new subsection (2E) in the amendment—the “Lord Leigh amendment”—will not make things clear and will not make things transparent. It may have unintended consequences. There is no doubt but that all the expenditure of a trade union is properly accounted for. I will keep repeating that because there is a suggestion that if it is not reported to the CO or detailed in the AR21, the annual return, it is somehow not properly accounted for. It is properly accounted for, in the accounts.

As I say, when I went to the USDAW annual delegate conference in Blackpool, they went through the details and the sections of their report page by page and paragraph by paragraph, and questions were asked. The report gives a breakdown of the political expenditure. But the statute governing the nature of political expenditure is now being asked to cover non-political expenditure, as if that is somehow not accounted for somewhere else. This is a step too far and will lead to complications. With this detailed reporting, there is potentially a mismatch between the Electoral Commission’s information, which is published as the donations received by political parties, and the returns of the unions, which will talk about affiliation fees in separate years. There is the potential for some form of conflict there.

I accept that the original amendment addresses the concerns of the Select Committee, and totally accept that it is an attempt to make things clearer, but I am extremely disappointed that the Minister has included the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Leigh, because it will just lead to further confusion. Bearing that in mind, I beg leave to withdraw my amendment.

Amendment 2 withdrawn.

Amendment 1 agreed.