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Trade Union Bill - Third Reading

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 4:00 pm on 25th April 2016.

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Photo of Lord Bridges of Headley Lord Bridges of Headley The Parliamentary Secretary, Cabinet Office, The Parliamentary Secretary, Cabinet Office 4:00 pm, 25th April 2016

My Lords, I start by echoing the thanks to my noble friend Lord Balfe for his contribution to the Bill. I should have included his name at the start. I, too, love paying a visit to the seaside: Blackpool, Bournemouth and Brighton—I do not think we should forget the other “B”s. His point about extending plans across the political divide when it comes to trade union conferences was very well made.

I turn to the points that have been raised and begin with the very good point that the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, made about enforcement. All public sector employers are expected to comply with the law and will have monitoring arrangements in place to ensure that such compliance happens. Failure to comply with a statutory duty is of course judicially reviewable, but personally I do not expect any responsible public sector employer to let non-compliance get that far before the matter is addressed.

I turn now to the points that the noble Baroness, Lady Wheeler, has made. Again, I apologise for not getting her the regulations sooner; I accept that that is not ideal. The noble Baroness made a very good point about consultation. This is why we need a year before the commencement of this, and we will of course wish to talk to bodies that are affected by it to make sure that it is run and introduced as smoothly as possible.

With regard to the point about scope and why smaller organisations are not excluded, the underlying principle is that there should be no burden on the taxpayer. As such, this clause applies to all those we consider public authorities for the purposes of the Bill. We accept that for small organisations the costs may be correspondingly smaller. However, they are still costs. If an organisation determines that the costs are truly negligible, we will have to trust those on the front line—that we need to trust those on the front line is a point that has been made by a number of your Lordships in the past—to make a sensible decision. They may decide to move a few members over time to direct debit, for example. However, and I stress this point, the organisations in scope are, in the main, subject to the FoIA, and must be prepared to respond to any FoI requests with regards to their check-off arrangements. I again stress that the bottom line is that we need to trust those on the front line.

Will we commit to a further impact assessment? Yes, we will. With that in mind, I beg to move.

Amendment 8 agreed.