Amendment 37

Part of Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Bill - Committee (2nd Day) (Continued) – in the House of Lords at 5:45 pm on 23 March 2023.

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Photo of Lord Collins of Highbury Lord Collins of Highbury Opposition Whip (Lords), Shadow Spokesperson (Equalities and Women's Issues), Shadow Spokesperson (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs and International Development), Shadow Deputy Leader of the House of Lords, Shadow Spokesperson (Cabinet Office) 5:45, 23 March 2023

I will talk to our Amendments 42, 44 and 45; I also support Amendments 37 and 43. My noble friend Lord Prentis mentioned the debate we had on the reports from the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee and the Delegated Powers Committee, Democracy Denied? and Government by Diktat. The two chairs of the committees at the time led the debate and reflected opinion across the House. The noble Lord, Lord Blencathra, said that this is a trend: these are not just technical statutory instruments but impinge on people’s fundamental freedoms. The noble Lord, Lord Hodgson, reminded us, and it has been repeated many times, that these are fundamental policy positions that can be debated and considered but not amended or revised. They cannot reflect all the things we have been talking about, particularly consultation.

I give warning to the Minister. We have heard the quotes from Jacob Rees-Mogg and his concerns about this. When we get to Report, I think we will hear deep concern about the Bill from across the House, irrespective of where we might stand on the political spectrum. We are all united in this House about the dangers that this sort of skeleton Bill could lead to. Jacob Rees-Mogg is not just saying that because he does not trust the Conservative Government—I have no doubt that he does not trust future Governments with future powers, which is what these clauses are about. As the right reverend Prelate said, this is not just about powers to amend primary legislation. It is also saying, “We might not get it right, so we have to think about future legislative powers”. It is an amazing grab, which I do not think the House will put up with. It is really important that we reflect on these things.

I am always conscious of what the noble Lord, Lord Lisvane, said, and have repeated it on numerous occasions. When we come to fundamental policy issues, let us have a debate about it and take into account all the considerations. In the old days, we would even have a Green Paper—a radical idea—and then a White Paper. Then we would have a debate about the proposed legislation. We might not like the proposals, but we would be aware and at least we would have had a fundamental discussion. Here, we do not know what minimum service levels are, what powers Ministers are going to take, or the impact it will have on fundamental rights or even on primary legislation. Again, it is about a grab for power.

My noble friend Lady Donaghy said, “Gis a power”. I will keep repeating that; it is really quite useful, because it sums up where this Government have reached. They have run out of ideas and policies; they now just want to resort to narrative that they think will have appeal. I think they have even got that wrong, because I do not think the public will follow the narrative the Minister keeps repeating today. I think the people know who is responsible and how they want it resolved. We have seen it resolved in the health service and elsewhere. Our concern here is that this is an unacceptable power grab.