Examination of Witnesses

Trade Union Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 11:31 am on 15th October 2015.

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David Palmer-Jones and Commissioner Ron Dobson gave evidence.

Photo of Edward Leigh Edward Leigh Conservative, Gainsborough 12:00 pm, 15th October 2015

Good afternoon. We are now joined by David Palmer-Jones, who is chief executive officer of SITA UK, and Commissioner Ron Dobson of the London fire brigade. You are both very welcome.

Q 268

Photo of Stephen Doughty Stephen Doughty Shadow Minister (Business, Innovation and Skills)

I have a question for each of you. First, Commissioner, could you outline your relationships with the Fire Brigades Union, how you feel they are at the moment and whether you think the Bill will help or hinder them?

Commissioner Dobson: Relationships with the FBU are, in my opinion, positive. We have some issues we need to deal with, both locally and nationally, in relation  to Government challenges to the firefighters’ pension scheme, which is still unresolved. Generally, at a local level, our relationships are reasonable. The London fire brigade has had experience of industrial action—back in 2010 in relation to a local dispute, and in the past couple of years in relation to the national pensions dispute. I have to say that the conduct during those two disputes was very different. There is a stark comparison between the two. We are always trying to improve our relationship with the Fire Brigades Union. There are some difficulties at the moment, but we are working hard to resolve them.

Q 269

Photo of Stephen Doughty Stephen Doughty Shadow Minister (Business, Innovation and Skills)

David, I understand that there has been a series of disputes involving your company. Can you tell us a bit about one of the disputes that is going on in relation to Teesside and Merseyside at the moment? I understand that trade unions have recently met with the company and requested a full forensic audit of your workers’ terms and conditions, but apparently you have refused it on cost grounds. The trade unions involved have offered to pay for the audit, but it has been refused. Could you tell us a bit about the dispute and why that is the situation at the moment?

David Palmer-Jones: Okay, I can do that. I will be as quick as possible. We are in the process of building an energy-from-waste plant up in Teesside. We have been investing in Teesside for the past 15 years: we have probably spent £700 million and employed 500 people in that area, and we are continuing to do that. I am in the process of doing a piece of work—a PFI-type contract—for Merseyside Waste Disposal Authority, which is progressing very well. We are almost three years into the build now, so the build is almost complete. About a year ago, we were targeted by some local activists who are running a campaign around “pay the rate”, which is some form of national protest that is looking at pay on very specific types of national agreements. At the moment, we are a minority shareholder—a 40% shareholder—in that particular element, and I will take over the operation of that facility early next year.

Q 270

Photo of Stephen Doughty Stephen Doughty Shadow Minister (Business, Innovation and Skills)

I asked a very specific question, though. I understand that there has been a request for a forensic audit of your workers’ terms and conditions. Why have you refused the willingness to pay for it?

David Palmer-Jones: We have not refused. We have already done a forensic audit. As you can imagine, it is quite a complex audit to do. We have more than 60 different contractors involved in the project. We have a head contractor and 60 others, all of which bring specialist services to build the £220 million project. On behalf of Merseyside, we did that analysis. I met with the national union representatives recently, and I had the opportunity to show the officers and the elected members of Merseyside—our customer—that information, which satisfied them. I made a genuine offer. It was controlled by ACAS, and we asked for ACAS to come in. I was very happy to share and pay for a forensic audit of the wages on that site through ACAS. That was refused by the unions. Therefore, I am left in a rather difficult position with an ongoing dispute. Our company has now experienced 29 protests, at both the Wilton site and—

Photo of Edward Leigh Edward Leigh Conservative, Gainsborough

May I interrupt? This is not a Select Committee, Mr Doughty; it is a Bill Committee, so your questions have to go laser-like to the Bill.

Q 271

Photo of Stephen Doughty Stephen Doughty Shadow Minister (Business, Innovation and Skills)

The reason I wanted to ask the question was to find out why you think you have been asked here to give evidence on the Bill. Is it so that your poor industrial relations with a whole series of unions can then be used as an example to be reflected in full-scale national policy making? Is that why you think you have been invited here today?

David Palmer-Jones: I hope I have been asked here today to look at some of the grey areas—not the black and white areas about intimidation or numbers of pickets and so on—and perhaps a changing tactic on protests and the disruption they cause my company in continuing to invest in Teesside. I think that is why I have been invited; I hope so.

Q 272

Photo of Tom Blenkinsop Tom Blenkinsop Labour, Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland

The project at Wilton, of course, uses CNIM Clugston as the engineering, procurement and construction contractor. Are you aware of allegations that CNIM Clugston is paying certain members of staff—contractors who they employ and who are non-British workers—€6 an hour?

David Palmer-Jones: That is a complete fallacy. It is untrue. I have done the audit. I have seen the information myself and presented it to Merseyside council and the elected members. They are satisfied, as my customer. I have no obligation to show the unions. I offered, very genuinely, to involve ACAS, so that they could see it. They refused. They want to do their own audit.

Photo of Tom Blenkinsop Tom Blenkinsop Labour, Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland

You are under no obligation, of course, to show a forensic audit to local MPs, but local MPs, of which I am one, have not been shown that information.

Photo of Edward Leigh Edward Leigh Conservative, Gainsborough

I have made the point that I have to trust Members, in a sense. They are in charge of their own questioning, and I am not going to draw people up, but they have to remember that there must be a focus on the Bill all the time. Our witnesses must be aware that we are talking about the Bill.

Photo of Edward Leigh Edward Leigh Conservative, Gainsborough

Mr Blenkinsop has heard you, Minister, and I am sure both he and the witnesses will focus on the Bill.

Q 273

Photo of Tom Blenkinsop Tom Blenkinsop Labour, Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland

For other contracts in Wilton—there are other power stations being built that I am aware of—are blue book terms being adhered to on that site, and will you show local MPs that evidence?

David Palmer-Jones: We have said that we will share that evidence with ACAS. We continue to pay national rates or above national rates, and we are happy to do a forensic audit for ACAS.

Q 274

Photo of Tom Blenkinsop Tom Blenkinsop Labour, Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland

And will you show local MPs that forensic audit?

David Palmer-Jones: In that instance, I do not feel obliged to do so. I will show ACAS.

Q 275

Photo of Seema Kennedy Seema Kennedy Conservative, South Ribble

Mr Palmer-Jones, in relation to the code of practice on picketing, could you elaborate on how social media is used to intimidate workers at Wilton?

David Palmer-Jones: There is a large social media presence in Wilton, orchestrated by the head of this activity—this protest. They use extensively Facebook in order to call to arms their local protesters, and they use it also to spread particularly damaging comments about not only my staff but other members associated with this particular construction.

Q 276

Photo of Seema Kennedy Seema Kennedy Conservative, South Ribble

Could you describe some of the effects that has had on the workers?

David Palmer-Jones: Clearly, people feel very intimidated. They have now moved from Wilton to our other sites within the north-east, where we have a number of energy-from-waste plants. They attended yesterday another protest—the 29th protest—so they seem to be changing tactics. They disrupt local people. They stop the traffic. They cause an undue amount of disruption, and it is not nice for people to have to go through picket lines, with people only yesterday saying, “We know where you live. We’re going to visit you.” It is not at all something I can condone. We have to protect my staff. I have come here to protect my staff. It is really important that you understand the normal situation. I am not an employment lawyer at all, as you can hear; I just see the effects on our business and on my feelings about whether I continue to invest in Teesside in the future.

Q 277

Photo of Chris Stephens Chris Stephens Scottish National Party, Glasgow South West

I have some questions for Commissioner Dobson. Could you confirm whether you believe that the evidence collected in the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills consultation on intimidation in the fire and rescue services is pretty thin? Could you also confirm that according to the Carr review, the decline in allegations of intimidation between the two disputes you referred to was down to better contingency planning? Given that you have intimated that industrial relations are more positive, would that not demonstrate that the Bill is unnecessary?

Commissioner Dobson: In relation to the evidence submitted to the Carr review, the majority of that is in relation to the London fire brigade during the 2010 local dispute. The evidence there is not thin; it is quite substantial in terms of the intimidation and bullying that some non-striking workers and people who were providing our contingency plan experienced. I would not say the evidence was thin. I do not have any particular basis on which to compare it with other industries, so the evidence is as it is.

My view is that the relationships with the Fire Brigades Union are difficult at times, but they are being managed well and are improving. We are working very hard to improve relationships, and I do not see anything in the Bill that would particularly make relationships between management in the London fire brigade and the Fire Brigades Union worse. There are potentially some safeguards within the Bill that would help both the London fire brigade and the Fire Brigades Union in respect of our relationships.

Q 278

Photo of Chris Stephens Chris Stephens Scottish National Party, Glasgow South West

Okay. The Carr review said that allegations of intimidation decreased between those two disputes because of contingency planning. Do you agree with that?

Commissioner Dobson: There are a number of reasons why bullying and intimidation decreased in the national dispute. There are differences between a local dispute and a national dispute, and the feelings they generate among the people going on strike and the unions. We learnt some lessons in terms of the management of the strikes during the 2010 dispute. It is true to say that, managerially, we have put some things in place to try to prevent intimidation of non-striking workers and the blockade of workplaces. We learnt some things and we think we did well.

During the 2010 dispute, because of some of the behaviours in relation to picket lines and striking workers elsewhere in London following around our contingency crews and trying to intimidate them at the incident ground, we sought to go to court to have the code of conduct on picketing enforced. We did not actually need to get the court order in the end, because we managed to reach agreement with the Fire Brigades Union prior to getting to court. Since that agreement was made and the code of conduct was adhered to, we have seen much lower levels of intimidation and bullying. The conduct of the picket lines and the strike generally in the past two years has been in line with how we would expect people to behave.

Q 279

Photo of Chris Stephens Chris Stephens Scottish National Party, Glasgow South West

I have one last question. My understanding is that you gave evidence to the Carr review.

Commissioner Dobson: No, I did not.

Q 280

Photo of Chris Stephens Chris Stephens Scottish National Party, Glasgow South West

Okay. Did you have any private meetings with Mr Carr?

Commissioner Dobson: I did. I had a private meeting with Mr Carr.

Q 281

Photo of Chris Stephens Chris Stephens Scottish National Party, Glasgow South West

Was that in a professional or personal capacity?

Commissioner Dobson: It was professional, because I was commissioner for London, but it was in my personal opinion, rather than that of my fire authority.

Q 282

Photo of Victoria Prentis Victoria Prentis Conservative, Banbury

Mr Palmer-Jones, you were just touching on intimidation and the picket line you saw yesterday. Could you tell us a bit more?

David Palmer-Jones: I was not actually there yesterday, but we had reports back from my staff. Again, there is a movement from the Wilton construction site to our own sites and threats of other, secondary protesting. That was why I was very keen to come today, to explain the grey area that could expand.

Q 283

Photo of Victoria Prentis Victoria Prentis Conservative, Banbury

It would be very helpful to hear more about that.

David Palmer-Jones: This is something that is very much condoned by the unions. When I meet with Merseyside and those unions, I am meeting the senior national levels of the union, which in some way tacitly approve of the tactics being deployed up in Teesside at the moment. We have a situation where council employees  who are delivering household waste vehicles to the site feel quite intimidated to go across a picket line and a protest that is very much dressed in the union colours and waving union flags. They do not want to cross what is not an industrial action. This is very important to understand: there is no industrial action on any of our sites, yet I am still facing the difficulty of a sponsored, wider protest that is of a more national scale.

Q 284

Photo of Stephen Doughty Stephen Doughty Shadow Minister (Business, Innovation and Skills)

I just have a specific question, given what the commissioner has been saying. Can you confirm whether during the 2010 dispute any FBU members were actually arrested or prosecuted for their behaviour in picketing; and, secondly, can you confirm whether any agency staff brought in were arrested or prosecuted for their behaviour?

Commissioner Dobson: No, nobody was actually prosecuted.

Q 285

Commissioner Dobson: I am trying to think; I cannot recall anybody being arrested, but they may have been—but certainly nobody was prosecuted, and the police did investigate a number of things that occurred on some of the picket lines and elsewhere.

Q 286

Photo of Stephen Doughty Stephen Doughty Shadow Minister (Business, Innovation and Skills)

But no FBU members, to your knowledge, were arrested or prosecuted.

Commissioner Dobson: No.

Q 287

Photo of Stephen Doughty Stephen Doughty Shadow Minister (Business, Innovation and Skills)

Given that you are not aware of the wider circumstances, could you perhaps write to us and tell us what happened during that dispute, given that it has been referred to a number of times, with agency workers who were brought in? I think that is directly relevant to the Bill, because there are obviously proposals that the Government are putting forward on the use of agency workers. I think it is important to understand the sort of tensions that are created. Do you think there is potential for tensions being created more widely in industrial disputes by agency workers being brought in, particularly in professions such as yours where there are specific sets of health and safety concerns and specialities?

Commissioner Dobson: I think there are tensions when agency workers are used. Our emergency fire crew contract, which provides our contingency arrangements, is provided by an external company. We contract it out in order to meet the requirements of the current employment legislation. That obviously does increase tensions, because striking workers see somebody else doing their job; I think it does increase tension.

The difficulty is, in an industry such as mine where we are providing a critical emergency service, we do need arrangements in place to cover public safety if the fire brigade is on strike. Therefore, we did not really have much choice. Other fire brigades outside London use other arrangements; but they have the opportunity to use people who maybe were retained fire fighters. We do not have that opportunity in London and we needed to make sure we had a robust contingency plan in place. That does create tensions, inevitably, but I do not think we have any option on that at the moment.

Q 288

Photo of Edward Argar Edward Argar Conservative, Charnwood

You have both referenced how keen you are to ensure good industrial relations in the work you do and the duty you have to  your staff, to protect and look after them. We have heard a number of references from both sides, and from both of you, about intimidation. Can you give us a flavour of specific examples that have stuck in your mind of the form that intimidation has taken—what was said, what was done and how that played out?

Commissioner Dobson: In terms of physical intimidation, during the 2010 dispute—and I have to be clear that this did not take place in the recent disputes—we saw the emergency fire crew operatives being refused access to fire stations and being intimidated: followed to incidents when they were actually attending emergency calls. They were followed there by striking workers and intimidated at the incident ground.

We have seen photographs being taken and posted on social media of people who were working during the strike, with comments such as, “We know who you are; we know where you live.” We have seen intimidation of some of the emergency fire crew by taking photographs of them and trying to find out what their names were, and by comments such as, “Don’t come back to London because we know who you are.” So there is a range of intimidation using social media.

All those instances where these things have happened have been reported to the police, but I refer back to the previous people giving evidence about how difficult it is to investigate and bring to a conclusion any offences over social media. So while it was investigated, unfortunately, there was not any result to the investigations; but they certainly took place and the evidence exists and actually has been shown to the Committee before.

David Palmer-Jones: I think from my side it is really the fact that it can occur away from the site itself. That is the bit that concerns us the most. We have had instances where cars have been damaged, threats of violence to our supervisor, and threats to other members of staff, who are not members of the union, who continue to work. That causes a lot of disruption and disharmony in the workforce; and we do not have many strikes, I can assure you—perhaps one in the last 10 years. When it does happen, there needs to be some form of control, very much specifically around secondary action outside the local area where the picket would happen. That is the most worrying for me.

Q 289

Photo of Edward Argar Edward Argar Conservative, Charnwood

I have a quick follow-up for the commissioner, and answer this as you wish. Did you have any reason to believe, or any evidence, notwithstanding that there were no arrests, that those who were either officials in or members of the FBU were those taking the photographs and carrying out that action?

Commissioner Dobson: I have no evidence to suggest that, I am afraid.

Q 290

Photo of Julie Elliott Julie Elliott Labour, Sunderland Central

I have a couple of very quick follow-ups to what you were saying, Mr Palmer-Jones. On the incidents you have been talking about in relation to Teesside, can you confirm that that is not industrial action?

David Palmer-Jones: It is not industrial action.

Q 291

Photo of Julie Elliott Julie Elliott Labour, Sunderland Central

Therefore, can you confirm that the Bill does not apply to those instances, because they are not pickets?

David Palmer-Jones: The worry, looking at paragraph 37 —again, I am not a lawyer—is that it is the unions that are really supporting the action. Therefore, they are—

Q 292

Photo of Julie Elliott Julie Elliott Labour, Sunderland Central

They are not pickets if it is not industrial action.

David Palmer-Jones: They are not pickets; they are protesters.

Q 293

Photo of Julie Elliott Julie Elliott Labour, Sunderland Central

Thank you. Can I clarify one other thing you said? You said that officials of trade unions were tacitly approving the tactics deployed. Can you tell me which trade unions were doing that? We have the general secretaries of the big trade unions involved in your company here later today giving evidence, and we would like to put that to them.

David Palmer-Jones: The ones that I met, together with Merseyside—the customer—were Unite, GMB and UCATT.

Q 294

Photo of James Cartlidge James Cartlidge Conservative, South Suffolk

Commissioner Dobson, in your earlier remarks you said that nothing in the Bill will worsen relationships in your view, but there are safeguards in it that will be of benefit. Do you welcome the threshold for action, which is one of the most important parts of the Bill?

Commissioner Dobson: I do welcome it, but it is important for the Committee to recognise that I cannot think of an industrial dispute with the Fire Brigades Union in recent years where that threshold would not have been met, so I do not think it would have had any practical impact on previous disputes.

Q 295

Photo of James Cartlidge James Cartlidge Conservative, South Suffolk

It is just adding extra safeguards.

Commissioner Dobson: Yes.

Q 296

Photo of James Cartlidge James Cartlidge Conservative, South Suffolk

Just on what you said to my colleague Mr Argar about examples of intimidation, you said that in 2010 access was stopped to a fire station in an emergency.

Commissioner Dobson: Access was stopped for our emergency fire crews—our contingency service. They were stopped from getting on to our fire station. In 2010, our plan was to deploy emergency fire crews from fire stations, but we had such difficulty in getting the emergency fire crews on to the fire stations because of the picket lines and striking workers who were barricading themselves on to fire stations. In one instance, they took a dog on to the fire station to stop emergency crews getting in.

Q 297

Photo of James Cartlidge James Cartlidge Conservative, South Suffolk

This was while there was a fire?

Commissioner Dobson: No, this was during the strike. During the fires, we had some instances where the striking workers followed emergency crews to incidents, damaged fire engines en route and tried to intimidate the emergency workers, while they were trying to deal with an incident. In some cases, they were trying to deal with actual fires and they were being obstructed by striking workers.

Q 298

Photo of Jo Stevens Jo Stevens Labour, Cardiff Central

I have a question for Mr Dobson. You have talked a lot about examples of intimidation during the 2010 dispute, and you also said that you had a private meeting with Mr Carr. You will be aware that the impact assessment for this Bill drew on the Carr  review to justify what is in the Bill. I am sure you are also aware that Mr Carr was unable to make any evidence-based proposals or recommendations for change because of the lack of a significant body of evidence to support any recommendations for change. In your meeting with him, did you give him the examples of intimidation that you have described?

Commissioner Dobson: I did, yes.

Q 299

Photo of Jo Stevens Jo Stevens Labour, Cardiff Central

And you did that in a personal capacity, not a professional one.

Commissioner Dobson: Yes.

Q 300

Photo of Jo Stevens Jo Stevens Labour, Cardiff Central

Was it because a majority in the Greater London Authority had decided that you should not give evidence to Mr Carr?

Commissioner Dobson: There was no decision about whether or not I should give evidence, because it was never presented to elected members in that way.

Q 301

Photo of Jo Stevens Jo Stevens Labour, Cardiff Central

At its meeting on 29 January this year, the GLA indicated that your evidence appeared in the Carr report in contravention of the wishes of a majority of assembly members. Do you deny that?

Commissioner Dobson: My giving evidence to the Carr review was never presented to the London Assembly for their view on it. The fact that I had spoken to Mr Carr was discussed when the Carr review was published, but it was not discussed beforehand.

Q 302

Photo of Jo Stevens Jo Stevens Labour, Cardiff Central

Are you aware that the Regulatory Policy Committee has described the impact assessment for the Bill as “not fit for purpose”?

Commissioner Dobson: Yes.

Q 303

Photo of Jo Stevens Jo Stevens Labour, Cardiff Central

Following on—a very brief question, if I may—in relation to the same dispute, can you tell the Committee what you believe led to the dispute happening in the first instance and what action you took to try to prevent it from occurring? I am aware that you attempted to de-escalate the dispute by docking the pay of 368 staff; that was later found unlawful by an employment tribunal. Can you tell us a little about that?

Commissioner Dobson: There was a dispute over the start and finish times of shifts. We sought to change the start and finish times of shifts in order to increase productivity. We negotiated fully with the Fire Brigades Union on that but were unable to reach an agreement, which led to a strike ballot and that led to strikes. During the industrial action that took place, via either action short of a strike or a strike, some members of staff took actions that were against their contracts and were not covered by the ballot, so some workers’ pay was deducted. The employment tribunal has found only in the cases of three staff at the moment; the remainder of cases are still subject to discussion with the Fire Brigades Union. Let us be absolutely clear—the Committee needs to be aware of this—that the employment tribunal has listened to the cases of only three workers, not the others.

Q 304

Photo of Jo Stevens Jo Stevens Labour, Cardiff Central

But it found against you: what you did was unlawful.

Commissioner Dobson: In those three instances, yes.

Q 305

Photo of Nicholas Boles Nicholas Boles The Minister for Universities and Science, Minister of State (Department for Business, Innovation and Skills) (Jointly with the Department for Education)

The hon. Member for Cardiff Central seemed to suggest that it was appropriate for the Greater London Assembly to have gagged you and prevented you from giving evidence on any matter that falls within your professional responsibility. You said very clearly that the assembly did not and that there was never any consideration of that. Nevertheless, had they tried to do so, do you think that that would have been appropriate?

Commissioner Dobson: No, I do not. My contract is with the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority, so it would be appropriate for it to take a view on whether or not I, as one of its employees, should give evidence, but not necessarily the London assembly.

Q 306

Photo of Nicholas Boles Nicholas Boles The Minister for Universities and Science, Minister of State (Department for Business, Innovation and Skills) (Jointly with the Department for Education)

And even if that authority had taken that view, would you, nevertheless, have felt it was right to prevent you from talking to an independent inquiry?

Commissioner Dobson: My personal view would be that it would be wrong to prevent me from talking to an independent inquiry, but, as a matter of fact, no decision of that nature was ever taken.

Photo of Edward Leigh Edward Leigh Conservative, Gainsborough

John Howell is champing at the bit, but he is such a gentleman that I know he will want Nusrat Ghani to go first.

Q 307

Photo of Nusrat Ghani Nusrat Ghani Conservative, Wealden

Thank you, Chair.

Commissioner Dobson, I want to ask about something you mentioned to Mr Cartlidge earlier. Is it correct that in the 2010 dispute the non-striking workers found it difficult to get into the fire station?

Commissioner Dobson: Yes.

Q 308

Photo of Nusrat Ghani Nusrat Ghani Conservative, Wealden

You also mentioned that fire engines were approached, deterred or attacked when leaving the station.

Commissioner Dobson: Yes.

Q 309

Photo of Nusrat Ghani Nusrat Ghani Conservative, Wealden

Were any firefighters’ lives at risk at that time, when they were trying to carry out their duty?

Commissioner Dobson: No, I do not think that their lives were at risk. It was the emergency fire crew workers—the contingency force—who were followed and intimidated. I do not think that their lives were put at risk, but they certainly felt intimidated.

Q 310

Photo of Nusrat Ghani Nusrat Ghani Conservative, Wealden

They could have been hurt though.

Commissioner Dobson: Yes.

Q 311

Photo of Nusrat Ghani Nusrat Ghani Conservative, Wealden

And the victims of fire—could their lives have been put at risk if fire engines were unable to get out to them in a decent time?

Commissioner Dobson: That is a possibility, yes.

Q 312

Photo of Nusrat Ghani Nusrat Ghani Conservative, Wealden

So it was dangerous for both the firefighters and the victims of fire who were asking for help.

Commissioner Dobson: Yes, I believe it was.

Q 313

Photo of John Howell John Howell Conservative, Henley

Mr Palmer-Jones, earlier you threw away a line about the intimidation you had been facing being likely to affect your ability to invest. Would you like to explain that?

David Palmer-Jones: As I said, together with others, I have invested probably around £700 million and I employ more than 500 people in that area. I have the ability to invest more, but when faced with the sort of intimidation and protest that we have been suffering, I have to think twice about where I spend my money. I am currently in the process of employing people from SSI: I have taken on 20 people and am looking for others to help me to run that plant, and we are taking on apprentices. But you can see why, when faced with an uncontrolled set of continual protests—the 29th—we would think twice about whether we bother to invest in that area. It is an area that we have supported for the past 15 or 20 years.

Q 314

Photo of John Howell John Howell Conservative, Henley

So you would welcome putting the existing code of conduct into a statutory form?

David Palmer-Jones: We would have to. Again, it is important that you widen and capture this particular grey area. You really need to look at the fact that the unions should be held responsible if they are actively supporting these types of protest.

Photo of Edward Leigh Edward Leigh Conservative, Gainsborough

I will stop you there and Chris Stephens can ask the last question.

Q 315

Photo of Chris Stephens Chris Stephens Scottish National Party, Glasgow South West

Just a quick question to Commissioner Dobson. In an answer to Mr Cartlidge, you indicated that you agree with the thresholds in the Bill. Is that your private opinion or were you speaking for you organisation?

Commissioner Dobson: That is my opinion.

Photo of Edward Leigh Edward Leigh Conservative, Gainsborough

Thank you very much for your evidence, gentlemen.