Clause 3 - Ballots: 40% support requirement in important public services

Part of Trade Union Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 3:15 pm on 20th October 2015.

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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) 3:15 pm, 20th October 2015

It is always interesting to describe an argument one disagrees with as “convoluted”. My argument was not convoluted; the hon. Gentleman just disagrees with it. His argument was not convoluted either; I just disagree with him. I have made clear when the regulations will be brought forward—before Royal Assent—and I do not think I need to say any more than that.

I turn to amendment 4. In the modern economy, many people work in roles that encompass several different tasks and responsibilities, so it is likely that some workers who contribute to the delivery of important public services do not do so for 100% of their time. None the less, if such workers were absent during strike action, their absence would undermine the service. For example, a deputy headteacher might teach for only part of their time, spending the rest of the time on planning and management. That is why the Government propose to include all those “normally engaged” in important public services within the scope of the 40% threshold. We believe that that phrase is easy to understand and correctly encompasses those whose absence would adversely impact the public service.

On amendment 6, we have included so-called ancillary workers in the scope of the 40% threshold because they are often central to the operation of the important public services cited. For example, while hospital cleaners  and rescue centre call staff are not front-line surgeons or firefighters, their work is critical to ensuring that front-line staff can deliver the service. Their absence can make the difference between the ability to run a service and it shutting down during the period of strike.

As I said, the Government consulted on these issues over the summer, and we are currently analysing the responses. That will help us in preparing the regulations, and I will take all views into account as we develop the secondary legislation to implement the detail of the threshold. For those reasons, I ask the hon. Gentleman to withdraw amendment 4.