Although the Minister gave his explanation in funny terms, I find it unbelievable, quite frankly. It is a very convoluted reasoning. The reality is that the ILO defines essential services in a very restrictive way because the international legal consensus, and indeed the international human rights consensus, is that the right to strike and to freedom of association should be restricted only in very narrow cases. That is why it is a tight definition. It is intriguing that the Government have chosen to move away from that. They clearly want to expand the restrictions much more widely. I have already given the example of Germany, where such provisions would be unconstitutional.
I must take issue with the Minister’s unwillingness to give us a commitment on the publication of the regulations. He said that there was a consultation. Like all consultations on the Bill, it took only eight weeks rather than the usual 12. All the consultations were done over the summer to frustrate the input from sectors such as teaching, as many of the profession’s union members are away from school at that time. It is an odd situation, and a serious one for Parliament, that we are discussing severe restrictions on the exercise of people’s democratic rights, yet the Minister is saying, “Trust me. We’ll publish them. They’ll be all right. It’ll be fine.” The regulations should have been published alongside the Bill so that we could see what the Government intend. Is the Minister going to publish them 20 minutes before the Bill gets Royal Assent, if we ever get that far? That is simply not good enough, and I would like the Minister to consider publishing the draft regulations. We need to get some clearer intent before the Bill leaves the Commons, and certainly before it gets into the other place. For that reason I am keen to test the will of the Committee on amendment 5.