Clause 12 - Publication Requirements

Trade Union Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 4:56 pm on 22 October 2015.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Lisa Cameron Lisa Cameron Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Climate Justice) 4:56, 22 October 2015

I beg to move amendment 106, in clause 12, page 8, line 12, leave out “how many” and insert “the percentage”.

Photo of Edward Leigh Edward Leigh Conservative, Gainsborough

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

Amendment 46, in clause 12, page 8, line 13, leave out from first “officials” to the end of line 24 and insert “; and

(b) the total amount spent by an employer in a specified period on paying relevant union officials for facility time.”.

Amendment 107, in clause 12, page 8, line 14, leave out “total amount” and insert “percentage”.

Amendment 108, in clause 12, page 8, line 24, at end insert

“and whether these are met in part or in full by a contribution from a trade union”.

Amendment 74, in clause 12, page 8, line 24, at end insert—

“(f) a reasonable estimate of the cost savings to the employer of the arrangements relating to facility time in the relevant specified period; and

(g) a statement agreed by the employers and the relevant unions of the value of the arrangements relating to facility time.”.

Amendment 109, in clause 12, page 8, line 24, at end insert—

“(f) the percentage of relevant union officials whose facility time is met by a contribution from a trade union in whole or in part”.

Amendment 50, in clause 12, page 9, leave out lines 18 to 20 and insert?

‘(12) No regulations under this section shall be made unless a draft of them has been laid before Parliament and approved by a resolution of each House of Parliament.”.

The amendment would change the regulation-making power from the negative to the affirmative procedure, requiring approval by both Houses of Parliament before regulations could come into force.

Photo of Lisa Cameron Lisa Cameron Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Climate Justice)

Our amendments relate to transparency and proportionality and ensuring that proportions are reported statistically, rather than in raw statistics, which may lead to the misinterpretation of what is reported. That is their basic aim.

Facility time is extremely important, as we have discussed. In regard to concerns about patient safety, facility time facilitates agreement. It means that management and the staff side can agree the times of meetings and ensures that they are not adjourned and repeatedly moved because people do not have time to attend. That reduces the impact on the workforce and disruption to the organisation.

I will be brief. Amendment 106 would require employers to report annually on the percentage, rather than the total number, of employees who are union officials. The amendment would avoid misrepresentation and highlight that union officials represent a very small proportion of the total public sector workforce.

Amendment 108 would require public sector employers to report annually on whether unions have contributed towards the costs of facilities and on the number of union officials employed by any public authority.

Amendment 107 would require public sector employers to report annually on the percentage of spending that is invested in trade union facilities, rather than on the total amount spent on union facilities. The aim of the amendment is to highlight the proportion of total spending invested by public authorities in trade union facilities. It is very low and represents significant value for money for business and workers.

Partnership arrangements between public sector employers and unions create significant benefits for everybody, including the wider public. The importance of such arrangements lies in the fact that they are creating safer working environments for employees, and that means that fewer days are lost to sickness and occupational injuries. They also mean that meetings are scheduled so that disputes can be resolved extremely quickly.

Photo of Stephen Doughty Stephen Doughty Shadow Minister (Business, Innovation and Skills) 5:00, 22 October 2015

The Government have an air of greater relaxation now that they realise they have their full team here. I will comment not just on my amendments in the group, but also on those of the SNP and on clause 12 more generally.

The proposals in clause 12 have the fingerprints of Lord Maude of Horsham all over them, because they mirror the measures implemented in Whitehall Departments by the Cabinet Office in 2012-13. Departments were expected to carry out more detailed monitoring and reporting of facility time, to report quarterly to the Cabinet Office, and to publish annually how much was spent on facility time. The Cabinet Office issued a guide figure for spending on facility time; in the first year, it was 0.1% of the pay bill. That included all facility time, time for health and safety representatives, and time for union learning representatives, who I believe we heard elsewhere had been funded, in fact, by the Government.

I will endeavour not to touch too much upon the arguments that will be made in response to Government new clause 11, which I know we will come to in due course, regarding check-off. But in tabling new clause 12, the Government are seeking to go much, much further than the measures they have already introduced, as it would provide the Government with the power to require all public sector employers—hospitals, schools and many more—to publish information each year on the amount of funds used for trade union facilities. This information would include the number of union officials employed, or the number of union officials within specified categories, for example shop stewards, health and safety representatives and union learning representatives; the amount of money that the employer spends on facility time, including what percentage of the total pay bill it constitutes; the amount of facility time spent on specific duties or activities, including health and safety, and accompanying members in grievance and disciplinary hearings; and information relating to facilities provided by the employer in connection with facility time, for example office space and the use of phone lines.

It is important to remind the Committee—as the hon. Member for East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow has just done—what facility time is and why it is so vital. Facility time is the amount of time that workplace representatives, shop stewards, learning representatives, and health and safety representatives can spend representing their members in the public sector. These are people who do hard graft on the front line to protect their members’ interests effectively, for example by raising safety standards or promoting access to skills and training, and, of course, accompanying individuals to grievance and disciplinary hearings, which is crucial.

The benefits of facility time are clear, and not just for the employees but for the employers. I have experienced that myself. I worked at one point for Oxfam, which had a trade union representative who was able to use facility time, for example, to work with me—I was a manager at the time—in dealing with redundancy processes and other matters, to ensure that they were carried out to the benefit of both the employer and the employees, and so that everybody was satisfied.

Workplaces that have good facility time are likely to have better family-friendly policies and more effective equality policies, and indeed they are also likely to be safer workplaces. These workplaces also had lower voluntary exit rates, which led to an estimated saving in recruitment costs for employers of between £22 million and £43 million per annum. Negotiations between employers and unions can also facilitate innovation and change in furtherance of mutual objectives, and trade unions can also play a positive role in promoting skills, upskilling and training in workplaces, which I am sure the Government would wish to see increasing.

Also, where organisations face difficult economic conditions, or indeed the challenges that we face in the public sector with the type of changes and cuts that the Government have brought in, union representatives can develop fair processes for managing redundancies and restructuring. Clearly, there have been many examples of that in both the public sector and the private sector,  particularly since the economic crisis of 2008. Constructive negotiations have taken place with a view to saving jobs and retaining skilled employment.

Photo of Ian Mearns Ian Mearns Chair, Backbench Business Committee, Chair, Backbench Business Committee

Another role that trade union officials can play is a welfare role. Many good employers are very good at looking after the welfare of their employees, but there are occasions when an individual will want to keep a welfare concern confidential from their employer, because they are concerned that the employer’s esteem for them could be damaged by it. In those circumstances, the care that the union can provide, in terms of looking after the welfare of the individual member, can be good for the employee and union member, and also good in the long term for the employer.

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

My hon. Friend makes a very important point. I believe that business, the public sector and society are mutually dependent—I am sure my hon. Friends agree with that—and that all succeed when individual workers succeed and feel supported, and vice versa. The MacLeod report, which was commissioned by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and endorsed by the Prime Minister, suggested that managers should listen to concerns expressed by employees and their representatives, and concluded that addressing those concerns would increase levels of employee engagement, thereby helping to deliver sustainable economic growth—and, I am sure, efficiencies in the public sector.

Similarly, research by ACAS found that trade union representatives play an important role in improving workforce engagement and morale, by helping ensure that employees’ concerns about their working conditions are listened to and addressed. In turn, that can improve productivity, service quality and ultimately—a crucial point for the Government—the financial performance of organisations. All of those mutual benefits and many more could be at risk if the Government’s proposals on facility time are implemented in their current form.

I am pleased that other Governments across the UK have a different view from that of the Westminster Government. As we heard, the Welsh Government realise the value of such benefits. Their relations with trade unions are based much more on a partnership approach—the Scottish Government take a similar approach—rather than being provocateurs, which seems to be the position that some of the Minister’s colleagues have comfortably slipped into.

The proposed restrictions on facility time could damage constructive employment relations and undermine effective joint working between employers and unions in public services. The proposals also risk damaging the devolution settlement—we had a lengthy debate on that the other day—and could be subject to serious legal challenge. They are not a model for modern industrial relations, which is why we will oppose the clause.

I have a great deal of sympathy with the amendments tabled by the SNP, and if they are pressed to a Division they will certainly get our support. The amendments represent a more useful and effective way of looking at facility time, and we agree with many of the concerns the SNP has raised.

Amendment 46 would mean that public sector employers would be required to publish only the number of union officials employed and the total amount invested in facility time, rather than more detailed breakdowns of  those figures. Amendment 74 would require public sector employers to provide the cost savings of facility time. If the Government proceed with further punitive measures, it is important that public sector employers should explain the cost savings that are driven by facility time so that we have full transparency.

Amendment 50 concerns the process by which any regulations are agreed. We need to ensure maximum scrutiny of any regulations on this matter. We have already seen the Government attempt to sneak in all sorts of things through the back door with the Bill: they have not published regulations or brought out the responses to consultations, which should have happened before we were in Committee. Amendment 50 would ensure that future regulations requiring public sector employers to publish information on facility time would have to be debated in both Houses. The Government currently plan to use the negative procedure for such regulations, so there would be no debate unless the regulations were prayed against. Given the rushed nature of the consultation, and of parts of the current scrutiny process, I am sure many people outside this place would agree that any future regulations deserve much more adequate scrutiny so that we can get to the bottom of what the Government are trying to do.

I look forward to hearing the Minister’s comments on the clause and on the amendments we have tabled.

Photo of Jo Stevens Jo Stevens Labour, Cardiff Central

The proposals on facility time illustrate the lack of understanding we have seen from the Government about how trade unions operate and the benefits they deliver, not just for their members but for employers. There has been precious little evidence given for the attack on facility time in the Bill, as we saw when unevidenced assertions were presented by the witness from the TaxPayers Alliance last week.

I will talk about two aspects relating to the amendments tabled by my hon. Friend. My first point is a general one about facility time, in the health service in particular. In 2007, the then Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform looked at the issue as a precursor to revising the ACAS code of practice on facility time for union reps. If the Minister had compiled a report such as that one before the Bill was drafted, he would have found that union reps make a significant contribution to increasing productivity, making their workplaces safer, reducing the costs of recruitment and helping business to become more responsive to change, by helping staff acquire new skills in addition to updating those they already have. That report showed tens of millions of pounds of savings to employers and the Exchequer by reducing the number of employment tribunal cases, although I will admit that the Government have done a pretty good job on that by introducing tribunal fees and pricing people out of access to justice. The report also showed the benefits to society worth hundreds of millions of pounds as a result of reducing working days lost due to workplace injury and work-related illness. Follow-up research by the TUC pointed to overall productivity gains worth between £4 billion and £12 billion to the UK economy.

More recent research carried out for the Royal College of Nursing by the University of Warwick and Cass Business School backed up the 2007 report. The analysis found that work carried out by trade union representatives in NHS organisations was estimated to save the health service at least £100 million a year. In times of such  constrained public finances, facility time is estimated to save large teaching hospitals £1 million a year. The RCN is unequivocal that, aside from the financial cost of high staff turnover when the NHS is already struggling to recruit and retain enough staff, removing effective union representation could have,

“a significant impact on patient safety.”

Janet Davies of the RCN, who we heard from last week, went on to say:

“The health service can ill-afford further damage to staff morale, or to squander even more money on recruitment costs. The trade union bill is bad for staff, employers and most importantly it is bad for patients.”

The RCN is on the front line of service delivery and understands the practical impact the Bill would have. The Labour party is inclined to listen to it.

I want to briefly mention the health and safety representatives and the impact of the Bill on their valuable work. There is, of course, a legal duty on employers to give health and safety representatives as much paid time off as they need to undertake their duties. That is laid down in regulations and it is absolute. The regulations do not say that an employer can decide to restrict that time. If a representative needs it, they need it, and that will vary from week to week, but the Bill says that any public sector employer who has at least one health and safety representative will have to record and publish all the time taken and the facilities provided. That is bureaucratic and pointless, and will just mean that employers and union representatives will have to spend a significant amount of time on paperwork.

Even more dangerous is the proposal to allow Ministers to restrict the rights to time off given to union health and safety representatives by amending the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974. All they have to do is introduce new regulations. The proposal is extremely vindictive and underhand, sneaking in the right to do this, by statutory instrument, into a much wider Bill. At no time have the Government given any justification for that proposal.

Union health and safety reps save hundreds of lives and prevent tens of thousands of injuries and illnesses to working people. Workplaces with union health and safety reps and joint health and safety committees have half the serious injury rates of those without. Any reasonable employer welcomes the presence of health and safety representatives, including almost all those in the public sector. That is why this proposal will not save money or remove bureaucracy—nor, more importantly, will it improve safety in workplaces. It has the potential to do the opposite.

Before coming to this House, I represented many people who had suffered the death of a family member in workplaces without health and safety reps, I ask the Minister, please, to seriously consider the proposal.

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

I wish to speak in favour of my party’s amendments. First, information gathering has to be consistent, and information has to be presented in a consistent fashion. Our real fear about the clause is that it is deliberately designed to ensure that the information presented puts the trade union movement in a bad light. It is the percentage in each of the subsections that should apply, because that is the most relevant and consistent measure. The statistics need to be clear so that people really understand what the cost to employers is in percentage terms.

As the hon. Member for Cardiff Central indicated, part of the debate has been shaped by the TaxPayers Alliance, using freedom of information legislation. Part of the problem with that is that the answer often depends on what questions are asked and how they are asked. It is ironic that that organisation has flourished at a cost to the taxpayer through its use of FOIs.

We also think it important that information should indicate where the trade unions have provided a contribution. For example, I was active in one trade union and I know that it paid the full salary of people who were on its national executive committee. Unions do make a contribution; they pay their employers for access to offices, telephones and the like. If this is an assault on facility time, we need to be clear about the damage that it will do—health and safety checks not being complied with, interfering with the great work that the learning reps are doing already—and it seems to be without any support across the public sector. It also impacts on some of the constitutional debate that we had earlier. There will of course be a debate on the clause later, and I ask hon. Members to support the SNP amendments.

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) 5:15, 22 October 2015

I apologise again for arriving late, due to a misunderstanding about the time at which we had been requested to return. We will try to make as rapid progress as possible to make up for it.

Photo of Edward Leigh Edward Leigh Conservative, Gainsborough

Order. On that point, it is the convention—I have been in the House for many years—that when the Chair says 15 minutes from the last Division, he normally means 15 minutes from the start of the Division. I do not want to embarrass anyone, but just so we know where we stand in future.

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)

Thank you, Sir Edward. We are all relative newcomers in this place, so it is good to learn.

There is less difference between the Government and the Opposition than Opposition Members have tried to make out. They have made an eloquent defence of union learning representatives, health and safety representatives and other union officials who perform union duties in the workplace. No one on the Government Benches disagrees with the value that such people add to their workplaces or the extent to which they can help ensure that workplaces are safe, while also offering opportunities for people to advance and progress.

If you listened only to the speeches of Opposition Members, Sir Edward, you would have concluded that somehow we were banning facility time. All we are seeking to ensure, however, is that there is transparency about facility time. Conservative Members, previously in coalition and now as a Government on our own, passionately believe in the power of transparency to lead to good decisions. Transparency gives the public who pay our salaries and those of everyone in the public sector—the public should truly be referred to as the employers in the public sector—an ability to make a reasonable judgment about whether public sector bodies are managing their money well. The public are absolutely  capable of understanding the arguments about the value of health and safety and learning representatives in the workplace.

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

The Minister indicated that he is not minded to ban facility time, or that that is not his intention. Is he therefore indicating that he will withdraw clause 13 of the Bill?

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)

No, I am not, because clause 13 does not ban facility time. It would take a reserve power—one that we would not like to use and would only use reluctantly—to cap the amount that can be spent on facility time, which is a very different thing from banning it altogether.

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

I wanted to ask a similar question. I am incredulous that the Minister is asking us to believe that he is introducing a reserve power, which is very wide ranging, without the intention of using it, in particular given what we know about what happens in Whitehall Departments. They want to get as much information on the table so that the Government can then step in and cap things. Is that not what the Government are trying to do?

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)

I understand that the hon. Gentleman will always think the worst of us and that I am probably not going to be able to persuade him otherwise. If we wanted to do that, however, why are we not introducing a cap now? We have a figure based on the civil service—we introduced transparency on facility time, which produced a substantial drop in the amount of public money spent on facility time—and we could perfectly well introduce a cap now. We even probably have the votes for it, but we are not doing so, and the reason why we are not doing so is that we do not want to go there. We do not want to have to resort to that. We want transparency to do the work that Conservative Members have consistently always believed that transparency does.

It is getting late, so I shall turn to the detail of the amendments. The Government want to promote transparency and public scrutiny of facility time, and encourage public sector employers to moderate the amount of taxpayers’ money they spend on such time in the light of that scrutiny. At a time of fiscal consolidation, it is unacceptable for taxpayers’ money to be spent on facility time without proper monitoring and controls.

Amendment 46 seeks to limit the range of publishable information to two figures: the total number of union representatives and the total cost of facility time. The Government resist those limitations. We have already seen the success of the reforms to facility time in the civil service. The percentage of the civil service pay bill spent on facility time has fallen by three quarters, representing a saving for taxpayers to date of more than £52 million. I have not heard reports of a lack of access to learning representatives or health and safety representatives in civil service workplaces. All employers whose spending on facility time is funded by taxpayers should be held to the same scrutiny. Taxpayers deserve that.

Chris Stephens rose—

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)

I will make some progress, because we have had a good debate. I want to ensure that we make progress and get everybody home.

It is particularly important to monitor the amount of time spent on trade union activities, for which there is no legal right to paid time off work. I repeat: trade union activities are different from trade union duties. We all accept the not only legitimate but socially important and economically valuable role of trade union duties, but that is different from trade union activities. Public sector employers and the taxpayers who pay them must be able to distinguish between such activities and business or employee-facing trade union duties, for which there is a legal right to paid time off work.

We also consider that the percentage of public sector employers’ pay bill that is for facility time should not be omitted. Simply providing a total cost would not allow benchmarking against other public sector employers or the private sector, and would be almost meaningless on its own. The publication of the cost of union representatives’ use of their employers’ facilities should not be left out either. It can include the provision of telephones, photocopiers and dedicated office space. All public sector employers need to ensure that such use, to which there is no general legal right, is appropriate and represents value for taxpayers’ money.

Amendment 74 seeks to expand the range of information that relevant public sector employers are required to publish. They would have to estimate and publish the cost savings made from their existing facility time arrangements. They would also have to agree with relevant unions and publish a statement of the value of those arrangements. We recognise that union representatives play important roles in the workplace, which include dealing with disputes locally and effectively, helping to keep workplaces safe and meeting employees’ learning needs. We also recognise that many union representatives give their own time in addition to facility time to support their colleagues both individually and collectively, but where facility time is publicly funded, employers and unions must ensure it is spent as efficiently as possible.

The Government are confident that our proposals will deliver efficiency savings. A reduction in spending on facility time across the wider public sector to levels similar to the civil service currently would deliver estimated savings of around £150 million annually—£150 million that could be spent on employing more nurses, on schools and on better serving the people who elect us to this place.

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

Given that the Minister wants to publish costs, why is he not willing to accept our amendment, which would ensure that the economic value provided by facility time is also made clear? If he does not want to introduce this cap but wants all the information and the facts out there, what could be wrong with our amendments?

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)

I have absolutely no objection to any employer trying to estimate such figures and publishing them. The difficulty is that the cost of facility time is a fact that will already be in the system of any employer. Employers know who they employ. They know how much employees are paid and therefore how much their time is worth, as well as what time they are spending on their job and on union duties and activities. The hon. Gentleman is asking employers to project or estimate values, because that value is not captured. Nobody is paying for it, and there is no customer putting a price  on it. I am not saying the value is not real; the value is very real, but it is not automatically captured. We are trying not to place in straitened times a huge burden of calculation, projection and estimation on public sector employers. We want them to be able to focus on spending taxpayers’ money on the things taxpayers employ us to do, such as run hospitals, schools and the like.

Photo of Ian Mearns Ian Mearns Chair, Backbench Business Committee, Chair, Backbench Business Committee

I cannot help feeling that in the past couple of minutes the Minister has encapsulated what an awful lot of people have thought about the Conservative party for an awful long time: they know the cost of everything, but the value of very little.

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)

I said this right at the start and will repeat it: I work incredibly closely with Unionlearn. Last night, after the House rose, I was at an event with the person who runs Unionlearn. It is a terrific organisation. It is absolutely integral to our plans to increase the number of people with access to apprenticeships. I do not need anyone to tell me how valuable that work is, but I do not believe that it is necessarily a good use of public sector organisations’ time to be producing reports estimating that value. Just make the argument; they are making the argument very well. As I say, the restrictions on facility time in the civil service have not produced great reports of a lack of availability of health and safety or union learning advice in the civil service. They have just brought a welcome reduction in the amount of money spent on the less justifiable union activities that are not protected by the law and do not produce the kind of value that the hon. Gentleman argues we should appreciate.

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

The Minister mentioned two figures: first a £52 million saving and then a £150 million target saving, which I think alarmed many of us on the Opposition Benches. Will he break down those figures for the Committee and explain how they were arrived at?

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)

I would be very happy to ask the Cabinet Office to circulate that information. The £150 million is an estimate of what saving might be achieved if the wider public sector made the same sort of journey that the civil service has made since the introduction of transparency on facility time.

On amendment 50, the Government consider that the negative resolution procedure is appropriate and would provide the appropriate level of parliamentary scrutiny. The regulations in question will impose publication requirements on different categories of relevant public sector employer. For example, the Secretary of State for Health will make regulations imposing publication requirements on NHS employers.

The negative resolution process is also appropriate for the power to add a body that is not a public authority but is to be treated as such for the purposes of the publication requirements. The power will not be used to bring into scope private or voluntary sector providers of contracted-out public services. Nor is it our intention to apply the publication requirements to private individuals, companies, partnerships or the like.

Subsection (9) of clause 12 will enable the power to be used only where the body has functions of a public nature and is funded wholly or partly from public  funds. Both of those conditions have to be true. Specifying such a level of detail in the Bill enables the scrutiny that is now taking place.

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

May I ask a very specific question? The Minister just said that the Secretary of State for Health would make regulations relating to facility time in the health service. Does not that expose the problem with the devolution settlement that we have described in the debates on earlier measures? Is the Minister suggesting that the Secretary of State for Health will make regulations that affect facility time in the health services of Scotland and Wales, which are wholly devolved and under the control of Health Ministers in those countries?

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)

Yes, because, of course, health policy and the management of the NHS in those countries will remain, as part of the devolution settlements, in the control of the Governments of those devolved—[ Interruption. ] The hon. Gentleman has made his point; I disagree with it. There is no question on that point.

On amendment 106, the aim of the publication requirements is to provide transparency to the taxpayers who fund the arrangements. The information published must therefore be relevant and accessible and lend itself to comparison across categories of public sector employers. Publishing the total number of union representatives is simpler for employers and accessible to the public. It is completely reasonable to assume that, where an employer values its representatives, it will know who they are and therefore their number. If taxpayers require comparison on a percentage basis to consider the publication fully, they can scrutinise the publication of the percentage of the total paybill that is spent on facility time. That figure will give a clear indication of how much resource in the organisation is used for facility time, which will provide comparison between organisations of different sizes.

Amendment 107 would replace the requirement to publish the total amount spent by an employer on facility time with the percentage of the total cost of facility time to the employer, including that funded by the trade unions. Amendment 108 would add that information to the publication requirements, but without also requiring the removal of the requirement to publish the total amount spent on facility time.

Together with the reserve powers in clause 13, the publication requirements deliver our manifesto commitment to tighten the rules on taxpayer-funded paid facility time. Where taxpayers fund facility time, as they do in the public sector, they deserve to have transparency about how much it costs. Providing the total cost will allow them to scrutinise spending, at both an employer level and a national or sector-wide level.

I now move on to amendment 109. Facility time covers a wide variety of trade union duties and activities, from employer-facing duties, such as collective bargaining or representing a member in a grievance hearing, to union-facing activities, such as voting in a union election or attending a union conference. It is unlikely that taxpayers would be surprised to learn that trade unions  sometimes pay for their representatives to undertake trade union work, some of which, such as attending a union conference or voting in a union election, does not benefit the employer or, indeed, the taxpayer. In the civil service, such activities have, by default, been unpaid since our 2011 reforms.

Photo of Jo Stevens Jo Stevens Labour, Cardiff Central 5:30, 22 October 2015

The Minister mentioned facility time to attend union conferences. I do not think that is correct, and I seek clarification from the Minister.

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)

If I have information to give the hon. Lady now, I will do so before I reach the end of this speech, but if I do not, I will write to the Committee before our next meeting so that the matter can be raised if there are further questions.

Including information that the trade union would need to calculate whether it pays for its own representatives does not improve transparency about what is happening with taxpayers’ money, because taxpayers are not funding the union’s contribution. If the trade unions want to supplement an employer’s publication by providing information of their own, we would welcome that move towards transparency. Our purpose is to ensure that taxpayers receive value for their money, and placing such a requirement on the trade unions would not meet that aim.

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

Surely it would benefit the taxpayer if public sector employers could demonstrate that trade unions made a contribution, whether to the office, to utilities or even, as I indicated, to the salaries of trade union reps who hold senior office in the trade union.

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)

I was very clear that we strongly encourage unions to make that information available where it is true. As the requirements on transparency for the taxpayer’s contribution to funding union duties and activities come through, I am sure unions will also want to present their contribution to those valuable roles, and they have every right to do so. However, it would not be right to place on taxpayers the requirement to prepare and publish that information. Ultimately, taxpayers do not pay that money to do the trade unions’ job of publication for them.

Finally—I hope this answers the question that the hon. Member for Cardiff Central asked about whether facility time has ever covered conference attendance—civil service transparency in the past few years showed that conference attendance by union officials was paid for by Departments in some cases. I will send the Committee the details of those cases, and I will circulate them to Members. There were cases of it in the past.

Photo of Ian Mearns Ian Mearns Chair, Backbench Business Committee, Chair, Backbench Business Committee

The provisions in the clause take us beyond the civil service. What happens in the civil service is different from what happens in other public sector areas.

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 the beauty of transparency is that it will reveal all, and if there are no problems and if nothing is unjustified, the public will be reassured and I will be entirely delighted. On that basis, I ask the hon. Members to withdraw their amendment.

Photo of Edward Leigh Edward Leigh Conservative, Gainsborough

Order. The House has now adjourned. I can go on all evening, but of course it is up to hon. Members, some of whom have very long journeys. You can speak for as long as you like, but it is up to you.

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

Sir Edward, I do not intend to detain the Committee for very long at all. I hope we can come to a conclusion quickly. I am still intrigued by the cat that the Minister let slip out of the bag, which is that the Secretary of State for Health or perhaps the Secretary of State for Education might exercise the powers that we will discuss when we come to clause 13 to cap facility time. It would be helpful if the Minister wrote to the Committee before we debate clause 13 to indicate who will use the information contained in clause 12 and who will apply the powers in clause 13. The devolved Governments of the UK will take a keen interest in that, as will other members of the Committee. Will the Minister undertake to write to us to clarify that before we get to clause 13?

Photo of Edward Leigh Edward Leigh Conservative, Gainsborough

I think the Minister is nodding. It is just that Hansard cannot see it.

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

Excellent. I hope Hansard notes that the Minister nodded.

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

Excellent. I do not intend to press our amendments to a vote at this stage, but we may well return to them later. However, there are serious implications. We must not forget what we have discussed and the benefit that facility time can provide.

Photo of Edward Leigh Edward Leigh Conservative, Gainsborough

Does the hon. Member for East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow wish to sum up?

Photo of Lisa Cameron Lisa Cameron Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Climate Justice)

I think it is quite startling for the Minister to say that he wishes for transparency and for the public to understand the proportionality of the measures, without agreeing that they should know the proportions and the percentages. That appears incongruous to me. It is important to have transparency, which is why the SNP wishes the public to know the full picture. We wish them to see what is contributed by unions and the percentage of time that is spent. As we all know, figures by themselves can look large or misleading, and people can read into them things that are not there. The public need to know the proportions.

The public have also raised in surveys their deep concern about safety issues. We take that seriously, and we feel that facility time must be encouraged. As I said, facility time is not something that unions often do without agreement from employers. Employers know that it is good value for money. They know that it means that disputes are brought to much speedier agreement, and that investing in their staff and in a safer workplace environment leads to learning and happier staff and fewer sick days, and is better for business.

The public are not asking for the measures. The devolved Governments are not asking for the measures. Certainly managers in business are not specifically requesting them. I find it extremely disingenuous of the  Government, as I have said, to suggest that they want transparency and proportionality but not to allow the public to know the proportions. Therefore, it is important that we press our amendment.

Question put, That the amendment be made.

The Committee divided: Ayes 7, Noes 9.

Division number 24 Decision Time — Clause 12 - Publication Requirements

Aye: 7 MPs

No: 9 MPs

Aye: A-Z by last name

No: A-Z by last name

Question accordingly negatived.

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

I beg to move amendment 110, in clause 12, page 8, line 37, leave out paragraphs (b) and (c).

Photo of Edward Leigh Edward Leigh Conservative, Gainsborough

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

Amendment 47, in clause 12, page 8, line 39, leave out paragraph (c).

The amendment would remove safety representatives from the definition of union officials for the purposes of the publication requirements in relation to facility time.

Amendment 100, in clause 12, page 8, line 44, leave out paragraph (b).

Amendment 48, in clause 12, page 9, line 1, leave out paragraph (c).

The amendment would remove safety representatives from the definition of union officials for the purposes of the publication requirements in relation to facility time.

Amendment 102, in clause 13, page 9, line 45, leave out paragraph (b).

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

Amendment 110 would remove learning representatives and health and safety representatives from the information requirement. We return to the debate about what the problem is. Is it a pressing issue that people are concerned about use of public money, or is it just pandering to the agenda of the Taxpayers’ Alliance? Again, we have outlined the benefits of learning representatives to other employees, not just trade union members, and of safety representatives to ensuring safety at work. That is a serious issue on which we have advanced by leaps and bounds. Our amendment is clear: learning reps and health and safety reps should be taken out of the requirement to publish information.

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

I will speak to amendments 47, 100, 48 and 102. It is important to consider who is covered by clause 12 so that we understand the sorts of roles that are affected. We have already had a lengthy debate on this subject, but it is important that the Committee knows that, for example, the Fire Brigades  Union trains highly qualified serious accident investigators, who work with fire authorities to investigate incidents in which, tragically, firefighters have been killed on duty, in order to identify and implement service improvements that can prevent future fatalities. I am sure both sides of the Committee would agree that that is an important function. The FBU is concerned that limits on facility time arising from clauses 12 and 13 could restrict, or even prevent, FBU representatives from ensuring that firefighters operate in a safe working environment—these clauses could endanger firefighters in the future and could mean that any safety-critical problems identified will be left unresolved.

We have just heard from the SNP about amendment 110, which would remove trade union learning and safety representatives from the definition to which facility time publication requirements will apply. Our amendments 47 and 48, in a similar vein, would remove health and safety representatives from the reporting requirements in relation to facility time.

As we have heard, trade union workplaces are safer workplaces, which is largely due to tens of thousands of union health and safety reps being trained to internationally recognised standards each year. Trade unions regularly raise safety concerns through health and safety committees and collective bargaining arrangements, which, fundamentally, leads to far fewer workplace accidents not only in professions such as the fire service, where obviously there is significant risk, but in many other workplaces too.

According to research commissioned by the Department of Trade and Industry—the forefather, or foremother, of the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills—in 2007, by reducing time lost to occupational injuries and work-related illnesses, union safety reps save taxpayers between £181 million and £578 million every year at 2004 prices. We have just had an argument on transparency, and the Minister said that we cannot estimate some of these things, but this is a clear example of where his own Department has estimated such things, following serious research, to be worth a significant amount of money. I am sure the sum is even higher today.

Amendment 100 would remove trade union representatives in disciplinary and grievance procedures from the definition of union officials for the purposes of the requirements in relation to facility time, which would mean that public sector employers are not required to report on the amount of time that union officials spend accompanying members in grievance and disciplinary hearings each year. Fundamentally, the amendment aims to highlight the vital role played by union workplace representatives in representing members in formal procedures in the workplace.

We have already heard a number of relevant examples. ACAS research in 2008 found that managers see union representatives undertaking such work as having a crucial and positive role in the informal process of dispute resolution. The research found that union representatives often provide an early warning of potential problems and are a channel of communication between managers and employees. They are also seen as helping to monitor members involved in disciplinary or grievance issues. Within formal hearings, most managers found that union representatives help to ensure that issues are  explored in a consultative fashion and that fair decisions are reached. I have experience of such issues in the workplace, as I am sure other members of the Committee do, too. The ACAS research also found—this is crucial—that union representatives are able to manage the expectations of trade union members, which is useful in avoiding unnecessary confrontation, and that union representatives are generally perceived to be well trained and knowledgeable in legal and procedural issues.

I have already talked about amendments 47 and 48. Amendment 102, much like amendment 100, would remove trade union representatives in disciplinary and grievance procedures from the definition of union officials for the purposes of the requirements in relation to facility time, for the reasons that I have previously given. Those are important issues, and I will be interested to hear what the Minister has to say about them.

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) 5:45, 22 October 2015

Amendments 110, 47 and 48 are designed to limit the information published under our transparency regulations by excluding certain categories of trade union representative. I have already explained that the Government greatly value the work of learning representatives and health and safety representatives from trade unions. An employer must allow them as much paid time off work as is necessary or reasonable to perform their statutory functions, and we absolutely do not propose to change that rule. We simply want to ensure that the time that trade union representatives collectively spend on union duties and activities during working hours at taxpayers’ expense is justifiable and accountable, and that it represents value for money.

Clause 12 will enable Ministers to make regulations requiring public sector employers with one or more union representatives to publish information relating to facility time for those representatives. The information that employers could be required to publish includes the number of such representatives, such as learning and safety representatives, and how many of them spend a specified percentage of their time on their union role.

Reporting on facility time for learning and safety representatives is not new. The civil service has reported on paid time off for learning and safety representatives, together with general representatives, since 2013. The information on facility time that local authorities in England are required to publish includes the total number of staff who are union representatives, whether general, learning or safety representatives.

Amendments 47 and 48 are both designed to remove the requirement to exclude safety representatives from the information that is required to be published about facility time. Where an employer efficiently uses facility time for safety representatives, it is not unreasonable to expect the employer to know who those representatives are and how much of their time they spend on their union role. Where taxpayers fund the facility time of those representatives, they have the right to know how their money is being spent. We consider that all public sector employers should have to publish information about facility time for all types of union representatives, including safety representatives. They should not be required, as is proposed in amendments 47 and 48, to give taxpayers a less than full picture of their spending on facility time; they should be transparent about all of it.

Moving on to amendment 110, in the public sector paid facility time for a learning representative is in no way less of a cost to the taxpayer than paid facility time for a general representative or a safety representative. Not to include some costs of facility time based on the specialism of a particular representative would be misleading, and it would not deliver our intentions of giving taxpayers transparency about the facility time that they fund. Removing the requirement to publish information for specialist representatives, who are in a minority, would have a detrimental effect on the validity of the publication and be unlikely to save the employer significant time, if any.

Workers have a statutory right to be accompanied by a trade union official to a disciplinary or grievance hearing. That is a significant amount of trade union facility time, which is why we believe that it should be included in the publication requirements. Because we believe that that statutory right is right, and we have no intention of changing it, we want to understand the cost of the time that is involved in fulfilling it. Paid time off for a trade union official to attend such hearings is no less of a cost to taxpayers than any other category of paid time off for facility time, so there is no reason why it should be excluded from the publication requirements. Indeed, to exclude that cost would be misleading, because it would prevent taxpayers from ascertaining the true total cost of facility time in the public sector. Local authorities in England, and the civil service, have already agreed that that information should be published without exclusions for time spent attending such hearings. It would not be helpful transparency for some parts of the public sector to include some areas in their costs while others exclude them, because that would not allow taxpayers to make comparisons. I therefore ask hon. Members to withdraw the amendment.

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

We keep hitting a brick wall in terms of the Government’s attitude to this. They keep using the words “not justifiable”, but I believe that anyone undertaking duties as a safety rep or a learning rep is justifiable. What would be the issue on that basis?

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)

I have been trying to make progress, but I am stung by that remark. I have never claimed that the work of learning representatives and health and safety representatives is not justifiable—in fact, I have argued absolutely the opposite. If the hon. Gentleman believes that it is absolutely justifiable, why on earth does he oppose simply publishing the cost of it?

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

The Minister keeps using the words “not justifiable”, so we will press amendment 110 to a Division.

Question put, That the amendment be made.

The Committee divided: Ayes 7, Noes 9.

Division number 25 Decision Time — Clause 12 - Publication Requirements

Aye: 7 MPs

No: 9 MPs

Aye: A-Z by last name

No: A-Z by last name

Question accordingly negatived.

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

I beg to move amendment 103, in clause 12, page 9, line 3, leave out subsection (9).

Photo of Edward Leigh Edward Leigh Conservative, Gainsborough

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

Amendment 49, in clause 12, page 9, line 5, leave out “partly” and insert “mainly”

Amendment 99, in clause 12, page 9, line 20, at end insert—

‘(13) None of the provisions of this section shall apply to facility time of the employees of an individual, a company, a partnership or any other body save a public authority”

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

I do not intend to detain the Committee for long. The amendments are probing to understand fully what the Government mean by new section 172A(9), which is contained within the clause and would amend the 1992 Act. It would provide the Government with the power to extend the duty to publish information on facility time to an organisation that has

“functions of a public nature and is funded wholly or partly from public funds”.

What sort of organisations—private and voluntary sector—will the new reporting requirements encompass? I see no reason why a private corporation should be brought into this part of the Bill. The definition of “wholly or partly” is left open. Voluntary sector organisations and private bodies that engage in Government contracts want to understand the Government’s intent. Is it the intention to encompass all sorts of organisations or only a specified few? Our amendments ask that question and we suggest even removing the section. Amendment 99 would ensure that the proposed new reporting requirements on union facilities would apply only to public authorities as clearly defined by our amendment. I hope the Minister can clarify. However, the amendments are probing and I do not intend to press for a Division.

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)

I thank the hon. Gentleman for explaining the purpose of the amendment. The explanatory notes to the clause give examples of relevant public sector employees. The clause contains a power to provide that a person or body that is not a public authority but has functions of a public nature and is funded wholly or partly from public funds is to be treated as a public authority for the purposes of subsection (2) and is therefore subject to the publication requirements.

The proposed new section deliberately does not define what is meant by a public authority, because that term has a commonly understood meaning. However, the boundaries of that term can be uncertain. Therefore, subsection (9) is designed to enable us to deal with any cases in which there could be uncertainty that a taxpayer-funded body is a public authority, such as an academy trust.

That is an important point, so I take the opportunity to place it on the record that it is absolutely not our intention to catch, for example, private or voluntary sector providers of contracted-out public services. Nor is it  our intention to apply the publication requirements to private individuals, companies, partnerships or the like, which amendment 99 seeks expressly to exclude from scope.

I hope that, now that I have given that explanation, the hon. Gentleman will be happy to withdraw his amendment.

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

I thank the Minister for that clarification. I take it he means that, for example, a charity receiving a small grant—say £10,000—from the Government for a particular function would not be included in the legislation. Is that correct?

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

That is very helpful. With that clarification, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Photo of Edward Leigh Edward Leigh Conservative, Gainsborough

We now come to amendment 84 to clause 12, which has already been debated.

Amendment proposed: 84, in clause 12, page 9, line 20, at end insert—

“(13) The provisions in this section shall only apply with the consent of the Scottish Government, Welsh Government, Northern Ireland Executive, the Mayor of London and Local Authorities in England in their areas of responsibility.”—(Chris Stephens.)

The Committee divided: Ayes 6, Noes 9.

Division number 26 Decision Time — Clause 12 - Publication Requirements

Aye: 6 MPs

No: 9 MPs

Aye: A-Z by last name

No: A-Z by last name

Question accordingly negatived.

Photo of Edward Leigh Edward Leigh Conservative, Gainsborough

We now come to the question that clause 12 stand part of the Bill. I believe that we have had enough discussion, so I do not propose to accept any further speeches.

Question put, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

The Committee divided: Ayes 9, Noes 6.

Division number 27 Decision Time — Clause 12 - Publication Requirements

Aye: 9 MPs

No: 6 MPs

Aye: A-Z by last name

No: A-Z by last name

Question accordingly agreed to.

Clause 12 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Ordered, That further consideration be now adjourned.— (Stephen Barclay.)

Adjourned till Tuesday 27 October at twenty-five minutes past Nine o’clock.