Clause 16 - Further powers of Certification Officer where enforcement order made

Part of Trade Union Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 11:00 am on 27th 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) 11:00 am, 27th October 2015

New schedule A4 to the 1992 Act will enable the certification officer to issue financial penalties or conditional financial penalties in those areas where he has existing powers to issue declarations and enforcement orders, which will provide a consistent approach. He will also be able to issue those penalties for breaches of the new annual reporting requirements on trade unions in relation to details of industrial action and political fund expenditure. Those areas are all listed in paragraph 1 of the new schedule.

Paragraph 4 of the new schedule requires the certification officer, before issuing a penalty, to provide written reasons for his decision, which will allow the union to know why the certification officer has found against it. The union will also have the opportunity to make written representations and may be given the opportunity to make oral representations.

Paragraph 5 of the new schedule provides for appeals to the Employment Appeal Tribunal based on an error of fact or a point of law, or on the grounds that the decision to impose a financial penalty or conditional financial penalty is unreasonable. The appeal grounds are similar to those provided for in other financial penalty regimes and will ensure that a wrong decision can be challenged.

Paragraph 3 of the new schedule provides for enforcement of conditional penalties. In cases of non-compliance, the certification officer will issue a further order requiring that a penalty be paid immediately or by a certain date. Where a union has provided evidence of partial compliance, the certification officer will have flexibility to reduce the amount of the penalty should he choose to do so. That will encourage unions to comply with conditional penalty orders while punishing those that take no steps towards compliance.

The hon. Member for Cardiff South and Penarth asked whether any member of the union about which a complaint has been made, including members who were not themselves complainants, can apply to court for the enforcement of the certification officer’s orders. My understanding is that currently, under the 1992 Act, it is possible for any union member to apply for enforcement of such orders, but I am happy to write to him with the full detail if that is helpful.