Official - Sensitive
for Business -
Innovation & Skills
Nick Boles MP
Minister of State for Skills
The Rt Hon Oliver Letwin MP
Chair of the Home Affairs Committee 1;: '§; ’n"'a 5"°°‘
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www. education. gov. uk
The Rt Hon Chris Grayling MP
Chair, Parliamentary Business and
1 Horseguards Road
London SW1A 2HQ
26 January 2016
Dear Oliver and Chris,
TRADE UNION BILL: CONCESSIONS AND GOVERNMENT AMENDMENTS AT LORDS
I am writing to seek clearance from the Home Affairs Committee and Parliamentary
Business and Legislation Committee on (a) two essential Government amendments to be
made at Lords Committee; and (b) possible concessions to the Trade Union Bill,
designed to ease handling of the Bill in the House of Lords. Although we do not intend
to make any of these legislative concessionary amendments until Lords Report, it may
be necessary for my colleague Baroness Neville-Rolfe to trail them at Lords Committee,
in order to avoid losing a vote on unhelpful amendments to the Bill.
I would be grateful for responses, including nil returns, by Wednesday 3 February and for
clearance as soon as possible after that. This will enable us to deploy the concessions to
maximum advantage at the optimal time, during the Bill's passage through the House of
Second Reading of the Trade Union Bill in the House Lords made clear that a number of Labour
and Liberal Democrat Peers were deeply unhappy with the Bill and were looking to revise the
Bill signiﬁcantly. We can expect a great many amendments to be tabled and, if put to the vote,
the Govemment is likely to suffer defeats. l consider there are areas of the Bill where we could
make changes to the Bill, without signiﬁcantly defeating its primary purpose. Whilst I accept that
not all the proposed concessions will fully address the concems that were being raised, a
willingness to give some ground on certain aspects of the Bill may lead to a less hard line
response to the Bill on other issues.
The main areas of the Bill on which we expect to come under pressure in the Lords are set out
Official - Sensitive
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Concessions and concessionagy amendments
E-balloting (Item 1)
It is clear that the thresholds provisions (the ﬂagship element of the Bill) will be defeated if we do
not make some move towards accepting the possibility of electronic (or e) -balloting. This is a
key priority for trade unions and was a key Opposition theme in the Commons. We can expect
the Bill to come under considerable pressure from this issue in the Lords, and it will likely gain
considerable currency amongst Peers. The Government’s handling of this could be crucial to
avoid losing votes on our strike ballot thresholds clauses (as the unions consider that the
thresholds will be easier to meet if balloting was electronic. rather than exclusively postal as is
currently the case).
We propose committing (probably at Committee) to establishing a review charged with looking
into altemative methods of voting for all union ballots, including industrial action. The review
would be tasked to seek evidence around legitimacy, safety, faimess and security of voting to
ensure a system that is workable and accountable. I would not propose that we should also
announce the period in which the review would report, although I expect us to come under
pressure to do so. Instead, I propose reserving the option to set a time limit for the review’s
report if such a time limit is deemed necessary.
No amendment to the Bill would be needed to introduce e-balloting, as there is currently a
provision in s54 of the Employment Relations Act 2004 that enables the Secretary of State to do
so by secondary legislation. Regulations would have to be made to enable e-balloting to be
piloted, but they could be time limited and be speciﬁc to particular functions, such as leadership
Implementation in Scotland and Wales(ltems‘t‘f6, 17,18, 19)
The obligation to achieve a 40% support threshold for strike action in important public services
falls on trade unions. The Devolved Administrations ("DAs") argue that this will fall
disproportionately on public services (speciﬁcally in respect of health, education, ﬁre and
transport), the responsibility for which is ﬁnnly for the DAs. Similarly, the provisions relating to
facility time and check-off in the public sector, when applied in Scotland and Wales, will be
largely in areas where the responsibility falls to the DAs.
The Welsh Assembly is this week debating a Legislative Consent Memorandum, and we are
concemed that they will take legislative action to block implementation of the Bill in Wales.
Although the legal landscape is different in Scotland, the Scottish Govemment has expressed
the same opposition.
We have sought legal advice from First Treasury Counsel who has conﬁrmed that we have a
strong case that these provisions are reserved in relation to Scotland, but a very weak case in
relation to Wales. We would, however, want to be consistent in our approach to Scotland and
Wales, as we do not think it would be sustainable politically to offer concessions to Wales but
not Scotland. There are some changes we can make to the Bill that may take some of the heat
out of DAs' opposition to the Bill, and we are, therefore, proposing concessions to be offered
singly or in parallel, that provide for Scottish and Welsh Ministers to be consulted before
regulations are made in respect of the 40% threshold (clause 3), facility time (clauses 12 and
13) and check-off (clause 14). In addition, if those do not prove sufﬁcient to safeguard these
clauses, we are proposing to disapply the ban on check off (clause 14) to devolved public
services in Scotland and Wales.
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Certiﬁcation Officer (items 20 - 21)
We expect the Govemment to come under signiﬁcant pressure in the Lords to give reassurance
on the on-going independence of the Certiﬁcation Ofﬁcer. Concessions include a legislative
amendment (which is subject to agreement from the Law Ofﬁcers) to clarify that the Certiﬁcation
Ofﬁcer is free from Ministerial direction in how he carries out his functions, and a non-legislative
commitment to make the appointment of the Certiﬁcation Officer subject to the OCPA
procedures. In addition, we propose a possible amendment to allow appeals against the
Certification Ofﬁcer‘s decision to the Employment Appeals Tribunal on points of fact, in addition
to the existing right to appeal on points of law.
Other areas of the Bill
We propose a number of concessions to meet concems raised in Parliament relating to
information on the ballot paper (item 3), the period of notice to be given to employers in advance
of industrial action (item 4), time limits on ballot mandates (items 5 and 6), and political funds
(items 8 and 9). They all relate to changes in the way the legislation applies, and none
undermine our manifesto commitments. We are also proposing an amendment to the
provisions on facility time reporting (item 12) and union supervision of picketing relating to the
reference to armbands as an identiﬁer for a picket supervisor, which raised concern in the
Commons and in the media (item 7). In addition we are proposing amendments to deal with
concerns from the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Refonn Committee on two regulation
making powers (items 10, 11 and 13).
Non-concessions amendments for Committee (Items 22, 14 and 15)
We are also proposing an essential amendment at Committee (item 22 at Annex A) to make
speciﬁc provision to allow for federated trade unions (such as the TUC) to be charged a different
amount of levy (for the Certiﬁcation Ofﬁcer costs) to non-federated trade unions. The Bill does
not currently allow for the possibility of charging federated trade unions a different amount to
trade unions. This is not a concession, but I would like to have this as a potential option.
In addition, we are also proposing non-concessionary amendments at Committee to the facility
time provisions in the Bill (items 14 and 15), to allow a mix of categories and a number of
‘standalone’ public authorities to be speciﬁed in facility time regulations (rather than just
categories as currently drafted). The amendments will also clarify that only those public
authorities set out in regulations would be captured by each clause.
Annex A contains a table of concessions for which HAC and/ or PBLC clearance is required.
Item 1 (in column 1 on the table) requires policy approval exclusively from HAC. Items 3, 4 — 7,
9 — 11, 13 - 15 and 20 — 22 (in column 2) require PBLC approval exclusively for legislative
change. Items 2, 8, 12 and 16 - 19 (which go across both columns of the table) require
approval of both Committees.
I am copying this letter to the Prime Minister, members of the Home Affairs and Parliamentary
Business and Legislation Committees (Both Committees for Action), Baroness Neville-Rolfe,
First Parliamentary Counsel and Sir Jeremy Heywood.
KLC/ L ML,
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