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Official - Sensitive

Department
for Business -

Innovation & Skills

Nick Boles MP
Minister of State for Skills

The Rt H...
Official - Sensitive

Concessions and concessionagy amendments
E-balloting (Item 1)

It is clear that the thresholds provi...
Official - Sensitive

Certification Officer (items 20 - 21)

We expect the Govemment to come under significant pressure in t...
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Leaked BIS letter on Trade Union Bill concessions

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A ministerial letter leaked to the Socialist Worker newspaper has revealed that the government are expecting the House of Lords to defeat “flagship” parts of the Trade Union Bill.

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Leaked BIS letter on Trade Union Bill concessions

  1. 1. Official - Sensitive Department 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"°°‘ Cabinet Office SW1H oar 000 7o Whitehall T *44<. °.>2°7215~5 London sw1A 2AS 5.»? »'JT‘, §’. L'i‘?39.§’a'§‘°°"‘"" www. education. gov. uk The Rt Hon Chris Grayling MP Chair, Parliamentary Business and Legislation Committee 1 Horseguards Road London SW1A 2HQ 26 January 2016 Dear Oliver and Chris, TRADE UNION BILL: CONCESSIONS AND GOVERNMENT AMENDMENTS AT LORDS REPORT 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 Lords. 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 below. Official - Sensitive
  2. 2. Official - Sensitive 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 elections 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. Official - Sensitive
  3. 3. Official - Sensitive 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, Official - Sensitive
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