Government U-Turns on Trade Union Bill

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The Government has confirmed that some elements will be dropped from the Trade Union Bill in advance of a threatened defeat in the House of Lords yesterday.

The controversial plan to remove the check-off system, where union subscriptions were deducted by payroll and replaced by payment by subsequent direct debit or cheque have been dropped.

Lord Bridges of Headley, a Parliamentary Secretary at the Cabinet Office, said about the u-turn:

“One of the many lessons I have learned is that when Ministers stand at this Dispatch Box and face cannons to the right of them, cannons to the left of them, cannons in front of them—and maybe even behind them—it is usually best to pause and to ask the reason why. Uncomfortable though this may be, it is nothing like as uncomfortable as charging on”.

During the debate in the Lords, Lord Kerslake (the former Head of the Home Civil Service) said:

“I think we are all agreed about the importance of the role of trade unions in this country. They are a part of British life. It was clear to anyone who looked at the detail that the Government’s proposals on check-off stood to do considerable damage both to the unions themselves and to their members and potential members”.

Dave Prentis, from Unison, said:

“Banning unions from using the check-off system to collect membership fees from employees in the public sector was among the most mean-spirited of the proposals”.