Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page


Lord McCarthy: That is right. The point about the words on the face of the Bill is that they are negative. The words used are "compatible with"--in other words, "not incompatible".

The critical thing that management wants is that the CAC does not recommend a bargaining unit which cuts across the relative autonomy of different units inside an organisation. It wants the CAC to respect the organisational structure that management has introduced into the firm. Any sensible arbitration committee of this kind would do that. It is a negative thing. It does not want people to mess up existing arrangements and put in a collective bargaining unit which cuts across different

7 Jun 1999 : Column 1188

groups of workers whose wages, terms and conditions are largely autonomously determined. That is a negative thing.

If the words "supportive of effective management" are used, what does that mean? It could mean anything. If one took the kind of attitude taken by the noble Lord, Lord Tebbit, who is not in his place, one would say that in any organisation a form of recognition would not be supportive of effective management and there would be an attempt to find one that would be the least effective from the workers' point of view.

What workers want is that the bargaining unit should fit the solidarity or sense of common interest of a particular work group or series of work groups. It is the job of the CAC to try to find a middle ground between those two viewpoints. In so far as we are expressing what needs to be done from the management point of view, "compatible" is much easier to apply than "supportive".

Baroness Miller of Hendon: Obviously I shall withdraw this subtle little amendment, as it was described by the Minister. This is a case of deja vu. It reminds me of the time when I, from this side of the Chamber, debated the national minimum wage with the noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis. My amendments were described as "charming", "modest and "beautiful". All kinds of lovely words were used, making me feel very warm. Nevertheless, the Government refused everything. We have heard a different adjective applied to my amendment today. I beg leave to withdraw it, given the very charming way in which the Minister replied.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey moved Amendment No. 26:


Page 21, line 41, at end insert--
("(4A) The CAC must give notice of its decision to the parties.")

The noble Lord said: With this amendment, I shall also speak to Amendments Nos. 105, 107, 108, 110, 111, 113 to 117, 119, 162, 164 to 166, 168, 169, 171, 172, 174 and 179 to 182.

These amendments are concerned with the giving of notice. They are intended to ensure that notice of applications and decisions is given at appropriate times to keep the CAC, employers and unions informed of progress. They also deal with a problem with the existing text concerning the CAC's rejection of invalid applications.

Amendment No. 26 requires the CAC to give the parties notice of the appropriate bargaining unit if it has to decide one under paragraph 16. The current text of the Bill omits any requirement to do so and the union will need notice of the appropriate bargaining unit to have the option of withdrawing its application because the unit has changed.

Amendments Nos. 105 and 107 deal with a problem that arises if an employer makes an invalid notification under paragraph 55, which is concerned with a situation where an employer believes that the unit has ceased to

7 Jun 1999 : Column 1189

exist. If the union does not question the validity of a notification, it is not clear how the CAC should act. These amendments require the notice to be copied to the CAC and for the CAC to decide whether it is valid.

Amendments Nos. 108, 110, 111, 113 to 117 and 119 are consequential.

The other amendments, Amendments Nos. 162, 164 to 169, 171, 172, 174 and 179 to 182, concern a situation where an employer applies for derecognition on grounds of having fewer than 21 workers. The amendments specify that the 13 weeks during which the employer had fewer than 21 workers must be immediately prior to the application under paragraph 75, but allows five working days for the application to be made--which sounds realistic. Amendment No. 171 deals with the same problem of an invalid notice that arose in connection with paragraph 55. These are technical amendments which improve the flow and function of the schedule. I commend them to the Committee. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey moved Amendment No. 27:


Page 21, leave out lines 42 to 44

The noble Lord said: This amendment was spoken to with Amendment No. 22. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Baroness Miller of Hendon moved Amendment No. 28:


Page 22, line 10, at end insert (", and
(c) the qualifying members for the purposes of this sub-paragraph are fully paid up and their membership has not ceased or been suspended owing to resignation, disqualification or the non-payment of dues or internal union disciplinary procedures.")

The noble Baroness said: Paragraph 17 of the schedule deals with the definition of an appropriate bargaining unit by the CAC. The CAC is required in paragraph 17(2)(a) to decide whether,


    "members of the union (or unions) constitute at least 10 per cent of the workers constituting the bargaining unit".

I cast absolutely no aspersions on the integrity of any union or union officials who may be called upon to prepare a case for recognition, an essential constituent of which is the number of its members working in a particular place. However, any of us who have had anything to do with the compilation of lists of persons qualified for something or other know how frequently unqualified people are included. When I was chairman of my local family health service authority I was absolutely amazed to discover that there were numbers of "ghosts" appearing on GPs' lists of patients: patients who had moved or died without the doctor even being aware of it.

Every public company has a list of shareholders whom it can no longer trace for one reason or another. Most, if not all, unions will have a rule suspending a member from membership privileges for non-payment of dues or for other reasons listed in the amendment; or

7 Jun 1999 : Column 1190

its membership list may not be fully up to date. As regards the latter problem, the union ought to bring the lists up to date if it is to count heads. Ten per cent is not a very high number of members needed to qualify. It cannot be right that, say, in a unit with 100 workers the union only has to produce a list of just 10 persons whom it says are members to meet the first condition, and it then transpires that one of those persons is disqualified from participation under the union's own rules.

If it is the union itself that makes the rules about qualifications, this amendment is not anti-union. It is not about vote-rigging or the stuffing of ballot boxes. I have no doubt at all that the unions will act with propriety and will ensure that their officials and shop stewards also act with propriety. But the purpose of the amendment is to ensure that other workers and their employers can be sure that what is done is done properly--in other words, that the procedures are, in a phrase that is becoming extremely fashionable in "politics speak", "transparent". I beg to move.

Baroness Turner of Camden: I hope that the government spokesperson will not feel disposed to accept this amendment. I feel that, in framing it, the noble Baroness probably did not understand exactly how unions operate. The proposed sub-paragraph refers to "fully paid up" members. Unions do not normally exclude people until they are, say, three months in arrears. We have the term "in compliance" with the rules which may mean that people do not have to be fully paid up members. If they are three months in arrears, they are still members. Therefore, the wording of the amendment is not acceptable. Moreover, the text of the Bill itself refers to members; in other words, people have to be members and fully compliant with their union in order to be regarded as members. This amendment is not acceptable from the standpoint of its wording or the Bill itself.

6 p.m.

Lord Cavendish of Furness: I support my noble friend's amendment. It is a minimum requirement. Even if the wording is slightly wrong, I hope that the Minister will listen to the arguments and perhaps produce an alternative. I echo my noble friend. I do not believe that there is anything to suggest that there is an assumption of corruption or wrongdoing here. In framing legislation it is a very good idea to prevent for all time the possibility of future corruption, which protects all parties in this case and society in general.

Lord Meston: I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Turner, about the unnecessary reference to being fully paid up. I agree that a member who has ceased to be a member is therefore not a member. That would be sufficiently clear on the face of the Bill. What needs to be covered is the possible problem of suspended membership although I suggest that the words,


    "owing to resignation, disqualification or the non-payment of dues or internal union disciplinary procedures" are otiose and unhelpful. They might cause confusion.

7 Jun 1999 : Column 1191

When the noble Baroness, Lady Miller, moved her amendment I could not help but think that I would not want to be the patient of any doctor who did not know when his patient had died.


Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page