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Lord McIntosh of Haringey: I hope I can assure the noble Lord, Lord Cavendish of Furness, that I always listen to the arguments. Whether I understand them is quite another matter. I am sorry that we are unable to agree to this amendment. We understand the concern that union membership should not be exaggerated or inflated, but I do not believe that the amendment achieves the effect that is wanted. The amendment asks, "When is a trade union member not a trade union member?" That is not a trick question, nor is it a difficult one. If union membership has lapsed, then according to the rules of the union that person is no longer a union member. That is true whether it is because of resignation, disqualification or the non-payment of dues. In any of those circumstances a person does not count as a union member for the purposes of the schedule.

The relationship between a member and his union is a contractual matter between the worker and the union. A union member has the right to end his or her membership on giving reasonable notice and complying with any reasonable conditions. Of course, a worker has the right to join or not to join a union. Therefore, it is not appropriate to specify that union members must be fully paid up. There are Benches of union leaders behind me. I confess that I have been known to become more than a year in arrears with my union dues. It was then discovered that I could be persuaded to pay my union dues in advance, which is what I do now. Sometimes I avoid the rises which occur in union dues from time to time. In practice the important point is that the 10 per cent membership is only the first hurdle. Any union which can muster only 10 per cent membership by counting members not in good standing is most unlikely to pass the test of having majority support. Any evidence that the union had distorted its membership would count against it in the majority support test. I do not believe that the amendment would screen out any more applications than paragraph 17 does at the moment. I hope that the noble Baroness will not press the amendment.

Lord Cavendish of Furness: The noble Lord dealt adequately with the two circumstances of resignation and disqualification, but he was silent about suspension. Perhaps the noble Lord can deal with that.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: It depends on the union's rules. If a union says that a suspended member is a member of a union, that would count towards the provisions of the schedule. What it means is that a member would be suspended from membership and is therefore not a member of a union.

Baroness Miller of Hendon: I take no offence at the noble Baroness, Lady Turner, suggesting that I am not so qualified in knowing all the membership rules of trade unions. She is right. I have never been a member of a union. When I ran my own business I did not have a union shop. I am well aware that noble Lords opposite have

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enormous experience of all union matters. I make that absolutely clear. That may be why the wording of my amendment is not as it should be.

However, I believe the point I was trying to make is important. The noble Baroness, Lady Turner, said that it was usual to have in the rules that a member of a trade union could be up to three months in arrears with dues and still be a member. When we talk about recognition for the purposes of collective bargaining for small businesses where there are perhaps between 23 and 25 people working in the business and only 10 per cent have to be in a trade union to trigger the whole mechanism, then whether part of that small number of members is in arrears or not could be quite important. At this stage I shall seek to withdraw the amendment and take advice on how to reword it and make it more acceptable.

As regards the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Meston, I shall most certainly tell him outside the Chamber exactly the difference between a ghost patient and a real patient and how a doctor would deal with the case.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey moved Amendments Nos. 29 to 32:


Page 22, line 33, after ("must") insert ("give notice to the parties that it intends to")
Page 23, line 9, after ("must") insert ("give notice to the parties that it intends to")
Page 23, line 11, at end insert--
("20A.--(1) This paragraph applies if the CAC gives notice under paragraph 19(3) or 20(2).
(2) Within the notification period--
(a) the union (or unions), or
(b) the union (or unions) and the employer,
may notify the CAC that the party making the notification does not (or the parties making the notification do not) want the CAC to arrange for the holding of the ballot.
(3) If the CAC is so notified--
(a) it must not arrange for the holding of the ballot,
(b) it must inform the parties that it will not arrange for the holding of the ballot, and why, and
(c) no further steps are to be taken under this Part of this Schedule.
(4) If the CAC is not so notified it must arrange for the holding of the ballot.
(5) The notification period is the period of 10 working days starting--
(a) for the purposes of sub-paragraph (2)(a), with the day on which the union (or last of the unions) receives the CAC's notice under paragraph 19(3) or 20(2), or
(b) for the purposes of sub-paragraph (2)(b), with that day or (if later) the day on which the employer receives the CAC's notice under paragraph 19(3) or 20(2).")
Page 23, line 12, leave out ("19 or 20") and insert ("20A")

The noble Lord said: These amendments were spoken to with Amendment No. 22. I beg to move.

On Question, amendments agreed to.

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Lord McIntosh of Haringey moved Amendment No. 33:


Page 23, line 19, leave out from ("may") to end of line 20 and insert ("decide")

The noble Lord said: This amendment was spoken to with Amendment No. 12. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord McCarthy moved Amendment No. 34:


Page 23, line 21, leave out from beginning to ("In") in line 25 and insert--
("(4) The ballot may be conducted--
(a) at a workplace or workplaces decided by the CAC, or
(b) by post, or
(c) by the employment of proxies, or
(d) by a mixture of the methods set out in (a), (b) and (c),
depending on the CAC's preference, having regard to the need to encourage a high turnout of employees in the ballot.
(5) In addition to the need to encourage a high turnout,")

The noble Lord said: The object of this amendment is to maximise the turnout in recognition ballots. The assumption is that all sides of the House would want to see ballots which result in recognition or non-recognition having the highest possible turnout. At the moment the Bill does not support that contention. Page 23, line 21, states that,


    "The ballot must be conducted--


    (a) at a workplace or workplaces decided by the CAC, or


    (b) by post,


    depending on the CAC's preference". The Bill continues:


    "In deciding how the ballot is to be conducted the CAC must take into account--


    (a) the likelihood of the ballot being affected by unfairness or malpractice if it were conducted at a workplace or workplaces". So malpractice and unfairness are identified with the workplace. The other provisions are,


    "(b) costs and practicality;


    (c) such other matters as the CAC considers appropriate". We say that that is old hat. It goes back to the days of shop floor meetings where people raised their hands before they went on strike and things of that nature. We now need a system in which the CAC can combine any method it feels appropriate, the objective of which is to maximise turnout. Our amendment states that,


    "The ballot may be conducted--


    "(a) at a workplace or workplaces ...


    "(b) by post, or


    (c) by the employment of proxies, or


    (d) by a mixture of the methods set out in (a) (b) and (c)". We are leaving it all to the CAC to find the best possible mix of methods in order to maximise the turnout. We say that it is,


    "depending on the CAC's preference, having regard to the need to encourage a high turnout of employees in the ballot".

I take it that there is no dissent about the contention that one wants to maximise the turnout in a ballot of this kind. We have the 40 per cent. test. It is not just the majority of the members of the bargaining unit who are members of the union, which is one way of achieving

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the objective, or that the majority of the bargaining unit vote for collective bargaining. We also need a 40 per cent. test of people in the bargaining unit who have to vote in favour of recognition.

It seems to me, and I believe to trade unions, that the 40 per cent turnout rule is a reasonable condition if everything is done to make participation possible. The problem is that we have carried over the fear of the workplace ballot from the days of the mass meeting. I am quite sure that the noble Lord, Lord Tebbit (who unfortunately is not in his place), still lives in that period, and loves it, but these are not the days of Red Robbo and strikes. We are talking about a secret ballot with conditions conducted by the CAC, not the union. The Government have provided a lot of protection and regulation to govern the conduct of that ballot.

One looks at improper interference in the conduct of recognition ballots. If one looks at the considerable volume of research and investigation carried out by ACAS last time legislation of this kind was considered one finds that improper interference is not the monopoly of unions. Improper interference by employers was reported in many ACAS reports. One of the major problems was that they had no real sanction or power to resist improper interference. We believe that in this case the Government have placed a number of protections on the face of the Bill.

We are talking here about a recognition ballot that is conducted by an independent organisation, the CAC. Surely, the object of the exercise must be to encourage participation so that there is the maximum number of workers involved in deciding whether they want recognition and a minority does not decide the matter one way or the other. That is the reason for the 40 per cent rule. For that reason one of the major objectives of the CAC and the Government, to maximise participation, should be on the face of the Bill.

I understand that the amendment is grouped with other government amendments, in particular Amendments Nos. 35, 36, 205 and 206. It may be that my noble friend Lord McIntosh will say that in combining these amendments I am given most of what I want. That is not so. My noble friend says that there will be a combination of methods and not just one rather than another, so we are not in a situation in which it is necessary in all cases for the CAC to decide whether it should be a postal or workplace ballot, which is a pointless decision. Nevertheless the factors that he wants to take into account are location--for example, whether the ballot takes place on board ship or the parties want it to be a multi-dimensional election. The amendment assumes that the norm is a choice between a workplace ballot and a postal ballot, and it is only if there is no real reason why there should not be a more effective result using a workplace ballot that one decides on a postal ballot. There is no commitment in the Government's amendment to maximising participation. There is no suggestion by the Government that in general as opposed to exceptional circumstances there should be a multiplicity of methods. Therefore, I ask the Committee to accept the amendment. I beg to move.

7 Jun 1999 : Column 1195

6.15 p.m.

The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Brougham and Vaux): I should advise the Committee that if this amendment is agreed to I cannot call Amendment No. 35.


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