The votes were on clauses that relate to e-balloting, facility time and the political fund. There will be further votes in the Lords in April before the bill returns to the House of Commons.
The Lords are unhappy with many of the bill’s proposals. During the committee stages, peers also defeated the government by voting to set up a special committee to consider the political fund measures.
This cross-party committee was appointed in January and reported on the 2 March. The committee won concessions on:
- allowing trade unions with political funds to ask new members, rather than the whole membership, if they wish to contribute to the political fund and by extending the period unions have to make the transition from opting in to a political fund rather than out from three to 12 months
- removing the obligation for members to renew their political fund mandates every five years.
In February, a leaked ministerial letter from Nick Boles, minister of state for the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and the Department for Education, indicated that the government expected the House of Lords to defeat “flagship” parts of the Bill.
Boles proposed a number of concessions to “ease handling of the Bill in the House of Lords”.
- a review to consider the use of e-ballots for industrial action
- further consultation in Scotland and Wales on a number of potentially devolved issues
- removing the provision to increase the notice period for industrial action from seven days to 14 days
- increasing the time a ballot is valid from four months to six months, with further extensions of three months where agreed, and
- deleting the need for a picket supervisor to wear an armband and badge.
Graham Stewart parliamentary and campaigns officer said: “Union lobbying during the passage of the bill through the Lords has been exemplary – especially among crossbench peers and concerned Conservative and Lib Dem peers as well as the shadow labour team.
“However, the bill still has to return to the Commons where the government has a majority, albeit a slim one.
“The bill has not been defeated and the concessions achieved through the hard work of peers in the Lords, although welcome, does not change the fact that the bill as it currently stands is still a very bad bill for unions.
“The message to Prospect members is to carry on lobbying. There is still time to contact your local MP and tell them that the bill will do nothing to improve productivity, industrial relations and workplace partnerships.