17 July 2013
As anyone who has been following Prime Minister’s Questions recently knows, the Tories have put their best efforts into deflecting any serious issue with yet another bash at the unions, and the critical problem of political lobbying is being twisted in the very same way.
Just as questions are being asked about the government’s apparent leniency on G4S and its connections with big business, the Coalition has announced the Transparency of Lobbying, Non-Party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Bill today (17 July 2013).
The Bill will bring in a statutory register of lobbyists, which it was argued will make it more transparent who consultant lobbyists are representing. The amount of money that can be donated to political parties will also be reviewed, with geographical limits imposed on third-party expenditure so that large chunks of money cannot be provided from individual constituencies.
Under the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992, unions are already obliged to keep a register of their members, but the government wishes to bring even further restrictions to the organisations by requiring that an independent assurer must audit the registers of unions with over 10,000 members. For their trouble, unions will receive a Membership Audit Certificate, which they must supply to the Certification Officer. Certificates will then be made available to the public, as an assurance that trade unions are sticking to their legal obligations.
Just as big business lobbyists are finally being judged by similar rules as trade unions, in that they will have to supply their name and interests to a public registry, the regulations on unions are made tighter. With another general election not that far around the corner, this is a very opportune time for the Tory party to hit trade unions, some of which donate to their political opposition Labour. It seems the lobbying debate has also introduced a wonderful excuse for the Coalition to do what it can to install even more hoops for the unions to go through.
It seems the government’s concerns here are in stark contrast with the public’s, given that a recent poll in the Independent showed more people would prefer to see political party donations coming from trade unions rather than wealthy individuals.
As if to add insult to injury, the government is also taking advantage of its new self-given guidance to reduce the time given for calls for evidence at the discretion of the minister by providing trade unions with just four weeks to respond to its proposals. The Discussion Paper provided for trade unions can be found here.
The Institute of Employment Rights will be issuing a response and providing the most up-to-date information on the Bill as soon as it is available. Follow the progression of the Bill by signing up to our free weekly News Briefs here.