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Political Levy

Volume 77: debated on Thursday 18 April 1985

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asked the Secretary of State for Employment whether he will make a statement on the effectiveness of the agreement reached with the trade unions with regard to advising members of their right to opt out of the political levy.

In fulfilling the 1983 general election commitment, my right hon. Friend discussed with the TUC the steps which trade unions themselves could take to ensure that individual members are freely and effectively able to decide for themselves whether or not to pay the political levy. As an outcome of those discussions the TUC agreed a detailed "Statement of Guidance" dealing with union members' rights in relation to political funds and asked unions to review their existing procedures to ensure that this guidance was acted upon. The TUC also provided all unions with a model information sheet which the statement recommends each union member should receive. At that time it was made clear to the TUC, and to the House, that the Government's decision not to proceed in the 1984 Trade Union Bill with changes to the contracting out system would rest on the firm expectation that the TUC action would in practice be effective. If it was not, the Government reserved their right to legislate.Trade unions are already under a clear statutory obligation on the occasion of any ballot in which their members give approval for the expenditure of money on party political matters under the provisions of the Trade Union Act 1913 to notify union members of their right to contract out of the political levy and inform them that a standard exemption notice may be obtained from the union or the Certification Officer. This obligation applies to the ballots to review the continued operation of political funds which are to be held between now and 31 March 1986. We shall continue to look to the trade unions concerned to ensure that their statutory as well as their voluntary commitments are properly fulfilled.