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Trade Union Subscriptions

Volume 577: debated on Wednesday 12 March 2014

1. What his policy is on the deduction of trade union subscriptions from payroll in the civil service. (902978)

The civil service has used check-off for the last 30 years. Indeed, large companies such as BAE Systems and Rolls-Royce use it as a very efficient way to deduct trade union subscriptions from salary. Is this not just another ideological attack? Removing check-off from the civil service payroll will cost many times more than running the current system for hundreds of years.

As I say, it is a matter for Departments to decide for themselves. A number of trade unions take the view that it is much better to have a direct relationship with their members than to have it intermediated through the employer—it is a rather more modern way to run things.

Does my right hon. Friend think that it is fair on hard-working British taxpayers that their money is used to subsidise the administration of trade unions rather than going to front-line services?

My hon. Friend has been a doughty campaigner for the use of facility time to be much better regulated. We inherited from Labour a position in which very large amounts of public money were being spent on subsidising 250 full-time officials in the civil service alone, let alone in the wider public sector. I am happy to tell her that we have got that under control.

The Minister says that this is a matter for individual Departments, but the private secretary in his Department has written to every Department in Whitehall asking them to review check-off. We know that the Government, for political reasons, want to scrap check-off, and I have seen a copy of an official letter from the Department for Work and Pensions, which was subsequently withheld by Ministers, that states:

“The department has concluded that the figure for the financial implications of ending check-off should be disclosed…The information held states: ‘We estimate that implementation costs could exceed one million pounds’.”

In the light of that revelation, will he agree, in the interests of transparency, to publish the full financial implications of this misguided policy?

I am happy to bring the hon. Gentleman up to date. The DWP has subsequently said that that was a speculative and inaccurate figure—

Well, with respect, I have seen more recent correspondence than the hon. Gentleman has seen. The truth is that Ministers—as he will recall from his time in government—are sometimes given figures for the cost of making a change that turn out not to be true. This is such a case.