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Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Bill

Volume 829: debated on Tuesday 9 May 2023

Third Reading

The Schedule

Amendment 1

Moved by

1: The Schedule, page 7, leave out lines 13 and 14

My Lords, I will not detain the House for too long. I am very grateful to the Public Bill Office and the clerks for advising me on these consequential amendments which arise from the amendments carried by the House on Report. I am grateful for these technical amendments to be approved by the House. It does not particularly change my view on the overall impact of the Bill, but I am hopeful that the Government will focus on achieving settlements, particularly in the health service, where we have seen some progress. I do not see that the Bill, even as amended, will improve the situation but I hope noble Lords will consider these technical amendments and send the Bill back as speedily as possible. I beg to move.

My Lords, these amendments are intended to tidy the Bill, following the votes to amend the Bill on Report. They intend to remove from the Bill references to Section 234E, which was removed due to the passing of Amendment 5.

By convention, the Government do not oppose these amendments as we have a duty to send to the other place Bills that are internally consistent. However, I make it clear that the Government fully expect these topics to be revisited following the consideration of these amendments in the other place, which would result ultimately in them being reconsidered here also.

I note the Minister’s comments. I hope that when they return here, we will have the same level of scrutiny, because this is a bad Bill with certain consequences which will not improve industrial relations in this country—in fact, it will make them worse. It will not achieve the objectives the Government set out; it will have the completely opposite effect. Bearing those comments in mind, I welcome the Minister’s commitment to agree to these amendments.

Amendment 1 agreed.

Amendment 2

Moved by

2: The Schedule, page 8, line 21, leave out “, 234A and [section removed]” and insert “and 234A”

Amendment 2 agreed.


Moved by

My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have contributed to the scrutiny of the Bill. We had an extremely thorough and, perhaps at times, slightly repetitive debate, but that is the nature of the parliamentary process. I am grateful to everyone who engaged in that process. In particular, I thank my Whip, my noble friend Lady Bloomfield, who, as usual, has kept us all in order. Thankfully, nobody fell asleep during this one, so we were all spared her wrath on this occasion.

I thank the Opposition Members who contributed and, from the Government, the noble Baroness, Lady Barran, and the noble Lords, Lord Markham and Lord Murray, who also contributed to taking through various clauses. I thank my noble friend Lady Noakes, who is not in her place, for her support. There were thoughtful and considered contributions from Opposition and Liberal Democrat Front-Benchers, as well as various Cross-Benchers. As is the nature of things, I did not agree with all the contributions, but nevertheless everybody approached it in a consistent frame of mind.

I am disappointed that the Bill leaves this House in a condition which is not as the Government would have preferred. I hope that the upcoming consideration of the amendments in the other place will present an opportunity for the elected House to reconsider the Bill and its contents following the modifications. The Government fully expect many of the matters in the Bill to be reconsidered in this House.

The Bill comes at a critical time for our country, where continued industrial action is having a real, material impact on the public up and down the country. That is why the Bill was introduced. The Government still believe that the Bill gets the balance right between the right to strike and the rights of the public to go about their daily lives unencumbered by industrial action.

My Lords, I will make two points. First, I thank the Minister and his colleague for their great courtesy in discussing various points. Secondly, I hope we learn something from this Bill. It is a simple lesson: this is not the way to legislate.

My Lords, as the noble and learned Lord has just said, this Bill arrived in your Lordships’ House in a flawed state. It sought to bypass Parliament and the devolved legislatures, with the aim of implementing a system where the Secretary of State—they alone—could implement service levels that, in effect, make strikes illegal, exposing individuals to the risk of being fired for striking. Thanks to the hard work of your Lordships’ House, it goes back to the other end somewhat improved.

I thank the Minister for his tolerant acceptance of the debate, which I know at times he found difficult. Thanks go to the noble Baroness, Lady Bloomfield, and the Bill team, who have had to sit through all of this. A number of Cross-Benchers spoke in the debates. I pick out particularly the noble and learned Lords, Lord Hope and Lord Thomas, the noble Lord, Lord Kerr, the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Sentamu, and the noble Baroness, Lady Meacher, and thank them for their commitment. On the Bishops’ Bench, I thank the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Guildford. His contribution was very important, as were those from the noble Lord, Lord Wigley, and the noble Baroness, Lady Jones.

I thank His Majesty’s loyal Opposition for their contribution. I think we worked together very well, particularly with the noble Baroness, Lady O’Grady, and the noble Lord, Lord Collins, but I thank all who spoke. On these Benches, our team, including the noble Lord, Lord Allan, and the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, gave fantastic support. They gave your Lordships very strong reasons as to why the Bill has to change. I thank Sarah Pughe in our Whips’ Office for the hard work she is doing.

When the Bill comes back, I am sure we will re-engage. I hope the team I have just listed, and others, will reconvene in the event that the Government do not see the wisdom of their ways.

My Lords, I was not going to speak, but the noble Lord was very gracious in his speech. It is true that the House of Commons, as the elected House, in the end determines and fixes the law. In the light of what the noble and learned Lord, Lord Thomas, has just said, if you legislate in a bad way, the lesson you learn is to not go back to your bad ways by taking out amendments that have actually improved the legislation.

The devolved Governments not being consulted before the Government legislate will harm this United Kingdom, over which King Charles is the Head of State. I beg the other place not to take the amendments out because it is the elected House; I ask it to take them out because it thinks that that would improve the legislation. If it does not think that, please do not make us look like unruly people.

My Lords, I add my thanks to the Minister for the way he has conducted himself, and I thank others who supported him. I thank the Bill team, which has been forthcoming about what it thinks the Bill means. I also thank my noble friend Lady O’Grady, who was thrown in at the deep end, as it were, having just arrived in this House; she acquitted herself brilliantly and made some forceful arguments. I thank all noble Lords who contributed to the debate, particularly those on the Lib Dem Benches, who played an active role, and those on the Bishops’ Benches, who played a positive role in highlighting the evidence about what the Bill could lead to.

On the point of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Thomas, this is a skeleton Bill, and we do not really know what it means legislatively. The remarks of the Minister’s friend, Jacob Rees-Mogg, sum it up: MPs will have no idea about the practical implications of the implementation of the powers that will be granted, not to the other House but to Ministers. There is no proper scrutiny.

Nevertheless, we have done a very good job and have amended the Bill. I hope that those amendments will be considered positively down the other end, but, as I have said at every stage of the Bill, when Labour returns to government fairly shortly, we will repeal this legislation.

Bill passed and returned to the Commons with amendments.