Baroness Royall speaking in the House of Lords in 2013. Photo copyright: House of Lords 2013/Roger Harris.
Opposition Peers will do all we can to stop the #TUbill attack on our unions and our democracy
The Trade Union Bill is an unacceptable attack on Britain’s unions. Unions are a part of the body politic in this country and for Labour Party peers like myself, many of whom are lifelong trade unionists, it is an attack on us and the people we believe we should be supporting.
Unions have made a huge difference to life in this country in terms of health and safety and wages, but the union movement does so much more both at home and abroad, campaigning on poverty, human rights and many more issues.
Unions are an important part of civil society and their role in the workplace and beyond is fundamental in the democracy of this country because democracy shouldn’t be a matter of putting a cross in a box once every five years: it should be participating in society, playing a role as a member of society, and that’s exactly what trade unions do.
We are determined to do all we can to stop this Bill because it’s going to erode the rights people have fought for over the last century.
One particularly harmful aspect is that by forcing people to opt in rather than out of their union’s political fund, they’re attacking unions’ ability to speak out on issues deemed to be ‘political’.
That’s why they’re doing it. Many (though not all) political funds support the Labour Party, and they see a way to attack our funding. They’re trying to wipe out Labour by subversive methods and that’s totally outrageous. The Tories have no problem with being funded by big business. Yes, they have to declare it, but they can give as much as they want. If you are democratic trade union however, they are trying to cut it off.
The House of Lords works very differently from the House of Commons, which is very adversarial. We have to find different ways of expressing these things, such as through a civil liberties perspective.
Labour peers will put down amendments to tackle the Bill’s many damaging proposals, and we hope we’ll attract support from Liberal Democrat and cross-bench peers. On issues such as online voting for strike ballots I think we’ll be able to get something because it’s patently mad and unfair. None of the Government’s arguments against it stand up.
Trade unions, supported by principled MPs on all sides of the House of Commons successfully campaigned for several aspects of the Trade Union Bill to be dropped during the Commons stages, but there is still much to do in the House of Lords to fight this bad Bill.