GOVERNMENT U-TURN ON TRADE UNION BILL
After months of campaigning by the Labour Party and trade unions the Government finally made key concessions on the Trade Union Bill. Before Labour MPs could vote against the Bill, the Government announced they would accept the compromises proposed by the House of Lords.
Initially the Government had planned to change the way trade unionists paid into their union political fund. They wanted union members to "opt in" every five years to remain in the political fund and gave unions just three months to sign up their members. It was a blatant attack on the ability of unions to campaign for their members and a partisan attack on the Labour Party’s funding and therefore our ability to hold the Government to account. The Government have now agreed to delay changes to political funding and have given trade unions 12 months rather than three to engage with new members and most importantly, current members will be exempt from the changes. This is a welcome move, and an important victory as rushing through the changes to political funds would have had serious knock-on effects for trade unions’ capacity to campaign.
After refusing to introduce e-balloting the Government again conceded and agreed to a trial of e-voting for strike ballots. This will allow trade unions to bring balloting into the twenty-first century and help towards boosting turnout and participation. These are not the only issues that we have forced a climb down on. Last week saw the Government back down over plans to end the right of workers to pay union subscriptions by deducting them from their wages.
While we welcome these concessions, Labour still remains opposed to the Trade Union Bill in its entirety. It is unnecessary, bad for workers and bad for businesses. We will look to push for further concessions, as the only party truly standing up for working people.
JEREMY HUNT CONTINUES TO STAND IN THE WAY OF A SOLUTION
Just when you thought the situation couldn't get any worse, the Government were presented with a genuine and practical junior doctor’s proposal which they outright rejected. Jeremy Hunt faced fresh criticism after refusing to accept what was a cross party compromise that could have potentially averted this week’s junior doctor’s strike.
Shadow Health Secretary Heidi Alexander worked on a plan, supported by the British Medical Association (BMA) and the Royal College of Surgeons that would see new junior doctor contracts limited to pilot schemes at a small number of trusts to assess their impact. Facing Jeremy in the Chamber Heidi said “any responsible Health Secretary would have grasped that opportunity immediately or at least considered it and discussed it.” Jeremy Hunt’s failure to do so is another example of the Tories’ shambolic approach to the junior doctor’s dispute. It cannot be safe to impose a contract when no one has any idea what impact it will have on recruitment.
Jeremy Hunt must start listening to the views of medical and patient voices who are urging him to think again. He is trying to play politics with our NHS. But this has dragged on long enough, it’s time to put party politics aside and find a way to deliver safe care for patients. Jeremy Hunt is the only person standing in the way of a solution, he has to do the right thing and accept this cross-party proposal.
LABOUR’S LORD DUBS’ AMENDEMENT DEFEATED
The immigration bill provided an opportunity for the UK to finally make its fair contribution to help tackle one of the biggest humanitarian crisis of our time. This week MPs voted on Labour Peer Lord Dubs’ proposal to offer refuge in the UK to 3,000 unaccompanied child refugees from Europe.
Despite widespread support for Lord Dubs’ recommendations, himself a former 1930s child refugee, his amendment defeated by a majority of 18. Shouts of shame rang in the chamber and at PMQs, Yvette Cooper, Chair of Labour’s Refugee Taskforce made a powerful intervention. She urged the Prime Minister to reconsider his position and stop putting Parliament and this country to shame.
The Tories do have another opportunity to put things right. With huge support from the House of Lords, Lord Dubs was able to put another revised amendment down and MPs will be asked to vote again. The revision does not include the 3,000 target, instead it requires the Government to consult with local authorities to come up with a total.
There are currently an estimated 26,000 unaccompanied child refugees in Europe, many of whom have fled the fighting in Syria. Labour have repeatedly called on the Government to do more to tackle the refugee crisis, in particular to support and relocate unaccompanied children within Europe. We will be voting for Lord Dubs’ new amendment and urging the Prime Minister to do the same. It would be an important and overdue step to help support some of the most vulnerable refugees that have sought sanctuary in Europe. It is time the Government finally recognised we need to do more to help.