Appendix 1: FIRE SERVICES
Letter from the Deputy Prime Minister, to the Chairman
Thank you for your letter of 8 April seeking my views
on two points relating to human rights obligations arising under
the European Social Charter and the Labour Relations (Public Service)
Convention (ILO Convention No 151). I am sorry I was unable to
reply by 28 April as you requested.
In relation to the European Social Charter, the Bill
does not affect the right to strike in any way. Nor does it seek
to prevent collective bargaining. But as your letter acknowledges,
there are circumstances where collective bargaining breaks down
or fails to produce a settlement which secures the provision of
effective services. That is the situation in which I believe we
now find ourselves.
The Government has done all it can to encourage and
facilitate discussion and negotiation of a fair settlement for
the fire service. As I said to the House when I announced my intention
to introduce this Bill, and as I shall say again, I would even
now prefer the matter to be settled by agreement and without my
intervention. However, this appears unlikely. Thus it is precisely
the circumstances which you point out might justify a restriction
or limitation on collective bargaining that apply here and that
have lead to me introducing the Bill.
If the Bill is enacted and I were to seek to make
an Order relating to the conditions of service of fire service
staff, I would be required under the terms of the Bill to consult
the negotiating body, on which are represented the employers and
the Fire Brigades Union. Thus even if I do intervene, the procedures
envisaged by the Bill therefore encourage the two sides to consider
collectively anything I may propose.
As to the ILO Convention No 151, Article 8 says that
settlement 'shall be sought through negotiation between the parties'.
For over a year now, that is what has been sought but without
resolution. I am seeking the powers in the Bill because settlement
cannot be achieved through negotiation.
Any use of the powers in the Bill to make an order
as to conditions of service would be subject to negative resolution
procedure. So the House would have the opportunity to intervene
if it were thought any order was not an appropriate way to resolve
Finally you seek information on any representations
I have received in connection with this Bill in relation to human
rights issues. At the time of writing, I have received no such
1 May 2003