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COMMONS AMENDMENT

7
Clause 56, page 36, line 42, leave out "(1)(b), (c) or (d)" and insert "(1)(a), (b) or (c)"

Lord Evans of Temple Guiting: My Lords, I beg to move that the House do agree with the Commons in their Amendment No. 7. I spoke to this amendment with Amendment No. 3.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

COMMONS AMENDMENT

8 Clause 75, page 42, line 18, leave out subsection (2)

Lord Evans of Temple Guiting: My Lords, I beg to move that the House do agree with the Commons in their Amendment No. 8. This Commons amendment removes the privilege amendment which was inserted in the Bill in this House at Third Reading. A money resolution was passed immediately after the Second Reading of the Bill in another place on 17 June.

Moved, That the House do agree with the Commons in their Amendment No. 8.—(Lord Evans of Temple Guiting.)

Lord Roberts of Conwy: My Lords, any layman looking at what is proposed by this amendment would be very surprised to find that Clause 75(2) is in the Bill at all. It states quite clearly that:

It was obvious from the beginning that this Bill would cost money for various bodies and, ultimately, for the council tax payer. I seem to recollect that the Explanatory Notes acknowledged that and stated that costs of some £985,000 had been identified since the introduction of the Bill.

As the noble Lord has pointed out, this was a privilege amendment which it is conventional to insert into a Bill in the other place before authority has been given by that place for the expenditure of money. However, if more costs have been identified further to those I have mentioned, perhaps the noble Lord would share that information with us. It would be a fitting
 
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end to our proceedings on this Welsh audit Bill if we were given such additional information on the costs as may be available.

Lord Evans of Temple Guiting: My Lords, it is worth putting on the record what this amendment does. It is a formality and a well established procedure, being an example of what is known as a privilege amendment. It is introduced before a Bill leaves this House and goes to another place in acknowledgment of the convention that all money resolutions are passed in another place permitting public expenditure on matters provided for in legislation. As I have said, a money resolution was passed immediately after the Second Reading of the Bill on 17 June.

The noble Lord, Lord Roberts, is absolutely correct to point out that we have anticipated the set-up costs of the Wales Audit Office to be around £985,000. This has already been reported to both Houses of Parliament. The amount will be met by the budget of the National Assembly for Wales. As regards future costs, the Auditor General for Wales is currently working on his administrative budget for the first year of the body's operation. This will shortly be considered by the Assembly Audit Committee.

On Question, Motion agreed to.

COMMONS AMENDMENT

9 Schedule 1, page 43, leave out line 11 and insert—
(d) a fire and rescue authority in Wales constituted by a scheme under section 2 of the Fire and Rescue Services Act 2004 or a scheme to which section 4 of that Act applies."

Lord Evans of Temple Guiting: My Lords, I beg to move that the House do agree with the Commons in their Amendment No. 9. I spoke to this amendment with Amendment No. 2. Before I sit down, I should like to thank all noble Lords for being enormously helpful during the passage of the Bill through this House.

Moved, That the House do agree with the Commons in their Amendment No. 9.—(Lord Evans of Temple Guiting.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

Employment Relations Bill

Read a third time.

Lord Triesman moved Amendment No. 1:


"CIRCUMSTANCES IN WHICH THE CAC MUST ARRANGE A BALLOT
(1) In paragraph 22(4) of Schedule A1 to the 1992 Act (qualifying conditions requiring the CAC to hold a ballot of workers in bargaining unit), for paragraph (b) substitute—
"(b) the CAC has evidence, which it considers to be credible, from a significant number of the union members within the bargaining unit that they do not want the union (or unions) to conduct collective bargaining on their behalf;".
 
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(2) In paragraph 87(4) of that Schedule (qualifying conditions requiring the CAC to hold a ballot of workers in new bargaining unit), for paragraph (b) substitute—
"(b) the CAC has evidence, which it considers to be credible, from a significant number of the union members within the new bargaining unit that they do not want the union (or unions) to conduct collective bargaining on their behalf;"."

The noble Lord said: My Lords, Amendment No. 1 deals with an issue we discussed in Grand Committee in response to an amendment tabled by my noble friend Lord Lea of Crondall. At the time I indicated that we would give further consideration to the matter he had raised and, in response, he was good enough to withdraw his amendment.

The issue concerns the circumstances in which the CAC must order a ballot of the relevant workforce to assess whether they want a union to bargain on their behalf, even though the union has more than half of the workers in membership.

Currently, the CAC must apply three criteria when assessing this issue. These are listed in paragraph 22(4) of the recognition procedure in cases where a non-recognised union is applying for recognition. The same criteria are also listed in paragraph 87(4) of the procedure which concerns changes to bargaining units following a CAC award of recognition. Our amendment changes both paragraphs in identical ways. For simplicity, I shall confine my remarks to the changes to paragraph 22(4), which is a part of the procedure that comes into play more frequently as it deals with the central case of a union seeking recognition.

The first and third criteria in paragraph 22(4) give the CAC some discretion to assess the evidence put before it and judge whether a ballot should be held. That is not the case in relation to the second criterion.

According to the second criterion, a ballot must be held if a,

The wording emphasises the quantity and not the quality of the information that has been provided to the CAC. This has created a problem in cases where the CAC has received such communications from "a significant number" of union members, but there were grounds to believe that the union members were pressurised into sending those communications. In other words, there was evidence that questioned whether union members genuinely did not want the union to negotiate on their behalf which the CAC could not take into account. In Grand Committee, I drew attention to one particular case—Brian Hewitt Construction Limited and the Iron and Steel Trades Confederation—where this issue had arisen in practice.

The amendment therefore changes the wording of the second criterion to provide extra discretion to the CAC when applying it. It does so by requiring the CAC to consider whether there is "credible" evidence that a "significant number of union members" do not want the union to undertake bargaining on their
 
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behalf. The amendment therefore adds a necessary qualitative dimension to the way in which the second criterion is expressed.

I am sure that CAC panels, whose members are most certainly experts in industrial relations, will be able to apply the criterion fairly and sensibly. Amendment No. 1 would improve the statutory procedure by removing an unhelpful rigidity within it.

I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Lea for drawing this matter to our attention at each stage. I commend the amendment to the House. I beg to move.

Lord Lea of Crondall: My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend for bringing forward the amendment. As he indicated, there are other examples of where this issue has presented a difficulty in addition to the case he has specifically cited.

Perhaps I may take the opportunity to check whether I have understood how this will work in practice. Let me take the case of letters from union members stating that they do not want the union to negotiate on their behalf, but these are letters which the CAC concludes the employer asked the workers to send—indeed, the employer may have helped draft the letters. How does the Minister envisage the panel would deal with those letters? How would it assess whether they represented credible evidence?


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