All 1 Debates between Baroness Noakes and Baroness Bryan of Partick

Thu 23rd Mar 2023

Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Bill

Debate between Baroness Noakes and Baroness Bryan of Partick
Baroness Noakes Portrait Baroness Noakes (Con)
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My Lords, since the noble and learned Lord, Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd, used what I said earlier in aid of his arguments, I thought I ought to say a few words. First, unfortunately I do not speak for the Government in any respect. Indeed, the Government are generally to the left of my views, so my views are indeed my own. I have said that this Bill is about protecting service levels, in particular for those who have paid through their taxes for public services to be provided to them. That is the aim of the Bill. The means of the Bill is via trade union and industrial relations legislation. That is a reserved matter, and I think the Government have to accept the point.

Having said that, I of course agree that the devolved Administrations should be consulted on minimum service levels because they are bound to affect their citizens. I believe that the devolved Administrations would want to be involved in any consultation, to put across the views of their citizens as to the appropriate minimum service levels that their citizens should be demanding. However, I do not think it goes beyond that, and I do not think it is necessary to go to the extent of the amendment from the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, which talks about meaningful consultation. They are of course going to be consulted on these matters.

When the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, introduced Amendment 14, she very carefully said that elected mayors should be consulted. That is not what Amendment 14 says. It says that regulations cannot be made

“without the consent of the elected mayor for that area.”

That would mean, for example, that any minimum service level which affected a train service between London and Manchester could be vetoed by either the elected Mayor of Greater Manchester or the elected Mayor of London—or indeed Birmingham. That seems to me to be complete nonsense. I believe they should be consulted because they will want to input the views that protect services for the residents in their areas, but we should not go as far as requiring consent.

Baroness Bryan of Partick Portrait Baroness Bryan of Partick (Lab)
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My Lords, I speak in favour of Amendments 19 and 49 in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, which try to mitigate in one and contain in the other the level of interference that the Bill intends to make into areas that are clearly devolved. This is in a long line of legislation that has trampled over the accepted responsibilities of devolved Governments. The United Kingdom Internal Market Act, the Nationality and Borders Act, the Subsidy Control Act, the Elections Act, the Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill and the retained EU law Bill are just a few of the Bills that have impacted on the devolved Administrations.

On this occasion, in the Bill’s list of six services to be targeted I found only one that was reserved and that was border security, though I take the point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, that airports and ports will be dragged into that. Health services, education, fire and rescue services, transport services and the decommissioning of nuclear plants are devolved responsibilities, and the elected Members of the Scottish Parliament and the Welsh Senedd are ultimately accountable for the delivery of these services. The Minister and his colleagues have no electoral mandate to interfere in these services. Not only does the Bill seek to allow government Ministers to interfere in devolved areas of competency but it does not even have the good manners to outline in the body of the Bill how they would use these powers. Parliament is yet again being asked to put its name to a blank cheque.

It may surprise the Minister to know that both the Welsh and Scottish Governments have respectful working relationships with trade unions in their countries. In Scotland, the fair work framework has a different model of industrial relations from that adopted by the UK Government. The framework states that there are many examples in Scotland and elsewhere of how the collective voice of trade unions working with employers has addressed the wide range of organisational challenges and contributed to organisational improvements. The Welsh Government are committed to the Fair Work Commission in Wales, which respects and encourages trade unions to have a significant role in workplaces, society and policy-making. How different that is from the approach taken by this Government. These fair work arrangements do not prevent industrial disputes but allow constructive dialogue between government, employers and trade unions, so that when disputes occur there is greater good will to resolve them.