Stephen Kinnock (Aberavon) (Lab): I declare an interest as a proud member of Community union. I represent the south Wales constituency of Aberavon which is steeped in the history of the trade union movement—Members will imagine the strength of feeling and amount of correspondence that I have received in opposition to this unjust and vindictive Bill. We now need a cultural change in Britain’s industrial relations, and a move away from the Punch and Judy style that has evolved thanks to legislation such as this Bill. There is an urgent need to move towards more collective bargaining across the economy, as that would have a direct and positive impact on productivity—something that the Government claim they are campaigning for passionately. Regrettably, the Bill will neither change the culture nor increase productivity. Instead, it will lead to an entrenching of the “them versus us” culture that is bad for workers, employers, customers, business, and the public at large.
Let me draw the House’s attention to the sections in the Bill that deal with picketing. Conservative Members have failed completely to demonstrate why the picketing provisions in this Bill are necessary or justified. The Government’s regulatory policy committee concluded that the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills impact assessment on picketing restrictions was not fit for purpose, and that no full impact assessment of the Bill has been published.
Under these new provisions, trade union pickets will be subject to levels of police scrutiny and control that go far beyond what is fair or necessary. Most importantly, the changes in the Bill will also be a waste of police time. That issue was raised by the National Police Chiefs Council and the Police Federation in oral evidence to the Bill Committee. Steve White from the Police Federation said:
“We are finding it extremely challenging to cope with day-to-day policing with the current resource levels, and the likelihood is that they are going to become squeezed even more. If there is an increased requirement for police involvement around the policing of industrial disputes, that would be more challenging.”
I understand that Conservative Members are friends and supporters of the police, so I hope they will listen carefully to that.
Imran Hussain: When senior police officers are warning that neighbourhood policing is under threat, is it right that we should use police resources to further restrict the civil liberties of trade union members?
Stephen Kinnock: I agree entirely with my hon. Friend. We hear a lot from Conservative Members about smart government and deploying resources according to priorities. Does any hon. Member honestly believe that using police resources on this matter would be a good use of already stretched resources? I think not.
The digital age has brought a revolution in the world of work. That has thrown up several questions, but also offers employers, trade unions and Government alike a once in a generation opportunity to work in partnership—a chance to shape a framework that provides the blend of flexibility and security that this new reality requires. If all parties were to seize that opportunity, we could potentially see the green shoots of a 21st century industrial relations culture that would, in turn, enable the development of a labour market that is fit for purpose and resilient in this new age. Let us not waste that opportunity with an adversarial and counterproductive Bill such as this.