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A leaked ministerial letter made public today (Monday) has revealed that ministers expect the House of Lords to defeat "flagship" parts of the Trade Union Bill.

date: 8 February 2016
embargo: For immediate release                                                                                                                  

A leaked ministerial letter made public today (Monday) has revealed that ministers expect the House of Lords to defeat "flagship" parts of the Trade Union Bill.

The letter outlines a series of changes ministers want in the Bill. These include:

  • A review into whether unions should be allowed to conduct e-ballots for strikes. This letter says this is needed because “the threshold provisions (the flagship element of the bill) will be defeated if the government does not make some move towards accepting the possibility of electronic balloting”.  However, the letter sets no deadline for this review to report back.
  • Introducing a legal duty to consult the Scottish and Welsh governments on key aspects of the Bill. In addition, the letter suggests the government may have to make further changes to the Bill in Scotland and Wales, including thresholds and facility time.
  • Allowing public sector check-off arrangements to remain in place in Scotland and Wales. But not in England.
  • Removing the increase in the notice period for industrial action from seven days to 14 days.
  • Increasing the time that a ballot is legally valid from four months to six months, with further extensions of three months where agreed between unions and employers.
  • Deleting the need for a picket supervisor to wear an armband and badge.

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said:

“The TUC continues to oppose the Trade Union Bill in its entirety. However, we are pleased that ministers recognise that large parts of it are not fit for purpose.

“This letter exposes the huge legal and constitutional problems the Bill will face if it is to come into law in Scotland and Wales. And it recognises the independence of the Certification Officer is under threat.

“The changes discussed in this correspondence are important. However, they do not go far enough. While ministers are right to call for check-off arrangements to remain in Scotland and Wales, they are still planning on banning public sector employers in England from deducting union subs from payroll.

“And holding a review into electronic balloting without an end date is simply not good enough. If online balloting is safe and secure enough for the Conservatives to select their candidate for London Mayor, there can be no excuse for delaying its introduction for union members.”


  • The ministerial letter was made public today by the Socialist Workers’ Newspaper. A copy of the letter can be seen here 
  • Follow the TUC on Twitter: @The_TUC and follow the TUC press team @tucnews


Media enquiries:
Alex Rossiter  T: 020 7467 1285  M: 07887 572130  E:
Tim Nichols  T: 020 7467 1388  M: 07808 761844  E:

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