PARLIAMENTARY DEBATES

HOUSE OF COMMONS

OFFICIAL REPORT

Second Standing Committee on Delegated Legislation

DRAFT TRADE UNION SUBSCRIPTION DEDUCTIONS (NORTHERN IRELAND) ORDER 1999

Monday 1 March 1999

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The Committee consisted of the following Members:

Chairman: MR. BILL OLNER

Beggs, Mr. Roy (East Antrim)

Chaytor, Mr. David (Bury, North)

Colman, Mr. Tony (Putney)

Cox, Mr. Tom (Tooting)

Cran, Mr. James (Beverley and Holderness)

Donaldson, Mr. Jeffrey (Lagan Valley)

Dowd, Mr. Jim (Lord Commissioner to the Treasury)

Efford, Mr. Clive (Eltham)

Gill, Mr. Christopher (Ludlow)

Godsiff, Mr. Roger (Birmingham, Sparkbrook and Small Heath)

Hunter, Mr. Andrew (Basingstoke)

Ingram, Mr. Adam (Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office)

McIsaac, Shona (Cleethorpes)

Moss, Mr. Malcolm (North-East Cambridgeshire)

Winnick, Mr. David (Walsall, North)

Wright, Mr. Anthony D. (Great Yarmouth)

Mr. K. C. Fox, Committee Clerk.

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3 Second Standing Committee on Delegated Legislation >Monday 1 March 1999

[MR. BILL OLNER in the Chair]

Draft Trade Union Subscription Deductions (Northern Ireland) Order 1999

4.30 pm

The Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office (Mr. Adam Ingram): I beg to move, That the Committee has considered the draft Trade Union Subscription Deductions (Northern Ireland) Order 1999. Drafts of the order were laid before the House on 22 February 1999. I hope that the Committee will approve the order. As hon. Members appreciate, the order replicates for Northern Ireland the provisions of the Deregulation (Deduction From Pay of Union Subscriptions) Order 1998, which came into effect in Great Britain on 23 June 1998. It removes the burdens that the law imposes on employers when they deduct their employees' trade union subscriptions directly from pay—a system that is known as the check-off. The law in question is contained in articles 35 and 36 of the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Northern Ireland) Order 1995. The provisions in articles 35 and 36 are unpopular with employers and unions. They impose a costly and pointless administrative burden on business and disrupt the orderly conduct of industrial relations. The draft order will be warmly welcomed by trade unions and employers. The order removes the requirement on employers to obtain repeat authorisations from individual workers at least every three years to confirm each worker's wish to continue paying his subscriptions by the check-off method. It also removes the requirement on employers to notify workers at least one month in advance if the amount that is deducted by check-off is to increase. Provisions on check-off that provide necessary protections for workers will be unaffected by the order. The changes will not affect the obligation on employers to obtain a written authorisation from workers before they begin making check-off deductions from their pay. Likewise, workers will remain free to withdraw from the check-off system at any time. Employers will still be required, under article 40 of the Employment Rights (Northern Ireland) Order 1996, to give every employee a regular itemised pay statement showing the amount of any deduction. 4 Those requirements provide a sufficient safeguard to keep employees informed about, and in control of, deductions from their pay. The order also provides for transitional arrangements. Workers will be able to opt to renew their authorisation of deductions within the three-year period, or to allow it to run indefinitely until it is withdrawn. The order removes the law's burdensome requirements in regard to check-off. Those requirements are not only roundly disliked, but costly to employers and unions in time and effort. The order retains aspects of current legislation that provide essential freedoms to individual employees to opt in and out of arrangements for deducting subscriptions from pay. I commend it to the Committee.

4.33 pm

Mr. Malcolm Moss (North-East Cambridgeshire) : One can always have a stab at guessing how important a piece of legislation is by looking at the number of advisers who are on hand for the Minister. As there are so few today, we can assume that the order is pretty straightforward, and that the Minister will need no help whatever. The Conservative party obviously agrees with the order because it is deregulatory. Strangely enough, as the Minister said, those on both sides of the argument have found merit in the order; employers and, for obvious reasons, unions have welcomed it. We are in favour of anything that deregulates paperwork and administration, which are a burden on business. I commend the order.

4.34 pm

Mr. Roy Beggs (East Antrim): The provisions that the order puts in place in Northern Ireland are the same as those elsewhere in Great Britain. As the measure has found favour with unions and employers, I will not delay its implementation further.

4.34 pm

Mr. Ingram: This is one of those rare moments of unity, which I have not seen for some time in the Committees that I have attended. The hon. Member for North-East Cambridgeshire (Mr. Moss) commented on the number of my advisers. In the Northern Ireland Office, we go for quality, not quantity. I am happy to accept the comments that the hon. Gentleman and the hon. Member for East Antrim (Mr. Beggs) made in welcoming the order.

Question put and agreed to.

Resolved, That the Committee has considered the draft Trade Union Subscription Deductions (Northern Ireland) Order 1999.

Committee rose at twenty-five minutes to Five o 'clock.

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THE FOLLOWING MEMBERS ATTENDED THE COMMITTEE:

Olner, Mr. Bill (Chairman)

Beggs, Mr. Roy

Colman, Mr. Tony

Cox, Tom

Cran, Mr. James

Dowd, Mr. Jim

Godsiff, Mr. Roger

Ingram, Mr. Adam

Mclsaac, Shona

Moss, Mr. Malcolm

Winnick, Mr. David

Wright, Mr. Anthony D.

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