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Independent watchdog slams government assessment of Strikes Bill as “not fit for purpose”

  • Government-appointed body gives ministers the red card on Strikes Bill for failing to provide sufficient evidence
  • TUC says government is steamrollering Bill through while keeping parliamentarians and public in the dark about the true nature of legislation

A government-appointed body has today (Monday) given the government’s impact assessment for its Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Bill the red card, and said it is “not fit for purpose”. 

The impact assessment is expected to be published imminently, as the Bill begins its passage through the House of Lords today.

The Regulatory Policy Committee – a group of independent experts brought together by the Department for Business to examine the impact of regulation on business and civil society – said the government has failed to provide sufficient evidence in its assessment of the legislation and instead relied on assumptions. It slapped a rare “red” rating on the document.

The RPC says:

“While the analysis that is included in the IA is clearly set out, the Department makes use of assumptions in the analysis which are not supported by evidence.

“We would expect the Department to provide a more detailed description of the affected sectors and the costs to trade unions alongside secondary legislation. In addition, it is not clear that the IA considers all of the impacts of the new requirements that will be introduced via the Bill.”

The RPC also points out that some of the evidence provided by government is out of date – with some sources almost a decade old:

“It is not always clear what evidence has been used, or the continued relevance of that which is used (e.g., some sources are almost a decade old), to inform the content of the IA.”

Ducking scrutiny

The RPC has also strongly criticised the government for failing to produce an impact assessment for the Strikes Bill in time.

The independent government watchdog says the Business department “did not follow its own policy for the timely submission of an IA to the RPC for scrutiny, to enable Parliament to consider both the IA and the RPC’s opinion.”

The TUC has accused the government of ducking scrutiny and “shortcutting” normal scrutiny procedures.

If passed, the Minimum Service Levels Bill will mean that when workers democratically and lawfully vote to strike they can be forced to work and sacked if they don’t comply.

The bill gives ministers power to impose new minimum service levels through regulation. 

But consultations on how these regulations will work have not been published, and parliamentarians have been given few details on how minimum service levels are intended to operate.

The TUC says the new legislation will “do nothing” to solve the current disputes across the public sector, and “only make matters worse”.

TUC general secretary Paul Nowak said:

“Ministers are trying to keep parliamentarians and the public in the dark about this draconian legislation – which is a direct attack on our fundamental right to strike.

“It is telling that the government’s own independent watchdog has given ministers the red card on this Bill – and labelled it ‘not fit for purpose’.

“Ministers must come clean about the true nature of this nasty Bill. They must not be allowed to duck scrutiny.”

Commenting on far-reaching nature of the Bill, Paul Nowak added:

“This spiteful legislation would mean that when workers democratically vote to strike, they can be forced to work and sacked if they don’t comply.  

“It’s undemocratic, unworkable and almost certainly illegal. And crucially it will likely poison industrial relations and exacerbate disputes rather than help resolve them.

“The government is investing far more time and energy in steamrollering this Bill through parliament than it is on resolving disputes.

“Instead of scheming up new ways to attack the right to strike, ministers should get pay rising across the economy – starting with a decent pay rise for public sector workers.”

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