§ [4TH ALLOTTED DAY]
§ Lords Amendments considered.
§ 3.38 p.m.
§ Mrs. Barbara Castle (Blackburn)
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker, at the outset of these proceedings, which are on the last day but one that the Bill will be before the House, I should like to raise with you a serious matter arising from the debates in another place. This relates to an Amendment which the Government have made de facto to the Bill without any written Amendment being in front of us to enable us to discuss it. I am referring to the provision to fine the trade union movement a sum of up to £5 million for failure to register as a result of the withdrawal of tax reliefs from their provident funds.
In Committee in the House my hon. Friends and I put forward an Amendment to deal with that situation. We were assured by the Secretary of State that such an Amendment was not necessary. He also assured us that if the Amendment were necessary it would be made. It is clear from the discussion in another place that that is the effect of the present provisions of the Bill. I see that the right hon. Member opposite nods.
It is now clear that the trade union movement has been advised on the highest legal authority that that will be the effect that non-registration will have on their provident funds and that tax relief will not be available to them, as the right hon. Gentleman assured the House it would.
As the right hon. Gentleman's honour is involved, and as, no doubt, unwittingly, the House of Commons was misled on this matter, may I appeal to him through you, Mr. Speaker, to seize this last opportunity to put this matter right before the discussions on the Bill are completed?
§ The Secretary of State for Employment (Mr. Robert Carr)
The right hon. Lady gave me no prior warning that she intended to raise this point. In my belief, 1338 the guidance that I gave did not mislead the House. I still believe that there is no insuperable obstacle to a trade union separating off its provident fund activities into a separate activity, and that therefore what I said was correct. But, as I say, I have had no warning of this, so I have had no chance to look at it again.
§ Mrs. Castle
Further to that point of order. I have given the right hon. Gentleman two days' warning, in the sense that we still have two days of debate on the Bill. May I therefore appeal to him again, through you, Mr. Speaker, to consider this matter further, taking further advice, and, if he finds that there is any doubt about the value of the assurances that he gave the House in Committee, to put the matter right in the time left to us?