HC Deb 24 May 1988 vol 134 cc263-4

Lords amendment: No 24, in page 19, line 39, leave out "some or all" and insert "one or more".

Mr. Nicholls

I beg to move, That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said amendment.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

With this we shall take Lords amendments Nos. 25 and 26.

Mr. Nicholls

This amendment was tabled by noble Lords from the Opposition Benches. It was readily accepted by the Government. The objective of the clause is to ensure that separate place-of-work ballots are held, except in circumstances where all the members whose votes are to be aggregated across different places of work share one or more common distinguishing characteristic.

When the clause left this House, the exception was limited to circumstances where a group sharing such a factor or factors consisted of at least three people. However, there is no justification for excluding the circumstances where a group consists of only two members. The amendment addresses this point.

Amendments Nos. 25 and 26 were tabled by Opposition peers and were accepted by the Government, albeit with one minor drafting change. In practice the only change in the clause as it stood before these amendments were devised is to allow a ballot to be aggregated across two or more employers if there is a common and appropriate factor that applies to only one voter, and to non-voters at one employer but is shared with no voters at a second employer.

When the Government tabled amendments to the clause at the Commons Report stage it was with the intention of enabling aggregation of ballot votes across different places of work, to cover the situation of various types of bargaining groups. It is possible to envisage a bargaining group in the case that I have just described. The Government therefore accepted a change in the clause that allowed an exception in such a case to the requirement for separate place-of-work ballots. I therefore hope that the amendment commends itself to the Opposition and to the House.

Mr. Strang

We made clear on Report and in Committee that we regard this clause as a complex imposition that employers will have great difficulty in understanding. It will certainly not add to good industrial relations in this country. But, as the Minister says, these are minor amendments and we do not wish to detain the House on them.

Mr. Jonathan Sayeed (Bristol, East)

I should be grateful if my hon. Friend could help me with one point. In the case of the National Union of Seamen, as my hon. Friend will be aware, ballots could take place on ships overseas. It is possible that the results of those ballots will not get back to the NUS in time. The consequence of that is that those working in home waters on ferries are in a particularly advantageous position and the NUS could follow their wishes rather than those working in deep sea waters or abroad. Will the clause deal adequately with the replacement ballot, and the time in which it will be conducted?

Mr. Nicholls

This part of the Bill will not be dealing with the time in which a ballot takes place. As the hon. Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Strang) has said, this is by no means an easy read. Having said that, I hope that those who have studied it in Committee, and other interests elsewhere, agree that, although the clause is difficult to read, it is at least better than it was. I recollect that in Committee there was some debate about whether, for the purposes of the definition of a place of work, which is relevant to the construction of the clause, a ship could be considered as premises. I recall that I or my hon. Friend the Minister of State, pointed out that a ship was not to be taken as a place of work in those circumstances.

If my hon. Friend has in mind the possibility of timing and matters of that sort, they would not strictly fall to be considered under this clause.

Question put and agreed to.

Lords amendments Nos. 25 to 27 agreed to.

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