View from Westminster: Trade Union Bill and standing up for the steel industry

Last week in Parliament I was proud to help lead Labour’s opposition to the Government’s divisive and partisan Trade Union Bill— which I believe is not needed, is potentially in violation of various international and European laws, infringes on civil liberties, and attacks ordinary working people, at a time when industrial action is at record low levels.

As I said in my speech in the chamber, I’ve no hesitation in describing the Bill as one of the greatest threats to the activities of trade unions and ordinary working people up and down this country, and one of the greatest threats to hard-won and fundamental civil liberties in a generation.

The Bill breaches long-established rights to strike, protest and to industrial action. It introduces pernicious measures and the potential for wide-ranging further restrictions and powers in secondary legislation that we have yet to see.

The provisions on social media are absurd. And importantly we’ve heard that the Bill breaches the devolution settlement with far-reaching consequences for relationships and public policy in wholly devolved areas such as health and education, whether in Wales or Scotland, let alone at the level of local authorities in England or London.

The Bill potentially puts the Government in breach of international conventions and European law. It breaches established conventions on the funding of political parties and political campaigning.

Many constituents have been in touch about this issue – I’ve been proud to lead Labour’s opposition to the Bill and will oppose it at every stage.

I was back in the Chamber last Thursday, helping to lead the opposition in a backbench business debate in which Labour called for recognition of the unprecedented gravity of the challenges currently facing the UK steel industry; and for the Government to hold a top-level summit with key players from the industry to seek meaningful and urgent solutions to the crisis.

This is an absolutely crucial time for the UK steel industry, and of huge significance – not only locally in this constituency with the Celsa steelworks – but across the country, with wider implications for the economic security of the UK and its global position in manufacturing.

We are at an historic crossroads. Decisions taken in the months ahead by the Government will be crucial in determining whether there will be a sustainable future for steel in this country. There needs to be cross-party, cross-UK, cross-Government support for the steel industry, and we need action now.

I pressed the Minister on this in the Chamber, and was pleased that she agreed to our demand for an urgent summit.

 * Stephen writes his weekly View From Westminster column in the Penarth Times. This column appeared in the edition of September 24.



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