Richard Burden, Ronnie Campbell, Mick Clapham, Katy Clark, Frank Cook, Jeremy Corbyn, Jim Cousins, Jon Cruddas, John Cummings, Dai Davies, David Drew, Bill Etherington, Mark Fisher, Paul Flynn, George Galloway, Neil Gerrard, Ian Gibson, Roger Godsiff, Dai Havard, Kate Hoey, Paul Holmes, Brian Iddon, Eric Illsley, Glenda Jackson, Brian Jenkins, Lynne Jones, John Leech, Elfyn Llwyd, Andrew Mackinlay, Gordon Marsden, Bob Marshall-Andrews, Chris McCafferty, John McDonnell, Michael Meacher, Andrew Miller, Austin Mitchell, Doug Naysmith, Dr Nick Palmer, Andrew Pelling, Adam Price, Gwyn Prosser, Linda Riordan, Jim Sheridan, Alan Simpson, Marsha Singh, Dennis Skinner, Ian Stewart, Richard Taylor, Paul Truswell, Bob Wareing, Hywel Williams, David Winnick, Tony Wright, Andrew Dismore, David Taylor
Second, René Lavanchy reports on the shameful affair in the Tribune:
GORDON BROWN faced down the biggest backbench revolt of his premiership this week as 44 MPs voted against the Government in support of an amendment to the Employment Bill that would boost trade union rights.
Ministers also faced down a challenge to the bill that would strengthen unions’ powers to expel members of the British National Party and other extremist political parties.
Labour’s John McDonnell put forward an amendment, supported by the TUC and all its member unions, which would have made it easier for unions to ballot their members for industrial action by requiring employers to help them collect the contact details of their members.
But opposition from ministers and the Tories – together with a three-line Labour whip – meant he was heavily defeated.
Mr McDonnell said afterwards: “This is a huge rebellion in a by-election week and sends out the clearest possible signal to the Government that we are not doing enough on trade union rights.
“Our supporters will not understand why the Government is prepared to fall over backwards to rescue the bankers but will do nothing to protect workers as the recession begins to bite.”
The Conservatives vigorously opposed the amendment, with shadow business minister Jonathan Djanogly saying: “Here the true face and belief of the hard left of the Labour party is exposed and it is not a pretty sight for business.”
This is the third time Mr McDonnell has sought to overturn restrictions on trade union activity. Last year, his trade union freedom bill was twice talked out of Parliament.
In debate, Mr McDonnell and his supporters were at pains to argue that unions are unfairly hamstrung because industrial action can be thwarted on legal technicalities, such as failing to ballot every single member.
Labour MP Andrew Dismore said: “When people change their address, they almost always notify their employer, but nearly always forget to tell their trade union. In these days of postal ballots, how on earth is the union to get the ballot papers to the members if they do not register their addresses?”
Employment minister Pat McFadden said that current legislation allowed courts to overlook “small accidental failures” by a union to follow balloting rules. But Andrew Miller replied that in several court cases, judges had not used that option.
Mr McDonnell withdrew his other amendments, which would have restricted employers’ powers to sack striking workers and banned them from using agency staff to replace them.
Immediately afterwards, MPs debated another amendment which sought to write into law a European Court of Human Rights judgment, which said that trade unions have the right to choose their own members. The case was brought by train drivers’ union ASLEF in 2005 against BNP member Jay Lee, whom they had expelled.
But Tony Lloyd, the chair of the Parliamentary Labour Party who brought the amendment, withdrew it in the face of insufficient support.
The Government insists that the bill as it stands does implement the court ruling, but ASLEF general secretary Keith Norman called their refusal to change the bill “plain daft”.