Page last updated at 15:15 GMT, Friday, 22 October 2010 16:15 UK

Bill 'risks taking union movement back to 1970s'

A private member's bill preventing employers from blocking strike action voted for by trade union members risks taking the union movement back to the 1970s and the 1980s, the Commons has heard.

The Industrial Action bill, proposed by Labour MP John McDonnell and supported by a number of unions, seeks to amend existing legislation governing the trade union ballot process to ensure that minor technical errors could not be used to invalidate the vote.

But Tory MP David Nutall warned it could make it easier for trade unions to organise industrial action which would blight "everybody's lives".

During second reading debate on 22 October 2010, Mr McDonnell told MP's his bill would give "clarity" to earlier legislation regarding union balloting processes but stressed it would not lessen the core obligations on trade unions seeking to organise industrial action.

"All it does is seek to address the consequences of technical, minor non-compliance with any of the stages of the process," he said, adding that this would go some way in "restoring basic civil liberties in this country" and improving the "climate of industrial relations".

'Trojan horse'

But Mr Nuttall urged the House not to take the bill lightly.

"I'm not persuaded that [this bill] is merely a technical matter. It's changing the law of the land and I believe it deserves careful analysis and detailed examination," he said, referring to Mr McDonnell's earlier comments that MPs should not seek to derail private members' bills at second reading by taking frequent interventions or talking them out.

North-west Leicestershire MP Andrew Bridgen said the legislation was a "Trojan horse" which would serve only to damage industrial relations and make the UK far less competitive.

MPs voted by 87 to 27, a majority of 60, in favour of bringing the debate to a close - allowing the bill to pass - but rules dictate that 100 "yes" votes are needed to uphold the result.

The debate continued and time ran out at 2.30pm, meaning the bill failed to gain a second reading. It now stands little chance of making progress due to Commons rules.

The last hour of this debate is missing owing to a power failure. You can read the transcript of the debate here.

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