Monthly Archives: October 2015

Peer Review

In the last Parliament (2010-15) 62 unelected peers in the House of Lords claimed £360,000 in expenses but never once voted. Among those claiming expenses but not voting in the last Parliamentary session were:

  • Richard Chatres, the Bishop or London
  • Baron Andrew Lloyd Webber (musical impresario)
  • Rabbi (Baron) Jonathan Sacks

Lords can claim £300 tax free per day in expenses plus travel costs but they are not obliged to vote even if they turn up and claim expenses. There are 224 Conservative lords, 210 Labour and 101 Liberal Democrats (there are also 25 unelected Bishops). The full make up of the chamber can be found here.House of Lords

Four peers in the House of Lords have been convicted of criminal offences: Lord Archer (perjury), Paul White and John Taylor (expenses cheats) and Mike Watson (arson) and all still remain in the Lords.

Over 33% of peers previously worked in politics but only 1% were manual or craft workers. Electoral Reform Services cheif executive Darren Hughes said that the House of Lords is not a “chamber of experts” but a “chamber of professional politicians”.

Only 2 Lords are under 40 years old. Only 24% of peers are women. 50% of Lords live in London or the South East. 54% of Lords are over 70 years old.

David Cameronis expected to create 50 new peers in the next few months whose expenses are likely to be over £13 million a year. At the current rate of growth there will be over 1000 unelected members in the House of Lords by 2020 – which would make the House of Lords the second biggest political chamber in the world after the Chinese politbureau.


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Petition Against the Trade Union Bill

At next week’s Council meeting the Labour group will be tabling a petition against the Trade Union Bill which is currently going through Parliament. The petition has been proposed by the Labour group leader Cllr Robert Atkinson and seconded by Cllr Andrew Lomas and is reproduced in full below. A pdf version is available here.Petition

If you free next Wednesday (14 October) at 6.30pm it would be go to show up and support Labour at Kensington Town Hall (in the Council Chamber) and see what the Conservatives say in response. The reading and debate on it should occur pretty early on in the meeting so less than an hour’s attendance would be required.

Trade Union Bill Petition (in full)

“This Council notes that:

 In July 2015 the government announced its trade union bill – a wide-ranging set of proposals which, taken as a package, will undermine the basic right to strike and make it harder for workers to organise effectively in trade unions.

 The proposals include ending the ban on employers bringing in agency workers to cover for permanent staff during industrial action – which fundamentally undermines the right to strike.

 The proposals will also bring in new restrictions on pickets and protests during strikes. Unions will have to give the details of a lead picketer on every picket line to the police and employers – and the government has even floated the idea of making all picketers give their details to the police. They may even be required to submit a campaign plan to the police and employers two weeks in advance – setting out what they intend to do, whether they will use a loudspeaker or carry a banner and even what strikers intend to put on social media, such as Facebook or twitter.

 The government has also proposed new thresholds for turnout in strike ballots, plus additional thresholds for those working in “important public services”.

 The government wants to grant ministers the power unilaterally to cut so-called “facilities time” in the public sector. This is paid time-off mutually agreed between employers and unions for union reps to represent their members and negotiate with their employer.

 The government also proposes to prohibit public sector employers assisting unions to collect their membership subscriptions through payrolls – even though this is used for a variety of other staff benefits such as cycle-to-work schemes and childcare vouchers, and even though unions often meet the costs of this.

This Council further notes that:

 The human rights organisations Liberty, Amnesty International and the British Institute of Human Rights have said that the government’s proposals “would hamper people’s basic rights to protest and shift even more power from the employee to the employer”.

 The government refuses to allow trade unions to ballot their members electronically, which could help increase engagement.

 Trade unions take industrial action for a wide range of reasons including defending wages and pensions, conditions at work and safety.

 Strikes in the UK are at historically low levels.

This Council believes that:

 No worker ever wants to go on strike – but it is a crucial last resort for workers when their employer refuses to listen to their views, negotiate with them or compromise.

 The right to strike and protest are fundamental rights that should be valued and respected in a free and democratic society.

 Without the right to strike, workers will be unable to defend their jobs or pay, stand up for decent services and achieve fairness and safety at work.

 The government’s proposals will undermine constructive employment relations in Kensington and Chelsea where harmonious industrial relations are achieved by meaningful engagement with trade unions and their members.

 That, in the spirit of localism, councils should be free to build positive industrial relations that work for their communities without central government interference.

This Council therefore resolves:

 To support the TUC’s and the Town Hall unions’ campaign to protect the right to strike.

 To write to the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills stating the council’s opposition to the government’s proposals on trade unions.

 To write to the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government and the minister for London stating its opposition to the interference of central government in local industrial relations as it is against the spirit of localism.

 To write to Victoria Borwick MP and Greg Hands MP informing them of the Council’s position and encouraging them to oppose the trade union bill.

 To continue to value the importance of meaningful workforce engagement and representation through trade unions in Kensington and Chelsea.

 That, in the event that the government’s proposals become law, in so far as is lawful for this Council as an employer:

•to continue to allow recognised trade unions to use subscriptions through payroll, or otherwise support trade unions’ efforts to move members onto direct debit subscriptions, through allowing access to workers and as much notice as possible of any changed arrangements;

•to maintain current arrangements on “facility time” for trade union reps to represent their members; and

•to commit not to use agency workers to break strikes.”

Proposed by: Cllr. Robert Atkinson

Seconded by: Cllr. Andrew Lomas


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Attack on Freedom of Expression

The government’s new Trade Union Bill contains numerous attaches on the trade unions. One clause the media have not really discussed is that the government will deamnd 14 days notice form trade unions if they intend to use social media during strikes. Trade unions will also have to tell the employer and government what their blogs etc are going to say.

The institute of Employment Rights director, Carolyn Jones, said, “This would be laughable if it wasn’t Orwellian. Workers have the rights of privacy and freedon of expression – nowadays technology is a 21st century weapon against employers’ Victorian practices.”

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