I can assure you I know how valuable Trade Unions are to British society and dedicated trade unionists have a strong history of working hard to represent their members, campaigning for improved safety at work and giving support to their members when it's needed.
However, it is only fair that the rights of unions are balanced with the rights of hardworking taxpayers who rely on key public services.
The Trade Union Bill is not an attempt to ban industrial action. It will make the key provisions of the Picketing Code legally binding and make trade unions more accountable for the conduct on picket lines to tackle the problem of intimidation of non-striking workers. The Government is not proposing to introduce new measures that are not already in the Picketing Code and most unions have followed this Code without difficulty for many years.
Nor does the Bill propose to stop "Facility Time", or time spent by an organisation's staff on trade union duties and activities during working hours. It will, however, ensure greater transparency by extending the requirements to publish information on the time and money spent on facility time, bringing this in line with the Civil Service and the wider public sector. I believe it is right that the Government monitor the practice to ensure it is a sensible use of taxpayers' money and this will ensure levels of facility time remain appropriate.
I can confirm that the practice of state-run trade union subscriptions, or the "check off" process, is to be ended, removing the taxpayer-funded administrative burden on employers. I believe there is no reason, however, why a trade union with a good relationship with members would lose out by asking them to pay by direct debit.
On a final note, there are sectors in which industrial action has a wider impact on members of the public that I believe is disproportionate and unfair. Allowing agency workers to cover striking workers will ensure that businesses can continue to operate to some extent. As you may be aware, the Government is seeking views from a wide range of stakeholders and I am assured all consultation responses will be considered in the context of wider industrial relations legislation and interests.