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The Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Bill 2022-23 completed its Commons stages on 30 January 2023. The Bill passed second reading in the Lords on 21 February 2023 and committee stage on 9 March 2023. The Bill passed third reading on 9 May 2023 and was returned to the Commons with amendments.

For information on the Bill itself, including background, original content and general commentary, see the Commons Library briefing paper on the Bill.

Committee reports

Since the Bill completed its Commons stages on 30 January 2023, three committees have issued reports on the bill, each of which have been critical of the government’s approach to different aspects of the Bill.

The Regulatory Policy Committee’s opinion published on 21 February “Red-rated” the government’s impact assessment for the Bill as “not-fit-for-purpose.”

The House of Lords Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee report on 2 March 2023 [PDF] drew the House’s attention to two of the delegated powers in the bill; the power to make minimum service regulations and to define the scope of the services affected. The committee concluded that both of these powers should be seen as inappropriate, barring a better explanation from the government.

The Joint Committee on Human Rights’ report on the bill, published on 6 March, expressed concerns that the bill, in particular the potential penalties it imposed on unions and workers for non-compliance, risked contravening Article 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). The committee recommended the Bill be amended in several ways. The government disagreed with the recommendations and said the proposed amendments were unnecessary.

Amendments

At report stage on 26 April the Lords agreed to five amendments to the bill; one (Amendment 2 – now numbered 3 on the list for Commons consideration) at the proposal of the government and four following a division which the government opposed. Two further amendments were moved but then withdrawn.

The five substantive amendments agreed to at report stage were:

  • Amendment 1 (now No. 2) – to require the government to conduct, and parliament to review, a consultation, before the new powers to create minimum service regulations could be used
  • Amendment 2 (now No. 3) – to expand the protection the Bill offers trade union members against being unfairly identified in work notices, to cover other aspects of union activities
  • Amendments 4 and 5 – to prevent unions being sued or workers being dismissed or penalised for failing to comply with work notices
  • Amendment 7 (now No. 1) – to limit the application of the Bill to England only, excluding Scotland and Wales from its effects

At third reading Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State Lord Callanan, summing up for the government, expressed his disappointment with the amendments that had been passed at report stage, saying:

I am disappointed that the Bill leaves this House in a condition which is not as the Government would have preferred. I hope that the upcoming consideration of the amendments in the other place will present an opportunity for the elected House to reconsider the Bill.

Two other minor consequential amendments were agreed at third reading.

The Commons will consider the Lords amendments on Monday 22 May 2023. The Government has tabled motions to disagree with all of the Lords amendments except for what was Lords Amendment 2 (now numbered 3 on the list of Lords amendments for Commons consideration).


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