Lords committee: halt changes to Labour's trade union funding

Press release - for immediate release
Statement from Unlock Democracy

Contact: Pete Mills (pete.mills@unlockdemocracy.org.uk T: 020 7278 4443)

Unlock Democracy welcomes the report published today by a cross-party committee of Lords recommending that changes which will affect trade union donations to Labour should be delayed pending cross-party talks on party funding. [1]

The committee was set up by the House of Lords to consider the Trade Union Bill’s changes to trade union political funds, which would cut Labour’s funding by an estimated £6m a year. The switch to an opt-in system for political funds would drastically reduce trade union donations to Labour, while leaving large individual or corporate donations unaffected.

A majority of the committee recommended delaying the bulk of the changes until agreement can be reached on party funding. On this recommendation, the switch to an opt-in system for political funds would only apply initially to new union members. Extending the changes to existing union members would be delayed until renewed cross-party talks on party funding. The report highlighted the principles of the 2011 report by the Committee on Standards in Public Life, [2] which warned against one-sided changes to party funding rules.

In evidence to the committee, democracy campaigners warned that these changes would hand the Conservatives a major funding advantage, which could undermine the fairness of future elections. Unlock Democracy will today launch a petition calling on David Cameron to honour his manifesto commitment to seek cross-party agreement by reviving talks on party funding reform.

Commenting on the committe's report on party funding, Pete Mills, Policy Officer at Unlock Democracy, said:

“After widespread criticism of the government’s partisan approach to Labour’s trade union funding, the committee is right that cross-party talks should be the next step for party funding reform.  

David Cameron should now honour his manifesto commitment to seek cross-party agreement on cleaning up party finance. The changes to trade union funds should be put on hold while parties sit down and hammer out how to reform party funding.

One way or another, the Trade Union Bill has got parties round the table talking about how they are funded. Now is the perfect time to tackle the influence of big donors across the board - not just trade unions, but big business and wealthy individuals too.”



[1] http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld201516/ldselect/ldtupf/106/106.pdf

[2] https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/228646/8208.pdf

Unlock Democracy is a grassroots campaign for fair politics, accountable government and citizen engagement.