Exclusive: Grant Shapps Slammed By Government Watchdog Over Anti-Strike Law

Nurses Sarah Donnelly (left) and Nicola Joyce on the picket line outside the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast, as nurses in England, Wales and Northern Ireland take industrial action over pay. Picture date: Tuesday December 20, 2022.
Nurses Sarah Donnelly (left) and Nicola Joyce on the picket line outside the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast, as nurses in England, Wales and Northern Ireland take industrial action over pay. Picture date: Tuesday December 20, 2022.

Nurses Sarah Donnelly (left) and Nicola Joyce on the picket line outside the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast, as nurses in England, Wales and Northern Ireland take industrial action over pay. Picture date: Tuesday December 20, 2022.

A top watchdog has slammed the government over a new law which would make it harder for public sector workers to go on strike.

The regulatory policy committee (RPC), which analyses new pieces of legislation, has condemned business secretary Grant Shapps for failing to set out the impact of the Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Bill.

Labour accused Shapps of “a complete dereliction of ministerial duty”.

The proposed law was introduced to parliament on January 10 and MPs will vote on it tonight.

It would force NHS staff, firefighters and railway workers to ensure that they are able to provide minimum service levels during industrial action.

If they failed to do so, they would potentially face the sack.

Both Labour and trade unions have condemned the bill as an attack on the right to take strike action.

In a damning statement published today, the RPC condemned the department for business, energy and industrial strategy’s failure to publish an impact assessment (IA) before the bill came to parliament.

They said: “We provide an independent opinion to assist both final ministerial decision-making and parliamentary scrutiny of regulatory legislation.

“We publish these when it is appropriate to do so, both to assist parliamentarians and so that the process is transparent to external stakeholders.

“Government departments are expected to submit IAs to the RPC before the relevant bill is laid before parliament and in time for the RPC to issue an opinion.

“An IA for this bill has not yet been submitted for RPC scrutiny; nor has one been published despite the bill being currently considered by parliament.”

Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner said: “Grant Shapps has failed to do due diligence on this shoddy, unworkable bill.

“It’s a complete dereliction of ministerial duty. Government consultations on how these sweeping powers would be used have not been published, MPs have been given no details on how minimum service levels would operate, and ministers have broken their own rules by utterly failing to produce an impact assessment.

“It’s little wonder they are trying to rush this legislation through parliament because not one bit of it stands up to scrutiny.”

Paul Nowak, general secretary of the TUC, said: “It’s shameful that MPs are being asked to vote blind on a bill that will have far-reaching consequences for millions of workers.

“The government is deliberately railroading through this spiteful legislation to avoid proper parliamentary scrutiny.”

Whitehall sources said the impact assessment will be published “in due course”.

A government spokesperson said: “We must keep the public safe, which is why we are introducing minimum service and safety levels across a range of sectors to ensure that lives and livelihoods are not lost.”

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