Parliament returned for its usual September session recently, and MPs have been in ‘back to school’ mode, writes Robert Buckland, MP for South Swindon.
A number of important topics came up, and one of particular sensitivity.
As I am sure readers are aware, the issue of assisted dying was debated in the House of Commons on the 11th September, and the proposed Bill which would have changed the law in this area was defeated by 330 to 118.
I was contacted by hundreds of local residents about this issue over the last few months, and I appreciate that this is a highly sensitive topic on which it is entirely possible for people to hold widely different but defensible opinions.
I can’t say that I find this issue an easy one, because I know quite a few people who have had very difficult and sometimes painful experiences. Nevertheless, I have significant concerns about the effect and workability of the proposed legislation, and I believe that imperfections and problems with the current law can be dealt with sensibly and sensitively without having a new last that actually brings in euthanasia.
Although the DPP’s policy makes clear that assisting a person to die is still illegal, I am deeply concerned that well-intentioned legislation in this area will lead to worrying consequences. Individuals and clinicians will be put in very difficult situations, and I am concerned that a right to die will become more of a duty to die in many cases. As a result, I voted against the Bill at its second reading.
Shortly afterwards, another important vote on the Trade Union Bill took place on 14th September.
Trade unions are valuable institutions in British society and dedicated trade unionists have a strong history of working hard to represent their members, campaigning for improved safety at work as well as giving help and support to their members when it’s needed. In a democratic society, however, it is only fair that the rights of unions are balanced with the rights of hardworking taxpayers who rely on key public services, of which many unions are key stakeholders.
It is wrong that politicised union leaders can hold the country to ransom with demands that only a small percentage of their members voted for. It causes misery for millions of people that are not entitled to vote and, furthermore, harms the UK’s economy.
It is the Government’s intention to rebalance the interest of employers, employees, the public and the rights of trade unions, in a fair way, by introducing a 50 per cent voting threshold for union ballot turnouts with the existing rules of a majority vote to remain.
To tackle the disproportionate impact of strikes in essential public services such as health, education, fire and transport, a requirement will be introduced in addition to the 50 per cent minimum voting turnout so that 40 per cent of those entitled to vote must vote in favour of industrial action for it to take place. Action will also be taken to ensure strikes cannot be called on the basis of ballots conducted years before.
The Government will also introduce a transparent opt-in process for union subscriptions to political funds. Political donations should always be voluntary and this will help ensure that is the case.
Parliament has risen to allow the Party Conference to take place, but I am carrying on my work as usual here in Swindon. As ever, I am holding regular surgeries in and around my constituency office on Wood Street. Please get in touch my team on 01793 533393, or email me at email@example.com for more information.
Photo: Robert Buckland in Wood Street by Richard Wintle of Calyx