The UK Government has been defeated in the House of Lords by 320 votes to 181 on an amendment to the Trade Union Bill to allow for a review of online voting for strike ballots, also known as ‘e-balloting.’
The Trade Union Bill which has been put forward by the Government to make changes to the operations of trade unions in the UK was at the final stage in the House of Lords before going back to MPs in the House of Commons. An amendment to the Bill, put forward by the former Head of the Civil Service, Lord Sir Bob Kerslake, called for an independent review to be carried out on e-balloting as well as for pilots of the technology to be carried out.
Lords from across the political spectrum voted in favour of the amendment and against the Government’s stance against it.
Presenting his case for the amendment, Lord Kerslake said:
“The purpose of the amendment is simple: to promote the greatest possible engagement, and widest choice, for trade union members in ballots for industrial action.
The amendment simply says that…it is incumbent on us to provide trade unions with the best practical means available to achieve the full participation of their members.
Electronic balloting is now a tried and tested method of enabling organisations to seek the views of their members.”
Conservative Peer, Lord Forsyth questioned the Government’s stance on the internet and technology:
“Either the Government believe in embracing the future and the importance of the use of technology, or they do not. It seems to be both.”
Responding on behalf of the Government, Baroness Neville-Rolfe (a Minister in both the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport) quoted WebRoots Democracy’s recent Secure Voting report out of context to support her case against online strike ballots. This can be seen in the video below:
Secure Voting sets out how security challenges surrounding online voting in elections can be overcome.
However, despite this, she stated that the Government does have “the will to move in this direction” which broadly reflects the Government’s stance with regards to online voting in elections.
Responding to the Minister’s statement, Lord Kerslake said that “a number of noble Lords expressed puzzlement about the Government’s position, but I fear that the Minister’s response has not ended my puzzlement.”
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