Comment: Trade union rights at risk from ‘lobbyist’ reforms

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The Conservative-led coalition government at Westminster is cynically exploiting the latest lobbying scandal to pursue its agenda to reduce the role of trade unions and the rights of ordinary working men and women in this country.

It announced on Monday that a statutory register of lobbyists will be introduced next month in a belated bid to clean up politics at Westminster.

Not before time, many people will feel.

But, in a shabby and highly partisan move, the coalition also promised to introduce new trade union rules in its proposed bill.

The Conservatives – and their Liberal Democrat allies – are using a scandal, which has nothing to do with the trade unions, to crack down on us.

Three years ago, during the last general election, David Cameron banged on about lobbying and how he was going to clean up the Augean stables if he was elected. He has, of course, done nothing since he moved into Downing Street – except turn a blind eye to the problem.

Now it has blown up in his face and he is trying to divert attention from the real problems of cash for questions and MPs and Lords for hire at the Palace of Westminster by talking about the work of unions. It’s all smoke and mirrors.

Trade unions in Britain have always been absolutely transparent about what we do. We represent our members – ordinary men and women – in Scotland as we do in England, and in Wales, to make sure their voices can be heard in the corridors of power.

That is entirely different from the dodgy deals that Mr Cameron has not bothered to address for three years as Prime Minister. The problem is not the unions but the expensive lobbyists who attempt to buy influence – and change laws – on behalf of corporate clients, many of whom pay little or no tax despite making millions of pounds of profits here.

Ordinary people are fed up with Cameron’s cronies paying for special access to the Commons and the Lords. That’s what the coalition needs to address; not trade unions speaking up for millions of ordinary working men and women.

• Mick Whelan is the general secretary of Aslef, the train drivers’ union.