Rebel Labour MPs fail in bid to overturn union restrictions
The rebellion was higher than expected. Thirty-six MPs had backed a TUC-led campaign which also wanted close a legal loophole that allows employers to use agencies to break strikes and give greater protection to individuals following the taking of industrial action.
A number of Labour MPs who had pledged to rebel were absent, campaigning in the byelection in Glenrothes, Scotland, making the size of the rebellion all the more surprising.
The original rebels were joined by a number of moderate Labour MPs, including Nick Palmer, Broxtowe; Andrew Miller, Ellesmere Port and Neston; Gordon Marsden, Blackpool South; and Brian Jenkins, Tamworth.
Two Liberal Democrats rebelled against their whip, Paul Holmes, MP for Chesterfield, and John Leech, MP for Manchester, Withington, to support the Labour dissidents.
They were joined by Respect MP, George Galloway; three Plaid Cymru MPs and three independents.
Pat McFadden, the employment relations minister, refused to yield to the Labour rebels to even consider any further changes in the law to strengthen their position.
He was strongly supported by Jonathan Djanogly, the shadow corporate governance minister. "The last thing the government should do is hand the power to self-interested employee groups to hold companies to ransom," Djanogly said.
"The government would be wrong to do anything that more than simply dismisses the new clause. If they do not, it would add yet further weight to the rumours that the 'beer and sandwich' culture of the 1970s has worked its way back into Downing Street."
Labour MPs were also disappointed that the government would not move on changing the law and allow unions to expel fascists from unions. McFadden argued that it would not be possible to single out the British National party.
John McDonnell, the Labour MP for Hayes and Harlington, in whose name the amendments were tabled, said: "This is a huge rebellion in a byelection week and sends out the clearest possible signal to the government that we are not doing enough on trade union rights. Our supporters will not understand why the government is prepared to fall over backwards to rescue the bankers but will do nothing to protect workers as the recession begins to bite."
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