You have probably heard about the government’s controversial and friendless lobbying bill. But do you know the bit where they want to see the details of your previously confidential union membership?
Part one sets up such a weak register of lobbyists it will make no difference. Part two is a chilling attack on free speech that has united charities, pressure groups, think tanks, faith groups and unions in opposition. Part three imposes new red tape on union membership systems and will allow the state access to union membership lists.
So far the first two parts have had far more attention than the attack on the privacy of trade union members contained in part three. This is not surprising as many other groups and interests are affected.
But part three is as bad as the first two parts. It not only ties up union membership systems in red tape but risks the confidentiality of union membership lists.
The law already makes unions keep accurate membership lists and use independent scrutineers to run elections and ballots. If unions get something wrong members can complain to the government appointed Certification Officer (although no-one has since 2004). But the new law will let employers raise complaints. Membership lists will be made open to the Certification Officer, a Membership Assurer chosen from a government nominated list and any investigators appointed after a complaint.
This will worry many people. Whilst most are happy to be open about union membership, many will be deeply concerned about bad employers finding out what they had previously had a right to keep a secret.
At a time when the full scope of the blacklisting scandal has still not yet come to light, giving employers and the government even more access to our sensitive personal data is a shocking development.