MPs vote in favour of minimum service 'anti-strike' bill

Protesters outside the Houses of Parliament in London, as the Bill on minimum service levels during strikes reaches its second reading. Credit: PA

MPs have voted in favour of the government's controversial minimum services levels bill aimed at curtailing the impact of strikes.

The Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Bill was backed by 309 votes to 249 - a majority of 60.

The Bill would require minimum levels of service from ambulance staff, firefighters and railway workers during industrial action, although unions and opposition MPs have condemned the proposals as unworkable.

Details of the minimum service levels which will need to be maintained during strikes have yet to be set out, and the government says it will consult on this.

It could force some employees to work on days their union is striking and could face sanctions within work if they refuse.

The Bill will now pass to the committee stage where MPs will have more time to study the bill.

It comes as nurses announced two further strike days for February and teachers in England and Wales announced seven days of strike action in February and March.

There were protests outside parliament on Monday. Credit: PA

Business Secretary Grant Shapps told MPs: “We want constructive dialogue with the unions and the public has had enough of the constant, most unwelcome, frankly, dangerous disruption to their lives.”

Mr Shapps added: “There comes a time when we can’t let this continue and that is why we need minimum safety and service levels – to keep livelihoods and lives safe, and it’s frankly irresponsible, even surprising, for the opposition opposite to suggest otherwise.”

Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner criticised the Bill as “one of the most indefensible and foolish pieces of legislation to come before this House in modern times”.

Nurses will strike for two days this week. Credit: PA

She added: “It threatens teachers and nurses with the sack during a recruitment and retention crisis.

“It mounts an outright assault on the fundamental freedom of working people while doing nothing … to actually resolve the crisis at hand.”

The division list showed Stephen McPartland was the only Conservative MP to rebel and vote against the Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Bill at second reading.

Before the vote, the Stevenage MP wrote on Twitter: “I will vote against this shameful Bill today.

“It does nothing to stop strikes – but individual NHS staff, teachers & workers can be targeted & sacked if they don’t betray their mates. Fine the unions if they won’t provide minimum service levels but don’t sack individuals.”

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