Labour MPs plan new rebellion

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The Government was facing a large-scale rebellion yesterday by Labour MPs angry over plans to make workers pay for the right to take their bosses to an industrial tribunal.

In the latest sign of growing militancy on the party's back benches, dozens of Labour MPs plan to defy the Government and oppose the scheme, which would impose an upfront levy on workers to discourage frivolous claims against employers.

They claim such a charge would deter low-paid staff with genuine grievances from pursuing their cases.

The MPs are being backed by union leaders who are considering forcing a vote on the issue at Labour's conference in October. The TUC could also bring a court challenge arguing that the Government is breaching employees' fundamental human rights.

Under the proposal, revealed 10 days ago, complainants will face a charge of up to £100 to pursue a case, which could be claimed back if they are successful.

Ministers in the Department of Trade and Industry, who are offering to meet their critics, say any money raised will be put back into the tribunal system to make it more effective. People on benefits and the lowest-paid – about a quarter of complainants – will be able to apply for an exemption.

Consultation on the scheme will take place over the summer with legislation expected to be included as part of the Employment Bill later in the year.

But Ian Davidson, the secretary of Labour's trade union group of MPs, which has strongly condemned the proposals, warned the Government that it would have a fight on its hands.

He compared the strength of feeling on the issue to the anger over cuts to lone parents' benefits, which triggered a rebellion by more than 60 Labour MPs in the last parliament.

"A modest charge will not deter those who are middle class and know their way around the system, but it's much more likely to deter people who are in difficult circumstances in sweat-shop conditions," he said.