Shropshire Star

Government ‘acts like Boys From The Blackstuff’s Yosser Hughes over strikes law’

A former TUC president referred to Alan Bleasdale’s TV drama from the 1980s in a debate about legislation.

Bernard Hill as Yosser Hughes in Boys From The Blackstuff (PA)

The UK Government has been accused at Westminster of acting like Yosser Hughes over a strikes law.

Former TUC president Baroness Donaghy argued the “gizza job” catchphrase of the fictional character in Alan Bleasdale’s gritty TV drama Boys From The Blackstuff, was being parroted by the Tory administration demanding “gizza power”.

She levelled her criticism as the Strikes (Minimum Services Levels) Bill continued its rocky through the House of Lords.

There has been stiff opposition to the proposed law, which would allow ministers to impose minimum levels of service during industrial action by ambulance staff, firefighters, railway workers and those in other sectors deemed essential.

Labour has promised to repeal the legislation if it takes office.

Among the concerns are the impact of the move on the devolved governments of Wales and Scotland, which are responsible for many of the services covered by the provisions of the Bill.

Labour peer Lady Donaghy said: “It is an affront to those countries that there should be imposition of power.

“There will be an overall power, the details of which are not known and that the Welsh and Scottish administrations will have to accept.

“We are talking about tone here, the tone of employment relations.

“I am not saying the services are any better particularly in Wales or Scotland, but the tone of the relationship is what could be so badly damaged.”

Alan Bleasdale, author of Boys from the Blackstuff (L) with Julie Walters, who played Yosser Hughes’s wife in the BBC TV series, and Ian McKellen who played Walter in the Channel 4 TV play (PA)
Alan Bleasdale, author of Boys From The Blackstuff (L) with Julie Walters, who played Yosser Hughes’s wife in the BBC TV series, and Ian McKellen who played Walter in the Channel 4 TV play (PA)

Recalling the 1982 Liverpool-based series Boys From The Blackstuff, she said: “There’s a character called Yosser Hughes, who used to go around saying ‘gizza job’.

“In this case it’s the Government saying ‘Gizza power. We don’t know what we are going to do with it.

“We can’t tell you yet. We promise to consult you, but ‘gizza power’.

“That’s the main principle, You are asking us to ‘gizza power’ and you are not telling us how you are going to use it.”

Former lord chief justice of England and Wales Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd: “This a Bill to do with services.

“It is not a Bill that is to do with industrial relations, employment rights and duties.

“It seems to me therefore that this is a matter that is not reserved (to the UK Parliament).”

The independent crossbencher added: “The consequences of this is to undermine democracy.

“It is to undermine accountability.

“This Bill, by transferring the responsibilities for minimum services levels, are taking it away from those that are accountable to the people of Wales and Scotland.

“It does seem to me that it is quite wrong that we should proceed on this basis.”

But responding, Government frontbencher Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist said: “Employment rights and duties and industrial relations are reserved in respect of Scotland and Wales.

“The Government has a duty to protect the lives and livelihoods of citizens across the United Kingdom.

“The disproportionate impact that strikes can have on the public are no less severe on the people in Scotland or Wales.

“They have every right to expect the Government to act to ensure they continue to access vital public services during strikes.”

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