The government’s legislation on guaranteeing minimum service levels during strike days will not be debated anytime soon, according to transport secretary Mark Harper.
Introduced in Parliament following this summer’s rail strikes, the bill’s second reading hasn’t happened yet and can’t be expedited due to a perceived lack of cross-party consensus.
The secretary also said the legislation will not help deal with the upcoming strikes, as it is more a medium to long-term solution.
“It’s clearly not going to be something that’s going to help with the industrial action that we face today,” Harper told the Commons’ transport select committee today.
According to multiple reports, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has become increasingly under pressure to crack on with the legislation as soon as possible due to mounting calls from Tory MPs.
A minister told the Financial Times yesterday that the government needed to work on the laws in the new year.
Harper, however, said this morning his priority remained to “try and ensure that we can resolve the industrial dispute so that passengers don’t have strike days.”
He also reiterated that his job was facilitating the talks, rather than negotiating directly with unions and operators.
Nevertheless, sources said that the union RMT rejected the Rail Delivery Group’s proposal after the offer was made conditional upon the introduction of driver-only operated trains at the behest of Downing Street.
Pressed by Labour MP Ben Bradshaw, Harper said it wasn’t the government’s role “to micromanage the details of the reform.”
RMT bosses announced on Monday an additional three days of strike across the Christmas period.
Union members working for Network Rail will walk out from 6pm 24 to 6am 27 December, in addition to several days a week earlier.
Rail workers will also walk out on 3, 4, 6, 7 January.