HC Deb 26 July 1963 vol 681 cc1963-4

Lords Amendment: In page 1, line 22, leave out "be void" and insert: have effect subject to the foregoing subsections".

11.5 a.m.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour (Mr. William Whitelaw)

I beg to move, That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said Amendment.

I suggest that it would be for the convenience of the House if we discussed the next Amendment with this one.

As it left this House, Clause 1(3) made void any provision in a contract of employment for less notice than the minimum entitlements in subsections (1) and (2). It was agreed in the House that something on these lines was obviously necessary, but as worded the provision could have led to a good deal of uncertainty in some cases.

The possibility of uncertainty could arise in the following way. If the notice provisions in an employee's contract are made void by Clause 1(3), no definite fixed entitlement is substituted by Clause 1(1) and (2), but, instead, there is simply a guarantee that the entitlement will not be less than the minimum in these provisions. When a contract does not contain any provision on notice—that would apply to a contract if the notice provisions had been made void by Clause 1(3)—I understand that the courts take the view that it may be terminated only on "reasonable" notice, or on the "customary" notice if there is a custom which can be applied to the case under consideration.

Therefore, as a result of the terms on notice being made void by Clause 1(3) an employee might turn out to be entitled to much more than the minimum in Clause 1(1), or alternatively obliged to give much more notice than the minimum in Clause 1(2). I think that it will be generally agreed that such uncertainty would be undesirable and likely to give rise to litigation. It must also be remembered that in agreeing to a limited entitlement to notice the employee may well have been taking into account other compensating advantages in the contract—extra holidays, perhaps, or higher pay than he would otherwise get.

The Amendments have the effect that in cases of this kind the minima in subsections (1) and (2) will apply and the position will therefore be quite clear from the outset. I therefore suggest that these Amendments would remove an undesirable element of uncertainty. For that reason, I think that they are desirable. I hope that the House will agree to them.

Question put and agreed to.

Subsequent Lords Amendment agreed to.