HC Deb 25 October 1972 vol 843 cc1281-3

Lords Amendment: No. 458, in page 190, line 1, at end insert— "(a) a police authority

7.45 p.m.

Mr. Speed

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

Mr. Deputy Speaker

With this we are to take Lords Amendments Nos. 459 to 466.

Mr. Speed

This is a small but important group of Amendments affecting staff under the various staff provisions of the Bill. Nos. 458 and 459 extend to civilian employees of police authorities the same protection as that afforded to the staff of local authorities affected by the reorganisation of local government.

A police authority is not synonymous with a local authority. It has functions separate from those of a local authority laid upon it by the Police Act, 1964. The protection afforded by Section 244(1) is, by reason of the generality of that provision, available to the civilian employees of police authorities, but without the Amendment the specific protection of subsections (2) and (3) would not be available to them.

Amendment No. 460 is important. As this matter was raised with me by the Meriden branch of NALGO some months ago, I am particularly pleased to be dealing with the Amendment tonight. It concerns unfair dismissal and other matters connected with employment.

At the moment, protection against unfair dismissal is afforded to an employee by the Industrial Relations Act, 1971, but it does not apply unless employees have been continuously employed by one employer for a period of two years, and there are specific provisions covering the situation where the employer changes through the operation of an Act of Parliament. In such circumstances, the notional change of employer does not break the continuity of employment.

It follows that the generality of officers transferred to the new authorities under the staff transfer order will not lose the protection against unfair dismissal afforded by the Industrial Relations Act. However, it would appear that those officers who themselves secure appointments to the new authorities prior to the operation of the transfer order will, unless specific provision is made, break the continuity of their employment and thus have to start a new two-year qualifying period before securing protection.

The amount of notice that an employee is entitled to under the Contracts of Employment Act, 1972, varies according to the length of continuous employment, and the points that I have outlined apply equally to the determination of continuous employment for the purposes of notice. The object of the new Clause is to protect the position of officers who secure appointments and are thus not automatically transferred.

Amendments Nos. 461 to 465 extend the jurisdiction of the Staff Commission in respect of staff recruitment and transfer arrangements to passenger transport executives and other authorities as defined in Clause 245(4). A passenger transport executive will be established in respect of each metropolitan county and local authority transport undertakings will be transferred to the executive. The staff of those local authority undertakings are entitled to the same protection from the Staff Commission as are the staff of undertakings transferred to one of the new local authorities outside the metropolitan areas. In order to achieve this it is necessary to add a passenger transport executive to the list of bodies within the definition of "relevant authority" in Clause 245(4). The other Amendments are consequential upon that.

Amendment No. 466 enables payments to be made to chief officers who opt for early retirement as an alternative to waiting on and taking compensation terms. This is one of the components of the compensation deal that we have proposed in a consultation document and which is expected by the local authorities and the local authority staff associations. The general supposition until now has been that Clause 255—"Compensation"— covered this case, but it does not. This new Clause thus merely puts into the Bill what we believed was already there.

Question put and agreed to.

Subsequent Lords Amendments agreed to. [Special entry.]

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