HC Deb 18 May 1973 vol 856 cc1854-74

11.15 a.m.

Mr. Patrick Cormack (Cannock)

I beg to move Amendment No. 2, in page 5, line 13, leave out 'or are undergoing full-time education'.

I have to declare an interest as for the last few months I have acted in an advisory capacity to the Federation of Personnel Services, a body to which most of the reputable employment agencies belong.

This is essentially a simple amendment. I make it plain at the outset that there is no objection to the first part of the paragraph, which says: regulating the provision of services by persons carrying on such agencies and businesses in respect of persons who are under the age of eighteen years or are undergoing full-time education". It is absolutely accepted that young people, minors under the age of 18, are clearly the concern of the youth employment service, and it is right and proper that regulations should cover the provision of such service to such young people.

But the phrase or are undergoing full-time education". opens the door considerably in a way that causes some concern to those operating many agencies. There are many students in full-time education, including those at university, who need to work during the holidays. That is well known to hon. Members, many of whom have been students and who know how important this is. Agencies form a convenient way in which to provide the sort of temporary work for which these young people look. Almost all of them are over the age of 18. If they are under 18 they are covered by the wording of the clause, and we are happy that that should be so.

Drama school and other students as part of their training are sometimes required to obtain practical experience during the holidays, and again the agencies are a vital source of temporary work of this nature. Yet another example is that of secretarial school students, including university graduates preparing for a commercial career, and more mature women who are taking refresher courses prior to returning to office work after bringing up families. They often find it useful to take temporary work during the holidays, and they go to the agencies for such work.

The Federation of Personnel Services fears that, if the clause is left unamended, Ministers may find it difficult to provide regulations for persons under the age of 18 without at the same time bringing within the regulations all those who are over 18 but still in full-time education. This could cause serious problems for older people, with whom the youth employment service is not in any way concerned.

For those reasons I move this simple amendment. I hope that it will commend itself to my hon. Friend and to hon. Members on both sides of the House.

Mr. R. C. Mitchell (Southampton, Itchen)

I hope that the hon. Member for Rutland and Stamford (Mr. Kenneth Lewis) will resist the amendment. It would open wide the door to a practice that in Committee we attempted to stop. In Committee it was made clear that hon. Members wanted to prevent employment agencies from dealing on a regular basis with those receiving full-time education. I am sure that the hon. Member for Rutland and Stamford included these these words deliberately in order to exclude those receiving full-time education.

There may be difficulties about forms of holiday employment, but those difficulties could be met by regulations with the Bill as it stands. I am certain that such regulations could cover most of the issues that the hon. Member for Cannock (Mr. Cormack) has raised. If the amendment is pressed, I shall have to oppose it, if necessary by dividing the House.

Mr. Kenneth Lewis

This matter was fully debated in Committee, and paragraph (g) was added by an amendment at that stage. I understand the fears expressed by my hon. Friend the Member for Cannock (Mr. Cormack), but I believe that they are not well founded, and I hope that what I say will reassure him. None the less, he is right to raise the matter, since there is advantage in expressing on the Floor of the House whatever reservations may be felt.

I draw attention, first, to the words in subsection (1), and such regulations may in particular make provision … The word is "may". There was some battle in Committee about whether it should be "shall" or "may", but it remains as "may", the option being given to the Minister to lay certain regulations but not others, to lay certain regulations which may be varied one way or another, and to lay regulations which may well take into account precisely the matters to which my hon. Friend referred.

The important words in paragraph (g) are regulating the provision of services". There is no reason to assume that a regulation will be a disadvantage, or that the Minister, of whichever Government, will seek to create undue difficulties. On the contrary, the regulations could well take into account the special needs of young people in this respect.

In other words, the power here is permissive. In any event, it will not be brought into effect very soon. The Minister is already obliged, from our debates in Committee, to discuss all these matters of regulation with all the interests concerned. Indeed, it would be a disservice both to himself and to the Department, as well as to the interests concerned and the country as a whole, if he did otherwise. He must have discussions to get the thing right.

I fully recognise, as, I hope, does the Minister, the needs of full-time theatrical students, for example. It may be entirely to the advantage of students at drama school that at a certain time during the year they should do a month or so in a theatre. I assume that for this purpose they would approach one of the theatrical agencies which know where the need is and are able to put them into the right sort of temporary work. It seems to me desirable that students of that kind should both have the work and use an agency for the purpose.

At Christmas time, when pantomimes are put on for a limited period, it may well be necessary to employ some young people. It is right that this work also should be open to regulation and that the Minister should be able to lay down conditions. It is equally right that he should recognise that those who put on pantomimes need to employ young people and that there are young people who want to do that sort of work.

My hon. Friend referred, in particular, to students who want work in the holidays, their idea usually being to add to their grants. Students constantly say that they do not receive sufficient from the Government by way of grant, and this applies whichever Government happen to be in office. I am entirely in favour of students taking part-time jobs. I think that it is good for them, and they see it as helpful to them in so far as it improves their financial resources.

It is not always easy to find jobs just by looking around. The Department of Employment does not handle through its local offices all the part-time work which may be available. In the next year or two, when the Manpower Commission gets going, the Department may provide such facilities. But at the moment the student has to look around, and sometimes he will need to go to private employment agencies. If such agencies have what he wants, why should he not take advantage of it?

Students are not experienced in looking for work. They may be naive in their choice of part-time job. It is important, therefore, that the clause should impose upon the employment agencies an obligation to provide the right sort of opportunities for students, that they should look carefully at what they are offering and not land students into jobs which may put them into difficulty. In my view, the words in paragraph (g) about which my hon. Friend complains will help to ensure that agencies give special regard to the needs of students in this respect.

As the promoter of the Bill—I believe that the Minister may support me—I should not wish any Minister to fail to recognise the need here. Young people want to use these agencies, and they will always want to use them. They are the source through which suitable work can be made available. If agencies in the private sector are to continue, as I believe they should, it is right that they should have the scope to provide for their clientele what that clientele wants to have.

So far as it lies in my hands, I assure my hon. Friend that it would be my wish that the agencies themselves should make absolutely sure that, when they are dealing with 18-year-olds and students, they do it not in a haphazard way but give proper attention to the service which these young people want. In the circumstances, I hope that my hon. Friend will wish to withdraw his amendment in due course.

Mr. Reg Prentice (East Ham, North)

I am sure that the hon. Member for Rutland and Stamford (Mr. Kenneth Lewis) is right to resist the amendment. Paragraph (g) appears in Clause 5 as the result of an amendment moved in Committee by my hon. Friend the Member for Doncaster (Mr. Harold Walker). It was our view then, and it still is, that the wording of that amendment, as now represented in paragraph (g), was a compromise between the Bill without it and the situation which my hon. Friends and I would prefer.

On the Employment and Training Bill now passing through Parliament, the Opposition have been urging that young people at least up to the age of 18 and preferably to an age somewhat above that, should be advised exclusively by the youth employment service in their search for employment. This is the view of the TUC, it is the strongly held view of the Institute of Careers Officers, and it is a view held by others, too, the simple point being that young people in their search for employment should have objective advice in terms of their own needs and career possibilities, and that a commercial element in this sphere is unfortunate. As I say, the paragraph as it stands is a compromise between that view and the Bill without it.

The hon. Member for Cannock (Mr. Cormack) said that he does not wish to interfere with the position so far as it affects under-18s, and I accept his view about that. However, young people of 18 and 19 are in no very different position, and it is vital that their interests, too, should be protected by regulation under the Bill.

The hon. Member for Cannock put a valid point when he referred to the vacation employment sought by students and the other types of employment sought by drama students and people taking secretarial courses or the like.

Like many hon. Members I have had a letter from the Federation of Personnel Services expressing its fears at the way in which this subsection could operate, but I am sure that these fears are exaggerated. I am certain that no Minister would ever regulate in such a way as to reduce the opportunities to people in these categories to get the kind of work experience they need in their vacation. It has probably been useful that the re- mote possibility of something of this sort happening has been put on the record in the debate this morning, but I am sure that the amendment itself is unnecessary and that it can be withdrawn.

11.30 a.m.

Mr. Hugh Jenkins

If and when, as I hope it will, the Bill becomes an Act, I am sure that the Minister will agree that the drawing up of these regulations under it will be an extremely important part of the legislation. The Minister has told us that in the course of drawing up the regulations he will hold full consultations with those directly concerned. The Minister has given that assurance, reinforced by what has already been said by the hon. Member for Rutland and Stamford (Mr. Kenneth Lewis). I hope that the hon. Member for Cannock (Mr. Cormack), recognising that it is useful to have this point ventilated this morning, will feel able to withdraw his amendment in the light of this undertaking.

Mr. Dudley Smith

The right hon. Member for East Ham, North (Mr. Prentice) said that the original amendment moved in Standing Committee was a compromise. As he said, we have discussed the whole basis of this question on another occasion in another Bill and undoubtedly there may be other opportunities of coming back to it again. The right hon. Gentleman well knows the Government's views on that.

The hon. Member for Southampton, Itchen (Mr. R. C. Mitchell) was correct in saying that the powers under Clause 5 are fairly stringent if properly applied by the Secretary of State. The purpose of the regulations that could be made under the clause and the purpose of the Bill is to protect the public from improper practices of certain employment agencies and businesses.

The illustrations in Clause 5(1) of the kind of regulations which might be made do two things. They indicate some of the areas in which it might be appropriate to use the general regulation-making powers, and in this case they would almost certainly be used to prevent the exploitation of young people for commercial reasons if such exploitation could be shown to exist. It is unlikely, however, for them to be used to regulate where agencies deal with mature people who might still be undergoing full-time education, unless malpractices could be seen to exist.

The second effect of the illustration is to indicate the extent to which the general regulation powers might be used. My hon. Friend the Member for Rutland and Stamford (Mr. Kenneth Lewis) said during our debates in Committee that he held no brief for the proposal that young people might be prevented from using agencies, and that is why he accepted the amendment which allowed the general powers to be used for regulating provision of services and not for restricting them.

I can assure my hon. Friend the Member for Cannock (Mr. Cormack) that this regulating power will be used by my right hon. Friend to protect the interests of young people where such protection is seen to be necessary. One example which obviously comes to mind is in connection with sending young people to work abroad where it would be reasonable to expect the agency to carry out certain preliminary inquiries before they make a placing. We all know some of the disreputable examples which have happened in the past.

I hope that my hon. Friend will accept my assurances that the power of which he complains will not be used in a restrictive manner. It is important that its main use will be to protect the interests of young school leavers. I admit that such people will be under the age of 18 and undergoing full-time education so that the general protecting powers will exist whether or not the amendment is carried. There has been a great deal of good will about the Bill and, in view of that, and in view of what hon. Members have said, perhaps it will encourage my hon. Friend not to press his amendment to a Division.

Mr. Cormack

I am most grateful for the extremely constructive spirit in which my amendment has been received on both sides of the House and in particular for the assurances which the Minister has given, as well as for those which my hon. Friend the Member for Rutland and Stamford (Mr. Kenneth Lewis) and the right hon. Member for East Ham, North (Mr. Prentice) gave. I am happy now that it is accepted that while it is right and proper for young people to be protected there should be no endeavour to restrict or prohibit the legitimate operations of agencies where they affect students and others undergoing full-time education.

Happy with the assurances that I have been given and anxious to maintain the goodwill that has marked the passage of the Bill in its various stages, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Motion made and Question proposed, That the Bill be now read the Third time.

11.37 a.m.

Mr. Robert Taylor (Croydon, North-West)

There is a remarkable similarity between the contents of the Bill and Part X of the Croydon Corporation Act 1960. I imagine that my hon. Friend the hon. Member for Rutland and Stamford (Mr. Kenneth Lewis) must have obtained the services perhaps of the same parliamentary draftsman, or, alternatively, perhaps his draftsman referred to the good, sound common sense of the Croydon Corporation Act. That Act has worked well in the London borough and I have had no complaints about the manner in which it has operated. The new Bill will place only one additional duty on the borough, and that is to make its annual report to the Minister on the way that the new Act will work.

I have no objections upon that score because it is a small payment to make to bring other less progressive authorities into line with the practices of Croydon which have been in operation for the last 13 years. But, while this Bill has been in Committee, another Bill which has been undergoing its Committee stage is directly related, and in an important way, to the way in which this Bill may develop when enacted. I refer, of course, to the Employment and Training Bill and in particular in that Bill to the obligation put upon the new Manpower Services Commission to set up activities throughout the country which will operate in competition with the establishments which are covered by this Bill. I shall read the exact extract from the Employment and Training Bill which is as follows: it shall be the duty of the Commission to make such arrangements as it considers appropriate for the purpose of assisting persons to select, train for, obtain and retain employment suitable for their ages and capacities and to obtain suitable employees (including partners and other business associates). That provision therefore means that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State will be anxious to see the success of the agencies which are directly competing with the private enterprise establishments covered by this Bill. This Bill gives my right hon. Friend and his successors an opportunity to interfere in the working of these establishments, and it could be in a manner which could be completely unfair. Under the regulations which the Secretary of State is empowered to make if the Bill is passed are those which refer to advertising by persons carrying on the activity of employment agencies. He also has the power to introduce regulations which will affect the employment of those who come to this country seeking employment and of those in this country who wish to seek employment outside it.

There is an obligation on the Secretary of State to take action in this sector. Thus, we are creating a situation whereby the Secretary of State will always be interested in the success of the establishments run by the employment service agencies of the Manpower Services Commission, and at the same time he will have the opportunity to regulate the competition. I am not saying that that is likely to be injurious to the private enterprise establishments, but there is a chance that it will.

The Bill gives the Minister and the local authorities opportunity to refuse the grant of a licence on the ground that the premises for the prospective licence are unsuitable. It would be possible for a doctrinaire council and a doctrinaire Minister to say, "These premises are unsuitable because they are directly adjacent to, or near, or are in the vicinity of an establishment run by the Employment Services Agency". That could be very serious. It should suggest to the House that the Bill should be rejected even at this stage. I believe that it will put too much power into the hands of future Ministers to use the establishments set up by the Employment Services Agency to the detriment of competing establishments in the private sector.

11.42 a.m.

Mr. Cormack

I could be provoked into a long speech by some of the things said by my hon. Friend the Member for Croydon, North-West (Mr. Robert Taylor), but I shall resist the temptation, so the House need not fear.

I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Rutland and Stamford (Mr. Kenneth Lewis) on his Herculean efforts not only in introducing the Bill but in piloting it through its long Committee stage. It is an extremely important piece of legislation. It is something for which all reputable employment agencies have been asking for a long time, having no vested interest in preserving the spurious, the shabby, the shoddy and those who would resort to disreputable tactics. There are such people in all activities who bring discredit on their fellows, but this Bill will make it increasingly difficult for phoney or bad agencies to survive in Britain. If it puts such agencies out of business within a few weeks, it will be performing a service.

Most agencies, as we all agree, perform a valuable service to the community, and it is in their interests and in the interests of the community that disreputable activities should be regulated by the Bill. It is an admirable Bill in every way. My hon. Friend referred earlier to the recommendations of the Employment and Social Services Sub-Committee of the Expenditure Committee. The Bill anticipated the sub-committee's recommendations and anxieties and, indeed, in many instances goes beyond its recommendations.

The Bill provides for employment agencies in particular and for employment in general a notable milestone. It is the most sensible piece of legislation ever introduced concerning the activities of employment agencies. I hope that the House will give it a Third Reading and welcome it in every quarter. I hope that in due course my hon. Friend the Member for Croydon, North-West will be converted to its values and merits.

11.44 a.m.

Mr. Prentice

I support the Third Reading and add the congratulations of the Opposition to the hon. Member for Rutland and Stamford (Mr. Kenneth Lewis) on his success in introducing the Bill. I am sure that he will agree that our congratulations to him should be coupled with congratulations to those of my hon. Friends who have tried to achieve such a measure in the past. My hon. Friend the Member for Putney (Mr. Hugh Jenkins) made a valiant attempt to do so, as did my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Strang).

It has been recognised by many people in the House and outside it that a measure of this kind is long overdue. The growth of private employment agencies has led to the clear need for a degree of regulation which, as the hon. Member for Cannock (Mr. Cormack) said, is welcomed by reputable agencies, and if it leads to the closing of those which have abused their position, so much the better. That also is long overdue.

Some European countries have banned private employment agencies altogether —and they are countries with free enterprise traditions. They thought that the right thing to do, however, was for the public service to have the monopoly of this kind of work. I hope that our own public employment service through the Manpower Services Commission will improve to the point at which it will do many things not done now through the public system. But, taking it for granted that, for the foreseeable future, we are to have public and private systems operating side by side, it is vital that there should be this form of control.

I listened with interest to the hon. Member for Croydon, North-West (Mr. Robert Taylor). I always do, having been at one time Labour candidate for his constituency, or the area now known as Croydon, North-West. Then I moved to an area of greater political sophistication.

The hon. Gentleman's speech seemed to be a blatant defence of the worst aspects of private enterprise. Of course there is need in this case for competition to be controlled, because we are dealing with people's lives, which is a very sensitive point. The way in which services are provided to people in search of jobs is something in which there must be a powerful public voice. We would have preferred in some ways stronger action. We would certainly have preferred the licensing authority to be the new com- mission rather than the local authority. In other words, our support for the Bill has been with certain reservations.

But, given that there is at least a Bill, that it has now gone through the House, and that, because of the peculiarities of our procedure, it was not possible for it to have a very long Committee or Report stage—my hon. Friends in Committee were restrained in their amendments and discussions—we regard the Bill as an important step forward in this vital sector of employment services.

11.47 a.m.

Mr. Dudley Smith

I want to follow in spirit the speech of the right hon. Member for East Ham, North (Mr. Prentice). I wish to see the Bill speedily go forward to the statute book. I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Rutland and Stamford (Mr. Kenneth Lewis) on successfully steering it so ably through the House. It is quite an experience, as many hon. Members know, to win the ballot and then have to cast one's eye around for a suitable subject for a Bill. I am sure we all agree that my hon. Friend has done a public service by selecting this Bill, and I am sure that it will be of benefit to the whole community.

I know that the right hon. Gentleman has certain reservations about the Bill, and we can agree to differ about them. But I am glad that he and his hon. Friends and my hon. Friends co-operated so successfully with my hon. Friend the Member for Rutland and Stamford in securing a speedy Committee stage in order to ensure that the Bill reached Report and Third Reading today.

The range of businesses with which the Bill deals is tremendous. I am sure that my hon. Friend quickly discovered that in the many discussions he held with outside interests. Of course, not all these businesses are in need of legislative control. Many of them conduct themselves with the greatest propriety and are above reproach. For them, the Bill will do two things—enable them to continue to give a good service to their customers without the aura of roguery which seems to have attached itself to some employment agencies in recent times, and strengthen the hand of management of multi-branch agencies. We know the problems of controlling staff, and if there is to be personal reward for good performance, financial or promotional, it is only natural that the staff in question may be tempted to use any means available to achieve such reward, whatever rules are laid down within the organisation. Now, for the first time, the rules will be the rule of law and penalties for breaking that law will be considerably more severe than mere internal discipline.

It is not only in the areas of employment agencies and temporary-hire businesses, which are most familiar to us, that the Bill will have effect. I hope that in some ways it will have a considerably greater effect on some of the shadier businesses which exist and which have been referred to in previous proceedings. For example, only last Friday a man was sentenced at Oxford Crown Court for deceptions amounting to £40,000 which had been perpetrated on Moroccans. The offence for which he was convicted was charging £27 a time for offering jobs in Great Britain through his employment agency, for which no licence was required by the city of Oxford. It would not be right to comment in detail on that case. However, the Oxford Times reports that the defendant said in his own evidence: The fees were to help them get work. I was not obliged to send them back, but I did. The forms I sent out saying that I had got jobs were a mistake: they should have said that I could find them a job. Clause 6 will put a stop to practices of that kind, whether they are described as mistakes or otherwise. I have also had reported to me a case where a man, several times convicted of unsavoury conduct, turned up on the staff of an employment agency despite the fact that he had been refused a licence in his own name. He was audacious enough to use his new employer's writing paper, unknown to his employer, to continue his own nefarious practices. That, too, is something which the Bill can help to stamp out.

I have the distinct impression that the provision in Clause 2(3)(c) has not received the publicity which it deserves. For the first time in legislation, a licence can be refused if a person connected with the running of an agency is unsuitable. That will put considerable pressure on the agencies to take great care in select- ing their staff and, in particular, selecting branch managers.

The question of which authority is to be the "licensing authority" was raised in Committee but was not dealt with satisfactorily. The authorities are specified in Clause 13(1). The House should not confuse them with the definitions of "local authority" which are to be found in the subsection. The latter definition is necessary because of the reference to a local authority in Clause 13(7)(f).

The allocation of responsibility for various functions as between the different levels of the new local government structure is, as we all know, a complex matter, which depends on the size and the nature of the services in question. Each allocation must, therefore, be decided on its merits. It might be helpful if I briefly explain why we supported the proposed allocation of responsibility.

First, those local authorities which exercised licensing powers over employment agencies will, broadly speaking, become authorities of the type proposed in the Bill when the Local Government Bill comes into force.

Second, nursing agencies, which are the subject of separate legislation, will be licensed and supervised by the same authorities as those proposed in the Bill.

Thirdly, we were concerned that the licensing authority should be of such a size as to enable it to build up a reasonable degree of expertise in applying the provisions of the Bill. In conurbations —that is, in general, the metropolitan counties—such an authority would appropriately be the district, but in the non-metropolitan counties the county authority seems to represent the most appropriate size to carry out the functions satisfactorily.

No attempt has been made to dictate to the licensing authority which of its departments should undertake the enforcement of the provisions of the Bill. My hon. Friend has clearly decided that that is a matter of internal organisation which can best be left to the authority to decide according to its structure. I agree that that should be so.

At an appropriate stage after the passing of the Local Government (Scotland) Bill the proposed licensing authorities for Scotland will need to be amended. That cannot be done before the Bill is enacted. The Government are aware of the need for that to be done and the necessary amendment will be introduced at the appropriate time.

I disagree with the philosophy expounded by my hon. Friend the Member for Croydon, North-West (Mr. Robert Taylor), and his suggestion that the Bill should be rejected. I am sure that I should be out of order if I started talking about the Manpower Services Commission on Third Reading, but the commission will be a big step forward.

My hon. Friend's Bill, which deals with the private enterprise sphere, is a good step forward. We have deliberately supported my hon. Friend in his suggestion that the local authorities should be the licensing authorities. There is provision in the Bill for appeals to my right hon. Friend or the Secretary of State of the day. The Secretary of State will appoint somebody to conduct those appeals.

I do not believe that there will be collusion, as my hon. Friend the Member for Croydon, North-West suggested, between retrograde local authority and retrograde future Secretaries of State in trying to deny somebody a licence. There is a safeguard. The chance will be available to the individual who is denied his licence, and who feels that he has a good case, to put forward a strong and sensible appeal. The remarks of my hon. Friend the Member for Croydon, North-West were perhaps a little unworthy of him in view of his constructive and useful contributions to another measure. I know that he has strong feelings about these matters.

It would not be appropriate for me to end without a brief reference to the timely appearance of the report of the Employment and Social Services Sub-Committee, which became available at the end of last week. The report devotes a considerable amount of attention to private employment agencies and businesses. I am sure that the House will understand that I cannot comment in detail on that report as those matters must be dealt with through the proper channels. However, I can draw attention to the fact that its main recommendations dealing with the licensing of agencies and businesses are covered by the Bill. As my hon. Friend said, hardly before the ink was dry they were implemented. Of course, some of the other recommendations will require further consideration. We shall be making our views known as soon as possible.

I congratulate my hon. Friend on the success which he has achieved and on the diligent way in which he has piloted the Bill through the House. I am glad that it is accepted by the majority of hon. Members. I believe that it will make an important contribution to the employment life of this country in future.

Mr. Hugh Jenkins

I join in congratulating the hon. Member for Rutland and Stamford (Mr. Kenneth Lewis) on taking his Bill so far. It was immediately prior to this stage that my own similar endeavour fell to the ground. Therefore, I am in a special position to add a word of congratulation to the hon. Gentleman.

The Bill differs in some degree from the measure which I introduced. The chief difference is that many matters which were spelt out in my Bill are left in the hon. Gentleman's Bill to the regulatory power of the Minister. Therefore, it is important that those regulations shall do the job which the Bill gives the Minister power to do.

There is one extremely important regulation which will separate money left in the hands of an agency from the agents' own property. That regulation is of the utmost importance. It is necessary not merely to separate that money in any simple fashion, but to separate it totally so that the money which is left in the hands of an agent does not become the agent's property but remains the property of the principal. That should be done so that in the event of an agent going bankrupt the money does not go into the general fund of the bankruptcy but remains under all circumstances the property of the client of the agent. That is the position if money is left with a solicitor. That money will remain in all circumstances the property of the person on whose behalf it is deposited. I give that illustration merely to indicate the great importance of the regulatory power and the satisfaction with which I heard the Minister's assurances about his intentions in respect of these regulations.

In the course of our proceedings on the Bill there has been a good deal of agreement between the two sides of the House, some disagreement, and, I think the hon. Member for Rutland and Stamford will agree, some improvement of the Bill. In the circumstances, I hope that the hon. Member for Croydon, South (Sir R. Thompson), who has sought to delay the Third Reading, will feel satisfied with what he has heard and not persist in his endeavour.

12 noon

Mr. Kenneth Lewis

I should not like the Bill to leave this House without saying a few words about it.

You will have noticed, Mr. Speaker, that I have not been quite so active on the Floor of the House in the past week or two. When one gets a horse, it requires a lot of hay. When one gets a Bill, it requires a lot of time. Quite a lot of time has been given to the Bill. I have enjoyed it immensely and I thank all those who have co-operated in bringing it to the point where we may hope to see it go to another place and eventually get on to the statute book.

To my hon. Friend the Member for Croydon, South (Sir R. Thompson) perhaps I might say that if the Bill resembles any legislation in operation in Croydon, it is pure coincidence. I knew nothing about it. If my hon. Friend has the same parliamentary draftsmen as I have had on my Bill, it is no surprise to me to hear that the Croydon legislation is effective. I have had a great deal of help from the parliamentary draftsmen, whom I thank for working with me in getting the provisions of the Bill just right.

My hon. Friend the Member for Croydon, North-West (Mr. Robert Taylor) exaggerated somewhat when he said that there would be a restrictive influence of the Department from the Manpower Services Commission through its Employment Service Agency on the private employment agency sector. I am sure that that will not happen. Equally, I am sure that it is good that there should be competition between the two. I hope that the competition which will be provided by a properly licensed, controlled and regulated private sector, albeit in a limited way, will improve that sector and enable it to compete against the public sector, which is also to have a new look. I hope, too, that the new-look public sector will learn from the private sector and therefore that there will be advantage to the community from the better service provided by both the public sector and the private sector.

Much work has gone into the Bill. The right hon. Member for East Ham, North (Mr. Prentice) was kind enough to say that I had accepted certain amendments. I pay special tribute to the hon. Member for Doncaster (Mr. Harold Walker for his amendment, which I was glad to accept. There were discussions about how far it should go and about its limitations. I believe that the hon. Gentleman has it exactly right, and I am grateful for his contribution. Other hon. Members on both sides of the Committee put forward amendments which I was also able to accept.

It is extraordinary how my Bill provides a conclusion for the Select Committee's report to which I have referred already. There is one recommendation in that report which is the cornerstone of my Bill. In paragraph 31, the Select Committee referred to empoyment services and recommended that legislation should be provided to see that private agencies were properly conducted. In my Bill the term "improperly conducted" is the cornerstone backing up whatever regulations there may be. It provides a clear indication to licensing authorities as to how they should determine whether licences should be granted. The general imposition of standards hangs on the fact that those coming into this business should provide services which are properly conducted.

I have no doubt that many hon. Members will have read and heard about cases where the improper conduct of certain agencies has brought the whole business into disrepute. Therefore, I hope that my Bill will ensure proper conduct and good competition between the public and the private sectors. As a result, all those seeking jobs, be they young, middle-aged or old, will find the facilities available to them an improvement on anything that we have had previously.

My aim has been to produce an uncomplicated measure. When I first sought the help of parliamentary draftsmen and others, through my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary, to get the Bill right, my aim and objective was to simplify its wording. I think we have succeeded. Certainly the drafting has been aimed at making it clearly understood to everyone in business and industry and also to the public at large. Not many people who read Clauses 2, 5 and 6 will fail to understand clearly what they mean.

I thank all those who have assisted me. I thank my co-sponsors. I thank hon. Members who served on the Committee. It was not a long Committee stage, though perhaps it was somewhat longer than sometimes happens. I am grateful to those hon. Members who attended regularly and who came despite the other calls upon their time. They made their contributions by their speeches and suggestions and in certain cases by their amendments. I also thank Opposition Members and those in the TUC with whom I discussed my proposed legislation. I thank those at the Department who assisted me, including my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary who was present in the Committee all the way through and made his own considerable contribution.

Finally, I pay tribute to the hon. Member for Putney (Mr. Hugh Jenkins), whose own Bill was stillborn. Obviously my own Bill has taken account of both the principles that he enunciated in his Bill and some of the provisions which he tried to lay down. Mine is a less complicated measure than his was. Nevertheless, much of what he says is not in my Bill will come in the form of regulations. I think the hon. Gentleman will find that many of his original provisions will register themselves effectively through what my hon. Friend the Undersecretary proposes to lay down in regulations.

When their Lordships receive this measure, I hope that they will deal with it kindly. I can only say that I have enjoyed the operation, and I thank all those who have been involved in it.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read the Third time and passed.

SEA FISHERIES (SHELLFISH) BILL (changed from Sea Fisheries (Shellfish) Act 1967 (Amendment) Bill)

As amended (in the Standing Committee), considered.

Motion made, and Question, That the Bill be now read the Third time, put forthwith pursuant to Standing Order No. 56 (Third Reading), and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read the Third time and passed.

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