HC Deb 05 August 1975 vol 897 cc339-41

8.30 p.m.

Mr. Brittan

I beg to move Amendment No. 142, in page 54, line 35, leave out from 'with' to end of line 37 and insert: 'section 68 below, to be paid by the employer to the employee, but may also award such additional sum as the tribunal considers just and equitable in all the circumstances having regard to any further costs sustained by the complainant in consequence of the failure of the employer to comply with the order, unless the employer satisfies the tribunal that it was not reasonably practicable to comply with it'. The amendment relates to the calculation of compensation for unfair dismissal. It is an immensely complicated subject and we spent a great deal of time in Committee considering it. I do not propose to take up the time of the House in re-arguing that line of country, but it is right that we should at least put forward our views in outline.

We think that the procedures set out in Clauses 65 to 68 for the calculation of the amount of award for unfair dismissal have two compelling disadvantages. On the one hand, they are unfair and, on the other hand, they are cumbersome. The reasons why that is so would take some time to explain. They are on record in the Committee proceedings. I will merely say that Amendment No. 142 is a way of mitigating unfairness to the employee by the considerations set out in Clauses 65 to 68 and that it is a way of simplifying the whole procedure.

Mr. Booth

Amendment No. 142 is technically deficient in several respects. More important, Clause 64(2) as amended would provide for two separate elements of compensation to be awarded specifically on account of an employer's failure to comply with a reinstatement or re-engagement order, but would not specify the relationship between them. Secondly, the provision that such an employee should receive a compensatory award is inconsistent with the provision in Clause 65 that an award of compensation under Clause 64(2)(a) shall consist of a basic award and a compensatory award. Finally, the amendment refers to Clause 70, but I think the intended reference is to Clause 68.

However, I do not want to oppose the amendments merely on the grounds of technical deficiency, because there is an important difference between us. I do not seek to detract from the amendment on the ground of the brief way in which the hon. Gentleman introduced it from the importance of the argument which he deployed fully in Committee. I will respond shortly by saying that we think that there is importance in the basic award concept and, secondly, if one were to examine the alternatives proposed here one would see that what are in effect stated as two separate awards might overlap each other considerably or result in very little additional award being available to the employee. The terms set out in the amendment are similar to those in Clause 68 and there may be many cases in which someone who qualified under Clause 68 can qualify for nothing more in the terms of the amendment. For those reasons I hope that the amendment will be rejected.

Mr. Brittan

We were fully aware that the amendment would not technically meet the problem in its entirety, but we take the view that the principle should first be established. No doubt there are those in another place who could put the tackle in order in so far as it is not already in order.

As the hon. Gentleman knows we mainly object to the concept of the basic award. We simply believe that a person who is unfairly dismissed should be entitled to compensation, indeed, substantial compensation, but that that compensation should be in respect of what he has actually lost. There may be difficulties about the calculation, but that is the principle that we think should apply.

Our quarrel with the Government lies in the fact that we do not believe that it is right that there should be a principle calculated in relation to the amount of time the man has been at work rather than the loss he has suffered. We believe that the precedent that has been followed from redundancies is not a happy one. That is why we object, as the Minister has rightly said, in principle to these requirements. Therefore, we hope that if not here, elsewhere, the changes that the Government are seeking to make in these principles can be rectified on the lines of the present amendment.

Amendment negatived

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