§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ 3.42 p.m.
§ The Minister of State, Department of Employment (Mr. Harold Walker)
I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.
Let me say frankly at the outset that this Bill is a consequence of the defeat on Second Reading on 7th February of the Reduction of Redundancy Rebates Bill. In doing so, I am telling the House nothing of which it is not already fully aware, but I want to make it quite clear that I am not going to try to be coy with the House or be other than candid and open about our purpose.
Having said that, let me also make it clear that this is not a rehash of the earlier Bill. That Bill had the simple purpose, as I explained on 7th February, of reducing employers' rebates from the Redundancy Fund from 50 per cent. to 40 per cent.
This Bill, of itself, does not reduce the rebate at all. It is quite different in concept since it enables the rebate to be varied—varied up or down. I shall not mislead the House, let me hasten to add, about our early intention—and I shall come to that in a few minutes. I repeat that I want to be candid and open about our intention. But I believe that the formula on which this Bill is based is not only different but is a better approach than the earlier one. Let me say why that is the case and why it may be more attractive, or perhaps less repugnant, to hon. Gentlemen opposite.
This is not the first time that a Government have sought to vary the rebate from that provided for in the 1966 Act— and I am sure it will not be the last, if not least because hon. Gentlemen opposite, it I understand their attitude, would like to see it varied upwards, if not now, perhaps at some future time. Whether the best way to do so is through primary legislation— with all that accompanies it, not least the demand on Parilament—is open to question. But notwithstanding the cautious approach that all of us should have when confronted with 916 enabling legislation, I think we should now recognise the need for flexibility in this matter—and equally recognise that it is a flexibility better exercised by order rather than by the sometimes long and cumbrous procedures entailed by a Bill.
Furthermore, I am sure the whole House will hope that the circumstances which have made necessary a reduction in the rebate will prove to be of short duration. No one will be more pleased than I to see a return to a more generous level of rebate. When those changed circumstances arise, I am sure that hon. Gentlemen opposite will join me and my right hon. Friend in wishing to be able to restore higher levels of rebate more speedily than by passing a Bill through Parliament. I regret that we did not go for an enabling Bill in the first place— not just because we lost the vote of 7th February, but because it seems to make better sense.
I should now like to say something about the Bill itself. It is intended to enable rebate to be varied between one of 10 different rates over the range of 35 per cent. at the bottom level to 80 per cent. at the upper level. At no time would it be possible under the proposed measure to introduce rebate at the rate of 40 per cent. The House has made its views clear and we must respect them. Nevertheless, we have thought it right to make provision for a near alternative.
§ Mr. David Mitchell (Basingstoke)
The Minister said that the precise rates laid down in the earlier Bill are not included in this legislation and added that there was an alternative. What are the Government's intentions? Obviously they are introducing this measure with the intention of using it.
§ Mr. Walker
I shall come to that point a little later in my speech. I have already said that I want to be frank and candid about our intentions. I am hesitant to inflict tedious explanations on the House. If I thought that we all understood the way in which the Bill will operate, I should be quite happy to say no more on the subject. But at first sight the Bill is not particularly easy to understand, and some explanation might be helpful.
A redundancy payment is calculated at three different rates according to age and length of service. The highest rate is 917 one-and-a-half week's pay for each complete year of service over the age of 41. The second, or middle, rate is one week's pay for each year of service below that age, but after age 22. The third and lowest rate applies to service from age 18 to 21.
The method chosen for calculating rebate for the 1965 Act was to set down three different fractions of a week's pay, each of which corresponded to one of the rates at which entitlement to a redundancy payment accrued. All this may seem complicated, but in practice it is relatively easy. For example, the rebate payable in respect of service which counts at the rate of one-and-a-half week's pay is three-quarters of a week's pay. Similarly, the rebate payable against the two lower entitlements of one week's pay and half a week's pay are one-half and one-quarter of a week's pay respectively.
The same principles apply to the sets of fractions set out in the schedule to the Bill. Accordingly, the first set of fractions of 21/40ths, 7/20ths and 7/40ths equate to a flat rebate rate of 35 per cent. The second set of fractions produce a rebate of 41 per cent. and the third set of 45 per cent. Thereafter, each set of fractions increases the rebate rate by 5 per cent. until it reaches a maximum of 80 per cent. at the top.
The two limits have been carefully chosen. A figure of 35 per cent. represents the lowest point to which rebate can be reduced without further legislation. The 80 per cent. maximum is broadly equivalent to the rebate of one and one-sixth week's pay, or very roughly 78 per cent., which was payable under the original 1965 provisions in respect of the one-and-a-half week's pay entitlement.
What emerges from all the seeming complexity is really a simple system of varying rebate. It will be unnecessary to bother employers with the detailed processes leading up to the overall rebate. In practice, all they will need to know in order to claim their full entitlement is the percentage rate to be applied.
As I said at the outset, this is an enabling Bill. One point to which we gave the most careful consideration was whether the powers should be exercised subject to the affirmative procedure, or 918 whether it was sufficient to seek to adopt the negative resolution procedure. We came to the conclusion that adequate parliamentary control can be exercised by making the order subject to annulment by resolution of either House.
There is nothing devious about this. In no sense should it be taken to imply a hope on the part of the Government that it may be possible to slip through an order without anybody noticing. Advance publicity has to be given to changes in rebate. Employers need to know their entitlement. Even therefore if an order is overlooked on being laid, its existence cannot escape notice for more than a few days at the most, thus giving ample opportunity for objections to be raised as necessary.
The Bill will also amend the Northern Ireland legislation. As I explained to the House on the 7th February, Northern Ireland is not covered directly by the Redundancy Payments Act 1965, but by parity legislation contained in the Contract of Employment and Redundancy Payments Act (Northern Ireland) 1965. Given that in practice the two schemes are operated as a single system, Clause 2 seeks to short circuit the lengthy Order in Council procedures by providing a similar enabling power for exercise in Northern Ireland.
§ Mr. Graham Page (Crosby)
In respect of Northern Ireland an order will never come before the House.
§ Mr. Walker
That is true, but I can give the House the assurance that we shall proceed on strict parity lines. Therefore, when an order that applies to Great Britain is laid before the House, hon. Members representing constituencies in Northern Ireland will have the opportunity to express any objections and views.
There are two points that follow from the right hon. Gentleman's intervention. The first is that the enabling power will be vested in the Department itself rather than in the Minister. I understand that that follows convention for which there is well-established precedent. The second point has already been dealt with in my reply to the intervention. I assure the House that use of the powers in the way that I have described—on the basis of maintaining strict parity—should avoid 919 any absurdities that could arise if different rates of rebate were applied over any length of time.
Having dealt with the mechanical details of the Bill, now turn to the question that was raised by the hon. Member for Basingstoke (Mr. Mitchell) about the way in which the Bill will be used.
Initially, we propose to make an order reducing rebate to 41 per cent. This will have the direct effect of reducing the public sector borrowing requirement. Put very simply, rebates are paid from the Redundancy Fund. By definition these payments are public expenditure. If the Fund is in deficit it has to be financed by borrowing from the National Loans Fund which involves a direct charge on public funds by any definition. On the other hand, if it is in surplus, that has the effect of reducing the public sector borrowing requirement through being invested in Treasury Bills or stock. There can be no argument about this. It is a matter of fact.
The hon. Member for Brentford and Isleworth (Mr. Hayhoe) was interviewed on Radio 4 on the morning after the debate on the earlier Bill. I hope that the transcript does not misquote him. He said—when challenged about the Opposition's attitude on public expenditure and when reminded that his party has repeatedly said that the Government should cut public expenditure—that the Bill would not cut public expenditure. He said that the money involved was in the Redundancy Fund and that all the money in the Fund comes from industry — and I do not challenge that. He also said that the money in the Fund was all used for making redundancy payments and could not be used for anything else.
In fact, as I have just described, when the Fund is in surplus, it is committed by the provisions of the Redundancy Payments Act 1965, Section 26(3), to use that money as directed by the National Loan Commissioners and to invest it in Government stock. To that extent, it does offset the public sector borrowing requirement. Equally, when the Fund is in deficit, that deficit is incurred against the public sector borrowing requirement.
The hon. Member for Brentford and Isleworth also said that Ministers had made no attempt during the debate, to 920 justify the Bill on the ground of public expenditure. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman did not intend to do us an injustice, but that was the main burden of my speech. In a brief speech, I emphasised that point at least four or five times.
§ Mr. Barney Hayhoe (Brentford and Isleworth)
When I said that the money could not be used for any other purpose, I was paraphrasing what was said by the Minister in introducing the Bill on 26th April 1965.
§ Mr. Walker
No doubt the hon. Gentleman has had an opportunity since then to look at the 1965 Act which says that any moneys forming part of the Fund may from time to time be paid over to the National Debt Commissioners and invested by them, in accordance with such directions as may be given by the Treasury, in such securities as are authorised by Parliament, as investments for savings banks funds. It has been modified since by the Social Security Act 1973.
§ Mr. David Mitchell
Is that not a direct contradiction of the economic policy of the Chancellor who has said that his purpose is to try to attract more investment and funds into industry? The Minister is now telling the House that the Government will take money out of industry and put it back into the hands of the Treasury. That is in direct opposition to the Chancellor's policy.
§ Mr. Walker
I understood that the Opposition want reductions in public expenditure and that they are critical of the Government for not reducing it adequately. This is a reduction in public expenditure. I was replying to the point that was made by the hon. Member for Brentford and Isleworth in a radio interview when he said that we had not made out a case for the Bill on the ground of public expenditure.
§ Mr. Douglas Henderson (Aberdeenshire, East)
Is the Minister not aware that last week there was a sizeable majority against the Government's public expenditure White Paper? Can the Minister tell us what the economic effect of the Bill will be? This question was raised when the subject was debated previously and the hon. Gentleman suggested that it would be £80 million per 921 annum. Can he say whether that figure will be changed as a result of what he intends to do today?
§ Mr. Walker
I shall answer at least a part of that point in a moment. This is an enabling Bill and its effect will depend on the terms of the order that will be laid before the House and on what the House decides to do in respect of that order.
§ Mr. Henderson
I am sorry to press the point, but the hon. Gentleman has been kind enough to explain the effect of these different permutations in the table. Surely it is possible to give permutations for the economic effect of each level set by the table.
§ Mr. Walker
If the hon. Gentleman will let me continue, I may be able to satisfy him on at least part of his question.
It has been stated in the House on a number of occasions that the Redundancy Fund is intended to be self-supporting. There is nothing in a proposed reduction of rebate which detracts from this principle in any way. At the moment, the Fund is in surplus to the extent of approximately £7 million. If rebate is reduced naturally we expect that the surplus will increase. This increase will have a direct beneficial effect on the public sector borrowing requirement. Admittedly if that surplus is allowed to grow unreasonably, it could give rise to problems in the future.
But machinery exists for adjustment and it can be used as and when necessary. Either the Fund's income can be reduced by cutting the allocation which is made front the employer's share of class 1 earnings-related contributions — at present 0.2 per cent. — or alternatively, the rate of rebate can be increased. Of these two possibilities, it is the second that could be done most easily and quickly under the provisions of the Bill. I have already put the case for being able to make future changes with the minimum of delay according to the requirements of the economy and the state of the Redundancy Fund.
There is also the question whether the Government are justified in looking to employers for a further contribution intended to play a relatively modest part 922 in a vitally important overall package. Looked at in isolation the savings may appear small. For example, on the basis of the best estimates we have been able to make for 1977–78, each 1 per cent. of rebate is the equivalent of approximately £1.8 million on the Fund for a full year.
It may help the hon. Member opposite who put a point to me if I quote a full year saving for 41 per cent. rebate. The answer is £16.2 million. To put it another way, expenditure from the Fund will be reduced by approximately £1.35 million a month—and I hope hon. Members opposite will find that helpful. The actual amount saved during the coming financial year must depend of course on how soon it is possible to reduce the rebate and on how quickly we can introduce the order, have it approved by the House and made effective.
These figures may seem small when compared to the £1,000 million July package. Taken by themselves they may not seem worth bothering about, but that would be missing the whole point of the exercise. The package announced by the Chancellor last July is fundamental to the healthy economy of the country. It went much wider than simply cutting expenditure and reducing the public sector borrowing requirement. Its declared aim was the deliberate encouragement of an upturn in the economy. It was also spread to do the least damage bearing in mind the need to preserve rightly important social and economic priorities. Directly or indirectly, there can be very few people in this country who have not been required to make a contribution in some form or other, however small, to the stringent measures dictated by our economic circumstances.
We believe it not unreasonable to ask employers to make an additional contribution within the context of the package as a whole. I appreciate that some employers may feel the impact more harshly than others. Even so a sense of proportion must be retained. For example, the maximum additional cost to an employer of a reduction in rebate to 41 per cent. will be something less than three weeks' pay for each employee made redundant. On average, the amount will be much smaller, in most cases a week's pay or less. Additional costs of this order should not be difficult to assimilate.
923 As I made clear at the outset, this is an enabling Bill. It will not reduce rebate, but, given all the circumstances which surround its introduction, it would have been wrong for me to attempt to conceal in any way the immediate use to which we propose it should be put on enactment. On this occasion, and I freely acknowledge the stimulus to clearer thinking which was given by the House through its rejection of an earlier Bill, we have produced a more useful and flexible instrument for the administration of the statutory scheme. I think that the Bill achieves this object. I have no hesitation in asking for the support of the House for this measure.
§ 4.2 p.m.
§ Mr. Barney Hayhoe (Brentford and Isleworth)
Six weeks ago the House rejected the Second Reading of the Reduction of Redundancy Rebates Bill by 130 votes to 129. I am not sure whether it was entirely the eloquence and arguments that we deployed from the Opposition side of the House, or the fact that the Prime Minister and the Chancellor of the Exchequer were absent unpaired, that led to the defeat, but for the first time since 1888 a Government were defeated on a Second Reading.
Now the Government have brought in another Bill and, although less obnoxious in form in certain respects, it is perhaps just as poisonous in effect. The question that we posed last time was "Why have it at all? "That question remains unanswered.
The Bill has not been asked for by Jack Jones, nor by Tom Jackson, nor any of the other puff merchants for the Labour Party—I am thinking of their comments on radio recently. Certainly the CBI does not want it. Who does want it?
§ Mr. Graham Page
Evidently the Labour Party does not want it. Has my hon. Friend not noticed the serried ranks on the Benches opposite?
§ Mr. Hayhoe
I imagine that Labour Members have other things to contemplate. We are not discussing unemployment, but perhaps many of them are contemplating the unemployment that will face them as a result of events later this week and next month.
The public expenditure arguments are the only arguments that the Minister 924 tried to deploy, but what he said was fatuous. The words that I used in the radio broadcast were taken straight from what the then Minister of Labour, Mr. Gunter, said on Second Reading of the original Act:The Redundancy Fund itself will be quite separate from the National Insurance Fund and will be used solely to finance redundancy payments, not for any other purpose."— [Official Report, 26th April 1965; Vol. 711, c. 44.]That is clear, and it is also clear that it was not intended that the legislation should be used as a back-door way of collecting revenue from industry.
The Minister of State said that employers had to make a contribution as a result of the package, and presumably the contribution that he had in mind was that they should get less rebate while continuing to pay the levy to the Redundancy Fund at the previous level. I understand that the difference is the equivalent of 0.03 per cent. If the object of the Bill is to levy this charge, equivalent to 0.03 per cent. more on the general levy than the level of rebate justifies, it is a nonsense in the context of a package which also imposed a payroll tax of 2 per cent.
The Minister seems to have forgotten that the package included a proposal for making a surcharge of 2 per cent. on national insurance contributions. That was asking employers to make a contribution with a vengeance. It was sucking out £1 billion from the resources available to industry. His suggestion that 0.03 per cent. is significant in that context is fatuous and absurd.
There is no public expenditure case for the Bill except on what I described on Second Reading of the former Bill as a:wholly pernickety, bureaucratic, legalistic interpretation".—[Official Report, 7th February 1977; Vol. 925, c. 1132.]If that is the cap that the Minister of State wishes to wear, I shall not deny him its use.
§ Mr. Harold Walker
Perhaps I have not understood the hon. Gentleman's argument, but is he saying that the amount is insignificant, while accepting that it still counts against public expenditure, or is he persisting with the line that the money cannot and should 925 not be counted against public expenditure? He should remember that during the 1970– 74 Conservative Government the Department of Employment and the Treasury considered the income and outgoings of the Redundancy Fund to be debits or credits against public expenditure.
§ Mr. Hayhoe
I made my point clearly in my speech on the last Bill and in the extract from it that I have just quoted. Perhaps the Minister was so busy thinking up his intervention that he did not listen to what I was saying.
I accept that public expenditure Is involved if one takes the most narrow, pernickety, legalistic and bureaucratic interpretation, but if we look at this matter in the context of the effect on industry of the measures announced recently, together with the 2 per cent. surcharge, the Bill makes no sense.
The Government are facing a great political crisis. They are a divided, demoralised and discredited Administration who have run out of steam. The dry rot of Socialism is going through the fabric of their whole being. Yet they come to the House, presumably to rally the Labour faithful—just look at the empty spaces behind the Minister—with this insignificant irrelevance of a Bill.
The Leader of the House also gives priority to this Bill. We could be debating the confidence motion today. The Leader of the House, presumably after consulting the Prime Minister, has decided that we should not debate that issue but that we should deal with this earth-shattering Redundancy Rebates Bill. Perhaps the reason is not the relative priorities, but that the Leader of the House and the Prime Minister want more time to try to cobble together some grubby and shady deal that will enable them to survive on Wednesday night.
We could have had a debate on unemployment or on the difficulties confronting teenagers who have not got jobs. If today had been allocated as a Supply Day, issues of that kind could have been debated.
We could have debated the way in which the Government are imposing by diktat a substantial increase in the price of gas. Is it not interesting that the 926 Government cannot make a Supply Day available to the Opposition but can find time for this insignificant and irrelevant little piece of legislation?
I do not think that people outside wholly understand how the agenda for this place works. On most days the agenda is determined by the Government. The Opposition have the opportunity of determining what will be discussed only khen a Supply Day is made available to them, or in the very exceptional circumstances of putting down a censure motion, or something of that kind.
Therefore, the Government prefer to use the time of Parliament to debate this kind of issue rather than some of the more substantial issues which worry many people. If they have not the guts to put important matters before the House, they should at least allow the Opposition a Supply Day so that they can do so.
The Leader of the House is strangulating Parliamentary debate on issues by bringing forward such Bills and clogging up the Order Paper with this kind of measure. We see both the Government and the Department of Employment giving this Bill priority. That fact, I suggest, demonstrates their manifest unfitness to remain in charge of the nation's affairs.
The Bill underlines and lends emphasis to the Government's shortcomings. I shall explain why. The defeated Bill was explicit. It followed precedent as well, because changes had been made in rebates. Therefore, the previous Bill, which the House defeated, at least had those virtues. However, this Bill is nonspecific and is an enabling measure. I suppose that all Governments have sought such legislation. They ask the House for broad general powers. I wholly accept that Conservative Governments have done that in the past. But we should recognise the dangers of enabling legislation.
The Minister of State said that it was flexible, that it did not need to go through the cumbersome procedure of a debate in this House. What does it do? It enhances the power of the Executive and diminishes the rôle and power of Parliament.
The changes proposed by the Government in the Reduction of Redundancy Payments Bill were subject to debate and amendment in Committee. If Members 927 wanted to argue against the 40 per cent. or 41 per cent. which is now proposed, they had the opportunity to do so at the time and in the circumstances in which a change was proposed. But hon. Members will now be given no chance other than accepting or rejecting what the Government put before them. The use of the order procedure means that no amendments can be taken. Therefore, that gives an advantage to the Executive. It is certainly flexible from the Executive's point of view. It is not cumbersome, because the Government do not have to argue their case in detail before Parliament and have it undergo the scrutiny which takes place in Committee.
In my judgment that typifies the Socialist Government's approach to legislation. They prefer enabling legislation. It is much easier to roll it through. Indeed, leading Socialist thinkers have often argued that the right course for an incoming Socialist Government is to have one simple debating Bill and then do practically what they like by order subsequently.
This Bill covers three financial elements. First, there is the maximum level of pay for calculating entitlement. That was covered by Schedule 1 of the original Act and was amended in the Employment Protection Act. That enabled the Government to change the maximum level of pay to be taken into account in determining the amount of redundancy payments to which an individual was entitled. There was the power for changes to be made by order, but by affirmative order. It was necessary for the Government to get a resolution of both Houses of Parliament to do that.
The second financial part of the original legislation was the amount of charge to be levied across industry. That was Section 27 of the 1965 Act. Again, that was amended and new provisions were written into the Social Security Act 1973— Section 122. But again that carried forward the idea that changes would be made by order and that the affirmation of both Houses would be required.
Now I turn to the percentage of rebate which would go to the firms concerned. The figure was written into the 1965 legislation, which was debated and amended in Committee. In 1969 the then Government asked for a change. Six 928 weeks ago the Government asked for a change. They sought by legislation to modify the amount of rebate. Now we have the Government seeking this enabling legislation, which will not follow the affirmative procedure which was followed for the previous legislation where changes were envisaged from the start—obviously less important changes than the change in the percentage of the rebate which in 1969 was held to be changed only as a result of legislation. Now the Government are trying to achieve that change by way of the negative procedure. That is entirely wrong.
In addition, there is the point made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Crosby (Mr. Page) that, while we, at any rate, can debate a Statutory Instrument which would apply a change in rebate for the United Kingdom, there would be no necessity for a similar debate in this House regarding Northern Ireland. That is a considerable change from the provisions of the original legislation and of the proposal which was before us six weeks ago.
It is typical of the Government that they should be so contemptuous of the rights of the House and of the rights and powers of Back Benchers that, having been defeated, they should come forward with a measure which takes power away from the House, which seeks to avoid the detailed discussions which would follow changes in the amount of the rebate, and which gives greater power to the Executive.
Of course the Bill itself is small and relatively unimportant, insignificant and irrelevant to our economic problems by itself, but I submit that it is highly significant and relevant if we look at how the issue has been handled by the Government. The truth is that the facts of parliamentary life at the moment prevent the Government from steam-rollering through Parliament their damaging devolution Bill and prevent them from even bringing before Parliament their doctrinaire direct labour proposals.
But we see the arrogance of the Socialists and of Socialist Ministers in the way in which they are putting this Bill before the House. Since Parliament has rejected the Bill when it was specific, they come forward with a broad enabling measure seeking to do by the negative procedure what has normally been done 929 by amending legislation. It is in utter and total opposition to that arrogance, as well as in opposition to the Bill itself, that we shall vote tonight.
§ 4.21 p.m.
§ Mr. Graham Page (Crosby)
Unlike my hon. Friend the Member for Brent-ford and Isleworth (Mr. Hayhoe), I do not object to this small Bill being discussed in the House now, because it raises a very important constitutional issue. The Minister of State, in his usual charming, courteous and persuasive way, put over what sounded like a modest and reasonable case. Who would have dreamt that in fact he was telling us that the House has already chucked out the Bill once and that, therefore, the Government will in future achieve its aim "under the counter".
The Minister of State is saying that the Government will not ask the House to approve the details of the scheme, but they will do it by order, and by a form of order that he attempted to justify, as so many Governments have in the past, by saying, "We must have flexibility in this matter," that is to say, the Executive must have flexibility. That merely means that the Executive want to go behind the House of Commons and cheat Parliament and the Back-Bench Members. I say that because it is well known that if subordinate legislation is subject to negative resolution only, it has little or no chance of being debated in the House. If subordinate legislation is merely subject to annulment, it comes to the House for debate only by the grace and favour of the "usual channels".
The Back Bencher has little or no chance of bringing a Prayer before the House these days. If he wishes to do so he has to go to the merits Committee—the Statutory Instrument Committee—which sits in the mornings and is very badly attended. There are no votes in such Committees. The Committee merely takes note of an order.
Let us suppose that a negative order is brought forward under Clause 1 of the Bill and an hon. Member puts down a Prayer for its annulment, so it is sent upstairs. An order under the Bill might increase the levy imposed on certain citizens, but when it goes upstairs the Committee may say only, that it has taken 930 note of the order. This is not the right way to treat the House when discussing increases in levies that may be imposed on certain citizens.
Even if it is by affirmative order, it is difficult enough to cover all the issues in the one and half hours allowed for debating affirmative orders. But at least in that case we have a fixed one and a half hours, whereas with an order that is subject to annulment we cannot debate it after 11.30 p.m., and, if there have been two or three votes after ten o'clock, the debate will be cut down to perhaps three-quarters of an hour.
This endeavour to come before the House and say that the rate of rebate in redundancy payments shall be decided in this way in England, Wales and Scotland is cheating the House. It is impossible, even by an order that is subject to affirmative resolution, to amend the order or debate any amendment to it, and it is certainly impossible with an order that is subject to negative resolution.
The Minister of State said, perhaps by a slip of the tongue, that the order would require the approval of the House. But it will not do so if it is by negative resolution. An hon. Member might see the order on the Order Paper as having been laid before the House and might be quick enough to put down a Prayer to annul it. The Minister said that someone would see it on the Order Paper within a matter of days and put down a Prayer to annul it.
There is a convention that Departments should not make an order operate in less than 21 days from its being laid before the House, but how many orders disregard that convention at present? The 21-day convention is not fully observed, particularly in money orders that come before the House. If it were observed there might be some chance of annulling orders before they come into operation, but in practice that is not possible.
I come now to Clause 2, which deals with Northern Ireland. On the face of it, any order affecting Northern Ireland could be annulled by resolution of Parliament, but in fact under the Northern Ireland Act 1974, no subordinate legislation which is subject to the negative resolution procedure comes before this House at all.
Any subordinate legislation which needs the approval of Parliament is laid 931 before us with the possibility of a Prayer to annul it. On the face of it, Clause 2 states that the order will require a negative resolution to annul it, but under the Northern Ireland Act 1974 that does not happen. This order for Northern Ireland is not even made by the Secretary of State. It is made by the Department of Manpower Services for Northern Ireland. It is possible, and has been done in the past, for such an order to be required to be made by the Secretary of State, in which case it comes before the House if an hon. Member puts down a Prayer against it. Why did not the Minister adopt that procedure? It is possible to do this under existing legislation, and has been done in recent legislation. He should have adopted that course in this case.
It is preposterous that, having lost the Bill on the first occasion, the Government should bring in another Bill before the House and say that, as they cannot get it through a full House, they will do it by negative resolution procedure, which it is almost impossible to debate on the Floor of the House. I hope that we shall divide against this Bill.
§ 4.29 p.m.
§ Mr. Douglas Henderson (Aberdeenshire, East)
I agree with the remarks of the right hon. Member for Crosby (Mr. Page) who has brought out some of the most important defects in the Bill. I find it quite astounding that the Government have not learned and have not listened to what was said in the debate on 7th February.
The Government do not command an obedient majority from their followers but have to seek the support of a majority of other hon. Members to sustain their legislation. Against that background they are going completely against that support in reintroducing the Bill in a sneaky and back-door way, as the Minister has done. I was amazed to hear the Minister of State, for whom I have a great regard, say that the rate is not exactly 40 per cent. as it was when the House turned down the Bill last time, but that it will be 41 per cent. That is unworthy of the Minister of State and of any Government who hope to command respect and, on occasions, support from anyone other than their own devoted and obedient followers. They cannot continue in that 932 spirit and in that light, and that must add a certain piquancy to our discussions later this week. Clearly, unless the Government can show that they can learn the lesson of the views of the House, they have no right to remain in Government, and the sooner they are replaced the better.
At the beginning of the debate the question was posed of who wants the Bill. It seems slightly incongruous, in view of the figures which we have discussed on many occasions, that the Government should be straining so hard to get what the Minister of State now tells me will be about £ 16.2 million from the 41 per cent. of rebate. In a sense, the Government are going for the widow's mite. We have heard that it is not the Government who want the Bill. The Government have said that they regret having to bring the Bill before us. The Bill is certainly not wanted by the other parties in the House. They voted against the Government on the last occasion. One can assume only that the Bill is wanted by the IMF alone.
Following the Chancellor's package of measures last July, we are hearing a different tune from the Government. We are hearing how the Chancellor has £1 billion, £2 billion, or £3 billion— who knows exactly how much? We hear that he will lay this before us in eight days' time. That is the largesse which will be offered to the electorate in the forthcoming election campaign. But here we are arguing over a Bill which, although having been defeated, is reintroduced in substantally the same form and will produce £16.2 million. Once more, that does not seem to me to be the act of a Government who are taking account of the views of the House and of political realities.
The Minister said that the maximum cost to any employer would be three weeks' pay for each employee made redundant. I calculate that with some companies that could be between £200 and £250. That could mean a sizeable pay-out for a small company. Suppose that 10 or 20 people were made redundant in a small company. They would have to be paid out at a time when the company was least able to bear the expense. The Minister says that the expense would not be great, but the incidence of this tax— for that is what it is— comes when the company is already in difficulties.
933 There is an air of unreality about all this. The Minister cannot expect us to believe that this Bill will not adversely affect companies, particularly small companies. That arrangement demonstrates the saddest aspect of the lack of logic in the Minister's argument.
On Second Reading of the original Bill, the Minister was unable to give any extrapolation of the figures with a rising trend of unemployment. But unemployment in Scotland has increased by about 2,000 a week over the last three months, and figures from the Department of notifications under the Employment Protection Act seem to show that we are talking in terms of at least 1,000 a week for the next three months.
§ Mr. Harold Walker
The House must be cautious of seeking to establish a correlation between the level of and number of redundancy payments and the level of unemployment. There is no clear correlation. For example, between 1975 and 1976 there was a significant rise in unemployment, and yet the rate of redundancy payments made in 1976 was significantly below that of 1975. I can make a forecast. The Government expect that in 1977 the number of redundancy rebate payments will be between 250,000 and 270,000, but it would be misleading to draw from that conclusions about the level of unemployment. There are so many factors involved that one cannot establish a clear correlation between the two.
§ Mr. Henderson
I am sure that the Minister would not argue that there is no relationship at all between unemployment and redundancy. It would be interesting to know whether the Department has figures which show whether as a result of the Employment Protection Act, which defines the rights of work-people made redundant, there is a much clearer link between redundancy and unemployment than was hitherto thought to be the case. Perhaps the figures might reveal a pattern which will develop in the future.
No doubt the Minister, like other hon. Members, has been notified about potential redundancies in the construction and engineering industries. We are told that in Scotland Babcock and Wilcox may have up to 1,500 redundancies, with 934 possibly another 550 in Standard Telephones and perhaps 2,000 to 3,000 in shipbuilding over the next six months. Redundancies are also expected in jute, steel and textiles.
The Scottish economy is facing a very serious situation. I hope that the Minister will not try to underestimate that situation and will not say that it is impossible to calculate what the effect of it on jobs will be. Of course, if the Government plan to contribute less, people in Scotland will have to pay more as the rate of redundancy there goes up. That will take more money out of the Scottish economy, money which will run down the bottomless sink in Whitehall to be squandered as so much money is squandered by Whitehall.
The Minister of State has not convinced me that the Bill is in any way suitable or appropriate. He has not convinced me that the Government have listened to the voice of the House on 7th February. I must therefore recommend my hon. Friends to oppose the Bill tonight.
§ 4.38 p.m.
§ Sir Anthony Meyer (Flint, West)
Until I listened to the Minister of State I was doubtful of the wisdom of my party in deciding to vote against the Bill. But the Minister of State's speech reminded me of a highly respectable figure in a Whitehall farce who is discovered with his trousers down as the curtain goes up on Act II, having been seen at the end of Act I with his hand in the till. My doubts about voting against the Bill are therefore evaporating very rapidly.
I am against the Bill not so much because it is the wrong way to cut Government expenditure. If I were pushed, I am sure that I could think of much worse days of doing that. Certainly the Government have managed to find some. I am against the Bill not solely because it is directly contrary to the Government's much-proclaimed industrial strategy. That strategy never was credible. The only credible form of industrial strategy for this country is to change Governments as quickly as possible.
The additional cost to the employer directly as a result of the Bill may very well prove critical. It may very well prove critical particularly in those industries and in those parts of the country 935 where the Bill' will be most used. The hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, East (Mr. Henderson) put his finger on this very well, and I echo what he said also with regard to Wales. The effect of the Bill can only be to penalise those parts of the country which are already the worst hit by the problems arising from redundancy. This is a further load imposed on employers, who are already staggering under the impact of the surcharge on employers' contributions, who are already affected by the operations of measures such as the Employment Protection Act, by various other measures which the Government have enacted concerning trade unions, and also by., some of the consequences of legislation concerning equal opportunities.
As to the whole concept of shielding employees from the consequences of redundancy and of trying to ensure security of employment by legislation, the evidence seems to be accumulating that this complex of legislation is now not merely ineffective but beginning to become counter-productive. The concept of redundancy payments, like that of wage-related unemployment benefits and of employment protection, is all right at a time of industrial expansion. In a country such as the United Kingdom, where old industrial habits die hard, it is most important to induce employees to move out of declining firms and industries into growing firms and industries. It could very well be that measures such as these may be helpful in the context of getting people into the frame of mind in which they readily accept the idea of moving from one firm or industry to another.
At a time of declining opportunities and a contracting economy such measures reinforce' the downward spiral and make it more' difficult to move people from unproductive to productive employment. Many firms might be able to stage some kind of recovery if they could shed two or three employees and streamline their operations— those employees would go off elsewhere, and so on— but the impact of having to contribute to the Redundancy Fund and having to make an increased contribution to it under the Bill may have precisely the effect to which the hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, East has just referred. It may be critical in driving a small firm into bankruptcy.
936 Yesterday I was speaking to a meeting of the National Federation of Self-Employed. The self-employed are very much concerned by the effect that all these measures are having on them and on small businesses in inhibiting their growth and discouraging them from expanding and taking people into new jobs. As the representative of an area body badly affected by a sudden spurt in unemployment— caused very largely by the simultaneous failure or contraction of huge employers, such as the British Steel Corporation, Hawker Siddeley Aviation and Courtaulds— I am more conscious than any other hon. Member of the vital importance of enabling small firms to expand and of encouraging people to become self-employed.
The best way of securing a very rapid diminution in the unemployment figures is by concentrating on what can be done at the very bottom end with the very smallest businesses— the self-employed. The time has come, therefore, not just for tinkering with the existing measures for employment protection and redundancy but for taking a radically new look at the whole complex of legislation that is supposed to govern the creation or the preservation of employment.
It is no good looking to the present government for any such radical new look. The Government in these matters, if not in all others, are completely under the thumb of the unions. The unions themselves, alas, seem to be completely under the thumb of those whose thinking on these matters is totally arthritic.
I am sure that a number of hon. Members who have been in contact with trade union leaders recently have found welcome evidence of some individual trade union leaders thinking in bolder terms than others, but the plain fact is that such views are not effectively represented on the General Council of the Trades Union Congress, and show very little sign at present of making headway in the trade union movement.
§ The Under-Secretary of State for Employment (Mr. John Golding)
I am very pleased with the observations just made on trade union leadership. Does the hon. Gentleman subscribe to the view, put from the Opposition Front Bench, that these leaders are puff merchants?
§ Sir A. Meyer
I am not quite sure what the Under-Secretary of State means. I was listening very carefully to my hon. Friend the Member for Brentford and Isle-worth (Mr. Hayhoe) and I did not hear him use that particular phrase.
I am making a very serious point. Despite the fact that certain trade union leaders are now well aware of the need for a very radical re-think of our employment policies, and of the fact that intelligent employment policies will produce a permanent increase in the level of employment in this country and a permanent reduction in the level of unemployment, such policies would now necessarily entail an increase in unemployment over the next couple of years. It is simply not possible to run away from this fact.
Whatever party is in power, it will have to accept increased unemployment figures for the next two years or more. The real question is whether at the end of those two years we shall have a permanent reduction in the level of unemployment, or whether, on the contrary, the temporary increase will turn out to be part of a permanent increase in unemployment.
By that acid test the Government have totally failed, because they are incapable of any fresh or original thought on the subject. The present Bill is merely an acceptance of the fact that we have a set of measures which is the most to which the trade union movement would allow the Government to assent. These measures are manifestly failing and have to be tinkered with and in some respects made worse.
Since the Minister of State has said nothing whatever to disabuse me of the belief that this minor measure will now make the Redundancy Payments Act itself a questionable piece of legislation, and make it slightly but significantly worse, I shall have little hesitation in voting against it.
§ 4.49 p.m.
§ Mr. David Mitchell (Basingstoke)
Last week we had government by abdication. This week we have government by subterfuge and deviousness.
On 7th February the Government sought to increase the employer's proportion of the cost of redundancy. The House of Commons said "No". Today we have a Bill to enable the Government 938 to do exactly the same thing. Of course, there are two changes. First, the Bill permits the Government to do it by an order which will come up for approval in the House in the dead of night. The Government might expect to get it through when perhaps the House is thinly attended— not that it would be possible for the Labour Benches to be much more thinly attended than they are at the moment. The Government are taking this course in order to get through what they could not get through by their Bill lost in February.
I was interested to hear the Minister's comment that hon. Members might find this Bill more attractive than its predecessor. He said that he himself did. He said that this procedure would be better than the long and cumbersome procedures and pressures of the House. It means that the Government will be able to introduce legislation by order, approved, if time is found for discussion at all, in the dead of night. The hon. Gentleman is one of the nicest and kindest men in the Government, but I wonder whether he realises the implication of his statement. If the procedures and pressures of the House are a nuisance to a Government, is not that what democracy is about? Is not that what the House of Commons is here for? Is not the view he has expressed getting dangerously near to contempt of Parliament?
It will not be lost on hon. Members that if the procedure outlined by the Government in the Bill, which would enable them to do by order what they were unable to do by debate on the Floor of the House, is followed, such an order could not be amended. It could only be either overturned or not. Contrary to the terms of the Bill which the Government lost on 7th February, there would be no Committee stage for an order, and no opportunity to probe line by line and clause by clause with amendments seeking to change what the Government were proposing. There would be none of that. The House would be left with the straightforward choice of accepting an order or not, and that choice would be given mostly in the dead of night. In effect, therefore, this Bill, unlike its predecessor, would allow the Government to do by subterfuge what they could not do on 7th February.
939 Secondly, the Bill reduces the extra contribution to be made by employers. It does so only slightly, but we must be grateful. The Government will take only £16½ million out of industry under this Bill instead of the £18 million they proposed to take under the lost Bill. But I believe that we must look at this Bill against the background of the unemployment situation. Although there may be a statistical aberration, to which the Minister referred, one cannot separate unemployment and redundancy, and I shall discuss a key point where the two impinge upon one another. We are considering the Bill against the background of an unemployment figure of over 1⅓ million, which is expected to go to 1¾ million. We have a Government who want employment but do not care for or understand or even want employers.
The Bill piles yet another burden on industry on top of all the other burdens that it already has to suffer. It is difficult to know what is the last straw which breaks the camel's back in this case—whether it is the burden of inflation, which means that industry needs more money in order to achieve the same turnover; whether it is increased corporation tax, which takes money out of the business community at the very time when inflation means that it needs more; whether it is increased income tax; whether it is increased national insurance contributions, or whether it is the new surcharge which is to come in next month—the jobs tax, the surcharge of 2 per cent. on national insurance for everyone in employment.
I do not know which of those burdens is the worst, but the total, with this £16½ million piled on top, will clearly lead to an increase in unemployment. It seems that the Government's slogan could well be "unemployment". Perhaps, if we are to have a General Election soon, they will go to the country on the slogan "We are the party that has managed to double unemployment in only two years. Put us back to continue the good work." I do not know whether that will be the case, but this Bill will certainly add to the unemployment.
Before the Minister sat down, to thunderous applause from both of his supporters in the Chamber, he said that the Bill would have the effect of reducing the public sector borrowing requirement, 940 because if there were a surplus on the redundancy fund it would go to the Treasury. But we know the policy of the Government as outlined by the Chancellor of the Exchequer in his Budget Statement 12 months ago and reaffirmed by him in the economic debate last summer. He told us that he wanted to see a transfer of resources from the consumer and the Government into industry. Yet we are now being asked to approve a Bill to take another £16½ million out of industry and put it into the hands of the Government. The contradictions are all too clear.
The Minister said that he did not feel it wrong to ask employers to make this additional contribution in the national interest. But is it in the national interest to denude industry of the funds that it needs for investment? Is it in the national interest to denude it of another £161 million which might otherwise go into modernisation or re-equipping? The Bill will lead directly to an increase in unemployment, and I do not see that that is in the national interest.
The truth is that in 1976 and 1977 the burden of carrying the Government has broken the back of industry. As the process has gone on, the number of unemployed and the number of bankruptcies have risen. There is now the additional burden of £16½ million, but it will not be spread thinly across industry. The Minister cannot say "But it will cost each employer only so much". It is being placed specifically on firms which are in the greatest financial difficulty.
No company pays people off unless it has to. No company makes people redundant unnecessarily. On the contrary, machines and empty factories do not make profits; they do not help to earn for shareholder, investor, manufacturer or management. They mean a dead loss. When a company reluctantly decides, because of its financial situation, that it has no option but to pay off some of its employees, at that time of acute financial pressure the Government say "You will pay more towards the redundancy payments than you would have done previously". In effect, when a company has had a bad year and is in its weakest financial position, this scheme will translate that bad year into bankruptcy. I know a number of firms which have had to face the fact that if 941 they paid off the number of employees they needed to pay off in order to remain in a viable position they would bankrupt themselves because of the Bill.
Another important point has been made to the Government, but with no response—that there is no right under the companies legislation for any company to accumulate reserves against this liability. Therefore, the liability comes along and the company is unable to accumulate free of tax, a fund with which to meet it. What is more, family companies, close companies and companies which under the tax legislation are forced to pay out their profits in dividend are not allowed to retain the profits within their finances unless they are for immediate investment. They are in the position that they cannot retain the funds necessary to meet redundancy payments because they have had to pay out the money to the shareholders.
I have a third reason for opposing the Bill, and that is the lost opportunity, to which my hon. Friend the Member for Flint, West (Sir A. Meyer) referred, to rationalise the whole area of what happens when a man becomes either redundant or unemployed in other ways. The redundancy payments legislation helps most those who may need help least. I go further: it may give no help to those who are most in need.
I shall give two examples to the House. There is the case of a married man with three children living in Scotland who, as the representatives of the Scottish National Party will bear out, is suffering from rising unemployment under the present Government. He finds it difficult to get work in Scotland. He is being driven—as were so many, including my grandfather—to England to seek work. He had the misfortune of changing his job in Scotland a couple of years ago, and now he has lost his job because of rising unemployment. He searches England for a job, finding one, perhaps, in Basingstoke. He has to meet the cost of moving which is much higher, and he has the cost for a while of keeping two homes, yet he has no redundancy payment. He is in great need, but he receives no help.
I am glad that the Minister has returned to the Chamber. I was making the point to him about the lost oppor- 942 tunity to rationalise all that happens when a man loses his job whether through redundancy or in other ways. I was indicating that there are men who are in great need but who get not one penny from the Redundancy Fund, but other men may receive help.
There is another example from my constituency, where a builder made three men redundant. He did not want to do so, but a contract had ended and demand for construction work was shrinking. He had no option but to pay off the men. There was another building contractor, literally across the road, who took on those three men. They simply crossed the road. I do not know whether they were paid slightly more or less or the same, but I imagine that there was no distinctive difference. They suffered no cost, and they received a substantial sum in redundancy payment. The original builder nearly had a strike on his hands. The other men whom he had not dismissed said "Please, why do you not make us redundant? We could have worked across the road next week for somebody else and we could have had that nice sum of redundancy money in our pockets, yet we got nothing."
Irrationally, the system often pays out according to how lucky one has been. The luckier one has been, the longer one has had a job and has not been out of work, the more good fortune one has and the more one gets in the payout. The greater the misfortune one has, when one has perhaps changed jobs a number of times and one's employer has gone bankrupt under this Government, the more one suffers.
§ Mrs. Winifred Ewing (Moray and Nairn)
Would the hon. Gentleman add to his examples the kind of situation which obtains in Moray and Nairn, where a Government-subsidised bus company is able so to undercut all local contractors in the Grampian Region between Inverness, Peterhead and Aberdeen that they are driven out of business? The undercutting means that the Alexander buses are taking on contracts at a loss. Local contractors are having to allow men to become redundant, but they immediately get jobs with Alexander. Money from the ratepayer's pocket is making that undercutting possible. The result is that small businesses engaged in transport in the area are being driven out of existence.
§ Mr. Mitchell
I am happy to accept the hon. Member's additional example. I could expound to the House for a long time on other examples of the sort of unfair competition subsidised by the Government and ratepayers which is leading to people being made redundant and, therefore, to claims upon the Redundancy Fund, but I am sure that I would not be allowed to do so because there are others who wish to take part in the debate.
One can think of, for example, the electricity industry. It has fine show- rooms in the High Street, paid for out of electricity charges on the individual consumer, where it sells electrical equipment, heaters, cookers and so on. The Government subsidise that activity, but by their action they bankrupt the small private enterprise electrical contractor and sales company that is operating alongside the showroom.
The Minister looks annoyed. I assure him that if he looks at what is happening he will discover that what I have been describing is the case. He will see that the return on assets, where separate accounting has taken place in some of the electrical industries, is such as would have driven bankrupt any private enterprise company.
If the House wants to look further, there is the direct labour organisations of local authorities. They frequently drive local builders out of business because they act without private accounting, and by using ratepayers' money they are able to make losses and conceal them in a way that no private enterprise firm would be able to use. These examples add to the point made by the hon. Member for Moray and Nairn (Mrs. Ewing). I give one example. In Glasgow it costs more than £4,000 more to build a house through a direct labour department than through private enterprise. These are examples of areas where people are being made redundant as a result of Government activities and therefore calling for additional money from the Redundancy Fund.
I repeat that an opportunity has been lost. I hope that the Minister will take back the Bill—although it may, happily, be defeated again as was its predecessor— and, in the short time still available to him as a Minister in this Government, consider how he can roll together and rationalise redundancy payments and 944 wage-related unemployment benefits. They are related to the difficulties and the suffering of unemployment, unlike the redundancy payments. I hope that he will look at the whole area of retraining.
If we roll these two things together into a rationalised programme for giving financial and other help to people when they become unemployed, we shall be helping the economy and we shall bring fairness into an area which is so unsatisfactory at present. Above all, we shall be doing something to prevent the growing level of unemployment occasioned by firms having to make payments at their weakest possible moment—when they have to pay people off.
§ 5.9 p.m.
§ Mr. Fred Silvester (Manchester, Withington)
I shall not detain the House for more than a couple of minutes, but I think it is right to draw attention to the distinctive difference between this debate and the one in February. This debate does the House no credit. In February, the Bill presented an opportunity for the House to discuss the redundancy payments scheme. It did so, in a debate which, for all its faults, and even though it lasted for only three hours, got together a number of comments that were worthy of the House. Hon. Members made a number of useful points about the scheme and a number of suggestions.
My hon. Friend the Member for Basingstoke (Mr. Mitchell) and others are trying to inject that same view into this debate. That debate even occurred with two Labour Back Benchers taking part. The debate took place, and, having discussed the redundancy payments scheme and having taken account of the Government's overall economic problems and the fact that they wanted to cut down on our borrowing requirements, the House decided this was not the way to do it. It was a simple matter for the House to take that decision in a useful and valuable debate. We now have that thrown back in our faces, with the result that today we have a debate that is empty, not so much of argument, because we have been trying to keep that up, but of purpose.
One has only to look at the schedule to the Bill to realise what a tawdry measure this is. Even the fractions show what we are talking about. One chunters down the first column dealing with fortieths 945 until one looks at Item 2 where the fraction suddenly splits into 123/200. The purpose of that is to enable the Minister to put a loin cloth on this dreadful Bill. The Minister is an honourable man and it is unfortunate that he has been put in the position of having to introduce the Bill.
Let me recap on three small points about the Bill, and what we said before and what we say now. It is right for the Government to decide to cut their borrowing if they desire to do so, but it must be right for the House to decide that there are certain areas which they should not touch. If we do not have any latitude in the matter, the House might as well pack up and go home if at all times what the Government say must take precedence.
If the House decides, as it clearly did, not by accident but of its own will, that something should not be done, and if the Government come back in the same Session with identical proposals, disguised though they may be, and spit in the face of the House of Commons, they ought to be thoroughly ashamed of themselves. The arguments put forward in that debate are still true today. They have been rehearsed, and the Government have presented no answer to them.
This Bill is an attempt to cut public expenditure at the expense of companies. The Government are taking money from industrial potential and using it for other purposes, but the argument advanced by the Government to date has been that where cuts have to come, and where economies have to be made, industry at least must be allowed to go forward. The Government have shown again that their priorities slip whenever it suits their political convenience.
Thirdly, and it came out loud and clear in the previous debate, the redundancy rebates system is an integral part of the whole way in which we tackle unemployment. If we tackle it in this way, with a hotchpotch measure that makes matters worse at a time when, as the hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, East (Mr. Henderson) said, companies are at their most vulnerable, we shall do a great disservice.
The Minister comes from an area in which there is substantial unemployment. 946 I come from an area in which unemployment is even higher. It is not sensible for any Ministers who are concerned, as I am sure present Ministers are, with introducing suitable measures to deal with the unemployment situation to come to the House with legislation which is ill thought out for the circumstances with which we are dealing.
During the past two years we have seen measures which might have had their heart in the right place when they started but which have cumulatively had a deleterious effect on employment prospects. This is becoming increasingly recognised, and if the House is not given an opportunity to debate rationally and calmly and come to a decision, as it did in February, and have an effect on proposed measures, the Government are taking us for a ride, and this exercise is a complete waste of time.
§ 5.14 p.m.
§ Mr. David Madel (Bedfordshire, South)
The first thing about this short debate is the note of surprise that has been struck by my hon. Friends that we are debating a measure that has been brought back to us in this way. I think we are all agreed that the Bill is not really necessary. The Minister will recall that in the earlier debate in February the hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, East (Mr. Henderson) raised a question about consultation before the Redundancy Rebates (No. 1) Bill, if I may so call it, was introduced.
The Minister replied to the hon. Gentleman in this fashion:I return once more to the questions put by the hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, East. It is true that there were no consultations"—that is before the Bill was introduced—but the hon. Member would have been fairer had he indicated to the House that in a previous Question he had asked me how many representations had been made."—[Official Report, 7th February 1977; Vol. 925, c. 1182.]Whether it be consultation or representation, the fact that the Bill was ordered to be printed by the House of Commons on 10th March 1977 has not given industry very much time in which to have consultations and to make representations to the Government on why a second shot should not be made at introducing a Bill of this nature. One would have thought that, having lost the Second Reading of the Bill in February, the Government would 947 have allowed a considerable period to elapse before making any attempt to bring forward fresh legislation.
The Minister of State, in an open and honest speech— at least most of it was that— talked about how the calculations had been arrived at and indicated that a complicated procedure had been gone through. My hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Withington (Mr. Silvester) rightly drew attention to the fact that to avoid falling foul of the Public Bill Office and the parliamentary draftsmen the Government in the calculations in the schedule leap from 21/40 to 123/200. Presumably, the Statutory Instrument implementing a change in the redundancy rebates will cite which set of fractions in the schedule to the Bill is to be substituted in Schedule 5 of the Great Britain Act and Schedule 6 of the Northern Ireland Act. We no doubt have to wait until the Statutory Instrument is introduced to see which fraction is used.
Secondly, mention has been made of why 41 per cent. has been used in one of the calculations when all the other percentages go up in multiples of five, from 35 per cent. minimum to 80 per cent. maximum. Again, I assume that 41 per cent. has been arrived at because the Government did not want to fall foul of the parliamentary draftsmen and the Public Bill Office, but we should like an assurance that if the Bill ever gets on to the statute book, before the Government start tinkering around with these percentages, industry, and especially small businesses, will be properly consulted.
The Bill refers in the Explanatory and Financial Memorandum to the effects of the Bill on public service manpower and says:The changes in public service manpower resulting from the Bill are expected to be minimal.In the original Bill it said:No changes in public service manpower are expected to result from the Bill.I assume that the reason for that is that, because of the new calculations and the rather complicated 41 per cent. calculation that has to be made, extra work will be necessary and more time may be needed and that may lead to more people having to be employed.
A number of points have been reiterated in the speeches today, and I 948 want to emphasise one point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Basingstoke (Mr. Mitchell). He touched on it today, but he went into it in greater detail on the previous occasion, and it is as relevant today as it was on 7th February. My hon. Friend referred to the contingent liability of small firms and said:It is a liability against which a firm is not allowed to make a reserve."—that is the liability for redundancy payments—It is a liability that cannot be entered in the accounts, although it is clearly an expenditure that will have to be met at some stage. There is a strong case for the Minister saying to the Government that there should be an allowance in terms of companies providing reserves for this purpose. That could be mixed in with the way in which the Chancellor deals with the system of stock relief, which is offset against profit. I do not propose to enter into the details, only to say that representations should be made to the Treasury." — [Official Report, 7th February 1977; Vol. 925, c. 1148.]My hon. Friend was specific, but when the Minister wound up the debate on that occasion no answer was given to my hon. Friend's question. Assuming that the Government can stagger on, we are entitled to know whether the Department of Employment has drawn this matter to the attention of the Chancellor, who in eight days' time may have an opportunity to make some alterations along the lines mentioned by my hon. Friend on 7th February. It is a point put to us since the debate took place. There has been no answer from the Government. Today provides an opportunity for that answer. There is certainly an opportunity to do something when the Budget comes before us next Tuesday.
The negative order procedure has been touched on in relation to the three elements in the Redundancy Fund which must be kept in balance. By Section 86 of the Employment Protection Act there is:the general level of earnings … the national economic situation and … such other matters asthe Secretary of Statethinks relevant.The way the Government propose to introduce this legislation is via the negative procedure, but changes to the other elements I have mentioned can be brought about by affirmative resolution and according to specific criteria. As we 949 see it, the new form would allow changes in the level of rebate which would be subject only to the negative resolution. No criteria for change are offered. Many speeches have drawn attention to this issue. There is an opportunity for the Government to think again about it.
When the Minister began his speech he said that in due course it might be possible for higher levels of redundancy rebates to be paid. This debate gives us another chance to look more widely into the whole question of redundancy payment provision. When we won the vote on 7th February we hoped that the Government would allow a considerable time to elapse before attempting anything like this again, not least because we invited them to think more deeply and consult more widely on this issue of redundancy payment provision.
I leave the Government with some thoughts and suggestions on this subject and draw their attention to the Continental situation. I hope, even at this late stage, that they will look at these matters rather than charge on with the Bill, or attempt to do so. They will agree that there is little sign of the Redundancy Payments Acts since 1965 having reduced collective resistance to changes entailing redundancy. They might also agree that there is not much evidence of lump sum payments helping redundant workers to find better jobs by enabling them to look round at leisure and make a considered choice of a new job.
Equally, there is no evidence of payments unnecessarily prolonging periods of unemployment or of their being expended in an irresponsible way. Payments are neither more nor less than financial compensation for loss of job, which is only tenuously and indirectly linked to the cost of redundancy. The Government ought to discover whether increased weekly benefits for the unemployed would be a more equitable form of financial compensation for loss of job and would be more likely to contribute to a more relaxed and rational approach to job-seeking.
If we look at the situation up to 1976 we find that generally the employment service had succeeded in placing about 15 per cent. to 20 per cent. of those laid off in major redundancies. That propor- 950 tion has not increased very much in the past 20 years, although there are signs at last that special on-site services where there is mass redundancy are being more effective. Government retraining is considered by few and appeals to fewer people. It has been taken up by only a relatively small number of those made redundant. It is hoped that the latest figure will show an improvement.
What we are worried about is the provision to assist in geographical transfers. This is even less generally known and used than are the training provisions. On the Continent there are four alterations, and measures which I invite the Government to consider before proceeding further with this Bill. On the Continent a great deal of resources and much expertise are devoted to placement training and assistance with geographical transfer with regard to the labour market generally and the internal labour markets of enterprises. Secondly, greater protection is given in existing jobs for those employees who suffer most from redundancy and who are most difficult to employ, particularly the older workers.
Thirdly, the promotion of manpower planning within enterprises and the development of an agreed social plan is there to cope with the need for redundancy. Fourthly, although the Government have put effort into their job-creation activities, some of this effort, alas, has not been very effective. More attention and greater resources are devoted to effective job creation on the Continent than in this country.
There is, of course, a close relationship between unemployment benefit and redundancy payments. The two are inextricably entwined. Having fallen down on 7th February, the Government should look again at this Bill, at what I have said about the background to redundancy payments, what the situation is in the EEC countries, and to remember that there is no pressure for the Bill from industry, small or large businesses, or from the unions.
We might ask "From whence cometh the pressure?" Is it only that the Government want to salvage their own pride? If so they are going about it the wrong way. They would have been able to perform a much greater service to the nation and to the House if they had said 951 "We are spending six months thinking about this question" rather than charging ahead with a Bill which is so complicated and unnecessary.
§ 5.25 p.m.
§ The Under-Secretary of State for Employment (Mr. John Golding)
The hon. Member for Bedfordshire, South (Mr. Madel) referred to the fact that the previous Second Reading of this Bill was the first occasion since 1888 that a Bill has been lost on Second Reading. I accept the entire responsibility. My former colleagues in the Whips' Office share that view. The truth is that I am accident prone, having been hit by a bus and lightning, among other minor disasters. To lose a Bill after my first speech at the Dispatch Box was an event which should have been readily foreseen by the Deputy Chief Whip sitting here next to me, who should have known better.
Losing the Bill was not the only mistake I made that evening. I feel bound to report a bad error concerning redundancies in Northern Ireland which I have had to correct in a letter to the hon. Member for Harrow, West (Mr. Page). In that letter I said:On 7th February— which turned out to be a black night all round for us—I quoted an estimated 'redundancy rate in 1977– 78 of 31,000 and of approximately 33,000 in 1976– 77. I shall try to let the hon. Member have more precise figures'.In the event it appears that I gave you false redundancy figures; those that apply in this case are much less, 8,000 for 1976–77 and 6,500 for 1977– 78.I apologise to the House for that mistake.
The hon. Member for Brentford and Isleworth (Mr. Hayhoe) has a bad habit of being offensive. I do not mind him sneaking off and saying nasty things on the radio about my hon. Friend and me. We are used to it. We are quite ready to put up with it, although it would be better if he would name us rather than leaving us anonymous. I do object, however, to the hon. Member being offensive under the protection of parliamentary privilege to people outside this House. To describe the trade union leaders of this country as "puff merchants"—
§ Mr. Hayhoe
That was just about Mr. Tom Jackson and one or two colleagues, who, I think, behave as puff merchants for 952 the Labour Party. I would not apply that term to all trade union leaders.
§ Mr. Golding
I made a careful note. The reference was to Jack Jones and Tom Jackson. They were singled out as names that would be known.
§ Mr. Hayhoe
This is a question of recollection. The reference to "puff merchants" was to Tom Jackson and others who have been speaking on the radio as public relations protagonists for the Labour Party. I did not include Jack Jones in that, although I accept that I had said earlier that Jack Jones had not demanded this Bill, as far as I knew.
§ Mr. Golding
No doubt the hon. Member will have the chance to correct Hansard and make certain. For an Opposition Front Bench spokesman on employment matters to describe people of that standing as "puff merchants" is totally irresponsible. We shall not get industrial peace by using intemperate language of that sort.
I say in passing that I do not want to be misunderstood. Members of my union have taken Tom Jackson to task for speaking for the whole of the telecommunications industry. But we should not use intemperate language of that sort under the protection of parliamentary privilege. If the hon. Gentleman is to abuse people, he should do it outside, face to face, so that they can answer back.
§ Mr. Hayhoe
It is an interesting observation by the Minister that it is a term of abuse to describe someone as an unpaid PR puff merchant for the Labour Party. If in his book that is a term of abuse, so be it.
§ Mr. Golding
Our recollections differ. The hon. Gentleman will have to go again to the Hansard office to make sure that appropriate corrections are made to the record—a practice to which I am not unaccustomed myself. Let it be a lesson to the hon. Gentleman to be more temperate in his language because, as in the previous debate, when he referred to our Permanent Secretary in terms which he should not have used, he has a bad habit of being carried away when he is at the 953 Dispatch Box or before a microphone. We advise him to be more conciliatory in his approach.
There is very little that I want to say about the speech of the hon. Member for Brentford and Isleworth. The hon. Member for Manchester, Withington (Mr. Silvester), who was yawning his head off at 4.15, summed up the reaction to the hon. Gentleman's speech.
§ Mr. Silvester
The yawn had more to do with a four-week old baby in the middle of the night than with my hon. Friend's speech.
§ Mr. Golding
I should perhaps congratulate the hon. Gentleman, but I do not know how he could have told the difference between the hon. Gentleman and a four-week old baby in the middle of the night.
It was apparent from the speech of the hon. Member for Brentford and Isleworth that, to a large extent, the arguments used in the previous debate had been abandoned. I am glad that the hon. Gentle man has departed from them. He spoke mainly about the technical procedure. I am sure that in Committee this matter will be the subject of long and intensive debate.
§ Mr. Graham Page
Is the hon. Gentle- man undertaking to make a change in Committee from the negative to the affirmative resolution procedure?
§ Mr. Golding
Of course I am not, otherwise I should have said so. I have said that it is certain that this matter will be debated at length.
I turn to the speech of the hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, East (Mr. Henderson) —
§ Mr. Graham Page
The hon. Gentleman cannot pass over in a sentence like that an important constitutional matter which has been raised by every hon. Member who has spoken. He cannot chuck it overboard like that.
§ Mr. Golding
The answer to that is, who cannot?
We appreciate that the amounts involved are relatively small. The hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, East referred to them as the widow's mite. It is a fact of public expenditure that small amounts 954 add up to substantial amounts, and that is why ceilings are applied to public expenditure and reductions are suggested in the public sector borrowing requirement.
I wish to deal with the question of consultation. We have received, even after the last debate, no formal representations from the CBI. I was concerned to hear it said in our last debate that I had not considered the representations from the County Councils Association. But it seems that those representations were not sent to me or to my Department. We have received no representations from the association, as we have received no representations from the CBI. Had representations been made, had we refused to consider them, and had we refused to consult if we had been asked by these outside organisations to do so, the hon. Gentleman would have been correct to chide us for it.
Whenever I have been asked to consult on or discuss any issue of this sort, my attitude has been to do so. But we have received no formal representations from the CBI, never mind the County Councils Association.
§ Mr. Henderson
I am surprised by the hon. Gentleman's remarks. The shortness of notice between publication of the Bill and the date of Second Reading may have something to do with it. However, I do not want to be unfair. The hon. Gentleman has mentioned the CBI and the County Councils Association. What about the TUC? Has not the hon. Gentleman asked the TUC for its opinion on the Bill?
§ Mr. David Mitchell
Should not the hon. Gentleman have discussed with the TUC a Bill that will increase unemployment?
§ Mr. Golding
I do not believe that it need necessarily lead to an increase in unemployment; but I must get on. [Interruption.] I was long enough in the Whips' Office to know that when the Deputy Chief Whip frowns at me, I must get on.
It is important that we deal with the question of the difficulties of small firms, but if it is a choice between granting and not granting the temporary employment 955 subsidy, I shall keep the temporary employment subsidy, because it is the Government measure which has been of greatest assistance in reducing redundancies, not only in Scotland, but elsewhere. That is the best way in which we could have responded since December to this question.
We do not underestimate the importance and gravity of unemployment in Scotland, although we expect fewer rebates to be paid next year. But let me make it clear that the Tory alternative is to increase redundancy. The right hon. Member for Leeds, North-East (Sir K. Joseph) and the hon. Member for Flint, West (Sir A. Meyer), who has apologised for not being present, made it clear that they do not want assistance to go to firms in trouble. If they were on the Government Front Bench, Scotland would be in trouble, because they would refuse financial assistance.
§ Mr. Henderson
Since the Government are unable to cope with the situation and since the Tories will increase unemployment, does not the hon. Gentleman conclude that the best thing we can do in Scotland is to become independent?
§ Mr. Golding
That is not a view that I hold. But the hon. Gentleman would carry a heavy responsibility if, by any mischance, members of the Opposition were to be in the Departments of Employment and Industry and refusing assistance to people in Scotland threatened with redundancy.
The Government's policy is to save firms wherever possible. British Leyland was saved with the commitment of £300 million. Chrysler, which is of great importance to Scotland, had £162 million committed, £54 million being saved. The temporary employment subsidy has created 27,682 jobs in Scotland. The hon. Member for Flint, West said that the whole concept of shielding employees proved ineffective, but it has not been ineffective in the British motor car industry or British industry generally, and certainly not in Scotland.
The hon. Member for Basingstoke (Mr. Mitchell) said that we did not want to help employers. In that case, I should like to know what I have been doing day by day when I have been receiving deputations from employers to save their 956 firms and have assisted in doing so. Day by day we in the Department of Industry and the Department of Employment have constantly met joint deputations of employers and trade unionists begging us to save their firms and their jobs. Whenever possible we have taken the view that it is right to do so at the present time. We are appalled that Opposition Members want to depart from that view.
§ Mr. David Mitchell rose—
§ Mr. Golding
I shall not give way. The hon. Member for Bedfordshire, South asked a question about contingent liability.
§ Mr. David Mitchell
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. When a Minister attacks an hon. Gentleman in the House is it not usual for him to give way to allow that hon. Member to respond?
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bryant God-man Irvine)
The hon. Gentleman knows that when the Minister is in charge of the Floor it is his actions that are paramount.
§ Mr. Golding
It is in the interests of brevity, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that I get on. This point has not been raised again with the Treasury, but I shall undertake to do so following the debate.
We believe that the payment of redundancy benefits has reduced resistance to change. Mr. Gunter said on introducing the original Bill:The purpose of redundancy pay is to compensate a worker for loss of job, irrespective of whether that leads to any unemployment. It is to compensate him for the loss of security, possible loss of earnings and fringe benefits, and the uncertainty and anxiety of change of job."—[Official Report, 26th April 1965; Vol. 711, c. 36.]I agree with the hon. Member for Bedfordshire, South when he says that we ought to do everything possible to increase placement, training and mobility allowances and to do whatever we can to protect existing jobs and to do more for job creation. I hope that Opposition Members who are constantly attacking the Manpower Services Commission for doing just that very thing will listen to his words.
The hon. Gentleman talked about protecting people in existing jobs. I hope that he will have a word with his right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, North-East who wants firms to go to the wall 957 and workers to be declared redundant in the name of classical orthodox economics.
§ Mr. Graham Page
Before the Minister sits down is he not going to deal with the charge that he is trying to get legislation by negative order instead of bringing it forward in primary legislation?
§ Question put, That the Bill be now read a Second time:—
§ The House divided: Ayes 220, Noes 183.959
|Division No.89||AYES||[5.44 p.m.|
|Abse, Leo||Forrester, John||Mulley, Rt Hon Frederick|
|Allaun, Frank||Fraser, John (Lambeth, N'w'd)||Murray, Rt Hon Ronald King|
|Archer, Peter||Freeson, Reginald||Newens, Stanley|
|Armstrong, Ernest||Garrett, John (Norwich S)||Ogden, Eric|
|Ashley, Jack||George, Bruce||O'Halloran, Michael|
|Ashton, Joe||Gilbert, Dr John||Orbach, Maurice|
|Atkins, Ronald (Preston N)||Ginsburg, David||Orme, Rt Hon Stanley|
|Atkinson, Norman||Golding, John||Ovenden, John|
|Bagier, Gordon A. T.||Gould, Bryan||Owen, Rt Hon Dr David|
|Barnett, Rt Hon Joel (Heywood)||Gourlay, Harry||Palmer, Arthur|
|Bates, Alf||Graham, Ted||Park, George|
|Benn, Rt Hon Anthony Wedgwood||Grant, George (Morpeth)||Parker, John|
|Bishop, E. S.||Grocott, Bruce||Pavitt, Laurie|
|Blenkinsop, Arthur||Hamilton, James (Bothwell)||Perry, Ernest|
|Booth, Rt Hon Albert||Hardy, Peter||Phipps, Dr Colin|
|Bottomley, Rt Hon Arthur||Harrison, Walter (Wakefield)||Price, William (Rugby)|
|Bray, Dr Jeremy||Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy||Radice, Giles|
|Brown, Hugh D. (Provan)||Healey, Rt Hon Denis||Rees, Rt Hon Merlyn (Leeds S)|
|Brown, Robert C. (Newcastle W)||Heffer, Eric S.||Richardson, Miss Jo|
|Buchan, Norman||Hooley, Frank||Roberts, Albert (Normanton)|
|Buchanan, Richard||Hoyle, Doug (Nelson)||Roberts, Gwilym (Cannock)|
|Butler, Mrs Joyce (Wood Green)||Huckfield, Les||Robinson, Geoffrey|
|Campbell, Ian||Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)||Roderick, Caerwyn|
|Canavan, Dennis||Hughes, Roy (Newport)||Rodgers, George (Chorley)|
|Cant, R. B.||Hunter, Adam||Rodgers, Rt Hon William (Stockton)|
|Carmichael, Neil||Irvine, Rt Hon Sir A. (Edge Hill)||Rooker, J. W.|
|Carter, Ray||Irving, Rt Hon S. (Dartford)||Roper, John|
|Castle, Rt Hon Barbara||Jackson, Miss Margaret (Lincoln)||Rose, Paul B.|
|Clemitson, Ivor||Janner, Greville||Ross, Rt Hon W. (Kilmarnock)|
|Cocks, Rt Hon Michael||Jay, Rt Hon Douglas||Sandelson, Neville|
|Cohen, Stanley||Jeger, Mrs Lena||Sedgemore, Brian|
|Coleman, Donald||Jenkins, Hugh (Putney)||Selby, Harry|
|Conlan, Bernard||Johnson, James (Hull West)||Shaw, Arnold (Ilford South)|
|Cook, Robin F. (Edin C)||Johnson, Walter (Derby S)||Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert|
|Cowans, Harry||Jones, Alec (Rhondda)||Shore, Rt Hon Peter|
|Cox, Thomas (Tooting)||Jones, Dan (Burnley)||Silkin, Rt Hon John (Deptford)|
|Crawshaw, Richard||Judd, Frank||Silkin, Rt Hon S. C. (Dulwich)|
|Crowther, Stan (Rotherham)||Kaufman, Gerald||Silverman, Julius|
|Cryer, Bob||Kelley, Richard||Small, William|
|Cunningham, G. (Islington S)||Kerr, Russell||Smith, John (N Lanarkshire)|
|Cunningham, Dr J. (Whiteh)||Kilroy-Silk, Robert||Spearing, Nigel|
|Davidson, Arthur||Kinnock, Neil||Spriggs, Leslie|
|Davies, Bryan (Enfield N)||Lamborn, Harry||Stallard, A. W.|
|Davies, Denzil (Llanelli)||Lamond, James||Stewart, Rt Hon M. (Fulham)|
|Davies, Ifor (Gower)||Latham, Arthur (Paddington)||Stoddart, David|
|Davis, Clinton (Hackney C)||Lever, Rt Hon Harold||Stott, Roger|
|Deakins, Eric||Lewis, Arthur (Newham N)||Strauss, Rt Hon G. R.|
|Dean, Joseph (Leeds West)||Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)||Summerskill, Hon Dr Shirley|
|Dell, Rt Hon Edmund||Lipton, Marcus||Swain, Thomas|
|Dempsey, James||Lomas, Kenneth||Taylor, Mrs Ann (Bolton W)|
|Doig, Peter||Loyden, Eddie||Thomas, Jeffrey (Abertillery)|
|Dormand, J. D.||Luard, Evan||Thomas, Mike (Newcastle E)|
|Douglas-Mann, Bruce||Lyon, Alexander (York)||Thomas, Ron (Bristol NW)|
|Duffy, A. E. P.||McCartney, Hugh||Thorne, Stan (Preston South)|
|Eadie, Alex||McDonald, Dr Oonagh||Tierney, Sydney|
|Edge, Geoff||McElhone, Frank||Tinn, James|
|Ellis, John (Brigg & Scun)||MacFarquhar, Roderick||Tomney, Frank|
|English, Michael||MacKenzie, Gregor||Tuck, Raphael|
|Ennals, David||McMillan, Tom (Glasgow C)||Urwin, T. W.|
|Evans, Fred (Caerphilly)||Madden, Max||Varley, Rt Hon Eric G.|
|Evans, Ioan (Aberdare)||Magee, Bryan||Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne V)|
|Ewing, Harry (Stirling)||Mallalieu, J. P. W.||Walker, Harold (Doncaster)|
|Faulds, Andrew||Marquand, David||Walker, Terry (Kingswood)|
|Fernyhough, Rt Hon E.||Marshall, Dr Edmund (Goole)||Ward, Michael|
|Fitch, Alan (Wigan)||Maynard, Miss Joan||Watkins, David|
|Flannery, Martin||Mellish, Rt Hon Robert||Watkinson, John|
|Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)||Mendelson, John||Weetch, Ken|
|Foot, Rt Hon Michael||Molloy, William||Weitzman, David|
|Ford, Ben||Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon)||Wellbeloved, James|
|White, Frank R. (Bury)||Williams, Sir Thomas (Warrington)||Young, David (Bolton E)|
|White, James (Pollok)||Wilson, Alexander (Hamilton)|
|Whitehead, Phillip||Wilson, Rt Hon Sir Harold (Huyton)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Whitlock, William||Wise, Mrs Audrey||Mr. Joseph Harper and|
|Williams, Rt Hon Alan (Swansea W)||Woodall, Alec||Mr. Peter Snape.|
|Williams, Rt Hon Shirley (Hertford)||Woof, Robert|
|Adley, Robert||Grant, Anthony (Harrow C)||Nelson, Anthony|
|Alison, Michael||Gray, Hamish||Neubert, Michael|
|Arnold, Tom||Grieve, Percy||Onslow, Cranley|
|Atkins, Rt Hon H. (Spelthorne)||Grist, Ian||Oppenheim, Mrs Sally|
|Bain, Mrs Margaret||Hall, Sir John||Page, Rt Hon R. Graham (Crosby)|
|Baker, Kenneth||Hannam, John||Page, Richard (Workington)|
|Banks, Robert||Harrison, Col Sir Harwood (Eye)||Parkinson, Cecil|
|Beith, A. J.||Hastings, Stephen||Penhaligon, David|
|Bennett, Sir Frederic (Torbay)||Havers, Sir Michael||Percival, Ian|
|Bennett, Dr Reginald (Fareham)||Hayhoe, Barney||Price, David (Eastleigh)|
|Berry, Hon Anthony||Henderson, Douglas||Prior, Rt Hon James|
|Biffen, John||Higgins, Terence L.||Pym, Rt Hon Francis|
|Biggs-Davison, John||Hordern, Peter||Raison, Timothy|
|Boscawen, Hon Robert||Howe, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey||Rathbone, Tim|
|Bottomley, Peter||Hunt, David (Wirral)||Rawlinson, Rt Hon Sir Peter|
|Bowden, A. (Brighton, Kemptown)||Hurd, Douglas||Rees, Peter (Dover & Deal)|
|Braine, Sir Bernard||Hutchison, Michael Clark||Renton, Rt Hon Sir D. (Hunts)|
|Brittan, Leon||Jenkin, Rt Hon P. (Wanst'd & W'df'd)||Rhodes James, R.|
|Brooke, Peter||Jessel, Toby||Ridley, Hon Nicholas|
|Brown, Sir Edward (Bath)||Johnson Smith, G. (E Grinstead)||Ridsdale, Julian|
|Bryan, Sir Paul||Johnston, Russell (Inverness)||Rifkind, Malcolm|
|Budgen, Nick||King, Tom (Bridgwater)||Roberts, Michael (Cardiff NW)|
|Burden, F. A.||Kitson, Sir Timothy||Rodgers, Sir John (Sevenoaks)|
|Butler, Adam (Bosworth)||Knox, David||Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey)|
|Carlisle, Mark||Langford-Holt, Sir John||Rost, Peter (SE Derbyshire)|
|Chalker, Mrs Lynda||Latham, Michael (Melton)||Royle, Sir Anthony|
|Churchill, W. S.||Lawrence, Ivan||Sainsbury, Tim|
|Clark, Alan (Plymouth, Sutton)||Lawson, Nigel||Shaw, Michael (Scarborough)|
|Clark, William (Croydon S)||Lester, Jim (Beeston)||Shersby, Michael|
|Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe)||Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)||Silvester, Fred|
|Cockcroft, John||Lloyd, Ian||Sinclair, Sir George|
|Cooke, Robert (Bristol W)||Loveridge, John||Skeet, T. H. H.|
|Cope, John||Luce, Richard||Speed, Keith|
|Cormack, Patrick||McAdden, Sir Stephen||Spicer, Michael (S Worcester)|
|Costain, A. P.||McCrindle, Robert||Stainton, Keith|
|Crouch, David||McCusker, H.||Stanbrook, Ivor|
|Davies, Rt Hon J. (Knutsford)||Macfarlane, Neil||Stanley, John|
|Dean, Paul (N Somerset)||MacGregor, John||Steel, Rt Hon David|
|Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James||Macmillan, Rt Hon M. (Farnham)||Stewart, Rt Hon Donald|
|Drayson, Burnaby||McNair-Wilson, M. (Newbury)||Stewart, Ian (Hitchin)|
|du Cann, Rt Hon Edward||McNair-Wilson, P. (New Forest)||Stokes, John|
|Durant, Tony||Madel, David||Stradling Thomas, J.|
|Dykes, Hugh||Marten, Neil||Tapsell, Peter|
|Ewing, Mrs Winifred (Moray)||Mates, Michael||Taylor, R. (Croydon NW)|
|Fairgrieve, Russell||Mather, Carol||Tebbit, Norman|
|Farr, John||Maudling, Rt Hon Reginald||Temple-Morris, Peter|
|Finsberg, Geoffrey||Mawby, Ray||Thatcher, Rt Hon Margaret|
|Fisher, Sir Nigel||Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin||Thorpe, Rt Hon Jeremy (N Devon)|
|Fletcher, Alex (Edinburgh N)||Mayhew, Patrick||Townsend, Cyril D.|
|Fookes, Miss Janet||Meyer, Sir Anthony||van Straubenzee, W. R.|
|Forman, Nigel||Miller, Hal (Bromsgrove)||Wainwright, Richard (Colne V)|
|Mills, Peter||Wakeham, John|
|Fowler, Norman (Sutton C'f'd)||Miscampbell, Norman||Walder, David (Clitheroe)|
|Fraser, Rt Hon H. (Stafford & St)||Mitchell, David (Basingstoke)||Walker, Rt Hon P. (Worcester)|
|Fry, Peter||Moate, Roger||Wall, Patrick|
|Gardiner, George (Reigate)||Moore, John (Croydon C)||Walters, Dennis|
|Gardner, Edward (S. Fylde)||Morgan, Geraint||Warren, Kenneth|
|Gilmour, Rt Hon Ian (Chesham)||Morgan-Giles, Rear-Admiral||Weatherill, Bernard|
|Gilmour, Sir John (East Fife)||Morris, Michael (Northampton S)|
|Goodhew, Victor||Morrison, Charles (Devizes)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Goodlad, Alastair||Morrison, Hon Peter (Chester)||Mr. Spencer Le Marchant and|
|Gow, Ian (Eastbourne)||Mudd, David||Sir George Young,|
|Gower, Sir Raymond (Barry)||Neave, Airey|
|Question accordingly agreed to.|
|Bill read a Second time.|
|Bill committed to a Standing Committee pursuant to Standing Order No. 40 (Committal of Bills).|