HC Deb 28 February 1978 vol 945 cc216-7
3. Mr. Bulmer

asked the Secretary of State for Employment what recent consultations he has had with the Chairman of the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service on the operation of the Employment Protection Act.

The Minister of State, Department of Employment (Mr. Harold Walker)

From time to time my right hon. Friend has informal talks with the Chairman of ACAS about various aspects of the operation of the Employment Protection Act.

Mr. Bulmer

Will the Minister confirm that neither the Bill introduced by his hon. Friend the Member for Darlington (Mr. Fletcher) nor the Bill introduced by his hon. Friend the Member for Bethnal Green and Bow (Mr. Mikardo) to amend the Act has the support of the Council of ACAS?

Mr. Walker

I cannot give the hon. Gentleman the confirmation that he seeks, because the Council of ACAS, which is responsible for determining the policy of that body, has declined to express a view about either Bill.

Mr. Thorne

When does my hon. Friend expect real progress to be made on the Bill of my hon. Friend the Member for Darlington, which is presently in Committee?

Mr. Walker

I hope that Opposition Members will have regard to that matter, because after three or four sittings we are still on Clause 1, and that will cause some anxiety to those who have other Private Members' Bills waiting to enter that Standing Committee.

Mr. Madel

Did the work that the Minister's Department commissioned with Industrial Facts and Forecasting Ltd. last year include an assessment of the way in which Schedule 11 of the Act was affecting the general level of inflation? If no such assessment was made by that organisation, will an assessment be made this year?

Mr. Walker

I cannot answer that question without notice. I shall see exactly what the terms of reference were, but I doubt whether they included a commitment along the lines the hon. Gentleman suggests, though I am prepared to reflect on what he said.

Sir A. Meyer

In view of mounting evidence that the Act is stifling more jobs than it is creating, particularly in small businesses, will the Government, instead of taking cover behind two Private Member's Bills, introduce their own Bill to increase the exemptions from the application of the Act?

Mr. Walker

We have said that we are prepared—after a reasonable period of experience of the working of the Act to see how it is applying. I refute the hon. Gentleman's allegation about mounting evidence. I am prepared to accept that there are mounting complaints, but they are a different matter from evidence. Most of the complaints are not about the Act but are about the unfair dismissal provisions introduced by the Industrial Relations Act 1971.