HC Deb 24 July 1979 vol 971 cc527-59

12.1 a.m.

The Under-Secretary of State for Employment (Mr. Patrick Mayhew)

I beg to move, That the draft Unfair Dismissal (Variation of Qualifying Period) Order 1979, which was laid before this House on 10 July, be approved. The order is laid before the House in accordance with section 149 of the Employment Protection (Consolidation) Act 1978, and its purpose is to raise the qualifying period of employment for making a complaint of unfair dismissal from the current level of 26 weeks to 52 weeks.

Our decision to lay the order again derives from our determination to see that the creation of new jobs is not curtailed by legislation that is unreasonable and unnecessary in its effect.

The increase in unemployment over the past five years—[Interruption.]

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bryant Godman Irvine)

Order. It would be of convenience to the Chair if I could hear what the Minister is saying.

Mr. Mayhew

I was referring to a matter of apparent indifference to Labour Members, namely, the increase in unemployment over the past five years. That increase has been much too serious for us to permit any legislation that curtails unreasonably the creation of new jobs to remain unamended. The same is true when one looks at future prospects for trade throughout the world.

But we might all bear in mind at the outset of our short debate that this is no onslaught on the concept of unfair dismissal. It was, after all, the Conservative Government who introduced that concept into our industrial law and put it on the statute book in 1971. The Labour Party had not found time for it in its 12 years of post-war government. Nor can the last Government have envisaged that such an adjustment as the order proposes could possibly be an attack on principle, for they provided in section 149 of the 1978 consolidation Act the procedure which we are employing.

When in 1971 we advanced beyond the remedies of the common law and provided compensation for unfair dismissal for the first time, Parliament fixed the qualifying period for complaints at two years.

With the advent of a Labour Government in February 1974, the opportunity arose for them to amend the qualifying period. They took the opportunity and the period that they thought it right to substitute for two years was the period that the order will achieve, namely, 52 weeks. It was a period to which the TUC gave its agreement, albeit for a short time, along with the CBI.

But in Committee the Government were assailed and pressed to reduce the period to 12 weeks. The present period of 26 weeks resulted as a compromise. It took effect on 15 March 1975, after a six-month interlude at 52. That being the genesis of the present period of 26 weeks, whatever the merits or disadvantages of enlargement to 52, it can hardly be said that in proposing it we are striking at the ark of the covenant of job protection.

Mr. J. W. Rooker (Birmingham, Perry Barr)

I remember those debates in the Standing Committee. Parliament decided that it should be 26 weeks. It is no good the hon. and learned Gentleman saying that we have 52 weeks because he and his hon. Friends wanted it. Parliament decided on 26 weeks after consultation between Labour Back Benchers.

Mr. Mayhew

I doubt whether I should have given way to the hon. Gentleman. I was not saying that we were making it 52 weeks because we wanted it at 52 weeks but that it could hardly be claimed that we were striking at a profound principle, since 52 weeks was a period that was, for a short time, acceptable to the Labour Government.

We can take heart in proposing this enlargement from an observation by Mr. Harold Lever in 1977 when, as Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, he had special responsibility for small businesses. He took cognisance, in that position, of what was going on. He said that the Employment Protection Act should not be turned into an Employment Destruction Act.

Since then there has been a great increase in the volume of further evidence available to the Government that the qualification period is having that effect. The qualifying period of service for claims of unfair dismissal has been the subject of a considerable number of representations from employers, again largely from small firms.

Indeed, in the last year, of the 120 or so representations made to my Department on the subject of the irritation of the unfair dismissal provisions in general, about three-quarters of the letters specifically made the point that the present qualifying period is too short, and since we took office on 3 May we have received some 70 spontaneous letters on the same theme. [Interruption.] I never cease to marvel at how the party of the people, as it likes to call itself, expresses profound contempt when the people actually express their views. Apparently, democracy is acceptable only when it agrees with the creed and dogma of the Labour Party.

I will not swap surveys with the Opposition, but they know that many surveys support the contention that I am putting forward. [Interruption.] It seems that surveys are, to the Labour Party, unreliable, so I will cite two letters we have received. The House can then decide whether they represent a valid point of view. The first is from the North Wales Sign Company. It was written in March 1979. The company is based in Bangor. The letter says: I would like it on record that I am holding back, as are most business men with whom I come into contact, with regard to taking on more staff. In the sign trade in particular a six-month period is often not long enough to ascertain an employee's true potential. If some leeway could be introduced … I would be happy to employ, and have a dire need to employ, more staff. The other letter is from MI Finance Limited. It says: Like so many business people we are deterred from employing more staff due to the present regulations and we are prepared to work harder ourselves rather than take the risk of expanding and employing more staff. [Interruption.] I will not be deterred by the Opposition's irritation at listening to what people have to say. The difference between this Government and their predecessors is that we seek to legislate for employment protection in a way that will truly protect and create jobs, because we listen to what we are told by those who are engaged in business. Our predecessors maintained a total contempt for those who advanced such reasons. The next paragraph but one of the letter says: It is almost an impossibility for an employer to assess whether an employee is satisfactory after a short period of six months, and a Bill with more reasonable provisions will be extremely helpful to all small businesses.

Mr. Ted Leadbitter (Hartlepool)

The Minister heard one of his hon. Friends proudly say in the previous debate that there were 1,500,000 small businesses in the United Kingdom. He excluded the main employers. The Minister has the audacity to say in the debate on the order before us that he is motivated to produce it because he has received 70 letters—from that number of small businesses. Would not he have served the House much better if he had taken note of my point of order on the previous order and accepted his responsibility as a Minister, giving the House the evidence for the order beforehand, so that we could make a judgment? If he will not be deterred, the House will not be. Should not he give the whole of the evidence instead of isolated letters from his friends?

Mr. Mayhew

I have conceded, with regret, that I wasted a little time of the House in the previous debate, but I do not believe that it was as much as has just been wasted by the hon. Gentleman.

Employers argue that the present period of 26 weeks is not long enough to assess the suitability of a new employee without the fear of a tribunal claim, particularly where the employee is taken on at the beginning of the summer holiday period, and that they therefore hesitate to recruit, especially where the extra labour is likely to be needed for a short period only. They say that they are more ready to dismiss the employee about whose suitability they are uncertain before 26 weeks have elapsed than to give him the benefit of the doubt. Do Labour hon. Members want that?

Those views were also widely endorsed in the course of our consultations on the proposals in the two draft orders. Many of the employers' organisations confirmed again that a period of 26 weeks was too short in many cases—not all—to assess the suitability of an employee, and they all welcomed the proposed extension of the qualifying period to 52 weeks as a fully justified relaxation of the provisions. Many pressed to go to 104 weeks, but we felt it right to go to 52, which represented the majority view of employers' organisations consulted as to the extent of an increase.

Mr. Michael Grylls (Surrey, North-West)

I think it is true that many small firms' organisations have asked for more than 52 weeks, but certainly the change proposed tonight will be a great help. Will my hon. and learned Friend consider one further point for the future? Will he consider the possibility of a two-year moratorium on the unfair dismissal provisions for new firms of up to, say, 25 people? Such a moratorium for firms that were starting up would be a great additional help.

Mr. Mayhew

My hon. Friend, who takes a great interest in these matters, has made a proposal that has attractive features and will be considered.

Mr. Greville Janner (Leicester, West) rose

Mr. Mayhew

I must continue.

Dr. Oonagh McDonald (Thurrock) rose

Mr. Mayhew

This is a short debate, and I must get on.

We in this House are not at all wise if we discount the views of those who take the trouble to acquaint us with them. If the Labour Government had paid more attention to what the country was thinking, they might not have lost the election.

Mr. Janner rose

Mr. Mayhew

I shall not give way. I have given way two or three times.

The matter does not end there. There have been a number of surveys, on differing bases. I concede that they are something of a bran tub: there is something in them for everyone. Those that were undertaken by employers' organisations show convincingly the deterrent effect on employment that the present qualification period has had. I concede that those commissioned by the Department of Employment are not inconsistent with that but that they are less compelling.

Therefore, I shall cite one report that falls into neither category—Coopers and Lybrand's survey that was carried out for the Wilson committee in January 1978 into the investment attitudes and financing of medium companies. It is a report that is free from the taint of partisanship on one side or the other. I quote from the conclusion: We were frankly surprised at the strength of feeling that was held on this topic by many companies. The main point of concern was the increasing difficulty in recent years in being able to adjust readily the size of the work force to fluctuations in market conditions, or even seasonal changes in demand. … The Employment Protection Act 1975 was seen as a factor which strongly reinforced the trend towards inflexibility. The great majority of companies surveyed were therefore extremely cautious in taking on labour and were left in no doubt that this adversely affected investment decisions, including in some cases the choice between UK and some overseas countries".

Mr. Janner

In view of the representations that have apparently been made regarding a further reduction—returning to the point about the exclusion of small firms altogether from this protection, as raised by the hon. Member for Eye (Mr. Gummer)—will the hon. and learned Gentleman assure the House that this will not be the next step that the Government take? Are we to expect that there is to be—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. The debate must be related to the order that is before us, not the next order.

Mr. Janner

I appreciate that, Mr. Deputy Speaker, but it has been suggested by Labour Members that this order is one of a series that erodes the rights of working people and that the next step is likely to be not merely the reduction in the qualifying period—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. We are not debating the next order.

Mr. Mayhew

The Government have made clear that they are concerned with all aspects in which employment protection legislation bears unreasonably upon businesses in their ability to provide jobs, among other things. To anybody with ears to hear or eyes to read, it must be plain that the qualifying provisions are widely seen as discouraging employers from creating new jobs. It is said that there is ignorance of the Act's provisions and ignorance about the industrial tribunals. That is true. However, the point is that those who are debating whether to add to their staff know that after 26 weeks—

Dr. McDonald rose

Mr. Mayhew

I shall not give way to the hon. Lady.

After 26 weeks the employee will have only to prove that he was dismissed. It will then be for the employer to discharge the burden of proving that he sacked him for admissible reasons and also that he acted reasonably.

Dr. McDonald rose

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. The hon. Lady knows perfectly well that if the Minister is not giving way she must retain her seat.

Mr. Mayhew

As promised, the Government have had wide consultation on the matters. We are convinced that it is right to raise the qualifying period to the level of 52 weeks. The Labour Government thought that to be the correct period when they introduced their Bill in 1974. We are convinced that a higher proportion of the cases which are quite unmeritorious and bound from the first to fail will, as a result, never reach the tribunals. That will be a great relief to the anxieties of employers about taking on new staff. We are convinced that by that measure a clog will be removed from the matching of labour supply with demand.

I warmly recommend the order to the House.

12.20 a.m.

Mr. Harold Walker (Doncaster)

I must say again what I said to the Secretary of State. The Government seem to depend entirely on the views of employers for their guidance on these matters affecting workers' protection, workers' livelihoods and workers' wellbeing. Again, we had from the Minister nothing but a recitation of employers' views. At no stage do the Government appear to be prepared to consult or to be interested in the views of workers or their representatives and organisations.

When I was a Minister in the Department of Employment, we sought to obtain independent, impartial, objective guidance. The hon. and learned Gentleman the Under-Secretary referred to it in passing, but he ignored entirely what it said. I refer again to the PSI study and the Opinion Research Centre study, and I must tell the hon. Member for Chelsea (Mr. Scott) that I did not rest my earlier argument solely on the PSI study. I based my case also on the Opinion Research Centre study, which consulted firms employing 50 or fewer people.

When the 301 firms were asked specifically about the extent to which employment legislation had caused problems, those which said that the unfair dismissal provisions had given rise to problems comprised a mere 7 per cent. Those were small firms, but this order applies to all firms and not merely small ones, in spite of the fact that the Minister rested his case heavily on the impact of employment legislation on small firms.

The hon. and learned Gentleman referred to the genesis of the unfair dismissal provisions. He said that the Labour Party had had 15 years in office and had not bothered about these matters. The truth is that when the 1966–70 Labour Government left office there was before this House a Bill containing almost exactly the provisions that were later embodied in the Industrial Relations Act. That is why we continued them when we repealed the rest of that Act. They were provisions created by the Labour Government, and I myself played quite a significant part in their creation.

We waited first until the Royal Commission had reported. It recommended very strongly the introduction of machinery for dealing with unfair dismissals. In paragraph 555 of its report the Royal Commission referred to the length of the qualifying period and said: the fact that he had been dismissed after a short period of employment could in some circumstances have a serious effect on an employee's future prospects". It is quite true that in our original proposals, because we needed to assess the possible case load, initially we set the qualifying period at two years, but we made it clear that that was an initial trial run and that there was every intention of reducing the qualifying period thereafter.

Mr. Rooker

Is it not a fact that Lord Carr made the same point when speaking as Secretary of State for Employment during the passing of the Industrial Relations Act? Did not he say that the two-year period was a run-in to test the water, with the intention of lowering it in the future? During the passing of the Industrial Relations Act, was not it widely thought that the Tories put in the unfair dismissal provisions as a sop to win the acquiescence of the trade unons, anyway?

Mr. Walker

I remember that the then Conservative Government frequently quoted against the Opposition that the unfair dismissal provisions could not be objected to and that therefore, by implication, no one could object to the Industrial Relations Bill since a Labour Government had conceived and created them. My hon. Friend is right.

Like many others, the Secretary of State and his Under-Secretary overlook the fact that their unfair dismissal provisions do not provide an absolute guarantee to a worker against being dismissed. They provide a remedy against unfair dismissal. The dismissal has to be unfair before the worker has a right to seek his remedy. Heedless of the duration of the employment, provided he has good grounds and follows the right procedure, an employer can at present, properly and legitimately, dismiss a person. It seems that what some employers want and what the Government are eager to grant is an extended period during which an employer can dismiss without any justification and heedless of the damage that might be done to the individual's livelihood, his career or his reputation.

We have not heard a single word from the Government that shows any recognition of the consequences for the worker who loses his job and the way that this might stigmatise him, prejudice his future chance of employment, damage his livelihood or inflict damage on his family.

Mr. David Mellor (Putney)

Would the right hon. Gentleman care to comment on the damage done to businesses being dragged before industrial tribunals, often on claims that have no foundation whatever and at considerable expense in obtaining professional advice and waste of executives' time? They are unable to recover costs, except in a small proportion of cases which are frivolous and vexatious. Is he aware how many claims are brought before tribunals and dismissed and the damage that they cause to the flow of British business?

Mr. Walker

I do not intend what I say as a point of criticism but merely as a statement of fact. The hon. Gentleman has not been in the House during the past two years when interminable debates have taken place on the point that he raises. I feel, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that you might reproach me if I were to take up these matters. If the hon. Gentleman looks back through Hansard, he will see that I have frequently chided employers for detracting from what we hoped would be the informality of industrial tribunals, with the least reliance on legal support, the least intervention by solicitors and the minimum of cost.

Employers do not need legal advice. I would discourage them from engaging legal support and taking solicitors to tribunals. What we wanted and what I hope will develop is an informal system of justice that will be inexpensive for every participant. If the employers have the resources to employ solicitors, it is much more grievous and burdensome for the dismissed employee, who does not have any wages, let alone the resources to employ a solicitor.

I am prompted by the intervention of the hon. Member for Putney (Mr. Mellor) to quote a letter that I have before me. Much of the inspiration and the zest for what is being done tonight has come from people like a gentleman writing on behalf of the Tyne, Wear and Northumberland region of the National Federation of Self-Employed. The letter, written to me when I was in office after I had explained why I considered six months was the right period, said: It takes six months or more for an employee to start taking liberties with his employer. Indeed, the lack of an employment contract during the first six months must surely create the need for employees to be on their best behaviour and it is only after that period that disobedience and unruliness will show itself because of the way that employment legislation compromises the employer. The end of the six month period marks the point of no return and is the trigger for unruliness and disobedience. The gentleman who wrote that letter was crystallising and putting in blunter language what the hon. and learned Gentleman, with all his urbanity, has been putting forward. I should like to quote one further gem from this philosophy and attitude of mind reflected not only in the letter but in the approach of the Govern- ment to the business before the House. The letter goes on: With respect to unfair dismissal and redundancy payments, I feel that it is time a small employer was protected and compensated in a reciprocal manner if he relies on employees that he has trained to do a job but who are enticed away from him by another firm, which so often happens to the detriment of the employer. I believe that to provide for such instances there should be a retention from the employee's weekly or monthly income to be used as compensation or alternatively the company standing to gain by purloining the man's services should pay compensation equal to redundancy payment in much the same manner as transfer fees for footballers".

Mr. Greville Janner

My right hon. Friend is giving the Government ideas.

Mr. Walker

I agree with my hon. and learned Friend that I must be careful about giving them ideas.

Reading that letter, I was reminded of the way the slaves in the United States in the nineteenth century bought their freedom by deduction of their pay.

The disputes which harm industrial relations and spring from arbitrary dismissals should be resolved in a more decent and civilised way. I thought that that was common ground between the parties. We should establish machinery by which the aggrieved worker can seek a remedy without his workmates having to strike as they had to do in the past.

That is the right way to deal with these matters. The Government apparently do not share that view. By depriving one section of workers access to that machinery, the Government will compel those workers to resort to the more traditional and damaging ways of resolving grievances.

I warn the Government that I fear that, deprived of access to that machinery, workers will resort to the only other method open to them: they will use their industrial muscle. The House should prefer the decent and civilised method of handling grievances through a tribunal.

The Under-Secretary of State leaned heavily on employers' views. I have leaned heavily on the independent, impartial view. We have not heard the view of the workers, except in so far as I may represent the workers in the debate. We have not heard the management view—the view of those at the sharp end.

The British Institute of Management recently carried out a survey of its members, copies of which were sent to the Government but to which the Government have not referred. Referring to the unfair dismissal provision, the institute states: This is generally regarded as reasonable although managers consider that the unfair dismissal provisions relating to closed shops need amendment. Otherwise management would not wish to see any changes in the unfair dismissal provisions. That is a sensible and reasonable view. It is a pity that the Government took no heed of it.

We shall vote against the order.

12.32 a.m.

Mr. Douglas Hogg (Grantham)

Hon. Members agree that almost the greatest problem that faces the United Kingdom and the Western world is the great menace posed by the increasing threat of unemployment. For that reason, we should scrutinise each piece of legislation that comes before the House to determine what effect it may have on employment and unemployment.

I am as certain as I can be certain of anything that some features of the employment protection legislation have diminished substantially the number of jobs available. That is because certain aspects of that legislation make the employment and protection of staff less desirable and less attractive than necessary.

I have had experience of advising employers and employees about the implementation of such legislation. Frequently I have had to advise employees who wish to lodge a claim for compensation. I almost always say to them "Go ahead. The employer is almost certain to pay £500 in order to get rid of the claim."

When an employer asks my advice on similar matters I express the same view, though, of course, I couch it in different language. In doing so I represent the law as it is. Hon. Members would do well to consider the law as it is.

Opposition Members seem to find it difficult to understand that the law in certain respects makes it unattractive for employers to take the risk new staff.

Mr. David Lambie (Central Ayrshire)

Not lawyers, though.

Mr. Hogg

My view is that the order will greatly assist the school leaver and the youngster seeking his first job. The reason is simple, and I commend it to the Opposition. Under the present law, a person who has been employed for 26 weeks has a right to claim compensation for unfair dismissal. [HON. MEMBERS: "Yes, unfair".] I believe that to be too low a threshold, because 26 weeks give too short a time within which to assess a potential employee's suitability for employment.

Mr. Allen McKay (Penistone)

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Hogg

No, this is a short debate and I do not propose to detain the House for much longer.

The low threshold inevitably deters employers from taking employees on trial, and the direct result of that is to increase unemployment. In my view, the minimum threshold that the House should contemplate is 52 weeks. Within such a period it should be possible for most employers to determine whether any employee is suitable. An extended threshold is likely to make employers much readier than they presently are to take on young people and to give them a chance.

I believe that employment prospects will be thereby improved, and for that reason I support the order and suggest that Opposition Members would do well to go with us into the Lobby.

12.37 a.m.

Mr. Ernie Roberts (Hackney, North and Stoke Newington)

We have heard that the TUC would not support these variations but the employers do. That is significant enough in itself. They will serve the interests of employers, and they will certainly be against the interests of the 12 million organised workers for whom the TUC speaks. The Employment Protection Act was introduced by the Labour Government in order to defend the interests of workers against the arbitrary attacks of employers.

There has been reference to a statement by Harold Lever that the Employment Protection Act is an Employment Destruction Act. By these variation orders the Government are making certain that it becomes such an Act. The orders we have discussed tonight will turn it into just that. They will destroy the protection which workers receive at present under the Act, first, by extending the qualifying period from 26 weeks to 52, thus denying for one year the protection of the Act against unfair dismissal.

On the question of unfair dismissal, I shall now quote Hepple and O'Higgins, the labour relations law experts. They cite one case as follows: Overruling the industrial tribunal, Mr. Justice Phillips decided that the employer should not he deprived of his right to dismiss unfairly somebody employed less than 26 weeks if 'only the accident' of summary dismissal had occurred. The right to dismiss unfairly is now to be extended to 52 weeks. Hepple and O'Higgins say also: … judges will not easily allow interference with the employer's common law right of summary dismissal". It is that right that employers are trying to get to themselves again through this variation order.

The order we discussed before this one makes further inroads into employment protection for workers in industries large and small. These attacks upon the Employment Protection Act are in conformity with the Tories' promise to attack the legal protection given to workers. The Government are obviously determined to dismantle piecemeal all the protective legislation built up by the workers in this country over the past 150 years. This order is part of that process.

Ever since the workers smashed the Combination Acts of 1824, ever since the victorious workers succeeded in forcing the Government to introduce protective legisation, there have been contrary efforts to remove that protection on the part of the employers and the Tory Government, as exemplified in the orders. Examples of these punitive acts include the 1825 Act restricting trade union organisation and the 1909 Osborne judgment, which took away the right of trade unions to use their political funds. Another example of Tory punitive measures was the Trades Disputes and Trades Unions Act 1927, which banned sympathetic strikes. The last and most infamous example of punitive acts by a Tory Government was the Industrial Relations Act, which my union defeated by taking industrial action.

The Tory Iron Maiden and her axe-wielding suitors are determined to rape the unions and take away the protection they have won through a Labour Government. This order, removing protection from dismissal without compensation, will hit the young workers. The employer will be able to employ people for 11 months and 27 days before he dismisses them and takes on some other young workers. This move will hurt all seasonal workers who will be dismissed if they work fewer than 52 weeks in a year. Those are the sort of people this order will attack.

The Tories have been clamouring for the removal of the Employment Protection Act, particularly in view of the massive sackings which are about to take place as a result of the Government's axing policy. It is the Government's economic policies which have produced the need for these orders—so that it will be easy for the employers to get rid of the labour they will wish to displace. By doing so in this way they will save millions of pounds in redundancy payments.

These variation orders are part of the process of dismantling the whole of the Act and making it easier to sack the workers. There is already too much power in the Act allowing employers to sack for so-called fair reasons. The Act says: the question whether the dismissal was fair or unfair, having regard to the reason shown by the employer, shall depend on whether the employer can satisfy the tribunal that in the circumstances … he acted reasonably in treating it as a sufficient reason for dismissing the employee. That is in relation to an employee's capability. Capability is assessed by reference to the worker's skill, aptitude, health, physical or mental qualities or because of his qualifications, which include any degree, diploma or other academic, technical or professional qualification relevant to the position the employee held. For all those reasons, employers can and do unfairly dismiss workers at the moment.

Unfair dismissals will lead to disputes. If workers cannot go to a tribunal, their only other recourse will be strike action in defence of their jobs or of their shop steward who has been sacked.

West Germany does not have strikes over dismissals of workers. No worker can be dismissed there without the authority of a works council—a joint body of employers and unions. They do not have the problems that we shall have under the order.

The Prime Minister and the Cabinet are hell-bent on provoking confrontation with the unions and working people in the interests of profit and of the dictatorship of capital.

12.46 a.m.

Mr. John Townend (Bridlington)

First, I must declare an interest in that I have run a medium business for the last 20 years. I welcome and support what the Minister said. The changes he described are necessary and acceptable, but I hope that they are only the start of a drastic amendment of the Employment Protection Act, which, although well-intentioned, has been a heavy burden on British industry.

The number of cases brought under the Act has been much greater than expected. Many of them are frivolous, as is shown by the fact that the great majority are won by employers. Some are settled out of court in ways which are an exploitation of the Act. The cost to industry in time and legal fees, and the cost to the public, is immense. I understand that this marginal change will save the Treasury £2½ million, which means that the saving to industry will be many times that—about £10 million to £12 million.

Dr. McDonald

The hon. Member mentioned the cost of unfair dismissal legislation for employers. Is he not aware that employers can insure themselves at a very small cost—£8 per employee—against such cases, covering themselves entirely for any legal costs and for any compensation involved? I do not see that that is a large cost to industry.

Mr. Townend

I am well aware that employers can insure themselves, but it is rather expensive and the overall cost to industry must be greater than it would otherwise be because the insurance companies have to make a profit. Nor do I think that one could insure oneself completely for the expenditure of management time.

Small firms are also frightened by some of the bizarre results published in the press, when employers are found guilty of unfair dismissal for dismissing workers found sleeping on the night shift or workers who have been convicted of fraud in the courts.

The situation is so critical in the small business sector that the Act is known as the Unemployment Creation Act. Whether that attitude is justified is arguable, but I am a small business man and mix with small business men. I represent a constituency in which the vast majority of employment is provided by small employers. The smaller a business, the more the regulations become an important factor.

The Government are looking to small business to create more wealth and more jobs. The Conservative Party was committed in its manifesto to encourage small business by restoring incentives and lifting the hand of bureaucracy and legislation from the small firm. The first part of that objective was fulfilled in the Budget with the reductions in taxation, which restored incentive.

Mr. Bob Cryer (Keighley)

It did not satisfy you lot, did it?

Mr. Townend

I am prepared to give way to the hon. Gentleman if he wants to get to his feet instead of barracking me.

Mr. Cryer

The hon. Gentleman keeps repeating the canard that the Government Front Bench are continually coming out with, namely, that the incentives given in the Budget are releasing enormous numbers of entrepreneurs. Will the hon. Gentleman tell the House why it was that all the Conservative Members found the tax incentives so small that they pressed their own leadership for a massive increase in pay immediately?

Mr. Townend

With respect, I think that that intervention was completely irrelevant. The hon. Gentleman does not realise that small business wants incentives and reduced taxation and not subsidies. The order is starting to fulfil the second, commitment of releasing the hand of bureaucracy from small business.

Mr. George Grant (Morpeth)

The hon. Gentleman is talking about a minute number of cases in which employers lose. Does he realise that employment protection legislation was designed to protect workers against backwoodsmen employers? That is what it was all about. Let us have the real facts about the Act.

Mr. Townend

With respect, the hon. Gentleman is living 30 years in the past. Nobody sacks anybody now who is any good, because employers cannot easily get good people.

The proposals of the Under-Secretary to change the qualifying period from six months to one year may be satisfactory for large firms as represented by the CBI, but they do not go far enough for small and medium businesses. Most medium businesses expected the qualifying period to be extended to two years. The small business committee of the CBI recommended that period. Tinkering with the qualifying period will not make any difference to really small businesses, because the small business man is afraid of tribunals. That is borne out by a conversation that I had with a tailor in the constituency of the hon. Member for Hull, North, who was telling me that he was—

Mr. Kevin McNamara (Kingston upon Hull, Central)

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. The hon. Gentleman is living so much in the past that he cannot remember the name of my constituency. He is trying to recall the name of the constituency in which I beat him.

Mr. Townend

The tailor was regretting that it took him four months to deliver suits to his customers. He employed one man. I asked him whether he had considered taking on anybody else. He told me that he had thought of taking on a young man to teach him the business. He explained that in the tailoring business a great many customers might order suits at a certain time and yet the tailor will find himself very slack 18 months hence. He said that he was afraid of getting a chap who was no good. He contacted the employment exchange and asked "If I take on this man and he is no good, shall I be able to get rid of him without having to go before a tribunal?" He was told "If you follow the procedure, you will be able to get rid of him. He might well take you to the tribunal but you will win." The man said "I do not want to know anything about tribunals", so that job was lost.

I know very well the arguments against exempting small businesses altogether. That would be creating a second class of employee. I accept that that is a valid argument, but I would counter it by saying that when people are working in very close contact with their employers it is a very different relationship from that which applies when they are working in very big factories, with the employer in an office 100 miles away. In small businesses, people who are any good at their job are very rarely sacked. My hon. and learned Friend should accept that it is possibly better in some cases for people to be in jobs with slightly fewer rights than to be on the dole.

I believe that there is a precedent, in that the Sex Discrimination Act 1975 does not apply to firms with fewer than six employees. I urge my hon. and learned Friend earnestly to consider likewise exempting such small firms from the unfair dismissal provisions of the Employment Protection Act. I am sure that if he did so he would be fulfilling our election pledge to lift the dead hand of bureaucracy from small firms.

12.57 a.m.

Mr. Greville Janner (Leicester, West)

The point that the hon. Member for Bridlington (Mr. Townend) has just made is one which, with the very greatest of respect, I was trying to make during the Minister's speech, and I was told that it was too wide. I accept most readily what the hon. Member said because it illustrates what Labour Members have been saying throughout—namely, that by using the procedure of an order the Government are starting a process which they will continue by statute. They are using the form of an order because they can do it quickly, whereas a statute would take them very much longer.

I have always failed to understand why employers should have the right to dismiss anyone unfairly. I have never understood why it should be the right of a manager to dismiss even a new employee unfairly. I do not know why a qualifying period of 26 weeks is needed, never mind a year, and I have always believed that it was wrong for any employer to dismiss any employee at any time unfairly.

The Employment Protection Act does not, in my view, go far enough to protect people. It says that whether or not an employer dismisses—

Mr. John Townend

Would not the hon. and learned Gentleman accept that where an employer dismisses someone fairly, on good grounds, that employer can still be taken before the industrial tribunal?

Mr. Janner

Yes. Unfortunately, or fortunately, it is possible in a free and democratic country for anyone to go to court and to lose. There is no law against fighting an unsuccessful case. It is, of course, correct that an employee can go to an industrial tribunal and lose. The fact is that 69 per cent. of all employees who go to industrial tribunals lose, and it is not because the Employment Protection Act is too strong. It is because the Employment Protection Act, as it stands, is too weak to protect the employee.

It is a weakness of our law that so many employees with good cases lose them, and in my experience, which is considerable, they lose them in many cases because they cannot produce the evidence, documentary or oral, to back their cases. They have no documents, and the people who could support them will not do so because they are still employed by the same companies and they value their own jobs, their own livelihood, the ability to feed their families. Far from there being too much protection, there is too little.

My hon. Friend the Member for Thurrock (Dr. McDonald), who raised the insurance problem, was quite right. For a mere £8 a year, one can insure against unfair dismissal, and this insurance covers legal advice and the lot. The fact is that the Conservative Party has built up, as the Minister so correctly said, an ogre in the minds of employers. It has created this belief in the minds of small employers that the oppressive employment protection provisions weigh down upon them in such a way that they cannot afford to take on staff. That is completely and absolutely untrue.

The object of a qualifying period at all—it was an object accepted by the Labour Government at the time—was to give people the opportunity to decide for themselves, within a reasonable time, whether a new employee was or was not capable of doing a job. We have heard a series of hon. Members say that an employer needs 12 months to decide whether an employee can do a job. In the world of management, it is accepted that in most jobs one knows perfectly well within a few weeks whether a man is capable of operating a machine, whether a salesman can sell or whether a person can answer the telephone or do a clerking job. There are exceptions in the area of sales and research, where even 12 months is not enough, but in 99 per cent. of all cases six months is not only enough but is more than enough.

Mr. A. P. Costain (Folkestone and Hythe)

Does not the hon. and learned Gentleman appreciate that when someone wants to expand his business he does not know whether he will be able to sell his products? When he takes on two or three people, he takes them on to try out new products. Many small firms do not do so because they will be clobbered with the trouble of getting rid of these men, and the extra expense, if the products do not succeed.

Mr. Janner

I hope that the House heard not only what the hon. Gentleman said but the words he used. He said that employers are worried about taking on two or three people in case they get clobbered by the law when they want to get rid of them. Those were his precise words. I believe that employers who want to take on two or three people, and who have 26 weeks to decide whether they are doing the job, have more than enough time for that assessment.

I do not believe that the good employer takes on a person because he wants to get rid of him. I do not accept the language used by the Minister about sacking. I believe that the qualifying statutory trial period of 26 weeks is not only a long one but is too long. I serve notice from the Back Benches that, so far as I am concerned, when the next Labour Government get into office we shall reduce the time limit not to 26 weeks but to 13 weeks, and immediately.

1.3 a.m.

Mr. John Loveridge (Upminster)

I believe that increasing the period from 26 to 52 weeks under this order will help in the creation of new jobs. That is the strongest and most proper justification. It will encourage small firms to take on additional staff. Many small firms looked for a longer period, especially the very smallest firms, as was suggested by my hon. Friend the Member for Surrey, North-West (Mr. Grylls).

The reason for the belief that it will help employment is demonstrated, at least in part, in the recent Massachusetts Institute of Technology survey in the United States, which shows that 66 per cent. of all new jobs there have come from firms with less than 20 staff and that four-fifths of those firms are new firms of less than five years old.

Here is the justification. Small new firms create work. Large firms, public or private, are likely to shed labour as modern technology takes hold. From the small firms sector comes the hope of new jobs for the future. It must be wise to encourage small firms to take on more staff, as the order does. If every small firm took on only one extra worker, that would go a long way to solving the nation's employment problems.

There is a question. Does the fear of the complexities involved in the unfair dismissal procedure deter these firms from expanding? I believe that it does. The head of one firm was quoted in The Sunday Times on 28 August 1977 when speaking of his reasons for turning down an important contract that would have increased his staff from 60 to 75. He said: It is unfair to say it was only the Employment Protection Act. It is also the high rate of taxation and the capital transfer tax, which is important at my age. He went on: If we take on extra people, it is difficult to dispose of them. There is a real disincentive to taking the entrepreneurial risk. He did not blame the Employment Protection Act entirely—and nor do I—but certain it is that he put some blame on the Act in deterring him from taking on staff, and I believe that to be the case.

Last year a Department of Employment survey showed that 20 per cent. of applications to tribunals came from firms with fewer than 20 workers. It is clear that small firms are involved and affected by the Act. That is natural. If employees lose jobs through their fault, they also lose the first six weeks of unemployment pay. They are questioned by Department of Employment officials as to whether their dismissal was fair or unfair. For small firms in particular it is likely that technical faults will arise, because most staff are on terms of easy friendship and it is difficult to give written warnings. It is natural for such an employee who is questioned by departmental officials to go before the tribunal. He has nothing to lose. He is prompted to do so. The employer, however, may lose time, be much worried, and be turned away from working on export orders, and he spends much thought and anxious time on unaccustomed legal questions that puzzle and perplex him. Even if there is no case to answer, the procedure must be gone through. It is no wonder that many people prefer to opt out of the tribunal in favour of a separate settlement. There is surely a measure of deterrence to expansion here.

Large firms sometimes get away from the present legislation—

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bernard Weatherill)

Order. I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Member, but can he relate his remarks to the extension of the period from 26 to 52 weeks? This is not a debate on the Employment Protection Act.

Mr. Loveridge

I was applying my argument, Mr. Deputy Speaker, to the part of the Act that relates to the order, and the order is to extend the exemption from 26 to 52 weeks. I believe that my arguments surely demonstrate that in these circumstances there is a measure of incentive to small firms to take on more labour than they would otherwise have done. They suffer from a multitude of legislation, and it is in relation to the whole range of that legislation that they find themselves in greatest difficulty. It is not only the 26-week provision which affects them. They are wounded—that is not too strong an expression—by the mass of legislation.

The order will encourage the creation of employment, and I hope that Labour Members will recognise that aspect of it. They have outlined only the disadvantages, but I hope that in their hearts they know that we must try to get more jobs—and that is what the order will do.

1.10 a.m.

Mr. Michael Martin (Glasgow, Springburn)

I have listened to the debates on the two orders that have been before the House and I am astonished that Conservative Members have not mentioned the plight of workers who may face unfair dismissal. We have been asked to cry over the problems of small business men, but no mention is made of those who are likely to be dismissed by small employers. My experience is that small employers are notoriously bad employers.

An hon. Member referred to garment workers. Insead of talking to a tailor who is an employer, he should have spoken to the girls working in sewing machine factories making shirts. They are told that if they do not do enough piece work in a week they will be sacked at the end of the week.

The Employment Protection Act was passed with the small employer in mind. We do not need to worry about the large employers. We have good collective bargaining systems in the large engineering factories and shipyards. We need to worry about the bricklaying yards and the engineering workshops that we in Glasgow call rat pits. Such places are so bad that they flout even the safety legislation, let alone unfair dismissal provisions.

Mr. Tony Marlow (Northampton, North)

How many more people would be put out of work if the hon. Gentleman put the small firms in Glasgow out of business, as seems to be his intention?

Mr. Martin

We are interested not only in creating jobs but in creating secure jobs in good working conditions. It is useless to create jobs in firms where an employer can tell a worker that he will be on the dole by Christmas. My hon. Friends have been accused of having no experience of the running of businesses. That is certainly true of me, but I have experience of being made redundant two or three weeks before Christmas and having to go home to my family and tell them that it would not be much of a Christmas that year. That sort of thing happens throughout the country.

The Act has given security to millions of workers. Hourly paid workers who have money docked from their wages if they miss an hour at work have no security except that given by the Act. It is an excellent measure and it frightens Conservative Members. They want to go back to the old days when employers could divide and rule workers. If one worker can be unfairly sacked, that is a threat to others.

It has been suggested that lawyers should be brought into the tribunals, but they should not be allowed near them. The tribunals should be places—

Mr. Mellor rose

Mr. Martin

—where laymen—

Mr. Mellor

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman is not giving way.

Mr. Martin

The tribunals should be places where laymen from both sides of industry are able to take their grievances and have them heard fairly. There is enough work in the courts for lawyers without their being given the tribunals as well.

It is claimed that six months is not enough time in which to assess a worker. But a week, two weeks at the most, is enough time to assess whether a man is a decent worker. It does not say much for managerial techniques if a manager cannot tell whether a person is a good worker within six months.

1.16 a.m.

The Secretary of State for Employment (Mr. James Prior)

Having heard the speeches of the hon. Members for Glasgow, Springburn (Mr. Martin) and for Hackney, North and Stoke Newington (Mr. Roberts), I am not surprised that it became impossible for the Labour Government to take any sensible action on the Employment Protection Act or on any other matter connected with industrial relations.

I regret that we should have found ourselves tonight arguing about what I would think the vast majority of the people outside, whether trade unionists, small employers or members of the general public, believe is a perfectly sensible and reasonable measure to take.

The evidence I have for saying that is this. In Committee on the Employment Protection Bill, when an amendment was moved to make the unfair dismissal procedure operate after 12 weeks, who voted against it? The right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Foot) and the right hon. Member for Barrow-in-Furness (Mr. Booth). They argued that 52 weeks was the right period to choose. It was only at a subsequent stage of the Bill that they changed their minds and came down to 26 weeks.

We warned them at the time that if they wanted to achieve a reasonable balance between the fears of employers, particularly small employers, and the perfectly legitimate right of workers not to be unfairly dismissed, 26 weeks would not achieve it and would be bound to lead to problems of small employers at any rate not taking on labour.

On Second Reading of the Employment Protection Bill, we moved the following amendment: this House, whilst recognising that parts of the Employment Protection Bill give legislative effect to good industrial practice, declines to give a Second Reading to a Bill which makes no attempt to establish a fair balance between the rights of management and unions, adds a heavy burden of cost without proper consideration of how it should be shared by employer, employee and State, and takes no account of the particular problems of small businesses."—[Official Report, 28 April 1975; V31. 891, c. 47.] I think we were right then and I think that we are right now.

My hon. Friend the Member for Bridlington (Mr. Townend) talked with knowledge about the problems of small businesses and said that we should have moved back to 104 weeks, which was the original period that a Conservative Government introduced in the Industrial Relations Act 1971. I have a good deal of sympathy with him in that view.

Certainly, the weight of evidence that we had in the consultations was that 52 weeks was a fair balance. We are not trying to make the same mistakes as the Labour Government made when they introduced the legislation. We are not trying to tilt the balance in favour of one section of society. We are trying to have a fair balance between employers and. workers. I believe that 52 weeks is a very fair balance.

In the earlier debate the right hon. Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Varley) talked about unemployment. We are making the change in the order solely because in the difficult days ahead on employment, which the whole House knows the country must face, we should do whatever we can not to make the task of employers more difficult.

Mr. James Hamilton (Bothwell)


Mr. Prior

The hon. Gentleman and the whole House know that employers must spend more time in getting on with the job of production and selling. They must produce a standard of discipline and a standard of work that we in this country have not had in the past few years. We must do it in the interests of the country as a whole, with the co-operation of the workers.

Of course any Government, particularly a Government in office at a time of economic difficulty such as we shall experience in Britain in the next two years—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] I suppose that no one has heard of the oil crisis. Any Government must seek the maximum co-operation, and that we shall do. We are putting the order through tonight because we believe that it is a small measure that can help with the provision of extra jobs.

My hon. Friend the Member for Grantham (Mr. Hogg) was abundantly right when he pointed out, with his experience of the law and of advising both employers and workers, that the payments made out of court were damaging to discipline and to the Act—

Mr. Eric S. Heffer (Liverpool, Walton)

The right hon. Gentleman has used the word "discipline" twice.

Mr. Prior

—and have been a deterrent to employment.

I very much hope that the House will recognise that the order is designed to help with employment and is reasonable in terms of the balance of bargaining power between unions and workers on the one hand and employers on the other.

The right hon. Member for Doncaster (Mr. Walker) commented on surveys on the importance of the worker. One report said: About a quarter"— of those interviewed— said when directly asked that the unfair dismissal provisions had affected the numbers recruited, and nearly half said that these had made them take more care in recruitment. I have no doubt that that is a view that hon. Members on both sides of the House found during the election campaign and for a long time before that.

Mr. Heffer

How many more jobs, then, can we be guaranteed as a result of the order?

Mr. Prior

The hon. Gentleman knows that no one could guarantee how many more jobs would be created. But one thing of which one can be absolutely certain is that the effect of the Act in the past few years has been to lose a number of other jobs that we would have had. It is not good enough for the hon. Gentleman to produce that type of argument.

Mr. Harold Walker

I am sure that the Secretary of State does not wish to mislead the House about the Opinion Research Centre study. That study states that 24 per cent. said that they had been affected by the legislation on unfair dismissal, i.e. it had influenced them, though they may not necessarily have had experience of a complaint or threat of a complaint being made.

Mr. Prior

The fact that 24 per cent. of those who were interviewed said that they had been affected and influenced by the Employment Protection Act is good enough evidence to show that a large number of them might have taken on more labour had the 26-week period not applied. The hon. and learned Member for Leicester, West (Mr. Janner) referred to the period of 26 weeks as being too long. He could have argued that one day was too long—he probably would have argued that one day was too long. Even his Government did not reduce the period to less than 26 weeks, and the argument that he used to apply to 52 weeks would apply equally to 26, 13 or 6½ weeks.

Dr. McDonald

The right hon. Gentleman refers to 26 weeks as being a disadvantage. Will he explain why West German employers, who face a period of 26 weeks in which they have to assess an employee, are more discerning than British employers? Apparently they can assess an employee within that time, whereas British employers seem to take twice as long.

Mr. Prior

If the hon. Lady is suggesting that we should have similar industrial relations to those that apply in West Germany, many Conservative Members would go along with the 26-week period for unfair dismissal. I have often heard Labour Members—no doubt it will be heard from the hon. Lady herself in the autumn—saying that we have to live and work in and adopt our methods to the country in which we live. Many of us have a great admiration for the way in which the West Germans manage their industrial relations. In this country we have closed shops. We do not have a rule that states that 70 per cent. of the workers have to vote by secret ballot before they can go on strike If the hon. Lady is suggesting that West German legislation should apply in this country, some of us might agree with her.

It is not only a question of unfair dismissal procedures operating after six months or even after a year. We recognise that the whole process of industrial tribunals has helped to cut down on the number of strikes which otherwise would be

caused by someone being unfairly sacked. However, we have to restore the confidence of management and small employers to take on labour and to be able to carry out their duties properly. In the last five years the ability of Britsh management to conduct its affairs properly has been undermined by parts of the Employment Protection Act. When we return after the recess we shall be asking the House to consider other measures that will deal with the Employment Protection Act. We shall consult fully on the measures before we introduce them.

In this order we are concerned to make a start in achieving a sensible balanced position between employer and employee, which is something that has been missing in this country for the past few years.

Question put:—

The House divided: Ayes 298, Noes 224

Division No. 80] AYES [1.30 a.m.
Adley, Robert Chalker, Mrs. Lynda Galbraith, Hon T. G. D.
Aitken, Jonathan Channon, Paul Gardiner, George (Reigate)
Alexander, Richard Chapman, Sydney Gardner, Edward (South Fylde)
Alison, Michael Churchill, W. S. Garel-Jones, Tristan
Ancram, Michael Clark, Hon Alan (Plymouth, Sutton) Glyn, Dr Alan
Arnold, Tom Clark, William (Croydon South) Goodhart, Philip
Aspinwall, Jack Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe) Goodlad, Alastair
Atkinson, David (B'mouth East) Clegg, Walter Gorst, John
Baker, Kenneth (St. Marylebone) Cockeram, Eric Gower, Sir Raymond
Baker, Nicholas (North Dorset) Colvin, Michael Grant, Anthony (Harrow C)
Banks, Robert Cope, John Gray, Hamish
Beaumont-Dark, Anthony Cormack, Patrick Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth N)
Beith, A. J. Corrie, John Grist, Ian
Bell, Ronald Costain, A. P. Grylls, Michael
Bendall, Vivian Cranborne, Viscount Gummer, John Selwyn
Benyon, Thomas (Abingdon) Critchley, Julian Hamilton, Hon Archie (Eps'm&Ew'll)
Benyon, W. (Buckingham) Crouch, David Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury)
Best, Keith Dean, Paul (North Somerset) Hampson, Dr. Keith
Bevan, David Gilroy Dickens, Geoffrey Hannam, John
Biffen, Rt Hon John Dodsworth, Geoffrey Haselhurst, Alan
Biggs-Davison, John Dorrell, Stephen Hastings, Stephen
Blackburn, John Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James Havers, Rt Hon Sir Michael
Blaker, Peter Dover, Denshore Hawkins, Paul
Body, Richard du Cann, Rt Hon Edward Hawksley Warren
Bonsor, Sir Nicholas Dunn, Robert (Dartford) Hayhoe, Barney
Boscawen, Hon Robert Durant, Tony Heddle, John
Bottomley, Peter (Woolwich West) Dykes, Hugh Henderson, Barry
Bowden, Andrew Eden, Rt Hon Sir John Heseltine, Rt Hon Michael
Boyson, Dr Rhodes Edwards, Rt Hon N. (Pembroke) Hicks, Robert
Braine, Sir Bernard Eggar, Timothy Higgins, Terence L.
Bright, Graham Emery, Peter Hill, James
Brinton, Timothy Eyre, Reginald
Brittan, Leon Fairbairn, Nicholas Hogg, Hon Dougles (Grantham)
Brocklebank-Fowler, Christopher Fairgrieve, Russell Holland, Philip (Carlton)
Brooke, Hon Peter Faith, Mrs. Sheila Hordern, Peter
Brown, Michael (Brigg & Sc'thorpe) Farr, John Howell, Rt Hon David (Guildlord)
Browne, John (Winchester) Fell, Anthony Howell, Ralph (North Norfolk)
Bruce-Gardyne, John Fenner, Mrs. Peggy Hunt, David (Wirral)
Bryan, Sir Paul Finsberg, Geoffrey Hunt, John (Ravensbourne)
Buck, Antony Fisher, Sir Nigel Hurd, Hon Douglas
Budgen, Nick Fletcher, Alexander (Edinburgh N) Irving, Charles (Cheltenham)
Bulmer, Esmond Fletcher-Cooke, Charles Jenkin, Rt Hon Patrick
Butcher, John Fookes, Miss Janet Jessel, Toby
Butler, Hon Adam Forman, Nigel Johnson Smith, Geoffrey
Cadbury, Jocelyn Fox, Marcus Johnston, Russell (Inverness)
Carlisle, John (Luton West) Fraser, Rt Hon H. (Stafford & St) Jopling, Rt Hon. Michael
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln) Fraser, Peter (South Angus) Kaberry, Sir Donald
Carlisle, Rt Hon Mark (Runcorn) Fry, Peter Kellett-Bowman, Mrs Elaine
Kershaw, Anthony Murphy, Christopher Spicer, Jim (West Dorset)
Kimball, Marcus Myles, David Spicer, Michael (S Worcestershire)
King, Rt Hon Tom Neale, Gerrard Sproat, Iain
Kitson, Sir Timothy Nelson, Anthony Squire, Robin
Knight, Mrs Jill Neubert, Michael Stainton, Keith
Knox, David Newton, Tony Stanbrook, Ivor
Lamont, Norman Normanton, Tom Stanley, John
Lang, Ian Onslow, Cranley Steen, Anthony
Langford-Holt, Sir John Oppenheim, Rt Hon Mrs Sally Stevens, Martin
Lawrence, Ivan Osborn, John Steward, Ian (Hitchin)
Lawson, Nigel Page, John (Harrow, West) Stewart, John (East Renfrewshire)
Lee, John Page, Rt Hon R. Graham (Crosby) Stokes, John
Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark Parris, Matthew Stradling Thomas, J.
Lester, Jim (Beeston) Patten, Christopher (Bath) Tapsell, Peter
Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland) Patten, John (Oxford) Taylor, Robert (Croydon NW)
Lloyd, Peter (Fareham) Pattie, Geoffrey Tebbit, Norman
Loveridge, John Pawsey, James Temple-Morris, Peter
Luce, Richard Penhaligon, David Thompson, Donald
Lyell, Nicholas Percival, Sir Ian Thorne, Neil (Ilford South)
McCrindle, Robert Pink, R. Bonner Thornton, George
Macfarlane, Neil Pollock. Alexander Townend, John (Bridlington)
MacGregor, John Porter, George Townsend, Cyril D. (Bexleyheath)
Mackay, John (Argyll) Price, David (Eastleigh) Trippier, David
Macmillan, Rt Hon M. (Farnham) Prior, Rt Hon James Trotter, Neville
McNair-Wilson, Michael (Newbury) Proctor, K. Harvey van Straubenzee, W. R.
McNair-Wilson, Patrick (New Forest) Pym, Rt Hon Francis Vaughan, Dr Gerard
McQuarrie, Albert Rathbone, Tim Viggers, Peter
Madel, David Rees, Peter (Dover and Deal) Waddington, David
Major, John Rees-Davies, W. R. Wakeham, John
Marland, Paul Renton, Tim Waldegrave, Hon William
Marlow, Antony Rhodes James, Robert Walker-Smith, Rt Hon Sir Derek
Marshall, Michael (Arundel) Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon Wall, Patrick
Marten, Neil (Banbury) Ridsdale, Julian Waller, Gary
Mates, Michael Rifkind, Malcolm Walters, Dennis
Mather, Carol Roberts, Michael (Cardiff NW) Ward, John
Maude, Rt Hon Angus Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight) Warren, Kenneth
Mawby, Ray Rost, Peter Watson, John
Mawhinney, Dr Brian Royle, Sir Anthony Wells, John (Maidstone)
Mayhew, Patrick Sainsbury, Hon Timothy Wells, P. Bowen (Hert'fd&Stev'nage)
Mellor, David St. John-Stevas, Rt Hon Norman Wheeler, John
Meyer, Sir Anthony Scott, Nicholas Whitelaw, Rt Hon William
Miller, Hal (Bromsgrove & Redditch) Shaw, Michael (Scarborough) Whitney, Raymond
Mills, lain (Meriden) Shelton, William (Streatham) Wickenden, Keith
Mills, Peter (West Devon) Shepherd, Colin (Hereford) Wiggin, Jerry
Miscampbell, Norman Shepherd, Richard(Aldridge-Br'hills) Wilkinson, John
Mitchell, David (Basingstoke) Shersby, Michael Winterton, Nicholas
Moate, Roger Silvester, Fred Wolfson, Mark
Monro, Hector Sims, Roger Young, Sir George (Acton)
Montgomery, Fergus Skeet, T. H. H. Younger, Rt Hon George
Moore, John Smith, Dudley (War. and Leam'ton)
Morris, Michael (Northampton, Sth) Speed, Keith TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Morrison, Hon Charles (Devizes) Speller, Tony Mr. Spencer le Marchant and
Morrison, Hon Peter (City of Chester) Spence, John Mr. Anthony Berry.
Adams, Allen Concannon, Rt Hon J. D. Eadie, Alex
Allaun, Frank Conlan, Bernard Eastham, Ken
Anderson, Donald Cook, Robin F. Edwards, Robert (Wolv SE)
Archer, Rt Hon Peter Cowans, Harry Ellis, Raymond (NE Derbyshire)
Armstrong, Ernest Cox, Tom (Wandsworth, Tooting) Ellis, Tom (Wrexham)
Ashton, Joe Craigen, J. M. (Glasgow, Maryhill) English, Michael
Atkinson, Norman (H'gey, Tott'ham) Crowther, J. S. Ennals, Rt Hon David
Bagier, Gordon A. T. Cryer, Bob Evans, loan (Aberdare)
Barnett, Guy (Greenwich) Cunliffe, Lawrence Evans, John (Newton)
Barnett, Rt Hon Joel (Heywood) Cunningham, George (Islington S) Ewing, Harry
Benn, Rt Hon Anthony Wedgwood Dalyell, Tam Faulds, Andrew
Bennett, Andrew (Stockport N) Davidson, Arthur Field, Frank
Booth, Rt Hon Albert Davies, Rt Hen Denzil (Llanelli) Flannery, Martin
Boothroyd, Miss Betty Davies, E. Hudson (Caerphilly) Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)
Bradley, Tom Davies, Ifor (Gower) Foot, Rt Hon Michael
Brown, Hugh D. (Provan) Davis, Clinton (Hackney Central) Forrester, John
Brown, Robert C. (Newcastle W) Davis, Terry (B'rm'ham, Stechford) Fraser, John (Lambeth, Norwood)
Brown, Ronald W. (Hackney S) Deakins, Eric Freeson, Rt Hon Reginald
Buchan, Norman Dean, Joseph (Leeds West) Freud, Clement
Callaghan, Jim (Middleton & P) Dempsey, James Garrett, John (Norwich S)
Campbell, Ian Dixon, Donald George, Bruce
Campbell-Savours, Dale Dobson, Frank Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John
Cant, R. B. Dormand, J. D. Ginsburg, David
Carmichael, Nell Douglas-Mann, Bruce Golding, John
Cartwright, John Dubs, Alfred Graham, Ted
Clark, Dr David (South Shields) Duffy, A. E. P. Grant, George (Morpeth)
Cocks, Rt Hon Michael (Bristol S) Dunn, James A. (Liverpool, Kirkdale) Grant, John (Islington C)
Cohen, Stanley Dunnett, Jack Hardy, Peter
Coleman, Donald Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth Harrison, Rt Hon Walter
Hattersley, Rt. Hon Roy Martin, Michael (Gl'gow, Springb'n) Silkin, Rt Hon John (Deptford)
Haynes, David Mason, Rt Hon Roy Silkin, Rt Hon S. C. (Dulwich)
Healey, m. Hon Denis Maxton, John Silverman, Julius
Heffer, Eric S. Maynard, Miss Joan Skinner, Dennis
Hogg, Norman (E Dunbartonshire) Meacher, Michael Smith, Rt Hon J. (North Lanarkshire)
Holland, Stuart (L'beth, Vauxhall) Mikardo, Ian Snape, Peter
Home Robertson, John Millan, Rt Hon Bruce Soley, Clive
Homewood, William Miller, Dr M S (East Kilbride) Spearing, Nigel
Hooley, Frank Mitchell, Austin (Grimsby) Spriggs, Leslie
Horam, John Mitchell, R. C. (Soton, Itchen) Stallard, A. W.
Howell, Rt Hon Denis (B'ham, Sm H) Morris, Rt Hon Alfred (Wythenshawe) Stoddart, David
Huckfield, Les Morris, Rt Hon Charles (Openshaw) Stott, Roger
Hughes, Mark (Durham) Morris, Rt Hon John (Aberavon) Strang, Gavin
Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen North) Morton, George Straw, Jack
Janner, Hon Greville Moyle, Rt Hon Roland Taylor, Mrs Ann (Bolton West)
Jay, Rt Hon Douglas Mulley, Rt Hon Frederick Thomas, Jeffrey (Abertillery)
Johnson, James (Hull West) Newens, Stanley Thomas, Mike (Newcastle East)
Johnson, Walter (Derby South) Oakes, Gordon Thomas, Dr Roger (Carmarthen)
Jones, Alec (Rhondda) Ogden, Eric Thorne, Stan (Preston South)
Jones, Dan (Burnley) O'Halloran, Michael Tilley, John
Kilroy-Silk, Robert O'Neill, Martin Torney, Tom
Kinnock, Neil Orme, Rt Hon Stanley Urwin, Rt Hon Tom
Lambie, David Owen, Rt Hon Dr David Varley, Rt Hon Eric G.
Lam born, Harry Palmer, Arthur Walker, Harold (Doncaster)
Lamond, James Park, George Weetch, Ken
Leadbitter, Ted Parker, John Wellbeloved, James
Leighton, Ronald Parry, Robert Welsh, Michael
Lestor, Miss Joan (Eton & Slough) Powell, Raymond (Ogmore) White, Frank R. (Bury & Radcliffe)
Lewis, Arthur (Newham North West) Prescott, John White, James (Glasgow, Pollok)
Lewis, Ron (Carlisle) Price, Christopher (Lewisham West) Whitehead, Phillip
Lofthouse, Geoffrey Race, Reg Whitlock, William
Lyon, Alexander (York) Radice, Giles Willey, Rt Hon Frederick
Lyons, Edward (Bradford West) Rees, Rt Hon Merlyn (Leeds South) Williams, Rt Hon Alan (Swansea W)
Mabon, Rt Hon Dr J Dickson Richardson, Miss Jo Williams, Sir Thomas (Warrington)
McDonald, Dr Oonagh Roberts, Albert (Normanton) Wilson, Gordon (Dundee East)
McElhone, Frank Roberts, Ernest (Hackney North) Wilson, Rt Hon Sir Harold (Huyton)
McKay, Allen (Penistone) Roberts, Gwllym (Cannock) Wilson, William (Coventry SE)
MacKenzie, Rt Hon Gregor Robertson, George Winnick, David
Maclennan, Robert Robinson, Geoffrey (Coventry NW) Woodall, Alec
McMillan, Tom (Glasgow, Central) Rodgers, Rt Hon William Woolmer, Kenneth
McNally, Thomas Rooker, J. W. Wrigglesworth, Ian
McNamara, Kevin Roper, John Wright, Miss Sheila
Magee, Bryan Ross, Ernest (Dundee West) Young, David (Bolton East)
Marks, Kenneth Rowlands, Ted
Marshall, David (Gl'sgow, Shettles'n) Sever, John TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Marshall, Dr Edmund (Goole) Sheerman, Barry Mr. James Hamilton and
Marshall, Jim (Leicester South) Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert (A'ton-u-L) Mr. James Tinn.

Question accordingly agreed to.

Resolved, That the draft Unfair Dismissal (Variation of Qualifying Period) Order 1979, which was laid before this House on 10th July, be approved.