HC Deb 18 November 1982 vol 32 cc473-4 7.54 pm
The Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office (Mr. Adam Butler)

I beg to move, That the draft Wages Councils (Northern Ireland) Order 1982, which was laid before this House on 21st October, in the last Session of Parliament, be approved.

This order was originally laid before the House on 20 May 1982 and was then considered by the Joint Committee on Consolidation Bills, as is the procedure with an order of pure consolidation. The Joint Committee was satisfied that the order represented a pure consolidation by consolidating the Wages Councils Act (Northern Ireland) 1945 and the enactments amending that Act. The Committee, however, in its report of 25 June recommended that section 19 of the Wages Councils (Northern Ireland) Act 1945, which deals with schemes for holidays with pay, be repealed in the order as it served no practical purpose, and no record of it ever having been used exists. On consideration of the advice of the Joint Committee, the order was withdrawn and relaid with the repeal of section 19 included. The inclusion of that one amendment means that, strictly speaking, the order is no longer pure consolidation, but it has the effect of making a more coherent statement of the law relating to wages councils. The Joint Committee, in its report, stated: After careful consideration, the Committee are of the opinion that the repeal of section 19 would have the desirable result of achieving a more satisfactory and tidier consolidation of the law and that an Order to that effect, although not pure consolidation, would be likely to commend itself to Parliament for that reason.

In the light of that urging of the Joint Committee, I commend the order to the House as a sensible bringing together of the law on wages councils.

7.56 pm
Mr. Clive Soley (Hammersmith, North)

The Opposition are content with the consolidation order. The Minister will know that during the past 48 hours anxiety has been expressed by the trade unions in Northern Ireland as to whether it was just a consolidation order. I understand that the Minister has assured the trade unions that, in effect, there will be no change in the working of the wages councils. I know that the trade unions are content to accept that reassurance from the Minister. On that basis I shall conclude my remarks.

7.57 pm
Mr. Michael Brown (Brigg and Scunthorpe)

I acknowledge that this is principally a consolidation measure. Has my hon. Friend been moved by the arguments that have been put to his right hon. and hon. Friends at the Department of Employment by Conservative Members during the past two or three years about the concept of wages councils and their impact upon employment in the rest of the United Kingdom? Will he feel able to come before the House one day and suggest that employment prospects for Northern Ireland might he improved if there were no wages councils' instructions?

My hon. Friend will have heard on many occasions from my hon. Friend the Member for Bridlington (Mr. Townend) that employment prospects in the United Kingdom are hindered by wages councils. This might not be the appropriate time to debate the principle of wages councils, but does my hon. Friend think that employment prospects might be assisted if one day the concept of wages councils was looked at not only for the United Kingdom, but for Ulster?

8 pm

Mr. Adam Butler

Mr. Deputy Speaker, you would probably not wish me to be tempted too far down the path that my hon. Friend has attempted to entice me along. I am aware of the exchanges that take place in the House and outside over wages councils. Indeed, I am sure that my hon. Friend is equally well aware of them. Of course, we consider the benefits and the disadvantages of wages councils. However, in Northern Ireland we have been following the practice adopted over the years by both Labour and Conservative Administrations of trying to tidy up anomalies. For example, only this year we merged three wages councils in the clothing industry into one council to simplify the councils' workings. My hon. Friend has raised some important points, but on this occasion it would not be right to comment further.

Question put and agreed to.

Resolved, That the draft Wages Councils (Northern Ireland) Order 1982, which was laid before this House on 21st October, in the last Session of Parliament, be approved.