HC Deb 23 July 1986 vol 102 cc483-6

Lords amendment: No. 7, in page 7, line 1, leave out "whether or not" and insert "notwithstanding that".

Mr. Trippier

I beg to move, That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said amendment.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

With this it will be convenient to take the following Lords amendments: No. 8, in page 7, line 16, leave out receive any amount from the worker on account and insert recover an amount from the worker in respect No. 9, in line 38, at end insert ; and references in this Part to the recovery from a worker of an amount in respect of a cash shortage or stock deficiency accordingly include references to the recovery from him of an amount in respect of any such conduct or event as is mentioned in paragraph (a) or (b). No. 11, in clause 7, page 10, line 25, leave out "section 121(2)" and insert "paragraphs (a) to (d) of section 122(4)".

No. 12, in line 27, leave out "and" and insert— ( ) statutory sick pay under Part I of the Social Security and Housing Benefits Act 1982; and". No. 13, in line 29, leave out "that" and insert "the 1978".

No. 32, in schedule 5, page 40, line 34, at end insert—

"1982 c. 24. Social Security and Section 23A(2)." Housing Benefits Act 1982.
No. 33, in page 40, leave out lines 35 and 36.

Mr. Trippier

Lords amendment No. 7 is designed to clarify the requirements of clause 4(3). The present wording of subsection (3) might suggest that, even if a payment made on or after the date of a worker's final instalment of wages fails to satisfy the requirements of clause 1(2), there is some merit in considering whether it satisfies the time limit in clause 3(3)(b). This is clearly undesirable. Replacing the words "whether or not" by "notwithstanding that" improves the clarity of the clause and makes it apparent that, if the requirements of either clause 1(2) or clause 3(3)(b) are not satisfied, there is no need to look at the requirements of the other clause. The amendment is intended to clarify the position to help employers and workers, and I ask hon. Members to accept it.

Lords amendment No. 8, which should be read with Lords amendment No. 9, was tabled in the interests of consistency and clarity. It brings the wording of clause 4(5) into line with subsection (4) of clause 4 by changing subsection (5) to read the employer … is entitled to recover any amount from the worker in respect of a cash shortage or stock deficiency", rather than the employer is entitled to receive any amount from the worker on account of a cash shortage or stock deficiency. The amendment thus ensures that language is used consistently in subsections (4) and (5). The two amendments together also clarify the extent of the protection provided by subsection (5) of clause 4.

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The words added by amendment No. 9 at the end of subsection (6) of clause 4 make it clear that, in proceedings by employers to recover amounts from workers, a court is required to limit the rate at which it orders the worker to make payments to the employer so that the 10 per cent. limit is not broken if the amount which the employer is entitled to recover is in respect of a cash shortage or stock deficiency with its wider meaning, that is embracing deductions and payments on account of conduct leading to a shortage or deficiency. The amendments thus help the worker and close a small possible loophole. I believe that these amendments achieve the clarity we seek. They help to ensure that the protection given to workers by the Bill cannot be evaded, and I commend them to the House.

Amendments Nos. 11, 12 and 13 merely update a reference in the Bill to another piece of legislation and are of no consequence in terms of policy.

There is a reference in clause 7(1)(d) to section 121(2) of the Employment Protection (Consolidation) Act 1978. This section of the 1978 Act will be repealed when a provision of the Insolvency Act 1985 is brought into operation next December. The amendments simply delete the reference to section 121(2) and insert other references which achieve the same effect.

Amendment No. 32 is a straightforward amendment. Section 23A(2) of the Social Security and Housing Benefits Act 1982, inserted by the Health and Social Security Act 1984, schedule 7, paragraph 8, applies the Truck Act 1896 to agreements to make deductions from statutory sick pay. Clause 11 repeals the Truck Act 1896. However, as statutory sick pay is within the definition of wages in clause 7, the provisions on deductions in part I will apply to it. Section 23A(2) is, therefore, redundant and can be repealed. This is achieved by the amendment.

Amendment No. 33 is a purely technical amendment, which removes a provision of the Building Societies Bill from the list of provisions to be repealed by the Wages Bill. That provision amends the Payment of Wages Act 1960, which is itself repealed by the Wages Bill. The amendment is needed because part I of the Wages Bill may well come into operation before the Building Scocieties Bill.

In general, these amendments are all technical amendments tabled in the interests of clarity and consistent use of language, and to update redundant references. I ask the House to agree to them.

Ms. Clare Short

We welcome amendment No. 7 because it is another minor expansion of the protection afforded to workers. When the Bill was originally drafted, it provided that an employer could go back indefinitely in time to find stock shortages or cash deficiencies and then make a deduction. We sought a change in the Bill to limit to 12 months the length of time an employer can go back, which was some improvement.

We are unhappy that the Bill provides that the whole of a worker's final wage can be confiscated by his employer, and even more unhappy that sickness and maternity pay are included in wages that can be confiscated for disciplinary reasons. But this amendment at least ensures that when an employer seeks to take large chunks of a final payment of wages, he can go back only 12 months to find a cash deficiency or stock shortages.

As we said in Committee, there was a real danger that, after a worker had worked happily for an employer for many years, they might then fall out, and the employer might seek to penalise the worker who was leaving by going back over many years, claiming that there were shortages and stock deficiencies which it would be virtually impossible to disprove.

We also support amendments Nos. 8 and 9 which limit to 10 per cent. the amount a court can deduct for behaviour leading to a stock shortage or cash deficiency. Although it is only minor, it is a slight extention of the protection in the Bill.

I ask the Minister a question on amendment Nos. 11, 12 and 13. The Minister told us that the reference in the new legislation is similar to that in the old that has been removed. However, he has not specified what the differences are. If they are similar but not the same, it is important that we know what the differences are.

I have said that we object strongly to the inclusion of sick pay in the list of pay that can suffer deductions. That is referred to in another amendment. We fought the Government on that. We failed, in the past, to move similar amendments. The amendments are technical and simply tidy up the Bill. We have no objection to them.

Mr. Trippier

In response to the hon. Lady's question, there are no differences.

Question put and agreed to.

Subsequent Lords amendments agreed to.

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