HC Deb 15 May 1986 vol 97 cc950-5

Question again proposed, That the Bill be now read the Third time.

Mr. Holt

I do not wish to detain the House much longer—[Interruption.] However, I am going to detain the House long enough to make sure that every hon. Member on the Conservative Benches at least knows what he or she is voting for.

I am not sure that everybody has studied in detail the ramifications of what will happen when industrial tribunals are looking into what deductions will be made. I doubt at this stage whether we can manage to read all the documentation that comes to us. We rely on hon. Members who serve in Committee and on experts to help and guide us. I am not satisfied that that has been done in the case of industrial tribunals. I believe that they are over-legalistic, as I have said repeatedly.

I have had a commitment from the Front Bench that the Government will look into the working of industrial tribunals but, instead of doing that, they are adding to the workings. It is on average 13½weeks before a worker can take a complaint to a tribunal, which is not satisfactory. I think that—

Ms. Clare Short


Mr. Speaker

Order. We have just passed the 10 o'clock business motion. The hon. Gentleman has a right to be heard.

Mr. Holt

In the last few days, industrial tribunal decisions have been made by the most learned in the land which have overturned quite important previous decisions. I believe that we are opening up a floodgate of legislation in which so-called protection will be given to workers which will not be acceptable in practical terms.

The Government ought to have considered another method to afford the opportunity of a speedy and proper judgment to those who feel they have been disadvantaged. It will not help to impose a delay of 14 to 15 weeks before cases that have a 10 per cent. ceiling on them can come to court. I cannot believe that those who are responsible for advising the Minister have taken this point on board.

In 1965 the number of books on industrial relations to be found on any lawyer's shelf would total one; today they fill the wall. There will soon be a similar increase in the load on the subject of deductions of money from employees.

No area of the business community has asked for this, yet the Government seek to bring it in. We will make a laughing stock of ourselves if we introduce legislation that provides the opportunity for employees to go to an industrial tribunal for what will he trivial sums of money—£3 to £4. It will lead to industrial tribunals having a greater backlog of work, and the whole system will fall into disrepute. I hope that when the Bill goes to the other place, their lordships will, in their wisdom, find an opportunity not to send all these cases to industrial tribunals.

10.5 pm

Mr. Penhaligon

Few things deserve more genuine admiration than a Member who dedicates himself to trying to make sure that we understand the legislation on which we shall vote. It is odd in this case that the hon. Member for Langbaurgh (Mr. Holt) understands the Bill decides that he does not like it, but still will vote for it. The hon. Gentleman's attitude is astonishing, to say the least.

One of the great privileges given to Ministers of the Crown, Secretaries of State and the Paymaster General is the power to protect the vulnerable. That is one of the most honourable and justifying reasons for our system of Government. Since 1909 one of the vulnerable sections has generally been agreed to be the low paid. Repeatedly since 1909 we have tried to protect them from the worst exploitation by wages councils legislation. The Bill removes the most vulnerable part of the low-paid sector from protection—those under 21.

The Minister has made a number of speeches, and we have had a number of debates, but nobody has yet given me satisfactory reason to believe that the abolition of such protection will achieve the objects for which the Minister has argued. He has identified a problem: there are times when paying an 18-year-old the adult rate militates against that young person's opportunity to obtain employment. That calls for a modification of the law on wages councils, not their abolition. However, the Government have decided on abolition.

Nobody can defend a person aged between 16 and 20 from the most outrageous exploitation. The Under-Secretary has failed by allowing the legislation to be put before the House. Given his record on a number of issues, I am surprised that he has done so, because some of us regard him as nearly civilised, compared to the peculiar company that he keeps. I am amazed by what he has done. This is a bad day, and bad legislation. Many people between the ages of 16 and 20 will regret the day that the Bill was passed. They will remember it, and we shall remind them of it.

Any Parliament other than one dominated by a Conservative Government elected by just 42 per cent. of the electorate will bring back some protection for those people.

10.7 pm

Mr. Kenneth Clarke

If we are to maintain the present growth in the economy and in employment opportunities, we have to continue to work at being a modern labour market. The Bill is a useful package of reforms that takes away various obsolete legal requirements, and will improve employment opportunities for a number of people and young people in particular.

I point out to my hon. Friend the Member for Langbaurgh (Mr. Holt) that the repeal of the Truck Acts of 1831 is a little overdue, and, if it had been done before today, it would have enabled us to move towards more sensible methods of making payments. We have introduced new protection for those who are liable to deductions from pay in the retail trade, and I do not share his fear about the working of the industrial tribunal system.

By ending the rebate system, we shall be taking off the statute book an outdated law. It is no longer necessary to make it cheaper and easier to make people redundant, and public money can be spent on employment measures in more positive ways.

Our aim is to improve employment opportunities. We are not abolishing wages councils. We are retaining protection for adult workers and making the orders more simple. We are taking away the present complex and sometimes unintelligible rigmarole that surrounds the details of wages orders, whereby every aspect of employment for every employee is fixed by a panel of people in terms that are difficult to apply in practice. We shall still enforce it with the inspectorate, although there will be fewer inspectors because fewer workers will be covered, and the orders will be simpler. The method of enforcing the law will be exactly the same as that used by the previous Government, and so will the style of the wages inspectorate. Labour party spokesmen have argued for an approach to this legislation that they never followed when they were in power.

There has been a welcome reduction in the rate of youth unemployment. During the past three or four years, there has been a reduction in the rate of unemployment among young people compared with the adult rate. That has arisen because we have a more sensible understanding of the relationship between the wages earned by young people in their first jobs out of school and the wages earned by more experienced adults.

The wages councils have no contribution to make in that area. Far from exposing youngsters to risk, we are ensuring that their employment opportunities will be increased.

It is the tradition on Third Reading to make short speeches. Usually the Minister says that this is the finest piece of legislation to pass through the House in modern times. Usually the Labour spokesman says that he cannot, in his entire Parliamentary career, remember a worse case of grinding the faces of the poor. In reality, and considering the contents of the Bill, this is a sensible and, and most cases, a much overdue reform of obsolete bits of present employment law, and I commend it to the House.

Question put, That the Bill be now read the Third time:—

The House divided: Ayes 214, Noes 160.

Division No. 183] [10.10 pm
Aitken, Jonathan Critchley, Julian
Amess, David Crouch, David
Ashby, David Currie, Mrs Edwina
Atkinson, David (B'm'th E) Dickens, Geoffrey
Baker, Nicholas (Dorset N) Dorrell, Stephen
Baldry, Tony Dover, Den
Banks, Robert (Harrogate) Durant, Tony
Batiste, Spencer Dykes, Hugh
Bellingham, Henry Evennett, David
Bendall, Vivian Eyre, Sir Reginald
Bevan, David Gilroy Fallon, Michael
Biffen, Rt Hon John Favell, Anthony
Biggs-Davison, Sir John Fookes, Miss Janet
Blackburn, John Forman, Nigel
Body, Sir Richard Forth, Eric
Boscawen, Hon Robert Freeman, Roger
Bottomley, Mrs Virginia Fry, Peter
Bowden, A. (Brighton K'to'n) Gale, Roger
Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich) Galley, Roy
Braine, Rt Hon Sir Bernard Gardiner, George (Reigate)
Brandon-Bravo, Martin Gardner, Sir Edward (Fylde)
Bright, Graham Garel-Jones, Tristan
Brinton, Tim Glyn, Dr Alan
Brooke, Hon Peter Goodhart, Sir Philip
Brown, M. (Brigg & Cl'thpes) Gorst, John
Browne, John Greenway, Harry
Bruinvels, Peter Gregory, Conal
Bryan, Sir Paul Griffiths, Sir Eldon
Budgen, Nick Griffiths, Peter (Portsm'th N)
Bulmer, Esmond Ground, Patrick
Burt, Alistair Grylls, Michael
Butler, Rt Hon Sir Adam Hamilton, Hon A. (Epsom)
Butterfill, John Hamilton, Neil (Tatton)
Carlisle, John (Luton N) Hampson, Dr Keith
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln) Hanley, Jeremy
Carttiss, Michael Hargreaves, Kenneth
Cash, William Harris, David
Chapman, Sydney Haselhurst, Alan
Chope, Christopher Hawkins, C. (High Peak)
Churchill, W. S. Hawkins, Sir Paul (N'folk SW)
Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford) Hawksley, Warren
Clark, Sir W. (Croydon S) Hayes, J.
Clarke, Rt Hon K. (Rushcliffe) Hayhoe, Rt Hon Barney
Clegg, Sir Walter Hayward, Robert
Cockeram, Eric Heathcoat-Amory, David
Colvin, Michael Heddle, John
Coombs, Simon Heseltine, Rt Hon Michael
Cope, John Hickmet, Richard
Couchman, James Hicks, Robert
Cranborne, Viscount Hind, Kenneth
Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm) Nelson, Anthony
Holland, Sir Philip (Gedling) Neubert, Michael
Holt, Richard Newton, Tony
Howard, Michael Nicholls, Patrick
Howarth, Alan (Stratf'd-on-A) Norris, Steven
Howarth, Gerald (Cannock) Onslow, Cranley
Howell, Rt Hon D. (G'ldford) Oppenheim, Phillip
Howell, Ralph (Norfolk, N) Oppenheim, Rt Hon Mrs S.
Hubbard-Miles, Peter Osborn, Sir John
Hunt, David (Wirral W) Ottaway, Richard
Hunter, Andrew Page, Richard (Herts SW)
Jessel, Toby Patten, J. (Oxf W & Abgdn)
Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey Pattie, Geoffrey
Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N) Pawsey, James
Jones, Robert (Herts W) Percival, Rt Hon Sir Ian
Kershaw, Sir Anthony Portillo, Michael
Key, Robert Powell, William (Corby)
King, Rt Hon Tom Powley, John
Knight, Greg (Derby N) Price, Sir David
Knight, Dame Jill (Edgbaston) Proctor, K. Harvey
Knowles, Michael Raffan, Keith
Knox, David Rathbone, Tim
Lamont, Norman Renton, Tim
Latham, Michael Rhodes James, Robert
Lawler, Geoffrey Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon
Lawrence, Ivan Ridley, Rt Hon Nicholas
Leigh, Edward (Gainsbor'gh) Robinson, Mark (N'port W)
Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark Roe, Mrs Marion
Lewis, Sir Kenneth (Stamf'd) Rossi, Sir Hugh
Lightbown, David Rost, Peter
Lilley, Peter Sayeed, Jonathan
Lloyd, Ian (Havant) Shaw, Giles (Pudsey)
Lloyd, Peter (Fareham) Skeet, Sir Trevor
Lord, Michael Smith, Sir Dudley (Warwick)
Luce, Rt Hon Richard Soames, Hon Nicholas
Lyell, Nicholas Spencer, Derek
McCrindle, Robert Stokes, John
MacGregor, Rt Hon John Taylor, Teddy (S'end E)
MacKay, Andrew (Berkshire) Thompson, Donald (Caider V)
Maclean, David John Thompson, Patrick (N'ich N)
McNair-Wilson, M. (N'bury) Thorne, Neil (Ilford S)
McNair-Wilson, P. (New F'st) Trippier, David
Major, John Viggers, Peter
Malins, Humfrey Wakeham, Rt Hon John
Maples, John Walker, Rt Hon P. (W'cester)
Marlow, Antony Waller, Gary
Mates, Michael Wardle, C. (Bexhill)
Mather, Carol Watts, John
Mayhew, Sir Patrick Wells, Bowen (Hertford)
Merchant, Piers Wheeler, John
Miller, Hal (B'grove) Whitfield, John
Mills, Iain (Meriden) Whitney, Raymond
Mitchell, David (Hants NW) Wilkinson, John
Moate, Roger Wood, Timothy
Montgomery, Sir Fergus Yeo, Tim
Moynihan, Hon C.
Mudd, David Tellers for the Ayes:
Murphy, Christopher Mr. Tim Sainsbury and Mr. Francis Maude.
Neale, Gerrard
Adams, Allen (Paisley N) Brown, Hugh D. (Provan)
Archer, Rt Hon Peter Brown, N. (N'c'tle-u-Tyne E)
Ashley, Rt Hon Jack Brown, Ron (E'burgh, Leith)
Ashton, Joe Buchan, Norman
Atkinson, N. (Tottenham) Caborn, Richard
Bagier, Gordon A. T. Callaghan, Jim (Heyw'd & M)
Banks, Tony (Newham NW) Campbell-Savours, Dale
Barnett, Guy Carter-Jones, Lewis
Barron, Kevin Clark, Dr David (S Shields)
Beckett, Mrs Margaret Clarke, Thomas
Bell, Stuart Clay, Robert
Benn, Rt Hon Tony Clelland, David Gordon
Bermingham, Gerald Clwyd, Mrs Ann
Bidwell, Sydney Cohen, Harry
Blair, Anthony Cook, Frank (Stockton North)
Boothroyd, Miss Betty Cook, Robin F. (Livingston)
Boyes, Roland Corbyn, Jeremy
Bray, Dr Jeremy Cox, Thomas (Tooting)
Brown, Gordon (D'f'mline E) Craigen, J. M.
Cunliffe, Lawrence Mason, Rt Hon Roy
Cunningham, Dr John Maxton, John
Davis, Terry (B'ham, H'ge H'l) Maynard, Miss Joan
Deakins, Eric Meacher, Michael
Dobson, Frank Meadowcroft, Michael
Dormand, Jack Michie, William
Dubs, Alfred Mikardo, Ian
Duffy, A. E. P. Millan, Rt Hon Bruce
Dunwoody, Hon Mrs G. Miller, Dr M. S. (E Kilbride)
Eadie, Alex Morris, Rt Hon A. (W'shawe)
Eastham, Ken Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon)
Edwards, Bob (W'h'mpt'n SE) Nellist, David
Evans, John (St. Helens N) Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon
Faulds, Andrew O'Brien, William
Field, Frank (Birkenhead) O'Neill, Martin
Fisher, Mark Orme, Rt Hon Stanley
Flannery, Martin Park, George
Forrester, John Parry, Robert
Foster, Derek Patchett, Terry
Foulkes, George Pavitt, Laurie
Fraser, J. (Norwood) Pendry, Tom
Freud, Clement Penhaligon, David
George, Bruce Pike, Peter
Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John Powell, Raymond (Ogmore)
Godman, Dr Norman Prescott, John
Golding, John Radice, Giles
Gould, Bryan Randall, Stuart
Hamilton, James (M'well N) Raynsford, Nick
Hamilton, W. W. (Fife Central) Redmond, Martin
Hancock, Michael Rees, Rt Hon M. (Leeds S)
Hardy, Peter Richardson, Ms Jo
Harrison, Rt Hon Walter Roberts, Ernest (Hackney N)
Hart, Rt Hon Dame Judith Robertson, George
Haynes, Frank Rogers, Allan
Heffer, Eric S. Rooker, J. W.
Hogg, N. (C'nauld & Kilsyth) Ross, Ernest (Dundee W)
Holland, Stuart (Vauxhall) Rowlands, Ted
Home Robertson, John Sedgemore, Brian
Hoyle, Douglas Shore, Rt Hon Peter
Hughes, Dr Mark (Durham) Short, Ms Clare (Ladywood)
Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N) Short, Mrs R.(W'hampt'n NE)
Hughes, Roy (Newport East) Silkin, Rt Hon J.
Hughes, Simon (Southward) Skinner, Dennis
John, Brynmor Snape, Peter
Kennedy, Charles Spearing, Nigel
Kilroy-Silk, Robert Stewart, Rt Hon D. (W Isles)
Lambie, David Strang, Gavin
Lamond, James Straw, Jack
Lead bitter, Ted Thomas, Dafydd (Merioneth)
Leighton, Ronald Tinn, James
Lewis, Terence (Worsley) Torney, Tom
Litherland, Robert Wareing, Robert
Lloyd, Tony (Stretford) Weetch, Ken
Lofthouse, Geoffrey Welsh, Michael
McDonald, Dr Oonagh Wigley, Dafydd
McKelvey, William Williams, Rt Hon A.
MacKenzie, Rt Hon Gregor Wilson, Gordon
McNamara, Kevin Winnick, David
McTaggart, Robert Young, David (Bolton SE)
Madden, Max
Marek, Dr John Tellers for the Noes:
Marshall, David (Shettleston) Mr. Don Dixon and Mr. Allen McKay.
Martin, Michael

Question accordingly agreed to

Bill read the Third time, and passed.