HC Deb 11 January 1989 vol 144 cc853-940

Order for Second Reading read.

Mr. Speaker

Before I call the Secretary of State for Employment, I must announce to the House that I have selected the reasoned amendment in the name of the right hon. Member for Yeovil (Mr. Ashdown) and his hon. Friends.

4.13 pm
The Secretary of State for Employment (Mr. Norman Fowler)

I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

This Bill is about the widening of employment opportunities for women and young people and the removal of unnecessary burdens on employers. It is introduced against the background of a major reduction in unemployment in this country that is in excess of anything achieved elsewhere in the European Community. Since the general election in June 1987, unemployment has fallen by about 750,000; long-term unemployment has reduced by 350,000—a fall of nearly 30 per cent.; unemployment of young people between 18 and 24 has reduced by 250,000; and the rate of unemployment stands at 7.5 per cent., compared with 10 per cent. in July 1987, with the biggest reductions being in some areas where the problem has previously been greatest—the west midlands, Wales and the north-west.

There are still areas of the country where further improvements are needed, and I recognise that. At this point, the whole House will welcome to the debate the hon. Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Meacher). [SEVERAL HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] We assumed that the Bill's proposals are so uncontentious that the hon. Gentleman did not intend opposing them. However, we shall wait to hear one of his usual genial speeches.

I shall bring the hon. Member for Oldham, West, up to date. I was seeking to set out the reduction in unemployment in this country.

Mr. Patrick McLoughlin (Derbyshire, West)

Will my right hon. Friend confirm that the Labour party do not consider that the Bill is controversial, as they do not even seem to have an amendment on the Order Paper?

Mr. Fowler

We do not want to work them up. I shall keep to what I was going to say and seek to convince any doubters there may be—including the hon. Member for Oldham, West, who is now settling down.

I recognise that there are still areas of the country where further improvements are needed. It should equally be recognised that it would be folly to put all those achievements at risk by unjustified pay increases. The one sure effect of excessive pay increases is fewer jobs, and that must be recognised by unions and employers alike.

By any measure, this country's employment position has dramatically improved in the past 18 months, and there is no reason why that should not continue. Our latest estimate shows that there are more than 700,000 unfilled job vacancies throughout the country. There are new opportunities for unemployed people, but there are also opportunities more generally. The Bill is about extending opportunities for women and young people in the labour market and taking further action to bring down the barriers standing in the way of developing employment.

Mr. Dave Nellist (Coventry, South-East)

Given the Secretary of State's strictures against what he calls "excessive pay increase", will he tell the House how he voted on the 1988–89 wage increases for Members of Parliament of more than 25 per cent. or £110 per week?

Mr. Fowler

I would have voted in favour of the proposed increase. If the hon. Gentleman wishes to bandy figures about the salaries of Members of Parliament, I may tell him that Ministers such as myself are taking a 3 per cent. increase in the current year, which I believe is substantially less in percentage terms than the increase that the hon. Gentleman is taking.

In the labour market of the 1990s, there will certainly be new openings for women, and it is vital that they are taken. Women already play a vital part in many of our industries and professions, but their role in the economy will need to increase. The labour market is already changing dramatically, and it will change more. In particular, the number of young school leavers will substantially reduce. The number of 16 to 19-year-olds has already begun to drop, and by 1995 it will fall by more than 500,000—a drop of nearly 25 per cent.

Employers will not be able to rely on a steady stream of young people to meet their recruitment needs. They will have to develop their existing work forces' full potential through training, and take full advantage of other potential sources of recruitment. Clearly, women are among the most important of those.

The Bill then tackles some of the issues of sex discrimination in circumstances where discrimination is not only unfair to its victims but damaging to the economy. It does it on the basis that a nation that fails to use fully the skills and talents of more than half of its population will be competing with one hand tied behind its back. The Bill sweeps away a number of archaic restrictions on women's employment. It introduces a general rule that equal opportunity takes precedence over restrictions on women's employment. Restrictions are retained only where they can be strictly justified. The Bill also gives women the right to statutory redundancy payments up to the same age as men—a further step towards equality.

Let me emphasise just how many women are working outside the home in this country. Over 10 million women are working. Women now make up about 43 per cent. of the total labour force, and 60 per cent. of women under 65 are employed or seeking employment. That is a higher proportion than in any other European Community country, with the exception of Denmark.

The increase in women working has been evident in all areas. There are certainly more women working in service industries such as retailing. But at the same time the proportion of women in the total entry to the professions—medicine, law, accountancy—has increased dramatically over the past 10 years. The proportion of young women taking courses of further and higher education is now greater than that of young men.

Ms. Clare Short (Birmingham, Ladywood)

Will the Secretary of State confirm that the overwhelming majority of working women work in low-paid employment, and that their position is getting worse? Will he tell us whether he has any proposals to improve that position, if he wants to invite more women into the labour market? Why is he suggesting that wage councils might be abolished, when that would make the position of those women worse?

Mr. Fowler

We have set out the position on wage councils in the consultation document, and I shall obviously want to make a statement about it in due course.

The position is changing. Women will want not only jobs but careers. They will expect not just equal rights but equal promotion opportunities. The wise employer and the forward-looking professions will recognise that.

We must take away restrictions which can stand in the way of women finding jobs or pursuing careers, and it is from the same standpoint that we have reviewed the position of young people. The philosophy of the Bill is that they too are entitled to every job opportunity compatible with a proper concern for their health and safety. They should not be denied access to jobs for arbitrary or irrelevant reasons, least of all restrictions based on the labour market of the last century.

Let me make it clear who is affected. All the restrictions on the employment of children—that is, people under the minimum school leaving age—will be retained. The people about whom the Bill is concerned are those between school leaving age and 18: broadly speaking, the 16 to 18-year-old group. Here too we are preserving restrictions on employment that are demonstrably necessary.

For example, we are preserving all the safeguards necessary for health and safety, and regulations such as those on working with dangerous machinery and the sale of alcohol. What we are taking away are the complex restrictions on the hours of work of young people. We are doing that partly because there is no evidence that hours of work affect those between 16 and 18 differently from those over 18. It is an arbitrary distinction, but above all we are doing it because such restrictions can have a detrimental effect on young people's employment opportunities.

Mr. Robert N. Wareing (Liverpool, West Derby)

The right hon. Gentleman has talked about removing restrictions on women's employment. Some of us are doubtful about how far that will be achieved by this measure. But as it is an Employment Bill giving an opportunity for the lifting of restrictions, why does it contain no mention of discrimination against disabled people—or, indeed, of the fact that well over three quarters of firms in this country still do not apply the quota?

Mr. Fowler

As the hon. Gentleman knows, we are at present reviewing the position of disabled people at work, and when the review is complete I shall want to make an announcement. I share the hon. Gentleman's concern; as it happens, I think that the position has improved substantially over the past few years, but I should like it to be improved further.

Mr. Bill Michie (Sheffield, Heeley)

My point concerns the abolition of the protection governing young people's hours of work that has rightly applied for many years. Just as they did last year, the Government are tying in the Employment Bill with social security legislation. They say that young people are being given better opportunities for employment; but what will happen is that young people will have to accept jobs whether they like it or not.

Under the Bill, some small firms with 20 or fewer employees will not have to provide conditions for their employment. A young person therefore may not like a job, and may leave it. He will then be affected by the new social security regulations. This is clearly a plot to ensure that young people no longer have the right to the employment of their choice, or the right to work a short week and not be exploited by employers.

Mr. Fowler

It is not a plot at all. We are trying to take away restrictions and regulations that, in some cases, stand in the way of employment opportunities for precisely the group about whom the hon. Gentleman professess concern.

Many of the present rules governing young people's hours are absurdly complex and cannot be justified. For example, one of the provisions in the Factories Act 1961 is that in any factory employing young people between 16 and 18 the law requires them all to start work, take their breaks and finish work at exactly the same time. Section 112 excepts young persons aged 16 or over from the hours of work provisions in the Act where they are employed in preserving, canning or curing fish, preparing fish for sale or preserving or canning fruit or vegetables from June to September. That is subject to restrictions on hours laid down in the Fruit and Vegetable Preserving (Hours of Women and Young Persons) Regulations 1939.

Section 113 excepts young persons aged 16 or over from the hours of work provisions in part VI of the Act where they are employed in the manufacture of dairy products. Their hours of work must not, however, exceed 54 hours a week, except where they are employed in the manufacture of cheese at certain times of the year, where they may be increased to 60. That is included in the Milk and Cheese Factories (Hours of Women and Young Persons) Regulations 1949. The Railway Employment Exemption Regulations 1962 exempt males aged 16 or over employed as engine cleaners, firemen or signal box lads.

There is a whole series of such regulations. Section 109 of the Factories Act allows young persons who are Jewish, where they work in a factory where the occupier is Jewish, to be employed on Sunday, provided that the factory is not open for business on that day and is closed on Saturday. Where an occupier uses this exception, those provisions of the Act regarding Sunday should be read as referring to Saturday, and those provisions regarding Saturday should be read as referring to Friday or Sunday.

With respect, I think that even the hon. Member for Oldham, West, when he has caught up with what the Bill is about, will concede that some parts of the legislation are indefensible. But it is restrictions like that that the Labour party, which is now nosing its way into the 1950s is fighting to preserve. Indeed, it is worse than that. The hon. Member for Oldham, West is the John Betjeman of the statute book: show him a Victorian statute and he will fight to preserve it.

The present law is full of such anomalies. The great majority of these restrictions serve no useful purpose and there is no evidence that there is any difference between areas of work where hours have been regulated, such as factories and shops, and areas where there have been no restrictions on hours, such as offices.

The only sure thing is that the complexity of the present legislation deters employers from taking young people into employment. The Bill continues the drive that my Department is making to deregulate the labour market. As a result, this Bill sweeps away two whole Acts, 55 sections and subsections of six other Acts and 22 statutory instruments which, between them, contain over 100 provisions regulating young people's hours of work.

Mr. Nicholas Bennett (Pembroke)

Under the arrangement of clauses, Nos. 7 and 8 are headed "Removal of restrictions on employment." While I abhor the restrictions that my right hon. Friend is abolishing, when do the Government intend to abolish the restrictions on employment in the docks, under the dock labour scheme, that the trade unions have enforced, which would allow those who wish to work in the docks to do so without restriction?

Mr. Fowler

The issue has been raised before, but the Bill does not cover my hon. Friend's point.

In addition to the provisions to which I have referred, the Bill seeks to remove unnecessary burdens on business. It formally abolishes the Training Commission, previously the Manpower Services Commission. I shall deal later with both of those matters.

Turning to the detail of the Bill, the first six clauses amend the existing law defining the relationship between the legislation on sex discrimination—principally, the Sex Discrimination Act 1975—and other legislation.

It has always been the policy of this Government that discrimination between the sexes should be avoided unless there are special circumstances which positively require it, such as the protection of pregnant women. We also have an obligation under the European Communities equal treatment directive to remove any legislation that is contrary to the principle of equal treatment of the sexes and we fully accept that obligation.

Britain's obligations under the directive were largely implemented by the Sex Discrimination Act 1975. The 1975 Act did not in itself take any steps to remove existing legislation that conflicted with the principle of equal treatment. The approach followed by successive Governments has been that any such legislation could be reviewed and repealed or amended on a case-by-case basis as the need arose.

The 1975 Act itself did no more than preserve the status quo. Under section 51 of the Act, any earlier legislation, which requires people to discriminate between the sexes, overrides the prohibition of discrimination in the 1975 Act.

The 1975 Act is then open to the criticism that this automatic precedence given to discriminatory requirements is in conflict with the equal treatment directive. The Government have considered the matter carefully and have concluded that on balance there is a conflict with the directive. Therefore, the Bill puts that right. It reverses the priority given to existing discriminatory legislation. In future, the prohibition of discrimination will take precedence.

In December 1987 we issued a consultation document proposing how this should be done. The Bill broadly seeks to implement the proposals in that document. There may be cases where the requirements in the earlier legislation, though discriminatory, are still objectively justified. For instance, there may be strong health and safety reasons for retaining them. In such cases the directive allows exceptions to be made. So the new approach we are taking is this. We have conducted a thorough review of legislation enacted before the 1975 Act to identify requirements that discriminate between the sexes. The results of this review are set out in the consultation document.

Where such requirements are, in our view, still justified and consistent with the directive, the Bill will allow them to continue in force. For example, we are retaining protection for women in areas—such as working with lead or radiation—where there could be danger to an unborn child. We are also retaining an exemption for different treatment of the sexes in a few special cases in education. Where, on the other hand, discriminatory provisions are not justified, the Bill will repeal them or amend them to remove the unjustified discrimination.

Mr. Ron Leighton (Newham, North-East)

The Secretary of State says that women will not have to work with radiation. Will he explain why anybody should have to work with radiation?

Mr. Fowler

We are seeking in this Bill to recognise the particular problems that face women under the Sex Discrimination Act 1975. They include the danger to the unborn child from lead or radiation. That is why we have made that exception.

Taken together, the first six clauses of the Bill contain a new and coherent approach to the problem of conflicting legislation. They will ensure that we meet our Community obligations, but beyond that they are an indication of the priority that we attach to equality of opportunity.

Clause 7 takes this a step further. It repeals a number of archaic restrictions on the employment of women. The most important of these is the prohibition on women working for any length of time underground in mines and quarries. This prohibition goes back in part to the 1840s.

We have a straight choice here. Because of the action we are taking on section 51, we must seek either to re-enact this prohibition or to lift it. The difficulty with the present blanket prohibition is that it not only prevents women working at the coal face but, much more to the point, it prevents women from developing careers as mining engineers, mining surveyors and managers. We believe that that is an unjustified restraint. It is for that reason that we are removing it.

The present restrictions are an obstacle to women working not only as face workers but as managers, engineers, or in any other professional function underground. Nor is that a theoretical point. Let me quote from a letter sent by two women students at the Sheffield city polytechnic to The Independent on 28 November. They said: With regard to the reforming of the employment laws relating to women working underground, we would like to express our delight that at last equal opportunities will triumph over this antiquated piece of legislation. As students in mine surveying, we can now look forward to a greater choice in our job prospects, to options previously closed to us due to the fact that we are female. This proposal should be seen as a move forward for the extractive industry and not a return to Victorian values, as Norman Willis believes. Only too often, we have come across this chauvinistic attitude—that mines are no places for women to work. We would remind Mr. Willis that there is more to mining than the 'pick and shovel', as any mine engineer (male or female) will tell him.

Mr. Frank Haynes (Ashfield)

The Secretary of State has not yet learnt his lesson. Why does he not take note of many recent comments about women working underground in the pits? The regulations were introduced for a particular reason. The Secretary of State has not yet been underground to have a look for himself, and I am prepared to bet that he would not dare to take a look underground. Many hon. Members know what coal mining is all about.

Why does the Secretary of State not take seriously the points that have been made so that he gets the full picture as to why women should not be allowed to work underground? I shall end with this point—[HON. MEMBERS: "Too long."] No, it is not too long. The two so-called young ladies at the Sheffield city polytechnic to whom the Secretary of State referred had had a sex change.

Mr. Fowler

I shall leave it to The Independent to check up on the hon. Gentleman's last allegation. However, I shall try to answer in detail his lengthy intervention. I understand, although I am subject to correction on this point, that when he last spoke on the matter the Opposition Front Bench spokesman, the hon. Member for Oldham, West—who even now is being briefed on the subject—said that he did not oppose the proposal. We look forward to hearing his views later in the debate.

Mr. Bob Cryer (Bradford, South)

Will the Secretary of State give way?

Mr. Fowler

No. I should prefer to finish my answer to the hon. Member for Ashfield (Mr. Haynes), although I know that the hon. Member for Bradford, South (Mr. Cryer) always expects to be given precedence.

Ms. Short

The Secretary of State should stop being so rude.

Mr. Fowler

As for going underground, I make the hon. Member for Ashfield a fair offer. I am certainly prepared to go down a mine, as long as the hon. Gentleman is prepared to come down with me and show me the way.

Mr. Haynes

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. The Secretary of State knows that I worked in a pit for 35 years and it would be nothing for me to make another visit. I am talking about the Secretary of State who has never been down a pit.

Mr. Fowler

I am asking for the hon. Gentleman's help and advice. I recognise his experience and importance in this matter.

In their letter to The Independent the two ladies—who can reply to his allegations themselves—said: When will these so-called intelligent men realise that women are as competent and efficient as themselves and that we will be treated as equals? That is the genuine response to the point made by the hon. Member for Ashfield.

Mr. Cryer

Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Fowler

No. I have given way several times.

Clause 8 deals with restrictions on young people's employment. The consultation document contains the results of a review of a mass of legislation in that area.

The review revealed a jumble of restrictions on young people's hours of work with no rhyme and very little reason to them. Different rules applied to factories, mines and shops, while other sectors, such as offices, farms and hospitals, had never been regulated at all. In many cases, the legislation had its roots in the 19th century and had been amended and consolidated in a piecemeal way at intervals ever since. In the regulated sectors, there were generally some restrictions on maximum hours of work and working at night, but there was little consistency between different industries.

The position has changed radically since Victorian or even pre-war days, and the progressive raising of the school-leaving age means that the age range covered by the regulations on young people's employment now covers only 16 to 18-year-olds, not younger children, as was often the case when the restrictions were introduced.

We also now have a comprehensive framework of protection under the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974, which imposes general duties on employers not to expose employees to conditions, including hours of work, which would endanger their health and safety. That also applies to 16 to 18-year-olds.

Circumstances have changed so much that there should be no presumption that special protection is needed. In our review of the legislation, we have concluded that many of the restrictions are now unnecessary and the Bill will remove them. However, I stress that we are keeping all the safeguards that the Health and Safety Commission advises us are desirable for health and safety reasons—for instance, on working with dangerous machinery and chemicals. We are also keeping restrictions on the sale of alcohol, and in betting and gaming, where young people's welfare must be taken into account. We recognise that these are special cases. I must also emphasise that nothing in the Bill will affect the employment of children below the minimum school leaving age. All the safeguards in that area are left untouched.

Mr. Richard Holt (Langbaurgh)

Perhaps my right hon. Friend will tell me why, in this spirit of getting rid of all these regulations, it is perfectly lawful for a bookmaker to employ someone to work in the back office of a betting shop and take bets on a telephone but not over the counter? If the moral argument is that people under 18 should not be associated with gambling in any employment context, surely the law should make that absolutely clear and not allow the current anomaly, which is perpetuating a myth.

Mr. Fowler

My hon. Friend has made a fair point about what is clearly an anomaly. The Government have not extended to the front counter the freedom which my hon. Friend says exists in the back office. Doubtless that is something we shall discuss in Committee.

The Bill will greatly simplify the rules governing the employment of young people. It will widen their opportunities and remove disincentives to employers. The simplification of this law is long overdue.

The Bill provides for a number of amendments to be made to other legislation, to ease the burden of regulation on employers. These stem from proposals contained in the White Paper, which we published in May 1986. My right hon. Friend, the Minister of State, with his special responsibility for small businesses, will deal with those clauses in detail. We are seeking to strike a balance between safeguarding employees' rights and enabling employers to improve their competitiveness and create new job opportunities.

For example, clause 9 exempts employers with fewer than 20 employees from the requirement to provide their employees with particulars of any disciplinary procedures which apply to them.—[HON. MEMBERS: "Why?"] The reason is that now such statements set out who deals with the matter at each level of the organisation. Clearly, small firms have limited administrative resources and are, by definition, smaller. Often, the employer will deal personally with staff grievances. All employers will still have to give employees the name of the person to whom they can go if they have a grievance.

Clause 10 restricts the duties for which paid time off can be allowed.

Clause 11 increases from six months to two years the qualifying period of employment after which employees are entitled to be given on request a written statement of the reasons for their dismissal. That brings the qualifying period into line with that for unfair dismissal complaints.

Another important provision is intended to deter ill-founded applications to industrial tribunals. Clause 16 enables me to provide that the chairman of an industrial tribunal can hold a pre-hearing review of a tribunal case and, where he considers a case has no reasonable prospect of success, or appears to be frivolous, vexatious or unreasonable, to require the person to make a deposit of up to £150 as a condition of taking the case further.

Mr. Keith Vaz (Leicester, East)

Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Fowler

I have given way many times already and I should like to move on.

That does not mean that all applicants will have to make a deposit. I would expect only a small minority of cases to be affected. Also, £150 is not a set amount: it is the maximum. It seems entirely reasonable that someone who has a weak case should be made to think carefully before putting all concerned to the trouble and expense of a full hearing.

Mr. Vaz


Mr. Allen McKay (Barnsley, West and Penistone)


Mr. Fowler

I will not give way. It is not in the hon. Gentlemens' own interest to press ahead with a hopeless case.

Clause 12 provides for women to receive statutory redundancy payments up to the same age as men—up to 65 or to the same normal retirement age if that is lower in a particular firm. I believe that that will be generally welcomed.

Clause 13 is a further amendment to the redundancy provisions of the Employment Protection (Consolidation) Act 1978, dealing with redundancy rebates.

In clauses 14 and 15 the Bill also makes some technical amendments to the insolvency provisions of the 1978 Act. Those are intended to expedite payments out of the redundancy fund to employees of insolvent businesses, and to make it easier for my Department to recover such payments from liquidators or receivers.

Clause 17, provides for the abolition of the requirement under the Celluloid and Cinematograph Film Act 1922 whereby firms wishing to store celluloid film on their premises must register with the local authority and pay an annual £2 fee. The reason for that is to remove the requirement to abolish the registration fee and the need to register with the local authority, given that most people are now using acetate instead of celluloid.

Clause 18 is an important clause and formally dissolves the Training Commission. The history of the abolition of the commission is well known. Formerly we had a commission which was in effect nominated by different parties—three commissioners were nominated by the Confederation of British Industry and three by the Trades Union Congress and there were three others representing different interests such as education and local authorities. Basically that system broke down because of the TUC's action in relation to its own commissioners' proposals. In 1987 the TUC commissioners agreed a programme called the new job training scheme but when it went to the TUC General Council it voted to boycott the programme—which it did, to the damage of that programme and the interests of unemployed people.

We had a repeat performance when it came to employment training for long-term unemployed people. Again, the programme was agreed by the TUC commissioners, including at that time Mr. Ron Todd the General Secretary of the Transport and General Workers Union. Mr. Todd first withdrew his support and then campaigned against the programme of which he had been co-author. Partly because of that, partly because of a failure of leadership of the hon. Member for Oldham, West and in spite of a last-minute appeal by the Leader of the Opposition, the TUC decided to boycott employment training. Fortunately, that has had little effect on employment training and there are now more than 100,000 people on the programme.

We were left with a position where three of the commissioners were committed to a policy of opposition to the biggest programme being run by the Training Commission. That was an unacceptable and untenable position, which inevitably led to the Government's announcement that the commission would be abolished.

The hon. Member for Oldham, West and the Opposition bear a heavy responsibility for presiding over that policy. The TUC and the Opposition quite deliberately turned their backs on long-term unemployed people in this country. Frankly, we are not prepared to take lectures from the hon. Gentleman on training policy in Britain, either in the House or in the many newspaper articles that he writes.

In place of the old system there is a framework for training with a number of features which I draw to the attention of the House. Instead of the Training Commission we shall have a new Training Agency directly accountable to me as Secretary of State, but with substantial management independence and with the benefit of the commission staff who have had very great success in delivering training programmes in this country.

Rather than nine commissioners I am appointing a national training task force—which is employer-led, including the heads of IBM, NFC, Tarmac, Grand Metropolitan and the Scottish Development Agency. Its members also include people with experience of trade unions, local authorities, chambers of commerce and voluntary organisations. By any standards it is the best team on training that has ever been put together in this country.

The team's first job will be to set up the first training and enterprise councils which will not only take over from the old area manpower boards but will also have important new powers and responsibilities. We envisage that eventually there will be a network of about 100 councils—which again are industry-led—and they will be responsible for assessing the training needs of the local area, managing training programmes for the unemployed such as employment training, and, crucially, for promoting training for employers in the local area.

Those changes add up to a very substantial revolution in training, and rightly so. In my view nothing is more important than that we improve the training standards in this country. It is a structure which gives employers the opportunity to plan for the future not on the basis of some remote national plan but on the basis of the needs in the local labour market. It will be their responsibility to ensure that their staff are trained to international standards. It will also be their responsibility to ensure that the people without jobs are trained to fill the jobs without people. It is only by improving training that we will ensure our competitiveness in the future.

One of the reasons why employment in this country is improving faster than that of the other European Community countries is that we have taken down some of the barriers that have stood in the way of jobs. We have tackled, for example, the problem of bad industrial relations which in the 1960s and 1970s succeeded in exporting British job after British job overseas. We have lifted the burden of regulations and restrictions which hindered the growth of businesses and jobs in the 1970s and previous decades. We have taken a number of steps to increase the flexibility of the labour market, and we have now set in hand the biggest revolution in training arrangements there has ever been in this country—a revolution which is designed to ensure the supply of skilled labour that our industries and services will need to sustain economic growth into the 1990s and beyond.

The Bill continues that process. It removes obstacles that stand in the way of some women taking jobs and it at long last reforms the position of young people. It is another step in the process of lifting restrictions and encouraging employment. The Department of Employment stands for policies of deregulation, because such policies will create new jobs and lead to the further reduction of unemployment in Britain.

4.55 pm
Mr. Michael Meacher (Oldham, West)

The Secretary of State claimed that the Bill is designed to meet the demographic gap in the labour market that will be produced by the shortage of school leavers in the next seven years. If that is its aim, it is remarkably badly targeted. But of course it is nothing of the sort; it is yet another Bill from the Government's ideological stables. As the Secretary of State said, it is a deregulatory measure. It will enhance the power of employers to hire and fire at will but will do nothing to provide the increased work force that the economy needs for the 1990s. It is a Bill not about increasing employment but about diminishing employment rights.

The right hon. Gentleman has recently taken on something of the role of a soothsayer. Tearing his hair, he laments in the columns of the press that a great demographic change is upon us—repent all ye employers of little training and no creches or ye shall surely perish in a famine of skill shortages and school leaver shortages.

Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover)

He will when she sacks him.

Mr. Meacher

I shall come to that later.

We waited for the oracle to speak again and give us the solutions to all our woes, and now we have them. First, the Bill allows women to work down the pits—that is, those pits that the right hon. Gentleman's fellow Ministers have not seen fit to close. What a decisive contribution that will make to opening up the labour market of the 1990s. Secondly, it seeks to get what young people there are to work longer hours.

Mr. Fowler


Mr. Meacher

The right hon. Gentleman seeks to intervene a little early. If he wishes to speak now, he certainly will not get in later.

Mr. Fowler

Even at this early stage, will the hon. Gentleman tell us his position on opening up opportunities for women to work underground?

Mr. Meacher

The right hon. Gentleman is displaying his usual impatience. If he can contain himself, it will certainly be made clear to him.

The second object of the Bill is to get what young people there are to work longer hours—54 hours a week —and to allow 16-year-olds to work nights. Mr. Gradgrind would turn in his grave. The Bill seeks to make it easier to give someone the sack and harder for them to find out why they have been sacked or to take their case to a tribunal. What is astonishing about this blinkered, one-sided attack on employees' rights is that this little Bill displays breathtaking inadequacy in the face of the fundamental changes in the labour market.

The right hon. Gentleman presents us with a picture of a demographic time bomb—a 23 per cent. drop in the number of 16 to 19-year-old school leavers in the next six years. He is quite right that we need to plan for that gap now. Basically, there are only three options. The first is to bring more unemployed people back into work. There is not a word about the unemployed in the Bill. The second option is to retrain more older workers. There is not a word in the Bill about older workers. The third option is to help more married women to return to work. What does the Secretary of State do to encourage them? He legislates to enable them to go down the mines. That is his answer to discrimination at work and to restrictions in the labour market. If it were not written in black and white in a Government Bill, one might think that he had pinched it from a "Carry On" film.

In November the Secretary of State made a speech in which he said that discrimination by employers against women or blacks in the new demographic climate would mean cutting off a source of skilled labour that they could ill afford to ignore. That must mean that women must have the same career opportunities as men. The Secretary of State has now given an example of what he means by that, because the Bill will allow women to go underground in mines and quarries. The other major initiative is that it will remove the prohibition on women cleaning moving machinery in factories.

In his speech, the Secretary of State urged employers to give women a better deal, but the Government are major employers and what example do they set? This Government provide the least publicly funded child care in western Europe. They are the only Government who do not give maternity leave to all mothers as a right. This Government have abolished the maternity grant that was available to all, making us the only country in Europe in that position. Can we really believe that the Government are looking to women to fill gaps in the labour market when they have given women no incentive to play a fuller role?

Women have been hit hardest by many of the changes that the Government have made. The Secretary of State has taken away the rights of low-paid workers, and it is women who have suffered most. The Government have twice frozen child benefit—the only benefit that goes directly to mothers. They have made repeated cuts in the welfare state, and groups such as single mothers are forced to struggle to make ends meet. When the Government under-fund the National Health Service and the social services, it is women who end up caring for dependent relatives, whether they like it or not. No one is taken in by the Bill. What job opportunities matter to women? It is not the right to dig coal but the availability of proper child care and flexible hours of work.

Mr. Tim Janman (Thurrock)

The hon. Gentleman mentioned the NHS and women in the same breath. Does he not remember that the last Labour Government cut nurses' pay in real terms?

Mr. Meacher

That is a silly comment, in view of the present row about the Government's unwillingness to meet the proper clinical regrading needs and the continuing unrest among nurses. When, under Labour, the Clegg award was made to the NHS, the 500,000 nurses working in the NHS were far better rewarded during those four years than they are now. There is continual unrest because the nurses are unwilling to accept the way in which they are not being properly graded. If the Secretary of State does not know that, he should visit many of our hospitals. It is a disgrace that, with a £15 billion surplus—according to the Chancellor of the Exchequer—nurses are still not paid properly despite their devotion.

Mr. Fowler


Mr. Meacher

No, I shall not give way.

If one wants to hear the authentic voice of Thatcherism, one needs only to look at the Prime Minister's sacked "Egg Minister," who said a few months ago: Our view is that it is for the parents who go out to work to decide how best to care for their children. If they want or need help in their task, they should make the appropriate arrangements and meet the cost. That is a fine view for female Ministers who can afford boarding schools and nannies, but it is not so good for working mothers on £70 a week, especially when in another niggardly piece of legislation the Government have chosen to tax workplace creches on the same basis as company cars, as though they were a perk.

Employers in this country have a poor record in their treatment of women, but they do not need lectures from the Secretary of State about giving women a better deal when his own Government have systematically cut the rights of women workers, especially part-timers, to claim unfair dismissal and to receive proper maternity pay. They do not need lectures from the Secretary of State when his Government now provide for only 1 per cent. of under-fives in local authority day nurseries and even those places are not available for the children of those who are in work.

They do not need lectures from him when in his previous incarnation, at the Department of Health and Social Security, the right hon. Gemtleman was responsible last April for the abolition of child care costs up to £40 a week in the disregard for single mothers on income support, thus trapping them in dependency and preventing them from going back to work. He may shake his head —perhaps he is not aware that he did that. He then has the gall to talk this afternoon about equal opportunities for women. Above all, employers do not need lectures from him about improving career opportunities for women when the Government have removed the right to return to work after pregnancy for women who work in small companies—as most do. How does the Secretary of State explain all those actions?

The Opposition believe that proper child care provision is a long-term investment in the social skills of children and the employment prospects of mothers as well as in the labour force of an economy that is threatened by staff shortages in the 1990s. The complete absence of such measures in the Bill is evidence of the Government's real aim, so for the Secretary of State to preach to us today about others giving equal opportunities to women is sheer hypocrisy.

Another detail in the Bill that caught my eye was a double-take about sex discrimination. The Bill selects certain academic appointments at Oxford and Cambridge, which are currently restricted to women, to be allowed to continue because of the under-representation of women in senior posts. Once again, the sense of priorities and proportion shown by the Secretary of State is mind-blowing. He is, apparently, happy about the number of women on the board of BP and the number who are Law Lords, permanent secretaries or even England cricket selectors, but when it comes to ensuring women's rights to be theology dons at Oxford, that really calls for Government action.

The second main concern in the Bill is young people. There will be 1.25 million fewer young people available to enter the labour market in the mid-1990s, so one would have thought that the maximum number would need to be trained to meet the growing skill shortages. One might have expected that the Bill would do something to remedy the collapse of apprenticeships in the past decade, during which the number of apprenticeships in engineering has fallen to one sixth of the 1979 level.

One might have expected also—assuming that the Secretary of State is a little more willing than the Chancellor of the Exchequer to admit mistakes—that the Bill would remedy the patent failures of the youth training scheme, not least in securing jobs for young people. Obviously, that was too much to hope for. One scours the Bill in vain for any such positive ideas. But for the first time in almost a century—here we are not back to the 1930s, as with the Social Security Bill, but back to the 1880s—teenagers will be exposed to working at night, more than 11 hours a day and more than 54 hours a week. The Bill is concerned not with ending discrimination but with increasing exploitation.

The Secretary of State has made great play of his claim that the main purpose of the Bill is to bring United Kingdom laws into line with European legislation which outlaws sex discrimination. He has not done his homework. How does he explain a recent survey which showed that the majority of European Community countries have legal limits on the hours of work for both female and male adult workers and even stronger restrictions on the hours worked by young people?

Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will give me his attention. How does he explain article 7 of the European social charter which says: Persons under 18 years of age shall not be employed in nightwork How call that be reconciled with the proposals? I note that the Secretary of State does not leap to the Dispatch Box to give an answer.

The Government's view is apparently that youngsters should be treated as adults but should not be paid an adult wage. The 16 to 18-year-old lacks the maturity to appreciate fully the dangers from machinery, and is generally more prone to accidents because of limited experience. That is precisely why the fatal and serious accident rate for young people in work or on YTS has more than doubled, from 64 to 136 per 100,000 workers, this decade, according to the latest figures. The adult rate in shipbuilding is now 122 per 100,000 workers, so young people are already more at risk from fatal and serious accidents than adults who work in some of Britain's most dangerous industries.

All of this is before longer shifts and excessive hours are imposed on young people as a result of the Bill. The Secretary of State is gambling with young people's lives. If and when the fatal and serious accident rate among young people spirals upwards, on his head be it.

Young people aged 16 to 18 are not adults. That is why they are not deemed responsible enough to vote, to marry without permission, to drink alcohol, to enter legal agreements, to borrow money, to gamble or to own property. If the Government think that they should be treated as adults, why are they not lifting any of those restrictions?

It is inconsistent for the Secretary of State to protect young people on moral grounds by preventing them from purchasing alcoholic drinks or placing bets on horses, while permitting them to work longer hours in a factory. That is sheer hypocrisy and lays bare the real motive behind the Bill—the desire to provide a source of cheap, exploited labour.

We are often told that the Prime Minister's values are Victorian. The truth is apparent in the Bill. They are not so much Victorian as Dickensian.

Mr. Fowler

The hon. Gentleman is suffering under a complete misapprehension of what is set out in the Bill. As I tried to explain earlier, we are preserving the safeguards that are necessary for health and safety. We are preserving regulations such as those concerned with working with dangerous machinery. The hon. Gentleman is saying that those safeguards are not being preserved, but he is wrong.

Mr. Meacher

The right hon. Gentleman's weasel words will not protect him. The fatal and serious accident rate among young people has already more than doubled. Is the right hon. Gentleman telling the House that he is satisfied with that rate and that he believes that it will go down if the Bill is enacted? Will he answer that question? Does he believe that the rate is already too high? Does he believe that it will not get worse as a result of the Bill?

Mr. Fowler

The hon. Gentleman is right to say that I would like the accident rate among the working population as a whole to go down. There is no question about that. He is often quite deliberately misleading, however, when he says that there is some special problem with 16 to 18-year-olds, especially in respect of YTS. What he says in that context is out of proportion to what is happening elsewhere. On that, too, the hon. Gentleman is absolutely wrong.

Mr. Meacher

The fatal and serious accident rate among adults has increased by 40 per cent. during the past five years. I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman is suggesting that young people should be assimilated in that rate. He seems to be saying that they should be treated as adults and liable to the same incidence of accidents. The fatal and serious accident rate for adults and young people is going up, and the Bill will make it worse. That is the key point.

Mr. Haynes

My hon. Friend must agree that there is another reason for so many accidents of this type. Since 1979, under the Conservative Government, the number of factory inspectors has been reduced drastically. We have constantly reminded the Government of that fact, but they have done nothing about it.

Mr. Meacher

My hon. Friend is right. There has been a major cut in the number of factory inspectors—their number has been reduced by about 30 per cent. It is no accident—that is not a deliberate pun—that the result has been a huge increase among adults and young people of fatal and serious accidents. The Government are directly responsible in that respect.

Ms. Short

The Secretary of State suggested that there was no connection between the Bill and likely accident rates among young people. Is it not a proven fact that people who work long hours and are tired are more likely to have accidents? The Secretary of State is arranging for young people to work longer hours, so it is inevitable that the accident rate will increase. He must know that.

Mr. Meacher

That is obvious common sense. Only the Secretary of State refuses to see it.

Since last April, the Government have denied 16 to 17-year-olds any entitlement to income support. If they are unable to support themselves, they are expected to rely on their parents. In other words, when it comes to social security and the Government being required to pay out benefit, young people are treated as children. When it comes to employment and young people being treated as cheap labour, however, the Government are only too glad to treat them as adults—except when it comes to pay. The Secretary of State was the architect of the original and notorious Fowler Social Security Bill. Now we have this Employment Bill. How can we be expected to have any faith in the integrity of this man?

The Bill is not about extending job opportunities to young people, as the Secretary of State likes to make out —it is about exploiting them. The right hon. Gentleman will as usual dismiss that statement with a grunt, as he dismissed as a Left-wing cavil the statement that as a result of the Bill young people could be obliged to work excessive and unsocial hours by unscrupulous employers That statement was made not by the Labour party or the Trades Union Congress but by the Confederation of British Industry, no less, in its response last March to the Government's consultative document on the Bill. I do not think that the CBI is well known for Left-wing cavilling. If the Bill is really about improving job opportunities, we must wonder why the Secretary of State neglected to tell us why it removes the right to a statement of reasons for dismissal and the right to be told about disciplinary procedures or why it is being made much harder to take a case to an industrial tribunal. We have to ask why the Government are intent on making life so much more unpleasant for employees in ways that employers' organisations neither want nor support.

Denying people the right to a statement of the reasons for their dismissal means that, however arbitrary or intemperate the action of an employer, the employee has no protection. We must ask why the right hon. Gentleman insists on pushing through such a grossly one-sided and unjust provision when his own Department's research paper entitled "Unfair Dismissal Law and Employment Practice in the 1980s" found very little sign that employment protection legislation was inhibiting industrial recovery or contributing to the high level of unemployment by discouraging employers from taking on new people". Perhaps the Secretary of State has not even read that document.

What is more, we must ask why the Small Business Research Trust, so beloved of the Conservative party, conducting surveys of small businesses throughout Britain, consistently found that lack of finance, high interest rates and skill shortages were the main constraints on expansion, not fear of unfair dismissal claims. That is no surprise to us. Two out of three of those problems have been caused by the Government, who have done nothing to remedy the situation. When it comes to something which does not bother small businesses, however, in spite of the fact that businesses are not complaining, the Government insist upon attacking it.

The same is true in regard to denying workers in small companies details of grievance and disciplinary procedures. Even the Institute of Personnel Management opposes that move because it has been shown that there is a higher risk of unfair dismissal in small companies, which is where the change will apply, than in large ones. The same is true for the £150 deposit at the discretion of industrial tribunal chairmen. The proposal is rejected by the British Institute of Management because it would be much more of an obstacle for an employee than for an employer and, it says—I have no doubt that it is correct —employers might automatically apply for an order to deter applicants. It is also rejected by the Engineering Employers Federation, for the good reason that it would deter non-unionised employees who might have a genuine case.

If the whole phalanx of employers is against all the Bill's proposals, why does the Secretary of State insist on pressing them? This is the man who won his spurs at the Department of Health and Social Security by bashing the poor with swingeing housing benefit cuts and the infamous social fund. Clearly, he is trying to earn his keep at the Department of Employment by crippling workers' rights. There is nothing like mindless union-bashing and hammering workers for building up credits in the Cabinet stakes, and the right hon. Gentleman needs them. There are no limits to the contortions that he will undergo in that cause.

This is the man who, in the name of democracy, insisted that there must be ballots on industrial action, and then said that the minority did not have to obey them if the vote was in favour. Now, he has gone one better in his draft code of conduct on industrial relations ballots, by saying that the results do not count unless they are at least 70 per cent. in favour. He just makes up the rules as he goes along. Every day he becomes more like the creature in "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" who, when reproved by Alice for misusing a word, retorted: Words don't mean anything except what I say they mean. That is the Secretary of State.

The Secretary of State is fiddling the rules again. When the Government want to make it almost impossible for people to exercise their rights—for example, by having a closed shop—they require at least 85 per cent. of the vote to be in favour. When the Government cannot get a majority of votes to run the country, they insist that 42 per cent. is enough to disregard the majority who disagree with them. When they wish people to exercise their rights—for example, when they are selling off council estates to private landlords—we suddenly find that a mere 15 per cent. in favour, as in Torbay, is enough to carry the day because they count those who abstain as being in favour.

The only question left is whether the right hon. Gentleman manages to fiddle the unemployment figures down to zero before he contrives to present a nil vote in favour of his reforms as their being carried with acclaim. I know that Papa Doc was satisfied with 99 per cent. for his presidential election, but I wonder whether even that would satisfy the Secretary of State.

Another aspect of the Bill that is subjected to a strong dose of doublespeak is the winding up of the Training Commission and the new arrangements for ET. If there is one unmistakable sign that the scheme is in deep trouble, it is the fact that the right hon. Gentleman launched it with a big fanfare on 5 September and then, on 30 December, less than four months later, had to relaunch it. With that record of failure, he will no doubt be making taxpayers pay for a third facelift for his pet scheme in the course of the next year. Rather than splashing out £4 million on his glitzy advertising campaign to sell a down-market scheme, the Secretary of State would do better to pay trainees a decent allowance so that they do not have to be tricked into the scheme by clever commercials.

The truth is that companies have given ET the thumbs down in a big way.

Mr. Holt

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Meacher

Perhaps the hon. Gentleman would like to listen. I will give him his answer before he gets up.

Only 18 of the 146 placements that IBM is offering have been filled. Only 22 of Wimpey's 666 placements have been filled. Only 35 of ICI's 121 places have been taken. That means that, in three of our largest companies, only 8 per cent. of the places allotted for ET have been taken up. One would not have thought that the right hon. Gentleman could achieve an even bigger failure than the job training scheme, but he has managed to do so.

Mr. Fowler

The hon. Gentleman is chancing his luck. He must stop misrepresenting the facts. He has talked about truth, but he is misrepresenting the position, which is that no fewer than 106,000 people are under training on ET. The hon. Gentleman has just made a comparison with JTS. At it height, new JTS had 30,000. In less than four months, employment training has achieved an occupancy of 106,000. Advertising is meant to show that there are places available with some of our leading companies for employing and training unemployed people. It is about time that the hon. Gentleman had the guts to support a programme for training unemployed people.

Mr. Meacher

The right hon. Gentleman gives the whole game away. Of course the advertisements are being made for places with large companies. The problem is that they are not being taken up. The figures that I have quoted are taken directly from evidence that large companies have given.

As to the 106,000, perhaps the right hon. Gentleman has put his foot in it. He is saying that two thirds of the way through the first six-month period for ET, only one third of the 300,000 places have been filled. The problem with his lousy scheme is that it is one third to one half underfilled. Many large companies have refused to take part. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will have the grace to accept that.

Mr. Jacques Arnold (Gravesham)

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Meacher

I shall not give way, as I want to get on.

ET does not measure up to the requirements of many large companies. Many know of the contact that McAlpine has with the Tory party. It has pulled out because it does not believe that trainees will come forward to work for the derisory allowance that is to be paid, and it is right to pull out. I hesitate to say, "I told you so," but we have said this all along, although the Secretary of State would not listen. Of those who have joined ET, a good half are only transfers from the old community programme and it is estimated that about 40,000 of those have dropped out altogether rather than transfer and, in the case of single persons, take a 50 per cent. cut in allowances to less than £40 a week.

There are four fundamental flaws in the Government's training programme, but the Bill is concerned only with settling political scores. We had the same rigmarole again from the Secretary of State. First, making the new training and enterprise councils employer-dominated and giving employers a 10:1 majority on the new national training task force shows that the right hon. Gentleman has about as much sense of balance as Eddie Edwards. Perversely, that puts into the driving seat the group that has presided over the biggest rundown in training since the war.

Secondly, there is a crying need for a national skills audit, because only when the gaps and deficiencies in current skill training are systematically exposed can any coherent framework of planning be put in place to remedy them. As a result of these proposals, the Secretary of State is moving in exactly the opposite direction—towards localised fragmentation.

Thirdly, ET is flawed by gross under-funding, as we have always said, and the policy of paring back allowances is now coming home to roost in the miserably low take-up rate. The signs of underhand compulsion to force people on to the scheme are everywhere apparent, whether in restart interview intimidation of which we keep hearing so much, or in the harsher 1940s "actively seeking work" formula in yesterday's Social Security Bill.

Fourthly, under this Secretary of State the whole training structure is built on the fundamental error of splitting jobcentres from training. The only sensible way to plan training is by linking the collection of information on skill requirements with the provision of training leading to a job. The Secretary of State is now foolishly widening the split by setting up the private sector TECs and by the latest moves to privatise the employment service.

On the latter point, this is supposed to be a Government Employment Bill, but it does not mention that this year the Department of Employment is to undergo a transformation more fundamental than any since its creation, and one which will fatally erode its capacity to provide efficient and comprehensive employment services. A year from now, the present Department will no longer exist; there will just be a collection of privatised, hived-off agency organisations.

On 1 April the 41,000 staff of the employment services will be hived off as part of a semi-independent agency under a chief executive not accountable to Parliament. Following the privatisation of training through the training and enterprise councils announced last month, the Department of Employment is effectively removed from public control. It is no coincidence that, at the same time, major cuts will be imposed on staffing, staff grading and services. In the last public expenditure round, the right hon. Gentleman settled for a lower budget for his Department than that recommended by his officials. There can be few precedents for a rat trying to sink a ship before he jumps off it.

What is not in the Bill is more important than what is. What is not in the Bill is the right hon. Gentleman's proposal to close 43 local benefit offices, without the normal consultation procedures. What is not in the Bill is his proposal to relocate job centres and unemployment benefit offices away from the high street to minor, secondary sites. The policy of integration will mark the end of the public employment service that we have known.

What is not in the Bill is the sale of the professional and executive register, which was sold to Maxwell six months ago and is about to close up to 12 of its 50-plus offices. At the time, the right hon. Gentleman hailed that sale as leading to a bright and efficient future, but privatisation has turned out to be the first step towards closure. In common with JTS and ET, whatever he touches simply crumbles in his hands.

What is not in the Bill are the right hon. Gentleman's proposal that the other half of the job clubs that are not privatised should be handed over to the private sector in the spring. That decision is despite a recent internal departmental survey, which showed that public sector job clubs are consistently more efficient at finding work or training for their clients than private sector ones. That has not stopped the right hon. Gentleman laying down a policy that agency job clubs, however badly run, are not to close unless another one opens in the same area. Public sector job clubs, however good they are, may not be increased because of rigid staff ceilings.

What is not in the Bill are the major staffing cuts now being made at senior grade level throughout the enterprise allowance scheme. The number of higher executive officer managers is being halved, from 66 to 35.

Mr. Graham Riddick (Colne Valley)


Mr. Meacher

I shall not give way.

This is supposed to be an employment Bill, but the right hon. Gentleman is covetly engaged in the dissolution of public employment services in this country. All his plans are based on the arrogant assumption that unemployment is no longer a problem. Even his own massaged statistics, however, still show unemployment at 2.1 million, which is 60 per cent. above the pre-1979 record high. Independent and reputable estimates, however, put unemployment at more than 2.8 million—nearly two and a half times the previous record high.

At a time when unemployment is still a major political and economic scourge, when training has been criminally neglected by the Government for the past 10 years, when the economy faces a huge struggle ahead with the coming of the single market in 1992, the right hon. Gentleman, instead of strengthening and consolidating his Department to meet the growing challenge, is to run it down, parcel it up and sell it off. Neither the Bill nor the Secretary of State has remotely shown the vision to face the future, and both should be rejected in the Lobby tonight.

5.34 pm
Mr. Jim Lester (Broxtowe)

I listened with care to the speech of the hon. Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Meacher). He mentioned "Alice in Wonderland" and those of us who have listened to him on more than one occasion often feel that he is nearer to the Mad Hatter than any other character in that book. Often his flamboyant language does a disservice to his argument. Frequently, when listening to Opposition spokesmen, one gets the impression that we are not talking about the same measure, the same Minister or, indeed, the same country. The hon. Gentleman's speech was short on any constructive suggestions about the Opposition's intentions or about whether they agree with parts of the Bill.

I am conscious of the importance of ET and I supported restart. I am also aware however, that the Opposition have sought to undermine those measures. We have seen a former Opposition Front Bench spokesman launch a deliberate campaign throughout the country to destroy ET. There have been all sorts of ramifications, and even today the hon. Member for Oldham, West referred to it as a "lousy scheme". His right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition, however, went to the TUC conference to persuade it to accept ET. He made a brave and excellent speech in the interests of the long-term unemployed, only to find that he was undermined by Ron Todd and the Transport and the General Workers Union. I admit that lack of training has been a persistent problem, but the Opposition have very little to offer as a solution.

As my right hon. Friend has said, the Bill contains a wide range of amendments to existing legislation. I greatly welcome the fact that the Bill brings us into line with the European equal treatment directive. The demographic changes and falling school rolls present opposite problems from those faced by the Labour Government in 1978. Indeed the future problems are different from those faced between 1979 and 1988. More open employment practices and the trend to employ more women on an equal basis are important.

I have some sympathy with the hon. Member for Oldham, West regarding combining Government policy on employing women. There should be co-ordination between the Departments of Health, Social Security, Employment and the Treasury on the philosophy for properly employing women.

In fairness to my right hon. Friend, he has set the pattern, because, under the ET regulations, a lady going into training can claim up to £50 for child care costs so that she can gain the qualifications that will get her a job. If she gets a job, however, and carries on paying the same amount for child care, a problem arises. That cost is a heavy premium that is not allowed for when obtaining work as a result of the training and the far-sighted allocations given in my right hon. Friend's scheme. We need to review the total package of support which enables a woman to return to work.

Mr. Leighton

The hon. Gentleman has made an extremely valuable point. Is he aware that, if that woman went to work for a progressive firm that had a creche, she would have to pay tax on that service because it would be regarded as a perk? Surely that is crazy.

Mr. Lester

It is a perk in the sense that she is being given something that another women working in a similar job would have to pay for. For that reason, it is important to have co-ordination so that there is equal treatment. There is a common desire to assist women back into work, and that desire must be considered objectively.

I do not share the fear expressed by the hon. Member for Ashfield (Mr. Haynes). I do not believe that there will be a rush of lady miners into the industry. I suspect, however, that lady mining engineers will now have a chance. In the oil industry, for example, many young women with high qualifications are employed. It is much to the delight of the men on site when they find that the attractive young woman whom they want to wolf-whistle is a highly qualified engineer who knows all about the oil industry and who can make a great contribution to it.

Mr. Cryer

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that if women were employed in the mines there would have to be accompanying regulations—the Minister gave no indication that such regulations would be introduced—to ensure, for example, that toilets were provided? There are no women's toilets down the mines. The travelling time between the coal face and the bottom of the pit shaft is often an hour, which precludes moving from the coal face to toilet accommodation at the head of the mine. For the Minister blandly to abandon the restrictions on women working in the mines without recognising the additional provision that would have to be made is foolish.

Mr. Lester

I do not foresee many women wanting to work down the mines, but professionally qualified people, including women, will be involved in the mining industry. I had the honour to accompany the Prime Minister down her first coal mine. That was in my constituency, although I am afraid to say that it is closed. She not only travelled the road down to the coal face but, when at the coal face, signed autographs for half an hour. Clearly, ladies can go down mines successfully. We need to ensure that women can play their proper role in the range of technological developments that lie ahead, and I strongly support the remarks that my right hon. Friend made in that context.

Equally, one must be balanced in one's attitude towards changes affecting young people. The anachronisms and complications of the existing law need to be examined and, where necessary, swept away.

Equally, we must be careful to move quickly if we see that freedom being misused unscrupulously. I am sure that there is common ground in the House that youngsters of 16 to 18 should be in the YTS or higher education. That is the important thrust of Government policy. It follows that, as fewer young people come into the world of work, the more precious they are and the more important it is to ensure—as we have tried to ensure with the development of YTS—that they have the highest base from which to develop their lives, careers, earning capability and success in society.

It is a tragedy that, for reasons which we have been unable to overcome, the figures for 16 to 18-year-olds in higher education and training in Japan and America show that we have a long way to go. The hon. Member for Oldham, West can rest assured that it would not be in anyone's interest to look upon 16 to 18-year-olds as a source of relatively cheap unskilled labour.

I will not comment in detail on the removal of employment protection measures, but I must remark on one measure relating to trade unions and the restriction on the activities of trade union members. We on the Government side of the House must be careful to ensure that, in freeing up the economy and deregulating in the way that has been suggested, we do not become over-bureaucratic in reverse from the point of view of the trade union movement. We must not hedge about with too many restrictions the range of duties for which, for example, trade union officials can officially be paid.

Those with experience of industry know that industries —this applies to all working concerns—are human places where people interface and work together. It is sometimes impossible to put into legislation the various human reactions which are inevitable if a company is to be successful.

During the Christmas recess, I visited various employers in my constituency. I discovered that in many instances there is a shortage of high skills. Part of the way to solve that high skill requirement is, with the good will of the work force, to relax many of the old restrictive practices—to multi-skill people who already have skills and to de-skill some jobs where technology can take over, for example where computer-controlled lathes can do the job.

That can happen in any concern only with the good will of the work force and co-operation of trade union leaders. It is important in all we do to work with the grain, taking the work force with us, so that working practices may be changed. I am not a supporter of macho management reinforced by over-detailed rules and regulations in trying to run any human enterprise. The least one can expect in such a situation is less than full-hearted co-operation, and hon. Members who visit industrial concerns will accept that as valid and important.

As for redundancy payments, I welcome the move to ensure that employees do not suffer when firms become insolvent and that rapid moves will be made to ensure that they will be paid. Does my right hon. Friend believe that the removal of rebates will make some employers more cautious before declaring redundancies? One has sensed in the past that there has sometimes been a rush to declare redundancies in what one suspected was a short-term regulator aimed at trying to bring down wage costs quickly, and that subsequently that has been regretted. So, in terms of the thought behind the Bill to improve training and training practice, will the Minister explain how, following this change, he sees the pattern of redundancies?

My principal remarks are concerned with the dissolution of the Training Commission, which has had a short but not particularly merry life. I admit, having been involved in the business of training and industry since the 1960s, that we have been on a treadmill—that, despite the steps forward and all the Government cash that has been put into it since the 1960s, we still face the problem of our chronic inability to achieve a satisfactory training mechanism. Relative to our major competitors, we still have not improved.

The Secretary of State has now resumed responsibility for training. We have witnessed the country going through the full gamut of levies, training boards, the Manpower Services Commission, which we have modified, and now the new system proposed in the White Paper. We now have what is really a system of local delivery based on the German principle. That has had a base of at least 100 years of acceptance in Germany. We have a long way to go before we reach that stage.

What worries me is that the problems and pitfalls remain the same. The first is the whole range of management, management training and management recognition. If we had as high a level of management training and management qualifications as do our competitor countries, management in Britain would be well aware that development and training are an important element in the success of any business at all levels.

I was talking at lunchtime today at a meeting of the all-party management group to representatives of a chemical company which accepted that policy four years ago. They told me that it had worked incredibly well—that from the top of the management structure down through the firm, there was a successful system of recognising ability, of training and of moving people into areas of higher responsibility.

While many companies follow this type of policy successfully, unfortunately many do not. My right hon. Friend and his predecessors have constantly exhorted employers to play a bigger role. I hope that with the local delivery system they will not only be required to play but will be seen to play a more important role in delivering the right level of skills.

The second problem is the freeloader. Such people have been around since the 1960s; they believe not in training but in poaching specialised skilled workers because they think that it is cheaper than involving themselves in proper training. They think it is cheaper to inflate wage demands and to put up costs by poaching skills when they require them. Part of the problem of wages at the moment, particularly in industries in which skills are at a premium, is caused by poaching.

In my area, I know of a company that is short of up to 300 skilled engineering operators. The only way to get them is by trying to recruit in parts of the north-east in which there have been shipyard closures, or to retrain, or to poach. The company in question is successful and has a full order book, but because of its lack of skilled workers it cannot deliver its orders on time and to the required quality. That is a serious problem and it brings me to my third point, about a local scheme—

Mr. Holt

Does my hon. Friend agree that one of the problems which the Government must face, and which they have so far failed to face, is that there are enormous numbers of vacancies in different parts of the country but that it is difficult to get companies to move to areas such as mine, however many inducements are offered? That fundamental must be grasped; it will be, perhaps, when we build houses in the right areas so that unskilled people can be trained and moved to them. Equally, the atmosphere in parts of north-east England must be changed. We have shown with Nissan that we can do that. Until those two fundamentals come together, all the fine words will mean nothing.

Mr. Lester

Yes, and there has been comment about the wage settlement that Nissan has given its workers. The 15 per cent. is on top of a much lower base than the general base paid in the midlands. The percentages make it seem like Nissan has broken the guidelines, but the net sums appear different.

Under a local scheme of delivery, who will pay for and provide the high-level costly skills that we are critically short of? The value takes a long time to be added. Of course one can provide basic skills through employment training and the YTS, but long-term engineering and construction skills which are so essential and of which there is a shortage are a different matter. I had a great deal to do with the development of the YOP. I hope that my right hon. Friends will take great care over the continued provision of YTS and ensure that, with the pressure of demand for hands, we do not return to the bad old days, thereby losing the whole purpose of YTS and its two-year development. By the bad old days I mean early recruitment from school, partial training and rejection as soon as young people become capable of earning adult wages.

Those of us who developed the youth training scheme saw it as a permanent measure to assist young people in the transition from school to work and, as the television advertisement shows, to help them find the right future career. It is essential that Conservatives reinforce our commitment to YTS and what it stands for in the context of our future skill needs—

Mr. Nellist

Does the hon. Gentleman accept that the true originator of the YTS was Sir John Hoskyns, who is now director general of the Institute of Directors and who wrote the position paper when he worked for the Prime Minister's policy unit? His words were that the aim of YTS was to increase the differential between youth and adult wages". If not £28 or £35 a week, how much does the hon. Gentleman think these young people should be paid?

Mr. Lester

I do not know where the hon. Gentleman gets his information, but when I was a Minister at the Department of Employment under the then Secretary of State, now Lord Prior, the position papers that we worked on were not prepared by Sir John Hoskyns. They were prepared in exactly the way that I have described. Some who are listening and who worked at the Department at that time will be able to endorse what I am saying. Obviously, the pay during the training period must be continually reviewed, but the hon. Gentleman must recognise that it is not only the cash at the ages of 16 or 17 which is important, but the potential of unskilled lives.

Part of the problem is that young people who were in YOP and did not get into YTS or a job have no skills and little to offer at 25, 26 and 27—

Mr. Nellist


Mr. Lester

My penultimate point concerns the importance of national standards and systems of accreditation. I noted with some concern that the work and experience of training boards were dismissed in one sentence in the White Paper. That might not have been meant, but that was how it read. In the course of any changes, we should not throw away the experience and depth of knowledge about the major sectors of manufacturing industry that training boards possess. I am thinking especially of the construction and engineering training boards.

I know that there have been non-statutory successors to some of the training boards and I look forward to reading how they have operated. In this legislation we should give training boards the freedom to develop the marketability of their knowledge and skills commercially. That would be one of the most significant ways in which their talent and inherent knowledge, which have accumulated nationally, could prove themselves. I hope that my right hon. Friend will consider that during the passage of the Bill.

Finally, I turn to the function of employment training now given to the training and enterprise councils. I listened carefully to yesterday's debate. I understand the regional variations that have given rise to the suggestion that people must prove that they are actively seeking work. In most of the regions that I visit there is less work than in the south-east. I know from long constituency experience that there is a real bias against people who have been unemployed for a long time—who have slipped through the three-month net. Many people in personnel departments screen them out and do not even interview them.

We should do a survey of the personnel practices of companies, many of which are dismissive of people who are seeking work. The letters that they send out are cold, almost un-Christian. They do not recognise how important it is to a person seeking work to know that he has been properly considered. I am a keen supporter of the employment training initiative and I recognise benefit-plus as being one of the ways of giving security to people who have become disillusioned because they have tried to find work so often. Some of my constituents have come to my surgery with 50 letters of rejection in a carrier bag—I am not joking.

Mr. Holt

They were lucky to receive 50 letters of rejection. Some of my constituents have written 400 letters, of which no more than 80 per cent. were acknowledged.

Mr. Lester

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for reinforcing my point. The problem is certainly widespread. My point is—my right hon. Friend has mentioned the over-45s, women and the long-term unemployed—that recruitment must include the long-term unemployed.

When Sainsbury's opened a branch in my constituency which needed 400 people, it was only because the jobcentre negotiated with the store that it was willing to take 10 per cent. of the 400 from the register—40 people. If the jobcentre had not negotiated that agreement, all 400 would have been recruited from among people in work who were not on the register.

I ask my right hon. Friends to consider the scheme put forward by my hon. Friend the Member for Beckenham (Sir P. Goodhart) and myself, which used training vouchers for the long-term unemployed as a way of motivating them and giving them back a sense of purpose. In addition to retaining the security of social security, they had a training voucher which could be used in a responsible training establishment to gain a qualification. The voucher was theirs and so was the responsibility to use it. We need a transfer of dignity to the person who is seeking training and work rather than a sense of being directed or sent to a suitable place. I am sure that my right hon. Friend, who will want to go down in history as the Minister who at long last got it right, will look again at this imaginative idea.

My last plea is directed to the Opposition, because they have a role and responsibility. If they constantly undermine and denigrate every measure that the Government put forward, it will create uncertainty. Our international position on training and in the skills league is critical and 22 per cent. of companies report skill shortage problems. I have described some of them. We cannot keep pulling up the turnip to see if it is growing. If we are to implement this system we need a period of stability and as much certainty as can ever be guaranteed in this world. Unless we give it a chance to take root and operate we shall not begin to solve this persistent, pervasive national hangover of our inability to train.

6 pm

Mr. Michael Foot (Blaenau Gwent)

When he presented his Bill, the Minister pretended that it was a long-term measure and looked forward to the state of the labour market over many years. He told us that that was the kind of spacious outlook that we should adopt when considering the Bill. Of course it is right that the House and the country should consider not only the immediate situation but the situation five or ten years hence. For reasons that I shall seek to underline, the Bill is gravely inadequate for that purpose.

The hon. Member for Broxtowe (Mr. Lester) made an appeal for general backing for intelligent measures to deal with this new situation. If that is what is required, the Minister would have been much wiser not to have studded the Bill with measures that he must have known would be highly objectionable in many quarters. Of course the Bill is objectionable to the trade unions and to many other bodies. It is objectionable to many of the youth organisations, to citizens advice bureaux and to the National Council for Civil Liberties. The Bill is riddled with provisions to which those bodies object, and they have made their objections in consultations. However, the Minister swept them away.

It will not be easy for the Secretary of State to say, "Let us have an all-nation and an all-party approach to these problems." We all hope that there has been a major change in employment. Not today but on previous occasions the Minister and the Prime Minister have spoken about the new employment position. They try to conceal the fact that unemployment is still extremely serious, especially in many of the regions. But the Prime Minister has said once or twice—no doubt she got it from the Minister's Department—that the number of employed people is higher today than ever before. That is the Government's claim. It is an interesting claim because it means—and it is only in the last few weeks that they have said it—that the total number of employed people has now got back to just over what it was in 1979. We can all remember that that was the year in which the Conservatives came back to power by saying, "Labour isn't working." That was the year in which there were more people in employment than ever before.

Of course there are many differences between the employment situation in 1979 and the present situation. There are many more people unemployed today, and in calculating the number of people in employment the Minister and the Government count people in part-time jobs as if they were in full-time jobs—and that includes many women.

Mr. Spencer Batiste (Elmet)

Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that one of the most significant differences between now and 1979 is that in 1979 the productivity levels of the work force were much lower than they are today?

Mr. Foot

If many people are put out of jobs, productivity can be increased in certain cases. That is what the Government have done. I am saying that, on the Government's own test of the total number of people in employment, they have just got back to the total number of people employed in 1979—that is, if the Government figures are correct. For those of us who remember the contest of that election, this is a matter of some interest.

My hon. Friends on the Front Bench will deal with the question of women much more fully than I can. It is absolutely necessary that over the next five or 10 years the Government, of whichever party, should have a plan to make the fullest possible use of women's labour and women's work. The Bill does not do that in any major field. It merely does what I think is the minimum required by European legislation and tries to put that into our legislation. It has no vision of going any further than that and does not deal with the major question of how we should enlarge the opportunities for women in better paid jobs. The Government do not deal with that, although they could have done so if they had wanted to do so.

An imaginative plan would have foreseen that in the next five or 10 years not only will there be as many women in employment as there are today, but that many more women will be able to get into better paid jobs. One way in which that will have to be done is by protecting the lowest paid workers. That has been the experience in many European countries. Instead of doing that, the Government have done the exact opposite and have attacked lower paid workers, whether they are women or young workers. The Government close their mind to the idea that, if the general standard of wages is to be raised, they must do something about the low paid. Practically all the measures that the Government have taken have injured the position of the low paid rather than improved it.

I come to the major way in which the Government have approached this problem in exactly the wrong spirit using the wrong method. They have said that they will lift some of the so-called restrictions that injure the employment of young workers. In doing so, they have interfered with some of the rights of young workers. There is no point in the Minister pretending that, if he increases the number of hours that young people may work during the week or during the day or detracts from the other protections that they enjoy, it will not affect their health and safety. The Minister is approaching the matter in quite the wrong way.

If the Minister thinks that he is putting forward measures that do not touch on these problems, he should listen to the advice from the Health and Safety Commission. It sets out how these regulations should be altered, if they have to be altered: the restrictions may be unnecessarily detailed and elaborate, although not an apparent burden on industry". It was talking about the present restrictions. they should not be replaced without some form of control of young persons' hours of work in order to safeguard their welfare and opportunities for education, training, and social development. That was the advice of the Health and Safety Commission, but that advice has been pushed aside. On other occasions when commenting about the Government's proposals the commission and the Health and Safety Executive, which I am glad to say still exercises some independence in these issues, put their views to the Government.

However, the Government have gone about matters in entirely the wrong way. They could have introduced a great reform in this Bill if they had said what they would do in the next 10, 12 or 15 years to protect and extend the health and safety legislation, the activities of the commission and the effectiveness of its inspectors, not only for young workers, but for workers throughout industry.

As the Minister responsible for introducing the original legislation in 1975, I have some interest in the subject. That legislation was placed on the statute book in times of great difficulty, but we carried it through because we believed that it was essential, particularly in a technological age with new industries growing up in different fields, such as chemicals, to have a new range of health and safety provisions for all workers, including women and young people.

After 10 or 12 years' operation of that Act, it should be reviewed. We should not have to argue about these miserable, squalid, little provisions that will injure the safety protections of many young workers. We should be arguing about how we shall extend the protections for all workers in the hazardous decade that lies ahead of us. If the Minister thinks that there is anything wrong with that, he should read the report of the Health and Safety Commission. I dare say that he has read it, but he has not acted upon it in the Bill.

The headline of the January supplement of theEmployment Gazette—I am glad to see that its contents have not been suppressed—reads: Unsatisfactory year for industrial health and safety". The Minister has been directly responsible for that. That was the conclusion of the committee that reported to the Department. The article in Employment Gazette stated: Poor safety management in construction, agriculture and quarrying, as well as several major disasters made 1987–88'an unsatisfactory year for industrial health and safety'". Unsatisfactory is putting it mildly; it was the worst year for 10 years.

At the same time, the health and safety people, who know what they are talking about, criticise the Government's figures because they say that they do not tell the full story. If the Minister reads his Department's report, as quoted in Employment Gazette, he will see that it claims that the full figures have not been given. We want to have the chance to see those full figures. It has been an unsatisfactory year for industrial health and safety and the full story has not been told to the country.

People are becoming far more interested in these matters than the Government appear to realise, partly because of the appalling tragic disasters that have occurred and partly because of the comments of the apologists for those disasters, such as Sir Jeffrey Sterling, the chairman of P and 0, who says that such accidents have nothing to do with him. In fact, they have plenty to do with him and his management because poor safety management, as the HSC says, is partly responsible for these accidents.

The nation's attention is attracted to those terrible tragedies. We must learn from them, although we appear to take a long time to do so. That is another reason for extending health and safety measures. If the Government had had the nerve to introduce such measures, we could have discussed these matters, as they are very topical. It is not only a question of tragedies, crashes and rail disasters. In the construction industry, for example, appalling accidents take place day after day, week after week. More people are killed or maimed in such accidents than in those terrible tragedies.

I was especially interested to see the reference to agriculture in the HSC's report. I remember trying to push such a measure through Parliament in 1975. We introduced a special clause referring to agriculture because we believed that it was essential that agricultural workers should be protected at a time when agriculture was becoming much more mechanised. However, that measure was thrown out of the House of Lords which mobilised about 500 landowners from the backwoods. That was the largest attendance in the House of Lords prior to the attendance in the move to throw out the measure designed to protect blind and deaf people.

As the accident rate in agriculture is now much higher than had ever been estimated, it is all the more necessary for the Government to introduce a comprehensive measure to transform the work possibilities of the HSC. The HSC has been manned from the beginning by people who are devoted to the task. It was set up on the advice of the man who had been the inspector of factories for many years. His life was devoted to the idea of transforming all his knowledge and that of his inspectors into legislation for the future. We increased the number of people covered by health and safety provisions from about 1 million to about 5 million, but that process has not been carried through on the necessary scale. Successive Ministers at the Department have not fought the Treasury to obtain the money to enable the inspectorate to do its job. The independent inspectorate is essential for the HSC to do its job. If the Minister was worth his salt, he would fight for that every day and would bring adequate provisions before the House.

There would have been a very different atmosphere in which to deal with these problems if, instead of having to argue the case about health and safety in the 1990s on the basis in the Bill—for example, whether protections will be withdrawn from young people—we could have learned from our accumulated experience over the past 10 years. We could therefore make the next 10 years the very best years for health and safety welfare legislation and so be ahead of any other country. That is what any decent Government would have done.

I could deal with the other measures, but this is the most far-reaching. The Government do not have the grace to say that what they are doing is wrong, but I plead with them to come forward in the next Session with a full-scale measure for doing what should be done. We cannot prophesy exactly, but no one imagines that these tragic events will suddenly stop. The number of industrial accidents involving people in dangerous jobs will increase again in the next 10 years. What will the Government do about that? Will they say, "We dealt with that in the special 1989 Bill, which took away the rights of young workers who had been protected. That was the Bill which said that people had to cough up £150 if they claimed that they were being denied the right to go to an industrial tribunal."

This is a squalid little measure. It does not deal with the major questions. I shall not refer to all the matters raised by the hon. Member for Broxtowe, particularly in respect of training, but, if what he said is even one quarter true, with regard to what is happening to the long-term unemployed in this country—how they have to fight to get a chance of a job, have to deal with denial after denial and write letters which receive no reply—this measure will link with the one introduced yesterday in an especially malignant manner. They are linked because they will put pressure on the unemployed. The Secretary of State knows all about this. He described what was happening to some of the long-term unemployed. He should have produced a very different Bill. No Conservative Member will be proud to support this Bill tonight.

I plead with the Government to lift their eyes above this squalid measure. Can we not have a decent, long-term measure to provide genuine training in the decade ahead? Can we not have a long-term measure to ensure that the real risks to health and safety are dealt with, and can we have a Minister who will say to the Treasury that such a measure would not cost the earth? A few hundred million pounds will make all the difference and might stop the tragic accidents. I plead with the Government even now to incorporate some of those measures in this wretched Bill. That might help the House to regain some respect.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Paul Dean)

Order. It is evident that many hon. Members want to speak. I hope that we will now have a succession of short speeches.

6.21 pm
Mr. James Paice (Cambridgeshire, South-East)

I will try to live up to your expectations, Mr. Deputy Speaker.

I want first to refer to the changes in the law on sexual discrimination to bring it into line with European legislation. I listened with great interest to the speech of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment and that made by the hon. Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Meacher). I wonder whether the hon. Member for Oldham, West has read the Bill in full. He seems only to have read the clause which deals with mines. I also wonder whether he understands the relevance of Europe in our deliberations.

We must recognise that dealing with sexual discrimination is as much a matter of changing attitudes as it is a matter of legislation. I used to employ as many women as men in positions of responsibility in management. I have a great admiration of women's competence and ability to do any job that they are asked to do. I recognise that value. A similar experience by businesses will lead to true equality in the employment stakes.

The case is not helped by the bra-less harridans who have been espoused by the Labour party in whatever activity they undertake, be that sexual discrimination, Greenham Common, the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament or the campaign for homosexual rights.

Ms. Diane Abbott (Hackney, North and Stoke Newington)

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Paice

Such behaviour has damaged the true cause of sexual equality to a great extent. The vast majority of women are highly competent and despise the activities which have brought ridicule to the true case for sexual equality.

The hon. Member for Oldham, West also referred to women going down mines. I listened very carefully to him to discover whether he would substantiate his original statement which was referred to by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State or whether the hon. Member would distance himself from it. However, I listened in vain. As is so often the case, the hon. Gentleman is finding it difficult to make up his mind. It is hypocritical for the Labour party, which has espoused the case for sexual equality, to say that we cannot have it where we do not want it, down the mines. It is difficult to understand that.

Ms. Abbott

Will the hon. Gentleman give way now?

Mr. Paice

I will give way in a minute.

Of course there are physical and practical implications involved in mines, as the hon. Member for Bradford, South (Mr. Cryer) explained. However, we must still deal with the question of discrimination and the fact that, if women want to work in mines—there is no question of sending them there—they should have the right to do so.

Ms. Abbott

Perhaps I can enlighten the hon. Member. Sexual equality involves raising standards, not lowering them. We would not enhance the status of children if we sent them down mines, and similarly we will not enhance women's status if we did that. The organisations which the hon. Gentleman described as "bra-less harridans", such as the Equal Opportunities Commission, the National Council for Civil Liberties and the professional women's organisations which have studied sexual equality for many years, are concerned with raising standards, wages and opportunities for women. They do not want to bring back the conditions of the 19th century.

Mr. Paice

That intervention underlines the lack of understanding. We are not talking about lowering standards. We are talking about increasing opportunities. No one has said anything about sending anyone anywhere. There is no question of children going down the mines as the hon. Lady suggested. I suspect that the reality is a desire to maintain the image of macho man the miner instead of appealing for genuine opportunities for women.

The right hon. Member for Blaenau Gwent (Mr. Foot) expressed a desire to see a long-term plan for training. I endorse that, and the view of my hon. Friend the Member for Broxtowe (Mr. Lester): that is the right approach. The demise of the Training Commission was inevitable following the disastrous decision at the TUC conference. However, it would be wrong not to pay tribute to the work of the Training Commission and the Manpower Services Commission. The Training Commission did much to pioneer and improve training programmes, specifically with the youth training scheme. It also developed a range of techniques for assessment and monitoring. I am sure that many of the staff from the Training Commission will continue that work under the guise of the Training Agency or will be seconded to the training and enterprise councils.

Despite all our efforts across a whole range of activities to stimulate training, industry is still not responding fully. We must understand that there is a great need to encourage employers to control and fund training to a much greater extent. I am sure that TECs will play a major role in that. However, we must ensure that the TECs are truly representative of the businesses in the areas that they serve. I represent a large rural constituency with a massive range of businesses including agriculture, high technology and medical research. It is essential that the TECs represent the full range and do not become the preserve of a small clique.

I am satisfied with the White Paper's proposal that training contracts should be more based on payment by results in terms of jobs gained and skills gained. That is a useful step forward which I am sure was gleaned by my right hon Friend the Secretary of State for Employment during his visit to the United States of America last year.

Like my hon. Friend the Member for Broxstowe, I am concerned about the future of the youth training scheme and specifically about Government funding for the scheme. A few years ago research showed that business funding for training in the best cases represented 4 per cent. of the payroll. The average was about 2 per cent., and that causes great anxiety because many businesses were spending little or nothing on training.

The Government set out to encourage businesses to spend more on training and that has been happening through YTS as grants have been held at cash levels. However, I believe that it would be wrong for the Government to consider its long-term policy to be a withdrawal of funding of the YTS. YTS must remain a broad national foundation for 16 to 18-year-olds on which employers can build future training and on which the employee can build career changes by obtaining the necessary training.

If the Government pull out of funding the YTS, there is a risk that its framework will disappear and the scheme will become too narrow for the long-term benefit of the people and businesses that it serves. I hope that my right hon. Friend will be able to give me some hope that the Government do not intend ultimately fully to pull out of YTS funding.

I have one further regret to express. It concerns an omission from the Bill. I hope that, even at this stage, my right hon. Friend will rectify it by an amendment at a later stage. I refer to the matter of the pre-entry closed shop. Since 1979, the Government have, by a series of staged changes in employment legislation, shifted the balance of power away from the organisation and to the individual. That is the correct and sensible way to progress and it is a change that I have consistently supported. However, we are left with one great anachronism in the form of the pre-entry closed shop. If we are honest, we may suspect that that is because many employers like it. However, that does not make it right, and the House should recognise that the pre-entry closed shop is wrong and is an infringement of the individual's rights.

I make my case by citing one example. The Select Committee on Employment is currently investigating employment prospects for older workers. One of the organisations from which the Select Committee took both written and oral evidence was Tesco. That company has consciously set out to employ people aged over 50, which is entirely admirable and something that the House will respect. There are three Tesco superstores in my constituency and a fourth just over the boundary. Therefore, Tesco constitutes a major employer in the area.

One of my constituents, in his fifties and without work, decided to take advantage of Tesco's enlightened approach and applied for a job. Right hon. and hon. Members can imagine his surprise when he found that the company's job application form included, as an integral part, an application form also for membership of USDAW. More importantly, it incorporated the statement: It is a condition of your employment that you become and remain a member of the union.

There may be good and sound reasons why Tesco and other organisations want their employees to join a union. Certainly it is entirely sensible of people to want union membership so that they may benefit from the services and opportunities that it provides. For employers, it means convenience and greater tidiness. However, my constituent simply wanted a job. As a man in his fifties, he did not want to be told that he was obliged to join a trade union. When he telephoned ACAS, he was advised to join USDAW but, having got the job, then to resign, and that if Tesco dismissed him for that reason he should fight the company through the courts. Why on earth should my constituent be compelled to take such action? Needless to say, he declined ACAS's suggestion and is still looking for a job. It is for that reason that he asked me not to divulge his identity, but I have all the facts of the case.

Opposition Members have, rightly, expressed concern —as have my right hon. and hon. Friends—about the difficulties faced by the older person seeking employment. My hon. Friend the Member for Broxtowe spoke of the long-term unemployed and of the increasing difficulties resulting from employers' attitudes towards them. I doubt whether even the hon. Member for Oldham, West, with his inventive rhetoric, will be able to justify to my constituent why he should be compelled to join a trade union in order to be given a job. Joining a trade union is not wrong, but making union membership compulsory in order to get a job is wrong. Where are the employee's rights in that?

This afternoon we have heard much said about the rights of the employee, but where are his rights when he is compelled to apply for trade union membership before he can be considered for a job? I hope that even at this stage my right hon. Friend will consider adding to the Bill the necessary clauses to outlaw a system that destroys a fundamental human right. It is a right that we on the Government Benches have espoused for the past 10 years —the right of choice. I support the Bill but I hope that it will be amended in the way that I have suggested.

6.35 pm
Mr. David Blunkett (Sheffield, Brightside)

I follow my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Meacher) and my right hon. Friend the Member for Blaenau Gwent (Mr. Foot) in clearly spelling out the real dangers posed to young people not only by the implementation of clause 8 in what the Government describe as deregulation—but which most of us describe as the removal of decent protections—but linking it with the clause removing the training commission and establishing the training and enterprise councils and the agency arrangements, which my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham, West described in terms of the lack of responsibility and accountability resting with the Secretary of State and, subsequently, with the House.

The hon. Member for Cambridgeshire, South-East (Mr. Paice) would do better to turn his mind to the real dangers that already confront 16 and 17-year-olds, which will be magnified with the introduction of the Bill, rather than debating whether people should have the rightful protection of a trade union to ensure that their interests are safeguarded and that employers carry out their responsibilities dutifully.

I illustrate that point with the case of Derek Cain, who was killed while participating in a youth opportunity scheme on 20 December 1982. His case was pursued by his father, Richard, who is one of my constituents, with the help of my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Heeley (Mr. Michie) and other hon. Friends representing Sheffield constituencies, as well as by my predecessor, Miss Joan Maynard. They gave every possible assistance to a man who displayed remarkable tenacity against the establishment and the indifference of the Department of Employment and the former Manpower Services Commission. Mr. Richard Cain used the whole of his redundancy pay to pursue the matter for six years, despite being advised that a case against a Government Department and the Manpower Services Commission would never be successful. Yet he was indeed successful, and in the High Court on 21 December 1988 the Department of Employment was found responsible in lieu of the MSC and the Training Commission.

That case showed that existing arrangements and procedures for protecting young people are already inadequate. Today's statements by the Secretary of State for Employment are not only woefully inadequate but a negation of his responsibility in suggesting that existing health and safety regulations, together with the proposals outlined in clause 8, are sufficient to protect 16 and 17-year-olds from the fate that befell Derek Cain.

I shall explain why. Derek Cain's case showed that Manpower Services Commission staff were not trained to understand the Factories Act 1961 and the Health and Safety at Work, etc. Act 1974. They did not comprehend either that a factory had to be registered, or the existing regulations concerning dangerous machinery to which the Secretary of State referred when he told the House today that they would not be affected by the Bill. The company itself, which was non-unionised, was in breach of most of what we would describe as basic safety requirements.

The court found that the placement officer had not checked and did not know that the firm should be registered, and that the officer above him responsible for safety in the Manpower Services Commission had not visited the premises, but had checked on the phone that the management believed that the dangerous machinery in the paper mill conformed adequately with safety requirements for a youth opportunities placement.

What has really angered Mr. Cain, and should anger every Member of Parliament—and what should not only direct the Secretary of State's attention to removing clause 8, a provision which would increase the dangers to young people, but encourage him to bring forward genuine safety requirements for 16 and 17-year-olds—is this. From that day onwards, despite the indifference shown to Mr. Cain's draconian efforts to draw public attention to what had happened, he has been vindicated by the tragic fact—spelt out already today—that the dangers for those on the youth training scheme have more than doubled. But when the scheme was introduced, Ministers said in the House that it would remove the dangers illustrated by the death of Derek Cain.

Incidentally, Derek Cain lay undiscovered for two hours after his accident with a baling machine. When the case was heard in the coroner's court, it was discovered that his father had been denied death benefit because Derek had not been an employee, and denied death grant. That was later found to be a further error by departmental civil servants.

It is not the individuals who are culpable—it is a system that puts deregulation and profit before the protection of young people who cannot protect themselves. They cannot do what a representative of the Institute of Directors suggested earlier this week in a BBC broadcast and get themselves into another job if they consider themselves at risk. If they leave their jobs they will be disqualified from receiving benefit; if they are sacked, under the Bill they will no longer be told why they were sacked, and will lose both their benefit and their credibility when seeking other employment. But they have no redress other than the protection of the courts, and—as was proved by Mr. Cain's six years of dedicated struggle with no one to help him and faced with the indifference of the Department of Employment and the Manpower Services Commission—it is a long and thankless task. Only someone with the tenacity of a Richard Cain would have followed it through.

That is why we should not only reject the Bill as it is drafted, but demand from the Secretary of State a statement on how he sees the protection that he described earlier being applied—not only to people like Derek Cain but to the thousands of young people who are currently at risk from what Winston Churchill described in 1909 as the irresponsibility of the bad employer that could be matched only by the irresponsibility of the worst. That is the message that we should put across tonight.

Mr. Nellist

Shortly after the tragic death of Derek Cain, I worked closely in the House with his father Richard to produce a private Member's Bill putting forward his suggestions that the MSC should become more accountable for the health and safety of young people on the youth training scheme. Is not another factor in the truths that my hon. Friend has spoken tonight that the tragic deaths of nearly 50 other youngsters since Derek's death are testimony that the Department ignored all that Richard said?

Mr. Blunkett

Regrettably, my hon. Friend is right. The increase of over 100 per cent. in fatal and serious injuries is a tragic testament to that. Procedures are needed for which we as elected Members of Parliament are accountable, so that some redress is available outside the expensive and difficult court system—before and not after the tragic deaths of youngsters like Derek Cain. If such procedures are to come about, the Secretary of State must take on board both the recommendations drawn up after Derek's death and the suggestions made in the High Court judgment.

There ought to be proper liaison between the careers departments and the new training and enterprise councils.

There ought to be independent monitoring, training for staff in basic safety requirements and protection for youngsters—the sons and daughters of all of us—who would expect us, as responsible Members of Parliament accountable to those whom we represent, to have the honesty to admit that employers will not do the job for us and that young people cannot do it on their own. This is our responsibility. If the Secretary of State ducks it he will, tragically, be responsible for further incidents in the future.

6.45 pm
Mr. David Evennett (Erith and Crayford)

I am pleased to be able to contribute to the debate, as I served on Standing Committees considering two employment measures in this and the last Parliament and fully supported both. The vast majority in the country also supported them—as, it should be noted, did the majority of trade union members. I believe that this Bill, when enacted, will likewise command widespread support across the political spectrum, in industry and in the trade unions.

The speech by the hon. Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Meacher) was a total disappointment: it was negative and patronising to the young people of this country. So, too, I regret to say, was the speech of the right hon. Member for Blaenau Gwent (Mr. Foot). Conservative Members need no lectures from a former Employment Secretary whose tenure of office was such an unmitigated disaster.

Mr. Wareing

The Conservatives are the party of unemployment.

Mr. Evennett

I always come to employment debates with some optimism, hoping that there will be constructive discussion from both sides of the House, but I am always disappointed and amazed at the over-emotional reactions from the Opposition. They seem to glory in unemployment, and they always try to ignore the constructive side and go for the negative.

Mr. Janman

I heard an Opposition Member say that this was the party of unemployment. Is my hon. Friend aware that all Labour Governments since the war have left office with unemployment higher than when they came in?

Mr. Evennett

My hon. Friend makes a good point. I should have thought that in a debate on a minor Bill it would have been constructive to look to the future rather than giving a history lesson on the past—particularly when the Opposition's record in office was so bad.

In 1979, so much was wrong with the laws governing employment and industrial relations that much reform was required. Over the past decade we have seen piecemeal reforms in the areas where they were necessary. I welcome the Government's commitment to continuing that reform and to updating our employment laws, not in a doctrinaire way but practically and pragmatically. As society changes, the law must be reformed to meet or reflect that change; that is as true in employment as in every other service. We have an obligation to reform the law so that unnecessary and outmoded provisions are removed, enterprise is able to flourish and the maximum unhindered opportunity is given to individuals.

In this day and age it cannot be right that our employment laws allow discrimination against women. In the last 20 years the law has rightly been changed. It requires that generally there should be equality of treatment and opportunity for the sexes, apart from specific and necessary safeguards of the kind that one would expect in a decent and civilised society.

Against such a background, I fully support the provisions in the Bill which aim to extend the general principles contained in the Sex Discrimination Act 1975 so that discriminatory provisions that have no valid purpose are overridden. That must be a logical and reasonable reform. It recognises the fact that in modern society women are not helpless victims in a Victorian melodrama, as certain Opposition Members would have us believe, and in need of patronising over-protection. It recognises that they are individuals capable of making rational choices and decisions for themselves. We believe that they should be given more opportunities to make decisions for themselves.

I am a firm believer in equal opportunities. It is not often that I welcome what the EEC Commission does. We have had many late-night debates on its deliberations. However, on this occasion I believe that the Commission's equal treatment directive is right. To widen freedom of choice for the individual is an obvious way in which to promote equal opportunities. By so doing, the House will do much more for equal opportunities than merely empty gestures. The Bill is practical and effective.

I mentioned earlier that it is very easy to be over-patronising towards the young. The Opposition Front Bench and some Opposition Back Benchers have been almost unbelievably so. The young must not be treated in that way. They represent our nation's future. They want and expect both opportunities and choice. They do not want to be smothered by outdated regulations and restrictions. There is a new spirit among the young people of this country. It has been fostered and encouraged by Government action during the past few years. Young people want to take up opportunities and challenges and go forward, and we must allow them to do so.

By their education and training reforms, the Government have done a great deal to ensure that young people are better equipped to deal with life and work in the adult world. All hon. Members listened with considerable distress and concern to the description by the hon. Member for Sheffield, Brightside (Mr. Blunkett) of that tragic case six years ago. We can always cite individual tragic cases and make them into something far more important, but we cannot legislate for the future of all our young people just because of one very tragic incident.

Mr. James Wallace (Orkney and Shetland)

The hon. Gentleman says that it is just one case, but he must have heard the intervention by the hon. Member for Coventry, South-East (Mr. Nellist) who said that since that tragic case there have been reports of 50 deaths on youth training schemes. Do not such tragic deaths require our serious attention?

Mr. Evennett

The hon. Gentleman misrepresents me. Of course every tragedy of this nature deserves serious consideration, but the Bill is attempting to provide young people with more opportunities. That is what they want and that is what they need. Furthermore, that is what the Bill will provide.

Mr. Paice

Does my hon. Friend agree that, despite a great deal of work by a number of organisations that have looked into accident levels on youth training schemes, there is no evidence that, however bad or good those levels may be, they are any worse than the accident levels that apply to the same age group who are in full employment? It is not, therefore, something that should be thrown at the door of YTS.

Mr. Evennett

My hon. Friend makes a very good point. He is right to back up his assertions, as he always does, with his considerable experience.

Mr. Martin Flannery (Sheffield, Hillsborough)

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Evennett

I should prefer to finish this point and then give way.

The reforms must he viewed in conjunction with the Government's major education reforms and the expansion of training opportunities as a comprehensive widening of freedom of choice for the young. Legislation that restricts the working hours and conditions of young people obviously had a very big part to play when the school-leaving age was lower, when there was greater dependence on heavy manual labour and when the young were less well prepared to deal with life in the adult world than they are today. The average 16-year-old today is far more mature than his or her predecessors ever were. I grew up in the 1960s. The 16-year-old today is far more mature than 16-year-olds in the 1960s. At that time the legislation had a clear and necessary role to play in preventing exploitation, but times have changed. We have to look to the future as well as to the present. The law must be reformed in line with those changes.

Modern working conditions in most sectors are far better. Today's young people are far more capable of standing on their own feet, developing their talents and taking the opportunities that are given to them. We must allow them to do that.

Mr. Flannery

The hon. Gentleman suggested that the Opposition wanted the legislation to be based on one case. As my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Brightside (Mr. Blunkett) knows, I was in from the beginning on the case of Derek Cain. As soon as that tragedy occurred and was publicised, numerous cases from all over Britain were drawn to Mr. Cain's attention. They all related to young people who had been killed. The hon. Gentleman has just said that, at the age of 16, young people can stand better on their own feet than they could a short time ago. By that he implied that working practices are safer. However, under the youth training scheme, more and more cases are coming to light of young people being killed. It is not true that young people can stand better on their own feet as a result of this Government's measures. They are in great danger from this Government.

Mr. Evennett

The hon. Gentleman is fundamentally wrong. Modern training and education means that today the 16-year-old is better equipped to deal with life than he has ever been. My hon. Friend the Member for Cambridgeshire, South-East (Mr. Paice) said only a few minutes ago that the facts do not bear out that assertion.

Small businesses have an important role to play in our economy. They have proved to be the way forward in many sectors of industry and commerce. Small businesses are efficient, dynamic enterprises that can respond rapidly to market changes. It is that flexibility of operation which has made many small businesses extremely successful and which, in turn, has done a great deal for employment opportunities.

Many enterprises in my constituency are small businesses and I often hear loud complaints from them about red tape and the need to remove unnecessary administrative burdens. In addition to the shortage of skilled staff and school leavers, administrative burdens are the other major bugbear of the small business. For large industrial companies, there is an obvious need for clearly understood disciplinary procedures to be applied. By their very nature, large companies tend to be impersonal. A formal disciplinary procedure often provides the only effective machinery for resolving the problems that relate to an individual's work performance.

For a small employer, the situation is completely different. The existence of such a procedure is unlikely to be of benefit either to employer or to employee. We must not forget that small businesses are exactly that—they are small. The employer is often one person who combines the role of line manager and personnel officer and who also, more importantly, knows each employee individually. Formal rules serve little purpose because problems are invariably resolved informally. For small employers, the existence of a formal disciplinary procedure adds nothing, apart from additional administrative work and possibly increased solicitors' bills.

I am not for one moment suggesting that all small business men are paragons of virtue, but such employers are unlikely to change their attitudes merely because of the existence of a formal disciplinary procedure. Small business men who treat their staff badly are subject to a far more effective system of control—market forces. A bad employer soon finds that his reputation means that he cannot recruit or retain high calibre staff. In small firms with under 20 employees, the loss of a few key personnel will often have a profound effect on profitability. In such circumstances, the existence of a formal disciplinary procedure has no useful place. For the majority of small business men who operate fairly and decently, it is another bureaucratic hurdle that is placed in their way. There are other areas that we would like the Bill to cover but Conservative Members believe that this is another step towards improving employment opportunities in this country and bringing the law up to date.

We should welcome and support the Bill and its modest reforms, but we also need to look towards further reforms in employment law. I hope that my hon. Friend the Minister will take note of that because we have already heard that there are several areas where Conservative Members would like to see further legislation in the next Session—for instance, on the abolition of the national dock labour scheme and the pre-entry closed shop. We should also be looking at providing a statutory framework for no-strike agreements, particularly for those employed in vital services. No doubt those are matters that my right hon. and hon. Friends will bear in mind in the next Session.

The deregulatory measures in the Bill, though minor, will improve employment conditions in this country. Surely, we all want more employment, a better work force and training and more opportunities for workers to enable them to maximise their potential. Although the Bill goes a long way towards achieving that, we should look for more radical measures from the Government in the next Session.

7.1 pm

Mr. James Wallace (Orkney and Shetland)

I beg to move, to leave out from "That" to the end of the Question and to add instead thereof: this House declines to give a Second Reading to a Bill which, whilst it makes welcome provision for the ending of sexual discrimination in employment matters and seeks to remove anomalous regulations with regard to the employment of young people, nevertheless fails to provide for adequate protection for employed young people, seriously erodes the rights of individuals in employment, and contains no adequate measures designed to secure employment for the long term unemployed or the training of the workforce in the skills required by industry to meet the industrial challenges of the 1990s and beyond.

When he introduced the Bill, the Secretary of State tried to give the impression that it was part of a grand design to meet the demographic challenges of the 1990s and to embark on a course of deregulation. I confess that when I first read the Bill it reminded me of nothing more than —as Scottish Members will recognise—a Law Reform (Miscellaneous Provisions) (Scotland) Bill. It seems to be a basket of measures with no one particular theme. Some of the provisions are not too bad. Some are neutral. For example, there is no comment on the storage of celluloid film. Some are downright bad. Most of the Opposition's comments relate to the bad themes.

The provisions in the Bill that are designed to end some discriminatory practices against women have proved controversial. We welcome those, not least those which assimilate redundancy rights for males and females. We also welcome those which give more equal access to certain categories of jobs.

It is strange that in this day and age the many Labour Members who have spoken have needed to conjure up the ogre of the 19th century to voice opposition to this measure. That reveals a narrow approach that does not strike a chord of sympathy with those women whose employment prospects and opportunities have to date been frustrated by legislation.

A constituent's mother wrote to me last year about her daughter who was a second-year mining engineer undergraduate at Newcastle university. She said: This coming summer vacation she is expected to have employment in the industry, since this work will be considered next year as part of her final examination. Needless to say she is finding it difficult to achieve this … I am sure she realised that when she decided to do mining engineering she would have to break into what was a 'male' stronghold. However with hard work and a fair chance she felt she would be able to achieve her ambition… The University of Newcastle has indicated its progressive attitudes by opening the department to young women. It's about time the country as a whole accepted the fact that young women are going to want to work in industries that have previously been barred to them, and whilst it will take some time to break down social barriers, there is no place in modern society for legal constraints. She is the type of person engaged in mining engineering whom this provision is intended to help and we welcome that.

We acknowledge that there are provisions in the Bill that seek to rationalise the working hours of young people and remove some anomalies. That is not something that I criticise. I imagine that many young people would be surprised to learn about some of the anomalies that exist and I wonder how many of them are actually policed. The points that have been made about the need to maintain some protection for young people in employment are however, important.

I resented the implication of the hon. Member for Erith and Crayford (Mr. Evenett) that, in taking up this issue, the Opposition were patronising young people. The number of accidents involving young people in employment speaks for itself and to state those facts is not patronising. Mention has been made of the number of fatalities and serious accidents involving people on youth training schemes. The hon. Member for Cambridgeshire, South-East (Mr. Paice) thought that he was coming to the aid of his hon. Friend the Member for Erith and Crayford when he said that the level of accidents was just as high for young people in other forms of employment. That simply underlines the point. If there is an increased likelihood of young people being involved in accidents in employment, and if they are likely to be working longer hours—inevitably, the longer one works the less vigilant and alert one becomes—some protective provisions should be put in place. The absence of such provisions in the Bill to accompany the removal of many anomalies is a serious omission.

Mr. Batiste

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that there is a distinction between the appropriate legislative framework around which safety requirements should be established—that should be the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974—and the enforcement of that legislative framework? If safety legislation is too varied, too self-contradictory and too restrictive, one defeats one's objectives.

Mrs. Audrey Wise (Preston)

There are not enough inspectors.

Mr. Wallace

That is an important point. The number of inspectors does not need to be addressed by legislation but through resources. However, that has not been done. As the CBI recognised in the quotation given by the hon. Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Meacher) in a measure that opens up the possibility of exploitation by unscrupulous employers, some additional protective measures are required.

Many Conservative Members have said that the Bill is intended to support small businesses. However, the removal of the 35 per cent. rebate for redundancies by companies with fewer than 10 employees is regretted by many small businesses. It has been opposed by the National Federation of Self Employed and Small Businesses. The Government said that £9 million will be saved by that measure, and no doubt that means a cost of £9 million for the small business sector. When small businesses are thinking of closing down or are passed on when someone reaches retirement age, the removal of that rebate could hamper the efforts that are sometimes made to ensure continuity of employment rights.

I shall now deal with the clauses concerning individual employee rights. This Administration seem to dwell on myths. They act in the name of deregulation and easing the burden on small businesses, but that is often not supported by hard facts. The hon. Member for Oldham, West mentioned the Department's own document entitled "Unfair Dismissal: Law and Employment Practice in the 1980s" which says that there was little sign that employment protection legislation was inhibiting industrial recovery or contributing to the high level of unemployment by discouraging employers from taking on new people. In October 1988 the British Institute of Management found, from a sample of its 70,000 members, that only 11 per cent. thought that there was too much employment protection legislation and 78 per cent. thought that the current level was about right. One strongly suspects that there are many other more important factors which determine the possibilities open to small businesses and to enable them to expand.

Clause 11 disentitles an employee from receiving a statement of reasons for dismissal if he or she has been employed for under two years. As the law stands, he or she cannot make any claim for unfair dismissal without having been employed for two years. Therefore, there is no perceived advantage in terms of labour flexibility if this measure is enacted. However, it would prejudice the rights of that individual. It may prejudice the right to claim benefit if there is no statement of the reasons why someone is without work. It may prejudice the right or ability to seek other employment if there is no reference or no apparent reason why the previous employment was ended.

A product of the Government's approach, which sees industry as a battlefield with one side gaining rights at the expense of the other, is the lack of comprehension that employment protection measures can be conducive to good industrial relations. Clause 9, which removes the requirement for particulars of disciplinary procedures to be given when there are fewer than 20 employees, is a good example of that. The British Institute of Management, in a letter which was circulated to all hon. Members, states that it is good management practice that employees should have a clear idea of where they stand, and makes the point that it is more important in small businesses where there is a close personal link between employers and employees than it is in larger businesses. It argues that, in small businesses, verbal communication does not carry the same weight as written instruction. It is important that employees know where they stand, and the Government have advanced no good reason for such a change.

One of the most mean-minded provisions of the Bill relates to industrial tribunals. When the Government first proposed the £25 fee, it met blanket opposition and there was scarcely a good word to be found for it anywhere.

Mr. Foot

Until they made it £150.

Mr. Wallace

But when the Bill is brought forward, the Government made it £150, as the right hon. Member for Blaenau Gwent (Mr. Foot) says. That seems to be the compromise. However, it is fair to say that it is not a compulsory levy for all; it is at the discretion of the chairman at a pre-tribunal hearing.

The Bill gives the Secretary of State power to make very wide regulations. Obviously that will have to be examined in detail in Committee. Nothing has been said in the debate to suggest that a vast number of frivolous cases are clogging up the industrial tribunal system, yet the Bill contains a threat of a fiscal barrier to justice. When many of us believe that the legal aid system should be extended to people who wish to take cases to industrial tribunals, the Bill provides a new imposition.

There is an analogy with what used to happen in Scotland in regard to criminal legal aid for summary cases. At that time, one had to apply to the sheriff who had to be satisfied that the financial qualifications of a person being prosecuted for a crime entitled him to legal aid and that it was in the interests of justice that he receive legal aid. That met widespread disapproval, particularly in smaller areas where the sheriff who was to judge the case was making a preliminary decision as to whether it was in the interests of justice that someone should receive legal aid. To their credit, this Government removed that provision because they were aware of the anomaly that could arise. We are reintroducing that approach in a different form.

The Bill attacks individual employment rights. That is totally out of step with our European partners. We understand that it was very much to the Prime Minister's chagrin that Jacques Delors told the TUC in September that 1992 probably meant great advances for social rights and for the rights for people in employment. One cannot believe that when we seek harmonisation in employment practices our European partners will want to level down to us. We shall be looking to level up to them with greater entitlements for employees.

Mr. Janman

The hon. Gentleman has raised a very important point by taking the deregulation of our labour market in a European context. Does he not agree that the more we liberalise our labour market the more investment we shall attract from the rest of Europe, from the Pacific area and from across the Atlantic, and our partners in the European Community will realise that deregulation is the way to go and will follow our lead?

Mr. Wallace

I do not accept that that will be the pattern of events. Significant benefits are enjoyed with very constructive industrial relations in places such as West Germany, which, as the Prime Minister recognised yesterday, has a very stable, thriving economy. I do not think that they need to take lessons from us. We need to take lessons from them in social service provisions such as creches and nursery facilities.

Mr. Janman


Mr. Wallace

I have given way to the hon. Gentleman already. I must try to make progress.

The Bill also abolishes the Training Commission. I do not wish to dwell on the history that led to that, except that it was the view of my right hon. and hon. Friends that, although the employment training scheme was not satisfactory, it was the only one we had, so it was better to try to make it work than to try to defeat its objects. The Government are now abolishing the Training Commission and intend to replace it with training and enterprise councils, going back almost 20 years by putting the burden on industry. They are taking a great gamble, because over the years industry has not been particularly conspicuous for what it has done to improve training.

The Scottish Office White Paper, "Scottish Enterprise" frankly admits: Efforts to date to persuade the private sector to take great interest in and responsibility for training have had disappointing results. Far too many firms take little interest in assessing and training for their own future needs, assuming that supply will always be there to meet demand. Therefore, the Government are taking a great risk in putting the responsibility back into the private sector. One is entitled to be sceptical. So many employers are afraid to spend money on training employees in case they are poached by another firm. In a recession, training is regularly one of the first things to go. A revolution in attitude is needed and we do not have much time.

Many figures have been produced about skill shortages and the need to train people, particularly in skills requiring a relatively high level of educational attainment. Nothing in the Bill seems to foster that, or to try to amend the fact that only 13 per cent. of young people between 16 and 18 go into full-time education in Britain, while 58 per cent. of their counterparts in France do. Only by tackling that educational aspect will we start to make some progress in filling the skill shortages that undoubtedly exist.

Finally, nothing in the Bill gives any hope to the long-term unemployed. The hon. Member for Broxtowe (Mr. Lester) made the point eloquently, and the hon. Member for Langbaurgh (Mr. Holt) in his intervention underlined the fact that many letters are not even answered. Many people try to dismiss the long-term unemployed by suggesting that they are workshy or lack motivation. Research undertaken by the Campaign for Work showed that employers discriminate against those who have been unemployed for one, two, three, four or more years, not in any wicked or malicious way but they receive applications and say, "This person has not had a job for the past two years so there must be something wrong with him." But research has shown that when they are given a chance to return to employment their motivation returns very quickly.

It would have been a much happier situation if tonight we had been debating a Bill which contained proposals to guarantee employment for those who had been unemployed for more than two years as is done in Sweden. The Government promised to find a training place on the YTS for all youngsters leaving school who had not found employment. Some of us are sceptical as to the extent to which they have achieved that but to give the Government credit, they set themselves a target and made efforts to achieve it. Something similar for the long-term unemployed would be a very welcome measure. There is nothing in the Bill to give them that hope. Therefore, my right hon. and hon. Friends cannot support the Bill tonight.

7.17 pm
Mr. Jacques Arnold (Gravesham)

I welcome the Bill as yet another step towards developing the labour market in Britain and providing job opportunities for working people. I take issue with the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Wallace) in respect of the long-term unemployed. If he were to look at recent figures, he would see that unemployment is dropping much faster in that category than it is in general. The employment training schemes that are now being introduced will only accentuate that process.

During the past few years, there has been a major expansion of employment in Britain, and there are well over 1 million new jobs in the economy. As opinion poll after opinion poll shows, unemployment is dropping as a priority for British people. Obviously it is dropping as a priority for Labour Members, as shown by their attendance this evening.

In my constituency of Gravesham, in Kent, which was an unemployment black spot, unemployment is now half what it was at the peak of unemployment and it is falling fast. The growing problem in Gravesham is not unemployment but skill and labour shortages. If we are to sustain the exceptional level of growth in our economy that we have achieved, it is vital that the people coming into the labour market should be fully trained. The Government deserve to be congratulated on the success of the youth training scheme. In my constituency, about 80 per cent. of young people leaving the YTS are obtaining jobs. Many are now on employment training.

The Bill represents a milestone, in that it records the passing of the old Manpower Services Commission in its transitional guise as the Training Commission. I was here at the beginning of the debate and heard the hon. Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Meacher), who has been absent for most of the debate, enjoying mocking the dear departed. He failed to mention that the dear departed MSC was stabbed in the back by the Trades Union Congress.

In the hour in which the TUC could have achieved something, it betrayed the young unemployed by saying that it would not work with the employment training scheme and the YTS. Those schemes represented hope and opportunity for the young unemployed and the TUC was found lacking. That proved the growing irrelevance of the TUC to the economic life of this nation.

Those of us who are interested in education have been concerned in recent years about the problems of falling rolls. There has been a sharp drop in the number of young people in schools, which reflects the drop in the birth rate about 20 years ago. That trough in the birth rate is now working its way through the labour market and will present us with considerable problems unless certain steps are taken now. That is one reason why I welcome the measures in the Bill: it seeks to sweep away many of the restrictions on the employment of young people.

Young people—and other hon. Members—would resent the suggestion that the measures will increase the danger for young people. We have heard clearly this afternoon from my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State that safety measures are remaining in place in industry and that there are no changes in working protection for youngsters under the age of 16. An attempt to keep the limitations on young people's work is patronising in the extreme. The younger generation today is far more capable than earlier generations and resents the patronising restrictions.

I am equally encouraged by the way in which the Bill will sweep away a number of restrictions on women. I was amazed to hear the snobbery of the hon. Member for Hackney, North and Stoke Newington (Ms. Abbott) when she suggested that being a miner was to be of a lower status. It is a shame that the hon. Member for Ashfield (Mr. Haynes) is not here to put her in her place on that subject.

The Bill will continue the process of freeing the labour market, but there is one glaring omission. The Bill requires a clause to bring about the abolition of the national dock labour scheme, including within it compensation for the few remaining registered dockers. The national dock labour scheme represents the last of the great restrictive practices so dear to the heart of the departed Labour party. Those of us who represent port areas are fed up with the damage that the scheme is doing to employment prospects there.

Mr. Andrew Rowe (Mid-Kent)

My hon. Friend spoke of the few remaining registered dockers. One of the more alarming features of the scheme is that a considerable number of dockers remain registered. What is even more alarming is that a growing percentage of them are under 25.

Mr. Arnold

I am concerned about the few remaining dockers. That is best exemplified by remembering that, at the end of the war, there were 73,000 registered dockers, whereas there are fewer than 10,000 today. Although a few new dockers are coming in at the bottom, the great majority of dockers are, on average, 43 years of age or more. The national dock labour scheme is withering on the vine as dockers die or retire, but so are the employment prospects in traditional dock areas, which are mainly in the best places in this country for the unloading of goods and their transport. A recent study shows that there would be 50,000 extra jobs in the registered dock areas without the hampering constraints of this scheme.

I wonder why the Government have not put a clause in the Bill on that. It is fair to say that the Government may be concerned about the possibility of a national dock strike and the damage that that would do to our economy. We can perhaps look forward with some relief to the Lord Cardigans of the Transport and General Workers Union, who are working hard at the moment, not to make the docks a success, but to bring about a national dock strike. If the union is successful and brings about a dock strike, the Government's best response would be to table a clause further to improve the labour market by getting rid of the national dock labour scheme.

I support the Bill, in particular the way in which it seeks to get rid of the restrictions on young people and women in the workplace. I hope that our traditional dock areas will equally be set free.

7.27 pm
Mr. Ron Leighton (Newham, North-East)

The Bill, in addition to dealing with training, has a hotch-potch of mean, nasty, half-baked ideas and prejudices. It seeks to strip away all protection for young people on the hours that they can work. As a result, 16-year-olds could be forced to work ten-and-a-half-hour days and more than 48 hours a week, start before 7 am or finish after 8 pm and work night shifts. But they will do all that without getting the adult wage. That is supposed to be liberating the young. This return to Victorian working conditions for a weak and vulnerable section of the work force is the new Government recipe for rescuing the economy. None of this reactionary nonsense was in the Government's election manifesto.

The Bill makes it easier for employers to dismiss workers. In small firms, employers will no longer have to give details of disciplinary procedures and in all firms workers will not be given a written statement of reasons for dismissal. That will make it more difficult for a worker to take a case to an industrial tribunal where, in any case, he or she, under the Bill, might have to pay a deposit of £150 before he or she could apply for access to industrial justice. Simultaneously, the Government have given notice that they propose further restrictions on—or the abolition of—wages councils, which deal with the weakest, poorest, least organised and most vulnerable workers. It is only three years ago that the Government legislated on wages councils, saying that they had got the balance right. Now they are going back on their undertakings and attacking the councils again. The Secretary of State should know that, in the last Parliament, the Select Committee on Employment inquired into wages councils and recommended against their abolition.

I want to touch on three points in my remarks—unemployment, pay and training. There has been a fall in unemployment and a growth in employment, although much of it is part-time. That has happened because the Government have reflated the economy but, unfortunately, they have done it in a wrong and unsustainable way. They are now moving to choke off the expansion with high interest rates. Originally, the Chancellor of the Exchequer pumped billions of pounds into the economy through tax cuts and a huge expansion of private credit. The extra demand began to bring down unemployment—as Labour always said that it would—but it was done in the wrong way. The Budget message was, "Happy days are here again, so let the good times roll." With tax cuts officially lavished on them and a sense of well being from inflated house prices, many of the better-off went on a credit-driven spending spree.

Now the Chancellor is desperately trying to put the engines into reverse. The misjudgment was to give the tax cuts to the very rich, who spent the money on imported goods, and to encourage huge private sector borrowing, which was also spent on imports. That has led to the biggest balance of payments deficit in British history. It is revealing that some Conservative Members find that a joke. The Chancellor now seeks to squeeze billions of pounds out of the economy by punitive interest rates. That will lower living standards and threaten the fall in unemployment.

That is the point in which the Secretary of State should be interested. The Chancellor should have given the tax cuts to the less well-off, who would have spent more in the domestic economy, and allowed borrowing not so much in the private sector as for investment in industry, research and development, education and training, transport, housing, schools, hospitals, increased social provision and the environment.

Mr. Janman


Mr. Leighton

The hon. Gentleman has intervened too often. I think that the House wants to get on with the debate.

The actions that I have described would have boosted the domestic economy, not imports, and the result would have been more employment. Moreover, the growth would have been sustainable and it would have strengthened our competitiveness for the future. Instead, we shall all suffer pain in 1989 to pay for the mistakes of the 1988 Budget, and I fear that prospects for employment will be damaged.

The Secretary of State has taken to lecturing us repetitively about pay. I thought that the official monetarist dogma held that pay had nothing to do with inflation, that, if the money supply was held steady, money spent on pay could not be spent on anything else, so things would be held in a steady state. I thought that monetarists believed that pay was a matter to be dealt with freely by consenting parties—a matter for employers and employees who know best—and that the Government should keep their nose out. I thought that Thatcherism spelt the end of incomes policies, but no—we get constant ministerial exhortation on the subject.

After four anti-trade union Acts, presumably the Secretary of State cannot blame the unions for currently rising inflation. Nor are rising costs the cause, particularly in manufacturing. The costs of fuel and materials bought in by manufacturing industry fell last year due to lower commodity prices. The increase in unit labour costs was about 1 per cent. last year because labour productivity in manufacturing rose by 7 per cent., largely offsetting the growth in earnings. Nevertheless, manufacturers' prices rose by 5 per cent. last year. Why? One reason is the rising profits being taken as growing demand, fuelled by credit, comes up against capacity and supply restraints, which themselves are the result of previously deficient investment in plant and training.

This is a classic case of "demand-pull" inflation—wage rises being the consequence, and not the cause, of it. If the Secretary of State is worried about inflation, he should speak to his Cabinet colleagues who are pushing up public sector prices. Rail and Underground fares are increasing by more than twice the rate of inflation and there are large increases in the price of electricity, water, local authority rents and rates. He should also consider how increasing interest rates are forcing up mortgage repayments.

The nine increases in interest rates since last spring's disastrous Budget have triggered increases in mortgage rates from 9.75 per cent. to 13.5 per cent. That means that a £30,000 mortgage now costs £50 a month more and a £50,000 mortgage costs nearly £100 a month more. Millions of people thus enter 1989 with between £1,000 and £1,500 of pre-tax income wiped out at a stroke. In short, the Secretary of State should examine Government policy, not wages, for the cause of rising inflation.

Does the Secretary of State not realise that the example being set at the top is very important? Has he noticed that Britain's top bosses and executives are laughing all the way to the bank? There is no question of restraint there. What does he say about that? He will have seen the survey conducted by Hay Management Consultants, the Saatchi and Saatchi subsidiary, which reported on a bumper bonanza which gave a 30 per cent. increase to top executives. With tax cuts and perks such as cars, pensions, medical insurance and share options, a director on £87,500 a year saw his income rise by 31.5 per cent. The employee on £12,750 a year, however, got only 3.8 per cent. If the Secretary of State is in the business of giving lectures, when will he give lectures to some of the people at the top about the example that they are setting?

The Secretary of State also knows that the first thing that directors of industries which are privatised do is double their salaries. This greed at the top—the grab what you can as quickly as you can attitude—is the very essence of modern Thatcherite Britain. If we are to have more homilies from the Secretary of State, perhaps he will devote his mind to some of those matters.

The basic facts about training are well known. Britain does it abysmally, and historically always has. I suspect that the reason is that, by an accident, the industrial revolution happened here first, giving Britain an initial lead. It was not brought about by the Governments of the day. Indeed, they were probably unaware of what was happening.

Other countries, such as Germany, consciously set up training programmes with the express aim of catching up with Britain. They succeeded more than a century ago and kept on training while we did not. The National Institute of Economic and Social Research has just told us that France produces three times as many mechanical and electrical engineering craftsmen and three times as many building craftsmen as we do. In the German furniture industry, nine out of 10 workers have a vocational qualification based on a three-year apprenticeship course with examinations. In Britain the figure is only one in 10. There is not just a skills gap—it is a yawning skills chasm.

The Government have been in office for nearly 10 years. Their policies have failed. They have made things worse. Our skills handicap in relation to other countries has got much worse, not better. In Britain, the intellectual elite get a first-class education and are a match for their international peers. What we neglect so badly are the educational needs of the mass of the population.

The White Paper talks in foolishly glowing and extravagant terms about YTS, but YTS does not close the skills gap and cannot be compared with the German dual system of apprenticeships. The Secretary of State knows that German companies in Britain are so unimpressed by YTS that last month they set up their own vocational training school in Britain. Nor can anybody pretend that the under-funded employment training programme is equal to its task when it provides only two days a week directed training for six months and reaches less than one tenth of the client group.

A couple of weeks ago, the Select Committee on Employment took evidence from Professor Charles Handy on the changing nature of skills which will be needed in the work force in the late 1990s. He told us that between 70 and 80 per cent. of all jobs will, by the end of the 1990s, be "knowledge" jobs—jobs which require more brain than muscle. Half of those—35 to 40 per cent.—will require brain skills of the order of a higher education degree such as a university or polytechnic degree or a professional qualification. The percentage for the new jobs that will emerge in the 1990s is even higher.

To survive and cope in this new world, we need to more than double the percentage of our young people who go into higher education. Is there any prospect of that? The Secretary of State knows full well that under this Government, with their present policies, that will not happen. Not only are we falling behind other European Community countries: we are falling behind Taiwan and Korea. Unless that is changed—and changed drastically—we shall either be bypassed and wealth production will go elsewhere, or we shall have to import brains and witness much of our industry being taken over by our competitors.

In the United States and many other countries such as Canada, Sweden and Japan, young people who leave school before they are 18 are termed drop-outs. They do not have to worry about health and safety regulations for that age group as they are still in school. On those terms, the majority of our younger generation are dropouts. We are the only country in the world where the majority of 16 and 17-year-olds are not in full-time education or training. In a world of exploding technology, we should aim to double the number of young people who go into higher education.

We should bring married women, many of whom have qualifications, back into the labour market. That will mean a complete overhaul of child care provisions. It is crazy that the Chancellor penalises workplace creches. I appeal to the Secretary of State to use his influence in the Cabinet to see that this is altered, I hope in the next Budget. It also means that we need comprehensive skilling and reskilling of existing workers, including those aged 50 to 60, who cannot get a job at the moment. What do the Government propose to do? They have abolished the Manpower Services Commission and its successor the Training Commission, although the former was originally set up by a Conservative Administration with all-party support. The Government did not like the MSC because it was a tripartite body, as the Secretary of State quite frankly told us. It was set up in that way so that it would be independent of Government—something that the Government do not like. First, they put Conservative nominees such as the present Lord Young in charge of it, then they gave it orders, which made it a tool of Government, and finally they swamped it with employers' representatives. They they abolished it.

To fill the void, the Bill proposes a major transfer of responsibilities. Training is to be handed over to the employers. This is the new idea, the new way to do things. The so-called training and enterprise councils which are to be set up are to be dominated by employers. One's heart sinks when one reads that this will take four years. It is all explained in the White Paper. Paragraph 6.20 says: Developing training through life is not primarily a Government responsibility. Employers must take the lead. Paragraph 4.45 says: The system must be planned and led by employers, because it is they who are best placed to judge skill needs". As you, Mr. Walker, above all Deputy Speakers, will know, this is a triumph of hope over experience. That policy is a major and crass mistake.

Of course we must involve employers—that is vital and essential—but to imagine, on British experience, that we can leave things to the employers is a dangerous lunacy. If employers could take the lead, why have they not done so before? What has prevented them? If they are willing to train, what has stopped them so far? The training boards were set up precisely because employers were not doing enough. If employers have not invested in training in the past, why should we suppose that they will do so in future without Government intervention?

British employers spend on average 0.15 per cent. of turnover on traning. Overseas, it is more like 2 to 3 per cent. or more—in other words, 20 times as much. British companies too often regard training as an unwelcome on-cost and many prefer to poach rather than to train. The sum total of employers' perceived needs for their individual companies does not add up to to the national need.

Pious hopes, such as those in the White Paper, are not enough. It is time for effective Government action and a statutory back-up in the wider long-term interests of the economy. The market mechanism alone will not deliver the requisite training. It is necessary to involve the trade unions, but the White Paper, and the Bill, are motivated by animus and hostility to the trade unions—another crass mistake. The trade unions and the local authorities must be equal partners. Any programme that is not based on consensus and agreement with the unions and the local authorities is crippled at the outset and is doomed to failure.

ET will not be the success that the Secretary of State has wanted, because he did not use his intelligence enough and was neither able nor prepared to make a few concessions to get the support of the trade unions and the local authorities. It is essential to do that. [Interruption.] I hear animal noises from Members on the Conservative Benches. They will be pleased to know that I shall end with some constructive proposals and suggestions for the Government.

First, the Government should examine the French legislation, which obliges firms to spend a certain amount on training—currently 1.4 per cent. of turnover. Firms' accounts are examined and if they have spent the money, that is fine, but if they have not it is taken in tax. The attraction for the Government is that they can get companies to spend on training without setting up bureaucracy to do so. I hope that the Secretary of State will look at what the French are doing. Secondly, the Secretary of State should look at an educational maintenance allowance to encourage youngsters to stay on at school. Thirdly, employers should be required to release all 16 and 17-year-olds for training at least one day a week.

The hon. Member for Broxtowe (Mr. Lester) was the Minister dealing with the first Employment Bill on whose Committee I served. My right hon. Friend the Member for Blaenau Gwent (Mr. Foot) discerned a slight difference between that Minister of State and the current incumbent of that position. My fourth suggestion is rather similar to his. It is that all workers should have a passport—he called it a voucher—giving them an annual entitlement to a certain amount of training throughout their lives. Lastly, companies should have training committees in the same way that they have safety committees. What is required is a partnership between all concerned, not freezing out the unions and leaving it all to employers.

7.47 pm
Mr. Andrew Rowe (Mid-Kent)

After that wide-ranging survey of the state of the British economy and many other matters from the hon. Member for Newham, North-East (Mr. Leighton), I shall drearily confine myself merely to the Bill. I shall start with the employment of women.

One of the many talents among the constellation of talents that is my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State is his ability to act where others posture. We have heard from two Opposition Members the predictable neanderthal voice about the employment of women. In a way, that is surprising, because as I understand it, most neanderthal men lived underground, and would probably have been glad of female companionship. However, by obliterating the prohibition on women going underground should they so wish, we have sent a clear message that there should be no no-go areas in equal opportunity. No-go areas simply perpetuate the opportunities for the malign or the careless to continue discrimination against women.

Where others go on posturing, the Government act. For example, they have removed the extraordinary and anachronistic system of taxing married people, after years of talk.

Mr. Geoffrey Lofthouse (Pontefract and Castleford)

Does the hon. Gentleman have any experience of what it is like to work down a coal mine in hostile conditions? Coal mines should be no-go areas for females. There are no adequate toilet facilities on coal faces. It is hard work lifting coal, and a female would not be able to cope with it, although I have seen in America women who work in coal mines. I support women's rights, but I have never come across a women's rights organisation—I ask whether he has—who wanted its members to be able to work as coalminers.

Mr. Rowe

I understand that the National Council for Civil Liberties has no objections, but I do not know whether that counts as an organisation looking after women's rights.

The intervention by the hon. Member for Pontefract and Castleford (Mr. Lofthouse) demonstrates the extraordinary obtuseness of those who believe, in the teeth of the evidence, that women are somehow frailer and less robust than men. All the evidence, whether it is longevity, the ability to handle more than one job or whatever, suggests that, on the whole, women are better equipped than men for a number of jobs in difficult circumstances. It has already been mentioned that a significant number of opportunities in high-technology employment in mining and similar occupations are now open to women as a result of the Bill. Without it, they would not have been available to them.

I believe that it is a scandal that it has taken so long to recognise the abilities of women at the highest level. The proportion of women on company boards, holding senior posts in businesses or in this place is still disgracefully low. Now, there is an unstoppable tide towards change. It is extremely appropriate that that change should be backed by demographic pressures. It is an insult, however, for the hon. Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Meacher) to suggest that, somehow, women should be used merely to plug the gaps in the labour market. That has been the traditional Labour party view for far too long.

We are already aware of the existence of the 300 Club, the British Association of Women Entrepreneurs and the new campaign, Women into Business, which is supported by American Express among others and which was dreamed up by the long-established Small Business Bureau. Those organisations are practical and they are achieving a great deal more than the posturing rhetoric of the Opposition Benches.

More women than men are now establishing their own businesses. If capable, women should be at the top in their own right and it would be surprising to discover how many would reach the top if given the opportunity.

Existing statistics demonstrate that we cannot do without women. Some 80 per cent. of those needed to make up the short fall in school leavers will need to be women.—[Laughter.] It is interesting that this is a source of derision for Opposition Members, considering that they constantly talk about opportunities for women.

Great changes must be made in working arrangements and they must be made quickly. Some changes have already taken place. Dixons, for example, has started to offer jobs to married women in term times only. That is a flexible response to the changing nature of the labour market and it should be emulated by others.

Job sharing has taken off far too slowly because of the blind prejudice of many employers. My right hon. Friend is aware of a constituent of mine who, for the past two years, has been participating in a highly successful job share, which has been praised by the employers. When the job-sharing partners decided to apply for a promotion within the National Health Service they each received a telephone call from the management of their health authority to ask them whether they would be prepared to apply as an individual for the post. My constituent was told that if she applied as part of a job share she would be at a serious disadvantage. That type of reaction to a perfectly satisfactory method of fitting into the working environment is wholly unacceptable and must be changed. More and more we need to talk to people around the globe whose work takes place outside the conventional hours and to those firms whose machinery operates throughout the 24 hours. The ordinary working arrangements in this country are simply not good enough.

The right hon. Member for Blaenau Gwent (Mr. Foot) derided the employment figures because he said that they contained so many part-time jobs. Those people who were working when he was a boy would describe the current working week as equivalent to a part-time job. We do not need to argue any more about hours because the concept of the normal working week is on its way to the cemetery. We need to create working packages that, to a hitherto unparalleled extent, fit the lives of workers. That change from fitting the worker to the job to fitting the job to the worker is the revolution to which the Bill makes a modest contribution, but if it is to succeed much more must be done.

What is involved goes to the heart of one of the great dilemmas facing British society. How do we create conditions that allow for greater family stability and cohesion while simultaneously allowing for equal opportunities for men and women to work where they want? In the end we can only provide the opportunities and leave it to those who have two wage packets to make satisfactory arrangements for child care. Such arrangements must increasingly rely upon husbands taking their full share of the responsibilities. Until there is a greater acceptance of such arrangements child care arrangements at work must be expanded.

Private companies are beginning to meet that need, and I do not believe that such arrangements should be widely subsidised. In the short term, however, more help is needed for low-income couples and for the single parent, male or female. I hope that we can decide upon a sensible provision so that it is possible to give those on the edge of the labour market and those for whom it is only marginally worth going to work if they must provide their own child care, the incentive to take work. I hope that my right hon. Friend will consider that. I look forward to the report on women that will emerge from the inter-ministerial group.

I am encouraged to learn that the upper limit for applications for a place on ET is not set in concrete. The over-50s are the most deprived and the most discriminated against group in today's labour market. I do not believe that to suggest that for a member of that group to get a place on ET is somehow exceptional, is the best way to promote that scheme. The scheme should be marketed in a different way to appeal to that group.

I do not believe that we should discourage applicants who believe that they have a genuine grievance from going to a tribunal and I hope that we can rely on the Secretary of State's assurances about that. I believe that the Bill plays a useful part in sending a signal to the labour market that there are no no-go areas for women any more, and that they should be encouraged to play their full part in that market.

8 pm

Mr. Ken Eastham (Manchester, Blackley)

It is fascinating to hear Tory Ministers introduce Bills such as this. They use such glowing terms. We are told that the measure will widen opportunities for women and young people, and some Conservative Members are in raptures at the thought of women working down the pits. I predict that, if we do see women down the mines, they will not be the wives and daughters of Conservatives.

The Department of Employment has issued a glossy document describing the proposals in the Bill. This is the season for glossy documents. Hon. Members are being bombarded with glossy brochures from employers pleading for special treatment from the Chancellor in his coming Budget. They think that they should be given special consideration. Glossy brochures are never produced urging a better deal for poorly paid workers.

Mr. Janman

The hon. Gentleman has spoken of receiving glossy brochures from companies pleading for consideration in the Budget and he implied that ordinary working people should benefit from Conservative Budgets. Is he aware that in the last Budget working people benefited greatly from the tax cuts? Why, then, did his party oppose those tax cuts and would it undoubtedly oppose other cuts that the Chancellor might wish to make in future Budgets?

Mr. Eastham

I have never heard such rubbish in all my life. I wish that some of the remarks made by Conservative Members were reported in the newspapers so that the general public might understand their degree of ignorance. Is the hon. Gentleman really comparing the tax concessions made to ordinary working people with the mountain of refunds made available in various ways to the boss class?

Mr. Nicholas Bennett

The hon. Member for Manchester, Blackley (Mr. Eastham) voted against the 2p reduction to 25p in income tax for working people in Britain.

Mr. Eastham

That is correct, and since then my hon. Friends and I have been describing the suffering that working people have endured as a result, for example, of declining standards in the National Health Service. That 2p would have been better spent on improving the quality of life for our people.

I served on the Standing Committee which examined the last measure of this type, the Employment Act 1988. Indeed, there have been half a dozen pieces of legislation of this kind since 1979. When the legislation is being prepared, the civil servants, acting on behalf of the Government, describe in fancy terms what is proposed. It is all sweetness and light, as if the Government are doing working people a favour. But when we read the small print we find that some villains are operating in the Government, depriving working people of their rights and entitlements. The erosion has gone on throughout the last 10 years.

This measure virtually does away with protection for women and young workers. It permits unrestricted hours of work, and various complications are likely to arise over hours of work and split shifts. We shall see people going to work in the morning, being sent away in the middle of the day and returning in the evening to make up their time. There will not be any straightforward arrangements; all sorts of conditions—night shifts and the like— will be introduced as part of new working conditions.

Restrictions will also be imposed on trade unions, and redundancy entitlements will be curbed. The Bill is completely flawed because it does nothing to ensure that employers take action to improve production, to enhance the prosperity of the nation and to create fairness and justice for the people.

Let us not forget that there are two sides to society. We do not want an us-and-them situation. I fear that that state of affairs is applauded by the Government, who take a brutal attitude towards ordinary working people. This. state of affairs does not exist in other countries. Employers in Sweden, Japan and Germany adopt a different. philosophy from the view in Tory Britain. We should learn some lessons from them. After all, they have been far more successful than us.

The word "barriers" crops up in, among other places., the Department of Employment's glossy document. The Tories imply that these so-called barriers are creating problems for working people, and they want to relieve them of these barriers. We in the Opposition do not regard some of them as barriers. We claim that they are protecting decent working conditions. It is clearly a matter of interpretation whether something is a barrier or a protection.

Rates of pay can be described as a regular old favourite of the Tories. We are witnessing the final throw in their efforts to abolish wages councils. Those councils affect 2.5 million low-paid workers, people receiving from £74.44 to £92.82 a week. It is clear that, in the view of Conservative Members, those rates are too high, so they are removing any protection the low paid have received through wages councils.

Are Conservative Members concerned at all about the pay received by employers? There seems to be no limit to or shame about what one section of the community can get, even though it might be excessively greedy. Consider what some newspapers have said on this issue recently: Bosses hit the jackpot with big pay rises". Britain's bosses accept a pay bonanza in 1987". Top pay up 30 per cent. The Times reported in December: Perks help lift executive pay by 30 per cent. The Guardian reported: Top executives' pay up by nearly a third. That newspaper revealed: Executives' pay shot up by more than 30 per cent. during the past year, dwarfing the 3.8 per cent. average increase for ordinary workers. Despite that, the Government are not satisfied. They remain determined to remove any protection given to the low-paid, people receiving £70 or £90 a week. The newspapers seem to applaud people whose greed gains them rises of 30 per cent. or more. Conservative Members seem to think it respectable that they should be allowed to do that.

An article in one newspaper last month described How Britain's bosses fuel the wages fire. It said: Fifty per cent of executives that get a performance related bonus are taking an extra 21 per cent. of their salary in a cash lump sum, according to a report from pay consultants Noble Lowndes. Not only have these top employees benefited from a reduction in the highest rate of tax—cut by a third in the last Budget—but they are also getting more and more perks. At the same time, there is ever increasing poverty. Last week I attended a meeting in Manchester on the grave problem of poverty. We were told that one third of the city's population live in poverty. In the Greater Manchester area, 48 per cent. of workers receive less than the European decency threshold. That is the wealth that the workers are enjoying. In spite of that, the Government are not satisfied. They are hellbent on reducing rates of pay even more in the name of the so-called free market economy.

If we are talking about barriers, let us examine the barriers facing working people. Let us take the problem of equal pay for women, who are still paid about 72 per cent. of men's wages. It is believed that they will not achieve parity until the year 2086, assuming that they continue to make progress. It takes up to four years to settle the claims of women who have a grievance. The burdensome procedure entails 15 different stages; that is what women must go through to pursue their quest for equal pay.

Women face other barriers, too. They have to cope with young children, but employers do not provide support for them. If we are to sweep away the barriers, as the Government say they want to do, children must be looked after. I have seen in Sweden that providing for the protection and care of the children of married women workers is a practical proposition, and it has not made that nation bankrupt. The Swedish economy is one of the most successful in the world, and unemployment there is 1.7 per cent.

The other day I picked up a Department of Employment notice, from which I want to quote a sentence that refers to the Employment Act 1988: It ensures that union members have rights which they both want, and are fully entitled to expect in a free society. The Government are always harping on the word "free". Increasingly, people are becoming worried about this so-called free society. I cite the example of the Economic League in the context of taking away workers' rights. The league is a private secret service, not answerable to anyone, which does away with the rights of men, women and families to a job. There should be an inquiry into the barriers erected by the Economic League. There may be resistance in the Select Committee on Employment to such an investigation, but there should be one. The league has been exposed on television and in the newspapers. We may have to wait for an inquiry, but we shall hold one when the Labour party is returned to power—[Laughter.] Conservative Members are laughing because they are not interested in people's rights. These sinister organisations are being encouraged, and the Conservative party is not prepared to do anything about that.

Conservative Members sneer about the Economic League. I want to read an excerpt from a letter sent to me by a constituent. After they have heard it perhaps they will not find it so funny: Having gone through the Burma Campaign during the war and on receipt of the Burma Star—1939–45 Star—the defence medal and the 1939–1945 medal, on my return to the UK having done my stint against Fascism I thought I had earned the right to democratic free expression. You can imagine my dismay when I got a phone call from a journalist informing me that my name and my daughter's name, along with many others, is on a Black List held by the Economic League and has been for some years. Since my return from the Far East at the end of the war I have committed no crimes, Rape, Murder, Robbery. I have, however, been guilty of fighting for peace, against the Vietnam war, for democratic rights in Iraq, representing my union at all levels both locally and nationally and as shop steward convenor fighting to improve the wages and conditions of the workers in industry. For these activities I am not ashamed. At the moment I am working with the most deprived section, the unemployed, in a voluntary capacity [Interruption.]—I heard a Conservative Member call out, "Communist." That shows the sort of people who sit on the Conservative Benches. It shows what is going through the minds of some of the young Tories who have just arrived in the House, at a time when people are expressing concern about freedom in Britain and about totalitarianism.

Barriers face handicapped people as well. Again, I quote: Six million people in Britain suffer… from some form of disability. Disabled people constitute 12 per cent. of the working population… many have valuable skills. Their job prospects depend, however, not so much on their abilities and performance as on the good will and farsightedness of their employers. That sort of barrier is not mentioned in the glossy documents, in which there is no balance. That is what upsets us about them.

Another barrier facing working people is created by the continued lowering of standards of health and safety. Some of my hon. Friends have already mentioned this problem. The Employment Gazette for January 1989 says that there were 500 fatal accidents and 33,000 serious injuries at work in a 12-month period. There were probably more, but they were not all reported.

Trade union representation has been further curtailed, and that ties in with the question of health and safety. It is important that there should be trade union representation for workers.

A working man seeking compensation for injury can usually go only to his trade union. He cannot go through the courts and get barristers to represent him. Another curtailment is the Government's further restrictions on the trade unions.

I should like to suggest what we might do, if we are sincere, to improve the industrial performance of Britain. We could introduce cheaper loans for industrial investment. Interest rates are going through the ceiling. Britain has the highest rates in Europe. When I was in Japan with the Select Committee on Employment I learned that the rate of interest on bank loans was 4⅛ per cent. That gave an incentive to improve productivity and to make industry competitive. In Britain the interest rate is probably 16 or 18 per cent. now. How can we compete when we have such high rates?

When I was in Japan I found that the philosophy there was quite different. It seems to be that the employers do not buy labour and workers do not sell it. They all join the company and their total philosophy is different from ours. We must get over the idea of "us and them". I shall return to the theme of brutality, the brutal attitude that seems to be encouraged by the Government, the "smash-all" thing. They tell everybody to knock the workers about and they call it progress. It is not progress; it is a disaster and will continue to be a disaster.

One of the threads in the debate is skill training. We ought to consider better skill training. Over the past 10 years the Government have done many things to destroy training. They have abolished most of the industrial training boards and two or three years ago they closed skill centres. The Minister boasted that we presently have more than 100,000 people in training. Two or three years ago the Select Committee on Employment received a firm promise that over 300,000 people would be in training. Lord Young made that promise, but at that time he was running the Manpower Services Commission. The Minister boasts that 100,000 people in training is a great achievement, but it is one third of what the Government prophesied three years ago.

The Financial Times in November 1988 contained an article about skill training. It said: In electrical skills, France trained 32,000 young people to craft level in 1984, compared with 7,000 in Britain; 13,000 to craft/technician level compared with 7,000 in Britain, and 14,000 to technician/higher technician standard, while Britain trained 9,000 to that standard.

If we are honest with ourselves, those are the comparisons that we must make. Even The Daily Telegraph, which cannot be said to be a great supporter of the Opposition, said last month: If evidence were needed, we need only point to the chilling differentials between the levels of British training and those of our most successful competitors. In Japan 95 per cent. of young people are in full-time education up to the age of 18, compared with 32 per cent. in England. Thirty-eight per cent. of Japanses enter higher education and 48 per cent. of north Americans, against only 15 per cent. of Britons. Surely there are some lessons to be learned. We keep on telling the Government that, but they keep on fooling themselves, like the king with his suit of clothes, and nobody seems to recognise that fact. Until there is more honesty and proper reports that will show us the kind of scientific balance that exists between employers and workers and investment and banking, we will never see any real progress or prosperity.

We shall not make progress by making working conditions worse. If we want examples of the truth of that we should look at what is happening in Germany, Sweden and Japan. We compare very badly with other industrialised nations. When it comes to the crunch, we are probably near the bottom of the pile. Governments are elected to serve all the people and not just the privileged few. Regrettably, over the past 10 years that has been the Conservative's philosophy.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Deputy Speaker

Several hon. Members are seeking to catch my eye. I understand that the Front Bench speakers will seek to reply to the debate in 55 minutes. The arithmetic is obvious, and I am afraid that unless speeches are much shorter some hon. Members will be disappointed.

8.25 pm
Mr. Tim Janman (Thurrock)

I support the Bill and welcome it as, I hope, a first step to future major deregulation of the labour market. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State is to be congratulated on sweeping away outdated regulations and restrictions that impair opportunities for women in various parts of the labour market and form barriers to young people.

Given the Opposition's philosophy of life, one can understand their attitude to some parts of the Bill. Their reaction to this part of the Bill and their ranting and raving is quite laughable. To hear them going on one would think that the Government were about to round up women at gunpoint and force them down the mines. Clearly, that is not the case and the British people will see right through the political posturing of the Opposition over this part of the Bill.

I welcome the amendments to the employment protection legislation of the 1970s but I fear that they do not go far enough. I remind my hon. Friends and the Secretary of State that we still have a huge plethora of legislation that interferes with the way in which companies recruit, dismiss and pay their employees. Even after the Bill becomes law we will still have sex discrimination legislation, race relations and equal pay legislation and wage councils and many parts of the Employment Protection Act 1975 remaining on the statute book.

It is disconcerting that even this Government will bring forward in Northern Ireland a Bill, the Fair Employment. (Northern Ireland) Bill, that will add to the huge plethora of regulations that employers have to put up with in that part of the United Kingdom. However, the Government have recognised this problem. The 1986 White Paper entitled "Building Business … Not Barriers" said: Regrettably, it is those regulations designed to offer security of employment that have done most to persuade employers that they should not recruit unless absolutely essential.

Although I criticise the existence of much of the legislation that I have mentioned, or major components of much of it, I agree that much of the legislation is well intentioned. In certain instances it will genuinely help some employers in the short-term. However, when one takes the picture as a whole one sees that this legislation which was brought upon us layer upon layer in the 1970s, reduces the willingness of firms to risk recruiting and impedes their ability to react quickly to market conditions and to labour market conditions specifically. It creates the need for unnecessary staff and therefore extra costs and management overheads.

In the 1970s unemployment under the Labour Government was going up, but one junction within industry that was continuing to recruit and expand were personnel departments because companies had to take on many extra professsional staff to keep up with the layer upon layer of legislation that was hitting them, telling them who they could recruit, how they recruit them and many other things.

Obviously, those increases in overheads and management costs reduce companies' cost-effectiveness and, therefore, their competitiveness both in domestic and world markets. That reduces their ability to sell their goods and services to those markets, which in turn reduces their turnover and their profit. That in turn undermines job security for employees in the company and reduces companies tax contributions to the Chancellor. In other words, this impedes wealth creation and, although in some instances much of the legislation may be in the interests of some employees, it is clearly not in the national interest because it impedes wealth creation and the flow of revenue to the Chancellor.

Time is short this evening and I wish to make some brief comments about three other parts of the Bill—training, paid time off for union officials and industrial tribunals. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State is right to bring forward his proposals that relate to industrial tribunals. Some people—they may well be in a minority—bring cases out of pure spite or just to cause trouble. It is interesting to note—I believe that I am right in saying this—that the area of employment protection legislation and industrial tribunals is the only area of the law where the accused person is guilty until proven innocent. That is the basis from which a company starts. In the rest of our legal system, a person is innocent until proved guilty.

It is right to introduce at the chairman's discretion the maximum £150 deposit, which will act as a deterrent against people bringing cases unless they have a good and genuine case under employment protection legislation. I have worked in personnel and I know that companies take industrial tribunals seriously because, clearly, it is not good for a company's PR image if it is found wanting in this area and to have treated one or more of its employees unfavourably. This measure will protect companies so that their time is not wasted by individuals who act irresponsibly.

The current regime whereby some trade union officials have a licence to go round stirring up trouble at their workplace or at other people's workplaces and being paid for doing so by the employers for whom they are supposed to be working is clearly ridiculous. Again, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State is right to bring forward proposals that will tighten this up. My only fear is that the tightening up will not be quite tight enough, but it is a start and a step in the right direction.

I welcome the abolition of the Training Commission. Centralised bodies are not the answer. The hon. Member for Newham, North-East (Mr. Leighton) said earlier that, 100 years ago, Germany was having to have to catch up with this country in respect of the level of training. One hundred years ago, there was not that much state interference or centralised bureaucratic control in the way that training was delivered in this country. Tonight, we have heard Opposition Members admit that this country was very much in the lead in these natters at that time.

The responsibility for training must ultimately lie with the employers. There are many reasons why it is in the employers' interest to acknowledge and implement that responsibility. The new training and enterprise councils will catalyse a return to such a way of operating with regard to training.

One of our weaknesses in many instances is the inability of technical colleges to adapt to the training needs of companies in the locality. My hon. Friend the Member for Broxtowe (Mr. Lester) spoke about training vouchers. It is worth considering a voucher system for individuals and companies vis-a-vis technical colleges so that, rather than simply offering what is convenient for them to offer to local companies, they have a financial incentive to offer training courses to those companies that are relevant to their needs in a modern, thriving economy.

The Bill will go some way to relieving small firms of unnecessary regulations and it will, in some small degree, liberalise the labour market. The Government believe in the free market. I hope that the Bill is only the first step down the road of a deregulated labour market which is, of course, a major and fundamental component of the wider free market.

8.36 pm
Mr. Keith Vaz (Leicester, East)

Employment Bills should be about creating the climate and conditions for employment. They should be carefully drafted measures designed to define the rights of the employed, to enhance and clarify them and to support good industrial relations and, in so doing, to aid national prosperity. By those criteria, this Bill fails miserably, eroding rights, restricting the advances of a century of experience, eroding good industrial relations and undermining them, not helping them.

The Government's hypocrisy—they pretend to care for the young and promise legislation to prevent child abuse yet propose to pass legislation that is, in effect, a charter for the abuse of young people by wicked employers—is clear for all of us to see, sweeping away a century of protective rights for young people, giving a green light to the greedy employer and allowing the exploiter to excel.

I started work when I was 16, exactly 16 years ago. I had to go out to work because one of my parents had died. I worked in a shop from the age of 16 until the age of 21 to help my mother pay her mortgage. I did not know that these rights existed and that this protection was given, but, looking back, I and millions of young people are grateful for the fact that we have this protection. The Government are now proposing that we go back to the 19th century. The Bill proposes the removal of virtually all protection of young persons against long hours of work, shift work and night work. The Government are to do away with statutory meal and rest breaks for youngsters and rights to holidays and days off. The Minister is to give himself wider powers to repeal any other protective legislation, including laws protecting children under school-leaving age.

Coupled with the proposed abolition of wages councils and the Government's blind eye to abuses of the YTS and similar courses, it is obvious that these proposals are made solely to help unscrupulous employers exploit young workers without hindrance or concern for health, safety and welfare.

As my right hon. Friend the Member for Blaenau Gwent (Mr. Foot) pointed out, the Bill ignores the recommendations made to the Government by the Health and Safety Commission. The hon. Member for Erith and Crayford (Mr. Evennett) said that Opposition Members glory in the level of unemployment. As he is not present in the Chamber, I say to other Conservative Members that, if we glory in unemployment, they glory in the death and injury of so many young people under the YTS and other schemes. The Health and Safety Commission accident figures show that 16 to 24-year-olds are more at risk of accidents than older workers. That is partly due to inexperience and immaturity. Young people need more protection. The Government have accepted that in other aspects of policy, but not in employment.

The proposal to abolish restrictions on night working set out in the Employment of Women, Young Persons, and Children Act 1920 would be a clear breach of article 7(8) of the European social charter. The Bill is about removing rights. The Government's aim is to make life as difficult as possible for those who leave their employment for whatever reason. That is why they are raising the qualification period for a written statement of reasons for dismissal. It is obvious that employees who do not have a written statement will find it very difficult to obtain further employment.

Yesterday one of my constituents telephoned me to tell me that she had been dismissed from her employment, having worked there for six months. She asked her employer to provide reasons for her dismissal. He refused, and when she went to press him again he called the police.

In some cases young people will not be entitled to benefit because there will be an allegation that they have been dismissed for misconduct. The Government's proposal removes the right to a written statement from an estimated 5 million workers. In 1986, 44 per cent. of all cases arising under jurisdictions other than unfair dismissal and discrimination received by the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service concerned the employer's failure to provide a written statement on dismissal.

The Bill is about undermining trade union rights. The Government claim that current legislation can result in employers having to pay lay union officials to take time off for activities unrelated to the terms on which the employer recognises the union. There is absolutely no evidence to suggest that time off for trade union duties adversely affects employers. The duties of an official may require him or her to participate in the planning of strategy as well as negotiating sessions where groups of workers other than those he represents are involved. Under the Bill, shop stewards would not be given time off to attend those meetings.

The removal of the requirement for companies with fewer than 20 employees to provide written disciplinary procedures is absurd. Why should a distinction between different responsibilities be placed on different sized establishments? Employees do not learn the procedures any better because their workplace is smaller. It is in the interests of employees and employers to ensure that there are clear grievance procedures to allow everyone to understand the position.

The Minister justifies his proposal by claiming that, in small firms, employees clearly know their roles and responsibilities. That view contrasts sharply with that of ACAS. In November 1985, ACAS produced a consultative document which argued for a new draft code of practice on disciplinary and other procedures in employment. It argued that in every organisation there should be clearly understood procedures, however simple, which are consistent with the general principles and intentions of the code.

Before I was elected to this House, I worked as a solicitor for a law centre in Leicester. I had to advise many people about taking claims to an industrial tribunal. The introduction of the deposit order for industrial tribunals will be a major obstacle for an employee seeking justice. Industrial tribunals were set up in 1964. Since then, through complex legislation, their work has grown enormously. It is now very difficult for employees to understand the complexity of the law.

In this Bill the Government should have ensured that there was ready access to industrial tribunals. Instead, they want to deter potential applicants. Although under the terms of this Bill employees can request deposit orders, in practice that is highly unlikely. Between 1986 and 1987 there were 594 applications for industrial tribunal pre-hearing assessments from employers, as against only 15 from employees. The sifting mechanism of the ACAS conciliation stage already exists which, in 1986–87, resulted in 11,129 ACAS conciliated settlements out of 39,000 industrial tribunal applications. In the same year, a further 14,149 cases were settled privately or withdrawn after the conciliation stage.

The deposit requirement will have a disproportionate impact on unemployed and low-paid litigants. Seventy-five per cent. of claims before industrial tribunals come from unemployed people who simply cannot afford to pay the £150 deposit which might be ordered by the chairman of the tribunal. Once the deposit is ordered, it prejudges the outcome of the case. The Government should have ensured that legal aid was available at industrial tribunals so that people could be properly assisted.

So much good could have been done through a new Employment Bill. The Minister could have used it as an opportunity to correct the mistakes that the Government have made in employment policy over the past 10 years. At the heart of the Bill is a desire to turn the equal partnership that has developed in industry between employer and employee into one of master and slave. That destroys the real need for both parties to a contract of employment to respect each other. The Government should be ashamed of themselves.

8.46 pm
Mr. David Martin (Portsmouth, South)

Unlike Opposition Members, I interpret the Bill as another example of the way in which the Government are prepared to carry out measured reform where that is necessary and desirable. Like my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Kent (Mr. Rowe), I want to concentrate on the parts of the Bill which advance the principle of equal treatment for men and women in vocational training, promotion and working conditions.

I have always been surprised at the resigned and docile way in which so many women, having carried out virtually every conceivable task in factories and elsewhere during the last war, then resumed in the main the traditional roles in the home and bringing up children. That is fulfilling, needs to be done and is in no way to be devalued, but for so many it was considered to be a "woman's place" without choice or relief and leading to absolute dependency regardless of inclination or ability, intellectual or physical.

There has been a tremendous advance since 1945 in the number of women in work and more recently in the number of women in top jobs, but the docility of women after the war created an attitude which still prevails about what women do and how successfully they do it. The regulations that were originally designed to protect women have become discriminatory, and these were and have been tolerated to a remarkable extent.

Perhaps the most ambitious attempt in recent years to promote equality of opportunity between men and women was the Sex Discrimination Act 1975 which had all-party support. Even that legislation allowed obvious inequalities to continue, not to protect women from harm but to protect and preserve jobs of male union members from women. That was the burden of much of the protection in that legislation and why it did not go far enough. I recall that in 1975, when the Conservative party was in opposition, my right hon. Friend the Member for Chesham and Amersham (Sir I. Gilmour) referred to the few genuine arrangements to remove the discrimination incorporated in that legislation, particularly in relation to matters which this Bill addresses with regard to working hours and the employment of women in mines and elsewhere.

Those restrictions are to be swept away at last in a long overdue reform. It is easy to misrepresent the reforms by stating that there are no suitable arrangements for women working in places like mines. That has always been used as an excuse as to why women should not, in respect of many activities, do that of which they are plainly capable.

The proposed legislation will not deal entirely with those women who have no wish to take wider employment opportunities but who require assistance because they are not willing or able to work and who wish simply to stay at home to look after their families in the traditional way. In my view, their preference should always be respected and supported.

I refer finally to the Equal Opportunities Commission, which was created by a Conservative Government. Its duties were increased by the Sex Discrimination Act 1975, when the commission was given its present wider role. On Second Reading of that legislation, the then Home Secretary gave the commission not a permanent life but a life for however long that continues to be necessary."—[Official Report, 26 March 1975; Vol. 889, c. 521.] He therefore envisaged that at some time there would be an end to the Equal Opportunities Commission, and so do I. I hope that this Bill will hasten its redundancy.

I do not expect that view necessarily to be shared with enthusiasm by Opposition Members. I remember the hon. Member for Preston (Mrs. Wise) making a speech on the Loyal Address on 22 November in which, far from looking forward to the end of such catalysts as the Equal Opportunities Commission, she envisaged a Ministry for women which will…have the power and the duty to examine all Government policies for their impact on women and ensure alterations when necessary. For this purpose, it will have outposts in each Government Department. The Treasury will no longer reign supreme. Such a Ministry will inform women about Government actions and ask for their views, and, for these purposes, will set up regional offices."—[Official Report, 22 November 1988; Vol. 142, c. 39.]

I suspect that the hon. Lady will have a hard task persuading her right hon. and hon. Friends to implement such arrangements, particularly in meeting the kind of union objections that stopped the Sex Discrimination Act 1975 going much wider. In any event, we have been warned by the hon. Lady that her intention is that commissarial busybodies would be set to work in every central or regional Department.

If a Labour Government are ever returned in the distant future, I hope that by then women will take for granted equal status, rights and opportunities and will view with contempt such patronisation as something belonging to an older and unenlightened age. I hope that we may continue with measures such as the Bill to advance the cause of women until such time as there is no distinction whatsoever in their opportunities.

8.52 pm
Mrs. Audrey Wise (Preston)

I am grateful to the hon. Member for Portsmouth, South (Mr. Martin) for his free advertisement for Labour party policy. He may be interested to learn that the trade unions support our policy for a Ministry for women and will be pleased to see the impact of Government policies on women examined in the way that I described.

The Bill is presented as something that will improve women's opportunities. We are told over and over again that it will open doors, and that it introduces no element of compulsion. Plainly, that is not true. The factors that prevent women enjoying equal opportunities have nothing to do with the protection offered by the Factories Act 1961. It is not that Act which ensures that 93 per cent. of Members of Parliament are male. It is not that Act which ensures that 87 per cent. of gynaecologists—of all things—are male. It is not the Factories Act 1961 which ensures that the majority of managers in retail distribution are male, although the majority of their employees are female. That Act has nothing to do with such inequalities—and I could go on and on, describing many more examples.

The Factories Act 1961 offers women some protection. Women are not, in practice, queuing up anxiously to do jobs that will involve them in constant night work in factories. Men put up with many conditions of work that they should not tolerate. We could do with a levelling up of some working conditions, to improve those of men. What we are being given in the name of equality is a levelling down of working conditions—so that, for example, women will be permitted to clean moving machinery. Nobody should be expected to clean moving machinery —it should first be turned off.

We are not bowing or curtseying with gratitude for the provisions of the Bill. It is no big deal. Instead, we view it alongside the Social Security Bill which was before the House for its Second Reading yesterday—and it is here that the element of compulsion is introduced. Under existing legislation, it is illegal for women to undertake certain jobs—but with this Bill, they will risk being deprived of social security benefits if they refuse them in future. The two Bills between them will deprive women of the right to say whether certain work is suitable for them. It is an insult to our intelligence and to our common sense to suggest that the Employment Bill has anything to do with equality.

One can say the same of the so-called advances for young workers. One hon. Member said that work should fit the worker and that the worker should not be forced to fit the job. I entirely agree. I am waiting to hear which young workers need to be permitted to work 50 hours a week!

What protection do young workers have? Forty per cent. of 16 and 17-year-olds work in shops. They are given magnificent protection. They must have a 20-minute break after working five or five-and-a-half hours, whereas adults have that entitlement only after working six hours. There is little help there for the young person. Young workers may not be employed for more than 48 hours per week but there are exceptions in times of unusual or seasonal pressure. In general, young people may not work between 10 pm and 6 am, and they must be allowed an interval of rest of 11 consecutive hours in every 24. Those are the extravagant restrictions and protections that are being swept away by the Conservatives. I am sure that young people will hardly be extraordinarily grateful to them.

In factories young people at present may not work for more than nine hours a day or possibly 10 or 10½ with overtime in five-day factories, or 48 hours a week exclusive of breaks. They cannot start work before 7 am or after 8 pm, and they must have a half-hour break after four-and-a-half hours' work. Those are the protections that are being swept away with the excuse that the obligations on employers make them wholly resistant to the idea of taking on young people.

I think that the employers who will take advantage of the lifting of such restrictions are employers whom we do not want in this country. I would prefer that they all went bankrupt and left the way clear for the good employers—or at least better employers—who will be undermined by the Bill. The Bill is a charter for the worst, most scurrilous and most exploitative employers.

We talk loosely about 16 and 17-year-olds, but these young people can be as young as 15 years eight months. According to the Library, the age is between 15 years eight months and 16 years seven months, depending on the relationship between a pupil's birthday and the statutory school-leaving age. Just in case people do not realise this, let me point out that that person of 15 years eight months will be an adult in employment law, working in adult conditions but not for adult wages. If that person is a girl, however, and is unfortunate enough to give birth to a baby, in social security law she does not exist at all. Although she is a mother she cannot claim for herself or her child through the social security system. She is entirely dependent on the attitude of her parents.

Young people of 16 or 17 have had their entitlement to income support removed. It is not simply that they are not treated as adults in connection with rates of entitlement; they are treated entirely differently in principle. Social security law says, "You are not an adult," but employment law says, "Oh yes you are: stand on your own two feet." Hon. Members have used that expression in the Chamber tonight. When we object, we are told that we are being patronising to young people. But it is not their young people who find themselves working in grotty jobs in shops or factories, and who will suffer from these employers. Their young people, in fact, will grow up to be such employers, if their parents are anything to go by.

I believe that we are speaking not only in the best interests, but with the full support, of today's youngsters—when they realise what is happening. We want more opportunities for women and for young people. We want access to training. We want child care provision and humanity at work. What we do not want is this charter for scurrilous and exploitive employers. A Conservative Member has said that times have changed: they certainly have. Every day, with every Bill that Conservative Members bring forward, times change for the worse.

9.1 pm

Mr. Graham Riddick (Colne Valley)

Time is running a little short, so I shall not make all the comments that I hoped to make. Let me say, however, that I am pleased that the Government are able to call on the National Council for Civil Liberties for support on the relaxation of regulations relating to women.

The NCCL is accusing opponents of the lifting of restrictions on women working in mines of stereotyping. The hon. Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Meacher) refused to answer my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, who asked where he stood on that provision: did he or did he not support women being allowed to go down the mines? I hope that whoever winds up for the Opposition will make it clear exactly where the Labour party stands, but having listened to Opposition Members it seems to me that by and large the party is very much opposed to the new provision.

It must be somewhat embarrassing for the TUC and the Labour party, because the Labour party did not really know which of its lines of dogma to abandon—its opposition to all forms of deregulation or its obsession with anything vaguely connected with equal opportunities. Conservative Members believe that women should at least have the freedom to choose whether or not they wish to apply for jobs down the mine.

Mr. Eric Heifer (Liverpool, Walton)


Mr. Riddick

I hear an Opposition Member shouting, "Rubbish." It sounds to me like good old-fashioned Labour chauvinism coming to the surface. Women should be free to apply for those jobs. Then it is up to managers to decide whether an individual is capable of doing the job.

It is interesting to note one major difference between this Employment Bill and previous employment Bills introduced by the Government. This Bill is not primarily concerned with trade unions. There is now a proper equilibrium between trade unions and employers, between trade unions and their members and between trade union activities and the law, but the law on the closed shop remains glaringly inadequate. My hon. Friend the Member for Cambridgeshire, South-East (Mr. Paice) has already referred to that fact. Like him, I believe that the omission of any reference to the closed shop must be remedied before the Bill completes its passage through the House.

The closed shop, in any shape or form, is a denial of personal freedom. Every individual should have the right to belong or not to belong to a trade union. In the 1970s, the right hon. Member for Blaenau Gwent (Mr. Foot) gave the unions carte blanche to ride roughshod over the rights of ordinary working people and to force millions of them to belong to trade unions, whether or not they wished to do so.

My right hon. and hon. Friends on the Treasury Bench believe that clauses 10 and 11 of the Employment Act 1988, which made it unlawful for trade unions to take action to maintain closed shops, and which made it unlawful for employers to sack employees for not belonging to trade unions, will effectively result in the demise of the closed shop. I realise that those two clauses have been in force only since July of last year—about six months—but so far as I can ascertain from my inquiries those provisions have made no difference whatever to the closed shops that were in existence then. They are still in existence; they are still alive and well. My right hon. Friend announced recently that he intends to review the operation of the pre-entry closed shop. I welcome his announcement. I hope that his review will be completed shortly so that appropriate amendments can be included in the Bill.

About 3.7 million people are estimated to be captive within the closed shop arrangements. That information was provided by the Labour party's research department. [Interruption.] The fact is that a host of Labour-controlled councils—such as Sandwell, Manchester, Stoke-on-Trent, Darlington and my own local council of Kirklees—continue to hoodwink their employees into believing that they must belong to a trade union.

Kirklees metropolitan district council does everything in its power to operate a closed shop and to hoodwink its employees into belonging to a trade union. A Kirklees council employee recently sent to me a copy of his contract of employment, which says: this authority is party to a trade union membership agreement and it is a condition of your employment that you join one of the appropriate signatory trade unions for your employment group within 13 weeks of commencement of your employment". In addition, every job advertisement in the local press states that Kirklees council operates a union membership agreement. The final proof is that Kirklees attempts to operate its closed shop by allowing unions to use its own mailing facilities, reminding Kirklees employees that a closed shop operates and that they should therefore join a trade union.

There can be no doubt that Kirklees council is operating a closed shop, yet that closed shop has no legal standing whatsoever. If it were challenged in a court of law, it would be thrown out in a matter of minutes because there has been no ballot of employees to approve the closed shop. The vast majority of existing and new employees believe, and will continue to believe, that union membership is compulsory—in the absence of any information to the contrary from their employer, or in the absence of legislation which make it abundantly clear that all closed shop arrangements are unlawful.

I believe that there is a solution to the problem and that it would not be too difficult for the Government to provide that solution. They should write into the Bill that it shall be unlawful for any person to maintain a union membership agreement. I moved an amendment to that effect to the Employment Bill last year.

I realise that Ministers are concerned that disgruntled individuals might make malicious or erroneous claims stating that they failed to obtain a particular job because they refused to join a trade union. The way to overcome such problems is to give any person who believes that a union membership agreement exists the right to draw it to the attention of the commissioner for the rights of trade union members. The commissioner will investigate the claim and, if it is substantiated, he will apply for a court order banning the trade union membership agreement. If the employer or the union failed to comply with the court order, they would be in contempt of court, with all the serious implications that that involves.

Since the Government took office, they have enacted four major pieces of trade union legislation. It is time for them to stop skirting around the vital issue and legislate to make the closed shop illegal.

I heard the noises made by Opposition Members when I talked about the closed shop. They talk about trade union rights, but they are not interested in the rights of trade unionists. They want to see people in a union whether or not they want to be there. We should make the closed shop illegal so that British trade unionists and employers know where they stand. Once we have done that, we shall have achieved a massive extension of personal freedom.

9.11 pm
Mr. Dave Nellist (Coventry, South-East)

There is an aphorism that things mellow with age. That is not true of this Government or the Prime Minister in their attitudes to women and working-class youth. The Bill is the sixth major attack on workers' rights in the past 10 years. It is nasty and vindictive and follows the pattern of the past decade. Time will prevent me from turning my attention to all the clauses, but if I am fortunate enough to be selected to serve on the Committee I shall deal then with those that I am unable to mention now.

One clause increases from six months to two years the service needed before an employee is given written reasons for his dismissal. There are clauses attacking the right of people to take time off for trade union duties.

Clause 18 deals with the dissolution of the Training Commission. I am not too upset by its demise, but I am not happy with the Government's plan to hand over to the private sector almost all aspects of industrial training. I am also unhappy about the new training task force set up to advise the Government on training—it is a successor to the Training Commission—on which employers will have two thirds of the seats.

My feelings on the axing of the Training Commission have been coloured by nearly six years as a Member of the House. During that time I have campaigned on health and safety, particularly as it affects young workers on youth opportunities programmes or youth training schemes. Safety is currently the responsibility of the Training Commission. The House may remember the debates I have initiated on the number of deaths that have occurred. It may remember the delegations I have led to Ministers and the correspondence I have had with the MSC. I do not apologise for repeating some of the points made earlier by my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Brightside (Mr. Blunkett). He referred to the senseless and tragic death of Derek Cain, a 17-year-old Sheffield lad who died in December 1982 at the waste disposal firm of Plumb and Son in Sheffield. That death has national implications, and so has the Bill.

Derek Cain's father, Richard, helped me to draft a private Member's Bill on health and safety and on the role of the MSC. Derek died from a massive injury caused by the revolving blades of a paper shredding machine. His father was not satisfied with the derisory compensation offered by the MSC. As a single parent he was offered £52. The other parents I have met after similar bereavements have received £78 when there are two parents. His father was also unhappy with the MSC's abdication of its responsibility for health and safety. He spent six years taking court action against the MSC which concluded a few days before Christmas.

The MSC's main argument—it is reflected in the contributions made by Tory Members to this debate—is that health and safety is the responsibility of the provider of training schemes. An MSC official in the court said that once the MSC had passed the scheme as being safe, it was up to the sponsor to keep its end of the bargain.

The MSC's other main argument was that Derek was partly responsible for his own death because he should not have been on a baling machine in a paper shredding factory. Fifteen MSC officials attended that trial. They were so sure of winning that—this was reported to me—the solicitor representing the MSC was grinning like a chimpanzee before the trial began. What he found funny about the fact or the circumstances of the death of a 17-year-old escapes me.

Richard's solicitor was able to find letters from other former YOP trainees confirming that every young worker in that plant was asked to work on the baler. He was able to prove that the MSC checked the premises only from the outside of the factory. When the MSC was asked why it did not even write to the factories inspectorate to find out whether Plumbs was on its list —and it was not—the MSC official responsible responded in court by saying, "It would have meant too much paperwork." A lad of 17 was killed because of a lack of paperwork. The Bill is full of similar excuses such as paperwork being a burden on business. Perhaps when the Minister replies to the debate he would like to tell Derek's father Richard about paperwork. In summing up, the judge said that he was appalled at the number of deaths and injuries on YTS, and so am I. More than 50 families have been bereaved over the years. In the past three months, YTS was the most dangerous occupation in Britain—outranking construction or shipbuilding. The judge also said that the MSC had been negligent in placing the young lad in those premises. I agree. That is another reason why I am not too upset about the abolition of the ineffectual Training Commission.

In 1972 Richard was offered £52 compensation. In deciding the outcome of the case, the judge awarded £20,000 compensation and costs against Plumbs, which could run to £100,000. That case has major national implications. Because it happened in the same week as the Lockerbie disaster, the press were rightly engaged in other matters, but surely the other 50 families should be told about the level of compensation and other firms throughout the country who have acted in the same cavalier way should know that they face the risk of incurring costs of £100,000 if found guilty in court.

The Bill should have contained what Derek's father got me to put into the private Member's Bill three years ago. Time prevents me from reading it out, but it made the MSC legally responsible for checking. It meant that no scheme would have gone ahead unless the health and safety inspector and a trade union health and safety steward had seen the premises. In answer to the hon. Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Riddick), may I say that had it become law instead of the Bill we are discussing tonight, no scheme would have gone ahead unless it was in a workplace approved by the trade unions. The hon. Gentleman may call it Victorian dogma. I call it saving the lives of 50 young kids and stopping the maiming of thousands more.

The Bill is riddled with attacks on the conditions of workers. A recent study in the Labour research department's bargaining report showed that particularly after the Bill is passed working conditions in Britain will become some of the worst in the EEC. If the Bill becomes law, it will be virtually impossible for workers to establish why they have been dismissed from jobs unless they have been employed for two years. It will make it much harder for trade unions to represent workers. Workers will be discouraged from challenging gaffers dismissing them, and it will be a sweetener and an encouragement of employers to dismiss workers on a whim. It is very bad news indeed for workers. If they are dismissed with no written reason of dismissal, under the most recent social security legislation they face a cut in unemployment benefit for up to 26 weeks.

The Secretary of State talked about industrial tribunals and the £150 pre-tribunal deposit. He said that that was a maximum and not necessarily a fixed amount. When I asked the Secretary of State for Social Security how many workers had lost social security for 26 weeks, he said, "I cannot tell you. We do not keep statistics." I know why the Department does not keep statistics. Virtually every case I have come across has been on the fixed level of 26 weeks. The pre-hearing assessment industrial tribunal deposit will be similar.

The Bill refers to the concept of freedom. The Secretary of State made an attempt sarcastically to list the current regulations affecting young workers. Those regulations restrict the starting time for young workers to no earlier than 7 am and the finishing time no later than 8 pm. They restrict the working day to nine hours, and limit weekend working and the total hours worked in a week to 54 hours.

Instead of removing them, if the Government had any respect, understanding or compassion for young workers, they would extend the rights of young workers or all workers and produce such measures as a maximum working week of 35 hours to share out employment, the elimination of systematic overtime and bringing retirement down to 55 for all workers so that, unlike me, some youngsters could grow up and see both their grandparents instead of seeing one die down a pit at 52 from lung disease without the chance of reaching a retirement age of 60 or 65.

The Secretary of State and some of his acolytes among the younger Tory Members seem, from their echoes of humour, to think that those are Victorian attitudes. but they have no concept of the causes of accidents and no understanding of what tiredness means. A standard ergonomics textbook, entitled "Fitting the Task to the Man", says: Our physiological knowledge and present-day experience point to the conclusion that a working day of eight hours cannot be exceeded without detriment. As my right hon. Friend the member for Blaenau Gwent (Mr. Foot) said, the evidence of the Health and Safety Executive to the Government in March last year said: In relation to hours of work, a broad measure of control should be retained to safeguard young people's welfare and opportunities for their education and social development. Those are difficult aims to achieve for young people if, through tiredness, they are maimed or dead.

I cannot view the attacks in the Bill in isolation from other similar measures. Time precludes me from talking about them in detail. No doubt by the time we get to Report the Government will table amendments for the abolition of the wages councils because the period of statutory, but superficial, consultation finishes on 3 February. We already know that 2.5 million workers—mainly women—on a few pounds either side of £80 a week face cuts in wages if the wages councils are abolished. In the past 10 years, more than 88,000 factories were found to be under-paying their workers under old and existing wages council settlements. How many were prosecuted? Only 56. This is the Government of law and order, but do they enforce existing laws? When they affect their mates, they abolish the laws and get away with under-payment.

The Bill is rife with such points. Clauses 1 to 7 deal with the repeal of what the Government call unnecessary obstacles to employment, particularly for women. My hon. Friend the Member for Barking (Ms. Richardson) will deal with that subject better than I, so I shall make only one point about it. The Government say that the rationale for clauses 1 to 7 is to comply with European Community legislation on sex discrimination, but there is an alternative. Instead of equalising down to comply with European legislation, they could equalise up and raise the rights of men to those of women where protective legislation has been deemed necessary in the past.

Time prevents me from examining properly all the issues. Tory Members may think that it is being kind or considerate to give 16 to 18-year-olds the freedom to work longer hours and the joys of unlimited overtime. They may be surprised to learn that young people do not see the matter in that way. The 16 to 18-year-olds are conscripted into the youth training scheme on pain of losing benefit. One lad in Coventry tried to join a YTS scheme for the eight weeks before his 18th birthday at Christmas. He was turned down because every employer asked why they should take him when they could take on a 16-year-old for two years. He was told by the Department of Social Security to go to the Salvation Army hostel for eight weeks. So even when young people try to get on a scheme, the loss of benefit works against them.

The abolition of wages councils for under-21s has pressurised youth wages down, and the Bill will make their life harder. Shops will increase their use of part-time young workers, especially if the Government allow Sunday and late evening opening. Many employers will use the Bill to threaten the wages and job security of their permanent staff through substitution. National pay bargaining, which is anathema to the Secretary of State, will be further undermined and accidents will increase as the Government legislate to allow the bosses to get away, literally, with murder.

But pressure will also increase from another direction. The trade union and labour movements will campaign for decent training and safe working conditions for young workers and for minimum wages that reflect the cost of living—not the cost of existing. The Secretary of State should widen his reading on European matters and should ask his officials to make an analysis of the Spanish press during the past four weeks. On 14 December, inspired by the elan and enthusiasm of young workers, apprentices and school students in their campaign against training schemes which are modelled on the YTS, Spain was rocked by a general strike of millions of workers for the first time in 50 years. Politicians there said that it could never happen, as they have said here. [Interruption.] The Spanish Government are termed a Socialist Government.

One can stretch a piece of elastic only so far. This clutch of proposals on safety, training, hours and conditions of work may yet be the catalyst for a similar movement among young people in this country. I hope to fight the Bill line by line in the House, without any expectation of changing the minds of Tory Members who may serve on the Committee. Perhaps more important, I hope to spread the message outside the House about the draconian implications of the Bill and to warn workers, young and old, male and female, of the Government's absolute and sustained contempt for them.

9.25 pm
Ms. Jo Richardson (Barking)

When the Secretary of State opened the debate, he waxed quite lyrical about his commitment to equality for women. He recounted the number of women in the work force as if we did not know; he talked about the projected number of women in the work force in the 1990s, as if we did not know; he talked about the need to update legislation such as the Sex Discrimination Act 1975, as if we did not know; and he spoke of the need to sweep away prejudice and to open up opportunities for women, as if we did not know.

We have been saying all that for years. I have to remind the House that the Secretary of State abstained when the House voted on whether to give what became the Sex Discrimination Act 1975 a Second Reading. I do not know where he was, but his commitment to women was obviously not very great on that occasion.

I would have been impressed by what the Secretary of State said earlier if I did not know what was in the Bill. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Blaenau Gwent (Mr. Foot) said, the Bill provides a golden opportunity to grasp the nettle. I have never heard so many Conservative Members make speeches about the need to improve conditions for women. I am truly amazed. I have spoken from the Dispatch Box and from the Back Benches for many years and have been laughed at—as have been my colleagues—when I have spoken of the need to improve conditions.

Anybody who listened to the Secretary of State would think that he and the Government would tackle low pay, introduce universal child care, outlaw sexual harassment at work, provide proper and affordable transport, introduce decent maternity leave and maternity benefits and bring in parental leave. A combination of all those is needed. What do we have instead?

The Bill is split into four bits. The first apparently affects women, the second affects young people, the third affects employees and the fourth concerns training. I have news for you, Mr. Deputy Speaker. The whole Bill is about women—as employees, trainees, trade unionists and young workers. Even the clauses which seem to concern women alone will, in practice, affect the whole of the work force.

The Government are introducing a mixture of measures. Some they do not want to do but have been forced to do, and others they have always wanted to do but have not had the nerve to do before. They have, as usual, delayed acting on rulings made in Europe until they can delay no longer, and they have drowned the progressive aspects from Europe in a sea of ideas entirely of their own imagination.

I welcome the decision to repeal section 51 of the Sex Discrimination Act 1975 insofar as it concerns employment and vocational training. It has been clear for a long time that it is ridiculous that women can be discriminated against by laws which predate 1975, but it has taken the Government until now to do something about it.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Newham, North-East (Mr. Leighton) said, the Government have been in office for 10 years. They could have acted before, but they have dragged their heels until Europe said, "Enough." Once again, the Government have done the very minimum. Why not repeal section 51 altogether? That is what a genuine commitment to ending discrimination entails—not the introduction of a new section 51A. What is the Minister's objection to the Equal Opportunities Commission's proposal of a full repeal of section 51 with limited exceptions reviewable every five years? After all, that is a sensible way forward.

I welcome the Government's acceptance of positive discrimination, by allowing the appointment of women to certain academic posts. I know that they do not call it positive discrimination, but it is that in all but name. It is designed to correct the under-representation of women. What a pity that the Government did not accept this principle when they outlawed contract compliance in last year's Local Government Act. The Government's commitment to the employment of women is confined to just four Oxbridge colleges, and I should like to know why.

A large amount of media and Chamber attention has been concentrated on the provision of the Bill that will allow women to go back down mines. I do not know whether the Secretary of State realises that on this issue both the National Union of Mineworkers and British Coal are united. Neither wishes women to go down mines. Conditions in the mining industry have improved dramatically since the last century, and must be judged as either fit for women and men or not fit for anybody. For these improvements, no organisation deserves more praise than the NUM. For decades it has struggled against hostile Governments and employers to make the health and safety conditions as high as they can be in such a dangerous industry. The NUM and the Trades Union Congress have borne the brunt of the Government's decimation of our coal industry. They have first-hand experience of the Government's policies and have done more than anybody to offset them. That is why I listen to, and respect, their opposition to women returning underground. However, on balance, I disagree with them, provided that the conditions for women working underground are right.

Mr. Lofthouse

If it were possible, I would agree with my hon. Friend. However, after a lifetime in the industry, although I recognise the improvements that have been made, I know that it is still impractical, inhuman and indecent for women to work in coal mines. I hope that we shall never see that. I know that some Conservative Members say that it will never happen. I want to know the Government's motive for putting in this clause. The Bill comes in the lead-up to privatisation, and I wonder whether the motive for this clause is cheap labour for a privatised coal industry, if that should ever happen.

Ms. Richardson

My hon. Friend has a point. He is an ex-miner and speaks with great experience. If the conditions below at the coal face are bad, I agree that women should not work down there, but neither should men. We should ensure that the conditions for men are right in such a way that women are enabled to take their place there if they so wish.

It is patronising to talk about women not being capable of working underground because they are not physically capable of doing the job, as some Conservative Members have done. They are physically capable of doing the job, so that suggestion is monstrous. I want to know what negotiations the Government have entered into with British Coal to ensure that conditions are right for women to go down the mines if they so wish.

Have the Secretary of State and his Department had discussions with British Coal—I understand that it is opposed to women going down the mines—to ensure that it provides proper changing rooms for women and that all the health and safety conditions are satisfied? Has the Secretary of State, who has made recent speeches about the need for employers to provide child care at the workplace, had discussions with British Coal about providing workplace nurseries at the pithead? The right hon. Gentleman should do such things before he comes to the House and talks as though it is an easy option, under present conditions, for women to go down the mines to work. We want to see opportunities available to women in traditional non-female employment, but the conditions, as my hon. Friend the Member for Preston (Mrs. Wise) has said, must be right for men as well as for women. We would then be satisfied.

Women play a role in the mining industries of countries such as the United States and Sweden, and there is no reason why they should not do so here. British Coal must end its list of feeble protests and create the conditions to ensure that women can work in the mines.

Clause 16 will allow an industrial tribunal to charge a deposit of £150 before certain cases can proceed to a full hearing. A number of my hon. Friends have already referred to this. The tripartism of the pre-assessment hearing is to give way to Diplock-style "pre-hearing reviews" with just the chair hearing the case. When the Minister replies I hope that he will tell us what is wrong with the current procedure. When the Secretary of State discussed clause 16, he did not give the reasons behind the change.

Presently, costs can be awarded when the tribunal decides that a case is frivolous, vexatious or otherwise unreasonable. Therefore, why do we need the new provision? It has nothing to do with eliminating half-hearted complaints, but everything to do with reducing the incidence of those complaints. The simple truth is that many people will either be deterred from or just unable to afford to bring a case. Some 75 per cent. of cases heard by industrial tribunals relate to unfair dismissal claims. If a claimant is unemployed, how can she afford the deposit? In Committee, do Ministers plan to introduce any financial assistance for those on social security who wish to proceed with a claim? Are there any plans to introduce guidelines to assist the chair of the tribunal to decide what is a reasonable claim?

Equal pay and sex discrimination claims are already notoriously difficult to pursue. Will the Secretary of State draw up special guidance to assist in those cases? Above all, will the Secretary of State see to it that more women are appointed as chairs to industrial tribunals, because, presently, out of about 80, only about three are women?

The deposit of £150 is a logical complement to all the Government's actions during the past decade. First they got rid of as many rights as they could and now they dispense with the channel of complaint. That is a classic piece of totalitarianism by the back door.

The House should also note that clause 16(3) allows the Secretary of State to change the £150 deposit from time to time. The right hon. Gentleman's movements will be more akin to perpetual motion rather than time to time. The House should remember that it is only two and one half years since the Government in their document "Building Businesses… Not Barriers" suggested a fee of £25. Obviously, at this rate of increase, the fee will be more than £1,000 by the next general election. I suppose that that is what the Government want, because the more the price goes up, the fewer will be the people who will be able to afford to take cases to tribunal.

Most employer organisations did not care for the £25 charge, but a change to six times that figure has an appeal. Employers will be able to flout the law and each time they are summoned before a tribunal they will merely ask the complainant to place a deposit.

Mr. Riddick


Ms. Richardson

I hope the hon. Gentleman will forgive me for not giving way; little time remains for the Front Bench closing speeches.

I come to the question of deregulation. The limiting of paid time off, the proposals on dismissal and disciplinary statements and the changes for industrial tribunals were all trailed in the document "Building Businesses … Not Barriers." I recall the passage of the Sex Discrimination Act 1986, which was in part a result of the fundamental philosophy that underpinned the White Papers to which I have referred. In debating that measure, the Minister claimed time and again that he was ridding businesses of the burdens that were prohibiting the creation of jobs, and on each occasion we asked for proof to substantiate his claims.

The trouble was that neither the Minister nor his colleagues nor his civil servants could produce one small scrap of evidence to support his dogmatic assertion, for that is what it is—an almost ritualistic, parrot-like assertion to be repeated three times a day —and taken, as we always must take legislation introduced by the present Government, with a pinch of salt. Even the Government's own research paper, "Unfair Dismissal Law and Employment Practice in the 1980s" found very little sign that employment protection legislation was inhibiting industrial recovery or contributing to the high level of unemployment by discouraging employers from taking on new people.

I have recently received a copy of the response to the Bill by the British Institute of Management. It describes an October 1988 survey—so it is only three months old—of a representative sample of its 70,000 members which shows that only 11 per cent. thought there was too much employment protection legislation. That is a significant and telling figure.

We have reached the stage when many bodies, organisations and individuals feel that the Government's proposals are not the right way to go about it, and I could spend all night describing the evidence that is available to counter the claims being made by the Government. The Government are disregarding all advice that is offered to them.

This could have been a golden opportunity to introduce a Bill on employment, which would have tackled properly the whole question of women's low pay, their under-representation at all levels in the work force and in decision making, the whole field of child care—not just the question of workplace nurseries provided by employers but the wide provision that is required—and the outlawing of all discrimination. That would not have been costly because much of the discrimination is based simply on prejudice.

What an opportunity the Bill could have presented to a decent Government, who, unfortunately at present we do not have. The Bill will disadvantage young people, will deregulate across the board and, in so doing, will disadvantage women. I invite my hon. Friends to join me in the Lobby in opposing it, and in Committee we shall fight it line by line.

9.43 pm
The Minister of State, Department of Employment (Mr. John Cope)

This has been a wide-ranging debate in which hon. Members have made a great number of suggestions about what might be added to the Bill. Some thoughtful speeches have been made, particularly by my hon. Friends the Members for Broxtowe (Mr. Lester) and for Mid-Kent (Mr. Rowe) and others on topics touching almost the whole of our responsibilities in the Department of Employment.

The Bill is about the creation of opportunities for employment. It sets out to reduce discrimination, to remove restrictions and to help improve our training arrangements. Many of its provisions involve sorting out old legislation. Many of the individual provisions will have only small effects on their own, but collectively they will help to reduce the tangle of legislation governing employment. Any hon. Member who has read the consultative document that we issued in 1987 will have seen the necessity to examine all these issues. We have looked at every law and regulation affecting young people and women to discover which of them we still need. Our aim is to get rid of every one that we do not need.

The first group of clauses is all about discrimination against women in employment. Anyone who heard some of the Opposition speeches might have thought that few women were able to work in this country. The fact is that women are taking full advantage of the economic upturn. Since 1983 the number of women in paid work has increased by nearly 1,500,000. A higher proportion of women are active in the labour force in Britain than in any other country in the European Community except Denmark. I recognise that women are still underrepresented in senior jobs and over-represented in less skilled ones. Only about 6 per cent. of senior managers are women, but I believe that that is changing. More women and girls are obtaining higher level skills and qualifications, and more are training for and working in occupations traditionally regarded as men's work.

The Government have an excellent record on equal opportunities for women. The growth of women's employment and the fact that this country is unique in the European Community in having lower unemployment among women than among men is evidence of that. On an EEC standardised basis—for those sceptical about our statistics—women's unemployment is 13.3 per cent. in the other countries of the Community and 7.4 per cent. in the United Kingdom—only a little over half that rate. The hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Wallace) thought that we should take lessons from our European partners, but I think that they can look to us in this matter.

This Bill takes the promotion of equal opportunities further. As I said, our record as a Government is already good. We have made many changes that help women—the removal of restrictions on women's hours of work, extending the sex discrimination and equal pay legislation to offshore employment, equalising retirement ages, and freeing single sex training from bureaucratic intervention. All Government Departments are committed to ensuring that all their policies avoid discrimination against women.

Clause 1 gives priority to the Sex Discrimination Act 1975 over all other legislation except for specific provisions in employment and training, such as safety risks, that specifically affect women. The right hon. Member for Blaenau Gwent (Mr. Foot) pointed out that general protection is now given to all employees under the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974. So general protection for women, as for all other employees of all ages, is covered by that. Extra protection is no longer required, but specific extra protection for women—for instance, pregnant women—is retained in the Bill in clause 4 and schedule 1.

As was only to be expected, we heard a great deal today about women in mines—

Mr. Joseph Ashton (Bassetlaw)

Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Cope

There is little time, and the hon. Member for Barking (Ms. Richardson) did not give way.

We have heard conditional support for this clause from the hon. Member for Barking, and I welcome that—it was more than we managed to get from the hon. Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Meacher). Of course, all the usual conditions will apply, especially to the health and safety side—

Mr. Ashton


Mr. Cope

Clause 7 and its attendant schedule 2 are not only about mines. They also give greater freedom—

Mr. Ashton

Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Cope

I shall not. I have a lot to say and little time in which to say it.

Clause 7 and schedule 2 also give greater freedom to women in cement and pottery works, in tin plate and textile factories and elsewhere. The Bill also removes anomalous restrictions on the employment of young people. There is a large and complex body of old legislation, and that is ineffective. It places an unnecessary administrative burden on employers and authorities alike. It hampers flexibility in business, not so much because of what it says but because people do not want to unravel it all to see what they can do. It inhibits jobs even when it does not affect the hours. Ninety per cent. of young people work fewer than 44 hours at present and will be totally unaffected. Of course, they could be required to work 48 hours and, as the House will know, in some cases they could be required to work up to 60 hours.

In view of what has been said in the debate I must emphasise what we are not doing. We are not removing or relaxing in any way the restrictions on the employment of children under the age of 16. We are retaining protection for young people by preventing them from working in betting shops, selling alcohol or working with dangerous machinery. We are not removing any of the provisions regarding health and safety which protect 16 to 18-year-olds and which the Health and Safety Commission said needed to be kept.

The hon. Member for Sheffield, Brightside (Mr. Blunkett) and some other hon. Members spoke about the tragic case of Derek Cain and the recent court case. As the hon. Member for Brightside said, the Department of Employment took over the legal responsibility from the Manpower Services Commission and became joined in the case. We are presently awaiting the written court judgment and I promise the House that we shall carefully review everything that arises from it. The safety regime in the YTS is quite different from the regime that existed in the YOP six years ago when that tragic case occurred.

Mr. Nellist


Mr. Cope

I shall not give way because I want to finish. Since 1983 the regulations for trainees have had the full protection of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974. It is an absolute requirement now, but it was not in 1983, that before a contract is signed the managing agents must satisfy us on health and safety conditions. We have staff in every training agency region and an expert adviser, often an ex-factory inspector and two officers with qualifications from the Institute of Occupational Health. Every accident is reported and every fatal accident is immediately reported personally to Ministers.

Mr. Nellist


Mr. Cope

No, I shall not give way because I have much to deal with.

The hon. Member for Brightside and others seem to think that the possible conversion of the training agency into what is known as a next-step executive agency weakens control. Ministerial control now is more direct than it was when the Manpower Services Commission existed. A next-step agency, if that is what happens to the training agency, will remain in the public sector, and its resources and policy framework will be set by us. It will still be accountable for its actions to Ministers and, through them, to Parliament.

I know that it is possible to misread the figures of YTS accidents. Independent research corroborates that YTS trainees do not have more accidents than other young people employed in the same type of job. Ninety-nine per cent. of trainees do not have an accident. Of course, we have tightened the definition of a major injury to include wrist and ankle fractures which were previously classified as minor injuries. That affects the figures. We also know that, because of the tighter control of YTS, there is a higher standard of accident reporting. I repeat that independent research has shown that young people on YTS are as safe as other young people.

I can tell the right hon. Member for Blaenau Gwent (Mr. Foot) that in the public expenditure White Paper the Health and Safety Commission has been given the resources that it asked for and that the number of inspectors is being increased. Of course every accident, whether on YTS or elsewhere, is one too many and we shall continue to do all that we can to prevent accidents. Many hon. Members have spoken about training, and I shall come to that in a moment.

Among several runners for the most misunderstood clause, clause 16—about deposits before industrial tribunal proceedings—appears to be the most misunderstood. In response to the point raised by the hon. Member for Barking (Ms. Richardson), I should point out that it is on a quite different basis from the £25 proposal. We are not talking, as some hon. Members appear to be, about a deposit being ordered for every case that goes to an industrial tribunal. In fact, the reverse is true; we expect deposits to be the exception and not the rule. Tribunals will have adequate powers to deal with the minority of people who abuse the system by bringing ill-founded claims.

Either party will be liable to pay a deposit if it appears to the tribunal chairman to be bringing or defending the case vexatiously, frivolously or otherwise unreasonably. The sum of £150 is the maximum deposit that may be ordered. In most cases, the level of the deposit, even when it is required, will be considerably below that.

Mr. Cryer

Will the Minister give way?

Mr. Cope

I must get on. We have been accused in the debate of neglecting our responsibilities for training. In fact, total Government expenditure on training has increased from less than £500 million per year in 1979 to £3,000 million per year now. That is a tremendous increase on any basis. Employers have also been attacked, but we know that they spend £18 billion a year on training. Of course we want to increase their commitment to training.

There is only one small clause and some technical pages in the schedule which relate to training. Clause 18 provides a kind of legal epilogue to the work of the Manpower Services Commission, renamed the Training Commission under last year's Act. It had some excellent work to its credit, but as the House knows, it became impossible to continue with an arrangement for decision making when one of the parties concerned, the TUC, became mandated to oppose the commission's largest programme.

Hon. Members can try, as they have done this evening, to rewrite the history of the end of the Training Commission, but despite the last-minute pleas of the Leader of the Opposition and others—excluding the hon. Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Meacher)—the congress voted massively against ET, knowing the likely and, as my hon. Friend the member for Cambridgeshire, South-East (Mr. Paice) said, inevitable consequences of that vote.

Of course, some unions and union leaders realise the importance of training and are prepared to act accordingly. We want to work with them but, much too often, whatever they say, unions act against training. We have seen this in the YTS, most recently in the Civil Service. We have seen it in ET and on some area manpower boards. The training of outsiders is regarded as potentially damaging to existing members, and trade unions can sometimes be as restrictive as any mediaeval guild. That is why, although we want unions interested in training to join employers on the training and enterprise councils, we will not give them an automatic place.

Labour Members have argued today both that the Bill does not go far enough and that it goes too far. I can understand the Labour party's distaste for the Bill. Labour Members like regulations; they are wedded to regulations. The exaltation of regulations is the unwritten clause of the Labour party's constitution. It is almost the stuff of the party's constitution. In its view, regulation is the staff of life and the prop of politics.

Mr. Cryer

Will the Minister give way?

Mr. Cope

No, I will not. I can well understand the dislike of the hon. Gentleman and his colleagues for the Bill. The Bill reduces the total weight of legislation in force because regulations are the enemy of job creation. It is essential to retain safeguards on health and safety and we have done that. Every regulation that is necessary makes it more important to get rid of those that are not. That is what the Bill does and why I commend it to the House.

Mr. Nellist

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. David Waddington (Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury)

rose in his place and claimed to move, That the Question be now put.

Question, That the Question be now put, put and agreed to.

Question put accordingly, That the amendment be made:

The House divided: Ayes 190, Noes 290.

Division No. 29] [9.59 pm
Abbott, Ms Diane Godman, Dr Norman A.
Adams, Allen (Paisley N) Golding, Mrs Llin
Allen, Graham Gordon, Mildred
Alton, David Gould, Bryan
Archer, Rt Hon Peter Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)
Armstrong, Hilary Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Ashdown, Rt Hon Paddy Grocott, Bruce
Ashley, Rt Hon Jack Hardy, Peter
Ashton, Joe Harman, Ms Harriet
Banks, Tony (Newham NW) Haynes, Frank
Barnes, Harry (Derbyshire NE) Heffer, Eric S.
Barnes, Mrs Rosie (Greenwich) Henderson, Doug
Battle, John Hinchliffe, David
Beith, A. J. Hogg, N. (C'nauld & Kilsyth)
Bell, Stuart Holland, Stuart
Bennett, A. F. (D'nt'n & R'dish) Home Robertson, John
Bermingham, Gerald Hood, Jimmy
Bidwell, Sydney Howells, Geraint
Blunkett, David Hughes, John (Coventry NE)
Boateng, Paul Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)
Boyes, Roland Illsley, Eric
Bray, Dr Jeremy Ingram, Adam
Brown, Gordon (D'mline E) Janner, Greville
Brown, Ron (Edinburgh Leith) Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside)
Buchan, Norman Jones, Ieuan (Ynys Môn)
Buckley, George J. Kinnock, Rt Hon Neil
Caborn, Richard Kirkwood, Archy
Callaghan, Jim Lambie, David
Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE) Lamond, James
Campbell, Ron (Blyth Valley) Leighton, Ron
Campbell-Savours, D. N. Lestor, Joan (Eccles)
Canavan, Dennis Lewis, Terry
Cartwright, John Litherland, Robert
Clark, Dr David (S Shields) Livsey, Richard
Clarke, Tom (Monklands W) Lloyd, Tony (Stretford)
Clay, Bob Lofthouse, Geoffrey
Clwyd, Mrs Ann McAllion, John
Cohen, Harry McAvoy, Thomas
Coleman, Donald McCartney, Ian
Cook, Robin (Livingston) Macdonald, Calum A.
Corbyn, Jeremy McKay, Allen (Barnsley West)
Cox, Tom McKelvey, William
Crowther, Stan McLeish, Henry
Cryer, Bob Maclennan, Robert
Cunliffe, Lawrence McNamara, Kevin
Cunningham, Dr John McTaggart, Bob
Dalyell, Tam McWilliam, John
Darling, Alistair Madden, Max
Davies, Ron (Caerphilly) Marek, Dr John
Davis, Terry (B'ham Hodge H'l) Marshall, David (Shettleston)
Dewar, Donald Martin, Michael J. (Springburn)
Dixon, Don Martlew, Eric
Dobson, Frank Maxton, John
Doran, Frank Meacher, Michael
Douglas, Dick Meale, Alan
Dunnachie, Jimmy Michael, Alun
Dunwoody, Hon Mrs Gwyneth Michie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley)
Eadie, Alexander Michie, Mrs Ray (Arg'l & Bute)
Eastham, Ken Moonie, Dr Lewis
Evans, John (St Helens N) Morgan, Rhodri
Ewing, Harry (Falkirk E) Morley, Elliott
Ewing, Mrs Margaret (Moray) Morris, Rt Hon A. (W'shawe)
Fatchett, Derek Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon)
Faulds, Andrew Mowlam, Marjorie
Fearn, Ronald Mullin, Chris
Field, Frank (Birkenhead) Murphy, Paul
Fields, Terry (L'pool B G'n) Nellist, Dave
Flannery, Martin Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon
Flynn, Paul O'Brien, William
Foot, Rt Hon Michael Parry, Robert
Foster, Derek Pendry, Tom
Foulkes, George Pike, Peter L.
Fraser, John Powell, Ray (Ogmore)
Fyfe, Maria Quin, Ms Joyce
Galbraith, Sam Radice, Giles
Galloway, George Rees, Rt Hon Merlyn
Garrett, Ted (Wallsend) Reid, Dr John
Richardson, Jo Strang, Gavin
Robinson, Geoffrey Straw, Jack
Rogers, Allan Taylor, Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)
Rooker, Jeff Turner, Dennis
Rowlands, Ted Vaz, Keith
Ruddock, Joan Wall, Pat
Salmond, Alex Walley, Joan
Sedgemore, Brian Wareing, Robert N.
Sheerman, Barry Welsh, Andrew (Angus E)
Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert Welsh, Michael (Doncaster N)
Shore, Rt Hon Peter Wigley, Dafydd
Sillars, Jim Williams, Alan W. (Carm'then)
Skinner, Dennis Winnick, David
Smith, Andrew (Oxford E) Wise, Mrs Audrey
Smith, C. (Isl'ton & F'bury) Wray, Jimmy
Snape, Peter Young, David (Bolton SE)
Soley, Clive
Spearing, Nigel Tellers for the Ayes:
Steel, Rt Hon David Mr. James Wallace and
Stott, Roger Mr. Alex Carlile.
Aitken, Jonathan Coombs, Anthony (Wyre F'rest)
Alexander, Richard Coombs, Simon (Swindon)
Alison, Rt Hon Michael Cope. Rt Hon John
Amess, David Couchman, James
Amos, Alan Cran, James
Arbuthnot, James Critchley, Julian
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham) Currie, Mrs Edwina
Arnold, Tom (Hazel Grove) Curry, David
Ashby, David Davies, Q. (Stamf'd & Spald'g)
Baker, Rt Hon K. (Mole Valley) Davis, David (Boothferry)
Baker, Nicholas (Dorset N) Day, Stephen
Banks, Robert (Harrogate) Devlin, Tim
Batiste, Spencer Dickens, Geoffrey
Beaumont-Dark, Anthony Dicks, Terry
Bellingham, Henry Dorrell, Stephen
Bendall, Vivian Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James
Bennett, Nicholas (Pembroke) Dover, Den
Benyon, W. Dunn, Bob
Bevan, David Gilroy Durant, Tony
Biffen, Rt Hon John Dykes, Hugh
Blaker, Rt Hon Sir Peter Evans, David (Welwyn Hatf'd)
Body, Sir Richard Evennett, David
Bonsor, Sir Nicholas Fairbairn, Sir Nicholas
Boscawen, Hon Robert Fallon, Michael
Boswell, Tim Favell, Tony
Bottomley, Peter Fenner, Dame Peggy
Bottomley, Mrs Virginia Field, Barry (Isle of Wight)
Bowis, John Finsberg, Sir Geoffrey
Boyson, Rt Hon Dr Sir Rhodes Fishburn, John Dudley
Brazier, Julian Fookes, Dame Janet
Bright, Graham Forman, Nigel
Brooke, Rt Hon Peter Forsyth, Michael (Stirling)
Brown, Michael (Brigg & Cl't's) Forth, Eric
Browne, John (Winchester) Fowler, Rt Hon Norman
Bruce, Ian (Dorset South) Fox, Sir Marcus
Buchanan-Smith, Rt Hon Alick Franks, Cecil
Buck, Sir Antony Freeman, Roger
Budgen, Nicholas French, Douglas
Burns, Simon Gale, Roger
Burt, Alistair Gardiner, George
Butcher, John Garel-Jones, Tristan
Butler, Chris Gill, Christopher
Butterfill, John Gilmour, Rt Hon Sir Ian
Carlisle, John, (Luton N) Glyn, Dr Alan
Carrington, Matthew Goodhart, Sir Philip
Carttiss, Michael Goodlad, Alastair
Cash, William Goodson-Wickes, Dr Charles
Chalker, Rt Hon Mrs Lynda Gorman, Mrs Teresa
Channon, Rt Hon Paul Gow, Ian
Chapman, Sydney Gower, Sir Raymond
Chope, Christopher Grant, Sir Anthony (CambsSW)
Churchill, Mr Greenway, Harry (Ealing N)
Clark, Hon Alan (Plym'th S'n) Greenway, John (Ryedale)
Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford) Gregory, Conal
Clark, Sir W. (Croydon S) Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth N)
Clarke, Rt Hon K. (Rushcliffe) Grist, Ian
Colvin, Michael Ground, Patrick
Conway, Derek Grylls, Michael
Gummer, Rt Hon John Selwyn Mayhew, Rt Hon Sir Patrick
Hamilton, Hon Archie (Epsom) Mellor, David
Hampson, Dr Keith Miller, Sir Hal
Hanley, Jeremy Mills, Iain
Hannam, John Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling)
Hargreaves, A. (B'ham H'll Gr') Mitchell, Sir David
Hargreaves, Ken (Hyndburn) Moate, Roger
Harris, David Monro, Sir Hector
Hawkins, Christopher Montgomery, Sir Fergus
Hayes, Jerry Moore, Rt Hon John
Hayhoe, Rt Hon Sir Barney Moss, Malcolm
Heathcoat-Amory, David Moynihan, Hon Colin
Heddle, John Mudd, David
Heseltine, Rt Hon Michael Needham, Richard
Hicks, Mrs Maureen (Wolv' NE) Nelson, Anthony
Hicks, Robert (Cornwall SE) Neubert, Michael
Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L. Newton, Rt Hon Tony
Hill, James Nicholls, Patrick
Hind, Kenneth Nicholson, Emma (Devon West)
Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm) Norris, Steve
Holt, Richard Onslow, Rt Hon Cranley
Hordern, Sir Peter Oppenheim, Phillip
Howard, Michael Page, Richard
Howarth, Alan (Strat'd-on-A) Paice, James
Howell, Rt Hon David (G'dford) Parkinson, Rt Hon Cecil
Howell, Ralph (North Norfolk) Patnick, Irvine
Hughes, Robert G. (Harrow W) Patten, John (Oxford W)
Hunt, David (Wirral W) Pawsey, James
Hunter, Andrew Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth
Irvine, Michael Porter, David (Waveney)
Irving, Charles Portillo, Michael
Jack, Michael Powell, William (Corby)
Jackson, Robert Price, Sir David
Janman, Tim Raison, Rt Hon Timothy
Jessel, Toby Redwood, John
Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey Renton, Tim
Jones, Robert B (Herts W) Rhodes James, Robert
Jopling, Rt Hon Michael Riddick, Graham
Kellett-Bowman, Dame Elaine Ridley, Rt Hon Nicholas
Key, Robert Rifkind, Rt Hon Malcolm
Kilfedder, James Roberts, Wyn (Conwy)
King, Roger (B'ham N'thfield) Roe, Mrs Marion
King, Rt Hon Tom (Bridgwater) Rossi, Sir Hugh
Kirkhope, Timothy Rost, Peter
Knapman, Roger Rowe, Andrew
Knight, Greg (Derby North) Rumbold, Mrs Angela
Knowles, Michael Ryder, Richard
Knox, David Sayeed, Jonathan
Lamont, Rt Hon Norman Shaw, Sir Giles (Pudsey)
Lang, Ian Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb')
Latham, Michael Shelton, Sir William
Lawrence, Ivan (Streatham)
Lee, John (Pendle) Shephard, Mrs G. (Norfolk SW)
Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)
Lester, Jim (Broxtowe) Shepherd, Richard (Aldridge)
Lightbown, David Shersby, Michael
Lilley, Peter Sims, Roger
Lloyd, Sir Ian (Havant) Skeet, Sir Trevor
Lloyd, Peter (Fareham) Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)
Lord, Michael Soames, Hon Nicholas
Lyell, Sir Nicholas Speller, Tony
McCrindle, Robert Spicer, Sir Jim (Dorset W)
Macfarlane, Sir Neil Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)
MacGregor, Rt Hon John Squire, Robin
MacKay, Andrew (E Berkshire) Stanbrook, Ivor
Maclean, David Stern, Michael
McLoughlin, Patrick Stevens, Lewis
McNair-Wilson, Sir Michael Stewart, Allan (Eastwood)
McNair-Wilson, P. (New Forest) Stewart, Andy (Sherwood)
Madel, David Stradling Thomas, Sir John
Major, Rt Hon John Sumberg, David
Malins, Humfrey Summerson, Hugo
Mans, Keith Taylor, Ian (Esher)
Maples, John Taylor, John M (Solihull)
Marland, Paul Temple-Morris, Peter
Marlow, Tony Thatcher, Rt Hon Margaret
Marshall, Michael (Arundel) Thompson, D. (Calder Valley)
Martin, David (Portsmouth S) Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)
Maude, Hon Francis Thorne, Neil
Mawhinney, Dr Brian Thurnham, Peter
Townsend, Cyril D. (B'heath) Whitney, Ray
Tredinnick, David Widdecombe, Ann
Trippier, David Wiggin, Jerry
Waddington, Rt Hon David Wood, Timothy
Waldegrave, Hon William Yeo, Tim
Walker, Bill (T'side North)
Waller, Gary Tellers for the Noes:
Walters, Sir Dennis Mr. Kenneth Carlisle and
Ward, John Mr. Tom Sackville
Wheeler, John

Question accordingly negatived.

Main Question put forthwith, pursuant to Standing Order No. 60 (Amendment on Second or Third Reading):

The House divided: Ayes 290, Noes 216.

Division No. 30] [10.15pm
Aitken, Jonathan Cope, Rt Hon John
Alexander, Richard Couchman, James
Alison, Rt Hon Michael Cran, James
Amess, David Critchley, Julian
Amos, Alan Currie, Mrs Edwina
Arbuthnot, James Curry, David
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham) Davies, Q. (Stamf'd & Spald'g)
Arnold, Tom (Hazel Grove) Davis, David (Boothferry)
Ashby, David Day, Stephen
Baker, Rt Hon K. (Mole Valley) Devlin, Tim
Baker, Nicholas (Dorset N) Dickens, Geoffrey
Banks, Robert (Harrogate) Dicks, Terry
Batiste, Spencer Dorrell, Stephen
Beaumont-Dark, Anthony Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James
Bellingham, Henry Dover, Den
Bendall, Vivian Dunn, Bob
Bennett, Nicholas (Pembroke)> Durant, Tony
Benyon, W. Dykes, Hugh
Bevan, David Gilroy Evans, David (Welwyn Hatf'd)
Biffen, Rt Hon John Evennett, David
Blaker, Rt Hon Sir Peter Fairbairn, Sir Nicholas
Body, Sir Richard Fallon, Michael
Bonsor, Sir Nicholas Favell, Tony
Boscawen, Hon Robert Fenner, Dame Peggy
Boswell, Tim Field, Barry (Isle of Wight)
Bottomley, Peter Finsberg, Sir Geoffrey
Bottomley, Mrs Virginia Fishburn, John Dudley
Bowis, John Fookes, Dame Janet
Boyson, Rt Hon Dr Sir Rhodes Forman, Nigel
Brazier, Julian Forsyth, Michael (Stirling)
Bright, Graham Forth, Eric
Brooke, Rt Hon Peter Fowler, Rt Hon Norman
Brown, Michael (Brigg & Cl't's) Fox, Sir Marcus
Browne, John (Winchester) Franks, Cecil
Bruce, Ian (Dorset South) Freeman, Roger
Buchanan-Smith, Rt Hon Alick French, Douglas
Buck, Sir Antony Gale, Roger
Budgen, Nicholas Gardiner, George
Burns, Simon Garel-Jones, Tristan
Burt, Alistair Gill, Christopher
Butcher, John Gilmour, Rt Hon Sir Ian
Butler, Chris Glyn, Dr Alan
Butterfill, John Goodhart, Sir Philip
Carlisle, John, (Luton N) Goodlad, Alastair
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln) Goodson-Wickes, Dr Charles
Carrington, Matthew Gorman, Mrs Teresa
Carttiss, Michael Gow, Ian
Cash, William Gower, Sir Raymond
Chalker, Rt Hon Mrs Lynda Grant, Sir Anthony (CambsSW)
Channon, Rt Hon Paul Greenway, Harry (Ealing N)
Chapman, Sydney Greenway, John (Ryedale)
Chope, Christopher Gregory, Conal
Churchill, Mr Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth N)
Clark, Hon Alan (Plym'th S'n) Grist, Ian
Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford) Ground, Patrick
Clark, Sir W. (Croydon S) Grylls, Michael
Clarke, Rt Hon K. (Rushcliffe) Gummer, Rt Hon John Selwyn
Colvin, Michael Hamilton, Hon Archie (Epsom)
Conway, Derek Hampson, Dr Keith
Coombs, Anthony (Wyre F'rest) Hanley, Jeremy
Coombs, Simon (Swindon) Hannam, John
Hargreaves, A. (B'ham H'll Gr') Moate, Roger
Hargreaves, Ken (Hyndburn) Monro, Sir Hector
Harris, David Montgomery, Sir Fergus
Hawkins, Christopher Moore, Rt Hon John
Hayes, Jerry Moss, Malcolm
Hayhoe, Rt Hon Sir Barney Moynihan, Hon Colin
Heddle, John Mudd, David
Heseltine, Rt Hon Michael Needham, Richard
Hicks, Mrs Maureen (Wolv' NE) Nelson, Anthony
Hicks, Robert (Cornwall SE) Neubert, Michael
Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L. Newton, Rt Hon Tony
Hill, James Nicholls, Patrick
Hind, Kenneth Nicholson, Emma (Devon West)
Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm) Norris, Steve
Holt, Richard Onslow, Rt Hon Cranley
Hordern, Sir Peter Oppenheim, Phillip
Howard, Michael Page, Richard
Howarth, Alan (Strat'd-on-A) Paice, James
Howell, Rt Hon David (G'dford) Parkinson, Rt Hon Cecil
Howell, Ralph (North Norfolk) Patnick, Irvine
Hughes, Robert G. (Harrow W) Patten, John (Oxford W)
Hunt, David (Wirral W) Pawsey, James
Hunter, Andrew Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth
Irvine, Michael Porter, David (Waveney)
Irving, Charles Portillo, Michael
Jack, Michael Powell, William (Corby)
Jackson, Robert Price, Sir David
Janman, Tim Raison, Rt Hon Timothy
Jessel, Toby Redwood, John
Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey Renton, Tim
Jones, Robert B (Herts W) Rhodes James, Robert
Jopling, Rt Hon Michael Riddick, Graham
Kellett-Bowman, Dame Elaine Ridley, Rt Hon Nicholas
Key, Robert Rifkind, Rt Hon Malcolm
Kilfedder, James Roberts, Wyn (Conwy)
King, Roger (B'ham N'thfield) Roe, Mrs Marion
King, Rt Hon Tom (Bridgwater) Rossi, Sir Hugh
Kirkhope, Timothy Rost, Peter
Knapman, Roger Rowe, Andrew
Knight, Dame Jill (Edgbaston) Rumbold, Mrs Angela
Knowles, Michael Ryder, Richard
Knox, David Sayeed, Jonathan
Lamont, Rt Hon Norman Shaw, Sir Giles (Pudsey)
Lang, Ian Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb')
Latham, Michael Shelton, Sir William
Lawrence, Ivan (Streatham)
Lee, John (Pendle) Shephard, Mrs G. (Norfolk SW)
Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)
Lester, Jim (Broxtowe) Shepherd, Richard (Aldridge)
Lightbown, David Shersby, Michael
Lilley, Peter Sims, Roger
Lloyd, Sir Ian (Havant) Skeet, Sir Trevor
Lloyd, Peter (Fareham) Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)
Lord, Michael Soames, Hon Nicholas
Lyell, Sir Nicholas Speller, Tony
McCrindle, Robert Spicer, Sir Jim (Dorset W)
Macfarlane, Sir Neil Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)
MacGregor, Rt Hon John Squire, Robin
MacKay, Andrew (E Berkshire) Stanbrook, Ivor
Maclean, David Stern, Michael
McLoughlin, Patrick Stevens, Lewis
McNair-Wilson, Sir Michael Stewart, Allan (Eastwood)
McNair-Wilson, P. (New Forest) Stewart, Andy (Sherwood)
Madel, David Stradling Thomas, Sir John
Major, Rt Hon John Sumberg, David
Malins, Humfrey Summerson, Hugo
Mans, Keith Taylor, Ian (Esher)
Maples, John Taylor, John M (Solihull)
Marland, Paul Temple-Morris, Peter
Marlow, Tony Thatcher, Rt Hon Margaret
Marshall, Michael (Arundel) Thompson, D. (Calder Valley)
Martin, David (Portsmouth S) Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)
Maude, Hon Francis Thorne, Neil
Mawhinney, Dr Brian Thurnham, Peter
Mayhew, Rt Hon Sir Patrick Townsend, Cyril D. (B'heath)
Mellor, David Tredinnick, David
Miller, Sir Hal Trippier, David
Mills, Iain Waddington, Rt Hon David
Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling) Waldegrave, Hon William
Mitchell, Sir David Walker, Bill (T'side North)
Waller, Gary Wood, Timothy
Walters, Sir Dennis Yeo, Tim
Ward, John
Wheeler, John Tellers for the Ayes:
Whitney, Ray Mr. David Heathcote-Amory
Widdecombe, Ann and Mr. Tom Sackville.
Wiggin, Jerry
Abbott, Ms Diane Crowther, Stan
Adams, Allen (Paisley N) Cryer, Bob
Allen, Graham Cummings, John
Alton, David Cunliffe, Lawrence
Anderson, Donald Cunningham, Dr John
Archer, Rt Hon Peter Dalyell, Tam
Armstrong, Hilary Darling, Alistair
Ashdown, Rt Hon Paddy Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)
Ashley, Rt Hon Jack Davies, Ron (Caerphilly)
Ashton, Joe Davis, Terry (B'ham Hodge H'l)
Banks, Tony (Newham NW) Dewar, Donald
Barnes, Harry (Derbyshire NE) Dixon, Don
Barnes, Mrs Rosie (Greenwich) Dobson, Frank
Barron, Kevin Doran, Frank
Battle, John Douglas, Dick
Beckett, Margaret Dunwoody, Hon Mrs Gwyneth
Beith, A. J. Eadie, Alexander
Bell, Stuart Eastham, Ken
Benn, Rt Hon Tony Evans, John (St Helens N)
Bennett, A. F. (D'nt'n & R'dish) Ewing, Harry (Falkirk E)
Bermingham, Gerald Ewing, Mrs Margaret (Moray)
Bidwell, Sydney Fatchett, Derek
Blair, Tony Faulds, Andrew
Blunkett, David Fearn, Ronald
Boateng, Paul Field, Frank (Birkenhead)
Boyes, Roland Fields, Terry (L'pool B G'n)
Bradley, Keith Flannery, Martin
Bray, Dr Jeremy Flynn, Paul
Brown, Gordon (D'mline E) Foot, Rt Hon Michael
Brown, Nicholas (Newcastle E) Foster, Derek
Brown, Ron (Edinburgh Leith) Foulkes, George
Buchan, Norman Fraser, John
Buckley, George J. Fyfe, Maria
Caborn, Richard Galbraith, Sam
Callaghan, Jim Galloway, George
Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE) Garrett, Ted (Wallsend)
Campbell, Ron (Blyth Valley) Godman, Dr Norman A.
Campbell-Savours, D. N. Golding, Mrs Llin
Canavan, Dennis Gordon, Mildred
Carlile, Alex (Mont'g) Gould, Bryan
Cartwright, John Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)
Clark, Dr David (S Shields) Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Clarke, Tom (Monklands W) Grocott, Bruce
Clay, Bob Hardy, Peter
Clelland, David Harman, Ms Harriet
Clwyd, Mrs Ann Healey, Rt Hon Denis
Cohen, Harry Heffer, Eric S.
Coleman, Donald Henderson, Doug
Cook, Robin (Livingston) Hinchliffe, David
Corbett, Robin Hogg, N. (C'nauld & Kilsyth)
Corbyn, Jeremy Holland, Stuart
Cousins, Jim Home Robertson, John
Cox, Tom Hood, Jimmy
Howells, Geraint Parry, Robert
Hoyle, Doug Pendry, Tom
Hughes, John (Coventry NE) Pike, Peter L.
Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N) Powell, Ray (Ogmore)
Illsley, Eric Prescott, John
Ingram, Adam Quin, Ms Joyce
Janner, Greville Radice, Giles
Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside) Redmond, Martin
Jones, Ieuan (Ynys Môn) Rees, Rt Hon Merlyn
Kinnock, Rt Hon Neil Reid, Dr John
Kirkwood, Archy Richardson, Jo
Lambie, David Roberts, Allan (Bootle)
Lamond, James Robertson, George
Leadbitter, Ted Robinson, Geoffrey
Leighton, Ron Rogers, Allan
Lestor, Joan (Eccles) Rooker, Jeff
Lewis, Terry Rowlands, Ted
Litherland, Robert Ruddock, Joan
Livsey, Richard Salmond, Alex
Lloyd, Tony (Stretford) Sedgemore, Brian
Lofthouse, Geoffrey Sheerman, Barry
McAllion, John Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert
McAvoy, Thomas Shore, Rt Hon Peter
McCartney, Ian Short, Clare
McCrea, Rev William Sillars, Jim
Macdonald, Calum A. Skinner, Dennis
McGrady, Eddie Smith, Andrew (Oxford E)
McKay, Allen (Barnsley West) Smith, C. (Isl'ton & F'bury)
McKelvey, William Snape, Peter
McLeish, Henry Soley, Clive
Maclennan, Robert Spearing, Nigel
McNamara, Kevin Steel, Rt Hon David
McTaggart, Bob Steinberg, Gerry
McWilliam, John Stott, Roger
Madden, Max Strang, Gavin
Marek, Dr John Straw, Jack
Marshall, David (Shettleston) Taylor, Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)
Marshall, Jim (Leicester S) Thompson, Jack (Wansbeck)
Martin, Michael J. (Springburn) Turner, Dennis
Martlew, Eric Vaz, Keith
Maxton, John Wall, Pat
Meacher, Michael Wallace, James
Meale, Alan Walley, Joan
Michael, Alun Wareing, Robert N.
Michie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley) Welsh, Andrew (Angus E)
Michie, Mrs Ray (Arg'l & Bute) Welsh, Michael (Doncaster N)
Moonie, Dr Lewis Wigley, Dafydd
Morgan, Rhodri Williams, Rt Hon Alan
Morley, Elliott Williams, Alan W. (Carm'then)
Morris, Rt Hon A. (W'shawe) Winnick, David
Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon) Wise, Mrs Audrey
Mowlam, Marjorie Wray, Jimmy
Mullin, Chris Young, David (Bolton SE)
Murphy, Paul
Nellist, Dave Tellers for the Noes:
Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon Mr. Frank Haynes and
O'Brien, William Mr. Jimmy Dunnachie.

Question accordingly agreed to.

Bill accordingly read a Second time, and committed to a Standing Committee pursuant to Standing Order No. 61 (Committal of Bills).