HC Deb 26 July 1989 vol 157 cc1123-6

"After section 37A of the Fair Employment (Northern Ireland) Act 1976 there is inserted—


37AA.—(1) This section applies where—

  1. (a) a practice relating to the selection of employees who may be dismissed as redundant is followed by an employer in pursuance of affirmative action and in accordance with an agreed procedure, and
  2. (b) the practice does not involve the application of any condition or requirement framed by reference to religious belief or political opinion, but has or may have the effect that the proportion of employees of a particular religious belief or political opinion who are selected is smaller than the proportion of employees not of that religious belief or, as the case may be, not of that political opinion who are selected.

(2) The dismissal of an employee in pursuance of the practice is not by virtue of section 16(2) unlawful under any provision of Parts III and IV."

Mr. Tom King

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

Mr. Deputy Speaker

With this we shall also discuss the following: consequential amendment (a) in lieu of the Lords amendment, in page 24, line 5, leave out 'or promotion' and insert 'promotion or redundancy'.

Lords amendment No. 72.

Mr. King

This amendment deals with the interaction of anti-discrimination legislation on redundancy programmes. If an affirmative action programme operated and redundancies occurred, it could lead to extremely difficult complications and, in certain circumstances, could interfere severely with normal industrial relations agreements.

We are not prepared to allow selection for redundancy to be on the basis of religion. That selection would be discriminatory, illegal and contrary to the basic principles of fairness and equity which we have sought to maintain throughout the legislation. That is the background against which amendment No. 71 is constructed.

I hope that the House will recognise the difficult issues involved. We believe that it is right to construct the amendment after earlier discussions in Committee and in another place on this matter. I hope that our approach strikes the fair balance that we seek, and I commend the amendment to the House.

Mr. Jim Marshall

The Secretary of State introduced the amendment in his customary manner. He addressed it in his usual reasonable way and suggested that the Government have the balance about right on this occasion. I venture to suggest to the Secretary of State that, if he fully understood the consequences of the amendment, he would be a little more reticent in urging the House to accept it.

We believe that the amendment does not address the problem that the Secretary of State would like it to address. It is not without significance that when the Bill was originally published, it contained no reference to redundancies. Only as a consequence of prodding by the Opposition, and in particular by my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, North (Mr. McNamara) did the Government recognise that the problem could exist and agreed, after the probing and private discussions, to seek to bring forward later an amendment that would address the redundancy problem. Amendment No. 71 is a consequence of that further thought and discussion.

There is now general agreement between the Government and the Opposition that redundancy policy, like promotion policy and recruitment policy to a company, can affect the structure of a company's work force. It does not take a genius to see that if an employer pursues an affirmative action programme to rectify imbalances within his work force and some time later is forced to make redundancies on a first-in, last-out basis, the likelihood is that redundancies will cause further inequalities in the balance of the work force and will negate the equality of opportunity that the employer has been trying to achieve.

As the Secretary of State knows, the Opposition were concerned about that matter from the outset. We were concerned also to ensure that the redundancy policy should form an integral part of the periodic review that is required under clause 30. At the outset, Opposition Members presumed that the omission of redundancy was an oversight. When we pointed that out to the Government, they readily agreed to consider the issues. Amendment No. 71 does not deal with the problem that we identified—the absence of a duty on employers to consider redundancy procedures in the review. For that reason, if for no other, we oppose the amendment.

Amendment No. 71 is seriously flawed in two respects. First, it appears that redundancy schemes are protected only when they are part of affirmative action. However, there is no reason why a redundancy policy should be part of an affirmative action programme. It is nonsense that an employer who discovers that existing practices are discriminatory cannot remedy them without engaging in an overall affirmative action programme. That does not take account of a situation in which an employer might already pursue an affirmative action programme and then discover that a redundancy policy is discriminatory.

Secondly, hon. Members who have read the amendment will note that it refers to an agreed procedure. An agreed procedure is not defined in the Bill. Contrary to Government statements in the other place, there is no existing legal concept of agreed procedures. The amendment refers to a situation for which there is no legal basis. Does it involve an agreement with trade unions? I address that question to the Secretary of State. He will know that trade unions do not want that. If the amendment is accepted, it will be the basis of chaos.

If we get an opportunity, Opposition Members will not only vote against amendment No. 71 but press amendment (a), which reverts to our original demand that employers include redundancy procedures in the periodic review required under clause 30.

Question put, That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said amendment:—

The House divided: Ayes 172, Noes 68.

Division No. 328] [10.28 pm
Alexander, Richard Ashby, David
Alison, Rt Hon Michael Atkinson, David
Alton, David Baker, Nicholas (Dorset N)
Amess, David Baldry, Tony
Amos, Alan Beggs, Roy
Arbuthnot, James Bellingham, Henry
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham) Bennett, Nicholas (Pembroke)
Arnold, Tom (Hazel Grove) Blackburn, Dr John G.
Blaker, Rt Hon Sir Peter Howarth, G. (Cannock & B'wd)
Boswell, Tim Howell, Ralph (North Norfolk)
Bottomley, Mrs Virginia Hughes, Robert G. (Harrow W)
Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich) Hughes, Simon (Southwark)
Bowis, John Hunter, Andrew
Braine, Rt Hon Sir Bernard Irvine, Michael
Brandon-Bravo, Martin Jack, Michael
Brazier, Julian Janman, Tim
Bright, Graham Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey
Brooke, Rt Hon Peter Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)
Brown, Michael (Brigg & Cl't's) Jones, Robert B (Herts W)
Buck, Sir Antony Jopling, Rt Hon Michael
Burns, Simon Kennedy, Charles
Burt, Alistair Kilfedder, James
Butler, Chris King, Rt Hon Tom (Bridgwater)
Butterfill, John Knight, Greg (Derby North)
Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE) Latham, Michael
Carlisle, John, (Luton N) Lawrence, Ivan
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln) Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark
Carrington, Matthew Lightbown, David
Carttiss, Michael Lilley, Peter
Cash, William Lloyd, Sir Ian (Havant)
Chapman, Sydney Lloyd, Peter (Fareham)
Chope, Christopher McCrindle, Robert
Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford) MacKay, Andrew (E Berkshire)
Coombs, Anthony (Wyre F'rest) Maclean, David
Coombs, Simon (Swindon) McLoughlin, Patrick
Cope, Rt Hon John Maginnis, Ken
Couchman, James Miller, Sir Hal
Cran, James Mills, lain
Currie, Mrs Edwina Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling)
Davis, David (Boothferry) Molyneaux, Rt Hon James
Day, Stephen Morrison, Sir Charles
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James Moss, Malcolm
Durant, Tony Moynihan, Hon Colin
Dykes, Hugh Nelson, Anthony
Fallon, Michael Neubert, Michael
Fenner, Dame Peggy Nicholls, Patrick
Fishburn, John Dudley Nicholson, Emma (Devon West)
Fookes, Dame Janet Oppenheim, Phillip
Forman, Nigel Page, Richard
Forsyth, Michael (Stirling) Paice, James
Forsythe, Clifford (Antrim S) Paisley, Rev Ian
Forth, Eric Patnick, Irvine
Franks, Cecil Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth
Freeman, Roger Porter, David (Waveney)
French, Douglas Portillo, Michael
Gale, Roger Raff an, Keith
Garel-Jones, Tristan Raison, Rt Hon Timothy
Glyn, Dr Alan Robinson, Peter (Belfast E)
Goodson-Wickes, Dr Charles Ross, William (Londonderry E)
Greenway, Harry (Ealing N) Rossi, Sir Hugh
Greenway, John (Ryedale) Rowe, Andrew
Gregory, Conal Ryder, Richard
Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth N) Sackville, Hon Tom
Ground, Patrick Shaw, David (Dover)
Gummer, Rt Hon John Selwyn Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)
Hague, William Skeet, Sir Trevor
Hamilton, Neil (Tatton) Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)
Hampson, Dr Keith Smyth, Rev Martin (Belfast S)
Hargreaves, Ken (Hyndburn) Speller, Tony
Harris, David Spicer, Sir Jim (Dorset W)
Hayhoe, Rt Hon Sir Barney Stanbrook, Ivor
Hind, Kenneth Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John
Steel, Rt Hon David Walden, George
Stern, Michael Walker, A. Cecil (Belfast N)
Stevens, Lewis Walker, Bill (T'side North)
Stewart, Andy (Sherwood) Wallace, James
Stradling Thomas, Sir John Waller, Gary
Summerson, Hugo Wardle, Charles (Bexhill)
Taylor, Ian (Esher) Wells, Bowen
Taylor, John M (Solihull) Wheeler, John
Temple-Morris, Peter Widdecombe, Ann
Thompson, D. (Calder Valley) Winterton, Mrs Ann
Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N) Winterton, Nicholas
Thurnham, Peter Wood, Timothy
Tredinnick, David
Twinn, Dr Ian Tellers for the Ayes:
Viggers, Peter Mr David Heathcoat-Amery and Mr. Stephen Dorrell.
Waddington, Rt Hon David
Armstrong, Hilary Loyden, Eddie
Ashton, Joe McAvoy, Thomas
Barnes, Harry (Derbyshire NE) McCartney, Ian
Battle, John McKay, Allen (Barnsley West)
Beckett, Margaret McNamara, Kevin
Bell, Stuart McWilliam, John
Bennett, A. F. (D'nt'n & R'dish) Madden, Max
Boateng, Paul Mahon, Mrs Alice
Buckley, George J. Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)
Caborn, Richard Meale, Alan
Callaghan, Jim Michael, Alun
Campbell, Ron (Blyth Valley) Michie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley)
Clelland, David Mowlam, Marjorie
Cohen, Harry Mullin, Chris
Cook, Frank (Stockton N) Nellist, Dave
Cousins, Jim Patchett, Terry
Cryer, Bob Pike, Peter L.
Cummings, John Powell, Ray (Ogmore)
Davis, Terry (B'ham Hodge H'l) Richardson, Jo
Dixon, Don Rogers, Allan
Duffy, A. E. P. Salmond, Alex
Eadie, Alexander Short, Clare
Fatchett, Derek Skinner, Dennis
Fields, Terry (L'pool B G'n) Steinberg, Gerry
Flannery, Martin Thompson, Jack (Wansbeck)
Flynn, Paul Vaz, Keith
Foster, Derek Wall, Pat
Godman, Dr Norman A. Wardell, Gareth (Gower)
Gordon, Mildred Wareing, Robert N.
Griffiths, Win (Bridgend) Watson, Mike (Glasgow, C)
Hinchliffe, David Wise, Mrs Audrey
Home Robertson, John Wray, Jimmy
Hughes, John (Coventry NE)
Ingram, Adam Tellers for the Noes:
Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside) Mr. Frank Haynes and Mr. Nigel Griffiths.
Lewis, Terry

Question accordingly agreed to.

Lords amendments Nos. 72 to 77 agreed to.

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