HC Deb 17 February 1993 vol 219 cc326-78

Order for Third Reading read.

3.47 pm
The Secretary of State for Employment (Mrs. Gillian Shephard)

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

The Bill has been debated for 56 hours in Committee and for seven hours on Report. I have no doubt that the amendments that the House has accepted on Report will improve and strengthen the Bill. The great majority of the amendments that the House has accepted over the past two days are a direct response to points raised by the Opposition when the Bill was in Committee. I am happy to pay tribute now to the vigilant and serious way in which the Opposition approached many parts of the Bill in Committee. It is in large part because of the constructive spirit of the debates in Standing Committee that we can say that the Bill which goes to be debated in another place is an even better Bill than the one that we debated on Second Reading.

The Bill is, above all, a Bill that creates new rights for people at work. It gives every woman in employment a right to 14 weeks' maternity leave, regardless of the number of hours she works or the length of her service. It gives every woman the right not to be dismissed because she is pregnant or because she exercises her statutory right to take maternity leave. It gives every employee who works more than eight hours a week the right to receive a written statement explaining his or her basic terms and conditions of employment. It gives important new rights in relation to health and safety: it provides protection against dismissal for safety representatives carrying out their duties and for employees who have to leave their work because of imminent risks to their health and safety.

The Bill also gives important new rights to all trade union members. For the first time, the Bill gives employees the right to join the union of their choice—not the union chosen for them by a Trades Union Congress committee. For the first time, it gives trade union members the right to a postal ballot, before a strike, and the right to have that ballot independently scrutinised. It gives all union members the right to decide for themselves how they pay union subscriptions. It gives all union members new protection against mismanagement of their union's finances and new protection against fraud and abuse in union elections.

Mr. David Winnick (Walsall, North)

As the right hon. Lady knows, we believe that the Bill undermines existing rights in many respects and jeopardises people's rights in certain occupations. Does she recognise that, at a time when, on the official figures, it will shortly be announced that more than 3 million people are unemployed-the true number is probably nearer 4 million—she should come to the House with measures to give rights to our fellow citizens who are denied the right to work? Instead, she is today dealing with largely irrelevant matters at the expense of the crucial issues for the economy.

Mrs. Shephard

We do not think that the rights of workers and trade union members are ever irrelevant, and I am extremely sorry that the hon. Gentleman should give the impression that he and his hon. Friends take a different view. Later in my speech, I shall make some points about employment and unemployment; but I remind the hon. Gentleman that the stance adopted by him and his hon. Friends on some of the issues covered by the Bill does not suggest that they believe that employment will come from reducing burdens on employers.

The Bill will increase the safeguards against the damaging effects of strikes. It will help to preserve the remarkable transformation in this country's industrial relations record, which has seen the number of days lost through strikes fall to an all-time low. In future, trade unions will have to give employers at least seven days' notice of their intention to call a strike. That will help to overcome the damaging effects which strikes called at short notice can have on business, on jobs and on the life of the community. Also, of course, the Bill gives every citizen an entirely new right to seek the protection of the law if he or she is the victim of unlawful industrial action. No longer will customers be defenceless in the face of unlawful strikes that deliberately seek to cause disruption to services on which people rely.

When I introduced the Bill in the autumn, I made it clear that there was another important theme, as well as that of increasing individual rights. The Bill also includes important measures to increase the competitiveness of the economy and to remove obstacles to the creation of new jobs.

Much debate on the Bill in Committee and last night focused on the proposal to abolish the remaining wages councils. We heard further predictable speeches by Opposition Members during the debate on Report, and doubtless we will hear more this afternoon. But to force employers to pay wages that they cannot afford—whether via the wages councils or via a misconceived national minimum wage—will simply destroy jobs. We do not need to establish a Commission on Social Justice to demonstrate that.

Ms. Angela Eagle (Wallasey)

Is the Secretary of State saying that it is acceptable for the state to subsidise employers who pay poverty wages instead of deploying some minimal protection to ensure that workers-often vulnerable workers—are not exploited by bad employers? Is it right that the taxpayer should pick up the tab for that sort of behaviour?

Mrs. Shephard

It is extraordinary that, when faced with a proposal that will help to bring about greater flexibility in the labour market and remove an unnecessary barrier to the creation of new jobs, Labour Members should oppose it.

Mr. Roy Beggs (Antrim, East)

What research has been carried out into companies that have become insolvent to show whether they went bankrupt because of the high wages being paid to their employees?

Mrs. Shephard

I am not clear whether the hon. Gentleman was present for last night's debate. If he was, he will have heard my hon. Friend the Minister of State make the point that 90 per cent. of employers who made representations were in favour of the abolition of wages councils. Those who oppose their abolition ignore the evidence that they inhibit the creation of new jobs, and refuse to accept that regulation and red tape can only hinder enterprise. They fail to notice that 90 per cent. of industry successfully negotiates wages without the need for statutory interference.

I am sorry that seems to be the face of the modern Labour party. Is it still wedded to binding statutory regulations and to armies of Government inspectors? Is it clinging to the belief that Labour could run businesses better than business meu and women? Is it still in hock to the vested interests of trade unions?

My hon. Friend the Minister of State blew the gaff on the Opposition's policy on wages councils almost before the debate began, on the Bill's Second Reading last November. He challenged the hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras (Mr. Dobson) to say whether Labour would re-establish wages councils after they had been abolished. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] We had to ask that question, because we had not received an answer.

The hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras struggled then to provide a coherent answer.

Mr. Frank Dobson (Holborn and St. Pancras)

indicated dissent.

Mrs. Shephard

Three months later, all we have is a form of words to which, to be very complimentary, a weasel would not put its name. [Interruption.] The hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras shows that he is still a bit sensitive about the matter. Perhaps he will tell the House his latest policy. Perhaps he will confound the commentators by explaining how a national minimum wage can possibly create jobs. If he does, let us hope that the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, East (Mr. Prescott) is listening.

Mr. Dobson

As I said on Second Reading and several times in Committee, and as I made clear in a letter to the Secretary of State—when she employed public officials to peddle lies about Labour party policy, for which she has still not apologised—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] I am not accusing the hon. Lady of lying but saying that she permitted public officials to peddle lies, and that comment is not out of order.

We said that, if the Government achieved the abolition of wages councils, the incoming Labour Government would be faced with no existing wages councils. Our first priority will be to establish a national minimum wage. As I made clear all along, we are consulting people working in industries, their representatives, and various organisations throughout the country that have, over the years, shown a deep and abiding interest in the welfare of the low paid to see whether further special machinery may be necessary to protect the special interests of those who have been most exploited.

That ought to be clear. There are no weasel words there. If the hon. Lady does not understand that statement, I do not know why. I hope that, in future, public officials will, at the taxpayers' expense, make it clear that that is Labour's policy—not the lie that they have peddled to date.

Mrs. Shephard

The hon. Gentleman merely confirms the impression that he gave on Second Reading—that Labour does not have a policy in that respect.

Wages councils have long outlived their usefulness. The Bill will bring their activities to an end, and let us hope that we never have the opportunity to discover whether the hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras would try to bring them back.

The Opposition claim to care about the level of unemployment and the fate of people who are unemployed. They continually urge the Government to provide more assistance and support, while ignoring or denigrating the wide range of employment and training measures already in place

The Oppposition have opposed every training programme and every measure to help unemployed people introduced since 1979. The conversion to the merits of training demonstrated today by the hon. Member for Dunfermline, East (Mr. Brown) was an amazing U-turn even for Labour. The Opposition continue to claim that they care about the unemployed but on radio last Sunday, when asked what Labour would do, the hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras had no answer. He wishes to woo the unemployed; he wants to win the favours of people facing the problems of world economic recession. What does he do? He insults business men. No doubt he would describe those who come here from Japan, America or France to build factories, create jobs and increase our prosperity not merely as incompetent scum, but as alien incompetent scum.

Mr. John Garrett (Norwich, South)

The Secretary of State knows very well that the Norfolk and Waveney training and enterprise council, which is in her area, is unable to provide the level of training that is needed in her constituency and mine, particularly for young people. A number of representations have been made to the right hon. Lady, but she has done nothing about them. She has shown no sympathy for the plight of the young unemployed and untrained.

Mrs. Shephard

The hon. Gentleman knows that my Department's budget is increasing in real terms, and that fewer young people are applying for youth training because of the welcome increase in the staying-on rate. He may not know that I have taken a great personal interest in youth training in Norfolk, and that, by tomorrow, every young person will certainly have been offered a place. The hon. Gentleman likes to pretend to take a close interest in such matters. If that interest is genuine, it is a great pity that he has not informed himself of the facts.

Mr. Dobson

I am not in the habit of intervening unless I am referred to personally. Can the right hon. Lady produce chapter and verse for my description of any foreign investors as "alien"? If she is going to quote what I said about millionaires who want to line their own pockets even more by driving down the wages of some of the worst paid, she should note that I did not describe them as thieving incompetents; I described them as thieving scum.

Mrs. Shephard

I am grateful for that elucidation—as, I am sure, are all hon. Members and all employers and business men. I am also delighted that the hon. Gentleman rejects the TUC's description of people who come here offering inward investment projects as "alien".

At a time of high unemployment, the hon. Gentleman would sign up to the social chapter that the Prime Minister rejected at Maastricht. I wonder whether he has calculated the number of jobs that that would destroy. As an incentive to training, he proposes to place a levy on employers—to put a tax on jobs. How many jobs would that destroy? His latest idea is to subsidise jobs by taxing the utilities—to place a tax on success. That is a really positive message for business!

Sir Teddy Taylor (Southend, East)

Given her great knowledge of these matters, can the Secretary of State give an example—any example—of an EC measure that could be moved under the social chapter but cannot be moved under existing Community legislation?

Mrs. Shephard

In view of my hon. Friend's persistent opposition to the social chapter, I am sure that he agrees that it would destroy jobs, strangle the creation of employment and place crippling burdens on business. I have always understood that to be his position.

During the Bill's passage, Opposition Members have not demonstrated that they understand how jobs are created. Jobs result from firms competing in world markets, and delivering the goods and services that customers want and will buy, on time and competitively priced. Government's role is to create a sound economic climate, in which businesses can grow and jobs can be created. Part of that climate is the good industrial relations that the Bill will help to maintain, building on our previous reforms.

Mr. Winnick

The Secretary of State says that the Opposition's policies would destroy jobs. Is she not aware that, when her party came to office in 1979, a total of 1 million were unemployed? As she knows only too well, even the official figure is now 3 million—and, had not the system of calculation been changed, it would be nearer 4 million. Who are destroying jobs? Are they not being destroyed by the right hon. Lady's Government, and is she not directly responsible for policies that destroy jobs and small businesses day in, day out? She owes us an apology, rather than a lecture.

Mrs. Shephard

The hon. Gentleman knows well from our exchanges in the House that I am extremely concerned about the plight of anyone who is unemployed. He ignores the fact that we are in a world recession and that we share the problem of rising unemployment with every other major industrialised country, among which we had the best possible record, as corroborated by the OECD, for job creation in the 1980s. Curiously, Labour Members find it convenient to forget that fact.

I was disappointed that the Opposition chose to vote against clause 34 in Committee, which means that, in future, arrangements will be made for careers services to be provided by whomever can best and most successfully do so in each area. I had hoped that they would have welcomed the greater freedom and flexibility that this will bring for services to respond effectively to the needs of local communities.

The principles underlying the provision of the service will remain unchanged. There will, of course, be a free service delivered by professional staff to a core client group of young people, but there is no doubt in our minds that the overall quality of the service can be raised. The high standards achieved by the best should be available in all parts of the country.

Mr. David Hanson (Delyn)

What assurances will the Secretary of State give the House that there will be a quality threshold to ensure that the quality that she says she seeks is maintained? No assurance was given in Committee about any form of quality threshold, and any Tom, Dick, Harry or Harriet could now set themselves up as a careers officer.

Mrs. Shephard

The hon. Gentleman is right to ask about quality, which is important and which was fully discussed in Committee. He will know that we have undertaken to consult about how to prepare the guidance that will be issued on setting up the new services. We must be committed to the provision of high-quality and responsive career services, because much depends on them. We want to see careers services develop so that they are well placed to meet the needs of potential clients and customers in a dynamic economy, which is what underlies this important reform. Once in place, they will bring rich rewards.

When I moved the Second Reading of the Bill, I reminded the House that the Labour party claimed at the last election that, if elected, it would keep the trade union legislation of the 1980s, despite the fact that it had voted against every trade union Bill since 1979. I said then that many people doubted whether its conversion to the cause of trade union reform was genuine, but that I was prepared to keep an open mind until we learned what attitude it would take to the Bill.

I urge Labour Front-Bench spokesmen not to make the same mistake as all their predecessors by voting against the Bill, only to admit in a few years' time that the reforms that it introduces are here to stay. I urge them to break out of the cycle of unthinking opposition followed by embarrassment and half-hearted acceptance. That has been their record on such vital issues as strike ballots and the closed shop. They did not take my advice, and voted against the Bill on Second Reading, and they may vote against it tonight.

We have heard much recently about the Opposition's conversion to the cause of the individual. We have even heard that they have discovered the importance of small business, but there has been little sign of that in our debate.

Let us examine the Opposition's commitment to the individual in some of their amendments. They would give a worker the right to join a trade union of the TUC's choice. They would give an employee the right to be paid a minimum wage, which many employers could not afford to pay, even if that meant people losing their jobs. They would give a consumer—for example, a commuter-the right to be left stranded and helpless if the service on which he depended was disrupted by an unlawful strike.

Is that how the Opposition believe that the interests of the individual are best served? How can they possibly claim to believe in the individual when they would deny people the right to choose and decide for themselves'? How can they claim to support the interests of small business when they have lost no opportunity to press for new burdens and new regulations to be imposed on employers? That is why they have opposed the ending of wages councils, despite the fact that the previous Labour Government abolished 11, which covers about 600,000 employees, and despite the fact that we do not know what their future policy on wages councils is.

In their attitude to these important parts of the Bill, the Opposition have, I am afraid, revealed a tired old face, that of socialist dogma. The truth is that the gap between the Opposition and the Government on industrial relation sand trade union reform is as wide as ever. While the Government have advanced step by step in reform, the Opposition have been reduced to a grudging step-by-step retreat.

In the Bill, the Government are looking forward to the industrial relations and employment needs of the rest of the 1990s and into the next century. We shall continue to create a climate in which business can compete effectively and in which employees as individuals have the opportunities and protection which they are entitled to expect.

The Opposition are still looking backward, back to the days when the rights of the individual employees and trade union members were subordinate to those of the trade union bosses, and back to the time when initiative and individual responsibility was stifled by over-regulation and collective organisation. We all know where that led us.

This evening, the Opposition have another chance to shake off the shackles of the past. I urge them to vote on behalf of the individual employee, the individual trade union member and the individual citizen, rather than on behalf of the vested interest groups which have so often dictated their damaging policies in the past. Let them use the opportunity to show that their new-found concern for the individual is more than empty rhetoric and more than bluster.

I commend the Bill to the House.

4.11 pm
Mr. Frank Dobson (Holborn and St. Pancras)

One way or another, we have been considering the Bill for three and a half months. Perhaps uncharacteristically, I begin by thanking the Minister of State and the Under-Secretary of State, the hon. Member for Derbyshire, West (Mr. McLoughlin), for their helpful and constructive responses to a number of suggestions that we made in Committee, which resulted in the Government undertaking to make about 20 distinct improvements to their original proposals. Seventeen of those improvements were delivered by way of amendments on Report and three, I am assured, will be delivered by way of amendments in another place. I am grateful to the Government for that.

I also wish to thank my colleagues who served on the Committee that debated the Bill. Having served on Committees where we have lost arguments, I must say that it was a pleasure to serve on a Committee where I do riot think that we lost a single argument. Indeed, it must be said that the Government proffered no arguments on the issue of wages councils.

We dealt with the Bill in detail in Committee and in further detail on Report yesterday, so it behoves me to concentrate on a limited number of aspects. The first is low pay; the second the way in which the Government have knowingly robbed people of their rights for the past 10 years; the third is the Government's failure to introduce comprehensive maternity cover and to take the opportunity to get rid of the current shambles; and the fourth is their proposal to sell off the school careers service.

Those four aspects cannot be separated from two general matters. One is the general employment situation, which especially affects the low paid, and the second is the general economic situation. It is worth reminding the House that, since the Bill was printed, the general employment situation can only be said to have got worse. Even without tomorrow's figures, more than 130,000 of our fellow citizens have lost their jobs since then.

We all know that the official unemployment total to be announced tomorrow will either break or come very close to the 3 million barrier. No doubt the Secretary of State has the figures; perhaps she could let us have them. Perhaps seasonal adjustments will achieve the miracle of avoiding a breach of the 3 million barrier this time. If so, the next total will certainly be above 3 million. In reality, as has been pointed out, the number is already more than 4 million. There are indeed 4 million people in this country who need a job, but the Government are doing nothing to provide them with work. There are 27 people chasing every job. Indeed, there are 60 people for every vacancy in London.

In my adult lifetime the people of the west midlands made things for the rest of Britain. Indeed, articles manufactured in that area were sold right round the world. Half of the people who were in manufacturing industry in that great manufacturing area when Mrs. Thatcher became Prime Minister are no longer making things, and we are all suffering as a result.

Mr. Winnick

My hon. Friend has referred to the region that I have the honour to represent. Does he know that in pre-war days, as well as after the war, when there was nearly full employment, people came to the west midlands to find work? No one would do so now. One of the reasons for our balance of payments difficulties is that items that used to be made in the west midlands are now imported. Since 1979 many industrial concerns, including some of the largest, have gone out of business entirely. In my constituency, there are many people who never for one moment thought that they would be out of work, or that if so it would be for only a matter of weeks, but who have now been unemployed for years on end and may well never work again. That tragedy has been largely brought about by the wretched Conservative Government.

Mr. Dobson

I agree with every word that my hon. Friend says. No fewer than one fifth of all the manufacturing jobs that have disappeared have gone from the west midlands. As my hon. Friend has pointed out, even when—possibly if—we come out of the recession and people start buying more goods, many more of those goods will have to come from abroad as they are no longer made in the west midlands. Even if there is a resurgence of manufacturing industry, it will not alter the fact that a large proportion of manufacturers in the west midlands and in other areas now depend on foreigners to make their equipment. If we do not make the stuff ourselves, we have to buy it abroad; and if we buy abroad, we do not have a trade surplus; and if we have a trade deficit, we have difficulty in running our economy.

All these job losses have a direct effect on the low paid. They weaken their bargaining position. Unemployment also diminishes our economy and reduces the funds available to make Britain a decent place in which to live. The Secretary of State had to admit to the Select Committee on Employment that unemployment also hits every taxpayer in his pocket or her handbag. It costs the taxpayer £9,000, in benefit paid and in tax not taken in, to keep a person unemployed for a year. Thus the level of unemployment that is likely to be announced tomorrow costs the taxpayer £27 billion a year—£1,225 per family. And it does not stop there. When people are not working, they are not producing. We used to hear from Conservative Members a great deal about the number of days lost through strikes. We never hear a word now about the number of production days lost through unemployment.

There are, as near as damn it, 3 million people out of work. That means that we lose 3 million days' production every day because of unemployment—and 3 million working days lost every day is 15 million working days lost every week. If the present level of unemployment lasts for a year, 780 million working days will be lost to the British economy-780 million working days with people not working and not producing the goods and services which contribute to the national wealth.

I estimate that the cost of that is more than £50 billion. If those people were at work they would produce goods and services worth at least £50 billion. Shared out equally —I know that in this country nothing ever is shared out equally, but for statistical purposes let us assume that, for once, that happens—the loss is £2,275 per family. If we add that to the loss to the taxpayer, we see that the Tory tax to pay for unemployment amounts to £3,500 for every family in the land.

That is the economics of the madhouse—and in the middle of the madhouse the Secretary of State turns up to abolish wages councils. Wages councils set the minimum wage for 2–6 million of the worst paid people in the country, 2 million of whom are women. We are not talking about princely sums; the highest minimum wage set is £3.10 an hour. But apparently rich Tory business bosses think that £3.10 an hour is too much. They have been writing letters to the Secretary of State saying, "You must get those wages down, otherwise I shall not be able to pay myself £584,000 a year." Business bosses say that they cannot compete if they pay those wages.

Mr. Graham Riddick (Colne Valley)

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Dobson

Not for the moment, but I shall later.

I want the Secretary of State to consider the hotel trade, which to some extent is an international trade. Why do London hotels have higher prices and lower wages than Paris hotels? If our hotel chains have to compete by bringing down wages, how can the French afford to pay their hotel staff more, yet charge guests lower prices? I suggest that somebody somewhere is pocketing the difference. It is not the taxpayer, or the guests in the hotels, and it is not the people working there; it is a lot of rich Tory business bosses who are trousering the money.

The Government's argument is that there should be no Government interference in the market. The idea is that every worker should strike a bargain with his or her employer. I return to the quotation from Churchill. I know that it upsets Conservative Members, and that they have heard it often, but what Winston Churchill said in 1909 when he introduced wages councils is good sound stuff. [HON. MEMBERS: "He was a Liberal."]—He was a Liberal but—[HON. MEMBERS: "Where are the Liberals?"]—I do not care where the Liberals are now.

Mr. Jacques Arnold (Gravesham)


Mr. Dobson

No. I shall not give way for the moment. I shall give way later, if the hon. Gentleman can hold himself back for a minute.

I should mention that not only the Liberals and the Labour party but the Tory party, too, supported the measure in 1909. There was no Division on the introduction of wages councils. Everybody agreed with what young Winston said: Where …you have a powerful organisation on both sides …you have healthy bargaining which increases the competitive power of industry and enforces a progressive standard of life. But where …you have no organisation, no parity of bargaining, the good employer is undercut by the bad and the bad employer is undercut by the worst". I return to my original point—

Mr. Jacques Arnold


Mr. Dobson

No, I shall give way in a moment.

I return again to the question which we have posed to Tory Members. If this morning the Secretary of State had come with me to the place where my constituency borders with Westminster, she would have seen people sleeping in cardboard boxes.

The Minister of State, Department of Employment (Mr. Michael Forsyth)

The hon. Gentleman has made that point before.

Mr. Dobson

I have made the point before, but it is valid today because they were in the cardboard boxes this morning, just as they were when I raised it before, but the hon. Gentleman has never answered the question. Let him answer the question. After sleeping in their cardboard boxes, those people who live in cardboard boxes go to the jobeentre for the hotel trade on the edge of my constituency. In London there are 60 people chasing every vacancy. What parity of bargaining have they with the giant hotel chains which have assets of thousands of millions of pounds? Where is the parity there?

Mr. Michael Forsyth

What the hon. Gentleman fails to tell the House, although he has made the point repeatedly, is how he would help the people who seek those low-paid jobs when hoteliers tell us that the wages council is preventing the jobs being created and being available. What service is the hon. Gentleman doing to those people if there are no jobs for them? Why does he think that what was appropriate for 1909 is appropriate for the 1990s?

Mr. Dobson

A truth remains a truth, whether it is an old truth or a new truth. It was a truth then and it is a truth today. If there is parity of bargaining, people stand a chance of getting a living wage. If there is not parity of bargaining, they have no chance of getting a living wage. It does not matter that that was said in 1909; it was true then and it is true today.

Mr. Forsyth


Mr. Dobson

If the hon. Gentleman is about to say that it is not true, he is even dafter than I thought.

Mr. Forsyth

If the hon. Gentleman is saying that people cannot get by because they do not have parity of bargaining with big employers, how does he account for the fact that, as wages councils cover only 10 per cent. of the labour force, the other 90 per cent. can get by without such protection?

Mr. Dobson

For a start, they do not get by in any reasonable sense. I make no apology for it, but the Labour party takes the view that if society was run properly and if the economy was run efficiently, everyone who wanted a job would have a job. If people had that job, they would be paid what their ambition is to be paid—enough money to pay their own way and to bring up their families without depending on benefits or handouts.

Under the Government one eighth of the work force are out of work and another eighth cannot afford to pay their way but have to go begging and scraping for benefits to make up lousy amounts to live on.

Mr. Riddick

In his intervention in the speech of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, the hon. Gentleman appeared to say that a future Labour Government—if there ever were such a thing—would not need to reintroduce wages councils because they would have a statutory national minimum wage. The OECD has said clearly that a national minimum wage in France has led to increased unemployment. Will the hon. Gentleman comment on that?

Mr. Dobson

My only answer is a further question. What has the OECD said about how the Government have managed to achieve the amazing unemployment levels which we have without a national minimum wage? There is no parity of bargaining. The idea that there is parity of bargaining for those who are badly off is not true. We have to have parity of bargaining so that people may have a reasonable chance.

Ms. Eagle

Does my hon. Friend agree that wages councils were set up in 1909 deliberately to deal with the dynamic effects of a free market in labour'? If pay is undercut, wages can carry on going down potentially to zero. In a free labour market the competitive effects of a systematic reduction hi wages lead to the impoverishment of large numbers of the work force. Surely everybody but the most fanatical followers of free market dogma accept the argument that there must be a minimum below which wages cannot fall so as to prevent bad employers undercutting better employers and impoverishing the work force.

Mr. Dobson

I entirely agree with the eminently sensible point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Wallasey (Ms. Eagle).

There is a further aspect to the abolition of the wages councils.

Mr. Jacques Arnold

The hon. Gentleman has just sneered at the British hotel trade, and he has said that it could not compete with, for example, the French hotel trade. When the hon. Gentleman was doing his homework, he might have asked our own British Hotel, Restaurants and Caterers Association what it thought. It says: The current system imposes constraints on flexible remuneration packages. That is precisely the point. The hon. Gentleman supports inflexibility which would not allow us to compete properly.

Mr. Dobson

As the wages councils set only minimum wages, the element of flexibility needed must be the flexibility to pay below the present minimum. There is nothing to stop most employers paying above the minimum. Most do and they always have, right from the first days of the wages councils.

Another problem that will arise from the abolition of the wages councils is the effect on women's pay. The Secretary of State for Employment has been given the duty within Government to promote equal opportunities. By backing the Bill, she is giving 2 million women the equal opportunity to be paid less than they are being paid now and the equal opportunity to see the gap between their pay and men's pay widen. The pay gap in wages councils industries is narrower than it is in other industries. That cannot be gainsaid unless the Government try to undermine their own statistics.

The abolition of the wages councils appears to be part of the Government's obsessive hatred of any form of employment protection. They cannot stand the idea of the social chapter. They do not like this form of protection for our people. At the beginning of the week, the Financial Times produced an analysis of employment protection across Europe. From careful reading, one can see that if the analysis was turned into a Eurovision song contest, a voice would say, after listening to the British entry, "Grande Bretagne, nul point." In other words, "Great Britain, no points." Our job protection laws are undoubtedly the worst in Europe.

The Conservatives say that the whole economy is endangered by people being paid as little as £2.59 an hour, which they claim costs jobs. That simply is not true. As we all know, employment has been declining sharply for the past three years. Nobody disagrees with that as a statement of fact. If the Government's arguments are correct, employment in the wages councils industries should have been in steeper decline than in other industries. Since 1989, the number of people in employment has fallen by 2 million. The number of people working in wages councils industries has risen by 90,000. Wages councils industries, with their minimum wages which are supposed to threaten jobs, are a group whose employment is expanding while there is a catastrophic decline in industries not covered by wages councils. That makes nonsense of every point that the Government have made but they are paying no attention because they are introducing the measure solely as a pay-off to the paymasters who paid their general election expenses in exchange for the abolition of the wages councils.

Mr. Jacques Arnold

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Dobson

No. I have given way enough already.

The next item may even affect the pay-off that has been received by a number of Tory Members. European law was introduced with the object of guaranteeing the rights of employees whose job was shifted from one employer to another. The British Government introduced some regulations that purported to establish that protection. Right from the start, however, they set out to exclude from that protection employees affected by privatisation and compulsory competitive tendering.

We discovered from some Treasury minutes that we laid hands on that, as early as 1983, Law Officers of the Crown—we heard about them and their famous European interpretations earlier in the week—had secretly advised: the limitation in the Regulations to commercial undertakings was not a satisfactory implementation of the United Kingdom's Community obligations. Now, we all know that the Law Officers' word is law and Parliament's is not-since Monday, at least—but, in this case, despite the view that the Law Officers held, the Department of the Environment and the Department of Health issued advice to local councils and health authorities saying that the Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations did not apply to them.

Then the European Commission caught the Government out. Certain cases heard in the European Court demonstrated that the regulations did, indeed, apply, which is why the Government are having to sort things out now. Their method has been to introduce provision in the Bill and try to pretend that nothing has changed.

Hon. Members who were not on the Committee will be familiar with the idea of a new opinion—a late wire from the course—from the Attorney-General. We had that on Maastricht on Monday. Members of the Committee were privileged enough to receive such treatment as early as January, when the Attorney-General came along, it was said, to clarify the law. To hon. Members who did not serve on the Committee but who were in the Chamber on Monday, his advice will have a familiar ring. Basically, he said, "We are introducing changes in this Bill but it does not really change the law as all these things were always intended to be covered: the rights are there and we have always intended people to enjoy them."

That was the Attorney-General's message, but it is simply not true: the rights of certain people were deliberately excluded and they are now having to be included. We welcome their inclusion and we expect the Government to compensate the people who were knowingly defrauded by Ministers of the Crown of the money to which they were entitled—when those Ministers had been secretly advised by Law Officers and when the British Government knew that they were breaking the law and were robbing a lot of badly-off people. We hope that the change will go through, even if it costs a number of Tory Members of Parliament some of the ill-gotten gains that they have made from having their hands in the compulsory competitive tendering process.

Sir Teddy Taylor

As this is obviously an important issue, as the arrangements could effectively kill off most privatisations, which some people think are good and others think are not so good, may I ask the hon. Gentleman whether he ascertained in Committee whether the Government appeared to have fought the infraction proceedings? Did they, for example, take any of the issues to the European Court? Or did they simply accept what the Commission asked them to do?

Mr. Dobson

The hon. Gentleman had better address his questions to those responsible for giving answers on such matters. To be fair to the Government, my impression was that they had fought a long hard rearguard action to retain their right to defraud British citizens in a way in which citizens of other countries were not being defrauded. But Ministers will no doubt answer for themselves.

The next matter to which I should like to refer briefly is the improved maternity provisions. To the extent that they are improvements, we welcome their inclusion in the Bill. Any improvement is welcome.

I should remind hon. Members of the genesis of the rules. They came to us courtesy of the European Community Fisheries Council because the British presidency was conducted so incompetently that no other Council of Ministers could get to a formal vote before the deadline so the Fisheries Council had to provide some maternity rules. It must be recorded that the Fisheries Council did not actually vote for the rules; we just accepted them.

The present maternity' provisions are confused and unsatisfactory. We believe that the provisions in the Bill are more satisfactory but considerably more confused. I am sure that the Minister will probably agree with me on that. The Labour party said—we made it clear that we would have facilitated this—that the whole arrangement should have been taken apart and put back together in an orderly and simple way for employers, the Department of Social Services and women and their partners to deal with. That would have been the best way. We regard this as a wasted opportunity to clarify important maternity rights in the United Kingdom.

It must be said that the Government intend to take one opportunity. They intend to privatise the schools career service. The Department of Employment sold the professional executive register to Mr. Robert Maxwell and that went bust. It also sold the skill centres to various other people and about half of them have now closed. Goodness knows, the country could do with a bit of skill. The Department of Employment disposed of the assets in that way and now intends to dispose of the schools career service which, until the Bill was introduced, was not its asset to dispose of at all.

Like every other institution in the world, the schools career service is imperfect. Until now, it has been run for the benefit of the children and young people who were being advised. The Government's alternative is to hand parts of the service to private companies, training and enterprise councils or Uncle Tom Cobbleigh. Will private companies put the interests of young people first in the same way as the schools career service has until now? Let us examine the service as though it were being run by a private company. Private companies will be interested in maximising their turnover. It is easy to envisage that, to maximise their turnover, they will enter into a cosy relationship with one or two local employers who might well be dodgy. Those companies would guide young people to work for those employers, rather than give them the career guidance to which they are entitled and which they had in the past.

I would say to anyone in the private sector, "If you think that you are any good at running a schools careers service, why not set up shop and do it? Why not try to compete, invite people in and say that you are offering a better service?" That is not how organisations that are supported by the Tories prosper these days. Companies which the Tories think are great grow by takeover: they do not grow by efficiency and expansion of their activities.

Some people have set their eyes on the careers service and decided that there are a few bob to be made there. They think that it would be a lot easier to do that job than the one which they do at present.

The priorities of the training and enterprise councils are not the same as those of the individual children and young people with which the careers service deals. It is possible that a training and enterprise council or a TEC bureaucrat who is given a quota to fill can see an easy way of shoving a few kids who have not had much advice in that direction to fill his quota within the set time probably so that he will get some sort of productivity bonus if he deals with them quickly. We do not think that that is the right way to do it.

We are concerned—I know that the Government have agreed to re-examine the matter—that such privatisation may pose problems for handicapped young people and children with learning difficulties because they will not be a paying or profitable proposition for a private company and they will not be high in turnover from the point of view of the TEC bureaucrat who wants to get on with the job quickly and get his bonus.

We believe that there are dangers in the proposition. Under the Government's scheme, there is no guarantee that young people will continue to be the first priority for the service. That is typical of this Bill and the Government. We do not believe that the Government give top priority to ordinary people.

Everything has been sacrificed to market theories. When someone points out that the market theories do not appear to be working, the new ideologues blame something that they call externalities. What the ideologues call externalities turn out to be what the rest of us call the real world. When theory clashes with the real world, externalities are blamed. It is the real world which we are here to represent.

It is a real world in Britain where 4 million people are out of work. It is a real Britain where there are 57 million people in the country and only 4.3 million of them are making anything. In the real world, no less than a quarter of our population are either out of work or depend on benefits to make up their pay and get a decent income. In the real world, British people want work. They want jobs which will enable them to pay their own way, earn their keep and bring up their families. The Bill has not done a damned thing in getting any of them a job or decent pay at the end of it.

4.45 pm
Mr. John Sykes (Scarborough)

As a member of the Standing Committee that examined the Bill, I am delighted to have the chance to lend my support to the Third Reading. In doing so, I pay a tribute to my hon. Friends who spent many long hours during the winter debating the contents of the Bill. To quote my hon. Friend the Member for Derbyshire, West (Mr. McLoughlin), the Parliamentary Under-Secretary, we had an "interesting debate". It was a debate in which the vexatious litigant of the hon. Member for Strathkelvin and Bearsden (Mr. Galbraith) jockeyed for position alongside the golden thread of the Minister's arguments.

One of the most pleasurable aspects of the Committee is that at least I shall be able to tell my grandchildren, when they arrive, how, in the first autumn of my parliamentary career, I, along with several colleagues, was able to witness the old trade union machine rolled out of the knacker's yard. There they were every Tuesday and Thursday in Committee Room 9, some of the big guns of the trade union movement. They were short on ammunition, rather like the guns of Singapore—and anyway facing the wrong way. Not to mention the odd assortment of peashooters from the new intake in the Labour party, a wondrous thing, with so many of them, day after day after day, blatantly and, to their credit, proudly expounding the philosophy of their ancient and discredited creed. But then we know, at least on this side of the House, that the little Clintons opposite, with that veneer of market economics will never change. We know that because they have told us so. Let met quote some lines: Trade unions anchor themselves into the real lives of the ordinary people. I suppose that that was true in the 1970s.

When the archaeologists are sifting around the debris of Walworth road in 20 years or perhaps 10 years—we hope —that is what they will find under a stone in the office of the hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras (Mr. Dobson). Those words are from the hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras, whose ideas are almost as old as that famous station in his constituency.

The Bill is the threshold towards the Prime Minister's avowed goal of making the United Kingdom a paradise for investment. I am fed up with trade unionists and Opposition Members constantly talking this country down, even in the face of proven success stories. Their silly arguments run along the lines that provisions such as the social chapter and regulations that the Bill seeks to remove help to increase productivity because everyone is happy. What nonsense! And when the opposite is proved to be the case—for example, the recent decisions of international companies to relocate in Great Britain—they whinge and moan about Great Britain being the Taiwan of Europe. I am a member of a family company which was established in 1845. The measures contained in the Bill are designed to give new freedoms to trade and industry which will lead to more jobs and greater prosperity.

I received a letter recently about the wages councils from a leading hotelier in my constituency. The company is family owned. He is not a rich Tory boss by any means. He is just an ordinary man trying to run an ordinary business on a day-to-day basis. He said: At last the Government have seen fit to abolish the Wages Councils, a nonsense that had its part to play in history but no part now. This measure will give employers more flexibility and we will be better able to award staff according to their performance and productivity. All payments should be between employer and employee to work out, bearing in mind local conditions, qualifications etc. etc. and are the better for being so—and I write as one who has never stooped to the minimum wage level with any employee! With the abolition of Wages Councils we can get on with running our businesses with a little less paperwork and spend the time saved on seeking the customers whose patronage produces the employment, with the consequent effect on local economies of workers with good pay packets! That is just one letter.

I now have to talk a little about Labour's proposals for a minimum wage. When I spoke to the jobcentre in Scarborough I was horrified to see that of the 75 jobs on offer, 50 were below the minimum wage that Labour would impose. Worst of all, in Whitby all the 42 vacancies were below that level. That means that each of those potential employers would have to decide whether to become less competitive by increasing their prices or to withdraw the job.

Labour must have a death wish for companies and people. Its minimum wage would either drive businesses to the wall or lose more people their jobs. Labour could not have invented a package which would do more damage to trade and industry. It is no good Labour telling us that that would not happen when the vast majority of experts disagree. I find it unbelievable that, at a time when creating new jobs should be a priority, the Labour party proposes a policy which would lose more people their job. It would especially affect the most vulnerable in our society.

The Bill is part of the process that takes Great Britain towards the millennium. It is part of the process that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister set in train when he torpedoed the social chapter a year last November. Jacques Delors acknowledged that by doing so my right hon. Friend had made Britain a paradise for inward investment.

Forget Labour's Europe. Labour's Britain is there for all to see in places such as Sheffield, Liverpool and Birmingham. As we head towards the 21st century, this is a Bill for more investment, more employment, more business, more output and more exports. It is a Bill for Great Britain. It is a Bill which is relevant to the 1990s and which consigns the alien practices such as we saw in Dundee, along with the Labour party, to the dustbin of history.

4.52 pm
Mr. Jim Cunningham (Coventry, South-East)

I was interested in the comments of the hon. Member for Scarborough (Mr. Sykes), especially on the Prime Minister's paradise for investment. I do not see much investment when I look at the unemployment figures. The recession is becoming a nightmare for the unemployed and low paid. That is what the Bill is all about. As I have listened to the speeches of Opposition Members, I have wondered what is the relevance of the Bill to Britain's economic situation.

In areas such as the west midlands, one of the powerhouses of the British economy, unemployment is about 11–5 per cent. If that is paradise, I do not know what hell is. When one considers the unemployment figures one wonders about the relevance of the Bill to the erosion of our industrial base. Companies such as Leyland DAF are going to the wall without the Government doing anything about it. At the same time, great companies such as GPT and Rolls-Royce make systematic redundancies. One can only conclude that the Government have a phobia of trade unions and their relevance to society.

It is worth reminding the Government that in the 1930s in Germany trade unionists found themselves in prison or concentration camps for their defence of freedom. I do not accuse the Government of treating trade unionists in that way, but they should be careful about the way in which they treat trade unions.

Even if wages councils fix the wages of only 10 per cent. of workers, any modern society that cannot provide legislation to defend that 10 per cent. cannot be called a fair or democratic society. Between 900,000 and 1 million young unemployed people are living in despair. When they turn to officials in the Department of Social Security they are told that they can live on a cold meal. They cannot obtain a loan for items such as a cooker. A cold meal in the middle of winter? I wonder where we are going in this fair and democratic society when we treat people in that manner.

The Government have made no provision for one-parent families. Provisions should have been included in the Bill for creche facilities to enable mothers or fathers to pick up their careers again and seek employment. Yet the Government provide subsidies through the social security system to employers who pay low wages. That is an indictment of the Bill.

Let us consider how far trade union rights have been eroded in Britain. Organisations such as Legal and Incomes Rights have to provide advice to trade unionists because an horrendous amount of legislation is increasingly complex. Certainly a democratic society must have a certain amount of legislation to provide a framework of law. But the Government should not create draconian laws to hinder individuals in freely negotiating to fix the wage that they want for selling their labour.

Yesterday and today I listened to Conservative Members talking about the abolition of the wages councils. They are going for a low-wage economy. Has it never occurred to them that some of our competitors are high-wage, high-investment, high-quality economies? Britain now compares with the third world and, in some respects, the former Soviet Union, where the importance of quality has deteriorated. If bodies such as wages councils are abolished, quality can be affected. It is affected if one is not prepared to have high investment and productivity, coupled with technological advance.

For the reasons that I have given, I oppose the Bill. I do not wish to be negative, but it is interesting that in major recessions the Tories always turn the clock back. When they quote Adam Smith they turn the clock back 100 years. When they repeal Churchill's legislation, they turn the clock back 80-odd years. That legislation stood the test of time. It has not affected the efficiency and welfare of the British economy. The Bill has taken people off' on a tangent into a debate which should never have taken place. The Bill should never have been introduced. A Bill should have been introduced to improve the British economy, improve people's living conditions and improve education.

I also oppose the Bill because it abolishes the Bridlington agreement. It is interesting that the Government seem to take their advice from smaller employers, not major employers of labour. Any experienced employer or trade unionist knows that abolishing the Bridlington agreement and introducing competition between trade unions is a recipe for chaos in industrial relations.

Most people would say that industrial relations is the relationships of human beings in an industrial environment—in this case, one that produces goods. At times, relationships will be under stress as human beings do and say things that they do not mean. With all due respect to the Government, the trade unions and employers, not the House of Commons, have to pick up the pieces.

To achieve our economic ends, we need less legislation. We must allow employers and employees to set rates of pay and productivity levels, through trade unions and organised labour. That is the way to improve our economic situation and that is why the abolition of the wages councils should have no part of any Bill laid before the House, as we should seek to protect the weak by strengthening such organisations.

5 pm

Mr. Patrick Nicholls (Teignbridge)

I must start by declaring my interest as a parliamentary consultant to MinOtels Great Britain Ltd.

I am sure that the hon. Member for Coventry, South-East (Mr. Cunningham) was right to concentrate on the abolition of the wages councils, as that is clearly the issue that will preoccupy us on Third Reading. I say that because the measures in the Bill fall into two distinct categories. The first is the items ritually opposed by the Labour party, including the various trade union reforms; the abolition of the Bridlington agreement, to which the hon. Gentleman referred; the fact that a member of the public will be able to challenge unlawful industrial action; and improved safeguards for trade union members.

Labour Members oppose those measures today, but history has a way of repeating itself, and they will not do so next year. In three or four years' time, the Labour party will have the public believe that it was always in favour of them. That process contains an element of ritual. The Labour party is always in favour of any trade union reform that we passed three or four years ago, and that sums up its position on the Bill.

On Second Reading, in Standing Committee and today, we have heard about the Labour party's total opposition to the abolition of the wages councils. Anyone who speaks in favour of their abolition starts off on the defensive, because wages councils to protect the low paid sound such a good idea. If the Chamber was about the mere recital of good ideas, the wages councils must obviously be a good idea, because they sound like one. The trouble is that it is not like that. I shall refer to evidence that, while it is a good idea to try to protect people who are without work or who are in low-paid employment, wages councils are not the way to achieve that good end.

In justification, hon. Members ask, "How can you say that? The wages councils must be a good idea, because Winston Churchill was in favour of them."

Mr. Hanson

That is right.

Mr. Nicholls

We have just heard it again, and I must place that inane remark on the record. The hon. Gentleman said, "That is right."

Even in a packed House like this, I do not think that it will have escaped the attention of hon. Members that I am by nature a traditionalist. I am what is called a Conservative, and I take a great pride in my country's history. Very often, I look backwards for help when formulating policies. However, if I formulated legislation on social policy in the House on the basis that, if it was okay in 1909, it must be a good idea today, hon. Members on both sides of the Chamber would say that I was on this planet but not necessarily of it. The year 1909 is so long ago that even the hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras (Mr. Dobson) was probably not alive, although, as usual, he said that, as old Winston was in favour, it must be a good idea.

Ms. Eagle

Conservative Members are very ready to quote my hon. Friend the Member for Birkenhead (Mr. Field). Has the hon. Gentleman read the latest Durham lecture by my hon. Friend, which points out that income distribution is back to the same level as in 1886? So the Government have taken us even further back in history than 1909.

Mr. Nicholls

The hon. Lady obviously still has the mentality of saying that she believes in social democracy when she believes in a far more primitive version of socialism. If she thinks that the average family can pay their food bills by looking at the gap between the rich and poor, her attitude to life is bizarre. If the hon. Lady thinks that the hon. Member for Birkenhead (Mr. Field) can usually be quoted on her side of the argument, I shall have to disabuse her in a moment.

Before we leave old Winston, let us remember that, although Labour Members quote him, they would not want to know if we asked them about Tonypandy or the Dardanelles campaign. The folk memory within them rises up if one asks them about Gallipoli. However, if one asks about that one pre-Sarajevo aspect of social policy, they will know about it and say that old Winston was a good person.

With all the insincerity at my command, I find that just about as convincing as a Conservative Member quoting Keir Hardie as being on his side, or Bruce Kent putting in a good word for Attila the Hun. It is complete nonsense. If the only support that can be found for the policy is that old Winston was in favour of it, I do not find it convincing.

There is a sort of mad corporatist logic in that argument, but if one takes it to the full extreme and believes that one can help the low paid and unemployed through a wages council structure, one should say that that structure should extend over the entire country. A wage would be laid down for every industry and process by a Minister or a bureaucrat in Whitehall. The Labour party is not in favour of that. Although it would be crackers, it would be logically so.

The Labour party is a great destroyer of wages councils— I accept that they are not all bad. If one casts one's mind back to when Labour was last in office, between 1974 and 1979, one remembers that it abolished wages councils at the rate of one every six months. Even the Opposition are prepared to question the validity of their existence.

The Opposition oppose the measure because they are looking at the wrong target. We constantly hear that low-paid employment is the worst evil that can befall anyone, but a condition called "no job" is worse than low pay. On Second Reading, in Committee and today, the Labour party has failed to explain how the wages councils contribute to people being in low-paid jobs.

Many people start their careers in low-paid jobs. If one has a time-warped, corporatist view of life, in which everything is a fixed entity and can never expand, and we can never make progress, people in low-paid jobs will be there for ever. That is a marvellous picture of history, which will appeal to people who have never read a book other than "The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists". That picture has no claim on reality. Many people start off in low-paid work and move on. It is a time in their lives.

Anyone who is unemployed knows that it is immensely harder to get a job if one is out of work, and that it is easier to make progress and move up the economic ladder if one has work.

If we tell employers that they will not be allowed to offer jobs, we will destroy work possibilities and the possibility of job creation. As we approach the 21st century, the idea could only be suggested by people who do not realise that employment happens when an employer has a service, or a product to be made, and it is worth his while to pay someone a rate to do it. That is the essential ingredient of a job and what it is all about. If a bureaucrat or Minister steps in to intercede on the judgment of the person offering a job, work is destroyed—it is as simple and straightforward as that.

Mr. Peter Thurnham (Bolton, North-East)

I have only just entered the Chamber and I did not have the opportunity to hear the earlier part of my hon. Friend's speech, but I think that he is speaking a great deal of sense. Does he agree that wages councils act as a sort of conspiracy between the employed and employers against the interests of the unemployed? If we want to find jobs for the unemployed, we shoud listen to them. I was on the Select Committee on Employment which considered the matter some years ago, and I am pleased that I then voted for the abolition of wages councils.

Mr. Nicholls

My hon. Friend is entirely right. There are industries and processes where the fixing of a minimum wage is something on which employers and unions actively work together, and there is an element of conspiracy.

The hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras said that he would not give a pledge to restore wages councils, because he was in favour of the national minimum wage. I like to find points of agreement in the House. I accept that the Opposition are as genuinely concerned about the fate of the unemployed and the low paid as Conservatives are. However, when I hear the national minimum wage proposed as a remedy for that condition, I begin to wonder how on earth the sincerity for one policy can match up to the commitment for a national minimum wage.

A policy for a national minimum wage is another way of stating the attitude that leads to support for wages councils. The extraordinary fact is that the thoughtful contributions from those on the left as well as the right of the argument who know what they are talking about show that not one of them supports the national minimum wage.

The Guardian stated: Labour has a problem with the national minimum wage … it will cause extra unemployment … it will increase inflation". A thoughtful Opposition Member, the hon. Member for Birkenhead (Mr. Field), said: the employment consequences … would be little short of disastrous". As for the trade unionists' view, Eric Hammond has said that the minimum wage would create more unemployment and chaos and conflict on the shop floor". Gavin Laird has said: It's never worked in the past, there's no logic for it, it doesn't work in any other country and it certainly will not work in Great Britain". If anyone feels that those comments from the left of the argument are too highbrow, I can give a lowbrow view from the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, East (Mr. Prescott)—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I hope that Hansard will place on record the support being expressed for that hon. Gentleman. When asked to give the consequences of the national minimum wage, the hon. Gentleman said: I knew the consequences were that there would be some shake-out—any silly fool knew that". When the hon. Gentleman says "silly fool", we should take his word.

Outside the House, and sometimes even within it, those on the left of the argument know that the national minimum wage is not the panacea that they would like it to be. However, the Labour party's policy is to forget about the views of its trade union sponsors, the hon. Member for Birkenhead and the left-wing press. It ignores all that evidence and experience, and goes for the national minimum wage policy.

Mr. Sykes

Is my hon. Friend aware that even the right hon. and learned Member for Monklands, East (Mr. Smith), the Leader of Her Majesty's Opposition, concedes that the minimum wage would cause joblessness?

Mr. Nicholls

I am sure that he would concede that. It is curious that the policy still remains Labour party policy. Perhaps the right hon. and learned Member for Monklands, East (Mr. Smith) prefers to be in opposition, not government.

The saddest comment on the idea that people can be helped by a national minimum wage was stated many years ago by the late Vic Feather. He once said—I am sure with great sincerity—that he did not think that the Labour party should rest until everyone was earning above the national minimum wage. If one considers those comments, made in all sincerity, one realises that they represent the economics of the madhouse. Everything that underpins the argument is all about ensuring that, one day, everyone earns more than the national minimum wage.

If we are in the business of wanting to help those who are unemployed and those who earn low wages, we can do it in three ways. First, we can ensure that, when people are out of work, they are cared for and looked after properly. Secondly, we can ensure that there are training opportunities to help people get back into work when there is work. We cannot achieve it by opposing every training scheme that the Government have introduced since 1979. Finally, we should deliver an economic climate in which the employers who provide jobs are in a position to do so.

It is one thing to do as Opposition Members do, and say, "We care for the unemployed." I am sure they do, but the country is entitled to balance against that expression of good intent the adoption of policies that are the policies of the madhouse. That is why the Bill deserves its Third Reading.

5.15 pm
Mr. David Hanson (Delyn)

During the past few months in Committee, I have been having a small bet with myself as to who would win the prize for being the most right-wing member of the Committee. At the outset, I thought that the Minister of State, the hon. Member for Stirling (Mr. Forsyth), might win it. The hon. Member for Scarborough (Mr. Sykes) made a late bid this afternoon, but the winner has to be the hon. Member for Teignbridge (Mr. Nicholls), who has never failed to surprise us in Committee with his right-wing comments.

I enjoyed discussing the Bill in Committee, which was a good learning experience for me—I have emerged wiser than before. However, my fundamental objections to the tenets of the Bill have remained, and even grown, during our deliberations. The Bill addresses all the wrong issues —a failing that was apparent from the first day of our deliberations.

Unemployment in the United Kingdom is rising. This is the 33rd month in a row that it has risen in my constituency in north Wales. However, the only proposal in the Bill to bring back employment to our community is to make the poorest people pay for the price of the high level of unemployment by reducing their pay. Low pay and poverty are increasing throughout the United Kingdom, and my region of Wales remains one of the poorest paid districts. But the Government's only proposals are to reduce the employment conditions, pay and standard of living of one in 10 of the work force of my community.

Women, who need our support to stay in the employment market, and who, in the late 20th century, demand and need decent levels of maternity pay, are granted only the basic minimum in the Bill. The Government opposed even that level during our discussions in Committee. Privatisation, which has been a fetish of the Government ever since they were first elected in 1979, is now to be extended to the careers service, which the Government do not own or control and which they have no right to hand over to the private sector.

The Government's proposals in the Bill remain objectionable. It is not a Trade Union Reform and Employment Rights Bill but a Trade Union and Removal of Rights Bill. That comes as a surprise to me, because, in Committee, we were told that the Conservative party was the party of the individual, and of the promotion of the individual. The Bill flies in the face of that aspiration. It shifts power away from individuals who live, work and spend their lives in communities, and transfers it to bigger forces over which people have no control.

What rights in their daily lives will individuals in my constituency have if they have no individual choice over matters controlled by larger forces? What rights to negotiate pay and conditions will a low-paid worker in a wages council industry have in a non-unionised environment? How have we stengthened those employees' rights by removing the basic minimum wage? We have not strengthened individuals' rights, but diminished them. The Government will pander to the forces of strength against the forces of those who are weaker. They have shifted the balance of power.

What rights will women have when they are pregnant, and seek support and decent maternity rights? Women in other European countries will consistently have greater rights. Under the Bill's provisions, to what degree will women be able to extend their rights when an employer does not wish them to do so? Once again, individuals are being challenged by forces bigger than themselves. What rights do people have to organise freely and fairly in trade unions so as to counterbalance these powers and develop their freedom?

The proposals in this Bill are all squalid; they will lead to a diminution of rights, not an extension. The abolition of the wages councils, the imposition of basic maternity pay, by contrast with what happens in the countries of our European partners, and the privatisation of the careers service are all retrograde steps. They have nothing to do with quality, fairness or justice and everything to do with the power of big business, of privilege and of capital—all at the expense of the public good. We should not forget that when we vote this evening.

Yesterday, we spoke at length about the wages councils and maternity rights, and I do not propose to cover them in detail today, but I should like to ask some questions about the proposals to privatise the careers service. In Committee, the Government failed to answer many of our questions about the effects of these proposals. I hope that the Minister will respond to them today. Why are we trying to change the careers service operation? The Government do not own or control these services in any case; they are run by local government. What has been wrong with their operation? Have queues of employers been knocking on the Secretary of State's door claiming that they have been failed by the careers service? Have millions of parents done that? Neither I nor my hon. Friends have had any correspondence to that effect.

Is the careers service failing our young people? No; I see no need for change—

Mr. Beggs

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that it is easy to attack our well established careers services at this time? They are run by professionally committed people with a great deal of experience, but the advice and guidance that they have given young people cannot be put into practice because—this is the real failure—there have simply been no career opportunities for most. Most employers would confirm that most of the posts that they have to offer are in any case filled by people who are over-qualified for them.

Mr. Hanson

That is a valid point, and I intend to return to it towards the end of my speech.

Who will provide the new services? What will the quality threshold be? We have as yet heard no definitive answers.

In this age of subsidiarity, I would welcome the Government telling us why the Secretary of State for Employment believes that she can provide a better service for my constituents in north Wales–250 miles from her office in Whitehall. At the moment, those services are provided two miles down the road at shire hall in Mold, by local people who are accountable to local councillors. What objectivity or impartiality will there be in the new services? It may well turn out to be a profit-oriented service, bidding for niches in the market that bring in the best returns for an investment.

In short, the proposals on careers services are not about improving them or making them more accountable, or about meeting the needs of young people and others who use them: they are about continuing to implement the Government's dogma of privatisation.

What representations have the Government received about these changes—or for the maintenance of the status quo? If the Secretary of State and the Minister give us the factual details of the responses that they have had, I believe we will discover that they have had more representations in favour of maintaining the status quo than in favour of changing it.

What assessment have the Government made of careers services nationally? I suspect none. They have not even bothered to assess the success or failures of the services, and that is beyond me.

The careers service provides a free, fair, impartial local and accountable service. Long may it continue to do so. Under the new arrangements, however, what accountability will there be? In Committee, the hon. Member for Derbyshire, West (Mr. McLoughlin) said in answer to one of my questions. Anyone who wishes to complain about the service will have the same recourse to their Member of Parliament, who will be able directly to ask questions of the Secretary of State."—[Official Report, Standing Committee F, 2 February 1993; c. 706.] Does that represent an improvement in accountability?

At present, if I do not like my service, I can walk three streets from where I live and knock on the door of the local councillor. I do not have to write to London or take part in a delegation. I could also drive or cycle—or walk—two miles to shire hall and complain there. This accountability will be lost under these proposals. In an age of subsidiarity, the Government are removing local accountability, not enhancing it.

There are no assurances of quality thresholds or of improved services. The service will fragment and come under central control, and it will become profit oriented. All these ideas should be rejected.

The provisions in this Bill are horrendous. The abolition of the wages councils and the privatisation of the careers services, not to mention the parsimonious attitude to maternity rights—these ideas too should all be rejected. I look forward to coming to the House on some future occasion and voting for a minimum wage to raise basic salaries for the poorest people in society. I look forward to voting for improvements in maternity leave and to increasing it to a minimum of 18 weeks. I look forward to improving antenatal standards of care and introducing paternity care so as to recognise that women alone are not responsible for bringing up families.

I want to come here and vote for fairness for the unions and for fairness as between workers and those who employ them. I want to vote for improvements in the careers service that build on what is good but do not destroy, just for the sake of dogma, what does not need changing.

We need a programme to rebuild Britain, to create jobs, to build services and to improve the lot of everyone in society. Every Government proposal this evening will magnify injustice and bear down on the poorest. That is why I will be proud to vote with the Opposition against this Bill.

5.27 pm
Mr. Michael Bates (Langbaurgh)

I am grateful for the opportunity to speak in this important debate. I should have been a great deal more sympathetic to the Labour party had it not indulged in one of the greatest ever endeavours to abolish wages councils. The Labour party abolished 10 of them between 1974 and 1979. Those councils covered about 600,000 people. It is therefore a little rich of Opposition Members to speak as they have done in this debate.

Opposition Members fail to recognise the importance of the measures that we are adopting to remove wages councils, which are wholly out of date in the present labour market. It is interesting to note the names of some of the wages councils that are to be abolished, and their relevance to today. One of them is the coffin furniture and cerement-making council, covering about 200 employees. Then there is the cotton waste reclamation council, covering 300 people. The list gets better. The next is the ostrich and fancy feather and artificial flower wages council, covering about 500 employees. Of course, the Labour party may argue that these councils are absolutely necessary to tackle unemployment in 1993. Perhaps the Opposition will explain the relevance also of the perambulator and invalid carriage wages council, which covers 2,000 employees. Clearly, such councils are out of date—Labour recognised that, but for very different reasons.

Mr. Peter Bottomley (Eltham)

My hon. Friend listed a number of wages councils, but while it is commonly accepted that about 2 million or 3 million employees are covered by them, he accounted for only around 3,000. Can he say what is to happen to the other 2 million employees?

Mr. Bates

I should be happy to list all the wages councils, if time permitted. The point remains that eight out of 10 employees are not covered by them. If wages councils are such a good idea, as the hon. Member for Wallasey (Ms. Eagle) suggested, and if the argument is one of accountability, as was said by the hon. Member for Delyn (Mr. Hanson)—of popping round to a local county councillor—why are Labour not proposing to cover the entire working population with them?

Labour abolished many wages councils because of the cosy link that existed between that party and the unions. Labour came under pressure from the unions, which said, "Wages councils are doing us out of a job. Employees are seeing wages councils negotiating their pay and conditions when that should be done by trade unions."

I like to think that the trade union reform legislation that Conservative Governments introduced in 1979, 1980, 1982 and 1986 brought about a trade union movement that—apart from the calls sometimes made by Labour—takes a responsible approach to inward investment. It is a great pleasure to see that constructive attitude taken at a time when we are trying to attract investment to the United Kingdom, to create real jobs.

The issue of concern to the 5,789 people in my constituency who are out of work is not low pay but no pay. A survey by the local Employment Service office into attitudes and characteristics of unemployed people in Cleveland county involved asking people the minimum wage that they would require to go to work. Some 62 per cent. of those living in Cleveland required a minimum weekly wage of £91. We are not talking about choice—wages councils would prevent those people from seeking employment when they are quite prepared to do so. That is an amazing infringement of a civil liberty and a basic right—to be able to go to work and to ply one's trade for an acceptable income. Who are we to legislate against people getting work and providing an income for their families?

Much was made of the situation in 1909—this debate seems to be going back further and further in time. In 1909, today's extensive social welfare and social security system did not exist. A Conservative Government introduced family credit and income support—both sensible reforms which targeted help at those on low salaries, while allowing them to enjoy the dignity of continuing in employment.

Mr. Alex Carlile (Montgomery)

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Bates

The survey showed that 80 per cent. of the work covered by wages councils produces a second income. The benefits system takes account of a households's total income, responsibilities, and levels of expenditure, and then provides a sensible, means-tested top up to the individual's salary. That is a much more beneficial method of protecting the low paid in our society.

Another survey showed that 70 per cent. of foreign-owned companies in the United Kingdom acknowledge the improvement in its industrial relations over the past 13 or 14 years. That is a tremendous achievement. The number of days lost through strikes fell from 3.2 million in January 1979 to 500,000 for the whole year to August 1992. That point may be lost on the Labour party, but it is not lost on the hundreds of businesses in America and Japan who are flooding into the United Kingdom to invest. Inward investment to the north-east amounted to £2.7 billion, creating or establishing 35,000 jobs.

The United Kingdom's industrial relations record has transformed it from being the sick man of Europe to the country that attracts 60 per cent. of all foreign investment made by America and Japan. I am delighted that the vast proportion of it comes to the north-east.

Ms. Eagle

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Bates

Never mind harking back to 1909 and to wages councils, because they are hugely removed from present events. Today, I took leaders of the oil and gas industry in Teesside to meet my hon. Friend the Minister for Energy, who kindly received us and listened to the points that were made. We were able to tell him about the great plans for investment that those leaders have for Teesside and of the thousands of jobs that they intend to create. That was music to my ears at a time of high employment—real jobs coming to my constituency. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] As the Member of Parliament who represents Langbaurgh, I am right to focus attention on those new jobs.

Ms. Eagle

Will the hon. Gentleman give way now?

Mr. Bates

Those companies are coming to this country because they see it as the place in Europe to locate because of its industrial relations and the skilled work force that it can offer.

Mr. John Spellar (Warley, West)

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Bates

No, I will not.

Those jobs are vital to my constituency and we would do well to focus our attention on freeing the market, creating responsible trade unions and creating employment opportunities for people who are out of work—rather than making outdated arguments from the past.

5.38 pm
Ms. Angela Eagle (Wallasey)

Thank you for calling me, Mr. Deputy Speaker—especially at this moment, to follow the contribution of the hon. Member for Langbaurgh (Mr. Bates). He is the first hon. Member I have encountered who fails even to acknowledge a request to give way, but instead ploughs on as if nothing is happening. His grasp of reality is about as advanced as his manners.

It would have been more honest of the Government riot to have called this the Trade Union Reform and Employment Rights Bill, which is a perverse description of it. I have a couple of suggestions for alternative titles. It could, for instance, be called the Labour Market (Deregulation) Bill—or, perhaps, the Trade Union Bashing and Removal of Employment Rights Bill. [Interruption.] The reaction of Conservative Members is very revealing: it shows their real motives.

Mr. Sykes

Perhaps the hon. Lady would have liked to be in the position in which I found myself during the "winter of discontent". A grown man was sobbing in my office: his wife and family had received death threats because he had crossed a secondary picket line to deliver oil to a hospital. It is because our Government have outlawed such alien practices that they have been returned to power four times in succession.

Ms. Eagle

I can only reply that, after 14 years of this Government, there is a good deal of fear and insecurity in the country. That is due to poverty, unemployment, homelessness and the many other social effects of the Government's appalling economic policy, and their ideological obsession with deregulating the labour market.

When we examine what has happened over the past 14 years, we begin to perceive the general ideological thrust of the Government's policy and to realise that the Bill is a further example of that. It will redouble the effects that we have already seen. The Government's policy is, as I have said, to deregulate the labour market: the reaction of Conservative Members when I suggested alternative titles for the Bill suggests that they agree with me.

By definition, people at work—both unions and individuals—are bound to have less power over their employers and less power to protect themselves against arbitrary treatment of any kind. Over the past 14 years, the labour market has been deregulated pretty viciously, in several ways. First, employment protection legislation has been systematically dismantled: that has been a central theme of the Government's labour market policy since they came to office in 1979. We have seen, for example, the lengthening of time limits applying to full-time and part-time workers' access to protection against unfair dismissal; the abolition of various rights to arbitration; the cutting of benefits; and the breaking of links between earnings and benefits, especially in regard to those who are rendered unemployed. All that helps to make the prospect of unemployment more devastating now than it was before the Government came to power.

The weakening of trade unions has been perhaps the most explicit aim of the series of Conservative Governments who have been in power since 1979. When we examine their record and analyse the rhetoric that they have used in boasting about the devastation that they have caused, we find that all that the Conservatives can really boast about is the so-called weakening and taming of the unions. They seem proudest of that. Certainly they cannot be proud of the current level of unemployment, or our success in the world: we now face massive public sector borrowing requirement debt and a vast balance of payments deficit owing to their inefficiency and incompetence. They have been successful in no other area of economic life, but they have succeeded according to their values.

The Conservatives have produced six pieces of legislation designed to remove workers' protection by weakening the unions. The Bill is just another step down the road towards the achievement of their aim—to make trade unions as ineffectual as possible. If we strip away the rhetoric about individual trade union rights, we find that it is all about power in the workplace. The Government have reduced the unions' power in the workplace and that, in turn, has reduced their ability to look after the interests of individual members.

The Government have ensured that the everyday lot of working people is not just insecurity and fear of unemployment—unemployment, of course, is now massive—but the experience of a much more arbitrary and dictatorial style in the workplace. I have always called it macho management. Many more people now suffer from such authoritarian behaviour as a result of the Government's policies, but the Government seem pleased with their achievement.

Another factor that has helped to deregulate the labour market is the unprecedentedly high unemployment levels that we have suffered over the past 14 years. As we heard earlier, the official figure is now 3 million, but we know that the way in which the figures are calculated has been changed 27 times. By fixing the figures, the Government have lost 1 million unemployed: that has been their most effective job creation scheme. I wish that they would show the ingenuity that they appear to have displayed in the manipulation of official statistics by securing real jobs and prosperity for our people.

It all boils down to the Government's ideological obsessions. We returned to that time and again in Committee. The Government believe that market forces should be allowed a free rein, whatever the consequences. Opposition Members have been keen to point out the devastating social effects of a completely unregulated market—a labour market, or any other economic market —on the social fabric of the nation. The result of the Government's worship of the god of market forces has been 4 million unemployed.

My hon. Friend the Member for Holborn and St. Pancras (Mr. Dobson) drew attention to the economic madness of that policy in his excellent speech. He pointed out that carrying the present unemployment level wastes £27 billion—money which could be put to a more productive use. As the Secretary of State admitted, that amounts to £9,000 per person. Moreover, lost production is costing us £50 billion. Given such a level of loss and incompetence, it is hard to imagine that Britain's problems revolve around the flexibility between a rate of £3.10 an hour—the current highest level of wages council remuneration—and zero.

We should remember that £3.10 an hour works out at £120 a week gross, which is hardly a startling sum. Conservative Members, however, are asking us to believe that, if only that flexibility existed, all our problems would be solved and massive employment would be created. They must know that that is nonsense. I do not know how they can say such things with a straight face: I commend them for being able to do so, time and again, without placing their tongues firmly in their cheeks.

Unemployment is especially devastating in the north-west. We are seeing the same pattern—mass unemployment, at a higher level than we experienced since the 1930s. Two aspects in particular give cause for concern: the number of long-term unemployed—more than 1 million—and the number of young unemployed. We have failed a whole generation of young people by our neglect.

Mr. Oliver Heald (Hertfordshire, North)

In France, Spain, Greece and most other European countries that have introduced minimum-wage legislation for young people, youth unemployment is far higher than it is here. Would the hon. Lady care to comment on that? She keeps saying that the Government in this country are failing people. Have not those other Governments failed people by introducing minimum-wage legislation that has destroyed jobs?

Ms. Eagle

The hon. Gentleman should stop barking up the wrong tree. He should consider youth unemployment in Germany, which is known for its high-tech industries and high-quality employment, and see whether that supports his argument.

In May 1979, unemployment in the north-west was 5.1 per cent., but in December 1992, after 14 years of "success" under this Government, it was 10.9 per cent. The Government, uniquely among western Governments, have managed to manufacture two recessions. We are in a world recession and, although Britain went into recession before the rest of the world, it seems that it will come out of it later. The hon. Member for Hertfordshire, North (Mr. Heald) failed to recognise that we had our own recession between 1980 and 1982 thanks to the Government's monetarist obsessions, which destroyed one third of manufacturing industry.

I want to spend a little time considering the poverty that has resulted from deregulation of the labour market, which was part of the strategy that the Government decided to pursue on taking office. Under this Government, we have seen the largest redistribution of wealth to the rich. That was achieved partly through tax cuts, on which I do not want to spend a lot of time because they are not relevant to the Bill, but plummeting rates of pay have been caused directly by deregulation. The Bill further deregulates and impoverishes and will, therefore, increase poverty.

Part III of the Bill sits uneasily with the Tory party's labour market philosophies. Part III would appear strange to someone who was unaware of its background, because, however grudgingly, it grants some employment rights of a limited and technical nature. Somebody reading the Bill without background knowledge could be forgiven for wondering what is the purpose of part III, given the ideological obsessions of Tory Members.

The Secretary of State tried to take credit for all the rights in part III, but they result either from the Government failing properly to apply previous EC directives or from new directives that they fought tooth and nail, weakened, held up and introduced grudgingly at the last possible moment.

The Library research note on the Bill confirms my view. It says that improvements in the statutory protection in part III are almost entirely inspired by EC directives. Would not it be nice to have a Government who had the wit, generosity and commitment to introduce employment protection instead of deregulating, impoverishing and endangering the work force?

Another aspect of the Bill that worries me is that it will widen the equality gap—the gap in employment rights between men and women—and the pay gap.

Mr. Michael Forsyth

I apologise for interrupting the hon. Lady, but I cannot let her get away with that remark, which implied that provisions in respect of women who become pregnant while at work follow solely from, and are driven by, the directive. The amendments that were made last night go beyond the terms of the directive. Will she confirm that the rights included in the Bill go beyond matters covered by European directives, and would she like to withdraw the rather scurrilous allegation that she made?

Ms. Eagle

I thank the Minister for his intervention, but I do not agree with his analysis. Some of the amendments were proposed by Labour Members to make something awful slightly better, which is why we consider Bills line by line in Committee. If the Government had been truly committed to introducing meaningful rights for women at work—maternity and various other rights—they would have considered the ramshackle and piecemeal structure of equality law much more enthusiastically. They would not have introduced a third tier of employment rights in the most technical and most difficult way to implement. I would be much more willing to believe the Minister's commitment to creating meaningful maternity rights for women if the Government had been willing to consolidate women's employment rights in one simple and easy-to-use Act so that employers and employees were aware of their rights. I am not willing to withdraw my observations. The Government have been dragged kicking and screaming by EC regulations into granting minimum employment rights.

The Bill runs the risk of widening the pay gap between men and women, and the Equal Opportunities Commission shares my view. One of the mechanisms that will widen the pay gap, which is against the beliefs of those who favour equal pay for work of equal value and the equality legislation that has been on the statute book for 20 years, is the abolition of wages councils. Analysis shows that the pay gap between men and women in wages council industries is considerably narrower than in unregulated sectors. I suggest that that is so because wages council rates are unisex and apply equally to men, women, workers from ethnic minorities and people with disabilities. People do not suffer from discrimination because of their gender, colour or disability.

Yet another deplorable aspect of the Bill is that it widens that gap. It is a sad day for hon. Members who are committed to achieving equality at work to have to stand by and watch that happen.

The Bill is another rehash of the Government's tired dogma. It does nothing to deal with Britain's economic situation, which is at crisis level with massive poverty and unemployment and no prospect that anyone can see of getting out of recession. It does nothing to equip a modern work force to face the 20th century, but instead looks back to the 19th century. Therefore, it should be opposed.

5.58 pm
Sir Teddy Taylor (Southend, East)

I usually try to avoid debates on trade union reform or labour relations, because they have a bad effect on my blood pressure. I do not like to hear Tory Members—a small minority—hurling abuse and contempt at trade unions, because when I worked on Clydeside I found more integrity and good will among trade unionists than in certain sections of the Conservative party.

It worries me hugely to hear Labour Members expressing great concern about poor people, because they voted huge extra sums of money to agriculture, which is the biggest protection racket that has ever existed and which does massive damage to poor people in Britain, as they well know.

I want to say a few words about clause 26, which has rarely been mentioned in our debate and is rarely mentioned at all. It gives the impression that there has been a conspiracy of silence about a massive change in British law which will effectively undermine the issue of privatisation.

The Government's practice with regard to EC measures has been to say, "This doesn't really matter at all. It is hardly a change. In fact, the Law Officers have told us that everything is going very well." However, this morning I received a letter, which I shall be glad to give to the Minister, from the managing director of the Clause 26 group. It stated: Companies are facing financial ruin as a direct consequence of the confusion brought about by the inclusion of clause 26 in the Trade Union Reform and Employment Rights Bill. He may be exaggerating, but members of the Committee are well aware that something serious has happened, which will have a significant effect on our economy.

Let us consider what is involved in privatisation. Refuse collection and street cleaning contracts had a value of about £448 million, the cost of ground maintenance was about £141 million and for building cleaning about £191 million. I have gained the impression—

Mr. Michael Forsyth

I know about the concern expressed by the Clause 26 group. I have spoken to the group, as it lobbied the Committee. There is nothing in clause 26 that changes the terms of the acquired rights directive. The concern expressed to him relates to the provisions of that directive. My hon. Friend's knowledge of Community institutions is second to none, and he will know that there is nothing that we can do in the Bill to change the terms of that directive.

Sir Teddy Taylor

I note that the Minister says that the directive has not changed, but, as someone who has studied these issues, I hope that he is aware that we are changing the law. I hope that he is aware that the House passed a law after the EC had issued the directive. After that, infraction proceedings were taken against us for three years. As far as I am aware, that was not made known to the House or to the industries directly involved.

The Commission said, "Please change your interpretation of five aspects of our directive, which is a splendid directive." The Government apparently accepted four changes. I am sure that they accepted a battle of correspondence but not a real battle. They did not go to court over one single aspect. Is that not the case?

Mr. Forsyth

Four of the points were taken on board, and one is still subject to dispute. I reinforce my point: it is the terms of the directive which matter. If the Government did not comply with infraction proceedings and if we did not change the law, it would still be open to people to look to the courts to enforce the terms of the directive. That is the key issue which my hon. Friend needs to take on board.

I agree that we need to consider the terms of the acquired rights directive and that, in line with the principle of subsidiarity, it is a matter which can best be determined by national Governments, but because the pass was sold by the Labour Government as far back as 1977, we are not in a position to do so.

Sir Teddy Taylor

The Minister talks about legal points and what happens if we do not conform to infraction proceedings. That is the most astonishing interpretation of European law that I have ever heard. Infraction proceedings result in our being written a letter. If the Commission says that we are not applying the directive properly, it will take infraction proceedings, which means sending us a letter, and we must send one back. If we feel that it is a battle worth fighting and something about which we feel sufficiently strongly, we can go to the courts.

The Government accepted four proposals. The Minister says that it is a matter of interpretation of the law, but it is a significant interpretation. It is disappointing that, when a significant change is made to United Kingdom law or, as the Minister would say, our interpretation of the European directive, no one wants to talk about it or to consider the implications.

I feel strongly about this, because Southend-on-Sea started the business of municipal privatisation. Some people may not agree, but we believe that we were the first. We made a big change in our cleansing department by saying that we would get rid of a lot of people. We decided to start again and do it differently. We were attacked for many reasons: people said that we were trying to cut costs and slash wages, but now wages are higher and we have an efficient service which has saved a great deal of money. It has now happened all over the country, as the Minister is aware. Conservatives usually think that privatisation is a good thing. A huge amount of money has been saved across the country—the estimate is about 20 per cent.—by saying that we want to try all these exciting things.

I submit that, under the new interpretation which the Government accepted following infraction proceedings, privatisation will be severely undermined. The Minister might doubt that, but I shall cite an example. Privatisation is about to take place on the Fenchurch Street line, which goes to Southend-on-Sea. I wrote to my hon. Friend the Minister for Public Transport, who usually tells me the truth, because, as the Minister knows, he is a decent guy. He does not talk about such things as the social chapter or unusual interpretations; nor does he talk a load of rubbish on television like other Ministers. I asked him what would happen. He wrote: we understand that under TUPE all staff employed wholly or mainly on the passenger service operations of the LT&S at the time will transfer when a franchise is let for those operations. Their wage rates and other employment terms and conditions will be maintained, and the recognised trade unions will have to be consulted"— meaningfully. As Members of the Opposition Front Bench are aware, if we do not have meaningful consultation—the word "meaningful" must also be interpreted by one of the bright tribunals—the employer will be fined the equivalent of two weeks' wages. Basically, that is a huge change, which has had dramatic consequences.

A firm called Thamesway, one of our great new privatised bus companies, said that it wanted to be involved in the Fenchurch Street privatisation. It believed that it was a great idea and wanted to run the train more efficiently in a new spirit of private enterprise. The company knew that it might have turned out to be a disaster or a great success like our cleansing operation. What happened? When the Bill was published, Thamesway said that it was no longer interested.

Hon. Members will remember the great prison privatisation that was to take place. A firm called McAlpine was going to do exciting things so that people would jump up and down far more efficiently at less cost, prisoners would be happier and would get coffee in bed in the morning. I do not know how the firm was going to do it, but it proposed to do it more cheaply and better. However, I understand that the firm has now abandoned the idea.

The Minister may say that it is all a question of how we interpret the law, but the plain fact is that a massive change has occurred. The evidence is there. Time will tell if I am wrong. The Minister might believe that firms are going to rush to become involved in privatisations. If they do, he can say, "Taylor is a clown", but the change is big, and it is happening.

I do not object to the fact that the EC acted when there was a Labour Government. What worries me is that we are not being told about a massive transfer of decision-making —the facts are being deliberately hidden. Is that merely Taylor's view? Far from it.

The Clause 26 group consists of employers, the people who want to become involved in privatisations and have spent a fortune trying to get them off the ground. The group is saying that, if it had been told about infraction proceedings, it could have saved a great deal of money and time: If contractors had been aware that Brussels was seeking to enforce the Acquired Rights Directive on public service contracts, they would have viewed the new market opportunity in an entirely different light. If the Minister wants the letter, he can have it. This is not me telling stories; it is what the Clause 26 group said. It said that, if it had known about this, it would have approached the matter in an entirely different way.

Then there is the famous social chapter, about which we have been given all kinds of nonsense. Ministers told us that it would cost British firms millions of pounds, but now the Foreign Secretary tells us that it will not apply to Britain at all.

It is time for the Government to face up to the fact that these things are happening. People should be told what is going on. Things ought not to be hidden. We could, as usual, blame problems on the Labour party and the trade unions by saying that they were in power when the original directive went through. However, mighty things are happening, and it is very important that we should face up to that fact.

Mr. Robert Ainsworth (Coventry, North-East)

The hon. Gentleman probably does not know that, throughout the Committee stage, Conservative Members referred to concern about creeping competence, about matters in respect of which the European Community was slowly eroding the rights of the British Parliament. Surely it must seem strange to ordinary working people that some Conservative Members should be so animated by the question of the right to continue to exploit working people. We have before us a Bill that removes workers' rights in a most profound way, yet the hon. Gentleman and some of his hon. Friends seem to be concerned only by the fact that Europe is taking more powers from this Parliament.

Sir Teddy Taylor

If people agree with the hon. Gentleman, if they think that Tories are a bunch of scum doing everyone down, they can change the Government, and therefore the policies. What worries me about EC directives is that people can do nothing about them. The hon. Gentleman may agree with those people who say that privatisation is wrong, and bad for working folk. I happen to think that it is good for workers—by, for example, keeping costs down. If private enterprise were to sweep through agriculture, for instance, the living standards of working people in Britain would be infinitely higher. It is a question of different approaches. The hon. Gentleman May be right, and I wrong. If he can persuade the people of Britain that laws of the type of which he is in favour should be brought in, that will be fantastic. Sadly, however, rights are being taken away.

The really bad thing is what would happen in privatisation generally. All workers would have to be kept on, wage rates maintained, and working conditions protected, and there would have to be meaningful consultations with the unions. Having said that, I want to put three simple questions to the Government.

First, do they regard this as a serious matter? That is a simple question, requiring the answer yes or no. The Government may say that nothing has changed, that what we are faced with is simply the interpretation of a directive, but there is a huge difference of interpretation. I am referring not to what we have heard from the Law Officers but to the desire of the Commissioners to take proceedings, to which we have been told we must agree. I happen to think that that is a very serious matter.

Secondly, have there been any signs that industry and commerce are giving up their interest in privatisation? Recently, I have given two very specific examples, and there are many more—a huge number, the Clause 26 group says. Are the Government aware of any such cases?

Thirdly, what is the reason for the row about one of the five measures that the Government are not conceding to the EC—a measure in respect of which we may go to court? I refer to the granting of recognition to trade unions or other employee representatives for the purposes of these meaningful negotiations. I can assure the Minister that I have a real problem in Southend-on-Sea—a railway line that is to be privatised. I do not know what to tell workers, friends and neighbours. Until now, I have urged people to rejoin trade unions fast, on the grounds that they need representation in the meaningful consultations. This is a matter of great importance and real significance.

People in the Department of Employment work very hard and late to do the best for the working people of Britain. Let them concentrate on telling people what is happening. We know that there has been a mighty change in the interpretation of the directive. There is no point in saying that nothing much has happened. Let people be told what has happened; then a decision on what to do about it can be made. Some people say that we cannot go on like this, that change is necessary. Others say that private legislation should be tried. What is happening in this case has happened in many others. A major change is being made in the rights and liberties of the people of Britain.

We should be able to go for privatisation if we think that it is a good thing. However, people are not being told what is happening. Things are being swept under the carpet. There is pretence that the law is unchanged or that there are only a few minor changes. People in Britain should be told to wake up. Firms should not be deprived of information. We must realise that something nasty and serious has happened—and, sadly, it is something over which we have no control.

6.15 pm
Mr. Alex Carlile (Montgomery)

I should like to begin by apologising for my absence at the beginning of the debate. I do not have the good fortune to have been a member of the Standing Committee that dealt with this Bill, but those who were on the Committee will probably remember the measure as the one that did away with the wages councils. It seems that that is the impact that the Bill has had on the public. Yesterday we had a full debate on the issue of the wages councils. The Tea Room round by the Whips has been a little more successful today. Yesterday, during that focus debate, we did not have the advantage of hearing any Conservative Member, apart from the Minister, support the abolition of the wages councils. Today we have heard some such support from the Government side.

I should like to put to the Minister a question that I would have put to one of his hon. Friends if he had chosen to give way to anyone during his speech: what do the Government regard as the lowest acceptable rate of pay? Do the Government believe that it is right that very large numbers of people should have to rely on social security benefits to support their income? If so, how does that accord with Tory philosophy? It seems to me to contradict entirely the philosophy that private enterprise should not only exist but prosper. I cannot believe that part of Tory philosophy is that private enterprise should be founded upon a situation in which bankruptcies and liquidations increase every year, in which more and more people find that their employers have gone bust without even making proper PAYE payments, and when more and more people are forced into low-wage employment.

I should like the Minister to deal with a particular problem that affects rural areas such as my constituency of Montgomery. A reality of life in rural mid-Wales and, I expect, in similar rural areas is that opportunities for work in agriculture are beginning to diminish as fast as in some heavy industries, such as coal and steel, in the past. As a result, we have an increasingly low-wage economy, in which people are looking increasingly for jobs that do not exist. What do the Government intend to do to ensure that people who find work in the tourist industry and in the residual industries in rural areas are not paid at abominably low rates?

I have visited factories in my constituency where wage rates, particularly for women, are extremely low. For example, two or two and a half years ago, women packing cosmetics were being paid less than £2 an hour. I am very pleased to say that the rates were raised shortly after my visit, and I hope that was not a coincidence. In many factories around the country women in particular are greatly disadvantaged in terms of wages. As was said yesterday, women—especially single parents and others in similar positions—will be particularly affected by the removal of the wages councils. The Government cannot be proud of that. [Interruption.] Would the hon. Member for Wirral, South (Mr. Porter) like me to give way to him? I think that he muttered something about my having missed out the ethnic minorities. I do not know whether that was intended to be a constructive contribution to the debate; in my view, it was a pretty disgraceful one. Does the hon. Gentleman want me to give way? I see that he does not. In that event I shall continue.

The Bill missed the opportunity for Government Departments to combine their resources, and the considerable talents of those who work in them and who can produce imaginative schemes at the drop of a Government pencil, in an attempt to produce a real strategy for employment in this country.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Michael Morris)

Order. The hon. and learned Gentleman well knows that a Third Reading debate must encompass what is in the Bill, not a future employment strategy.

Mr. Carlile

I was going to say, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that it was a disappointment that the speeches made both on the Floor of the House and in Committee revealed that the Department of Employment had done little to ensure that the Bill contained at least some of the opportunities that could have been included if a strategic approach had been adopted.

There are other disappointments as well as the provisions concerning the wages councils. In the context of employment rights, it is disappointing that the Government did not allow those who go before industrial tribunals to have legal aid. Few Labour Members here now were Members of Parliament when industrial tribunals were introduced. I am confident that Labour Members would now disagree with the deal that was done between the unions and the Labour Government. The unions did not want legal aid to be available for industrial tribunals because that might have reduced union membership. That was not a creditable deal.

Most Opposition Members, whether they belong to the Labour party, to my party or to any of the other Opposition parties, would agree that the rights of people who lose their jobs through redundancy or dismissal are not fairly protected when the employer can use solicitors and counsel to appear before the industrial tribunal but the employed person is rarely able to do so. Many employed people are extremely well represented by trade union representatives at industrial tribunals, but at some tribunals I have had the feeling that the employee has not had the resources to enable him to present his case with all the investigative and evidential resources available to the employer. In omitting to give legal aid to employed people going before industrial tribunals the Bill represents a missed opportunity.

I regret, too, that the maternity and paternity rights proposals discussed in the debates on the Bill have found favour with the Government only to a limited extent. In so far as the Bill takes the law forward and improves rights it is welcome, but what it does is extremely limited.

I am confident that many more Bills will come before the House involving the factors that I have mentioned, especially legal aid, wages councils, and maternity and paternity rights. The Government cannot be complacent in the belief that they have created a charter of rights of which a British Government can be proud. The Government's intransigence about the social chapter, and the intransigence of people such as the hon. Member for Southend, East (Sir T. Taylor), will evaporate as the years go by—but it will be shameful to see the British worker lagging behind those in other countries in the European Community because, compared with his colleagues elsewhere, he has fewer rights.

6.24 pm
Mr. Oliver Heald (Hertfordshire, North)

The hon. Member for Delyn (Mr. Hanson) said that the Bill was aimed at the wrong issues. I start by disagreeing profoundly with that statement. How can it be wrong to provide new rights for trade union members and for employees, including a whole raft of new maternity rights? How can it be wrong to improve the constitution of industrial tribunals to cut delays? How can it be wrong to create conditions for new jobs by abolishing the wages councils?

The hon. Member for Delyn, like me, was here on Second Reading and served on the Standing Committee, so he knows that at that stage I said that the Bill was good. Having been through the whole Committee process and having heard the hon. Gentleman speak many times over those 55 hours, I am prepared to say that the Bill is better now.

The Bill has been improved partly because of the hon. Gentleman's contributions, and partly because of those of other members of the Committee. It is wrong for the hon. Gentleman and other Opposition Members to say that the Government did not respond to what they, and we, said in Committee. For example, the hon. Gentleman will recall that one of the points that he and other hon. Members made about trade union ballot scrutiny was that the confidentiality of individuals might be breached and their security put at risk if the sort of information available to scrutineers became common knowledge. On that issue the Government listened and acted. New clause 6 deals with the problem.

Much criticism was levelled at the Government on the basis that if there was a flat rate of check-off, it was ridiculous for the Bill to require notification of increase on an annual basis. The Government listened to that and acted. There was criticism that women did not have sufficient freedom to choose the starting date of their maternity leave. The Government listened and acted. On issues of individual safety, practical common sense and individual freedom the Government not only heard what was said but acted.

Hon. Members raised other issues, too, on which they would no doubt have liked their views to be represented in the final form of the Bill. But it is clearly wrong to say that there has not been a Committee process that has improved the Bill.

I especially welcome some of the measures that have not been generally discussed in the debate. The method of dealing with delays in industrial tribunals—by giving the chairman enhanced powers to deal with legal issues and issues of contract—will be a great help. Having attended industrial tribunals over the past year or so, I have seen the delays. Five months is the average in half the cases listed, and a delay of a year or more is not unknown. If we can transfer 25 per cent. of the work to the chairman only—and that would be the effect of the provision—waiting times will be cut dramatically. That does not harm in any way employers' and employees' confidence in the system of industrial tribunals and in the concept of the industrial jury.

I heard what the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. Carlile) said about legal aid for industrial tribunals. In my view, legal aid would change industrial tribunals dramatically—

Mr. Alex Carlile

They would be fair.

Mr. Heald

I do not accept that. Over the years, industrial tribunals have developed from being informal at the outset to being far more legalistic. Nevertheless, the whole approach is still that people from each side of industry tackle the problem and try to solve it in a manner different from the adversarial system that we know in the courts.

My experience has always been that if an applicant is not represented by a lawyer, the chairman and the members of the tribunal bend over backwards to give him every assistance. Certainly people have not suffered as a result of not having the services of someone such as the hon. and learned Member or myself.

Sir Harold Walker (Doncaster, Central)

Possibly I am the only Member present who was a Member of Parliament when industrial tribunals were introduced. I do not recall the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. Carlile), the spokesman for the Liberal party, being present. Bearing in mind that he is a lawyer, probably fishing for work, may I tell him that the original purpose in excluding legal aid was precisely the reason given by the hon. Member for Hertfordshire, North (Mr. Heald)—that we wanted industrial tribunals to be a means of informal jurisdiction rather than bring in the legalities and complexities which all too often accompany the presence of lawyers.

Mr. Heald

I agree entirely with the right hon. Gentleman. A unique quality of an industrial tribunal is that it is a common-sense tribunal where lay members can get at the truth of the incident and the facts that are important to the case, partly because of their own experience of both sides of industry.

I have heard the impassioned plea of Opposition Members who say that if wages councils are destroyed, the fabric of society will be destroyed and people on low wages will suffer. There is a choice: low pay or no pay. There is no doubt that minimum wage regimes anywhere in the world cost jobs. As my hon. Friend the Member for Eltham (Mr. Bottomley) said yesterday, one may decide that it is a price worth paying. That is fair enough, but it is not right for Opposition Members to lecture us on the basis that there is not a price to pay for minimum wage legislation.

France has high unemployment; one reason is minimum wage legislation. One reason why Britain has lower youth unemployment than France, Spain, Greece and other European countries is that they all have minimum wage legislation.

If we are seeking a strategy to deal with unemployment, we have to take that issue into account. Is it right to have more jobs, even if some of them are less well paid, or do we say that there is a certain level at which we will pin the minimum wage and that we will bear the cost in terms of fewer jobs?

I was interested to read in the Daily Mail yesterday a remark by Lord Jakobovits, the former chief rabbi: Idleness wrecks and corrupts. Any job, no matter how lowly the pay, is better than that. It is important to have a sense of reality in the debate. With 17 million unemployed across Europe and with people desperate to work, many of them wanting the flexible, part-time jobs that wages councils deal with, the issue should be addressed seriously. The abolition of wages councils will provide a flexible method of employment and will give people more job opportunities.

6.33 pm
Mr. John Hutton (Barrow and Furness)

It could be said that the Bill is a sad and unconvincing measure. It has more to do with satisfying the ideological fixations of the union bashers and the labour market deregulators than with the social and economic difficulties facing the British people after 14 years of the Government's ruinous economic and industrial policies. If those are the Bill's objectives, I do not think it satisfies either of them.

Yesterday and today, the Bill has been attacked from both the left and the right of the Conservative party. Many Conservative Members are deeply concerned about some of the provisions. Some of those concerns have been expressed today.

Following the hon. Member for Hertfordshire, North (Mr. Heald), whom it is always a pleasure to follow, I think it worth putting on the record that we on the Labour Benches have given limited endorsement to some parts of the Bill. We cannot give those parts our complete endorsement because they do not go far enough. As we have said throughout the proceedings, we believe that at some time we may have to tidy up the mistakes of the Department of Employment.

The limited parts of the Bill which we can endorse have been completely overshadowed by other parts which have been drawn to our attention by my hon. Friends and some Conservative Members. I am thinking particularly of the abolition of wages councils in clause 28. Today at least we have had the benefit—if that is the right word; I am not convinced that it is—of hearing some justification for the abolition of wages councils, but the House has been bitterly disappointed.

We heard a ludicrous speech by the hon. Member for Langbaurgh (Mr. Bates), who clearly thought that the abolition of wages councils was a matter for hilarity and humour. I do not think that that hilarity will be shared by the 2.5 million people, and particularly the 2 million women, who will be exposed to the evils of low wages and exploitation by employers. If that is the best that Government Back Benchers can do, it is pathetic.

Clause 18 establishes the so-called commission for protection against unlawful action. When the Government are cutting the legal aid budget and withdrawing from the postal ballot regime established in the Employment Act 1980, at the same time to throw money at a ludicrous commissioner seems to be absurd. How is it possible to cut legal aid and to withdraw from the postal ballot regime while spending millions to support frivolous and absurd litigation?

There are also absurd provisions on check-off in clause 11. The Government have yet to provide any coherent justification for the check-off regime which they propose as the law of the land. They cannot provide justification, because there is none. Clearly, the purpose of clause 11 is to strangle check-off arrangements. That will damage industrial relations, and it was not requested by employers.

Significantly, there is tension between parts of the Bill which seek to improve the employment rights of individuals and other parts which will take rights away. There is a mix of deregulation and regulation. I think that that is why the Bill worries many Conservative Members, particularly the hon. Member for Southend, East (Sir T. Taylor), who unfortunately is not in his place.

Parts of the Bill are so badly drafted—again I am thinking of clause 18—that they look like three cherries on a fruit machine for lawyers. It is no part of the business of the House or of hon. Members to enact legislation which will have that result. The law which we are making is not clear or concise. It will not improve the employment rights of individuals. It will simply generate work for grossly overpaid lawyers. That is not a sensible use of our time.

The principles behind the Bill were out of date before the measure was presented. A party which proclaims the value of deregulation as a method of stimulating employment is presiding over chronic, mass and rising employment. Clearly the Government have no answers to the accusation that the economy is out of control. All they can produce is this absurd attempt to abolish the minimum wages set by wages councils.

The Bill is a sad reflection on the Government's economic ambitions. Not many Conservative Members have been part of our proceedings; I can only conclude that they were too ashamed and embarrassed to participate. I hope that those who have had the benefit of hearing the arguments deployed by my right hon. and hon. Friends will come to the only possible conclusion—to reject the Bill on Third Reading and to restore some sanity and decency to employment rights.

6.38 pm
Mr. Peter Bottomley (Eltham)

I apologise to the House for not being present for the earlier speeches. I was serving on a Select Committee. As a consequence, I will speak briefly.

If we are to say that levels of pay are the most important factor in employment and that we should allow them to come down, we should consider not just the 2.7 million who are covered by wages councils; to be consistent, we should talk about teachers, doctors, nurses, dentists and all the others who, as my hon. Friends and I can claim with pride, have seen an increase in their real earnings which restored part of the fall which took place under the Labour Government. Going back to what happened before 1979 is not a helpful way of dealing with trade union and employment legislation.

We need to recognise when we resist parts of the social chapter—one of the issues that has come up in our debates on the Bill—that the European Community proposals to limit the number of hours that people work do not apply to executives, to European Commissioners or to Members of Parliament. They might apply to people who have high manual earnings or who have low manual earnings. I do not go along with such a proposal because I do not believe that it is necessary. Similarly, much of what is in the Bill is not necessary. Aspects of it may be welcome to some, but it is not necessary in the main, with the exception of measures required by European directives and European judgments.

Some provisions, such as those on political fund ballots, are important because such ballots need to be carried out fairly. I hope that when union members decide, under the regular review, whether they want to maintain a political fund, more and more of them will say that they do not. I hope that, even if they have a political fund, they do not just keep paying money to the Labour party. That is damaging to the Labour party, to the trade unions and to the Conservative party. If we merely see trade unions as supporting one section of our political opponents, we shall react as we have with some elements of the Bill.

If more hon. Members had listened to a Radio 4 programme a week ago when Brian Widlake dealt with poverty and with people who had lost their jobs, their attitude to wages councils would be different. Many of those interviewed were prepared to take work not just at poverty wages, but below poverty wages. Hon. Members would then have looked more carefully at the research evidence quoted by the Department of Employment on the employment consequences of a change in the lowest rates of pay under the wages councils orders.

I repeat one point I made last night. The only serious evidence—it is pretty weak at that—that Employment Ministers have put forward is that if the rate of pay for people at the bottom of the wages councils industries fell by between 15 per cent. and 20 per cent., there might be a 1 per cent. increase in employment. I have always accepted that there might be an employment impact. However, I believe that virtually to eliminate pay—a drop in the rate of pay of 20 per cent.—for an increase from 2.7 million to 2.727 million is out of order. It does not make sense. I am very surprised that that proposal is being put forward.

There is a price to pay for the abolition of the wages councils which is far greater than the price that we pay for having them. If that balance of pain is being carried by those who are far worse off than ourselves, I believe that we should take their interests more seriously when we consider legislation.

The House cannot be said to be giving whole-hearted consent to the Bill. I hope that the other place will feel free to consider some of the issues from the beginning. For the Bill to have gone through Report without the right wing of the Tory party speaking in support of Ministers shows that we have gone beyond the days of the 1980s when such people supported what was happening.

I take a pretty moderate approach. I can see the faults in trade unions, in political parties and in some official arrangements. The fact that I oppose so many of the details of the Bill suggests to me that we should hear the reflections of the other place. I hope that the Bill comes back with some changes.

6.42 pm
Mr. Sam Galbraith (Strathkelvin and Bearsden)

I first pay a compliment to the Ministers—the hon. Members for Stirling (Mr. Forsyth) and for Derbyshire, West (Mr. McLoughlin). I take the view that if the hon. Member for Stirling can damage my street credibility, I can certainly damage his. I believe that I speak for all Opposition Members when I say how grateful we are for the way in which the Committee was conducted, and for the reasonable and constructive manner in which issues were debated. It made a pleasant change from my previous experience in Committee with the hon. Member for Stirling, when we engaged in trench warfare night in and night out, and came out with the Bill almost unchanged.

Matters have been different this time. The hon. Member for Stirling has made concession after concession after concession after concession after concession—I told him that I would damage his street credibility—to the extent that the Bill is significantly changed. We are grateful for that, small mercy though it is.

We conclude our proceedings on the Bill on the eve of the announcement that the official unemployment figure is, almost certainly, above 3 million–4 million in real terms. Twenty seven people are now chasing every vacancy, at a cost to the taxpayer of £27 billion. The number of people employed has fallen by 8 per cent. since 1979 and the number of those employed in manufacturing industry has fallen by a staggering 38 per cent. over the same period.

Rather than doing anything significant, the Government have preferred once again to stand aside. In this predicament, does the Department of Employment introduce a Bill to help the long-term unemployed? No, it does not. Does it introduce measures to reskill the work force? No. Does it introduce measures to build a well-paid, highly motivated work force? No. Instead, the Department has introduced a Bill which is partly out of date, which is mean-minded in its intentions and which will have no effect on the employment prospects of the nation.

With 4 million people unemployed, the only job creation measure that the Government can introduce is the abolition of the wages councils. Apparently, the only way in which we can price ourselves into jobs is by pricing ourselves so low that it is difficult to exist.

We have had numerous contributions on the wages councils. Tonight, for the first time, we have had contributions from Conservative Members. None of them produced arguments in favour of abolition. Instead, Conservative Members produced arguments against our arguments for retaining the wages councils. That shows the bankruptcy of Conservative Members.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Barrow and Furness (Mr. Hutton) said, probably the most ludicrous contribution was the one from the hon. Member for Langbaurgh (Mr. Bates). I am sorry that he is not here now. The hon. Gentleman thought that it was all very hilarious and he used the opportunity to mock the disabled. He seemed to think that it was funny that there was a wages council for those who needed invalid carriages. I trust that the fact that he seemed to think that it was a matter for laughter will be noted by the disabled in his constituency.

We also had a contribution from a member of the Standing Committee, the hon. Member for Scarborough (Mr. Sykes). The best thing that I can say is that it was an extremely short contribution. I did not understand his logic. He said that he had been approached by a business man who opposed the wages councils because he believed that they were inflexible and that they were holding back his progress. This business man never paid wages councils rates; he always paid well above those rates. Yet for some reason, the wages councils were an imposition on him. I still fail to see the logic of that.

We had the usual contribution from another member of the Committee, the hon. Member for Teignbridge (Mr. Nicholls). Once again, he was somewhat patronising and dismissive. He fell into the usual fallacy of confusing minimum wage legislation with wages councils. The two issues are related, but they are not the same and it is important always to distinguish between them.

Mr. Nicholls

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Galbraith

I hope that the hon. Gentleman will forgive me if I do not, although I referred to him. He will realise that I am trying to get on, and he knows that I usually give way.

The Government gave no reasons for the abolition of the wages councils, so I shall give them some assistance by trying to crystallise what their arguments might be. They may care to muse about them in future. Basically, there are three arguments for abolishing wages councils. The first is that those who work in wages councils industries do so for pin money. The second is that wages councils destroy jobs and the third is that they are an anachronism. That would be the kernel of the Government's argument.

The argument that people in wages councils industries work for pin money, as the Secretary of State implied, does not hold up when we look at the figures. The figure of 76.3 per cent. for those in wages councils industries who are in households with a second income is not very different from the equivalent figure of 72.6 per cent. for those in non-wages councils industries. There is no evidence that those in wages councils industries are different. If those who work in wages councils industries are working for pin money, so are those from double-earner homes who work elsewhere—including, I presume, the Secretary of State herself.

Conservative Members' second argument is that wages councils destroy jobs. I hear assertions and I hear opinions on that, but I have yet to hear arguments to justify them. Conservative Members must learn that opinion is not fact —that the two must be separated. I have read most of the learned academic discussions referred to by the Under-Secretary of State in response to the hon. Member for Eltham (Mr. Bottomley). The academic evidence is at best confused. If anything, it shows that wages councils do not destroy jobs and that, where they are effective and properly policed, they have a positive effect on employment. So the second argument is no basis for abolishing wages councils.

The final argument, advanced by the hon. Member for Teignbridge—I hope that he will not want to intervene just because I have mentioned him again—is that wages councils are an anachronism. The hon. Gentleman took the opportunity to mock Winston Churchill. The Tory party has come to a sad—

Mr. Nicholls

On behalf of both myself and Sir Winston Churchill, I ask the hon. Gentleman to accept that I was not mocking Sir Winston; I was mocking Labour Members' assertions that, for these purposes, he was on their side of the argument.

Mr. Galbraith

I realised that the hon. Gentleman would try to gloss over the fact that he mocked Winston Churchill, but it was clear to us all that that was what he was doing. It is a sad day when even in the Tory party Winston Churchill is a figure of fun.

I have explained previously that the fact that something has been around for a long time and may in some respects be out of date is not of itself a reason to abandon it; rather, it is a reason to develop it and take it further. The House of Lords is out of date, yet a Bill to abolish the House of Lords has yet to come before the House.

The hon. Member for Southend, East (Sir T. Taylor) referred to the Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations and the acquired rights directive. The Committee spent some time considering that matter, and we were given the benefit of the Attorney-General's views on that. He came ostensibly to clarify the position, although I think that the general view of hon. Members on both sides of the Committee was that it would have been better if he had not, because we were left even worse off than we had been before.

The gist of the Attorney-General's position was that nothing had changed—the acquired rights directive had always applied, so the regulations had always applied to privatisations and contracting out. I think that that is the position. What has changed is that people now know about the acquired rights directive and they know that it applies equally to undertakings that are privatised. The Government were involved in a cover-up—an attempt to pretend that the directive did not apply and to get round it by including in the original legislation a provision to the effect that it did not apply to commercial undertakings. That went against the acquired rights directive. The Government tried to create a fog so that no one would realise what their rights were, but they were found out and, as the Minister said, the only important issue now is what the acquired rights directive says about appeals being made on that basis irrespective of what is in the British law.

That being the case, is it not time for the Government to give clear guidance to everyone involved—to employers, the Department and workers—so that everyone knows the position? Given that the Bill is supposed to be about the rights of individual trade unionists and workers, let us give them guidance concerning their rights and what they can claim.

The Bill has its good parts. We heard from my hon. Friend the Member for Holborn and St. Pancras (Mr. Dobson) about the maternity rights and health and safety provisions. I should like to put on record again my view that many of those provisions are included in the Bill principally because the European Community wished them to be in the Bill—they fulfil our obligations in Europe. The Minister and numerous Conservative Members made it clear that if they had been given their way, many of the provisions would not be in the Bill. The Government included them because they were under legal pressure to do so.

I make a small exception in respect of the health and safety provisions, which I know the Minister supports. I am grateful to him for the concessions that he made. Lest there be any further misconception, I repeat that had the Government been left to their own devices, the good parts of the Bill—the provisions dealing with maternity rights and health and safety—would have been excluded.

Part I of the Bill contains the trade union legislation. It is based on the ideology of the 1970s and early 1980s—on the premise that the only thing wrong with this country is that the trade unions are too powerful and that if we introduce legislation to neuter them and remove their powers, we shall attain nirvana. That policy failed miserably in the 1980s and it will fail again.

In 1979, when trade unions were supposed to be the reason for all our problems, there were 23 million people employed; there are now 21 million—a fall of 8 per cent. In 1979, there were 7 million people employed in manufacturing industry; now there are only 4.5 million —a fall of 38 per cent. In 1979, we had a trade surplus; now, despite North sea oil, we have a trade deficit that grows by the day.

The Government's attack on the trade unions can therefore be seen to have been based purely on ideology and on spite. Look at the check-off clauses, on which the Minister was in disarray last night and on which he continues to be in disarray today. The clauses will neither enhance the rights of individuals—no one wants them—nor improve the wealth and prosperity of the country.

Trade unions and their members never were and never will be this nation's industrial problem. Good trade unions working with Government and industry in close co-operation are an essential part of our industrial development. Rather than be treated as the Government's whipping boys, they should be recognised as part of the basic and essential engine of recovery.

Let us hope that, with the passing of the Bill, the dogma and ideology that have been the basis of all the anti-trade union legislation have finally been laid to rest so that trade unions and their members can once again be encouraged and given the tools to develop prosperity for this country. The Bill does not achieve that. It hinders the process. That is why we shall oppose it tonight.

6.57 pm
The Minister of State, Department of Employment (Mr. Michael Forsyth)

I thank the hon. Member for Strathkelvin and Bearsden (Mr. Galbraith) for his kind tribute to me and to my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary. I reciprocate by saying that the hon. Gentleman and the hon. Members for Holborn and St. Pancras (Mr. Dobson), and for Gateshead, East (Ms. Quin) could not have behaved more courteously or constructively during our proceedings. I should also pay tribute to my hon. Friends who, by their eloquence, restrained me from making too many concessions during the passage of the Bill.

I hope that hon. Members will not be embarrassed by that tribute. The TUC was quoted in one of the national newspapers as saying that it had achieved more on this Bill than on all the others put together. I am sure that that is a result of the constructive approach taken by the Opposition Front-Bench spokesmen and their colleagues and by my hon. Friends.

Having paid his tribute, the hon. Member for Strathkelvin and Bearsden ruined everything by complaining about the Bill. He said that the Bill does not do anything to help the long-term unemployed or about training or to meet the economic problems that we face. The plain fact is that we do not need legislation to tackle the economic problems of a recession. What we need is a Government committed to the policies that this Government endorse—low inflation, low interest rates and the control of public expenditure—and a Government who are prepared to act in the interests of individuals rather than a party that is clearly dominated by and in the pocket of the trade unions. That was clear from the proceedings on the Bill.

The hon. Member for Strathkelvin and Bearsden talked about pin money. He attributed that expression to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State. My right hon. Friend has never implied that pin money was involved or said anything about it. The person who used the expression "pin money" rather shockingly was the chairman of the Equal Opportunities Commission. If the hon. Gentleman has a complaint about the expression, he should take it up with that commission.

The hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras said that not a single argument that he put in Committee had been lost. I had the impression that he had not even found a single argument in Committee, much less lost one. He said that his vision was one in which everyone would have a job and be paid what their ambition should be. I find it astonishing—[Interruption.] The hon. Member for Birkenhead (Mr. Field) said that he did not say it, but I wrote it down because I was so surprised by what he said. He should look it up in the record. The socialist Utopia held out by the hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras is one which no socialist Government in the world have ever achieved, nor ever will achieve, because we know how it ends.

The hon. Gentleman spoke eloquently about his view of a minimum wage. The countries in the European Community that have embraced his ideas of a minimum wage are those with the highest levels of unemployment. Spain has announced unemployment of 20 per cent. That is hardly surprising, given its commitment to a minimum wage.

As the debate went on, the hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras slithered and slid and changed his position. Finally, we found out the Labour party's position on wages councils. The wages councils have dominated the debates and they are supported by the hon. Gentleman. But he said that if the wages councils were abolished, a Labour Government would not bring them back. That is the Labour party's position.

Opposition Members will fight to the last ditch to stop the Government abolishing the councils. They are so committed to the councils that, if they are ever in government, they will not bring them back. What a shambles. Instead, the hon. Gentleman told the House that he would introduce a national minimum wage. As my hon. Friend the Member for Teignbridge (Mr. Nicholls) said, a national minimum wage would destroy almost 2 million jobs in the United Kingdom. The hon. Gentleman sought as his authority his hon. Friend the Member for Birkenhead.

Mr. Dobson

Who supports him?

Mr. Forsyth

The hon. Gentleman asked: Who supports him?

Mr. Dobson

The Minister can misrepresent me as much as he likes. My hon. Friend the Member for Birkenhead (Mr. Field) supports the concept of a national minimum wage and the Minister should not say that he does not.

Mr. Forsyth

Having looked at the writing of the hon. Member for Birkenhead, it is clear that he said that a minimum wage will destroy jobs. Will the hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras say that all the other references that were quoted in the debate and the trade union leaders who were quoted are all being misquoted as well? Everyone knows that, if one puts up the price of labour, one will get less of it. It is like any other commodity. It is absurd for the hon. Gentleman to deny it.

Independent research has shown that a national minimum wage, with differentials being maintained, would destroy 2 million jobs. The truth is that the hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras is so in hock to the trade unions that he would rather sign up to a minimum wage and put more people on the dole than address the problem of unemployment in the United Kingdom.

The hon. Gentleman adduced an argument that he used yesterday. Hon. Members who followed the proceedings yesterday will recall that the hon. Gentleman said that wages councils could not destroy jobs because, at a time when there is a recession, the number of jobs has increased in the wages council industries and that that shows that the effect of wages councils is not to destroy employment.

In 1987, there were 2.472 million people in the wages councils ambit. By 1992, that figure had increased to 2.56 million—an increase of 89,000 or 3.6 per cent. in that period. In the service industries generally, which the wages councils overwhelmingly cover, the increase was 1 million or 7 per cent. So in the service industries as a whole, employment increased by twice as much as in the wages council industries. We will hear no more of that argument which the hon. Gentleman has unwittingly used in support of the Government's position.

Mr. Thurnham

Will my hon. Friend give way?

Mr. Forsyth

My hon. Friend should allow me to continue because I know that colleagues are anxious to speed the legislation on its way.

I should like to deal with a matter that was raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Southend, East (Sir T. Taylor). I share his lack of enthusiasm for the transfer of undertakings regulations. Those regulations implement an EC directive which was negotiated by the Labour party 16 years ago. Hon. Members present in the House who were not on the Committee may not be aware that the Labour Government believed that the acquired rights directive which they signed in 1977 would exclude the public sector. That does not say much for their claims about people in the public sector being defrauded by this Government.

The regulations that we introduced did no such thing. We limited the regulations to undertakings in the nature of a commercial venture. That did not exclude the public sector or privatisation, as the hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras claimed. In Committee, my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General made it clear that the exclusion was narrow in scope. For example, it excludes only some charities that might be considered noncommercial in nature. That exclusion is being removed in clause 26 of the Bill. It is not the case that people have been defrauded because of the minor and technical deficiency in the way in which the directive was implemented.

My hon. Friend the Member for Southend, East asked whether the Government had resisted the Commission's attempt to enforce the directive. I have been told that, if this Government had been in office in 1977, we would never have adopted the directive in the first place. My hon. Friend is mistaken in the great significance that he attaches to the minor amendments to the regulations in clause 26. As I said, the terms of the directive are significant and we want to examine them under the principles of subsidiarity which are enshrined in article 3b of the Maastricht treaty. I suggest that the Clause 26 group should rename itself the acquired rights directive group. The amendments in clause 26 do not alter the impact of the directive.

Sir Teddy Taylor

While I accept that the Minister is a born fighter, I ask one simple question: has the European Community sent a letter asking the Government to make more changes which, in my opinion, will basically bust privatisation, as others have said? Why did the Minister not fight? Why did the Government not take them to court? I am not accusing the Minister; I am accusing those who made the decisions.

Mr. Forsyth

The answer to my hon. Friend's question is that the changes that arose from the infraction proceedings do not alter the meaning and scope of the directive in the way that he believes. While he may believe that the directive is having an adverse effect on competitive tendering, that is a matter which can be addressed only by changing the terms of the directive. For that reason, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State will press, in line with the commitment that we have made to subsidiarity, for those matters to be determined in this place according to the interests of competitive tendering and other matters.

We have had a number of debates on the principles behind the Bill. Although the Labour party may vote against the Bill tonight, I hope that we shall see the same thing happening on this legislation as happened on other similar legislation. This Government rid the country of the tyranny of the closed shop and gave ordinary members the rights and protections that they rightly expected. As a result, trade union bosses must now attract members and listen to their views, rather than taking them for granted, as they did so often in the past. Our legislation has moved away from the confrontational, collective style of industrial relations to one in which employees are increasingly valued as individuals. Although the Opposition now say that they would support those changes, they voted against them at the time. No doubt they will vote against the Bill tonight, even though they know in their heart of hearts that most of the measures demand support and will be of benefit to their constituents. I commend the Bill to the House.

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

The House divided: Ayes 312, Noes 275.

Division No. 156] [7.09 pm
Adley, Robert Butcher, John
Ainsworth, Peter (East Surrey) Butler, Peter
Alexander, Richard Butterfill, John
Alison, Rt Hon Michael (Selby) Carlisle, John (Luton North)
Allason, Rupert (Torbay) Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)
Amess, David Carrington, Matthew
Ancram, Michael Carttiss, Michael
Arbuthnot, James Cash, William
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham) Channon, Rt Hon Paul
Arnold, Sir Thomas (Hazel Grv) Clappison, James
Ashby, David Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford)
Aspinwall, Jack Clarke, Rt Hon Kenneth (Ruclif)
Atkins, Robert Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey
Atkinson, David (Bour'mouth E) Coe, Sebastian
Atkinson, Peter (Hexham) Congdon, David
Baker, Rt Hon K. (Mole Valley) Conway, Derek
Baker, Nicholas (Dorset North) Coombs, Anthony (Wyre For'st)
Baldry, Tony Coombs, Simon (Swindon)
Banks, Matthew (Southport) Cope, Rt Hon Sir John
Banks, Robert (Harrogate) Couchman, James
Bates, Michael Cran, James
Batiste, Spencer Critchley, Julian
Bellingham, Henry Currie, Mrs Edwina (S D'by'ire)
Bendall, Vivian Curry, David (Skipton & Ripon)
Beresford, Sir Paul Davies, Quentin (Stamford)
Bitten, Rt Hon John Davis, David (Boothferry)
Blackburn, Dr John G. Day, Stephen
Body, Sir Richard Deva, Nirj Joseph
Booth, Hartley Devlin, Tim
Boswell, Tim Dickens, Geoffrey
Bottomley, Rt Hon Virginia Dicks, Terry
Bowden, Andrew Dorrell, Stephen
Bowis, John Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James
Boyson, Rt Hon Sir Rhodes Dover, Den
Brandreth, Gyles Duncan, Alan
Brazier, Julian Duncan-Smith, Iain
Bright, Graham Dunn, Bob
Brooke, Rt Hon Peter Durant, Sir Anthony
Brown, M. (Brigg & Cl'thorpes) Dykes, Hugh
Browning, Mrs. Angela Eggar, Tim
Bruce, Ian (S Dorset) Elletson, Harold
Budgen, Nicholas Emery, Rt Hon Sir Peter
Burns, Simon Evans, David (Welwyn Hatfileld)
Evans, Jonathan (Brecon) Knight, Dame Jill (Bir'm E'st'n)
Evans, Nigel (Ribble Valley) Kynoch, George (Kincardine)
Evans, Roger (Monmouth) Lait, Mrs Jacqui
Evennett, David Lamont, Rt Hon Norman
Faber, David Lang, Rt Hon Ian
Fabricant, Michael Lawrence, Sir Ivan
Fenner, Dame Peggy Legg, Barry
Field, Barry (Isle of Wight) Leigh, Edward
Fishburn, Dudley Lennox-Boyd, Mark
Forman, Nigel Lidington, David
Forsyth, Michael (Stirling) Lilley, Rt Hon Peter
Forth, Eric Lloyd, Peter (Fareham)
Fowler, Rt Hon Sir Norman Lord, Michael
Fox, Dr Liam (Woodspring) Luff, Peter
Fox, Sir Marcus (Shipley) Lyell, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas
Freeman, Roger MacGregor, Rt Hon John
French, Douglas MacKay, Andrew
Fry, Peter Maclean, David
Gale, Roger McLoughlin, Patrick
Gallie, Phil McNair-Wilson, Sir Patrick
Gardiner, Sir George Madel, David
Garel-Jones, Rt Hon Tristan Maitland, Lady Olga
Garnier, Edward Major, Rt Hon John
Gill, Christopher Malone, Gerald
Gillan, Cheryl Mans, Keith
Goodlad, Rt Hon Alastair Marland, Paul
Goodson-Wickes, Dr Charles Marlow, Tony
Gorman, Mrs Teresa Marshall, John (Hendon S)
Gorst, John Marshall, Sir Michael (Arundel)
Grant, Sir Anthony (Cambs SW) Martin, David (Portsmouth S)
Greenway, Harry (Ealling N) Mates, Michael
Greenway, John (Ryedale) Mawhinney, Dr Brian
Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth, N) Mayhew, Rt Hon Sir Patrick
Grylls, Sir Michael Mellor, Rt Hon David
Gummer, Rt Hon John Selwyn Merchant, Piers
Hague, William Milligan, Stephen
Hamilton, Rt Hon Archie (Epsom) Mills, Iain
Hamilton, Neil (Tatton) Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling)
Hampson, Dr Keith Mitchell, Sir David (Hants NW)
Hannam, Sir John Moate, Sir Roger
Hargreaves, Andrew Monro, Sir Hector
Harris, David Montgomery, Sir Fergus
Haselhurst, Alan Moss, Malcolm
Hawkins, Nick Needham, Richard
Hawksley, Warren Nelson, Anthony
Hayes, Jerry Neubert, Sir Michael
Heald, Oliver Newton, Rt Hon Tony
Heathcoat-Amory, David Nicholls, Patrick
Hendry, Charles Nicholson, David (Taunton)
Heseltine, Rt Hon Michael Nicholson, Emma (Devon West)
Hicks, Robert Norris, Steve
Higgins, Rt Hon Sir Terence L. Onslow, Rt Hon Sir Cranley
Hill, James (Southampton Test) Oppenheim, Phillip
Hogg, Rt Hon Douglas (G'tham) Ottaway, Richard
Horam, John Page, Richard
Hordern, Rt Hon Sir Peter Paice, James
Howard, Rt Hon Michael Patnick, Irvine
Howarth, Alan (Strat'rd-on-A) Patten, Rt Hon John
Howell, Rt Hon David (G'dford) Pattie, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey
Hughes Robert G. (Harrow W) Pawsey, James
Hunt, Rt Hon David (Wirral W) Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth
Hunt, Sir John (Ravensbourne) Pickles, Eric
Hunter, Andrew Porter, Barry (Wirral S)
Hurd, Rt Hon Douglas Porter, David (Waveney)
Jack, Michael Portillo, Rt Hon Michael
Jackson, Robert (Wantage) Powell, William (Corby)
Jenkin, Bernard Rathbone, Tim
Jessel, Toby Redwood, John
Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey Renton, Rt Hon Tim
Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N) Richards, Rod
Jones, Robert B. (W Hertfdshr) Riddick, Graham
Jopling, Rt Hon Michael Robathan, Andrew
Kellett-Bowman, Dame Elaine Roberts, Rt Hon Sir Wyn
Key, Robert Robertson, Raymond (Ab'd'n S)
Kilfedder, Sir James Robinson, Mark (Somerton)
King, Rt Hon Tom Roe, Mrs Marion (Broxbourne)
Kirkhope, Timothy Rowe, Andrew (Mid Kent)
Knapman, Roger Rumbold, Rt Hon Dame Angela
Knight, Mrs Angela (Erewash) Ryder, Rt Hon Richard
Knight, Greg (Derby N) Sackville, Tom
Sainsbury, Rt Hon Tim Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)
Shaw, David (Dover) Thornton, Sir Malcolm
Shaw, Sir Giles (Pudsey) Thurnham, Peter
Shephard, Rt Hon Gillian Townend, John (Bridlington)
Shepherd, Colin (Hereford) Townsend, Cyril D. (Bexl'yh'th)
Shepherd, Richard (Aldridge) Tracey, Richard
Shersby, Michael Tredinnick, David
Sims, Roger Trend, Michael
Skeet, Sir Trevor Twinn, Dr Ian
Smith, Sir Dudley (Warwick) Vaughan, Sir Gerard
Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield) Waldegrave, Rt Hon William
Soames, Nicholas Walden, George
Spencer, Sir Derek Walker, Bill (N Tayside)
Spicer, Sir James (W Dorset) Waller, Gary
Spicer, Michael (S Worcs) Ward, John
Spink, Dr Robert Wardle, Charles (Bexhill)
Spring, Richard Waterson, Nigel
Sproat, Iain Watts, John
Squire, Robin (Hornchurch) Wells, Bowen
Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John Wheeler, Rt Hon Sir John
Steen, Anthony Whitney, Ray
Stephen, Michael Whittingdale, John
Stern, Michael Wiggin, Sir Jerry
Stewart, Allan Willetts, David
Streeter, Gary Wilshire, David
Sumberg, David Winterton, Mrs Ann (Congleton)
Sweeney, Walter Winterton, Nicholas (Macc'f'ld)
Sykes, John Wolfson, Mark
Tapsell, Sir Peter Wood, Timothy
Taylor, Ian (Esher) Yeo, Tim
Taylor, John M. (Solihull) Young, Sir George (Acton)
Taylor, Sir Teddy (Southend, E)
Temple-Morris, Peter Tellers for the Ayes:
Thomason, Roy Mr. David Lightbown and
Thompson, Sir Donald (C'er V) Mr. Sydney Chapman.
Abbott, Ms Diane Campbell-Savours, D. N.
Adams, Mrs Irene Canavan, Dennis
Ainger, Nick Cann, Jamie
Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE) Carlile, Alexander (Montgomry)
Allen, Graham Chisholm, Malcolm
Alton, David Clapham, Michael
Anderson, Donald (Swansea E) Clark, Dr David (South Shields)
Anderson, Ms Janet (Ros'dale) Clarke, Eric (Midlothian)
Armstrong, Hilary Clarke, Tom (Monklands W)
Ashdown, Rt Hon Paddy Clelland, David
Ashton, Joe Clwyd, Mrs Ann
Austin-Walker, John Coffey, Ann
Banks, Tony (Newham NW) Connarty, Michael
Barnes, Harry Cook, Robin (Livingston)
Barron, Kevin Corbett, Robin
Battle, John Corbyn, Jeremy
Bayley, Hugh Corston, Ms Jean
Beckett, Margaret Cousins, Jim
Beggs, Roy Cox, Tom
Beith, Rt Hon A. J. Cryer, Bob
Bell, Stuart Cummings, John
Benn, Rt Hon Tony Cunliffe, Lawrence
Bennett, Andrew F. Cunningham, Jim (Covy SE)
Benton, Joe Dafis, Cynog
Bermingham, Gerald Dalyell, Tam
Berry, Dr. Roger Darling, Alistair
Betts, Clive Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)
Blair, Tony Davies, Ron (Caerphilly)
Blunkett, David Davis, Terry (B'ham, H'dge H'I)
Boateng, Paul Denham, John
Boyce, Jimmy Dixon, Don
Boyes, Roland Dobson, Frank
Bradley, Keith Donohoe, Brian H.
Bray, Dr Jeremy Dowd, Jim
Brown, Gordon (Dunfermline E) Dunnachle, Jimmy
Brown, N. (N'c'tle upon Tyne E) Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth
Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon) Eagle, Ms Angela
Burden, Richard Eastham, Ken
Byers, Stephen Enright, Derek
Caborn, Richard Etherington, Bill
Callaghan, Jim Evans, John (St Helens N)
Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge) Ewing, Mrs Margaret
Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V) Fatchett, Derek
Faulds, Andrew Jones, Lynne (B'ham S O)
Field, Frank (Birkenhead) Jones, Martyn (Clwyd, SW)
Fisher, Mark Jones, Nigel (Cheltenham)
Flynn, Paul Jowell, Tessa
Foster, Derek (B'p Auckland) Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald
Foster, Don (Bath) Keen, Alan
Foulkes, George Kennedy, Charles (Ross,C&S)
Fraser, John Kennedy, Jane (Lpool Brdgn)
Fyfe, Maria Khabra, Piara S.
Galbraith, Sam Kilfoyle, Peter
Galloway, George Kinnock, Rt Hon Neil (Islwyn)
Gapes, Mike Kirkwood, Archy
Garrett, John Leighton, Ron
Gerrard, Neil Lestor, Joan (Eccles)
Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John Lewis, Terry
Godman, Dr Norman A. Litherland, Robert
Godsiff, Roger Livingstone, Ken
Golding, Mrs Llin Lloyd, Tony (Stretford)
Gordon, Mildred Llwyd, Elfyn
Gould, Bryan Loyden, Eddie
Graham, Thomas Lynne, Ms Liz
Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S) McAllion, John
Griffiths, Win (Bridgend) McAvoy, Thomas
Grocott, Bruce McCartney, Ian
Gunnell, John Macdonald, Calum
Hain, Peter McFall, John
Hall, Mike McKelvey, William
Hanson, David Mackinlay, Andrew
Hardy, Peter McLeish, Henry
Harman, Ms Harriet Maclennan, Robert
Harvey, Nick McMaster, Gordon
Henderson, Doug McNamara, Kevin
Heppell, John Madden, Max
Hill, Keith (Streatham) Mahon, Alice
Hinchliffe, David Mandelson, Peter
Hoey, Kate Marek, Dr John
Hood, Jimmy Marshall, David (Shettleston)
Hoon, Geoffrey Marshall, Jim (Leicester, S)
Howarth, George (Knowsley N) Martin, Michael J. (Springburn)
Howells, Dr. Kim (Pontypridd) Martlew, Eric
Hoyle, Doug Maxton, John
Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N) Meacher, Michael
Hughes, Roy (Newport E) Michael, Alun
Hughes, Simon (Southwark) Michie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley)
Hutton, John Michie, Mrs Ray (Argyll Bute)
Ingram, Adam Milburn, Alan
Jackson, Glenda (H'stead) Miller, Andrew
Jackson, Helen (Shef'ld, H) Molyneaux, Rt Hon James
Jamieson, David Moonie, Dr Lewis
Johnston, Sir Russell Morgan, Rhodri
Jones, Barry (Alyn and D'side) Morley, Elliot
Jones, leuan Wyn (Ynys Môn) Morris, Rt Hon A. (Wy'nshawe)
Morris, Estelle (B'ham Yardley) Skinner, Dennis
Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon) Smith, Andrew (Oxford E)
Mowlam, Marjorie Smith, C. (Isl'ton S & F'sbury)
Mudie, George Smith, Rt Hon John (M'kl'ds E)
Mullin, Chris Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)
Murphy, Paul Smyth, Rev Martin (Belfast S)
Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon Snape, Peter
O'Brien, Michael (N W'kshire) Soley, Clive
O'Brien, William (Normanton) Spearing, Nigel
O'Hara, Edward Spellar, John
Olner, William Squire, Rachel (Dunfermline W)
O'Neill, Martin Steinberg, Gerry
Orme, Rt Hon Stanley Stevenson, George
Parry, Robert Stott, Roger
Pendry, Tom Strang, Dr. Gavin
Pickthall, Colin Straw, Jack
Pike, Peter L. Taylor, Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)
Pope, Greg Taylor, Matthew (Truro)
Powell, Ray (Ogmore) Thompson, Jack (Wansbeck)
Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lew'm E) Tipping, Paddy
Prentice, Gordon (Pendle) Trimble, David
Prescott, John Turner, Dennis
Primarolo, Dawn Tyler, Paul
Purchase, Ken Walker, Rt Hon Sir Harold
Quin, Ms Joyce Wallace, James
Radice, Giles Walley, Joan
Randall, Stuart Wardell, Gareth (Gower)
Raynsford, Nick Wareing, Robert N
Redmond, Martin Watson, Mike
Robinson, Geoffrey (Co'try NW) Welsh, Andrew
Roche, Mrs. Barbara Wicks, Malcolm
Rogers, Allan Wigley, Dafydd
Rooker, Jeff Williams, Rt Hon Alan (Sw'n W)
Rooney, Terry Williams, Alan W (Carmarthen)
Ross, Ernie (Dundee W) Wilson, Brian
Ross, William (E Londonderry) Winnick, David
Rowlands, Ted Wise, Audrey
Ruddock, Joan Worthington, Tony
Salmond, Alex Wray, Jimmy
Sedgemore, Brian Wright, Dr Tony
Sheerman, Barry
Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert Tellers for the Noes:
Shore, Rt Hon Peter Mr. Alan Meale and
Short, Clare Mr. Jon Owen Jones.
Simpson, Alan

Question accordingly agreed to.

Bill read the Third time, and passed.