HC Deb 19 January 1993 vol 217 cc249-50
7. Mr. Mackinlay

To ask the Secretary of State for Employment what measures she intends to take to provide employment protection for part-time workers employed by their existing employer for less than five years.

Mr. Michael Forsyth

The Trade Union Reform and Employment Rights Bill gives part-time workers new rights, including maternity leave and protection against exclusion or expulsion from a trade union. It will also give employees the right to receive a written statement of terms and conditions of employment provided that they work eight or more hours a week.

Mr. Mackinlay

Does the Minister consider it fair and consistent with the rules of natural justice that part-time workers—millions of them women—should have no protection from unfair or arbitrary dismissal? Is not it a fact that many part-time workers are dismissed or have their contracts arbitrarily altered as though they were chattels rather than people?

Mr. Forsyth

What an astonishing question. The hon. Gentleman is criticising the provisions in respect of the rights of part-time workers which were introduced by the last Labour Government in 1975.

Mrs. Browning

Does my hon. Friend agree that the more strictly regulated economies such as France or Germany do not produce the part-time work opportunities that we have in Britain?

Mr. Forsyth

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. Labour Members have not yet discovered that the more they add to the cost of employing people and the greater the burdens they put on employers in taking on labour, the more people will become unemployed and the fewer job opportunities there will be in the economy. We have the highest level of employment among part-time women workers, as well as among women in the economy as a whole, as a result of having a free labour market. If the Opposition had their way, there would be fewer opportunities for people to get jobs and I am sure that that is not what they want.

Mr. Dobson

Will the Minister confirm that it has been the case since records were kept that more British people, including women, are in employment than in any country in Europe except Denmark? At the same time, thousands of loyal, long-term staff, including those at Burtons and Forte, have been thrown out of full-time jobs which many of them have had for years and forced to go part time? Is not it utterly unfair that they should then be deprived of employment rights and entitlement to benefit just to suit the need and the greed of their employers?

Mr. Forsyth

Their employment rights reflect the position that was thought appropriate by the last Labour Government. The hon. Gentleman should recognise that he cannot continue adding to the burden on employers and expect employment opportunities to be created in the economy. The reason why we have far more people in work—that has been the pattern for some time—is that, unlike many of our European partners, we have had a longer period of Governments committed to free enterprise and policies that create wealth and employment.

Mrs. Chaplin

Does my hon. Friend agree that many women wish to work part time because it fits in with their family commitments? Will he ensure that nothing is done to endanger part-time jobs in Britain?

Mr. Forsyth

I agree with my hon. Friend. She is absolutely right that many women work part time because they wish to do so. Only the Opposition, with their interest in the trade union movement, would wish to deny millions of people that opportunity.

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