HC Deb 09 February 1994 vol 237 cc386-8

3.—(1) The Speaker shall put forthwith the Question on any Motion made by a Minister of the Crown for the appointment and quorum of a Committee to draw up Reasons.

(2) Such a Committee shall report before the conclusion of the sitting at which it is appointed.

4.—(1) In this paragraph "The proceedings" means proceedings on Consideration of Lords Amendments or on any further Message from the Lords on the Bill, on the appointment and quorum of a Committee to draw up Reasons and the Report of such a Committee.

(2) Paragraph (1) of Standing Order No. 14 (Exempted business) shall apply to the proceedings.

(3) Proceedings under paragraph 1(2) or 2(3) above shall not be interrupted under any Standing Order relating to the sittings of the House.

(4) No dilatory Motion with respect to, or in the course of, the proceedings shall be made except by a Minister of the Crown, and the Question on any such Motion shall be put forthwith.

(5) If the proceedings are interrupted by a Motion for the Adjournment of the House under Standing Order No. 20 (Adjournment on specific and important matter that shall have urgent consideration) a period equal to the duration of the proceedings of the Motion shall be added to the period at the end of which the proceedings are to be brought to a conclusion.

(6) If the House is adjourned, or the sitting suspended, before the expiry of the period at the end of which the proceedings are to be brought to a conclusion, no notice shall be required of a Motion made at the next sitting by a Minister of the Crown for varying or supplementing the provisions of this Order.

The motion provides that further consideration of the Statutory Sick Pay Bill should be concluded no later than two hours from now, and specifies the order in which the amendments are to be considered.

This is not a long or complicated Bill, and the House has already had ample time to debate its main provisions. The House should bear in mind the fact that the Bill will take effect from 6 April this year. I believe that we owe it to industry and commerce to complete our consideration in good time to enable employers to introduce the changes as smoothly as possible.

Against that background, I commend the motion to the House.

10.22 pm
Mr. Keith Bradley (Manchester, Withington)

It is extraordinary that we should be starting our consideration of Lords amendments by yet again debating a guillotine motion. The debacle of the handling of this Bill continues. It started on 16 December, when the Government failed to secure, through all reasonable channels, a means of dealing with this Bill and with the Social Security (Contributions) Bill.

I believe that the Government now rue the day they chose to steamroller this measure through the House. They have shown utter contempt for proper scrutiny, and have caused outrage not only among Opposition Members but among the public. The legislation will affect businesses large and small throughout the country.

Although it is barely eight weeks since the Government used their original guillotine motion, and despite their arrogance and contempt, we have no intention of delaying matters further. When the Government, with barely six hours of debate, rushed the original provisions through, we predicted that it would be examined in greater detail in another place, and that, in particular, the provisions as they affected small businesses would be gone into.

Under the new legislation, the arrangement is to remove the opportunity for large businesses to reclaim a rebate on statutory sick pay and reduce the amount that small businesses can claim to 80 per cent., but not until after the first four weeks. We predicted that the Government would come under great pressure from small businesses, which the Labour party now represents so effectively. Clearly, we are now the champions of small businesses. We knew that, as a result of the pressure that we placed on the Government, as well as the opportunity for enlightened debate in the other House, amendments would be brought forward.

We pointed out clearly on Second Reading that the shift of the burden of some £750 million on to small businesses at a time when they were trying to recover from the Government's economic mismanagement was a burden against which they would rightly fight. Although the Government said that the 0.2 per cent. changes made to national insurance contributions would not lead to costs to small businesses, we had always questioned that, and will look carefully at the figures when the legislation comes in.

Mr. John Sykes (Scarborough)

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Bradley

No, time is short because of the guillotine motion.

Mr. Sykes


Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Michael Morris)

Order. The hon. Gentleman is clearly not giving way.

Mr. Bradley

We have important points to make in this debate, and although I shall be happy to give way to the hon. Gentleman when we debate the amendments, which I am sure he is interested in and will wish to contribute to, I cannot give way at this stage.

We do not intend to delay the House at this stage, but we predicted that the Government would have to table an amendment at the Lords amendments stage to recognise the horror felt by small businesses at the provisions of the Bill. I shall delay the House no longer but simply put on record again the fact that the Government's shoddy contempt for the House has led us to this unfortunate position. That is why the Labour party will continue to harass the Government and effectively scrutinise this legislation at every turn throughout this Session of Parliament.

Question put and agreed to.