HC Deb 23 February 1994 vol 238 cc302-26

'(1) Any provision in an agreement between a shop worker and his employer (whether a contract of employment or not) shall be unenforceable to the extent that it purports—

  1. (a) to exclude or limit the operation of any provision of this Act, and
  2. (b) to preclude any person from presenting a complaint to or from bringing any proceedings before an industrial tribunal under any provision of this Act.

(2) For the purposes of this section "shop worker" has the same meaning as in Schedule 4 below.'.—[Mr. Purchase.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

Mr. Purchase

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

I agreed to withdraw a similar new clause in Committee so that the Minister could explain why he thought it was unnecessary. He suggested that employment protection issues had already been properly and fully covered in the Bill—I think he said that there were "no loopholes". I am not sure that that is relevant to my new clause, which aims to pick up on the International Labour Organisation's views about non-abatement and minimum rates of pay under the British wages councils.

I have tabled the new clause because the Bill has few enough provisions on worker protection and it will require a great deal of effort if a worker wants to enforce any of them. The new clause would at least help workers in the difficult task of trying to prove their case against an employer.

The Minister confidently suggested that there were no loopholes, but I refer him to a national newspaper article that appeared on 21 February 1994, with the headline "Gap in code on Sunday working". It dealt with an industrial dispute at a Tesco distribution complex at Crick, near Northampton. People involved in the dispute believe that a loophole in the Sunday Trading Bill will leave tens of thousands of workers without protection". The article continues: Tesco management is demanding that nightshift workers at the warehouse… put in at least three in seven Sundays from April in response to extra weekend demand at Tesco stores. Although the Bill is not yet law, we are already starting to see how it is structuring employer-employee relationships. The employee is an exceedingly vulnerable position in relation to Sunday trading. There is a massive reserve army of people waiting to walk into jobs at any rate of pay and under any conditions or terms that are offered. That is happening in advance of the Bill becoming an Act and we shall see what transpires when we vote later.

Mr. Ray Powell

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for referring to the article in The Guardian on 21 February. He missed out the last paragraph of the article, which referred to a person who would not be able to go out with his family and young children, go fishing or enjoy the the pleasures of Sunday because of the present circumstances and pressure from Tesco, which has disrupted his family life.

Mr. Purchase

I did not overlook the final paragraph and I shall come to it in due course. I agree with my hon. Friend that it is important in the context of what is happening while the Bill is still being processed.

Dame Elaine Kellett-Bowman

If the hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friends had listened to our warnings we would not now be in this position.

Mr. Purchase

Many a true word is spoken in jest. I welcome the hon. Lady's support, but she must be jesting because I did my best to warn many people about the Bill's inherent dangers. I coerced many of my hon. Friends who have great knowledge and experience in these matters to vote against Sunday opening. I am glad that the hon. Lady was with us on that occasion.

The heart of the matter is that many of my hon. Friends have been misled, not least by having sprung upon them the new Deregulation and Contracting Out Bill. As I have said before, with the advent of deregulation, people's shopping wants should be fully met by the shops that will remain open until perhaps midnight. People who have said that because of their hours of work they cannot do their big shopping until Sunday morning, will be able to choose to do their shopping over a longer period. That will impose enormous strains on workers.

The Government's concessions on the Bill are completely inadequate and will not provide even slight worker protection. That is important because my hon. Friends did not know that the Deregulation and Contracting,Out Bill was on the way. My hon. Friend the Member for Wallasey (Ms Eagle) said that she believed that, in good faith, the Government would include worker protection in the Bill to enable her to support the six-hour option. As my hon. Friend has said, she is disillusioned and will certainly not vote for the Government's proposals.

I should like to refer to a paper prepared by the Small Business Research Centre at the department of applied economics at Cambridge university. It states: In the absence of controls on trading hours, employment protection legislation is unlikely to provide effective guarantees for the rights of retail workers not to work on Sunday and to receive a wage premium for… working. The article to which I referred earlier mentions a new twist, the issue of shift working at the Tesco distribution complex at Crick near Northampton. It tells us that in advance of the Bill slightly different patterns of trade are emerging that necessitate deliveries and night shift working at the warehouse. People will be required to work four Sundays in seven. What new twist will there be in 12 months or in two years? How will trade change after deregulation? None of us can be sure about that, but we know that all the shops involved will be competing for the same amount of trade over a greater number of hours. The Small Business Research Centre paper states that we can expect increased Sunday trading to push up costs. The Deregulation and Contracting Out Bill will push them up further.

Mr. Pike

My hon. Friend quoted from a report which says that people will be required to work four Sundays in seven. Town centre car parking on Sunday is currently free because the parks are little used. Does my hon. Friend agree that if the Bill becomes law the attendants at those car parks will be required to work on Sunday, thereby being forced to change their working pattern?

5.15 pm
Mr. Purchase

My hon. Friend makes an eminently sensible point. What he predicts is bound to happen. The shift pattern at Tesco in Crick is part of a new annualised system of hours of work. Some hon. Members may not have heard of this new phenomenon. It simply means that instead of working a weekly or daily number of hours people will agree, under their new contracts, to work an annual number of hours. They may be called on to work them at any time and in any sequence whether or not that suits their social or family arrangements. That change was implemented in industry some time ago and has created difficulties and now it is to extend to the retail trade. That system of annualised hours will have to be used to meet the new pattern of trading.

Mr. James Paice (Cambridgeshire, South-East)

Is not the hon. Gentleman confusing the retail trade with the distribution system? I accept that they are part of the same company in his Tesco example, but does not he agree that distribution work on Sunday has been carried on for many years because of trading on Monday and has nothing to do with trading on Sunday? Tesco already operates this system in four of its eight warehouses and has undertaken not to force the system into operation. It is currently consulting through the normal employer-staff channels at Crick.

Mr. Purchase

I am grateful for that intervention because it leads me nicely to another point about Crick. The article, and I have no reason to disbelieve it, states: Representatives of the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers say that workers, who earn £4.23 an hour, were repeatedly assured that Sunday working would not be introduced. This is a case of the biter bit because unfortunately USDAW has been playing an odd game. It is common knowledge that people behind USDAW have been promising the moon, but I am sure that that will be reversed. The small print of the deal that USDAW thinks that it has reached with the employers includes an employers' clause saying that should trading conditions change, they reserve the right to change the agreement. That agreement is not worth the paper on which it is written.

Dame Elaine Kellett-Bowman

USDAW's specific instruction had three points— Total deregulation… No; Keep Sunday Special… No; 6 Hour Option… YES."—fOfficial Report, 8 December,1993; Vol. 234, c. 368.] That is why we have reached our present position.

Mr. Purchase

I am sorry to say that USDAW will not emerge from this episode with an enhanced reputation.

However, what it does should not impinge on the judgment of the House about the welfare of people who work on Sunday.

Mr. Llew Smith (Blaenau Gwent)

Does my hon. Friend accept that if any reputations are being damaged, it was not the annual conference of USDAW, but the executive who took that decision in isolation and in opposition to the conference?

Mr. Purchase

I am not a member of that union, but I have read the same document as my hon. Friend. I understand that the USDAW annual conference voted against what has become the Sunday Trading Bill and that the executive, no doubt after some pressure, changed its mind. Part of that pressure was, to use a phrase that one of my very illustrious Labour colleagues used in the House many years ago, something of an unholy alliance between certain very large retailers and a union obviously wanting to do the best for its members. I understand that, but the massive pressure on workers and their organisations means that USDAW's decision may be understandable.

Part of that pressure has manifested itself in the House. I understand that the alliance among employers to get the Bill through resulted in an average expenditure of £5,000 per hon. Member, in terms of the propaganda that they have sent us.

Rev. William McCrea

Does the hon. Gentleman accept that it is healthy if unions and others can change their minds after listening to the arguments and seeing what happens in the House and in Committee? Would it not be equally healthy if hon. Members were prepared to change their minds, even at this stage, before the Bill becomes legislation?

Mr. Purchase

It would be a wonderful world if we were all open to persuasion. I am open to persuasion and if the Minister can satisfy me on many points, I shall reconsider the entire matter. The hon. Gentleman is correct. I have already referred to the fact that at least two critical changes have taken place since the initial vote in the House and I shall enumerate them again. The first was the publication of the Deregulation and Contracting Out Bill and the second was the inability of the Opposition to make the Government put meaningful worker protection into the Bill.

Mr. Ray Powell

My hon. Friend mentioned the Deregulation and Contracting Out Bill, part of which refers to the extension of licences for shops to open perhaps 24 hours a day, six days a week providing 144 hours of shopping a week from Monday to Saturday. Therefore, there should now be no need for the Sunday Trading Bill. Perhaps the Minister should consider whether it would be better to abandon the Sunday Trading Bill and rely on total deregulation.

Mr. Purchase

My hon. Friend, with his vast knowledge of the subject, hits the nail on the head. The Bill would be better abandoned; there is no question about that. However, the shopping needs of the entire population could well be met at hours convenient to them. The major shopping that households need to do can surely now be done between Monday and Saturday.

Ms Glenda Jackson

Does my hon. Friend agree that, in effect, the pressing need for the large superstore managers is less offering service to their customers by opening on Sunday than increasing their market share? One has already heard stories of such superstores closing on a Monday, for example, or cutting out the two additional hours for late-night shopping on a Thursday because they can increase their market share and their profit by opening on a Sunday. It has nothing to do with facilitating their stores being open to the will of the customer, and everything to do with cashing in on the profit that they can make on that one day of the week.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. Before we go too far down that road, hon. Members are straying wide of the debate, which is about enforceable contracts.

Mr. Purchase

I understand what you say, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and I intend to speak to new clause 4.

I was trying to set the scene. I shall be brief in finishing that point, so that the Minister may get the flavour of what I am trying to achieve.

Mrs. Audrey Wise (Preston)

On enforceable contracts, does my hon. Friend agree that there is no need for the Deregulation and Contracting Out Bill because people could get their shopping perfectly adequately during the present legal hours, particularly if the supermarkets employed more people to staff their checkouts?

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. The debate is now getting rather wide.

Mr. Purchase

It is almost irresistible, but I shall resist replying to my hon. Friends who raise valid points. The Bill offers workers little protection.

Mr. Gordon McMaster (Paisley, South)

My hon. Friend will be aware that the long title of the Bill precludes any amendments covering Scotland. Does he agree that it is absolutely inconceivable for major store chains such as Tesco to adopt different employment practices in England and Wales from those in Scotland? That is why I shall be in the same Lobby as my hon. Friend tonight.

Mr. Purchase

I take my hon. Friend's point which was well made. If, in its final form, the Bill were to include certain amendments, particularly in regard to premium pay, double time and time and a half, the need for my clause would be infinitely greater.

In the current economic circumstances, the protection of those hard-won concessions on premium times, expressed in a later amendment, will need to be underwritten by the strength of the law. Notwithstanding how little protection there is in the Bill, there are so many ways in which employers can bring pressure to bear on their employees, that an additional safeguard such as I am proposing could do no harm at all.

If the Minister is minded to say that the Bill is already well covered by the worker protection measures it contains, such as they are—and I have to keep qualifying them—in terms of closing the loopholes, in the light of our experience with the Tesco distribution centre, as reported in the newspapers, anything could happen as a result of changed working patterns and changes in demand that cannot be anticipated in financial terms. When one prepares a budget, it is foolish not to make a provision for contingencies. When the bank asks what they are, one says, "I don't know. Although I do not know what will happen, I know that something will. That is the way of the world."

Dr. Tony Wright (Cannock and Burntwood)

My hon. Friend spoke about the inadequacies of the Bill's protection for workers. Has he considered that the Deregulation and Contracting Out Bill will not only abolish weekday restrictions but enable the Secretary of State to make orders to abolish or amend anything in the Sunday Trading Bill? Is that not the greatest outrage?

Mr. Purchase

My hon. Friend raises a wide and difficult question about the nature of our parliamentary democracy. I speak for many when I say that there is a considerable battle to be waged over that particular insult to the democratic process. My hon. Friend reinforces the need for as much packing, padding and support for workers' rights as we can devise in their favour.

5.30 pm

In present market conditions, demand for labour is much less than its supply. I remind right hon. and hon. Members that wages councils were needed because even in times of relative balance between labour supply and demand, shop workers in particular were exceedingly vulnerable to low pay, poor conditions and little in the way of benefits. Nothing has changed.

It is selfish of people to demand that others work on Sunday just to meet their wants.

Mr. Ray Powell

Is my hon. Friend aware that I am at a loss to understand why some of my hon. Friends—particularly on the Front Bench—and trade union leaders delude themselves that the Government, having abolished wages councils for low-paid workers, will correct any mistakes that they made when preparing the Bill and will include any form of employment protection?

Mr. Purchase

I understand that the precursor to making corrections is an apology—and it is not in the Government's nature to apologise. They never apologise for anything, however much harm is done to people. I suspect that my hon. Friend is right in thinking that no corrections will be made.

How do we make a plea to our trade union colleagues? Most Opposition Members have been trade unionists for many years. In my case, I am proud to say that I have been a union member for 35 years. I have seen many union leaders come and go. There is acute pressure on USDAW officials to—dare I use the term?—cave in to the major stores lobby.

Mr. Lord

Although it may be difficult sometimes to accept this, right hon. and hon. Members in all parts of the House care deeply about workers, particularly in respect of this issue. As constituency Members of Parliament, we have evidence already of pressure being brought to bear on shop workers over Sunday trading. Sometimes it is anecdotal, and sometimes the people who write to us ask for their identities not to be revealed. Does the hon. Gentleman agree that if a employee wants to object to Sunday working, it is difficult to do so without in some way jeopardising his or her employment? We cannot make a fair assessment of the situation, so the only satisfactory solution is for stores to remain shut.

Mr. Purchase

I am conscious of the situation to which the hon. Gentleman refers. A newspaper article published on 15 January reported a spokesman for a Peterborough-based store saying: Mrs. Love was not sacked for refusing to work on a Sunday but because she refused to move to another store under the terms of her contract. That is just the kind of situation that we must make watertight. An employer might say, "You are perfectly within your rights not to work on Sunday, but we shall want you to move to another store 25 or 30 miles from your home. You must be there half-an-hour earlier."

Mr. Donald Anderson (Swansea, East)

Is it not significant that such examples of discrimination are coming to light at a time when the stores are clearly on their best behaviour, because they know that they are being watched and scrutinised, and that any examples of discrimination will be publicised? What will happen when, having made a massive investment in Sunday trading, stores are able to do precisely as they want—as the Government imply that they will? What will happen then to the touching faith of USDAW and others, who imagine that a Government who got rid of wages councils will look after workers' interests?

Mr. Purchase

I thank my hon. Friend for his timely intervention.

Although trade unions represent 250,000, 300,000 or 400,000 employees, 1.5 million others look to the House for protection. I give ground to no one in terms of my trade union membership, the union work that I have done and the workers for whom I have been responsible. I have an honourable record, if I say so myself. The House is given the task of being the trade union for the 1.5 million workers who do not have direct protection. We cannot give that job away, and we cannot duck responsibility for looking after those people.

Whatever the Minister says, I do not believe that the Bill will look after those 1.5 million people. The right hon. Gentleman may argue that new clause 4 would not do so, but at least it attempts to set in concrete the punishments that could be imposed by a tribunal.

Rev. William McCrea

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that the Bill would not be before the House in its present form had members of the Government and Opposition Front Benches not joined in trying to thwart the will of the people of this country?

Mr. Purchase

I hear and understand the hon. Gentleman, but no one would expect me to comment.

I ask the House to acknowledge the importance of right hon. and hon. Members acting as the shop stewards of the 1.5 million workers not covered by the deals, which I believe were the result of collusion, entered into by major traders and, foolishly in my estimation, trade unions. I shall not go further, because it would not help the cause one little bit to do so. There has been collusion. Our duty is to ensure that those 1.5 million for whom we must act take control of our conscience so that we vote in favour of worker protection. If we cannot get that protection, which is so vital to their cause, we should vote against the Bill.

Mr. Alton

The hon. Member for Wolverhampton, North-East (Mr. Purchase) made a powerful case for the new clause. I hope that it will commend itself to everyone in the House. It is a belt-and-braces new clause and—no doubt the Minister will say this—reinforces a principle that purportedly is in the Bill anyway.

The truth is, as the hon. Gentleman has told us, that the employment protection provisions in the Bill are limited. As the hon. Member for Ogmore (Mr. Powell) said, there is so much concern among workers in this country about the systematic erosion of their rights that the latest proposed legislation comes as a further blow to them. They are right to be apprehensive and concerned about the erosion of their rights.

The new clause seeks to ensure that nothing that is in the scope of the Bill can be written out of it by an employer forcing a new contract with an employee. The new clause is worth while, because it will add a double safeguard to people working in the big shops.

The hon. Member for Wolverhampton, North-East cited the infamous Crick case involving Tesco. I want to return to that briefly, because it is important, as the hon. Member for Swansea, East (Mr. Anderson) intimated earlier, that the House should understand, if that is happening now, how much worse it will be when the Bill has been enacted and the great stores and shops know that their actions cannot then be put under the microscope by the Chamber. Fears that Sunday trading will have a ripple effect will then increase.

Eighty workers staged a lightning 24-hour walkout at Tesco's warehouse at Crick, near Daventry, in protest. They say that it was about new working arrangements and being lied to by the company. In a changeover to a system of working based on annualised hours, workers asked repeatedly whether Sunday work was included. They were told categorically that it was not.

Ten days ago, workers from Crick rang to tell me what had happened to them. I advised them to speak to The Guardian and other newspapers, where the report to which the hon. Gentleman referred has subsequently appeared. It is right that the public and the House should know in detail what has already happened as a result of the proposed legislation, and the assumptions that are already being made by major employers.

Shift cycles recently issued to those workers show that they would have to work three Sundays in a new seven-week working cycle. If they want overtime, it could be four Sundays. The annual hours proposal was rejected initially, with only seven of the workers at Crick voting for it and 1,550 against. A Tesco worker subsequently commented: I need family time, and I need the money premium pay brought me when I could work extra hours during the week"— not on Sundays. When am I going to see my kids? How can I get away on holiday? The workers say that they need their premium pay. Their present pay, as we have heard, is about £4.23 per hour. Tesco has also increased the length of shift work in some cases from eight to 10 hours. How, then, can those men and women live a reasonably normal life? It is not fair that low-paid night workers should lose a further measure of their freedom. That is why I remain extremely concerned about the lack of employee protection available for Sunday workers, which, under the Bill, includes only shopworkers, not workers in warehouses, in transport or in distribution.

Let the House recall, as it considers the worth of the new clause, that legal aid is not available for industrial tribunal applications, that the current industrial tribunal system is heavily biased towards the employer, that remedies that are awarded are always totally inadequate, and that applications to industrial tribunals are subject to delay.

The burden of proof of discrimination for refusing to work on Sundays lies with the employee, and it is extremely difficult to satisfy. That is why we need to add as much as we possibly can to the Bill, which takes away so much that workers expect to have as their right—not to have to work on a Sunday. For that reason, I hope that this belt-and-braces new clause, moved so well by the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, North-East, will be accepted by the House.

Mr. Peter Lloyd

I thought that it might help if I intervened at this point, because the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, North-East (Mr. Purchase) directed a couple of questions at me.

This is something of a lengthy reprise of what was a short debate in Committee on the same new clause. I promised to consider the issue carefully with expert legal advice. I have done so. I am confident that the hon. Gentleman's general fear, as indicated in the wording of his new clause rather than the animadversions that he made on it, that an employee might be bribed, cozened or persuaded to contract out of his rights under the Bill, particularly under schedule 3, are groundless. The wording of the schedule is proof against that.

5.45 pm

The hon. Gentleman raised a particular case—if I follow him correctly, I think I know the one—about Tesco and transport workers. That is not covered by the Bill and the schedule. We debated that kind of question on the last day of the Committee of the whole House.

When the hon. Gentleman spoke to the new clause before and then withdrew it, I said that I hoped that he would come to see me with any loopholes that he thought might exist and that might have to be closed were those rights to be absolutely assured. He did not come to see me, so I presumed that he did not have any, and that it was only a general worry.

I understand the general worry, but I have now taken legal advice. It does not exist in the form that the hon. Gentleman expects. People cannot give up their rights under the proposed legislation, most particularly under schedule 3, by signing documents that would then enable them to be dismissed, where otherwise they would have been able to opt out of Sunday working.

However, it seems to me that there may be one potential difficulty with the right not to suffer detriment under paragraph 10 of the schedule. It is a complicated point. I have not yet managed to find suitable words and have them drafted. I should like to have done so by this stage.

The hon. Gentleman's new clause does not meet the point. It covers only what is covered already. It misses the bit that I think is exposed. I hope that he will accept that on this issue at least—the inalienability of the rights under schedule 3 and the Bill—we are of like mind. I want to be quite sure that the full rights are there and cannot be lost by any particular agreement.

I can give the hon. Gentleman and the House an assurance that the Government intend to table a suitable amendment in another place to cover the point that I think is exposed, and any other point that he can convince me —or get others to convince me—exists that I have not yet seen and which can be covered in another place.

Mr. Alton

The Minister adverted a moment ago to the omission of transport workers, warehouse workers and others from the employment protection provisions in the Bill. Is it his intention to widen the scope at any stage to include those workers?

Mr. Lloyd

We discussed that. It covers shopworkers —people whose job is in or about a shop. We had a considerable debate on an amendment moved by the hon. Member for Lewisham, Deptford (Ms Ruddock) on that issue. I remain of the view that it is a broad protection for those who work in or about a shop, but it does not extend to workers beyond that.

Mr. Donald Anderson

The Minister has been generous in saying that he will seek to remove any ambiguity in respect of the ability of an employee to barter away his rights. I press him in respect of the narrow definition of a shopworker. It is clear that a number of people whose livelihood is directly concerned in shop working are likely to have their position adversely affected as a result of the provisions of the Bill.

Will he therefore be prepared to consider, although he said that it has been canvassed to some extent in Committee, giving a somewhat broader definition of "shopworker" to cover those who will certainly be penalised if the Bill goes through?

Mr. Lloyd

I have no plans to do that. The people referred to in the debate are, for instance, delivery drivers, many of whom already deliver on Sunday for Monday's sale.

We discussed the matter at length in Committee; we did not merely touch on it. Such action would not be practicable, even if it were desirable—and I do not think it would be either desirable or right.

Mr. Cryer

What amendment does the Minister intend to table in the other place to deal with the omission that he perceives in the schedule to which he referred? In what way would that amendment differ from, and be superior to, new clause 4? If new clause 4 merely spells out what is implied in other parts of the Bill, why should it not be included? It could improve the Bill, rather than detracting from it.

Mr. Lloyd

I see no point in inserting in a Bill verbiage that gives no extra protection, power or authority; that only confuses the position. In this instance, I said that I thought a loophole existed—a small loophole, which the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, North-East had not had in mind, and which was not covered by his new clause.

I have undertaken to introduce, in another place, amendments or new clauses that fill that loophole and any others that may be identified between then and now. I will not, however, undertake to introduce belts where we already have perfectly adequate braces.

Dr. Wright

Is not the greatest loophole of all the fact that, under the deregulation proposals that the House is now considering, a Minister—having established that the Bill's provisions for worker protection, inadequate though they are, constitute a burden on business—can make an order and sweep away all those provisions? He can sweep away, for instance, the six-hour provisions, by means of the power to make orders that the Deregulation and Contracting Out Bill provides. If the Minister is prepared to confirm that, will he also assure the House that that order-making power will not be used in relation to this Bill?

Mr. Lloyd

I certainly do not intend any order-making power to be used to diminish the rights that we have carefully and laboriously put into this Bill. The deregulation Bill has begun its passage through the House; I cannot tell the hon. Gentleman, and he cannot tell me, in what shape it will end up and how far its powers will extend. I am certain, however, that if it is to be used to alter other legislation, it will have to go through the processes already outlined in it.

I cannot tell the hon. Gentleman how much of this Bill could be changed by the use of processes in the deregulation Bill, because I have not the expertise. I can tell him, however, that we intend the rights that we are including in the Bill to be there—that is why we are including them—and to remain there. I want to ensure that they are completely effective and contain no loopholes.

Rev. Ian Paisley (Antrim, North)

Perhaps the Minister will explain what he has just said about the failure of the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, North-East (Mr. Purchase) to recognise the loophole. Are we dealing with the issue that the hon. Gentleman has presented to the House or not? Are we dealing with another issue, which the Minister is convinced is a loophole? We need to know that.

Moreover, if—as the hon. Member for Cannock and Burntwood (Dr. Wright) suggested—a Minister has the power, by means of an order, to destroy existing provisions almost with the stroke of a pen, what good is that to workers? Are the Government going to bluff them, saying, "You have safeguards," although a Minister need only sign an order for those safeguards to be ended?

Mr. Lloyd

If the hon. Gentleman cares, at his leisure, to read schedule 3(10), he will see the area where I believe a loophole may exist. It may be possible to make arrangements where an individual suffers detriment through deciding that he does not want to work on Sundays. There is no question about the existence of his right to opt in or out, and to avoid dismissal; the issue of detriment, however, is complicated and, for that reason, I have not yet secured wording that I consider deals with it satisfactorily.

I have exposed to the House a problem that may well exist, before examining it closely and producing a solution. I have, however, told the House that, if there is indeed a problem—as I believe there is—I intend to find a solution.

Mr. Donald Anderson

Does the Minister conceive that my hon. Friend the Member for Cannock and Burntwood (Dr. Wright) has raised an extraordinarily important point? If the protections provided by the Government—however inadequate we consider them—can be removed as easily as my hon. Friend suggests, is that not important?

As the Minister is dealing with this point, can he not find out speedily whether, under the current provisions of the Deregulation and Contracting Out Bill, a Minister can remove the protection in this Bill?

Mr. Lloyd

No Minister can simply remove items of earlier legislation in that way; he has no power to do so freely, on his own. The hon. Gentleman, however, has asked a reasonable question. As I have explained, I am familiar in general terms with the deregulation Bill. In answer to the hon. Gentleman's specific point, I think—with the advice of the Chair particularly in mind—that it may be possible to return to the matter on a later group of amendments, when I may be better informed.

Dr. Wright

I well understand why the Minister should seem surprised and shocked by the suggestion that a Minister, simply by order, could sweep away the Bill's provisions. That, however, is precisely the power being claimed for Ministers in the deregulation Bill.

Mr. Lloyd

That is right—[Laughter.]—but the hon. Gentleman said it. The order must come before the House, and the protection must be construed as other than necessary protection. I regard this as necessary protection. The definition of necessary protection makes me a little reluctant to be drawn to the extent that I should like by interventions about another Bill that I do not manage. I am being entirely frank with the House. I can only say that it would be more sensible if I returned to the matter later in the debate.

As for the specific rights that the Bill gives employees, I want them to be completely watertight in the terms of the Bill, so that they cannot be accidentally lost through an agreement unwisely made by an employee, or through some other act on the part of that employee or his employer leading unintentionally to that result—or, indeed, doing so intentionally. The rights, as contained in the Bill, cannot be given away even if it is the intention of both parties at the time to do so.

Rev. Ian Paisley

Will the Minister give an assurance that only an affirmative resolution will be involved? He has said that Ministers cannot take such action, but we in Northern Ireland have a sad history of what Ministers can do. They can change, change and change. We also know what happens to prayers in the House. I am glad that prayers to the Almighty are more effective than prayers in the House; otherwise, I would be permanently out of business.

Mr. Lloyd

The hon. Gentleman knows that I cannot give assurances about the final outcome of a Bill that is only just beginning its passage through the House—a Bill, moreover, that I do not sponsor, and with whose policy my Department does not deal. However, as I have said, I hope to be able to tell the House rather more later this evening.

Mr. Ray Powell

I support new clause 4. I am sure that my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, North-East (Mr. Purchase) did not mention industrial tribunals in depth and detail because he had many other matters to mention.

It is necessary to refer to a report on the Sunday Trading Bill by S.F. Deakin, fellow of Peterhouse college and lecturer in law at the university of Cambridge, and K.D. Ewing, professor of public law at King's college, university of London. They say: The sanctions available to employees who are unfairly victimised for refusing Sunday work are inadequate for a number of reasons.

  • (a) The Bill would replace criminal sanctions (fines against retailers who open in breach of the law) with weaker civil sanctions (damages and re-employment) administered by industrial tribunals.
  • (b) The onus will be on employees themselves to assert employment protection rights before industrial tribunals; these rights will be very difficult to enforce for the following reasons."
6 pm

In order to put them on the record, I must read out the five different sections. The most important is as follows:

  • "(i) Legal aid is not available before industrial tribunals, while legal representation is not, in practice, available to most employees who do not have access to trade union support;
  • (ii) There are significant delays in the hearing of industrial tribunal cases which will discourage many workers from making claims, and the Bill makes no provision for this point to be met by the availability of interim relief to employees whose rights are infringed;
  • (iii) The burden of proving that the reason for a dismissal or other detriment is the employee's refusal to do Sunday work will rest throughout on the employee, and will be difficult to overcome."

Mr. Peter Lloyd

That is absolutely and completely wrong. The burden of proof lies on the employer. The Bill refers to the Employment Protection (Consolidation) Act 1978, which was put on the statute book by a Labour Government, makes it perfectly clear that the employee has to show only that he is dismissed; it is for the employer to show why he was dismissed and to show that that reason was a fair reason for dismissal. The document from which the hon. Gentleman quotes is wrong. I understand that it is his bible in these matters, but it is not accurate.

Mr. Powell

With all due respect, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I take the advice of two professors, and I would accept the professors' advice far more than I would accept advice from the Minister.

Mr. Donald Anderson

I noticed that the Minister did not intervene in respect of the other advice of the learned professors: that, as a result of the ability of the employer —the respondent—to prolong proceedings, which in any event take quite a long time, by adjournment and otherwise, it is likely that, as a result of the disproportion of power between the employee, or former employee, and the employer, the employee will be frightened away long before the end of the process. As the Government well know, the protection that they purport to give is, in practice, nugatory.

Mr. Powell

I accept the advice of my hon. Friend, in his learned capacity, on those issues.

Mr. Peter Lloyd

I think that that remark was directed at me. I do not intervene every time that the hon. Member for Ogmore (Mr. Powell) gets something wrong, because I think that other hon. Members should get a word in edgeways sometimes. However, most cases of unfair dismissal and unfair treatment of that type do not reach the tribunal, simply because two thirds of them are settled well beforehand by the employer, who, knowing that he is wrong, would prefer them not to go to the tribunal. It is therefore simply not true that the law is ineffective.

Representation will be similar in such a case to representation in any other case that goes to a tribunal.

Mr. Donald Anderson


Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Geoffrey Lofthouse)

Order. We cannot very well have intervention on intervention. Mr. Powell.

Mr. Powell

I shall continue, to ensure that the quotation goes on the record, and I will return to the Minister:

  • "(iv) On the evidence of current practice, an industrial tribunal is hardly ever likely to order the re-employment of an employee who has been unfairly dismissed;
  • (v) Where an industrial tribunal orders compensation, current practice indicates that damages will not be set at a level designed to deter employers from taking similar action in the future; damages will most likely be a small fraction of the legal maximum which an industrial tribunal is empowered to award to an unfairly dismissed employee;
  • (vi) An industrial tribunal will have no power to order the promotion of a worker who has been subjected to a detriment by being denied promotion for refusing Sunday work."
I hope that if the Minister has not listened to what I have said, he will read it and perhaps give an explanation. All Members of the House are fully aware that even if a worker wants to protest and go to an industrial tribunal, the provision gives him or her no chances of emerging financially better off or protected in any way, shape or form.

There is no provision for legal aid. How much legal advice could a shopworker, earning about £2 an hour, afford for an appearance before an industrial tribunal? The chances of affording that and winning the case are remote.

My hon. Friend the Member for Swansea, East (Mr. Anderson) referred to employment protection, which is a very important part of new clause 4. Many promises were made to us in Committee. We are now told that we will not have an answer tonight, but that an answer might be forthcoming when the Bill goes to another place, if it goes to another place. The Minister is pushing it off, but he is not prepared to give a definite answer about how he will protect those workers on a Sunday.

The new clause would do much to assist. My hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, North-East referred to an article in The Guardian. I do not want to repeat what he said, but I think that it is time to consider carefully what is happening. We speak about sleazy deals in Government circles; I do not know whether those sleazy deals are now flowing over into the trade union movement. Some trade union leaders will be as renowned in the 1990s as Jimmy Thomas was for his role in the 1930s.

I know the feelings that Torvill and Dean must experience, having performed with honesty and hard work and finding the contest rigged. The 22 million people who viewed the skating on television this week have reached their verdict of indignation, and that is what will happen tonight. Hon. Members will show their contempt for the sleazy deals of those people who enjoy champagne and caviare breakfasts and lunches or Savoy dinners.

We could give details of what has happened during the past couple of months. If that is what trade union leaders believe to be the answer, after 15 years of Thatcherism, I have no wish to identify myself with their contemptuous, phoney deals.

I say that because the role of the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers has been mentioned in great depth and detail. USDAW has been committed to the Keep Sunday Special campaign since 1985, and it was committed to the campaign in the 1986 Shops Bill debate.

I have been a member of USDAW since I was a shopworker at the age of 16. I have always respected the union and worked for it. Like my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, North-East, I have always been committed to the trade union movement. I have been sponsored by USDAW for the past 15 years, and am now a senior member of it.

However, the union's executive council recently took a decision that was not the decision of its 300,000 members —who, in May last year, decided unanimously to support the Keep Sunday Special campaign and my Bill. It was referred to as the Powell Bill, but it was sponsored and supported by Keep Sunday Special and, indeed, by USDAW. Without consulting the hon. Members who are sponsored by USDAW, the annual delegates' meeting or anyone else, the executive council took a decision. Therefore, Conservative Members were correct to attach the defeat of the Keep Sunday Special proposals to USDAW, because USDAW had a responsibility for that defeat.

We have to wonder what is happening when we see the sleazy deals that were done only last week between trade union leaders and Tesco workers. I also wonder whether a Bailey bridge was erected over the rift between the usual channels in respect of the Sunday Trading Bill. What happened has been passing strange, to say the least. I spent 10 years in the Whips office and this is the first time to my knowledge that there is to be a three-line Whip on Report but a free vote on Third Reading. It does not make sense, and I am sure—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. I hesitate to interrupt the hon. Gentleman, but he should relate his remarks to new clause 4, which deals with agreements between shopworkers and employers.

Mr. Powell

With all due respect, I was just coming back to that aspect of the new clause.

Members of all parties will appreciate that the support that we are receiving from this side of the House for certain issues is a farce, and perhaps a rigged farce. I shall conclude my remarks, and I know that you will be relieved to hear that, Mr. Deputy Speaker.

In The Guardian on 7 December 1993, Hugo Young referred to "Sunday Trading Bill Tests." He wrote: How many Labour MPs have had their brains so addled by years of defeat that they will surrender to one of the least convincing promises ever made by Capital to Labour? I am sure that that applies to some of our trade union leaders, too.

Mr. Tom Cox (Tooting)

The new clause has opened up the heart of the debate. The Minister's speech and the way in which he dealt with interventions from members of all parties made it clear that he has not done his homework. He could not deal satisfactorily with any of the points made by, among others, my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, North-East (Mr. Purchase) who moved the new clause.

Hon. Members know that the matters of the greatest concern are the rights and protection of workers. We know from day-to-day contact with our constituents that the people who work in the retail trade are invariably the most vulnerable. I listened with interest to the contribution of the hon. Member for Suffolk, Central (Mr. Lord) who touched on an important matter. If I understood him correctly, he was saying that if a worker was not happy with his terms and conditions of employment, and if the employer believed that the worker was going to become a little difficult, it would not be long before the employer would be advising the worker what he should do because he—the employer—did not intend to change the working patterns.

Comments have been made about the abolition of the wages councils. I shall not deal with that issue in detail, but there are already reports about the effect of that abolition, which took place only a few months ago. We know what is happening, but Ministers are making no attempt to reconsider. They are not saying that they were perhaps too hasty and did not consider the issue in the necessary depth or that they should seek to reintroduce protection for workers. It is to the credit of many Conservative Members that they are as worried as Labour Members about the lack of protection for working people.

6.15 pm

I shall cite an example to highlight the problem and perhaps the Minister will respond to it. A lady constituent came to see me. She has worked full time for a firm for seven years and is quite happy to continue working for that firm. As my hon. Friend the Member for Swansea, East (Mr. Anderson) said, the big companies are behaving themselves at the moment because they do not want any more adverse publicity than is already surfacing. The woman to whom I referred assumed that the company was also happy for her to continue in its employ, but she was called into the manager's office one day and told that the working patterns were being changed. She was offered part-time employment or redundancy, neither of which she wanted. Where is her protection as a worker? She is being forced to work part time or leave the firm altogether. That is but one example of the type of cases that are worrying many hon. Members.

The Minister did not respond in any way to many of the issues that were raised. My hon. Friend the Member for Ogmore (Mr. Powell) referred to industrial tribunals. There are any amount of tribunals, but, even if people receive legal aid, they are rarely satisfied with the outcome. Those of us who represent constituencies in the big cities know that people who believe that they are being forced to pay extortionate rent increases by rent assessment officers rarely win the cases that they take to the tribunal, even though they have a legal framework in which to present them. The Minister has not dealt satisfactorily with the issues raised by hon. Members, irrespective of party.

Mr. Peter Lloyd

We have debated tribunals at least twice during our consideration of the Bill. Tribunals can be most effective when employees make use of them and, clearly, Labour Members believe that when it suits their purpose. The hon. Member for Ogmore (Mr. Powell), who described tribunals as wholly useless, has tabled a later amendment on premium pay, which relies on industrial tribunals to reinforce it.

Does the hon. Member for Tooting (Mr. Cox) think that his hon. Friend is being absurd, ridiculous and stupid in trying to have his amendment made effective by that route or does it suit Opposition Members to condemn tribunals when they do not like the rule and to applaud them when they do?

Mr. Cox

That is an interesting point and my hon. Friend the Member for Ogmore will be able to deal with it himself when he speaks to his amendment. It is regrettable that the Minister should seek to introduce a party slant because, as he knows, while we have been debating the new clause, hon. Members on both sides of the House have expressed concern about the lack of protection for working people.

Of course there should be tribunals and of course the people who go to them sometimes win, but in the vast majority of cases the person loses, because the odds are stacked against him or her. Whether such people get legal aid is obviously important, but, as my hon. Friend the Member for Ogmore said, that will not apply in the cases that we are discussing.

We are entitled to expect from the Minister, not at some distant future date or in the other place but tonight, before Third Reading, a suitable and acceptable reply to what my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, North-East said about new clause 4.

Ms Glenda Jackson

I shall speak briefly to the new clause because it appears in my name as well as that of my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, North-East (Mr. Purchase). It has become clear from the debate that hon. Members on both sides of the House are concerned about the lack of worker protection on the face of the Bill. That is the central issue.

Major changes are being imposed on the lives of millions of working people in this country because of Sunday trading. As my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, North-East tellingly pointed out, most people who work in shops are represented in any possible dispute with their employers by no one other than Members of Parliament. It is our responsibility to speak for those who are not in a position to speak for themselves as a uniform or united group. It is our responsibility—indeed, our duty—to strengthen with the will of the House people in such confrontations, who are inevitably weak because they are individuals.

I sincerely hope that hon. Members on both sides of the House will find it in their hearts to support new clause 4.

Mr. Donald Anderson

Like the leadership of the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers, I believe in the essential goodness of human nature. Like them, I believe that the vast expenditure by the stores on cars and on lunches at the Dorchester was all incurred in the public interest, and because the stores have the interests of the workers at heart. Scarcely a moment of the day passes without the senior management of Tesco and Sainsbury saying to themselves, "What can we do now for our workers, poor chaps?"

If, perchance, my faith in human nature is not borne out in practice, I shall be reminded of the poor Scottish pastor in a story that our good friends from Northern Ireland probably know already. After his death, rather to his surprise, the pastor found himself not in heaven but in hell, with the flames licking round him. He looked up to the good Lord and said "O Lord, I didnae ken, I didnae ken." and the good Lord, in his infinite wisdom and mercy said, "Ye ken the noo." I expect that a little while after the shops have been given the powers granted in the Bill, our good friends in USDAW will make their plea to the House, saying, "We did not know, we did not know; our confidence was misplaced."

Initially, the Government did not wish to introduce any measure of employee protection—that was their main agenda—but, as a result of the concern expressed, they introduced what they claimed was some protection for workers. However, anyone who practises in industrial tribunals, as I have done on both sides, knows that the protection afforded is small indeed. Many shop workers will not be protected by their trade unions in any event, and they will be somewhat intimidated by the procedures, which can be spun out over a long period by wealthy employers who are usually legally represented and who know all the rules.

The poor litigant in person will lose heart as he sees the time slipping away, even if that person has sufficient commitment and is sufficiently gifted to take and continue his case—or, as is more likely, her case. As we are speaking of shop workers it is more likely to be a woman who goes to the tribunal, and she is more likely to be overawed and intimidated—

Dame Elaine Kellett-Bowman

That is a sexist remark.

Mr. Anderson

It is more likely to be a woman because more woman are employed in shops.

Dame Elaine Kellett-Bowman

That is not what the hon. Gentleman said. He said that a woman was more likely to be intimidated.

Mr. Anderson

I am sorry. If I unintentionally made a remark that proved offensive to the hon. Lady, I unreservedly withdraw it.

We know that the amount of compensation likely to be awarded by industrial tribunals is relatively small, and only in the rarest of cases will a tribunal reinstate a worker in the job from which he or she was dismissed. Therefore, there will be an enormous temptation for major stores, for whom the compensation likely to be awarded is small change, to get rid of any worker they think is being difficult and to go for an easygoing and complacement work force. I therefore reject as wholly inadequate the gift that the Government offer. As we say in some parts of Swansea, "Timeo Danaoset dona ferentes."

Furthermore, we should consider not only the Government's relatively last-minute insertion of the so-called employee protection provisions, but their attitude in other areas. I am thinking not of the wages councils, which some of my hon. Friends have already mentioned, but of the spirit and practice of the Deregulation and Contracting Out Bill, which is making a bonfire of controls. It would surely be consistent with the spirit of that Bill to remove the unfair burden that weighs upon employers.

With all due respect to the Minister, I should have thought that he would know what the Government seek to do in the deregulation Bill, and would realise the direct potential relevance of that Bill to what the Government seek to give in the Bill before us. Clearly if he were doing his job properly he would have been briefed about the potential relevance of the other Bill, so that he could tell us whether even the minor protection that the Government purport to give here is likely to be wholly illusory in practice, because what they give in this Bill they can easily take away tomorrow by using one of the orders under the deregulation Bill.

The Minister was wrong not to come here adequately briefed, but I hope that by the end of the debate he will be able to tell us clearly not only about the Government's current intention—that will probably disappear in smoke as soon as the Bill is passed—but that in no way can orders under the deregulation Bill be applied to the Bill before us in such a way as to allow the Government to take away later what they are offering now.

Rev. William McCrea

Many hon Members on both sides of the House have expressed genuine and deep concern about the protection of workers. It cannot be said that one side is more concerned than the other. I listened carefully to the Minister's remarks. He asked us to reject new clause 4, saying that in another place the Government may introduce a provision to close a loophole in paragraph 10 of schedule 3. However, he gave us no indication of the substance of such an amendment. He is therefore asking us to throw aside the substance of new clause 4 for something about which we do not have a clue. The Minister said that it was not desirable, at the stroke of a pen, to cast existing provisions aside. I do not doubt the hon. Gentleman's good faith, but, as he knows, his promise will not bind his successors. We should not be carried away by such a promise.

6.30 pm

I should like to refer to a matter that puzzles me. The Minister probably approaches this problem with a perspective and a philosophy different from those of other hon. Members, including Opposition Members. On the question of the protection of workers, I should like someone to explain what happens to an Opposition Member when he or she moves from the Back Benches to the Front Bench. The attitude of such people seems to change. They become willing to give Ministers the nod and to accept undesirable legislation. It seems that something dramatic happens: there is a road to Damascus conversion. The people of the United Kingdom deserve to be told why Opposition Front-Bench Members nod when a Minister gives them an assurance. If they were still on the Back Benches they would raise many of the matters that still trouble ordinary people.

Mr. Pike

The hon. Gentleman should be careful what he says. Many Opposition Front-Bench Members have consistently voted against this legislation and in favour of worker protection. My colleagues and I have done so and will continue to do so on Third Reading.

Rev. William McCrea

The nub of the matter is that we should not be confronted with this problem if the Opposition Front Bench had taken a stand against Sunday trading.

Mr. Bruce Grocott (The Wrekin)

What about your own lot?

Rev. William McCrea

As I said earlier, I do not understand the apparent unanimity between the two Front Benches.

Ms Ruddock

It should not be necessary to remind the hon. Gentleman that the decision was taken by the whole House, with extraordinary attendance, on a free vote. This was not a Labour Front-Bench decision, and I deeply resent the hon. Gentleman's suggestion that there has been collusion between Labour Front-Bench Members and the Government. I responded positively to the Minister's new clauses 1 and 2 because they were introduced as a result of points that we raised in Committee. It was most appropriate that I should acknowledge the Minister's positive response.

Rev. William McCrea

I remember the incident very well. To the best of my knowledge, Hansard will show that on that occasion the hon. Lady voted with the Government.

Ms Ruddock

On a free vote.

Rev. William McCrea

Yes, on a free vote. But this matter goes to the very heart of the industrial life of the community and of workers' rights. It is not good enough for us to tell the people that we are really concerned about workers' rights, but, at the same time, to support legislation that will remove many of those rights. The pious pleading from the Opposition Front Bench cannot be accepted.

Several hon. Members


Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Janet Fookes)

Order. If the hon. Gentleman does not give way, other hon. Members will have to resume their seats.

Rev. William McCrea

I must make it abundantly clear that the charge of collusion has been made by many hon. Members, and not just from this side of the House.

Mr. Kevin Barron (Rother Valley)

The hon. Gentleman's uncalled-for charge will be refuted from the Opposition Front Bench, with very good reason. There is no reason for such an allegation, from whatever part of the House. Can the hon. Gentleman tell us how often in the past 10 years he has gone through the Lobbies to keep that lot afloat?

Rev. William McCrea

I can assure the House that I shall use every opportunity for a free vote in the best interests of the people who sent me here. That is very different from the attitude of Opposition Members. The Bill strikes at the very heart of workers' rights. A basic right stems from the fact that the Lord's day is a special day. The hon. Member for Lewisham, Deptford (Ms Ruddock) should be defending people's rights.

Ms Glenda Jackson

Every amendment put forward in Committee for the purpose of protecting workers' rights and wages came from the Opposition, and when our proposals were voted on Members on the Government side voted categorically, totally and in unison against them.

Rev. William McCrea

As I was not a member of the Standing Committee, I shall accept what the hon. Lady says. However, Sunday trading is the basic problem, and these other matters are peripheral. Many hon. Members from all parts of the House have stood side by side in support of Sunday trading. Some of them ought to know better.

Madam Deputy Speaker

Order. I remind the House that we are dealing specifically with new clause 4. It seems to me that the debate is becoming very wide indeed. Hon. Members are doing re-runs on who voted and why. Let us return to the new clause.

Rev. Ian Paisley

The hon. Member for Rother Valley (Mr. Barron) has made an absurd allegation about how Ulster Democratic Unionist party Members vote. The hon. Gentleman would do well to consult Hansard to discover how we voted on questions concerning the miners and on matters of confidence—

Madam Deputy Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman is doing precisely what I said should not be done.

Rev. Ian Paisley

I apologise, Madam Deputy Speaker.

Rev. William McCrea

I do not propose to go down that road, but the hon. Member for Rother Valley (Mr. Barron) should examine the voting record of my hon. Friends and me. It is one of which we are rightly proud. Others will have to answer for their decisions. I shall certainly speak for myself and answer to my constituents for my votes on this legislation.

Mr. Alton

I support the hon. Gentleman's case. In the Standing Committee I represented the minority parties. After consultation with the other minority parties, I tabled amendments on employment protection. Those parties have overwhelmingly supported the new clause now before the House. I hope that all their hon. Members will go through the Lobby in support of the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, North-East (Mr. Purchase).

Rev. William McCrea

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his helpful intervention.

In conclusion, new clause 4 is important and it is worthy of our consideration. I do not believe that we should withdraw it on the promise that something may be done in another place. The House should support it tonight.

Mr. Purchase

In the light of events. I am not satisfied with the assurances given by the Minister. I apologise to him for not attending the meeting that he kindly offered. I assure him that that was entirely due to a misunderstanding between me and the Opposition Front-Bench spokesmen. However, I do not think that if I had gone to see him I would have been reassured on the substantive points that he wished me to bring to him. Just a few days ago, you assured me that there were no loopholes. Today, a few days later, you come and say that there may be one. I feel that belt and braces—

Madam Deputy Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman has forgotten that he is addressing me and not the Minister.

Mr. Purchase

I apologise for not using the correct terminology, Madam Deputy Speaker. I will finish the point and then conclude.

I apologise to the Minister for not attending the meeting, but it would not have been possible for me to be reassured on any of the substantive points that he asked me to bring to him. I am not a lawyer, but instinctively, intuitively and from my industrial experience I know that all employers find ways of minimising costs in the face of any law that this Government or any Government introduce. I therefore intend to press the new clause to a Division.

Mr. Peter Lloyd

Of course I accept the hon. Gentleman's apology. I should have liked to talk matters over with him. It would have been useful to go through several of the matters that he raised which troubled him. I did not promise him last time that there was no loophole. I said that I saw no loophole, but that I was taking legal advice. We have found a loophole in paragraph 10 of schedule 3. The hon. Gentleman's new clause does not cover it. That is why I offered to bring back suitable wordings in another place. I still intend to do that. Meanwhile, I hope that the House will reject the hon. Gentleman's new clause because it does not do what needs to be done.

Question put, That the clause be read a Second time:—

The Committee divided: Ayes 276, Noes 312.

Division No. 140] [6.41pm
Adams, Mrs Irene Dowd, Jim
Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE) Dunnachie, Jimmy
Allen, Graham Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth
Alton, David Eagle, Ms Angels
Anderson, Donald (Swansea E) Eastham, Ken
Anderson, Ms Janet (Ros'dale) Enright, Derek
Armstrong, Hilary Etherington, Bill
Ashdown, Rt Hon Paddy Evans, John (St Helens N)
Ashton, Joe Fatchett, Derek
Austin-Walker, John Faulds, Andrew
Banks, Tony (Newham NW) Field, Frank (Birkenhead)
Barnes, Harry Fisher, Mark
Barron, Kevin Flynn, Paul
Battle, John Forsythe, Clifford (Antrim S)
Bayley, Hugh Foster, Rt Hon Derek
Beckett, Rt Hon Margaret Foster, Don (Bath)
Beggs, Roy Foulkes, George
Beith, Rt Hon A. J. Fyfe, Maria
Bell, Stuart Galbraith, Sam
Benn, Rt Hon Tony Galloway, George
Bennett, Andrew F. Gapes, Mike
Benton, Joe Gerrett, John
Bermingham, Gerald George, Bruce
Berry, Dr. Roger George, Bruce
Betts, Clive Gilberth, Rt Hon Dr John
Blair, Tony Godman, Dr Norman A.
Blunkett, David Godsiff, Rogar
Boateng, Paul Golding, Mrs Llin
Boyes, Roland Gordon, Mildred
Bradley, Keith Graham, Thomas
Bray, Dr Jeremy Grant, Bernie (Tottenham)
Brown, Gordon (Dunfermline E) Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Brown, N. (N'c'tle upon Tyne E) Grocott, Bruce
Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon) Gunnell, John
Burden, Richard Hain, Peter
Byers, Stephen Hall, Mike
Caborn, Richard Hanson, David
Callaghan, Jim Hardy, Peter
Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge) Harman, Ms Harriet
Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE) Harvey, Nick
Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V) Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy
Campbell-Savours, D. N. Heppell, John
Canavan, Dennis Hill, Keith (Streatham)
Cann, Jamie Hinchliffe, David
Chisholm, Malcolm Hoey, Kate
Clapham, Michael Home Robertson, John
Clark, Dr David (South Shields) Hood, Jimmy
Clarke, Eric (Midlothian) Hoon, Geoffrey
Clarke, Tom (Monklands W) Howarth, George (Knowsley N)
Clelland, David Howells, Dr. Kim (Pontypridd)
Clwyd, Mrs Ann Hoyle, Doug
Coffey, Ann Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N)
Cohen, Harry Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)
Connarty, Michael Hughes, Roy (Newport E)
Cook, Frank (Stockton N) Hughes, Simon (Southwark)
Cook, Robin (Livingston) Hutton, John
Corbett, Robin Illsley, Eric
Corbyn, Jeremy Ingram, Adam
Corston, Ms Jean Jackson, Helen (Shef'ld, H)
Cousins, Jim Johnston, Sir Russell
Cox, Tom Jones, Barry (Alyn and D'side)
Cryer, Bob Jones, Ieuan Wyn (Ynys Môn)
Cunningham, Jim (Covy SE) Jones, Jon Owen (Cardiff C)
Cunningham, Rt Hon Dr John Jones, Lynne (B'ham S O)
Dafis, Cynog Jones, Martyn (Clwyd, SW)
Dalyell, Tam Jones, Nigel (Cheltenham)
Darling, Alistair Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald
Davidson, Ian Keen, Alan
Davies, Bryan (Oldham C'tral) Kennedy, Jane (Lpool Brdgn)
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli) Khabra, Piara S.
Davies, Ron (Caerphilly) Kilfoyle, Peter
Davis, Terry (B'ham, H'dge H'l) Kinnock, Rt Hon Neil (Islwyn)
Denham, John Kirkwood, Archy
Dewar, Donald Leighton, Ron
Dixon, Don Lestor, Joan (Eccles)
Dobson, Frank Lewis, Terry
Donohoe, Brian H. Litherland, Robert
Livingstone, Ken Quin, Ms Joyce
Lloyd, Tony (Stretford) Randall, Stuart
Llwyd, Elfyn Raynsford, Nick
Loyden, Eddie Redmond, Martin
Lynne, Ms Liz Reid, Dr John
McAllion, John Rendel, David
McAvoy, Thomas Robinson, Peter (Belfast E)
McCrea, Rev William Roche, Mrs. Barbara
Macdonald, Calum Rooker, Jeff
McFall, John Rooney, Terry
McKelvey, William Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)
Mackinlay, Andrew Ross, William (E Londonderry)
McLeish, Henry Rowlands, Ted
Maclennan, Robert Ruddock, Joan
McMaster, Gordon Sedgemore, Brian
McWilliam, John Sheerman, Barry
Madden, Max Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert
Maddock, Mrs Diana Shore, Rt Hon Peter
Maginnis, Ken Short, Clare
Mahon, Alice Simpson, Alan
Mandelson, Peter Skinner, Dennis
Marek, Dr John Smith, Andrew (Oxford E)
Marshall, David (Shettleston) Smith, C. (Isl'ton S & F'sbury)
Marshall, Jim (Leicester, S) Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)
Martin, Michael J. (Springburn) Smyth, Rev Martin (Belfast S)
Martlew, Eric Snape, Peter
Maxton, John Soley, Clive
Meacher, Michael Spearing, Nigel
Meale, Alan Spellar, John
Michael, Alun Squire, Rachel (Dunfermline W)
Michie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley) Steel, Rt Hon Sir David
Michie, Mrs Ray (Argyll Bute) Steinberg, Gerry
Milburn, Alan Stevenson, George
Miller, Andrew Stott, Roger
Mitchell, Austin (Gt Grimsby) Straw, Jack
Molyneaux, Rt Hon James Taylor, Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)
Moonie, Dr Lewis Taylor, Rt Hon John D. (Strgfd)
Morgan, Rhodri Taylor, Matthew (Truro)
Morris, Rt Hon A. (Wy'nshawe) Thompson, Jack (Wansbeck)
Morris, Estelle (B'ham Yardley) Turner, Dennis
Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon) Tyler, Paul
Mowlam, Marjorie Vaz, Keith
Mudie, George Walker, A. Cecil (Belfast N)
Mullin, Chris Walker, Rt Hon Sir Harold
Murphy, Paul Wallace, James
O'akes, Rt Hon Gordon Walley, Joan
O'Brien, Michael (N W'kshire) Wardell, Gareth (Gower)
O'Brien, William (Normanton) Wareing, Robert N
O'Hara, Edward Wicks, Malcolm
Olner, William Wigley, Dafydd
O'Neill, Martin Williams, Rt Hon Alan (Sw'n W)
Paisley, Rev Ian Williams, Alan W (Carmarthen)
Parry, Robert Wilson, Brian
Patchett, Terry Winnick, David
Pendry, Tom Wise, Audrey
Pickthall, Colin Worthington, Tony
Pike, Peter L. Wray, Jimmy
Pope, Greg Wright, Dr Tony
Powell, Ray (Ogmore) Young, David (Bolton SE)
Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lew'm E)
Prentice, Gordon (Pendle) Tellers for the Ayes:
Prescott, John Mr. Ken Purchase and
Primarolo, Dawn Ms Glenda Jackson.
Ainsworth, Peter (East Surrey) Baker, Nicholas (Dorset North)
Aitken, Jonathan Baldry, Tony
Alexander, Richard Banks, Matthew (Southport)
Alison, Rt Hon Michael (Selby) Banks, Robert (Harrogate)
Amess, David Bates, Michael
Ancram, Michael Batiste, Spencer
Arbuthnot, James Bellingham, Henry
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham) Bendall, Vivian
Arnold, Sir Thomas (Hazel Grv) Beresford, Sir Paul
Ashby, David Biffen, Rt Hon John
Aspinwall, Jack Blackburn, Dr John G.
Atkins, Robert Body, Sir Richard
Atkinson, David (Bour'mouth E) Bonsor, Sir Nicholas
Atkinson, Peter (Hexham) Booth, Hartley
Baker, Rt Hon K. (Mole Valley) Boswell, Tim
Bottomley, Peter (Eltham) Garnier, Edward
Bottomley, Rt Hon Virginia Gill, Christopher
Bowden, Andrew Gillan, Cheryl
Bowis, John Goodlad, Rt Hon Alastair
Boyson, Rt Hon Sir Rhodes Goodson-Wickes, Dr Charles
Brandreth, Gyles Gorman, Mrs Teresa
Brazier, Julian Gorst, John
Bright, Graham Grant, Sir A. (Cambs SW)
Brooke, Rt Hon Peter Greenway, Harry (Ealing N)
Brown, M. (Brigg & Cl'thorpes) Greenway, John (Ryedale)
Browning, Mrs. Angela Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth, N)
Bruce, Ian (S Dorset) Gummer, Rt Hon John Selwyn
Budgen, Nicholas Hague, William
Burns, Simon Hamilton, Rt Hon Sir Archie
Burt, Alistair Hamilton, Neil (Tatton)
Butcher, John Hampson, Dr Keith
Butler, Peter Hannam, Sir John
Butterfill, John Hargreaves, Andrew
Carlile, Alexander (Montgomry) Harris, David
Carlisle, John (Luton North) Haselhurst, Alan
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln) Hawkins, Nick
Carrington, Matthew Hawksley, Warren
Carttiss, Michael Hayes, Jerry
Cash, William Heald, Oliver
Channon, Rt Hon Paul Heathcoat-Amory, David
Clappison, James Hendry, Charles
Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford) Heseltine, Rt Hon Michael
Clarke, Rt Hon Kenneth (Ruclif) Hicks, Robert
Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey Higgins, Rt Hon Sir Terence L.
Coe, Sebastian Hill, James (Southampton Test)
Colvin, Michael Hogg, Rt Hon Douglas (G'tham)
Congdon, David Horam, John
Coombs, Anthony (Wyre For'st) Hordem, Rt Hon Sir Peter
Coombs, Simon (Swindon) Howard, Rt Hon Michael
Cope, Rt Hon Sir John Howarth, Alan (Strat'rd-on-A)
Couchman, James Howell, Rt Hon David (G'dford)
Cran, James Hughes Robert G. (Harrow W)
Currie, Mrs Edwina (S D'by'ire) Hunt, Rt Hon David (Wirral W)
Curry, David (Skipton & Ripon) Hunt, Sir John (Ravensboume)
Davies, Quentin (Stamford) Hunter, Andrew
Davis, David (Boothferry) Hurd, Rt Hon Douglas
Day, Stephen Jack, Michael
Deva, Nirj Joseph Jackson, Robert (Wantage)
Devlin, Tim Jenkin, Bernard
Dicks, Terry Jessel, Toby
Dorrell, Stephen Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)
Dover, Den Jones, Robert B. (W Hertfdshr)
Duncan, Alan Jopling, Rt Hon Michael
Duncan-Smith, Iain Kellett-Bowman, Dame Elaine
Dunn, Bob Key, Robert
Durant, Sir Anthony Kilfedder, Sir James
Dykes, Hugh King, Rt Hon Tom
Eggar, Tim Kirkhope, Timothy
Elletson, Harold Knapman, Roger
Emery, Rt Hon Sir Peter Knight, Mrs Angela (Erewash)
Evans, David (Welwyn Hatfield) Knight, Greg (Derby N)
Evans, Jonathan (Brecon) Knight, Dame Jill (Bir'm E'st'n)
Evans, Nigel (Ribble Valley) Knox, Sir David
Evans, Roger (Monmouth) Kynoch, George (Kincardine)
Evennett, David Lait, Mrs Jacqui
Faber, David Lang, Rt Hon Ian
Fabricant, Michael Lawrence, Sir Ivan
Fairbairn, Sir Nicholas Legg, Barry
Fenner, Dame Peggy Leigh, Edward
Field, Barry (Isle of Wight) Lennox-Boyd, Mark
Fishburn, Dudley Lester, Jim (Broxtowe)
Forman, Nigel Lidington, David
Forsyth, Michael (Stirling) Lightbown, David
Forth, Eric Lilley, Rt Hon Peter
Fowler, Rt Hon Sir Norman Lloyd, Rt Hon Peter (Fareham)
Fox, Dr Liam (Woodspring) Lord, Michael
Fox, Sir Marcus (Shipley) Luff, Peter
Freeman, Rt Hon Roger Lyell, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas
French, Douglas MacGregor, Rt Hon John
Fry, Sir Peter MacKay, Andrew
Gale, Roger Maclean, David
Gallie, Phil McLoughlin, Patrick
Gardiner, Sir George McNair-Wilson, Sir Patrick
Garel-Jones, Rt Hon Tristan Madel, Sir David
Maitland, Lady Olga Skeet, Sir Trevor
Major, Rt Hon John Smith, Sir Dudley (Warwick)
Malone, Gerald Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)
Mans, Keith Soames, Nicholas
Marlow, Tony Speed, Sir Keith
Marshall, John (Hendon S) Spencer, Sir Derek
Martin, David (Portsmouth S) Spicer, Sir James (W Dorset)
Mates, Michael Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)
Mawhinney, Rt Hon Dr Brian Spink, Dr Robert
Mayhew, Rt Hon Sir Patrick Spring, Richard
Mellor, Rt Hon David Sproat, Iain
Merchant, Piers Squire, Robin (Hornchurch)
Mills, Iain Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John
Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling) Steen, Anthony
Mitchell, Sir David (Hants NW) Stephen, Michael
Moate, Sir Roger Stem, Michael
Monro, Sir Hector Stewart, Allan
Montgomery, Sir Fergus Streeter, Gary
Moss, Malcolm Sumberg, David
Nelson, Anthony Sweeney, Walter
Neubert, Sir Michael Sykes, John
Newton, Rt Hon Tony Tapsell, Sir Peter
Nicholls, Patrick Taylor, Ian (Esher)
Nicholson, David (Taunton) Taylor, John M. (Solihull)
Nicholson, Emma (Devon West) Taylor, Sir Teddy (Southend, E)
Norris, Steve Temple-Morris, Peter
Onslow, Rt Hon Sir Cranley Thomason, Roy
Oppenheim, Phillip Thompson, Sir Donald (C'er V)
Ottaway, Richard Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)
Page, Richard Thornton, Sir Malcolm
Paice, James Thurnham, Peter
Patnick, Irvine Townend, John (Bridlington)
Patten, Rt Hon John Townsend, Cyril D. (Bexl'yh'th)
Pattie, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey Tracey, Richard
Pawsey, James Tredinnick, David
Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth Trend, Michael
Pickles, Eric Twinn, Dr Ian
Porter, Barry (Wirral S) Vaughan, Sir Gerard
Porter, David (Waveney) Viggers, Peter
Portillo, Rt Hon Michael Waldegrave, Rt Hon William
Powell, William (Corby) Walden, George
Rathbone, Tim Walker, Bill (N Tayside)
Redwood, Rt Hon John Waller, Gary
Renton, Rt Hon Tim Ward, John
Richards, Rod Wardle, Charles (Bexhill)
Riddick, Graham Waterson, Nigel
Rifkind, Rt Hon. Malcolm Watts, John
Robathan, Andrew Wells, Bowen
Roberts, Rt Hon Sir Wyn Wheeler, Rt Hon Sir John
Robertson, Raymond (Ab'd'n S) Whitney, Ray
Robinson, Mark (Somerton) Whittingdale, John
Roe, Mrs Marion (Broxbourne) Widdecombe, Ann
Rowe, Andrew (Mid Kent) Wiggin, Sir Jerry
Rumbold, Rt Hon Dame Angela Wilkinson, John
Ryder, Rt Hon Richard Wilshire, David
Sackville, Tom Wolfson, Mark
Sainsbury, Rt Hon Tim Wood, Timothy
Scott, Rt Hon Nicholas Yeo, Tim
Shaw, David (Dover) Young, Rt Hon Sir George
Shaw, Sir Giles (Pudsey)
Shephard, Rt Hon Gillian Tellers for the Noes:
Shepherd, Colin (Hereford) Mr. Sydney Chapman and
Sims, Roger Mr. Derek Conway.

Question accordingly negatived.

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