HC Deb 26 July 1999 vol 336 cc31-2

Lords amendment: No. 22, after clause 27, to insert the following new clause—Employment rights: employment outside Great Britain.—(1) In section 285(1) of the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992 (employment outside Great Britain) for "Chapter II (procedure for handling redundancies)" there shall be substituted "sections 193 and 194 (duty to notify Secretary of State of certain redundancies)". (2) After section 287(3) of that Act (offshore employment) there shall be inserted— (3A) An Order in Council under this section shall be subject to annulment in pursuance of a resolution of either House of Parliament.". (3) Section 196 of the Employment Rights Act 1996 (employment outside Great Britain) shall cease to have effect; and in section 5(1) for "sections 196 and" there shall be substituted "section". (4) After section 199(6) of that Act (mariners) there shall be inserted— (7) The provisions mentioned in subsection (8) apply to employment on board a ship registered in the register maintained under section 8 of the Merchant Shipping Act 1995 if and only if—

  1. (a) the ship's entry in the register specifies a port in Great Britain as the port to which the vessel is to be treated as belonging,
  2. (b) under his contract of employment the person employed does not work wholly outside Great Britain, and
  3. (c) the person employed is ordinarily resident in Great Britain.
(8) The provisions are—
  1. (a) sections 8 to 10,
  2. (b) Parts II, III and V,
  3. (c) Part VI, apart from sections 58 to 60,
  4. (d) Parts VII and VIII,
  5. (e) sections 92 and 93, and
  6. (f) Part X."."

4.7 pm

The Minister of State, Department of Trade and Industry (Mr. Ian McCartney)

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

Madam Speaker

With this, it will be convenient to take Lords amendments Nos. 306, 325 and 329.

Mr. McCartney

Section 196 of the Employment Rights Act 1996 generally limits the operation of the Act to employees who ordinarily work in Great Britain. It is a complicated section resulting from several consolidations, some relating to legislation at least a quarter of a century old.

After careful consideration, we concluded that the complexities are unnecessary. International law and the principles of our domestic law are enough to ensure that our legislation does not apply in inappropriate circumstances. There must be some proper connection with the UK first, and in such cases it is right that UK law should apply. Other legislation has no need for such restrictions. We believe that now is the time to simplify the provisions, in line with our commitment to good regulation.

Repealing that section has a number of other significant advantages. It ensures that we fulfil our European Union obligations, which, in some circumstances, mean that rights that are derived from Europe should apply to individuals who may not currently be covered. It extends employment rights to employees temporarily working in Great Britain and thus facilitates the implementation of the posting of workers directive, which otherwise would require further regulations later this year. It also means that people who may have worked for some years in the UK, but who are nevertheless excluded from claiming under the Employment Rights Act 1996, will be able to rely on the protection of our legislation, as should be the case. The recent case of Carver v. Saudi Arabian Airlines demonstrates the need for this provision.

I do not claim that the amendment will have dramatic effects in practice—few cases arise, and the additional costs to employers will be minimal. Nevertheless, it takes forward an important principle, and modernises and simplifies our legislation. The position of mariners is special, and special provisions apply to them at present under sections 196 and 199. The amendment ensures that their position is unchanged.

The implications of doing otherwise can be fully examined in the longer term. The new powers in the Bill to confer rights—clause 20, which would become section 23 of the Act—will provide us with the opportunity to consult on whether changes to the provisions applying to mariners would be desirable.

The first subsection in the new clause makes a parallel change to the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992, removing the territorial restriction in that Act on rights to be consulted about mass redundancies. Subsection (2) is a purely technical change to powers in the 1992 Act to extend rights to offshore installations. Currently no procedure is specified for making the order. The amendments will provide for negative resolution, in line with the procedure that applies under the Employment Rights Act 1996.

Amendments 306, 325 and 329 are consequential to the repeal of section 196.

Lords amendment agreed to.

Lords amendment No. 23 agreed to.

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