HC Deb 08 July 2002 vol 388 cc640-1

Lords amendment: No. 31.

Alan Johnson

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

Mr. Deputy Speaker

With this it will be convenient to consider Lords amendments Nos. 32, 33, 78, 80 and 91.

Alan Johnson

Amendment No. 31 deletes subsection (3)(a). It is a minor amendment that relates to the processing of tribunal claims between the Employment Tribunals Service and ACAS. Our intention was to provide through regulation a circumstance where uncontested applications would not be passed to ACAS, so that its resources could be better focused on applications where both parties acknowledged the dispute.

As a result of debates in the other place, however, it became clear that valuable conciliation time could be lost if, rather than sending an application to ACAS immediately, we waited to find out whether the respondent would contest it. The consequence would be a delay before ACAS could begin work and thus a delay to the processing of claims, which is not in the best interests of tribunal users. We believe that the overall user interest should take priority over a small saving of ACAS's time and that, on balance, subsection (3)(a) is undesirable. Accordingly, we drafted amendment No. 31 to delete it.

The amendment will have the effect that an originating application to an employment tribunal that falls within the duty of ACAS to conciliate will continue to be sent to ACAS immediately. The same applies to notices of appearance.

Lords amendments Nos. 32 and 33 are technical and consequential on Lords amendment No. 31. Lords amendments Nos. 79, 80 and 91 are also technical and consequential on the removal of section 19(c) of the Employment Tribunals Act 1996, which is affected by clause 24(3)(b). I commend these amendments to the House.

5.45 pm
Mr. Hammond

The essential point is that Lords amendment No. 31 will remove the discretion to create exceptions by regulation. As the Minister will know, we are always delighted when the scope for discretion by regulation is reduced—something for which we always argue in Committee. It is interesting that the Government appear to have been more readily persuaded of the merits of removing such discretion in the other place. I wonder whether that has something do to with the simple arithmetic that prevails there.

I am pleased to say that we are delighted with the Lords amendment, which will improve the Bill. I wish that the Minister were able to tell us that many similar amendments would remove such discretion in regulations, but sadly this is the only such change.

Lords amendment agreed to.

Lords amendments Nos. 32 and 33 agreed to.

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