HC Deb 18 May 2004 vol 421 cc951-3
John Robertson

I beg to move amendment No. 51, in page 153, line 44, at end insert— '(3A) Where an employer has failed to comply with the requirements of this section, a complaint may be presented to an employment tribunal on that ground—

  1. (a) in the case of failure relating to representatives of a trade union, by the trade union,
  2. (b) in any other case, by any of his employees who are affected employees.
(3B) Where the tribunal finds a complaint under subsection (3A) above well-founded it shall make a declaration to that effect and may order the employer to pay appropriate compensation to such descriptions of affected employees as may be specified in the award. (3C) In this section—
  1. (a) "appropriate compensation" means such sum not exceeding thirteen weeks' pay for the employee in question as the tribunal considers just and equitable having regard to the seriousness of the failure of the employer to comply with his duty.
  2. (b) "affected employee" means an employee who is a member of the scheme or who would have been eligible to become a member if a prescribed decision within the meaning of subsection (1) had not taken effect.
(3D) Chapter 2 of Part 14 of the Employment Rights Act 1996 shall apply for calculating the amount of a week's pay for any employee for the purposes of subsection (3C) above.'.

Madam Deputy Speaker

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following amendments:

No. 52, in clause 231, page 154, line 7, at end insert'; Or (c) proposes to reduce the contributions which the employer pays to the personal pension scheme,'.

No. 42, in clause 232, page 154, line 25, after 'ballots', insert 'where it is necessary for the purpose of selecting employee representatives'.

No. 50, in clause 232, page 154, line 44, at end insert— '(4A) Consultation regulations shall require that—

  1. (a) the employer consults any recognised trade unions with a view to seeking their agreement to the measures to be taken;
  2. (b) in the course of those consultations the employer shall—
    1. (i) consider any representations made by the recognised trade unions; and
    2. (ii) reply to those representations and, if he rejects any of those representations, state his reasons.
(4B) For the purposes of subsection (4A) above a recognised trade union is an independent trade union recognised to any extent for the purpose of collective bargaining in relation to the employees concerned.'.

John Robertson

I will try to make this short. In fact, I will not try; given the time, it will be very short. I thank the trade union Amicus for all the help and support that is has given me and my hon. Friend the Member for Hamilton, South (Mr. Tynan) and many other Labour Members. I think that we can safely say that, by the end of this week, we will have left pensions in a much better state—some might say that the situation could not have got worse.

The purpose of amendment No. 51 is to suggest that a clear sanction should be specified and that there should be a ready route through which complaints can be brought. It is important that those who do not consult in a proper manner are brought to book and complaints taken care of properly. In Committee, I discussed for at least 10 minutes what the word "consultation" meant. We should bring people to book for not consulting properly and the amendment would take care of that.

Amendment No. 52 specifies that, where an employer reduces a contribution to a personal pension, the consultation arrangements will apply. Why the arrangements would not apply, I cannot imagine. It seems sensible to me that whoever has a pension should be told if the contributions are to be reduced. To reduce the contributions without telling someone, or at least seeking their opinion, strikes me as bizarre.

Amendment No. 50 is intended to ensure that consultations are meaningful and undertaken with a view to seeking agreement. It would oblige the employer not just to consider but to respond to representations before a decision is taken. That goes along with the previous amendment. It is important not only that people have the opportunity to make representations but that they receive an answer.

Malcolm Wicks

The key principle that we intend to enshrine in regulation is that, where trade unions are recognised by an employer, the only circumstance in which an employer will be able to consult on pension changes using another mechanism will be where employees have specifically agreed an approved alternative approach to information and consultation.

The role of trade unions is crucial. We take the issue seriously and we will consult trade unions and others in developing these ideas and drawing up regulations. It is right that workers and their trade unions are consulted about this vital element of the industrial package. Given the spirit of my remarks, I ask my hon. Friend to withdraw his amendment—

It being 7 o'clock, MADAM DEPUTY SPEAKER,pursuant to Order [this day], put forthwith the Questions necessary for the disposal of proceedings to be concluded at that hour.

Amendment negatived.

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