HL Deb 16 March 1978 vol 389 cc1540-3

6.11 p.m.

Report received.

Clause 1 [Payments to redundant workers in the shipbuilding industry]:

Lord McCLUSKEY had given notice of his intention to move Amendment No. 1: Page 1, line 22, leave out from (" Shipbuilders ") to second (" and ") on page 2, line 11.

The noble and learned Lord said: My Lords, the Amendments in my name on the Order Paper fall into two groups. Nos. 1, 2, 4, 6, 7, 9, 10 and 11 all raise matters which the House discussed at the Committee Stage. There have been discussions about these Amendments in the course of the day through the usual channels, and I understand that it is agreed, certainly, with the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy, that it would be for the convenience of the House if we did not discuss this group today. Accordingly, I shall not be moving them. The other group of Amendments—Nos. 3, 5, and 8—deal with a quite separate issue of a relatively technical character and I understand that there is no difficulty about our discussing this group today. Accordingly, with that explanation, Amendment No. 1 is not moved.

[Amendment No. 2 not moved.]

Clause 2 [Supplementary provisions relating to schemes]:

Lord McCLUSKEY moved Amendment No. 3: Page 3, line 9, leave out subsection (2).

The noble and learned Lord said: My Lords, with Amendment No. 3 I should like to consider Amendments Nos. 5 and 8. These Amendments are of a minor and technical character and are for the purpose of clearing up doubt about the powers of the Secretary of State to make a provision in the scheme which he has already announced his intention to make. Noble Lords will recall that the Government published an outline of the scheme which it intends to make under the Bill. It was published in a Written Answer in another place on 7th February. As I think your Lordships will know, you will find it in the Commons Hansard of that date, in columns 475 to 478. That outline included a provision (paragraph 11) reading— Re-employment of a beneficiary under the scheme by a relevant company would be conditional upon the refund by the employee of a proportion of any lump sum payment calculated in proportion to the length of time for which the employee has been redundant".

The method of calculating the amount to be repaid is a little complex, but the purpose the Government have in mind is quite clear. As the House knows, the Bill is intended to alleviate hardship for those who lose their jobs because of the crisis in demand for large ocean-going ships. Given the nature of the crisis, it is to be expected that once a shipbuilding worker has become redundant there will be no opportunity for him to return to the industry in the foreseeable future. Nevertheless, it is not inconceivable that the occasional individual may return to another job in his trade with another company coming within the terms of the Bill, and that within a short time. If this were, exceptionally, to happen it would obviously be absurd for him to retain the whole of the sum of public money—in some cases quite a large sum—which was paid in recognition of the permanent loss of his job.

We do not expect this to happen except in the rarest of cases but I am sure that noble Lords will agree that it is right for the Government to provide against this contingency by requiring that an appropriate portion of the redundancy payment be repaid in such circumstances. That is the object of the provision to which I have referred.

As already indicated, it is the Government's intention to include an appropriate article in the order making the scheme under the Bill. However, I am advised that there is serious doubt whether this could effectively be done in the order without some specific enabling power in the Bill itself. The proposed Amendment, which would add a new subsection (7)(a) to Clause 2 of the Bill, is intended to clear up that doubt. That is the Amendment No. 5.

The other two related Amendments are consequential upon the main Amendment. Their purpose is to define the word "prescribed"—that is prescribed in the order making the scheme wherever it occurs in Clause 2, amended as proposed. At this stage I beg to move Amendment No. 3.


My Lords, I shall start by expressing gratitude to the noble and learned Lord, Lord McCluskey, and also to other noble Lords on the Government Front Bench, for having agreed not to move today the group of Amendments to which the noble and learned Lord referred. I shall say no more than that, no doubt because of printing difficulties, we heard about these only yesterday afternoon and many of my noble friends did not know about them until late today.

The three Amendments Nos. 3, 5 and 8 to which the noble and learned Lord has addressed his remarks are straightforward and not controversial and I can tell my noble friends that I think they are necessary and will be a good addition to the Bill. I therefore commend them to your Lordships' House.

Viscount SIMON

My Lords, I thank the noble and learned Lord and his colleagues for the action they have taken. My noble friends would also be very happy with the three Amendments which he is proposing to press upon us.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

[Amendment No. 4 not moved.]

Lord McCLUSKEY moved Amendment No. 5:

Line 34, at end insert— (" (7A) A scheme under this Act may provide that where any person—

  1. (a) is made redundant by a relevant company;
  2. (b) receives payments under the scheme; and
  3. (c) is subsequently re-employed by a relevant company within such period, begitnning with the date of his redundancy, as may be prescribed,
that person shall be required to make such repayment of the sums paid to him under the scheme as may be prescribed and to such person as may be prescribed.")

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

[Amendments Nos. 6 and 7 not moved.]

Lord McCLUSKEY moved Amendment No. 8: Page 4, line 19, at end insert— ("(11) In this section "prescribed", in relation to a scheme under this Act, means prescribed by the scheme in question.")

The noble and learned Lord said: My Lords, I have already spoken to this with previous Amendments. I beg to move.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 3 [Financial Provisions]:

[Amendments Nos. 9 to 11 not moved].