HL Deb 07 December 1983 vol 445 cc1081-2
Lord Harris of High Cross

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question standing in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government what proposals they have in mind for the repeal of the Truck Acts.

The Minister of State, Privy Council Office, and Minister for the Arts (The Earl of Gowrie)

My Lords, in the new year the Government will issue for consultation proposals to provide up-to-date protections on deductions from pay. Subsequently the Government will take the earliest opportunity to repeal the Truck Acts and related legislation and simultaneously to enact new provisions concerning deductions and the protection of employees.

Lord Harris of High Cross

My Lords, I thank the noble Earl for that encouraging reply. I wonder if I may question him a little more on the timing of the Government's repeal. In the first place I should like to ask whether the Government have gone through the preparatory stage of denouncing the ILO Convention No. 95, which is necessary to clear the way. Secondly, bearing in mind that every week that we delay in removing these antique statutes £1,500 million in money is shunted around the country on pay day and exposed to wage snatches and that kind of hazard, will the noble Earl press his colleagues to move forward with all possible speed in this matter?

The Earl of Gowrie

My Lords, I share the dislike of the Truck Acts that is felt by the noble Lord, Lord Harris. I can confirm that the ILO Convention No. 95 has been denounced by the Government. That was done on 16th September of this year, and we therefore cease to be bound by its terms on 16th September, 1984. We can introduce new legislation after that. We must of course get it right, and that is why we shall be initiating consultations early in the new year.

Lord Blyton

My Lords, is the noble Earl the Minister aware that in the last century the Truck Acts had to be passed to prevent the exploitation of the working class? Surely in this age we are not going to see a Conservative Government abolish the Truck Acts and leave working people absolutely open to exploitation by their employers?

The Earl of Gowrie

My Lords, I have no doubt that the Truck Acts served a useful and desirable purpose in the last century, but that is not to say that they are of any use in the present century.

Lord Orr-Ewing

My Lords, will my noble friend bear in mind that it may take some time for the Truck Acts to be repealed by both Houses of Parliament? Would it not be a good idea, pending release from our obligations under the ILO, to get on with the job so that we are ready to bring in the new legislation immediately we are released from the ILO undertakings? Also, in view of the fact that he is the Minister with responsibility for civil servants, will my noble friend say whether the Civil Service is setting the pace by paying staff by cheque? Will he also say what incentives he is providing to that effect?

The Earl of Gowrie

My Lords, it is precisely because we want to make some haste in this matter that we are to issue consultation documents in the new year. In respect of the Civil Service, the Government are seeking to encourage the use of cashless pay and simplified payroll systems throughout the economy. All new entrants to the non-industrial sections of the Civil Service are required to accept monthly pay by credit transfer as part of their conditions of service. Most non-industrial civil servants are already paid monthly by credit transfer. There has also been a recent inducement scheme encouraging staff to transfer to cashless pay on a monthly basis, the inducement being £100 to each individual who so transfers.

Industrial civil servants are, of course, constrained by the Truck Acts and there is therefore no present possibility of compelling staff to accept a transfer to cashless pay.

Lord Dean of Beswick

My Lords, can the noble Earl indicate to the House whether the people responding to the consultative documents, such as the trade unions representing the low-paid workers, will receive better consideration of the points that they put than they did some time ago when the present Government were scrapping legislation that had been placed on the statute book years ago? That legislation, which was in fact passed by Conservative Governments, protected the low-paid workers, and it was scrapped in what some believe was a contravention of the ILO agreements existing at the time.

The Earl of Gowrie

My Lords, the views of trade unions and others will of course be fully taken into account.

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