HL Deb 24 March 1988 vol 495 cc340-52

6.29 p.m.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Northern Ireland Office (Lord Lyell) rose to move, That the draft order laid before the House on 10th December be approved.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, the draft order contains provisions analogous to those enacted in Great Britain in Parts I, II, and IV of the Wages Act 1986. Provisions analogous to Part 111 which deals with changes in the redundancy rebate scheme are already in operation in Northern Ireland following the enactment of the Redundancy Rebates (Northern Ireland) Order 1986. The central purpose of the present order, like the Wages Act, is to reduce burdens on business and to help to promote employment, especially for young people. It sweeps away legislation and controls that were designed to deal with yesterday's social attitudes and yesterday's problems, such as the Victorian tommy shop and the Edwardian sweat shop. However, it also gives rights to workers to ensure that they receive the wages due to them and will help to break down outmoded barriers of status and conditions between manual and non-manual workers. A further benefit is that to some extent, it will reduce opportunities for crime.

Northern Ireland has its own separate legislative and administrative framework for the regulation of wages. But in general it has followed Great Britain law in this transferred area. Presently the legislation falls into two parts: namely, the Truck Acts (Northern Ireland) 1831–1940 and the Wages Councils (Northern Ireland) Order 1982.

The main body of truck legislation dates back to the last century and therefore applied throughout the United Kingdom. Where more recent enactments affecting truck provisions were made, there was corresponding Northern Ireland legislation. The Wages Councils (Northern Ireland) Order 1982 was similar to the Great Britain Wages Act 1979. Consequently until the 1986 Great Britain legislation there were no significant differences between Great Britain and Northern Ireland as regards legislative provisions in the wages field.

However, although there were no legislative differences, the growth of wages councils in Northern Ireland was quite different and, if I may say so, somewhat more forward-thinking. Thus we have only nine wages councils covering some 7 per cent. of our workforce as opposed to the 11 per cent. coverage of the 26 Great Britain wages councils prior to the Wages Act 1986.

It is important that in following the 1986 Act we should do so in an informed manner. Separate consultations were held in respect of truck and wages councils legislation. The consultations produced no local peculiarities warranting special consideration. However, it is fair to say that the trade union movement was opposed to the proposals set out in the consultative documents. After giving careful consideration to the views expressed, the Government considered that parity in the field of wages regulation should be preserved.

The draft order at Parts II and III covers two areas which I propose to deal with separately. Before doing so, I should point out that Part I of the order contains technical provisions relating to title and interpretation. Part II of the order deals with controls on the payment of wages. It sweeps away a host of ancient and obsolete laws, based on the Truck Acts, governing the way in which wages are paid.

The word "truck", which is used to mean a system of barter, indicates the archaic nature of the present legislation. Perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Graham, is more expert in the field than I. However, I believe that truck legislation dates back to 1465. That was before the era of King Henry VII, who looks down upon our deliberations in the Prince's Chamber. I wondered whether that was indeed Tudor legislation of 1485. However, I was assured that the date was 1465, which was clearly in the reign of Edward IV. The existing legislation which we are repealing this evening dates back to the 1831 Act which was passed two years prior to the Factories Act 1833 which forbade children under nine years of age being employed to work in factories.

That was the social and economic background to the enactment of the Truck Act 1831 which provides for the payment of wages to manual workers to be in coin of the realm. It was intended to prevent the practice, then prevalent, of workers having to accept payment in kind—that is in the goods manufactured by their employers or in tokens which could only he used in their employers' shops, the so-called tommy shops.

The order, especially in Part II, sweeps away the provision whereby manual workers—and I emphasise only manual workers—can insist on being paid in cash because it acts as an impediment to the spread of cashless pay and perpetuates outmoded differences of status between manual and other workers. More and more our survival as a manufacturing nation is linked to the use of modern highly sophisticated machinery. We can no longer say to manufacturers and potential foreign investors that it is all right to use modern equipment on the shop floor but that the wages of the workers using such machinery must still be put into individual wage packets in cash.

By repealing these archaic laws we are recognising the move to cashless pay. Indeed, we no longer pay the unemployed in cash. An unemployed person now receives his benefit by Giro cheque and many modern employers use other non-cash methods of payment such as electronic credit transfer. However, I should point out that while the order will facilitate the move to cashless pay it does not take away any existing contractual rights to payment in cash. It does not force any employer to change to a non-cash payment system if he does not want to.

The other thing that will be achieved is greater security. The opportunity for wages snatches will be greatly reduced, as will the attendant risks of violence to those in charge of the money; for example, between a bank and an employer's premises. The Act of 1831 did not forbid deductions from wages by way of fines for misconduct and bad workmanship and the Truck Act 1896, which is the other main truck Act, was passed to bring order into the operation of deductions. However, employers found that the fining system was ineffectual, that it was always the same worker who was fined for being late and that the concept of fining workers until they do better had no effect in the production of better work and higher standards. Also social conditions improved and by 1921 the change was so marked that the chief inspector in Great Britain was able to say in his annual report that truck no longer persisted as a system of management. Indeed only one or two complaints per year regarding the truck system are now received in Northern Ireland and no prosecutions have been taken in recent years.

The Act of 1896 is of no little complexity and the report of the truck committee which was presented to Parliament in 1908 stated, at paragraph 3: It is well known that the provisions of the statutes have given rise to great difficulties of interpretation"—

perhaps they were not alone in that— and that judges of great authority have taken different views as to their meaning".

So far as concerns many of us, things have therefore not changed greatly.

The order also sweeps away the outdated provisions of the 1896 Act and introduces an important new and modern set of rights for all workers, be they manual or non-manual, in respect of deductions from pay. Thus it will make unlawful any deduction from pay not provided for in statute, in the contract of employment or by written agreement. The order also provides extra protection for workers in retail employment in that deductions related to stock shortages or cash deficiencies will be limited to 10 per cent. of wages. This will apply to supermarket till operators, petrol station forecourt attendants and similar workers. These new rights are enforceable by way of complaint to an industrial tribunal.

I have tried to explain to your Lordships about Part II of the order. Part III of the order effects reforms to the wages council system and here although Northern Ireland legislation is the same as that in Great Britain the system has grown up in a somewhat different way so that Northern Ireland has only nine wages councils compared to 216 in Great Britain. In tracing the growth of the Northern Ireland system, I start with the Trade Boards Act of 1909, following which separate boards, subsequently termed wages councils, were established for Ireland. Then with the enactment of the Government of Ireland Act 1920 the legislation applied to and was enforced from Northern Ireland. However, as new Great Britain legislation in this field was introduced, it was paralleled by similar Northern Ireland legislation.

The reforms, and particularly those set out in Part III of the order, are aimed at simplifying the requirements that wages councils impose on industry. The order therefore restricts wages councils to the setting of a single minimum basic hourly rate and a single minimum rate for overtime together with a limit on the deductions which may be made for accommodation. Your Lordships will appreciate that that is the kind of situation in which one would find young hotel workers and others who might need to be accommodated on the employer's premises or nearby. These simplified orders will do away with needless red tape and somewhat heavy and archaic legislation.

Also, young persons under 21 will be taken out of the scope of the councils altogether. This will help young persons to get their feet on the employment ladder, by allowing employers to offer jobs at rates which they can afford and which young people are willing to accept without wages councils requiring higher rates of pay.

The order will also make it easier to review, and if need be, to change the scope of, or abolish existing councils. This will provide more flexibility and enable the system to adapt more readily to changes in the industries affected. However, no powers are being taken which would enable new councils to be formed.

I hope that my preliminary tour through the order will help your Lordships. In conclusion, perhaps I may reiterate that the order introduces much needed change and is fully consistent with, and an important step in, the Government's policy of deregulation which seeks to remove unnecessary government-imposed regulations and restrictions. However, it will not only improve industrial efficiency and help to promote employment but will give rights to workers to ensure that they receive the wages due to them.

The order benefits all workers directly by giving them new rights in relation to deductions from pay and it benefits them indirectly by its contribution to an efficient labour market, the attainment of which will enable us to compete better in international markets and produce real sustainable, productive jobs.

Few pieces of legislation—certainly relating to Northern Ireland—can claim such a wide removal of the accumulation of different sorts of controls dealing with problems which go back as far as we are aware to 1831—I shall not go back over the centuries. The order, like the Great Britain Act, is one of the most radical acts of deregulation in the field of wage payment ever undertaken. It replaces 11 entire Acts and one Order-in-Council with just one piece of legislation. The order is an important part of the Government's strategy to ease burdens on employers, improve employment prospects especially for young workers and to tackle today's problems, not those of the 1830s, 1900 and perhaps 1896.

With that, and with gratitude for the close study of the order that I have seen in your Lordships' House. I beg to move.

Moved, That the draft order laid before the House on 10th December be approved.—(Lord Lyell.)

6.45 p.m.

Lord Graham of Edmonton

My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for the care he has taken in preparing for the debate and for giving the House a very fair resumé of the history of this matter. The Minister will acknowledge that this is in effect a Second Reading of the Wages (Northern Ireland) Bill; in other words, there are being visited on Northern Ireland in this order precisely the same provisions as were contained in the Wages Bill which went through this House at Second Reading on 6th June 1986.

I should like to begin by repeating what I said in that debate on 6th June: this is a mean and repugnant Bill. It is shoddy and shabby. It is worthy of this Government. It is an attack on the living standards of the poorest in this community and those who presently have to suffer from low wages-.—[Official Report, 6/6186: cot 1223.] It is my assertion that all that the Government have done in the fullness of time is to visit all of those meannesses on the people in Northern Ireland who will be affected by this legislation.

We are not just talking about Northern Ireland as a region or as a part of the United Kingdom. We are talking about an area which already suffers from the lowest wages in Great Britain, has the highest cost of living in Great Britain, and where they pay more for food, coal and electricity than in any other part of the country.

With no offence intended to the Minister on a personal level—as I think he will understand—it is the height of hypocrisy to say that the purpose of this order is to promote employment, especially for young people. I should like the Minister, because he, or his advisers who also advise another place have had many years of experience, to come up with some facts. He needs to tell this House, and more importantly he needs to tell the people of Northern Ireland, why they are to suffer under this order. There will be statistics and measuring rods. We do not want the generalisations of which the Northern Ireland Committee of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions complained. When they examined the consultation documentation they told the Minister, and they told me, that the document is: heavily laden with cliches such as unnecessary obstacles to the creation of more jobs; 'pricing young people into jobs', 'administration burdens on employers'; 'the rigidities of the order inhibits employers in the development of sensible wage structures'.". The night is young and we have all the time in the world for the Minister to produce the facts and the figures. He has not produced any, he has regurgitated the generalised premises and theses upon which he and his colleagues have argued—if that is not a question of semantics—the case they want to make.

With regard to the consultation process, the Minister will be aware that the trade unions, on behalf of their members in Northern Ireland, do not accept that there has been proper, full and meaningful consultation in these matters. Of the people who are affected by the wages council nexus and changes, it should be noted that 62 per cent. of the wages council workers are women. When considering the impact of this legislation on women I think that the House ought to have before it the views of the Equal Opportunities Commission for Northern Ireland. Its views are quite clear. The Commission says that: Women's paid employment in Northern Ireland is concentrated in certain sectors, such as the clothing and textile industries. These are industries in which Wages Councils represent the main form of wage determination. In some Wages Council industries, workforces are almost exclusively female—for example, in shirt-making women comprise 93.6% of employees.". The Equal Opportunities Commission for Northern Ireland is in favour of simplification. Many of the things that the Minister said this legislation was designed to do are unexceptionable; that is to say, they are acceptable.

One must consider the damage that will be done to what is already an underclass in our society. Those whose rates of pay are governed by wages councils are inevitably living at the lowest end of the wages nexus. Wages councils offer a minimum degree of protection. Will the Minister tell the House what has happened to the wages inspectorate? I should like him to give us some facts and figures. I was given some facts and figures two years ago and I can tell him what has been happening to the wages council inspectors.

I see that the Minister in effect is saying, "Come on. Show us your muscle. Tell us what it is". In 1986 the Government announced that there would be a reduction of 85 in the number of wages council inspectors who enforce the law. Are the Minister and his colleagues so sanguine that there is a willingness on the part of employers to comply with wages council orders and pay levels? They were happy enough in 1986 to reduce the number of inspectors by 85.

What is the position in Northern Ireland? The Minister must know. I want to know, and should like him to tell the House, what has happened in the past five years, say, about the number of inspectors who investigate the situation in Northern Ireland? I can tell the Minister what happened two years ago when I was dealing with this matter. Mr. Terry Sullivan of the Union of Shop Distributive and Allied Workers —I must declare an interest since I have a connection with that union—told me: It is our opinion that not only will the Wages Bill do nothing whatsoever for the employment prospects of young people but, in addition, the proposals will actually lead to them suffering massive wage cuts". Mr. Sullivan of USDAW told me at that time that: Last year Wages Council Inspectors found substantial underpayment of rates that have the force of law. In the retail nonfood sector underpayments were revealed at 858 of the 1,254 establishments visited". Through his advisers, will the Minister tell the House tonight the history of the situation in Northern Ireland? In other words, will he tell us what has been happening there, including how many inspectors there are, whether the number is the same and whether they found a detrimental situation.

Two years ago I was able to tell the House that we were talking in terms of millions of pounds which ought to have been paid to people who were already on very low wages. They were adults who may very well have been on wages of £80 for a 40-hour week. So far as wage rates are concerned, retailing and distribution are not the best paid of trades.

Let us consider the effects on young people. In relation to adult pay, the pay of young people has already suffered a blow. Taking the adult rate at 21 years and over as 100 per cent., in 1979 the 18–20 year-olds received 61 per cent. of the adult rate; in 1984 that was down to 55 per cent. For women, in 1979 the 18–20 year-olds received 74.6 per cent. of the adult rate; in 1984 they received 67.9 per cent. So there had already been a reduction.

I should like the Minister to confirm whether or not he supports his colleague Mr. Viggers who, when introducing this order in another place, said: Clearly, however, if young people under the age of 21 are restricted to a minimum requiring them to be paid the same as adults, removing that restriction and enabling them to be employed at lower rates can only improve their job prospects".— [Official Report, Commons, 7/3/88; col. 129.] Will the Ministers show us the evidence upon which that assertion is founded? It is the same assertion as was made by advisers to the Minister two years ago. Will he give us the evidence upon which it is said that the less you pay young people, more of them will find work? Will he produce such evidence in respect of Northern Ireland.

Is the Minister happy and concerned about what will happen to the 37,000 people in Northern Ireland who will be affected by the removal of the protections, minimal and flimsy as they are, which hitherto under the wages council orders they have enjoyed? The Minister has an opportunity this evening to give us that evidence.

As regards the wage rates which are the lot of young workers at present, we are talking in terms of people who are enjoying (if that is the right word) £40 or £45 a week. The Minister tells us that that wage level can be removed. When I made some inquiries about this matter, I found that the CBI and the Institute of Personnel Managment did not share the Government's views. The CBI said: there was little enthusiasm among our members for the suggestion that all young workers should be excluded from coverage by wages councils". Why does the Minister ignore the views of the CBI? The Institute of Personnel Management said: Many respondents argued against removing young workers from the purview of the machinery, stating that they doubted if they would be able to recruit at rates lower than those now in force". The Minister is under an obligation to tell us why he is making worse the wretched lot of young workers who may have found a job and who currently are having to settle for very low rates of pay. Why is he making their position even worse by removing the protection from them?

The Minister knows that the Northern Ireland trade unions object to this order in respect of Part II. They are opposed to the repeal of the Truck Acts for two reasons. First, they consider that the payment of wages by cheque or credit transfer should not be imposed an all employees by statute law; this is a matter to be negotiated between the parties, bearing in mind that banking facilities are not so readily available in all parts of Northern Ireland as they are on the mainland. In his reply will the Minister tell us whether he is satisfied that banking facilities are as prevalent, readily accessible and available as they are in Northern Ireland? One must also bear in mind that the trade unions feel that most employees prefer to be paid by cash. That is not the only argument, but it needs to be borne in mind.

Another objection to the order is because the consultation paper smacks far too much of relying upon the work of the Department of Employment in Britain and is not sufficiently related to the conditions in Northern Ireland.

I think that the Government have a hit of a cheek to dress up what is substantially an attack upon the young people of Northern Ireland-6,000 young people who are already in some difficulty, whether with or without a job. It is their living standards that will be affected. The order will have the effect of cutting their living standards. It has nothing to do with creating jobs.

I very much hope that the Minister will be able to say something to encourage those whom I seek to represent in Northern Ireland, who are already living under difficult conditions. I hope that the Government can show that they are serious about providing jobs with good wages and conditions for them. More importantly, I shall not be satisfied with arguments but with facts and statistics. Unless I receive them, I shall come back time and again.

7 p.m.

Lord Harris of Greenwich

My Lords, I agree with what the noble Lord, Lord Graham of Edmonton, said about the position of 21-year olds. I noted that the Minister indicated that he believed, as a result of the passage of the issue that we are discussing, that there would be an improvement in the employment prospects of young people. I wonder whether he is serious about that. What is the evidence upon which he bases it? I have heard no evidence to justify such a sweeping assertion. I look forward very much to hearing the noble Lord make a serious effort to meet the anxieties which have been expressed on this issue.

Having said that, I do not share the views of the noble Lord, Lord Graham, to which he referred in the latter part of his speech. Like the Minister, I believe that there is considerable advantage in favour of moving to cashless pay. As he said, it is right to do that in the special circumstances of Northern Ireland where it is clearly desirable, so far as it can be done, to remove the risk of robberies of large sums of cash. On that issue I have no difficulty with the Government's proposals.

I am not an enthusiast of the Truck Acts on either side of the Irish Channel. No doubt they fulfilled a useful role at one stage in our history, but I can see no case for them being perpetuated. However, I should be interested to hear, if the noble Lord, Lord Lyell, were able to tell us, when the last prosecution took place in Northern Ireland for a breach of the Act.

Perhaps I may deal with one point of detail on Crown employment which is referred to in paragraph 11(3). I understand that this provision does not apply to service with regard to members of the armed forces. What is the reason for the exclusion of any association established under the 198G Reserve Forces Act? Perhaps the noble Lord can deal with that question.

Lord Lyell

My Lords we are very grateful to have two fresh faces entering into the cauldron of Northern Ireland politics. As the noble Lord, Lord Graham, was kind enough to point out, the night is fairly young, but thoughts on that subject are not always well received by my noble friends who surround me.

Lord Graham of Edmonton

My Lords, where are they?

Lord Lyell

My Lords, I referred to "my noble friends". I was waiting for the noble Lord, Lord Graham, in a moment of athleticism with one bound to cross the Floor. It would be most interesting. However, he may have noticed from the columns of the Official Report in another place that my honourable friend had about seven minutes to answer a number of questions. I hope that I shall be able to assist the noble Lord. He has asked for a number of facts and figures. I hope that I shall be able to help him in that area.

The noble Lord suggested that there would be suffering under this order. I wonder whether he is correct in that suggestion. By removing these 11 ancient Acts going back to 1831 and 1836, does he suggest that the tommy shop and the sweatshop are alive and well in Northern Ireland with regard to the young people under the age of 21? The noble Lord, Lord Harris, also raised this point, as did the noble Lord, Lord Graham. I think that the noble Lord would agree that Northern Ireland has moved on a great deal from that situation. I believe that work conditions in Northern Ireland are in many respects ahead of those in other parts of the United Kingdom and are in line for the broad majority of the work people.

On querying the facts and figures, the noble Lord first asked how many workers would be affected. About 220,000 manual workers are at present in employment in Northern Ireland. This comprises about 45 per cent. of the employed workforce of Northern Ireland. The noble Lord asked about the work of the wages inspectors in Northern Ireland. The last complete year for which we have figures available for the work of wages inspectors was 1986. The inspectorate carried out 1,960 visits around Northern Ireland. In the course of these visits they undertook 1,300 full inspections. They dealt with nearly 300 complaints in Northern Ireland. About 150 employees—that is about 0.5 per cent. of all employees—within the scope of wages councils were found in 1986 to be underpaid. The average underpayment was about £190 per employee; that is, 0.5 per cent. of the employees covered by the wages council legislation were found to be underpaid. The inspectors were clearly able to take action to rectify that aspect.

The noble Lord made an excellent point, —I admired him for it—when referred to the legislation as a mean attack on people who arc at present covered by wages councils legislation in Northern Ireland. The protection of these work people should be concerned with their employment prospects and, above all, the jobs that they require.

Lord Graham of Edmonton

My Lords, perhaps I may—

Lord Lyell

My Lords, I shall finish this point. Perhaps the noble Lord would be patient; I listened quietly to his excellent contribution. Perhaps he would accept my contribution on this paragraph, whatever he believes I deserve in style marks or technical merit.

The protection of people covered on the wages council legislation should be concerned with employment prospects—the jobs that they require. The legislation that we have before us tonight should be considered in the light of its likely effect on jobs. If the noble Lord and his noble friends are concerned about the position of jobs, they may wish to consider their position on this issue. The order before us tonight is repealing legislation which is unintentionally restricting job opportunities. If the noble Lord had a point perhaps I may take it briefly.

Lord Graham of Edmonton

My Lords, I am most grateful. Do I understand that, under the wages councils legislation 0.5 per cent. of the people were affected? The Minister mentioned the figure of 200,000. We are therefore talking about 1,000 workers, for whom it was found that they were underpaid by, I think he said on average, £190. We are talking of 1,000 workers who were deprived of their rights under the wages councils orders.

Lord Lyell

My Lords, perhaps I may abbreviate what the noble Lord is saying. I think that he is in danger of making a somewhat lengthy comment on the paragraph. The figure I have is 153; that is 0.4 per cent. of all employees falling within the scope of a wages council in 1986 were found to be underpaid by an average of £190 per employee.

Lord Graham of Edmonton

My Lords, perhaps I may—

Lord Lyell

My Lords, the noble Lord has interrupted once. Doubtless he will wish to do so many more times. If he wishes to check my mathematics I shall go back to where I found the first figure that I gave him.

Lord Graham of Edmonton

My Lords, perhaps I may —

Lord Lyell

My Lords, no. We must have order. The noble Lord perhaps finds it amusing. Maybe I do, too.

We estimate that there are 220,000 manual workers in Northern Ireland. If I gave the noble Lord the impression that all of these were under the wages councils, I am sorry. There are 220,000 manual workers, not those under wages councils. Thus there are 153 workers, that means 0.4 per cent. who are underpaid. I have a note that only 37,000 workers are in the wages council industries and 220,000 in Truck Act coverage, not wages councils. I hope that his mathematics and mine might match up on that.

The noble Lord also had an interesting query about the Northern Ireland Congress of Trade Unions. It was said that the document was riddled with cliches about figures. I am afraid we do not have any separate studies on these aspects in Northern Ireland. I could give the noble Lord a bibliography of sundry gentlemen—I presume that they are gentlemen—who have given NISR discussion papers, Manpower Research Group discussion papers and so on, but I am afraid that we do not have any separate studies, so I cannot help him. If we are able to obtain any information I shall write briefly and I hope it will not be an undue weight of paper weighing down the noble Lord.

The noble Lord also had the thought that all the 37,000 workers under the wages councils in these industries would lose protection. Only about 7,400 of that number who are under 21 will be removed from the legislation by the order.

The noble Lord asked about the number of wages inspectors. I am advised that the number has remained unchanged at two for the past few years. Certainly the justification for a reduction in the number of wages inspectors in Great Britain rested essentially on two propositions which were clearly stated by my right honourable and honourable colleagues at the time of the passage of the Wages Act through your Lordships' House and another place. There were two measures. The simpler wages order meant that checking the pay of workers would be a good deal quicker and, secondly, the removal of the complicated provisions from the wages orders would lead to an improvement in the level of compliance. The Wages Inspectorate's statistics for 1987 show that what the Government said in 1986 turned out to be correct.

The noble Lord asked me about the view of the Equal Opportunities Commission in Northern Ireland. I go out of my way to refute any suggestion that the Equal Opportunities Commission's view is that women make up a large proportion of the workers whose cases we are discussing this evening, and that the proposed reforms in the order would indirectly discriminate against women. If the protection under the wages council legislation should currently favour women in preference to men, any reduction of this imbalance would not be discrimination. But there is separate legislation with which we are not dealing this evening, fortunately on sex discrimination. That might wait for another evening. Wages councils apply to any lady workers over the age of 21.

Another subject raised was banking hours. This too affects many of us in Northern Ireland. Banking hours and banking facilities are very similar and as efficient as those on this side of the water. The banking hours are becoming increasingly diversified, depending upon which bank or financial institution one keep one's savings with, but the basic opening hours are 30 hours each week. There is also lunchtime and Saturday morning opening, so the actual opening hours can range upwards to 37½ hours and sometimes to 40 hours a week. The basic opening hours in the main clearing banks are 23½ hours per week. As an experiment late last year the banks opened at a limited number of main city centre branches at lunchtime. These branches are open for an additional five hours a week. This experiment will be continued and extended to other branches, but I am unable to say which or what the coverage will be over the Province in future.

The Trustee Savings Bank in Northern Ireland is already open for 32 hours per week. The noble Lord will also be aware that wages may be, and in an increasing number of cases are, paid into building societies. These have branches in all high streets in Northern Ireland as well as in Great Britain, so the noble Lord will accept that workers who are paid other than in the coin of the realm are able to obtain cash for their needs and are able to regulate their financial affairs at a time that suits them.

There was a further query. I was asked why we went against the Institute of Directors, the Institute of Personnel Managers and the CBI. Certainly we listened to all the views expressed, but on this occasion our consideration was that the wages councils tended to set the wage for young persons too high in relation to adults, although in some cases they also put the age at which someone moves on to the adult rate too low. This has also happened in many industries not covered by the wages councils' legislation as a result of national wage bargaining and bargains struck by some, but not all, trade unions. The effect of this practice has been—we have found this in our studies—to make it more difficult for some youngsters to obtain jobs than would otherwise have been the case.

I was taken to task about the comment of my honourable friend in his remarks in another place, at col. 129. I stand by what he said. It also hangs on the last thought that I had in trying to answer the noble Lord. No, the whole thrust of this legislation, apart from Parts II and III which I have already explained, is that, as I hope, it will help to place young people into work, but it is the employers who provide the job opportunities. I shall not go on to suggest that the younger person is not always able to produce the standard of work which may require a little experience. Many of us in your Lordships' House know how that can follow on.

I hope that I have answered the bulk of the queries raised by the noble Lord. I am sure he will accept that I have made an attempt to do so. I shall read carefully his remarks to see whether I am able to give him more facts and figures. He said he wanted facts and figures. I regret that in my mathematics my 153 did not match up to his 1,000. I hope that I have corrected that matter. The base figure was 37,000, 0.4 per cent. was in the region of 153 and there are 220,000 manual workers.

The noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, asked me about the date of the last prosecution under the Truck Acts. I am afraid I am unable to tell him the date or the court before which this case appeared. I shall find out and will write to him. I hope that we may have an opportunity on another evening, or perhaps in another forum, to discuss the relevance of that interesting law case.

The noble Lord queried Article 11(3) in relation to Crown employment. That paragraph states that Part II of the order does not apply to service as a member of the naval, military or air forces of the Crown, but does apply to employment by associations established for Part VI of the Reserve Forces Act 1980. That provision does not cover service with the reserve or auxiliary forces; namely, the Royal Naval Reserve, the Royal Marine Reserve, the Territorial Army, the Army Reserve, the Air Force Reserve or the Royal Auxiliary Air Force. However, it covers employment by associations established for the purposes of organisation and administration of her Majesty's military and air forces and their reserves. Therefore one is at one remove from being in the reserves.

The duties of the associations include the provision and maintenance of buildings, campsites, airfields and aerodromes for the Territorial Army, the Royal Auxiliary Air Force, the organisation of and recruitment for those reserve forces, and the liaison in connection with employers who will be working in those particular fields.

I hope that that will satisfy the noble Lord, Lord Graham. I believe that he referred to col. 1233 of Hansard, but when I looked I found the wise words of his noble friend Lord Wedderburn. However, I looked back and found the words of the noble Lord, Lord Graham, at column 1223. The noble Lord will find that the figure of 93.6 per cent. was reiterated by his honourable friend in another place, the honourable Member for Kingston-upon-Hull.

I hope that my comments go a long way towards explaining the order before the House this evening. We hope that it will be of considerable assistance to employers and of no little assistance to employees in Northern Ireland.

On Question, Motion agreed to.

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