HL Deb 11 February 1992 vol 535 cc589-90

3.8 p.m.

The Lord Chancellor (Lord Mackay of Clashfern)

My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a second time.

The Bill consolidates the enactments relating to trade unions, employers' associations, industrial relations and industrial action. It is the first consolidation in this field and includes legislation going back for more than a century. While the views of the Members of this House on the merits of the many changes of more recent origin may differ, on one matter I believe we can all unite and that is the undoubted need for a consolidation. Enactments relating to individual employment rights were consolidated in the Employment Protection (Consolidation) Act 1978, and some of the provisions in that Act have been re-enacted in this Bill.

The Bill has been drafted by parliamentary counsel at the Law Commission. The work involved in producing the Bill has been considerable and will be much appreciated, I believe, by those who have to consider and advise on the law in this area. The work on the part of the Joint Committee in examining a Bill such as this is also, I am sure, much appreciated by all noble Lords.

If your Lordships are content to give the Bill a Second Reading, it will be referred in the usual way to the Joint Committee on Consolidation Bills.

Moved, That the Bill be now read a second time. —(The Lord Chancellor.)

Lord Wedderburn of Charlton

My Lords, I rise very briefly to support the Motion put forward by the noble and learned Lord for this very important consolidation Bill. It is a Bill in which the interests of citizens and lawyers are happily congruent in making the law more accessible. As the noble and learned Lord has said, the Bill consolidates legislation which goes back over a century. It will be the future reference point for debate—a debate which will go on—about the law on industrial relations. It will therefore take the place of the Trade Union and Labour Relations Act 1974—TULRA, as it is known in the trade. Since I had a small part in preparing that Bill, perhaps I can say that it is a sentimental occasion. It also brings back, as the noble and learned Lord said, the thought of how we can thank those who have prepared this very difficult consolidation Bill, which includes not only a table of derivations but also a table of destinations, and how, in thanking them, we can in anticipation thank the Joint Committee on Consolidation Bills, which we know from past experience will subject it to a close and careful scrutiny as regards content and style.

In no partisan sense do I note that this consolidation Bill is also a first in another respect. In 1975 provisions were put on to the statute book to implement a directive of the European Community on redundancy procedures. It is now public knowledge that the European Commission opines that this is not an adequate implementation. In this Bill we are quite properly re-enacting those provisions. I believe that this is the first time that such a delicate matter has arisen on a consolidation measure. Such issues, however, do not in any way diminish our thanks to those who have drafted the Bill and our support for the Bill. We gladly support the Motion moved by the noble and learned Lord.

Lord Stoddart of Swindon

My Lords, before my noble friend sits down, I know he does not wish to be partisan in these matters but perhaps I may ask him whether it is his opinion that this consolidation Bill will make it easier for a Labour government to repeal the oppressive and repressive measures on industrial relations which have been enacted over the past 11 years.

Lord Wedderburn of Charlton

My Lords, I think I had already sat down.

Lord Rochester

My Lords, from these Benches I should like to congratulate the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor and those who have helped to compile this much needed Bill. It will be useful, especially to people like personnel managers, trade union officers and even lawyers, who must have been finding it increasingly difficult to find their way through the maze of industrial relations legislation introduced by both Conservative and Labour governments—like the noble and learned Lord, the Lord Chancellor, and the noble Lord, Lord Wedderburn, I shall not now say for better or for worse—over the past 20 years.

I am sure it will also be very helpful to those of your Lordships who take a special interest in these matters. We welcome the Bill most warmly.

The Lord Chancellor

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Wedderburn of Charlton, for what he said and also to the noble Lord, Lord Rochester. The noble Lord, Lord Stoddart of Swindon, was getting into the subject matter of the Bill; so far as that is concerned, the only question is whether or not this is a proper consolidation.

On Question, Bill read a second time, and committed to the Joint Committee on Consolidation Bills.