Previous Section Home Page

Clause 21


Amendment made :

No. 3, in line 26 after applies,' insert--

(aa) an order under section 19,'.-- [Mr. Fowler.]

Column 188

Clause 23

Short title, commencement and extent

Amendment made :

No. 5, in line 14 at end insert--

(bb) section 19,'.-- [Mr. Fowler.]

Order for Third Reading read.

4.26 am

Mr. Cope : I beg to move, That the Bill be now read the Third time.

The Bill removes unnecessary restrictions and, in so doing, widens the employment opportunities for women and young people. It also contributes to a new national framework for training. It simplifies the regulation of business and strikes a fairer balance between employers and their employees. At the same time, it takes away no vital safeguards from anyone.

It is not a revolution in employment law, but an important and constructive measure which should enjoy the support of the House. 4.29 am

Ms. Jo Richardson : Nearly five months ago, along with many other hon. Members, I sat on these Benches for the Second Reading of the Bill and heard speech after speech from Conservative Members the like of which I had never heard in the House before. All of a sudden, the Government wanted to improve the lot of women : after years of eroding women's rights and opportunities, they had apparently seen the light. The more cynical of the commentators observed that the Secretary of State's personal road to Damascus had to do less with ending discrimination than with the realisation that the votes of women would determine the result of the next general election--and I hope they will.

I was prepared to give the right hon. Gentleman the benefit of the doubt. After all, the Bill was going to allow women to clean dangerous machinery and to go down the mines : what more could any self-respecting woman want? Then I thought, "Wait a moment. What about a universal maternity grant?" The Government abolished that. "What about maternity leave as of right?" The Government are the only Government in western Europe to refuse us such provisions, all of which are connected with employment. "What about improved child care facilities, which are crucial to women who are working?" We have the least publicly funded child care facilities in Europe. "What about parental leave?" Time after time, the Government disgracefully block the European draft directive. "What about equal pension and retirement ages?" We debated that specifically, but the Government say that the position is far too complicated at present.

I looked through the Bill in vain for a major contribution to reducing sex discrimination at work. There was a long-overdue repeal of section 51 of the Sex Discrimination Act, but only in relation to employment and training. There was nothing to counter, for example, sexual harassment at work, which is a major obstacle to women remaining in some jobs ; nothing to end low pay, a phenomenon that affects women disproportionately ; nothing to recognise the contribution to the economy of part-timers, most of whom are women. In the last sitting on Report we moved a new clause that would have given part-time workers full employment rights, but the

Column 189

Government showed what they really thought of women workers, particularly part-time women workers, by denying them a set of basic rights that are available almost everywhere else in the European Community.

If truth be told, most of the gestures towards women in the Bill have been forced on the Government by Europe. They do not, however, begin to make a start on the fundamental discrimination, which is very deep-seated ; instead they have been used callously by the Government as a mask to hide the real aims of the Bill. Having exhausted their attacks on trade unions, the Government have turned their attention back to employees and afresh to unpaid union officials. The removal of the rights to written disciplinary procedures and reasons for dismissal of many employees are unnecessary and bad enough ; the removal of the status of civil servants from people working in the Skills Training Agency is a disgrace. Many such employees are following a Civil Service career. I was impressed--I thought about it carefully only a few minutes ago--when my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Strang) said that many people were proud to be civil servants. That is indeed the case, but overnight, without the option of a transfer elsewhere in the Civil Service, they are no longer to be public servants. The loss of rights in the Bill, and in much of the legislation of the past decade, is now accompanied by a reduction in the ability to seek redress when the remaining rights are infringed. Lay officials--shop stewards--are to be limited in the paid time off they are allowed for trade union activities. We had a debate about that tonight. It is clearly intended to limit the amount and quality of advice that such officials are able to offer fellow workers. As one of my hon. Friends pointed out, shop stewards often assist employees who take cases before an industrial tribunal.

The Bill will allow the chairs of tribunals to charge an applicant £150 if he wishes to proceed with a case. But the most disturbing of all the clauses is that which "allows" young people to work unrestricted hours in factories and shops. That clause is a disgrace. Young people aged between 16 and 18 will, when asked, be required to work more than nine hours per day, more than 48 hours a week--and many will have to start work before seven in the morning and finish after eight at night. They will have no right to refuse to work those hours.

Statistics show that the younger one is the more likely one is to have an accident. YTS accident rates have doubled over the past three years. Young people need special protection. The Opposition realise that, and so does Europe. However, the Government respond by introducing a Bill that contravenes the European social charter. Earlier, the Government rejected new clauses that would have helped the disabled. What a disgrace that they should have been turned down. They would at least have made the Bill worth while.

The Bill represents a missed opportunity. There can be no doubt that the number of young people coming on to the labour market will fall by almost one quarter by the early 1990s. Something must be done, but the answer is surely not deregulation--which Conservative Members cling to like a sinking ship. It will not solve anything. I wish we could persuade the Government to face up to the crying need for a proper training programme, adequately funded and supervised, and offering real jobs at the end of it.

The unemployed need training and retraining, but so do other workers and women returning to the labour market after taking care of their children or of their elderly or

Column 190

disabled relatives. Such are the initiatives that will provide the answers in a changing labour market and to discrimination against women, which is still rife. The so-called Employment Bill does nothing to provide any answers, and I urge my right hon. and hon. Friends to vote against its Third Reading.

4.37 am

Mr. Wallace : When the Bill received its Second Reading, my right hon. and hon. Friends tabled a reasoned amendment, which was voted on, which stated that, while we welcomed certain parts of the Bill-- specifically those extending equal opportunities to women--we expressed regret that the Bill failed to provide adequate protection for young people and diminished many employees' rights.

We hoped that a number of the Bill's provisions could be amended during its Committee and Report stages, but it has been clear throughout that the Government were unwilling to accept even the most reasonable of the Opposition's amendments and insist instead on the Bill being as they want it, without making any concessions. I commend the first part of the Bill in respect of equality for women. I do not envisage that it will mean a return to sending women down coal mines, as has sometimes been graphically suggested by those most opposed to that part of the Bill. It is more likely to permit women pursuing engineering courses and who are currently unable to take up employment in mining to do so. That will open up opportunities for women that do not currently exist.

As the hon. Member for Barking (Ms. Richardson) indicated, the Bill's most sinister provision is that relating to the employment of young people. While we accept that there is a large volume of anomalous legislation, and do not quibble about it being removed from the statute book, the risk is that doing so will put the baby out with the bath water. It appears that many forms of protection that have existed for many years, with good reason, will also be removed. Not only Opposition Members have expressed concern ; throughout our debates quotations from bodies such as the CBI have suggested that the Bill could lead to the exploitation of young people by unscrupulous employers.

In passing the Bill, we have to disassociate ourselves from at least one important part of the European social charter. I find it difficult to accept that such legislation can be advanced in the name of progress when we are taking a step back from our international obligations.

The Bill restricts the rights of individual employees in a number of important ways--with regard to disciplinary procedures, time off for trade union duties and the period of employment necessary to qualify for a statement of reasons for dismissal. As we have debated at some length, there is the opportunity for employers to insist on pre-hearing reviews and the necessity for employees wanting to pursue a case to have to put down a deposit. In a number of cases the Government have argued that the Bill is taking down barriers and relieving the burden on small businesses.

However, as it did before Second Reading, the British Institute of Management has written to many Members of Parliament as it looked forward to Report and Third Reading, specifically about the extension of the qualifying period for a written statement of reasons for dismissal. It

Column 191

accepts that that brings the period into line with the qualifying period for a claim of unfair dismissal. However, it states : "we do not see this as a comprehensive argument in its favour. 78 per cent. of BIM members, when questioned in October last year, stated that the current level of employment protection was about right'. Only 11 per cent. thought there was too much'.

That gives the lie to the Government's contention that in some way the Bill will lift the burden on small businesses. It appears that a large number of businesses think that the balance is about right. The Bill does not stem from any real desire to lift burdens but is a manifestation of an attitude that pervades the Government, who consider industry to be a battlefield between employers and employees in a constant battle as to which side should get the upper hand. Quite clearly, they are taking the opportunity to give the upper hand to employers. The Bill is a rejection of any idea of a social dimension to 1992 and greater European unity. Many of our continental counterparts see industry as more of a partnership. The Government totally repudiate that view, and the Bill is a manifestation of their attitude.

As I said earlier in regard to equal rights for women employees, we commend some of the Bill's provisions, but its balance is such that, not least because the Government have been extremely unwilling to accept any amendments to it, have struck with what they want to put on the statute book and have been deaf to even reasoned argument, we shall oppose the Bill on Third Reading.

4.43 am

Mrs. Audrey Wise (Preston) : The Bill is mean and nasty and therefore is a good reflection of the Conservative party and is very worthy of the Government. It is mean and nasty because it takes away even quite small rights from employees while making sanctimonious statements about extending freedom. A Government who bother to remove the right to written reasons for dismissal and to written descriptions of disciplinary proceedings are a mean Government. A Government that remove protection from young people, which may lead to them working nights and for unlimited hours, are a nasty Government. The Government have done that in the name of extending opportunities for young people, which is disgraceful.

The Government have said that the Bill extends employment opportunities for young people and that it will increase the number of jobs available to them. When challenged to say how that would happen, as the Bill only removes protection and makes it possible to employ young people in conditions in which they should never be employed, the Government said, "The Bill will not create jobs offering unlimited hours, constant nights or fancy shifts." If that is so, why does the Bill make provision for such conditions? The Government cannot say that opening the door to unlimited hours or shift work so as to provide more opportunities for young people to work will not have that effect and yet produce more jobs. That is a completely untenable argument.

I hope that the Bill will have no effect, but if it does it will be no thanks to the Government--it will be despite them. They sought to extend not the rights of any worker or any good employer but simply the rights and freedoms of the worst employers to compete in the worst possible

Column 192

way. The Bill is bad not only for working people but for good employers. I was astonished by how often in Committee I argued the case of the good employer. I felt justified in doing so because any decent employer will look with dismay at the freedom given to his competitors to compete at the lowest possible levels of personnel management.

The Government have said that the Bill extends opportunities for women. I hope that the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Wallace) is right in saying that the Bill will extend opportunities for genuine careers for women, but I doubt it. I do not know whether it will result in women going down pits, but if it does not, it will simply be because employment in the mining industry is contracting. It is an expression of a peculiar sense of humour to extend to a new group of people who have not asked for such an extension the right to work down a mine when employment of people who want to work in mines is being forcibly reduced.

The Bill shows that the Government do not care about working people, or about the sensible procedures of the House. The Government have not made any concessions and they have not felt it necessary to produce reasoned arguments. Their arguments in Committee at times bordered on the bizarre. They have not been embarrassed when they have been caught out with the absence of facts.

We have been discussing young people, and I want to refer once again to the fact that the Bill changes the definition of young people. The glorious freedom to work nights will now begin when youngsters are aged 15 years eight months.

When I asked in Committee how many under-16-year-olds would be affected by the Bill, the Government did not know. They did not even care. Yet I discovered from the Department of Education and Science, the colleagues of the Ministers on the Government Front Bench now, that it will affect more than 100,000 young people under 16. A Government who are as careless of information and fact, who do so little preparation and who, at the same time, bleat on perpetually about extending freedom are a Government worthy of nothing but contempt, as is the Bill.

4.49 am

Mr. Harry Barnes : The Government were pushed into the first six clauses by the directive of the Council of the European Community. However, they were pushed into them rather slowly because the directive was dated 2 February 1976 and they produced them in a minimal fashion, as was illustrated by the Opposition's amendments on which we were defeated in Committee.

Those amendments sought to reduce the under-representation of women by arguing for positive discrimination and for consultation on and reviewing of legislation with the Equal Opportunities Commission, which was not allowed in some areas, and to improve compliance with the statutory provisions that we were at that time enacting, and extending the provisions to religious orders, among others. None of those moves were accepted. No member of the Committee broke ranks on any amendment put forward by the Opposition.

Our one success on the first six clauses seemed to be a modest amendment to have the Equal Opportunities Commission consulted when new minimal improvements to the Sex Discrimination Act 1975 could be overridden.

Column 193

that appears in clause 6 which deals with the Secretary of State's power to exempt particular acts of discrimination required under statute. The argument was that certain legislation might emerge that it did not know about and it might need the action in some circumstances to evade what it was doing in a limited way within the other five areas.

I moved that amendment in Committee, and when the Minister promised to bring a reworded version forward on Report I begged leave to withdraw the amendment. That was done, but I have not seen that promise fulfilled. That promise can be found in the Committee Hansard for 31 January at columns 90 to 94. If we are not getting that now, will it be promised in another place?

After the first six clauses in response to the EC directive on sex discrimination, the Government thought that it would be a clever wheeze to present clause 7 which seeks to push women into working in the pits. The one great danger is that women who register as unemployed may be directed towards jobs in the pits, and, if they refuse them, will be deemed not to be actively seeking work and thus lose benefit.

That wheeze sought only to embarrass the Opposition. It was the Opposition who believed in equal opportunity. The Government were having only a mild version forced upon them and were going as reluctantly as possible towards it. They thought that it would be a good debating point--a good turning of tables--to confront the Opposition with a crude version of equality in the pits. I can see no other reason for their seeking to do that.

The Opposition took up the challenge, accepting the principle, given positive improvements for men and women in the pits, particularly ergonomic, health and safety, toilet and lavatory facilities improvements. Neither the Government nor any Conservative Members gave any support to any of those suggestions in Committee or on the Floor of the House.

We reject the idea of putting women in crude and primative conditions. Even men should not be working in such conditions, but the men who work in them in the mines do not want their daughters and wives to work in such conditions. That view should be respected by all. It is certainly respected by daughters and wives in mining communities.

With the "women in the pits" debate we confronted the whole issue of major burdens being placed on working people by the Bill. Reference has been made to the protection that used to be afforded to youngsters between 16 and 18 ; 75 per cent. of them have been protected in such matters as hours of work, numbers of days to be worked and meal breaks. Those protections are going. How can human beings do that to young people?

Those who are prepared to do it may be ignorant about conditions in the pits, but they must meet youngsters and talk to them about their feelings. Were they not once young themselves? Were they all workaholic whizz kids who were unconcerned about what was going on around them? They may indeed have been like that, for they have no understanding of what life is really like. Youngsters should have better things to do than be forced by legislation of this type to do nothing but work.

In Committee and on Report we attempted to protect the disabled, allowing them job opportunities and hindering dismissals. It has become clear that there is not an ounce of compassion among Conservative Members for women, for the young or for the disabled. Trade unionists are again taking a bashing over time off for

Column 194

union activities. The only move on that front in Committee came from Tory Members who wish to foist on trade unions still greater burdens and to bash the last remnants that remain of closed shop activities.

The Bill contains other anti-social matters, including the removal of the right of many people to dismissal notices, and there has been a lack of response to the reasonable concern voiced by many people about the functions and duties of industrial tribunals. Rather than develop those matters, I shall conclude by mentioning a matter that we have not debated, partly because until tonight we have been too polite an Opposition. We have allowed the Bill to progress under protest only, being anxious to debate the measure without the threat of the guillotine.

The subject to which I refer is Northern Ireland. Clause 20 applies the entire measure to Northern Ireland by Order in Council, mainly under the negative resolution procedure. If the writ of the Bill should not extend to an area, that area must be Northern Ireland. The House has just passed fair employment legislation applying to Northern Ireland. It received all-party support and was opposed only by diehard Ulster Unionists.

How can there be fair employment when the young are exploited, when the disabled are dismissed as of no concern and when trade unionists are hounded? The way to help Northern Ireland is the way to help the rest of the United Kingdom, and that is by rejecting disgraceful Bills such as this.

4.58 am

Mr. Nellist : If the economy was really going forward, the Bill would be unnecessary. If we were in the seventh--or is it the eighth?-- successive year of economic growth, as the Chancellor keeps on assuring us, the Bill would not be required. If we were witnessing genuine falls in unemployment rather than a largely statistical manipulation of the figures, and if we were having a rise in the number of well-paid jobs, the Bill would be superfluous.

The boom that was engineered, particularly in the 18 months before the 1987 general election, is fragile and its time is almost up. Hence this legislation. Investment is low, productivity and production are virtually static and trade has nose-dived. Yet the Government continue with their 10- year strategy of preparing the legislative framework to ensure that when the fragile boom is seen not to be present they will have the necessary bits of paper in place to restrict trade unions as organisations and workers as individuals from opposing reductions in living standards and working conditions. This is the sixth major attack in 10 years continuing that pattern. As colleagues have said, not only on Report but in the many hours in Committee, this Bill removes individual workers' rights gained primarily during the 30 years following the second world war. What was given by employers and industrialists and the Tory party of those days with the left hand is now being savagely snatched back with the right. It is the cynical disregard of workers' interests in the interests of profit that is the prime function of this Government and of the party that introduced the Bill. It is not about creating jobs or improving conditions but about increasing exploitation and removing rights from individual employees.

The first section of the Bill--about which my hon. Friend the Member for Derbyshire, North-East (Mr.

Column 195

Barnes) has just spoken--comes under the guise of a gesture towards sex equality. However, it is not equalising upwards and improving all protective legislation for men and women, but equalising downwards from the existing protective legislation on the statute book. It achieves equality, not by increasing protection for men but by reducing it for women, particularly in such things as the cleaning of machinery with dangerous moving parts. That shows the interest of this Government. They are not for equality ; they are for reducing to the lowest common denominator wherever they can get away with it. Clause 7 is about repealing the ban on women working underground. I do not intend to repeat the arguments in Committee, when I spoke for an hour and a quarter on that clause alone. I made a promise in Committee because, like most if not all the members, I spoke on the basis of second-hand knowledge, of conversations with miners and their families, without direct personal knowledge of a working pit, although I have been down a couple of redundant slate mines. I promised to spend a day in a working pit before we reached Report and I did that as a guest of the management and trade unionists of the Keresley colliery outside Coventry at the beginning of May. That reinforced in my mind the points I made in Committee about the conditions of work for miners in British pits and the inherent danger not only of dust, chemicals and heat but of the roadways. I travelled along hundreds of metres of roadways that were less than 3 to 4 ft high. It confirmed all the points that we had made.

What we wanted from the debate on that part of the Bill were ways of improving the existing working conditions of miners, not of introducing more workers into those inadequate conditions. But all the way through the stages of this Bill the Tory party has rejected any amendment to improve working conditions in regard to health and safety, sanitation, heat, dust, chemicals or redesigning of machinery or protective equipment.

Clause 7 was essentially a blue herring. It was designed to divert attention from the way in which the Bill was reducing working conditions for women and youth in particular.

The Liberal spokesman, the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Wallace), said a few moments ago that it will open opportunities for women. From March 1984 to March 1988 the number of pits in this country was reduced from 170 to 94 and over 90,000 jobs disappeared from the pits.

We are not here as legislators to discuss abstract rights, to discuss things like academics in ivory towers ; we are here to discuss practical legislation in the real world. What was needed, and what was totally absent from this Bill, was movement towards increasing genuine opportunities for the employment of women, particularly working-class women, which would have needed such things as work- place nurseries and ending the tax on them, and improved maternity leave and maternity grants. The amendments and points that we put in Committee in that direction were decisively and unanimously rejected by the Government.

The other major area of the Bill is the sweeping away of current restrictions on the employment of young people, especially in terms of the number of hours a week that they can work. Those provisions are about increasing the exploitation of young people who, as my hon. Friend the

Column 196

Member for Preston (Mrs. Wise) has repeatedly said, may be as young as 15 years 8 months old. I make the same point today as I made three times during the passage of the Bill. There is not a single Tory Member who would raise his hand and tell us that he would put a daughter or a son of his at 15 years 8 months old into a bakery on nights and working more than 54 hours a week. Yet that is precisely what they are asking the working-class youth of this country to work when, or if, the Bill becomes law.

All through the discussions, we have been told that these matters could safely be left to market forces and negotiation. My hon. Friend the Member for Derbyshire, North-East (Mr. Barnes) made the point in a stage whisper in Committee. He said that the only promise we were getting from the Tory party on young people's hours of work was that no young person would be forced to work more than 24 hours in any single day.

The Government are doing nothing to improve the conditions of young people. They have swept away the wages councils for the under-21s, they have abolished benefits for 16 to 17-year-olds to conscript them on to the youth training scheme and now they are grafting on this deterioration in hours and working conditions for those youngsters who are in jobs. We spelled out the inevitable consequence during the passage of the Bill. There will be an increase in the number of accidents among young people.

As Nye Bevan used to say, one does not have to look in the crystal ball when one can read the book. Any analysis, especially since the expansion of the youth training scheme, which considers young people at work, especially in non-unionised and unsupervised areas, shows a doubling of accidents. The trend will continue at the end of long shifts for younger people of 15 years 8 months. Responsibility for the blood from the increase in accidents, the amputations and possible fatalities will rest squarely on the Treasury Bench of the House of Commons, which introduced and pushed the Bill through. The Government see young people as cheap labour. Okay--at 5.5 am, with perhaps a couple of dozen of us voting against the Bill, it will receive a Third Reading. However, we will take the only responsibility left open to us, not only as politicians, but as active trade unionists. We will take the campaign out of this Chamber, once the Bill is passed, back into the trade union movement, and we will insist that our trade union organisations actively recruit young people, as they have done in the past, but in recent years have perhaps not done sufficiently well. To paraphrase the old black and white television advertisements of the 1950s, we will get the strength not of the insurance companies, but of the trade union movement, around those young people. The collective protection of the trade unions is the only barrier to the increase in accidents upon which we can build.

The Bill also weakens individual workers' rights on redundancy, time off for trade union duties and access to industrial tribunals unless people can afford a £150 deposit. It may not be exactly a tax on justice, but there is no other phrase for it.

The Bill also dissolves the Training Commission. That is part of the Government's strategy to weaken the ability of workers to defend themselves and to have free, democratic and effective collective representation through the trade union movement.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Preston also said, the Bill is vicious and mean. It is an anti-working class

Column 197

measure. If--or, more likely, when--it receives its Third Reading in a few moments, we, as Labour Members, will have to take the fight out of this Chamber into the real world and to the working-class movement of Britain. We must seek to encourage working people to reimpose on employers by negotiation, organisation, and, where necessary, industrial action the rights that have been legislated away by the Tory party.

The Bill will be passed, but if Tory Members, especially those with close connections with business, think that that is the end of the matter and that once the proposals are down on a piece of paper, workers' rights will be removed and the door will be open to the increased exploitation of young people and women workers in particular, they should not hold their breath. The time is not far away when rights will be reimposed--the right to a decent job, to decent pay and to a safe working environment, for which the Tory party and the Government care naught.

5.10 am

Mr. Cryer : Trade unionists in the textile industry have co-operated in shift working, in changes in working practices and in the introduction of new machinery. They have not received the gratitude of the Government or the employers. They have been kicked in the teeth. Since 1979, 150,000 to 200,000 jobs in the textile and clothing industries have disappeared. The notion that by introducing yet more flexible working and removing protection for women and young people the Government will somehow generate a boom in the manufacturing or service industries is, quite simply, an illusion. The Bill is intended to enable the Government to pass on to employers means of attacking ordinary working men and women yet again--and particularly women.

Under recent social security legislation, people must be able to demonstrate that they are actively seeking work. In addition, the power now exists to require women to take night work. In the same legislative process the Government are arranging for the passage of a private Bill--the British Rail (Penalty Fares) Bill. With the help of the organisation of the Chief Whip to secure the Tory vote, British Rail seeks means of destaffing stations and installing more ticket machines. The self-same women who are forced to take night work under threat of penalties against them will not find public transport staffed by people who can help them in any dilemma that they may face in this increasingly violent Tory society ; they will be exposed increasingly to the violence that surrounds them. They will be placed in that position by a network of legislation that is oppressing them, of which the Bill is an example. On cold winter mornings, when they hear footfalls on the path behind them as they go to the station--Tory legislation has meant that bus services have been sadly diminished--and look for friendly help, it will not be there. Responsibility will rest squarely with the Tory legislators as they sit there in their smug somnolence tonight, making funny little remarks about the circumstances, in their jokey, contemptuous, hard-hearted and vicious manner. I note that the hon. Member for Bromsgrove (Sir H. Miller), for example, finds the whole thing terribly amusing. No doubt the women in Bromsgrove will be pleased to hear that their Member of Parliament finds the predicament in which the legislation will place women in general overwhelmingly amusing.

Column 198

Clause 10 robs trade unionists of the right to participate in conferences and to attend meetings that are relevant to their jobs and their industry. In future, such participation will depend on collective agreements argued out in each factory, rather than on a national arrangement under which every employee throughout the country knows and understands his position. That is a recipe for industrial unrest ; it is being pushed through by the Government as a further attack on trade unionists and trade unions.

The Bill contains some shoddy little measures. Clause 11, for example, provides that one must work for two years continuously before an employer is required to put in writing the reasons why one is facing the trauma of dismissal. It is a shoddy bit of vindictive pettiness towards working people to remove a burden from employers by telling them that they need not write down their reasons. The Government have produced no evidence that the removal of a simple obligation to set out the reasons for the exercise of an employer's enormous power--for the person facing dismissal, almost an awe-inspiring power--would result in the diminution of employment in small businesses or in the output of manufacturing industry. The Government intend to impose a tax on justice, despite the fact that, once again, they have produced no evidence to show that resort to an industrial tribunal is made flippantly, vexatiously or frivolously or that it is not a genuine attempt to seek justice. If that is the case--and the Government have produced no evidence to prove that it is not--it is an unfair and onerous penalty that people should be asked to pay a £150 deposit for a pre- hearing review. Millions of people struggle from week to week to find the money to pay their bills. It is outrageous to ask them to produce £150 on top of their many outgoings and, for many people, it will be an effective bar to access to justice.

I echo the words of my hon. Friend the Member for Barking (Ms. Richardson) about the provision that will allow women to work in coal mines. It is a removal of the protection for women and young people. To translate working in the most harrowing and awful conditions in pits as some sort of gain is to treat women with contempt and disdain. At the next general election we shall make much of this legislation and demonstrate to women that the Tory party has betrayed them.

Question put, That the Bill be now read the Third time : The House divided : Ayes 106, Noes 20.

Division No. 229] [5.16 am


Alexander, Richard

Amos, Alan

Arbuthnot, James

Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham)

Ashby, David

Baldry, Tony

Batiste, Spencer

Bennett, Nicholas (Pembroke)

Bevan, David Gilroy

Boswell, Tim

Bottomley, Peter

Brazier, Julian

Bright, Graham

Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)

Chapman, Sydney

Coombs, Anthony (Wyre F'rest)

Cope, Rt Hon John

Davis, David (Boothferry)

Devlin, Tim

Dorrell, Stephen

Durant, Tony

Fallon, Michael

Favell, Tony

Fishburn, John Dudley

Forsyth, Michael (Stirling)

Forth, Eric

Fowler, Rt Hon Norman

Freeman, Roger

French, Douglas

Garel-Jones, Tristan

Gill, Christopher

Goodhart, Sir Philip

Greenway, John (Ryedale)

Gregory, Conal

Griffiths, Sir Eldon (Bury St E')

Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth N)

Hague, William

Hamilton, Hon Archie (Epsom)

Next Section

  Home Page