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Column 1091Moss, Malcolm
Moynihan, Hon Colin
Nicholson, David (Taunton)
Nicholson, Emma (Devon West)
Onslow, Rt Hon Cranley
Patten, Rt Hon Chris (Bath)
Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth
Porter, David (Waveney)
Rhodes James, Robert
Sackville, Hon Tom
Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)
Stewart, Allan (Eastwood)
Stewart, Andy (Sherwood)
Taylor, Teddy (S'end E)
Tebbit, Rt Hon Norman
Thompson, D. (Calder Valley)
Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)
Townend, John (Bridlington)
Twinn, Dr Ian
Wardle, Charles (Bexhill)
Winterton, Mrs Ann
Tellers for the Ayes :
Mr. Tony Durant and
Mr. John M. Taylor.
Column 1092Alton, David
Barnes, Mrs Rosie (Greenwich)
Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon)
Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE)
Carlile, Alex (Mont'g)
Hughes, Simon (Southwark)
Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside)
Jones, Ieuan (Ynys Mo n)
McKay, Allen (Barnsley West)
Michie, Mrs Ray (Arg'l & Bute)
Powell, Ray (Ogmore)
Taylor, Matthew (Truro)
Welsh, Andrew (Angus E)
Wise, Mrs Audrey
Tellers for the Noes :
Mr. Archy Kirkwood and
Mr. Alan Beith.
Question accordingly agreed to.
Reasons for disagreeing to certain of the Lords amendments reported, and agreed to ; to be communicated to the Lords.
Column 1093Employment Bill
Lords amendments considered.
Lords amendment : No. 1, in page 7, line 27, leave out subsection (1) and insert--
"(1) The Secretary of State may by order provide with respect to-- (
(a) any specified arrangements made under section 2 of the Employment and Training Act 1973 (functions of the Secretary of State as respects employment and training), or
(b) any specified class or description of training for employment provided otherwise than in pursuance of that section, or
(c) any specified scheme set up under section 1 of the Employment Subsidies Act 1978 (schemes for financing employment),
that this section shall apply to such special treatment afforded to or in respect of lone parents in connection with their participation in those arrangements, or in that training or scheme, as is specified or referred to in the order."
Mr. Nicholls : The purpose of the amendments do not, which were introduced in Committee in another place, is to extend the scope of clause 8 to cover employment and enterprise programmes as well as training schemes. The clause, without the amendments, would have given the Secretary of State the power to exempt, by order, special treatment in favour of lone parents in training for employment from being unlawful discrimination against married persons under the Sex Discrimination Act 1975. However, the clause as it stood would not have allowed exemption of similar arrangements which it might in future be thought desirable to introduce in the Department's other programmes, perhaps in the field of employment and enterprise. The clause was generally welcomed when it was introduced towards the end of proceedings in this House, as were the Government's amendments aimed at widening the scope of the clause when they were introduced in another place. The amendments are designed to cover the whole range of the Department's current and possible future employment and enterprise measures, including activities such as the enterprise allowance scheme, job clubs and job share. But they do not give the Government a blank cheque. The Secretary of State would have to make orders specifying the special treatment for lone parents and the particular arrangements or scheme to which the exemption would apply. The orders would be subject to the negative resolution procedure. The amendments do not represent a commitment by the Government to extend special help for lone parents to other areas of the Department's activities. We have no immediate plans to do so. We shall first need to see what happens in employment training.
Column 1094However, the amendments provide the necessary flexibility to allow for future developments in provision for lone parents and for that reason I commend them to the House.
I want to say a word or two about the attitude that some Opposition Members may have to these provisions. I said that they were generally welcomed, but I am aware that there is a feeling that they perhaps should have been extended more widely and that instead of merely being targeted on lone parents they might have been extended to couples, on a means-tested basis. Inevitably money is always limited and the Government had to decide what they could do to help the most significantly disadvantaged group to come forward for employment training. There is no doubt that lone parents are significantly disadvantaged and they consist overwhelmingly, although not exclusively, of women. So the Government thought it right initially to introduce this scheme to help lone parents. However the debate may have proceeded since, at the time the proposals were welcomed.
Ms. Jo Richardson (Barking) : As the Minister said, amendments Nos. 1, 2 and 3 extend the application of clause 8 from training schemes alone to other employment and enterprise programmes. The new areas that he mentioned which would be affected by the amendments are the enterprise allowance scheme, job share and job clubs and the like. We supported clause 8 in Committee and on Report, albeit with reservations about the non- application to married people. However, several developments have come to light since then and they have changed our welcome to dismay ; indeed, they force us to divide the House over the amendments.
We are now in possession of the full facts--I am surprised that the Minister did not mention them--about the implications of the industrial tribunal decision to which the then Minister obliquely referred in Committee on May 17. We have spoken to the woman who took the case against the Government, and several times this week we have spoken to the Equal Opportunities Commission which represents the woman and supports her claim.
I apologise to the House for listing the fairly complicated scenario of that case, but the case is extremely important. The facts are that lone parents can have child care costs of up to £50 a week paid when they take up a place on employment training. As the Minister has said, married women did not have that entitlement. Kay Jackson, the woman in question, is married with three children under five. She had been offered a place on employment training but was unable to take up the offer because her allowance and her husband's salary would not have been sufficient for three lots of child care. Much as she wanted to, Mrs. Jackson could not go on the training scheme. Therefore, on 5 January she took the Government to the tribunal on the ground that they had discriminated against married women. The tribunal upheld that claim on 19 January. The Government have just appealed to the Employment Appeals Tribunal, but the decision has not yet been made known. In any case, clause 8 and the three Lords amendments circumvent the decision. As the Minister has said, they allow the Secretary of State to make an order after Royal Assent that will make legal discrimination against married women in the
Column 1095provision of child care. That means that the Government are changing the law retroactively to cover what they would have to put in place if they lost their appeal.
The discrimination does not apply just to employment training because with the three Lords amendments the Government have extended the discrimination to the areas that I have mentioned--the enterprise allowance scheme, job share, job clubs and the like. Lord Strathclyde somehow managed to avoid all mention of the industrial tribunal when the matter was debated in another place. However, he said : "An extension of such help to all parents training on the scheme would be hard to justify."--[ Official Report, House of Lords, 16 October 1989 ; Vol. 511, c. 676.]
He estimated that 20 per cent. of employment training entrants taking up child care costs would add an extra £100 million to the cost of the scheme.
We now know that because of the low take-up of employment training there are sufficient funds to pay for that. In other words, the £100 million could be found without going outside the amount set aside. I understand that about £3 billion was allocated for an employment training programme with 600,000 people over a year. When the Government failed to reach the target they reduced it from 600,000 to 540,000. They are still 100,000 entrants short. Money has been allocated for that and could be used to cater for married women who wish to take up employment training or enter one of the other schemes and apply for child care.
Many women do not go in for employment training either because they cannot afford to do so or because they are not eligible. The Government cannot fill all the places. Quite by chance last Friday I visited a training agency in my constituency. I am pleased to say that it is managed largely by women and has a good equal opportunities policy. The people in the agency complained bitterly that married women could not take up the places in the agency because it could not give them money for child care.
Why do not the Government kill two birds with one stone? The solution is here for all to see, except for those who do not want to see it. In the past few months, even the Government have claimed to notice the importance of women to the labour market. We are constantly hearing, and I am glad to hear it, of notices from the ministerial committee on women's issues saying that women will be required in the workplace in the 1990s, but here we have the opportunity, and apparently the money, to extend these schemes to allow married women to take them up and to have child care, but the Government will not do it.
In the White Paper of December 1988, the Government told employers, in paragraph 1.8, that they
"must recognise that women can no longer be treated as second-class workers."
I echo that, and I hope that every hon. Member does. I am infinitely grateful for this change of heart. Many employers, aided and abetted by the Government, have treated women as second-class workers for the past decade and even longer. They have removed protection for part-time workers, the majority of whom are women, reduced the jurisdiction of wages councils for the lower paid, the majority of whom are women, and taxed workplace nurseries as a perk--a perk for whom? The majority of those affected in that case are also women. It