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9.45 pm

Mr. Boswell: In rising to oppose the Bill on the Opposition's behalf, may I agree with the Secretary of State on one matter by expressing our pleasure at the fact that the Minister of State, Department of Trade and Industry is shortly to return from his indisposition. We are pleased that he is able to be with us again.

Now, let me resume normal hostilities by saying that what we have just heard from the Secretary of State was, even from him, a disappointing concatenation of soundbites. The Secretary of State claimed as a credit to himself the imminent introduction of the national minimum wage, but he simultaneously omitted to mention the propensity of both that and of the Employment Relations Bill to destroy jobs by increasing the costs of business. The Government have taken no adequate account of that fact. For all their honeyed words and all their alleged readiness to consult, they are bent on doing damage to British business by imposing costs on it.

31 Mar 1999 : Column 1199

The conduct of the Bill has been remarkable. Two reordering motions were required, one on the very first day of consideration. Four major schedules have been tabled during the Bill's proceedings. Consultation and regulations were issued in pre-draft form 90 minutes before we considered them. That does not suggest that the Government understand much of the business about which they lecture real business people.

The Bill will impose statutory collective bargaining. Last time that was done, six short clauses damaged British industry and proved to be unworkable. This time, there are 27 long pages of a schedule, which will damage British industry and which will prove unworkable.

The Bill introduces, for the first time, parts of the European social chapter, which have not yet been fully discussed. The Government have gold plated some of the obligations that they have voluntarily undertaken, adding further to those obligations in ways that will increase costs on British business. The pattern of their policies--including the family-friendly policies--is to put burdens on to business and to reduce competitiveness while increasing costs.

Some loose ends will be left over. The Confederation of British Industry has expressed general concern about the Bill, but has gone along with it. Concerns remain about the importance of asserting the voluntary principle, the best by which to conduct industrial relations. Concerns remain about disciplinary and grievance hearings and about definitions in the Bill, some of which we have been able to explore and others of which we have had no time to explore.

The Bill is an extraordinary confection. There is little in the clauses, more in the schedules, and most of all has lain in the soundbites. Today, the Government are ringing their bells and making their claims, but, in the years to come, British industry will pay the bills and suffer the damage of a Bill which we are pleased to oppose.

9.49 pm

Mr. Chidgey: It falls to me, in the three remaining minutes of the debate, to have almost the last word on the Bill. I should like to reinforce what Liberal Democrat Members have been saying from the outset--that we have always supported the principles of fair and free industrial and employment relations. I should like also to sum up the past several weeks of our consideration of the Bill.

The Bill's provisions may be divided into three categories: on individual rights, on collective rights and on family-friendly policies. Despite our long debates and Committee sittings, the Bill's provisions--particularly in the first category, on individual rights--still do not provide the clarity that we should have liked. The problem of discrimination--on the basis of age, and of sexual orientation--is outstanding. We are still not satisfied that the Government have properly addressed the issue.

The Government's proposals on collective rights have left us wondering how they decided on the 40 per cent. threshold. I should be grateful if the Secretary of State and other Ministers would give us some further guidance on how they reached that conclusion, so that the wider community--the many whom they claim to represent--might be able to understand it.

We have concerns also about the Bill's proposals on family-friendly policies. Although we appreciate and welcome the introduction of European Community

31 Mar 1999 : Column 1200

directives on family-friendly policies, we still do not understand why it was necessary for the Government to indulge in what can only be called the gold-plating of specific matters. We are particularly concerned about how the Government dealt in the Bill with leave for urgent family reasons. We feel that much more could have been done to make the provision simple, clear and efficient in operation.

This is an "enabling Bill". Time and again in Committee, we were told by Ministers that, "The detail will come later. We have not finished consulting. Infact, we are continually consulting." I thought that Governments were elected to legislate, but perhaps I have it wrong. We still have to wait. Time and again, massive Government amendments were tabled but with no time to study or analyse them, or to share in the Secretary of State's ambition--which he expressed again today--of improving the Bill.

We are left with an enabling Bill, and still await the regulations. The doubts that I have been expressing are about exactly how those regulations will work. On the Bills and Acts that the Secretary of State has trumpeted today--such as the National Minimum Wage Act 1998--to make them work, the Government have had to think again, to change their mind and to introduce new strictures and regulations. Will the same happen with this Bill after it becomes an Act of Parliament?

When the regulations are tabled, I look forward to examining them forensically, although--because of the way in which this place works--we shall have little time to do so. Nevertheless, I hope that the Government are listening, and that they will do their best to make the Bill work--not only for the many, but for those who employ the many.

Question put, That the Bill be now read the Third time:--

The House divided: Ayes 328, Noes 124.

Division No. 140
[9.52 pm


AYES


Abbott, Ms Diane
Ainger, Nick
Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE)
Allen, Graham
Anderson, Donald (Swansea E)
Anderson, Janet (Rossendale)
Atherton, Ms Candy
Atkins, Charlotte
Austin, John
Banks, Tony
Barnes, Harry
Barron, Kevin
Beard, Nigel
Beckett, Rt Hon Mrs Margaret
Begg, Miss Anne
Beggs, Roy
Beith, Rt Hon A J
Bell, Martin (Tatton)
Benn, Rt Hon Tony
Benton, Joe
Bermingham, Gerald
Berry, Roger
Best, Harold
Betts, Clive
Blackman, Liz
Blears, Ms Hazel
Blizzard, Bob
Borrow, David
Bradley, Keith (Withington)
Bradley, Peter (The Wrekin)
Bradshaw, Ben
Brinton, Mrs Helen
Brown, Russell (Dumfries)
Buck, Ms Karen
Burden, Richard
Burgon, Colin
Butler, Mrs Christine
Byers, Rt Hon Stephen
Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge)
Campbell, Rt Hon Menzies
(NE Fife)
Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V)
Campbell-Savours, Dale
Canavan, Dennis
Cann, Jamie
Caplin, Ivor
Caton, Martin
Chapman, Ben (Wirral S)
Chidgey, David
Clapham, Michael
Clark, Rt Hon Dr David (S Shields)
Clark, Dr Lynda
(Edinburgh Pentlands)
Clark, Paul (Gillingham)
Clarke, Charles (Norwich S)
Clarke, Tony (Northampton S)
Clelland, David
Clwyd, Ann
Coaker, Vernon
Coffey, Ms Ann
Cohen, Harry
Coleman, Iain
Colman, Tony
Cook, Frank (Stockton N)
Cook, Rt Hon Robin (Livingston)
Corbett, Robin
Corbyn, Jeremy
Cousins, Jim
Cox, Tom
Crausby, David
Cryer, Mrs Ann (Keighley)
Cryer, John (Hornchurch)
Cunningham, Jim (Cov'try S)
Curtis-Thomas, Mrs Claire
Dalyell, Tam
Darling, Rt Hon Alistair
Darvill, Keith
Davey, Edward (Kingston)
Davey, Valerie (Bristol W)
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)
Davies, Geraint (Croydon C)
Dawson, Hilton
Dean, Mrs Janet
Denham, John
Dismore, Andrew
Dobbin, Jim
Donohoe, Brian H
Doran, Frank
Dowd, Jim
Drown, Ms Julia
Eagle, Angela (Wallasey)
Eagle, Maria (L'pool Garston)
Edwards, Huw
Efford, Clive
Ennis, Jeff
Etherington, Bill
Ewing, Mrs Margaret
Fearn, Ronnie
Fisher, Mark
Fitzsimons, Lorna
Flint, Caroline
Flynn, Paul
Follett, Barbara
Foster, Rt Hon Derek
Foster, Michael Jabez (Hastings)
Foster, Michael J (Worcester)
Foulkes, George
Fyfe, Maria
Gapes, Mike
Gardiner, Barry
George, Bruce (Walsall S)
Gibson, Dr Ian
Gilroy, Mrs Linda
Godman, Dr Norman A
Godsiff, Roger
Goggins, Paul
Golding, Mrs Llin
Griffiths, Jane (Reading E)
Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)
Grocott, Bruce
Grogan, John
Hain, Peter
Hall, Mike (Weaver Vale)
Hall, Patrick (Bedford)
Harman, Rt Hon Ms Harriet
Heal, Mrs Sylvia
Healey, John
Heath, David (Somerton & Frome)
Henderson, Doug (Newcastle N)
Henderson, Ivan (Harwich)
Hepburn, Stephen
Heppell, John
Hesford, Stephen
Hewitt, Ms Patricia
Hill, Keith
Hinchliffe, David
Hodge, Ms Margaret
Hoey, Kate
Hood, Jimmy
Hoon, Geoffrey
Hope, Phil
Hopkins, Kelvin
Howarth, Alan (Newport E)
Hoyle, Lindsay
Hughes, Ms Beverley (Stretford)
Hughes, Simon (Southwark N)
Humble, Mrs Joan
Hurst, Alan
Hutton, John
Iddon, Dr Brian
Jackson, Ms Glenda (Hampstead)
Jackson, Helen (Hillsborough)
Jamieson, David
Jenkins, Brian
Johnson, Alan (Hull W & Hessle)
Johnson, Miss Melanie
(Welwyn Hatfield)
Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside)
Jones, Helen (Warrington N)
Jones, Ms Jenny
(Wolverh'ton SW)
Jones, Jon Owen (Cardiff C)
Jones, Dr Lynne (Selly Oak)
Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S)
Jowell, Rt Hon Ms Tessa
Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald
Keeble, Ms Sally
Keen, Alan (Feltham & Heston)
Keen, Ann (Brentford & Isleworth)
Kemp, Fraser
Kennedy, Jane (Wavertree)
Khabra, Piara S
Kidney, David
Kilfoyle, Peter
King, Andy (Rugby & Kenilworth)
Kingham, Ms Tess
Kumar, Dr Ashok
Lawrence, Ms Jackie
Laxton, Bob
Leslie, Christopher
Levitt, Tom
Lewis, Terry (Worsley)
Linton, Martin
Livingstone, Ken
Livsey, Richard
Lock, David
Love, Andrew
McAllion, John
McAvoy, Thomas
McCabe, Steve
McCartney, Ian (Makerfield)
McDonagh, Siobhain
McDonnell, John
McIsaac, Shona
McKenna, Mrs Rosemary
Mackinlay, Andrew
McNulty, Tony
MacShane, Denis
Mactaggart, Fiona
McWalter, Tony
McWilliam, John
Mahon, Mrs Alice
Mallaber, Judy
Mandelson, Rt Hon Peter
Marek, Dr John
Marsden, Gordon (Blackpool S)
Marshall, David (Shettleston)
Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)
Martlew, Eric
Maxton, John
Meacher, Rt Hon Michael
Merron, Gillian
Michael, Rt Hon Alun
Michie, Bill (Shef'ld Heeley)
Milburn, Rt Hon Alan
Miller, Andrew
Mitchell, Austin
Moffatt, Laura
Moonie, Dr Lewis
Morgan, Ms Julie (Cardiff N)
Morgan, Rhodri (Cardiff W)
Morley, Elliot
Morris, Ms Estelle (B'ham Yardley)
Mountford, Kali
Mullin, Chris
Murphy, Denis (Wansbeck)
Naysmith, Dr Doug
Norris, Dan
O'Brien, Bill (Normanton)
O'Brien, Mike (N Warks)
O'Hara, Eddie
Olner, Bill
Öpik, Lembit
Organ, Mrs Diana
Osborne, Ms Sandra
Palmer, Dr Nick
Pearson, Ian
Pendry, Tom
Perham, Ms Linda
Pickthall, Colin
Pike, Peter L
Plaskitt, James
Pollard, Kerry
Pond, Chris
Pope, Greg
Powell, Sir Raymond
Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lewisham E)
Prentice, Gordon (Pendle)
Prescott, Rt Hon John
Primarolo, Dawn
Prosser, Gwyn
Purchase, Ken
Quin, Rt Hon Ms Joyce
Quinn, Lawrie
Radice, Giles
Rapson, Syd
Raynsford, Nick
Reid, Rt Hon Dr John (Hamilton N)
Robertson, Rt Hon George
(Hamilton S)
Roche, Mrs Barbara
Rooker, Jeff
Rooney, Terry
Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)
Roy, Frank
Ruane, Chris
Ruddock, Joan
Russell, Bob (Colchester)
Russell, Ms Christine (Chester)
Salter, Martin
Sanders, Adrian
Sarwar, Mohammad
Savidge, Malcolm
Sawford, Phil
Sedgemore, Brian
Shaw, Jonathan
Sheerman, Barry
Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert
Shipley, Ms Debra
Short, Rt Hon Clare
Simpson, Alan (Nottingham S)
Singh, Marsha
Skinner, Dennis
Smith, Angela (Basildon)
Smith, Jacqui (Redditch)
Smith, John (Glamorgan)
Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)
Snape, Peter
Soley, Clive
Spellar, John
Squire, Ms Rachel
Steinberg, Gerry
Stevenson, George
Stewart, David (Inverness E)
Stewart, Ian (Eccles)
Stinchcombe, Paul
Stoate, Dr Howard
Straw, Rt Hon Jack
Stringer, Graham
Stuart, Ms Gisela
Stunell, Andrew
Sutcliffe, Gerry
Taylor, Rt Hon Mrs Ann
(Dewsbury)
Temple-Morris, Peter
Tipping, Paddy
Todd, Mark
Trickett, Jon
Truswell, Paul
Turner, Dennis (Wolverh'ton SE)
Turner, Dr Desmond (Kemptown)
Turner, Dr George (NW Norfolk)
Twigg, Derek (Halton)
Twigg, Stephen (Enfield)
Vaz, Keith
Vis, Dr Rudi
Walley, Ms Joan
Ward, Ms Claire
Wareing, Robert N
Watts, David
Welsh, Andrew
White, Brian
Whitehead, Dr Alan
Williams, Rt Hon Alan
(Swansea W)
Williams, Alan W (E Carmarthen)
Wills, Michael
Winnick, David
Winterton, Ms Rosie (Doncaster C)
Wise, Audrey
Woolas, Phil
Worthington, Tony
Wray, James
Wright, Anthony D (Gt Yarmouth)
Wright, Dr Tony (Cannock)

Tellers for the Ayes:


Mr. David Hanson and
Mrs. Anne McGuire.


NOES


Ainsworth, Peter (E Surrey)
Amess, David
Ancram, Rt Hon Michael
Arbuthnot, Rt Hon James
Baldry, Tony
Bercow, John
Beresford, Sir Paul
Blunt, Crispin
Boswell, Tim
Bottomley, Peter (Worthing W)
Bottomley, Rt Hon Mrs Virginia
Brady, Graham
Brooke, Rt Hon Peter
Browning, Mrs Angela
Burns, Simon
Butterfill, John
Chapman, Sir Sydney
(Chipping Barnet)
Chope, Christopher
Clappison, James
Clark, Rt Hon Alan (Kensington)
Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey
Colvin, Michael
Cormack, Sir Patrick
Cran, James
Curry, Rt Hon David
Davies, Quentin (Grantham)
Dorrell, Rt Hon Stephen
Duncan Smith, Iain
Evans, Nigel
Faber, David
Fabricant, Michael
Fallon, Michael
Flight, Howard
Forth, Rt Hon Eric
Fox, Dr Liam
Gale, Roger
Garnier, Edward
Gibb, Nick
Gill, Christopher
Goodlad, Rt Hon Sir Alastair
Gray, James
Green, Damian
Greenway, John
Grieve, Dominic
Hague, Rt Hon William
Hamilton, Rt Hon Sir Archie
Hawkins, Nick
Hayes, John
Heald, Oliver
Hogg, Rt Hon Douglas
Horam, John
Howarth, Gerald (Aldershot)
Hunter, Andrew
Jack, Rt Hon Michael
Jackson, Robert (Wantage)
Johnson Smith,
Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey
Key, Robert
King, Rt Hon Tom (Bridgwater)
Kirkbride, Miss Julie
Laing, Mrs Eleanor
Lait, Mrs Jacqui
Lansley, Andrew
Leigh, Edward
Letwin, Oliver
Lidington, David
Lilley, Rt Hon Peter
Lloyd, Rt Hon Sir Peter (Fareham)
Loughton, Tim
Luff, Peter
Lyell, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas
McIntosh, Miss Anne
MacKay, Rt Hon Andrew
McLoughlin, Patrick
Malins, Humfrey
Maples, John
Maude, Rt Hon Francis
Mawhinney, Rt Hon Sir Brian
May, Mrs Theresa
Moss, Malcolm
Nicholls, Patrick
Norman, Archie
Ottaway, Richard
Page, Richard
Paice, James
Pickles, Eric
Prior, David
Randall, John
Redwood, Rt Hon John
Robertson, Laurence (Tewk'b'ry)
Rowe, Andrew (Faversham)
Ruffley, David
St Aubyn, Nick
Sayeed, Jonathan
Shephard, Rt Hon Mrs Gillian
Simpson, Keith (Mid-Norfolk)
Soames, Nicholas
Spicer, Sir Michael
Spring, Richard
Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John
Streeter, Gary
Swayne, Desmond
Syms, Robert
Tapsell, Sir Peter
Taylor, Ian (Esher & Walton)
Taylor, John M (Solihull)
Taylor, Sir Teddy
Townend, John
Trend, Michael
Tyrie, Andrew
Viggers, Peter
Walter, Robert
Wardle, Charles
Wells, Bowen
Whitney, Sir Raymond
Whittingdale, John
Widdecombe, Rt Hon Miss Ann
Wilkinson, John
Willetts, David
Wilshire, David
Winterton, Mrs Ann (Congleton)
Winterton, Nicholas (Macclesfield)
Woodward, Shaun
Yeo, Tim
Young, Rt Hon Sir George

Tellers for the Noes:


Mr. Tim Collins and
Mrs. Caroline Spelman.

Question accordingly agreed to.

31 Mar 1999 : Column 1203

Bill read the Third time, and passed.


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