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Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Alan Haselhurst): I cannot deal with hypothetical situations, but it is always open to hon. Members to make representations either to the Speaker or to the Chairman of Ways and Means, whoever is appropriate, at any time.
John McDonnell: On that point, Mr. Deputy Speaker, you may take it as read that representations will be made on this matter.
My amendments (b), (c) and (d) try to address the prospect of manipulating the count of employee numbers by insisting that the employees who make up a work force are genuinethat is, that they have worked for the company or qualifying body for a period of not less than 12 months. I accept that that does not completely reflect some of the practices operating in the City of London corporation area, because there is a high turnover in certain sectors. Nevertheless, this is a common criterion used to avoid the manipulation of ballots. It is used in legislation elsewhere, and also in the Labour party for the selection of candidates for local councils and for Parliament. Someone has to have been a member of the party for at least 12 months before the start of the selection process.
The amendment will give some security to the process. I accept that for it to operate, there would have to be some form of registration of the employment in question. I repeat that the City of London corporation has argued in the past that that would be impossible, cumbersome and administratively costly, and therefore could not be introducedyet it is inevitable if the system is to be based on the number of people employed by a particular company on a particular day.
I am dealing now with some of the amendments that I have tabled to the amendments. I have yet to deal with my proposals for reform, so I do not expect a vote to be called.
The registration system is hardly difficult or impossible to construct. It has to carry only three pieces of information: the name of the employee, where he or she is employed, and the company that he or she works for. However, one further piece of information would be required: how long the person has been employed by that employer. That would not be an impossible task for modern systems.
Jeremy Corbyn: I agree with my hon. Friend, but will he make it clear whether he is talking about the
John McDonnell: I believe that we must insist upon there being deemed to be one sole base from which people work. That is in the spirit both of the legislation and of our amendments. Again, if continuing amendment is needed to ensure that the system works, the legislation could be amended, or we could amend the code of conduct that will be published to ensure that registration takes place properly.
I offer amendment (c), which says that the people concerned should be members of a trade union, as a way of overcoming the problem of registration. In principle, I believe that all workers should be members of a trade union; I am a member of Unison, and many other Members are members of other unions. The amendment would serve as an incentive for employers to promote trade union membership, and for employees to join a trade union.
The important thing, however, is that amendment (c) would also offer a readily available method of registering the numbers employed at a particular workplace on a particular day. I accept that trade union membership records are not infallible, but they are a useful form of information about who is employed by a firm, where and for how long. They are now recognised in statute in connection with industrial action and ballots, so there are systems already in place, based on trade union membership, which could assist us in the registration process.
The TUC and the individual trade unions operating in the Cityit is usually the MSF, or Amicus, or whatever it is called nowwould be only too pleased to assist in developing a reliable registration scheme for use by the City corporation. That would produce a valuable partnership between unions and employers operating in or based in the City.
Amendment (d) sets out the need to recognise that not all employees are directly employed. People are often contracted to supply services to particular bodies. The reason for tabling the amendment was that it would insert the words
Let me put the record straight.
Mr. Dismore: The "white van man" argument is part of it, but more important is IR 35 man or woman. I do
John McDonnell: Under my amendment, they would be included. It would cover the full range of people who are currently employed on a contract basis to supply services. I understand and appreciate the concern that has been expressed. The issue is complex but it could be overcome.
Jeremy Corbyn: What proportion of the working time of people on IR 35 would have to be spent with one company based in the City for them to qualify for a City vote?
John McDonnell: With respect to a code of practice on registration at some future date, we would argue that, as in the other clauses, the principal employment would be the relevant one. We based that on the majority of time employed on a particular contract.
This is a difficult area, and it is difficult to cater for the full range of activities and employment in the City. The amendment seeks to reflect the modern reality of work and trade in the City area. Many workers are not directly employed; they often work for themselves or are under contract to a company that could be described as a qualifying body. Many may be contractors, but their contract status is often with one or two firms at most. They operate virtually like direct employees, so under the amendment they would be covered by the Bill.
If there is to be an allocation of votes in the City based on employment, this type of employment and employee should be recognised. Not to do so would be to fail to relate to the modern experience of employment in the City.
I turn now to my amendment No. 52 and promoters amendments Nos. 6, 7 and 8. I shall discuss the amendments together as they relate specifically to occupancy. I find clause 2(2) virtually incomprehensible. Even taking into account amendment No. 6, I take it to mean that although definitions of occupancy in clause 2(1) have the emphasis correctly on personal and physical presence, those caveats are virtually meaningless for unincorporated bodies. That is why amendment No. 52 seeks to delete subsection (2). Under the subsection, it does not seem to matter whether the owner or the tenant is in occupation. Amendment No. 52 would delete the subsection as it is contrary to everything that has gone before and the emphasis on connection to place or occupancy by physical presence.
Amendment No. 7 would insert "doing" after "to be" in line 20. It would, if amendment No. 52 is accepted, become superfluous. Amendment No. 8, would also be superfluous if amendment No. 52 is accepted.
Amendment No. 149, which is the promoters' main amendment, was outlined by the right hon. Member for North-West Hampshire. It would amend section 6 of the City of London (Various Powers) Act 1957 dealing with qualification of voters at ward elections. My understanding is that there are three categories of votersthe owner-tenant, the resident and now the new voters,
Jeremy Corbyn: What does my hon. Friend mean by an owner-tenant? Is that the owner of the freehold, the owner of the leasehold or the tenant of a sub-lessee or a head-lessee? Who gets a vote?
John McDonnell: In my understanding, ownership or tenancy would qualify.
Qualifying bodies are the key to amendment No. 149. Does occupation of those qualifying bodies actually mean
Sir George Young rose in his place and claimed to move, That the Question be now put.
Question put, That the Question be now put:
The House proceeded to a Division.
Mr. Deputy Speaker: I ask the Serjeant at Arms to investigate the delay in the No Lobby.
The House having divided: Ayes 205, Noes 46.