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Mr. George Osborne: The Minister had something to do with that.

Alan Johnson: I fully accept that, in another capacity, I had something to do with that. But Opposition Members are suggesting that the problems of industrial disputes and industrial action lie with the Government. In that case, what do they say about the 1.3 million days lost in 1996? In the 1980s, the annual average was 7.3 million days lost each year—a decade in which the Conservative party ruled entirely. I shall emphasise those figures: 7.3 million days lost on average each year in the 1980s compared with 473,000 under this Government. And we are told that we are having some kind of 1970s revival night.

Mr. Prisk: I will allow the Minister to calm down gently. Does he expect that, over the next quarter, the number of strike days will rise or fall?

Alan Johnson: With the measures taken since the Employment Relations Act 1999, we have everything in place to deal with disputes in the proper way, either through arbitration—

Mr. Prisk: Will it go up or down?

Alan Johnson: We certainly have a better way of dealing with disputes now, whether they are about union recognition or anything else, than we had prior to the measures that were introduced in 1999. If the new clause were accepted, it would do nothing to meet the problems that we have seen in industry over the last few months.

There is no case for repealing this law. It has not created a new wave of industrial militancy. Instead, it underpins a basic freedom: the freedom: to take industrial action, which is part of a mature democracy. The law is balanced and provides real incentives for both parties to resolve their differences. Opposition Members obviously do not value such provisions. In place of negotiation, they presumably favour heavy-handed tactics, with employers sacking anyone who takes action.

12 Feb 2002 : Column 158

New clause 8 is a desperate attempt by Opposition Members to resurrect "Back to the Future". As always, they attack not just trade unions, but their members. The new clause has no place in this Bill and we will have no reservations about opposing it if they have the temerity to push it to the vote.

Mr. Lloyd: This has been a fascinating debate, partly because of the illusions and myths about the reality of industrial relations that have been mentioned. Although the hon. Member for North Norfolk (Norman Lamb) makes a good point about the lock-out, I ask him to reflect seriously on the fact that all the protection that exists, even now, is that the sacked worker can go to a tribunal. An employer could show that the sacking was fair, even during the strike, if other factors were relevant. So the new clause is no strikers' charter. The most important point—this has totally escaped Conservative Members—is that we are talking not about a massive trade union agenda, but about a rare set of events. I suggest that they grow up a little, please. The Friction Dynamics dispute is the only one that I am aware of since the Employment Relations Act 1999, but it matters to the people in that company.

It is obvious that Conservative Members wanted to adopt a different agenda. They wanted to talk up the concept of industrial strife, not because they have any interest in industrial justice or industrial peace, but because they want to talk about what they regard as tough Tory politics. My hon. Friend the Minister hit the nail firmly on the head many times in exposing them for what they are. The very idea suggested in new clause 8, under which day-one sackings are proposed as the solution to industrial disputes in this country, is ludicrous and childish. That is why it will not gain the sympathy of the House.

I hope that my hon. Friend the Minister recognises the strength of feeling behind the Friction Dynamics dispute and the more general issue. The dispute has not merely popped up in recent days; it is now in its 44th week. People are enormously troubled that the legal balance is not right. My hon. Friend has made it clear that the review of the law will take account of the process. On that basis, it is genuinely in the interests of the House not to vote on new clause 5, but to vote against new clause 8, proposed by the hon. Member for Runnymede and Weybridge (Mr. Hammond), and I very much look forward to voting in the opposite Lobby to the one in which he votes. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the motion.

Motion and clause, by leave, withdrawn.

New Clause 7

Repeal of section 109 of the Employment Rights Act 1996

'.—Section 109 of the Employment Rights Act 1996 (c. 18) (Upper age limit) is hereby repealed.'.—[Hywel Williams.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

Hywel Williams: I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

The purpose of new clause 7 is to remove the age limit on protection against unfair dismissal, so that an employee over the age of 65 would have the same protection as any other employee. Under section 94 of the Employment Rights Act 1996, an employee has a right not to be

12 Feb 2002 : Column 159

dismissed unfairly. However, under section 109 of that Act, that protection does not apply to the dismissal of an employee who has attained the retirement age for an undertaking and the age was the same whether the employee was a man or a woman or, in any other case, the employee had attained the age of 65.

Under new clause 7, that existing age limit on protection against unfair dismissal would be removed. That would ensure that an older person could claim unfair dismissal, just like any other employee. It would also bring that right into line with a great many other employment rights that are not subject to an upper age limit—for example, the right to paid leave and a minimum wage. That right would be consistent with the right to claim unfair dismissal for specified reasons that are automatically regarded as unfair, such as trade union membership.

9 pm

Mr. Hammond: The Opposition have a great deal of sympathy with the principles behind the hon. Gentleman's new clause. However, we do not feel that it is right to legislate on this matter in isolation. A much wider issue must be addressed. We look forward to a constructive discussion on how to protect the rights of older workers in the work force when the consultation in which the Government are engaged is discussed in this place.

Question put and negatived.

It being after Nine o'clock, Madam Deputy Speaker proceeded to put forthwith the Questions necessary for the disposal of the business to be concluded at that hour, pursuant to Order [27 November 2001].

New Clause 8

Dismissal and participation in industrial action

'(1) The Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992 (c. 52) is amended as follows.
(2) Subsection (2B) of section 238 (dismissals in connection with other industrial action) shall cease to have effect.
(3) Section 238A (participation in official industrial action) shall cease to have effect.'.—[Mr. Hammond.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

Motion made, and Question put, That the clause be read a Second time:—

The House divided: Ayes 127, Noes 342.

Division No. 166
[9.1 pm


Ainsworth, Peter (E Surrey)
Arbuthnot, Rt Hon James
Atkinson, David (Bour'mth E)
Atkinson, Peter (Hexham)
Baldry, Tony
Barker, Gregory
Baron, John
Beggs, Roy
Bellingham, Henry
Bercow, John
Beresford, Sir Paul
Blunt, Crispin
Boswell, Tim
Bottomley, Peter (Worthing W)
Bottomley, Rt Hon Virginia
Brazier, Julian
Burns, Simon
Burnside, David
Butterfill, John
Cameron, David
Campbell, Gregory (E Lond'y)
Cash, William
Chapman, Sir Sydney
(Chipping Barnet)
Chope, Christopher
Clappison, James
Clifton–Brown, Geoffrey
Collins, Tim
Cormack, Sir Patrick
Cran, James
Davies, Quentin (Grantham)
Donaldson, Jeffrey M
Duncan, Alan (Rutland & Melton)
Duncan, Peter (Galloway)
Duncan Smith, Rt Hon Iain
Evans, Nigel
Fallon, Michael
Forth, Rt Hon Eric
Fox, Dr Liam
Francois, Mark
Gale, Roger
Garnier, Edward
Gray, James
Grayling, Chris
Green, Damian (Ashford)
Greenway, John
Grieve, Dominic
Gummer, Rt Hon John
Hague, Rt Hon William
Hammond, Philip
Hawkins, Nick
Hayes, John
Heathcoat–Amory, Rt Hon David
Hendry, Charles
Hermon, Lady
Hoban, Mark
Hogg, Rt Hon Douglas
Horam, John
Howarth, Gerald (Aldershot)
Hunter, Andrew
Jack, Rt Hon Michael
Jackson, Robert (Wantage)
Key, Robert
Knight, Rt Hon Greg (E Yorkshire)
Laing, Mrs Eleanor
Lait, Mrs Jacqui
Leigh, Edward
Letwin, Oliver
Lewis, Dr Julian (New Forest E)
Liddell–Grainger, Ian
Lilley, Rt Hon Peter
Loughton, Tim
Luff, Peter
McIntosh, Miss Anne
MacKay, Rt Hon Andrew
Maclean, Rt Hon David
Malins, Humfrey
Mates, Michael
Mawhinney, Rt Hon Sir Brian
Mercer, Patrick
Mitchell, Andrew (Sutton Coldfield)
Murrison, Dr Andrew
Norman, Archie
O'Brien, Stephen (Eddisbury)
Osborne, George (Tatton)
Ottaway, Richard
Page, Richard
Paice, James
Paisley, Rev Ian
Paterson, Owen
Portillo, Rt Hon Michael
Prisk, Mark
Redwood, Rt Hon John
Robathan, Andrew
Robertson, Hugh (Faversham)
Robinson, Peter (Belfast E)
Roe, Mrs Marion
Rosindell, Andrew
Sayeed, Jonathan
Selous, Andrew
Shephard, Rt Hon Mrs Gillian
Simmonds, Mark
Smyth, Rev Martin (Belfast S)
Spelman, Mrs Caroline
Spink, Bob
Spring, Richard
Steen, Anthony
Swayne, Desmond
Swire, Hugo
Syms, Robert
Tapsell, Sir Peter
Taylor, Ian (Esher & Walton)
Taylor, John (Solihull)
Tredinnick, David
Trend, Michael
Turner, Andrew (Isle of Wight)
Tyrie, Andrew
Viggers, Peter
Walter, Robert
Watkinson, Angela
Widdecombe, Rt Hon Miss Ann
Wiggin, Bill
Wilkinson, John
Wilshire, David
Winterton, Mrs Ann (Congleton)
Winterton, Nicholas (Macclesfield)
Yeo, Tim
Young, Rt Hon Sir George

Tellers for the Ayes:

Mrs. Cheryl Gillan and
Mr. Laurence Robertson.


Ainsworth, Bob (Cov'try NE)
Allan, Richard
Allen, Graham
Anderson, Rt Hon Donald
(Swansea E)
Anderson, Janet (Rossendale)
Armstrong, Rt Hon Ms Hilary
Atherton, Ms Candy
Austin, John
Bailey, Adrian
Baird, Vera
Banks, Tony
Barnes, Harry
Barrett, John
Battle, John
Bayley, Hugh
Beard, Nigel
Begg, Miss Anne
Beith, Rt Hon A J
Benn, Hilary
Bennett, Andrew
Best, Harold
Betts, Clive
Blackman, Liz
Blears, Ms Hazel
Blizzard, Bob
Borrow, David
Bradley, Rt Hon Keith (Withington)
Bradley, Peter (The Wrekin)
Brake, Tom
Brown, Rt Hon Nicholas
(Newcastle E & Wallsend)
Brown, Russell (Dumfries)
Browne, Desmond
Burgon, Colin
Burnham, Andy
Cable, Dr Vincent
Cairns, David
Calton, Mrs Patsy
Campbell, Alan (Tynemouth)
Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge)
Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V)
Caplin, Ivor
Carmichael, Alistair
Caton, Martin
Cawsey, Ian
Challen, Colin
Chapman, Ben (Wirral S)
Chaytor, David
Chidgey, David
Clapham, Michael
Clark, Mrs Helen (Peterborough)
Clark, Dr Lynda
(Edinburgh Pentlands)
Clark, Paul (Gillingham)
Clarke, Rt Hon Tom (Coatbridge)
Clarke, Tony (Northampton S)
Clelland, David
Clwyd, Ann
Coaker, Vernon
Colman, Tony
Connarty, Michael
Cook, Frank (Stockton N)
Cook, Rt Hon Robin (Livingston)
Corbyn, Jeremy
Corston, Jean
Cotter, Brian
Cousins, Jim
Cranston, Ross
Cryer, Mrs Ann (Keighley)
Cryer, John (Hornchurch)
Cummings, John
Cunningham, Rt Hon Dr Jack
Cunningham, Jim (Cov'try S)
Cunningham, Tony (Workington)
Curtis–Thomas, Mrs Claire
Davey, Edward (Kingston)
Davey, Valerie (Bristol W)
David, Wayne
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)
Davis, Rt Hon Terry
(B'ham Hodge H)
Dawson, Hilton
Dean, Mrs Janet
Denham, Rt Hon John
Dhanda, Parmjit
Dismore, Andrew
Dobbin, Jim
Dobson, Rt Hon Frank
Donohoe, Brian H
Doughty, Sue
Dowd, Jim
Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth
Eagle, Angela (Wallasey)
Eagle, Maria (L'pool Garston)
Edwards, Huw
Ellman, Mrs Louise
Ennis, Jeff
Ewing, Annabelle
Farrelly, Paul
Fisher, Mark
Fitzpatrick, Jim
Fitzsimons, Mrs Lorna
Flynn, Paul
Follett, Barbara
Foster, Michael Jabez (Hastings)
Galloway, George
Gardiner, Barry
George, Andrew (St Ives)
George, Rt Hon Bruce (Walsall S)
Gerrard, Neil
Gibson, Dr Ian
Gilroy, Linda
Godsiff, Roger
Goggins, Paul
Green, Matthew (Ludlow)
Griffiths, Jane (Reading E)
Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)
Grogan, John
Hall, Mike (Weaver Vale)
Hamilton, David (Midlothian)
Hancock, Mike
Hanson, David
Harris, Tom (Glasgow Cathcart)
Havard, Dai
Healey, John
Heath, David
Henderson, Ivan (Harwich)
Hepburn, Stephen
Heppell, John
Hesford, Stephen
Hewitt, Rt Hon Ms Patricia
Heyes, David
Hill, Keith
Hinchliffe, David
Hodge, Margaret
Holmes, Paul
Hope, Phil
Hopkins, Kelvin
Howarth, Rt Hon Alan (Newport E)
Howarth, George (Knowsley N)
Howells, Dr Kim
Hoyle, Lindsay
Hughes, Beverley (Stretford)
Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N)
Hughes, Simon (Southwark N)
Humble, Mrs Joan
Hurst, Alan
Hutton, Rt Hon John
Iddon, Dr Brian
Illsley, Eric
Ingram, Rt Hon Adam
Jackson, Glenda (Hampstead)
Jackson, Helen (Hillsborough)
Jamieson, David
Jenkins, Brian
Johnson, Alan (Hull W & Hessle)
Jones, Helen (Warrington N)
Jones, Kevan (N Durham)
Jones, Lynne (Selly Oak)
Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S)
Jones, Nigel (Cheltenham)
Joyce, Eric
Keeble, Ms Sally
Keen, Alan (Feltham & Heston)
Keen, Ann (Brentford & Isleworth)
Kelly, Ruth
Kennedy, Jane (Wavertree)
Khabra, Piara S
Kidney, David
Kilfoyle, Peter
King, Andy (Rugby & Kenilworth)
Kirkwood, Archy
Ladyman, Dr Stephen
Lamb, Norman
Lammy, David
Lazarowicz, Mark
Leslie, Christopher
Levitt, Tom
Lewis, Ivan (Bury S)
Liddell, Rt Hon Mrs Helen
Lloyd, Tony
Llwyd, Elfyn
Love, Andrew
Lucas, Ian
Luke, Iain
Lyons, John
McAvoy, Thomas
McCafferty, Chris
McCartney, Rt Hon Ian
McDonagh, Siobhain
MacDonald, Calum
McDonnell, John
MacDougall, John
McIsaac, Shona
McKechin, Ann
Mackinlay, Andrew
McNamara, Kevin
McNulty, Tony
MacShane, Denis
Mactaggart, Fiona
McWalter, Tony
McWilliam, John
Mahmood, Khalid
Mahon, Mrs Alice
Mallaber, Judy
Mann, John
Marris, Rob
Marsden, Gordon (Blackpool S)
Marshall, David (Shettleston)
Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)
Marshall–Andrews, Robert
Martlew, Eric
Meale, Alan
Merron, Gillian
Michael, Rt Hon Alun
Milburn, Rt Hon Alan
Miliband, David
Moffatt, Laura
Mole, Chris
Moonie, Dr Lewis
Moore, Michael
Moran, Margaret
Morgan, Julie
Mudie, George
Mullin, Chris
Murphy, Denis (Wansbeck)
Murphy, Jim (Eastwood)
Naysmith, Dr Doug
Norris, Dan
O'Brien, Bill (Normanton)
O'Hara, Edward
Öpik, Lembit
Osborne, Sandra (Ayr)
Owen, Albert
Palmer, Dr Nick
Pearson, Ian
Picking, Anne
Pickthall, Colin
Pike, Peter
Plaskitt, James
Pond, Chris
Pope, Greg
Pound, Stephen
Prentice, Gordon (Pendle)
Prescott, Rt Hon John
Price, Adam
Prosser, Gwyn
Pugh, Dr John
Purchase, Ken
Purnell, James
Quin, Rt Hon Joyce
Quinn, Lawrie
Rammell, Bill
Rapson, Syd
Raynsford, Rt Hon Nick
Reed, Andy (Loughborough)
Reid, Alan (Argyll & Bute)
Rendel, David
Robertson, Angus (Moray)
Robertson, John
(Glasgow Anniesland)
Roche, Mrs Barbara
Ross, Ernie
Roy, Frank
Ruane, Chris
Ruddock, Joan
Russell, Bob (Colchester)
Russell, Ms Christine (Chester)
Ryan, Joan
Salmond, Alex
Salter, Martin
Sanders, Adrian
Sarwar, Mohammad
Savidge, Malcolm
Sawford, Phil
Sedgemore, Brian
Shaw, Jonathan
Sheerman, Barry
Sheridan, Jim
Simpson, Alan (Nottingham S)
Singh, Marsha
Skinner, Dennis
Smith, Rt Hon Andrew (Oxford E)
Smith, Angela (Basildon)
Smith, Rt Hon Chris (Islington S)
Smith, Geraldine (Morecambe)
Smith, Jacqui (Redditch)
Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)
Soley, Clive
Southworth, Helen
Squire, Rachel
Starkey, Dr Phyllis
Steinberg, Gerry
Stevenson, George
Stewart, David (Inverness E)
Stewart, Ian (Eccles)
Stinchcombe, Paul
Stoate, Dr Howard
Strang, Rt Hon Dr Gavin
Stringer, Graham
Stuart, Ms Gisela
Stunell, Andrew
Sutcliffe, Gerry
Tami, Mark
Taylor, Rt Hon Ann (Dewsbury)
Taylor, Ms Dari (Stockton S)
Taylor, David (NW Leics)
Taylor, Dr Richard (Wyre F)
Thomas, Gareth (Clwyd W)
Thomas, Gareth R (Harrow W)
Thomas, Simon (Ceredigion)
Thurso, John
Timms, Stephen
Tonge, Dr Jenny
Truswell, Paul
Turner, Dennis (Wolverh'ton SE)
Turner, Dr Desmond (Kemptown)
Turner, Neil (Wigan)
Twigg, Derek (Halton)
Twigg, Stephen (Enfield)
Tyler, Paul
Tynan, Bill
Walley, Ms Joan
Ward, Ms Claire
Wareing, Robert N
Watson, Tom
Watts, David
Webb, Steve
Weir, Michael
White, Brian
Whitehead, Dr Alan
Wicks, Malcolm
Williams, Rt Hon Alan
(Swansea W)
Williams, Mrs Betty (Conwy)
Williams, Hywel (Caernarfon)
Williams, Roger (Brecon)
Winnick, David
Winterton, Ms Rosie (Doncaster C)
Wishart, Pete
Wood, Mike
Woodward, Shaun
Woolas, Phil
Wright, Anthony D (Gt Yarmouth)
Wright, David (Telford)
Wright, Tony (Cannock)
Younger–Ross, Richard

Tellers for the Noes:

Mr. Nick Ainger and
Mr. Fraser Kemp.

Question accordingly negatived.

12 Feb 2002 : Column 163

Clause 1

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