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Alan Johnson: The hon. Gentleman should understand that in all cases, including those of gross misconduct, there is a right to appeal.

Norman Lamb: I do understand that, but I know from considerable experience as an employment lawyer—indeed, we all know—that once an employee is out of the door, the right of appeal will rarely lead to reinstatement. The chance to have a say must come before the decision is made.

In Committee and on other occasions, the Minister has said that the Bill provides, in a sense, a bottom line and that many companies have more detailed procedures. He must accept, however, that part of the Bill constitutes an effective reversal of the Polkey principle. That means, in layman's terms, that if an employer can convince a tribunal that going through the more extended procedures would have made no difference, the dismissal is fair. Inevitably, employers will go to tribunals and argue that case. They will say that they have ignored the more extended procedures because they would have made no difference, and that the dismissal should therefore be found to be fair. The result will be less protection for employees.

Moreover, as time goes by employers are bound to amend their disciplinary procedures to bring them more into line with the basic provisions of the Bill. In cases of gross misconduct, employees, according to companies' own disciplinary procedures, will have no right to a hearing before being dismissed. All they will have is a rather hopeless right of appeal after the event.

We hear from the Minister that the ACAS code provides additional guidance and protection, but we are told that ACAS will amend the code in the light of the Bill. Who knows what will result from that? I think it almost inevitable that ACAS will reduce the protection in line with the reduced protection provided by the Bill.

There is no doubt that existing case law provides the right to a hearing before dismissal. That case law, however, is flexible enough to recognise the existence of

12 Feb 2002 : Column 175

exceptional cases. The Minister gave the example of a "one-man band", when an employee thumps his employer in the face. A disciplinary hearing would be of little value in such circumstances; under existing law, a tribunal would find a dismissal without a hearing to be fair. Existing law also enables an employer to remove an employee from the premises by way of suspension, in order to remove a difficult problem pending a hearing. The hearing, however, must still take place.

I urge the Minister to listen both to Labour Members and to us, and to seriously consider whether, in cases of gross misconduct, he really wants to remove the right to the fundamental protection provided by a hearing before dismissal. As the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, North (Ms Walley) said, it would be a shame to damage a Bill that has so much merit by removing a protection that survived 18 years of Conservative government.

9.54 pm

Judy Mallaber: May I urge my hon. Friend the Minister to take account of the points that have been raised by my right hon. and hon. Friends? I will not rehearse the arguments which have been put by my hon. Friends the Members for Manchester, Central (Mr. Lloyd) and for Stoke-on-Trent, North (Ms Walley). We have concerns about issues such as preparation costs and whether they will act as a disincentive to people taking cases forward.

I should like to highlight the very positive items in the Bill, especially the paternity and adoption leave provisions. I could give numerous examples of how flexible working will benefit employers and employees. I know of nurses who are unable to return to work, although we want them to do so, because local management is not prepared to be flexible about adjusting their rota to enable those nurses to deal with their child care provision.

I am intrigued by the attitude of Conservative Members. The hon. Member for Runnymede and Weybridge (Mr. Hammond) was almost cuddly and positively friendly in Committee, yet tonight he tells us that the Bill is all about burdens on business. There is a considerable contradiction in Conservative Members' attitude. My hon. Friend the Minister pointed out the benefits and savings available to employers in operating flexible working conditions. The proposals have been put forward in consultation with employers, unions and representatives.

I was astonished to find that as soon as we discussed union learning representatives—promoting education in the workplace and using that huge trade union experience and history to promote education in basic skills and other areas for people at work—Conservative Members suddenly went completely doolally and decided that this was the end of civilisation as we know it. We spent nearly a whole day debating it—it was simply amazing. Conservative Members have displayed considerable contradiction in their attitude to the Bill's very positive proposals. We should be using people's skills and encouraging them; it is difficult to get people at work to acknowledge that they have a skills gap and that they need training and education. The more help there is to achieve that the better.

I applaud the Bill's positive proposals. We have seen the clear division between Labour Members who want a positive attitude towards relations in the work force and

12 Feb 2002 : Column 176

Conservative Members who, even when they are trying to be good and nice on various issues, end up reverting to type in wanting to create conflict rather than co-operation.

9.58 pm

Mr. Simmonds: There is much in the Bill that I welcome, such as new rights for parents, flexible working, maternity and paternity pay and leave and, in particular, the reform of the tribunal system. However, we should be under no illusion: the Bill is driven by the Government's desire to acquiesce to the trade unions. In effect, it is payback time. The Bill redresses the balance and moves the fulcrum from the position that it has occupied, correctly, for so many years.

There are serious issues in the Bill with which I disagree, such as the allowance of trade union learning representatives—time off in which to continue to ply their trade—and fixed-term contracts. Many complicated issues to do with pensions, of tremendous concern to employer organisations, have not been debated properly. Burdens on businesses, particularly small businesses, will continue to lead to the further erosion of competitiveness. Apparently, we have dropped from ninth to 19th in the table.

I urge the Minister and future Secretaries of State to use the regulations provided for in the Bill with consideration and thought, and to bear in mind the continued burden and cost to businesses.

Question put:—

The House divided: Ayes 358, Noes 132.

Division No. 167
[10 pm


Ainger, Nick
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
Beggs, Roy
Beith, Rt Hon A J
Benn, Hilary
Bennett, Andrew
Best, Harold
Betts, Clive
Blackman, Liz
Blears, Ms Hazel
Blizzard, Bob
Bradley, Rt Hon Keith (Withington)
Bradley, Peter (The Wrekin)
Brake, Tom
Brooke, Mrs Annette L
Brown, Rt Hon Nicholas
(Newcastle E & Wallsend)
Brown, Russell (Dumfries)
Browne, Desmond
Bruce, Malcolm
Burgon, Colin
Burnham, Andy
Burstow, Paul
Cable, Dr Vincent
Cairns, David
Calton, Mrs Patsy
Campbell, Alan (Tynemouth)
Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge)
Campbell, Rt Hon Menzies
(NE Fife)
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
Cohen, Harry
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
Donaldson, Jeffrey M
Donohoe, Brian H
Doughty, Sue
Dowd, Jim
Eagle, Angela (Wallasey)
Eagle, Maria (L'pool Garston)
Edwards, Huw
Ellman, Mrs Louise
Ennis, Jeff
Ewing, Annabelle
Fisher, Mark
Fitzpatrick, Jim
Fitzsimons, Mrs Lorna
Flynn, Paul
Follett, Barbara
Foster, Michael Jabez (Hastings)
Foulkes, George
Galloway, George
Gardiner, Barry
George, Andrew (St Ives)
George, Rt Hon Bruce (Walsall S)
Gerrard, Neil
Gibson, Dr Ian
Gidley, Sandra
Gilroy, Linda
Godsiff, Roger
Goggins, Paul
Green, Matthew (Ludlow)
Griffiths, Jane (Reading E)
Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)
Grogan, John
Hain, Rt Hon Peter
Hall, Mike (Weaver Vale)
Hamilton, David (Midlothian)
Hancock, Mike
Hanson, David
Harris, Tom (Glasgow Cathcart)
Harvey, Nick
Havard, Dai
Healey, John
Heath, David
Henderson, Ivan (Harwich)
Hendrick, Mark
Hepburn, Stephen
Heppell, John
Hermon, Lady
Hesford, Stephen
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
Keen, Ann (Brentford & Isleworth)
Kemp, Fraser
Kennedy, Jane (Wavertree)
Khabra, Piara S
Kidney, David
Kilfoyle, Peter
King, Andy (Rugby & Kenilworth)
Kirkwood, Archy
Ladyman, Dr Stephen
Lamb, Norman
Lammy, David
Laws, David
Laxton, Bob
Lazarowicz, Mark
Leslie, Christopher
Levitt, Tom
Lewis, Ivan (Bury S)
Liddell, Rt Hon Mrs Helen
Linton, Martin
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
McFall, John
McGuire, Mrs Anne
McIsaac, Shona
McKechin, Ann
Mackinlay, Andrew
McNamara, Kevin
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
Morris, Rt Hon Estelle
Mudie, George
Mullin, Chris
Murphy, Denis (Wansbeck)
Murphy, Jim (Eastwood)
Naysmith, Dr Doug
Norris, Dan
Oaten, Mark
O'Brien, Bill (Normanton)
O'Hara, Edward
Öpik, Lembit
Osborne, Sandra (Ayr)
Owen, Albert
Palmer, Dr Nick
Picking, Anne
Pickthall, Colin
Pike, Peter
Plaskitt, James
Pollard, Kerry
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)
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)
Smyth, Rev Martin (Belfast S)
Soley, Clive
Southworth, Helen
Spellar, Rt Hon John
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
Tonge, Dr Jenny
Touhig, Don
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
Worthington, Tony
Wright, Anthony D (Gt Yarmouth)
Wright, David (Telford)
Wright, Tony (Cannock)
Younger–Ross, Richard

Tellers for the Ayes:

Mr. Tony McNulty and
Mr. Ian Pearson.


Ainsworth, Peter (E Surrey)
Arbuthnot, Rt Hon James
Atkinson, David (Bour'mth E)
Atkinson, Peter (Hexham)
Bacon, Richard
Baldry, Tony
Barker, Gregory
Baron, John
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
Burt, Alistair
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
Cran, James
Davies, Quentin (Grantham)
Duncan, Alan (Rutland & Melton)
Duncan, Peter (Galloway)
Duncan Smith, Rt Hon Iain
Evans, Nigel
Fallon, Michael
Field, Mark (Cities of London)
Forth, Rt Hon Eric
Fox, Dr Liam
Francois, Mark
Gale, Roger
Garnier, Edward
Gibb, Nick
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
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
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)
Moss, Malcolm
Murrison, Dr Andrew
Norman, Archie
O'Brien, Stephen (Eddisbury)
Osborne, George (Tatton)
Ottaway, Richard
Page, Richard
Paice, James
Paisley, Rev Ian
Paterson, Owen
Pickles, Eric
Portillo, Rt Hon Michael
Prisk, Mark
Redwood, Rt Hon John
Robathan, Andrew
Robertson, Hugh (Faversham)
Robertson, Laurence (Tewk'b'ry)
Robinson, Peter (Belfast E)
Roe, Mrs Marion
Rosindell, Andrew
Ruffley, David
Sayeed, Jonathan
Selous, Andrew
Shephard, Rt Hon Mrs Gillian
Simmonds, Mark
Spelman, Mrs Caroline
Spink, Bob
Spring, Richard
Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John
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
Waterson, Nigel
Watkinson, Angela
Widdecombe, Rt Hon Miss Ann
Wiggin, Bill
Wilkinson, John
Willetts, David
Wilshire, David
Winterton, Mrs Ann (Congleton)
Winterton, Nicholas (Macclesfield)
Yeo, Tim
Young, Rt Hon Sir George

Tellers for the Noes:

Mrs. Cheryl Gillan and
Dr. Julian Lewis.

Question accordingly agreed to.

12 Feb 2002 : Column 180

Bill read the Third time, and passed.

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