Draft Contracting Out of Functions (Tribunal Staff) Order 2001

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Ms Winterton: I am afraid that I cannot be drawn on the question of the legality of past practices. That can be decided only by the courts, not by myself here today. I reiterate that the order's purpose is to put the position beyond any doubt. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will, therefore, support it.

I turn to security checks, confidentiality and discipline. The employment contracts that agency staff enter into with their employment agency contain clauses to ensure confidentiality, proper conduct in the workplace and adherence to the contracting company's rules. If the Court Service is unhappy with an agency worker's conduct or performance, the agency is provided with evidence, which may lead to dismissal, either solely from work with the Court Service or from employment with the agency. We are well aware of the issues raised by the hon. Gentleman, and I give him every assurance that we ensure that confidentiality is respected.

I hope that that answers many of the questions that hon. Members have raised.

Mr. Cash: What the Minister has just said about the legality of former employment raises further doubts about the advisability of the order. I think that I heard her say that the order would put matters beyond all doubt. However, the order emphatically does not make lawful previous arrangements that precede its introduction. There is nothing retrospective about it whatsoever; if that was one of its main aims, it has not been achieved. I cannot expect the Minister to repeat what she has said, but I wanted to place those comments on the record.

Ms Winterton: There is no question that the order can affect the past position, because that is clearly not its purpose—it is concerned with the future. I therefore hope that hon. Members agree that we should proceed with it quickly and expeditiously, and I commend it to the Committee.

Question put:—

The Committee divided: Ayes 8, Noes 6.

Division No. 1]

Brennan, Kevin
Burnham, Andy
Cohen, Mr. Harry
Dhanda, Mr. Parmjit
Edwards, Mr. Huw
Lepper, Mr. David
Smith, Ms Angela
Winterton, Ms Rosie

Bacon, Mr. Richard
Barker, Mr. Gregory
Burnett, Mr. John
Cash, Mr. William
Lamb, Norman
O'Brien, Mr. Stephen

Question accordingly agreed to.


    That the Committee has considered the draft Contracting Out of Functions (Tribunal Staff) Order 2001.

        Committee rose at seven minutes past Eleven o'clock.

The following Members attended the Committee:
Cook, Mr. Frank (Chairman)
Bacon, Mr.
Barker, Mr.
Brennan, Kevin
Burnett, Mr.
Burnham, Andy
Cash, Mr.
Cohen, Mr.
Dhanda, Mr.
Edwards, Mr.
Henderson, Mr. Doug
Lamb, Norman
Lepper, Mr.
O'Brien, Mr. Stephen
Smith, Angela
Winterton, Ms Rosie

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Prepared 23 October 2001