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Employment Bill

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Mr. Hammond: I beg to move amendment No. 112, in page 5, line 10, at end insert—

    '(cc) make provision requiring employers to pass copies of notices received under sections 80a or 80b from employees to the Child Support Agency in specified circumstances'.

The Minister should be able to respond to the amendment quickly because I think that I have answered it for myself since tabling it. I think that clause 13(2) provides for information to be passed to the Child Support Agency. I tabled the amendment because it seemed that the best way to deter fraudulent claims of paternity was to ensure that the CSA was aware of them. If the Minister can confirm that the amendment is redundant under clause 13(2), I will withdraw it.

11.15 am

Alan Johnson: This is one brief that I managed to read in advance, and the answer is yes.

Mr. Hammond: I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Mr. Hammond: I beg to move amendment No. 121, in page 5, line 13, leave out paragraph (e).

The amendment would remove paragraph (e) from new section 80E and has the same purpose of probing the Minister as to what is intended. That paragraph allows for regulations to make special provision for cases in which an employee already has a contractual right that corresponds to the statutory rights provided for by the Bill, which is curious. What special provisions does the Minister think will be necessary to deal with the impact of a statutory right in a case in which the right already exists by virtue of a contract? I cannot think of a special provision that would be required, so can the Minister clarify that?

Norman Lamb: I speculate briefly that the intent is to ensure that the employee does not have the right both under the contract of employment and under the new statutory provisions. Perhaps the Minister can confirm that.

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Alan Johnson: I shall do so in a long-winded way, if hon. Members do not mind, because it is important to make matters clear.

Paragraph (e) sets out the powers to make regulations that deal with cases. In many cases the employee will have a right to paternity leave under his contract of employment, or otherwise, that corresponds with his new statutory rights under the Bill. Removing the paragraph would mean that a father who had a contractual entitlement to paternity leave and qualified for the same right under the new provisions, would benefit from both. If his contractual right goes beyond the new right, nothing in the Bill will prevent him from enjoying that wider right. However, if the employer is already offering rights that are equivalent to those offered by statute, it would be wrong that he should suffer the double whammy of an employee receiving statutory rights on top of those.

The paragraph also mirrors the use of the parental leave regulations, by which special provisions are made for parents who qualify for both a contractual right to parental leave and leave under regulations. I expect the regulations made under this clause to mirror those that already exist in the parental regulations. With that explanation, I hope that hon. Gentleman will withdraw his amendment.

Mr. Hammond: That is useful. What the Minister has said has inspired a thought—I do not have an amendment for it, but may return to it. Later in the Bill is a provision that prohibits the employee being required to contribute directly or indirectly to statutory pay. The Minister appears to be confirming that in a case in which an employee is already contractually entitled to a certain amount of pay for a certain period, and he loses that entitlement because of the statutory entitlement, he would, indirectly, be contributing to it. That thought that may provoke another amendment. However, he has clarified the intention of paragraph (e) and I am grateful to him. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Mr. Hammond: I beg to move amendment No. 122, in page 5, line 23, leave out 'entitled to take' and insert

    'who is taking or has taken.'.

The provision covers people who are actually taking or have taken leave, not people who are merely entitled to take leave but choose not to do so. I suspect that many people who are entitled to take leave will not do so. I may have misunderstood the provision, but it should apply to people who are actually taking or have taken leave.

Alan Johnson: The hon. Gentleman is right. Many fathers will choose not to take advantage of the provisions and will not take paternity leave. The amendment would make no difference to the spirit and intention of the provision and would not even create a drafting problem, but it is unnecessary. It would create a problem because the wording in the Bill would be different from that in maternity leave legislation. Adopting a different formulation, however subtle, would be dangerous because, as we have said previously, that might suggest that there was a subtly different intention. Our intention is not different and

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the amendment has the potential to confuse, so I ask the hon. Gentleman to withdraw it.

Mr. Hammond: I understand what the Minister is saying and perhaps I did not express myself clearly. I am suggesting that modification of the application of other statutes should be limited to the period during which the leave is taken, as opposed to a much wider application. Someone who is entitled to take the leave is entitled to take it before he takes it, during the period of the leave and perhaps afterwards. What enactments does the Minister envisage will apply in a modified way and should they not be applied in a modified way only during the actual period of the leave?

Alan Johnson: I will consider the point, but the intention is that the drafting should relate to the existing position of women who take maternity leave, although there is a difference because women must take maternity leave, but men have a choice with paternity leave. We did not think that the amendment would make any difference to the thrust of the provision, but the hon. Gentleman has raised a point that we did not spot when going through the amendment.

Norman Lamb: The Minister may have been about to reply to the hon. Member for Runnymede and Weybridge, but I should be grateful if he would outline the enactments that he has in mind in the clause and

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the regulations that could be made under it. I cannot recall what enactments need amending in relation to someone taking maternity leave or being entitled to maternity leave or paternity leave. Can the Minister help with that?

Alan Johnson: I shall try, but perhaps I could return to the matter and give some examples in due course. In the meantime, I hope that the hon. Member for Runnymede and Weybridge will withdraw the amendment.

Mr. Hammond: I am happy to withdraw the amendment, but I hope that the Minister will find an opportunity later to answer the question posed by the hon. Member for North Norfolk because that may enable us to understand why ''entitled'' has been used instead of the wording proposed in the amendment. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill

Mr. Hammond: Clause 1 is long and complicated. It inserts a number of new sections into existing legislation—

It being twenty-five minutes past Eleven o'clock, the Chairman adjourned the Committee without Question put, pursuant to the Standing order.

Adjourned till this day at half-past Two o'clock.

The following Members attended the Committee:
Amess, Mr. David (Chairman)
Hammond, Mr.
Hendry, Mr.
Hughes, Mr. Kevin
Humble, Mrs.
Johnson, Alan
Jones, Helen
Lamb, Norman
Laxton, Mr.
Lloyd, Mr.
Mallaber, Judy
Marris, Rob
Osborne, Mr. George
Pearson, Mr.
Prisk, Mr.
Simmonds, Mr.
Smith, Geraldine
Tami, Mark
Williams, Mrs. Betty

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