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Mr. Owen Paterson (North Shropshire) (Con):
I wholly admire my hon. Friend for sticking to his guns against Labour Members' comments. After all, this is a debatebut perhaps it would help him to look at the annual report and accounts of the Employment Tribunals Service for 19992000 to 200405, which show that, in total contradiction of what the hon. Member for North Durham (Mr. Jones) says, there are already many weak claims for sex, race and disability discrimination. The success rates are only 28 per cent., 15 per cent. and 29 per cent. That makes my hon. Friend's case.
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Philip Davies: I thank my hon. Friend for that. Labour Members do not want to face the facts of what goes on under their Government and want to impose even more costs on businesses, despite their claims for better regulation and deregulation. They think it is funny that many small businesses have to face unnecessary, complicated cases that are a waste of time and a burden. The politically correct people in their party find that amusing.
Gordon Banks: No, I do not. I have run a successful small business in Scotland since 1986. The hon. Gentleman preaches about the legislation introduced by this Government since 1997. As a small business man, the rights and values for which the Government stand, and which they have incorporated into legislation, are a useful tool in my workplace to protect my employees. I do not find them a drawback. It is a shame that he does.
Philip Davies: I assure the hon. Gentleman that many businesses in my constituency are appalled by the red tape and regulation that they face. The Bill would only increase costs and the time that they waste in dealing with unnecessary things when they just want to get on with looking after their customers, keeping people in employment and doing something worth while.
Stephen Pound (Ealing, North) (Lab): The hon. Gentleman is demonstrably out of his depth. I offer him some assistance. Although he has drunk deep of the well of cliché, will he withdraw the statement that he made twice about discrimination cases being simply to do with political correctness? He must realise what a serious and damaging statement that is and how it is the total opposite of the official policy of the Conservative party. Will he admit that there are such things as entirely legitimate cases of discrimination that should be supported, or is every one of them an example of what he refers to wittily as political correctness?
The hon. Gentleman has not been here for much of the debate and has not heard what has been said. I am not opposed to all claims. What I oppose are frivolous claims. The Bill can onlyI am sure Labour Members would have to admit thisincrease the number of people who decide to have a pot-luck claim for compensation when they have no real basis for that. Every right-minded person would acknowledge that it could only have that one effect and would do nothing to further genuine claims of discrimination, which, as Labour Members have made clear, is covered by other legislation. There are plenty of avenues for people to go down if they want to pursue a claim. The Bill will be successful only if it leads to more people pursuing more frivolous claims. That is its only purpose.
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Mr. Kevan Jones: The old adage is, "When you're in a hole, stop digging." My hon. Friend the Member for Bradford, West (Mr. Singh) cited the case of someone who was dismissed because she was pregnant. Does the hon. Gentleman agree that such a case needs to go to an industrial tribunal and should be supported by a decent and fair-minded society? Will he give an example of what he considers a frivolous case?
Philip Davies: There is plenty of opportunity for people who have experienced serious discrimination to take their case to a tribunal, whether it be through a legal company or a trade union. If they have a serious claim, there is no barrier to their taking it to an industrial tribunal, but the only purpose of the Bill is to encourage people who have no good basis for a claim to make a case. Other people would be more than happy to take up their case if it was a good one. The Bill would encourage them to have a go.
Mr. Forth : Does my hon. Friend agree that it is perhaps the compensation culture that is the problem? What we have are a Government who, by legislation and the establishment of quangos, are encouraging something that seriously undermines our society in a number of different ways. By encouraging people to think that blame can be attached to every circumstance and that compensation is available in every circumstance, they cause many of the difficulties that the Bill would exacerbate.
Labour Members want me to give examples of frivolous claims. A prime example is of people from, for example, an ethnic minority who do not get a job because their qualifications do not match the job for which they applied. They then take a claim against a business saying that they were discriminated against because of their race, religion or whatever. The reason they were turned down was likely to be because they were not qualified for the job, yet they still make a claim. The Bill would allow them, without incurring costs, to make a claim for racial discrimination and hope that it wins, when there is no case to answer.
I am well aware of businesses that have turned down people with disabilities. They were not rejected because of their disabilitythe businesses that I have in mind have a good track record in recruiting people with disabilities. However, those people said, "Well, I'm going to take a claim to a tribunal." The Bill would allow them to have free legal representation even though their disability had nothing to do with why they did not get the job.
Where the hon. Gentleman has evidence of what he describes as frivolous cases, I urge him to put it to the Government so that they can be properly investigated. It is easy to speak in generalities. I also urge him to consider that when he is up against the ropes to put his head down in defence and to stop throwing punches.
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Philip Davies: I thank the hon. Gentleman for that friendly advice. I assure him that, from my past employment, I know of cases[Interruption.] If Labour Members do not want to listen to the examples that they have asked for
Philip Davies: The company for which I worked had an excellent track record, as acknowledged by the Labour party, of helping people with disabilities into employment and of helping its customers, yet it still faced complaints from people who said that they were not given a job because of their disability, when nothing could have been further from the truth. That company was a large multinational and, in many respects, could deal with those complaints. My concern is for the many thousands of small businesses that have neither the personnel nor the time to deal with people who try their luck, hoping that they will get a few quid out of someone. Those cases are not acceptable. The Bill would only encourage such people to take their cases as far as they could possibly go.
Mr. Kevan Jones: I understand that the hon. Gentleman used to work for Asda, which is owned by Walmart. Does not Walmarta very anti-trade union firmface a huge number of sex discrimination cases, and even race discrimination cases, throughout the United States? He says that his former employer is a shining example of good practice, but the evidence does not support his case.
Philip Davies: The hon. Gentleman clearly has no idea what he is talking about. Asda was my former employer. Can he give an example of it discriminating against anybody with a disability, or on the grounds of race or sex? Asda still faces complaints, despite its excellent track record. Does he accept that companies with excellent track records still face frivolous complaints?
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