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Business Organisations

Huw Irranca-Davies (Ogmore) (Lab): I beg to move amendment No. 62, in page 41, line 4, leave out clause 75.

Madam Deputy Speaker (Sylvia Heal): With this it will be convenient to discuss new clause 12—Business scheme—

'(1)   The Welsh Ministers must make a scheme ("the business scheme") setting out how they propose, in the exercise of their functions, to take account of the interests of business.

(2)   The business scheme must specify how the Welsh Ministers propose—

(a)   to carry out consultation about the exercise of such of their functions as relate to matters affecting the interests of business, and

(b)   to consider the impact of the exercise of their functions on the interests of business.

(3)   The Welsh Ministers—

(a)   must keep the business scheme under review, and

(b)   may from time to time remake or revise it.

(4)   Before making, remaking or revising the business scheme, the Welsh Ministers must consult such organisations representative of business (including trade unions) and such other organisations as they consider appropriate.

(5)   The Welsh Ministers must publish the business scheme when they make it and whenever they remake it; and, if they revise the scheme without remaking it, they must publish either the revisions or the scheme as revised (as they consider appropriate).

(6)   If the Welsh Ministers publish a scheme or revisions under subsection (5) they must lay a copy of the scheme or revisions before the Assembly.

(7)   The Welsh Ministers must—

(a)   within the period of two years beginning with the day on which the business scheme is first made, and

(b)   subsequently at intervals of no more than two years,
publish a report of how the proposals set out in the business scheme have been implemented.

(8)   The Welsh Ministers must lay before the Assembly a copy of each report published under subsection (7).'.

Huw Irranca-Davies: I am pleased to move the amendment and support the new clause because their purpose is to recognise the interests of business throughout Wales. I was especially pleased that, on Second Reading, when my hon. Friend the Member for
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Newport, East (Jessica Morden) and I spoke for such a provision, the Under-Secretary appeared to respond favourably. Now that it has been drafted accurately—

Madam Deputy Speaker: Order. Will hon. Members who are leaving the Chamber or holding conversations in the Chamber please leave quickly and quietly?

Huw Irranca-Davies: I am especially pleased that business interests are recognised in the amendments as being those not solely of employers but of employees. They are tied together in new clause 12 so that the voice of the trade unions and employees is equally important to that of employers. When we talk about developing the economic, environmental and social well-being of Wales, as we did in our previous discussion, the business community should have a powerful say.

We tabled the amendments to ensure that the voice of the business sector—employees and employers—was recognised and included in the Bill in the same way as that of the voluntary sector and the public sector. Subsection (4) of new clause 12 refers to

That is why the amendment and new clause have the support of not only the TUC in Wales but the Wales Trades Union Council.

The amendments were tabled in the spirit of consensus. They have the backing of the people, business organisations and employee organisations in Wales. I hope that not only the House but the Under-Secretary will support them.

The new clause proposes that reports be made at intervals of no more than two years, rather than yearly, as will apply to the voluntary and public sector schemes. In defence of that slight deviation from the other two schemes, I would say that this is precisely what the unions and employers in the business community have asked for. They recognise the need for openness and transparency in reporting back, but they believe that it could be extremely cumbersome if that were to be an annual requirement. They would prefer the period to be up to two years.

I hope that amendment No. 62 and new clause 12 will garner the support of the House today.

5.30 pm

Adam Price : I am happy to support the amendment moved by the hon. Member for Ogmore (Huw Irranca-Davies). It was made clear by Ministers at the time of the passing of the Government of Wales Act 1998 that trade unions were meant to be included in the ambit of business organisations, but the amendment makes that absolutely explicit. It should be welcomed for that reason in particular, but also because it clearly sets out the requirement for consultation with social and economic organisations—as I prefer to call them—in a way that is consistent with the schemes that apply to other sectors. This would be widely welcomed by many including the Wales TUC, whose response to the consultation conducted by the Welsh Assembly Government on business consultation made it clear that the TUC wanted a formal basis for the inclusion of trade unions and a structured process to be put in place.
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That sentiment has been echoed by the main representatives of the private sector. The CBI has called for a scheme along similar lines to those proposed by the hon. Members for Ogmore and for Newport, East (Jessica Morden). Other business organisations, including the West Wales Chamber of Commerce and the Federation of Small Businesses, have made a plea that the general duty to consult business organisations needs a proper structure in terms of its mechanism and its timetable, similar to that proposed by the hon. Gentleman. I hope that this will not have to be a Labour rebellion, and that the Minister will finally accept a substantial amendment, because it has garnered considered support on both sides of the House. I shall listen with optimism to the Minister's response in due course. Meanwhile, we are happy to offer our support for the proposals.

Jessica Morden (Newport, East) (Lab): In speaking to the amendment and the new clause, I support the comments of my hon. Friend the Member for Ogmore (Huw Irranca-Davies). I also acknowledge that the Welsh Assembly Government has a good, constructive relationship with business and the trade unions in Wales, which is illustrated by the work that is being done through the Business Partnership Council.

Clauses 72 and 73 provide that Welsh Ministers must establish the Business Partnership Council with local government and place a duty on the Welsh Assembly Government to consult and advise local government, and to set up and publish a local government scheme. Clause 74 provides that Welsh Ministers must set up a voluntary sector scheme to explain how they will work and consult with the voluntary sector in Wales. Yet clause 75 calls for Ministers only to carry out consultations with

The obligation in the Bill to consult business is therefore considerably weaker than the obligations relating to local government and the voluntary sector, and it contains no reference to trade unions representing employees.

It is important to recognise that business and the trade unions play a key role in developing Wales. The new clause acknowledges that and proposes a similar arrangement for business and the unions, to be known as "the business scheme". That would enable the public to see what Welsh Ministers are committed to do for business. Relations with business and trade unions are currently good, but future Administrations would have an obligation to ensure that that continued. The scheme would also ensure that the role of the trade unions was formally acknowledged. Welsh Ministers would have a duty to consult them, and the views of workers in Wales would be heard when decisions were made by the Welsh Assembly Government.

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for considering opinions that have the support of the CBI and the TUC in Wales. I hope that the Minister will support the new clause.

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