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Lord Tebbit: I am grateful to the Minister for giving way. He made it plain that those who have contracts of employment are included in this figure. What about those who have contracts for employment? I am sure there are other noble Lords in this Chamber who have contracts for employment as opposed to contracts of employment; that is, they are essentially self-employed persons contracting to do a particular job for a company.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: They do not have a contract of employment and they do not count, just as Ministers who are office holders do not count. They are not employees for this purpose. The third category the noble Baroness mentioned were members of a partnership. Members of a partnership are working for themselves and are not workers in the sense used in Schedule 1, which is the definition in Section 296 of the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992. I hope I have persuaded the noble Baroness that these amendments are not necessary. Also they are undesirable because they could exclude genuine workers who hold shares in their company from counting towards the 21 workers limit.

One of my noble friends mentioned the John Lewis Partnership. I am not sure whether that would qualify--I rather think it would not--because I believe it is a title rather than a legal status. Nevertheless it would clearly be quite wrong for people to be excluded from the right to argue for collective bargaining simply because they were also part of an employee share ownership scheme. I hope that the noble Baroness will not pursue Amendments Nos. 6 and 75A. Having considered the intensely political issues involved in the cut-off point, I hope that the Committee will agree that the Government have consulted widely and have taken into account the nature of the burdens on small businesses;

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that there are opportunities for small businesses in partnership at work; and that the Government's solution is preferable to the one proposed by the noble Baroness.

Baroness Miller of Hendon: The Minister will not be at all surprised that I am extraordinarily disappointed that he did not accept my Amendments Nos. 4 and 5. I am grateful to all noble Lords who have spoken in support, particularly to my noble friend Lord Tebbit, who spoke from great experience, and to my noble friend Lord Geddes, who made the point that in European legislation a small business is defined in a certain way; that is, anything up to 49 people. I was surprised by some of the interventions from noble Lords opposite. No one has commented on the numbers I have mentioned. We are talking about a partnership, about fairness at work. My noble friend Lord Tebbit spoke about fairness to the employer. I was making the point that, all of a sudden, compulsory collective bargaining could be imposed with very few people deciding that it was necessary.

As to the last three parts of Amendment No. 6, I shall read very carefully what the Minister said. I do not consider them unnecessary; had I thought that I would not have mentioned them. In my view they are very necessary and I shall read the clauses carefully.

I intend to beg leave to withdraw Amendment No. 4, but noble Lords opposite should not take that to mean that I am content. This is a very bad day for small business. The Minister says that the Government consulted widely but numerous business organisations are not at all content with 21 plus. The IoD, the EES and various other organisations felt, on consultation, that it would make it very difficult for employers with small businesses. I shall consult with my colleagues as to what is to happen at the next stage. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 5 and 6 not moved.]

Lord McIntosh of Haringey moved Amendment No. 7:

Page 18, line 22, at end insert ("and
(b) may include supplementary, incidental, saving or transitional provisions.")

The noble Lord said: In moving Amendment No. 7 I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 76 and 170. I referred to the amendment when I denied that the Government acknowledge that the 21 cut-off point is too stringent. The Bill already provides that the Secretary of State may, by means of a statutory instrument made under paragraph 6(6), alter the 21 workers cut-off. He has no equivalent power to seek to amend paragraphs 40 and 75, where it also appears. It is obviously desirable to alter the figure in all three places, if it is to change at all. Amendments Nos. 76 and 170 respectively would give the Secretary of State the power to alter the 21 workers figure in each paragraph and resolve this anomaly.

If the 21 workers limit should need to change, the Government wish to ensure an orderly transition from one limit to another. Therefore we are also putting

7 Jun 1999 : Column 1176

forward Amendment No. 7 which gives the Secretary of State power to make transitional arrangements in regulations which alter the 21 workers limit. These are modest but necessary changes.

Amendments Nos. 76A and 170A standing in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Miller, assume that there will never be a time when the Government believe that the limit needs to be reduced. I do not have that kind of power of foresight. I can envisage a government--certainly not this Government--raising the limit to 200 workers and a subsequent government wishing to reduce it to 100, 50 or perhaps even 21 workers. The amendments would prevent that. They would always ratchet up the limit. I repeat, the Government have no intention of increasing or reducing the 21 workers limit. However, we believe that the Government should have the power to alter the limit in either direction in whatever way necessary. I commend Amendments Nos. 7, 76 and 170 to the Committee. I beg to move.

Baroness Miller of Hendon: My Lords, I shall speak to my Amendments Nos. 76A and 170A, both of which are in identical terms. I am sorry if I misunderstood paragraph 6(6)(b). I was gratified to think that the Government would extend the number rather than reduce it; I did not realise at that stage that the Government intended the power to move it either way.

My two amendments seek to vary government Amendments Nos. 76 and 170. The government amendments seek to give the Secretary of State power to vary the number of workers employed by a firm required to trigger the representation figure from the low number of 21 specified in the Bill, which we have just discussed at length in the previous amendment. As the Committee is aware, we regard the figure of 21 as unduly low. We do not object to the Secretary of State having power to amend it by, in effect, ministerial decree. However, we object to the possibility that the figure could be reduced even further. The Secretary of State may say that no such possibility has entered his mind. After what the Minister has recently told us, I suspect he may not say that. My proposal would remove any possible ambiguity. It allows the Secretary of State to move the figure upwards--but only upwards--when, as we suspect he will, he discovers that the figure of 21 is far too low.

He may also argue that the amending order will contain a provision requiring the approval of both Houses and that our fears are unfounded. That may be so, but it is no reason why the Bill should not specify the exact limits of the basis of the order. The power should be to amend the number only in an upward direction.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: I have already responded to the points made by the noble Baroness. It would have been polite for me to have listened to her first. I do not think she expects me to change my mind. I commend Amendment No. 7.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

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Baroness Miller of Hendon moved Amendment No. 8:

Page 18, line 28, at end insert ("; and
(d) identifies any specific issues on which the union or unions are currently seeking recognition, or will seek recognition in the future, or both.")

The noble Baroness said: The amendment proposes a very simple and totally undemanding obligation on a union seeking to represent workers in a particular firm. All it has to do is to state in its request for recognition whether there are any specific current issues or ones it foresees in the future about which it would wish to represent its members. It may well be that there are no such specific issues and that all the union wants to do, in general terms, is to represent employees concerning matters such as pay and working conditions. In that case, in its request for recognition the union will state:

    "Apart from pay and conditions in general, there are no specific issues on which we currently wish to represent our members or which, at this time we anticipate will arise". However, let us suppose that the union believes there are issues of redundancy, expansion, shifting work from one place to another, multi-tasking or any other of the numerous problems that arise in industrial relations. Is there any reason why the union should not state in advance of its recognition what it has got on its mind? Forewarning the employer does not enable the employer to veto the request, nor does it give an employer any tactical advantage. Indeed, by laying its cards on the table, the union could make the resolution of a specific issue much less confrontational.

I do not wish to make heavy weather of the amendment. Equally, the Government should have no difficulty in accepting it. I beg to move.

Lord McCarthy: The answer to the question of why we do not need the amendment--which would not do any harm--is that it would not do any good. One of the points I tried to make earlier was that in the way this Bill is constituted one gets only one answer: whether one twists or busts, one either gets recognition, or wages, or house, or holidays, or one does not get recognition at all. Indeed, subsequently it would be the case that one would have to give up the recognition one has in order to get some more. What is the point of disclosing all the other things that a union wants? The employer almost certainly knows that and he will not give anything. It is because he will not give anything that he finds himself in front of the CAC.

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