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Lord Razzall: My Lords, I support the amendment entirely, but I wonder whether the Minister will consider a point raised by the Royal College of Nursing that falls slightly outside the amendment as drafted.

I understand that the Royal College of Nursing has a practice of using unpaid stewards to represent members of the college at disciplinary hearings. Those stewards are neither employed by the same organisation as the member nor paid officials of the trade union. Will the Minister confirm that Amendment No. 115 will enable the Royal College of Nursing to continue that practice?

Baroness Miller of Hendon: My Lords, we certainly welcome Amendments Nos. 114, 115 and 117. Amendments Nos. 114 and 115 narrow the definition of a trade union official--which, as the Minister may recall, concerned us somewhat. We were, and perhaps still are, slightly worried that there will be a new profession of trade union advocates travelling from one firm to another and intervening in problems that would be better settled internally.

We believed that the person who accompanies a worker to a hearing should either be a colleague employed by the same business, or an official of the union to which the worker belongs or which has negotiation rights with the employer. What we believe should not be allowed, because it is undesirable, is that the shop steward from union A, working for company B, can accompany worker C who is employed by company D. If that is as confusing as it sounds, the ideal solution would be to have only three parties; the employer, the worker and the union official from the union recognised by the company, unless there is no such union.

We are also concerned that the accompanying union official should at least have some qualifications or experience in disciplinary and grievance proceedings because we believe that it is all too easy for an inexperienced advocate, trying to make a name for himself, to exacerbate an already delicate situation. This

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is one of those instances in which I might have liked to table a constructive amendment, but I believe that it is far too late for probing amendments.

I welcome the Minister's comments on the problem that we believe exists and should like to learn whether he is prepared to consider further modifications either here or in the other place in order to ensure that the Bill promotes good employment relations rather than to risk unnecessary strife by outsiders.

I thank the Minister for tabling Amendment No. 117. Once again, the Government have taken on board concerns that were expressed at an earlier stage by Members on both sides of the House and by his noble friends. The new layout and few alterations in wording have made all the difference. The clause now gives a more positive definition of disciplinary proceedings, and breaking it up into separate lettered paragraphs has made it much easier to understand and has provided greater clarity.

Lord Simon of Highbury: My Lords, I thank both noble Lords opposite for their generous support for the rewording of the clauses. It is clear that we gained from the good debate we had on the issue in Committee.

In answering the two questions which were raised, I can confirm to the noble Lord, Lord Razzall, that unpaid stewards could accompany provided that they are authorised by the union. It would be a question of authorisation. Secondly, I say to the noble Baroness, Lady Miller, that the Government do not have in mind revisiting the terms of clauses, but, if she still has doubts, many of the points she raised will have light thrown upon them by the redrafting of the ACAS code and the advice that is given under those circumstances about how good relationships between management and union, which we know are the preponderance of the relationships in this country, can be furthered everywhere within our industrial community. We should prefer to operate through the code, so perhaps that is the most promising answer at this stage.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Simon of Highbury moved Amendment No. 115:

Page 5, line 21, at end insert--
("( ) an official of a trade union (within that meaning) who has been certified in writing by the union as competent to act for the purposes of this section,")

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 11 [Complaint to employment tribunal]:

[Amendment No. 116 not moved.]

Clause 13 [Interpretation]:

Lord Simon of Highbury moved Amendment No. 117:

Page 8, line 1, leave out subsection (4) and insert--
("(4) For the purposes of section 10 a disciplinary hearing is a hearing which could result in--
(a) the administration of a formal warning to a worker by his employer,
(b) the taking of some other action in respect of a worker by his employer, or
(c) the confirmation of a warning issued or some other action taken.

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(4A) For the purposes of section 10 a grievance hearing is a hearing which concerns the performance of a duty by an employer in relation to a worker.")

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Monson moved Amendment No. 118:

Page 8, line 11, leave out ("the United Kingdom") and insert ("Great Britain")

The noble Lord said: My Lords, in moving Amendment No. 118, I shall speak also to Amendment No. 119. During Committee, I suggested that the term "the United Kingdom" in Clause 13 was erroneous, since with one tiny exception the Bill does not apply to Northern Ireland. Moreover, the term "Great Britain" is used everywhere else in the Bill.

I sensed from the reply of the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, that he had some sympathy with my point. Accordingly, I tabled Amendments Nos. 118 and 119 to rectify what appears to be a drafting anomaly. I beg to move.

Lord Simon of Highbury: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Monson. He has raised a detailed but extremely useful point; namely, that an inconsistency exists between the definitions used to define "working day" in Schedule 1 and Clause 13. As noble Lords will recall, during the debate on 17th June the noble Lord, Lord Monson, suggested that references to United Kingdom in Clause 13(5) had been caused by a drafting error. The noble Lord was correct; he has a very sharp eye and I am glad to see that that can exist with bifocal help.

The noble Lord will also know that I have since confirmed in writing to the noble Lord that the inconsistency does not reverse the overall effect of Clause 37, which provides that the Bill does not apply to Northern Ireland. However, I recognise his concern that allowing such an inconsistency to stand might create unnecessary confusion on that matter. It certainly might inconvenience employers, workers and their unions when they come to apply the law in practice.

The Government are mindful of the need to reduce any scope for confusion. I am grateful to the noble Lord for spotting the error and I am happy to accept his amendments correcting it.

Lord Monson: My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for his reply and his kind words.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Monson moved Amendment No. 119:

Page 8, line 16, leave out ("the United Kingdom") and insert ("Great Britain")

On Question, amendment agreed to.

8 Jul 1999 : Column 1101

7.15 p.m.

Lord Simon of Highbury moved Amendment No. 120:

After Clause 14, insert the following new clause--


(". Sections 10 to 13 shall not apply in relation to a person employed for the purposes of--
(a) the Security Service,
(b) the Secret Intelligence Service, or
(c) the Government Communications Headquarters.")

The noble Lord said: My Lords, Amendment No. 120 concerns the sensitive issue of national security. As currently drafted, Clause 13(1) applies the right to be accompanied in grievance and disciplinary hearings to persons in Crown employment. It therefore applies to employment within the Security Service, Secret Intelligence Service and the Government Communications Headquarters.

The staff of the security and intelligence agencies have a unique status. The sensitive nature of their employment sets them apart from other workers and we have therefore given further consideration as to their inclusion in this part of the Bill.

On reflection, we consider that it could create genuine difficulties for the security and intelligence agencies if outsider union representatives were allowed as of right to attend hearings at which highly confidential information might be disclosed. I should stress that the problem is not that such people are trade unionists; rather, the difficulty is that they are outside the security and intelligence agencies. The same difficulty would arise if the accompanying person came from any other walk of life. It is with this in mind that the Government believe that the security and intelligence agencies' staff should be excluded from the provisions on the right to be accompanied.

I am aware that the House might be concerned that employment relations in the agencies might suffer if the right to be accompanied did not apply to these staff. Obviously, staff in the agencies--just like any other workers--need to be treated fairly if they are to give of their best. I can assure the House on this point. The security and intelligence services already have good grievance and disciplinary procedures in place, which are tailored to meet their own needs, providing fair treatment yet minimising security risks. For example, the procedures allow for individuals to be accompanied at hearings, usually by fellow workers. At GCHQ, the accompanying person can be a trade union representative.

As noble Lords will be aware, there are amendments yet to be debated which, if accepted, will bring into the Bill provisions which will open up access to employment tribunals for staff engaged in security and intelligence work. That is a major step. In that context the new entitlements are relevant because they will also help to ensure that internal procedures are applied faithfully in practice. Any failure to do so may count against the agencies at the tribunals which I have just mentioned.

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This amendment deals sensibly with the special case of the security and intelligence agencies in the knowledge that the agencies already operate sound procedures and have well-understood employment practices. I beg to move.

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