Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Earl Russell: My Lords, before the Minister sits down, I thank him for a very careful reply. In order to avoid wasting his or his colleague's time, perhaps he can give us one more piece of information. If this is not the right place to press for Amendment No. 125, where is?

Lord Sainsbury of Turville: My Lords, I hoped that I had made it clear that the Government were considering this issue. We shall come forward with proposals, and that would be the time to join with us in pressing this issue forward.

8 p.m.

Lord Razzall: My Lords, I thank the Minister for his response. Obviously I am disappointed that the spirit of co-operation which has been created over the Bill has not extended to meeting the points that I and my noble friends have made. Having listened to the answer given by the Minister, the Government are on stronger ground on Amendment No. 126 than they are on Amendment No. 125. In both Amendments Nos. 125 and 126 I have no doubt about the Government's commitment. In Amendment No. 126 they have followed the commitment with action. I am worried that with Amendment No. 125 their commitment has not been followed with action and, as I indicated earlier, I fear that we are a long way off action. In withdrawing the two amendments tonight, I give notice that we may wish to return to them, certainly to Amendment No. 125, at Third Reading.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 126 not moved.]

Lord Sainsbury of Turville moved Amendment No. 127:

After Clause 20, insert the following new clause--


(". The following shall be inserted after section 44 of the National Minimum Wage Act 1998 (exclusions: voluntary workers)--
"Religious and other communities: resident workers.
44A.--(1) A residential member of a community to which this section applies does not qualify for the national minimum wage in respect of employment by the community.
(2) Subject to subsection (3), this section applies to a community if--
(a) it is a charity or is established by a charity,
(b) a purpose of the community is to practise or advance a belief of a religious or similar nature, and
(c) all or some of its members live together for that purpose.

8 Jul 1999 : Column 1114

(3) This section does not apply to a community which--
(a) is an independent school, or
(b) provides a course of further or higher education.
(4) The residential members of a community are those who live together as mentioned in subsection (2)(c).
(5) In this section--
(a) "charity" has the same meaning as in section 44, and
(b) "independent school" has the same meaning as in section 463 of the Education Act 1996 (in England and Wales), section 135 of the Education (Scotland) Act 1980 (in Scotland) and Article 2 of the Education and Libraries (Northern Ireland) Order 1986 (in Northern Ireland).
(6) In this section "course of further or higher education" means--
(a) in England and Wales, a course of a description referred to in Schedule 6 to the Education Reform Act 1988 or Schedule 2 to the Further and Higher Education Act 1992;
(b) in Scotland, a course or programme of a description mentioned in or falling within section 6(1) or 38 of the Further and Higher Education (Scotland) Act 1992;
(c) in Northern Ireland, a course of a description referred to in Schedule 1 to the Further Education (Northern Ireland) Order 1997 or a course providing further education within the meaning of Article 3 of that Order." ").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg to move Amendment No. 127. I bring forward the amendment in the expectation that we will all agree that this is a common-sense measure.

The Low Pay Commission has recently recommended that the position of the intentional communities under the national minimum wage should be clarified. Members of those communities are not "workers" in the way the term is normally understood. Resident members of intentional communities share living accommodation and tasks with the purpose of advancing a common religious or spiritual aim. They are often required to engage in work on behalf of the community in which they live. Their basic requirements such as meals and accommodation are met by the community. In many instances, residential members also receive small sums of money. Some communities treat their residential members as workers, issuing contracts of employment. But these workers are working because they share common aims and aspirations. They reside together as one community, sharing in the common tasks. Their work is driven by considerations quite apart from the desire for financial reward.

These individuals would probably not be regarded as "workers" at all but for the arrangements that many of the communities have put in place--for example, by issuing contracts of employment. Indeed, I should make clear that the traditional religious communities in monasteries and the like are in any case completely outside the legislation already as there are no contractual obligations and therefore no workers' rights. But certain

8 Jul 1999 : Column 1115

other communities run the risk of being caught up in the new law if we do not make this amendment. That is because in many cases we understand that their arrangements could be construed as creating contractual obligations.

Let me be absolutely clear: this exemption is about members of genuine intentional communities. Workers who are not "members" will be protected by the National Minimum Wage Act and will benefit from the protection in that Act against detriment and unfair dismissal. We do not wish any establishments which are not "intentional" in this sense to be included; that is why we specify that those working for residential educational bodies will not be exempted.

These are genuinely unique circumstances and only some 1,000 individuals will be covered by the exclusion. The Low Pay Commission recommended that the exemption would need to be,

    "clearly and tightly defined ... we would not want to inadvertently create loopholes". We have done this. I therefore commend this amendment to the House.

The Lord Bishop of Ely: My Lords, I wish to express the gratitude of these Benches for the inclusion of Amendment No. 127. The Minister has spoken about the intentional communities, which are, in a way, a modern off-shoot of the monasteries which are very much a feature of our culture. They are places where men and women practise an extremely modest way of life as a vocation in order to benefit their fellow human beings. They include the L'Arche communities, where remarkable work is done with people suffering from acute learning difficulties; the Pilsdon community; and the Emmaus UK community, which supports homeless people and which began in my own diocese. The acceptance of the case for making an exception of these communities is very generous and gracious. I wish to express my gratitude for that.

Part of the amendment makes explicit the fact that the exemption will not be applicable to communities providing courses of further or higher education. As I am about to become principal of one such community and thus to leave both my diocese and your Lordships' House, I wish to place on record my deep gratitude for the kindnesses which have been extended to me here. I count it an extraordinary privilege to have participated, on a very modest scale, in your Lordships' proceedings. I shall continue in my new place of work to offer my prayers for the success of your Lordships' deliberations.

Lord Brookman: My Lords, I, too, welcome the statement from the Minister. People have expressed concern to me about the possibility of loopholes in the legislation. Their main concern is that people who work for or are employed by charities and communities will not be eligible for the minimum wage. There should be no loopholes through which one can drive a tractor. We should be specific about what we are saying: that people who work for or are employed by charities and communities will be eligible for the minimum wage.

Baroness Miller of Hendon: My Lords, I, too, welcome the amendment by which the Government seek

8 Jul 1999 : Column 1116

to alter the National Minimum Wage Act 1998. We think it is right that there should be this exemption and we on this side of the House are pleased about it.

Perhaps I may remind your Lordships that when the National Minimum Wage Bill was before the House I proposed an amendment then that would have given the Secretary of State power by Statutory Instrument to give total or partial exemption in certain areas. I will not repeat what was said, other than to say that the last area was occupations or categories of persons. It would have been a power that the Secretary of State need not have used, but we would not have had to come back with further legislation.

Your Lordships were kind enough to pass my amendment--the only one that was passed--with a generous majority of 58. We won with the very welcome support of the Liberal Democrat Benches at that time. However, when the Bill was returned to the other House, the Minister of State drew himself to his full height and denounced the amendment as one which wrecked the whole Bill. It certainly did not.

Perhaps I may make one point. The beneficiaries of this amendment are persons who reside in a religious community; they do so voluntary. I have heard what the noble Lord who has just spoken said. I hope he will forgive me, but I cannot remember his name.

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page