Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Earl Russell: My Lords, will the Minister very quietly remind all participants to the situation that, in this as in other attempts to settle with terrorism, peace has a price? That price may be unpalatable. The decision to refuse to pay it may be legitimate, but it too carries consequences. Will he ask all concerned to think of those consequences very carefully and then think again?

Lord Dubs: Yes, my Lords. I agree with what the noble Earl has said. We always made it clear that the peace process would be difficult, that we would be asking a great deal of all the participants. We accept that it will go on being difficult, and we shall go on asking a great deal of all the participants, in the fervent hope that they will take the noble Earl's point and move forward for the greater good of all the people of Northern Ireland.

Company and Business Names (Chamber of Commerce, Etc.) Bill

4.20 p.m.

Viscount Montgomery of Alamein: My Lords, I understand that no amendments have been set down to this Bill and that no noble Lord has indicated a wish to move a manuscript amendment or to speak in Committee. Therefore, unless any noble Lord objects, I beg to move that the order of commitment be discharged.

Moved, That the order of commitment be discharged.--(Viscount Montgomery of Alamein.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

Consolidated Fund (Appropriation) Bill

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I beg to move that the Bill be now read a second time.

15 Jul 1999 : Column 559

Moved, That the Bill be now read a second time.--(Lord McIntosh of Haringey).

On Question, Bill read a second time; Committee negatived.

Then, Standing Order 44 having been dispensed with (pursuant to Resolution of 13th July), Bill read a third time, and passed.

Employment Relations Bill

4.22 p.m.

Read a third time.

Clause 5 [Training]:

Lord McIntosh of Haringey moved Amendment No. 1:

Page 4, line 13, leave out ("(3)") and insert ("(2)")

The noble Lord said: My Lords, the Government believe that it should be possible to amend the clause by the affirmative procedure if experience shows that it could be improved. As drafted, the power to amend extends only to subsections (3) to (6). But subsection (2) contains important details, notably the purpose and timing of consultation meetings. The amendment would allow this subsection to be amended if necessary; otherwise, the power to amend could be unhelpfully narrow.

The Government have no intention to amend the clause unless subsequent experience reveals unexpected problems. Any amendment will, of course, be subject to consultation and to the approval of both Houses. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 10 [Right to be accompanied]:

The Minister of State, Department of Trade and Industry (Lord Simon of Highbury) moved Amendment No. 2:

Page 5, line 17, leave out ("the worker")

The noble Lord said: My Lords, this amendment and Amendment No. 4, with which it is grouped, relate respectively to Clauses 10 and 15 on the right to be accompanied in grievance and disciplinary hearings. They are minor, technical amendments that tidy up, and I think improve, the wording of these clauses. I shall speak to them together, with the leave of the House.

Amendment No. 2 removes an unnecessary repetition of the words "the worker" from subsection (1)(b). In so doing it helps to clarify the application of the right.

Clause 15 exempts persons employed by the security and intelligence agencies from the right to be accompanied--that is, from Clauses 10 to 13. As currently drafted, the opening sentence of Clause 15, which states that Clauses 10 to 13 do not apply to those workers, does not expressly and unequivocally relate those clauses to this legislation, as opposed, for example, to another Act. Amendment No. 4 makes that link clear by inserting the words "of this Act" after the words "Sections 10 to 13" at the beginning of Clause 15. This, too, is a sensible clarification. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

15 Jul 1999 : Column 560

Lord Simon of Highbury moved Amendment No. 3:

Page 5, line 28, leave out from ("meaning)") to ("or") on line 30 and insert ("whom the union has reasonably certified in writing as having experience of, or as having received training in, acting as a worker's companion at disciplinary or grievance hearings")

The noble Lord said: My Lords, this amendment concerns the accompanying person.

Noble Lords will recall that on Report the Government introduced amendments to clarify the list of people from whom a worker may choose an accompanying person to have at grievance and disciplinary hearings. The aim of those amendments was to limit the extent to which unqualified or inexperienced outsiders would be allowed into internal proceedings. They were made largely in response to the legitimate concerns raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Miller of Hendon, and others that allowing unqualified or inexperienced outside lay trade union representatives to participate in internal procedures might be unhelpful or even disruptive. Their purpose was to ensure that only those suitably qualified for the task are entitled to act as the accompanying person. Their effect was to place a qualifying condition on lay officials to ensure that they could act as an accompanying person only if certified in writing by their union as competent to carry out that function.

The amendments were welcomed by noble Lords on both sides of the House, not least as the noble Baroness gracefully acknowledged, because the Bill has been improved by the constructive and useful debate which has so far taken place here and in another place. It is entirely in keeping with that spirit, and in response to other comments made by the noble Baroness that the Government seek to make a further clarification of the wording of subsection (3)(b). The noble Baroness expressed concern that the accompanying union official should at least have some qualifications or experience in disciplinary and grievance hearings.

In the light of those comments and after careful consideration, the Government have looked again at the wording of subsection (3)(b). They have concluded that the Bill could be further improved by setting out on the face of the legislation the circumstances in which lay officials are to be regarded as competent to act as companions. To that end, Amendment No. 3 establishes a statutory test of competence that a lay official companion must satisfy in order to be a companion.

The test is that lay officials must have been reasonably certified by the union as having had experience of, or training in, acting as a worker's companion at disciplinary or grievance hearings. This is a straightforward and sensible requirement and it will provide an effective shield from the inexperienced or incompetent accompanier for employers and workers alike.

I should like to underline that the Government have no intention of placing a burden on trade unions by insisting that they establish complex structures for third-party accreditation. It is right that a trade union should satisfy itself that officials who are to perform this kind of work are competent to do so. A basic shop

15 Jul 1999 : Column 561

steward's course, for example, containing a module on workplace representation would be adequate to satisfy the requirement.

As I have said before, most trade unions already provide training for their lay representatives, often via the TUC's education services. As a matter of good practice, unions will not consider issuing a certificate to new lay officials, at least until they have completed similar training or have been in post for a certain length of time; the amendment will encourage such good practices. And, by helping to ensure that unions field suitably qualified lay representatives, it should also minimise the scope for unions to be challenged for offering an incompetent or otherwise second-rate service.

This is a sensible amendment. It will benefit all parties to grievance and disciplinary hearings. I beg to move.

Baroness Miller of Hendon: My Lords, it is right that I should express my thanks to the noble Lord for taking on board some further concerns that we had.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 15 [National security employees]:

Lord Simon of Highbury moved Amendment No. 4:

Page 8, line 28, after ("13") insert ("of this Act")

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 17 [Collective agreements: detriment and dismissal]:

Lord McIntosh of Haringey moved Amendment No. 5:

Page 8, line 37, leave out ("subject") and insert ("subjected")

The noble Lord said: My Lords, this small amendment, changing "subject" to "subjected", is simply to ensure consistency with wording elsewhere in the legislation; for example, in Schedule 2 there are references to an employee being subjected to detriment by his employer. The change to Clause 17 will ensure that nobody can be misled into thinking that some subtle difference was intended by slightly different wording. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Razzall moved Amendment No. 6:

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page