Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Viscount Astor: My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, perhaps he could answer two questions. Could the authority add such a matter to its remit without legislation? If so, could the Government, by order, include bicycles within the clamping regime?

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, I do not know the answer to the questions posed by the noble Viscount. No doubt that is a matter that could be reviewed. Whether it could be brought into the remit of the Act by order I do not know, although I suspect that the answer is on its way! We can consider whether we should return at Third Reading with a proposal for

5 Mar 2001 : Column 59

an order-making provision to allow flexibility as to what additional types of vehicle may be covered by the Bill. I hope that that answers the point.

Viscount Astor: My Lords, I am extremely grateful to the Minister for that helpful answer. I am sure that it will give my noble friend Lord Cope enormous reassurance to know that if he is clamped he will be able to go to the Minister with proof and that the Minister will look carefully at his plight and consider whether an order should be made. I believe that there is a serious point in relation to this. If there is flexibility in the Bill to come forward with an order when there is a problem, that would be enormously useful. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 32 and 33 not moved.]

Lord Bassam of Brighton moved Amendment No. 34:

    Page 23, line 20, at end insert--

("( ) This paragraph does not apply to any activities of a member of a relevant accountancy body which are carried out by him as such and for the purposes of any accountancy practice carried on--
(a) by him;
(b) by any firm of which he is a partner or by which he is employed;
(c) by any body corporate of which he is a director or member or by which he is employed.").

[Amendment No. 35, an amendment to Amendment No. 34, not moved.]

On Question, Amendment No. 34 agreed to.

[Amendment No. 36 not moved.]

Lord Bassam of Brighton moved Amendment No. 37:

    Page 24, line 10, at end insert--

("( ) This paragraph does not apply to any activities of a member of a relevant accountancy body which are carried out by him as such and for the purposes of any accountancy practice carried on--
(a) by him;
(b) by any firm of which he is a partner or by which he is employed;
(c) by any body corporate of which he is a director or member or by which he is employed.

[Amendment No. 38, as an amendment to Amendment No. 37, not moved.]

On Question, Amendment No. 37 agreed to.

Lord Bassam of Brighton moved Amendment No. 39:

    Page 24, line 24, leave out ("are not the services") and insert ("do not consist in or include the carrying out of any of the activities").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, this is a technical amendment to the definition of "keyholder" in Schedule 2, paragraph 6, in order to make it consistent with the wording in the rest of the Bill. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendment No. 40 not moved.]

5 Mar 2001 : Column 60

Lord Bassam of Brighton moved Amendment No. 41:

    Page 25, leave out lines 7 to 9.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, the amendment modifies the definition of "licensed premises" as it is used in the Bill in relation to door supervisors. It deletes paragraph 8(2)(c) of Schedule 2 which refers to premises in which a function is held in respect of which an occasional permission under the Licensing (Occasional Permissions) Act 1983 is in force.

In Committee, the noble Lord, Lord Cope, tabled and amendment which sought to provide that a temporary exemption from the need for a door supervisor licence could be obtained from the local magistrates' court to alleviate difficulties which might otherwise surround certain types of events. I argued against such an avenue and the noble Lord's amendment was defeated in a Division.

However, we have reflected on the issues underlying the noble Lord's concerns and have concluded that it would, on balance, be desirable to delete from coverage in the Bill events which are the subject of occasional permissions under the 1983 Act. This is distinct from events which require occasional licences under the Licensing Act 1964, which continue to be covered by the provisions of paragraph 8(2)(b).

The type of event which is typically the subject of an occasional permission is, we have concluded, peripheral to the main type of events with the potential to cause public nuisances and which the mainstream of the provisions of the Bill is seeking to address by requiring door supervisors to be licensed. These peripheral events--from the standpoint of our policy objectives--are, for example, school fetes or charity events which happen to provide a beer tent or equivalent as an added incentive for the public to attend. It has never been our policy to equate any form of door stewarding that takes place at such events with pubs and clubs, which are the focus of our provisions relating to door supervisors, and taking them into regulation is not, in our view, necessary.

In reaching this conclusion I am mindful of the fact that we are running a slight risk. There are other kinds of events which may also be the subject of occasional permissions that we will not be able to regulate if we delete the paragraph which is the subject of this amendment. The types of events I have in mind are certain types of football or rugby club events where people may decide to hold a function on unlicensed premises, such as in a local hall, and sell drink from a bar. If the event required an entertainment licence, it would continue to be covered by the Bill. But if not, it would be excluded from the requirement to have any of its in-house door staff licensed. Should the club hire contract door supervisors, these would, of course, need to be licensed by the authority in the normal way envisaged by other parts of the Bill.

I am far from suggesting that rugby club events are inherently more troublesome than school fetes, but we must realise that we can either take both types of

5 Mar 2001 : Column 61

events into regulation or leave them out. The Government have concluded that in this case it is better to be criticised for under- regulating than to be criticised for over-regulating. I am sure in my mind that by proposing the amendment we are not significantly weakening the provisions of the Bill as regards door supervisors.

With regard to the types of event I have been discussing, it would, quite separately from the considerations of this Bill, continue to be open to magistrates to attach any condition to an occasional permission that they think proper. Such conditions could, if magistrates thought fit, include the use of licensed door staff.

The removal from regulation of events that are subject to occasional permissions should also remove from concern a large number of events to which I believe the noble Lord, Lord Cope, was referring in Committee. For those reasons, I beg to move the amendment.

Viscount Astor: My Lords, I welcome the amendment tabled by the Minister. I shall study carefully in Hansard what he said--the argument was complicated--but it seemed to cover all the concerns raised in Committee. I am grateful to the noble Lord.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

National Minimum Wage

5.55 p.m.

Lord Sainsbury of Turville: My Lords, with the leave of the House, I shall now repeat a Statement on the national minimum wage being made in another place by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry. The Statement is as follows:

    "As the House will be aware, in June last year I asked the independent Low Pay Commission to produce a further report on the national minimum wage by July of this year. In particular, the commission was asked to consider whether there was a case for increasing the rate of the minimum wage.

    "In considering any increase, it was required to take into account movements in earnings; the effect on employment; the impact on individual sectors, including small business; and the likely and future impact on the economy. The commission announced at the end of January that this year it would produce its report in two parts.

    "The commission had a clear message from employers that the length of notice given of any changes would be critical. Today we are publishing volume one of the Low Pay Commission's third report. This looks solely at the main rate and makes recommendations to have effect on 1st October this year and next. Copies will be placed in the Library of the House.

    "I would like to thank the chairman of the commission, Professor George Bain, and the other members of the commission for the time

5 Mar 2001 : Column 62

    commitment and detailed consideration they have given in preparing today's report. The strength of the recommendations in the report comes from the detailed analysis and also from the fact that it is a unanimous report, agreed, for example, by the deputy General Secretary of the Transport and General Workers' Union as well as the deputy Director-General of the CBI.

    "The report concludes that the minimum wage has been a success, with nearly 1.5 million people benefiting, without any adverse impact on employment or the competitive position of British business. Over 70 per cent of those benefiting from the minimum wage are women. The commission concludes that in narrowing the gender pay gap the minimum wage has had the greatest beneficial effect on women's pay since the introduction of the Equal Pay Act over 30 years ago.

    "The minimum wage has also helped close the gap in regional pay differences. Since its introduction, the largest increases in average earnings have been in traditionally low paying parts of the United Kingdom. While the national average increase in earnings for the first year of the minimum wage was 3 per cent, average earnings in the North East rose by almost double that at nearly 5 per cent. In Wales, the increase in earnings was over 4 per cent and in Yorkshire and the Humber 3.5 per cent.

    "The minimum wage ensures that people living throughout the United Kingdom share in the country's economic prosperity. Twenty years ago pensioners made up the largest section of those in poverty. Today it is those living in workless working-age households. Simply compensating people for their poverty through benefits is not good enough.

    "The task must be to deal with the causes of poverty. The best form of welfare is work. That is why it is crucial to make work pay. The national minimum wage makes a vital contribution towards achieving this objective.

    "Of course, there are those who oppose the very concept of a national minimum wage. They said that its introduction was the height of irresponsibility; that it was a cretinous idea; that it would deal a blow to low earners; and that it would cost over 1 million jobs.

    "These critics have been proved wrong. Employment has increased by nearly 450,000 since the introduction of the national minimum wage in April 1999 and by over 1 million since we were elected with a clear pledge to introduce it. The number of jobs in the hotel and catering sector, which includes a high proportion of low-paid jobs, increased by 14,000 between March 1999 and September 2000.

    "In recommending a new rate the commission had to satisfy itself about the likely impact of any increase. A rate that was not manageable would hurt the prospects of the very people it was meant to benefit. The commission is confident that there is scope for a significant increase in the rate. The aim

5 Mar 2001 : Column 63

    has been to make recommendations which are bold enough to make a real difference but prudent enough not to have any adverse impact on employment or the economy.

    "The report of the commission is unanimous. It recommends that the adult rate presently £3.70 an hour should increase to £4.10 on 1st October of this year. The Government accept that recommendation. It will mean that someone on the minimum wage and working a 40-hour week will see his earnings increase by £16 a week. It will mean a £10 a week increase for someone working 25 hours a week. Coupled with the working families' tax credit, this Government are ensuring that work pays.

    "The commission also recommends that the adult rate should increase in October next year to £4.20 an hour. In principle, the Government also accept this recommendation, subject to the economic conditions prevailing at the time.

    "The commission's report looks in detail at the impact of an increase to £4.10. It finds that the estimated wage bill impact will be modest--lower than the wage bill increase which resulted from the introduction of the minimum wage.

    "With regard to inflation, it finds that the minimum wage had no discernible impact on the main measures of inflation. Analysis shows that the rise in the wage bill which follows from the proposed increase to £4.10 adds 0.07 per cent to inflation in the first year and 0.05 per cent in the second. This new rate for the minimum wage will apply across the board: to part-time and full-time workers; to agency staff and those who work from home.

    "I understand that there are some who would exclude businesses which employ fewer than 100 people from all legal requirements apart from health and safety. That would mean nearly 8 million people being denied basic decent rights in the workplace. We reject such an approach. That is why the minimum wage will apply to all of those in work whatever the size of organisation that employs them.

    "The introduction of the national minimum wage has been one of the great achievements of this government. It has already had a real and much needed impact on the lives of many hard-working people and their families--helping to raise the pay and standard of living of almost 1.5 million people. The minimum wage combines economic efficiency and social justice. Increasing it to £4.10 an hour will take people further out of poverty pay. It is a significant increase which is both affordable and will make a real difference to those who receive it. It brings reality to the phrase 'dignity of work'".

My Lords, that concludes the Statement.

6.3 p.m.

Baroness Miller of Hendon: My Lords, I thank the Minister for repeating the Statement made in another

5 Mar 2001 : Column 64

place about the national minimum wage. I also thank him for letting me have sight of the Statement more than two hours ago.

Last October the national minimum wage was increased by 10p and there was no oral Statement about it in the House. Today, the national minimum wage is to be increased by 40p and there is a Statement. Does the difference in the amount of the increase and the treatment of it in this House have anything to do with an impending general election, or am I just being somewhat cynical?

As from tomorrow, businesses will plan for this increase and adjust their payrolls accordingly, so when we come into office there will certainly be no intention to change it. However, perhaps the Minister can answer a few of our concerns. The British Chamber of Commerce estimates that since this Government have been in power the annual burden of new regulation costs is about £10 billion. Can the Minister confirm that that figure does not include the national minimum wage?

Can the Minister say how this burden, together with the new increase of 11 per cent in the national minimum wage, will affect small businesses and the impact that that will have on jobs and our competitiveness? There could be an effect on small shops, sub-post offices and care homes, to give just a few examples. I am sure that the noble Lord is aware--I refer to it anyway--that care homes receive funding of between 1 and 2 per cent from the Department of Social Security and local councils. How is the uprating of 11 per cent on the one hand and the 1 to 2 per cent funding on the other to be managed? It was said today that an average 20-bed home would have to find an extra £2,600 a year. This will probably be a problem for them. Can the noble Lord say whether the Government have given thought to such issues?

Interestingly, about a week ago I heard about a new kind of business which employs house-sitters. When a house-owner is away, people move into the house so that the property is not left empty. The reality is that the house-sitter is glad to live in a comfortable home for a while, and perhaps also feed the cat, and the owner is happy in that he does not have to pay a huge salary for that service. I read an article in a newspaper which stated that that new type of activity, which until then I had been unaware of, might go out of business because the costs would make it impossible to continue. Have the Government given thought to such businesses ?

It is true that there has been a decline in unemployment over the past six years. I should be most grateful if the Minister can confirm that unemployment fell more slowly in the first three years of this Government than in the last three years of the previous Conservative government. Can the noble Lord also confirm that it is the Government and not the Low Pay Commission that must be concerned with the economic effects of the increase? I note that the Statement says that the Low Pay Commission has taken all of that into account, but at the end of the day the economic effects must be dealt with by the

5 Mar 2001 : Column 65

Government. As this particular increase is above inflation and salary increases, is the Minister absolutely satisfied that it will not have any adverse effect on jobs? Could Her Majesty's Government do anything if there was a downturn in the economy? Is there a failsafe method in case something happens?

Finally, can the Minister confirm the report of the Office for National Statistics that the sharpest rise in taxation has fallen on the poorest one-fifth of households? Since the Labour Government came into power, the tax burden on the poorest 20 per cent of households has risen from 37 to 40 per cent of gross income in 1998-99. I believe that this is a serious matter. If the House is concerned with the lowest paid--I believe that everybody is--it should be concerned equally about the extra tax burden on the poorest households as with the national minimum wage.

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page