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The Earl of Erroll: My Lords, although I empathise fully with the cares and worries of the new parent—I have four children, one of whom is disabled—I believe that it is vital for the future to remember that the purpose of employing someone is to get a job done.

If one is a very small employer—I am talking about employing not two or three people but one secretary—it is absolutely disastrous when that employee moves away. No one else is available to train a temporary or semi-temporary replacement. The employer has to do

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it; there is no one else. A very heavy cost is involved. I believe that every time I change secretary, I probably lose about a fortnight's worth of work—perhaps a little more—over a one to three-month period. After a while, such an employer cannot cope with a number of changes.

I believe that people are losing track of what this issue involves. We are losing a sense of reality. We should protect employees, in particular, against unreasonableness and we should protect those in large companies, where people feel that they do not have a voice. However, if this type of legislation continues, I do not know what the very small employer, employing one person who perhaps carries out two different jobs, will do in the future.

Lord Sainsbury of Turville: My Lords, perhaps I may deal with some of the important points that have been raised. I believe that the noble Baroness has been listening to rather too many of the lurid stories that were put forward in the other place about the sequence of events. She cannot accuse us of gold-plating and then say that we did not fully comply with the directive.

The situation is that the TUC's challenge to the regulations came before the then Lord Chief Justice, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Bingham, in a Divisional Court. He considered that the intention of the directive was not clear. Accordingly, he referred the matter to the European Court. Therefore, clearly there is room for disagreement at a very high level as to whether or not we had complied fully. The Government still believe that we complied perfectly properly.

So far as concerns the costs of the TUC's legal challenge, as a Minister said in the other place, they are under discussion. Therefore, I cannot give them now. I believe that it is quite usual for negotiations about legal fees to drag on. However, in the spirit of openness on which the noble Baroness commended me, I should be very happy to write to her when the matter is settled.

So far as concerns the Explanatory Notes, the point is covered. Perhaps I may read out the relevant part:

    "A new regulation 13(1A) enables these parents to rely on a period of service with a previous employer in order to satisfy the one-year qualifying service requirement to which the right to take parental leave is subject".

I believe that that covers the particular point that the noble Baroness raised.

My final point concerns the costs. I believe that the noble Baroness explained the figures herself. Two quite different sets of costs are involved, which it pleases some people continuously to confuse. There is the cost of paying more to people in terms of increased wages or salary bills. According to the Government's own regulatory impact assessment, that figure is £5 million a year; that is, approximately 1 per cent of the annual wages and salary bill for the economy as a whole, or just under £4 per employee per week.

I believe that Members of this House, including Members on the other side, have a clear decision to make on that issue. They can say, "We do not want

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these particular regulations. We believe that they should be withdrawn and that people should not have these benefits". A straightforward decision can be taken as to whether or not one wants the regulations to be put in place. They may say, "We do not think that the minimum wage is a good thing, although there seems to be some disagreement as to whether that is the case. We think that it should be reduced". Then they can claim legitimately that they would remove that burden from industry.

My honourable friend in the other place referred to the cost of bureaucracy; that is, the procedures that must take place. That cost is 50p a year for each employee and it covers the introduction of the national minimum wage, paid holidays, parental leave, time off for family emergencies, fair treatment of part-time workers and improved maternity provisions.

Finally, the noble Earl, Lord Erroll, mentioned the problems that may arise if people avail themselves of these rights. Of course, there is a provision which allows people to put off the effects of the legislation for six months if difficult cases arise. It appears that the noble Earl has a great deal of experience of secretaries coming and going. Perhaps he should ask himself whether, because they have experience of his work, it is better to keep his secretaries by occasionally giving them parental leave than continually to have them leave their employment. Perhaps they consider that, because they do not receive reasonable leave when they need it as parents, it is very difficult for them to do the job.

The Earl of Erroll: My Lords, none of my secretaries has left because of parental leave problems. I simply point out that in the future I shall be very careful about employing anyone who might possibly qualify for such leave. Having experienced changes of staff, I know that it is very expensive in terms of training and other overheads. I am not an arm of the DHSS, and I believe that it would be nice if the Government started to remember that. I know that I should have responded to consultation. However, I did not even know that it was taking place because this is not the type of debate in which I normally take part.

Lord Sainsbury of Turville: My Lords, I absolutely accept that the noble Earl has this relationship with his secretaries. I believe that he would cut himself off from a very good source of people if he said that anyone who might become a parent would not be suitable for employment by him.

I believe that I have dealt with all the points raised. The changes proposed will help parents to balance the conflict between their work and family commitments. I hope that noble Lords will support the Government today in increasing support for working parents in a way which accommodates the needs of business.

Lord Razzall: My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, he said that he had dealt with all the points, but he has not dealt with my fundamental question. How did this Labour Government get into litigation with the TUC?

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Lord Sainsbury of Turville: My Lords, I believe that it is clear that if we believe we are correctly fulfilling the directive and we believe that that is right, then we shall do so regardless of whether the TUC or any other body thinks differently. We are concerned with doing what is right for both working families and business in a way that is flexible and sensible and in a way that both parties can agree. If other parties—for example, the TUC or the CBI—think differently, that does not necessarily deflect us from what we consider to be right. I commend the regulations to the House.

On Question, Motion agreed to.

Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (Immunities and Privileges) Order 2001

7.58 p.m.

Lord Grocott rose to move, That the draft order laid before the House on 17th October be approved [7th Report from the Joint Committee].

The noble Lord said: My Lords, this draft order will enable the United Kingdom to accept and implement the agreement on privileges and immunities of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons which was signed by our Ambassador in The Hague and presented to Parliament in April this year (Cmnd. 5099).

The draft order confers privileges and immunities on the organisation, representatives of its members, its officials and experts, as provided for in the OPCW agreement. Those privileges and immunities are comparable to those accorded to similar international organisations and are no more than the Government are internationally obliged to confer under the OPCW agreement.

The United Kingdom is a party to the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and on Their Destruction; that title is normally shortened to the Chemical Weapons Convention, or CWC. It entered into force on 29th April 1997 under the Conservative government. It established the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons—OPCW—which is located in The Hague. The CWC is the first multilateral arms control agreement that aims to ban an entire category of weapons of mass destruction in a verifiable manner, and 143 states have now ratified it. Since coming into force, the OPCW has established a rigorous worldwide regime of verification and monitoring. More than 900 inspections have so far taken place in some 49 countries.

The OPCW agreement provides, among other things, for immunity from civil and criminal process for representatives of states, officials and experts. Such matters impinge on the devolved responsibilities of Scotland and Northern Ireland, but not on those of Wales. The devolved Administrations are responsible for observing and implementing those international obligations of the UK that relate to their devolved

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responsibilities. Scotland and Northern Ireland have been consulted and are content that the proposed Order in Council under the International Organisations Act 1968 should extend to them.

I am satisfied that the order is compatible with the rights that are contained in the European Convention of Human Rights. I commend the order to the House. I beg to move.

Moved, That the draft order laid before the House on 17th October be approved [7th Report from the Joint Committee].—(Lord Grocott.)

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