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Lord McCarthy: I do not want to spend any time on this because, as Members of the Committee know, we shall be opposing the Question whether the clause stand part. I shall be able to make any general comments then. I simply want to make three quick points because I do not believe that the Minister gave me an answer in relation to two of them. In addition, he said something in relation to the third which rather worries me.

First, he did not answer my question regarding whether or not the form will be compulsory. As my noble friend Lord Gladwin said, very often applicants do not use the darned thing; they simply write a letter. Some people say that they have written a postcard. It is true that they get the form back again, but it is not compulsory. One does not have to obtain form ET1 in order to start the process.

I shall ask my first question again. Will a person have to use the official form in order to start the process? Will he need to have it in his hands before he can begin to obtain an answer which is different from that provided by the employers?

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Secondly, I asked, but perhaps did not do so with enough formality, what the Government's reaction was to the most recent statement of the CBI in which it asked for a review of the Bill—not simply of this clause but of the whole Bill. I quote from the CBI:

    "We would therefore welcome assurances that the Government will review the effectiveness of this procedure after three years and consider whether further measures are necessary to promote workplace dispute resolution".

My question is: have the Government given such assurances? Will they give such assurances? Do they take the CBI's view that we have to get the 40,000 out? Somehow, the CBI still believes in 62 per cent having something to do with people like that. What is the Government attitude towards these assurances? That is directly related to this clause because the requirements could easily be tightened up in it. One could so easily discourage people from coming. I do not say that that is what the Government are doing at this moment, but if they were to be committed and were to give assurances to the CBI that it must review the effectiveness of the procedure after three years if we do not get to 40,000 or so, we have to be concerned.

Finally, the Minister did say something new, if I understood him correctly—I will read Hansard tomorrow—about what will be on the new form. He said that the applicant will be asked to say what procedure he used. That worries me because there are four models. There is a grievance procedure and a disciplinary procedure. Many—I should be careful here—applicants will not know whether they are concerned with a grievance or a reaction to a discipline. All such cases involve reaction to a management act; that is why he has a grievance or why he has been disciplined. He would not be there if there had not been a management act—but you are going to ask the applicant to tell you whether he is going forward under the grievance procedure or under the disciplinary procedure, so he has to know that.

Secondly, you must be asking him whether he used the full procedure or the truncated procedure. We want to argue subsequently that whether you are in that procedure or the other procedure, full or modified, seems to us on the face of the Bill to depend entirely on the employer. He is going to decide which one you are in. That brings me back to my amendment. You cannot ask the worker to say anything more than what he has in his contract of employment. He may not know which procedure he is in. For God's sake, why should he know what procedure he is in? All he knows is that he wants to get to a tribunal.

I would therefore like the Minister to answer these three questions for me. Why do we need to ask him this last set of questions?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: There are three separate questions. First, is the form compulsory? The answer is: no more than it is now. What happens now is that people put in forms that are illegible or incomplete or in the form of a letter. If I am told postcards have been used, I believe it; but that is not the point. The point is that the secretary of the tribunal will accept all illegible or complete applications or

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applications made on the form on the date of receipt for the purpose of the time limit. Then it is a matter of making further enquiries and for the chairman of the tribunal who can decide whether an application is not valid because it is out of time. As I understand it, there is no proposal for any change in that from the present position.

The second question is about the CBI demanding a review after three years. Neither my noble friend nor the CBI will misunderstand me if I say that we always review legislation and we certainly will not take more than three years to review it. That will not be because the CBI has asked us to do so; it will be because it is good practice to do so. If it happens to coincide with what the CBI wants, it does not do so for the reasons given by my noble friend Lord McCarthy about the CBI's motives; there is no such implication in this regard.

The third question comes back to Amendment No. 85 and the new form. I said that when the procedures have been used, we needed to establish whether they were dismissal procedures or any other particular procedures, and I agreed that the applicant could not be expected to know that. This arrangement is very much simpler than that. It merely involves asking questions such as, "Have you written a letter?" and "Have you had a meeting?"; in other words, it involves purely factual questions that can be answered by ticking a box and without any knowledge of the law or of tribunal procedures.

Lord Wedderburn of Charlton: The Minister has added to my knowledge enormously and I for one am most grateful to him. He said the new form will not be obligatory and he now says that there will be some questions of this sort. What happens if the employee applicant does not know the answer?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: Then he says he does not know.

Lord Wedderburn of Charlton: What happens then?

5.30 p.m.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: The same as happens now when forms are incomplete: steps are taken to fill in the gap. There has to be something to start a tribunal procedure. The great virtue of tribunals is that they act in a relatively informal way. The assurance that is needed is that those further inquiries to make sure that one has a starting case do not affect the validity of the application by putting it out of time.

Lord McCarthy: I do not want to waste the time of the Committee. I am not satisfied but I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 85 and 86 not moved.]

On Question, Whether Clause 25 shall stand part of the Bill?

Lord McCarthy: It is ridiculous for us in Grand Committee, when we have not really obtained any

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concessions—any significant concessions, though we have got some information—to oppose the Motion that the clause stand part, because we do not intend to divide. We cannot divide.

I stress how strongly we feel that the Government should go away and think again about this clause. That is not just because of all the concern about the matter. I could have wasted the time of the Committee by quoting all kinds of authoritative people and groups who were closely involved with the tribunal process and who are worried. CABs do not get excited over nothing. They are worried about the replacement of the old familiar ET1 with something new.

I wish that the Government could find it in their heart to put something different in the clause so that the regulations did not look so horrendous, open or extreme. They appear as if they would justify—I am not saying the Government intend to do this—a whole list of extra conditions. I accept the Minister's statement that there is no intention to introduce such measures. I wish that there was something on the face of the Bill to reassure people about what they have done. We cannot disregard the fact that whatever the Government may say—to some extent they speak with two voices—they seem to have a desire to reduce the total number of tribunals. There are people—employers in general, not just the CBI—who believe that a central purpose of Parts 2 and 3 is to reduce the total number of applications and therefore the total number of hearings. Sometimes I have heard Ministers say—I cannot remember whether this was in public, in private or in semi-private—that that is not the Government's basic intention and that they do not really care if they get 40,000 or 20,000 out. However, they never put that on the record. They never say that they have somehow got into this because they were put under pressure and told that Parts 1 and 4 were in the interests of the trades unions and the workers, and therefore Parts 2 and 3 had to have what they now call balance.

Clause 43, which we have not reached yet, is a central place—as is Clause 25—in which the Government could say something to detach themselves from this notion that we are all on a chariot which is moving towards reductions in the total number of tribunals. After all, they know, if they are honest, that there will not be any reduction in the total number of tribunals. They know that they are stuck with introducing all kinds of legislation and directives from Europe and elsewhere.

The Government do not know yet what the effect will be of reducing the application period to 12 months; no one knows what that will do to tribunals. All kinds of accidents happen which produce additional tribunals and they know they will not get down to 40,000 or 30,000 or 20,000. The sooner they disengage from that concept, the better. This could be done under the heading of Clause 25. A new Clause 25 could be written which would be much more acceptable and which would symbolise the Government's appreciation that one of the main

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themes of Routes to Resolution has been modified by the facts. I therefore oppose the Question that the clause stand part of the Bill.

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