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Lord Wedderburn of Charlton: My noble friend the Minister is obdurate on this matter. My noble friend Lord McCarthy has been most modest—we all have—in agreeing to group Amendment No. 94, which is about Part 2 of the Bill, with the other amendment, which is about Part 3. There are points that could be made separately but the general point my noble friend made in moving this amendment is surely not answered by saying—the Minister will forgive me if I cannot quote his exact words—that the usual bodies will be consulted. They would include employers organisations; I take it that it will include the CBI, the TUC, the presidents of the tribunals, ACAS and employment lawyers, whoever they may be. There are various employment lawyers organisations, although there are many people who are not in those organisations. That really will not do.

The Bill and the regulations made under Part 2 and Part 3 in particular—I say that because we are allowed to take them together—affect more than 20 million contracts of employment. It implies terms into the 20 million contracts of employment, and we cannot know what the terms are until we see the regulations.

Members of the Committee may be surprised to hear me plead for individuals but I happen to believe that the individual is very important. Employees who have contracts of employment may or may not come to know of what filters down from these grand bodies who have the privilege of being told what is going to happen, but then again they may not. What is the objection to publishing drafts of these regulations widely? That could be done on the Internet, young people—many people—would say. What is the objection to putting them on the Web? Why not? I have only recently come to grips with this new electronic world and I am beginning to understand the advantages of it. I do not suggest that they be put on a chat line or something of that sort but what on earth is the objection to publishing the drafts of the regulations that apply to 20-odd million people? What bureaucratic nonsense is it to say that they will just be given to those grand bodies who may or may not tell Joe in Burnley what his new contract of employment is? I cannot understand the approach from a Government who I thought were in favour of freedom and disclosure of information to people on the legal and other obligations that will rest on them.

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I ask the Minister to at least tell us that he will think again about this matter. There is a very strong case for publishing a draft. I know that the matter has to go through the procedures of this House and another place, but we all know that regulations can be put before another place and this House and people do not notice what happens. It may be that some Member of this House will take it upon himself or herself to notify all 20 million employees. If so, well and good, but what on earth is the objection to publishing a draft?

Baroness O'Cathain: I thank the noble Lord, Lord Wedderburn, for giving way. Surely, putting the regulations on the Net is fine. It is fine. There is nothing wrong with that. However, is this not the road of the trade unions; to talk to their members, to communicate everything to them and to inform them how to deal with the situation?

Lord Wedderburn of Charlton: The noble Baroness is absolutely right. But trade unions are not organs of the state; they are voluntary bodies. I am surprised that the noble Baroness thinks it the particular job of trade unions. I would have thought she would be glad that a lot of people did not belong to trade unions. I thought that was the Conservative position but never mind! They are not organs of the state and it is not their job in constitutional practice to be the organs whereby state law is transmitted to individual people. It may be that one can say that of ACAS; that they must to do their best to promote the position. However, what resources ACAS would then need, I do not know. I am saying that this involves 20 million-odd individuals. The law is going to say, "This is the new set of obligations that you are going to be subject to, supposedly under this Bill, in your 'contracts of employment'".

We shall come back to the use of the juridical device of the implied term in the contract of employment because it is a very important choice by the Government. Nothing is more important in this Bill than the choice of the implied term "by statute in the contract of employment" in the devices and machinery that they wish to impose, some of which are wholly admirable. But I cannot understand why people cannot be informed of the situation. I believe it is true to say that almost half the households in the land are on the Internet. The noble Baroness tells me that I am wrong. A lot of people are on the Internet and I am only just catching up with these things. What is wrong with giving them the opportunity to read a draft of what is going to apply to them in regulation so that they can write to their MPs and say, "I don't agree with that."?

Lord McCarthy: The answer to the noble Baroness—as she ought to know because it is in SETA 1998—is that only 20 per cent of people who get to tribunals get to trade unions. Eighty per cent of people who come before tribunals now are not trade unionists. Therefore, even if the trade unions made it their job that all their members knew about all these provisions, there would still be 80 per cent of people left outside.

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I am not withdrawing the amendment yet; I merely wanted to make the point to the Minister. I would like to know the basis on which all these top people are going to be consulted. He said, for example, that the TUC will know months before. Those most affected will know. Presumably they will know because the regulations have been written. They exist; someone has them. These top people will not just be told at dinner parties or sherry parties or over glasses of weak white wine! They will have the actual regulations.

If they have the regulations, and if the regulations have been published months before, why can everybody else not have them? Why can they not be available on demand? Why could you not charge a small sum for them? Why could you not put them in what used to be called the Ministry of Labour Gazette, now called Labour Market Trends? Why can you not put them in a published form a month before they come to publication? The Government have them. They say they have them because they are telling all these top people what is in them.

Surely in that case, this is an exceptional set of circumstances. My noble friend Lord Wedderburn is quite right in saying that I should have made this point more forcefully in my speech. I am not sure that this is the first time, but it is not very frequently, that governments write things out and shove them into individual contracts of employment in this way. They are an employed term of contract. This is something most unusual. So we are not saying that we are creating a precedent here in which in future all regulations have to be published. We are talking about something most unusual that goes into everybody's contract of employment.

It affects not only people who go to tribunals. It affects how they raise grievances with the employer and what happens when they are disciplined. People who never fill in an ET1, who are just dealing with their grievances and with their disciplinary consequences of their actions, ought to know that these provisions are in their contracts of employment.

Baroness O'Cathain: I thank the noble Lord for giving way. This is a very important point, joking apart about sherry parties, which are very passé now anyway. The real point is that any employer who suddenly realises that this is so important that it must be put into a contract of employment has the responsibility—as my experience tells me—to ensure that every single employee knows about it and is written to about it.

Lord McCarthy: Yes, but that will happen when it is law. It will not happen before it is law. If the Government have nothing to worry about—if King Lear is not in the play and nothing dreadful is going to occur—they ought to want people to see the regulations before they are passed. These are draft regulations and one cannot expect employers to tell people things that might not be in there in the end. We are talking about the draft and we are asking for people to have some influence and we are saying that it should not just be top people.

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7.15 p.m.

Lord Sainsbury of Turville: In the danger of introducing a little information into this debate and bringing it to a close, perhaps I may say that I am disappointed in the exploration of the Internet by the noble Lord, Lord Wedderburn. If he had been exploring it thoroughly, the noble Lord would now know that it is established DTI policy to place all consultative documents on the department's website. In fact, it is DTI policy to paste practically everything on the website.

Lord McCarthy: How can it be placed on the Internet if it is not published?

Lord Sainsbury of Turville: Of course we can put things on the Internet and the document will be there for everyone when we have a consultation to see it. Even those who do not receive the document will be able to see it on the website and comment on it. The point has been taken.

Lord Wedderburn of Charlton: If my noble friend seeks to educate me in the ways of virtual reality—which I am very ready to learn about—this is not a funny amendment. The amendment affects over 20 million people. We are not talking about a consultative document. This is another mystification.

With great respect to my noble friend on the advice he has given, it is a little tiresome of the Government to take refuge in consultative documents. I am talking—and my noble friend has talked—about draft proposals of regulations. If they are to be consultative documents and put on the web, I take it that the amendment is accepted because they are going to be published. Publish a draft of his proposals including publishing on the web, so long as we can print them off but not if we cannot. If they are going to be put in a form where we could have them printed, I do not see why we should be put to the expense of using our paper and our printers. If the Government are going to publish them on the web, why not make hard copies?

I take it that the Government intend to publish a draft of the proposed regulations not merely for the grand bodies, which is what we were told at first, and not merely for a select audience, but to the population at large. If that is what my noble friend means—and I am not asking him to accept the amendment formally, of course, I understand his hands are tied—in spirit, have we at least managed to transmit by osmosis, or some form other than argument, the spirit of the amendment to my noble friend? It seems we have.

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