Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Lord Willoughby de Broke: My Lords, are we dealing with both statutory instruments together? My quarrel is not with the fixed-term employees regulations—I have no knowledge of them—but with the part-time workers directive. Does the Minister believe that the introduction of the directive will make British business more competitive or less competitive? It is quite important.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, we are dealing with the two. I made that clear in my introduction. I was going to come on to defend the protection for part-time workers. Having defended the protection for fixed-term workers I want to defend the protection for part-time workers, which I believe to be helpful to our competitive position.

Perhaps I may take as an example the position of women who want to go back to work after childbearing. There are two basis on which they can go back. First, they can go back on an hourly basis, under which they have no particular rights and do not accumulate pension benefits, holiday benefits and so on. The other basis is for them to go back on one or two days a week—in other words, on a one-fifth or two-fifths time basis. Surely it is much better to be on a proper part-time basis and to continue to pay into a pension and to have proper employment rights than it is to be on a casual labour basis. Surely it is right for all of us, in social, economic and competitive terms, to

24 Jul 2002 : Column 523

have a workforce where everyone is protected as far as possible. To have a workforce in which there is an excuse for employers to cut out of protection those who are on fixed-term or part-time contracts is, to my mind, an abuse, whether it is in the public or private sectors. I have no hesitation in saying that it is right that that kind of situation should be dealt with by these regulations.

As to why they cover House of Lords staff explicitly, I understand that the position, particularly with the part-time regulations, is that they have always specifically covered House of Lords staff. There must be something about their conditions of employment which makes them different from others. But if noble Lords really want to know, I shall gladly write to them.

Fundamentally, we are talking about the economy, and in particular about small businesses; and we are talking about the justification for extending employment protection—which is accepted as being correct, right and proper for permanent workers. The costs will be negligible. There will be less impact on small businesses than on larger businesses because they are less likely to employ fixed-term workers, and the benefits to business as set out in the regulatory impact assessment, including the benefits in terms of training, are very significant. I have no hesitation in commending these regulations to the House.

Lord Rotherwick: My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, I was hoping that he might be able to answer my question; namely, which EU member states have not implemented this legislation? He covered the point by saying "nearly all". I realise that it is late in the evening—or getting on for early in the morning. Perhaps he could write to me later and let me know the names of those EU member states.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, it is required of all member states. Every country should have done it by 10th July. I gave the examples of France and Germany, which have already done it. I am not even certain that there is any state that has not implemented the proposal. I shall give the provisional answer that everyone has implemented it, or is in the course of doing so, and if I am wrong I shall write to the noble Lord about it.

Lord Pearson of Rannoch: My Lords, the noble Lord says that the costs of these two statutory instruments to the economy and to business in general will be negligible. I simply cannot believe that. Of course, the costs to big businesses will be higher than those to small businesses, but big businesses can often carry such costs more easily. Before we let these regulations through, we really should have a precise answer and not merely rely on this very coy regulatory impact

24 Jul 2002 : Column 524

assessment in the two Explanatory Memoranda. We should know what the cost will actually be to our economy and to business. I cannot believe that it will not be pretty large.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, there are strict rules for what is to be contained in a regulatory impact assessment. It is no good describing it as "coy". A regulatory impact assessment sets out the costs and benefits. The regulatory impact assessment to these regulations does exactly that: it sets out the costs, some of which I have quoted. I have not gone to the extent of quoting the benefits in terms of the inclusion in a coherent and modern labour market of a vast number of people who are on fixed-term and part-time contracts and who are of huge benefit to employers. As an employer, I used to employ people on part-time contracts for exactly the reason that I have set out. It is enormously beneficial to British industry that there should be this addition to the labour force of people who benefit from the protection which exists for full-time and for permanent workers. I commend the regulatory impact assessment which has been published, a full version of which is available on the DTI website. It sets out the costs and benefits and comes to the conclusion—this has to be attested to by a Minister of the Crown—that the benefits outweigh the costs. I stand by that attestation.

12.04 a.m.

On Question, Whether the Motion shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 13; Not-Contents, 2.

Division No. 7


Ashton of Upholland, B.
Barker, B.
Brabazon of Tara, L.
Brett, L.
Cope of Berkeley, L.
Grocott, L. [Teller]
Linklater of Butterstone, B.
McIntosh of Haringey, L.
Roper, L. [Teller]
Rotherwick, L.
Simon, V.
Whitty, L.
Williams of Crosby, B.


Pearson of Rannoch, L. [Teller]
Willoughby de Broke, L. [Teller]

24 Jul 2002 : Column 524

12.18 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker: My Lords, as it appears that fewer than 30 noble Lords have voted, in accordance with Standing Order 57 I declare the Question not decided and that the debate thereon stands adjourned.

Mobile Telephones (Re-programming) Bill [HL]

Returned earlier from the Commons agreed to.

24 Jul 2002 : Column 525

Export Control Bill

Returned earlier from the Commons with the Lords amendments in lieu of a Lords amendment to which the Commons had disagreed agreed to without amendment.

Proceeds of Crime Bill

Returned earlier from the Commons with the Lords

24 Jul 2002 : Column 526

amendments in lieu of certain Lords amendments to which the Commons had disagreed agreed to without amendment.

Police Reform Bill [HL]

Returned earlier from the Commons with the amendments to certain Commons amendments agreed to without amendment.

        House adjourned at nineteen minutes past midnight.

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page