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Lord Skelmersdale: My Lords, I take the point made by my noble friend Lady Blatch: it is impossible to amend an order or to approve an order that is about to be amended. Can I have a cast-iron guarantee that, next week, the department will lay an order making the required amendments? Under those conditions, I would be happy to support the orders this afternoon.
Baroness Byford: My Lords, before the noble Lord responds to that point, I shall give him a little more time to think about it. I was going to propose that we should move ahead with the statutory instrument, which I think is acceptable, although I cannot speak for other noble Lords. The pig code should be
Lord Jopling: My Lords, if the Minister does not wish to follow the procedure suggested by my noble friend Lady Byford, he must tell us by what authority in law the Government can change the code of practice between the printed edition that we have been debating and the one that will be distributed to the industry. It is not sufficient just to say that the Minister said on the Floor of the House of Lordsor of the House of Commonsthat he wanted to change some words. I speak as a former business manager, and I think that the neatest way would be to pass the code now, on the understanding that an amended version will be presented to the House in the next few days, with the words corrected. That need not take us long, as we have debated the code this afternoon. As an alternative, the Minister could decide not to move approval of the code now but move the amended version, say, next week. I, too, cannot speak for my colleagues, but I would be surprised if they wanted a prolonged debate.
Lord Marlesford: My Lords, the Minister says that the code is not legislation. Statutory instruments are subordinate legislation. As the Minister said, the code is quotable and, in a sense, enforceable. It is subordinate legislation to subordinate legislation, as it were.
If it were not possible, for technical reasons, to amend the wording so that the incorrect document that we approved could be reprinted without being submitted to the House and sent out to the industry; or if it were possible only to have a note saying that there were mistakes in the document and what the right wording should have been, that would be unacceptable. It would set a serious precedent for sloppy legislation in many areas. Sooner or later, some governmentnot this Government or any government that I might supportmight be tempted to use that precedent to slip things through.
Lord Whitty: My Lords, the best way to proceed, as the noble Baroness, Lady Byford, suggested, is to agree the statutory instrument and dispose of the code on pigs, about which I detect no controversy. I will then say a few words about what we should do about the other code. Can we dispose of the other two items, now that we have taken time to digest the advice offered by the noble Lord, Lord Jopling, who, these days, is more scrupulous than he was in the Whips' Office in the 1970s?
The noble Lord said: My Lords, having taken advice and considered what was said by the noble Lord, Lord Jopling, I think that the best way to proceed would be for us to pass the code today, on the understanding that, were the legal position to be as the noble Lord described, we would bring it back for support. I recommend that course of action. Is the House prepared to do that?
Baroness Byford: My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister. He has said continually this afternoon that people in the House understand what is meant. However, people outside the House have not gone through the deliberations that we have had. I thank the Minister and accept the withdrawal of the code.
Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, on behalf of my noble friend Lady Ashton of Upholland, I beg to move that the draft Industrial Training Levy (Construction Board) Order 2003 be approved. I shall speak also to the draft Industrial Training Levy (Engineering Construction Board) Order 2003.
Industrial training boardsor ITBs as they are knownare non-departmental public bodies that operate under the provisions of the Industrial Training Act 1982. Their role is to ensure that the quantity and quality of training is adequate to meet the needs of the
The Act contains provision for a levy on employers to finance an ITB's activities and to share the cost of training more evenly between the companies in an industry. It is for the employer members of a board to make proposals for the rate of levy for the industry it covers and for the Secretary of State to make an order giving effect to the proposals.
The orders before your Lordships give effect to proposals submitted by the CITB and the ECITB for their 2003 levy. Each proposal involves the imposition of a levy in excess of 1 per cent of payroll on some classes of employer. The Industrial Training Act 1982 requires such orders to be approved by affirmative resolution of both Houses. In each case, the levies are based on employers' payrolls and their use of sub-contract labour.
For both boards the proposals involve levy rates in excess of 0.2 per cent with no exemption other than for small firms. In such cases, a levy order can be made only if the proposals have the support of organisations representing the majority of those employers who pay most of the levy. It has been established through consultation with the main employer organisations in each industry that we are considering that the proposals have that support.
The Act requires ITBs to exclude small firms from the levy and each of these proposals does that. In setting the level at which the exemption takes effect, the boards have tried to strike a balance between helping small firms to grow and giving them unfair commercial advantage. However, both boards are committed to supporting the training efforts of small firms, whether or not they pay levy. All companies need a skilled, competent workforce if they are to be competitive. Small firms in these sectors are encouraged to take advantage of the services offered by the boards and to provide opportunities for trainees and apprentices.
In the construction industry, a higher levy rate is imposed on employers' use of sub-contract labour than on their direct workforce. This is because, according to the industry, the vast majority of training is carried out by those employers with a directly employed labour force. Employers who opt to use labour-only sub-contractors tend to have a transitory arrangement with the sub-contractors and are not normally involved in their training.
In the order before your Lordships, the CITB proposes that both its levy rates should stay the same as those approved by the House last yearnamely, 0.5 per cent of payroll for direct employees and 1.5 per cent of net expenditure on sub-contract labour. Employers whose combined payroll and net expenditure on sub-contract labour is less than £61,000 will not have to pay the levy. That equates to an employer who employs 3.5 persons full time throughout the year. It is estimated that the provision will exempt 40 per cent of employers.
In the engineering and construction industry, head offices and engineering construction sites are levied at different rates to reflect the fact that head offices, where workforces are more stable, are able to plan and manage most of their training needs themselves.
The ECITB proposes that both its levy rates should stay the same as those approved by the House last year. They are as follows: 0.18 per cent of the total payroll and net expenditure on sub-contract labour for head offices. Head offices whose combined payroll and net expenditure on sub-contract labour is £1 million or less will not have to pay the levy. This equates to an employer who employs around 40 persons full time throughout the year. It is estimated that the provision will exempt 80 per cent of head offices.
There will also be a 1.5 per cent of the total of payroll and net expenditure on sub-contract labour for engineering construction sites. Sites whose combined payroll and net expenditure on sub-contract labour is £75,000 or less will not have to pay the levy. This equates to an employer who employs four persons full time throughout the year. It is estimated that the provision will exempt 32 per cent of sites. The proposals are expected to raise between £109 million and £113 million for the CITB and around £11 million for the ECITB.
Your Lordships will know from our annual debate that the CITB and the ECITB exist because of wide support from employers and employer interest groups in these sectors. There is a firm belief that without them there would be a serious deterioration of training in these cyclical, peripatetic and project-based industries, leading to a real fear that their skill needs would not be met.