Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

The noble Earl’s amendment proposed changing the definition of industrial action from action that affects,

to action that puts,

I want to confirm that safety considerations have always been the Government’s primary concern and motivation behind these provisions, and that is why we welcomed the substance of the noble Earl’s amendment. We have tabled the amendment as it its now drafted to resolve any uncertainties resulting from generic terms such as “staff”, but in substance the amendment reflects the proposals of the noble Earl. It redefines industrial action as,

For the avoidance of doubt, the revised definition includes examples of categories of people likely to be put at risk. I commend the amendment to the House and beg to move.

The Earl of Onslow: My Lords, earlier in the debate I used the word “chinkette” of light. This is a great flash of sunlight from the noble Lord. One is always tempted on occasions such as this to refer to sinners that repenteth and all the rest of it. What I must do is say thank you to the noble Lord. What I am even more impressed by is that the amendment was moved on my behalf by my noble friend Lord Bridgeman on my Front Bench, without even putting forward the argument. He just said, “I beg to move”, and the Minister was so moved by that one line that he agreed to it. All I can say is thank you very much indeed.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Baroness Hanham moved Amendment No. 48:

(a) specified in section 62 of the Police Act 1996 (c. 16) (functions of the board with respect to regulations) which do not follow the recommendations of the Police Negotiation Board as established by section 16 of that Act, or(b) under section 128 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 (c. 33) (pay and related conditions) which do not follow the recommendations of the Prison Service Pay Review Board as established by that section,

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, this amendment, or something similar to it, was moved in Committee and it has changed only marginally since then in that we have been advised that we cannot include the Armed Forces in this Bill, even though they are in the same position as the Prison Service and the police. We have therefore excluded them from consideration at this time. However, the principle remains the same: where an independent review body makes a recommendation on pay for either the Prison Service or police, it should be a requirement that, if the

30 Apr 2008 : Column 289

Government are not going to accept those recommendations, they are obliged to bring the matter to Parliament.

The three services—the Armed Forces, the Prison Service and the police—are all the subjects, or will be by the time this legislation goes through, of mandatory no-strike agreements. Therefore, there is an onus on the Government to ensure that their interests, which are held by the independent review bodies, are protected. The review bodies already have a clear remit as to what they have to take into account in coming to their decisions. That includes affordability, as defined by their funding departments. The Minister will recall that last year the Government staged the implementation of a pay review. This was the first time that they had not followed the review body’s recommendations. We argue that the consequence of short-changing members of these vital services is very serious indeed. The actions last year resulted in the threatened prison officers’ strike later this month, and the highly unusual police march on Parliament. The Government need to put themselves in a position of explaining their actions to Members of Parliament and having those actions approved by them by a formal resolution. I beg to move.

Baroness Harris of Richmond: My Lords, I will speak specifically about police pay and assure the noble Baroness that we will be supporting this amendment. Independent arbiters, as we have heard, awarded a 2.5 per cent pay award and the Home Secretary can have been left in no doubt about the anger of police officers on the day of their massively successful, well-ordered and well-mannered protest march on 23 January 2008. It was attended by 25,000 off-duty officers. We know that the Police Federation has gone to judicial review; we await the outcome of that.

The office of constable is a protected one and has been for almost 100 years since police officers accepted a no-strike clause. How that office has been badly used by the Home Secretary’s decision to override years of clear understanding on all sides that an agreement made by an independent body should be binding. It always was and it always should be. When I was a member of the Police Negotiating Board, some years ago in the time of the previous Government and this one, we all worked hard to maintain that position. It is desperately sad for me to see how this long-standing agreement has been completely overturned without any consultation and absolutely no real understanding of the views of front-line police officers who, day to day, give their services to protect us all.

This is what a number of them have told me: they have expressed sheer disgust and outrage at the Home Secretary’s decision not to award a full amount immediately. They mention the amount that MPs pay themselves; fat cats in the City, about whom we heard some lively questions put to the Minister today at Question Time; and the restrictions on their private life when they are off duty. Effectively, a police officer is always on duty. Officers do lots of horrible work. They are hands-on at accidents, deaths and assaults on themselves and others. They really do not feel that

30 Apr 2008 : Column 290

they are getting thanks for doing a difficult and sometimes dangerous job. In Committee, my noble friend Lord Thomas of Gresford said:

We continue to support that today.

The Earl of Onslow: My Lords, one cannot take away somebody’s right to do something and then not put in place binding arbitration. My noble friend Lady Hanham mentioned the disturbing sight of the police demonstrating. That sight terrified me because it brings the forces of law into political play. That is very dangerous. One of the reasons for the 1688 glorious revolution was the fear of standing armies. That is the flipside of the coin when police or soldiery take political action. For that reason, above all, with the police, the Prison Service and the Army, the Government ought to accept binding arbitration. If they are not going to accept binding arbitration, they should explain to the House of Commons why they have not done so. To think otherwise is extremely dangerous.

Lord Mackenzie of Framwellgate: My Lords, I declare an interest as the former president of the Police Superintendents’ Association and a recipient of police pay and a police pension. I have every sympathy with the amendment and agree entirely with the views of the noble Baroness, Lady Hanham, and the noble Baroness, Lady Harris. It gives me no pleasure to say this because I am a government Peer. Having said that, the amendment seems to be a matter for resolution in the House of Commons, not this House. For that reason alone, I shall abstain. I would have voted for the amendment. It is a financial matter and should properly be dealt with in the other place. I shall abstain on this basis, but I agree entirely that the Government have not taken the high ground on this. The right to strike was taken away, quite rightly, in 1919. The police are in a special position as are the other services. We should value that and honour independent arbitration. For that reason, I shall abstain.

Lord Dear: My Lords, in 1919 the Police Act of that year removed the right to strike from the police. One of the reasons for doing that was that the police had indeed gone on strike in various places, notably London and Liverpool, but in a number of other urban areas as well. This country was faced with the vision and reality of troops with fixed bayonets going onto the streets of Liverpool and a warship sailing up the Mersey and training its guns on the rioters on the shore in Liverpool. That is the sort of horror story that the 1919 Act sought to remove. We have moved very fast away from that to a position where the police serve this country loyally and steadfastly, despite the fact that their pay and allowances have oscillated over the years.

In 1979 the Lord Edmund-Davies review, looking at the parlous state then of police pay and allowances, brought in for the first time the concept of a basket of

30 Apr 2008 : Column 291

occupations, as it was called in those days, against which police pay and allowances should be measured on an annual basis. From that time until very recently, police pay and allowances have been good and have been reflected in the way recruiting is carried out. I will set out what has happened quite recently. In 1979 there was the Lord Edmund-Davies review, with the basket of occupations. That basket of occupations was changed arbitrarily by the Government in, I think, 2006, changing the occupational constitution of that basket to something which, quite clearly, would produce a lower pay review. That review, on the most recent sounding, produced a 2.8 per cent increase. That was not good enough for the Government, who went to arbitration. Both sides signed up to binding arbitration and the arbitration level, if I remember rightly, was 2.5 per cent. The Government settled at 1.9 per cent. We are really slicing this; the principle is not about the amounts involved, which were quite small. They would have been nice to have, but it was not that much of an issue. The issue was the fact that the principle, which has already been spoken about very eloquently in your Lordships' House, had been breached.

The Government’s action on this last occasion drove a coach and four straight through all those principles of trust, respect and support, which a uniformed service has had and needs to have in the Government of this country. The police feel deeply let down and believe that they have been thrown to one side. I am sorry to give marginal percentage points, but the 1.9 per cent sits very uncomfortably with the 2.5 per cent that was given to police support staff. So, in this philosophical way, you have police officers walking on the streets with civilian police support officers who are getting more money because they have the right to strike. The principle speaks for itself. I warmly and wholeheartedly support the amendment.

6.30 pm

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, first, perhaps I may say how I much welcome the cameo appearance of the noble Baroness, Lady Hanham, on this Bill. Clearly, I welcome the opportunity to debate this matter again, which we last debated in Committee. I also pay tribute to the outstanding work of the police, the prison officers and the Armed Forces, although for the reasons stated by the noble Baroness, her amendment is limited to police and prison officers and does not refer to the Armed Forces.

Yes, these very key workers deserve a fair and effective pay system mechanism, which serves them and the taxpayer well. That is very simply the Government’s position. Although the focus of the amendment and the debate is on the police and prison officers, they are not alone in having independent pay machinery which makes recommendations to Ministers. I emphasise the words, “recommendations to Ministers”. This process has been developed over more than 35 years and has for a number of workforces, including groups without the right to take industrial action, stood the test of time and has been seen to deliver a fair and effective mechanism for determining pay awards.

However, it has always been clear that the Government retain discretion on whether to implement those recommendations. Both this Government and previous

30 Apr 2008 : Column 292

Governments have overseen such a system. Looking at the record, for instance, of the previous Government in relation to awards by independent pay review bodies, it is clear that they have used staging many times. I see in your Lordships' House at least two former distinguished Secretaries of State for Health. The doctors and dentists pay review body pay awards were staged four times—in 1984, 1990, 1991 and 1996. The pay award was deferred twice—in 1985 and 1986. In 1993, a pay limit was imposed. For nurses, the pay award was staged in 1985, 1990 and 1991.

The Earl of Onslow: My Lords, those people all have the right to industrial action. That is the difference. It is as simple and as clear as that. I am delighted when the present Government use the Conservative Government to pray in aid for their errors. On occasions, my Government made just as many errors as the present one. There is no need to pray in aid their errors.

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, I do not know whether I am praying in aid their errors or not. I am just pointing out that I find it a little puzzling that the Conservative Front Bench is moving this amendment. I fear that it is rather playing politics in this area.

Noble Lords: Oh!

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, I very much fear that. I would caution that party against it. Of course, the noble Earl is right that some of the pay groups I have mentioned are not subject to restrictions on taking industrial action. That is one distinction. But, none the less, I seek to demonstrate that the party opposite has not been reluctant to stage pay awards in the light of recommendations made by independent review bodies. The fact is that the noble Earl might have given me just one or two more seconds to list the times that pay awards were staged in relation to the Armed Forces Pay Review Body—in 1984, 1990, 1994 and 1996. The previous Government deferred an Armed Forces Pay Review Body recommendation once and in 1993 a pay limit was imposed. I could go on.

Lord Thomas of Gresford: My Lords, can the Minister add to the list any occasion when the Conservatives—I am not speaking for them—ignored the binding award of an arbitration?

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, I cannot. Perhaps the noble Lord could explain his point.

Lord Thomas of Gresford: My Lords, we were told by the noble Lord, Lord Dear, that this was a binding arbitration and that there was an award of 2.5 per cent, but that the Government were prepared to pay only 1.9 per cent. Was there ever a situation when the Conservative Government failed to abide by a binding arbitration?

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, I think that it is for them to answer that particular point. I am simply seeking to demonstrate to your Lordships' House that Governments of different complexions have found it necessary sometimes to stage awards where wider considerations have come into force.

30 Apr 2008 : Column 293

That is what has happened. This does not undermine the integrity of the process of independent review bodies in the least. But, ultimately, the Government have to make those decisions.

Obviously we have considered the amendment and the impact that it would have. Our conclusion is that the Government have an established responsibility for managing public finances. We do not think that it is appropriate to subject to parliamentary approval the Government’s discretion to regulate an important factor in those finances. Parliament already has the overriding oversight of departmental expenditure, which we think gets the balance right. But, at the end of the day, the Government must reserve the discretion to make the final decision, which is why we cannot support the noble Baroness’s amendment.

Baroness Hanham: My Lords, I cannot say that I am totally surprised at the Minister’s response. I am equally not totally surprised at the fact that he has tried to invoke the Government of some 10 years ago. We have had quite a lot of this Government and, probably, we can rely now on their history on legislation. I have nothing more to say on this amendment.

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, inspiration has reached me in response to the interesting intervention made by the noble Lord, Lord Thomas. I am reliably informed that in 1990 the then Home Secretary decided not to accept certain aspects of a recommendation of the Police Arbitration Tribunal.

Baroness Hanham: My Lords, as I was saying before the Minister made that point, it is under this Government that this legislation is being put into place and it is their actions with which we are dealing today. These two bodies cannot strike. There is a review body, which always has access to information before it makes its recommendations. If the Government seek to change that, as the Minister says, they have discretion. In the light of what they have done, we say that that discretion is too great. Therefore, it should be controlled and made responsible to Parliament. I do not accept the Minister’s reply and I wish to test the opinion of the House.

6.39 pm

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 48) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 197; Not-Contents, 116.

Division No. 4


Addington, L.
Anelay of St Johns, B. [Teller]
Ashcroft, L.
Astor, V.
Astor of Hever, L.
Avebury, L.
Ballyedmond, L.
Barker, B.
Bell, L.
Best, L.
Bew, L.
Blaker, L.
Bonham-Carter of Yarnbury, B.
Bottomley of Nettlestone, B.
Bowness, L.
Bradshaw, L.
Bridgeman, V.
Brittan of Spennithorne, L.
Brooke of Sutton Mandeville, L.
Brougham and Vaux, L.
Burnett, L.
Butler-Sloss, B.
Byford, B.
Caithness, E.
Carnegy of Lour, B.
Cathcart, E.

30 Apr 2008 : Column 294

Cavendish of Furness, L.
Chadlington, L.
Chalker of Wallasey, B.
Chidgey, L.
Colwyn, L.
Cope of Berkeley, L.
Cotter, L.
Courtown, E.
Cox, B.
Craigavon, V.
Crathorne, L.
Cumberlege, B.
De Mauley, L.
Dean of Harptree, L.
Dear, L.
Denham, L.
Dholakia, L.
Dixon-Smith, L.
D'Souza, B.
Dykes, L.
Eccles, V.
Elliott of Morpeth, L.
Elton, L.
Falkland, V.
Falkner of Margravine, B.
Finlay of Llandaff, B.
Flather, B.
Fookes, B.
Forsyth of Drumlean, L.
Fowler, L.
Fraser of Carmyllie, L.
Freeman, L.
Garden of Frognal, B.
Gardner of Parkes, B.
Geddes, L.
Glasgow, E.
Glenarthur, L.
Goodlad, L.
Goschen, V.
Greenway, L.
Hanham, B.
Hanningfield, L.
Harris of Peckham, L.
Harris of Richmond, B.
Hayhoe, L.
Henley, L.
Higgins, L.
Hodgson of Astley Abbotts, L.
Home, E.
Howard of Rising, L.
Howe, E.
Howe of Aberavon, L.
Howe of Idlicote, B.
Howell of Guildford, L.
Hunt of Wirral, L.
Hurd of Westwell, L.
Hylton, L.
Inglewood, L.
James of Blackheath, L.
James of Holland Park, B.
Jenkin of Roding, L.
Jones of Cheltenham, L.
Jopling, L.
Kalms, L.
King of Bridgwater, L.
Kingsland, L.
Kirkwood of Kirkhope, L.
Knight of Collingtree, B.
Laing of Dunphail, L.
Laird, L.
Lamont of Lerwick, L.
Lane of Horsell, L.
Lang of Monkton, L.
Lawson of Blaby, L.
Lee of Trafford, L.
Linklater of Butterstone, B.
Listowel, E.
Livsey of Talgarth, L.
Lucas, L.
Luke, L.
Lyell, L.
Lyell of Markyate, L.
McAlpine of West Green, L.
McColl of Dulwich, L.
MacGregor of Pulham Market, L.
Maclennan of Rogart, L.
McNally, L.
Maginnis of Drumglass, L.
Mancroft, L.
Mar, C.
Mar and Kellie, E.
Mayhew of Twysden, L.
Miller of Chilthorne Domer, B.
Miller of Hendon, B.
Monson, L.
Montrose, D.
Moore of Lower Marsh, L.
Morris of Bolton, B.
Moynihan, L.
Murphy, B.
Naseby, L.
Neuberger, B.
Neville-Jones, B.
Newby, L.
Newton of Braintree, L.
Noakes, B.
Northbrook, L.
Northover, B.
Oakeshott of Seagrove Bay, L.
O'Cathain, B.
Onslow, E.
Oppenheim-Barnes, B.
Palmer, L.
Park of Monmouth, B.
Patten, L.
Perry of Southwark, B.
Quinton, L.
Rawlings, B.
Razzall, L.
Reay, L.
Redesdale, L.
Rennard, L.
Roberts of Conwy, L.
Roberts of Llandudno, L.
Rodgers of Quarry Bank, L.
Rogan, L.
Roper, L.
Rotherwick, L.
Ryder of Wensum, L.
Saatchi, L.
St. John of Bletso, L.
St John of Fawsley, L.
Sandwich, E.
Seccombe, B.
Selkirk of Douglas, L.
Selsdon, L.
Sharples, B.
Shaw of Northstead, L.
Sheikh, L.
Shephard of Northwold, B.
Shrewsbury, E.
Shutt of Greetland, L. [Teller]
Steel of Aikwood, L.
Stern, B.
Stewartby, L.
Stoddart of Swindon, L.
Strathclyde, L.
Swinfen, L.
Taylor of Holbeach, L.
Teverson, L.
Thomas of Gresford, L.
Tonge, B.

30 Apr 2008 : Column 295

Tope, L.
Tordoff, L.
Trimble, L.
Trumpington, B.
Tugendhat, L.
Verma, B.
Waddington, L.
Wakeham, L.
Waldegrave of North Hill, L.
Wallace of Saltaire, L.
Wallace of Tankerness, L.
Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page