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Mr. Bercow: Labour Members split their infinitives.

Mr. Byers: As I have warned the hon. Gentleman before, if he keeps going on about split infinitives, many Labour Members will happily split his.

The dictionary definition of a cretin is a fool, or stupid person, which is a far more accurate description of the hon. Member for Rutland and Melton than of the minimum wage. We now see that it will benefit well over 1.5 million people and the Conservatives still oppose it.

The Conservatives would scrap the new deal. They say that it has been a failure, but, if we look at the facts and do not rely on prejudice, as some Conservative Members like to do, we will find that 300,000 young people have already been helped through the new deal. Youth unemployment has been cut by half, yet Conservative Members regard that as a failure. Of course they would.

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In government, they were prepared to allow their economic and social policies to lay a generation of young people to waste.

Mr. Eric Forth (Bromley and Chislehurst): The Secretary of State must stop peddling such nonsense. I invite him to ask his Department to produce some figures about the movement in unemployment throughout all regions and age ranges over the last few years of the previous Administration and extrapolate those forward to now. I think that he will find that there is very little difference between what happened for some years under the previous Administration and what is happening now. The only difference is that he and his colleagues have thrown several billions of taxpayers' money at a problem that did not exist.

Mr. Byers: That is a good example of why we should rely on facts, not prejudice, as the right hon. Gentleman does. I share with him two facts. A total of 700,000 more people are in work than when we took office in May 1997, and youth unemployment has halved since then. That is the reality, but, again, it has been clearly demonstrated that the Conservative party opposes the new deal.

The working families tax credit is another example of how the Conservative party has lost touch with the electorate and has not recognised the lessons of its 1997 election defeat. The credit will make work pay and give parents a real incentive. It will leave 1.5 million families on average £24 a week better off, but it is opposed by the Conservative party.

At the end of July, the fairness at work legislation was put on to the statute book. A settlement based on partnership and minimum standards, it was opposed by the Conservative party. It ensures that part-time workers have the same employment rights as full-time workers and are no longer treated as second-class citizens, but it was opposed by the Conservative party.

We recognise that one of the greatest challenges that faces parents is how to juggle the responsibility of bringing up a family with holding down a job. That is why we have introduced family friendly employment policies, which are, again, opposed by the Conservative party. Next Tuesday, as a result of further implementation of provisions under the working time regulations, we will provide an extra week's paid holiday--from three to four weeks--for all people who are in employment; again, it is opposed by the Conservative party.

There is a genuine issue about regulation and the nature of regulation, but it is important to distinguish between two issues: the cost of red tape and the burden of bureaucracy; and the cost of providing direct benefits to employees. Conservative Members confuse the two. The Labour party is committed to reducing the burden of bureaucracy: to cutting red tape. We recognise that form filling, box ticking and a paper chase run counter to entrepreneurship, a spirit that we seek to foster. That is why we recognise that the legal requirements in many sectors need to be reviewed. We need to look at how regulations are being implemented--one of my first steps on taking office was to lift the burden that was going to be imposed in relation to the national minimum wage.

We have taken through changes on administration and record keeping with regard to the working time directive, which will become effective early in the new year.

Mr. Nick Gibb (Bognor Regis and Littlehampton): Last week, the Prime Minister said that he would look

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again at the working time regulations to see whether there was scope for further relaxations on the burden on business that the regulations cause. When will that review take place and what further suggestions will come forward?

Mr. Byers: The hon. Gentleman knows that we have just taken through the House changes to the working time regulations.

Mr. Gibb: They had been agreed.

Mr. Byers: With respect, they had not been agreed. They are changes. They are being implemented; they will be implemented early next year.

Mr. Gibb: Will the Secretary of State give way?

Mr. Byers: No. Let me answer and then I will give way. Hear my answer first.

Changes to the working time regulations will be introduced early next year to lift the requirement in relation to form filling and record-keeping, not diluting people's right to opt out of working more than 48 hours if they do not want to. Therefore, we have introduced those changes.

As Conservative Members will know, some provisions within the working time directive may lead to other groups coming within their remit. We are concerned about those issues and are keeping them under review. For example, earlier this week, the European Parliament voted that, within four years, we need to bring junior hospital doctors within the requirements of the working time directive. We do not agree with that and will argue against that approach, so it is developing. As the Prime Minister says, those are the areas that we are keeping under review.

Mr. Gibb: The Secretary of State referred to the changes that went through the House, but they went through the day before the Prime Minister said that he would look again at further changes to the burdensome regulations, so will the Secretary of State say when the review will take place, or was the Prime Minister referring to changes that had already taken place? That is yet another way in which the Government mislead the country and the House, perhaps inadvertently, but they do so nevertheless. When will the review take place, or was the Prime Minister referring to changes that had gone through the House the day before?

Mr. Byers: If the hon. Gentleman looks at the procedure for the order, he will find that, if it had not completed its progress through Parliament and still had not completed its time in the House of Lords, for example--[Interruption.] I have tried to explain. There are two clear issues. First, changes are being introduced to record keeping with regard to the working time directive. Secondly, we are keeping under review other areas that might come within the remit of the directive. That is clearly what is happening. That is the review that we are conducting, and it is totally in line with the Prime Minister's comments. There is a serious point, which Conservative Members do not want to address. It is the way in which they confuse two important

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issues--the need to lift red tape and the need to cut the burden of bureaucracy on business. We agree that that is what we need to do and we are putting in place procedures and mechanisms to do precisely that.

It is particularly significant that, earlier this week, the Prime Minister announced that my right hon. Friend the Minister for the Cabinet Office will chair a panel that will be able to call Cabinet Ministers to explain what they are doing about lifting the burden of red tape. Conservative Members may smile, but they all know that we are tackling a culture that exists in Whitehall itself. It has affected Governments of all political persuasions.

I was interested to see the comments on regulation and the need to lift burdens on business by the right hon. and learned Member for Rushcliffe (Mr. Clarke), the former Chancellor of the Exchequer, at this year's Tory party conference:


Therefore, we need at the heart of Government a system that will ensure that politicians take control of that process. The panel will be able to do that throughout Whitehall. The Minister for the Cabinet Office will make a real difference.

Mr. Geraint Davies: I welcome my right hon. Friend's statements about cutting red tape. Does he accept that large companies tend to like regulation because it thwarts the success of smaller companies that try to compete with them? There are several examples of that, which cover food standards agencies, abattoir regulations and even IR35. The Government need to keep an eye on that. Will my right hon. Friend give an assurance that the door is always open for small businesses in every sector of the economy to put their point of view on regulations?

Mr. Byers: My hon. Friend makes an important point. The Small Business Service will play a helpful role in such matters. However, there is a crucial dividing line between the parties on regulation: we believe in cutting red tape; the Conservative party believes in cutting benefits and wages. When the Conservative party refers to the burden on business, it means the burden of paying people a decent minimum wage and providing decent working conditions; it does not mean stopping the paper chase, the form filling and the box ticking, it means doing away with the minimum wage, the working time directive and decent conditions in the workplace.

The Queen's Speech has highlighted the clear political dividing line between the main parties. The Conservatives are, more than ever, a single-issue group, obsessed with Europe and little else, looking back to the past and scared of the future. The Conservative party resists change: it says no to the new deal, the working families tax credit, the national minimum wage, independence of the Bank of England, family friendly employment policies and the working time provisions.

The Queen's Speech outlines the programme of a forward-looking Government, in the mainstream of British politics, which is prepared to modernise and reform, to embrace the new and leave behind the old way of operating, and to bring together enterprise and fairness in the belief that wealth creation and social

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justice are two sides of the same coin. The Queen's Speech is based on those principles, and I commend it to the House.


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