At the end of the last Government, the World Bank said that Britain was the easiest place in Europe in which to set up a new business. That is a key feature of our economy, and in itself it is something to be celebrated. Indeed, the idea that people should pluck up the courage to go it alone and start a new business, should challenge the established order and should find new ways of innovating and different ways of doing things—adopting the values and attributes of entrepreneurs—is very closely aligned with the history of the Labour party. Challenging the established order is precisely what the Labour party has always done. Of course we support people who want to set up their own businesses, but the healthy push towards starting up new firms that was established under Labour—with the spirit of adventure coursing through the veins, and ambition bursting through every

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pore—is very different from the growing move towards bogus or forced self-employment that we have seen under the present Government.

Unite has drawn attention to the fact that many workers in the care sector have been pushed into false self-employment, with the result that people on whom much of the fabric of a decent society depends can be sacked without warning, receive no holiday or sick pay, have reduced benefit entitlements, and are denied access to employment tribunals. They do not want to set up their own businesses or become entrepreneurial, but they are being told that the only way in which they can care for the old people for whom they have cared for so many years is to become self-employed. It is important to recognise the difference between those who want to be self-employed and those who are being forced into it.

Chris Williamson (Derby North) (Lab): Does this not demonstrate how out of touch the Conservative party and its Liberal Democrat poodles are with the views of the general public? Last week, the results of a Survation poll clearly showed that the overwhelming majority of the British public do not want public services to be delivered by the private sector; they want public services to be delivered by directly accountable public servants who are democratically available for scrutiny by locally and nationally elected politicians.

Toby Perkins: That is an important point. The exact nature of the alliance that was formed will have to be left to the history books to judge. Were the Liberal Democrats willing accomplices who wanted to support everything that the Tory Government did, or were they, as my hon. Friend put it, poodles who were simply excited by the idea of ministerial office, and who decided to join in when they did not really support what was being done?

I suspect that, as we head towards the 2015 general election, a whole array of Liberal Democrat Ministers will suddenly emerge and say, “They made me do it. I did not really want to pursue that policy. There were tough decisions to be made.” They will try to claim some little bauble: “We may have tripled tuition fees, VAT may have gone up and workers’ rights may have been taxed, but we got something out of it.” We shall see whether, when they bring their agenda to the 2015 election, they throw off the clothes that they have worn for the last five years and claim to be different. What an exciting time we have to look forward to.

Kelvin Hopkins: I agree with everything that my hon. Friend is saying. May I suggest that if the Liberal Democrats vote with us this afternoon, they may save themselves a little bit of shame?

Toby Perkins: The idea that the Liberal Democrats might be able to save themselves a bit of shame is a novel concept—perhaps my hon. Friend is being a little bit too ambitious—but we shall none the less listen with great interest to what they say.

The Solicitor-General: The hon. Gentleman, in his lurch to the left, seems to have forgotten that when his party was in office, it was in favour of a tenfold increase in contracting out in the NHS, and in favour of flexible working. Those were the things of which his party spoke, as new Labour. Is the hon. Gentleman old Labour?

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Toby Perkins: I am one-nation Labour, and one-nation Labour attempts to bring all these different strands of our movement together. There is a huge amount of value in having a flexible work force, but if that works against the best interests of workers, it is reasonable that workers will question whether that is a price worth paying. Some important points have been made about public opinion and we should listen to them. It is also right to consider how, in a modern economy, we bring the best of the private and public sector together. That is what I am in favour of, and that is what the Labour party is in favour of.

3.30 pm

Chris Williamson: Does my hon. Friend agree that it serves nobody’s interests to indulge in this race to the bottom and force people into this bogus self-employment, when the reality is that it is an excuse for exploitation? If people have got less money in their pocket, they have less money to spend in the wider economy. That has a negative impact, and we end up in a downward spiral and a situation whereby, as the figures I have seen today from Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs show, in the last 12 months this so-called economic miracle that we are seeing under this Government has resulted in the top 300,000 seeing an increase in their income after tax, but the rest—29 million taxpayers—have seen a reduction. Bogus self-employment and forcing people into self-employment is contributing to that.

Toby Perkins: My hon. Friend makes an important contribution and he is right. The issue of bogus self-employment, and the broader issue of the vision this Government have for our economy, is working very badly for people in our constituencies and working quite well for a small number at the top. It was ever thus; this is what the Conservative party was set up to do. It was set up to ensure that the rights of a privileged few were protected and to try to convince enough of the lower orders to buy into it in the meantime. That is why the Conservatives did not want the lower orders to have the vote for 100-odd years. We all know where they are coming from, and no doubt if they could get rid of the lower orders having the vote now, they would do it again.

Mr Jim Cunningham (Coventry South) (Lab): Surely one of the tests for the way this Government handle the economy will come very shortly when interest rates go up and the small businesses and entrepreneurs that they boast about cannot get loans to facilitate their business transactions?

Toby Perkins: That is another important dimension. We are in danger of straying slightly from our amendment, but it is important that we see this amendment in the context of the economy.

My hon. Friend the Member for Derby North (Chris Williamson) also made an important point about the impact of all of this on our economy. Not only does it undermine employment rights and leave his constituents and mine worse off, but it also hits taxpayers in the pocket, because according to the Treasury’s own estimate, around 300,000 workers in the construction sector alone are effectively in bogus self-employment. That costs the Treasury more than £380 million every year so there is

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less money going into our public services and into the public coffers because of this issue. This is far from being a construction-site problem, however. That has happened over many years, but in a whole variety of areas—care workers, as spoken about earlier, bookkeepers, sales agents, and from the factory floor to the shop floor—staff who look to all of us to be employers are legally self-employed. While bogus self-employment has previously been predominantly a tax and rights issue, an exemption in respect of health and safety only increases the incentive for employers to pursue this route as a model of recruitment, reducing safety in the workplace, making it an optional extra rather than a hard-won right.

That changing environment places huge responsibilities on us as law-makers, and they must not be overlooked. Labour in government maintained a flexible workplace, not always, I have to say, to the delight of colleagues across the movement who would have liked further protection. We recognised there was a balance to be struck, however, and we still do, but we did that in a way that aimed to ensure that protection against the exploitation of individuals was not sacrificed in exchange. If these Tories really were the workers’ party, they would understand that a flexible workplace that works against the public interest is bad for Britain and bad for business, too.

Returning to this new clause, no self-employed person has ever been prosecuted or threatened with prosecution only for risking their own health. Given that the Bill’s intention is that only people who pose no risk to anybody will be exempt, there will be no practical impact on businesses or individuals. The Health and Safety Executive consulted on Ofsted’s proposals in 2012 and the majority of those responding to the consultation opposed the idea. All in all, I and many other small business owners would recognise the picture painted by the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, which has said that many low-risk, self-employed individuals are

“de facto, already exempt…They will never be routinely inspected. And they are not going to sue themselves if they have an accident!”

If there are no known cases of the self-employed suing themselves and no prosecutions that are being prevented, this is a solution in search of a problem to solve.

The problem it in fact attempts to solve is the perception that this Government have over-promised and under-delivered on regulation. Whenever we hear the Minister defend this, he does not have a lot to say about anyone who will positively benefit. What he says is that there will be a perception that there is less people have to do before they become self-employed. Well, he can say that to the carers, who are being told that they are now self-employed when looking after the old lady they have been looking after for the past 20 years. He should ask whether that removes a disincentive to them setting up a business. That is the reality of what is happening under this Government.

Chris Williamson rose—

Toby Perkins: I never cease to be delighted to hear from my hon. Friend, so I will give way to him again.

Chris Williamson: I am enjoying my hon. Friend’s speech immensely, and I had the privilege of serving on the Committee with him. Does he agree that this is a very wide-ranging Bill? A hell of a lot of effort has been

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put into it by Ministers, yet it has achieved so very little. Has there ever been a Bill where so much effort has gone in with so very little impact and positive outcome for the British people?

Toby Perkins: That is an interesting point, and it brings to mind a gentleman who was a team mate of mine at Sheffield Tigers rugby club. He had a huge neck and giant shoulders—he was a great big bear of a man—but from the waist down he had, short, very thin legs. He was one of those people who, when he stood up, apparently shrank, so he earned the name “the giant little man”, and this is a giant little Bill. There is huge scope to it and very little that is got out of it at the end—but I am digressing slightly.

That was, in fact, precisely the point I was about to come on to in my speech, so I am very grateful to my hon. Friend for his intervention. Alongside the minuscule benefit and very real consequences for the bogus self-employed, there is also the confusion that is likely to be caused and the messages that sends about health and safety as being an optional extra, rather than something businesses should always attend to.

Entrepreneurs and micro-business owners might wrongly believe they are now exempt from health and safety obligations towards clients and visitors to their premises. We know that that is not the reality of what this Bill does, but it is all about perception. If people are now being told, “If you’re self-employed, you don’t have to worry about health and safety,” it is unsurprising if that is the explanation people hear.

In its evidence to the Joint Committee, the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health described the decision to exempt certain self-employed individuals as “unnecessary, unhelpful and unwise”. It foresaw a lowering of standards and a lack of clarity about who was, or was not, covered.

The current system is clear and there is no compelling reason for this change. There is no list of self-employed martyrs brought to the courts because of badly adjusted blinds in their offices, who, having fought the issue to the highest court in the land, have now decided that, because the glare on the screen was a bit bright and it hurt their eyes, they will sue themselves. This group of people does not exist as one for us to stand up for in this place, so there is no compelling reason for this change.

For all the reasons I have outlined, we think this is a much-mistaken clause and our amendment would simply remove it. However, even if the Government do not listen to all the voices arguing against the clause in its entirety, there are serious and important flaws in its drafting that they really should look at. It will be interpreted—the Solicitor-General admitted as much in Committee—such that the exemption from the exemption will be based on whether someone’s work is in a job that is considered to pose a risk to them or to others. However, it pays no attention to whether they are responsible for the safety of their workplace. So a self-employed person working in someone else’s workplace, who to all intents and purposes appears to be employed, is in fact self-employed, has no say in the quality of the health and safety regulations administered there, and would be exempt from protection. The clause makes no reference to whether they are responsible for the safety of their workplace—it assumes they would be, but as we have heard, that is not the case—or to whether the

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workplace itself is dangerous. So, someone who is in a dangerous workplace, but in a job that is considered not dangerous, will not be covered. For example, because a sales agent selling construction goods on a building site on a self-employed basis is not in a dangerous job, they would be exempt from protection on health and safety grounds, despite working in an environment in which an average of almost 60 people have died every year during the past 13 years.

James Duddridge: Will the hon. Gentleman reflect on what he has just said and confirm that it is correct? Anybody who goes on to a construction site—be they a customer, a passing individual, a self-employed person or an employed person—is subject to health and safety relating to that geographic zone. Their employment status does not matter. Whether they are a full-time employee, self-employed, a customer or a salesman, they still get that health and safety protection.

Toby Perkins: I do not agree with the hon. Gentleman, who is making a disingenuous point. There might be certain legal protections associated with the workplace—or place of being; it would not be a “workplace” in some of the cases he cites—but there would be no protection as an employee whatsoever.

The issue of people in non-dangerous jobs working in dangerous environments must not be ignored. The message that health and safety is now an optional extra if staff can be got on to self-employed contracts is very serious indeed. In Committee, Labour sought to work with the Tory-led Government to find a way around these problems. We sought clarification from them on exactly what jobs will be excluded, asked for reassurance that significant protections will be in place, tabled amendments and made suggestions, but all those were rejected. If the House does not support our amendment today, clause 1 will mean weaker health and safety protection for the growing army of employed self-employed people, and uncertainty in the minds of the self-employed about whether they have obligations in the first place. The Government are sending out the message that health and safety is not something for all workplaces at all times, but something to be negotiated and traded away. This will be a slap in the face for the families of anyone killed in their workplace, including those of the 50 self-employed people who lost their lives at work last year. I call on the House to support our amendment and to say loud and clear, “Britain is safer today. We are not going back.”

James Duddridge: It is a privilege to speak in this debate, although I do feel we are going round in circles somewhat. Having sat on the pre-legislative scrutiny Committee with eminent Members of the Lords and Commons—plus myself—and having then had the privilege of serving on the Bill Committee and, during that time, chairing the Regulatory Reform Committee, I feel “regulationed out”, just as a number of business people do.

I want to concentrate on amendment 72, but first I want briefly to discuss Government new clause 2. I would appreciate it if the Minister cleared up the confusion over whether Northern Ireland is being treated exactly the same as Great Britain in respect of Sikhs. The hon. Member for Chesterfield (Toby Perkins) used the

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opportunity, completely reasonably, to look back at some of those arguments, rather than at a differential between Great Britain and Northern Ireland. I remember visiting the small Sikh community in Southend as a candidate in 2004, and expecting them to raise lots of technical religious issues and issues relating to the Sikh community. However, they wanted to discuss law and order, good education for their kids and lower taxation, and did not bring up the issue we have been discussing; however, that does not make it unimportant, and it is a good one to raise. The omission of Northern Ireland in our initial considerations was not great, and it is good that the Government are now remedying that.

There was much discussion, both during pre-legislative scrutiny and in Committee, of the issue addressed by amendment 72, and the Opposition clearly disagreed with the general principle being put forward and questioned the need. I am disappointed that they could not propose something more sophisticated than just knocking out the whole of clause 1. At times I felt that there was a degree of consensus on some of these issues, so I am disappointed that a more nuanced alternative has not been found. However, using amendment 72 as a probing amendment is a perfectly reasonable strategy.

3.45 pm

There is a lot of talk about perception, but we are going beyond that here; there is a fear involved in setting up one’s own business. I have been involved in setting up two businesses, one of which was very successful and has now floated on the alternative investment market, one of which was less successful and passed into abeyance, winding up without leaving any debts. In both cases things such as health and safety were rightly a concern—

Karl Turner indicated dissent.

James Duddridge: The hon. Gentleman is shaking his head but I am saying that, although health and safety was rightly a concern, it was a barrier to setting up a legal entity early on in both cases. He asks, from a sedentary position, what the reason was for that. When someone is setting up a new business—this is certainly what I found—they ask what things they have to consider and then prioritise them. So there is no point in someone even thinking of setting up a business unless they have customers and a product, and unless they can do it in a profitable way over time and have the financing in place. Those things are in the person’s mind, but then there is another level of issues for them to consider: where do they go? How do they employ people? What are the health and safety considerations?

Early on, when someone is setting up the company, they should be able to set aside the health and safety things and say, “When I am forming that company, as an individual with only myself to be concerned with, health and safety, at that juncture, is not something that I need to concern myself with as a barrier to entry into that workplace.” Having established the business, the person can then go on to look at all those details before they start engaging employees or start risking health and safety in any way. My fear is that, in itself, it is a barrier to starting that business and, thus, to employing people.

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Chris Williamson: The hon. Gentleman would have more credibility on the concerns he is articulating about the barriers facing businesses starting up if he had supported the amendment in Committee, which called for a review of the licensing regime. For example, someone setting up a restaurant needs to comply with seven or eight different licences. Surely that would be a more appropriate approach to take, rather than undermining health and safety.

James Duddridge: It would be an additional benefit to look at these things sector by sector, as the Better Regulation Commission is doing—and is reducing regulation. However, I fear I am straying slightly, as we have done today, away from the pure health and safety issues. The hon. Member for Chesterfield kindly took an intervention on the concept of who is protected on a building site and I must admit that I am still confused. There is a case for stopping people being self-employed from an employment rights perspective—we can debate that, although not today. But although these bogus self-employed individuals take themselves out of a certain type of health and safety liability, by being on the site—by being in the care home or on the building site—they are subject to health and safety rules. There may be a case to make that those rules are too weak or that they are not the same as in an employment relationship, but people are still subject to them.

As I said at the start, something more nuanced could have been proposed, because there is a risk that people do not set up businesses because they are concerned about the overall level of bureaucracy. The hon. Gentleman prayed in aid the World Bank, saying that we are already at the cutting edge for being able to set up businesses, but if we do not look to move forward and constantly improve, as our competitors are doing, biting at our heels, we will fall behind in business growth, in growth and in employment. I say that on a day when I learned from the BBC that employment is at its highest level since 1971, when records were first kept. There is no health and safety protection if one does not have a job. Getting people into employment is a step in the right direction, and getting people involved in high-quality jobs with high-quality health and safety is a further improvement, but it is still a stepping stone. For those reasons, while I support Government new clause 1, I would vote against amendment 72 if it were pushed to a vote.

John McDonnell: May I first say that I welcome the new clause relating to the Sikh community? I chair the all-party group on the Punjabi community in Britain, and for a number of years there has been an issue, and it is helpful to get it out of the way now, once and for all. Others have also received representations on the matter, so today’s debate has been useful.

I will be straight with the Minister: I am really worried about this part of the Bill. Before I go into that, I will, like others, outline my background. First, let me refer to the Register of Members’ Financial Interests. Unite has just made a contribution to my constituency party for campaigning. The Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority tells me that we do not have to declare such payments, but I have anyway. I have not received the Unite briefing, but I understand that it has been lobbying on this matter.

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I come to this matter from a trade union background—from the shop floor. When I first left college, I worked for the National Union of Mineworkers. Obviously, health and safety was a critical issue for mineworkers. However, it concerned not just those working in the mines but those involved on the surface, in deliveries and so on. My hon. Friend the Member for Luton North (Kelvin Hopkins) has described the process of health and safety at work. The trade unions initially tried to tackle health and safety issues on an industry-by-industry basis. The reason the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 came about was that we wanted comprehensive overall protection, which is why it was a global Bill; we did not want anyone to miss out. Individual pieces of legislation would not have given us that comprehensive cover.

At that point in time, self-employment was not a big issue, but it is now. The expansion of self-employment in this country—my hon. Friend the Member for Chesterfield (Toby Perkins) gave some figures on that—has been massive. That is partly because people who have lost their job or who have had their job privatised in some form have been pushed into self-employment; some choose it willingly, but others choose it because it is the only option. It is a fact that deaths at work and occupational injuries for the self-employed are twice the rate for the directly employed. If we look at recent TUC statistics on deaths, we will see that there have been 16 fatalities in the past four months, the bulk of which were among the self-employed. Clearly, therefore, there is an issue of health and safety among the self-employed.

Up until now, the simplicity of the legislation has meant that everyone knows that they are covered no matter what. No matter where they are working or what aspect of self-employment they are involved in, they know they are covered by the legislation. My worry is that legislating to solve one problem produces much bigger problems. I accept that there may be an element of truth behind some of the myths of the health and safety culture. Some small examples may be run in the Daily Mail, and we will all agree that they are daft, but the bulk of health and safety legislation protects people. There are too many people dying or being seriously injured at work at the moment. When we meet the families of victims, we understand why health and safety is such a cornerstone, and so essential in protecting people at work. As soon as we try to resolve some of the smaller exaggerations of the health and safety at work legislation, we then open up the possibility of absolute confusion about what is going on.

We will spend the next few months on the consultation about the list. Endless hours will be spent trying to identify what activities are included on the list and what activities are not included. We have already heard something like that today with the issue of what happens in the construction industry.

I have been dealing with Crossrail. Some Members may be aware that a few weeks ago, after a fatality at Crossrail, an extremely damning report about health and safety attitudes on the Crossrail project was published in the media. I am meeting Crossrail management and the unions to try to see how we can resolve those matters. It will be argued that Crossrail will be covered by these provisions because it is part of the construction sector, but the question comes up of what will happen

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with deliveries to Crossrail sites. Will they be covered when they are purely on the construction site or will they be covered on their way to a Crossrail site?

We will have endless debates and arguments about what happens in construction, which is the area where self-employment has grown in recent years. We have heard about false self-employment, and a lot of construction workers today are basically told to be self-employed or they will not get a job. It is as simple as that and if they try to argue against it they do not get work the following week. That is one of the big battles being joined at the moment by Unite and other unions, including the Union of Construction, Allied Trades and Technicians.

Mike Thornton (Eastleigh) (LD): I used to do an awful lot of work in financial services for people who worked on construction sites. Nearly all of them worked under the old construction industry scheme, or CIS, under which they were classified as self-employed. That was permanent throughout the construction sector throughout the past 20 or 30 years. Surely people being self-employed within the construction industry is nothing new.

John McDonnell: No, it is not, but a lot of those workers who were directly employed have in recent years been forced into self-employment against their will. That is the only way that they have been able to get work. If we consider the role of agents in a lot of this, we can see that it is a way of avoiding taxation for some.

Andy McDonald (Middlesbrough) (Lab): Does my hon. Friend recall the words of Lord Denning many years ago when dealing with this very issue of bogus descriptions? Somebody controls the place of work, the rate of pay and the hours that are worked. We can call a Mini a Rolls-Royce, but it is still a Mini.

John McDonnell: I have been involved in some of the direct action campaigns on sites across London over the past two years. Few major firms are left in London that employ people directly; they now employ individuals who are classified as self-employed. They have not gone into self-employment willingly, but have been forced into it simply to get the work.

Let me go back to my major theme. Throughout its history, our health and safety legislation has been based on the precautionary principle of trying to ensure that we prevent as much as we possibly can the risks of individual sectors. I have seen the list that the Minister has kindly supplied us with this afternoon and, to be frank, I think—I am not saying this in any critical way—that if we are going to go down the route of having a list system, it would have been better for us to have had the list well in advance for consultation and discussion. Nevertheless, that is what we will have now.

Let me give some examples from the list. The category for high-risk activities relating to public safety includes the:

“Organisation and operation of exhibitions, fairgrounds, amusement parks, theme parks, zoos, circuses, public fireworks displays and adventure activities,”

but not festivals and concerts, which have some of the highest risks of such outside activities. For offshore activities, it includes

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“operators, owners, installation managers, well operators and any persons under various Offshore Regulations”,

but some of the highest risk in the offshore industry is land-based, at the port, before the equipment is transferred out.

In years to come, we will define item by item what is on the list and what is not. It is all well and good publishing a list of what is covered, but if people want absolute clarity we should also publish a list of what is not included. Let me give another example, which I think came up in Committee. If a plumber—they are largely self-employed—is working in a person’s home, will they be covered or not? Are electricians working in people’s homes covered or not? I am not sure from this list, and that is the issue. All our health and safety legislation up to now has been based on the precautionary principle of comprehensive coverage so that everyone is protected, including the workers and the general public in whose environment they are working, but we are now in a situation where no one will know or be absolutely clear about their coverage. As a local MP I have used health and safety legislation on a number of occasions to get the local authority to take action against self-employed workers on particular sites that are putting the general public at risk.

4 pm

I give as an example from the list waste management, which covers waste collection, treatment and disposal, materials recovery and remediation activities. A range of recycling activities are going on in my community. I am not sure now whether those would be described as waste management or recycling, and whether they are covered by the list. In my area we have had cases of fly-tipping and dumping in which we have even used health and safety legislation against individuals who participated in those fringe activities linked to recycling.

In trying to solve a relatively minor problem, we are opening up a can of worms that will engage this Government as long as they exist—the next 12 months—in a long debate with everyone involved, including employers, employees, trade unions and the general public to define what is and is not on the list. The Minister should get used to some overtime in the next few months.

Toby Perkins: My hon. Friend is making an important contribution. He is right to say that there is a perception that health and safety is sometimes over-zealously pursued, but the real problem that the Government are trying to solve is their polling position. They are trying to show people that they are taking action in this area, they want to be able to tell businesses about all the deregulation they are undertaking, but they are not solving the problems facing small businesses.

John McDonnell: If the Government are going to legislate on the basis of hearsay and almost prejudice, they wind up with legislation that renders itself ineffective in the long run. I genuinely cannot see how the list could be implemented effectively.

The Solicitor-General: I am following the logic of what the hon. Gentleman is saying, but he should appreciate that the detailed regulations will be consulted

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on, which will include proper definitions. He has a list of activities, but the consultation will bore down into the detail. If he or his constituents have particular concerns, he will be able to raise those points and the Government will take account of them.

John McDonnell: That worries me even more. I make this not as a party political point, but as a practical governmental point: that means that the legislation is a leap in the dark, before we know in any detail the consequences of what we are doing.

The Government have been looking at the matter for three years now. I met Lord—I have forgotten his name. He got the sack after having a few drinks too many at a reception. I met the original Lord who was consulting on this. He turned up with an individual who I thought was his butler. It was an adviser. He eventually got the push because he had a few drinks too many and said some unwise words. He was so impressive that I cannot remember his name. I met him three years ago when the measure was first mooted. We went through examples of what he thought was unnecessary health and safety legislation in certain areas. One of the areas he was looking at was shops, so I introduced him to the Bakers, Food and Allied Workers Union, which explained to him that health and safety matters were a worry in shops where its workers were.

From that original prejudicial approach, I thought the Government were going to lay out in detail how the duties would be implemented. To introduce the legislation without such detail in such an important area will render the legislation ineffective and put people at risk.

John Cryer: What my hon. Friend says about risk is right. In Committee, we asked time and again for a definitive list. The Government kept amending the list. I do not know which version we are on now, but we are almost at the end of the parliamentary process on the Bill, and the Government are now saying that they will consult. That should have been done right at the start of the process; if it had, we would now know what we were dealing with.

John McDonnell: There are times when one legislates on the principle and then rolls out the practical implications, but I agree with my hon. Friend that in this instance, because of the legislation’s significance and because the detail is so important to whether it is viable, in the three years when the consultation was supposed to be going on we could have drilled down into the detail and then come back with effective legislation, which would have achieved some element of consensus. Instead we have absolute confusion, and in health and safety matters that means risk. I will vote for the amendment, but I deeply regret the way in which the legislation has been brought forward. The risks that will be incurred will affect many of us, throughout all these different industries, but more broadly, as self-employment now grows, not only will self-employed workers be put at risk, but the general public as well. That is why the Minister needs to think again very seriously.

Chris Williamson: I rise to speak in support of amendment 72 and I associate myself with the comments made by my hon. Friend the Member for Hayes and Harlington (John McDonnell) on the proposals for the Sikh community, which are a welcome step.

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I do not know whether it is because the Solicitor-General is behind the proposal, but to me it represents a lawyer’s charter. My hon. Friend has already made the point that the prescribed list simply adds to the confusion rather than providing clarity. I am a simple chap, an ex-bricklayer who certainly benefited from the health and safety regime, and I would like to know what is wrong with the present legislation. My hon. Friend the Member for Chesterfield (Toby Perkins) referred to the futility of the proposition in terms of those who are self-employed and not at any great risk, but who have never been prosecuted or are likely to take action against themselves in any event, but my real concern is that the Government are creating significant confusion, which will put people at greater risk.

Other hon. Members have made the point that self-employed people are on average twice as likely to die at work as employed workers. At a time when 4.2 million people are self-employed that is a growing concern, and not just for the individuals who are putting themselves at greater risk and who will go to work one day, as my hon. Friend said, and never return. That is devastating for the families of those individuals, and it is a complete waste of human life. In crude monetary terms, it has a negative impact on the economy, because their productive life is lost to the economy.

We have to take account not only of those who are more likely to die, but of those self-employed workers who are more likely to sustain an industrial injury, and this proposal will make matters worse. We have already spoken about people being forced into self-employment and bogus self-employment. People who are in effect employed earners but are forced into a self-employment do not benefit from the protections accorded to employed earners, and that should be a matter of concern for all of us.

I shall take my previous life in the construction sector as an example. Because of the confusion, we do not know from what the Government have said whether self-employed earners working in a domestic setting will be covered, as my hon. Friend the Member for Hayes and Harlington has pointed out.

John McDonnell: We have only one copy of the list—that is how we have been treated today—but we shall share it. I will give one example, and perhaps my hon. Friend will be able to respond to it. According to the list, construction is covered overall, and a number of activities are listed under construction. However, there are sites where there is no construction going on but there is painting and decorating, which is not listed. If no construction was going on and some self-employed painters and decorators—there are a large number of them—turned up to work on the site, they would not be covered because their work would not be construed as construction. However, painting and decorating is actually quite a risky occupation, for the painter and decorator and for the public, because of the use of ladders, scaffolding and so on.

Chris Williamson: My hon. Friend is absolutely right. It is potentially an incredibly hazardous occupation, for the very reason he outlines: the use of ladders, scaffolding and so on.

John McDonnell: Painters and decorators are not covered, but people on high wires in circuses are. This is getting bizarre.

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Chris Williamson: That is the point, is it not? The beauty of the existing legislation is that it is very clear. Even a former bricklayer like me can understand it. We know that everybody is covered by it. The Government are saying, “We are the great deregulators and we want to free up the self-employed to become great entrepreneurs”, but the reality is that they are creating a huge amount of confusion and putting people at risk, which will put a greater burden on our national health service. The reality is that more and more people who are forced into bogus self-employment schemes will find themselves at much greater risk.

I mentioned in an earlier intervention the concerns and fears of an individual setting up a business for the first time about the impact of health and safety obligations. The Government had the opportunity in Committee to do something that would have genuinely benefited those considering setting up in self-employment for the first time: reviewing the plethora of licences—150-odd—that local authorities are responsible for. I gave the example of a restaurateur, who must comply with eight or nine licensing regimes. Yet the Government had no sympathy and I believe they even voted against the proposal. I actually tabled another amendment, which regrettably has not been selected, to increase the period in which a review could take place, which we initially called for in Committee.

The Government try to give the impression that they are on the side of entrepreneurs and the self-employed, but the reality is quite the opposite because they are putting people at greater risk. The race to the bottom reduces people’s terms and conditions, and this all has a negative impact on the wider economy. There are 4.2 million self-employed people in the country, but instead of its being a cause for celebration I am concerned that many of them are earning very low incomes. That has a negative impact on the wider economy, because they have less money in their pockets to make a difference. The Prime Minister constantly goes on at PMQs about the number of new jobs being created, but he is silent about the fact that many of them are part time or involve zero-hours contracts, and self-employment comes into that. Many people are forced into self-employment because they have no alternative. They are forced to accept a pittance of a wage.

We also know from recent statistics that there has been a huge increase in the number of people who cannot afford to pay their rent because they are on such low incomes and so are having to claim housing benefit.

As my hon. Friends the Members for Chesterfield and for Hayes and Harlington have made clear, the amendment is absolutely sensible. The Government have been singularly incapable of providing any legitimate justification for their proposal. They are going to create a lawyers charter. The most significant growth that will come out of this is for lawyers, because it is bound to lead to challenges through the law courts. Is that what we really want? I would suggest not. What is wrong with the existing legislation? It is straightforward and simple. We are not all lawyers like the Solicitor-General; perhaps he can understand it with his great intellect. As I said, I am just a simple bricklayer, and I can understand the current legislation, but I cannot understand what is before us today.

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4.15 pm

The list is certainly not exhaustive. As my hon. Friend the Member for Hayes and Harlington said, if we are to have a list of what is included, we also need a list of what is not included. I challenge the Minister to give us some indication of what would not be included. He would not be able to tell us, because that will be discovered only through case law. That is a very regrettable state of affairs, and it is not a direction of travel that we should be taking in this country.

Of course we want to liberate people to be able to become self-employed if that is what they want, but we must create the right environment—the right conditions—so that they can make a good, decent living out of it. This most certainly will not achieve that goal. It will confuse matters and make them worse, and it will have a very negative impact on the wider economy and on our already pressured national health service. I therefore hope that the Minister can find it within himself to acknowledge that he has made a mistake and that the Government have got this wrong. They need to listen to the sensible words of my hon. Friend the Member for Chesterfield and the wise and sage words of my hon. Friend the Member for Hayes and Harlington.

I do not think the Government conceded anything in Committee. For all the sensible amendments that we proposed, I do not think they accepted any of them. They conceded very little, if anything at all, certainly on the days that I was there. I missed a couple of sittings at the end when I was visiting Qatar and looking at the horrendous health and safety in that country, with the 1,200 workers who have already lost their lives building the infrastructure for the World cup. That seems to be the direction of travel in which the Government want to take the United Kingdom.

In a spirit of cross-party consensus, I call on the Minister to reflect on what has been said and to make the right choice in the interests of self-employed people, health and safety, and our wider economy.

John Cryer: My hon. Friends the Members for Derby North (Chris Williamson) and for Luton North (Kelvin Hopkins) and I served on the Committee, where this was one of the most controversial elements of the Bill. As my hon. Friend the Member for Hayes and Harlington (John McDonnell) said, the list has gone through all sorts of vexed changes and debates. In Committee, we were already on the third or fourth version. The sorts of questions he has asked today—“Why is this on the list?”, “Why is that not on the list?”—were being asked then.

The Solicitor-General: I fully accept what the hon. Gentleman says about the lively debate on this subject, but only one list was produced for Members, and it is the list that has been produced today.

John Cryer: If I am mistaken, I apologise. I remember seeing at least two versions, but perhaps I have got that slightly wrong. Nevertheless, there is still controversy over why certain occupations are on the list and others are left off. I am concerned that the Bill is nearing the end of its progress, yet nobody is quite sure what will be on the list and what will not. The Solicitor-General said in Committee that the Government would consult on the issue, but that should have been done some months

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ago. As my hon. Friend the Member for Hayes and Harlington has said, the discussions have been going on for about three years and it is only now that we are getting anywhere near some sort of public consultation.

Toby Perkins: It may well be that there was only one piece of paper, but in Committee it was as if there was an organic process by which the interpretation of the list and the meaning of the Bill changed in front of our very eyes. I am not entirely sure whether that is reflected on a piece of paper, but it was very clear that what it meant either was not entirely understood or that it changed as we sat in Committee.

John Cryer: Perhaps I am a victim of my own fevered imagination when it comes to the list, but I thought I remembered seeing different versions. My hon. Friend is right about the list.

The Solicitor-General: It may be that what the hon. Gentleman is remembering is the different approach taken by the Joint Committee. It came up with different proposals, to which the Government responded with the list.

John Cryer: Okay, I am prepared to accept that.

Katy Clark (North Ayrshire and Arran) (Lab): Is the maritime sector on the list? I have been advised that it is not. Was there any discussion in Committee about whether the sector—ferries, ships and so on—should be on the list?

John Cryer: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for raising that point. I do not remember any specific discussion about whether maritime occupations should be on the list. Perhaps that was partly because we had a separate, lengthy and passionate discussion about maritime investigations. The RMT represents not all but most seafarers, and that discussion took place, oddly enough, just after it was announced that Bob Crow had passed away, and I think that added to the passion in the debate.

John McDonnell: There is a reason for the concern. It has been argued that there is not an awful lot of self-employment in the maritime sector, but there is. My hon. Friend knows as well as I do, because he was involved in this, the issues with the Thames cruises, where there is self-employment: individual families own their own boats and there is a licensing regime. Health and safety still needs to be applied to them, but they do not seem to be anywhere near the list.

John Cryer: I do not have the list in front of me, but I accept what my hon. Friend says. One of the things that has changed in the past few years—this has happened relatively recently—is that an awful lot of industries now have extensive groups of self-employed people. My hon. Friend mentioned that earlier in his career he worked for the National Union of Mineworkers. It is not particularly widely recognised that most miners—there are not many of them around nowadays, because successive Conservative Governments massacred the deep-mining industry—are self-employed or agency workers, and many of them are on virtually zero-hours contracts.

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I think there is a view that anyone working at a deep mine in Hatfield or any of the others that still exist does so for an employer on a normal pay-as-you-earn basis. The reality is that most people who work in mines are self-employed in a very dangerous industry, and some of them—probably those who work on the surface, rather than those who work underground—will be removed from health and safety cover as a result of this Bill. At the very least, confusion will reign, because nobody is quite sure whom the Bill covers and whom it does not.

One of the many bases of this Bill is the idea that there is still a hard and fast division between those who are employed and those who are self-employed. That traditional view of the workplace was accurate 30, 40 or 50 years ago, but it does not apply now, because increasing numbers of people are self-employed and increasing numbers of people come under what Labour Members would call bogus self-employment. These are people who have been shifted to a self-employed status, sometimes against their will. There are examples of work forces who wake up one morning to discover that they are suddenly self-employed, having not been consulted. Before the Solicitor-General is moved to intervene, I know that that is illegal, but I think it is indicative of the world of work that we have today.

Disreputable employers already have several incentives for moving people to self-employed status, including the ability to abandon many of their normal responsibilities—the duty to pay national insurance, sick pay, holiday pay and so forth. More and more companies are now offering different routes for shifting work forces to self-employment. In Committee, I gave the example of the role of payroll companies, which go to normal construction companies—this happens a lot in construction—and say, “Give us your payroll responsibilities. We’ll look after paying the work force. We’ll shift them all to self-employed. As a result, you will escape responsibility for paying NI, holiday pay, sick pay and all the rest of it.” Another impetus is the fact that, because of the cuts to Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs, it does far fewer compliance inspections than it did five or six—or even two—years ago. The idea that employers will be caught out shifting people to bogus self-employment by HMRC is less likely; it is more likely that they will get away with it.

The Bill provides another incentive to companies—not just those in construction, but in other industries as well—to move people to self-employment so that they can escape their responsibilities. If someone running a construction company who does not particularly care about his or her employees is told, “Well, if they’re not self-employed, they’re not covered by health and safety”, that is another incentive, encouragement or green light to employers to engage in such processes. Some of the processes are legal or on the fringe of legality, but many employers are still getting away with it. The irony is that many of the most dangerous industries, such as construction and agriculture, already have a very high level of self-employment. In some industries, we are moving to a position in which we are seeing the virtual abolition of regular full-time employment.

The TUC issued a briefing earlier today. Many Government Members think that the TUC is populated by blokes who are blood-soaked lefties and all about 8 ft tall, with biceps the size of Bournemouth.

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Kelvin Hopkins: My hon. Friend the Member for Hayes and Harlington (John McDonnell) and I both worked at the TUC, and I do not think we fit that description.

John Cryer: I cannot imagine two more moderate figures in the House than my two hon. Friends. The reality is that the TUC is a very moderate organisation. When I worked as a political officer at Unite, I dealt extensively with it, particularly with the then general secretary, Brendan Barber. Whatever the views of Conservative Members, a person could not wish to meet a more moderate man—almost outrageously moderate—than Brendan Barber. His successor, Frances O’Grady, is a similarly moderate person.

The TUC briefing points out:

“The Bill states that the proposals are being done ‘for the reduction of burdens resulting from legislation for businesses or other organisations or for individuals’. In fact it does the opposite as it does not actually change the situation for those who genuinely do not pose a risk to others and only creates complete confusion for all the other self-employed.”

That very mildly and moderately expressed point of view raises the genuine concern that the provision will create confusion for an awful lot of the work force, many of whom work in some of the most dangerous sectors of the economy.

Kelvin Hopkins: It is a pleasure to speak in this important debate. I had the pleasure of working at the TUC for five years, during which the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 was brought in. There is no doubt that thousands of lives have been saved and thousands of injuries prevented as a result of that Act.

I remember that, as a student in the 1960s, I worked in the vacations. I think I am probably the oldest person here. [Interruption.] Well, yes, my hon. Friend the Member for Walsall North (Mr Winnick) is extremely old. In those days, we typically worked in factories during the holidays. I remember the horrendous lack of health and safety—unguarded machines, poisonous chemicals, no hard hats—but that was the life people led. I used to put the guards on the machines that I worked on. They were lying on the ground, but their use was not enforced.

4.30 pm

This proposal is undoubtedly a weakening of the 1974 Act and it will inevitably lead to more people dying and being injured. I will look at the statistics in coming years if clause 1 goes through. I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for Chesterfield (Toby Perkins) and my other hon. Friends who have spoken have persuaded the Government to drop the clause and that common sense will return, but there is no sign of that.

I well remember the 1974 Act going through and I was proud to be a member of the TUC staff. Going back even further, in my early days at the TUC, I was responsible for setting up the TUC construction industry committee. When I prepared the papers for that committee, the two big issues were bogus self-employment and health and safety. More than 40 years later, there is even more bogus self-employment. At that time, it was essentially restricted to the construction sector and was called “the lump”. People may remember the lump. There was an impressive TUC drama about it. Before the 1974 Act,

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people worked in unregulated self-employment and accidents occurred. In the drama, there was an deep trench and a man was buried alive because the shuttering was not there and was not enforced. We hoped that that sort of thing had been stopped.

Some time later, I worked for another trade union, the National and Local Government Officers Association, which is now Unison. I used to attend the TUC construction committee as a trade union representative. I remember supporting Frank Chapple on enforcing the wearing of hard hats on building sites. We had different views on many things, but on that, we were as one. People would not wear hard hats unless they were told, “If you don’t wear a hard hat, you don’t work here.” That has to be enforced.

That brings me to my main point, which is that, rather than being weakened, the 1974 Act should be strengthened. We need proper enforcement. We have been sent briefings by a number of trade unions and the TUC. The Broadcasting Entertainment Cinematograph and Theatre Union says that in the entertainment and media sector, there is a very high proportion of self-employed people and a very low level of accident reporting. We need more enforcement and more reporting, so the Act needs strengthening, not weakening.

Katy Clark: Does my hon. Friend agree that it is highly concerning that the Health and Safety Executive has received such huge funding cuts and that there has been such a reduction in workplace health and safety inspections?

Kelvin Hopkins: Yes, indeed. One of my former colleagues at the TUC, Sir Bill Callaghan, who used to be the chair of the Health and Safety Commission, was alarmed at the threats to the funding and the future of the Health and Safety Executive. Interestingly, when the HSE did a consultation exercise on this issue, a majority of respondents were against what the Government are proposing. The HSE is obviously under-resourced. I want it to be strengthened and to have more resources so that it can save more lives and prevent more injuries.

I will give another anecdote about a recent experience. There were two men working on the pavement outside my house with a diamond-edged cutting disc—the sort of machine that is used to cut stone, brick or concrete. They had no goggles, no hard hats and no ear defenders. I went up to ask what they were doing. I was not going to comment on health and safety. They were clearly eastern European and did not understand English very well. The TUC has said:

“Migrant workers are also more likely to be self-employed and are more likely to have a poor command of English, which means that they need support and guidance from the HSE. Sex out of ten Rumanian and Bulgarian immigrants living in Britain last year were working as self-employed.”

We are talking about a whole sector. Hundreds of thousands of people will be less likely to be protected by health and safety regulations and laws. I think we ought to strengthen the Health and Safety Executive and the 1974 Act. We ought to provide the resources that are needed to ensure that it is enforced properly. There are a number of points that I was going to make, but they have been made strongly by my hon. Friends.

John McDonnell: I am not sure whether my hon. Friend has seen the list. In the past, we have raised the risks on the docks, where self-employment is increasingly

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becoming the norm. My dad used to be a Liverpool docker and he lost a finger as a result of an industrial accident. Although offshore activities are listed, there is nothing about the docks. That whole sector is excluded from the list, yet it is an extremely dangerous area of activity.

Kelvin Hopkins: I am sure we could find many areas where health and safety risks are not being addressed, even under existing legislation. We want such legislation to be strengthened, not weakened, but because of the logic of the situation the list of exemptions will inevitably mean that more people die or suffer injuries as a result of the clause. I strongly support my hon. Friends on the Front Bench, and other hon. Friends, in calling on the Government to abandon clause 1, accept the amendment, and return to common sense.

Katy Clark: I refer to my entry in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests, which indicates that the trade union Unite recently made a financial donation to the Labour party in part of my constituency. I am not sure whether I am strictly required to make that reference, but Unite is hugely concerned—as are all British trade unions—about the Government’s stance on this matter.

As the Minister said in his opening remarks, the recommendation in the Bill came from the Löfstedt review of health and safety regulation. The Löfstedt committee did not hold a unanimous position, however, and the TUC nominee on the Löfstedt review, as well as the MP representing Labour, were clear that they were opposed to the position taken. Indeed, in autumn 2012 when the Health and Safety Executive consulted on exempting some of the self-employed from health and safety provisions, the majority of those who responded to that consultation—including a majority of the self-employed—were opposed to the proposal. Despite that, it has been included in the Bill.

The proposal was also opposed by professionals involved in health and safety. Indeed, their chartered body, the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health, stated:

“This is a very short-sighted and misleading move, it won’t actually help anyone; it won’t support business; but it will cause general confusion.”

That confusion has been illustrated clearly by the debate today, particularly on the list of types of employment, self-employment, and the sectors that would be included under the health and safety provisions, and those that might not be.

At the moment, all self-employed people have a legal duty to ensure that they protect others from harm resulting from their work activity. The strength of the health and safety legislation in the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 is its simplicity, and the fact that the test and legal obligation involved is simple and applies to everybody. One problem with other areas of employment protection is that it is often an employee who may receive some form of right or entitlement, rather than workers in general, which means that many people try to avoid obligations by using devices such as zero-hours contracts. The fact that the Government are proceeding down such a path for health and safety is a negative development that I believe we will all regret in years to come.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Hayes and Harlington (John McDonnell) indicated, fatality rates

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for those in self-employment are far higher than for those who are employed. The current fatality rate is 1.1 person per 100,000 for the self-employed, compared with 0.4 per 100,000 for employees. In part, that might be because self-employed people are more likely to be found in more dangerous occupations. However, the statistics on people with the same occupation show that self-employed people seem to have higher fatality rates.

Migrant workers are more likely to be self-employed and therefore more likely to be affected. They are obviously more likely to have a poor command of English, which probably means that they are more in need of clear guidance. Six out of 10 Romanian and Bulgarian immigrants living in Britain last year were self-employed. No statistics are currently kept on the number of people who are killed, injured or made ill as a result of the actions of the self-employed, whether relating to self-employed people themselves or the general public.

We know that the problem of deaths and illnesses associated with work is extremely significant. Worldwide, 2.3 million die as a result of incidents at work every year. Hazards, the health and safety magazine, estimates that, in Britain, work kills 1,400 people each year, and that 50,000 die in work-related incidents. Health and safety legislation is far from red tape. It has saved probably hundreds of thousands of lives since it came into effect in 1974. The Government are trying yet again in the Bill to take away that protection for the self-employed. It is a bad day for Britain. I ask the Minister to think again and to look at the legislation. I ask him to protect the simplicity of the 1974 Act and ensure that all workers and all at work are covered by it.

The Solicitor-General: We have had a lively debate, featuring contributions from my hon. Friend the Member for Rochford and Southend East (James Duddridge), and the hon. Members for Chesterfield (Toby Perkins), for Hayes and Harlington (John McDonnell), for Derby North (Chris Williamson), for Leyton and Wanstead (John Cryer), for Luton North (Kelvin Hopkins) and for North Ayrshire and Arran (Katy Clark).

I will begin with the two points made by the hon. Member for Chesterfield on the Northern Ireland provision—new clause 2. The meaning of “a workplace” does include a vehicle or a motorcycle. I believe I have answered his point on a “blanket provision”. His other point was on article 13A of the 1990 order, which he described as section 12. The point is that the measure relates to the protection of Sikhs from racial discrimination in connection with the requirements to wear safety helmets. Subsections (9) to (11) of new clause 2 amend article 13A so that any person who attempts to impose a requirement on a turban-wearing Sikh to wear a safety helmet at a workplace—rather than just on a construction site—contrary to article 13 of the 1990 order, would be discriminating against the Sikh individual under the Race Relations (Northern Ireland) Order 1997. Avoiding that liability would not be considered a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim.

On health and safety law, it is worth starting by making the point that the Bill saves £300 million and is designed to lift burdens from business. I thought the Professor Löfstedt process was belittled somewhat by the hon. Member for North Ayrshire and Arran, but there is no question but that he is highly regarded in the

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field. The process was done in an academic way, involving industry representatives. At the end of it, he made the point that there is a case for following a similar approach to other countries and exempting from health and safety law those self-employed people—those who are not employees—whose workplace activities pose no potential risk or harm to others. The debate has been conducted by some hon. Members as though the Government want to put people in danger, but all the dangerous activities will be exempt. We are trying to get off the backs of people who want to make jobs: those who want to go out and be self-employed and employ others.

4.45 pm

I sometimes wonder about the Labour party. Does the party want there to be work? The Government are creating jobs at a very fast rate indeed: 1.4 million jobs in the private sector since 2010, despite all the prognostications that the opposite would happen. Some 70% of those jobs are full-time and they are transforming the country. That is partly to do with supporting entrepreneurship, lifting burdens from business, reducing taxes and making it easier to get out there and do these things. Surely that is in the interests of our country. The Labour Government’s record is one of rapid decline in world competitiveness from ninth to 22nd. When we think of the mess that the country was in in 2010 after their foolish stewardship of the country’s finances—their long-term Prime Minister, Tony Blair has said that after 2005 they got it wrong—we really have to ask whether we should take lectures from such a party on a deregulation measure.

Chris Williamson: The Solicitor-General says he wonders about the Labour party, but I wonder about him. Listen, if the Solicitor-General is so concerned and thinks that this is such a wonderful piece of legislation and the prescribed list is so clear, why does he not think that painting and decorating is a hazardous occupation? Does he not think that maritime is a hazardous occupation? If this is the prescribed list will he tell us, as I challenged him to in my contribution, what is not on it? Painting and decorating is not on it and that is clearly a hazardous occupation. What else is not on it? He says that there are no hazardous occupations that are not covered by the list.

Madam Deputy Speaker (Dawn Primarolo): Order. This is becoming a speech. It is supposed to be an intervention. We have heard the speech once and we do not need to hear it again.

The Solicitor-General: On some of the early points that were made, this is a matter—

Chris Williamson: Will the Solicitor-General give way?

The Solicitor-General: Hang on. This is a matter of exempting people in safe occupations from the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974. We are doing that for self-employed people because we want to encourage business. The process being followed to do this is very carefully thought through. The proposed prescribed list will ensure that self-employed persons conducting undertakings where they are most at risk of serious injury or fatality will not be exempt from the law. There is, therefore, an element of the debate that is just not part of the Government’s policy or the Bill. The hon.

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Gentleman mentions painting and decorating. That is covered, because the description of construction, which is on the list, includes painting and decorating. I will come on to some of the other points that have been made in a minute.

The measure has been described as having particular reference to bogus self-employed contracts, but that is not the case. This does not change the law: no employment law will be changed by the Bill. A number of other points were made. It was suggested that we should look only at the evidence of consultants—the institution that was mentioned—who give advice to people on health and safety. It is the job of members of such institutions to go out and give health and safety advice to people who want to set up in business and be self-employed, so it is not a shock to find that they are not keen on having 1 million or 2 million people exempted from the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act. Equally, we are told that this is a lawyers charter. Lawyers give advice and they are not saying what one would expect—that this measure will help them in some way.

Chris Williamson: Will the Solicitor-General give way?

The Solicitor-General: No, I am going to continue for a moment.

I was asked about support from organisations with a business background. Yes, they support these provisions. [Interruption.] Well, it is true; they do. There are people who benefit from having an extensive health and safety law that enables them to go out and give advice about these issues, and clearly they have a point of view. Those who want to represent small businesses are in favour of this measure because it helps people to set up in business.

Katy Clark rose—

The Solicitor-General: I will give way in a few seconds.

Another point was raised about confusion between the workplace—[Interruption.] There was confusion in much of what was said between the place where the work takes place and the activity. It is the activity that is going to be exempted. If something is a dangerous or hazardous activity, it will be exempted from the change, so that people will be safe. The hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington asked about the docks, but if someone is doing something dangerous or hazardous there, they will be exempt. There is a separate regime for maritime activity, which is organised differently by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency—the enforcing authority for that area of endeavour.

Toby Perkins: The Solicitor-General is making a bizarre contribution, which is adding to the confusion rather than resolving it. He argues that if someone is doing an activity that is prescribed as safe but in a dangerous place, they will not be covered by the legislation. Does he not understand that the people who fund his party are those who will end up saving money, while the people in the trade unions are those who, over the years, have done the dying. That is why they feel so strongly about health and safety, which needs to be protected. The Solicitor-General needs to clear up the confusion, not add to it.

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The Solicitor-General: The Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 has existed for a good period of time and done important work, but it is reasonable to exempt from it people who are in safe occupations or are self-employed after an academic study has found no reason for them to be regulated. What is wrong with that? It beggars belief that the party that is supposed to be campaigning for work—the Labour party, is it not?—is opposing the entrepreneurship that would make more work available.

Chris Williamson: Will the Solicitor-General give way?

The Solicitor-General: I have one or two more points to make, and then I shall see if I can give way again. [Interruption.] All right, I will give way.

Chris Williamson: The hon. and learned Gentleman says that the provisions are clear and that there is no confusion, but clearly there is confusion. Why cannot the Solicitor-General see it? I thought he was a solicitor with a legal brain, so surely he must be able to understand it. [Interruption.] He is a barrister, even; my goodness me. Can he not see that this is not an exhaustive list, and that it will therefore create confusion? There is no problem with the legislation as it stands, so why is he trying to change it? He is in search of a problem that does not exist.

The Solicitor-General: There certainly is confusion on the Opposition Benches because Opposition Members simply do not understand deregulation or entrepreneurship. If we say, “Here is a list”, they say, “Well, it is not defined enough.” and when we explain that there will be a full consultation on all the definitions, they say, “But that is even worse”. How can it be worse? It is obviously a process that has been going on in a measured and sensible way. It is designed to deregulate, to enable business to thrive in our country and to enable us to continue the improved growth we are seeing. It is a way of enabling employment to continue to grow in our country.

The hon. Member for Chesterfield talked about looking at the polling, but he should look at the polling, because the people of this country are starting to turn to the Conservative party and to recognise the achievements of the Conservative-led coalition. It is the Labour party that should be worried, because not a single one of its policies would help this country. Labour has a negative approach; in Committee, no solid or positive proposal was made.

A deregulation Bill that saves £300 million, made up of many small measures, is something that Labour Members simply do not understand. They say that this or that measure will not save that much money, but when all the measures are taken together, we see a change—a transformation. This Bill is about reducing burdens on business, and about the future of our country.

Question put and agreed to.

New clause 2 accordingly read a Second time, and added to the Bill.

Amendment proposed: 72, page 1, line 1, leave out clause 1.—(Toby Perkins.)

The House divided:

Ayes 227, Noes 283.

Division No. 280]


4.55 pm


Abbott, Ms Diane

Abrahams, Debbie

Ainsworth, rh Mr Bob

Alexander, rh Mr Douglas

Alexander, Heidi

Ali, Rushanara

Allen, Mr Graham

Ashworth, Jonathan

Austin, Ian

Bailey, Mr Adrian

Bain, Mr William

Banks, Gordon

Barron, rh Kevin

Bayley, Hugh

Begg, Dame Anne

Benn, rh Hilary

Benton, Mr Joe

Berger, Luciana

Betts, Mr Clive

Blackman-Woods, Roberta

Blears, rh Hazel

Blenkinsop, Tom

Blomfield, Paul

Brennan, Kevin

Brown, Lyn

Brown, rh Mr Nicholas

Brown, Mr Russell

Buck, Ms Karen

Burden, Richard

Burnham, rh Andy

Byrne, rh Mr Liam

Campbell, rh Mr Alan

Caton, Martin

Champion, Sarah

Chapman, Jenny

Clark, Katy

Clarke, rh Mr Tom

Clwyd, rh Ann

Coffey, Ann

Connarty, Michael

Cooper, Rosie

Corbyn, Jeremy

Crausby, Mr David

Creagh, Mary

Creasy, Stella

Cruddas, Jon

Cryer, John

Cunningham, Alex

Cunningham, Mr Jim

Cunningham, Sir Tony

Curran, Margaret

Dakin, Nic

Davidson, Mr Ian

Davies, Geraint

De Piero, Gloria

Denham, rh Mr John

Dobbin, Jim

Docherty, Thomas

Dodds, rh Mr Nigel

Donohoe, Mr Brian H.

Doran, Mr Frank

Doughty, Stephen

Dowd, Jim

Doyle, Gemma

Durkan, Mark

Eagle, Ms Angela

Eagle, Maria

Edwards, Jonathan

Efford, Clive

Elliott, Julie

Ellman, Mrs Louise

Engel, Natascha

Esterson, Bill

Evans, Chris

Field, rh Mr Frank

Fitzpatrick, Jim

Flello, Robert

Flint, rh Caroline

Flynn, Paul

Francis, Dr Hywel

Gapes, Mike

Gardiner, Barry

Gilmore, Sheila

Glass, Pat

Glindon, Mrs Mary

Godsiff, Mr Roger

Goodman, Helen

Green, Kate

Greenwood, Lilian

Griffith, Nia

Hain, rh Mr Peter

Hamilton, Mr David

Hamilton, Fabian

Hanson, rh Mr David

Harman, rh Ms Harriet

Harris, Mr Tom

Healey, rh John

Hemming, John

Hendrick, Mark

Hepburn, Mr Stephen

Heyes, David

Hillier, Meg

Hilling, Julie

Hodgson, Mrs Sharon

Hoey, Kate

Hopkins, Kelvin

Howarth, rh Mr George

Hunt, Tristram

Irranca-Davies, Huw

Jackson, Glenda

James, Mrs Siân C.

Jamieson, Cathy

Jarvis, Dan

Johnson, rh Alan

Johnson, Diana

Jones, Graham

Jones, Helen

Jones, Mr Kevan

Jowell, rh Dame Tessa

Kane, Mike

Kaufman, rh Sir Gerald

Keeley, Barbara

Kendall, Liz

Khan, rh Sadiq

Lammy, rh Mr David

Lavery, Ian

Lazarowicz, Mark

Leslie, Chris

Lewell-Buck, Mrs Emma

Lewis, Mr Ivan

Llwyd, rh Mr Elfyn

Lucas, Caroline

Lucas, Ian

MacNeil, Mr Angus Brendan

Mactaggart, Fiona

Mahmood, Mr Khalid

Mahmood, Shabana

Malhotra, Seema

Mann, John

Marsden, Mr Gordon

McCabe, Steve

McCann, Mr Michael

McCarthy, Kerry

McDonagh, Siobhain

McDonald, Andy

McDonnell, John

McGovern, Alison

McGovern, Jim

McGuire, rh Mrs Anne

McKechin, Ann

McKenzie, Mr Iain

McKinnell, Catherine

Meacher, rh Mr Michael

Meale, Sir Alan

Mearns, Ian

Mitchell, Austin

Moon, Mrs Madeleine

Morden, Jessica

Morrice, Graeme


Morris, Grahame M.


Munn, Meg

Murphy, rh Mr Jim

Murphy, rh Paul

Murray, Ian

Nandy, Lisa

Nash, Pamela

O'Donnell, Fiona

Onwurah, Chi

Osborne, Sandra

Owen, Albert

Pearce, Teresa

Perkins, Toby

Pound, Stephen

Powell, Lucy

Qureshi, Yasmin

Raynsford, rh Mr Nick

Reed, Mr Jamie

Reed, Mr Steve

Reeves, Rachel

Reynolds, Jonathan

Robertson, John

Robinson, Mr Geoffrey

Roy, Lindsay

Ruane, Chris

Sarwar, Anas

Sawford, Andy

Seabeck, Alison

Shannon, Jim

Sharma, Mr Virendra

Sheerman, Mr Barry

Shuker, Gavin

Skinner, Mr Dennis

Slaughter, Mr Andy

Smith, rh Mr Andrew

Smith, Angela

Smith, Nick

Smith, Owen

Spellar, rh Mr John

Straw, rh Mr Jack

Stringer, Graham

Stuart, Ms Gisela

Tami, Mark

Thomas, Mr Gareth

Thornberry, Emily

Timms, rh Stephen

Trickett, Jon

Turner, Karl

Twigg, Derek

Twigg, Stephen

Umunna, Mr Chuka

Vaz, rh Keith

Vaz, Valerie

Walley, Joan

Watson, Mr Tom

Watts, Mr Dave

Weir, Mr Mike

Whiteford, Dr Eilidh

Whitehead, Dr Alan

Williams, Hywel

Williamson, Chris

Wilson, Phil

Winnick, Mr David

Winterton, rh Ms Rosie

Wishart, Pete

Woodcock, John

Wright, David

Wright, Mr Iain

Tellers for the Ayes:

Bridget Phillipson


Susan Elan Jones


Adams, Nigel

Afriyie, Adam

Aldous, Peter

Amess, Mr David

Arbuthnot, rh Mr James

Bacon, Mr Richard

Baker, Steve

Baldry, rh Sir Tony

Baldwin, Harriett

Barclay, Stephen

Baron, Mr John

Barwell, Gavin

Bebb, Guto

Beith, rh Sir Alan

Bellingham, Mr Henry

Beresford, Sir Paul

Berry, Jake

Bingham, Andrew

Binley, Mr Brian

Blackman, Bob

Blackwood, Nicola

Blunt, Crispin

Boles, Nick

Bone, Mr Peter

Bottomley, Sir Peter

Bradley, Karen

Brady, Mr Graham

Brake, rh Tom

Bray, Angie

Brazier, Mr Julian

Bridgen, Andrew

Brine, Steve

Brokenshire, James

Browne, Mr Jeremy

Bruce, Fiona

Bruce, rh Sir Malcolm

Buckland, Mr Robert

Burley, Mr Aidan

Burns, rh Mr Simon

Burrowes, Mr David

Burstow, rh Paul

Burt, Lorely

Byles, Dan

Cairns, Alun

Campbell, rh Sir Menzies

Carmichael, Neil

Carswell, Mr Douglas

Cash, Mr William

Clappison, Mr James

Clark, rh Greg

Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey

Coffey, Dr Thérèse

Collins, Damian

Colvile, Oliver

Cox, Mr Geoffrey

Crabb, Stephen

Crockart, Mike

Davies, David T. C.


Davies, Glyn

Davies, Philip

de Bois, Nick

Dinenage, Caroline

Djanogly, Mr Jonathan

Dorries, Nadine

Doyle-Price, Jackie

Drax, Richard

Duddridge, James

Duncan, rh Mr Alan

Duncan Smith, rh Mr Iain

Ellis, Michael

Ellison, Jane

Ellwood, Mr Tobias

Elphicke, Charlie

Eustice, George

Evans, Graham

Evans, Mr Nigel

Evennett, Mr David

Fabricant, Michael

Fallon, rh Michael

Field, Mark

Foster, rh Mr Don

Francois, rh Mr Mark

Freeman, George

Freer, Mike

Fuller, Richard

Gale, Sir Roger

Garnier, Sir Edward

Gauke, Mr David

George, Andrew

Gibb, Mr Nick

Gilbert, Stephen

Glen, John

Goldsmith, Zac

Goodwill, Mr Robert

Gray, Mr James

Green, rh Damian

Grieve, rh Mr Dominic

Griffiths, Andrew

Gummer, Ben

Gyimah, Mr Sam

Halfon, Robert

Hames, Duncan

Hammond, rh Mr Philip

Hammond, Stephen

Hancock, Matthew

Hands, rh Greg

Harper, Mr Mark

Harrington, Richard

Harris, Rebecca

Harvey, Sir Nick

Haselhurst, rh Sir Alan

Hayes, rh Mr John

Heald, Oliver

Heath, Mr David

Heaton-Harris, Chris

Henderson, Gordon

Hendry, Charles

Herbert, rh Nick

Hinds, Damian

Hollobone, Mr Philip

Hopkins, Kris

Horwood, Martin

Howarth, Sir Gerald

Howell, John

Hughes, rh Simon

Hurd, Mr Nick

Jackson, Mr Stewart

James, Margot

Jenkin, Mr Bernard

Johnson, Gareth

Jones, Andrew

Jones, rh Mr David

Jones, Mr Marcus

Kawczynski, Daniel

Kelly, Chris

Kennedy, rh Mr Charles

Kirby, Simon

Knight, rh Sir Greg

Lancaster, Mark

Lansley, rh Mr Andrew

Laws, rh Mr David

Leadsom, Andrea

Lee, Jessica

Lee, Dr Phillip

Leech, Mr John

Lefroy, Jeremy

Leigh, Sir Edward

Letwin, rh Mr Oliver

Lewis, Brandon

Lewis, Dr Julian

Liddell-Grainger, Mr Ian

Lidington, rh Mr David

Lilley, rh Mr Peter

Lloyd, Stephen

Lopresti, Jack

Loughton, Tim

Luff, Sir Peter

Lumley, Karen

Macleod, Mary

Main, Mrs Anne

Maynard, Paul

McCartney, Jason

McCartney, Karl

McIntosh, Miss Anne

McPartland, Stephen

Menzies, Mark

Metcalfe, Stephen

Miller, rh Maria

Milton, Anne

Mitchell, rh Mr Andrew

Moore, rh Michael

Mordaunt, Penny

Morgan, Nicky

Morris, Anne Marie

Morris, David

Morris, James

Mosley, Stephen

Mowat, David

Mulholland, Greg

Munt, Tessa

Murray, Sheryll

Neill, Robert

Newton, Sarah

Nokes, Caroline

Nuttall, Mr David

O'Brien, rh Mr Stephen

Offord, Dr Matthew

Ollerenshaw, Eric

Opperman, Guy

Ottaway, rh Sir Richard

Paice, rh Sir James

Parish, Neil

Patel, Priti

Paterson, rh Mr Owen

Pawsey, Mark

Penning, rh Mike

Penrose, John

Percy, Andrew

Phillips, Stephen

Pickles, rh Mr Eric

Pincher, Christopher

Prisk, Mr Mark

Pugh, John

Raab, Mr Dominic

Randall, rh Sir John

Reckless, Mark

Redwood, rh Mr John

Rees-Mogg, Jacob

Reevell, Simon

Reid, Mr Alan

Robathan, rh Mr Andrew

Robertson, rh Hugh

Robertson, Mr Laurence

Rosindell, Andrew

Rudd, Amber

Russell, Sir Bob

Rutley, David

Sanders, Mr Adrian

Sandys, Laura

Scott, Mr Lee

Selous, Andrew

Sharma, Alok

Shelbrooke, Alec

Shepherd, Sir Richard

Simpson, Mr Keith

Skidmore, Chris

Smith, Chloe

Smith, Henry

Smith, Julian

Smith, Sir Robert

Soames, rh Nicholas

Soubry, Anna

Spelman, rh Mrs Caroline

Stanley, rh Sir John

Stephenson, Andrew

Stevenson, John

Stewart, Bob

Stewart, Iain

Stewart, Rory

Streeter, Mr Gary

Stride, Mel

Stuart, Mr Graham

Sturdy, Julian

Swales, Ian

Swayne, rh Mr Desmond

Swire, rh Mr Hugo

Syms, Mr Robert

Tapsell, rh Sir Peter

Teather, Sarah

Thornton, Mike

Thurso, John

Timpson, Mr Edward

Tomlinson, Justin

Tredinnick, David

Turner, Mr Andrew

Uppal, Paul

Vaizey, Mr Edward

Vara, Mr Shailesh

Vickers, Martin

Walker, Mr Charles

Walker, Mr Robin

Wallace, Mr Ben

Walter, Mr Robert

Watkinson, Dame Angela

Weatherley, Mike

Webb, Steve

Wharton, James

Wheeler, Heather

White, Chris

Whittaker, Craig

Wiggin, Bill

Williams, Mr Mark

Williams, Roger

Williams, Stephen

Williamson, Gavin

Willott, Jenny

Wilson, Mr Rob

Wollaston, Dr Sarah

Wright, Jeremy

Wright, Simon

Yeo, Mr Tim

Young, rh Sir George

Zahawi, Nadhim

Tellers for the Noes:

Mark Hunter


Claire Perry

Question accordingly negatived.

14 May 2014 : Column 837

14 May 2014 : Column 838

14 May 2014 : Column 839

14 May 2014 : Column 840

New Clause 1

English apprenticeships: disclosure of information

(1) The Commissioners may disclose information held by them to the Secretary of State, or to a person providing services to the Secretary of State, for the purpose of the Secretary of State’s functions in relation to approved English apprenticeships.

(2) The Secretary of State, or a person providing services to the Secretary of State, may disclose information to the Commissioners, or to a person providing services to them, for the purpose of arrangements made under section 4(1) or for the purpose of requesting the Commissioners to disclose information under subsection (1) of this section.

(3) Information disclosed under subsection (1) may not be disclosed by the recipient of the information to any other person without the consent of the Commissioners.

(4) If a person discloses, in contravention of subsection (3), any revenue and customs information relating to a person whose identity—

14 May 2014 : Column 841

(a) is specified in the disclosure, or

(b) can be deduced from it,

section 19 of the Commissioners for Revenue and Customs Act 2005 (wrongful disclosure) applies in relation to that disclosure as it applies in relation to a disclosure of such information in contravention of section 20(9) of that Act.

(5) In this section—

“approved English apprenticeship” has the same meaning as in Chapter A1 of the Apprenticeships, Skills, Children and Learning Act 2009 (see Schedule 1);

“revenue and customs information relating to a person” has the same meaning as in section 19 of the Commissioners for Revenue and Customs Act2005 (see section 19(2) of that Act).

This amendment, with amendment 10, replaces clause 4(5) to (8) with a new clause to authorise the sharing of information relating to approved English apprenticeships. The Secretary of State and HMRC may share such information with each other and with each other‘s service providers (if any).

(Tom Brake.)

Brought up, and read the First time.

The Deputy Leader of the House of Commons (Tom Brake): I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

Madam Deputy Speaker (Dawn Primarolo): With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

Amendment (a) to new clause 1, after subsection (4) at end insert—

‘(4A) The Secretary of State shall, within six months of this section coming into force, lay a Report before both Houses of Parliament setting out—

(a) what information has been shared or is intended to be shared by virtue of this section,

(b) by what process the Commissioners and Secretary of State agreed on the information to be shared,

(c) which departments and agencies will have access to that information and for what purpose,

(d) whether some or all of that information was shared or will be shared in anonymised form,

(e) whether that information included or will include—

(i) confidential information, or

(ii) personal data (including sensitive personal data) as defined in the Data Protection Act 1998, and

(f) how the provisions of this section fit with the Government’s data sharing strategy.’.

Government amendments 5 to 9, 74, 10 and 11, 27 to 35, 55 and 56.

Tom Brake: New clause 1 provides for an information-sharing gateway between Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs and the Secretary of State to support the new apprenticeship funding arrangements. The gateway was previously contained within clause 4 of the Bill, and new clause 1 allows it to operate independently from the arrangements in clause 4. As I set out in Committee, routing funding through employers will mean that the Secretary of State will make arrangements with HMRC, and regulations will set out how the administration of the scheme would operate. The Government published a technical consultation on apprenticeship funding reform in March, which sought views on two payment mechanisms: PAYE—pay-as-you-earn; and an apprenticeship credit. The consultation closed on 1 May. We are analysing the responses and expect to announce our next steps later this year.

14 May 2014 : Column 842

Clause 4 provides for the use of HMRC systems to administer the apprenticeship payments, but we must also provide for appropriate information flows. The use of HMRC systems means that information will need to be shared between HMRC and the Secretary of State for the purposes of administering the payments. New clause 1 provides for the disclosure of information between HMRC and the Secretary of State or persons providing services on behalf of the Secretary of State in connection with approved English apprenticeships.

The new clause also allows the information-sharing gateway to operate independently of arrangements in clause 4. That will allow flexibility, should it be needed, in any future arrangements. As new clause 1 sets out, information can be shared only provided it is in connection with approved English apprenticeships. The routing of apprenticeship funding to employers will mean that the Government will need to have the facility to check an employer’s credentials. For example, the Government will want to know that the person they are paying is who they say they are, and the new clause will allow the Government to cross-check information with HMRC data.

New clause 1 is a sensible way to validate employer and apprentice data, potentially minimising the burdens on employers and helping to reduce the potential for fraud. As is normal in relation to HMRC information, the information-sharing gateway is provided for in primary legislation and ensures that taxpayers’ information is safeguarded, with a criminal sanction protecting against unlawful disclosure of identifying information. Amendments 10 and 11 are consequential on the new clause, and would leave out the information-sharing gateway provisions in clause 4.

The Opposition’s amendment (a) to new clause 1 seeks a reporting requirement in connection with the new information-sharing gateway that the Government are introducing in the new clause. To direct apprenticeship funding via employers securely and in a way that safeguards public funds, government must be able to verify an employer’s identity and credentials. New clause 1 will allow the Government to do that by providing for an information-sharing gateway between HMRC and the Secretary of State, so that information already held by government can be used to validate payments without placing additional reporting burdens on employers—the Government want to avoid that. Subject to the detailed design and operation of the payment system, which is still to be confirmed following the recent consultation, examples of the types of data that may need to be shared in order to validate payments and manage the risk of fraud include: employers’ PAYE references; apprentices’ national insurance numbers; and details of the amounts that have been paid.

The Opposition amendment is not necessary. Many hon. Members will be aware that information sharing within government is quite normal, provided there are sufficient safeguards. The House will note that the new clause only allows HMRC to share information for the purposes of the Secretary of State’s functions in relation to approved English apprenticeships. HMRC can disclose information only to the Secretary of State or a person providing services on behalf of the Secretary of State—not to anyone else. The Secretary of State, or his service provider, can only disclose information to HMRC to request information from it or for the purposes of

14 May 2014 : Column 843

arrangements for the administration of apprenticeship payments made under clause 4.

5.15 pm

The new clause also provides for the protection that is afforded to HMRC information under section 19 of the Commissioners for Revenue and Customs Act 2005. This imposes a criminal sanction in the event of the wrongful disclosure of HMRC information. This is a safeguard against onward disclosure without the consent of HMRC. Quite simply, new clause 1 allows the scheme to operate effectively and minimises the burdens on employers—something that I am sure all Members will welcome.

I now turn to amendments 6 to 9 and 74. This group provides for a number of technical amendments to clause 4 to ensure the Bill provides the necessary powers for the policy options on which the Government have consulted. The origins of clause 4 lie in Doug Richard’s independent review of apprenticeships, which recommended that funding should be routed direct to employers instead of to training providers. The Government accepted that recommendation, which will improve the quality of apprenticeships and make the training more responsive to employers’ needs.

Clause 4 allows the Secretary of State to make arrangements with HMRC to route English apprenticeship funding direct to employers. In particular, it provides for a new function for HMRC. HMRC will set out in regulations how the administration of the scheme would operate. I am sure that all Members will agree with the value of apprenticeships for businesses and young people. Indeed, many in this House may have had first-hand experience of apprenticeships and met apprentices in their constituencies.

The recent consultation sought views on two payment mechanisms, pay-as-you-earn and an apprenticeship credit. As was indicated at Committee stage, the amendments are technical and are being made to ensure that clause 4 provides the necessary powers for the policy options in the consultation. In particular, amendment 6 broadens the arrangements covered by subsection (1) to include the administration of payments by the Secretary of State to any person in connection with approved apprenticeships. This provides that all payments made in connection with approved English apprenticeships are covered by the clause. For example, the amendment would allow flexibility over who is to receive the payments. Employers manage their apprenticeships in a variety of different ways and some employers may wish to make use of an agent to manage their apprentices and their training. Such organisations already exist and some apprentices are employed by an apprenticeship training agency but carry out their apprenticeship with a different employer.

Amendment 6 also provides that HMRC may administer payments to employers or other persons after an apprentice has achieved the standard if that person remains in employment afterwards. Amendments 8 and 9 are consequential on amendment 6.

Amendment 7 clarifies that arrangements may be made for HMRC to recover apprenticeship payments, which would be recoverable to the Secretary of State.

14 May 2014 : Column 844

That could happen where the apprenticeship ends early, or in cases of fraud or error.

Amendment 74 is related to amendment 7 and provides that the regulations may allow for HMRC to recover apprenticeship payments by making deductions from payments that HMRC would otherwise have to make. In conclusion, the purpose of this group of amendments is to ensure that the Bill provides the necessary powers for the policy options on which the Government have consulted.

I now turn to the amendments to schedule 1. Government amendments 27 to 31 are to schedule 1, paragraph 1, which inserts a new chapter about English apprenticeships into the Apprenticeships, Skills, Children and Learning Act 2009. In particular, the amendments all concern new section A2, which introduces the new approved apprenticeship standards. Approved standards will replace the apprenticeship frameworks that currently set out the content and other features of apprenticeships within a particular sector. Frameworks include qualifications and other requirements that apprentices must meet. Standards may include qualifications and other requirements, but they will define occupational competence and will focus on what an apprentice is able to do at the end of the apprenticeship rather than collecting the various component parts.

Currently, issuing authorities, generally sector skills councils appointed by the Secretary of State, issue apprenticeship frameworks. In the future, the Government will encourage employers, or consortiums including employers, to be actively involved in developing outcome-focused standards before submitting them to the Secretary of State for approval and publication. The main purpose of amendments 27 to 31 is to clarify the role of the Secretary of State and others in preparing, amending and withdrawing apprenticeship standards better to reflect Government ambitions to put employers at the heart of standards development. The amendments reflect what we have learned from those employers developing trailblazer standards and it is right that that is properly reflected in the legislation.

Amendment 27 removes the requirement that only the Secretary of State must prepare the standard. Amendment 28 provides that the standards may be prepared by the Secretary of State or another person, including any employer. The Secretary of State must approve standards prepared by other persons and there will still be a requirement for the Secretary of State to publish apprenticeship standards. The amendments will allow employers to prepare standards and would ensure that they are all of a high quality and consistent standard.

Amendment 29 clarifies that the Secretary of State may publish a revised version of a standard or withdraw a standard with or without publishing another in its place. Amendment 30 provides that revisions of a standard may be prepared by the Secretary of State or other persons, and revisions prepared by other persons must be approved by the Secretary of State. This will allow flexibility for employers and others to prepare amendments to standards.

Amendment 31 removes the express provision for employers or their representatives to make proposals about standards to the Secretary of State. It is implicit that employers, their representatives, or indeed other persons may make such proposals. It is no longer necessary

14 May 2014 : Column 845

to spell that out as the effect of amendments 28 and 30 is to allow for an enhanced role for employers and other persons.

These amendments support the Government’s ambition that employers should be actively driving the preparation of new apprenticeship standards. Employers know what competence means in their professions and the phase 1 trailblazers have already shown that they are able to collaborate effectively to produce clear, high-quality standards. Giving employers a greater say in the development of apprenticeship standards will help engage a wider range of businesses and will allow employers to see a clearer link between their investment in apprenticeship training and an increased relevance of apprenticeships.

Amendment 32 will insert a new subsection (1A) into section 100 of the Apprenticeships, Skills, Children and Learning Act 2009. The new section will ensure that payments may be made by the Secretary of State to fund approved English apprenticeships. Section 100(1A) will give the Secretary of State power to pay or secure the financial resources to any person in connection with approved English apprenticeships. That supports Doug Richard’s recommendation that employers should be more directly involved in funding apprenticeships. Without the amendment we would have to rely on various other funding powers that the Secretary of State has, in particular those under section 2 of the Employment and Training Act 1973 and section 14 of the Education Act 2002.

Section 100(1A) makes it clear on the face of the amended 2009 Act that the Secretary of State may fund all aspects of the apprenticeship reforms. It achieves that by making specific provision for the Secretary of State first to fund any person for the purpose of encouraging opportunities for the completion of approved English apprenticeships, or to undertake work after such apprenticeships are completed, or, secondly, otherwise in connection with approved English apprenticeships.

Amendments 33 and 34 clarify that the definition of apprenticeship training in section 83 of the 2009 Act includes training provided in connection with either a contract of service or a contract of apprenticeship. The Act specifies that apprenticeship agreements should be treated as contracts of service, but contracts of apprenticeship may apply in some circumstances. The amendments are drafted to be consistent with the new powers that the Secretary of State is to have to make arrangements with the commissioners in respect of the administration of apprenticeships in clause 4.

Amendment 35 supports the transition to approved English apprenticeships and approved standards. The amendment will allow the Secretary of State to make an order to treat work done under a trailblazer apprenticeship as though it was done under an approved English apprenticeship. The trailblazer apprenticeships are pilot programmes led by employers to test the reforms before they are rolled out more widely. The Secretary of State can make such provision only if it relates to arrangements that started before the new legislation comes into force. The Secretary of State will also be able to make provision to treat trailblazer standards as though they are apprenticeship standards under section A2 of the 2009 Act.

Amendment 5 is consequential on amendment 35 and amends clause 3 to provide a signpost to the transitional power in schedule 1. At present, apprentices study towards the achievement of an apprenticeship

14 May 2014 : Column 846

framework as described in the 2009 Act. Schedule 1 will introduce approved standards that will, over time, replace apprenticeship frameworks. Apprenticeship reforms will give employers greater say in the content and assessment of apprenticeships in England. Groups of employers have come together with partners to develop trailblazer standards. As noted, the trailblazers will test out the apprenticeship reforms.

From September, some apprentices will enter into arrangements with employers to undertake apprenticeships based on trailblazer standards. Because these apprentices are not working towards an apprenticeship framework, the 2009 Act does not apply. Transitional provision as set out under paragraph (a) of the proposed new part 4 to schedule 1 is needed so that these apprentices can be treated as if the whole of their apprenticeship is covered by the changes introduced when paragraph 1 of the schedule comes into effect. Provision set out under paragraph (b) will similarly allow the Secretary of State to recognise a standard published by him before the legislative change as if it were an approved apprenticeship standard.

In conclusion, the amendments support the Government’s ambition that employers should be actively driving the preparation of new apprenticeship standards. Phase 1 trailblazers have already shown that they are able to collaborate effectively in order to produce clear, high-quality standards.

Amendments 55 and 56 make changes to schedule 13. Amendment 55 omits section 85 of the 2009 Act, which currently requires the chief executive of skills funding to make reasonable efforts to secure employer participation in apprenticeship training for certain categories of apprentices, including those over compulsory school age but under 19, care leavers, and those aged 19 or over but under 25 and who are subject to a learning difficulty assessment.

Clause 42 abolishes the office of chief executive of skills funding and we are transferring the duties and functions of the chief executive to the Secretary of State, with suitable modification where necessary. With the abolition of the office of chief executive of skills funding, the Secretary of State will be responsible under section 83A of the 2009 Act for ensuring the provision of proper facilities for apprenticeship training for these persons. The Secretary of State will have a broad remit to encourage employer engagement with apprentices of all ages.

The new statutory scheme in schedule 1 dealing with English approved apprenticeships will be more effective at facilitating the Government’s policy of encouraging employer participation for all apprentices, such that section 85 will no longer be necessary. We therefore do not consider it necessary additionally to transfer the duty in section 85 of the 2009 Act to the Secretary of State. Administrative arrangements can be put in place to ensure the continued prioritisation of apprenticeships for these groups. For these reasons it is considered appropriate to repeal section 85, rather than amend it.

Amendment 56 transfers the funding powers and related provisions of the chief executive of skills funding in sections 100 to 103 of the 2009 Act to the Secretary of State. These existing powers permit the chief executive to pay persons in respect of the provision of education and training within the chief executive’s remit. As a consequence of the abolition of the statutory office of

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chief executive under clause 42(1), we wish to transfer the relevant powers and functions to the Secretary of State.

Although the Secretary of State has broad funding powers under other legislation, such as section 14 of the Education Act 2002, in the interests of clarity it is desirable to provide an express power in the 2009 Act. In our view, this will make it clear which funding powers are being used for education and training provided under the 2009 Act and will therefore simplify the legislative position.

Section 100 enables payment to be made to persons who deliver or propose to deliver education and training under part 4 of the 2009 Act. This includes further education colleges, private and voluntary sector training providers, and individuals. It also allows for payments to those receiving education. Sections 101 to 103 are consequential on the funding powers provided in section 100 and accordingly we are also seeking to transfer these to the Secretary of State.

Section 101 enables conditions to be attached to the provision of financial resources. For example, funding may be granted on condition that specified information is provided to the chief executive or, in future, the Secretary of State. Section 102 enables schemes for performance assessment to be devised and applied to those providing education and training within the remit of the chief executive and, in future, of the Secretary of State. Such assessments may be taken into account in funding decisions made under section 100.

Section 103 enables the chief executive—in future the Secretary of State—to carry out means tests in respect of support provided to individuals undertaking education or training under section 100(1)(c) to (e). This could include support towards child care or travel costs associated with education or training.

I apologise for the length of my explanation. I note that there have been no interventions, which I can confidently say means that everyone has understood every word of what I have said. I urge the Opposition to withdraw amendment (a) and to support Government new clause 1 and the Government amendments to clauses 3 and 4 and schedules 1 and 13.

5.30 pm

Chi Onwurah: It is fitting that for the last debate in this Parliament we should be speaking of apprenticeships, as they are so important to the future of our country, and of data sharing, which is an increasingly important issue to many constituents.

Labour believes that the better use of data can reduce the costs of public services and improve them while making them faster, more efficient, more individual and more personal. In certain areas, such as health, data sharing could lead to new applications and innovative ways of predicting service need and supporting service provision, so we support data sharing in the public interest, but we must ensure that citizens are in control. As the Leader of the Opposition made clear in his Hugo Young lecture, information on individuals should be owned by and accessible to the individual, not hoarded by the state.

It is therefore deeply troubling that the Government have tabled a last-minute new clause to the Bill to authorise data sharing among the Department for Business,

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Innovation and Skills, Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs and persons providing services to them when it comes to apprenticeships. This may be both necessary and useful—the actual data to be shared may be entirely harmless—but it should be done transparently, with the right safeguards and accountability in place, and it should be done as part of a coherent strategy. This is clearly not the case here. The “person providing services” could be anyone, from individual consultants to big multinational companies.

The Government have form on this. In February, their shambolic handling of saw them take what at its origin was potentially a good idea, linking together our individual GP data to improve health care and support new treatments, and single-handedly destroy everyone’s confidence in it. In April, the Government announced that tax data would not only be shared but would be sold to private firms, causing real fear and further eroding public trust in the Government’s ability securely and safely to share our data. I shall come back to those two examples.

We therefore tabled amendment (a) to ask what information was being shared, with whom, by what process, with what accountability, and how it fitted into the Government’s data sharing strategy. If the Minister can answer all those questions, perhaps the amendment will prove superfluous. If not, why not?

Yesterday, in another example of Labour standing up for ordinary people, my hon. Friend the Member for Walthamstow (Stella Creasy) sought to amend the Consumer Rights Bill to create a framework allowing individuals to have more rights over their personal data. The aim was to empower individuals through access to data to have a better understanding of their finance, energy bills, health and shopping habits.

I mention the excellent work of my hon. Friend to make it absolutely clear where the Opposition stand. We believe in the potential of data sharing, we recognise the power of data, but we believe that that power should be with the people, not with big business or Government.

The substance of many of the proposals on apprenticeships is such that we support them, but this last-minute new clause needs further debate and probing. To begin with, even without the data concerns, why are the Government using the Deregulation Bill for this purpose. Is that how they see deregulation: making life easier for them, rather than for citizens and businesses? Around half the proposals in the Bill do just that.

Let us move on to our specific concerns. The Government hold significant data on individuals, companies and organisations in order to deliver services and meet statutory duties. Sharing data across different Government Departments, with local government and with third sector agencies could help improve services while reducing costs and the burden on service users. How many times have we been frustrated at having to give one Government Department exactly the same information that we have already given another? How many times have businesses complained about repetitive form-filling? Data sharing can help reduce the burden on individuals and businesses. Labour supports that. With regard to apprenticeships specifically, small businesses often complain to me about the perceived bureaucracy.

However, there are also legitimate concerns about privacy, individual rights and the risk that Government

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data stores might be targets of cybercrime. The Government have been heavily criticised for their handling of health data in the project, in that it was difficult for individuals to opt out of sharing their health data, which could then be sold on to the private sector. That data-sharing project has now been paused. In April the well-known author and advocate of data sharing Ben Goldacre withdrew his support from the project, stating:

“a government body handed over parts of my medical records to people I’ve never met, outside the NHS and medical research community, but it is refusing to tell me what it handed over, or who it gave it to”.

Our shadow Health Minister, my hon. Friend the Member for Copeland (Mr Reed), said that the Government needed to do three things: make it easier for concerned patients to opt out of the proposals; ensure data are genuinely anonymous; and make the Secretary of State accountable for the use of patients’ data. Accountability, transparency and choice—that is what we were asking for, and that is what we are asking for in this amendment.

One might have thought that the Government had learnt from, but it seems not. In April they were at it again, proposing to “sell off” some HMRC data to private sector companies. The right hon. Member for Haltemprice and Howden (Mr Davis), a former Minister, called the proposals “borderline insane”, while the Opposition sought urgent Government explanations. Incompetent handling of data sharing reduces people’s trust and makes it more difficult to implement data-sharing projects that genuinely and responsibly deliver a public good.

Our amendment also relates to HMRC data, so we are at a loss to understand why the Government have not learnt from their experience, or indeed from their own consultation, because last year HMRC consulted on data sharing. In December it announced:

“The Government has decided to proceed with the proposal to remove legal restrictions that currently limit HMRC’s ability to share general and aggregate information for public benefit… HMRC accepts that it will need to be clear and transparent on what is meant by ‘public benefit’. In addition, HMRC accepts that it will need to set in place comprehensive governance, policies and processes, including the evaluation of benefits, risks and costs of a disclosure, before any data is shared or published.”

Can the Minister explain where they are? In April, the Treasury said:

“We shall be consulting further on implementing the proposals for sharing anonymised data, and would only take forward specific measures where there was a clear public benefit and subject to suitable safeguards.”

Yet since the consultation in December we have seen no coherent, concrete proposals, only ad hoc policy, on-the-hoof announcements and this proposed legislation.

The Government deliberately confuse open data and data sharing. The Open Data Institute says:

“Data sharing is providing restricted data to restricted organisations or individuals….Open data is providing unrestricted data to everyone.”

As the chief technology officer of the Open Data Institute said a few days ago,

“confusion is understandable when the government tries to justify its data sharing as satisfying its wider open-data policy.”

With open data, everyone can see the data. However, the new clause is not about open data but about Government deciding to share potentially sensitive data with people they choose without explaining the what, why or who. The Minister talked about an “information-sharing gateway”, the definition of which I do not see in

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the Bill, and mentioned employers’ PAYE reference numbers and national insurance numbers as some of the information that would be shared. I think he will agree that that is potentially sensitive information. To comply with HMRC’s guidelines, he will need to set out the safeguards and processes, and how the data will be anonymised if appropriate.

The Open Data Institute says:

“Open data is not a ‘valuable revenue stream’ for government. It is a public good.”

Does the Minister agree? Will he guarantee that these data, as part of the “information-sharing gateway”, will not be sold off and will remain within the public sector? As part of Labour’s policy reviews of digital Government and the creative industries and digital, we are developing policies for a coherent data strategy that puts citizens in the driving seat. That is why we are asking the Government to report to the House in six months to explain what information is being shared, with whom, by what process, and with what accountability—and, crucially, how that fits in with the Government’s data-sharing strategy.

In fact, I have not yet been able to identify a Government data-sharing strategy, but perhaps the Minister can help. There is a data-sharing policy unit within the Cabinet Office, so I would have thought that some policy might be coming out of it. The unit recently met representatives of civil society, who have many concerns about data sharing, and agreed that it was necessary to map out the current data-sharing landscape, but we do not know how far they have got with that. This new clause, which is not set in the context of any data-sharing strategy apart from the Minister’s reference to an “information-sharing gateway”, suggests that they have not got very far at all.

Finally, I would like to share with the House an unfortunate occurrence that I recently suffered. My wallet was stolen, including my European health insurance card. Obviously, I was very upset about that, but I was pleased to discover that an automated line was available 24/7 through which I could replace it for free. I rang it up and heard the following message: “The NHSBSA has a data-sharing agreement with other Government agencies. By continuing this call, you signal your awareness and agreement to data sharing.” I was somewhat surprised by that. If this Government believe that all it takes to signal agreement to data sharing—or an information-sharing gateway—is a voicemail, why are they introducing primary legislation in order to enable it?

5.45 pm

Labour believes that digital can transform the relationship between people and Government. It can make it flatter, more direct and more accountable, putting people in charge. The next Labour Government will need to do more with less, and better use of data could not only reduce the costs of public services but improve those services.

The key question is: will citizens remain in control? We want to answer that in the positive, and in order to do so we need to know who decides what restricted data get shared and with whom. We need to make sure that citizens retain control over their data, be it in the public or private sector, and I hope the Minister will agree that it will take more than a voicemail message and an ad hoc amendment to ensure that that happens.

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I want to say a few brief words about the other amendments, which I will not enumerate. We will not seek to oppose them. In Committee, the Minister said he would write to my hon. Friend the Member for Chesterfield (Toby Perkins) about the proposals and how they would work specifically for small businesses, but he did not refer to that in his opening remarks. Small businesses have expressed concern that total control of funding will create extra burdens for them and that that may be more favourable to big business. Indeed, the Minister observed that a different model might be needed for small businesses, particularly as they do not have the cash flow to benefit as much from the scheme. I would therefore welcome an update on that issue.

We believe that employers should have more say in the provision of skills and we welcome their involvement in setting the standards, but we must not compromise on quality. It is regrettable that in Committee the Government voted down our amendments that would have made all apprenticeships level 3 by 2020. It is also a shame that the Government could not find time to add to their amendments Labour’s plans to boost apprenticeship opportunities through public procurement, which is the approach we adopted when in government. That could have created thousands of new opportunities for apprenticeships. It is something we will have to do when we are in government, along with our plans to protect the trusted and historic apprenticeship brand, which this Government are putting at risk.

Oliver Colvile (Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport) (Con): On a point of order, Mr Speaker. Last year, I attended the Chelsea flower show. I was given two tickets by Japan Tobacco International, which I declared in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests. Two weeks ago, I submitted three questions on e-cigarettes. Although I understand that JTI has no commercial interest in e-cigarettes, on reflection I think I should have made sure that I declared it in my interests when I filled out the form. I do not want to pre-judge any inquiry by the Standards Committee, but I made sure that I came here at the earliest opportunity to ensure that the House was aware of my mistake. It was not my intention to mislead anybody. I just want to make sure that what I have been doing is put on the record.

Mr Speaker: I am extremely grateful to the hon. Gentleman for what he has said and the speed with which he has come to the House to say it. I think the House will acknowledge that. We will leave it there.

Tom Brake: It was perhaps remiss of me not to say how much I have enjoyed resuming our jousts across the Chamber on the Bill. I remind the House that the Bill will save businesses £300 million over 10 years, and that it will save the public sector £30 million. The Opposition say that it amounts to nothing, so in practice they are saying that £300 million of savings are not worth having. In our view, they are worth having.

I am glad that the hon. Member for Newcastle upon Tyne Central (Chi Onwurah) has welcomed apprenticeships and the growth in their number. That is something on which we can all agree.

On to the issue of data sharing and the use of data, the hon. Lady underlined how, under the new Labour party proposals, citizens will be in control of their data.

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That is of course an interesting departure from what Labour Members did in government. With such things as identity cards, the retention of innocent peoples’ DNA, the massive database they wanted to create and indeed CCTV, they did the complete opposite of giving citizens control over their data.

The hon. Lady suggested that new clause 1 is a last-minute amendment, but of course it is not. It was flagged up in Committee, where we discussed the need for HMRC to share taxpayer information with the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and others. I am therefore surprised that she was surprised.

Chi Onwurah: To be absolutely clear, the original Bill had a provision for the disclosure of information to the commissioners, but only for the purpose of arrangements made under clause 4(1), which very narrowly defines the purpose as being for payroll administration. However, new clause 1 is much broader, in that it is for anything

“in relation to…English apprenticeships.”

When the Bill comes back from the Lords, perhaps the provision will cover anything in relation to any BIS functions whatsoever. It is clearly being made wider and wider.

Tom Brake: I do not agree. The hon. Lady will find that the provision is quite tightly defined, and that should satisfy her.

The hon. Lady also referred to the need for safeguards. There will clearly be very significant safeguards for data exchange, and I will give some examples. For a new apprenticeship funding mechanism, as for any new system, the Skills Funding Agency will expect expert assessments of the information and security risks as part of the development on an ongoing basis. An action plan will be developed to address the risks identified, and the senior information risk owner will have to be satisfied that those risks have been sufficiently mitigated before any system goes live. There will be periodic system tests to see whether anyone can break into it. Staff duties will be segregated to protect information. All staff will complete annual training on protecting information, and any security breaches, including near misses, will have to be reported and acted on.

HMRC has a criminal sanction for wrongful disclosure of customer information. As I have stated, in providing its data to other Departments, the continuing protection of HMRC data is a vital safeguard that must remain in place. That is why the HMRC criminal sanction in section 19 of the Commissioners for Revenue and Customs Act 2005 applies to any wrongful disclosure by staff or contractors of a Department that receives HMRC information. In addition, while a legislative gateway may allow for the supply of information from HMRC to another Department, it is generally constructed so that the other Department is not permitted to pass on that information to another organisation, public or private, without recourse to HMRC, and that is the case with new clause 1.

The safeguards that the hon. Lady wants are therefore already in place. The data are secure, and any exchange of data will be done only under very tightly controlled procedures.

Chi Onwurah: The Minister’s words offer some reassurance on the systems to be put in place, but not

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on accountability. We have seen with universal credit that accountability for identity management and for the success of a project can be very diffuse. Who will own and therefore be accountable for this new IT system?

Tom Brake: I would love to be able to answer that question immediately, but, as the hon. Lady is aware, the consultation on the solution closed on 1 May, so the technical solution has not been devised. I am therefore not in a position to clarify precisely where the responsibility will lie, because the system is not yet specified. At the point of specification, I am sure we will be able to provide her with the clarity she needs.

I have provided examples, which the hon. Lady quoted, of the data that might be shared. As I have just said, the consultation closed on 1 May, so I am not in a position to give her an extensive list of the data that will be shared. I assure her that it will be restricted to the purposes for which it is required.

The hon. Lady asked why this matter is in the Deregulation Bill. One major thing that the Government are trying to deliver in the area of deregulation is to provide employers with a much greater say over the way in which apprenticeships are managed and the standards developed. We also want to ensure that employers have a greater financial stake in apprenticeships, because we believe that that will drive quality in apprenticeships. The Bill is therefore the appropriate vehicle in which to make the arrangements for the data sharing that we have discussed.

It is the Government’s clear objective to avoid, as far as is possible, any unnecessary exchange of data and any additional burden on businesses, especially small businesses, to provide information that they might already have provided to Government for other reasons. We want to minimise the need for businesses to provide additional information.

I hope that I have dealt with all the hon. Lady’s points.

Chi Onwurah rose—

Tom Brake: Clearly I have not, so I will give way once more.

Chi Onwurah: I thank the Minister for being generous in this last debate. It concerns me that he implies that a system does not have an owner until it has been specified. It is the owner of the system that should be specifying it in order to avoid the car crashes in IT development that we have seen under the Governments of both major parties. Again, will he come back to me with who owns the specification of this information-sharing gateway or data-sharing system?

Tom Brake: I am not in a position to do that. Assuming that HMRC and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills are involved, they will want to play a major role in providing accountability for that system. The hon. Lady and I both went to Imperial college London. I went on to work in the IT industry, so I understand perfectly the importance of having somebody who is accountable for a system. I am certain that the Government will ensure that someone or a particular Department is very clearly accountable, and that the lines of responsibility and accountability are very clear.

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With that, I commend the Government proposals and urge the Opposition not to press amendment (a) to new clause 1.

Question put and agreed to.

New clause 1 accordingly read a Second time, and added to the Bill.

Clause 3

Apprenticeships: simplification

Amendment made: 5, page 2, line 22, at end insert—

‘( ) Part 4 of the Schedule contains transitional provision.’.—(Tom Brake.)

This amendment is consequential on amendment 35.

Clause 4

English apprenticeships: funding arrangements

Amendments made: 6, page 2, line 26, leave out from ‘of’ to end of line 28 and insert

‘apprenticeship payments.

( ) “Apprenticeship payments” are payments that may be made by the Secretary of State to any person—

(a) for the purpose of encouraging the provision of opportunities for individuals to complete approved English apprenticeships or to undertake work following the completion of such apprenticeships, or

(b) otherwise in connection with approved English apprenticeships.’.

This amendment is to ensure that the Secretary of State may make arrangements with HMRC for HMRC to administer payments that may be made by the Secretary of State to any person in connection with approved English apprenticeships.

Amendment 7, page 2, line 28, at end insert—

‘( ) The arrangements that may be made under subsection (1) include arrangements under which the Commissioners are responsible for recovery where an apprenticeship payment is made but the whole or any part of it is (for whatever reason) recoverable by the Secretary of State.’.

This amendment clarifies, for the avoidance of doubt, that arrangements made under clause 4(1) may include responsibility for HMRC to recover any apprenticeship payments which are recovera

ble by the Secretary of State.

Amendment 8, page 2, line 33, leave out ‘employers’ and insert