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Baroness Turner of Camden: Does that mean that the Secretary of State will do the consulting? It seems to us that the Secretary of State is taking the decisions rather than the authority. He has an obligation to consult rather than simply leaving it to the authority. I have raised this point because I believe it was raised in Committee in the other place. The view expressed there was that this is a publicly-owned undertaking which is being privatised and it is up to the Secretary of State to undertake, and take responsibility for, consultations under TUPE.

Lord Fraser of Carmyllie: As I understand the arrangement that we are allowing for here, the Secretary of State, before giving any direction to make a scheme, should ensure that there is sufficient notice so that the authority can carry out proper consultation. I could see a legitimate complaint if the Secretary of State made a direction in such circumstances that, however willing the authority was to carry out that consultation, it was effectively precluded by the shortness of time. That is the purpose behind allowing for this specific provision within Schedule 1.

Lord Peston: Perhaps I may comment on the Minister's choice of words. The amendments were not tabled, and one or two subsequent amendments on consultation were not tabled, to give the unions a right of veto. The unions do not own these enterprises; the taxpayer does. But there is a difference between saying

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that the employees, particularly where the employees are the essence, ought to have some chance to be consulted and to make representations, even though in the end the Minister is free to say, "I am still going to sell this business, and I am going to sell it in my way rather than in the way you would like", and a veto power.

Certainly, I do not think that I or my noble friends are asking for a veto power. If I were a senior scientist who had devoted my life to AEA Technology and had been a public servant I would accept that in the end Parliament decides these matters, but I would not regard it as unreasonable on my part to say, "But don't you think you ought at least to talk to me and my representatives on matters of this kind?" That is what we are saying. I do not expect the noble and learned Lord to agree with that, but our point was certainly not to ask for a veto.

Lord Fraser of Carmyllie: I accept that from the noble Lord. I am at pains to stress that as regards the taking forward of AEA Technology, I would be very concerned if that were to happen with any feeling, sense or perception that there was to be unthinking hostility between management and staff. On the contrary, we would very much welcome participation in taking the company forward.

Lord Haskel: I was delighted to hear the Minister say that it is the managers' task to "incentivise"—

Lord Peston: That is not an acceptable word. It should be, "give incentives to".

Lord Haskel: "Incentivise" must be in the Department of Trade and Industry dictionary of words in order to confuse the public. I was also delighted to hear the Minister say that it is part of the management's duty to look at proposals for employee participation. Perhaps I may point out that the Government, through the Secretary of State, are the owners of the business. It is their duty to give a lead. Having put this matter on the record, I hope that the Secretary of State will now give a lead to the management and try to encourage it. Certainly, there is no intention that the staff association or the trade union should have a veto. But they should have a right of consultation, again, largely because the plans are very unclear and they need to know what their future is. Having made that point, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 14 and 15 not moved.]

Baroness Turner of Camden moved Amendment No. 16:

Page 15, line 25, at end insert:


If any employee is transferred to a new employer by a transfer scheme and is declared redundant,
(a) the Authority's redundancy rules and benefits applicable to that employee at the date of the transfer shall apply unless the trade unions or other bodies representing the employees transferred by the transfer scheme have agreed to their modification for such employees, and
(b) the redundancy rules shall be applied as if the Authority were the employer and all employees transferred from the Authority's employment by transfer schemes were employees of the Authority.").

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The noble Baroness said: This amendment carries on from earlier amendments when we spoke about the TUPE regulations. This amendment seeks to make clear that any employee who is transferred to a new employer by a transfer scheme, takes with him his redundancy rights. That is very important because a possible transfer to a smaller unit could mean that redundancy is more likely than it would have been had privatisation not taken place.

I gather that the present redundancy scheme is a good one. It provides good compensation for long years of service. It is essentially a voluntary scheme based on the first option being an attempt at redeployment. As I say, it is essentially voluntary and under its provisions I understand that the authority has been able to reduce its workforce from 14,000 to 7,000 with hardly any compulsory redundancies. In the main, it has been reduced through voluntary means.

It is hoped to achieve a profit target within a year of £20 million as a result of privatisation. That means between 300 and 400 people will probably have to go, many of them scientists and engineers. However, I understand that a great many of them will be administrative staff. I am informed that scientists and engineers will also be included in that number.

That seems entirely inappropriate. Surely, they are capable of being redeployed because there may be a waste of highly skilled labour involved. If such people are to be made redundant as a result of decisions made by Parliament, which decided to privatise, at least let the employees keep the favourable terms they had. That is the very least that can be done. If it is claimed that a smaller enterprise cannot afford it, then let the Government stand as a guarantor. We owe something to employees who over the years have committed themselves to a highly skilled and successful enterprise. If they are to be made redundant, they should have that kind of guarantee, which should be written on the face of the Bill. I beg to move.

6.15 p.m.

Lord Fraser of Carmyllie: Perhaps I may answer briefly. Employees will have all the protections in respect of redundancy provided by the TUPE regulations. I know that that will be appreciated by the noble Baroness, but I repeat it for the record. Modifications to contractual redundancy rights will require the consent of the employees. Where the agreement of the trade union is required at present, the requirement for that agreement will be preserved. If the noble Baroness is seeking yet further confirmation that the TUPE regulations will apply, I am happy to give that to her.

The large majority of the 300 to 400 redundancies announced by AEA Technology last February involves administrative staff. Management is simultaneously recruiting technical staff. All the redundancies are taking place on UKAEA terms. While I understand what it seeks to achieve, I hope that it will be understood that this amendment does not add anything to the protection which is already available under the TUPE regulations. On that basis I hope that it can be withdrawn.

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Baroness Turner of Camden: I thank the Minister for his assurances to the effect that the amendment does not add anything to the protection which he confirms already exists under the TUPE regulations. We shall look carefully at those assurances when we read Hansard tomorrow. I was simply anxious to ensure that something was written on the face of the Bill because of the concern that has been expressed to us by the employees represented by the unions who have been in touch with us.

We note the assurances that, in the main, it is administrative staff who are being made redundant. I have already been told that, although I have also been told, as I said earlier, that scientists and engineers are included in that number. I also note that simultaneous recruiting among staff of that calibre is taking place. I agree at this time that there is no point in pressing the amendment. We shall look again to see whether there is a need to do anything further at Report stage. I am glad to have the assurances from the Minister on the record. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Schedule 1 agreed to.

Clause 2 [Powers of Secretary of State]:

Lord Clinton-Davis moved Amendment No. 17:

Page 2, line 9, at end insert:
("( ) No direction under subsection (1) above shall be given unless a draft of such a direction has been laid before both Houses of Parliament and approved by members of each House.").

The noble Lord said: In moving this amendment, it may be convenient to speak to Amendments Nos. 18, 19, 30, 34 and 37, in various names. This group of amendments deals with parliamentary accountability—or, to put it more accurately, the lack of it—as far as this Bill is concerned. It really is not good enough that this Bill should be allowed to leave the House in its present form. That would be an insult to Parliament.

The Government are seeking to assert here a "trust us" policy. Nobody will trust them. The fact of the matter is that it would be quite wrong for Parliament to have no role at all in dealing with these issues. The Government would be able to say "We have a general enabling Bill". The Government can do whatever they like as regards any schemes without giving Parliament any meaningful role whatever. It will be interesting to learn from the Minister what role he believes Parliament can possibly assert in dealing with these schemes. Are we just to rubber stamp them now? If that is what the Government believe, then they will be strongly challenged on that issue.

What it comes to is as serious as this. As a result of the Bill, the Government will be in a position to sell off the entire atomic energy generating capacity, subject only to Magnox reactors, without reference to Parliament. That is a grotesque abuse of the powers of the Executive. It is a pity that we have such a thin House today because that is a serious constitutional point.

It is not only the Opposition who have taken up the point. It was raised by a very respected Back-Bench Member of another place, Mr. Robert Jackson, who is a Conservative and the Member for Wantage. Perhaps I should say by way of a preliminary—this is my second

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preliminary point—that Mr. Jackson was excluded from serving on the Standing Committee which considered the Bill. It was known that he was a critic of the Bill. The same happened to another critic of the Bill whose name eludes me at present. The two of them, but particularly Mr. Jackson, made strong representations to the Government Whips' Office that they should be permitted to be involved in that Standing Committee because they not only had considerable expertise on which to draw but also a substantial contribution to make which might not have been all that convenient for the Government but would certainly have been convenient for Parliament as a whole. It is not the job of the Government to silence all opposition—although they did so on this occasion.

I refer the Government to a cogent statement that was made by Mr. Jackson in another place. I am afraid that I cannot quote from it, but I shall give your Lordships a résumé. It came to this: Mr. Jackson took the view that the Government behaved as though they regarded the House, the Standing Committees of the House and, indeed, the elected Members of the House as a dignified rather than a working part of the constitution. That is a pretty serious indictment for an honoured Member of Parliament to make about his colleagues. However, Mr. Jackson said some very complimentary things about this House. Again, I can offer only a résumé. He thought that the unelected Peers were more dignified—

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