Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page


Lord McIntosh of Haringey: The amendment was moved very attractively and modestly by the noble Baroness because, as my noble friend Lord McCarthy recognises, it is a very modest amendment. It refers to "any specific issues" and the noble Baroness made it clear that if there were no specific issues there would be nothing for the union to reveal. I acknowledge that it is not unreasonable for an employer to want to know in advance what

7 Jun 1999 : Column 1178

recognition is being sought. Any employer who has a good relationship with his workforce is likely to have that knowledge anyway.

It is certainly true that both the union and the employer will have matters upon which they may or may not wish to bargain. In other words, if the amendment is to be put forward, it should be put forward for both sides. Both will probably feel more strongly about some matters than others. A union might feel relaxed about not bargaining for facilities for union officials but regard matters of discipline as vital. An employer might be happy to bargain on the level of pay but not on the firm's pay structure. There needs to be negotiation about what collective bargaining should cover if there is to be a voluntary agreement, which, I repeat ad nauseam, is the purpose of this legislation.

The amendment would damage the negotiation by requiring a union, and only a union, to put its cards on the table. In particular, a requirement to state matters upon which the union will seek recognition is likely to result in unions listing all the matters they can think of in order to keep their options open. I believe that that would be counter-productive and certainly would not advance the negotiations.

I am therefore of the view that, however modest the amendment may be, it would be unhelpful. I am sure that there is no particular virtue in having the requirement on the face of the Bill. The Secretary of State already has a power under paragraph 8 to specify the form of requests by statutory instrument, and that could, if necessary, duplicate the effect of this amendment. I hope the noble Baroness will not press it.

Baroness Miller of Hendon: I am, of course, once again disappointed that my very modest amendment, which, as the Minister said, might very well do some good--and certainly I do not believe it would do any harm--is not to be accepted. I believe that there is an area in which it would do some good; namely, where a union is seeking compulsory recognition and an employer is not too happy about it but understands what it is that the union is seeking. It removes all the fears that he might have.

I notice that the noble Lord the Minister said that it might be a better amendment if it cut both ways. Perhaps I might suggest that since the Government are bringing up so many other matters in the next stage, they should have another look at this proposal and come back with something that we might find acceptable. It would be very nice indeed if, somewhere along the line, something that is proposed from this side of the House was accepted, rather than hearing the word "no" in answer to absolutely everything, as was the case with the National Minimum Wage Bill. The one success that I had, which would have helped the Government enormously, was overturned in the other place. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

7 Jun 1999 : Column 1179

Lord McIntosh of Haringey moved Amendment No. 9:


Page 18, line 40, leave out ("in the second period")

The noble Lord said: My Lords, in rising to move Amendment No. 9, I wish to speak also to Amendments 10, 13 to 15, 17, 21, 23, 41, 47, 49, 50, 56, 69, 71, 80, 84, 88, 106, 109, 112, 121, 156, 167, 173, 178, 183, 188, 189, 192, 193, 201 to 204, 210, 212, 215, 218 and 219.

This group of amendments is intended to clarify the time periods for the procedures in Schedule 1. We are making three types of change: consolidating negotiation periods; a consistent use of working days for all time periods; ensuring that time periods begin the day after an application is received, or whatever triggers the start of a period.

Amendments Nos. 9, 10, 14 and 15 together act to consolidate the two negotiation periods in paragraphs 10 and 11. The employer will still have the first period of 10 working days in which to respond to a request for recognition. However, if he or she agrees to negotiate, instead of there being a second period of 20 working days for negotiation there will be an additional 20 working days. In other words, there will be 20 working days plus whatever is left of the first period. That could be as long as six weeks. Of course, the parties may agree to extend the period. We are therefore making sure that there is plenty of scope for negotiation and voluntary agreement.

Amendments Nos. 188, 189 and 193 make an equivalent change to the negotiation periods in the derecognition procedure.

The second change that we are proposing is the use of working days throughout the schedule. At present, we use working days for shorter periods and normal days for longer periods, working days being Monday to Friday. It has been represented to us by the Industrial Society that a mixture of terms is confusing. We have therefore introduced amendments to replace 28 days with 20 working days, and so on. We have not otherwise changed the length of any of the periods.

The rest of the amendments are equally technical. They are intended to ensure that time periods begin the day after an application is received or that another event triggers the start of the period. This will ensure that there will be a full 10, 20 or however many working days in which to respond to the event. For example, it ensures that an employer has 10 full working days in which to respond to a union's proposal to involve ACAS under paragraph 82(3).

I commend these amendments, which make modest but worthwhile improvements to the schedule. I beg to move.

Lord Monson: I wonder whether the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, can explain an apparent anomaly in the definition of "working day", which is referred to in Amendments 13, 23, 47, and 49, and no doubt elsewhere in this very long grouping and, of course, throughout the Bill as at present drafted.

7 Jun 1999 : Column 1180

The definition of "working day" for the purposes of Schedule 1 is to be found in paragraph 129 of that schedule on page 57. It says:


    "For the purposes of this Schedule in its application to a part of Great Britain a working day is a day other than ... a Saturday or a Sunday". However, elsewhere in the Bill, Clause 13(5) states:


    "For the purposes of section 10(5)(b) in its application to a part of the United Kingdom a working day is a day other than ... a Saturday or a Sunday". Clause 37 of the Bill states:


    "This Act shall not extend to Northern Ireland". The United Kingdom, of course, refers to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. I suspect that this may be a drafting error and that in Clause 13 the reference ought to be to "Great Britain" rather than "the United Kingdom". Perhaps the noble Lord the Minister might like to confirm that, or otherwise.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: The noble Lord, Lord Monson, has certainly caught me on the hop. I had seen the definition in paragraph 129 of Schedule 1 but I had not observed the definition in Clause 13(5). If I may, I will write to the noble Lord, place a copy of the letter in Library and copy it to the noble Lords who have taken part in this debate.

Lord Wedderburn of Charlton: When my noble friend replies by letter, a copy of which I hope he will place in the Library, he will no doubt notice that in Clause 13(5) the definition is for a particular purpose; that is, the purposes of Section 10(5)(b). When he considers the matter, he may wish to take the view that there is a different definition for this clause than perhaps for some others.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: I would like to think that my noble friend had got me out of a difficulty; I do not think he has. Clause 10(5)(b) refers to alternative times for disciplinary and grievance periods. I do not believe that helps the Northern Ireland issue.

Lord Tebbit: I wonder whether the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, could say whether he feels that this is quite right as it is drafted. Does this work in the case of small companies which still engage in what used to be a very widespread practice, in the style of wakes weeks, of closing down a company for a period of perhaps a week or a fortnight--for five or 10 working days when everybody goes on holiday? The managers or owners of a company may be away on holiday and perhaps not readily in touch during a period which has been triggered by some event under these provisions.

5.30 p.m.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: There are two answers to that. First, the Bill says that the triggering event when a period is being defined after which an employer has to do something is the date when the employer receives the notice. Therefore, if the employer has been away on holiday and does not receive the notice until he comes back, the qualifying period is the period after the day on

7 Jun 1999 : Column 1181

which he comes back. That point was made by the noble Lord, Lord Taylor of Warwick, and is dealt with in the Bill. On the issue of wakes weeks, where that happens--it is increasingly unusual these days--it is always possible by agreement for a period to be extended to take account of that.


Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page