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Baroness Miller of Hendon: I am glad that the noble Lord, Lord McCarthy, agrees with the principle and that he has nothing against trying to work out the cost of things. It seemed to me that his difficulty lay with the list of items which I said might have to be considered. It may well be that an altogether different list will be produced. I was simply making the point that, if it were possible to obtain some costs from this, that might be worthwhile.
Lord Sainsbury of Turville: Before I begin, I shall assume that the amendment refers to the provisions of Part XII of the Social Security Contributions and Benefits Act 1992. That is the part which deals with statutory paternity pay, rather than Part VII, which deals with income support.
The amendment has two interpretations. It might require an assessment of the impact of regulations made under Section 167(1)that is, the reimbursement of employersto be published and revised annually. Alternatively, it might require an assessment of the impact of all the regulations concerning SMP made within Part XII to be published and revised annually. The placing of the amendment within Clause 21 suggests the first interpretation. Therefore, I shall respond directly to that, but the points that I make will apply to both.
The Government's policy is to regulate only when necessary and to ensure that such regulation is both necessary and effective. It is established government policy that new legislation affecting business must be accompanied by a full regulatory impact assessment
The purpose of the assessment is to provide an analysis of the costs and benefits of proposals for regulation and a detailed assessment of any impact that regulatory changes will have on businessesin particular, small businesses.
The regulatory impact assessment for the SMP measures in the Bill was published at the same time as the Bill. However, a preliminary assessment of the costs was published in December 2000, alongside the Green Paper, Work and Parents: Competitiveness and Choice. It covers in full the effects of the two major proposed changes to SMP; namely, the increase in the rate of payment and the extension of the payment period on both small and large employers. There are no plans to add anything further to that assessment.
While these two significant changes to statutory maternity pay receive detailed attention in the assessment, the same detail is not required for Clause 21. The clause is largely a reworking of existing maternity legislation, but the changes it makes are undoubtedly positive for employers. First, employers will be able to recover their statutory maternity payments from tax and other allowable payments due to the Inland Revenue, not just from contributions payments. Secondly, employers will be able to apply for advance recovery of their statutory maternity payments.
These changes have no negative impact on employers and are comparatively minor in comparison with the increase in the rate and payment period for statutory maternity pay. That is why they do not appear in the accompanying impact assessment.
Since departments already produce regulatory impact assessments, introducing a requirement for additional, annual assessments would be superfluous and time-consuming. However, we are fully committed to monitoring the effects of the new maternity package on employers and employees. For that purpose, we have commissioned a survey of parents and employers to establish a baseline against which the changes in maternity legislation can be properly evaluated. We envisage undertaking a further survey in 2005 to ascertain the effects of the changes made in 2003. Whereas the proposed amendment would limit annual assessment exclusively to the effect of changes to statutory maternity pay, the use of a more general survey will provide a broader picture of the effects of the changes to the pay and leave arrangements available to parents.
Finally, Members of the Committee will be aware that a change to the small employers' relief scheme will take place in April 2002. Regulations were laid before Parliament on 8th February and a full regulatory impact assessment was placed in the Library. That assessment details the effects of the changes to the small employers' scheme. It also gives a full account of the impact of change to the compensation rate from 105 per cent to 104.5 per cent, which was announced
I hope that that assures Members of the Committee that there is no need to regulate for the Secretary of State to provide further impact assessments. Government departments are already committed to assessing the impact of new legislation on employers, so the amendment would add nothing to what is already established practice. I therefore invite the noble Baroness, Lady Miller of Hendon, to withdraw the amendment.
The noble Lord said: In view of what has been done earlier, it may be convenient if I suggest that, in relation to the amendments, we refer to Part 2my noble friends and I have tabled amendments to Parts 2 and 3because it will avoid saying such things when we come to the cases.
Three comments need to be made in light of our debate at Second Reading. The basis of our criticisms did not involve the Government's objective of settling cases at the workplacewho could object to that?but the way in which the Government set about attempting to decimate applications to tribunals as a necessary part of that. The three comments have become more relevant in view of our proceedings today in Grand Committee.
We understood that to meanI hope that this is truethat the Bill is not set in stone. Whatever pacts and deals have been done about the Bill, I hope that the Government will listen and seek to come to a proper judgment in a constructive way.
Secondly, at Second Reading, we showed that the statisticsor alleged statisticsthat the Government relied on to form the basis of their case, were in fact not sustained. They were not even sustained by their own
I hope it will not be thought that I have exceeded the bounds of order by introducing those three thoughts. I now come to Amendment No. 61. This amendment deals with the replacement of the power to make regulations for provision of the award of costs or expenses"expenses", of course, is the Scottish termin employment tribunals. That exists at the moment and, in our submission, there is a perfectly good regulation in the Employment Tribunals (Constitution and Rules of Procedure) (Scotland) Regulations 2001, which deals with the matter. Regulation 14 provides that,
This principle should not need to be restated. It was stated by the Donovan commission in 1968, and it has been accepted everywhere else, including in the Leggatt report, to which I hope the Minister will refer in his reply. The Leggatt report was on tribunals generally, and it includes extensive passages relating to employment tribunals.
There are few cases where the tribunals have decided that the ability to award costs is inadequate, or even that the existing power should be frequently used. I refer to the figure of 247 out of 130,000 applications last year, which was less than in previous years.
Why do I stress that? First, the Minister said that the Government did not want to change the basis on which costs are awarded in these industrial employment tribunals. If I may quote him again, he said at col. 60 of Hansard that,
Some people may say that that is a very suspicious approach. That ignores the fact that there has been a great deal of pressure to extend the ability to award costs. Indeed, we shall hear from the Conservative Opposition, as was argued in another place, that workers should pay more costs, should pay special
The Government have said in another place they do not wish to change the basis of the award of costs. All that this amendment doesand if I may say so it is characteristic of our amendments in that it is a most modest amendmentis say to the Government, "Put your words where your money and your mouth are and let us have it on the face of the Bill. If you will not put it on the face of the Bill, why are you replacing Section 13 of the Employment Tribunals Act 1996? What do you want to do with these regulations for the award of costs or expenses? You cannot mean to have new regulations. Are you just going to print Regulation 14 out again and, if so, let us have a guarantee that that is what you will do"?
It is difficult to understand the necessity of wasting a little tree to print Clause 22(1) of the Bill in that case. The Government have that power already. However, if all they have to do is reprint it, then let us say so. If not, why not clear the fog of doubt away and say to a future Secretary of Stateand I am not concerned with the present Secretary of State for the moment"If you want to exclude the possibility that tribunals cannot award costs other than on a vexatious basis, if I may put it that way, then you must come up with primary legislation"? Why are the Government so afraid of leaving to a future Secretary of State the obligation to come to this House and the other place and explain in primary legislation any extension of competence to award costs? The replacement of Regulation 14 is quite unnecessary; it is undesirable and the Government say they do not wish to do it. I beg to move.
I wish to ask the Minister a technical question. In the Explanatory Notes and in the Bill itself the Employment Tribunals Act 1996 is referred to in three different places. I spent quite a long time this afternoon trying to obtain that Act from the Printed Paper Office. Finally, I discovered that there was no such thing. It is called the Industrial Tribunals Act 1996. I wonder whether the Minister has already covered that point and replied to it. Perhaps I may ask him by what procedure an Act which has been passed and enacted is suddenly renamed in this Bill on page 32 and again on pages 76 and 80, possibly as well as in other places. Does a procedure exist by which one can rename an Act retrospectively? If so, can the Minister explain to me how and when that procedure was brought about?
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