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Lord Harrison: My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that Answer. Of the some 1 million homeworkers, many are women, many are carers, and many are from ethnic minorities. Some are paid as little as 73 pence per hour. First, what more can the Government do to enforce the application of the national minimum wage? Secondly, will the Government consider extending full employment rights to these homeworkers, as they thoroughly deserve them?

Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, on the second point, we are in the process of consultation on exactly that issue, and we expect to able to report on progress on that later this year. My noble friend is right to say that these are vulnerable workers who have clearly been really exploited in the past. That is why the national minimum wage is so crucial in this area. That is also why we were pleased to bring in the regulations early this year—and to enjoy all-party support for their introduction—which will help the situation. I do not underestimate the fact that we need added protection for homeworkers. We all recognise the vulnerability of this group.

Lord Skelmersdale: My Lords, the Minister rightly said that homeworkers were covered by the Working Time Directive. How do the Government intend to police this for homeworkers?

Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, we intend to ensure that there is enforcement. We are ensuring that the issues that come before tribunals are advancing the cause of homeworkers effectively. Often that has not been the case, because homeworkers have had inadequate access to representation. We are making sure that there is support from Government for a caseworker to take on the more obvious cases that need to be won in this area. Further, we intend to work through the National Group on Homeworking to increase awareness of these issues. As the noble Lord will recognise, a great deal of this depends on people
 
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having confidence about their rights. It is important that we get across the information that gives them that confidence.

Lord Brookman: My Lords, does my noble friend agree that times seem to be changing? Not so long ago, the party opposite was up in arms about the introduction of a national minimum wage. It said that it would end in tens of thousands of job losses. While fully agreeing with my noble friend Lord Harrison about the areas of concern to him and others, it is this Government who will address that area, not the party in opposition.

Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, my noble friend makes some cogent points. If one takes joy,

the whole Front Bench opposite changing their minds is greatly to be welcomed.

Lord Razzall: My Lords, I am sure that the Minister will agree that his noble friend was actually referring to the Conservative party opposite, not the Liberal Democrats. Does the Minister also agree that it was common ground between the Labour Government and the Liberal Democrats when this legislation went through that the most vulnerable area that needed protection was homeworking? Does he further agree that this is a serious matter? Having passed the legislation is not enough. Will the Government undertake to monitor closely the situation with homeworkers and report back to Parliament on the results of that monitoring?

Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, the House will recognise that the Government are likely to be subject to considerable monitoring of their progress on this important legislation, not least because there are over 400 Members of my own party in the other place who will certainly subject the Government to critical scrutiny. The noble Lord is right. The issues of enforcement and compliance are very important and we are aware that one of the great difficulties with regard to this group of workers is the fact that they often live far away from the retailers which ultimately sell their goods. The problem often rests with the intermediaries of those employers. That is why we have to strengthen in every way we can the protective arrangements that we are putting in place.

The Countess of Mar: My Lords, does the noble Lord agree that the other side of this coin is ensuring that these workers are informed about their rights and what they should be paid? Have Her Majesty's Government considered putting out a series of public service broadcasts to inform these people, most of whom have a television set even though they are probably desperately poor? It is likely that such workers often watch television during the day, which would be an ideal time to schedule such broadcasts.

Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, we support the National Group on Homeworking, which is concerned to spread awareness of homeworkers' rights and, indeed,
 
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to spread awareness of the obligations on employers. It is for that group to produce strategies for publicity, although I should add that it has the most powerful ally in the Trades Union Congress, which is also deeply committed to extending rights, protection and information; they are full partners in those activities.

European Union

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Crawley: My Lords, the European Union has helped to create an area of peace, prosperity and shared values in Europe after centuries of conflict and instability. The recent accession of central and eastern European countries has dramatically extended this area, reuniting a continent divided by the Cold War. The Government will continue to support EU policies that promote security and prosperity throughout Europe and beyond.

Lord Hylton: My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness for her reply. Given that, as she says, we already share democratic values as expressed in the European Convention on Human Rights and other instruments, do the Government agree that it is equally important for the European Union to promote world peace and join in the struggle to end acute and dehumanising poverty?

Baroness Crawley: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, for his supplementary question, but I have to say that when I first saw this Question on the Order Paper, I thought that it could happily form the basis of an entire university summer school course. I am glad that we have only seven minutes in which to discuss it.

The noble Lord has quite rightly spoken of the opportunities afforded the European Union in its present form to improve the prospects for peace throughout the world. I agree with the noble Lord that the European Union has helped to tackle major international challenges. I shall refer to two of those. In the west Balkans, the promise of prospective membership combined with European Union assistance programmes has been a driver for reform in that region. The prospect of EU membership for Turkey has been key in encouraging the Turkish Government to press ahead with political and economic reforms.

Lord Howell of Guildford: My Lords, the noble Baroness is quite right to say that this is a very deep Question. It is a little like a cross between George Bush senior with his vision thing and Charlemagne. Has the noble Baroness read the excellent speech made yesterday by Gisela Stuart MP who was on the convention throughout the discussions on the recent draft constitution? Did she see the remark that much the best thing the European Union could do for unity and moral
 
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purpose at the present time would be vastly to reduce its output of legislation and interference from the centre and not go the way of the present unfortunate draft constitution, which seems to be pushing it towards more centralism, more involvement centrally and more legislation?

Baroness Crawley: My Lords, I do not think that I can trump George Bush and Charlemagne. I agree with the noble Lord, as does the Prime Minister, that in today's world the European Union needs to work far more effectively to protect and enhance people's lives. That means doing less more effectively. However, I disagree with the noble Lord that the present discussions in the IGC will bring about a plethora of EU work that is not useful to the people of Europe. Moreover, he knows that the British Government will ensure that we keep control over our tax and social security systems, over the future of the UK abatement, over our own criminal justice system and over defence and foreign policy—as we said we would in our red lines.

Lord Lester of Herne Hill: My Lords, has the noble Baroness read the admirable Fabian Society essay by Gisela Stuart MP in which she explains clearly the value of the draft constitutional treaty, as well as some of its imperfections. The essay explains why what is needed is a strong political vision of the future of European integration. Does she agree that the views expressed by Gisela Stuart echo those of Her Majesty's Government?


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