New Clause 1 — Consents required for civil service compensation scheme modifications
Tessa Jowell (Dulwich and West Norwood, Labour)
I shall speak against Government new clause 1 and in favour of the amendments standing in my name and that of my right hon. Friend Paul Goggins. I give notice that I intend press amendment 4 to a Division, subject to your will, Mr Speaker.
I also want to put on record my appreciation of the conciliatory tone in which the Minister has addressed the House today and note what I think was very constructive scrutiny of the Bill in Committee, which gave the opportunity to hear witnesses.
I would like to identify the common ground that we share, but also what still divides us. We agree that the civil service compensation scheme is in need of reform-as the Minister observed, I spent many hours trying to secure that reform-but it is also important that new legislation take account of the conclusions of the judicial review. It is important, too, that that is done in the right way, giving the 500,000 or so civil servants who are liable to be affected the confidence that the process will be fair and that the fairness of that process is institutional.
The legislation represents very high stakes for the 500,000 or so civil servants whose lives stand to be directly affected by its provisions. The Bill is not simply a blunt instrument for negotiating purposes. For those 500,000 civil servants, it could be a matter of them keeping their home, helping their children through university or averting financial hardship while they look for a new job. We heard eloquent evidence of that anxiety from witnesses who appeared before the Public Bill Committee.
To summarise, we have two central problems with the Government's position on the Bill. The first problem, as we argued from the outset on Second Reading, is with the unacceptable caps set out in clause 1. Our amendment 4 is intended to deal with that. The second is the unbridled powers that the Government are seeking to impose on any new scheme that fails to secure a negotiated agreement. We will take every step we can to insist that a requirement for consultation and due process appears in the Bill.