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Danny Alexander (Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Work & Pensions; Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey, Liberal Democrat)

The amendment raises an important point. I appreciate the hon. Gentleman making the point that this is a probing amendment and it will be interesting to hear the Minister’s response. The reference to oral contracts in the Bill is important to retain. Particularly among the target group, who are working for low incomes perhaps in several different jobs who we have rightly worked on at various stages of the Bill, there are circumstances where some will be left out of the scheme because their are earnings are below the qualifying limit, which is a point that I made earlier in the Bill. They may not have what hon. Members on the Committee would regard as a written contract, which we would have with our staff—well, many Members would—or whatever, none the less, an oral contract would be regarded as a contract of employment. Certainly in Scots law there is strong protection for oral contracts and I know that that is what the Bill seeks to do. There are precedents for written contracts being required; the Employment Rights Act 1996 requires that the case of money being deducted from a salary must be in written contract. I can see the hon. Gentleman’s point in relation to central costs, but none the less it is important from the point of view of giving the maximum possibility for people in the target group to benefit from personal accounts that the provision that the amendment seeks in a probing nature to delete is retained in the Bill.

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