Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill (Programme) (No. 2)

Oral Answers to Questions — Attorney-General – in the House of Commons at 1:39 pm on 16th October 2012.

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Photo of Jo Swinson Jo Swinson The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Women and Equalities, The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills 1:39 pm, 16th October 2012

I beg to move,

That the Order of 11 June 2012 (Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill (Programme)) be varied as follows:

1. Paragraphs 4 and 5 of the Order shall be omitted.

2. Proceedings on Consideration and Third Reading shall be completed in two days.

3. Proceedings on Consideration shall be taken in the order shown in the first column of the following Table.

4. The proceedings shall (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion at the times specified in the second column of the Table.

Proceedings Time for conclusion of proceedings
New Clauses relating to civil liability for the breach of health and safety duties; new Clauses and new Schedules relating to the determination of bankruptcy applications by adjudicators. 4.15 pm on the first day
New Clauses relating to the Equality Act 2010. 6.00 pm on the first day
New Clauses relating to the regulation of estate agents; new Clauses and new Schedules relating to listed buildings and amendments to Schedule 16; new Clauses relating to the Osborne estate. 7.00 pm on the first day
New Clauses and new Schedules relating to, and amendments to, Part 2; new Clauses and new Schedules relating to, and amendments to, Part 1. 4.00 pm on the second day
Amendments to Clauses 61 to 64; amendments to Part 6 (other than amendments to Clauses 61 to 64); remaining new Clauses and remaining new Schedules relating to, and amendments to, Part 5 (other than amendments to Schedule 16); new Clauses and new Schedules relating to, and amendments to, Parts 3 and 4; remaining new Clauses; remaining new Schedules; remaining proceedings on Consideration. 6.00 pm on the second day

5. Proceedings on Third Reading shall (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion at 7.00 pm on the second day.

The Bill aims to promote long-term growth and simplify regulation. The Government have tabled new clauses, introducing a number of further measures to improve regulation, and amendments, which followed from the useful and detailed deliberations in Committee. The Government recognise the importance of the Bill and of the new measures that have been added, so we have provided two days for Report and Third Reading. The first day is for the consideration of new areas that we propose be added to the Bill. On the second day, we will deal with amendments to the existing clauses, as well as other new clauses that have been suggested. We have provided for an order that takes into account the issues that Labour Members have told us they particularly wish to focus on.

We have provided for timetabling of the two days. We can, of course, go faster than the timetable set out, but this arrangement will ensure that the debate is not too drawn out on any specific areas and so we will be able to cover the entirety of the Bill appropriately. We have provided to Opposition Members, and also placed in the Library of the House and on the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills website, an explanation of all the Government amendments, which is in line with the new procedures that the Leader of the House has been keen to encourage on Report. Such an approach builds on the requests made and the work encouraged by Caroline Lucas, as well as others from across the parties in this House. We have also provided a short summary, as will now be done for all Bills in the future. We hope that that will help to facilitate understanding and the debate.

Photo of Chuka Umunna Chuka Umunna Shadow Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills 1:40 pm, 16th October 2012

I do not intend to speak for long. As I said on Second Reading, this really is a mishmash of a Bill; it is a missed opportunity and it certainly does not provide the compelling vision or plan for growth that we need. Its provisions range widely from the setting up of the green investment bank to extending the primary authority scheme; and from reforming our entire competition regime to implementing measures relating to the Osborne estate—for the avoidance of doubt, I should say that that does not refer to the estate of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. In what has been labelled an “enterprise Bill”, this Government are seeking to make fundamental changes not only to the rights at work of every person in this country, but to the remit of the body charged in this country with promoting human rights and a society free from discrimination.

I am grateful that two days have been given for the debate of the remaining stages of this Bill, including the extra 15 minutes afforded for the debate of the measures relating to the Equality and Human Rights Commission —we must be grateful for small mercies. However, given the sheer variety of issues covered, which do not all hang together, and the seriousness of the changes envisaged to people’s basic rights in this Bill, the time that has been given to debate it is simply insufficient. That is all the more the case in the light of the Government’s last-minute new clauses, which seek to abolish the provisions of the Equality Act 2010 relating to third-party harassment of employees—no trivial matter—and other provisions, including those relating to discrimination questionnaires. Those provisions relate to ensuring that employees can work free from sexual, racial or other harassment, and they should be properly debated in a timely fashion.

In the light of everything I have just said, the lack of time afforded is thrown into particular sharp relief when we look at the running order for the second day —tomorrow—when a raft of provisions relating to people’s rights at work will be debated in the same breath as measures establishing a green investment bank. The House is expected to do all that in less than two hours. So it is for this reason that the Opposition oppose today’s programme motion.

Question put,

The House divided:

Ayes 273, Noes 217.

Division number 71

See full list of votes (From The Public Whip)

Question accordingly agreed to.