Opposition Day — [7th Allotted Day] — Zero-hours Contracts

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 1:16 pm on 16th October 2013.

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Photo of Vincent Cable Vincent Cable The Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills 1:16 pm, 16th October 2013

I am going on to explain some of the problems and, sometimes, abuses that we encounter, some of which are of the kind that the hon. Lady describes. I am trying to set out both sides of the argument. The arguments are quite complex, and the more we dig into the evidence, the more it becomes clear that there is not a simple black-and-white approach to these problems. Let me take her challenge. Clearly, there are abusive situations, and I will go through some of the most obvious ones.

The first was mentioned by the shadow Secretary of State: exclusivity arrangements, where people are bound into a contract with one employer and are not offered any hours, but cannot take employment from someone else. At first sight, that is a very unsatisfactory arrangement. We discovered that that kind of arrangement operated, for example, with the staff at Buckingham palace. When we pursued it, we discovered that one reason is security vetting, as the arrangement prevents people from being able to pop in and out of different firms. I do not know whether that is the justification in the case of Buckingham palace; there is some complexity to the argument. In general terms, however, I would accept that exclusivity is a very, very undesirable practice.