Growth and Infrastructure Bill — Commons Amendments

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 6:45 pm on 24th April 2013.

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Photo of Lord King of Bridgwater Lord King of Bridgwater Conservative 6:45 pm, 24th April 2013

My Lords, the Minister ended our previous discussions on this matter by saying that, depending on the outcome of the vote and if it went against what he was advising the House at that time, he would make sure that the strength of feeling here was conveyed to his colleagues in the Government. I should like to express my appreciation for his having very precisely discharged that undertaking. As we know in this House, it is unusual for us to have had two occasions on which we have declined to agree with the other place. This has been a difficult exercise for the Minister and at this stage I congratulate him on the extra safeguards that he has managed to introduce. I do not disagree with many Members of this House but my view on this clause is summed up by a phrase that Sir Winston Churchill once used. He said that he could on this matter confine his enthusiasm within the bounds of decorum without any difficulty. I certainly feel that I have made clear my views on this.

The situation is now that we have introduced important safeguards. Additional safeguards do not make it easier for employers and they limit the range of businesses to which they might apply. I think that the clause will have limited application. There is now much protection against the real danger of this being mishandled by irresponsible employers. My noble friend Lady Brinton referred to not having met an employer who is in favour of them. I am not in the least surprised. I do not think that an existing employer could use this provision. If he has existing employees with full employment rights, the idea that he starts introducing a small additional recruitment of people who have fewer rights seems to me an unreal situation. I see this being applied now by genuine start-up businesses where the originator trying to start some new IT company. He might say to his friends and bright colleagues who are going to join him that he just cannot take on the liabilities that he might have to face in difficult unfair dismissal cases and cases of redundancy, and that they should all be in this together. Those are the only applications where I see that this might work.

With this additional safeguard we have reached a stage when we must recognise the primacy of the other place. It is very unusual for us to reject twice in a row. I think that I can remember one occasion earlier in my time here but I cannot remember our going any further than this. I would have had to think very hard about that if we had not had such a comprehensive amendment, which, as my noble friend will recall, is precisely what I asked that we should introduce. It involved a lot of hard work and I pay tribute to the officials. The noble Lord, Lord Pannick, ably spelt out that this is a most comprehensive amendment. It covers a wider range than I expected could be covered. The list of the types of shareholdings is warning enough of the problem that this issue contains. In recognising the way in which the Government have respected the view of this House and responded to the points that we have made, I say genuinely to your Lordships that we have done our job. We have introduced additional safeguards. We have challenged the other place twice. Having limited significantly the damage and introduced very dubious questions as to whether this clause will amount to much, we should now ease its passage.