Employment (Allocation of Tips) Bill - Second Reading

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 11:02 am on 3 March 2023.

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Photo of Lord Browne of Ladyton Lord Browne of Ladyton Labour 11:02, 3 March 2023

My Lords, it is a pleasure to support the Bill sponsored by the noble Lord, Lord Robathan, and to anticipate its provisions finally reaching the statute book. In opening Second Reading, he outlined the Bill’s functions with thoroughness and lucidity. I beg to say that the longer I spend in this building the more I realise that we are all on a political journey. I hope that his enthusiasm for and championing of a Bill that makes a real and positive difference to some of the lowest-paid workers in our country is an indication that he has come a long way from where he was in 1997-98, as evidenced by his voting record on the then National Minimum Wage Bill.

I began by saying that it is a pleasure to support the Bill. It is an equal pleasure—a number of noble Lords may repeat this remark—to do so without caveat or reservation. It engages a simple question of equity: money given in tips to serving staff should be theirs without fear of depredation from their employers. This question is particularly acute when the hospitality industry is attempting to regain its feet after the pandemic and is being further buffeted by rising energy prices, the cost of living crisis and, more importantly, labour shortages. This should encourage people to work in the industry, knowing the prevalence of the problem that it addresses.

The Bill is comprehensive in scope, extending the legal right to a fair allocation of tips not merely to directly employed workers but to agency staff and those allocated tips through a third-party tronc scheme. I must admit that I did not know what a tronc scheme was until I read the Bill. Crucially, under Clause 4, it ensures that workers receive tips no later than the end of the month following the month in which they were paid by customers. I also welcome the measures in the Bill giving adequate scope for enforcement, and commend those involved in the Bill’s drafting and ensuring its passage through the other place. I look forward to these legal protections being extended to hospitality workers as soon as possible.

That last point leads me to ask why this has taken so long. The first call for evidence for this legislation was put out by the then Department for Business, Innovation and Skills in August 2015. Since then, we have had five different Prime Ministers, eight Secretaries of State and innumerable reshuffles among junior Ministers. Indeed, not only does the government department that published that call for evidence no longer exist, even its successor department has gone the way of Nineveh and Tyre. This measure has been included in two general election manifestos and four Queen’s Speeches, and has been the subject of two consultations. It is fair to say that, were the staff who are the subject of the Bill to adopt such a laggardly approach to their own work, the allocation of tips would be a purely academic exercise.

This should cause us seriously to reflect on the efficiency of government over the last eight years. The Bill is limited in scope, rights an obvious wrong and has cross-party support. If a measure of such comparative simplicity can take eight years to pass, something has gone profoundly wrong with our lawmaking in this country. I will resist the temptation to reach outside the scope of today’s proceedings to consider the silting effect that the necessity of dealing with Brexit and its consequences has had on our legislative efficiency, but will merely leave it hanging in juxtaposition to my points earlier.

I welcome the Bill and once again commend the work that the unions, other workers’ campaigning groups and parliamentarians on all sides have done in ensuring that it is now likely to reach the statute book. It will have my full support as it passes through your Lordships’ House.