Employment (Allocation of Tips) Bill - Second Reading

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 11:23 am on 3 March 2023.

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Photo of Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth Conservative 11:23, 3 March 2023

My Lords, it is a great pleasure to follow the noble Baroness, who spoke with her customary lucidity and insight on some legal points, which I may also address.

I congratulate my noble friend Lord Robathan, in presenting the case so powerfully and with such clarity, and my honourable friends in the other place, the honourable Members for Watford and Ynys Môn.

I will come to the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Browne of Ladyton. I very much agree about the great length of discussions, consultations and abortive legislation that we have had on this issue. We need to address this.

The measure is simple and straightforward. There are some profound legal issues, and indeed some cultural issues, which the noble Baroness, Lady Deech, touched on. I share some concerns that she has addressed about how the practice of tipping has come to be seen as a substitute for wages in some cases. It is growing more extensive: I am told that, when you buy a sandwich in some delicatessens, you are invited to make a tip to the person in the shop making it for you. This is not an attractive practice. What happens in Singapore, for example, where people just do not tip, has its attractions: then, the wage reflects the job that is done.

However, we are where we are. I strongly support this measure, because I do not think that we will get to that position in the short term, and we need something that is fair to employees, as my noble friend said. The current system is not. Only in cases where there has been much adverse publicity have some notable restaurant chains, such as Pizza Express, altered their practice. They used to deduct a portion of the tip made on a credit or debit card payment and retain it. That is clearly unfair. I do not think that it happens so much with cash payments made to employees: that would be contrary to Section 1 of the Theft Act, and I do not think it necessarily happens. But during the pandemic, we have seen more people paying their bills by credit or debit card: it is clearly the norm.

The Bill is attractive because it will end that, and I have just one or two questions. It is attractive not least because now when we go into restaurants we will not have to ask the employee, “Are you getting the tip?” I asked this question last night, and I am pleased to say that they were. Every time you go to a restaurant, you feel obliged to ensure that the tip is going to the employee. Clearly, in many cases, it is. I do not want to suggest that all restaurants and hospitality outlets are unfair. They are not: I think the great mass are now passing it on. But this will rectify the practice.

I have a concern about publicity. We need to ensure that there is publicity behind this legislation, so that not just employees but members of the public—bearing in mind that, in this context, many members of the public will be coming from overseas—are aware of the practice, so that they can reflect that in how they give the tip and be assured that it is going to the employee.

There is a case about the tronc system, which the noble Baroness, Lady Deech, referred to. When somebody leaves a tip, they may want it to go to just the individual who is serving them. On the other hand, a tronc system will mean, in practice, that some of that goes to the kitchen staff and those behind the scenes. I would personally want to do that, but not everybody does. This needs to be dealt with in separate legislation. This piece of legislation should go forward: it has taken too long already.

This brings me back to the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Browne. I wanted to address this in speaking briefly today. We need to look at a situation where something that has virtually universal support takes at least eight years—admittedly, some of that when the pandemic slowed things down a bit—to get to the statute book. It is crazy. Something that is divisive, in the sense that it divides opinion, would get to the statute book much more quickly. Can the Minister take this back to his department and push for the issue to be taken further elsewhere? Where there is virtually universal agreement on something, can we not have a fast-track system to ensure that it gets to the statute book? Listening today—and I am sure it was the same in the other place—nobody really objects to the Bill in fundamental terms, and it would be very desirable if we could find a way of fast-tracking it, perhaps from this House, where we are more used to working across the aisle.

With that, I once more congratulate my noble friend on what he has done in ensuring that this is the focus, that there is unity here and that we are able to pass this legislation.