Clause 4

Part of Employment Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee at 11:30 am on 14 October 2008.

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Photo of Pat McFadden Pat McFadden Minister of State (Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform) (Employment Relations and Postal Affairs), Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee 11:30, 14 October 2008

The clause was indeed the subject of considerable debate in the other place. That is understandable, because it deals with a traditional part of the tribunal process, and perhaps people are led to expect a full hearing with the tribunal chair and two lay members—or wing members as they are sometimes known. The question posed is whether that is always necessary in all jurisdictions and in all cases. Earlier we discussed faster and perhaps less costly mechanisms for resolving disputes, which is really what the clause is concerned with. The question at the heart of amendment No. 17 is: “If we are to have a system of written determinations or determinations without a hearing, what jurisdictions should that cover?”

The first point to make is that tribunal chairmen can already sit alone and deal with certain jurisdictions, so that is not new. I have written several times to hon. Members who have asked what jurisdictions I have in mind. They are largely, but not entirely, the same as those jurisdictions in which a tribunal chair can already sit alone—unlawful wage deductions, breach of contract, redundancy pay, holiday pay and minimum wage cases. The only difference is the addition of holiday pay.

That is the type of case to which we are referring, and the question at the heart of the amendment is how we define that in the Bill. Our intention, if introducing such a procedure, is to define in secondary legislation those jurisdictions to which it would apply. Were such a system to be introduced and prove successful, those jurisdictions might or might not change over time in the light of experience. The Government’s view is that it makes more sense to specify the jurisdictions and the type of cases to which the procedure would apply in secondary legislation. Also, the regulations and rules would be laid before Parliament, which would allow us greater flexibility to amend the jurisdictions in the light of experience while of course retaining proper parliamentary oversight. That is a judgment about what needs to be on the face of the Bill, and it is how we intend to proceed.

The hon. Member for Birmingham, Yardley asked about proposed new subsection (3AB). The secondary legislation consultation looked at default judgments and how parties might have a way back into proceedings, a point to which my hon. Friend the Member for Hastings and Rye also referred. We are currently considering the responses to that and will announce any changes we might make in due course.

In conclusion, I believe that the type of jurisdiction is best defined in secondary legislation. That would allow us the flexibility to make adjustments in the light of experience if necessary.