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Mark Tami: What sort of case would meet the hon. Gentleman's criteria? He obviously does not accept the current criteria, and wants to go further, so what cases would he allow to be taken to a tribunal?
Mark Tami: Give one example.
Mark Tami: Give an example.
Mark Tami: I used to negotiate with Asda and with the former Member, Mr. Archie Norman, who represented Tunbridge Wells. Asda has a clear policy of discouraging people from joining trade unions. It has a way of trying to bypass independent legal advice that people can get.
Mark Tami: rose—
Mark Tami: I do not follow the logic of the hon. Gentleman's argument. Is he saying that all small businesses should be outside employment law? That is what he seems to be saying.
Mark Tami: Will the hon. Gentleman give way?
Mark Tami: Will the hon. Gentleman answer a simple question? Is he against the whole principle of legal aid? That seems to be the case that he is making.
Mark Tami: I do not know whether my hon. Friend has had a chance to see the community legal service website, but it gives a lot of excellent information that is quite readable and helps people, particularly at the initial stages, when they may be worried about whether they have a case or not.
Mark Tami: I know from being involved in tribunals that, when the person turns up and sees that there is a barrister on the other side, that can be frightening. They link it to a court situation and feel vulnerable.
Mark Tami: Does my hon. Friend agree that if an employer is the subject of a raft of tribunal cases, that is a sign that something is fundamentally wrong within the company, whether in its management or its grievance procedures? We must also deal with companies not having appropriate procedures in place, which can result in people feeling that they have to bypass what the rest of us would regard as the...
Mark Tami: My hon. Friend is making clear what is available, but does she accept that the vast majority of the public are unaware that such services are available to them?
Mark Tami: Is there not a problem with some—not all—of the no win, no fee organisations that seem to get hold of people before they have received proper advice? Often they lead people up the garden path or get them to sign up to pay for an insurance policy to fund the case. People who have come to see me have been asked to pay £150 up front. They think the case is proceeding, but they are asked for...
Mark Tami: I agree, but the employee must be able to be approached by the union without being threatened with the sack, demotion or exclusion, as people sometimes are as a result of talking to someone in the union or becoming active in it. My hon. Friends and I know many cases where unions have tried to recruit in the workplace, but employers have adopted all sorts of tactics to obstruct them. The same...
Mark Tami: I accept what the hon. Gentleman says. There is a problem for smaller employers who often panic when faced with such situations and rather than try to resolve the problem with the employee, they bring in expensive lawyers, which they do not need to do. Employing a barrister or taking cases further is a massive cost to an employer, whether big or small, and it certainly does not help the...
Mark Tami: I agree with the hon. Gentleman on the research question. The Legal Services Commission does have its own independent research arm, which does a lot of work. The key is that it is independent.
Mark Tami: I accept what the hon. Gentleman says, but does he accept that employers also need a bit of educating about some of the services or advice that is available to them so that they do not get into difficulties in the first place?
Mark Tami: I would hope that employer organisations did not act as the Engineering Employers Federation did on recognition rights. Rather than encouraging its members to engage with trade unions, it recommended that they go to Eversheds, which ran a good union-busting-type operation. I hope that employer organisations do not go down that road.
Mark Tami: Is the hon. Gentleman standing?
Mark Tami: My hon. Friend makes a point about which I, too, am very worried. Although, as he says, a lot of advice is available, we must have a proper network that ensures that people are aware of it.