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HOUSE OF COMMONS
Sixth Standing Committee on Statutory Instruments, &c.
DRAFT REDUNDANCY PAYMENTS (LOCAL GOVERNMENT) (MODIFICATION) (AMENDMENT) ORDER 1991
Wednesday 6 March 1991
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The Committee consisted of the following Members:
Chairman: Mr. Roy Hughes
Bellotti, Mr. David (Eastbourne)
Boyson, Sir Rhodes (Brent, North)
Cran, Mr. James (Beverley)
Cryer, Mr. Bob (Bradford, South)
Cunliffe, Mr. Lawrence (Leigh)
Day, Mr. Stephen (Cheadle)
Dicks, Mr. Terry (Hayes and Harlington)
Forman, Mr. Nigel (Carshalton and Wallington)
Forth, Mr. Eric (Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Employment)
Knight, Dame Jill (Birmingham, Edgbaston)
Livingstone, Mr. Ken (Brent, East)
Lloyd, Mr. Tony (Stretford)
Madden, Mr. Max (Bradford, West)
Patchett, Mr. Terry (Barnsley, East)
Stanbrook, Mr. Ivor (Orpington)
Thurnham, Mr. Peter (Bolton, North-East)
Watts, Mr. John (Slough)
Wood, Mr. Timothy (Stevenage)
Mr. F. A. Cranmer, Committee Clerk2 3 Sixth Standing Committee on Statutory Instruments, &c. Wednesday 6 March 1991
[MR. ROY HUGHES in the Chair]
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Employment (Mr. Eric Forth): I beg to move, That the Committee has considered the draft Redundancy Payments (Local Government) (Modification) (Amendment) Order 1991. This order, which is being made under powers in section 149 of the Employment Protection (Consolidation) Act 1978, is concerned with the basis on which redundancy payments are calculated in the local government service. It amends the Redundancy Payments (Local Government) Modification Order that the House approved in July 1983. That order was previously amended in 1985 to take account of changes arising from the Local Government Act 1985 and has been amended again in each of the past three years, bringing in several bodies that were omitted in 1983 and 1985 or had since come into existence. We now have to consider Scottish Enterprise and the General Teaching Council for Scotland and to replace the Local Government Training Board with the Local Government Management Board. I should explain that under the provisions of part VI of the 1978 Act an employee who is discharged as redundant after at least two years' service is entitled to be paid a redundancy payment, calculated, among other things, according to his period of continuous service with his last employer. Local authorities and related institutions are legally distinct employers, so that, on the strict basis of the statutory scheme on its own, an employee would be entitled to a payment every time he became redundant, even though he intended to move on to a post elsewhere in local government. All this, however, would not properly reflect the realities of local government service, in which a normal career progression commonly involves moving from one authority to another, perhaps several times during an individual's working life. Local government collective agreements therefore provide for local authorities to base their redundancy payments on total aggregated service in local government and the 1983 order secures a similar effect in the statutory redundancy scheme by replacing service with one employer with total "relevant local government service". Unfortunately, there is no convenient and all-embracing definition of what constitutes local government employment. It is therefore necessary to list in the order all the employing authorities and bodies with whom service counts as local government service. Two lists are necessary. The first, in schedule 1 to the 1983 order, lists those employers currently in being by whom anyone may be made redundant. The second, in the appendix to schedule 2 4 to the same order, lists those bodies that may have ceased to exist with which service may still be reckoned for redundancy purposes. This amending order is essentially a tidying-up and updating measure. It simply adds to the lists in schedule 1 to the 1983 order bodies that have come into existence since the last amendment was made, or were previously omitted, and makes one deletion. The number of employees likely to be affected is very small. These are necessary, if detailed amendments, and I commend the order to the Committee.
Mr. Tony Lloyd (Stretford): May I simply place on record that, as the purpose of the order is to tidy up and extend the legislation to bodies that are not at present covered, in the interests of those working in local government we welcome it.
Mr. Bob Cryer (Bradford, South): I should like to make two points. First, this is the fourth amending order; has the Department considered consolidating? When dealing with subordinate legislation, one has to think of the user. In this case the user has to look over several orders dating back to 1983. I realise that it is a nearly annual order starting in 1983. There were subsequent gaps for two years before the next. From the point of view of the user, it is now time for the Department to consider a consolidation measure so that the many users of this instrument in various local authority bodies will have one instrument to refer to and purchase. I make the point because, after four or five such instruments, the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments, which I chair, normally recommends consolidation as a convenience to the user. That is the first and fairly obvious point and it is reasonable and important that the Minister should consider it for the next amending measure. The second point is on the merits of the instrument, with which no one will quibble. People who are made redundant should be properly dealt with and given adequate compensation. It is interesting that this series of orders was introduced in 1983 and may well reflect the position in local authorities, where more people move around from job to job because of local authority changes and because, unfortunately, of increasing sequences of redundancies as a result of cutting back by the Government of central grant aid in various sectors. That leads to contraction by one section, but one hopes that it is matched by expansion in another to provide services. Alack, alas, that is not always so.
Mr. Ivor Stanbrook (Orpington): I am wondering whether what the hon. Gentleman says is in itself contradictory. Originally he urged consolidation of this branch of the law. Now he says that so many changes have to be made to take account of changing circumstances that one would need to be amending such legislation all the time. In other words, consolidation would be hopeless because within five minutes one would need to amend the consolidating statute. It is far better to have one basic document and then to have supplements, perhaps a loose-leaf binder, as happens with road traffic law, which is constantly changing. One cannot have a consolidated Road Traffic Act because changes are constantly made to the minor details. does that not apply to this subject?5
Mr. Cryer: First, I am hoping to persuade the Government not to introduce any cutbacks in local government provision or any rapid series of changes, so that the need for changes in subordinate legislation will not be as great. In consolidation, I was referring not to primary legislation but to a statutory instrument consolidating the previous changes—so my argument is not in any way contradictory—made virtually annually—certainly not every five minutes—by the amending order listed in the explanatory note and on the foot of the first page of the order. As there have not been annual amendments but changes every year or two years, when the next amending instrument is produced the Government might consider producing an order putting all the changes into one instrument. That would not produce any primary legislation but simply provide a single Statutory Instrument listing all the changes as a consolidation measure for the convenience of the user. I am thinking of the ordinary citizens who have to use these instruments. We pour them out at the rate of 2,000 a year—more than that, as a matter of fact—and it is simply a matter of ordinary procedure that after a while every Government Department, no matter whether an instrument is a hardy annual, considers consolidation simply for convenience. That is my point. I am not trying to be terribly clever about it. I am simply following a path that the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments has urged on Government Departments over many years, and I am sure that the Minister will look at it sympathetically.
Mr. Forth: May I thank the hon. Member for Stretford (Mr. Lloyd) for welcoming the order. It follows a well established pattern and its nature is well understood. 6 I defer to the expertise and knowledge of Statutory Instruments of the hon. Member for Bradford, South (Mr. Cryer) and his important role in the House. My reaction to his suggestion is this. First, I am not aware of any problems that have arisen from the complexity of the legislation and these Statutory Instruments for individuals in making sure of their rightful entitlements. If I were so aware, that would introduce an urgency that has not been considered today. That is an important factor, but I concede immediately that we shall now look at whether the complexity, volume and bulk of these measures are now such that it needs to be consolidated and tidied up. The track suggested by my hon. Friend the Member for Orpington (Mr. Stanbrook)—the loose-leaf binder approach—is very tempting, although those of us who are wary of the extent of legislation, as I suspect my hon. Friend is, fear that the looser the leaf, the more frequently we might be tempted to change it. That is very much a double-edged sword. I certainly undertake to the hon. Member for Bradford, South to look again at how we approach this subject and at what is on the statute book comulatively to see whether we can update it, clean it up and consolidate it to make it more user freindly. If there is scope for that, we shall bring that sort of approach before the Committee at the next available opportunity.
Question put and agreed to.
Resolved, That the Committee has considered the draft Redundancy Payments (Local Government (Modification) (Amendment) Order 1991.
Committee rose at twenty minutes to Eleven o'clock.
THE FOLLOWING MEMBERS ATTENDED THE COMMITTEE:
Mr. Roy Hughes (Chairman)
Boyson, Sir R.
Knight, Dame Jill