Employment Relations Bill — 9 Feb 1999
Order for Second Reading read.
I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.
The Bill will promote the best of modern employment relationships in all our companies, encouraging a culture of fairness and trust in the workplace coupled with rights and responsibilities. We believe that, to achieve the prosperity that we want to see, there must be minimum rights for people while they are at work. That is in the interests of business as well as individuals, and that is why the Bill will be welcomed by good employers and responsible trade unionists everywhere.
This legislation is a balanced and fair package that reflects careful thinking and thorough consultation. It delivers our manifesto pledge to provide minimum standards for treatment at work and to develop family-friendly employment policies. Our consultations began soon after the election, when we asked the Confederation of British Industry and the Trades Union Congress to hold talks on trade union recognition. They continued last May with the publication of the Government's "Fairness at Work" White Paper.
As that White Paper and our subsequent work on improving Britain's competitive position have shown, wealth creation can be married with a strong, fair and just society. There is no contradiction. We need enterprising businesses to prosper, creating wealth, jobs and opportunities for all our people.
The Bill sets out a radical, forward-looking package of measures that will create a framework of employment relations law fit for the next century. It will replace policies supported by the Conservative party, which were based on the notion of conflict between employers and employees, with measures for partnership based on rights matched by responsibilities.
The legislation will contribute to economic prosperity by reducing staff turnover, increasing morale in the workplace and raising productivity. It will address the fundamental imbalance in the workplace that we inherited from the Conservative party after its 19 years in office.
Of course, some steps were needed to curb the worst of trade union excesses, and those measures will be retained. But the Tory Governments went too far, fostering a divisive culture of mistrust and conflict, fear and low productivity, with workers being discriminated against because they worked part-time or chose to belong to a trade union.
The Government are clear that our future economic success cannot be based on insecurity, exploitation and discrimination, and the Bill will tackle those difficulties. Now, more than ever, we need to foster a new culture in the workplace. The world is changing and the world of work has altered dramatically over recent years.
9 Feb 1999 : Column 131
I beg to move, To leave out from "That" to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof:
"this House declines to give a Second Reading to the Employment Relations Bill because it will jeopardise employment, endanger the successful legacy of good industrial relations left by the last Government, impose further damaging costs on British business and risk industrial strikes and disruption, rather than leaving employers and employees free to settle relationships for themselves without outside interference."
Question put, That the amendment be made:--
The House divided: Ayes 135, Noes 395.
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