New Clause 4

Part of Employment Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee am 3:00 pm ar 16 Hydref 2008.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

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 3:00, 16 Hydref 2008

The idea of a fair employment commission was suggested in a report published by the TUC earlier this year. It had established a body called the commission on vulnerable employment, which looked into this whole area, and that idea was one of its recommendations. The issue is what we mean by such a body, and whether we mean the combination of all the agencies covered by new clause 4. The issue of the closer co-ordination of the enforcement agencies has been raised with the Government. I am certainly committed to such co-ordination; it is in the interests of vulnerable workers, reputable business and the taxpayer. The question is whether we need to bring all the agencies together in one body. I am not sure that that would be the most effective way to proceed.

What the Government have agreed to do is to set up a board—the fair employment enforcement board—which will bring together all the agencies to ensure that they can co-ordinate their work and that we get the best value for money from the taxpayer, and also to deal with some of the silo issues that we have discussed. Representatives of the TUC, the CBI and the Federation of Small Businesses will also be on the board, because it is important that we hear the views of both employees and business as we discuss enforcement. My experience is that when it comes to proper enforcement, the CBI and the TUC often agree—they both have a great interest in strong and effective enforcement.

The board’s work will focus on helping vulnerable workers and their employers by improving enforcement, raising awareness of employment rights, and so on. The board will meet for the first time next month, and its key focus will be to oversee delivery of the key measures in the vulnerable workers forum report, which was published a few months ago. Those measures include the development of plans to pilot a single enforcement  helpline and a review of the strategies for taking forward a sustained campaign to raise awareness of basic rights and to encourage reporting of abuses. I am all for closer co-ordination but I am not sure that it is necessary to have a single enforcement body as the clause implies. Putting that together could absorb a great deal of institutional energy rather than doing the job for which the enforcement bodies were set up. That will be what the new board tries to take forward rather than the picture painted in the new clause. This is again about transferring more of the burden for navigating the system from the vulnerable workers themselves to the Government.

I appreciate where the hon. Member for Birmingham, Yardley is coming from, but closer co-ordination, better working together and better value for money are probably a better route than full merger or the creation of a single commission. We have gone some way towards achieving that and I hope that it will be effective.