§ Mr. Renton
I beg to move, in page 16, line 20, at the end to insert:or payable under a contract of service)".This Amendment is designed to meet the criticism put forward by the Opposition in Committee, when they moved an Amendment to bring into the definition of the word "earnings" any sums payable by way of remuneration under a contract of service. The effect of the Amendment is to ensure that any fee, bonus, commission, overtime payment or other emolument is included in the definition not only if it is payable in relation to wages or salary, but also if it is payable under a contract of service. In Committee, I said that, strictly speaking, no such addition was necessary, and that is still the position. Nevertheless, I am prepared to concede that it would be useful to insert the words for emphasis and clarity.
§ Mr. Greenwood
I thank the hon. and learned Member for what he has said. We discussed this matter in Committee, when various views were expressed, and when the hon. and learned Member was not quite as forthcoming as he is now. It is for that reason that we are specially grateful to him for the concession that he has announced.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Sir Charles MacAndrew)
With this Amendment we can take the following one, in page 16, line 35, leave out "officer or agent".
§ Mr. Renton
Yes, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. We are now dealing with the definition Clause and, in particular, the definition of "excepted sums". As the Bill reads at present, among those sums we include,sums payable by or through any public department, officer or agent of the government of any territory outside the United Kingdom or of Northern Ireland.271 When we discussed this matter in Committee it became abundantly clear that the Bill as originally drafted was too widely drawn, and might mean that agents of a foreign country who were stationed in London, and possibly even British companies, might find themselves freed from the obligations under the Bill in respect of employers and employees in this country. That was obviously going too far. We now have in mind that there should be an exemption in respect of the Governments of any territory outside the United Kingdom or of Northern Ireland, and we do not want to find that we are enacting a nullity by placing an obligation upon people who would in any way have diplomatic status.
The Amendments seek to leave out the words "or through", and "officer or agent", and if hon. Members will be good enough to read the Clause without those words they will find that the meaning is very much narrower, and will be confined, broadly, to a reasonable exception. We have considered the matter very carefully in the light of the discussion which took place in Committee, and I hope that the omission of those words will correspond to the broadly expressed opinions there.
§ 5.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Parker
I should like to thank the hon. and learned Gentleman for having met the point of view put forward in Committee. This rules out the major objection which was raised upstairs, the possibility that a clerk employed by a travel agency or a nationalised shipping company, though a British subject, might otherwise escape his obligations.
§ Mr. David Jones (The Hartlepools)
As far as I can see, the words which the hon. and learned Gentleman now proposes to leave out meet the point of view expressed in Committee. The fact that he has had second thoughts on his part so near to the first thoughts that we had when we discussed the matter upstairs enables me to forgive the hon. and learned Gentleman for the speech which he made in Committee, in which he sought to prove that all the doubts which we were casting on the drafting were quite unnecessary, and, indeed, that the Bill as originally drafted was sufficiently narrow to meet the purpose.
As I said in Committee, if the Bill is to prove successful at all, it must appear, 272 at any rate, to treat everybody coming under it alike. To argue, as the hon. and learned Gentleman did upstairs, that it was possible for an agent of a Colonial Government to return to this country after a period of service abroad and find himself in the difficulties which the Bill seeks to overcome, and then, by the insertion of the word "agent", be able to avoid his obligations, seemed to me to defeat the purpose of the Bill altogether. However, I am very grateful that he and his right hon. Friend have had second thoughts about this matter, and we are charitable enough to forgive him for the hard things he said in Committee.
§ Mr. Renton
If the hon. Gentleman will turn to column 296 of the OFFICIAL REPORT of the Committee proceedings, he will find that his comment on what I said upstairs is quite inappropriate. May I repeat what I then said? I said:I certainly agree to think again about this. I felt great difficulty about the matter myself, as the Committee may have judged, but I am terribly anxious that we should not mislead ourselves into making a provision which will have no ultimate sanction. We felt that, rather than do that, it was better to play for safety—"Later, I said:I have been invited to look at it again. I think I ought to do so and I give an undertaking to do so."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee B. 13th February, 1958; c. 296.]
§ Mr. Charles Pannell (Leeds, West)
I hope that the Joint Under-Secretary will not keep jumping to his feet to explain what he said in Committee. The Government were beaten in one of the Divisions because of this device, and it may very well be that they will be beaten again.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ Further Amendment made: In line 35, to leave out "officer or agent"—[Mr. Renton.]