§ 54. Mr. Ridley
asked the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster what steps he has taken to prepare an advisory booklet on employment protection for the benefit of employers.
§ The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Mr. Harold Lever)
The Department of Employment is preparing a leaflet for employers on the individual rights provisions of the employment protection legislation. This will be published within the next few months.
§ Mr. Ridley
Why was it not published before? Why does the right hon. Gentleman go about promising things to business men and then not getting on with implementing them? Is he aware that, if he does not look out, he will be known as the Chancellor of the Duchy of all things to all men?
§ Mr. Lever
It is always more useful if Question Time is occupied in searching for information rather than in expressing a sort of good-natured malevolence. Any remedy for a difficult state of affairs would always meet with the first of the hon. Member's criticisms—why was it not done before? The answer is that we have heard the suggestions of the people affected, and we are trying to meet their desires.
§ Mr. Buchan
Will my right hon. Friend consider including in the booklet the statement that the employment protection available would have been a great deal better, more sane, more logical and more humane were it not for the reactionary behaviour of the Conservative Party in opposing Private Members' Bills?
§ Mr. Lever
It is the Government's intention to seek to consolidate the legislation rather as some of my hon. Friends wanted. Although I would not wish to withdraw any of the adjectives that my hon. Friend applied in his criticism of the Opposition, it is not certain that we will not be able to achieve by common consent all of the purposes that my hon. Friends seek, in the sense that the purposes of the Employment Protection Act have the assent of most employers and nearly all employees.
§ Mr. Tebbit
Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that, although every reasonable person accepts that it is a good thing for employment to be protected, he must have been told, as I have been told by one employer after another, that the Employment Protection Act is inhibiting them from taking on more labour? Will he take that into consideration and ask for a leaflet to be published which will tell employers how they can best avoid the worst excesses of the Act and allow them to take on new labour without the fear that they will be stuck with it even if business falls away or the labour is grossly inadequate?
§ Mr. Lever
In common with many others, the hon. Gentleman generalises about "worst excesses" and the like, and I find it difficult to have pinpointed those areas where the Act is working to threaten employment. There are difficulties in the settling in of the Act, and I have no doubt that we shall keep that under review. I have no doubt, either, that there are a great many misconceptions on the part of employers about the impact of the Act—some of them were implied in what the hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friends have said. It is our duty, of course, to remove misconceptions from the minds even of those who are slower to understand these matters than others.
§ Mr. Pavitt
As many of my constituents working for a photographic company called Grunwick are denied the elementary employment protection of joining a trade union, will the advisory booklet do anything for employees, apart from helping the employers?
§ Mr. Lever
My hon. Friend must bear in mind that the Employment Protection Act is an Act for the protection of the status and rights of working people, not an Act to punish recalcitrant employers or those whom my hon. Friend supposes to be recalcitrant.