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Unfair Dismissals

Volume 19: debated on Tuesday 2 March 1982

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asked the Secretary of State for Employment if he will publish median figures for the compensation for unfair dismissals made by industrial tribunals for the last 12 months.

Figures for the median award of compensation for 1981 will be published as soon as they are available, which is expected to be in five or six months' time. The median award for 1980 was £590.

Does the Minister accept that people's lives revolve around their jobs, and that it is a traumatic experience to lose one's job, whatever the reason? We are told in the Minister's answer that the median award granted by tribunals for people unfairly dismissed was under £600. Can the Minister explain why, in legislation that he is seeking to railroad through the House, for a single cause—allegedly leaving a trade union—he proposes to award sums of £20,000 to £30,000? What is the motive for doing that?

The hon. Gentleman surely knows that, for unlawful dismissal for trade union activity, there is already a higher award of compensation than for other forms of unfair dismissal. It is absolutely right that there should be a higher award for unfair dismissal in a closed shop, because one of the evils of the closed shop is that a man could be banned from his trade for the rest of his natural life.

How can the Minister justify the difference between the median figure that he has just give n the House, of under £600, with a normal minimum, according to the Secretary of State, of £12,000 for the small number who are dismissed in closed shops? Is not that disparity grossly unfair and blatantly anti-union?

It is proper that people who lose their jobs in a closed shop should get generous compensation. It is also essential to have a deterrent to dissuade employers, such as Walsall and Sandwell councils, from behaving in the disgraceful way that they recently did.

Will my hon. and learned Friend explain to the House why Opposition Members have already spent 10 hours in Standing Committee arguing that compensation should not be paid to people who lost their jobs because of the closed shop in the 1970s, instead of getting on to the other clauses of the Employment Bill, which they say concern them so deeply?

It beats me. I keep reminding Opposition Members that there would not have been any need for clause 1 of the Bill if the Labour Government, between 1974 and 1979, had behaved in a civilised fashion.