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Right To Maternity Leave And Right To Return To Work

Volume 226: debated on Wednesday 16 June 1993

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.

Lords amendment: No. 24, in page 40, leave out lines 40 to 44.

3.45 pm

The Minister of State, Department of Employment (Mr. Michael Forsyth): I beg to move, That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said amendment.

With this, it will be convenient to consider Lords amendments Nos. 25 and 26.

The amendments fulfil an undertaking given by my noble Friend Viscount Ullswater to Lord Mottistone in Committee in another place. Lord Mottistone had raised a particular concern of employers about a woman who comes back from maternity leave early, without telling her employer of her intentions. Employers have pointed out that if they are unable to plan for that eventuality, the person whom they have taken on to replace the employee during her maternity leave will still be in post. The employer will be liable to give the replacement at least a week's notice and will end up having to pay for two people to do one job—the woman and her replacement.

I do not expect that such a situation will arise often. Most women will probably choose to take their full 14 weeks' statutory entitlement and those who do not will, in the main, be in touch with their employer anyway and will want to let him or her know their date of return so that preparations can be made for it. Only a very small minority of employees are likely to behave otherwise. However, the Government agree with employers that it would not be reasonable for them to be put to trouble and expense by such thoughtless behaviour.

The main amendment therefore provides that, in the rare case where a woman seeks to arrive back at work early without giving her employer a week's warning, he or she will be able to send her away again to continue her maternity leave until the seven days have expired—or until the end of the statutory period of leave, if that is earlier. That will enable the temporary replacement to be given the proper week's notice to which he or she is entitled, at the end of which the woman on maternity leave can return to work.

The other amendments in the group are mainly consequential and ensure that employees are able to choose whichever is the more favourable of their contractual or statutory rights in any particular aspect. The provisions ensure that the position is equivalent—in respect of the new right to maternity leave—to the current situation regarding maternity absence.

I commend the amendments to the House.

I have listened carefully to the Minister. We are disappointed that the maternity provisions of the Bill have come back largely unchanged from the other place and that we shall consider only this rather modest amendment. We are therefore left with a highly unsatisfactory package of measures covering pregnant women at work and women who wish to return to work after having a baby. It is a pity that the new intake at the Department of Employment has not been prepared, even at this late stage, to take a fresh, positive look at the maternity provisions in the Bill.

The new Secretary of State is in his place. His reputation was referred to yesterday. He is also reputed to be a pro-European. It seems a great shame that, the day after being appointed to his new post, he should find himself in a minority of one in the European Community —seeming to embark on a route that would not endear him to his European colleagues, with whom we thought that he would work closely and have a great deal in common.

I am also disappointed that our amendments to Lords amendment No. 25 were not selected and were deemed to be technically incorrect; they would have given us a chance to vote on improvements to a very unsatisfactory situation.

The Minister explained that the amendment stemmed from a suggestion by one of his noble Friends who felt that it would help employers, although the suggestion does not seem to have been researched in any depth. I was reminded of a comment made yesterday by my hon. Friend the Member for Strathkelvin and Bearsden (Mr. Galbraith) when winding up the debate. He said that the minute that there seemed to be any conflict between the interests of employer and employee, the Government immediately jumped in without further examination and decided that the employer must be right in all circumstances. My hon. Friend said that that seemed to be some law of nature for the Government. I would go further and say that it saddens me that the Government always seem to be on the side of the had employer rather than the good one. It is a great pity that they seem to react in a knee-jerk manner.

Good employers already give better maternity benefits than those in the Bill, which is a weak translation of the relevant European Community directive. Only bad employers wish to deny employees rights and are fe]:t to be normal and natural elsewhere. It is they who cause us difficulties in that regard. Such employers exploit the good will of their work force. That seems to be why the amendment was introduced.

The Minister seemed to feel that not many women, employees or firms would be affected by the amendment, but how widely has he consulted? He has not had much time to consult about the amendment and the wisdom of altering the situation, adding greater complexity to an already complex set of arrangements which govern maternity provision.

The hon. Lady is usually extremely generous in her comments. However, is it not a little churlish to complain that no further amendments have come from the other place when, on Report, at her request and behest, we accepted two important amendments extending maternity rights? Does it not add insult to injury for her to complain that we did not consult fully before making amendments when she made no such complaints while urging the Government on Report to accept the changes in respect of entitlement to choose between sick leave and maternity leave, for example?

I am sorry if the Minister feels that I am being churlish, but having looked at the report of the proceedings of the Bill in another place I was impressed by the number and quality of the amendments put forward, in particular by Baroness Lockwood and Baroness Turner. I t is those amendments that I am disappointed the Government have not seen fit to accept.

I welcome the fact that in Committee the Government accepted some of the Opposition's suggestions, but to a certain extent consultation was not necessary as all members of the Committee had received wide representation from many people about the particular matter that the Government decided to take on board.

The Minister can correct me if I am wrong, but there does not seem to have been wide consultation or a wide measure of representation on this amendment. It seems to have resulted from a comment made in the other place, to which the Minister referred. Apart from that, I know of no other representations that were made. Perhaps the Minister will enlighten us if there were a large number of representations. The fact that he remains silent suggests that he has not been written to by a large number of firms on this issue.

In many ways the amendment is rather difficult to object to in detail, but we wish to vote against it as it is a symptom of the Government's willingness to see only one side of an argument and to introduce a further element of complexity which makes an already difficult position a great deal worse.

The Minister commented vaguely on the number of firms and individuals likely to be affected. It is a pity that he is unable to give further information. Certain women who are not well off may feel a compulsion to return to work even before 14 weeks, despite that being inadequate maternity leave. I have seen no figures on the number of women who might want to do that.

The hon. Lady is being extremely unfair on the Government. She suggests that we have been one-sided in respect of our response to representations on the amendment from the Confederation of British Industry. Equally, the CBI made representations that were not favourable to the amendment that the hon. Lady tabled at an earlier stage in the Bill's consideration, to give women the right to an extra four weeks' absence where they have a doctor's certificate indicating sickness arising from their pregnancy.

It is wrong of the hon. Lady to suggest that we have considered only one side of the argument. In this case, we responded to reasonable concerns expressed by business. I explained that it would be unlikely for notice not to be given, because most people will be courteous and have an arrangement with their employer, to ensure that such a thing would be done anyway.

I accept that the Minister listened to the CBI's point of view, but responded to a different one—although I do not believe that a particular point of view one way or the other was overwhelmingly held by employers.

The Government were dragged kicking and screaming into accepting the terms of the EC directive. They did not positively vote in favour of it, but attempted to weaken it at many stages in its progress through the Community. When the Minister and I recently crossed swords in a European Standing Committee, the hon. Gentleman seemed to suggest that the Community should not bother itself with the whole range of social issues. He said that most robustly, and is now nodding his head, even though those social issues, as many members of the Committee forcefully pointed out, do not stem from the Maastricht treaty but from even further back than the treaty of Rome —to the treaty setting up the European Coal and Steel Community, when there was an obvious detailed and firm commitment to a social dimension in European institutions.

The Government's overall record on implementing that particular directive is far from distinguished. In nearly all cases, the Government have tended to back a narrow-minded employer's point of view.

The health and safety of the baby is paramount, and the amendment—which relates to the 14 weeks' maternity leave, which we feel is too short—encourages a system that is not in the interests of many mothers or their babies. Although it may be true that some employers like to receive notice if new mothers intend to return to work early, many employers disagree with the Government's overall view and would prefer to see longer rather than shorter maternity leave. They take that view in fairness to the employee and in terms of the ease of finding a replacement for the absent employee.

The shorter the period of maternity leave, the more difficult it can often be for an employer to obtain a replacement. A strong argument can be made for 18 weeks, plus the period of the right to return to work which many subject to employment protection currently enjoy but which the women who particularly concern us, at the end of the scale, do not enjoy. They are important points which the Government should bear in mind.

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Underlying the amendment is the argument that the Government have used many times. They do not want extra costs or administrative burdens to be placed on business. Behind that is the wider argument, which the Government persist in pursuing despite evidence to the contrary, that employment protection measures destroy jobs. That is the over-simplified view with which we have had to contend many times during our debates. In dealing with the argument about costs in another place, Viscount Ullswater did not provide detailed figures of how the costs break down in this and related matters.

I beg the Government to reconsider the question of costs. I recently came across an interesting publication produced by Business in the Community and the Institute of Personnel Management. It is entitled "Corporate Culture and Caring" and talks of what it calls the business case for family-friendly provision. Pages 59 and 62 show clearly that for many companies it is cheaper to give women generous maternity leave rather than to encourage women to leave their jobs or even to sack those who do not have employment protection because companies then have to bear the costs associated with starting and training a replacement. In the example cited, the company was saving about £250,000 by giving its employees generous maternity provision and generous help with child care and by following other family-friendly policies. I urge the Government to study the publication because a respectable case can be made for stating that employers can save money by offering proper employment protection, especially for women leaving work to have a baby.

The Government's costings were not very well received in another place. Indeed, they have been challenged there in the report of the Committee that scrutinises European legislation. It was found that the costs referred to by the Government could be offset by other considerations.

Although the amendment in itself is not substantial, it is nevertheless a symptom of the way in which the Government approach the issue. They have missed the opportunity provided by the Bill to give a fair deal to pregnant women and women who wish to return to work after having a baby. They have also, tragically, missed the opportunity to bring our standards up to those of many other countries in the European Community.

The Government seem to regard European legislation as a ceiling rather than a floor. In fact, it is meant to be only a floor of protection, and it is up to individual countries to provide extra protection if they wish. Unfortunately, the Government want to get away with the minimum, whereas we believe that they should go for the maximum in terms of benefits and employment rights for working women, which is the fair deal that they deserve.

This part of the Bill, which confers a number of extremely limited new rights on employees protected by law, reveals the Government at their most schizophrenic. The Minister of State in particular and the Government in general believe that any statutory protection for people at work is somehow a burden on business, merely a cost and something which should be reduced to the absolute minimum. Now, however, they are biting their tongue while introducing legislation to give minimum new rights to people who previously did not have them. In this case, it is to pregnant women who do not qualify for the existing right to maternity leave because they have not been working in the same job for long enough.

What is happening? As has already been said, I believe that the Government have been forced by European directives against their will to introduce rights with which they do not agree. They have therefore tried to introduce them as reluctantly as possible, in the most complex possible way, so that although women will be allowed to take them up, in practical terms it will be extremely difficult to claim them. The maternity provisions in the Bill provide a prime example of the Government in that schizophrenic state.

I hate to ruin the hon. Lady's theory, but may I draw her attention to the fact that all Conservative Members stood on a manifesto commitment to introduce those rights? The notion that we were forced to do so by the European Community is absurd.

Secondly, were it not for the British presidency the combination of the antics of the European Parliament and those of the Italians would have prevented the directive from coming into force at all. It was thanks to the efforts of my right hon. Friend the former Secretary of State, now the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, in her role as president of the Social Affairs Council, that we were able to secure the directive, and the rights that accrue from it, within the Community.

I am touched that the Government seem so concerned about their manifesto commitments, although they have spent the past few months reneging on most of them in the Budget—but I do not want to go into that.

My hon. Friend may agree that if there were any praise to be allocated for managing to get the directive through the European Community, it should go to Christine Crawley, the Member of the European Parliament for Birmingham, East, who moved heaven and earth in the EC to ensure that the directive got through, against the usual obnoxious and ludicrous obstruction by the British Government.

I agree with my hon. Friend. The Minister will not be surprised to know that that is also my interpretation of the shenanigans that went on in Europe while the maternity directive was going through the procedures there. Simply examining the record proves that the Government consistently opposed the directive, watered it down and delayed it as much as they could. In the end they could not find it in their heart to vote for it, so they abstained. That makes the case that they are reluctant converts to putting any legal protection for employees on to the statute book.

Two minor amendments have come from the House of Lords and, ironically, they put obligations on employees rather than on employers. That, too, illustrates the Government's priorities. One of the new provisions; is that a woman has to give seven days' notice if she intends to return early. Nobody could strongly disagree with that, but it is disappointing that the Government have not seen fit to use the Lords stage of the Bill to clarify further some of the practical difficulties concerning the length of maternity leave proposed, which is 14 weeks.

Many women start their maternity leave with 11 weeks of their pregnancy to go. That leaves them a mere three weeks after giving birth not only to get the child home and start caring for it but to recover and then to think about the practicalities of going back to work and making provision for the care of such a young baby. Even that assumes that women are so mechanical that the date of conception can be precisely pinpointed and that the date of birth will be precisely nine months after conception, so that it will all fit neatly into the 14 weeks. Any mother, and any doctor, will tell us that there is no precise science and that the dates are simply estimates.

We discussed in Committee the fact that the absurd situation could arise, albeit in only a few cases, when the 14 weeks have passed and the baby has still not been born. We dealt with that problem to some extent in Committee, but, according to Maternity Alliance, 48 per cent. of women still take their maternity leave at a time that they think is about 11 weeks before the birth. That leaves them only three weeks to deal with all the practicalities that arise afterwards.

The trouble stems not from the fact that women may suddenly descend on their employers without warning and cause practical problems, but that 14 weeks is too short a time and presents practical difficulties, both to the woman and the child, which may affect the child's health. I would have preferred the Lords to consider that, rather than trying to impose more duties on employees.

There are all kinds of reasons why a woman who has given birth may not be in a position to return to work and leave the baby at home well and settled in a mere three weeks. For example, 5 to 7 per cent. of live births in Britain are premature. Depending on how premature the babies are, they may need special care and they may have to stay in hospital, which causes practical problems for new mothers ensuring that their children are okay and that they can visit them. All those possible problems militate against a mother trying to return to work before the baby is thriving and settled.

One per cent. of babies are extremely premature and that can lead to months of hospital treatment before the baby is allowed home. The existing law and the proposed change in the law says nothing about what a mother in such a situation is meant to do when contemplating returning to work. As premature births occur in a small percentage of cases, the Lords amendment should have considered the practical problems that a minority of women must face having given birth prematurely, with the problems that arise thereafter.

Ten per cent. of newborn babies have problems requiring special or intensive care, which can last for several weeks. It means that not only are those mothers unable to return to work early but they are not even in a position to return to work after their 14 weeks' maternity leave. Those mothers then have the choice of giving up their jobs or trying to negotiate an unpaid period of leave. Just when mothers are incurring all kinds of costs after having a baby, they must contemplate taking unpaid leave and losing their earning power altogether.

With multiple births—as a twin, I speak with some feeling, and 30 in every 1,000 live births are now triplets or more—birth weights are lower and it takes longer for those children to reach the stage when they are stable and thriving. There are also practical problems suddenly facing a mother who, with many young children, has the organisational task of getting her home into some sort of equilibrium so that she can contemplate returning to work.

Caesarean deliveries require a longer period of recuperation for the mother than for the baby. Again there are only three weeks in which the new mother is meant to have sorted out all the practical difficulties and found herself back at work. The problem is not the employer's of having a woman decide that she is going to return to work early and giving a week's notice. The problems are all on the side of the mother and baby. Why have the Government decided to move Lords amendment No. 24, after one comment in the Lords on that relatively trivial matter, and to ignore serious, practical problems that occur day in, day out for new mothers?

Other issues such as the health of baby must be considered. It is thought that 14 weeks is inadequate to establish breast-feeding—as encouraged by the Government and especially the Department of Health. The number of the mothers who breast-feed is declining, which is a health threat to new babies. It should have been in the Government's mind to ensure that, before having to return to work, a mother was able to establish adequate breast-feeding arrangements for her new baby so that she could protect its health to the best possible extent.

The timetable for the immunisation of babies is more suited to the old system of maternity benefit than the new 14-week rule. The Department of Employment seems to have given little consideration to these matters, despite the fact that the Department of Health is extremely concerned about them.

I should have liked the Lords amendments to give some recognition of those factors, yet once again the other place has not seen fit to make amendments to deal with such practical problems.

The Government are concerned about what they call "costs to business", but seemingly are not concerned about practical measures to ensure the health of mothers and babies and therefore the next generation.

4.15 pm

Lords amendment No. 25, rather than attempting to tackle the complex nature of the old system, new statutory provision and extra provisions that employers may make in some cases for the female work force, merely says that women can take the best provision that is available to them. Why on earth does not it simplify and consolidate maternity provision so that employers and mothers-to-be could simply work out the entitlement from a leaflet and plan for the birth of the baby?

Instead, we have three complex and convoluted systems working in tandem. Nobody is sure how they work together or what provisions a mother may be entitled to. The Lords amendment says that she can have the system that is best for her. Lords amendments Nos. 24 and 25 address the wrong problems. They are too obsessed with disbenefits to the employer rather than practical help to the mother.

Maternity leave should be seen as a right and not as a cost. If the Government were committed to sensible maternity provision of which Britain could be proud they would have considered it in that light rather than being so churlish about the new rights that they have introduced. Maternity leave is vital to ensure reasonable equal opportunities. It is a starting point for dealing with the many other matters necessary to ensure that women can take their rightful place in the economic life of the nation and in society in general.

There is a practical and moral case for women to be given provision that they and employers understand and that can be triggered easily. For those reasons, the Lords amendments address the wrong issues. They are too modest and they do not solve the serious problems that have resulted from the Government's seeming unwillingness to provide a simple, easy system of maternity provision that women can look forward to receiving.

I was staggered by the Minister of State's sedentary remark that the British Government saved the pregnant women at work directive. We have spent many hours discussing that, in Committee and in the Chamber, but clearly it has not sunk in with the Minister of State. Therefore, let us again examine how the British Government allegedly saved the directive.

When the directive was first proposed by the Commission, it suggested that any woman working since the beginning of her pregnancy, whether full or part-time, would be eligible for a minimum maternity leave entitlement of 14 weeks on full pay, with the flexibility of further time on 80 per cent. of pay.

I should like to ask the Minister of State whether the Government now support that. If he was in the Chamber, he would be able to give me an answer, but I shall return to it when he comes back.

The directive would apply to all companies, irrespective of size. Do the Government now support that? There would be two weeks' compulsory rest on full pay before the birth. Is the Minister now saying that the Government support that? Women would not lose pay for ante-natal appointments during working time. I understand that the Government support that principle—they just did not want it in the Bill because they said that it was self-evident, despite the fact that several industrial tribunal and other cases have shown that the matter is far from simple in practice. Periods of sickness during pregnancy could not be deducted from maternity leave. The Government have a rather ambiguous position on that matter, and I would like them to clarify it.

All work-related rights would be maintained during pregnancy. Dismissals linked to pregnancy would be outlawed. Employers would be required to improve conditions at work and find alternative jobs or an improved environment for pregnant and breast-feeding women should that be necessary. There must be a real alternative to night work for pregnant women, for at least eight weeks before the birth. That was the original draft directive introduced in 1990.

The final directive was approved two years later. It took two years, because the original proposals were watered down and blocked. The state that had more to do with that blocking process than any other was Britain. If the Minister is saying that the directive was saved by the Government, he has an obligation to say whether the draft directive containing real improvements for working women is now acceptable to the Government. If it is not, his statement that the Government saved the directive is no more than fluff.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Wallasey (Ms Eagle) said, if anyone saved that directive and is responsible for ensuring that some modest improvements have been adopted in European and now also in British law, it is probably Christine Crawley, the MEP for Birmingham, East. Organisations such as Maternity Alliance, the National Association of Citizens Advice Bureaux and the Equal Opportunities Commission should be thanked for the good work they have done. We have nothing for which to thank the Government. They have given every concession with a bad grace, and have had to be pushed and shoved into doing so.

I am sure that Miss Crawley is a perfectly splendid person, but will the hon. Gentleman explain what role she played in ending the difficulties resulting from a conflict with the European Parliament? I had the impression that my right hon. Friend the then Secretary of State was responsible for bringing that to a conclusion. I would be more than fascinated if the hon. Gentleman could explain the role played by Miss Crawley in that.

Christine Crawley was the chair of the Committee on Women's Rights at the European Parliament. That Committee, more than any other body, was responsible for bringing the various parties together to ensure that the views expressed by the British Government and others did not wreck the directive. That ensured a successful outcome of sorts.

If the Minister is saying that the Government were in favour of that directive, why did they object to the specific provisions suggested by the European Commission and the European Parliament? Why was it that, in the final vote during a Fisheries meeting, Britain could not even bring itself to vote for the directive, but only abstained? It is odd to claim credit for a piece of legislation by saying that one abstained when it came up for a vote. That is an astonishing statement.

The amendment has been tabled by the Government because, without it, the Bill would be inconvenient. It would not be particularly inconvenient for women, but it would be inconvenient for employers, because a woman could return to work early after having a baby and not give notice. Taken in isolation, that point might be reasonable. But of course the legislation does not exist in isolation; it exists in the round.

If we want to ensure that the legislation is as convenient as possible for all concerned—mothers and employers—would it not be rather more useful for the Government to listen to the advice that they received from the Maternity Alliance, Opposition Members and all kinds of experts who suggested that the way that the legislation could be most simplified and made most effective and most convenient would be to extend the period of minimum maternity leave to 18 weeks—indeed, to extend it to the levels that were envisaged in the European directive in the first place?

If the Government consider that the welfare of the mother and the baby is important, let me give them some examples. Some have already been given by my hon. Friends. Under the Bill, even though there is some statutory protection for a woman from coming back to work before she is ready because of illness, there is very little or no protection if the baby is ill. Extending the period of statutory maternity leave in the way that we have been urging would not overcome that problem, but it would help. The Government have refused to help in that way.

We have already heard that the Government—indeed many Governments—encourage breast feeding, yet a woman will be required to go back to work perhaps just three weeks after she has had a baby. How on earth does that fit with a Government who claim to encourage breast feeding? The timing of the vaccination and inoculation programme that is recommended for babies these days just does not fit with the insistence that women should go back to work after just 14 weeks.

It has been proved that the chances of finding a child minder in the vital early weeks after birth are much more difficult. That position would be improved if the Government had seen fit to increase the period to 18 weeks. Those are real conveniences that the Government could have offered to employers and women, but they have not done so. Why not? They say that it is because of cost.

Cost has been mentioned time and again in respect of this aspect of the Bill. It is time that the point was answered. Ministers have thrown out figures and mentioned an alleged cost of £200 million if the maternity leave period is extended to 18 weeks. They have never stated the reasons or the basis for that calculation, but they have said that it would cost about £200 million and that it would be a burden on employers' costs. Two points arise.

I am not aware that the Government have ever said that. We have estimated the cost of the additional four weeks at £50 million. But £200 million is a big number and £50 million is also a big number, particularly when employers are obviously fighting to maintain employment and improve employment prospects for those who are unemployed.

I am grateful for that intervention. I find it interesting that the figure has apparently been revised downwards. I do not have to hand the Hansard reference showing where the £200 million comes from, but the reference exists. If the figure is now said to be £50 million and that it is a big cost, in terms of how much money the Minister and I have, it is a lot of money.

I would not say that £50 million, even if the amount were that much, was a great deal of money for a Government to spend to ensure that working women had decent maternity rights. When we compare £50 million with the £1 billion that was lost in one day in order to maintain the fig leaf over the Chancellor's economic policies, it does not seem a great deal.

Some information which I did not have available during our earlier deliberations on this subject reinforces my hon. Friend's point. A letter from the Federation of Small Businesses to the previous Secretary of State for Employment states very clearly:

"From the point of view of small businesses, this increase"—
that is, the extension from 14 weeks to 18 weeks—
"would make little difference and we would have no objection to the proposed amendment."
The federation says that costs are incurred at an earlier stage and can stay in place for an extra four weeks without any problem at all, and that extending the leave to 18 weeks would simplify the system and make it easier for small employers who find the present set-up, like the set-up proposed in the Bill, a real headache.

4.30 pm

My hon. Friend makes an exceptionally valid point. Ministers manage to talk at two levels when they refer to the costs involved. They are not always over-specific about who they expect to stand which cost. They say that the cost will be a burden on employers. However, if the state was prepared to extend the period of statutory paid maternity leave to 18 weeks, the cost would not fall on employers—it would fall on us as a society. But is it too much to expect society to give working women the same sort of rights that women in other countries get?

My hon. Friend made an especially valid point about the cost to employers. If a woman is on maternity leave and an employer appoints a temporary replacement, costs have been incurred, and increasing the period to 18 weeks would make virtually no difference. Indeed, it may be that employers' costs are reduced in the medium and longer term because the consequence of having inadequate maternity leave and not seriously addressing the issue of a baby being ill or the mother not being ready to come back to work, and the problems of breast feeding and finding a child minder, is often to force working women to leave their jobs. The result is that the employer must pay the cost of advertising, finding a replacement and so on. It would be much better if decent maternity leave was given in the first place.

I apologise for interrupting the hon. Gentleman again. I suspect that the figure that he has in mind of £200 million probably relates to the compliance cost assessment of between £100 million and £250 million that we produced, a copy of which is in the Library. If he is right about no costs being involved, and if the hon. Member for Gateshead, East (Ms Quin) is right about the assessment of the Federation of Small Businesses that there is no cost in extending the period from 14 weeks to 18 weeks, there is nothing to prevent them from doing so. They are free to extend it. Employers can agree that the leave will be longer if they so wish. That is a contractual matter between employers and employees.

If the hon. Gentleman is right about all the advantages to business, we do not need to pass legislation to compel employers to do what he says is in their economic interests. However, our assessment is that it would add a cost of £50 million, which would create difficulties for employment in the future, especially for women.

It is precisely because enlightened employers understand that decent maternity leave provisions are in their interests, as well as in the interests of the mother, that so many of them offer maternity leave provisions that are well above the statutory minimum. The importance of having a statutory minimum is not to force enlightened or forward-looking employers to do what they see is in their interests and in the interests of the mother.

The importance of having a statutory minimum is to ensure that there is protection against bad employers, short-sighted employers or employers who have a narrow view of working women's rights, the interests of their enterprise and how they should operate in a civilised society, just as the importance of having wages councils has always been to ensure that pay does not fall below a minimum level.

The ridiculous thing about the Government's approach to this matter and the argument by the Minister, which underlies their proposal to abolish wages councils, will not make much difference as far as good employers are concerned. However, it will ensure that bad employers and bad employment practices are given statutory sanction. That is the tragedy of the Government's approach to employment legislation.

The amendment was not introduced when the matter was discussed in this place, but it was felt to be so important that it was introduced in another place. It was felt that, if the worst came to the worst and an unreasonable mother gave no notice to her employers but simply returned to work earlier than expected and demanded her work back—I cannot imagine many women doing that—the employer might have to bear an extra cost for a few days. That possibility is seen as so significant that it requires not only an amendment in another place but a debate here today.

Does it not reveal that the Government have an odd set of priorities when that possibility is seen as significant, but a mother's rights to decent child care, to breast-feed her baby for a reasonable period and to have a decent period of maternity leave are not seen to be important? It is not considered important to introduce legislation to ensure that bad employers are encouraged to become good employers. It seems that the Government, as so often, have their priorities wrong.

The statements that have been made about why it is unnecessary to legislate reveal the attitude that was displayed during the debates in Europe. I am pleased with the legislation as far as it goes. It is a small step forward, but does not go far enough. Instead of introducing one-sided amendments that benefit only the employer, it would be better if, for once, the Government started listening to working women, and introduced amendments to benefit them and guarantee decent maternity rights in this country.

I am surprised to see that a Conservative Member wants to speak at this late stage in our debate. I was beginning to think that no Conservative Members held a view on the important issues raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Gateshead, East (Ms Quin) and others. As my hon. Friend said, in yesterday's debate reference was continually made to the employer's need and rights. I hope that the Government will relax their guard a little and talk about the interests of the child. If they do not, they will go down as being the Government who favoured bosses before babies. I hope that that does not prove to be the case. Children should be given the highest priority.

Throughout the debates, both in Committee and in the other place, the Opposition have sought to improve on the Government's position. Some interesting exchanges have suggested that the Government are still in a rut and apparently listen more patiently to employers' organisations than organisations representing and supporting women of child-bearing age. That is an extraordinary position.

My hon. Friend the Member for Wallasey (Ms Eagle) referred, with the benefit of some personal knowledge, to the problems associated with multiple births. Knowing her sister as I do, I must say that if—or should I say when —she joins us in this place, it will present you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, with an enormous problem. I cannot tell the two women apart and I look forward to seeing the Speaker being foxed over that.

I am not sure.

My hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Northfield (Mr. Burden) mentioned an important aspect of the debate—the availability of child care for parents of young babies. It is undoubtedly extremely difficult to find child care for young babies. A recent Equal Opportunities Commission report states that fewer than 10 per cent. of children between birth and the age of four have places in non-family child care. Recent Government child care regulations require one worker for every three babies in day nurseries and other collective child care arrangements. Although that is welcome as a measure to improve the quality of care, it restricts the number of places for babies in some nurseries.

I hope, therefore, that the Government will have fresh thoughts as we see how the legislation proceeds. Thirty-six per cent. of mothers returning to full-time work rely heavily on child minders for care, but many child minders are reluctant to care for children under the age of six months. The National Child minding Association has commented that the nature of the care required for young babies is particularly intensive. That is likely to reduce the number of minders willing to look after them. Caring for a small baby can make it impossible for a child minder to look after any other child and can reduce her income significantly. The 53 per cent. of working mothers who rely on relatives for care may also find them unwilling to care for babies who are as young as three weeks.

The Select Committee on Health recently commented on the EC directive on the protection of pregnant women at work—a subject on which we have just heard an interesting exchange between the Minister of State and my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Northfield. The Committee says in its second report that the United Kingdom Government have
"laid itself open to the accusation that it is only interested in the effects the Directive would have on employers and on the Treasury."
That underlines my point about the Government putting bosses before babies. Perhaps the Minister will try to refute that and adopt a more flexible approach to the legislation.

The maternity provisions of the Bill fail to give sufficient priority to the needs of the child. The legislation is wholly unsatisfactory, and I hope that the Government will give it another careful look.

The speeches by the hon. Members for Birmingham, Northfield (Mr. Burden) and for Ellesmere Port and Neston (Mr. Miller) were classic examples of the Opposition's casual approach to placing burdens on business. They seem to discuss the issue as if it could be divided into two separate, unrelated boxes,. They seem to think that the burden on the employer is wholly unrelated to the situation of the mother and the child. The fact is that placing too many burdens on employers jeopardises chances of employment as well as the position of mother and child. The two issues are linked at every stage.

That was precisely the argument used before a Labour Government passed the equal pay legislation. It was said that, if women were granted equal pay, it would represent an extra cost and would militate against women being employed. Since then, there has, of course, been a huge growth in the employment of women.

4.45 pm

I prefer to stick to the point in hand. I maintain that the Opposition treat burdens on employers casually. Their attempts to sidetrack me from the issue do not detract from the point that I am trying to make.

Our 14-week statutory period has been pooh-poohed by the Opposition, but Germany, Ireland and the two countries of the Iberian peninsula all have similar periods. It is a perfectly respectable period, and children and mothers can deal with it. It is accepted as a compromise.

I support Lord Ullswater's amendment. It was his proposal on 6 May that led to the suggestion that employers should be protected from mothers who come back at no notice to reclaim their jobs. This sensible amendment merely attempts to give employers seven days—

The hon. Gentleman will be reassured to learn that I do not intend to take up his phrase about protecting employers from mothers. I would, however, like to ask him about his international comparisons. I am sure that he would agree that it is important to compare like with like. Is he, for instance, aware that Germany gives 14 weeks on 100 per cent. of salary and Ireland gives 14 weeks on 70 per cent. of salary? One of the criticisms of the legislation is that it guarantees nothing about pay. Does the hon. Gentleman agree that that is a major omission from the Bill?

Pay is a matter for the DSS. I was only comparing the periods involved, and I do not want to widen the debate to other issues.

I support the Lords amendment because I think that we should prevent more burdens from being placed on employers. It would seem sensible of the Government to support that idea. That does not turn our party into a party that is against children or mothers—a ridiculous suggestion. The amendment prevents an additional burden from being imposed and allows for the smooth running of the workplace. Sudden events in the workplace cause friction and a great deal of trouble.

We have had an interesting debate. When my hon. Friend the Member for Finchley (Mr. Booth) said that we should remove burdens, I thought that he was referring to the hon. Member for Birmingham, Northfield (Mr. Burden). Having heard his speech, I can see why my hon. Friend was provoked to adopt such an undemocratic view.

I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Finchley about the importance of striking a balance between employment rights and costs. Compared with our European partners, we in Britain can be proud of the much higher proportion of our labour force that is in employment and the larger percentage of women who work. Apart from Denmark, which has about the same number of women at work, we have the highest proportion in Europe. In common with Denmark, we have a deregulated labour market. We may have different views about social provision, but we take a similar approach in respect of regulation in the labour market.

The socialist paradises that Opposition Members draw to our attention seem to find it difficult to provide employment opportunities for as large a proportion of their work forces—and especially for women—as we in Britain are able to provide. In the debates that are now taking place in the Social Affairs Council and elsewhere, it is evident that our European partners are coming to recognise the importance of regulation in the destruction of job opportunities—a recognition that is singularly absent from the contributions of Opposition Members.

Hon. Members cannot say, on the one hand, that they wish to see more opportunities for women to work and thereby contribute to our economy and, on the other hand, that they are prepared for whatever burdens on business are involved in the employment of those women. What they propose would deprive women of opportunity, just as has happened in Europe. It is no coincidence that the countries cited as examples to be followed have not been able to achieve the employment and job opportunities that Britain has achieved.

The Minister may have given the wrong

impression about Denmark, which has a Government whose views have much more in common with those of the Labour party than with those of the British Government. The current Danish presidency of the European Community particularly wants progress to be made on many of the social directives that the British Government say will put additional burdens on business; thus, it is hardly right for the Minister to claim Denmark as an ally.

I was not claiming Denmark as an ally; I was merely making the point that the Danish labour market is not regulated to the extent that the hon. Lady advocates. If she is saying that the Danish Government are about to embark on that course, I make a prediction: Denmark will not be alongside Britain at the top of the league in terms of the provision of employment opportunities for people of both sexes. The policies that Opposition Members advocate would destroy jobs—a fact that is becoming increasingly understood throughout the Community.

Does the Minister agree that, in almost all cases one can think of, men too are responsible for the birth of children? A woman' capacity to give birth should not be regarded as some kind of extra cost that she takes into the workplace—a cost that makes firms disinclined to employ her. Reasonable maternity provision should be associated with extended paternity provision; in that way, the costs could be shared between the genders, within the family, and employers would not be encouraged to regard the woman as a walking womb that imposes extra costs.

I agree with the hon. Lady on her biological points, but not on her labour market points. She must understand that it is not discriminatory to say that we must be careful about the costs that are imposed on employers. The hon. Lady's solution would involve more costs through the provision of paternity leave, but those costs would have to be borne by employers. Employers make their money by selling goods and services. If their goods and services are no longer competitively priced, employment opportunities are destroyed. There is a balance to be struck.

In suggesting that the Government are putting business before babies, the hon. Member for Ellesmere Port and Neston (Mr. Miller) ruined the quite good reputation that I thought he was building up following his service on the Standing Committee, where he seemed to be a thoughtful person who added a great deal to our debates. His description of a measure that provides a right to 14 weeks' maternity leave, with entitlement to all the normal benefits of contracts of employment, apart from wages or salary, as well as comprehensive protection against dismissal or unfair selection for redundancy on maternity-related grounds and new rights for women who have to be suspended from work on maternity-related health and safety grounds, is absurd. To say that this is putting bosses before babies is so ridiculous that I can only imagine that the hon. Gentleman does not really think it but put it in a press release to his local newspaper—or perhaps there is some other, equally fatuous, reason for his coming out with such nonsense.

I am grateful to the Minister for giving me an idea. I have not yet put this in a press release, but I think I shall now do so.

If the Government had listened more carefully to the advice of many professional organisation—particularly the Maternity Alliance—they could have gone much further without imposing any significant additional costs on employers. My hon. Friend the Member for Gateshead, East (Ms Quin) made the point in the context of the Federation of Small Businesses. Against that background, the Minister's remarks are churlish.

I should not be at all concerned if the hon. Gentleman were to issue such a silly press release. It might help to achieve the result that we should have had at the polls last year—the election of Mr. Andrew Pearce. A few more daft statements of that type will see the hon. Gentleman on his way out of the House.

I should like to press the Minister on the issue of costs. I shall try to avoid using the word "burden", but I may not succeed. The hon. Gentleman prayed Denmark in aid with regard to regulation. He probably knows that Denmark offers 28 weeks' maternity leave on 90 per cent. of salary. If the Minister regards that as a deregulated market, his view is different from mine. If he wishes to avoid the imposition of an excessive "burden" —I have used the word—on businesses but accepts the need to ensure decent maternity rights, he must accept also that the state should ensure decent levels of statutory provision. Would not that be better than cutting provision for working women?

The hon. Gentleman is getting frightfully muddled. He is confusing regulation of the labour market with benefits. We are not dicussing benefits, which are a matter for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Security. What the hon. Gentleman has said about the provision of welfare services in Denmark is quite right. That is why Denmark has very high levels of taxation.

I was not making the point that Denmark is an ally; I was simply pointing out something that Opposition Members do not seem to recognise—that, comparatively speaking, a very high proportion of our population are in work. Let hon. Members consider countries—such as Spain, whose unemployment percentage is almost twice ours—that have embraced the minimum wage and all the other social protection policies so beloved of Opposition Members.

Of course Conservatives are committed to the provision of a fair deal for employees, but they are not prepared to accept advice that would put people on the dole. If people were unemployed, they would not have the benefit of the legislation that we have brought before the House over the past 14 years.

The hon. Members for Northfield and for Wallasey (Ms Eagle) said some very odd things. The hon. Lady said that no one could disagree with seven days' notice, yet the hon. Member for Gateshead began her speech by telling us that Opposition Members would vote against the amendment. As the hon. Lady has said that she could not possibly disagree with that, I expect to see her vote with the Government in the Division Lobby. The hon. Member for Northfield said that he did not imagine that anyone would not give notice; presumably he will be in the Division Lobby with us as well.

If the Minister had listened more carefully to the overall thrust of my remarks, he would not be quoting half-sentences out of context and he might have picked up that I said that the amendment dealt with a fairly trivial matter that happened on only a few occasions. Other matters affecting the health of mothers and babies are more serious and much more common, but the Government have seen fit not to deal with those. The thrust of my speech was that we should spend more time addressing the real issues rather than spend time on relatively trivial matters.

The hon. Lady has not added to what I have said. She said that the matter was trivial and that no one could disagree with seven days' notice. Now she says that she will vote against what she agrees is a reasonable provision because it is not something else. That is an extraordinary basis on which to vote down a perfectly sensible amendment.

The hon. Lady says that it is tactical. Her constituents will be astonished if they find that her voting record on amendments or other legislation is based not on what is in them but on what she thinks should be in them. That is absurd. If that is the hon. Lady's best argument to justify her speeches, she had better get herself a new research assistant.

5 pm

I shall intervene before the Minister gets too carried away by what he perceives to be Opposition contradictions. In Committee, Conservative Members voted against amendments to ensure that women had clear rights not to be subjected to action by employers if they sought time off for ante-natal care and relaxation classes. Those hon. Members said that that happens anyway, but there is clear evidence from tribunal decisions that it does not. Conservative Members are throwing stones from glass houses.

I did not entirely understand the hon. Gentleman's point. My assessment of what he said is that he could not imagine that anyone would not give notice and that he would support the amendment.

I said that I could not imagine many women not giving notice. I then gave the hypothetical situation of a woman who does not give notice to her employer but returns unannounced to work, demanding her job from that moment. The net cost of that to the employer would be a few days' pay while the temporary employee was still there. I contrasted the Government's concern for the cost of that few days' pay with the extent to which they are prepared to amend the Bill to show a lack of concern for women who are denied access to decent child care, are unable to breast-feed their babies for long enough and face all the other problems associated with the fact that there is no maternity leave of 18 weeks.

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his explanation. He disagrees with the Government about the extent to which the protection should be extended. However, if he votes against the amendment, he will look ridiculous, because the amendment says that there should be seven days' notice. The hon. Gentleman gaily writes off a week's pay for a temporary worker as it if were of little consequence. That betrays the fact that he has never had to run a company or a small business and does not realise that such sums are often the difference between profit and loss. They also make a difference to growth of employment and employment opportunities. As we say in Scotland, "Many a mickle maks a muckle." The hon. Gentleman should be more careful with other people's money.

I should not like the Minister to misunderstand our reason for voting against the amendment. As I have explained, the amendment adds a rule, an extra complexity, to an already complex system. From the beginning, we have argued for a comprehensive overhaul and simplification of the system of maternity leave. We are using the amendment as an example of the complexities that we have argued against all along.

The Minister has done little to justify the amendment. He has not said how many people will be affected by it, nor has he spoken about the number of people who were consulted before the amendment was tabled. If he could give us more information about that and say that he will look at the overall system of maternity leave with a view to making it much more simple, along the lines that we have suggested, that would be something else.

I am grateful to the hon. Lady for contradicting her hon. Friend the Member for Wallasey, who said that no one could disagree with seven days' notice. She was clearly wrong, because the hon. Member for Gateshead, East obviously disagrees with it. She says that it unnecessarily complicates the legislation. Following a commitment to the hon. Member for Gateshead, East, we tabled an amendment on Report to give women the choice of sick leave rather than maternity leave if they were absent between the 11th and the sixth week of the expected week of childbirth.

Again at the hon. Lady's request, I tabled an amendment to provide four weeks' extra protection against maternity-related dismissal in cases where a medically certified sickness prevents women from returning to work at the end of maternity leave. The hon. Lady did not urge me not to do that on the ground that it complicated the provisions, as it does. However, it is not a question of whether it complicates the provisions. We want a system that is workable. The legislation may be complex, but the position of the employer and the employee will be perfectly straightforward.

The hon. Member for Gateshead, East seems to apply one argument when it suits her and another when it suits people who are making representations. When the hon. Lady pressed me to table the amendments, she did not urge me to rush out and consult everybody. She wanted me to agree in Committee to consider the matter and table amendments at an early stage. She urged us to make those amendments in respect of the additional month after the end of the period that would be available for someone who was suffering from pregnancy-related sickness.

The CBI and others expressed reservations about those amendments. I have tabled a perfectly reasonable amendment, and the hon. Lady's colleagues have said that no one could disagree with it. However, because it has come from the CBI and is subject to exactly the same process as her amendments, she criticises us for not conducting proper consultation.

We are a listening Government. We listened to the arguments and tabled amendments in the light of discussions at every stage. The amendments will result in substantial extra benefits for women who become pregnant while they are still at work. Opposition Members cannot bring themselves to acknowledge that it is a good measure and fulfils the Government's manifesto commitment.

The hon. Members for Northfield and for Wallasey said that the Government had abstained on the vote on the European directive. We abstained because we thought that it was being issued on an inappropriate treaty base. It is extraordinary that Opposition Members should question our enthusiasm for the directive as adopted because we abstained on the issue of the treaty base. My right hon.

Friend the then Secretary of State for Employment moved heaven and earth in the presidency to conclude the Council's deliberations following the intervention of the European Parliament. That Parliament tried to overturn an agreed position by the Council of Ministers, thus risking the destruction of the directive itself. It was thanks to the Government's efforts in the presidency that the directive was brought into force. Opposition Members suggested that the Labour party in the European Parliament carried the day; in fact, it was the European Parliament, and the conflict that arose between it and the Council of Ministers, that put the directive at risk.

The Minister has just explained why the Government chose to abstain, although they really agreed with all the directive's provisions. Was that a tactical decision?

If the hon. Lady follows such matters closely, she will know that we abstained on the working time directive. As my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State made clear, we did not accept the treaty base, and we shall be challenging the directive in the European Court. When we believe that the treaty base is wrong, we shall abstain. The hon. Lady clearly does not pay careful attention to these matters.

The position on the EC pregnant workers directive was made clear. A common position text was agreed in December last year; it was originally produced by the Dutch presidency, because the Commission's original proposal was unacceptable to the great majority of member states. The treaty base, which we challenged, provided for qualified majority voting, not unanimity, and the United Kingdom was never in a position to threaten a veto—if that is what the hon. Member for Wallasey was implying. Ultimately, the United Kingdom secured agreement through its presidency; that is why the directive applies throughout Europe. The legislation is before the House because we had made a manifesto commitment to present such measures. We have been as good as our manifesto commitment and we were elected to implement it.

Can we be clear about the nature of the disagreements that we are discussing?

Order. Not unless they are related to the amendment.

I am sure that they are, Mr. Deputy Speaker, on the ground that the Minister has been referring to them himself—

I apologise, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I was misled by Opposition Members, who made scurrilous remarks about the Government while you were not in the Chair, and thus unable to remind them of the matter under discussion. I hasten to add that I am making no criticism of Madam Speaker.

Rather than proceeding further with my speech, I invite the House to endorse the amendment. It is perfectly reasonable, as Opposition Members have said. I look forward to seeing the hon. Members for Northfield and for Wallasey in the Aye Lobby.

Question put and agreed to.

Lords amendment: No. 25, in page 42, line 40, at end insert—

("Requirement to inform employer of return during maternity leave period.

.—(1) An employee who intends to return to work earlier than the end of her maternity leave period shall give to her employer not less than seven days notice of the date on which she intends to return.

(2) If an employee returns to work as mentioned in subsection (I) without notifying her employer of her intention to do so or without giving him the notice required by that subsection her employer shall be entitled to postpone her return to a date such as will secure, subject to subsection (3), that he has seven days notice of her return.

(3) An employer is not entitled under subsection (2) to postpone an employee's return to work to a date after the end of her maternity leave period.

(4) If an employee who has been notified under subsection (2) that she is not to return to work before the date specified by her employer does return to work before that date the employer shall be under no contractual obligation to pay her remuneration until the date specified by him as the date on which she may return.")— [Mr. Michael Forsyth.]

Motion made, and Question put, That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said amendment:—

The House divided: Ayes 282, Noes 238.

Division No. 298]

[5.13 pm

AYES

Ainsworth, Peter (East Surrey)Churchill, Mr
Aitken, JonathanClappison, James
Alexander, RichardClark, Dr Michael (Rochford)
Alison, Rt Hon Michael (Selby)Clarke, Rt Hon Kenneth (Ruclif)
Allason, Rupert (Torbay)Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey
Amess, DavidCoe, Sebastian
Arbuthnot, JamesColvin, Michael
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham)Congdon, David
Arnold, Sir Thomas (Hazel Grv)Conway, Derek
Ashby, DavidCoombs, Simon (Swindon)
Atkins, RobertCope, Rt Hon Sir John
Atkinson, Peter (Hexham)Cormack, Patrick
Baker, Nicholas (Dorset North)Couchman, James
Baldry, TonyCran, James
Banks, Matthew (Southport)Currie, Mrs Edwina (S D'by'ire)
Banks, Robert (Harrogate)Curry, David (Skipton & Ripon)
Bates, MichaelDavies, Quentin (Stamford)
Batiste, SpencerDavis, David (Boothferry)
Bellingham, HenryDay, Stephen
Bendall, VivianDeva, Nirj Joseph
Beresford, Sir PaulDevlin, Tim
Biffen, Rt Hon JohnDickens, Geoffrey
Blackburn, Dr John G.Dicks, Terry
Body, Sir RichardDorrell, Stephen
Bonsor, Sir NicholasDouglas-Hamilton, Lord James
Booth, HartleyDover, Den
Boswell, TimDuncan, Alan
Bottomley, Peter (Eltham)Duncan-Smith, Iain
Bottomley, Rt Hon VirginiaDunn, Bob
Bowis, JohnDurant, Sir Anthony
Boyson, Rt Hon Sir RhodesDykes, Hugh
Brandreth, GylesEggar, Tim
Brazier, JulianElletson, Harold
Brown, M. (Brigg & Cl'thorpes)Evans, David (Welwyn Hatfield)
Browning, Mrs. AngelaEvans, Jonathan (Brecon)
Bruce, Ian (S Dorset)Evans, Roger (Monmouth)
Budgen, NicholasEvennett, David
Burns, SimonFaber, David
Burt, AlistairFabricant, Michael
Butler, PeterField, Barry (Isle of Wight)
Butterfill, JohnFishburn, Dudley
Carlisle, John (Luton North)Forman, Nigel
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)Forsyth, Michael (Stirling)
Carrington, MatthewForth, Eric
Carttiss, MichaelFowler, Rt Hon Sir Norman
Cash, WilliamFox, Dr Liam (Woodspring)
Channon, Rt Hon PaulFox, Sir Marcus (Shipley)
Chapman, SydneyFreeman, Rt Hon Roger

French, DouglasMarshall, Sir Michael (Arundel)
Gale, RogerMartin, David (Portsmouth S)
Gallie, PhilMawhinney, Dr Brian
Gardiner, Sir GeorgeMayhew, Rt Hon Sir Patrick
Garel-Jones, Rt Hon TristanMerchant, Piers
Garnier, EdwardMilligan, Stephen
Gillan, CherylMills, Iain
Goodlad, Rt Hon AlastairMitchell, Andrew (Gedling)
Goodson-Wickes, Dr CharlesMoate, Sir Roger
Gorman, Mrs TeresaMontgomery, Sir Fergus
Gorst, JohnMoss, Malcolm
Grant, Sir Anthony (Cambs SW)Needham, Richard
Greenway, Harry (Ealing N)Nelson, Anthony
Greenway, John (Ryedale)Neubert, Sir Michael
Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth, N)Newton, Rt Hon Tony
Grylls, Sir MichaelNicholls, Patrick
Gummer, Rt Hon John SelwynNicholson, David (Taunton)
Hague, WilliamNicholson, Emma (Devon West)
Hamilton, Rt Hon Archie (Epsom)Norris, Steve
Hamilton, Neil (Tatton)Onslow, Rt Hon Sir Cranley
Hampson, Dr KeithOppenheim, Phillip
Hannam, Sir JohnOttaway, Richard
Hargreaves, AndrewPage, Richard
Harris, DavidPaice, James
Haselhurst, AlanPatten, Rt Hon John
Hawkins, NickPattie, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey
Hawksley, WarrenPawsey, James
Hayes, JerryPickles, Eric
Heald, OliverPorter, David (Waveney)
Heathcoat-Amory, DavidPortillo, Rt Hon Michael
Heseltine, Rt Hon MichaelPowell, William (Corby)
Hicks, RobertRedwood, Rt Hon John
Higgins, Rt Hon Sir Terence L.Renton, Rt Hon Tim
Hill, James (Southampton Test)Richards, Rod
Horam, JohnRiddick, Graham
Hordern, Rt Hon Sir PeterRifkind, Rt Hon. Malcolm
Howarth, Alan (Strat'rd-on-A)Robathan, Andrew
Howell, Rt Hon David (G'dford)Roberts, Rt Hon Sir Wyn
Howell, Sir Ralph (N Norfolk)Robertson, Raymond (Ab'd'n S)
Hughes Robert G. (Harrow W)Robinson, Mark (Somerton)
Hunt, Rt Hon David (Wirral W)Roe, Mrs Marion (Broxbourne)
Hunter, AndrewRowe, Andrew (Mid Kent)
Jack, MichaelRumbold, Rt Hon Dame Angela
Jackson, Robert (Wantage)Ryder, Rt Hon Richard
Jenkin, BernardSackville, Tom
Johnson Smith, Sir GeoffreyScott, Rt Hon Nicholas
Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)Shaw, David (Dover)
Jones, Robert B. (W Hertfdshr)Shephard, Rt Hon Gillian
Jopling, Rt Hon MichaelShepherd, Colin (Hereford)
Key, RobertShepherd, Richard (Aldridge)
Kilfedder, Sir JamesShersby, Michael
Kirkhope, TimothySims, Roger
Knapman, RogerSkeet, Sir Trevor
Knight, Mrs Angela (Erewash)Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)
Knight, Greg (Derby N)Soames, Nicholas
Knight, Dame Jill (Bir'm E'st'n)Spencer, Sir Derek
Kynoch, George (Kincardine)Spicer, Sir James (W Dorset)
Lait, Mrs JacquiSpicer, Michael (S Worcs)
Lang, Rt Hon IanSpink, Dr Robert
Lawrence, Sir IvanSpring, Richard
Legg, BarrySproat, Iain
Leigh, EdwardSquire, Robin (Hornchurch)
Lennox-Boyd, MarkStanley, Rt Hon Sir John
Lidington, DavidSteen, Anthony
Lightbown, DavidStephen, Michael
Lilley, Rt Hon PeterStern, Michael
Lloyd, Peter (Fareham)Stewart, Allan
Lord, MichaelStreeter, Gary
Luff, PeterSumberg, David
Lyell, Rt Hon Sir NicholasSweeney, Walter
MacGregor, Rt Hon JohnSykes, John
MacKay, AndrewTapsell, Sir Peter
Maclean, DavidTaylor, Ian (Esher)
McNair-Wilson, Sir PatrickTaylor, John M. (Solihull)
Madel, DavidTaylor, Sir Teddy (Southend, E)
Maitland, Lady OlgaTemple-Morris, Peter
Malone, GeraldThomason, Roy
Mans, KeithThompson, Patrick (Norwich N)
Marlow, TonyThornton, Sir Malcolm
Marshall, John (Hendon S)Thurnham, Peter

Townend, John (Bridlington)Wheeler, Rt Hon Sir John
Townsend, Cyril D. (Bexl'yh'th)Whitney, Ray
Tracey, RichardWhittingdale, John
Trend, MichaelWiddecombe, Ann
Trotter, NevilleWilletts, David
Twinn, Dr IanWilshire, David
Vaughan, Sir GerardWinterton, Mrs Ann (Congleton)
Viggers, PeterWinterton, Nicholas (Macc'f'ld)
Waldegrave, Rt Hon WilliamWolfson, Mark
Walden, GeorgeYeo, Tim
Waller, GaryYoung, Rt Hon Sir George
Wardle, Charles (Bexhill)
Waterson, Nigel

Tellers for the Ayes:

Watts, John

Mr. Irvine Patnick and

Wells, Bowen

Mr. Timothy Wood.

NOES

Abbott, Ms DianeDewar, Donald
Adams, Mrs IreneDixon, Don
Ainger, NickDobson, Frank
Allen, GrahamDonohoe, Brian H.
Alton, DavidDowd, Jim
Anderson, Donald (Swansea E)Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth
Anderson, Ms Janet (Ros'dale)Eagle, Ms Angela
Armstrong, HilaryEastham, Ken
Ashdown, Rt Hon PaddyEnright, Derek
Ashton, JoeEtherington, Bill
Austin-Walker, JohnEvans, John (St Helens N)
Barnes, HarryFatchett, Derek
Barron, KevinFaulds, Andrew
Battle, JohnField, Frank (Birkenhead)
Bayley, HughFisher, Mark
Beckett, Rt Hon MargaretFlynn, Paul
Beggs, RoyForsythe, Clifford (Antrim S)
Bell, StuartFoster, Rt Hon Derek
Bennett, Andrew F.Foster, Don (Bath)
Benton, JoeFoulkes, George
Bermingham, GeraldFyfe, Maria
Berry, Dr. RogerGalbraith, Sam
Blair, TonyGalloway, George
Blunkett, DavidGapes, Mike
Boyce, JimmyGarrett, John
Boyes, RolandGeorge, Bruce
Bradley, KeithGerrard, Neil
Bray, Dr JeremyGodsiff, Roger
Brown, Gordon (Dunfermline E)Golding, Mrs Llin
Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon)Gordon, Mildred
Burden, RichardGould, Bryan
Byers, StephenGraham, Thomas
Caborn, RichardGrant, Bernie (Tottenham)
Callaghan, JimGriffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)
Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge)Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE)Grocott, Bruce
Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V)Gunnell, John
Campbell-Savours, D. N.Hain, Peter
Canavan, DennisHall, Mike
Cann, JamieHanson, David
Carlile, Alexander (Montgomry)Henderson, Doug
Chisholm, MalcolmHeppell, John
Clapham, MichaelHill, Keith (Streatham)
Clark, Dr David (South Shields)Hoey, Kate
Clarke, Eric (Midlothian)Home Robertson, John
Clarke, Tom (Monklands W)Hood, Jimmy
Clelland, DavidHoon, Geoffrey
Clwyd, Mrs AnnHowarth, George (Knowsley N)
Coffey, AnnHowells, Dr. Kim (Pontypridd)
Connarty, MichaelHoyle, Doug
Cook, Frank (Stockton N)Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N)
Cook, Robin (Livingston)Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)
Corbett RobinHughes, Roy (Newport E)
Corbyn, JeremyHughes, Simon (Southwark)
Cousins, JimHutton, John
Cryer, BobIllsley, Eric
Cunningham, Jim (Covy SE)Ingram, Adam
Cunningham, Rt Hon Dr JohnJackson, Glenda (H'stead)
Dafis, CynogJackson, Helen (Shef'ld, H)
Darling, AlistairJamieson, David
Davidson, IanJanner, Greville
Davies, Bryan (Oldham C'tral)Jones, Ieuan Wyn (Ynys Môn)
Denham, JohnJones, Lynne (B'ham S O)

Jones, Nigel (Cheltenham)Primarolo, Dawn
Jowell, TessaPurchase, Ken
Kaufman, Rt Hon GeraldQuin, Ms Joyce
Keen, AlanRadice, Giles
Kennedy, Charles (Ross,C&S)Randall, Stuart
Kennedy, Jane (Lpool Brdgn)Raynsford, Nick
Khabra, Piara S.Reid, Dr John
Kilfoyle, PeterRendel, David
Kinnock, Rt Hon Neil (Islwyn)Robertson, George (Hamilton)
Kirkwood, ArchyRoche, Mrs. Barbara
Leighton, RonRogers, Allan
Litherland, RobertRooker, Jeff
Livingstone, KenRooney, Terry
Lloyd, Tony (Stretford)Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)
Llwyd, ElfynRowlands, Ted
Loyden, EddieRuddock, Joan
Lynne, Ms LizSalrnond, Alex
McAllion, JohnSedgemore, Brian
McAvoy, ThomasSheerman, Barry
McCartney, IanSheldon, Rt Hon Robert
Macdonald, CalumShore, Rt Hon Peter
McKelvey, WilliamShort, Clare
Mackinlay, AndrewSimpson, Alan
McLeish, HenrySkinner, Dennis
Maclennan, RobertSmith, Andrew (Oxford E)
McNamara, KevinSmith, C. (Isl'ton S & F'sbury)
McWilliam, JohnSmith, Rt Hon John (M'kl'ds E)
Madden, MaxSmith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)
Mahon, AliceSmyth, Rev Martin (Belfast S)
Mandelson, PeterSoley, Clive
Marek, Dr JohnSpearing, Nigel
Marshall, David (Shettleston)Spellar, John
Martin, Michael J. (Springburn)Steel, Rt Hon Sir David
Martlew, EricSteinberg, Gerry
Maxton, JohnStevenson, George
Meacher, MichaelStott, Roger
Michie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley)Strang, Dr. Gavin
Michie, Mrs Ray (Argyll Bute)Taylor, Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)
Milburn, AlanTaylor, Matthew (Truro)
Miller, AndrewTipping, Paddy
Mitchell, Austin (Gt Grimsby)Trimble, David
Moonie, Dr LewisTurner, Dennis
Morgan, RhodriTyler, Paul
Morris, Rt Hon A. (Wy'nshawe)Vaz, Keith
Morris, Estelle (B'ham Yardley)Wallace, James
Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon)Walley, Joan
Mowlam, MarjorieWardell, Gareth (Gower)
Mudie, GeorgeWareing, Robert N
Mullin, ChrisWelsh, Andrew
Murphy, PaulWicks, Malcolm
Oakes, Rt Hon GordonWigley, Dafydd
O'Brien, Michael (N W'kshire)Williams, Rt Hon Alan (Sw'n W)
O'Brien, William (Normanton)Williams, Alan W (Carmarthen)
O'Hara, EdwardWinnick, David
Olner, WilliamWise, Audrey
O'Neill, MartinWorthington, Tony
Orme, Rt Hon StanleyWray, Jimmy
Patchett, TerryWright, Dr Tony
Pike, Peter L.Young, David (Bolton SE)
Pope, Greg
Powell, Ray (Ogmore)

Tellers for the Noes:

Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lew'm E)

Mr. Cordon McMaster and

Prentice, Gordon (Pendle)

Mr. Jon Owen Jones.

Prescott, John

Question accordingly agreed to.

Lords amendments Nos. 26 to 28 agreed to.