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Agency Workers

Volume 503: debated on Thursday 14 January 2010

10. What plans he has for legislation on the regulation of agency workers; and if he will make a statement. (310585)

The Government want to get the legislation to implement the agency workers directive on to the statute book by the end of this Parliament. We will shortly table the relevant regulations and publish the Government’s response to the recent consultation.

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend, but it is a pity that this has been left until so late in the day. How confident is he that the matter will be dealt with before Dissolution?

That is the aim. My hon. Friend says that it has been left until late in the day, but if he looks across Europe he will see that we are legislating ahead of many other countries. I do not accept that there has been an unacceptable delay, but it is our aim to get this provision on the statute book by the end of the Parliament. As I have said, we will be publishing the relevant regulations shortly.

In October, the Government announced that this regulation would not come into force until 2011 to avoid harming Britain’s recovery after the recession. Here we are, however, rushing it through Parliament just weeks before a general election. A cynic might wonder whether this is anything to do with the Labour party’s pressing need for election funds from its trade union paymasters, who demanded this measure as part of the infamous Warwick agreement. Will the Minister take this opportunity to reassure those cynics that nothing could be further from the Government’s mind and that they would never put short-term, grubby party political interests ahead of doing the right thing for the country?

Our aim in bringing forward these regulations is to abide by the agreement that we reached in Europe to ensure fairness for agency workers and flexibility for employers. That was the basis of the TUC-CBI agreement, and it stands in stark contrast to the Opposition’s pledge to downgrade the employment rights that have been agreed in Europe. There will be a very clear choice on this matter when it comes to the election.

Does the Minister accept that this change has long been campaigned for? There have been two series of consultation and there is now no impediment to ensuring that agency and temporary workers get the justice for which they have been calling for so many years.

The hon. Gentleman is right to say that this has been under discussion for some time. It took a long time to get agreement in Europe. We were able to reach agreement on the basis of an agreement in the UK between the TUC and the CBI. We then successfully negotiated for that to be reflected in the European directive. That was something we could do only because this country, under this Government, is properly engaged with our European allies. I dread to think how we would negotiate in Europe if the Opposition, who are isolated in Europe, were trying to negotiate with 27 other countries.