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Employment Law

Volume 529: debated on Thursday 9 June 2011

4. What steps he is taking to ensure that employment law supports business competitiveness, job creation and sustainable economic growth. (57779)

11. What steps he is taking to ensure that employment law supports business competitiveness, job creation and sustainable economic growth. (57787)

My Department is leading a comprehensive review of employment-related laws across Government to remove burdens from employers and ensure that our labour market operates effectively. Our consultation on resolving workplace disputes, for example, closed on 20 April, and we will be coming forward with our proposals in the autumn.

Does the Minister agree that there is a need to reduce employment regulation following Lord Young’s excellent report which talked about businesses operating within a climate of fear; and what progress is he making in reducing red tape in general?

I am grateful for my hon. Friend’s question. I met Lord Young to discuss his views, and he explained that in his meetings with business people they talked about the reality and the perception of red tape, particularly in relation to employment law. We are therefore tackling both aspects with our proposals to reform employment tribunals, our moratorium for micros, and the review of sickness absence and compliance and enforcement regimes. We also published the employers charter to show that the legal position is not as frightening as some employment lawyers would have firms believe.

Are other Departments fully engaged with the employment law review? Which Minister is leading this across Departments? Does the Minister agree that in order to address this issue fully we need all Departments, not just BIS, to be engaged with it?

I agree with my hon. Friend. We have written to other Departments that are going to work with us on this. It is very important that it is a cross-Whitehall review, and it will last the whole Parliament long because we are determined to make a real difference.

On a day when BMW announces £500 million of investment in Britain, safeguarding 6,000 jobs—the result of co-operation between the union Unite and a world-class company—is it not time for the Secretary of State to stand up to his backwoodsman Back Benchers, who would seek to demonise workers, and instead to celebrate modern trade unionism as a force for good?

I think the hon. Gentleman is referring to press reports of the speech by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State to the GMB. I am afraid that if he reads that speech he will see that my right hon. Friend repeated the Government’s line, which has been the case since we were elected, that we wish to engage positively with trade unions. That engagement is paying dividends.

Does the Minister accept that it is counter-productive to create the impression that things such as maternity rights, employment protection, the minimum wage and health and safety laws are burdens on business and not essential to ensuring that companies operate in the best interests not just of their balance sheet but of their workers?

I refer the hon. Lady to the consultation that we published just last month on modern workplaces. We wish to reform maternity and paternity law, which we believe will be a win-win for employees and employers. It will produce better rights for families than the previous Government provided, and provide more flexibility for employees and employers so that they can have adult conversations about how such leave should be taken.