Steel: Port Talbot

Lord Woodley Excerpts
Monday 15th April 2024

(1 month, 2 weeks ago)

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Lord Woodley Portrait Lord Woodley (Lab)
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My Lords, my union, Unite, last week voted to strike over Tata’s disastrous plan. The plan is an appalling act of industrial vandalism as far as we are concerned, with the loss of thousands of jobs devastating the local community and the local economy. As the Minister knows, Tata has other options, especially as Unite has secured a commitment from the Labour Party to invest £3 billion—not half a billion pounds—in UK steel. Will the Minister therefore urgently rethink the Government’s strategy and insist that Tata keeps at least one blast furnace going until the end of its life as a condition of investing any public money in this operation?

Lord Johnson of Lainston Portrait Lord Johnson of Lainston (Con)
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I must respectfully disagree. This is a very sound plan to ensure that we have a future of steel-making not just in this country but in Wales. This plan will save 5,000 jobs. It will make the steel industry profitable and result in a crucial circular economy where we take our scrap metal and turn it into real steel rather than importing steel or ore from abroad. The Opposition are keen to copy the Conservative Party in so many of our policies, so I am surprised that in this instance they refuse to do so.

Code of Practice on Dismissal and Re-Engagement

Lord Woodley Excerpts
Monday 25th March 2024

(2 months ago)

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Moved by
Lord Woodley Portrait Lord Woodley
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At end to insert “but this House regrets that the draft Code contains no effective measures to restrain unjustified use of fire and rehire; and fails to include any measures (1) contained in the Employment and Trade Union Rights (Dismissal and Re-engagement) Bill [HL], or (2) recommended by the International Labour Organization Committee on Freedom of Association’s Definitive Report 404 published in October 2023 on the matter of dismissals of 786 staff by P&O Ferries Limited”.

Lord Woodley Portrait Lord Woodley (Lab)
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My Lords, I do not intend to repeat the arguments made earlier this month at the Second Reading of my Private Member’s Bill. However, I must again put on record my sincere belief that, irrespective of the comments the Minister has just made, the Government’s proposed code of practice is utterly toothless. It will do nothing to end the fire and rehire abuses taking place in this country.

Quite simply, I regret that the code does not impose any new legal duties on exploitative employers. I regret that it does not ensure that fire and rehire is used only as a last resort to prevent a business going bust—that is not the case out there in the field. I also regret that it does not make it any easier for workers or their unions to seek justice at an employment tribunal. My Bill would do all this.

The code imposes a paltry 25% uplift in any compensation which abused workers can claim, and that is only if they can win an unfair dismissal claim. That was hard to do at the best of times, even before the increase in fees.

It is clear that this code of practice is a fig leaf to cover the Government’s inaction and lack of any real desire to address the shameful practice of fire and rehire. It simply is not good enough. The working people of our country deserve much better.

I thank the noble Lord, Lord Johnson, for being kind enough to write to me following our Second Reading debate. If I may, I will address some of the points he made in his letter to me.

As the Minister correctly pointed out, my Bill provides that, when an employee has been dismissed because they have refused to agree to a variation in contractual terms, the employer would not be able to rely on some other substantial reason as the reason for dismissal. Some other substantial reason, or SOSR as it is known by employment rights experts, is the gaping loophole I referred to at Second Reading, which allows bad bosses to ride roughshod over workers’ rights. Closing this loophole is a key purpose of my Bill, but I do not agree with the Minister in his logic when he writes:

“Almost all the cases of dismissal and re-engagement rely on this ground”—


that is, SOSR—

“as a potentially fair reason, therefore this would in effect ban the use of dismissal and re-engagement”.

If it is true that almost all fire and rehire cases rely on SOSR to avoid the judgment of unfair dismissal, this is proof that employment rights have been badly abused in the way that I and other noble Lords have long since warned against.

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Lord Offord of Garvel Portrait Lord Offord of Garvel (Con)
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As the noble Lord knows, one can read Hansard as well as one can, but not being in the Chamber to hear his eloquent argument of the case makes me slightly deficient in this response. I am disappointed that my noble friend was unable to write more comprehensively on the matter. Perhaps I can follow up with a second letter in that regard.

Lord Woodley Portrait Lord Woodley (Lab)
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My Lords, this has been a lively, interesting and, indeed, productive debate. I just want to say one thing to the Minister. In a previous life, I was the leader of Britain’s largest trade union, and I spent more time fighting for companies and for company survivals, and indeed to make sure that they had the right investment to protect jobs and increase jobs in our country, than I ever did fighting against them. That is why I take a little offence that the Minister suggested that my amendment indicates that fire and rehire is banned in all cases. That is the worst case of selective deafness that I have heard from two Ministers, to be quite honest. I point out to the Minister that it does not say that. It makes it absolutely clear that if we are in a situation where the very foundation of the company depends on these actions being taken, not only should they be carried out but we would support that.

However, with regard to where we are, I do not see anything reasonable in the code of conduct, as indeed we have all said here. The Minister also mentioned that—ironically—a TUC investigation into these things found that only 3% of employers were using fire and rehire as a tactic. I said this in the previous debate: 3% across all employers in this country means 38,800 employers. This is not chicken feed; it is big business. It is a pandemic that is right across our country and it will only get worse if we do not legislate to stop it. Again, it has been very interesting that, not only during my previous debate but today on this amendment, not a single speaker has spoken in favour of the code of conduct, never mind anything else, and that includes on the Tory side of this House.

I therefore regret that the Minister’s response is not really doing anything to remove those concerns that we have all registered here about this code of practice. It is toothless, and it does not give the protection and decent compensation that workers who are being exploited deserve. However, as I am sure your Lordships now realise, I do not intend to divide the House on this matter, so I beg leave to withdraw.

Amendment to the Motion withdrawn.

Employment and Trade Union Rights (Dismissal and Re-engagement) Bill [HL]

Lord Woodley Excerpts
Moved by
Lord Woodley Portrait Lord Woodley
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That the Bill be now read a second time.

Lord Woodley Portrait Lord Woodley (Lab)
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My Lords, I am grateful for the opportunity to propose for your Lordships’ consideration what I believe are urgently needed changes in the law to protect UK workers from gross exploitation. I am referring to the shameful practice of dismissal and re-engagement, otherwise known as fire and rehire, where workers are threatened with the sack unless they agree to cuts to their pay, terms and conditions.

Exploitative employers have abused a legal loophole for many years by threatening to sack staff while protecting themselves against unfair dismissal claims, with so-called substantial reasons for the firing. This immoral practice took off in the pandemic, when major firms, such as British Airways, British Gas and many more took advantage of the crisis to boost profits off the backs of their own workers.

Fire and rehire continues post pandemic. At PHINIA in Gillingham, workers began industrial action in January over plans to remove paid lunch breaks, and the firm has now threatened to fire and rehire everyone to force through this pay cut. This does not affect just the private sector; Wiltshire Council is trying to fire and rehire care staff, social workers, traffic wardens and others to remove unsocial-hours payments. Border Force staff at Heathrow Airport are fighting against proposed pay cuts of up to 20% due to changing their shift patterns and allowances.

We ask ourselves how on earth this can be allowed to happen. Firms currently have free rein to cut workers’ pay, terms and conditions, as long as they tick a few boxes, such as claiming financial difficulties and holding a superficial consultation. There is no need to prove that the proposed cuts are necessary to save the business from collapse or for redundancy payments if staff do not agree to new contracts. They just lose their jobs. It is scandalous. There is also no need for company directors and executives to cut their pay and pension pots; that is just for the little people.

The Government accept that fire and rehire is a problem, but say that legislation is not needed because they have a new code of practice. While I welcome the Government’s efforts, the code as written is completely toothless. There is no requirement for employers to open the books to prove that the pay cuts or other changes are absolutely necessary to stop a firm going bust.

The code creates no new legal obligations on employers at all. In fact, paragraph 12 is clear that breaching it does not make a company liable to any proceedings. The worst that can happen is that they might—I emphasise “might”—have to pay an extra 25% on any compensation awarded by an employment tribunal, no matter how small. With respect, this is woefully inadequate punishment for such abusive behaviour.

Of course, we all know that employment tribunals are notoriously hard for workers to win. As I have said many times, what is needed to end these fire and rehire abuses is legislation. I offer my Employment and Trade Union Rights (Dismissal and Re-engagement) Bill to your Lordships for consideration.

I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Hendy for drafting the Bill alongside Professor Keith Ewing. I am grateful to Barry Gardiner for bringing the Bill to the other place and raising public awareness. I am very grateful to the TUC and its numerous member unions who support the Bill, and particularly to my union, Unite. I am very grateful to my party, the Labour Party, for backing the Bill enthusiastically, and for committing to end fire and rehire abuses within the first 100 days of government.

Before I explain what the Bill does, let me explain and make clear what it does not do. It does not ban fire and rehire completely and utterly in all circumstances. That is an important point, which I ask the Minister to take note of. I accept that, when a company is in financial crisis, this might sometimes be necessary, as a last resort, when the alternatives really are seeing the business going down. I think we can all agree that this would be a regrettable but acceptable use of fire and rehire. I am sure the Minister agrees, because this is exactly the scenario the Government always use when they say we must not ban fire and rehire—extreme circumstances, where the alternative is bankruptcy. Likewise, I am sure the Minister will also agree that fire and rehire should never be used simply as a tactic—a “bully-boy tactic”, in the words of a Minister in the other place.

That is exactly what my Bill seeks to address. Quite simply, it puts on a statutory footing the procedure that decent employers—and there are many of them—already follow. Central to this is the requirement for employers to show workers and the trade unions that such an extreme step really is a last resort; to show that, without this drastic action, everyone would lose their jobs because the business would go under. As my Bill puts it, they must show that

“there is a real threat to continued employment”

because of

“the economic situation affecting the employer”.

This is exactly what the new code of practice does not do—not at all. Respondents to last year’s consultation suggested that

“the Code should use a tighter definition of when dismissal could be used, for example when the employer has shown that it is required to ensure the survival of its business”.

Disappointingly, the Government do not agree with this tighter definition, so it is not part of the code.

My Bill would compel bosses to hand over any information

“without which the appropriate representatives would be … impeded in carrying on consultation with the employer”.

Unions could also involve the Central Arbitration Committee if bosses drag their feet or refuse to engage in meaningful consultation. This would be far more effective than the Government’s meek suggestion to employers, at paragraph 26 of the code, that they,

“should share as much information … as is reasonably possible”.

Remarkably, the code then suggests that bosses can avoid sharing even the basics by claiming imminent bankruptcy—how convenient. Paragraph 32 says that,

“if a business is suffering a financial crisis … the employer may not be able to provide as much information as a business in more settled times”.

Then, in paragraph 35, the code gives a get-out clause for any information that bosses believe to be “commercially sensitive or confidential”. How convenient, yet again. My Bill would allow information to be withheld only if sharing it would

“seriously harm the functioning of, or … be prejudicial to”

the operation of the business. I suggest that this is a fairer way of operating.

My Bill would also provide enhanced protection to any workers who refuse changes and find themselves fired as a result. Above all, it would help level, at least to some degree, the unequal playing field between bosses and workers. Right now, bad bosses are using fire and rehire as a tactic to boost their profits at the expense of workers. For these bosses, it is not about saving their business from bankruptcy; it is about using the current cost of living catastrophe as cover, basically to blackmail workers into worsening wages. It is simply not right to treat a loyal workforce—many with long service—in this way. That is why I am asking for support to take the Bill into Committee, where it can rightfully be fully scrutinised and, I am sure, vastly improved by the many fine minds we are fortunate enough to have in this place.

In finishing, I ask the Minister the following questions. Does he accept that my Bill does not ban fire and rehire in all circumstances but simply stops it being used as an abusive tactic by bad bosses to boost profits? Does he appreciate that fire and rehire could still be used as a last resort when a company is genuinely facing financial ruin, and that this line of argument should not be used as a reason to oppose my Bill? Does he believe that the code would have stopped British Airways, British Gas or, to take a live dispute, the Border Force at Heathrow Airport, where the Home Office is firing and rehiring loyal staff over rosters and allowances? Does he appreciate that the 25% uplift—the one and only sanction contained in the code—applies only if a worker wins at an industrial tribunal, which is difficult at the best of times? Does he understand that this lack of any serious consequences is why the code is widely seen as toothless? Will he explain why the Government did not agree with the consultation respondents who said that dismissal should be used only when needed to ensure the survival of a business? Does he agree with respondents who warned that the code was “too weak” and would actually “legitimise” fire and rehire? I thank noble Lords for their patience and consideration. I beg to move.

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Lord Woodley Portrait Lord Woodley (Lab)
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I thank the Minister and your Lordships. I think we can all agree that this has been a stimulating and valuable debate. I do not know about anyone else, but I have certainly learned some lessons from today’s speakers and I thank them for their excellent contributions.

I thank my noble friend Lord Balfe; it was nice to have cross-party support, especially as nobody here has spoken against my Bill. Also, on this important issue, it is nice to listen to your own trade union roots. One interesting comment—which I thought about mentioning but did not—is that, in a recent analysis, in which around 1,800 participants were surveyed, 3% indicated that they had used fire and rehire. Across the business population of Britain, as was said that this could equate to 40,000 employers; it is actually 48,500 employers. So this is not a small issue. If you look at the scope and size of the problem surrounding us at the moment, you see that it is almost a pandemic.

As always, I found my noble friend Lady O’Grady’s contribution stimulating. She is correct to suggest, again, that the Government did not give very strong commitments to stop these abuses happening in the past and, to make sure they do, they need to put legislation in place to stop the casualisation of our industry, which blights working people. There is no doubt in my mind that assuring the importance of workers’ rights from day one would go some way to helping prevent the abuse that is out there.

I thank my noble friend Lord Hendy for his forensic analysis of the Bill and for explaining the legal logic behind it. It is always interesting to listen to an expert and it is good to know that people know what they are talking about. We all owe him a great debt of gratitude for drafting this elegant and powerful piece of legislation. He points out that the millions of predominantly low-paid, black and ethnic minority workers who will be, and are indeed being, attacked by fire and rehire are not protected at all under the current proposals, which is why we need legislation. I thank him for those comments.

I thank my noble friend Lord Prentis for confirming what I have said: this is not just about the private sector but is endemic right across the public sector. The examples that he gave were clear for everybody to see.

I thank my noble friend Professor Lord Sikka for highlighting the important economic advantages to the Bill that are so desperately needed to rebuild our broken economy and to give people security in their jobs and as workers. All that is really important and is contained within the Bill. If anyone disagrees with me that at the moment our country certainly needs that security—there is no doubt at all about that.

On my noble friend Lord Browne’s comments, I did not appreciate until he mentioned this earlier today that the Government were indeed thinking of bringing back employment tribunal fees. When you realise what that could mean in relation to the proposals that the Government have down there, never mind the outrageous time it takes to even get an industrial tribunal heard, that is detrimental to the well-being of workers right across our country.

To my noble friend Lord Davies, I say that there is no doubt that a new deal would be incredibly important for us. He mentioned that the limitations within the code of conduct are clearly there for everybody to see, and he highlighted, as indeed did numerous speakers today, the limitations of what is presently on the table. That is why it needs changing.

I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Leong and, as I said in my speech, I am grateful for the support that my own party has shown for the need for change and for the Bill. It is really important that we bring in the legislation that is needed, and I sincerely hope that if we cannot get this Government to move at the moment, my own party in power will indeed honour its commitments.

The Minister mentioned P&O and said that, to some extent, it was not a case of fire and rehire. I accept those comments, but at the same time, with respect, it got away with it, and did so when the Government promised that it would not. It is as simple as that. The Minister said that what is actually happening out there may not be as significant as speakers point out. I say to the Minister that, with respect, he is absolutely wrong on that—hence the comments that the noble Lord, Lord Balfe, made in his contribution.

I thank the Minister for his response, but I am bitterly disappointed that, although the Government accept that there is a problem with fire and rehire, they are not prepared to give real support to struggling workers who are facing the prospect of being forced out of their jobs and seeing their wages and conditions slashed. It is simply unacceptable that workers can be fired and rehired without proper consultation and fair compensation, and, despite the Minister’s assurances, the code of practice is simply no substitute for legislation, as all speakers today have expressed to him very clearly. As I said, nobody here today has opposed the Bill.

I am also disappointed that the Minister has not answered satisfactorily the straightforward questions that I posed to him, and I respectfully request that he write to me on those particular issues.

I will just say this to the Minister. We have nothing to fear from the Bill and, if I am honest, I have yet to hear any coherent argument against it. If the Government have serious objections, I urge them and the Minister to engage with the Bill in Committee. I thank all noble Lords again for their contributions and for being part of this debate today and I beg to move.

Bill read a second time and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.

National Minimum Wage

Lord Woodley Excerpts
Wednesday 21st February 2024

(3 months, 1 week ago)

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Lord Woodley Portrait Lord Woodley (Lab)
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My Lords, there is no justification for discriminating against young people under any circumstances. People can join the Army at 16, they can be on the front line at 18 putting their lives at risk for King and country, but they cannot receive the full national minimum wage until they are 21. This cannot possibly be right. Does the Minister agree?

Lord Offord of Garvel Portrait Lord Offord of Garvel (Con)
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I thank the noble Lord for that. There is a wage scale, as he will well know. For those aged 18-20, it is £8.60 an hour and for those under 18 it is £6.40 an hour, an apprentice rate. The point of this is a scale. We all start work on lower wages and increase our wages as our skill levels increase. We must not be in a situation where we, in effect, lock young people out of the market. We must ensure that young people get into the market earning wages and then increase their skills and their wages. The noble Lord will know well that many studies have been done on the wage scar, which blights young people if they do not get into a job early and get training. We want young people in a job early, trained up, so they can increase their wages.

Conduct of Employment Agencies and Employment Businesses (Amendment) Regulations 2022

Lord Woodley Excerpts
Tuesday 19th December 2023

(5 months, 1 week ago)

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Lord Offord of Garvel Portrait Lord Offord of Garvel (Con)
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I thank the noble Lord for his supplementary question. The right to strike is enshrined in UK law. There is no ambition on the part of the Government to undermine that fundamental right. But there is a balance to be struck between the rights of employers and agency workers being able to find work if there is work available. Therefore, this consultation will focus entirely on whether there is a need for private companies to be able to provide agency staff where they have a need for employment.

Lord Woodley Portrait Lord Woodley (Lab)
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My Lords, the REC, which supplies agency staff, warns that allowing bosses to bus in strike-breakers risks extending disputes by inflaming tensions between trade unions and employers. Unions and even the Government’s own impact assessment agree it will undoubtably worsen industrial relations and lead to prolonged strike action. How can the Minister possibly justify pushing ahead with these damaging and counterproductive measures when employers, unions and even the Government—that is a first—all agree it will poison industrial relations and make it much more difficult to resolve disputes?

Lord Offord of Garvel Portrait Lord Offord of Garvel (Con)
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Well-run companies can operate only with the consent of their workforce. Well-run bosses run companies well with the consent of their workforce. Therefore, no well-run company wants to be a position where there are disputes with its workforce except in extremist situations. Bringing in agency workers is never a panacea, and is quite often more expensive. Well-run companies would not want to do that. It would be only in extreme situations where I could ever envisage this happening.

Workers’ Rights

Lord Woodley Excerpts
Thursday 23rd November 2023

(6 months, 1 week ago)

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Asked by
Lord Woodley Portrait Lord Woodley
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To ask His Majesty’s Government what steps they are taking to legislate to ensure high standards of workers’ rights.

Lord Johnson of Lainston Portrait The Minister of State, Department for Business and Trade (Lord Johnson of Lainston) (Con)
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Protecting and enhancing workers’ rights while supporting businesses to grow remains a priority for this Government. The Government have supported a package of six Private Members’ Bills, which enhance workers’ rights, to achieve Royal Assent, and will lay down secondary legislation in due course to implement these Acts. This package of legislation will increase workforce participation, protect vulnerable workers and level the playing field, ensuring that unscrupulous businesses do not have a competitive edge.

Lord Woodley Portrait Lord Woodley (Lab)
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My Lords, I will shock the Minister by thanking him for his support for investment in Vauxhall Ellesmere Port for a new car; it is appreciated. After a challenge by my union, Unite, and others, the High Court ruled in July that the Government had acted unlawfully by allowing bad bosses to use agency workers to break strikes. But now the Government are trying again, launching a consultation in an attempt to get around the court’s judgment, which ruled that their proposals were unfair, unlawful and irrational. Can the Minister explain why the Government seem so determined to crush workers’ rights, despite being elected on a promise very much to improve them?

Lord Johnson of Lainston Portrait Lord Johnson of Lainston (Con)
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I thank the noble Lord for his question. I believe that, over the last 13 years, we have made significant and wholehearted reforms to workers’ rights legislation to ensure that they are properly protected. On the matter that he specifically referred to, we launched a consultation on repealing Regulation 7 on 16 November. It will remain open for eight weeks, and I very much invite his participation in the process, which will finish on 16 January next year.

Employers: Fire and Rehire Tactics

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Thursday 14th September 2023

(8 months, 2 weeks ago)

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Asked by
Lord Woodley Portrait Lord Woodley
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To ask His Majesty’s Government what steps they are taking to prevent employers from using fire and rehire tactics.

Lord Offord of Garvel Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Business and Trade and Scotland Office (Lord Offord of Garvel) (Con)
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My Lords, earlier this year the Government consulted on a new statutory code of practice on fire and rehire. We are currently analysing responses to that consultation. A government response and the final version of the code will be published in spring next year. The code sets out employers’ responsibilities when seeking to change contractual terms and conditions of employment and seeks to ensure that dismissal and re-engagement is used only as a last resort.

Lord Woodley Portrait Lord Woodley (Lab)
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The code of practice as published is toothless, unfortunately. It contains no legal obligations on employers and adds only 25% to any compensation, no matter how small it may be—that is no solution. As we all know, what is needed is legislation—as there was in Australia this week—to end the scandal of fire and rehire; most decent people in this place and across the country support that view. When the Bill was proposed in the other place, the Government disappointingly ordered an unprecedented Friday three-line Whip and gerrymandered to filibuster and therefore embarrass a proper vote. I have been informed—

None Portrait Noble Lords
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Question!

Lord Woodley Portrait Lord Woodley (Lab)
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With respect, I will continue. I have been informed that my Bill will not get a Second Reading. Can the Minister explain why the Government seem to be using every trick in the parliamentary playbook to prevent us even debating this much-needed change in the law?

Lord Offord of Garvel Portrait Lord Offord of Garvel (Con)
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I thank the noble Lord for his follow-up question. The UK labour market is strong by historical and international standards. In fact, in all employment law we are trying to get the balance right between workers’ protection and employers’ flexibility. The employment rate is at 75% right now, and wages have gone up by just short of 8% in the last year, so we think we have the balance right. The Government are taking action to ensure that this practice is a last resort. We are not banning it outright. In the code, we have measures whereby employees’ compensation in certain circumstances, as the noble Lord alluded to, can be increased by 25% if the employer has unreasonably failed to comply with the code, which is quite a big disincentive for the employer. But we believe that there are certain circumstances in which flexibility is required, so we are seeking to get the balance right.

Small and Medium-sized Enterprises: Interest Rates

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Wednesday 13th September 2023

(8 months, 2 weeks ago)

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Earl of Minto Portrait The Earl of Minto (Con)
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I was not aware that there was this trouble in the hovercraft industry. My guess is that it is something to do with the balance sheet, but I will certainly write to him and we will follow that one up.

Lord Woodley Portrait Lord Woodley (Lab)
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My Lords, the Government hold approximately 39% of share capital in NatWest and therefore are in a very powerful position to influence the bank’s policy and to provide small and medium companies with low-interest financial support. They could even turn NatWest into a specialist support hub. Have the Government presented any specific proposals to NatWest in this regard?

Industrial Strategy

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Tuesday 20th June 2023

(11 months, 2 weeks ago)

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Earl of Minto Portrait The Earl of Minto (Con)
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My Lords, I think the whole House agrees with that point, and I can assure the House that the whole question of the apprenticeship levy and the flexibility thereof is being looked at closely right now.

Lord Woodley Portrait Lord Woodley (Lab)
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My Lords, I have raised my serious concerns about the lack of industrial strategy for the automotive sectors, important as they are for our country. But I also pay tribute to the Government for supporting the Jaguar Land Rover battery plant that could easily have gone to Spain—well done. But does the Minister agree that this is small compared with the billions and trillions being set aside by the EU and the USA to encourage investment, particularly in battery gigaplants? What is our industrial strategy for this important sector, which, clearly, as I said last time, is genuinely at a tipping point?

Earl of Minto Portrait The Earl of Minto (Con)
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My Lords, I quite agree with the noble Lord about the success of the announcement from JLR. It is extremely important that we continue to invest in all sorts of technologies and advances. We are continuing to see investment into that sector. As for where the tipping point comes, I am not quite clear. But I will go back and write to the noble Lord with specifics.

Automotive Manufacturing Sector: Support

Lord Woodley Excerpts
Monday 15th May 2023

(1 year ago)

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Asked by
Lord Woodley Portrait Lord Woodley
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To ask His Majesty’s Government what is their investment strategy to support the automotive manufacturing sector in the United Kingdom.

Lord Johnson of Lainston Portrait The Minister of State, Department for Business and Trade (Lord Johnson of Lainston) (Con)
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Our automotive industry has a long and proud history. We are determined to build on our heritage, and to secure international investment in the technologies of the future to position the UK as one of the best locations in the world to manufacture electric vehicles. That will include aspects such as the automotive transformation fund, our Advanced Propulsion Centre, UKRI, our critical minerals strategy, our overall global trade strategy, UKEF and, on top of that, the specific investment opportunities that I, my team and colleagues from the Department for Business and Trade are working on assiduously.

Lord Woodley Portrait Lord Woodley (Lab)
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My Lords, in my opinion, what appears to be missing here is a proper government strategy for the automotive sector as part of a much wider industrial strategy. The House will be well aware that the EU’s Green Deal industrial plan is in place, with tens of billions of euros in manufacturing grants topped up by literally hundreds of billions in loans to companies, while the US is investing over $2 trillion in its advanced manufacturing, energy and clean technology efforts. We have already fallen behind our competitors, according to my contacts at the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, who tell me that we are at a tipping point. Does the Minister therefore agree that what we need now is a truly tripartite industrial strategy council, with the Government, companies and trade unions working together, and that it should be placed on a statutory footing—as called for only this weekend, ironically, by Labour?

Lord Johnson of Lainston Portrait Lord Johnson of Lainston (Con)
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I am grateful to the noble Lord for his continued engagement on this important matter, which I know he holds dear to his heart, as do I. My department will work continually with all parties to ensure that we have the right amount of investment in our future industries. Please make no mistake about it: the creation of an EV industry in this country and the importance of the automotive sector is paramount to our long-term strategy, and to the success and prosperity of this great nation.