Leaving the EU: Workers’ Rights

John Bercow Excerpts
Tuesday 29th October 2019

(11 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy
Andrea Leadsom Portrait Andrea Leadsom - Hansard
29 Oct 2019, 12:56 p.m.

Well, Mr Speaker, that was incredibly disappointing. The hon. Lady obviously was not listening to a thing I said. If she will allow me, I will just repeat what I actually said, rather than what she asserts I said. It is this Government’s ambition to make the United Kingdom the best place in the world to work.

I find it extraordinary that the hon. Lady thinks that the only valid protector of UK workers’ rights can be the European Union. Why on earth does she think that her party, my party, the other Opposition parties and our strong trade union tradition in the UK are utterly incapable of building on the superb tradition we already have in the UK of exceeding workers’ rights in the EU in so many areas? Once we have left the European Union, the United Kingdom will not be represented in EU institutions and nor will we have any direct influence on future EU legislation on workers’ rights. Why then should the Government and this Parliament seek to engineer circumstances where we are required to implement legislation over which we have had no say?

As we leave the European Union, we have a unique opportunity to enhance protections for the workforce and tailor them to best support UK workers. It will be for the United Kingdom to create and enhance UK employment rights and to take advantage of the superb opportunities for new UK-wide skills, jobs and prosperity that await us after we have left the European Union.

Mr Speaker Hansard
29 Oct 2019, 12:57 p.m.

Most eccentric behaviour by the hon. Member for Hitchin and Harpenden (Bim Afolami). It is not necessary to raise one’s hand, as though in a classroom. It is quite sufficient for the hon. Gentleman simply to stand. I do not know what he did when he was at Eton, but he does not have to worry about that now. I am glad there is a beatific smile on the face of the hon. Gentleman. That itself is a source of some solace.

Sir Iain Duncan Smith Portrait Mr Iain Duncan Smith (Chingford and Woodford Green) (Con) - Hansard
29 Oct 2019, 12:58 p.m.

May I say to my right hon. Friend that the question from the hon. Member for North West Durham (Laura Pidcock) is completely at odds with reality? If Labour Members look very carefully at wanting to remain in the EU, it is the judgments of the European Court of Justice that Professor Mary Davis of Royal Holloway, University of London—a Labour historian—has said will be a thunderclap to the left, because, with imported workers, they put business rights over workers’ rights. So, if this case is exactly what they say it is, they should be wanting to accelerate our departure from the EU to get back full control of workers’ rights to the UK.

Break in Debate

Andrea Leadsom Portrait Andrea Leadsom - Hansard
29 Oct 2019, 1:05 p.m.

Yes. My hon. Friend is absolutely right. We have consulted on proposals for a single enforcement body for employment rights. That consultation closed on 6 October and the Government will respond to it. She will know very well that this Government are committed to extending, improving and enforcing some of the best workers’ rights in the world.

Mr Speaker Hansard

I am going to call a Member who cannot be improved in any way: Alison McGovern.

Alison McGovern Portrait Alison McGovern (Wirral South) (Lab) - Hansard
29 Oct 2019, 1:06 p.m.

I am not sure how much of a favour you have done me there, Mr Speaker. The truth is that the reality of our labour market is that lived by my constituents, not the picture being painted from the Dispatch Box. But never mind that: this is about Brexit and what it could do to our economy. The Secretary of State claims the mantle of the person who will defend family rights at work and people’s ability to defend themselves against poor bosses. Will she therefore clarify whether the TUC has recommended that we accept the Government’s deal—yes or no?

Break in Debate

Andrea Leadsom Portrait Andrea Leadsom - Hansard
29 Oct 2019, 1:29 p.m.

Again, I pay tribute to the hon. Lady for her efforts to get the withdrawal agreement Bill through the House. However, I must disagree with her. It is this Government who are committing to raising the national minimum wage to £10.50. We introduced the national living wage, our changes in the tax free allowance have taken millions of people out of tax altogether, and real wages are rising at their fastest level since 2015. There have been real increases in take-home pay for millions of workers, which is absolutely vital. This Government will always do everything we can to retain and enhance the rights of workers.

Mr Speaker Hansard
29 Oct 2019, 1:30 p.m.

Jim Shannon.

Jim Shannon Portrait Jim Shannon (Strangford) (DUP) - Hansard

rose—

Mr Speaker Hansard
29 Oct 2019, 1:30 p.m.

Order. I called the wrong Jim. No disrespect to the hon. Member for Strangford, but I should have called Jim Cunningham. [Laughter.] I say to the hon. Member for Strangford, you are a very great man, sir, but I was originally going to call Mr Cunningham. We will come to you; don’t worry. I am saving you up.

Mr Jim Cunningham (Coventry South) (Lab) Hansard
29 Oct 2019, 1:31 p.m.

Thank you, Mr Speaker. We now have a situation, under this Government, where we actually have the working poor. We all want to know what the Government’s intentions are regarding workers’ rights. All we have to look at is the Trade Union Bill that one of the Leader of the House’s colleagues tried to take through the House last year. What value or credibility can we give to any of the Government’s commitments on workers’ rights?