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Marked MS5: Employment Tribunal Fees
#1
Mr. Speaker,

It is with honour and pleasure that I present, on behalf of the Government, the following Statutory Instrument to eliminate employment tribunal fees. 

Mr. Speaker, as this Government's agenda has shown over the last few days, the Government believes in fairness and access to opportunities. We have presented legislation that would end tenants being forced to pay letting fees on top of deposits just to have access to housing. We have presented legislation to step up our fight against the gender pay gap with an aim to end discrimination. We have presented a budget that asks for the very successful to contribute more though inheritance rates while providing breathing room and support to those in need. We are expanding programs to provide support to job seekers in order to help them find the employment they seek. We are stepping up enforcement both of tax and revenue legislation to crack down on evasion and of wage law to ensure that workers get the fair pay they have earned. 

And so in the spirit of advancing fairness and access to opportunities- a core tenet of Conservative politics and belief- the Government is enacting a Statutory Instrument to eliminate fees that are charged workers in order to access the services of employment tribunals. Since the establishment of the fees in July 2013, employees taking their case to tribunal have faced fees ranging from £390 for claims such as breach of contract to £1,200 for claims such as unfair dismissal or sex discrimination. Appeals cost up to a further £1,600.

The rationale for this policy was sound. First, the Government sought to transfer some of the cost of the tribunals to the employees seeking redress- in part due to the changes that had to be made to the UK's fiscal position. Changes had to be made in order to eliminate a massive budget deficit that was inherited in 2010, and the imposition of employment tribunal fees helped to support the finances of the Ministry of Justice. Second, the Government sought to make sure that complaints that were brought to tribunals had merit and that the process was not used to bypass mediation or to fill our nation's employment tribunals with frivolity. 

Thanks in part to the work of my office but largely thanks to the work of the people of the UK, the first reason is less important today than it was in 2013. As our economy grows we do not see the need to make as many cuts, and while the £8 million that the fees brought in were necessary some years ago they are less needed now. 

The second reason is still very much important, and the Government will examine ways to address very serious and very real concerns of trying to skip mediation and arbitration in dealing with employment matters or in jamming our tribunals with frivolous or vexatious claims. But after review of the situation, these fees may also have cut legitimate and meritorious access to tribunals- particularly in important areas such as sex discrimination which this Government is committed to ending to the best of our abilities- and so the Government feels they should be eliminated. 

It is my hope, Mr. Speaker, that we can come back before this august body soon with a proven way to handle employment-related disputes, because that is still an important issue for this country's workers AND for its employers- a fair deal. For now, the Government sees this as an improvement, and we are pleased to present this Statutory Instrument to this House. 

[Image: 7465c7de42b1756edf0e1d635869edff--britis...vasion.jpg]

Employment Tribunal Fees (Elimination) Order 2016 (SI 2016/1)
A Statutory Instrument to abolish employment tribunal fees.

Purpose of Bill
1. To abolish employment tribunal fees as allowed under Section 42 of the Tribunals, Courts and Enforcement Act 2007.

Legal changes
1. Employment Appeal Tribunal Fees Order 2013 (SI 2013/1893) is repealed with immediate effect.
2. There shall be no fees levied for bringing cases to or otherwise using the serves of employment tribunals. 

Territorial extent
England and Wales


((OOC: Thanks to Conrad for helping with formatting and original wording.))
Lincoln "Link" Pritchett MP
Chancellor of the Exchequer
Beckenham | Conservative Party
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#2
Two words, Mr. Speaker, well done!
Rt Hon Dr Daniel George Alexander MP | Conservative and Unionist Party, Tory Reform Group

Leader of the House of Commons (2016 - Incumbent)
Member of Parliament for Canterbury (2005 - Incumbent)


Previously: "A nobody backbencher"


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#3
Mr Speaker,

Let me start by thanking the Chancellor of the Exchequer for executing this u-turn. Tribunal fees are something that I have passionately campaigned against since they were introduced, and their scrapping was something I called for in my leadership campaign. I am glad that the campaign waged by organisations across this country, has convinced this Government to reverse their previous desire to make justice open only to those who can afford it.

But the statement from the Chancellor is not enough, especially when it is accompanied by pats on the back from backbenchers congratulating the Government for reversing a policy that it introduced. You wouldn’t congratulate a toddler for cleaning up the mess it made, so we should not be in the business of congratulating this Government for reversing their policy decision after years of hurt.

The Government has to explain why they thought the policy was worth “compromising access to justice in breach of people’s human rights’, according to the Equalities and Human Rights Commission?

The Government has to explain why they thought the policy was worth deterring women with well-founded, pregnancy-related claims from taking action’ by proving a ‘charter for rogue employers’, according to Maternity Alliance.

The Government has to explain why they thought the policy was worth allowing ‘employers [to get] away with unlawful sackings and withholding wages’, according to the CEO of Citizens Advice Bureau.

But most importantly, the Government has to explain why preventing employers from driving down working standards came second to reducing the deficit, especially when they spent the Coalition years cutting taxes for the richest.

Because, Mr Speaker, the rationale for this policy was not sound, as the Chancellor claims. The deficit was not an excuse, and never should have been an excuse, to deprive thousands of employees the right to redress for exploitation, unfair pay, or sexual harassment because they could not afford the exorbitant fees.

Repeated tax cuts for the richest 1% and the largest corporations in the country cost billions of pounds, and the deficit was never a problem. But if the poorest in society wanted justice, the deficit was the reason why they had to pay for it. If, Mr Speaker, we could afford tax cuts for the richest few, we can afford justice for the poorest and exploited in society.

And as the Chancellor himself admitted, fees only raised around £8 million a year but struck an outsized body blow against the working rights of individuals in this country. It was a move that strengthened the position of employers above employees, and will have a legacy that outlives the policy. Everyone in this House should ask what will the long term consequence of the years where justice for employment matters for women, low paid, and ethnic minorities be?

The Chancellor cannot even admit to himself what the consequences of the policy he supported until very recently were. These fees ‘may’ have ‘cut legitimate and meritorious access to tribunals’. Let me remind the Chancellor of the facts: there was an 80% drop in sex discrimination claims, a 26% drop in pregnancy related discrimination claims, a 60% drop in race discrimination claims, disability discrimination claims are down by 46%, a 70% drop in workers pursuing claims for non-payment of the national minimum wage, and an 85% drop in claims for unpaid wages and holiday pay. There is no evidence that these fees cut the number of frivolous cases because the success rate of the claims taken forward under this new system did not change. We have had an historic denial of justice for thousands for no justifiable reason whatsoever.

Mr Speaker,

This u-turn is, of course, welcomed. The end of the Conservative ‘charter for rogue employers’ will bring justice and relief to thousands of individuals who want to stand up for their rights and end exploitation in the workplace. But we should never have been here in the first place; this policy should never have been introduced.
Amelia Lockhart
MP for Hull East (2010 - )

Leader of the Labour Party (2016 - )
Shadow Secretary of State for Women and Equalities (2016 - )
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#4
Mr. Speaker,

I know that there are those in this body for whom money appears to be no object, but the point is when the fees were put forward they were done for two reasons- not just to appropriately bear the costs of running tribunals at a time where this country was very much recovering from a financial crisis and from the profligacy of previous Governments but to also address frivolous and vexatious claims- something that is still a real problem that needs to be addressed.

The member opposite can certainly exaggerate all she desires, but twisting and rolling words around in order to- days later- try to make a point about Government intentions is hardly any less unparliamentary than anything that I have been accused to say. Of course I cannot mask or try to lie or mislead on publicly-available statistics. Access to employment tribunals has fallen. Of course. And as I make clear in my statement this uneven availability of access is why the Government is looking for new avenues to address the concerns of workers and businesses alike in access employment tribunals.

I should note that while the member opposite has certainly done plenty of research on this topic- this was a decision by this Government and this Government alone after reviewing the evidence: which included a lack of meaningful revenue in this case and, yes, in reviewing reported cases brought before employment tribunals. While the Opposition continued to push and promote falsehoods relating to Universal Credit implementation, this Government reviewed its own policies to see that we were enacting something that was in fact unfair.

But I also think we do not need to look at the changing number of cases as some sort of lasting legalized discrimination against workers. The Government makes no changes to access to these tribunals or how they can rule- and it would be my expectation that the number of claims- legitimate or otherwise- will rise up to previous levels or even higher as individuals once again have free access to these tribunals. It is my hope that workers take advantage of the access they're getting back, and I apparently am more confident of that than the Opposition.
Lincoln "Link" Pritchett MP
Chancellor of the Exchequer
Beckenham | Conservative Party
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#5
Mr. Speaker,

Even this government, which I have vociferously opposed my political career, can do better than that. Than political cliche we've all heard before. But when you're trying to defend a policy you're scrapping, I guess there can be some confusion and your tongue is either going to be tied into knots or you're just going to rely on worn out cliche. I get it, Mr. Speaker. The government have put themselves into a needless predicament.

The truth is, Mr. Speaker, money is an object: to the women who got groped in work by her boss, but didn't have the resources to access justice: money is an object. To the gay man who was sacked because of his sexuality but had no means to get the compensation he deserved: money is an object. To the single mum who had to take on extra hours, hours away from her kids, because her boss wouldn't give her the national living wage: money is an object. I can reassure him of that.

People who view money as no object, Mr. Speaker, often to happen to be people who have a little too much of it. After the financial crisis we had to get our financial house in order. So sacrificing a fundamental British principle - access to justice for all - was something that had to be done so we could scrape millions from the barrel Mr. Speaker. Because money is an object. 

But is money an object when the government wants to give our tax breaks to the rich and to the bankers that really steered the ship of our economy into the rocks? Billions is no object then. What about costly reforms to inheritance tax that benefited only the richest families, paid for by... inheritance tax? We had a billion there, Mr. Speaker, even if the Tory policy surrounding the whole debacle is confused and crosseyed. 

The truth is, Mr. Speaker, you can't defend the indefensible, either by trying to hide under the deficit or by trying to dismiss the struggles of thousands of British workers as 'exaggerations': the Chancellor knows the policy he is throwing into the scrapheap is wrong. It's time for him to admit it. And it's time for a wider change of course. 

I welcome the news today Mr. Speaker. I think we all can. I also share the Chancellor's hope that once again British workers can feel free to fight for the justice they, and every single person in this country, are entitled to. But for so many people who have struggled while it lingered in the statute books, it is too little, too late.
James Zaher.
Labour MP for Liverpool Riverside (2010-).
Shadow Economic Secretary to the Treasury (2014-2015).
Shadow Minister for Industrial Strategy (2015-2016).
Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer (2016-).

"The language of priorities is the religion of socialism." - Aneurin Bevan. 
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#6
Mr. Speaker,

I would like to welcome the newest Shadow Chancellor and express my wishes that he remain in his position for some time to come. I would note the comment on money being no object is a reference to the proposals by the Opposition to spend and spend and spend as though there were no cost to our government or to the people. I do not seek to belittle the plight of workers in this country- indeed it is because I understand the importance of money to working men and women and others in this country that this Government proposed a budget that would give more to working Britons and their families. It is why this Government is taking this move here and now.

Again, I welcome my colleague opposite and hope to hear far more from him on these and other policies in the future.
Lincoln "Link" Pritchett MP
Chancellor of the Exchequer
Beckenham | Conservative Party
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#7
Mr Speaker,

When times are tough and difficult decisions have to be made, every single one of us faces a test. It is a test about which values we cherish, and which we abandon. They reveal a lot about the character of us all, and the Government who implements these choices.

It is instructive that, during tough times, the Conservative Party decided the values of equal justice for all, regardless of income, was a value worth sacrificing. Essential British values were slaughtered on a cross, while the richest few got their tax breaks worth billions of pounds.

The very same people who supported these tribunal fees remain in Government. That is why, despite this u-turn, I remain concerned about the values held by this Government. We know that decisions like imposing tribunal fees weren’t about fiscal responsibility. It was ideological, pure and simple. The revenue raised by these fees amount to roughly 0.005% of GDP. I appreciate the phrase ‘every little helps’, but I believe that this is taking it a bit far, especially when the Government spent billions on tax cuts for the richest few and the largest corporations. Instead these fees were a blatant attempt to deprive workers of their rights and entrench, as the Maternity Alliance, argued a ‘charter for rogue employers’.

While it is welcome that the Government is reviewing its policies, it is worrying that it got so many policy choices wrong which now have to be reversed under this Chancellor. To the thousands of individuals who were denied justice under this system, they deserve more than this reversal – they deserve an apology. We can never sacrifice our values to justice for all again; somethings are inviolable.
Amelia Lockhart
MP for Hull East (2010 - )

Leader of the Labour Party (2016 - )
Shadow Secretary of State for Women and Equalities (2016 - )
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#8
Mr. Speaker,

And I should note for the benefit for the honourable member for Hull East that this Government will continue to review its policies and we are bound only by the promises that we make to the people of this country. We will continue to review such policies as are needed to ensure that we are providing opportunities and providing fairness where we can.
Lincoln "Link" Pritchett MP
Chancellor of the Exchequer
Beckenham | Conservative Party
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#9
Mr Speaker,

The manifesto of which he speaks, contributed to as Chief Secretary to the Treasury, and stood on in 2015 described the tribunal fees as ‘successful’ at ‘reducing the burden of employment law’, did it not? Successful at stopping women from getting equal lay, preventing harassment, and blocking discrimination. Why is it now, after years in Government serving alongside the Prime Minister, did he decide it was for a review?
Amelia Lockhart
MP for Hull East (2010 - )

Leader of the Labour Party (2016 - )
Shadow Secretary of State for Women and Equalities (2016 - )
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#10
Mr Speaker,

Tribunal fees were successful at reducing the burden of frivolous claims that businesses faced. Government will be announcing measures, in short, order, to cut down on frivolous claims in employment tribunals in the absence of fees. We decided it was time to review tribunal fees because, for a minority of legitimate claims, tribunal fees were likely obstructing the deliverance of justice. While we will see frivolous claims reduced, we will not do so at the cost of justice for legitimately aggrieved workers.
The Rt Hon Caroline Blakesley MP PC
Prime Minister & First Lord of the Treasury
Cambridgeshire South East | Conservative Party
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#11
(07-10-2018, 03:50 PM)Link Pritchett Wrote: Mr. Speaker,

I would like to welcome the newest Shadow Chancellor and express my wishes that he remain in his position for some time to come. I would note the comment on money being no object is a reference to the proposals by the Opposition to spend and spend and spend as though there were no cost to our government or to the people. I do not seek to belittle the plight of workers in this country- indeed it is because I understand the importance of money to working men and women and others in this country that this Government proposed a budget that would give more to working Britons and their families. It is why this Government is taking this move here and now.

Again, I welcome my colleague opposite and hope to hear far more from him on these and other policies in the future.

Mr. Speaker,

I suppose I ought to thank the Chancellor myself. I intended to wait for a more formal occasion but I'm always happy to cut to the chase. I hope we have constructive engagements in future, and where necessary can work together for the betterment of the British people. 

I understood what the comments meant, Mr. Speaker - but I believe it is my party that understands that money is an object, to the people who have been locked out of justice financially and we understand that there are some who want to cut, cut, cut taxes for the rich as if there were no cost to our government or to the people. £1 billion on inheritance tax reforms alone, and that's not even me going into more of the government's nitty gritty details. A couple of million quid for access to justice. That is a choice we must make. It looks easy to me. I reckon it looks easy to the British people. 

I'm glad the Chancellor doesn't wish to belittle working people, and this looks like a positive first step. A second would not to dismiss claims by charities and organisations that have expressed concern, nor actual working people that have expressed despair, as 'exaggerations.' If I can make a suggestion a third positive step would to be, as my Right Honourable friend for Hull East suggested, to issue a formal apology for the hurt that had been caused. I think the Chancellor has proven he is adept to see the damage this government's policy was causing - but it's not enough to acknowledge. You make amends, and you apologise. There's still so much more than would need to be done for working people, but that, Mr. Speaker, is the olive branch I think they would like to see extended.
James Zaher.
Labour MP for Liverpool Riverside (2010-).
Shadow Economic Secretary to the Treasury (2014-2015).
Shadow Minister for Industrial Strategy (2015-2016).
Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer (2016-).

"The language of priorities is the religion of socialism." - Aneurin Bevan. 
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#12
I thank the Chancellor for his statement. The House will now consider other matters.

----

Issue profile: Moderate (30)

Con: 19 - You did a good job and the policy itself is actually reasonably well received... but Labour ropes you over the coals for the policy itself and you look a bit on the defensive for the debate.
Lab: 25 - A well-executed critique of both principle and detail. Well done.
SNP: 0 - pls.
Steve
Acting Acting Head Av | Parliament | Prime Minister's Office | Cabinet Office | Treasury
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