Craig Mackinlay – 2022 Speech on Employment Agencies and Trade Unions

The speech made by Craig Mackinlay, the Conservative MP for South Thanet, in the House of Commons on 11 July 2022.

It is always a pleasure to follow many of the Members in this House, and the hon. Member for Easington (Grahame Morris) knows I have great regard for him. I am glad that he discussed issues of the here and now—the P&O issue united the House in opposition to the behaviour of that employer, and it certainly meant a lot for the community of my hon. Friend the Member for Dover (Mrs Elphicke) —but I was somewhat entertained when he started to go on about indentured labour. I thought we had gone back not to the 1970s, which is part of this debate, but to the 19th century. I found that quite entertaining.

There are two usual ways of getting new staff into businesses, and we are discussing whether they can cross a strike action. Currently, a normal employment business is the one that cannot provide. The other type of employment business—the employment agency model—can. I do not think that I would much know the difference, if I went inside an employment business or an employment agency. At the end of the day, it is the staff that the business wants.

Much has been said about whether this change is being made on the back of the recent strikes. Well, perhaps it is. I have had so many emails from people who could not get to work on that day. We in this House had great inconvenience, which I am afraid was not assisted by possibly the worst London Mayor we have ever seen. I have local residents who have suffered fines because they rarely drive in London; they had to face the ultra low emission zone charge, box junctions everywhere that they could not get out of because of the chaos on the roads, and the local traffic networks that had closed much of London in the first place. We are into fairness. Is that fair on people who are trying to get to work and who usually rely on trains—trains that have had £16 billion of taxpayers’ money over this period, and not one job lost? Is it fair on everybody who is just trying to do the right thing: to run their own business, get to a hospital appointment, get to the doctor, or get to their exams?

I have every regard for the trade unions, but they have intentionally used the cost of living crisis—I do not blame them; best of luck to them—to get more than most people would ever be able to get. Let us not go back to the 1970s wage-price spiral. The hon. Member for Easington said that people’s wages will go backwards. Well, they will go backwards every year if we end up with a wage-price spiral.

Alec Shelbrooke

As I said in my speech, some of the wage demands are inappropriate. To put them into context, given the way in which MPs’ salaries are set with the raise in the average public sector pay, if all these wage demands were to go through, we would get an £8,000 pay rise next year. How does my hon. Friend think the public would react to that?

Craig Mackinlay

I thought about such issues when I was drafting my speech. There would be absolute outrage from the public if we were to get such pay rises. I do not particularly want such a pay rise; I assure hon. Members of that. We must guard against a wage-price spiral. I support these regulations, because it is not unreasonable for people to be able to get to work.

The other industry that was going down this route was British Airways. BA workers have come to a settlement, which is very good. If BA had effectively closed down over this holiday period, what would that have meant for the employment of London? What would have happened to the tourists who spend a lot of money in London and other tourist areas around the country, including in my own coastal town? What would that strike at BA have done?

I am glad that the dispute has been settled, but it seems to me that unions are picking off certain industries in order to cause the maximum upset, with little regard for normal people trying to go about their normal business. I have every respect for what unions are trying to achieve. That is what they are for, and they have done marvellous work in the past. At this time, however, we need to pull together as a nation—I really wish that we could pull together as a nation.

I have heard from those on the Labour Front Bench. I have heard from my friend, the hon. Member for Glasgow South West (Chris Stephens), who raised the spectre of danger. He knows very well that these industries are so regulated and that the staff are so qualified that the reality of agency workers being able to carry out this work is pretty low, so he is raising a spectre of something that does not really exist.

I am supportive of these measures. I hope that they do not need to be used. I hope that we can get common sense, get people back to work and get some of these disputes settled.