Heseltine is defeated over bills

Michael Heseltine was facing a humiliating defeat last night by Ian Lang, the President of the Board of Trade, over the Deputy Prime Minister's plans for cutting employees' rights in small businesses.

Mr Lang is preparing a compromise plan to preserve employees' rights, but to provide arbitration, to cut the number of cases going to industrial tribunals.

Mr Heseltine's defence of late payments to small businesses was also rejected by Mr Lang with the backing of the Prime Minister, who announced a package of measures to encourage firms to pay their bills on time.

The Government has rejected the idea of legislation to force firms to pay interest on late payments, but John Major announced government depart- ments will be asked to set an example by paying their bills promptly to small business.

Stephen Byers, the Labour spokesman, said: "It has been a bad day for Heseltine. He has clearly lost out in the battle over employees' rights, and Major has rejected his approach to late payments."

The use of aribtration was seen at Westminster as a clever move by Mr Lang to tackle the problem caused by too many cases going to expensive industrial tribunals. Another Labour source said: "We have been looking at stepping in before cases go to industrail tribunals. It is a bit like the step before going into divorce, by seeking reconciliation."

Ministers are studying the possibility of using the arbitration service, Acas, to conciliate before cases go to tribunals.

Mr Heseltine had proposed to deny millions of employees of small firms the legal right to take their bosses to a tribunal for compensation, a move designed to ease the administrative burden on small firms.

Unveiling a package of new measures to help small firms, Mr Lang said there were "no serious differerences" between him and any of his colleagues.

Mr Lang added: "What we are seeking to do is to reduce the burden on businesses - and indeed on employees - that industrial tribunals now create.

"I think that we can achieve a conciliation and arbitration service that will help reduce this very considerably - without in any way undermining the interests either of the employer or the employee."

Mr Major said the government would look at whether big companies should be forced to publish data on how late they paid their bills, rather than the present requirement - introduced only in January - to report on their policy for payment.

Ministers are considering publishing "more rigorous" league tables of the payment performance of departments and looking at extending this to local authorities.

The Lord Chancellor is to announce improved ways for small businesses to collect debts after court orders. The Prime Minister also announced a review aimed at streamlining government support for small business.

Leading article, page 14

City comment, page 19

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
tvThe C-Word, TV review
Arts and Entertainment
The Ridiculous Six has been produced by Adam Sandler, who also stars in it
filmNew controversy after nine Native American actors walked off set
Danny Jones was in the Wales squad for the 2013 World Cup
rugby leagueKeighley Cougars half-back was taken off after just four minutes
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
14 best kids' hoodies

14 best kids' hoodies

Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

The acceptable face of the Emirates

Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk