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'Good work' debated in the House of Lords

APPG on the Future of Work Vice-Chair Lord Jim Knight tabled a probing amendment to the Procurement Bill that would require a contracting authority, in carrying out a procurement, takes into account the impacts or potential impacts on local good work.

The amendment (54) proposed

Clause 11, page 8, line 38, at end insert—

“(1A) In carrying out a procurement, a contracting authority must take into account the impacts or potential impacts on local good work as a consequence of awarding the procurement contract with particular regard to the evaluation of—(a) the gains or loss of employment in the contracting authority,(b) the terms and conditions of work available, and(c) the quality of work available.”

Lord Knight said: 

"I am the co-chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on the Future of Work, along with David Davis in the other place. We have been working with the Institute for the Future of Work on this good work agenda and have found from the evidence around good work that the more you can increase the quantity of good work in the economy and society, the better the prospects are for people and the communities in which they live. We therefore remind the Minister and the Committee of the importance of this agenda in terms of levelling up, in particular, but also building security, prosperity and self-respect—there is a virtuous circle in play."

In response, Baroness Bennett of Manor Castle said:

"I want to pick up on what the noble Lord, Lord Knight, alluded to: that the quality of life we have in the UK, and the quality of our economy, is acutely related to the nature of that work. Amendment 54 in particular says that the “contracting authority must take into account the impacts … on local good work”.

We have low productivity; extremely poor public health, both physical and mental; and communities that have truly been hollowed out by low pay, where no one has any money to support local independent businesses. This is a spiral downwards, and we have to get out of that. These amendments are working towards putting in provision to change that. I point to the Government’s levelling-up agenda, which is regionally based, so I believe that they do indeed want to address this."

And Lord Clement-Jones, Vice-Chair of the APPG on the Future of Work, said

"The noble Lord, Lord Knight, mentioned the All-Party Parliamentary Group on the Future of Work, which, alongside the Institute for the Future of Work, has produced some valuable reports and recommendations in the whole area of the impact of new technology on the workplace. In their reports—the APPG’s The New Frontier and the Institute’s Mind the Gap—they recommend that public authorities be obliged to conduct algorithmic impact assessments as a systematic approach to and framework for accountability and as a regulatory tool to enhance the accountability and transparency of algorithmic systems. I tried to introduce in the last Session a Private Member’s Bill that would have obliged public authorities to complete an algorithmic impact assessment where they procure or develop an automated decision-making system, based on the Canadian directive on artificial intelligence’s impact assessments and the 2022 US Algorithmic Accountability Act.

In particular, we need to consider the consequences for work and working people, as well as the impact of AI on the quality of employment. We also need to ensure that people have the opportunity to reskill and retrain so that they can adapt to the evolving labour market caused by AI...

The Institute for the Future of Work’s Good Work Charter is a useful checklist of AI impacts for risk and impact assessments...

The noble Lord, Lord Knight, and the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett, have said that these amendments would ensure that impacts on the creation of good, local jobs and other impacts in terms of access to, terms of and quality of work are taken into account in the course of undertaking public procurement...

The Government have failed to legislate to ensure that we do not move even further down the track towards a preponderantly gig economy. It is crucial that they use their procurement muscle to ensure, as in Good Work, that these measures are taken on every major public procurement involving AI and automated decision-making."

Read the full Hansard transcript of the debate.

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