Morning Call: pick of the papers

The ten must-read pieces from this morning's papers.

1. Everyone who loves the NHS must fight to defeat this health bill (Observer)

This misguided bid to impose a free-for-all market on our health service must be stopped, says Labour leader Ed Miliband.

2. The credibility of politics itself will be in the dock with Huhne (Sunday Telegraph)

The trial will be a compelling soap opera for those who usually switch off when they hear the word politics, writes Matthew D'Ancona.

3. Why more of the Lib Dems now want to be like Chris Huhne (Observer)

He has resigned from the cabinet just as his party adopts his more belligerent approach towards coalition politics, says Andrew Rawnsley.

4. David Cameron should start preparing for an early election (Sunday Telegraph)

The Coalition is fraught with tension and is unlikely to last beyond 2013, argues Iain Martin.

5. Public interest should trump self-interest (Observer)

The judiciary seems to have a skewed view of what the public has a right to know, says Nick Cohen.

6. If you will play happy families, Mr Huhne... (Sunday Times) (£)

The private decisions of politicians can have a public bearing, argues Martin Ivens.

7. 20 wasted days: the Clegg campaign for a 'better Belgium' (Mail on Sunday)

Under pressure from his Coalition partners, the Prime Minister has accepted that a Lords reform Bill will be a major part of the Queen's Speech, reports James Forsyth.

8. Huhne is the missing green giant (Independent on Sunday)

After selling out on tuition fees and Europe and losing their eco warrior, says John Rentoul, the Lib Dems look flimsier than ever

9. Must honour really be a thing of the past? (Independent on Sunday)

We would do well to recall an age when those embarrassed by their own behaviour did the right thing before it became unavoidable, writes Paul Vallely.

10. The lessons of the fall of communism have still not been learnt (Sunday Telegraph)

The events of 1989 are crucial to any understanding of the present world, argues Janet Daley

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How tribunal fees silenced low-paid workers: “it was more than I earned in a month”

The government was forced to scrap them after losing a Supreme Court case.

How much of a barrier were employment tribunal fees to low-paid workers? Ask Elaine Janes. “Bringing up six children, I didn’t have £20 spare. Every penny was spent on my children – £250 to me would have been a lot of money. My priorities would have been keeping a roof over my head.”

That fee – £250 – is what the government has been charging a woman who wants to challenge their employer, as Janes did, to pay them the same as men of a similar skills category. As for the £950 to pay for the actual hearing? “That’s probably more than I earned a month.”

Janes did go to a tribunal, but only because she was supported by Unison, her trade union. She has won her claim, although the final compensation is still being worked out. But it’s not just about the money. “It’s about justice, really,” she says. “I think everybody should be paid equally. I don’t see why a man who is doing the equivalent job to what I was doing should earn two to three times more than I was.” She believes that by setting a fee of £950, the government “wouldn’t have even begun to understand” how much it disempowered low-paid workers.

She has a point. The Taylor Review on working practices noted the sharp decline in tribunal cases after fees were introduced in 2013, and that the claimant could pay £1,200 upfront in fees, only to have their case dismissed on a technical point of their employment status. “We believe that this is unfair,” the report said. It added: "There can be no doubt that the introduction of fees has resulted in a significant reduction in the number of cases brought."

Now, the government has been forced to concede. On Wednesday, the Supreme Court ruled in favour of Unison’s argument that the government acted unlawfully in introducing the fees. The judges said fees were set so high, they had “a deterrent effect upon discrimination claims” and put off more genuine cases than the flimsy claims the government was trying to deter.

Shortly after the judgement, the Ministry of Justice said it would stop charging employment tribunal fees immediately and refund those who had paid. This bill could amount to £27m, according to Unison estimates. 

As for Janes, she hopes low-paid workers will feel more confident to challenge unfair work practices. “For people in the future it is good news,” she says. “It gives everybody the chance to make that claim.” 

Julia Rampen is the digital news editor of the New Statesman (previously editor of The Staggers, The New Statesman's online rolling politics blog). She has also been deputy editor at Mirror Money Online and has worked as a financial journalist for several trade magazines.