Morning Call: pick of the papers

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

1. On the topic of political meddling, RBS and the like can shut up (Guardian)

Stephen Hester wanted to turn RBS into a 'normal' bank, but it wasn't his to turn, writes Simon Jenkins. After £45bn, government can do what it wants.

2. Osborne should not have meddled (Financial Times)

The chancellor has interfered in areas better left to managers, writes Jonathan Ford.

3. If only Britain had joined the euro (Guardian)

If Gordon Brown had chosen to join the single currency 10 years ago, both the European Union and Britain would be stronger now, says Will Hutton.

4. Politicians place too much faith in figures (Daily Telegraph)

Data is a useful tool, but over-reliance on it means major problems are too often ignored, says Fraser Nelson. 

5. Why Ofsted is wrong about bright children in comprehensives (Guardian)

Ofsted is playing to Michael Gove's agenda by scaremongering about bright children, writes Peter Wilby. The facts tell a different story.

6. Labour’s addicted to meddling, not spending (Times

The party must stop thinking the state can solve every problem and trust ordinary people to fix their own lives, says Philip Collins. 

7. I’ve got no time for page three, but... (Daily Telegraph)

Glossy magazines jammed with size-zero models are far more worthy of our scorn, writes Isabel Hardman.

8. Government must tread fine balance in building the information economy (Independent)

The opportunities are huge, but so are the risks, writes Vince Cable. 

9. Failure of Leadership (Times

Nick Clegg knew there were serious allegations against Lord Rennard, yet he failed to act in a fair and effective manner, says a Times leader. 

10. Cease this talk of competitiveness (Financial Times)

The word makes much of trade, economic and even foreign policy sound like a zero-sum game, writes Samuel Brittan. 

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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.