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Gist of interpellations at Lower House Budget Committee, Feb. 22, 2018

The following is the gist of interpellations at the House of Representatives Budget Committee on Feb. 22, 2018:

 

Discretionary working-hour system

 

Ichiro Miyashita (Liberal Democratic Party [LDP]): It was clearly a mistake to compare data of different characters and give responses in Diet interpellations on the basis of this.

 

Minister of Health, Labor, and Welfare Katsunobu Kato: It was indeed inappropriate. I deeply apologize.

 

Shigeki Sato (Komeito): The data issue was extremely inappropriate. You need to reflect seriously. This may undermine the credibility of Diet responses.

 

Akiko Okamoto (Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan [CDPJ]): How many more cases of inappropriate data relating to the discretionary working-hour system have you found? Are there not more?

 

Kato: There were 117 more cases involving 87 workplaces. At least that’s all I have right now.

 

Okamoto: You said the original survey documents were lost.

 

Kato: They were found in the ministry’s basement. We will present documents to the Diet to the extent possible.

 

Okamoto: Are the data not erroneous?

 

Kato: They do not call for reversing the conclusion reached (by the Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare’s council).

 

Seiji Osaka (CDPJ): When can you finish the examination of the data?

 

Kato: We will compare (the original survey documents) with the resulting statistics to verify if the data were entered properly. There are over 10,000 items to examine, so I am not able to say when we can finish at this point.

 

Osaka: If there are further irregularities, your job may be at risk.

 

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe: (Kato) is saying a thorough examination will be conducted. I hope that he will make preparations for the bills related to workstyle reform properly.

 

Osaka: We demand the withdrawal of the data and conducting the Labor Policy Council’s deliberation all over again.

 

Kato: I humbly accept your criticism on the data, but the conclusion reached by the council is deemed to be basically appropriate. I would like to draw up the bills properly.

 

Okamoto: Will the implementation of the expansion of the coverage of the discretionary work system be postponed?

 

Kato: Implementation has not been decided.

 

Yuichi Goto (Party of Hope): Expansion of the system’s coverage should be discussed around the time of its introduction upon a comparison of working hours and wages.

 

Kato: It will be difficult to compare changes under completely the same conditions because workstyle and other factors change.

 

Kazuhiro Haraguchi (Group of Independents): The easing of labor regulations should be handled carefully.

 

Abe: Constant regulatory reform to seek regulations adapting to the changes of the times is necessary to maintain Japan’s prosperity and vitality.

 

Haraguchi: Since the data were erroneous, the expansion of the discretionary work system should be reconsidered.

 

Abe: The Labor Policy Council has discussed this based on various statistics.

 

Overtime work

 

Chizuko Takahashi (Japanese Communist Party): The ceiling for overtime work should be set not on a monthly basis but on a daily or weekly basis.

 

Abe: (What we are proposing) is a realistic limit agreed upon by labor and management. There are busy and not-so-busy periods at the workplace. Careful consideration is necessary to set an even lower ceiling and impose penalties for violations.

 

Constitutional revision

 

Shiori Yamao (CDPJ): Prime Minister Abe’s proposal for the revision of Article 9 will not end the debate on the constitutionality of the Self-Defense Forces (SDF).

 

Abe: It is our mission to eliminate such debate. We need to end this controversy over constitutionality. The LDP is currently discussing how to draw up a constitutional provision on the SDF or a minimum required armed force. Once the LDP’s proposal is presented, I hope that this will be discussed thoroughly at the Commissions on the Constitution.

 

(Abridged)

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