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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.



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