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.
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.
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.