HL Deb 20 May 1969 vol 302 cc307-10

2.57 p.m.


My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now resolve itself into Committee on this Bill.

Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—(Lord Morris of Kenwood.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly.


Clause 1 [Extension of employer's liability for defective equipment]:

LORD MITCHISON moved Amendment No. 2:

Page 2, line 5, at end insert: (""equipment" includes any plant and machinery, vehicle, aircraft and clothing;").

The noble Lord said: This is rather a mouse of an Amendment, but I think that it is required. It adds a definition of what is perhaps the most essential word in the Bill, the word "equipment". The Amendment may be a mouse, but it has taken quite a number of mountains to produce it here. Mr. Niall MacDermot promoted an Amendment about this matter and Mr. David Weitzman moved one at a late stage in another place; and the present Amendment is the third—in fact the fourth—that has appeared on the Order Paper. The previous ones were efforts of my own. The present one, prepared with the assistance of the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor and his Office, seems to me to be, as is often the case with drafting of this kind—for it is little more—to be better than anything that has appeared before, either in another place or in my own name. All it does is to make quite clear that "equipment" includes a number of things which may well be included anyhow in the word "equipment", which is a broad one, but it is just as well that it should be stated, particularly, I am told, in the case of vehicles. It is obvious that all these items ought to be included in the Bill. I do not think that this Amendment will make much, if any, difference to what my noble friend rightly pointed out at Committee stage is a liability of the employers likely to be covered by the premium payable for insurance.

Before I sit down, may I thank everybody who has taken a part—all the mountains, including my noble friend the principal mountain, who has introduced a Bill which is long overdue and sets right a gap in the law that has made things unnecessarily uncomfortable for a number of employed people. This is a small Bill, but I venture to think that it will be a very useful one, and has been so treated both in another place and in your Lordships' House. I beg to move.


I am obliged to my noble friend Lord Mitchison for what he has said, both about this Amendment and about the Bill in general. As he has said, this is a matter which was put forward in another place and initially resisted by the sponsors of the Bill. However, in the light of time passing and the comments and assistance which have been given to the sponsors by those who would have to deal with this type of problem, the sponsors now feel it right that the word "equipment" be defined; and the words used by my noble friend in his Amendment meet with the approval of the sponsors.


I regret that I seem to have a blank sheet of paper where this Amendment ought to be. May I ask the noble Lord whether, as a result of this Amendment, the equipment on all vehicles must be properly maintained according to some instructions? If that is done and there is an accident, followed by a suit for damages, the provisions of the Bill presumably would not apply.


I think I can assure the noble Earl that this in fact would be so.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 1, as amended, agreed to.

Remaining clause agreed to.

House resumed: Bill reported with the Amendment; Report received.

Then, Standing Order No. 41 having been suspended (pursuant to the Resolution of May 13):


My Lords, I have it in command from Her Majesty the Queen to signify to the House that Her Majesty, having been informed of the purport of the Employer's Liability (Defective Equipment) Bill, has consented to place her interest, so far as it is concerned on behalf of the Crown, at the disposal of Parliament for the purpose of the Bill.


My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a third time.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 3a.—(Lord Morris of Kenwood.)


My Lords, may I ask for information? I see that there is an Amendment down in the name of my noble friend Lord Colville of Culross. Is it really necessary to take the Third Reading of this Bill now? My noble friend may wish to move his Amendment at the next stage, if the noble Lord would feel inclined not to take the Third Reading now. It is unusual, when a Bill has been amended, to take the remaining stages on the same day.


My Lords, I have taken note of what the noble Lord has said, but I am advised that the Amendment which the noble Viscount, Lord Colville of Culross, had put down was only in the nature of a probing Amendment. I am sure that the reply which would have been given to the noble Viscount would have satisfied him. I think it is unfortunate that he did not ask another noble Lord to move the Amendment on his behalf. In the circumstances, I do not think that it would serve any purpose now if we delayed the Third Reading of the Bill.


My Lords, if it is in order to do so, may I seek some information in advance from the noble and learned Lord the Lord Advocate? May I ask him whether the word "clothing" in any way covers eyeglasses and protection for the face?


My Lords, the noble Lord can take it that eyeglasses and the like are in any event covered by "equipment" in the terms of the Bill.


My Lords, I thank the noble Lord.

On Question, Bill read 3a with the Amendment, and passed, and returned to the Commons.