HL Deb 02 April 1979 vol 399 cc1745-61

4.47 p.m.

Report received.

Clause 1 [Estate agency work]:

Lord WALLACE of COSLANY moved Amendment No. 1: Page 1, line 11, leave out ("property") and insert ("land").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, in Committee, as the result of a Government defeat, the scope of most of the Bill was extended to cover business as well as substantially residential property, and the Government indicated that they might be bringing forward suitable Amendments at a later stage. The Amendments in question have been tabled. The substantive and consequential ones are: Nos. 1, 3 to 8, 12 and 13, 17 to 33, 35 and 36, and 38 and 39, and I suggest they be discussed together. They adjust the position created by the passing of the Amendment to Clause 1.

These Amendments take account of certain necessary technical changes to the Amendments accepted in Committee and of the Government view that, if the scope of the Bill is extended in the way sought, it should cover all interests in land involving a capital transfer, and that would of course include residential, commercial and other property. Apart from replacing references to "an interest in property" and "property" by "an interest in land" and "land" where appropriate, the Amendments remove the remaining references to "residential property" and "business property" and, accordingly, the definitions.


My Lords, I wish on behalf of noble Lords on this side of the House to thank the Government for acquiescing in the arrangements for these Amendments. The Bill as introduced into your Lordships' House related specifically and only to residential property, and the whole pattern of Amendments now set out on the Marshalled List would rectify the situation. There is one problem and that is the definition of "land". The Minister said it would include residential, commercial and other property and we shall shortly be considering the question of the definition clause. Can the noble Lord say whether the definitions either ill the Bill or in other Acts are sufficient to cover that point?

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

4.50 p.m.


moved Amendment No. 2:

Page 2, line 30, at end insert— ("(a)" practising solicitor" means, except in Scotland, a solicitor who is qualified to act as such under section 1 of the Solicitors Act 1974 or Article 4 of the Solicitors (Northern Ireland) Order 1976, and in Scotland includes a firm of practising solicitors").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, first I must apologise to the noble Lord, Lord Sandys, for not replying to the point he raised on the previous Amendment before the Question was put, and I hope to give some information later. Amendment No. 2 corrects an error made in Committee. The noble Earl, Lord Kinnoull, tabled Amendments to include under the control of the Bill solicitors acting in the course of their profession and their employees. Following debate he made it clear that he did not intend to press his case on that occasion. The substantive Amendment was formally withdrawn, and subsection (2)(a), which excludes from control things done in the course of his profession by a practising solicitor or a person employed by him … stands part of Clause 1, but in error the attendant definition of "practising solicitor" was removed, and this Amendment restores it. I beg to move.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 2 [Interests in property]:

Lord WALLACE of COSLANY moved Amendment No. 3: Page 2, line 36, leave out ("property") and insert ("land").

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Lord WALLACE of COSLANY moved Amendments Nos. 4 to 6: Page 3, line 2, leave out from ("Sasines") to end of line 6 Page 3, line 7, leave out ("property") and insert ("land") Page 3, line 13, leave out ("property") and insert ("land").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I have already spoken to these Amendments. I beg to move.

On Question, Amendments agreed to.

Clause 12 [Meaning of "clients' money" etc.]:

Lord WALLACE of COSLANY moved Amendments Nos. 7 and 8: Page 14, line 12, leave out ("subject to subsection (6) below") line 15, leave out ("property") and insert ("land").

On Question, Amendments agreed to.

Lord WALLACE of COSLANY moved Amendment No. 9: Page 14, line 22, after ("which") insert ("in whole or in part").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, Amendments Nos. 9 to 11 and Amendment No. 13 are drafting Amendments consequential on the extension of the scope of the Bill. I should be happy to explain their effect in detail if noble Lords so wish, but in the interests of speed I hope that it will not be necessary. I beg to move Amendment No. 11.


My Lords, I feel that it would be helpful if the noble Lord could give an explanation of this matter. In view of the fact that your Lordships are under some pressure regarding time, perhaps the noble Lord can restrict his reply, but I think that an explanation would be of value to those who are to read our remarks.


I shall do as the noble Lord requests, but before proceeding I wish to reply to his earlier point regarding the definition of land. The definition of land in the Interpretation Act 1978 is sufficient to cover every type of residential, commercial, industrial, agricultural and other land.

I should like to deal with Clause 12 as a whole. The clause defines money taken by estate agents which is subject to the protection provided by the Bill (for example, clients' money) as contract deposits or pre-contract deposits, in- cluding in both cases sums paid in respect of connected contracts. In the case of residential property a connected contract is typically one for the purchase of carpets, curtains, et cetera, which is conditional on the transaction going through. It thus covers the case where the parties agree two separate contracts—one in relation to the property and one in relation to the contents. An example of this would be that the purchase goes through on the basis that £50 is paid for the carpets only if £10,000 is paid for the house. One of the purposes of the existing Clause 12(5) was to cover the case where the parties agree to the purchase of the property and contents in a combined contract. The main purpose of Clause 12(5), however, was wider. It was consequential on Clause 2(2)(d), which extended the Bill to cover the "corner shop" with a rack rent flat over. Given the general extension of the Bill, it would go too wide and cover money which had nothing to do with the sale of property. Amendment No. 13, eliminating subsection (5), together with Amendments Nos. 9 to 11, ensure that protection for the combined contract in cases of the type I have mentioned will be retained without extending the Bill into areas where the controls would be inappropriate.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Lord WALLACE of COSLANY moved Amendments Nos. 10 to 12: Page 14, line 31, after ("(a)") insert ("in whole or in part") Page 14, line 33, after ("(b)") insert ("in whole or in part") Page 14, line 41, leave out ("property") and insert ("land").

On Question, Amendments agreed to.

Lord WALLACE of COSLANY moved Amendment No. 13: Page 15, line 1, leave out subsection (5).

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I spoke to this Amendment when dealing with Amendments Nos. 9 to 11.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 14 [Keeping of client accounts]:

4.56 p.m.

Lord HOUGHTON of SOWERBY moved Amendment No. 14:

Page 17, line 24, at end insert— ("( ) in the case of a client account not maintained by a company, a person authorised by the Secretary of State as having adequate knowledge and experience; or")

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I raised this matter at the Committee stage of the Bill, when I indicated to my noble friend that I might wish to take further advice and thereafter raise it again. The present Amendment represents a slight variant in wording from the Amendment that I moved in Committee, but its substance is precisely the same as previously. Noble Lords who may wish to refresh their memories on this subject will find that the debate of the Committee stage was reported at column 905 and subsequent columns of the Official Report of 19th March.

I have no interest whatsoever in the Bill nor in the position of any kind of accountant or estate agent. I am concerned with the rights of the citizen in relation to the good of the community, and I believe that this is a principle to which all noble Lords would subscribe. On the previous occasion my noble friend made a very good trade union closed shop speech. He said that for the good of the consumer—and of course all closed shops are for the good of somebody—the Government proposed to provide in the Bill for uniformity of standard of audit of the accounts of estate agents in private practices and partnerships who under the Bill will for the first time be subject to new requirements of audit practice. A company is already provided for under the various Companies Acts. A company's audit arrangements and the standards required of its auditors are already defined in the Companies Acts.

I say in passing that in the past when a transfer has been made from one status to another it has been the practice to provide for a transitional arrangement whereby those who have previously been competent to audit accounts and who have done so may, by means of a dispensation of the Secretary of State continue so to do after the change has come into effect.

I think that when things are being done for the good of the consumer—and my noble friend said that this was wholly for the good of the consumer—we are entitled to consider at the same time whether we are doing any harm to anybody, and, if so, whether that harm which is being done is necessarily being done for the overriding purpose of the change, which in this case is this Bill. My noble friend admitted that Clause 14 of the Bill would mean that some of these auditors who are not within the classified group of auditors set out in the Companies Acts would lose work. That means that they would lose a part, probably a good part, of their livelihood. There are some accountants who do not come within the stipulated societies of accountants for the purposes of the Companies Acts who have been doing the accounts of private estate agents and partnerships for a long time. There has been no requirement up till now that such accountants should be members of the Institute of Chartered Accountants or of the other bodies specified within the Companies Acts.

These accountants, like other accountants, were doing work for their clients, and the importance of what they were doing was twofold: first of all, to provide satisfactory accounts of the trading position of their clients for the information of their clients; and, secondly, to produce accounts which would form a satisfactory basis of assessment of profits. That meant to say that they had to satisfy their clients and to provide accounts which could be accepted by the Inland Revenue. Now, under this Bill, for the first time, estate agents in private practice and in partnership must have their accounts audited. That is quite understood, because they are to be required under this Bill to keep clients' accounts, as solicitors are required to do, in the interests of their clients. In the past, long before solicitors had to keep clients' accounts, unfortunate cases arose when solicitors mixed their clients' money with their own, probably squandered it or lost it, got into financial difficulties and virtually robbed their clients.

Indeed, more recently, because of the absence of any similar provision in the case of estate agents, we have been learning of estate agents who have been doing the same sort of thing. Deposits received on property purchase and other monies passing through their hands on behalf of clients have been mixed with their own, and in some cases people have lost a great deal of money. This Bill is to safeguard the position of the public in that regard, and it has my full support, as I am sure it does of all noble Lords. In another place, over many years, this Bill, or its beginnings, was introduced time and again under the Private Members' Bill procedure. The Government did not take any notice of it and would not take it on board; and for years it was frustrated from becoming law. Then, eventually, the Government decided—rightly, in my view—that this was becoming such an important matter that it should be a Government Bill; and that is how we come to be dealing with this subject now, long after estate agents themselves wanted changes made in their statutory position. The question is: Are there any conditions which seem to be reasonable to your Lordships which should be introduced into this Bill to protect those accountants who have been doing satisfactory service up till now against the sudden and arbitrary disqualification which this Bill would impose upon their clients? There are no transitional arrangements provided for here. My noble friend said that this, of course, is in line with something that was done earlier on, when insurance brokers were brought under similar conditions.

There is in existence a body known as the Association of International Accountants, and it is on their advice that I raise this matter and press it upon your Lordships' attention. This body has about 16,000 members. Those members have recognition throughout the world, which is unique in this particular respect; they sit for examinations, and they have very adequate qualifications. It would not be difficult for the Secretary of State, in identifying the accountants who may be permitted for the time being to continue to do the work they have done before and to become auditors under this Bill, to look at the qualifications of those who, while not in the closed shop provisions, are nevertheless of sufficient standing and qualification to be allowed to phase themselves out. I am not suggesting that any new appointments as auditors should be made from persons other than those covered by Clause 14; but for those who are there, for those who are already doing the job, for those who could become auditors under this Bill without any danger to consumers, and whose integrity and qualifications are really as good as anybody else's, it seems to me that this could be done without any real harm to the standards being set under this Bill. It is, I think, a serious step to take to say that as from the date of the Royal Assent, virtually, auditors who have been doing the work in the past shall be cut off from being authorised persons under this Bill.

That is really the case, my Lords. I repeat what I said at the beginning, that here we have to weigh the good of the consumer against the rights of individuals to continue their work undisturbed and unrestricted where they are qualified to do it, where they have been doing it and where their qualifications are adequate to continue until their service with their clients is terminated, as indeed others in the classified categories would be allowed to do. Therefore, I do not think it is just a small matter, any more than I think it is entirely a small matter to say that "property" means "land" or that "residential property" means "land"—and the Marshalled List is strewn with Amendments to replace the word "property" with the word "land", which I am sure it is very important to do. So I hope that my noble friend, who has had the opportunity to reconsider the matter, has identified the Association of International Accountants, which I have mentioned. I do not know whether there are any other bodies. There used to be the certified accountants, but they have now been absorbed into the authorised field of auditors within the terms of Clause 14, so the old body of certified accountants is not concerned with the present Amendment.

I hope I have explained the position clearly, and I hope I have been reasonable in putting the several considerations before your Lordships. I also hope that the House will not dismiss this Amendment unless your Lordships are completely satisfied that the overriding good of the community justifies compelling some people to give up the work they are doing, lose some part, if not all, of their livelihood, and be put at a serious disadvantage: not for any delinquency, not for any incapacity, but because the Government want, as most Governments want, uniformity. We have to be on our guard against uniformity of everything in our community life. Uniformity is being imposed on the whole community—uniformity of thought as well as of various other conditions in which uniformity is thought to be desirable for social content- ment and economic progress. I hope that my noble friend will give favourable consideration to this Amendment.

5.10 p.m.


My Lords, while recognising the genuine concern of my noble friend Lord Houghton to introduce some limited form of transitional arrangements to provide protection for those who, as he said in Committee: are not part of the monopolistic professional bodies which are listed as qualified within the meaning of the Companies Act"— nevertheless, I must resist the Amendment. The Government's insistence upon defining a qualified auditor in terms of the Companies Act for the purpose of this Bill arises, not from a desire by the Government to impose a degree of "closed shoppery" by the recognised accountancy bodies but from a praise worthy desire—and one which I hope my noble friend supports—to adhere to their general policy of maintaining high standards and a uniformity of auditing requirements.

The words used in the Amendment—"having adequate knowledge and experience"— reflect the powers contained in Section 161(1)(b) of the Companies Act 1948, which permitted the Secretary of State for Trade to authorise individuals on the grounds of having adequate knowledge and experience while in the employ of a member of one of the four recognized accountancy bodies. The experience which had to be demonstrated related particularly to auditing. But the individual authorisations which the Secretary of State for Trade was empowered to make—and I hasten to add that as from April last year this power ceased altogether—were introduced not as a means of protecting the livelihood of then-existing unqualified auditors but as a means of ensuring that, at that particular time, a sufficient number of qualified auditors would be available to undertake the whole range of statutory audits.

The acceptance of the Amendment would present my right honourable friend the Secretary of State with a practical difficulty. What is adequate knowledge and experience? How do you assess it? Where do you draw the dividing line and by what standards do you set the norm? Knowledge and experience of accountancy alone is clearly not enough—the Secretary of State would need to look for the considerable length and range of experience of auditing formerly required under the Department of Trade criteria. It seems unlikely that the accountants whom my noble friend is seeking to benefit by his Amendment would have such experience. Nor, as I understand it, would it be possible to make any such authorisations of limited duration, as my noble friend implied would be the case in moving his earlier Amendment. And, if one permitted an unqualified accountant—unqualified in terms of Section 161 of the Companies Act—to undertake the statutory audit of client accounts under the Bill, could one, in logic, refuse him the right to undertake the whole range of statutory audits? Does not the need for the public to be properly protected demand the highest possible standards? It is right that high standards should be maintained. This Amendment would undermine that policy and, in my view, be a wholly retrograde step.

My noble friend referred to international accountancy. The accountancy—not auditing—work currently performed by international accountants for estate agents is not as a result of any statutory requirement and therefore no particular qualification is required. The appropriate route for the international accountants to obtain the ability to carry out statutory audit duties, which demand a high standard of competence, would be to obtain recognition under Section 161(1)(a) of the Companies Act 1948. I understand the Association's application for recognition is being considered by the Department of Trade, but it seems unlikely to satisfy the criteria for some time to come. I am sorry, but I must ask the House to reject the Amendment.

On Question, Amendment negatived.

Clause 16 [Insurance cover for clients' money]:

Lord WALLACE of COSLANY moved Amendment No. 15: Page 18, line 38, at end add ("including arrangements to which an enforcement authority nominated for the purpose by the Secretary of State or any other person so nominated is a party.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, with your consent I will take Amendments Nos. 15 and 16 together as they both relate to the requirements the Secretary of State may lay down by regulation in relation to authorised arrangements for the cover of clients' money. The Amendments are made to take account of the views the insurance industry have recently expressed to us about the types of cover they are ready to provide. It may be as well if I repeat the relevant part of what I said in Committee on this matter—the more particularly as I understand that I slipped up in reading the statement and this offers an admirable opportunity to make an appropriate correction. The statement about types of cover read: Although it is in no way essential to the carrying on of estate agency work for deposits to be taken, it might be argued that the Government should not impose such a requirement without ensuring that suitable arrangements were available for any agent who wanted them. To this end a number of meetings have been held with the insurance industry, from which the following has emerged: (a) the existing indemnity schemes of the main national organisations of estate agents could be expected to continue unaffected;"— I repeat, "could be expected to continue". In Committee, I inadvertently said "could not"— (b) the insurers would favour and would in principle be prepared to cover group schemes on a national or at a local level. It is for those concerned to join together to form such schemes; (c) for those unable or unwilling to join such schemes the insurance companies would in principle be willing to issue individual bonds. At a very rough estimate the cost of obtaining cover per annum would be £150 per practitioner for £25,000 with a minimum insured of £50,000 and a minimum annual premium of £300.

My Lords, it is possible that the individual bonds would have to be issued to a named person. As there has not been sufficient time since the insurance industry told us of this approach to consider and investigate the possibilities, it would be inappropriate in the Bill to tie the issue of these bonds to a specific person. Amendment No. 15, in providing the necessary vires and removing any doubts about conflict of interest, allows for the maximum flexibility in empowering the Secretary of State to nominate an enforcement authority or any other person as recipient of the bond. I would remind your Lordships that by virtue of Clause 26 the enforcement authorities are the Director; in Great Britain, the local weights and measures authority; and, in Northern Ireland, the Department of Commerce.

Amendment No. 16 ousts the general law on contracts in such a way that the depositor can claim direct to the insurer and not through the person in whose name the bond is issued. In doing so it follows in broad terms the precedent of the provisions relating to administration guarantees. I beg to move.


My Lords, I am very glad that the Government have carried out what was suggested when we were here in Committee on this Bill on 19th March. I followed with interest the correction made by the noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Coslany, to his previous statement. The arrangements made under Clause 16 so far as bonding is concerned have not gone as far as certain societies would wish. For instance, the Incorporated Society of Valuers and Auctioneers wrote to me on 30th March and said this: The Incorporated Society has consistently urged that the Amendments to Clauses 16 and 22 relating to (1) the extension of bonding to include all agents and not only those accepting deposit monies and (2) the mandatory introduction of regulations relating to standards of competence respectively must proceed if the interest of the consumer is to be adequately protected. The Government have gone a very long way to assist us in this regard. I noted most carefully what the noble Lord said about our earlier Amendment in Committee which was to make the bonding mandatory. I quote his remarks in Hansard from column 916 onwards on 19th March: The Government have every sympathy with the insurers in this matter, and it is one among various reasons why the Government remain resolutely opposed to a requirement for universal bonding. Had we further time and further opportunity for consultation, perhaps we could have discussed the matter further. Nevertheless, bearing in mind both the pressure of events which has arisen and the standpoint which the Government have taken up in this matter, it would be only reasonable at this stage to accept the proposition which the Government have made. I am well aware that the views held by the Incorporated Society of Valuers is not universal among those bodies outside. The Incorporated Society went on to say: Without these Amendments, the public would be better served by the loss of the Bill. It is not our view that the loss of the Bill would be a consumer advantage; we believe most strongly after no fewer than 13 Bills—this is the 14th—that there has been a very considerable amount of thought given to the Bill and the question of bringing estate agents within the terms of an Act of Parliament. Further, this present Bill before us has had scrutiny on two occasions within the past six months. Moreover, it has had scrutiny by both Houses. We believe that the arrangements proposed by the Government go so far as may be reasonably expected in the circumstances.


My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for what he has said.

On Question, Amendments agreed to.

5.22 p.m.

Lord WALLACE of COSLANY moved Amendment No. 16:

Page 19, line 7, at end insert— ("( ) Every guarantee entered into by a person (in this subsection referred to as "the insurer") who provides authorised arrangements covering another person (in this subsection referred to as "the agent") carrying on estate agency work shall enure for the benefit of every person from whom the agent has received clients' money as if—

  1. (a) the guarantee were contained in a contract made by the insurer with every such person; and
  2. (b) except in Scotland, that contract were under seal; and
  3. (c) where the guarantee is given by two or more insurers, they had bound themselves jointly and severally.")

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I have already spoken to this Amendment. I beg to move.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Lord WALLACE of COSLANY moved Amendments Nos. 17 to 33:

Page 19, line 13, leave out ("property") and insert ("land")

Page 19, line 28, leave out ("property") and insert ("land")

Clause 19, Page 22, line 30, leave out "Subject to subsection (4) below")

Clause 19, Page 22, line 34, leave out ("residential property") and insert ("land")

Clause 19, page 23, line 5, leave out ("residential property") and insert ("land")

Clause 19, page 23, line 7, leave out subsection (4).

Clause 20, page 23, line 30, leave out ("Subject to subsection (4) below")

Clause 20, page 23, line 33, leave out ("residential property") and insert ("land")

Clause 20, page 23, Page 24, line 4, leave out subsection (4).

Clause 21, page 24, line 12, leave out ("property") and insert ("land")

Clause 21, page 24, line 14, leave out ("property") and insert ("land")

Clause 21, page 24, line 18, leave out ("property") and insert ("land")

Clause 21, page 24, line 20, leave out ("property") and insert ("land")

Clause 21, page 24, line 30, leave out ("property") and insert ("land")

Clause 21, page 24, line 32, leave out ("property") and insert ("land")

Clause 21, page 24, line 35, leave out ("property") and insert ("land")

Clause 21, page 24, line 36, leave out ("property") and insert ("land").

On Question, Amendments agreed to.

Lord WALLACE of COSLANY moved Amendment No. 34: Page 25, line 1, leave out subsection (6).

The noble Lord said: My Lords, this Amendment puts right another error made in Committee—in this case definitely by myself. The Government had tabled an Amendment to add subsection (6) to this clause but, following the Government's defeat resulting in extension of the scope of the Bill to cover business and other property as well as substantially residential property, it was among a number of Amendments which I indicated to the Committee were no longer appropriate. Unhappily, I subsequently moved the Amendment in question in error but indicated I should put the matter right at Report. Here I have done it. I beg to move.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 33 [General Interpretation provisions]:

Lord WALLACE of COSLANY moved Amendments 35 and 36: Page 32, leave out lines 30 to 43. Page 33, line 6, leave out ("residential property") and insert ("land").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I have dealt with these Amendments. I beg to move.

On Question, Amendments agreed to.

Lord AIREDALE moved Amendment No. 37:

Page 33, line 12, at end insert— (""discrimination" has the meaning assigned to it by Schedule 1 to this Act.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, "discrimination" is referred to in Clause 3 but the definition of "discrimination" appears in Schedule 1. Admittedly Clause 3 refers to Schedule 1 but it is to the general interpretation provision to which readers instinctively turn for definitions and if a definition is tucked away in a Schedule the reader may miss it. There are many examples in the general interpretation clause of expressions which are defined elsewhere in the Bill and repeated in that clause. I suggest that it would be helpful to readers if we gave the same treatment to the definition of "discrimination". I beg to move.


My Lords, I hope that the Government will feel willing to accept this Amendment. It will not alter in any way the textual substance of the Bill; but, at the same time, it will enable those handling the Bill to have a very much improved knowledge of the interpretation. I believe that this is self-evident in many past Acts that we have been considering and it is a matter of regret from time to time that the Government are unwilling to consider further interpretation which, from so many points of view, would enlighten those attempting to discover the meaning of those Acts.


My Lords, this Amendment misunderstands the purpose of Schedule 1 to the Bill and therefore should be resisted. The link between Clause 3(1)(b) and Schedule 1 is provided by the tailpiece to Clause 3(1). Schedule 1 does not assign a meaning to "discrimination"; rather it makes provision for cases where it can be said that discrimination will be deemed to have been committed for the purpose of Clause 3(1)(b). When considering a prohibition order under Clause 3(1)(b) it will not be for the Director General himself to decide whether there has been discrimination; that is solely a matter for the appropriate body or court, and it will be for the Director simply to decide whether the discrimination concerned occurred in the course of estate agency work. Under those circumstances—and I hope the situation is fully understood—I must resist the Amendment.


My Lords, I find that very disappointing. I had regarded this as a purely drafting Amendment. However, this is no time to take on the Government and therefore I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord WALLACE of COSLANY moved Amendments Nos. 38 and 39:

Page 33, leave out lines 25 to 35. In the Title, line 3, leave out from ("of") to ("and") in line 5 and insert ("interests in land").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, we have already dealt with this. I should like, with the consent of the House, to move Amendments Nos. 38 and 39 together.

On Question, Amendments agreed to.

Then, Standing Order No. 43 having been suspended pursuant to Resolution, Bill read 3a, with the Amendments.


My Lords, I beg to move that the Bill do now pass, and I think it would be appropriate for me to say a few words. I shall not read my prepared speech as time does not permit, but this is quite an historic moment. Here we have a Bill on this subject such as has not gone through for 90 years. It so happens that my honourable friend the Minister of State, who was closely associated with it as a Private Member, did his best and eventually the last Bill failed on the dissolution of Parliament. This time we are keeping our fingers crossed but I understand that another place will be only too willing to give the measure an uninterrupted passage. The Bill has been changed, but this is the attitude of the House. It has been changed and thoroughly digested, although we had some exciting times on Committee stage when many Amendments were moved at short notice, and also when certain arrangements had to be re-made.

I should like to thank all noble Lords who have taken part and also those people who have written to me about this: some in favour and some not. Perhaps I should say one further thing, which is not always said. As I told the House a few moments ago, there were difficulties in getting all the data ready for the Committee stage and in passing I should like to pay tribute to those advisers behind the scenes who assisted, often at tremendous incon- venience, in ensuring that—although I did slip up on one occasion—the right information was given and all help was given to the passage of the Bill. I do thank everybody concerned. We should be quite proud that, in the dying moments of this Parliament, this Bill has gone through after 90 years.

Moved, That the Bill do now pass.—(Lord Wallace of Coslany.)


My Lords, I should like to join the noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Coslany, in his tributes to all those who have participated and who have advised us during the work on this Bill, the incorporated bodies, outside individuals and many others. The noble Lord, Lord Wallace, is quite right in saying that this is an historic event, to which he himself has contributed no small amount in the very considerable work which he has put into the Bill. I should like to take this opportunity of thanking him personally for his many acts of courtesy and assistance.

On Question, Bill passed, and returned to the Commons.