HL Deb 03 March 1987 vol 485 cc561-81

5.36 p.m.

Report received.

Clause 1 [Power to exempt from requirement to have fire certificate.]:

Lord Mishcon moved Amendment No. 1: Page I. line 8, leave out ("subsection") and insert ("subsections").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, with the permission of the House, I should also like to speak to Amendments Nos. 2 and 3.

Your Lordships may remember that at the Committee stage we expressed some concern about the passing of a clause which dealt with exemption certificates, and doing so without the benefit of the guidance which was to be issued by the Home Office. With the usual courtesy that one expects from the noble Earl, the Minister, I received a promise that the matter as regards when guidance was likely to emanate from the Home Office would be considered whether it was to be before the Bill left your Lordships' House or not. In accordance with that usual courtesy, I received a letter from the Minister and I am sure that I have his permission to quote from it. He says: In the context of discussion on Amendment No. 1"— it has the same numbering at Report stage as at Commttee— you asked when the guidance which we propose to issue to fire authorities on the use of their exemption powers, would be available. The kind of factors which would be included in such guidance were set out in Annexe C".

I need not carry on with that sentence, but I continue with the following one: These categories will be defined in the designation order for the premises, and although we indicated in paragraph 1.17 of the consultative document provisional criteria for these categories, these have yet to be subject to consultations with the local authority associations, the fire service representative organisations and other interested parties. We hope to begin this process before the Bill reaches the Statute Book, but in advance of conclusions, it would be premature to go too firm on the details of the guidance".

The anxiety still exists in the quarters where fire safety is a matter of duty carried out day by day. I am referring, for example, to the London Fire Authority, the London Fire Brigade and the fire brigade unions. The fear is that exemptions will be much too vague and that there will be too many. I believe that at this stage I should say this to the House and to the Minister: in regard to the consultations that are to take place, and which will include the important matter of guidance on exemptions, will the Minister give an assurance that any guidance to be issued by the Home Office will be done following consultations with the joint fire prevention committee of the Central Fire Brigade's Advisory Council?

If I may remind your Lordships—I am sure I do not have to remind the Minister—that council was set up under the Fire Services Act of 1947 to advise the Secretary of State on all matters relating to the fire service. On that body there sit the local authority associations, fire service representative organisations and other technical bodies. It is most appropriate that a council set up for this purpose should be there for full consultation on these guidelines, including the matter of guidance on exemption certificates.

If the Minister will be good enough to give me that assurance, I believe that the proper course for me to take will be to ask your Lordships' leave to withdraw this amendment, at least in the knowledge that consultation is going to take place with a very appropriate body.

The Earl of Caithness

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, has quoted quite a lot of what I was going to be able to tell the House from the letter that I wrote to him following the Committee stage with regard to his specific request. Of course that body, the committee of the CFBAC, will be one of the organisations that we shall consult. As I happen to chair the bi-annual meeting of that committee held at the Home Office, I think that I am now cast very firmly in the role of fulfilling that obligation. I would also say to the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, that of course there are the designation orders which have to come before Parliament under the negative resolution procedure. At that time we intend that the guidance will also be available to your Lordships. With that, I hope that the noble Lord may be able to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Mishcon

My Lords, I am most grateful to the noble Earl and I ask for the House's permission to withdraw the amendment in these circumstances.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 2 and 3 not moved.]

5.45 p.m.

Lord Mishcon moved Amendment No. 4: Page 2, line 33, after ("but") insert ("subject to subsection (4A) below").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I ask leave to speak also to Amendment No. 5. We are still on the subject of exemption certificates, and the purpose of this amendment is, as your Lordships will see, to make absolutely sure that in respect of premises for which special provision is made—it should read: "in Schedule 2" and not "in Schedule 1"— an inspection of the relevant building to be carried out".

The purpose of this amendment is to get rid of a very proper and understandable fear that exists among certain groups of industrial workers. I am talking in particular about the National Union of Tailors and Garment Workers, which has expressed the gravest of concern that exemption certificates will be granted without any inspection where clothing factories are concerned.

This is particularly the case—and that is what I am asking for—where there is multiple occupancy, and the sort of places that I am thinking of, and that they are thinking of, are in inner city areas. There is no doubt that in outer city areas this risk to clothing workers is not so great, but where you have premises in multi-occupation, then there is a very serious risk, as we have heard from the past history which I dealt with at Committee stage—and I do not intend to weary your Lordships with any repetition—and there have been pretty serious incidents in places of this kind.

Your Lordships may feel that there will certainly be inspection and that the situation at the moment is perfectly all right. Unfortunately this is not the history nor the situation that has been described to me.

The other difficulty that one can envisage is this. If you have a general exemption of clothing factories, for example, because it is decided that is a designation where exemption is going to be almost automatic, your Lordships will realise what will happen in the courts when a certificate ought to have been applied for has not been applied for. There will be two results. The first is that the defence will immediately try to put before the courts a hypothetical situation and say that the defendants would have applied for exemption. If you see the guidelines that are issued by the Home Office, you will find that the defence will say to the court, "We probably or almost definitely would have been granted exemption, so it is only a technical offence that we did not apply for a fire certificate". If that defence does not succeed, there will be a plea in mitigation in regard to penalty, that really the defendant thought it was only an automatic matter that he would be granted exemption—"See these broad lines of designation of exemption 3"—and the court will be asked to make it a nominal penalty only.

There ought to be no exemption granted unless there is an inspection: that is consistent with the sort of safety that we are after in this legislation, and it is the sort of consideration we ought to give to workers who are at risk. I beg to move.

Lord Dean of Beswick

My Lords, I rise fairly briefly in support of what has been so eloquently said by my friend and collegue on the Front Bench, Lord Mishcon. I did touch on this particular aspect of the subject during the passage of the Wages Bill last year. There is documentation in support of what Lord Mishcon has said regarding the dangers people face if the Government do not handle this properly. It has already been illustrated by the Mile End fire of October 1983 in which five women, Punjabi clothing workers, died. During the passage of the Wages Bill I cited a particularly nasty case. One can say that it was worse than the very horrendous one I have just mentioned. It took place in Manchester during the 1970s, when I believe 10 women sewing workers lost their lives in very small premises within perhaps 200 or 300 yards of Piccadilly Station in the main centre of Manchester, Piccadilly. These were women working in very poor conditions, who had very little control over where they were working, and I am sure that the Government would not want to place any workers in that particular situation again.

I will not detain your Lordships any longer, but I believe the point has been made quite correctly by Lord Mishcon. This type of worker needs the protection of the law because they are not organised in the same way as many other people who work in factories. On that basis I hope the Minister will give extremely sympathetic consideration, and a considered answer to the amendment as moved by my noble friend Lord Mishcon.

The Earl of Caithness

My Lords, I appreciate the concern of the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, which was echoed by the noble Lord Lord, Lord Dean of Beswick, that Clause 5A(4) might lead to the fire authority granting an exemption in circumstances which did not merit it because an inspection had not been carried out. I can assure both noble Lords that this is not the intention of the provision and I am confident that fire authorities will not act in that way.

We are proposing to allow this discretion to the fire authority so that it is not required to carry out inspections in what we envisage will be a limited range of circumstances. Where the fire authority has recent first-hand knowledge of premises, acquired for example through involvement at the construction stage under the building regulations, there seems little point in requiring a further inspection. Similarly, where the fire authority is confident that an application for a fire certificate is in respect of premises of a very simple layout and for a use posing a very low risk, it should be free to exempt without inspection.

By their very nature, premises in multi-occupation or plural ownership, such as those mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, are unlikely to be so simple, and the fire authority may be less likely to exempt on the basis of information given in an application alone. There may, though, still be cases where recent involvement with the premises provides an adequate basis for exemption.

In the general guidance which will be issued to fire authorities before the provisions of the Bill are brought into force it will be suggested that in most cases they should inspect premises prior to granting an exemption. Only when there is good reason to do so should fire authorities follow the alternative course.

The noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, raised in particular the question of the clothing industry, which he also raised earlier at the Committee stage. I should like to reassure the noble Lord that fire authorities are very unlikely to exempt many such premises from certification, even if they fall into the exempt category specified in the designation order, because quantities of flammable textiles which are usually used in such circumstances would not constitute a low risk. This is part of the flexibility that we are incorporating. Not only must the fire authority consider the design of the premises but it must consider also the use to which the premises are being put.

Perhaps I may quote the noble Lord when he moved the first amendment, I think he said that fire safety is a matter of duty to bodies such as the LFCDA and other fire authorities. I believe that that duty is very real. From my inspections of fire authorities round the country I have found them to be extremely reliable on such matters. They will not lightly exempt premises which they feel may constitute a risk. As a result, a fire is one thing which they wish to avoid.

The noble Lord, Lord Dean of Beswick, mentioned two fires. am afraid that I do not know the circumstances. However, they sound as though they are exactly the type of premises at which we wish our fire inspectors to spend more time, which can be achieved by having exemption certificates for low-risk premises. Indeed, I hope that the next amendment, Amendment No. 6, will go a long way to satisfy some of the anxieties of the noble Lord, Lord Dean of Beswick. It will enable fire authorities to act in a much quicker way than they have been able to do in the past. 1 think it is right that we should give the fire authority the limited flexibility provided by the Bill by not tying its hands too greatly. However, I can assure the House that the authority will be very conscious of any premises or the use of any premises which could give rise to an exceptional fire risk.

Lord Mishcon

My Lords, I am most disappointed with the Minister's reply. If the House had been listening before the Popplewell Inquiry was set up and we had been talking in terms of sports stadia and the likelihood of incidents such as he inquired into, I can imagine that with the good faith with which the Minister has spoken this afternoon we would have been told by a Government Minister, of whatever party, "Do not worry, you can rely upon the sense of responsibility of people who are housing thousands in a sports stadium. You can rely on the fire authority not just inspecting but making sure that not only would the results of their inspection reach the responsible people but those responsible people would be made to carry out all the safeguards that would prevent a disaster".

We would have been told that fire authorities and local authorities—everybody—act with responsibility when concerned with buildings of this kind. However, we are talking about multi-occupied buildings. Noble Lords know the sense of responsibility of some of the people who own and occupy premises of that kind in various parts of inner city areas. We are dealing with legislation following upon the Popplewell Inquiry to make sure that disasters do not occur.

I am sure that the noble Earl says in good faith and with a good heart, "If there is guidance that in most cases the local authority should inspect and that the fire authorities will inspect, surely you can rely upon things happening in the proper way". We have a responsibility. We are dealing with legislation following upon a disaster and following upon a report which we considered with great care. I think that if we carry out our duties we are entitled to say—indeed, we must say—that in the case of the premises to which I have referred, and to which my noble friend Lord Dean of Beswick has also referred, at least there must be an inspection. I do not mind if it is a short inspection, but at least there must be an inspection before exemption is granted. If the Minister cannot concede that point I must take the opinion of the House.

The Earl of Caithness

My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, can he clarify one statement that he made? Is the amendment related purely to multi-occupation and plural ownership premises, or does it apply to all premises within Schedule 2 to the Act, being Schedule 1 to the Bill?

Lord Mishcon

My Lords, because of the concern of a certain trade union I have accentuated multi-occupied premises. I hoped that I had made that point clear. But in my amendment I am dealing with those premises which are mentioned in Schedule 2 to the Bill.

5.57 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 4) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 74; Not-Contents, 76

Ailesbury, M. Hanworth, V.
Airedale, L. Hatch of Lusby, L.
Allenby of Megiddo. V. Houghton of Sowerby, L.
Amherst, E. Hughes, L.
Attlee, E. Hylton-Foster, B.
Birk, B. Jeger, B.
Blease, L. John-Mackie, L.
Blyth. L. Kilbracken, L.
Blyton, L. Kilmarnock, L.
Brockway, L. Kirkhill, L.
Brooks of Tremorfa, L. Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe, B.
Bruce of Donington, L. Lloyd of Kilgerran, L.
Carmichael of Kelvingrove, L. Lockwood, B.
Chitnis, L. Longford, E.
Cledwyn of Penrhos, L. Mackie of Benshie, L.
Craigavon, V. McNair, L.
David, B. Manchester, D.
Davies of Penrhys, L. Mishcon, L.
Dean of Beswick, L. Mulley, L.
Diamond, L. Munster, E.
Donoughue, L. Nicol, B.
Elwyn-Jones, L. Phillips, B.
Ennals, L. Pitt of Hampstead, L.
Erroll, E. Prys-Davies, L.
Ewart-Biggs, B. Rea, L.
Ezra, L. Ritchie of Dundee, L.
Gallacher, L. [Teller.] Rochester, L.
Galpern, L. Ross of Marnock, L.
Graham of Edmonton, L. [Teller.] Seear, B.
Shackleton, L.
Gregson, L. Silkin of Dulwich, L.
Halsbury, E. Somers, L.
Hampton, L. Taylor of Blackburn, L.
Tordoff, L. Winchilsea and Nottingham, E.
Underhill, L.
Whaddon, L. Winstanley, L.
Wigoder, L. Winterbottom, L.
Williams of Elvel, L. Ypres, E.
Allerton, L. Holderness, L.
Alport, L. Hooper, B.
Ashbourne, L. Kinnaird, L.
Beaverbrook, L. Kinnoull, E.
Belhaven and Stenton, L. Lane-Fox, B.
Bellwin, L. Lauderdale, E.
Belstead, L. Lawrence, L.
Birdwood, L. Layton, L.
Boardman, L. Long, V.
Boyd-Carpenter, L. Lyell, L.
Brabazon of Tara, L. Margadale, L.
Brougham and Vaux, L. Marley, L.
Butterworth, L. Merrivale, L.
Caithness, E. Mersey, V.
Cameron of Lochbroom, L, Monckton of Brenchley, V
Campbell of Alloway, L. Mottistone, L.
Campbell of Croy, L. Moyne, L.
Cork and Orrery, E. Murton of Lindisfarne, L.
Craigmyle, L. Nugent of Guildford, L.
Cullen of Ashbourne, L. Orr-Ewing, L.
Davidson V. [Teller.] Pender, L.
De La Warr, E. Portland, D.
Denham, L. [Teller.] Rankeillour, L.
Derwent, L. Reay, L.
Dundee, E. Renton, L.
Elles, B. Rochdale, V.
Elton, L. Rodney, L.
Faithfull, B. St. Aldwyn, E.
Fraser of Kilmorack, L. St. Davids, V.
Glenarthur. L. Skelmersdale, L.
Gray of Contin, L. Strange, B.
Greenway, L. Swinton, E.
Hailsham of Saint Marylebone, L. Teynham, L.
Trumpington, B.
Harlech, L.' Ullswater, V.
Harmar-Nicholls, L. Whitelaw, V.
Henley, L. Windlesham, L.
Hesketh. L. Wise, L.
Hives, L.

Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.

6.5 p.m.

[Amendment No. 5 not moved.]

Clause 9 [Relevant matters for order prohibiting or restricting use of premises]:

The Earl of Caithness moved Amendment No. 6:

Leave out Clause 9 and insert the following new clause:

"Special procedure in case of serious risk; prohibition notices.

9.—(1) For section 10 of the principal Act (court's power to prohibit or restrict use of certain premises until excessive risk to persons in case of fire is reduced) there shall be substituted the following section— Special procedure in case of serious risk: prohibition notices. 10.— (1) This section applies to— (a) any premises which are being or are proposed to be put to a use (whether designated or not) which falls within at least one of the classes of use mentioned in section 1(2) of this Act, other than premises of the description given in section 2 of this Act; and (b) any premises to which section 3 of this Act for the time being applies.

(2) If as regards any premises to which this section applies the fife authority are of the opinion that use of the premises involves or will involve a risk to persons on the premises in case of fire so serious that use of the premises ought to be prohibited or restricted, the authority may serve on the occupier of the premises a notice (in this Act referred to as "a prohibition notice").

(3) The matters relevant to the assessment by the fire authority, for the purposes of subsection (2) above, of the risk to persons in case of fire include anything affecting their escape from the premises in that event.

(4) A prohibition notice shall—

  1. (a) state that the fire authority are of the opinion referred to in subsection (2) above;
  2. (b) specify the matters which in their opinion give or, as the case may be, will give rise to that risk; and
  3. (c) direct that the use to which the prohibition notice relates is prohibited or restricted to such extent as may be specified in the notice until the specified matters have been remedied.

(5) A prohibition notice may include directions as to the steps which will have to be taken to remedy the matters specified in the notice.

(6) A prohibition or restriction contained in a prohibition notice in pursuance of subsection (4)(c) above shall take effect immediately it is served if the authority are of the opinion, and so state in the notice, that the risk of serious personal injury is or, as the case may be, will be imminent, and in any other case shall take effect at the end of a period specified in the prohibition notice.

(7) Where a prohibition notice has been served under subsection (2) above the fire authority may withdraw the notice at any time.".

(2) After the section 10 of the principal Act substituted by subsection (1) above there shall be inserted the following sections—

Rights of appeal against prohibition notices 10A.—(1) A person on whom a prohibition notice is served may, within twenty-one days from the date on which the prohibition notice is served, appeal to the court. (2) On an appeal under this section, the court may either cancel or affirm the notice, and, if it affirms it, may do so either in its original form or with such modifications as the court may in the circumstances think fit. (3) Where an appeal is brought under this section against a prohibition notice, the bringing of the appeal shall not have the effect of suspending the operation of the notice, unless, on the application of the appellant, the court so directs (and then only from the giving of the direction). Provision as to offences. 10B.—(1) It shall be an offence for any person to contravene any prohibition or restriction imposed by a prohibition notice.

(2)In any proceedings for an offence under subsection (I) above where the person charged is a person other than the person on whom the prohibition notice was served, it shall be a defence for that person to prove that he did not know and had no reason to believe the notice had been served.

(3) Any person guilty of an offence under subsection (I) above shall be liable—

  1. (a) on summary conviction, to a fine not exceeding the statutory maximum;
  2. (b)on conviction on indictment, to a fine, or imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years, or both."

(3) In section 43(1) of the principal Act (interpretation), after the definition of "prescribed" there shall be inserted the following definition—

" "prohibition notice" has the meaning assigned by section 10(2) of this Act;".").

The noble Earl said: My Lords, with the leave of the House, in moving Amendment No. 6, I shall speak to Amendments Nos. 7, 8, 9, 25 and 26.

The amendments reflect the outcome of my discussion with my right honourable friend the Home Secretary following the very strong arguments that the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, with the full support of my noble friend Lord Boyd-Carpenter, put forward in Committee in favour of introducing a system of prohibition notices into the 1971 Act.

The new clause provides for the fire authority to issue a notice prohibiting or restricting the use of premises where it is of the opinion that there is a serious risk to persons in case of fire. It will be an offence to contravene such a prohibition or restriction. This means that until the fire authority is satisfied that the matters specified in the notice have been remedied, the occupier is constrained in his use of the premises. There is of course a right of appeal to the courts against the issue or terms of such a notice, but the notice remains in force unless and until the court directs that its operation be suspended. Your Lordships will be aware that provision is already made for the issue of prohibition notices of the Safety of Sports Grounds Act 1975 by Clause 22 of the Bill. The other amendments in the group are consequential on new Clause 9 of the Bill.

This is the amendment to which I referred on Amendment No. 4. I hope that it will go a long way to solving some of the problems mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Dean of Beswick. I beg to move.

Lord Mishcon

My Lords, your Lordships' House has once again shown by its wisdom that a Bill can be altered in a vital respect if only there is the combined wisdom of two Benches, expressed in this case from my point of view, and I am sure with ineptitude; and expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, with his usual facility of language.

On that occasion he asked the Chamber to beware of some guile that I am supposed to have possessed. At all events, the Secretary of State did not think that there was any guile behind the amendments, I am sure because of the arguments that the noble Earl, Lord Caithness, presented to him as being a faithful version of what the Committee had thought, and decided to concede what is a very important amendment.

It means that, in regard to dangerous premises, prohibition notices concerning the use of the whole or of the part until certain works have been carried out can be served with great expedition by the fire authority with the full right of appeal so that justice is being done, but expedition, which is so important in matters of this kind, will now be able to be enforced. I thank the Minister for the gracious way in which he dealt with the amendment and for what he said today.

I wonder whether I can ask the Minister a question. If he cannot answer immediately, I shall well understand because I did not have an opportunity to give him notice of the question. Will the new Clause 9 allow for the fire authority to be able to issue prohibition notices under the revised Section 10 of the Fire Precautions Act 1971 in respect of sports grounds and regulated stands—and in special circumstances? I have in mind an event at a venue that is not subject to the safety certification procedure.

I am speaking with deliberate slowness in the hope that possibly inspiration may come from a certain part of your Lordships' House and become instilled into the very active mind of the Minister. Whether that will happen, despite the fact that I have elongated my remarks, I am not quite sure. The noble Earl will say either that he can answer the question or, as I quite understand, that he will give me an answer which will enable me to be enlightened at least before Third Reading.

Lord Winstanley

My Lords, on behalf of my noble friends on these Benches who took an interest in this matter at Committee stage I too thank the noble Earl for the new clause which has come forward and which I am sure will be warmly welcomed by my noble friends. This is Report stage and as we are not going to get an opportunity to look further at the Bill in detail, and as the procedures are not going to enable the noble Earl to speak on each further clause of the Bill, I hope that while he is looking into the point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, I may raise one other matter about which my noble friends and I on these Benches still have some anxiety and which is perhaps related to the new clause but does not come strictly within it.

It is possible that the noble Earl may be able to answer my point later. Disclosure of information in relation to inspections is covered in Clause 11 of the Bill. He is also aware that Section 21 of the Fire Precautions Act 1971 makes it an offence for a fire officer to disclose information obtained in any premises entered during the course of a fire safety inspection.

Members of the public have expressed certain anxieties. They have been formulated in particular by the Consumers' Association. Where inspections are carried out, information which is of interest and of critical importance to members of the public ought to be made available to members of the public in general. I realise that this is not covered in the new clause, but we are not going to be debating Clause 11 because there are no amendments to it, and I wonder whether the noble Earl could say something more about this matter.

The new clause deals with prohibition notices. It is clear that once the notice is put out it takes effect irrespective of the 21 days for appeal. It is probable that before such a draconian step is taken the fire officers may have made a number of preliminary inspections. If at any time those who inspect such premises come across things which it would be useful for members of the public to know about, I should like to think that no constraint will be laid upon them making that information widely known.

This point has been raised by the Consumers' Association, and I hope that, if not at this stage, at least at some later stage and perhaps even in another place, that could be looked at. We all hope that none of the disasters that we have experienced in recent years will be repeated. One way of avoiding that is not merely to enable fire officers, but perhaps to require them, to make public information which could be vital to members of the public about escape routes, precautions, and special risks which may exist in special places.

The noble Earl may say, and he would be perfectly right in doing so, that that is not contained within his new clause. But in his response to my welcome for his new clause perhaps he will say a few brief words about the anxieties which have been expressed by the Consumers' Association.

Lord Boyd-Carpenter

My Lords, I also should like to welcome this new clause and express my gratitude to the noble Earl for introducing it. I am happy that a major factor in producing it was the guile of the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon. He seemed to think that the word "guile" had a pejorative sense. Perhaps sometimes it does, but when one is on the same side as somebody, one likes that person to have plenty of guile. If I may translate that into terms of legal advocacy, one hopes one's opponents may have no guile and one's lawyer a lot. It was in that sense that I addressed the comment to the noble Lord whose skill in debate he knows I very much admire. I am delighted that this improvement should be made in the Bill. It is quite a good example of the way in which the House works.

6.15 p.m.

Lord Graham of Edmonton

My Lords, I join in the general congratulations to the Minister on bringing forward a much improved way of dealing with this matter, particularly as I have learned from listening in this past 10 minutes the genesis of it and also the genuine attempt to meet queries. Will the Minister allow me to raise one other point? He may say that this is not the appropriate place, but I believe it needs to be raised.

When one looks at the grounds upon which the prohibition notice will be served one glances in particular at the top of page 2, where it says: the risk to persons in case of fire include anything affecting their escape from the premises in that event". Let me raise the issue of emergency lighting. The noble Earl will understand that, however a tragedy occurs and in whatever form, it must be horrendous. One needs to be conscious that all the provisions for safety that need to be present in the building—and that is why the inspectors are there—are present. But over and above that one needs to make sure that the proper and safe way of leaving the place is adequate. In many instances that will mean adequate lighting.

The legislation that precedes this in a general sense, applying to a number of situations, specifically includes reference to "emergency lighting". For instance, when we look at hotels and boarding houses, guidance is issued which says: Emergency lighting. Some form of emergency lighting should be provided in all premises and whatever is provided for this purpose must be capable of illuminating all stairways". Then: In ballrooms, conference rooms and other rooms where large numbers of persons assemble and in all associated escape routes the emergency lighting must be kept on at all times". When we look at factories we have specific reference to "emergency lighting". It says: In most factory buildings it will not be necessary to provide emergency lighting for the purpose of means of escape in case of fire". Then offices and shops: Emergency lighting should be provided". I and a great many others outside the House who have an interest in the lighting industry—I represented Edmonton and live in Enfield, and am well aware of the Thorn lighting nexus in the area—would be interested to know to what extent the legislation is going either to lay responsibility on, or provide general guidance for, the various places—not only sports grounds but others—which are tangential to what we are talking about and which need to have adequate emergency lighting.

As other Members have said, and the noble Lord, Lord Winstanley, in particular, this is late in the timing of the passage of the Bill through this House. It may be that in another place more time will be given either to arguments or explanations. But perhaps the Minister can in general say that lighting is covered, in which case that is the end of it, or that it is not covered and there are reasons why. Alternatively he may say that it may not have been given sufficient attention and undertake to pass on to his right honourable friend that it ought to be looked at in another place.

Baroness Phillips

My Lords, I also should like to take advantage of this debate to raise another matter to which I do not expect the Minister to reply, as I agree with the amendment. It has often concerned me that in this House and in the other place we are always passing Acts of Parliament for safety which deal with various kinds of premises, whereas we work in premises which have Crown immunity.

As I know, there is no notice posted anywhere in this building telling us what we should do in the event of a fire. On the occasion of the State Opening we are locked in here so that if we burn we shall certainly burn rather splendidly in our robes, and there is no way in which we can immediately get out.

I am sure that all these things are adequately provided for, but it has often concerned me that in this House we discuss so many prohibitions and rules that we legislate for in other connections—my noble friend has just mentioned places of entertainment where the public foregather (the public certainly foregather in this building)—but I am unaware of any rules and regulations that cover a building of this kind. I know we have Crown immunity. No doubt the Almighty also knows, and we have not been confronted by these kinds of situations. I hope that at some stage we can have a sensible debate on why a building such as the Palace of Westminster does not have to conform to some of the statutory requirements imposed on other buildings of its size and use.

The Earl of Caithness

My Lords, we have ranged considerably wider than prohibition notices. We have moved almost into a Second Reading debate on this matter. I say first to the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, and to my noble friend Lord Boyd-Carpenter specifically on the prohibition notice side that I am grateful for their welcome. Indeed, they put forward solid arguments and my right honourable friend thought that the right thing to do was to bring forward an amendment at this stage. I am grateful for their work on this matter. I have had a lot of inspiration since the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, asked me that question but I have not had quite enough to be able to answer him at the moment. Perhaps I may write to him in the usual form and put a copy in the Library.

The noble Lord, Lord Winstanley, asked about the Consumers' Association. Yes, we have been in discussion with the association and have written to it. I am sure the noble Lord will be the first to recognise that some of the things he mentioned are the duty of the owner or occupier of the premises. I remember from the time I was involved in building the requirement to put fire exits and signs at appropriate places.

Much of what the noble Lord was talking about will be covered by other legislation. It is right that that knowledge is available to workers, but some of the matters that he wanted to be made available would create a difficult situation because many of them are in confidence to the fire authorities, who have built up a tremendous rapport with the owners and occupiers of premises. They have a right to go into such premises and it is correct that confidentiality should be respected so that they have a full and frank answer from the owners or occupiers. So we have a difficulty on that matter.

I do not think we can go too far down the line of rights of disclosure without impinging on the work that the fire authorities have done and continue to do to build up good liaison with business premises. As the noble Lord will know from his reading of the Bill, there is much that one is able to disclose to the Health and Safety Executive so many of his worries are already covered.

The noble Lord, Lord Graham, mentioned emergency lighting. Yes, this is covered quite rightly in other legislation. It is one of the factors that a fire authority will look at when it goes into premises. If there is not adequate emergency lighting where it is thought to be appropriate, such as in a hotel or a building in multi-occupancy, it might be one of the factors where it might be said, "This is where we can put a prohibition notice on to part or all of the premises" so that that defect is remedied. It is not specifically covered as I read the Bill at the moment because it is covered so well in other legislation. On the prohibition notice it will be one of the factors taken into account.

Lord Graham of Edmonton

My Lords, the noble Earl has clarified the issue, which is what I wanted rather than an opinion on whether it was desirable. I am grateful. But what worries me from the Minister's perfectly fair answer is that there is no obligation in other legislation. It is all very much a question of "may" rather than "shall". What I think the Minister needs to understand is that in view of the horrific accidents which have been mentioned here and which are the genesis of this Bill, I am absolutely certain that it is right and proper to consider seriously that an adequate emergency lighting provision must be one of the stable ingredients of a building which escapes a prohibition notice. I thank the Minister for what he has said so far.

The Earl of Caithness

My Lords, there is no difference between the noble Lord and the Government on that point.

The noble Baroness, Lady Phillips, took us wider into Crown immunity. She will be pleased to know that Crown premises put to uses designated under the Fire Precautions Act 1971 are generally required to have a fire certificate. The Government consider that the arrangements for securing the necessary standards of fire safety in Crown premises are satisfactory and these are kept under review by the departments concerned. As she rightly points out, the Bill does not affect the application of existing fire precaution legislation to Crown premises, but provides that the new provisions are applied on a similar basis. I hope she will rest assured and that we shall see her more often than before in this Chamber.

I am grateful for the reception that your Lordships have given to this amendment. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 13 [Removal of exemption 'Or premises used for public religious worship]:

The Earl of Caithness moved Amendment No. 7: Page II, line 19, leave out from beginning to ("and") in line 21.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 18. [Application to Crown etc.]:

The Earl of Caithness moved Amendments Nos. 8 and 9: Page 12, line 24, leave out ("and"). Page 12, line 24, at end insert ("and after "10", there shall be inserted "10B," ").

On Question, amendments agreed to.

The Earl of Caithness moved Amendment No. 10:

After Clause 20, insert the following new clause:

("Safety certificates: police presence.

In section 2 of the principal Act (contents of safety certificates), after subsection (2), there shall be inserted the following subsection— (2A) No condition of a safety certificate shall require the provision of the services at the ground of any members of a police force unless the extent of the provision of their services is reserved for the determination of the chief officer of police of the force." ").

The noble Earl said: My Lords, with the leave of the House I shall speak also to Amendment No. 15. These amendments require that where the local authority includes in a safety certificate a provision which requires the holder to secure the presence of the police, the determination of the number of police present on any particular occasion must be left to the chief officer of police. These amendments will not in practice introduce any new restrictions on the local authority. It is already the practice where a safety certificate requires the holder to secure the presence of the police for the chief officer of police to determine the extent of the police presence. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 21 [Safety certificates.. appeals]:

The Earl of Caithness moved Amendment No. 11: Page 14, line 21, after ("(1)") insert ("for the words from "person" to the end of paragraph (b) there shall be substituted the words "applicant for a safety certificate, he shall be deemed to have withdrawn his application" and").

The noble Earl said: My Lords, with the leave of the House I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 12, 19, 20 and 21. These amendments revise Section 7(1) of the 1975 Act and Clause 29(9) of the Bill to take account of the fact that neither the Act nor the Bill gives the local authority a continuing responsibility to determine whether or not a holder of a safety certificate remains a qualified person. As amended, Section 7(1) and Clause 29(9) will provide that, should the local authority determine that an applicant is not qualified for the issue of a certificate, the application shall be deemed to be withdrawn. Section 7(1)(b) and Clause 29(9)(b), which misleadingly imply that there was a similar provision for the deemed surrender of a certificate by the holder, are deleted. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

The Earl of Caithness moved Amendment No 12: Page 14, line 30, leave out ("or surrendered his certificate").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 22 [Special procedure in case of serious risk: prohibition notices]:

The Earl of Caithness moved Amendment No. 13: Page 15, line 9, leave out ("matters giving rise to the risk") and insert ("specified matters").

The noble Earl said: My Lords, this amendment is made following consideration of the drafting of the new Clause 9 and reflects the fact that a prohibition notice issued under the Safety of Sports Grounds Act 1975 may have regard to prospective as well as existing risks to persons. There is parallel provision in the new Section 10(4)(c) inserted by Clause 9 in respect of the 1971 Act.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

6.30 p.m.

Clause 24 [Enforcement: inspections and offence of obstruction]:

Lord Mishcon moved Amendment No. 14:

Page 18, line 13, at end insert— ("(3) For the purposes of subsection (1) above, "periodical" means at least once in every twelve months.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I trust the Minister will recollect that there went through the Division Lobby on a previous amendment dealing with concern about the safety of premises and the need for inspection 72 Members of your Lordships' House, as against 74. That amendment was unfortunately lost. I am sure I know the noble Earl well enough to know that the narrowness of that vote will be conveyed to the Secretary of State so that at least the matter is seriously considered again, your Lordships having spoken with a certain voice even though the certain voice was not a successful one.

I mention this because of the analogous arguments that I would put forward in support of this amendment. I remind your Lordships that the whole of this Bill, as I have said previously, owes its origin to the disasters that occurred, following upon which the Popplewell Inquiry took place. This Bill therefore, in dealing with designated sports grounds, is of course dealing with the very matter that Mr. Justice Popplewell enquired into with the greatest of care. One of his recommendations—and I cannot emphasise this sufficiently—was that in respect of all designated sports grounds there must be at least annual inspections.

I raised this at Committee stage, and I have had a disastrous sequel. I say that it is disastrous for this reason. At col. 158 of Hansard during our deliberations in Committee on 3rd February, the noble Lord, Lord Beaverbrook—who I am glad to see in his rightful place—gave an answer in the following terms. I am quoting from the last sentence of his remarks in the Official Report at col. 158: 1 doubt in particular whether annual inspection will always be appropriate for some of the smaller designated grounds. For that reason, I invite the noble Lord to see whether he can withdraw his amendment". I did not withdraw the amendment upon that ground; I did indeed withdraw it because I hoped that the matter would be looked into further, that a letter would reach me from the Minister and that on reconsideration Popplewell would be followed. What is the point of having Mr. Justice Popplewell dealing with these particular matters and then not following his deliberate advice?

A letter followed, and this is an excerpt from that courteous letter which was sent to me by the noble Earl. He said: As you know, the Government is anxious that the best use should be made of the local authority resources available for carrying out this duty and whilst I do not rule out annual inspection for all designated grounds I think it would be wrong to be committed to in all cases in advance of consultation with the local authority associations. I can assure you, however, that we expect the guidance to require annual inspection of the international grounds, and the Football League, Rugby League and Test cricket grounds. I am reluctant to go further than that at present, and I hope that you will appreciate my concern to preserve in the Bill the flexibility to ensure that it permits the most effective use of local authority resources when it comes to imposing a duty to inspect the less well-frequented grounds, such as many of those used for non-league football and rugby union". In other words, local authority resources seem to be the only reason for not following a deliberate Popplewell recommendation that there must at least be annual inspections. As somebody who once had the privilege for some seven years of being chairman of the London Fire Brigade, I am proud to tell your Lordships that the fire prevention branch of the London Fire Brigade tell me without any doubt at all that they very definitely carry out annual inspections of all designated grounds. Indeed they also make up to four inspections per year during performances, when fire-related items of public safety are reviewed while events are in progress.

However, they also point out to me—and I am therefore quoting from the London Fire Brigade (the Fire Prevention Branch of that great brigade)—that, Unfortunately risk from fire is often greater at smaller premises than larger where the amount of time and resources shown by owners to ensure safe situations is not as much as that in the larger premises". They go on to tell me how necessary it is that all fire authorities see that annual inspections take place.

It has also been pointed out to me by those who know that very often it is not the Rugby League, the chief cricket events and the Test matches that have to be watched but very many of matches on the smaller grounds. Some of the smaller grounds are often used for greater events where pitches are not available elsewhere for some reason or another.

We are not asking here for the strange recommendation of those who feel, with ultra care, that amendments should be put into this Bill to ensure safety. This amendment follows Popplewell. The Government opposition to it, so far, is against Popplewell. Some of the important fire authorities are in favour of an enactment which says there must be at least an annual inspection of the very type of ground that caused your Lordships, and the whole nation, such dismay when the tragic events occurred to which we have referred so often in this Bill. From that of course the Popplewell Report was born. We would be lacking in duty—and if I may say so with respect the Government would be so wrong—if this amendment is opposed.

Lord Beaverbrook

My Lords, the noble Lord has recalled that at Committee stage I undertook to look at this matter again. As he has stated, my noble friend Lord Caithness wrote on this matter to say that we do not rule out annual inspection for all designated grounds. My noble friend gave an assurance—and I reiterate it—that we expect the guidance to require the annual inspection of the international grounds, all Football League grounds and the Rugby League and Test cricket grounds.

However, as previously stated, in advance of consultations with the local authority associations, we believe it would be premature to go firm on the frequency of inspection for other grounds which are likely to be very much less frequented and where inspection at a frequency greater than 12 months may well be perfectly satisfactory. We think it is right to preserve flexibility in this area, at least until we have taken on board the views of the representatives of local authorities from whose resources these inspections will have to be met. Your Lordships will appreciate that resources are an important matter.

I, therefore, ask the noble Lord to accept that we intend that all major designated grounds will be inspected at least once a year, but that we should not in the Bill impose an inflexible obligation on local authorities to inspect all designated sports grounds annually. However, the whole point of consulting the local authority associations is to seek their views, and I assure your Lordships that, if their clear view was that all designated grounds should be inspected annually, we should be strongly disposed to suggest this in the guidance. I had intended to invite the noble Lord to withdraw his amendment at this point but in the light of his comments on the likelihood of risk at smaller grounds I should like to consider the matter further. Perhaps he will still agree to withdraw his amendment at this point.

Lord Mishcon

My Lords, in the ordinary way I should be delighted to accept what the noble Lord, Lord Beaverbrook, has said, but this is postponing the matter to the Third Reading. I shall have very little opportunity of taking the opinion of the House on that occasion in the way that I should want. If I may say so, I am surprised that, having heard all the arguments and knowing that this was Popplewell's recommendation, the Government have not made up their minds with certainty. I think that it is Parliament and not local authorities which has to make up its minds whether or not to follow Mr. Justice Popplewell. I would have asked for the opinion of the House to be taken at this stage were it not that the noble Lord, Lord Winstanley, has asked to speak.

Lord Winstanley

My Lords, I am most grateful to the noble Lord for allowing me to intervene very briefly. I have listened most carefully to the words of the noble Lord, Lord Beaverbrook. I understood him to say that if, following consultations with the local authority associations, there was agreement on this provision as outlined by the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, then arrangements would be made for it to be carried out. My only purpose in intervening was to ask whether the noble Lord, Lord Beaverbrook, could say anything further about the timing of those consultations. Are they likely to be concluded before this House says goodbye to this Bill, or can the noble Lord ensure that they will, in fact, be concluded in time for some further statement to be made before matters are over?

Lord Beaverbrook

My Lords, the answer to that specific question is, no. These negotiations and discussions would not be concluded prior to this Bill leaving your Lordships' House. Indeed the guidance that is to be issued will of course be as a result of this Bill becoming an Act. But I should like to emphasise that we wish to look at this matter very seriously and I put that to the noble Lord. However, if he feels that he must take the opinion of the House, then that is- a course open to him.

Lord Mishcon

My Lords, I do not want to be unfair to the noble Lord the Minister—I never would be—and I am merely asking this question, to which he need not reply if he does not wish to do so. Can the House be assured, having heard the discussion on this amendment today, that there will be a recommendation from the Minister that there should be an annual inspection provision inserted in accordance with this amendment? If he cannot tell the House that there will be that recommendation from the Minister, then I think the House must speak at Report stage and follow Popplewell.

Lord Beaverbrook

My Lords, I said to the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, that we should like to look at this matter again and for that very reason I cannot give the undertaking he is seeking. I have to say that that could only come as a result of looking at it again.

6.44 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 14) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 64; Not-Contents, 59.

Airedale, L. Brooks of Tremorfa, L.
Allenby of Megiddo, V. Brougham and Vaux, L.
Attlee, E. Carmichael of Kelvingrove, L.
Auckland, L. Craigavon, V.
Blease, L. Darcy (de Knayth), B.
Blyth, L. David, B.
Blyton, L. Davies of Penrhys, L.
Broadbridge, L. Dean of Beswick, L.
Diamond, L. McNair, L.
Elwyn-Jones, L. Mishcon, L.
Ennals, L. Mountevans, L.
Erroll, E. Mulley, L.
Ewart-Biggs, B. Munster, E.
Gallacher, L. [Teller.] Murray of Epping Forest, L.
Galpern, L. Nicol, B.
Graham of Edmonton, L. [Teller.] Perry of Walton, L.
Phillips, B.
Halsbury, E. Prys-Davies, L.
Hampton, L. Rea, L.
Hanworth, V. Ritchie of Dundee, L.
Hatch of Lusby, L. Ross of Marnock, L.
Houghton of Sowerby, L. Seear, B.
Hylton-Foster, B. Shackleton, L.
Jeger, B. Silkin of Dulwich, L.
John-Mackie, L. Stoddart of Swindon, L.
Kagan, L. Taylor of Blackburn, L.
Kilbracken, L. Tordoff, L.
Lawrence, L. Whaddon, L.
Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe, B. Winchilsea and Nottingham, E.
Lloyd of Kilgerran, L.
Lockwood, B. Winstanley, L.
Longford, E. Winterbottom, L.
Mackie of Benshie, L. Ypres, E.
Allerton, L. Hesketh, L.
Beaverbrook, L. Hives, L.
Bellwin, L. Hooper, B.
Belstead, L. Lane-Fox, B.
Boardman, L. Lauderdale, E.
Boyd-Carpenter, L. Liverpool, E.
Brabazon of Tara, L. Long, V.
Butterworth, L. Lyell, L.
Caithness, E. Margadale, L.
Cameron of Lochbroom, L. Merrivale, L.
Campbell of Alloway, L. Mersey, V.
Chelwood, L. Monckton of Brenchley, V
Colville of Culross, V. Mottistone, L.
Colwyn, L. Moyne, L.
Craigmyle, L. Murton of Lindisfarne, L.
Davidson V. [Teller.] Orr-Ewing, L.
De La Warr, E. Pender, L.
Denham, L. [Teller.] Rankeillour, L.
Dundee, E. Renton, L.
Elles, B. Rochdale, V.
Elton, L. Rodney, L.
Enniskillen, E. St. Aldwyn, E.
Faithfull, B. St. Davids, V.
Fraser of Kilmorack, L. Skelmersdale, L.
Glenarthur, L. Swinton, E.
Greenway, L. Trefgarne, L.
Hailsham of Saint Marylebone, L. Trumpington, B.
Tryon, L.
Harmar-Nicholls, L. Whitelaw, V.
Henley, L. Windlesham, L.

Resolved in the affirmative, and amendment agreed to accordingly.

6.52 p.m.

Clause 26 [Contents of safety certificates for stands]:

The Earl of Caithness moved Amendment No. 15:

Page 19, line 29, at end insert— ("(2A) No condition of a safety certificate shall require the provision of the services in or in the vicinity of the stand of any members of a police force unless the extent of the provision of their services is reserved for the determination of the chief officer of police of the force.").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 29 [Appeals]:

The Earl of Caithness moved Amendment No. 16: Page 22, line 18, leave out ("An applicant for") and insert ("Any person who, on an application for the issue or transfer to him of").

The noble Earl said: My Lords, with the leave of the House, I should like to speak also to Amendments Nos. 17 and 18.

Clause 29(2) gives a right of appeal to an applicant who is determined by the local authority not to qualify for the issue of a safety certificate for a regulated stand. It does not give a similar right of appeal to an applicant who it is determined does not qualify to have a certificate transferred to him. These amendments make Clause 29(2) apply in respect of the transfer as well as the issue of a certificate. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

The Earl of Caithness moved Amendment No. 17: Page 22, line 19, leave out ("who").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

The Earl of Caithness moved Amendment No. 18: Page 22, line 20, after ("not") insert ("or, in the case of an application for a transfer, would not").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

The Earl of Caithness moved Amendment No. 19: Page 22, line 49, leave out ("person") and insert ("applicant for a safety certificate").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

The Earl of Caithness moved Amendment No. 20: Page 22, line 50, leave out from ("of') to end of line 4 on page 23 and insert ("the certificate, he shall be deemed to have withdrawn his application").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

The Earl of Caithness moved Amendment No. 21: Page 23, line 10, leave out from ("application") to ("on") in line 11.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 30 [Regulations]:

Lord Beaverbrook moved Amendment No. 22: Page 23, line 37, after first ("of") insert ("applications for").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, with the leave of the House perhaps I may speak to Amendments Nos. 22 and 23 together. Amendment No. 22 remedies a technical defect in the drafting of Clause 30. It links the charges which may be made under regulations made under Part III of the Bill to an application for the issue, amendment, replacement or transfer of a certificate, rather than to the issue, Amendment, replacement or transfer itself. This brings Part III into line with the 1975 Act.

Amendment No. 23 makes provision to charge for work done by the local authority following an application by the holder of a certificate for cancellation of the certificate on the grounds that the stand has ceased to be a regulated stand. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Beaverbrook moved Amendment No. 23: Page 23, line 38, after ("certificates") insert ("or in respect of applications for the cancellation of safety certificates for stands which have ceased to be regulated stands").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 45 [Luminous tube signs: England and Wales]:

Lord Beaverbrook moved Amendment No. 24: Page 32, leave out lines 23 to 31 and insert ("1000 volts A.C. or 1500 volts D.C. if measured between any two conductors or 600 volts A.C. or 900 volts D.C. if measured between any conductor and earth").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, this amendment remedies a technical error concerning a matter of electrical engineering. I am confident that the clause as amended will now have the desired effect of updating the description of electrical voltages of luminous tube signs needing a fireman's switch in the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1982. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Schedule 4 [Repeals]:

The Earl of Caithness moved Amendment No. 25: Page 39, column 3, leave out lines 28 and 29.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Schedule 5 [Transitional and saving provisions]:

The Earl of Caithness moved Amendment No. 26:

Page 40, line 28, at end insert—

("Fire safety: emergency orders

3A. The substitution effected by section 9 of this Act of section 10 of the 1971 Act shall not affect any order of the court in force under that section when that substitution comes into force and any such order may be enforced, or an appeal made against it, accordingly.").

On Question, amendment agreed to.