HL Deb 10 June 1998 vol 590 cc1007-9

1 Clause 2, page 1, leave out from the beginning of line 21 to the end of line 10 on page 2 and insert—

("(2) In this Act "contract for the supply of goods or services" means—

  1. (a) a contract of sale of goods; or
  2. (b) a contract (other than a contract of sale of goods) by which a person does any, or any combination, of the things mentioned in subsection (3) for a consideration that is (or includes) a money consideration.

(3) Those things are—

  1. (a) transferring or agreeing to transfer to another the property in goods;
  2. (b) bailing or agreeing to bail goods to another by way of hire or, in Scotland, hiring or agreeing to hire goods to another; and
  3. (c) agreeing to carry out a service.

(4) For the avoidance of doubt a contract of service or apprenticeship is not a contract for the supply of goods or services.

(5) The following are excepted contracts—

  1. (a) a consumer credit agreement;
  2. (b) a contract intended to operate by way of mortgage, pledge, charge or other security; and
  3. (c) a contract of a description specified in an order made by the Secretary of State.

(6) An order under subsection (5)(c) may specify a description of contract by reference to any feature of the contract (including the parties).

(7) In this section— business" includes a profession and the activities of any government department or local or public authority; consumer credit agreement" has the same meaning as in the Consumer Credit Act 1974; contract of sale of goods" and "goods" have the same meaning as in the Sale of Goods Act 1979; property in goods" means the general property in them and not merely a special property.")

Lord Clinton-Davis

My Lords, I beg to move that the House do agree with the Commons in their Amendment No. 1. I wish to speak also to Amendments Nos. 3, 6 and 7. Amendment No. 1 to Clause 2 is technical and the other amendments in the group are consequential. The changes ensure that contracts which are part service provision and part supply of goods are covered. We had been relying on the Supply of Goods and Services Act 1982 for our definition of contract for the transfer of goods and contract for the hire of goods". However, we were advised that the 1982 Act did not foresee the possibility that a contract might be for supply of a good or goods, in the singular or plural, and the provision of a service. The amendment makes clear that such contracts will be covered by the legislation.

We also took the opportunity, in redrafting the clause, to make clear that contracts where the consideration is part money and part something else are covered. It will, of course, be only the money element of the consideration that will bear the interest. This idea is already in the Bill, expressed at Clause 2(3)(a). I think, however, that it is important that the Bill be as transparent as we can make it.

Amendment No. 7, in light of the amendments made to Clause 2, revises Clause 16, which provides definitions of terms used in the Bill. The definitions are now more free-standing and less dependent on other Acts, which makes for clarity.

Amendment No. 3 to Clause 4 and Amendment No. 6 to Clause 11 reflect the fact that the term, a contract for the hire of goods", is no longer defined in the Bill.

Although the amendments are somewhat lengthy, their effect is technical and they help to clarify the extent of the Bill. I hope the House will agree the amendments.

Moved, That this House do agree with the Commons in their Amendment No. 1.—(Lord Clinton-Davis.)

The Earl of Home

My Lords, I am not surprised to see that some fairly major changes were made to the Bill during its passage through another place. Despite quite lengthy and good discussion in your Lordships' House, the Bill was perhaps not a perfect document when it left us. I fear that it is still not a perfect document. We had hoped, for instance, that the Government would listen to the points, which were not at all party political. However, that was not to be. I am pleased that they have obviously listened to some of the practitioners, as far as Amendment No. 1 and the consequential amendments are concerned.

We on these Benches agree that Clause 2 now provides further clarification and covers more eventualities. One would perhaps have hoped that, with all the drafting skills at their beck and call, Ministers might have come up with something akin to this clause in the first place. I know that it is hard to legislate for every eventuality. My colleagues in another place described in Committee other situations which might occur. From the Hansard report of that debate, I do not believe they received proper answers. I therefore feel that the Bill may still not be quite as complete as it might be.

I come from north of the Border and draw some personal comfort from the amendment to Clause 2. It indicates that the Government now recognise that Scotland actually exists. Perhaps it has something to do with a rather important fixture that Scotland has in Paris in around one-and-a-half hours. I am sure that your Lordships will want to join me in wishing the Scottish team well this afternoon.

Noble Lords

Hear, hear!

The Earl of Home

My Lords, we will not oppose the amendment, particularly as it is supported by the bodies representing both small and medium-sized industries. Of course we wish to support them as well.

Lord Ezra

My Lords, I too express appreciation to the noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis, for having the courtesy to write to us in regard to these amendments and to explain their background. I find the amendments entirely reasonable in that we want to make the Bill as watertight as possible. If it was suspected that contracts which comprise both goods and services would have escaped the intentions of the Bill, it is right that that should be corrected.

I agree with the noble Earl, Lord Home, that perhaps the amendment could have been introduced at an earlier stage when we would have had an opportunity of expressing our opinions on it in this House. Nonetheless, I welcome the amendments; I believe that they improve the Bill.

Lord Clinton-Davis

My Lords, I thank the noble Earl, Lord Home, and the noble Lord, Lord Ezra, for their comments. Listening to the noble Earl, Lord Home, one might be tempted to think that no government in the past on either side had ever introduced amendments to their legislation. My memory does not accord with that.

The amendments are narrow in scope. However, I join with the noble Earl—though I have not consulted with the Scottish Office about this—in wishing the Scottish team every possible success, right through to the final when, of course, they will be playing England.

On Question, Motion agreed to.