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We have made a lot of progress today, and I am glad of that because this measure affects innocent people, including children. Those who are concerned about children in whose territories cluster munitions are accumulated will want to know not only that we have passed the Bill but that we will be prepared to take the action necessary to clear the ground. It is one thing to pass legislation, but another to give it practical effect. We have already heard enough today about the complexities
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that will undoubtedly cause difficulties in achieving certainty, and not merely certainty about the legal position. I am deeply worried for our servicemen, because I think that they will get caught up in this. The penalty of 14 years' imprisonment is very severe and the Bill has so many problems in it that people will be caught up unnecessarily despite its good intentions and, I hope, its good results.

Let me turn to the precedents for such Bills. The mustard gas that was used in the first world war was eventually outlawed, although not, of course, by Saddam Hussein. The fact is that such action on cluster munitions, which cause unnecessary and unreasonable deaths, is resisted by certain elements of our armed forces, so I am told. Despite the fact that the House of Commons, by consensus, has agreed that this Bill should go through, they do not believe that it is in the interests of our tactical and strategic operations to have such legislation.

Passing a law is a useful step, but it will not necessarily have the effect of protecting the innocent or, indeed, of avoiding complications for servicemen. Those are the crucial questions and it would be extremely helpful if the Minister-if he would listen for a second-would be good enough to put in the Library of the House of Commons the manual or the guidance to which he referred. When this Bill has been enacted and comes into force, its practicality will be tested. I, for one, would like the Minister to confirm that he is prepared to put the manual, with appropriate guidance, into the Library so that we may compare the manner in which the Government have alleged that the Bill will be effective with the manner in which they implement it.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read the Third time and passed, with an amendment.

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Third Parties (Rights against Insurers) Bill [ Lords]

Bill, not amended in the Public Bill Committee, considered.

Third Reading

7.31 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice (Bridget Prentice): I beg to move, That the Bill be now read the Third time.

It is a great pleasure to guide this Bill through its final stages, because it is a very good example of the valuable, expert work that the Law Commission has done to simplify difficult and technical areas of the law and to make them more accessible and more obviously relevant to ordinary people in ordinary situations. I thank the commission for all its hard work on this project. Although our procedures remain unchanged, this Bill was the second candidate to trial a new procedure in the other place for appropriate Law Commission Bills, which I hope will help further to support the commission's work in making the law more modern and effective.

The procedures in the Bill will allow the liability of the insured and the insurer to be resolved in just one set of proceedings. If the insured and the insurer are liable, the insurer will pay compensation directly to the third party who will, under the Bill, have been put in the shoes of the insured. The Bill is intended to clarify and simplify the law. It will therefore result in the quicker and cheaper resolution of claims. On that basis, I commend to the House this Bill, which is likely to be the final Bill that I shall take through the House.

7.32 pm

Mr. Henry Bellingham (North-West Norfolk) (Con): I join the Minister in paying tribute to the Law Commission for coming up with this Bill under the new, expedited procedure. Let me also declare an interest as a former practising barrister. I want to put on record my gratitude to the Minister for the way in which she has handled not only this Bill but many others, as this might be my last opportunity to thank her personally from the Dispatch Box for her work and to wish her well for the future. I understand that she will be in charge of the Department during the Dissolution period, after which it could fall to another party to take over from her. That is the Conservatives' hope, but we wish her well for the future anyway, and we hope very much that during those four weeks or so she does not cause any major problems, but makes sure that there is a steady hand on the tiller.

As the Minister has pointed out, the Bill is part of the new, expedited procedure for bringing through Parliament Law Commission Bills that command widespread consensus and support. It follows in the footsteps of the Perpetuities and Accumulations Act 2009-complex legislation that went through the House with the minimum of fuss. The Bill is important because it builds on the Third Parties (Rights against Insurers) Act 1930, which overturned the original, common law privity of contract doctrine, which stated clearly that no insurance liability was directly enforceable by a third party against an insurer. Real problems accrued as a result of that well-established principle, and the introduction of the 1930 Act reflected how the economy and society were moving on, not least with the proliferation of cars on the roads. A number of
23 Mar 2010 : Column 194
insured people were, sadly, getting killed, and third parties had to take over those insured rights against insurance companies.

It is not surprising that there have been one or two problems with the 1930 Act, as 80 years have intervened since then, in which time there have been many changes to our economy and legal system. If the insured were a dissolved company that had been struck off the register, the third party had to restore it to the register in order to mount a successful claim. That took time and cost money, and there was no need for that to happen. That is one of several key issues that the Bill addresses. All of the key changes are very straightforward and command widespread support. It was noticeable, during the consultation process, that people in all parts of the industry, including practitioners and other interested parties, spoke with one voice. It is quite a phenomenon to have everyone singing from exactly the same hymn sheet.

I should like to know from the Minister what lessons have been learned from the new procedure. The Bill was first mooted as long ago as 1998, in a Law Commission report, but it has taken 12 years to come before the House in its present form. I hope that it will be on the statute book very soon. How much quicker could that progress have been made if we had had in place the new procedures that were brought in under the Law Commission Act 2009 for expediting such Bills through Parliament? Could we have got it through Parliament in a couple of years, or even less time?

The Minister mentioned in a letter that she sent to me after our Committee proceedings that her Department would soon lay before the House a new protocol under the Law Commission Act 2009. Will she tell us whether it will be laid before Dissolution? I want to press her on an issue that I raised in Committee that she did not mention in her letter to me of 15 March, which refers to the Law Commission paper, "Insurance Contract Law: Misrepresentation, Non-Disclosure and Breach of Warranty by the Insured". That important report will give rise to legislation that could, to some extent, be allied to parts of this Bill, and I should like to know what happened to that report and whether a Bill will be coming forward in the near future.

The Bill is small but important. It builds on the 1930 Act, as I have said, and it will help a number of our constituents at times when their lives have become a complete misery because of the complexity of the existing law. It will take a small step towards alleviating that misery, and that is why the Conservatives are very pleased to support it.

7.38 pm

Mr. David Heath (Somerton and Frome) (LD): The Bill is not unimportant and neither is it lacking in complexity, but it is very welcome and, I hope, lacking in political controversy. It was therefore an extremely good candidate for the accelerated procedure that was used. We in this place cannot subcontract our scrutiny of legislation, but we can subcontract much of the hard work on its preparation and on the technical issues that must be addressed. We could put such work in no safer hands than those of the Law Commission, which has done an extremely good job in that regard and on many other matters that have come before us.

23 Mar 2010 : Column 195

I hope that a lot more of the Law Commission's backlog of recommendations will be put through a similar procedure in short order. The Lord Chancellor indicated recently that he regrets the fact that there is still a backlog and that there has been no opportunity to put more before the House. It is time we did so, because it is pointless for such an extremely learned and capable organisation to make recommendations if we cannot find the time to legislate on properly.

I conclude by noting that the Minister and I have served on many Bills over recent years. I have not always agreed with every position she has taken, and she has not always agreed with every position I have taken, but I have enormous respect for the work she has done and I thank her on behalf of the House for the efforts she has put into the Ministry. I really hope that during the period when she is in charge nothing happens to make her regret her current position.

I hope the Bill can now pass.

7.40 pm

Bridget Prentice: With leave of the House, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I shall reply quickly to the hon. Members for North-West Norfolk (Mr. Bellingham) and for Somerton and Frome (Mr. Heath). First, I thank them very much indeed for their kind words, which are much appreciated. I put on record my thanks to both of them and their colleagues, who have served on a variety of Bills with me. They have always been courteous and as supportive as they could be from their different positions. I very much appreciated that.

The hon. Member for North-West Norfolk asked what lessons had been learned. We certainly think the system is a much more effective tool for getting important but uncontroversial parts of the law through the House. I hope it will become a permanent solution and that, as the hon. Member for Somerton and Frome suggested, we will use it more often.

I have every sympathy with the hon. Member for North-West Norfolk about the length of time the measure has taken. For me, the most frustrating thing about being in government is how long it can take for a piece of legislation to get from point A to final implementation. The hon. Gentleman will understand the tenor of my remarks when I say that I hope he never has that experience. I appreciate that the time taken was not of the best; nevertheless such delay is not confined to this Government or to this period of office, and I hope the hon. Gentleman accepts that we are doing everything to try to reduce the delays and make sure that such legislation goes through more speedily using the new system.

Finally, the hon. Gentleman asked about the protocol. It is still being put together, but I hope we can publish it before the election, or perhaps during my period looking after the shop. I will make sure that the hon. Gentleman and the hon. Member for Somerton and Frome have sight of it as soon as possible.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read the Third time and passed, without amendment.

23 Mar 2010 : Column 196

Business without Debate

Delegated Legislation

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Michael Lord): With the leave of the House, we will deal with motions 5, 6, 7 and 8 together.

Motion made, and Question put forthwith (Standing Order No. 118(6)),

Terms and Conditions of Employment

Question agreed to.

Motion made, and Question put forthwith (Standing Order No. 118(6)),

Local Government

The House divided: Ayes 251, Noes 163.
Division No. 118]
[7.43 pm


Abbott, Ms Diane
Ainger, Nick
Alexander, rh Mr. Douglas
Allen, Mr. Graham
Atkins, Charlotte
Austin, Mr. Ian
Bailey, Mr. Adrian
Bain, Mr. William
Baird, Vera
Balls, rh Ed
Banks, Gordon
Barlow, Ms Celia
Barron, rh Mr. Kevin
Battle, rh John
Bayley, Hugh
Beckett, rh Margaret
Begg, Miss Anne
Bell, Sir Stuart
Benn, rh Hilary
Benton, Mr. Joe
Berry, Roger
Betts, Mr. Clive
Blackman, Liz
Blears, rh Hazel
Blizzard, Mr. Bob
Bradshaw, rh Mr. Ben
Brennan, Kevin
Brown, Lyn
Brown, rh Mr. Nicholas
Brown, Mr. Russell
Browne, rh Des
Bryant, Chris
Buck, Ms Karen
Burgon, Colin
Butler, Ms Dawn
Cairns, David
Campbell, Mr. Alan
Caton, Mr. Martin
Cawsey, Mr. Ian
Clapham, Mr. Michael
Clark, Ms Katy
Clark, Paul
Clarke, rh Mr. Charles
Clarke, rh Mr. Tom
Clelland, Mr. David
Clwyd, rh Ann
Coaker, Mr. Vernon
Cohen, Harry
Connarty, Michael
Cooper, Rosie
Cooper, rh Yvette
Corbyn, Jeremy
Cousins, Jim
Crausby, Mr. David
Cruddas, Jon
Cryer, Mrs. Ann
Cummings, John
Cunningham, Mr. Jim
Cunningham, Tony
David, Mr. Wayne
Davidson, Mr. Ian
Davies, Mr. Quentin
Denham, rh Mr. John
Dhanda, Mr. Parmjit
Dismore, Mr. Andrew
Dobbin, Jim
Dobson, rh Frank
Dodds, Mr. Nigel
Donaldson, rh Mr. Jeffrey M.
Donohoe, Mr. Brian H.
Doran, Mr. Frank
Drew, Mr. David

Eagle, Angela
Eagle, Maria
Ellman, Mrs. Louise
Engel, Natascha
Fitzpatrick, Jim
Flello, Mr. Robert
Flint, rh Caroline
Flynn, Paul
Follett, Barbara
Foster, Michael Jabez (Hastings and Rye)
Francis, Dr. Hywel
Gapes, Mike
Gardiner, Barry
George, rh Mr. Bruce
Gerrard, Mr. Neil
Gilroy, Linda
Goggins, rh Paul
Goodman, Helen
Griffith, Nia
Griffiths, Nigel
Grogan, Mr. John
Hain, rh Mr. Peter
Hall, Mr. Mike
Hall, Patrick
Hamilton, Mr. Fabian
Hanson, rh Mr. David
Harris, Mr. Tom
Havard, Mr. Dai
Hendrick, Mr. Mark
Hepburn, Mr. Stephen
Heppell, Mr. John
Hesford, Stephen
Heyes, David
Hill, rh Keith
Hillier, Meg
Hodge, rh Margaret
Hodgson, Mrs. Sharon
Hope, Phil
Hopkins, Kelvin
Howarth, rh Mr. George
Hoyle, Mr. Lindsay
Iddon, Dr. Brian
Illsley, Mr. Eric
Irranca-Davies, Huw
Jackson, Glenda
James, Mrs. Siân C.
Jenkins, Mr. Brian
Johnson, Ms Diana R.
Jones, Helen
Jones, Mr. Kevan
Jones, Lynne
Joyce, Mr. Eric
Kaufman, rh Sir Gerald
Keeley, Barbara
Keen, Alan
Kidney, Mr. David
Kilfoyle, Mr. Peter
Knight, rh Jim
Ladyman, Dr. Stephen
Lammy, rh Mr. David
Laxton, Mr. Bob
Lazarowicz, Mark
Lepper, David
Levitt, Tom
Lewis, Mr. Ivan
Linton, Martin
Lloyd, Tony
Love, Mr. Andrew
Lucas, Ian
Mackinlay, Andrew
Mactaggart, Fiona
Mallaber, Judy
Mann, John
Marris, Rob
Marsden, Mr. Gordon
Marshall-Andrews, Mr. Robert
Martlew, Mr. Eric
McAvoy, rh Mr. Thomas
McCarthy, Kerry
McCarthy-Fry, Sarah
McDonagh, Siobhain
McFadden, rh Mr. Pat
McGovern, Mr. Jim
McIsaac, Shona
McKechin, Ann
McNulty, rh Mr. Tony
Merron, Gillian
Michael, rh Alun
Miliband, rh Edward
Miller, Andrew
Moffatt, Laura
Mole, Chris
Morden, Jessica
Morgan, Julie
Mudie, Mr. George
Munn, Meg
Murphy, rh Mr. Jim
Murphy, rh Mr. Paul
Naysmith, Dr. Doug
Norris, Dan
O'Brien, rh Mr. Mike
O'Hara, Mr. Edward
Osborne, Sandra
Owen, Albert
Palmer, Dr. Nick
Plaskitt, Mr. James
Pope, Mr. Greg
Prentice, Bridget
Prentice, Mr. Gordon
Prescott, rh Mr. John
Primarolo, rh Dawn
Prosser, Gwyn
Raynsford, rh Mr. Nick
Reed, Mr. Andy
Reid, rh John
Riordan, Mrs. Linda
Robertson, John
Robinson, Mr. Geoffrey
Robinson, rh Mr. Peter
Rooney, Mr. Terry
Roy, Lindsay
Ruane, Chris
Ruddock, Joan
Russell, Christine
Salter, Martin
Seabeck, Alison
Sharma, Mr. Virendra
Shaw, Jonathan
Sheridan, Jim
Simpson, Alan
Skinner, Mr. Dennis
Slaughter, Mr. Andy
Smith, rh Mr. Andrew
Smith, Ms Angela C. (Sheffield, Hillsborough)
Smith, rh Angela E. (Basildon)
Smith, rh Jacqui
Snelgrove, Anne
Soulsby, Sir Peter
Southworth, Helen
Spellar, rh Mr. John
Spink, Bob
Starkey, Dr. Phyllis

Stewart, Ian
Strang, rh Dr. Gavin
Straw, rh Mr. Jack
Stringer, Graham
Stuart, Ms Gisela
Sutcliffe, Mr. Gerry
Tami, Mark
Taylor, Ms Dari
Thomas, Mr. Gareth
Thornberry, Emily
Timms, rh Mr. Stephen
Tipping, Paddy
Todd, Mr. Mark
Touhig, rh Mr. Don
Trickett, Jon
Turner, Dr. Desmond
Twigg, Derek
Ussher, Kitty
Vaz, rh Keith
Waltho, Lynda
Ward, Claire
Watson, Mr. Tom
Watts, Mr. Dave
Whitehead, Dr. Alan
Wicks, rh Malcolm
Williams, Mrs. Betty
Wilson, Phil
Wilson, Sammy
Winnick, Mr. David
Winterton, rh Ms Rosie
Wood, Mike
Woodward, rh Mr. Shaun
Wright, Mr. Anthony
Wright, David
Wright, Mr. Iain
Wright, Dr. Tony
Wyatt, Derek
Tellers for the Ayes:

Steve McCabe and
Mary Creagh

Afriyie, Adam
Amess, Mr. David
Arbuthnot, rh Mr. James
Atkinson, Mr. Peter
Bacon, Mr. Richard
Baldry, Tony
Baron, Mr. John
Beith, rh Sir Alan
Bellingham, Mr. Henry
Benyon, Mr. Richard
Beresford, Sir Paul
Binley, Mr. Brian
Bone, Mr. Peter
Boswell, Mr. Tim
Bottomley, Peter
Brazier, Mr. Julian
Brokenshire, James
Brooke, Annette
Burns, Mr. Simon
Burrowes, Mr. David
Burt, Alistair
Burt, Lorely
Butterfill, Sir John
Campbell, Mr. Gregory
Carmichael, Mr. Alistair
Carswell, Mr. Douglas
Cash, Mr. William
Chope, Mr. Christopher
Clark, Greg
Clarke, rh Mr. Kenneth
Cormack, Sir Patrick
Cox, Mr. Geoffrey
Crabb, Mr. Stephen
Davies, Mr. Dai
Davis, rh David
Djanogly, Mr. Jonathan
Dorries, Nadine
Duddridge, James
Duncan, Alan
Duncan Smith, rh Mr. Iain
Dunne, Mr. Philip
Ellwood, Mr. Tobias
Evennett, Mr. David
Fabricant, Michael
Fallon, Mr. Michael
Foster, Mr. Don
Fox, Dr. Liam
Francois, Mr. Mark
Gale, Mr. Roger
Garnier, Mr. Edward
George, Andrew
Gibb, Mr. Nick
Gillan, Mrs. Cheryl
Goodman, Mr. Paul
Gray, Mr. James
Grayling, Chris
Green, Damian
Greening, Justine
Hands, Mr. Greg
Harper, Mr. Mark
Harris, Dr. Evan
Hayes, Mr. John
Heald, Mr. Oliver
Heath, Mr. David
Heathcoat-Amory, rh Mr. David
Hemming, John
Herbert, Nick
Hermon, Lady
Hoban, Mr. Mark
Hogg, rh Mr. Douglas
Hollobone, Mr. Philip
Holloway, Mr. Adam
Holmes, Paul
Howarth, Mr. Gerald
Howell, John
Hunter, Mark
Hurd, Mr. Nick
Jenkin, Mr. Bernard
Jones, Mr. David
Kennedy, rh Mr. Charles
Key, Robert
Kirkbride, Miss Julie
Laing, Mrs. Eleanor
Lancaster, Mr. Mark
Lansley, Mr. Andrew
Leech, Mr. John
Leigh, Mr. Edward
Letwin, rh Mr. Oliver
Lewis, Dr. Julian
Liddell-Grainger, Mr. Ian
Lidington, Mr. David
Lilley, rh Mr. Peter
Loughton, Tim
Mackay, rh Mr. Andrew
Maclean, rh David
Main, Anne
Malins, Mr. Humfrey

May, rh Mrs. Theresa
McIntosh, Miss Anne
McLoughlin, rh Mr. Patrick
Miller, Mrs. Maria
Milton, Anne
Moore, Mr. Michael
Moss, Mr. Malcolm
Mulholland, Greg
Neill, Robert
Ottaway, Richard
Paice, Mr. James
Paterson, Mr. Owen
Penning, Mike
Penrose, John
Pickles, Mr. Eric
Prisk, Mr. Mark
Pritchard, Mark
Pugh, Dr. John
Randall, Mr. John
Redwood, rh Mr. John
Rennie, Willie
Robathan, Mr. Andrew
Robertson, Hugh
Robertson, Mr. Laurence
Rogerson, Dan
Rosindell, Andrew
Rowen, Paul
Ruffley, Mr. David
Russell, Bob
Sanders, Mr. Adrian
Scott, Mr. Lee
Selous, Andrew
Shepherd, Mr. Richard
Simmonds, Mark
Simpson, Mr. Keith
Smith, Chloe
Smith, Sir Robert
Soames, Mr. Nicholas
Spicer, Sir Michael
Spring, Mr. Richard
Steen, Mr. Anthony
Stunell, Andrew
Swayne, Mr. Desmond
Syms, Mr. Robert
Taylor, Mr. Ian
Timpson, Mr. Edward
Turner, Mr. Andrew
Tyrie, Mr. Andrew
Vara, Mr. Shailesh
Viggers, Sir Peter
Villiers, Mrs. Theresa
Walker, Mr. Charles
Wallace, Mr. Ben
Waterson, Mr. Nigel
Watkinson, Angela
Webb, Steve
Wiggin, Bill
Williams, Mark
Williams, Mr. Roger
Williams, Stephen
Willott, Jenny
Wilshire, Mr. David
Wilson, Mr. Rob
Winterton, Ann
Winterton, Sir Nicholas
Yeo, Mr. Tim
Tellers for the Noes:

Mr. Brooks Newmark and
Jeremy Wright
Question accordingly agreed to.
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