Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page


Earl Ferrers: We are talking about the kinds of matters that may be in construction contracts. Clause 101 says:



    "(2) Where an agreement relates to construction operations and other matters, this Part applies to it only so far as it relates to construction operations".
It is for any two contracting parties to draw up such contracts as they wish. Our concern is to ensure that the minimum is dealt with and that these matters come into use when there is a dispute and the parties concerned have not put anything into their agreement as to how it should be resolved. Where that arises this part of the Bill will come into operation. The noble Lord says that it tells people what to put into their contracts. It does not. The Bill says that this part will operate only if contracts do not specify the equivalent wording.

Lord Williams of Elvel: I do not quite understand the last words of the noble Earl. However, I understand that this part applies only to construction contracts which do this, that and thus. What I am trying to establish--I believe that the noble Earl has gone some way towards it--is that in any contract negotiated between two reasonable parties, as a result of the passage of the Bill there will inevitably be a discussion to decide which bits of the contract are included, given that it may contain something called a construction operation under the Act, as it then will be, and which bits are excluded. Any reasonable lawyer will establish that at the outset. All I say is that it is more helpful if it is put on the face of the Bill. However, having heard the explanation of the noble Earl that that is what the Government want to see but do not want it on the face of the Bill, I am happy to leave the matter for further discussion should that be necessary. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Howie of Troon moved Amendment No. 126:


Page 58, line 12, after ("Wales") insert (", Northern Ireland").

The noble Lord said: As I understand the Bill, it deals with three major and important matters; namely, adjudication, payment and the right of a contractor to cease work in certain appropriate circumstances. I well understand that those are the Bill's main objectives, but I notice that the Bill does not apply to Northern Ireland. I wonder why, because adjudication, payment and the right to stop work in appropriate circumstances in construction contracts must be as important in Northern Ireland as they are elsewhere in the UK. I am asking the

28 Mar 1996 : Column 1841

Government to explain why Northern Ireland is excluded, because I notice that there is a reference to Northern Ireland in Clause 110(5).

If that clause applies to Northern Ireland, I cannot help but wonder why the rest of this part does not also apply to Northern Ireland. I am reinforced in that by noticing that there is a further reference to Northern Ireland in Clause 143. If my memory serves me right, that refers to Part III. I wonder why it is that those parts of the Bill which apply to the registration of architects apply to Northern Ireland whereas Part II does not.

I notice something further. The scheme which is referred to in Clause 111, to which no doubt we shall be returning from time to time later in our discussions, leans heavily on the Arbitration Bill which is now before another place. I notice that the Arbitration Bill applies to Northern Ireland. So I wonder how it comes about that arbitration applies to Northern Ireland but adjudication does not. Those are questions to which I merely seek an answer. I am not trying to provoke the Government into doing anything that they do not want to do. I hope that will enable me to understand why they want to do the things that they are trying to do. The two amendments which are associated with Amendment No. 126 are consequential upon it. I beg to move.

Viscount Ullswater: My reading of Clause 143 is that by an Order in Council the measures in Part II can be brought in for Northern Ireland. In fact it goes a little further and says that instead of an affirmative resolution, it can be brought in by negative resolution, which I should have thought was probably a good thing in this case.

Earl Ferrers: I may be able to make the noble Lord, Lord Howie of Troon, happy, anyhow on this occasion, by telling him that it is our intention that the benefits of this legislation should apply across the whole of the United Kingdom. That means of course Northern Ireland as well. The inclusion of Northern Ireland will be achieved by means of an Order in Council. That is how these arrangements for Northern Ireland are commonly made.

With reference to the amendment to give a scheme-making power to the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, that is something which would be contained in the Order in Council. The scheme for Northern Ireland is likely to be substantially the same as that for England and Wales, taking into account the normal adjustments that one makes for Northern Ireland.

The noble Lord referred to arbitration. The Arbitration Bill is largely a Consolidation Bill. No work is needed to adapt it locally because that has already been done. I hope that the noble Lord will feel satisfied that Northern Ireland will be covered properly.

Lord Howie of Troon: I was pleased with the earlier part of the Minister's comments which were reassuring. My feeling of reassurance was somewhat modified when he said that the scheme for Northern Ireland would be similar to the proposed scheme for England

28 Mar 1996 : Column 1842

and Wales. Since the scheme for England and Wales is terrible, as we shall discuss later on, I do not see why we should inflict it upon the Northern Irish as well.

I have just one slight note of dissent. Although it is a consolidation Bill, if the Arbitration Bill can apply directly to Northern Ireland without regulations, why on earth should not the same procedure be followed in this Bill? The confusion which I have been under, and which the Minister has largely dispelled, arises from the exclusion of Northern Ireland from the first clause. That confusion would be dispelled completely if my amendment were accepted. I hope that the Minister will think again and accept it. I know that he is that kind of man.

Earl Ferrers: I do not know what the noble Lord, Lord Howie, is asking me to accept. First, he puts down an amendment to say that Northern Ireland should be included, and then he says that he was greatly reassured by what I said but that he could not understand why on earth we should want to impose such a rotten Bill on Northern Ireland.

Lord Williams of Elvel: Scheme.

Earl Ferrers: All right, scheme. I shall modify that. This, I believe refers mostly to the scheme. The problems about which the noble Lord is concerned are covered, will be covered and will apply to Northern Ireland. As I explained to him, the arbitration matter has already been taken account of and it is not necessary therefore to alter it to apply.

Lord Howie of Troon: As the Minister, with his long experience, knows, I try to agree with what he says whenever possible. In the face of his comments, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Howie of Troon moved Amendment No. 127:


Page 58, line 15, after ("to") insert ("private sector construction contracts, and").

The noble Lord said: Clause 101(1) refers to:


    "the carrying out of construction operations".
That might be construed as meaning all construction operations except where those are excluded under Clause 101. That is a sensible way to construe the Bill. However, Clause 101(5) refers to certain operations under the Crown but not all of them. In parenthesis, I ask why not all of them, although I do not want to press that point.

What is more important is to ask why it is necessary to distinguish between the apparent general terms of subsection (1) and the particular terms of subsection (5). That is why I ask to include the words in Amendment No. 127--to show that this part refers to private construction projects as well as the projects under the Crown. I beg to move.

Lord Williams of Elvel: I support my noble friend in this amendment. It has been represented to me that there is some confusion in Clause 101, and that the amendment proposed by my noble friend will remove that confusion altogether. I imagine that the Government

28 Mar 1996 : Column 1843

mean Clause 101 to apply to private sector contracts as well as to those which are mentioned under subsection (5). Nevertheless, as I say, a number of representative bodies which are concerned in this industry have made approaches to me to say that they are not entirely happy about the wording and that my noble friend's amendment would clarify the matter beyond any shadow of doubt. If the Minister can clarify it beyond any shadow of doubt, then I am sure that my noble friend will be happy.

Lord Berkeley: I support the amendment, but I have one or two questions about it. It is my understanding that this whole part of the Bill is being put forward in response to pressure from the construction industry as a whole. This is the introductory clause, and we have suddenly gone to the particular. There are public sector contracts, private sector contracts, Crown contracts and probably many other types of contract. I wonder whether, in addition to supporting the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Howie, we should ask the Minister to think again about making it even wider, starting off with all contracts and leaving the exclusions to come under Section 102(2) when we come to it.

4 p.m.

Earl Ferrers: My Lords, I shall try, as the noble Lord, Lord Williams, wishes, to clarify the matter beyond any measure of doubt. The best way for me to do that is to follow the notes that are meant to assist me in trying to explain the Government's position on this rather complicated Bill.

According to my note, the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Howie, is simply not required. I should not have put that in quite such a rough way. I would say that I expect the noble Lord, after he has heard the considerations put forward and taken account of them, will say that on the whole he agrees with the Government and that his amendment would not be an improvement to the Bill.

The Bill of course applies to private sector contracts. That is the whole purpose of the Bill. The drafting of Clause 101(5) simply reflects the fact that, without a specific inclusion, legislation does not normally bind the Crown. We want to see the Crown so bound. Therefore we have to make sure that it is not excluded but that the Crown is included. That inclusion does not exclude any private sector contracts. I hope that that explanation will satisfy the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, that all these provisions are to cover all contracts.


Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page