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Lord Peston: My Lords, before we accept the amendments, I wish to make certain that nothing in these provisions in any way reduces the rights or position of the consumer. I believe that he said that, in fact, they strengthen the position. In case I was not listening sufficiently carefully, will the Minister confirm that not only is it the intention to do that, but that in reality, that is what will happen?

Lord Fraser of Carmyllie: My Lords, indeed, the noble Lord did hear me correctly. We were concerned that nothing should be watered down and our conclusion is that we have strengthened the rights of the consumer in certain respects.

On Question amendment agreed to.

Lord Fraser of Carmyllie moved Amendment No. 3:


After Clause 88, insert the following new clause--

Application of unfair terms regulations to consumer arbitration agreements

(".--(1) The following sections extend the application of the Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations 1994 in relation to a term which constitutes an arbitration agreement.
For this purpose "arbitration agreement" means an agreement to submit to arbitration present or future disputes or differences (whether or not contractual).
(2) In those sections "the Regulations" means those regulations and includes any regulations amending or replacing those regulations.
(3) Those sections apply whatever the law applicable to the arbitration agreement.").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Fraser of Carmyllie moved Amendment No. 4:


After Clause 88, insert the following new clause--

Regulations apply where consumer is a legal person

(". The Regulations apply where the consumer is a legal person as they apply where the consumer is a natural person.").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Fraser of Carmyllie moved Amendment No. 5:


After Clause 88, insert the following new clause--

Arbitration agreement unfair where modest amount sought

(".--(1) A term which constitutes an arbitration agreement is unfair for the purposes of the Regulations so far as it relates to a claim for a pecuniary remedy which does not exceed the amount specified by order for the purposes of this section.
(2) Orders under this section may make different provision for different cases and for different purposes.
(3) The power to make orders under this section is exercisable--
(a) for England and Wales, by the Secretary of State with the concurrence of the Lord Chancellor,
(b) for Scotland, by the Secretary of State with the concurrence of the Lord Advocate, and

2 Apr 1996 : Column 155


(c) for Northern Ireland, by the Department of Economic Development for Northern Ireland with the concurrence of the Lord Chancellor.
(4) Any such order for England and Wales or Scotland shall be made by statutory instrument which shall be subject to annulment in pursuance of a resolution of either House of Parliament.
(5) Any such order for Northern Ireland shall be a statutory rule for the purposes of the Statutory Rules (Northern Ireland) Order 1979 and shall be subject to negative resolution, within the meaning of section 41(6) of the Interpretation Act (Northern Ireland) 1954.").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 89 [Consumer arbitration agreements]:

Lord Fraser of Carmyllie moved Amendment No. 6:


Leave out Clause 89.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 90 [Restriction on enforcement of certain consumer arbitration agreements]:

Lord Fraser of Carmyllie moved Amendment No. 7:


Leave out Clause 90.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 91 [Exclusions from section 90]:

Lord Fraser of Carmyllie moved Amendment No. 8:


Leave out Clause 91.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 92 [Causes of action to which restriction applies]:

Lord Fraser of Carmyllie moved Amendment No. 9:


Leave out Clause 92.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 93 [Power to exclude cases where no detriment to consumer]:

Lord Fraser of Carmyllie moved Amendment No. 10:


Leave out Clause 93.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 98 [Specific adaptations of provisions in relation to statutory arbitrations]:

Lord Fraser of Carmyllie moved Amendment No. 11:


Page 38, line 21, after ("dispute") insert ("or difference").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 101 [Interpretation]:

Lord Fraser of Carmyllie moved Amendment No. 12:


Leave out Clause 101.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

2 Apr 1996 : Column 156

Clause 110 [Extent]:

Lord Fraser of Carmyllie moved Amendment No. 13:


Page 42, line 2, at beginning insert ("Sections (Application of unfair terms regulations to consumer arbitration agreements), (Regulations apply where consumer is a legal person) and (Arbitration agreement unfair where modest amount sought) (consumer arbitration agreements) extend to Scotland and").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Schedule 4 [Repeals]:

Lord Fraser of Carmyllie moved Amendment No. 14:


Page 59, column 3, leave out lines 22 to 25 and insert ("The whole Act.").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Fraser of Carmyllie: My Lords, I beg to move that the Bill do now pass. At Second Reading the noble Lord, Lord Lester, indicated that he expected the Bill would travel through the legislative process:


    "speedily, free of friction, moving on oiled castors".--[Official Report, 18/1/96; col. 764.]
I am glad to say that that has proved to be the case, at least up until this point, and I would hope that its smooth passage continues.

That we have made such rapid and problem-free progress is due in no small measure to the support which noble Lords have given to the Bill at all stages. I am most grateful for that. I am particularly grateful to those noble Lords who participated in the Committee stage off the Floor of your Lordships' House and also to those who took the trouble at various stages to write to me on particular issues. As this was a technical, legal matter, it was of immense value to have advance warning of a number of the suggestions.

The noble Lord, Lord Peston, indicated on Second Reading that the debate was dominated by lawyers. He may feel that that pattern established on Second Reading continued. But I hope that he does not feel that his own contribution has gone unrecognised. I am certainly very grateful to him for the welcome support which he has given to the Bill. He did that very graciously and I am not surprised that to some extent, he was rather over-awed by the contributions of a number of very distinguished lawyers, including several practising arbitrators.

The fact that the Bill has been scrutinised carefully by a number of noble and learned Lords who bring to bear on the issues a wealth of experience of commercial litigation and arbitration gives me considerable confidence that we have got it right. Indeed, I have succeeded in doing a double this year. Not only did I secure the support of a number of noble and learned Lords on the issue of public interest immunity some weeks ago, but on this occasion also I have secured their support. That is of great value.

We have made a number of amendments to the Bill. I should like to stress the immense contribution made to the Bill by Lord Justice Saville. In thanking him, I should stress that none of the amendments that we have made has not met with his agreement and none represents major changes of policy. Most amendments were of a drafting nature and designed to improve the clarity of the Bill.

2 Apr 1996 : Column 157

On Second Reading, a number of your Lordships praised the Bill for its clarity. Indeed, we took the utmost care in drafting it to ensure that it would be readily comprehensible to both business and other users. I trust that that will be one of its selling points. However, with such a complex and technical subject matter, it would be surprising if there were no ways in which the text could have been refined or improved.

Finally, I believe the Bill is in fine shape. I am convinced it will do much to further the cause of arbitration in this country. Those who find themselves in the unfortunate position of needing to resolve a dispute with another party want it sorted out with a minimum of fuss and expense. At the same time, they look for fairness and finality.

The Bill provides a comprehensive framework for settling disputes and meeting those criteria. I am sure it will enhance the competitiveness of both the arbitration community, particularly by helping to attract foreign arbitrations here, and the business community at large. I invite your Lordships' House to despatch the Bill, with oiled castors attached, for consideration in another place.

Moved, That the Bill do now pass.--(Lord Fraser of Carmyllie.)


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