|Previous Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|
Lord Ezra: My Lords, on behalf of my noble friend Lady Hamwee and myself I should like to say a few words at this final stage. As the Bill leaves this House I have two particular impressions. The first is the particular attention which the Government have paid throughout to the views expressed both from the Opposition Benches and, indeed, from their own Benches. It has been quite an exceptional case--and one which I hope will be followed in the future--of the Government really taking account of what has been said and trying to make the best use of it. The correspondence that has flowed from individuals has also been considerable. I believe that we have taken a big step forward in that respect. Indeed, it has been very much a joint effort to try to get the Bill into better shape.
We have also benefited enormously from the expertise of some noble Lords who have taken part in our debates. We have heard from the noble Lord, Lord Howie, from the Labour Benches, who has contributed with remarkable persistence. He always sits right at the back of the Chamber but, nevertheless, speaks with great knowledge and skill. We have also heard from the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, who has only recently joined the House but who is also very skilled in such matters; and, of course, the noble Lord, Lord Monkswell, has joined in our debates with many wise words from time to time. From the Conservative side, I believe that the noble Viscount, Lord Ullswater, has been most helpful and objective in his interventions. We have gained a great deal from such expertise.
I shall not go through the substance of the Bill in detail, but, as regards Part I, I must say that I share the views expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Williams; namely, that I hope we shall not lose sight of the fact that we have a quite unacceptable level of unfit housing in Britain. I do not believe that the measures proposed in the Bill will make a substantial difference to the situation. Therefore, I hope that in due course we shall really begin to grapple with the problem. I do not believe that we are doing anywhere near enough to deal with it.
Secondly, the House will not be surprised if I refer to Part V of the Bill and the home energy efficiency scheme which the Government supported and on which the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, made some positive comments today. But, unfortunately, the recent diminution in government support has, I believe, given quite the wrong signal. They were doing the right thing and, I hope that, before long, they will continue in that positive manner. I am just sorry that the amendment introduced today was, for technical and possibly other reasons, not accepted. However, I hope that the matter will be reconsidered in another place.
Altogether I regard this as having been a very positive contribution to our debates. I look forward to the return of the Bill when it has been through what I hope will be similarly positive treatment in another place.
Viscount Ullswater: My Lords, I had an involvement with the launch of the Latham Report as a Member of Her Majesty's Government at that time, and in my role as Minister responsible for construction. Noble Lords will therefore understand that I followed the subsequent progress of the measure with some interest. I think there was an acknowledgement of the need to legislate in some areas for fair conditions in construction contracts.
At Second Reading I welcomed what was in Part II of this long Bill and commented on what was not in the Bill, including the establishment of trust funds and compulsory latent defect insurance as recommended by Sir Michael Latham in his report. Whereas the discussions on that part of the Bill have evolved, some areas of confusion have been identified and I believe that the Government have listened carefully to our comments. Like the noble Lord, Lord Ezra, I think they have listened to us to a significant extent. They have listened therefore to the comments of the industry, which we in the House have reflected. I, too, wish to compliment my noble friend Lord Lucas on the positive way in which he has handled the Bill in the absence of his, and my, noble friend Lord Ferrers. We have considered many government amendments. We have heard today of commitments to be implemented in another place. I welcome that and I thank my noble friend for it.
As the noble Lord, Lord Williams has said, the construction industry is an important industry and has come together to try to improve working arrangements. I very much welcome the Government's involvement in trying to assist the industry. I hope that when the scheme for construction contracts is sent out for consultation, the Government will listen carefully to the replies that they receive. I believe that this House has done its work diligently, good humouredly and properly. I look forward to the consideration of Commons amendments with great interest.
Lord Howie of Troon: My Lords, at Second Reading I welcomed Part II of the Bill, which is the part with which I have been mainly concerned, although I impinged, albeit unsuccessfully, on Part III for a moment or two earlier today. I should say at this point that this is unquestionably my final contribution to the debate today. I have spoken often enough. I see heads nodding in agreement.
There are several defects in Part II. The main defect is that it deals with the Latham Report only in part. As the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, said at one point, there are other parts of Latham which would contribute towards the anticipated 30 per cent. reduction in costs which that report forecasts. This Bill only touches a part of that. I look forward to a further construction Bill, perhaps not encumbered with housing and other matters, coming before us shortly to complete the Latham proposals.
Noble Lords on both sides have tried to improve the Bill and we have persuaded the Government as regards a variety of measures. We have helped the Government to clarify their mind on various areas where they seemed to be confused, notably as regards the scheme. I think that the Government have at long last understood the difference between adjudication and arbitration, and when the scheme eventually appears that will be made clear. However, I remind the Government that I tabled an amendment to the Bill which would have made it clear in any case and would have shown the difference between the two terms on the face of the Bill. That was turned down of course, being a useful addition.
I remind the House that the Government helped us by publishing a draft scheme. Rather late in the day I realised that there were two schemes; that is, there was also a Scottish scheme. I suggested to the Government that a draft Scottish scheme might also be published as there are bound to be differences between the two owing to the different legal structures under which they will function. Apparently, this was not such a good idea. However, I hope that a draft Scottish scheme will be published reasonably soon so that it can be seen at least as early as the scheme which applies to England and Wales.
I have another proposal for the Government. When these two schemes are published in their final form after consultation--as eventually they will be--I suggest that they should be accompanied by an explanatory pamphlet for those who might be interested in such matters, as these people are likely to be contractors at the smaller end of the construction business. They may require more help in unravelling legal matters than the big contractors.
We had some difficulty as regards definitions. I am not sure that we have fully defined the construction industry. I am particularly unsure as to whether the distinction which we asked for has been fully made; namely, between the process industry as a whole and those parts of construction which relate to the process industry. I received a letter on this matter rather late in the day--I am sorry to say--from a business acquaintance of mine who is involved in subcontracting in the oil, gas and petro-chemical industry. The firm with which he is involved is a well established, large subcontractor. His firm has no complaints about the process industries in this contractual arrangement as regards the big operators. However, when the contractor--to whom the firm is a subcontractor--is one whose culture is in the construction industry and not in the process industry, that poses a problem. A contractor in the process industry would probably function by means of the acknowledged chemical engineering contract. However, where a main contractor is a civil engineering contractor, he is inclined to function within the culture of the construction industry which is less satisfactory. My friend is quite willing, as a subcontractor, to enter into subcontracts where the main contractor is a process contractor, such as Foster Wheeler, but is less willing when the main contractor--although in a process context--is a construction company in the usual sense. I draw
I thank the Minister for what must have seemed to him a fairly daunting prospect when he embarked upon the Bill. He has acquitted himself extremely well. However, he had the most good natured opponents--or indeed allies--that he could have hoped for! I thank him for the manner in which he has dealt with the Bill. I send my best wishes to the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers. I have known him, man and boy, for 30 years. I look forward to seeing him carry this Bill through. He has been unable to be with us, but I wish him well. I hope that when the Bill has been through another place it will return to us in a further improved condition and we may then set about improving it even further.
Back to Table of Contents
Lords Hansard Home Page