Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Lord Monkswell: Amendment No. 13 was referred to, and there may seem to be a linkage. Bearing in mind that we have not debated that amendment specifically and that it has only been referred to in passing, I shall be arguing fairly strenuously against it and will give reasons for that. I had it in mind to wait until the debate on the amendment so that other Members of the Committee wishing to speak specifically to it could make a contribution. In that way, I would be able to respond more sensibly instead of having two separate debates. That would be more logical.

Lord Kimball: I do not want to be ungrateful or discourteous to the noble Lord, Lord Haskel, who attempted to wind up the debate. However, I must say clearly and categorically that he gave the Committee no proper form of assurance in response to the points raised by Members of the Committee on my left.

This is an extremely serious matter and one we shall have to pursue at Report stage. There was one moment when I thought that we were going to make some progress. The noble Lord, Lord Haskel, used the words,

I sincerely hope that that was a categorical undertaking and that when he returns at Report stage the definitions referred to in Amendment No. 1 will be clearly written into the Bill.

5 May 1998 : Column 567

I am distressed by the attitude of the noble Lord, Lord Monkswell. He comes here and says, "I shall be guided by the Government." This Bill has nothing to do with the Government; I do not know what he is talking about. This is a private Member's Bill that went through the other place. It was the idea of a private Member who was concerned about the dealings with fireworks. The noble Lord says that it is a government Bill; that is not true. The truth is that it is a private Member's Bill and it is up to the noble Lord to make up his own mind about it.

Lord Monkswell: I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Kimball, for giving way. If I gave the impression that I was taking instructions from the Government, I utterly withdraw it. That is not the situation.

My point was that the Delegated Powers and Deregulation Committee had advised us to consider that in certain measure government assurances about the way the Bill would be implemented should be satisfactory. The point I made earlier was that, where it was applicable for the Minister to give those assurances, it would not be for me to speak at length on assurances that I could give as a sponsor of this private Member's measure and I shall probably speak briefly. It was not my intention to convey to the Committee that I am taking instructions from the Government on this or--dare I say?--on any other measure.

Lord Kimball: I accept the noble Lord's interpretation and we fully understand it. However, he gave the impression that it was a government Bill, which it certainly is not.

It is perfectly clear that we shall have to return to both these amendments on Report. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment, but give notice that we shall see these matters again at the next stage.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 2 not moved.]

Clause 1 agreed to.

Clause 2 [Power to make regulations about fireworks]:

Lord Kimball moved Amendment No. 3:

Page 1, line 20, leave out ("any provision which") and insert ("such provision under this Act as").

The noble Lord said: This is a simple amendment. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Monkswell, will speed up the process by telling us that he is prepared to accept it. With that in mind, I shall speak to it briefly.

The amendment aims to keep any provisions closely tied to the spirit and intent of the Bill in order for it to continue to successfully secure its purpose. I beg to move.

Lord Haskel: I must make clear that while the wording of the clause provides basic powers, there is no intention that those powers shall be used in trivial circumstances. The fact that the consultation process is a statutory one, that the Government are expected to publish four regulatory appraisals before making new regulations, and that regulations have to pass the

5 May 1998 : Column 568

scrutiny committee's procedures and the possibility of a negative resolution debate, means that we simply will not be able to use these powers for trivial reasons.

I thank my noble friend Lord Monkswell for accepting the assurances of the Government. I hope that Members of the Committee opposite will also accept our assurances in which case the amendment is not necessary.

Lord Henley: This is a small amendment. I do not know what the noble Lord, Lord Monkswell, will say, but I cannot understand why the Government want to resist it.

The words "any provision which" are rather wide and, as my noble friend suggests, it may be more appropriate to limit it to,

    "such provision under this Act as",

which appropriately limits what the Secretary of State can do.

Lord Monkswell: Perhaps I may suggest a quite significant reason for the Committee rejecting this amendment. If it were passed, as I understand it, it would suggest that the only regulations that the Minister could promulgate were those that were directly related to firework safety. That would be the way in which it would be construed, I suspect, by the judiciary.

The concern I have is that there are what one might describe as ancillary provisions which might not be specifically to do with safety. I think in terms of the insurance provision to be found later on, where the fact that somebody has insurance does not make things any safer. That is the risk of amending the Bill as the noble Lord, Lord Kimball, has suggested. Therefore, I would strenuously ask him to withdraw the amendment.

Lord Rees: The noble Lord, Lord Monkswell, has alarmed me hugely. It is only amendments to the Bill that relate in the broad sense and one would think that in the broad sense questions of fireworks safety would be permissible. It seems from the noble Lord's intervention, that, for example, matters of insurance law come into this. I agree there is a reference to insurance but it is insurance only in so far as it relates to providing some kind of, presumably, financial compensation for those who might be affected by a firework going off in their face, or something like that.

It is not enough to say, "That is not firework safety", but it is; and it should be; and it rightly should be. I have always understood, having looked at the Bill, that it is primarily directed at the safety of people exposed to fireworks. If the noble Lord, no doubt supported by his noble friend the Minister, says that there are other matters and that the department has to consider the broad spectrum, we ought to be told in a little more detail what kind of matters, although not directly concerned with fireworks safety, are likely to be covered by Clause 2 if not amended in the way in which my noble friend suggests.

Lord Mancroft: Perhaps I may go further than my noble friend Lord Rees. The noble Lord,

5 May 1998 : Column 569

Lord Monkswell, used the example of insurance. My understanding is that that would be covered by the amendment. My noble friend Lord Kimball's amendment uses the words,

    "such provision under this Act"

but insurance is a provision under this Bill so it would be covered.

The question is which provision outside this Bill might be used that we do not know about? The example of the noble Lord, Lord Monkswell, has made my noble friend's point for him.

Lord Monkswell: I apologise if I have misled the Committee in referring to insurance. My understanding is that the amendment is not necessary in terms of the structure of the Bill. Therefore, I would ask the noble Lord to withdraw it.

Lord Kimball: I am afraid that the noble Lord, Lord Monkswell, has not satisfied the concerns which lie behind the amendment. At this stage in our proceedings I think the proper thing for me to do is to take the amendment away and consider the matter again but I must give the noble Lord notice that our concerns have not in any way been laid to rest and we shall wish to return to this amendment on Report. Against that background, I beg leave to withdraw this amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Kimball moved Amendment No. 4:

Page 1, line 23, leave out ("no risk, or").

The noble Lord said: This amendment deals with a delicate subject, perhaps the most delicate area of the Bill. It seeks to remove the superfluous "no risk" which is at the moment written into the Bill. The words "no risk" conflict with the minimum risk in this case. Furthermore, it is not reasonable that any activity can be seen as completely free of risk, least of all when considering the safe use of fireworks.

8.45 p.m.

Lord Haskel: The effect of the amendment would be to enable the Secretary of State to make regulations only to reduce the risk from the use of fireworks, but not to eliminate it altogether. This would in turn arguably deprive the Secretary of State of the power to make regulations prohibiting completely the supply, purchase, possession or use of very dangerous fireworks. I do not believe that this is desirable. I am sure that that is not the intention of the noble Lord. I hope that he will be able to withdraw the amendment.

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page