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Baroness Maddock moved Amendment No. 12:

"DISCHARGE OF FUNCTIONS A member of a local valuation tribunal is not liable for anything done or omitted in the discharge or purported discharge of his functions as a member of that tribunal unless the act or omission is shown to have been in bad faith."

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, this amendment concerns members of local valuation tribunals. I raised this matter in Committee, and having looked at what the noble Lord, Lord Bassam of Brighton, said at that time, and following discussions with representatives of LVTs, I wish to pursue it further to see whether we can clarify the position.

Over many years, LVT members have expressed serious concern about their potential liability should a disaffected appellant decide to bring an action against them. It is an accepted fact that judges enjoy immunity from suit. Likewise, arbitral and administrative tribunals have long been held to have judicial immunity at common law. The LVT members accept that, as tribunal judiciary, they also have immunity in respect of their judicial function and their judicial decisions.

LVT members are concerned, however, about the amount of protection that they would have should they be attacked as a result of their decisions or their involvement in administrative functions. Such functions may not be directly related to the hearing of a case, but about which an aggrieved person may have a complaint—a claim of being disadvantaged by an adverse agenda setting or alleged administrative mismanagement, for example. That is the issue.

The position of arbitral tribunals has been clarified. Parliament, in its wisdom, decided to accept the advice provided to it by the Department of Trade and Industry's Departmental Advisory Committee on Arbitration Law. To remove any doubt, Section 29(1) of the Arbitration Act 1996 clarifies the situation. My amendment is based on the wording of that Act.

In like manner, members of LVTs also carry out both a judicial function, and frequently, administrative functions to support it. The Government's position, which was clarified in Committee, is that it is standard practice for departments sponsoring non-departmental public bodies to indemnify their members and staff against costs arising from or incurred while carrying out their official functions. However, there is a caveat to that indemnity, which was clarified again for us in Committee by the noble Lord, Lord Bassam. The caveat is that the indemnity is available only where they are seen not to have acted recklessly. The problem is that that is another variation of the imprecise wording which has been used at various times. Other examples include, "conduct has not been unreasonable", "acted reasonably", "acted responsibly" and "not acted in bad faith".

Local valuation tribunal members must therefore rely on the Civil Service being sufficiently kind to interpret such imprecise wording in a way that provides local valuation tribunal members with proper indemnity in relation to any action that might be

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brought against them and to decide quickly on whether the indemnity is to be provided. Unpaid volunteer members of local valuation tribunals are very apprehensive about being reliant on such a system. Clerks and tribunal support staff will continue to be covered effectively as employees. However, even post-2004, local valuation tribunal members will continue to be locally appointed and subject to regulatory supervision by the Secretary of State. They will have no direct connection with the new non-departmental public body and the new valuation tribunal service.

If the current arrangement is continued, civil servants and/or politicians would take the final decision on whether to indemnify. They appear not to be able to settle, as I explained, on a precise test for that support or to agree on the wording. I therefore maintain that the procedure is not very transparent. More importantly, the process could take quite a long time and could even go to judicial review.

All the concerns of local valuation tribunal members could be removed by the simple expedient of Parliament statutorily confirming that the current common law judicial immunity is extended to include administrative matters. The Government seem very concerned—I know that the noble Lord, Lord Bassam, raised this in Committee—about the possible financial consequences of such action. However, immunity can prevent actions from being initiated. It could therefore prevent some of the problems that we may get anyway.

I think that I have fairly fully explained the situation. As I said, the wording of the amendment is in line with wording in another Act covering this type of issue. The inclusion of this clause would remove the anxiety from the minds of local valuation tribunal members. Like members of the service, I believe that it will reduce the possibility of a tribunal's decisions being affected by the fear of potential action. I beg to move.

1 p.m.

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, as I think I made plain in Committee, I do not see a need for such amendment. Amendment No. 12 seeks to introduce into legislation a clause to remove any liability from members to local valuation tribunals for any acts or omissions by them while undertaking their tribunal functions, unless those were in bad faith. Members holding office have public policy immunity from an action in negligence. Similar protection already exists for members of local valuation tribunals through the standard procedures governing the relationship between public bodies and their sponsoring departments. Departments will indemnify members against any personal civil liability provided they have acted honestly, reasonably, in good faith and without negligence. That seems to me to cover it.

Furthermore, Clauses 106 and 107 are primarily concerned with the creation of a new body, the valuation tribunal service, and the framework for that new body. They are not about local valuation tribunals. Ultimately, therefore, I think that it is inappropriate to introduce

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such a new clause. We have had no complaints about the way in which the current system works on this issue. Although I realise that the noble Baroness wants to provide a further comfort blanket for members of the service, we do not think that that is necessary. If a problem emerges in future, we can review the situation and deal with it then. I do not think that this amendment is required and I hope that the noble Baroness will feel able to withdraw it.

Baroness Maddock: My Lords, I thank the Minister for his next to last comment—that the Government will keep an eye on the situation and ensure that there are no problems. The purpose of the amendment is not to provide a total blanket, but to clarify that we are talking about the words "bad faith" and not all the other descriptions used in this regard. However, in view of the Minister's comments, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Baroness Hanham moved Amendment No. 13:

    Before Clause 113, insert the following new clause—

"REGULATION OF BODY PIERCING ESTABLISHMENTS OUTSIDE LONDON After section 36 of the Local Government Act 1988 (c. 9) there is inserted—

(1) The Secretary of State shall, within twelve months of this section coming into force, by regulation make provision for the extension of powers to all local authorities in England to regulate establishments carrying out body piercing.
(2) Powers under this section to make regulations shall be exercisable by statutory instrument.""

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, this amendment was first moved in another place by my honourable friend Philip Hammond. I understand that it is appropriate to raise this issue within the terms of this Bill. I do so only because I seek some assurances. When I briefly mentioned the issue at Second Reading and—because of Mr Hammond's concerns—asked for an assurance that Ministers were considering it, some noble Lords quizzically raised their eyebrows. The Minister in another place, Mr Nick Raynsford, said that discussions were taking place. I wonder whether there has been any progress on those talks and where we go from here. I also realise that my amendment may not be drafted correctly. If so, I am willing to take advice.

Body piercing may seem an odd issue to raise. However, increasing numbers of people, particularly young people, are undergoing the procedure. All parts of the body can end up with bits and pieces stuck through them. The procedure is undertaken also by some who are not quite so young. No one is concerned at all about that; it is up to them. We are simply concerned about whether those doing the piercing are under any form of regulation or licence.

We are concerned for several reasons. First, it is an invasive procedure that involves needles and should involve sterile procedures and a hygienic location. I think that parental consent also should be required in

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the case of those in their early teens, and certainly those under 16. Such consent is currently not required. The Greater London Authority Act regulates the procedure in London, where all premises carrying out such procedures are regulated and licensed. As I understand it, however, that is not the position in the rest of the country.

Therefore, several issues arise, the first of which is consent. The second is the need to ensure that these establishments maintain clean and sterile procedures. People have contracted septicaemia when the procedure was performed in unclean conditions. There is also the issue of whether young people should be allowed to have their bodies abused in this way without their parents being informed and giving consent. Furthermore, those performing the procedure ought to know that the procedure can affect various medical conditions. That issue was brought to the attention of another place as the result of the death of a young man of 17 who had a congenital heart defect. Those performing the procedure were unaware of his condition. He contracted septicaemia, to which he was susceptible as a result of congenital heart disease, and he died.

That is the burden of the amendment. The amendment asks that, within a reasonable time—the amendment provides for one year—regulations be issued to ensure that premises cannot carry out these procedures without being regulated. However, I do not want anyone to say that I am trying to stamp on anyone's enthusiasm for self-decoration. It is just that if they are going to undergo the procedure, they should survive it. I beg to move.

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