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Lord Goldsmith: I beg to move that the House do now resume.

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Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

House resumed.

Civil Contingencies

A message was brought from the Commons that they have ordered the committee appointed by them to meet with the Lords committee on Tuesday 15th July at half-past three o'clock, as proposed by this House.

Mental Incapacity

A message was brought from the Commons that they have ordered the committee appointed by them to meet with the Lords committee on Tuesday 15th July at half-past three o'clock, as proposed by this House.

        House adjourned at sixteen minutes before eleven o'clock.

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Official Report of the Grand Committee on the

Fire Services Bill

(Third Day) Monday, 14th July 2003.

The Committee met at half past three of the clock.

[The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Lyell) in the Chair.]

The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Lyell): The usual rules of Grand Committee apply. I must just remind the Committee that, if there is a Division in the Chamber while we are sitting, we shall adjourn, as soon as the Division bells have rung, for 10 minutes. Then we shall resume.

Clause 2 [Supplemental provisions]:

Lord Wedderburn of Charlton moved Amendment No. 34:

    Page 2, line 28, at end insert—

"(1A) An act shall not constitute an unlawful act or unlawful means for the purposes of the law of tort by reason only that it is—
(a) a breach or contravention of or non-compliance with this Act or an order made under this Act, or
(b) an inducement or incitement of or agreement to commit such breach or non-compliance.
(1B) In subsection (1A) "act" includes deliberate omission."

The noble Lord said: In moving Amendment No. 34, I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 35 and 41.

It may help if, in moving the amendment, I say things that are relevant to the amendments that follow. Many of them are an attempt, as this is, to cure the silence of the Bill about what happens if and when fire brigade members or a fire authority do or induce something that offends either a direction under Clause 1(1)(b) or fail to abide by or refuse to accept an order concerning conditions of employment under Clause 1(1)(a).

The difficulty with that is that it involves the problem of civil wrongs, usually referred to today as economic torts. They sound technical, but they are not. They do, however, require some explanation. In the past 40 or 50 years, there has grown up a clearer liability for what is usually referred to as deliberate damage done by unlawful means, for which an injunction or, ultimately, damages might be obtained on proof—in the case of an injunction—of an arguable case. It happens often in injunctions obtained or claimed against those who have threatened or taken strike action.

Parliament has referred to the issue many times in the past few years. I remember, though, that the last time on which it was fully debated was 12th June, 1980. It was debated for an hour or more, largely by myself

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and the then Lord Chancellor, Lord Hailsham of St Marylebone. We both put many authorities on the record, some of which it will be necessary to refer to again today because, as I have said in previous proceedings, I do not like making propositions that rest on principles of law without referring to their authorities. Our task, in this amendment especially, is, first, to get the Government to appreciate the problem in the Bill and, if we can, to help to remedy the uncertainties that beset the Bill in respect of what is sometimes called—jurisprudentially inaccurately, in this country—the right to strike.

I am sorry to have to say to the Committee that, after discussion and considerable consultation, I must detain the Committee first on a relevant contextual issue, of which I have given notice. It will take a little time, but it was not my choice to put such matters into the purview of the Committee or of Hansard. That was the choice of my noble friend the Minister. In previous sittings of the Grand Committee, accusations were made about me and my noble friends that went to our integrity and our bona fides. It was not my choice to air the matters in Hansard, but they are now there and are all over the world on the Internet.

On 3rd July, in this Committee, my noble friend Lord Rooker suddenly—with some asperity and without giving the conventional notice and, as far as I know, without much inquiry or previous consultation—accused my noble friends and me of malpractice that day over the groupings of amendments. That is at col. GC 286 of Hansard. He followed that on 7th July by accusing us of improper conduct and behaviour. He said that I had been guilty of improper conduct and behaviour in respect of a member of staff,

    "in the Chief Whip's Office . . . last Thursday".—[Official Report, 7/7/03; col. GC 39.]

That accusation was without foundation.

My noble friend based his angry words on a misunderstanding of the arrangements set out in the Companion with regard to groupings and, at best, a misapprehension, based on hearsay, about events at or about 12.15 p.m. on 3rd July in an office in which he was not present. He said that my noble friends and I had changed the groupings at 12.15 p.m. That was wrong. He said that, when he arrived at work, they were in one grouping, and then they were all separated. He said:

    "So, do not start telling me about the changes in the rules of this place. I am new here. My noble friend has been here for donkey's years. If he wants to work in a situation of anarchy, that is up to him".—[Official Report, 3/7/03; col. GC 286.]

I asked the Minister to retract that and apologise, but, so far, he has not done so. I hope that he will. He also said that we had twisted his words and claimed that noises that he had heard between my noble friend and me—we were sitting down—meant that his good faith was being doubted. No mention was made of his good faith. My noble friend Lord McCarthy explained to him the principles and practices followed over two decades in the Companion, of which he seemed unaware. We had spent two weeks drafting and

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arranging our amendments to allow for sensible debates on difficult issues. It is not our habit to try to produce anarchy.

On the events about which the Minister suddenly launched his accusations there has been considerable correspondence. My noble friends and I had had full co-operation from that office up to 12.15 that day, as we had had for 25 years. I found that inaccurate draft groupings had been placed in the Prince's Chamber. I was entitled to ask that they be removed because I had not agreed to them. They were not. My request was refused, and I was annoyed that that was denied me, which was wrong.

I have already written to the member of staff involved to say that I regret my annoyance, that I regret any unintended affront that it was thought to convey and that I wish to put the whole matter, even though it has been put into Hansard on no direct evidence—

Lord Evans of Temple Guiting: May I intervene?

Lord Wedderburn of Charlton: I want to finish the statement. It is important to me to get it right. My noble friend will have plenty of opportunity—

Lord Evans of Temple Guiting: It is a point of order.

Lord Wedderburn of Charlton: We do not have points of order.

Lord Evans of Temple Guiting: You are making a personal statement, when you ought to be speaking to Amendment No. 34.

Lord Wedderburn of Charlton: I am speaking to Amendment No. 34, in the hope that our debates today can be improved. I also have something to say that is relevant to my noble friend Lord Evans of Temple Guiting. I have given him notice, so, perhaps he will allow me to say it.

I was not guilty of any abusive behaviour.

Lord Evans of Temple Guiting: I am sorry to interrupt. I heard you abusing a member of staff. There are five witnesses. Your behaviour was absolutely disgraceful. The irony of the situation is that we are talking about industrial relations, when you treated a member of staff of the House of Lords in a way the like of which, in 30 years as an employer, I have never seen.

Lord Wedderburn of Charlton: My noble friend was not present. I was with the member of staff in the middle office. At the choice of the Chief Whip, the

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matter was discussed there. I did not abuse him, but if they like to go on saying that, what I shall say in a moment will, I suggest, be relevant.

Lord McCarthy: If we go on like this, we are breaking the law. We are denigrating people. It will go into Hansard and be published. It is actionable.

Lord Wedderburn of Charlton: My noble friend would need to take further advice on that.

Lord Campbell of Alloway: Will the noble Lord please give way for one second?

Lord Wedderburn of Charlton: With pleasure.

Lord Campbell of Alloway: With respect to the noble Lord and everybody else, I beg to move.

Lord Wedderburn of Charlton: You cannot.

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