Discussion began with Amendment 80A, Lord McKenzie of Luton (Labour) introduced the amendment, saying: ‘Amendment 80A is an attempt to defeat the fundamental purpose of Clause 62; effectively, it is an alternative to removing that clause. Clause 62 seeks to remove civil liability from breaches of duty imposed by health and safety regulations, and our amendment would reinstate that right of action... We should be under no illusions about the serious consequences which will flow from Clause 62, should it be allowed to remain unamended. It will remove the existing right of an employee to rely on a breach of health and safety legislation in any claims for personal injury, so unless any exceptions are to be applied it will be possible to claim compensation for breaches of health and safety regulations only if it can be proved that the duty holder has been negligent.’
Lord Hardie (Crossbench) offered his support for the amendment, saying: ‘If this clause remains part of the bill, those who have suffered catastrophic injury, or the widows and families of employees who have been killed, will now have to depend upon state benefits for their maintenance... Does the minister consider that this is fair, or is it even compatible with government policy to reduce the number of people who are dependent on state benefits?’
Viscount Younger of Leckie (Conservative) responded on behalf of the government, saying: ‘This measure is not about reducing the number of claims or reducing standards of protection. It is about establishing the principle that employers who have done nothing wrong should have the opportunity to defend themselves on the basis of having taken all reasonable precautions. We believe this is an important and necessary reassurance for employers that will help them manage health and safety risks in a sensible and proportionate way, while giving them confidence to develop their businesses into new areas and take on new employees.’
Amendment 80A went to a vote: 225 for and 223 against.
The debate then moved onto Amendment 81A, proposed by Baroness Hayter of Kentish Town (Labour), who said: ‘This amendment simply requires membership of a redress scheme, and empowering the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) to remove letting agents in the same way as they can remove estate agents... I hope, therefore, that the minister will be able to indicate that he has listened to reason, and that the government are willing to require such a system of mandatory redress and help us rid ourselves of unscrupulous letting agents.’
Viscount Younger of Leckie (Conservative) responded on behalf of the government, saying: ‘While we acknowledge that there are issues that need addressing, we do not believe that the answer is to regulate letting and managing agents in the way that the noble Baroness proposes. The regulatory burden could be substantial, adding to costs borne by landlords and, in turn, tenants.’
The amendment was voted on: 211 for and 206 against.
Lord Whitty (Labour) then proposed Amendment 83A, as a response to plans to cut the Agricultural Wages Board for England and related bodies, saying: ‘...the effect of abolishing the Agricultural Wages Board, will be a direct cut of £240 million from the income of rural workers... Our amendments would do some of the things that the government are after: they would abolish the 31 bodies; they would allow for simplification and modernisation to the wages order; but, crucially, Amendment 83A keeps the legal underpinning of the terms and conditions of those who work in our agricultural sectors.’
Lord Greaves (Liberal Democrat), supported for the amendment, saying: ‘I do not in any way condemn people who own land and farm it, whether they are small or big farmers. However, this particular proposal is misguided and unnecessary. It will save a minimal amount of money in the short term, and the only explanation we get is, "Well, in the long term wages will be driven up because of market conditions". In the long term that may or may not be true, but... I am concerned about the welfare of farm workers in the short and medium term.’
Viscount Younger of Leckie (Conservative) responded on behalf of the government, and said: ‘The removal of the board will provide simplification and greater flexibility and allow the agricultural sector to compete on a level playing field with all other sectors of the economy, encouraging employment and competitiveness which will benefit all those in the industry. The noble Lord's amendments would retain the Agricultural Wages Board and the separate employment regime for agriculture. This would continue the dual regulatory burden for farm businesses.’
The amendment went to a vote: 163 for and 192 against.
A fourth day of report stage is scheduled for 11 March.
Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill summary
The Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill includes:
- changes to competition policy and employment law
- measures for reducing regulation
- the Green Investment Bank
- directors’ remuneration
- rules around copyright and planning.
More about the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill
What is report stage?
Report stage gives all members of the Lords further opportunity to examine and make changes, known as amendments, to a bill.
Report stage usually starts 14 days after committee stage. It can be spread over several days (but usually fewer days than at committee stage).
Before report stage starts, all member's amendments are recorded and published. The day before a report stage debate the amendments are placed in order - a marshalled list.
During report stage detailed line by line examination of the bill continues. Any member of the Lords can take part and votes can take place.
After report stage the bill is reprinted to include all the agreed amendments.
The bill then moves to third reading for the final chance for the Lords to debate and amend the bill.