Promotion of Volunteering Bill

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Fiona Mactaggart: I have an extract from the CCPR's website:

    ''For these reasons, we take the view that, rather than continue to support the Bill through Committee stage, we should use the raised awareness of the issues created by the Bill''—

I am grateful to the hon. Member for Canterbury for raising that awareness—

    ''to work cooperatively with partner organisations and government departments and agencies, towards positive solutions to a wider range of problems than can possibly be covered by the Bill. In particular, we see the Russell Commission as a means of exploring the issues around risk, blame and insurance, especially for the voluntary sector; and look forward to being able to access resources, shortly to be available to the voluntary and community sector, to establish support structures for volunteers and their organisations.''

2.45 pm

Kate Hoey: The Minister says that that statement is from the CCPR's website. Having heard about that possible outcome, I rang approximately a dozen of the different governing bodies and members of the CCPR and no one seemed to know anything about the statement. I presume that it has come from Margaret Talbot. Was the decision made democratically by the CCPR?

The Chairman: Order. I have been very generous in my chairing so far. Before the Minister replies, I remind the Committee that the sittings motion is very narrow, and there is plenty of opportunity for those other matters to be debated when I call amendments later.

Andrew Bennett (Denton and Reddish) (Lab): On a point of order, Mr. Amess. Surely, it is reasonable for us at least to explore those matters a little. We want to know whether we will have to be present for several sittings or whether we can truncate the proceedings. It is reasonable at least to air those issues at this point.

The Chairman: It is for me entirely to make a judgment on such matters. Having listened very carefully to what has been said, I ask hon. Members

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again to draw their remarks much more closely to the sittings motion.

Fiona Mactaggart: I cannot answer for the CCPR. The existence of the Bill has created a belief—legislation often does this—in the wider sector that there is a magic wand somewhere that will solve such substantial problems.

Mrs. Jacqui Lait (Beckenham) (Con): I am most grateful to the Minister, and I take your strictures on board, Mr. Amess. Does the fact that the CCPR is prepared to talk and the fact that—one assumes from the Minister's comments—it expects to receive some funding after today's announcement, mean that the Minister is asking for a shorter—

The Chairman: Hon. Members say that they have been listening very carefully, but I have made several rulings. I ask the Committee again to draw remarks closely to the sittings motion, and I ask the Minister not to respond to the point that has been made.

Lembit Öpik rose—

The Chairman: Order. We cannot have an intervention on an intervention.

Fiona Mactaggart: I find it difficult to obey you, Mr. Amess. I will explain why and we will see what happens.

Lembit Öpik: Does the Minister feel that the sittings motion will allow her sufficient time to provide us with a clear understanding of the CCPR's views and any issues that it has raised as we go through the various clauses?

The Chairman: That is a very helpful intervention.

Fiona Mactaggart: It is not the job of the Committee to deal with such matters. Nevertheless, it is worth dealing with one specific point that is relevant to the sittings motion, because it relates to how we timetable sittings and how procedures work in this place. Despite your warning, Mr. Amess, I was about to address that point.

Mr. Frank Dobson (Holborn and St. Pancras) (Lab): I have listened very carefully to your rulings, Mr. Amess. The logic of the Minister's position is that we should not attempt to change the law at this point. If we are not going to attempt that, the sittings motion could state that we will knock off in five minutes. Conversely, are we as a Committee prepared to consider changing the law and sending an amended Bill back to the House? In that case, perhaps this sitting and another might be required, but if the Minister says that this is no time to legislate, why are we sitting around pretending that we are going to do so?

Fiona Mactaggart: That point connects directly to the one that I am trying to make about the experience of dealing in detail with the implications of different provisions in the legislation. Frankly, people's expectations about a huge range of things have been raised enormously by the Bill. Only yesterday, I received a letter from someone who thought that it would mean that more farmers would allow their land

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to be used for riding. I do not believe that that is the intention of the hon. Member for Canterbury, but that expectation has been raised by the Bill. Therefore, it is proper to ensure that there is enough time carefully to examine its consequences.

On Second Reading, I was the person who was largely responsible for our being able to convene as a Committee. I share the ambition to resolve the problems.

Mr. Taylor: I am grateful to the Minister for giving way; she is being very tolerant. Is she saying that we need the sittings so that she can better understand the arguments of those who are in favour of the Bill, the more easily to reject them by voting against them?

Fiona Mactaggart: No; I have no deficit in understanding. We should not underestimate the important role of private Members' legislation to enable people to understand the scope of a problem and to examine ways of resolving it. I believe that everyone in the Committee accepts that we are dealing with a real problem that needs to be resolved. It is proper that we should use the Bill to do that.

I have been generous in taking interventions because I believe that the issue is important, but I am not trying to spin out debate excessively. I have not done that at any point during the process, although the opportunity to do so was open to me. The Bill is a serious attempt by the hon. Member for Canterbury to deal with a serious problem, and I have made it clear that the Government accept that it is a serious problem. We have sought to work with the sector, and not, as has been suggested, to offer anyone any inducements to agree. The references in the letter from Margaret Talbot and in the statement on the website were not to yesterday's announcement, but to the funds that were announced in the cross-cutting review following the 2002 Budget. It is not new money.

If the sittings motion is amended, we will be able to examine the issues. The hon. Gentleman himself has recognised that some ways of removing barriers to volunteering are not necessarily the best, which is why he seeks to withdraw certain parts of his Bill.

Question accordingly agreed to.


    That, if proceedings on the Promotion of Volunteering Bill are not completed at this day's sitting, the Committee do meet next Wednesday at 9.30 am and thereafter on Wednesdays at 9.30 am and 2.30 pm

Mr. Brazier: I beg to move,

    That the Promotion of Volunteering Bill be considered in the following order: Clauses 3 to 5, Clauses 1 and 2, Clauses 6 and 7, remaining proceedings on the Bill.

To assist members of the Committee, I have prepared a short promoter's brief that lists the various amendments and the approach that I am minded to take with regard to them. One crucial issue is the money resolution, which I dealt with in my speech on the sittings motion.

The purpose of the order of consideration motion is to allow us in double-quick time to drop clauses 3, 4 and 5, all of which have real merit but will detract from our debating a part of the Bill that has attracted

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a huge amount of attention and support from the sporting and adventure training community—the statement of inherent risk. My purpose in tabling the motion is to enable us to get rid of the rest of the Bill. As we deal with each clause, I shall take about 30 seconds to explain why I thought that it had merit. I hope that the Minister will not speak to her amendments to those clauses, on the basis that none of them will be pressed. Conveniently, the amendments are grouped with the clauses, mostly in single groups, so they can be quickly disposed of. That will give her the opportunity to show the good faith that she has shown throughout this process. We can then get on to the main business in clauses 1 and 2.

I want to focus on clauses 1 and 2 because I have received a huge number of letters, messages and testimonies of support for this Bill that focus on that single feature. I do not want to try your patience, Mr. Amess, by going back to the earlier debate, but suffice it to say that this morning, representatives from the Campaign for Adventure, which represents the guides, scouts and a whole mass of other outward bound organisations, were part of a group that discussed the Bill. Representatives of the girl guides were also present, as were representatives of the Field Studies Council, which has such an important position in respect of school trips. The Royal Aero Club, which has half a million members, was also represented. Written and verbal testimonies have come in again and again. For that reason, I aim to focus on the two main clauses and to drop clauses 3, 4 and 5, although each of those has merit.

Clauses 4 and 5 involve potential clashes with the European convention on human rights. It may be helpful to clear that up at this point; it will save us from doing so later. It will save the Minister's time if we deal with the provisions immediately after we have finished with this motion.

There are copies of the Library's excellent briefing in the corner of the Room. The Library has been particularly helpful. I would like to put on record how grateful I am for the huge amount of work that it has done. I also thank your excellent Clerk, Mr. Amess, who has worked intensely hard to get everything ready.

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