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Standing Committee Debates
Promotion of Volunteering Bill

Promotion of Volunteering Bill

Column Number: 69

Standing Committee C

Wednesday 19 May 2004


[Mr. David Amess in the Chair]

Promotion of Volunteering Bill

Clause 2

Statements of Inherent Risk

Amendment proposed [12 May]: No. 38, in page 2, line 24, to leave out the words 'activity or activities' and insert the words 'sport or adventure training'.—[Fiona Mactaggart.]

9.30 am

Question again proposed, That the amendment be made.

The Chairman: I remind the Committee that with this we are discussing the following amendments: No. 39, in clause 2, page 2, line 24, leave out 'activity or activities' and insert 'prescribed activities'.

No. 55, in clause 2, page 3, line 12, at end insert—

    '( ) In subsection (1) ''prescribed activities'' means such activities as may be prescribed by regulations made by the Secretary of State.

    ( ) Any such regulations shall be made by statutory instrument which shall be subject to annulment in pursuance of a resolution of either House of Parliament.

    ( ) Before making any regulations under this section the Secretary of State shall consult such representative and other organisations as appears to him appropriate.'.

I also remind the Committee that there is a money resolution, copies of which are available in the Room.

Judy Mallaber (Amber Valley) (Lab): At the end of our previous sitting, I was exploring the scope of the Bill after listening to the arguments about the amendments. On specific aspects of the Bill, I was concerned—as are other members of the Committee—that nothing in it should lead to adverse consequences in respect of what we all wish to achieve and to make sure that it will have the desired effect and not lead to bureaucracy and costs for voluntary organisations and volunteers.

I am worried about the scope of the part of the Bill that is the subject of the amendments. I appreciate that producing a statement of inherent risk is voluntary and that the hon. Member for Canterbury (Mr. Brazier) took care when drafting the Bill and subsequent amendments to ensure that such a statement would be voluntary. Many organisations will consider a risk so negligible in their circumstances that they do not feel the need for a statement and do not want the burden of having to produce one. However, given my experience of insurance companies, there is a serious danger that they will put pressure on any organisation that is eligible to provide a statement to do so, as a belt-and-braces job.

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I realise that the Bill has come about because of court cases, out-of-court settlements, bizarre and unacceptable situations, and the view that such matters have stoked up insurance costs. However, in my experience, insurance companies can make bizarre decisions that are not necessarily based on an analysis of whether a particular organisation or individual really falls within the category of risk on which they base their premium. It is therefore likely that they would wrongly categorise a broad range of voluntary organisations as needing a statement of inherent risk. In that categorisation, insurance companies could catch organisations that do not wish to be caught and those that we are not seeking to push into making such a statement.

I thought of such matters at our previous sitting when I remembered firms in my constituency that had difficulty in obtaining employers' insurance and public liability insurance in the post-9/11 insurance world. One company, which made hand-produced guitar strings in a small workplace next to the owner's home in a Derbyshire village, was denied insurance simply because it was selling goods to, among other countries, the United States of America, even though it was hardly a firm that would be threatened by international terrorism, which presumably was what that category of risk was meant to catch.

A second example was a firm classified as being in the construction industry, which we know is unsafe and which might have high insurance premiums, but which did not do its work on a building site, but produced materials used on building sites.

I am worried that insurance companies might with similar inaccuracy lump small voluntary organisations into a category alongside sporting and adventure groups in which they need to provide a statement. My concern is based partly on my experience of how insurance companies have wrongly categorised firms and individuals in areas that do not relate to the level of risk for the premium that they are asked to pay. Insurance companies are often too lazy to undertake a more sophisticated analysis of actual risks relating to a particular organisation. I am not convinced that they will be mollified by the commendable protections put forward by the hon. Member for Canterbury to strengthen the voluntary nature of the Bill. We need to limit the scope, and I would err on the side of caution because I am not confident that insurance companies will accurately consider the risks of particular organisations.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Holborn and St. Pancras (Mr. Dobson) made a convincing case about why amendment No. 38 is too narrow; he said that it does not mention play activities. I feel that I have to support amendments Nos. 39 and 55, although I understand that hon. Members may be reluctant to leave the measures to subsequent scrutiny. However, it may be possible to refine the provisions later in the course of the Bill.

I am genuinely concerned about how insurance companies will operate in cases in which a category that does not want a statement of risk is entitled to one under the Bill. Judging from previous experience, and

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from the crude way in which insurance firms often categorise companies and people, I worry that they will insist on sweeping them into the Bill and making them do what they do not want to. We always speculate on exactly what a Bill's impact will be, but although we cannot be sure of the impact of this one, I would hate to add new problems to those of voluntary organisations and volunteers who might otherwise not be affected. I think that there are arguments for attempting to limit its scope.

Mr. Julian Brazier (Canterbury) (Con): Welcome back to the Chair, Mr. Amess.

I set out all the relevant arguments earlier, but I should just add that more and more voluntary organisations now feel bound to get insurance. Given that a lady who injured herself on a dance floor that was treated with non-stick material is currently suing the organisation involved, the certificates might in a sense offer a way of getting insurance premiums down for voluntary groups. I can only reiterate that the statements are not compulsory and that, crucially, we should make it clear that they need be signed only once and need not be exhaustive, and so on. We have really bent over backwards on this matter, so I am afraid that I am unable to urge the Committee to support the amendments; I ask it to oppose all three.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Fiona Mactaggart): I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendment proposed: No. 39, in clause 2, page 2, line 24, leave out 'activity or activities' and insert 'prescribed activities'.—[Fiona Mactaggart.]

Question put, That the amendment be made:—

The Committee divided: Ayes 4, Noes 11.

Division No. 4]

Burnham, Andy
Mactaggart, Fiona
Mallaber, Judy
Mountford, Kali

Bennett, Andrew
Boswell, Mr. Tim
Brazier, Mr. Julian
Dobson, Mr. Frank
Hoey, Kate
Hoyle, Mr. Lindsay
Lait, Mrs. Jacqui
Öpik, Lembit
Reed, Mr. Andy
Taylor, Mr. Ian
Wyatt, Derek

Question accordingly negatived.

Amendment made: No. 40, in clause 2, page 2, line 25, after 'volunteer,' insert

    'the employee (or the voluntary organisation or voluntary body by whom he is employed),'.—[Fiona Mactaggart.]

Fiona Mactaggart: I beg to move amendment No. 41, in clause 2, page 2, line 26, leave out 'written'.

The Chairman: With this it will be convenient to discuss the following amendments:

Column Number: 72

No. 42, in clause 2, page 2, line 30, leave out subsection (2).

No. 43, in clause 2, page 2, line 32, leave out 'that'.

No. 64, in clause 2, page 2, line 33, at end insert—

    '(2) The statement of Inherent Risk shall indicate—

    (a) the relevant qualifications held and training completed by the persons who will be involved in providing the activities;

    (b) that the person undertaking the activity shall obey the instructions given by the person who will be involved in providing the activities;

    (c) that, if the person undertaking the activity is aged less than sixteen, the person's parent or guardian must—

    (i) explain the risks set out in the Statement to the person, and

    (ii) inform that person of the need to obey the person who will be involved in providing the activities; and

    (d) that, if the person undertaking the activity is aged sixteen or over, he shares responsibility for the safe conduct of the activity.'.

No. 44, in clause 2, page 2, line 33, at end insert—

    '(2) The Statement of Inherent Risk shall be in writing and shall—

    (a) set out the measures which the person presenting the Statement, and (if that person is acting in his capacity as an employee) the voluntary organisation or volunteering body employing him, has taken and intends to take during the course of the activity to minimise the risks set out in the Statement;

    (b) state the relevant qualifications held and training completed by the persons who will be involved in providing the activities;

    (c) list the relevant legal obligations of the person presenting the Statement, and (if that person is acting in his capacity as an employee) the voluntary organisation or volunteering body employing him;

    (d) include details of the methods of seeking compensation in the event of injury or harm as a result of the activity.'.

No. 46, in clause 2, page 2, line 35, leave out paragraph (a).

No. 47, in clause 2, page 2, line 35, leave out 'as' and insert 'that'.

No. 4, in clause 2, page 2, line 37, at end insert—

    '(aa) indicate the types of risk likely to be encountered when undertaking the activity, but need not be exhaustive.'.

No. 66, in clause 2, page 2, line 46, at end insert—

    '(3A) The Statement of Inherent Risk—

    (a) may relate to the activity or activities which are regularly administered or managed by or under the control of the volunteer, employee, voluntary organisation or volunteering body or to an exceptional activity or activities including a school visit, and

    (b) need only be presented once to the adult person concerned or the parent or guardian of the child concerned.'.


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