Promotion of Volunteering Bill

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Mr. Brazier: We have had a profitable debate. I was interested to hear what the hon. Member for Leigh said in his maiden contribution to the Committee. I should like to clarify one small issue before I come to his main point: in all cases—not just the one in Britain, in which the Court of Appeal is defining ''reckless disregard'', but a whole range of cases in America—one does not have to prove intent. I say that because the hon. Gentleman mentioned intent at one point. One can show reckless disregard without having any intent to cause harm. That is a higher standard than negligence, but it is not that high.

The hon. Gentleman's points about insurance are well taken. We withdrew clause 3; I hope that the Government will not allow the FSA to spoil that. We come back to a fundamental point that has been made time and again: at the end of the day, insurance premiums will reflect actual risk.

On the hon. Gentleman's central point, he was right that that is exactly how the organised sports end of the Bill will work. Bodies such as the RFU were in fact at the discussions during which we put the Bill together. When people join a rugby club, they will sign up to a standard statement that will have been settled by the relevant governing body.

There are two points to deal with. The first is that a whole range of people are not represented by governing bodies. The right hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras made that point so well that I will not repeat what he said. The second very important point affects the issues with which the hon. Member for Leigh is principally concerned, which is that if the system were adopted without the Bill, it would have almost no legal value whatever.

Andy Burnham: I was not advocating dropping the Bill altogether; I was suggesting that clause 2, instead of creating statements of risk, should place a duty on governing bodies of sport to define risk, communicate that known risk to participants, and require participants to sign up to a statement of risk as part of the registration process at the start of every season. I am not saying that the scheme should become voluntary; I am saying that we should put it in law. That was the purpose of what I said. I proposed that rather than the system before us, in which one rugby club can seemingly define risk differently from the next. That is the problem with the Bill. It mentions a

    ''volunteer, employee . . . or volunteering body''.

That gives anyone the power to define their own statement.

Mr. Brazier: I understand that point entirely, and we debated it at length in the consortium that put together the scheme. The point made was that although those at the organised end of sport can quickly sort the matter out for themselves, just as the RFU has sorted

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out insurance arrangements, one has to have a certain standard insurance package. I am sorry to keep citing the RFU, but it was part of the process originally—I point that out for the benefit of the rugby league people. Just as one could set a standard insurance package, so there will be a standard statement. The problem that we would create if we required a governing body to provide the statement is that we would then leave everybody else out. Basically, the hon. Gentleman and I have exactly the same thing in mind, and the practical effects of our schemes would be the same.

I may have read too much into the hon. Gentleman's statement, but I want to emphasis that as things stand at the moment the courts are quite willing to ignore completely the views of governing bodies. The case that led Roy Amlot QC to become so involved in the issue involved not a volunteer but a professional mountaineering instructor, but I am concerned with the vast majority of rock-climbing, which is voluntary. In that case, a judge sitting in the comfort of his courtroom ruled that there had been negligence on the part of a mountaineering instructor in respect of an accident that happened on a mountain face, although there was no disagreement about the facts of the case. He simply disagreed with the man's judgment on a mountaineering issue, despite evidence from the relevant association. If that can happen, we must realise that we have to provide a statutory basis for such issues.

Andy Burnham: Partly, I am asking why we should create a new piece of paper when there already is one for the governing body and the individual. If the duty was on the governing body to define risk and require participants to sign up to the statement mentioned in the Bill, the courts would have to give the governing body due regard as the sovereign body in that sport, because the Bill would have referred to governing bodies. I presume that it would also have to set out which is the recognised governing body in each sport, but I think that that is done in other legislation.

Mr. Brazier: I could try to sidestep the point by saying that we have the problems of all the organisations that do not have specific governing bodies, but there is a more central point. Given the kind of court rulings that we have had, such as that unbelievable yachting case in which there was an absolute willingness by the court to ignore what anybody who has ever been involved in sailing understands, the legal advice that I have received is that we will not achieve anything without some effort to tell the court that we are restoring the bar for negligence to a higher level.

Judy Mallaber: While I am concerned about the reckless disregard amendment, I am having difficulty in deciding how to vote on the Minister's amendments. They put forward a different viewpoint from that taken on Second Reading. We also need to look at the proposals from the Joint Committee on Human Rights and some others that have been made. I wonder whether some of those issues might be better discussed as the Bill proceeds, because there is a lot of value in

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what the Minister said about her concerns. However, we now seem to have got into a further range of discussions that makes it hard to come to a considered view on the direction that we are going in.

Mr. Brazier: I am not sure that I entirely understand that point.

We are now at the heart of the Bill. We are introducing the option for sport, adventure training and other recreational and voluntary organisations, such as a dancing club, to produce this certificate if they want to do so. Nobody is forcing them to do it; if a certificate is not produced, one of the amendments in this group includes an explicit requirement on the court not to take that into account. It provides an extra weapon in the armoury, and one that organisations from the RFU to the NFU will be able to pick up in order to say to their members, ''Here is a standard format; this is what we suggest we get people to sign up to.''

Andy Burnham: The system that the hon. Gentleman has described does not have much weight because it is so voluntary. Would it not be better to have not the bottom-up approach that he is suggesting, but a more top-down approach so that we know that every player of a particular sport is covered in exactly the same way and they all take on the same risks? That would be better than if there were a haphazard and confusing arrangement.

Mr. Brazier: The organisation of the sports must come back to the governing bodies. They will be able to do that within the framework of the Bill. It is as simple as that; they will be able to do it, just as is done for insurance now, and this is a much less bureaucratic and burdensome business than sorting out insurance policies.

I urge the Committee to reject amendment No. 49—I think that the Minister intends not to press amendment No. 51—and to support amendments Nos. 7 and 8.

Question put, That the amendment be made:—

The Committee divided: Ayes 3, Noes 6.

Division No. 8]

AYES
Burnham, Andy
Mactaggart, Fiona
Mountford, Kali

NOES
Bennett, Andrew
Brazier, Mr. Julian
Dobson, Mr. Frank
Hoyle, Mr. Lindsay
Lait, Mrs. Jacqui
Öpik, Lembit

Question accordingly negatived.

Amendments made: No. 50, in clause 2, page 2, line 49, leave out from 'and' to 'in' in line 1 on page 3 and insert

    'the Statement has been duly signed in accordance with subsection (3A),'.

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No. 52, in clause 2, page 3, line 3, leave out

    'the employee's voluntary organisation or volunteering body,'

and insert

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

    Amendment proposed: No. 7, in clause 2, page 3, leave out line 12 and insert

    'the volunteer has shown a reckless disregard for safety.'.—[Mr. Brazier.]

    Question put, That the amendment be made:—

    The Committee divided: Ayes 6, Noes 4.

    Division No. 9]

    AYES
    Bennett, Andrew
    Brazier, Mr. Julian
    Dobson, Mr. Frank
    Hoyle, Mr. Lindsay
    Lait, Mrs. Jacqui
    Öpik, Lembit

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

Question accordingly agreed to.

Amendment proposed: No. 8, in clause 2, page 3, line 12, at end insert—

    '(4A) A court shall not take the absence of a Statement of Inherent Risk into account in deciding whether a volunteer is negligent.'.—[Mr. Brazier.]

    Question put, That the amendment be made:—

    The Committee divided: Ayes 7, Noes 3.

    Division No. 10]

    AYES
    Bennett, Andrew
    Brazier, Mr. Julian
    Dobson, Mr. Frank
    Hoyle, Mr. Lindsay
    Lait, Mrs. Jacqui
    Mallaber, Judy
    Öpik, Lembit

    NOES
    Burnham, Andy
    Mactaggart, Fiona
    Mountford, Kali

Question accordingly agreed to.

Fiona Mactaggart: I beg to move amendment No. 56, in clause 2, page 3, line 13, leave out subsection (5).

The Chairman: With this it will be convenient to discuss the following amendments: No. 57, in clause 2, page 3, line 16, leave out subsection (6).

No. 58, in clause 2, page 3, line 19, leave out subsection (7).

3.30 pm

 
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