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Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: My Lords, I have always shared the opinion of the noble Lord, Lord Judd, that the staff of the Crown Agents are one of their most important assets. The staff of the Crown Agents both at home—in Sutton and central London—and across the world share the organisation's commitment to development. The continuity of experience is vital to their future. Only last week I saw the benefits of some of their work in Ghana. They continue to do the most remarkable jobs in all sorts of different circumstances across the world to assist with development.

There is nothing in the Bill that affects the application of the Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations 1981, often called TUPE. By virtue of Regulation 9 of TUPE, the continued recognition of trade unions already recognised by Crown Agents at the moment of transfer to the successor company will be secured, for the same

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matters with which they now deal. The noble Lord, Lord Judd, quite understandably, asked me about consultation with the trade unions. This is a matter for the directors of Crown Agents, not Ministers or the Government. The plans for Crown Agents have been explained to the trade unions. There is nothing to concern the noble Lord, Lord Judd, in the way he described just now. Indeed, I am slightly puzzled by his amendment. It goes much further than TUPE. His amendment would entrench recognition in perpetuity because it would require the new company to recognise any union to which any employee chose to belong, whether or not it had any significant membership among staff. The amendment would put the new Crown Agents under a much more onerous obligation than that of any other employer under general employment and industrial relations law. I do not believe that that was the noble Lord's intention. Because Crown Agents already have sensible and practical procedures for staff consultation which have served them very well over the years, I see no reason to change them. Just as senior management meet the recognised trade unions to discuss these plans, so they also discuss the whole spectrum of issues that concern conditions of service. I know from comments made to me by staff that they go to great lengths to involve staff, not simply on the bread and butter issues of recruitment, hours of work, tenure, remuneration and superannuation, but, much more importantly, in using the ideas and experience of staff and to involve them in the responsibility of running an efficient and successful modern business.

That this particular amendment has been tabled comes as some surprise to me. I do not believe that it is sensible, necessary or indeed practical. It may require the successor company to recognise an indefinite number of trade unions. As in the case of other employers, I believe that Crown Agents management must have the discretion to make the arrangements most appropriate to their business, including matters such as staff representation and consultation.

I also see no reason why Crown Agents will not use that discretion in the best interests of both the business and staff. To have staff who work positively is good for business, and the business of Crown Agents has enjoyed very good industrial relations for many years. I

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understand that there are no proposals to alter the current arrangements for staff representation, and certainly the Government do not even envisage that Crown Agents will want to make such changes.

I hope that, with those assurances, the noble Lord, Lord Judd, will see fit to seek leave to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Judd: My Lords, I hope your Lordships will forgive me if I say the the tenor of the reply was anticipated. The Minister has said, with all sincerity, that one of the greatest assets of the Crown Agents is their staff. She has emphasised their outstanding record of commitment and loyalty. The Government have also told us that the arrangements that are to be made are intended to ensure that that national asset continues to serve the interests of the nation to greatest possible effect. Part of the framework within which that asset has developed is a very far-sighted and clearly spelt out provision for industrial relations within the organisation. It has been demonstrated that this is not just a formal legalistic provision but one that has worked in an exemplary fashion in spirit as well as letter.

What we sought to do by this amendment was to ensure that what had been central to the success and spirit of the Crown Agents, as we saw it, should be preserved in future. It would be a great shame if those who had served the Crown Agents so well and built that reputation were in any sense put into a position of anxiety.

I respect the Minister's personal goodwill. I hope that she will look carefully at this matter before the Bill goes to another place. I also hope that she will be able to demonstrate that she understands the significance of the argument I have just put forward, and that provision will be made on the face of the Bill to cover the point. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Family Homes and Domestic Violence Bill [H.L.]

Reported from the Special Public Bill Committee with amendments.

        House adjourned at one minute before eight o'clock.

24 Apr 1995 : Column CWH1

Official Report of the Committee on the

Family Homes and Domestic Violence Bill [h.l.]

Monday, 24th April, 1995.

The Committee met at five o'clock.

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

The Deputy Chairman of Committees: I think it will be for the convenience of the Committee if I remind Members of the procedure which is followed in special Public Bill Committees. The procedure of this Committee is, so far as possible, that of a Committee of the Whole House. Noble Lords speak standing, and so far as is practicable, observe the same degree of formality as in a Committee of the Whole House.

When there is a Division in the House, it is for the Committee to decide whether to adjourn for a fixed time, or until the result of the Division is announced in the House. In the past, it has been found that 10 minutes is a convenient time for which to adjourn, and I therefore suggest that this is the course for the Committee to follow. Is that agreeable?

The procedure for a Division in this Committee is as follows: six minutes after the Question has been put, or earlier if all Members of the Committee are present, the Chairman will say, "Lock the doors". No tellers are appointed and as soon as the doors are locked, the Chairman puts the Question for the second time, and, if it is still challenged, the Clerk will read out the names of the Members of the Committee. Each Member, when his name is called, replies "Content", "Not Content" or "Abstain". The Clerk then hands the Chairman a paper showing the numbers who have voted and the result is announced in the usual way. The doors are unlocked and the Committee continues its consideration of the Bill. A Division in this Committee will be broadcast on the annunciators. Strangers are not required to leave the room when a Division is called.

Perhaps I could also remind your Lordships that when you rise to speak you should push the button on the microphone in front of you to switch it on. You should push the button again to switch off the microphone when you have concluded speaking. That is the end of my remarks.

The Question is, that the Title of the Bill be postponed. As many as are of that opinion will say "Content", to the contrary, "Not-Content".

Members of the Committee: Content.

The Deputy Chairman of Committees: The "Contents" have it.

Title postponed.

Clause 1 agreed to.

Clause 2 [Associated persons]:

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Baroness David moved Amendment No. 1:

Page 2, line 1, at end insert—("( ) they have at any time agreed to marry each other (whether or not the agreement has been terminated)").

The noble Baroness said: What I am aiming to do in this amendment is to put back into the Bill one of the conditions in Clause 2 of the Law Commission Bill. The first four conditions in the Bill before us are the same as for the Law Commission Bill, but I wish to add the fifth paragraph in the Law Commission Bill, which states that associated persons will be those that have at any time agreed to marry each other, whether or not the agreement has been terminated.

Why I am convinced that this paragraph should be put back in the Bill is really because of what Mrs. Justice Hale said to us when she gave evidence, and I do not think I can do better than to cite what she said because that puts my case completely:

"The next point is including the two categories that we proposed but the Government has decided not to adopt, and I certainly hope that you would give very careful consideration [that is, the Committee] to reinserting at least one of those and preferably both. I was glad to see that so many of your respondents have also taken the same view. The point about which I am particularly concerned—and it is the point to which the President of the Family Division refers to in his evidence, when he says he understands I am going to make a point and he agrees with it, it is this point—that is the question of couples who have been engaged to marry one another. It seems to me that the fact that this can sometimes be disputed and/or difficult to prove, is not a sufficient reason to deny relief in the very many cases when it is not in dispute or is easy to prove. Usually an agreement to marry is quite easy to prove and is frequently not at all in dispute. The relationship may have been at least as long and the emotions just as intense as many cohabitations or even marriages, and the need for protection or a remedy just as great. I also find it something of an affront to those quaintly old-fashioned couples who do not live together before they marry, that they should be denied a remedy given to those who do live together, either before or with no thought of marriage. They may also have acquired a property, which is intended to be their matrimonial home when they marry, and there is a strong case for allowing occupation orders between them—at least if they are jointly entitled, or in favour of the one who is entitled—so as to sort out what is to happen to that house in the short term before it can be disposed of, or whatever. I could even see a case for extending all of the occupational remedies to them, on the basis that if they have obtained a house that was intended to be their matrimonial home, it ought to be possible to deal with it, whatever the position is as to its legal ownership or tenancy."

I was also supported in my wish to put this back into the Bill by the evidence that we had from Victim Support. It said:

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