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Lord Lucas moved Amendment No. 120:

Page 58, line 37, after first ("of") insert ("fittings forming part of the land, including (without prejudice to the foregoing)").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, in moving this amendment, I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 121 and 137, which stand in my name, and to Amendments Nos. 136, 138 and 139 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Elvel.

I hope by now it is clear that we have taken the comments made in Committee very seriously. The exclusion of work on seating, blinds, shutters and security systems was challenged then by the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Elvel, and my noble friend Lord Ferrers undertook to consider the point.

This we have now done, and have concluded that there is a case for including the installation of the items mentioned within the definition of construction operations. This requires not only the simple deletion of subsections (2)(h) and (2)(i) of Clause 103, which we would achieve with Amendment No. 137 but also a widening of the list of systems covered by the Bill, as achieved by Amendment No. 120. We also felt it was helpful to add the examples of security and communications systems to those already present in Clause 103(c) to widen the types of system given as examples. This is the purpose of Amendment No. 121.

I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Williams, will recognise the efforts that we have made to meet his concerns and that he no longer feels the need to move Amendments Nos. 138 and 139. However, I understand that the noble Lord wishes me to address Amendment No. 136 now. Of course, I am happy to do so. We did not omit subsection (2)(g) from our scrutiny of the changes that have been suggested. I am pleased to be able to tell noble Lords that we believe that there is indeed a case for much of the work specified in paragraph (g) to be considered as construction operations. Our only hesitation is that we believe it may not be appropriate to include some signwriting activities--such as, for example, painting a pub sign--particularly where there is very high artistic content. However, we have been convinced that work on "signboards and advertisements" is a straightforward construction operation and we shall be bringing forward a suitable amendment as soon as possible. I beg to move.

5 p.m.

Lord Williams of Elvel: My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for bringing forward Amendment No. 120. I am also grateful for Amendment No. 121. I shall speak to the same group of amendments. We did, indeed, raise

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such concerns in Committee. I have no difficulty in accepting the Minister's response to Amendment No. 136. No doubt we will have an amendment from the Government at a future stage which meets the concerns expressed. I am glad that the Government have accepted that paragraphs (h) and (i) are really not suitable to be excluded from the operation of the Bill.

I have one small question for the Minister. It is really a question of interpretation upon which we need, if I may put it this way, a ministerial explanation. Amendment No. 120 refers to,

    "fittings forming part of the land".
I would be most grateful if the Minister would elaborate as to what that phrase means in very simple English. I hope that the noble Lord will be able to do so without further ado. However, if he wishes to take further advice, I shall be happy to wait.

Viscount Ullswater: My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend the Minister for bringing forward the amendments. Unlike the noble Lord, Lord Howie, I believe that it demonstrates that the Government are listening. They are sensible amendments. My noble friend also indicated that he will look at Amendment No. 136 tabled in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Williams. I expect that something could be done in subsection (2)(f) to include the artistic nature of the pub signs about which my noble friend was worried. The amendments demonstrate the care with which your Lordships have studied the issues raised in Committee. I am pleased that my noble friend has been able to bring forward such sensible amendments.

Lord Howie of Troon: My Lords, Amendment No. 120 refers to,

    "fittings forming part of the land, including (without prejudice to the foregoing)",
whatever the latter may be. I want to ask the same question posed by my noble friend Lord Williams. What does the phrase,

    "fittings forming part of the land"
really mean? Does it, by any chance, include such things as jetties which I have mentioned from time to time? I am not sure that they are fittings in the strict sense of the word, and I am not sure that they form part of the land. However, they do connect to the land and therefore might be thought of as being an extension of the land. I am perhaps talking nonsense but I talk nonsense in the search for enlightenment in this case.

Lord Elton: My Lords, would not the instrument which prevents the ingress of unwelcome visitors to your Lordships' car park when it is raised and which forms part of the road when it is lowered be a fitting which is also part of the land?

Lord Ezra: My Lords, I share with other noble Lords who have spoken a slight incomprehension as to the meaning of the phrase. I believe that it is intended to generalise that part of the clause. If that is the case, I am very much in favour of it. It has already been made clear

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that what is stated in Clause 103(1) is not exclusive, and the more that that is referred to throughout the clause the better.

Lord Lucas: My Lords, I am delighted to confirm everything that the noble Lord, Lord Ezra, says. The amendment would indeed make the clause general whereas it was not so before. As to the meaning of the phrase,

    "fittings forming part of the land",
the general rule of law is that whatever becomes attached to the land becomes part of it. An object which was attached to the land or which was attached to something which was itself attached to the land would be covered by the provisions. It does not matter whether it is easy to remove, such as something merely screwed to the wall, or whether the attachment is more substantial. Examples of such fittings,

    "forming part of the land"
would include a fireplace, panelling, a conservatory on a brick foundation or radiators bracketed to a wall. The dividing line between things which are fixed and not fixed might be the telephone on one's desk which is not fixed to the land and the socket in the wall which is. That is the sort of dividing line I would think of, but of course it is something that would be determined in each individual case.

So far as concerns jetties, if a jetty is installed inside a building then it comes under the clause. If it is not installed inside a building but is outside, it comes under subsection (1)(b).

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Lucas moved Amendment No. 121:

Page 58, line 39, at end insert (", or security or communications systems").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

The Deputy Speaker (Lord Broadbridge): My Lords, I must inform your Lordships that if Amendment No. 122 is agreed to I cannot call Amendment No. 123 due to pre-emption.

[Amendments Nos. 122 to 124 not moved.]

Lord Williams of Elvel moved Amendment No. 125:

Page 59, line 13, leave out (", or construction of underground works,").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, in moving the amendment I shall, for the convenience of the House, speak also to Amendment No. 126 tabled in the name of my noble friend Lord Howie. In Committee we discussed the construction of underground works. I came away from that stage with the feeling that we really had not arrived at any agreement as to what construction operations are properly excluded, perhaps by tunnelling, and construction operations which should be included in the Bill such as the activities of propping up tunnels and various civil engineering works underground.

My noble friend has formulated an amendment--Amendment No. 126--which is perhaps rather better than mine. However, I believe it would be sensible for

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the House to have another look at the construction of underground works. I feel that there are matters here which are still in the grey area between construction operations and those operations which are not of a construction type, which we have not yet resolved. I very much hope that we shall hear more from the Government about what they can do to help the House. If I had been asked to choose between my amendment and that of my noble friend Lord Howie, I would probably have chosen my noble friend's amendment which seems to be slightly better drafted than mine. Nevertheless I believe it is time that your Lordships had a view from the Government after our discussion in Committee. I beg to move.

Lord Ezra: My Lords, I believe that this is an area which needs to be clarified. My experience of the construction of underground mines is that the civil engineering industry played a major role. I believe that the modifications proposed either in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Williams, or of the noble Lord, Lord Howie, need to be taken seriously into account.

5.15 p.m.

Lord Howie of Troon: My Lords, I am extremely grateful to my noble friend Lord Williams for preferring my amendment to his. I was a little taken aback that he should say such a thing although he and I retain relatively good relations most of the time. I think the Government should reconsider the discussion we had on this matter in Committee, in the course of which the noble Lord, Lord Ezra, spoke. He has just spoken briefly, I think rather too briefly in the light of his immense experience of underground working and indeed of placing contracts for underground working. If the Government reconsidered the Committee stage discussion they would recognise, or perhaps begin to understand, our several experiences in the construction of coal mines.

There is a problem here. The construction of a coal mine includes a certain body of surface works, some of which will be railways, roads, bridges and the supply of water for the washery, and some of which will be buildings for water supply, most of which would, I think, in the time when the noble Lord, Lord Ezra, ran the Coal Board, have been placed under civil engineering contracts and would have been happily so placed under the Bill.

However, there is a more difficult part of the problem as regards digging a shaft. The shaft for a coal mine is normally, I cannot say constructed--I suppose that excavated is the word. It is excavated and lined by a civil engineering contractor. As the noble Lord, Lord Ezra, said, when he ran the Coal Board that work would have been let under a civil engineering contract; that is, it would have been regarded as part of construction, and it certainly would have been in mining.

I do not think that the Government have really thought this matter out. They think that everything underground is the same. If one digs a tunnel before the extraction of minerals--in the case we are discussing the mineral is coal--that would be a mining operation.

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But before one can begin the mining operation--that is, digging the horizontal tunnels and the horizons and all of the structures out of which coal is won and extracted from the ground--one must get into a position where one can do this. One gets into that position by excavating a shaft and lining it with concrete. That is a straightforward and orthodox, although quite difficult, construction project. There is absolutely no reason why that part of the effort of winning coal, for example, should be excluded from the Bill. That is why I drafted my amendment in the way I did.

I drafted the amendment myself without advice from anyone. It may well be imprecise and inexact; it may not quite meet the high demands of parliamentary draftsmanship. We have frequently criticised the draftsmanship throughout the Bill. Nevertheless, I make a serious point in that insofar as the work on a site--being the site of the coal mine in this case--is on a site which is directed towards the gaining of minerals and is itself operated under a civil engineering contract, it should be included in the ambit of the Bill. This would not matter where the contract was precise but it does matter where the contract relates to the scheme--which no doubt we shall discuss later--because if the work were not done under a civil engineering contract and the scheme had to come into play, that particular piece of work, in its contractual sense, would be in a kind of limbo.

I shall not insist on the wording of my amendment but I want the Government to say that they have looked carefully at the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Ezra, which he made in Committee--I do not think the Government have looked at them closely enough as yet--and the rather less important remarks I made. I hope that the Government will think again about this matter and return to us with some kind of proposal which deals with what is a serious point concerning the delineation between what is actual construction work and what is not. At the minute the Government have used a blanket, blunderbuss approach which is totally inadequate and which no one in the construction industry believes in. The Government should give this matter much more careful thought than they have done to date.

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