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Lord Lucas: My Lords, we shall certainly bear the noble Lord's point in mind.

Lord Howie of Troon: My Lords, I am beginning to warm towards the Minister. I should have liked to have warmed towards him earlier and even to have warmed more warmly than I am now doing. He has listened to what we said. Not only has he listened, but he has heard it as well, and that is not always the case. I was particularly pleased when he made a distinction between structural steelwork, which is in the form of a building, and that which is an integral part of the process plant because I believe I can remember explaining that to the

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Minister at least twice at earlier stages of the Bill. From his comments, I believe the Minister realises that when we talk about structural steelwork on process sites, we are not talking only about the roofs of canteens and things of that sort, which he instanced, but also what may be quite major structural steelworks. That is clear from the latter part of what he said. With the warmest of regard, I beg leave to withdraw this amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 9 and 10 not moved.]

Lord Howie of Troon moved Amendment No. 11:

Page 59, line 3, at end insert ("unless undertaken by the contractor or if not specific to the agreement").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I am in something of a quandary here. The noble Viscount, Lord Ullswater, pointed out to me that when I tabled an amendment as regards Page 59, line 3, I really meant line 6. I believe that I meant to refer to line 6; but, on further reflection, I probably meant both. I omitted to table two amendments which I should have done, but I believe that one is enough for our purposes. Therefore, I shall stick to the proposal of the noble Viscount, Lord Ullswater, that I really mean line 6 because he has told me that he agrees with me on that, as he often does.

It is a quite simple matter which relates to components. The illustration that I used at Report stage were the bearings in a dry dock on which the gates bear. The other illustration that we know of is precast railway sleepers, which are made off-site by a contractor or subcontractor and brought on-site by him, not as supplies, but as supply fixed. This is a matter in which the noble Lord, Lord Swinfen, was very interested at an earlier part of the Bill: in fact, he was the first to identify this omission. We have discussed this matter quite adequately.

The Minister gave an undertaking that he would consider what we had said, and we have high hopes that he will come forward with some improvement on the amendment that we have suggested. I beg to move.

Viscount Ullswater: My Lords, I confess to the House that I spoke to the noble Lord, Lord Howie, to indicate to him that I thought that perhaps he might be mistaken as regards the line in the amendment. Therefore, I should like to speak to the amendment as though it related to line 6, and I beg leave of the House to do so.

At each stage of this Bill I have raised anxieties about that part of the industry which is involved with the manufacture of structural steelwork and other specialised components off-site. My noble friend Lord Lucas has agreed on previous occasions that he would like to see this sector of the industry--so much the modern method of construction as I have indicated before--brought within the ambit of this Bill. Therefore, I trust that when the Bill is considered in another place,

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suitable wording--I stress that--rather than sympathetic thoughts, can be found to cover the purport of this amendment.

Lord Monkswell: My Lords, again, we are speaking about a grey area between that which is genuinely considered to be construction and that which is not considered to be so. That is one of the problems with the drafting of the Bill. In the Government's deliberations between now and the consideration of this Bill in another place, I wonder whether they might think in terms of a change in attitude to what the Bill seeks to do. As I understand it, it seeks to ensure that where there is a construction industry contract, there is a fall-back position that ensures everything does not get snarled up in procedural and contractual disputes about which we have heard so much during the consideration of this Bill, and as being a real problem for the construction industry as a whole.

I believe that there is general agreement that those aspects peripheral to the construction industry; for example, the making of nuts and bolts at one end or the determination of a complete contract--if I may put it that way--at the other where the person letting the contract is quite happy with the contractual arrangements required, and whether a fall-back position is needed.

We are looking at the area in the middle, which is neither covered by the Supply of Goods (Implied Terms) Act; nor is the subject of what perhaps I may describe as political, rather than contractual, decisions. Rather than think of it as a process whereby those affected by the Bill would be excluded from the operation of its provisions, one should think of it as inclusive. If there is no other arrangement, the parties will effectively be covered by the Bill. It is a fall-back position.

I agree that the wording of the amendment--and where it should fall within the Bill--lacks a little clarity, as has been said by the previous two speakers, but I wonder whether it will be possible for the Government to agree that, failing all other situations, a contract would be considered to be a construction contract for the purposes of the Bill if no other regime applied. Such a provision would, I hope, include the grey areas and should not try to narrow the scope of the Bill. Unfortunately, I suspect that what will happen is that a large part of our industrial construction life will be left in a grey area of limbo and will not be covered by the Bill when I think that we would all agree that it should be covered by the Bill.

Lord Lucas: My Lords, I think that after the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Elvel, spoke to a similar amendment on Report, he agreed that the words "if not" would be better left out. That was something of a disappointment to my officials who had tied themselves in knots trying to find out what he meant. As the noble Lord, Lord Howie, has tabled an identical amendment, we have been able to avoid such detailed consideration now and have addressed ourselves solely to the spirit behind the amendment, which is whether or not "supply and fit" contracts should be brought within the Bill.

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This is a difficult area in which I do not think that it is possible to have perfection. In the end, we may well need the assistance of Henry VIII, as he is built into the Bill.

It is not the Government's intention, nor I believe is it the will of this House, that the provisions of the Bill should extend to those who simply manufacture or supply goods to the construction industry; nor indeed, is it the wish of the suppliers themselves. Nevertheless, we are keen to help those contractors who manufacture systems and components, and then fix them into place. We therefore propose to bring forward, as soon as possible, amendments to cover the whole of such "supply and fit" contracts. I cannot say more at this stage: these amendments will need to be most carefully drafted, and their consequences considered at length. However, I hope that I have made our intentions plain, and that they meet with the approval of your Lordships.

I turn to the question raised by the noble Lord, Lord Monkswell. I do not immediately see the advantage of what has been proposed, but we shall consider what has been said. If anything comes of that, the noble Lord will doubtless see it when the Bill returns to your Lordships' House for consideration of Commons Amendments.

With those words, I hope that I have managed to persuade the noble Lord, Lord Howie, to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Howie of Troon: My Lords, I think that the Government's intentions are clear to me and, as far as I can make out, they appear to be good intentions. With that thought, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Howie of Troon moved Amendment No. 12:

Page 59, leave out lines 12 and 13.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, this amendment relates to signwriting and painting. We discussed it fully at an earlier stage when the Minister agreed with the amendment that was proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Elvel, and gave an undertaking at col. 924 of the Official Report to bring forward a suitable amendment "as soon as possible". I welcome that comment, and ask merely whether "as soon as possible" is the same as "as soon as is reasonable". I beg to move.

Lord Lucas: My Lords, I am afraid that on this occasion I have nothing to add to what I said on Report. We are convinced of the case; we shall be bringing forward an amendment; we shall do that as soon as possible.

Lord Howie of Troon: My Lords, in the face of those gracious words, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

5.45 p.m.

Lord Howie of Troon moved Amendment No. 13:

Page 59, line 17, leave out from ("operations") to end of line 22.

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The noble Lord said: My Lords, I am not optimistic that the noble Lord on the Government Front Bench will react with the same graciousness to this amendment, although it does not relate to a big part of the Bill. Yet again I query the manner in which the Government have taken references to the professional work of architects, surveyors, consultants and others from income tax legislation and readjusted them to suit the Bill. Several of us in this House do not make distinctions between "architects or surveyors" on the one hand and,

    "consultants in building, engineering, interior or exterior decoration or in the laying-out of landscape",
on the other hand. We think that they are all professional practitioners in the same business; namely, the construction business. I am still not convinced that splitting those professionals in that way is correct. It was not done in the income tax legislation.

When the Minister kindly gave me a written explanation of why that has been done, he pointed out an error of mine. He said that I had used the last words in Clause 104(3)(b)(ii),

    "in relation to such operations",
as though they had come from income tax legislation, which they had not. That was an oversight on my part. The Minister indicated that agreeing to my proposed amendment would lead one to the conclusion that the words,

    "in relation to such operations",
referred only to "the laying-out of landscape". I am not sure that that is true. However, even if it were true, I should like to put another suggestion to the Minister--this is not a proposed provision because it is not put forward as an amendment. If he were to put the words,

    "in relation to such operations",
which occur now in the last line of that paragraph, after the word "work" in line 18, the provisions would read, "the professional work in relation to such operations of architects" etc., etc. That would overcome my objection to splitting those construction professionals into two separate groups. That is an artificial distinction which did not appear in the tax legislation and I do not believe that it is necessary here.

There is a tradition of animosity between architects and engineering consultants. It is a tradition of animosity which I have spent a huge amount of my life trying to heal. I believe that having such a distinction enshrined in legislation--for the first time, I think--would undo my good work in trying to heal that animosity. I beg to move.

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