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Lord Goodhart: I think I can be brief. As I made clear on the first day of the Grand Committee, my view is that since the decision of your Lordships' House in Tomlinson v Congleton Borough Council the substantive law is about right. I was therefore distinctly dubious about the value of Clause 1, as it seemed to me that it led to two risks. First, there was the risk that the courts would disregard the statement in the Explanatory Notes that this was intended merely as a statement of the current law and would take the view that it must have some intention to change the law. Secondly, it would considerably increase the risk of satellite litigation by people trying to say that it does change the law. Amendments Nos. 15 to 25 inclusive would increase both those risks. I am rising at this stage, at the beginning of a new day in Grand Committee, to say that I am unable to support any of Amendments Nos. 15 to 25, but I will not rise again to say so in those debates.

Lord Phillips of Sudbury: I hesitate to intervene, not having intervened thus far, but one of the problems with this place is that so many Bills run simultaneously that one is prevented from engaging with matters that are of great interest. I am slightly perplexed since, as I understand it, Amendment No. 15 is primarily directed towards excluding doctors—as shorthand—from the purview of Clause 1. I cannot think of a good reason why they should be treated differently from any other section of the community. We all have the highest possible regard for the medical profession.
 
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Part 1 has a very general application, and it is hard to see how it would have application in fact to issues of healthcare. I raise the question in a negative way because I do not see why one group of citizens should be privileged above any other. The good, noble Lord, Lord Hunt, may tell me soon.

Lord Hunt of Wirral: As I explained at the outset, the amendment is an attempt to clarify the extent to which Clause 1 is restricted to personal injury claims. The words are taken from the definition of clinical negligence claims in the NHS Redress Bill. Therefore, it is an opportunity to probe with the Minister whether it is intended to apply to professional negligence such as that of doctors, or architects, solicitors, engineers—with the collapse of bridges—and quantity surveyors. Is Clause 1 intended to apply to that area? Or is the clause just a simple statement that does not have very much application? I am hoping we will hear from the Minister the sort of words that would explain to us all the extent of the coverage of the clause.

Lord Phillips of Sudbury: I am grateful.

Lord Lucas: I am very much hoping that the Minister does not accept the amendment. It is important that doctors who stop at accident sites should be able to do so without risking their professional insurance status, which many of them fear that they do at the moment. At least they have done over the past few years; I cannot say that I have checked it recently. This seems to me to be an ideal state of affairs, as set out in Clause 1, dealing with professionals who provide their professional advice in severely unprofessional circumstances.

The Earl of Erroll: Much of this matter was debated on earlier amendments, particularly Amendment No. 3. We discussed the problem that the word "negligence" could cover any sort of negligence, as the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, has just mentioned. It is not defined. I am fairly certain from the discussions held by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Risk and Adventure in Society that Part 1 aims to make people feel they can volunteer their services safely, and perhaps cover some of the cases where members of the public might want to help someone out. At present if you try to get someone who has had an accident out of their car and damage them in the process, if you have done a first aid course, you can be sued. However, if you have not done a first aid course, you will be all right.

Certainly as regards the case that the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, just mentioned, doctors are not allowed to help people in certain circumstances. That is perfectly true. I took my son to a cottage hospital to have a very deep wound in his knee patched up. The GP was not allowed to touch it or do anything about it. All that was needed was for the wound to be cleaned out and two stitches inserted. That would have solved the problem. Stitches need to be inserted quickly before the blood starts to clot. I knew perfectly well that if I had taken my son to Bedford Hospital or Addenbroke's there would have been a four-hour
 
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wait—there always is for a minor injury—by which time it would have been too late to do anything about it. We then rushed him off to Biggleswade Cottage Hospital. The staff there were not allowed to touch the wound. I offered to bring my own needle and sutures as I was in the TA and carry those things in my emergency pack. I also offered to bring my own cleaning kit so that a qualified nurse could use it. But, no, they were not allowed to touch that under rules governing their insurance. In the end I put butterfly stitches in myself and got a bollocking from staff at my son's school two days later who asked why I had not taken him to hospital. It would have been too late by then anyway.

We have reached a ridiculous situation where people are not allowed to help others due to insurance considerations. I entirely agree with the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, that in certain circumstances, perhaps outside the hospital environment, any citizen—however well qualified—should be allowed to help others. That is what the measure is supposed to be about—removing risk from such action. Although the noble Lord, Lord Goodhart, says that the law is adequate, I have received a briefing which states that Tomlinson is an exceptional case and is the only one that has reversed a general trend. However, there is nothing to say that trend will not continue and that the courts will not consider other judgments prior to Tomlinson. If there were signs that previous somewhat odd judgments were being reversed, one might have more confidence in the opinion that the law, lawyers and the courts know what they are doing. I am afraid to say that there is still a problem in that regard. That is precisely why in general I agree with many of the amendments that the noble Lord, Lord Goodhart, disagrees with—I refer to Amendments Nos. 15 to 25—because they would help ameliorate the situation and the public perception, which is restricting people's ability to get on with normal life and treat other citizens in a normal way.

If this is left as a general negligence clause, it will trap architects and others whom we have discussed. Although I accept that this measure may not be perfectly worded, it should be looked at between now and Report—the Minister has been terribly helpful in that regard—with regard to what are desirable activities. I hope that this short debate will be taken into account when that is done.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs (Baroness Ashton of Upholland): The noble Lord, Lord Hunt, talked about the road to Hell and pleasant pastures. My ambition is to get to my Christmas lunch in reasonably good "nick". I recognise that we have a lot of business to get through this afternoon. Therefore, I shall speak as briefly as possible so that we can make as much progress as possible and see this Bill safely on its way.

The noble Lord, Lord Hunt, referred to the Law Commission and the Prime Minister's speech. I am grateful for the noble Lord's questions and I will study them carefully. As I indicated on our previous
 
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Committee day, I am the Minister responsible for maintaining links with the Law Commission. We have already been in touch with it. Although I am grateful for the questions, I have in my own mind precisely how I plan to hold those discussions. I will, of course, ensure that I keep the Committee informed.

I am also, as noble Lords know—and I know that the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, knows this very well—very mindful of the need to look carefully at the current wording. The Committee will hear me say more about that as we move on to later amendments, in particular those of the noble Lord, Lord Hunt. My interest is to try to work with the Committee to ensure that we have an appropriate wording. What we have already heard in the contributions from noble Lords is, in a sense what I described perhaps ineptly at our last meeting as my see-saw. On the one hand is the issue of real desire. I have been talking to members of the all-party group and particularly Mr Brazier and Mr Öpik, who I happened to run into in the last few days, about their real desire to ensure that Clause 1 remains and about their intent to support it as far as they possibly can for precisely the reasons given by the noble Earl; ensuring not that we change the law but that we clarify it where we feel that that is necessary. That, I understand from all my dealings with the Law Officers and parliamentary counsel, is an appropriate use of legislation.

On the other hand, noble Lords who are members of the legal profession and, perhaps more importantly, others outside have said that there is the need to ensure that we do not alter the law so that we affect how the law develops and grows, in particular as regards the common law. We have sought to do that.

I am absolutely comfortable with the current clause, although I am not, as I have indicated, wedded to it remaining precisely as it is. I am very clear that its purpose is not to change the law but to clarify it; and that it does not change the law in any way.

As regards the Prime Minister's speech, he was speaking before we reached the point of developing this legislation, so, in a sense, his guidelines have translated into the work we have done around the legislation itself. I do not know what was in the Prime Minister's mind. I did not speak to him on that day. He is an extremely good speech-maker. He writes a lot of his own speeches and he makes the points extremely well. I thought he gave a very good exposition of the issues that he was concerned about around the compensation culture. So, in a sense, we have moved on from what the Prime Minister said and I hope that noble Lords will agree that within the Bill we have attempted to capture the issues of Clause 1.


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