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Summary

  1. The day began for MPs at 11.30 GMT with questions to Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, followed by questions to the Attorney General.
  2. Conservative MP Jesse Norman tabled a TMRB to provide child benefits to teenagers on apprenticeships.
  3. The government suffered a defeat during the Small Business Bill, as MPs agreed to an amendment allowing pub landlords to escape "tied" contracts with brewers and change to "market only" contracts.
  4. The adjournment debate was led by Labour MP Robert Flello, on the future of Fenton Town Hall building in Stoke-on-Trent.
  5. The House of Lords began at 14.30 GMT with the daily half-hour questions session.
  6. Peers completed committee-stage scrutiny of the Social Action, Responsibility and Heroism Bill.
  7. Peers also approved regulations which allow civil partnerships to be converted in to full marriages in England and Wales.

Live Reporting

By Pippa Simm and Sam Francis

All times stated are UK

End of business in the Commons

And that's it. Shailesh Vara brings the adjournment debate to an end, concluding the days business in the House of Commons.

MPs will be back on Wednesday at 11.30 GMT when the main business will be Prime Ministers questions.

Government response

Justice Minister Shailesh Vara is responding to the debate for the government.

He tells MPs that Fenton Town Hall has been in the hands of the public sector since William Meath Baker, who built the town hall, sold it to the local health board.

Ownership of the Town Hall passed to the government in 2005, he adds.

Adjournment debate

Robert Flello accuses the Ministry of Justice of selling off the Fenton Town Hall building - which had been used as a magistrates court - despite never owning the building.

The building was given to the people of Stoke-on-Trent and has never been bought from them, he argues.

Adjournment debates are short debates held at the end of a day's business and are used to bring constituency matters to the attention of government ministers.

End business in the Lords

That brings an end to the debate - and peers approve the regulations which establish the process for converting civil partnerships in to full marriages in England and Wales.

And with that, the House of Lords adjourns for the day. Peers return at 15.00 GMT on Wednesday, when the main business of the day will be consideration of the Infrastructure Bill, and the Consumer Rights Bill.

Report-stage debate ends

MPs reject by 295 votes to 229 - government majority 76 - a Labour amendment that would require companies which are granted government contracts to create apprenticeships.

That brings to an end the day's report-stage scrutiny of the Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Bill.

Labour MP Robert Flello will now lead a debate on the future of Fenton Town Hall building in Stoke-on-Trent.

Support for changes

Labour peer Lord Collins of Highbury and Conservative Lord Jenkin of Roding voice their support for the changes, which also have the full backing of the Labour opposition.

Baroness Thornton, speaking from the opposition front bench, also takes the opportunity to press the government over progress on the legalisation of humanist marriages.

The Ministry of Justice launched a public consultation on proposals to legalise humanist wedding ceremonies in England and Wales, following talks with cross-party members and the British Humanist Association, and pressure to include measures in the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill.

Baroness Garden of Frognal, responding to Baroness Thornton, tells the House that the government is considering the consultation responses and will issue a report by the 1 January.

Humanism is a secular philosophy or belief system and these weddings are legally invalid in England and Wales but legal in Scotland.

Recognised marriage

The regulations are supported by Liberal Democrat peer Lord Paddick - who married his Norwegian male partner in Norway in 2009.

He welcomes that his marriage "is now recognised as a marriage" in England, Wales and Scotland.

But he says it is to be regretted that equal marriage is "still not possible" in Northern Ireland.

Vote correction

Speaker John Bercow announces a correction to results of an earlier division.

The government defeat over allowing pub landlords to change to "market rate" rents from breweries was larger than previously announced.

The corrected results show the government was defeated by a majority of 25 votes rather than 15, with 284 votes for the amendment and 259 against.

Amendment withdrawn

Following Matthew Hancock's speech, Debbie Abrahams withdraws her amendment.

Defence of the bill

Business Minister Matthew Hancock says the transparency measures in the bill will mean that the payment practices of all large companies will be published.

This goes further than Labour's calls to "name and shame" companies, he argues.

Mr Hancock tells MPs that a new prompt payment advisory board is also being commissioned to give the Prompt Payment Code "teeth", so that it can exclude companies with poor practice from the code "in a very public way".

Matthew Hancock
BBC
Matthew Hancock tells MPs the government is tackling late payment of suppliers

Civil Partnership conversions

The regulations are being introduced by government spokesman Baroness Garden of Frognal, who hopes they will have the House's support.

Same sex marriages in England and Wales have been allowed to take place since March this year, after the law was changed by the government in 2013.

Scotland passed a similar law in February and same-sex couples will be able to get married from the end of the year.

Northern Ireland has no plans to follow suit.

Civil Partnership conversions

Peers turn their attention to the final item of today's business, which concerns regulations that allow people to convert their civil partnership into a marriage in England and Wales.

If approved by Parliament, the regulations will come into force on 10 December 2014.

End of committee stage

Making the case for clause four to be retained, Justice Minister Lord Faulks tells peers that "all too often" people are unwilling to intervene to assist others due to fears they might be sued.

This clause will help to allay these concerns, he explains, by providing reassurance to people that heroic behaviour in emergencies will be taken into account by the courts if a claim of negligence of breach of statutory duty is brought against them.

He says there is "consensus" that the final eleven words of the clause are "problematic" - and pledges that the government will look in to this before the bill returns to the House at report stage.

He urges peers to withdraw their amendments - which they agree to do so.

That brings committee-stage scrutiny of the bill to an end - meaning the House will next be debated at report stage.

Government response

Business Minster Matthew Hancock is responding to the debate for the government.

He tells MPs he agrees that the current system concerning late payments is not working, but the issue is how to deal with the problem.

Mr Hancock says the best way to tackle the problem of late payments due to companies going bust is to create a strong economy and a strong "culture of payment", which the bill seeks to establish through measures that improve transparency and improve prompt payment in the public sector.

Labour's response

Responding to the debate for Labour, shadow business minister Toby Perkins says the bill makes positive but small steps in the right direction.

Mr Perkins says small businesses do not trust the government to deal with late payments because it has "dragged its feet" over the issue for so long.

Labour's proposal to require certain companies to publish information on their payments to suppliers in quarterly statements would "take the issue out of ministers hands" and allow other organisations to "name and shame" companies with poor records of paying suppliers, he argues.

Ministers would also get a chance to praise companies that do play by the rules, Mr Perkins adds.

Addressing Tory MP Ben Gummer's concerns, Mr Perkins says the Labour amendment would show small businesses that parliament is taking late payments seriously without being overly prescriptive on business.

Toby Perkins
BBC

Protecting the 'thoughtful hero'

Lord Pannick says clause four, as it is currently drafted, protects the "instinctive hero" but not the "thoughtful hero", which is "entirely unjustified".

He has tabled a separate amendment - number 10 - which would remove that distinction.

The peer also claims that clause four adds "absolutely nothing" to clause two of the bill, and is therefore unnecessary, as he explains his reasons for wanting to delete it.

Clause Four amendments

Peers are considering the last grouping of proposed amendments to the Heroism Bill, after which committee-stage scrutiny of the legislation will be complete.

The amendments concern clause four of the bill, which provides that a court must have regard to whether alleged negligence or breach of statutory duty occurred when a person was acting heroically by intervening in an emergency to assist an individual in danger and without regard to his or her own safety or other interests.

Lord Pannick and Lord Lloyd have tabled amendments seeking to remove the entirety of the clause from the bill.

'Ephemeral legislative concoction'

Lord Lloyd is dissatisfied with the minister's reply but he agrees to withdraw his amendment - pledging to return to the matter at report stage.

On to the next amendment now - which is being moved by opposition spokesman Lord Beecham, who derides the bill as an "ephemeral legislative concoction".

Common sense?

Justice Minister Lord Faulks is tasked with responding to peers' arguments, as he summates for the government.

He notes that peers' criticism of clause two is that it is not well drafted and that there is insufficient evidence to justify it and the wider bill.

However, the minister maintains that there is a perception of a "compensation culture" which needs to be addressed.

"We should indeed be not out of step with those who drink at the Dog and Duck, who are aware of the possibility of a compensation culture.

"If this bill chimes in common sense terms with what ordinary people feel, that we have gone too far, then this bill is providing a useful purpose," he reasons.

Support for bill

Conservative MP Ben Gummer, who says he has run several small businesses, offers his support to the bill as it stands and cautions against creating "too rigid a regime" which could have perverse consequences.

Current provisions will have a "revolutionary impact" Mr Gummer says, and move towards a system that will help small businesses control the terms of trade that they have with their customers.

Ben Gummer
BBC

Time limit

Labour MP Gordon Banks calls for a time limit for the querying of invoices, to prevent large companies from employing delaying tactics in the payment of suppliers.

Peer disagrees

Opposing the amendment, Conservative peer Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbots disagrees with Lord Pannick's assertions that people's fears are "baseless".

He says that while the bill is not a "magic bullet", it is one of a series of steps that are needed to tackle the problem, and ensure that people are not discouraged from getting involved in civil society.

Lord Hodgson was appointed by the government to lead a

review of the charity sector in 2011.

Protection called for

Returning the debate to the Labour amendment on late payments, Labour MP Gordon Banks tells MPs that one in five business failures is down to late payments, and says that late payment is often the difference between "continued trading and business failure" for small businesses.

While he says he will support the Labour amendment but calls for more to be done to protect suppliers from chasing up clients for payments. The majority of suppliers do not pursue their customer for payment due to the costs involved and the threat of losing the customers business, Mr Banks says.

Gordon Banks
BBC
Labour MP Gordon Banks wants the onus to be shifted to big business rather than suppliers

Lord Pannick's criticisms

Lord Pannick - a barrister and co-signatory of the amendment - insists that the courts already take account of "beneficial action, responsibility, heroism" when deciding on potential liability for negligence or breach of statutory duty.

The crossbench peer says the government's defence of the clause is that people do not understand the existing law and therefore parliament should "send a message".

But he contends that there is "no evidence whatsoever" to suggest that people thinking of performing beneficial acts or heroism are being deterred by a misunderstanding of the protections that the law already offers them.

He also suggests that social media would be a far more effective message of communicating a message, rather than using up "valuable" legislative time; although he does add that there is no point in sending a message unless there is "something of value" to communicate.

Lord Pannick
BBC

Prohibition list proposed

Green MP Caroline Lucas tables an amendment to allow the business secretary to create a "prohibition list" to prevent exported finance from being made available to projects that undermine the UK's human rights policies or pledges to tackle "dirty fossil fuel" production.

Ms Lucas says the current process of considering projects on a case-by-case basis is not working. At best "it's a bureaucratic faff" and at worse "its economically, socially and environmentally harmful", Ms Lucas says.

Caroline Lucas
BBC
Caroline Lucas tells MPs that export finance cannot currently legally discriminate between different types of export

What are the problems caused by late payments?

Smaller companies often face cash-flow problems if bills are not paid on time. Typically, they face extra costs - such as extending a bank loan to tide them over. The construction sector is particularly badly hit by late payment.

The European directive on late payments says business to business payments should be made within 60 days and public sector bills should be paid within 30 days.

The Prompt Payment Code was established in December 2008 to help small suppliers recover the £30.2bn owed to them by some of the UK's largest companies, but has been labelled a failure by business leaders,

including former trade minister Lord Digby Jones.

Payments to suppliers

MPs now turn to a Labour amendment that would allow large companies who delay their payments to suppliers to be "named and shamed".

Under the amendment, tabled by Labour MP Debbie Abrahams, certain companies will be required to publish information on their payments to suppliers and will allow the business secretary to impose obligations on companies who fail to pay suppliers on time.

Lord Lloyd attacks bill's clause

Setting out the reasons for wanting to delete clause two from the bill, Lord Lloyd say its "adds nothing".

He says the drafting is "so defective" that if it is to stay in the bill it will give rise to "massive unintended consequences".

Lord Lloyd of Berwick
BBC

Government win

MPs have rejected a Labour amendment to include all "tenanted, leased or franchised" pubs under the new Pubs Code. The bill as it currently stands would only extend the code to "tied" pubs.

Labour say the amendment simply "tightens up" the loose language of the bill, allowing greater certainty in the pub industry, but the amendment was rejected by 302 votes to 238, a government majority of 64.

Peers' bid to remove clause

Two senior peers are launching a bid to remove the entirety of clause two from the bill.

The clause in question provides that the court must have regard to whether the alleged negligence or breach of statutory duty occurred when the person was acting for the benefit of society or any of its members.

The move to get rid of it comes from the former law lord, Lord Lloyd of Berwick and crossbench peer and barrister Lord Pannick; both of whom have dismissed the bill as "useless" and a "public relations exercise unconvincingly disguised as a prospective act of parliament", respectively.

Government offer

Earlier in the day, Business Minister Jo Swinson announced plans designed to head off a government defeat by promising MPs that new measures would be introduced when the bill went to the House of Lords.

The new plans would allow pub landlords to apply for the same "market rent" option but only after two years, if a review concludes other measures in the bill haven't helped them sufficiently.

Further amendment

Conservative peer Lord Hunt of Wirral is proposing another amendment to the Heroism Bill - and he makes an impassioned defence of his proposal.

He impresses upon peers that the purpose of the Lords is to "improve" legislation, and not "dismiss" it as "lacking substance", but cuts himself short, saying "sorry I mustn't get too emotional about this" - which draws laughter from peers.

Lord Hunt of Wirral
BBC

‏@GregMulholland1

Greg Mulholland MP tweets: WE'VE DONE IT! We have won!

Government defeat

MPs have voted to accept an amendment to allow pub landlords to exchange their "tied" tenancies, where pubs are required to buy supplies from companies that own the pubs, for a "Market Rent Only" option with a brewery that charges rent at an independently assessed market level without any "tie".

The amendment received cross party support and was signed by 91 MPs, led by Greg Mulholland, Adrian Bailey, Brian Binley, Caroline Lucas, Peter Aldous and Tim Farron.

MPs voted 284 votes to 269 in favour, a majority of 15.

Heroism Bill's remit

The bill being scrutinised by peers is one of a number of government initiatives to tackle the perception of a "compensation culture" which may deter people from volunteering or getting involved in community activity.

It establishes matters a court must consider in determining a negligence claim or breach of statutory duty.

Courts would have to consider whether actions were taken "for the benefit of society or any of its members", and if someone demonstrated a "generally responsible" approach to protecting the safety of others.

The provisions apply only in England and Wales as civil law in Scotland and Northern Ireland is devolved.

Vote called

House of Commons
BBC
MPs begin filling the chamber ahead of an imminent vote on New Clause 2 of the Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Bill.

@JohnHealey_MP

Labour MP John Healey tweets: Will vote for new system for tied pubs shortly, and told minister that tenant landlords just want a fair basis to run their pub business

Care urged

Conservative MP Richard Fuller says the government's planned change to exempt small brewers which supply only 350 or fewer pubs from the Pubs Code, rather than those that supply 500 or fewer, will only affect three brewers.

Comparing the government to Saruman, the wizard in the Lord of the Rings whose pursuit of order and discipline led to his own downfall, Mr Fuller cautions against intervening in the pub market too excessively because he says the unintended circumstances of intervention could lead to the collapse of the industry.

"We should be modest in efforts to change things that are working and we should be precise about the regulations we seek to impose," he says.

Amendment withdrawn

The amendment is also opposed by the opposition.

Setting out the government's position, Justice Minister Lord Faulks says he understands the motives behind Lord Hunt's amendment, particularly its aim of reducing people's insurance premiums.

Justice Minister Lord Faulks
BBC

However, the issues it raises need more detailed consideration than is possible in the context of this bill, Lord Faulks explains, and requests that the peer withdraws his amendment.

Lord Hunt of Wirral agrees to do so - and attention turns to the next amendment, which has been tabled by Labour spokesman Lord Beecham.

Amendments to 'add substance'

Speaking against the amendments, Lord Pannick, a leading QC, suggests they are a "long way" away from the purpose of the bill, which is designed to encourage more volunteering or involvement in community activity.

Lord Hunt, intervening, argues that his amendments are designed to "add substance" to the bill.