All 18 Parliamentary debates in the Lords on 2nd Nov 2020

Mon 2nd Nov 2020
Mon 2nd Nov 2020
United Kingdom Internal Market Bill
Lords Chamber

Committee stage:Committee: 3rd sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 3rd sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 3rd sitting (Hansard): House of Lords

Grand Committee

Monday 2nd November 2020

(3 years, 8 months ago)

Grand Committee
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text
Monday 2 November 2020
The Grand Committee met in a hybrid proceeding.

Arrangement of Business

Monday 2nd November 2020

(3 years, 8 months ago)

Grand Committee
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text
Announcement
14:30
Earl of Kinnoull Portrait The Deputy Chairman of Committees (The Earl of Kinnoull) (Non-Afl)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, the hybrid Grand Committee will now begin. Some Members are here in person, respecting social distancing, others are participating remotely, but all Members will be treated equally. I must ask Members in the Room to wear a face covering except when seated at their desk, to speak sitting down, and to wipe their desk, chair and any other touch points before and after use. If the capacity of the Committee Room is exceeded, or other safety requirements are breached, I will immediately adjourn the Committee. If there is a Division in the House, the Committee will adjourn for five minutes.

The microphone system for physical participants has changed. Your microphones will no longer be turned on at all times, in order to reduce the noise for remote participants. When it is your turn to speak, please press the button on the microphone stand. Once you have done that, wait for the green flashing light to turn red before you begin speaking. The process for unmuting and muting for remote participants, however, remains the same.

Blood Safety and Quality (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2020

Monday 2nd November 2020

(3 years, 8 months ago)

Grand Committee
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
Considered in Grand Committee
14:31
Moved by
Lord Bethell Portrait Lord Bethell
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

That the Grand Committee do consider the Blood Safety and Quality (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2020.

Lord Bethell Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health and Social Care (Lord Bethell) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, these regulations are critical in giving effect to the Ireland/Northern Ireland protocol for the safety and quality of blood, organs, tissues and cells, including reproductive cells.

I will give a brief moment of context. In January, the European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Act 2020 was agreed by this House. It brings into domestic law the withdrawal agreement between the UK and the EU. Included in the withdrawal agreement is the protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland, commonly referred to as the Northern Ireland protocol.

On 20 May 2020, we set out our approach to implementing the Northern Ireland protocol as part of meeting our obligations under the withdrawal agreement. We are committed to meeting these obligations, all the while recognising the unique status of Northern Ireland within the UK and the importance of upholding the Belfast, or Good Friday, agreement.

These SIs covering donated blood, organs, tissues and cells support the vital role that these materials play in life-changing treatments for UK patients—whether it is blood transfusions to treat major blood loss, heart transplants to treat heart failure, stem cells to treat blood cancer, or eggs and sperm to treat infertility, patients rely on these treatments every day. Last year in the UK, there were 3,760 deceased organ transplants, approximately 1,100 people benefited from UK-donated stem cells and approximately 13% of IVF cycles used donor eggs or sperm. Many people would not be alive today if it were not for the generosity of donors.

The UK’s current high safety and quality standards for blood, organs, tissues and cells are derived from EU law. The application of these standards makes Britain one of the most progressive regulatory environments in the world.

Last year, in preparation for the UK leaving the EU, the Government made four statutory instruments to fix shortcomings in the current law caused by EU exit. These were made on a UK-wide basis and come into effect on 1 January 2021. These 2019 statutory instruments maintain the current safety and quality standards across the UK.

So let me explain for a moment what these regulations do. The Northern Ireland protocol requires Northern Ireland to remain aligned with the EU blood, organs and tissues and cells directives for as long as the protocol is in force, including any future changes to the directives. These four instruments will come into force on 1 January 2021 and will ensure that Northern Ireland continues to be aligned with the directives after the end of the transition period. There are five ways in which they do this.

First, the regulations ensure that the safety and quality standards will remain the same across the UK from 1 January 2021. These standards are currently aligned with EU directives. Secondly, the UK regulators for blood, organs, tissues, and cells will continue to act as the competent authorities for Northern Ireland in respect of the EU. This means that the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency, the Human Tissue Authority and the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority will continue to meet the same EU obligations for Northern Ireland as they do now.

Thirdly, these instruments amend the definition of “third country” for imports into Northern Ireland to ensure that we meet the terms of the Northern Ireland protocol, but also meet our commitment to unfettered access. This means that from 1 January 2021, when establishments in Northern Ireland receive blood, organs, tissues and cells from Great Britain, they will need to treat them the same as those received from outside the EU. In accordance with our commitment to unfettered access for goods moving from Northern Ireland to Great Britain, there will be no changes to the requirements when sending blood, organs, tissues and cells from Northern Ireland to Great Britain. The movement of blood, organs, tissues and cells around the UK is critical for patient treatment, and we are committed to ensuring that this movement can continue from 1 January 2021.

Fourthly, these instruments will require tissue establishments in Northern Ireland to continue using the single European code for traceability purposes, as they do now. Fifthly, the 2019 statutory instruments introduced some limited regulation-making powers into UK law for each of the UK nations. The EU withdrawal agreement Act 2018 contains the powers needed to make changes in relation to the safety and quality of blood, organs, tissues and cells for Northern Ireland to ensure future alignment with any changes to the directives. Therefore, the powers in the 2019 statutory instruments are no longer needed for Northern Ireland, and consequently these regulations limit those regulation-making powers to Great Britain.

Let me be clear: the fact that Northern Ireland will remain subject to EU law in this area does not mean that the UK as a whole will be prevented from making changes to the safety and quality regime in this area. The EU directives in this area set minimum standards of safety and quality. They allow member states to go further if they wish. If the UK as a whole wished to move forward and change the safety and quality standards, this could be done. They are a floor, not a ceiling.

A lot of preparatory work has already taken place. The regulators for the relevant sectors are working with licensed establishments across the UK to help ensure they are ready for any changes that will arise from 1 January 2021. They are supporting establishments to put any necessary import licences and agreements in place, preventing any disruption in the supply of blood, organs, tissues and cells. These changes affect only a very small number of establishments in Northern Ireland: one blood establishment, one transplant centre, two licensed tissue establishments and four fertility clinics. There will be some minor administrative costs for establishments in Great Britain moving blood, organs, tissues and cells to Northern Ireland.

Regarding the DAs, legislative competence for the donation, processing and use in treatment of human reproductive cells remains reserved to Westminster. Competence in respect of all other human tissues and cells, blood and organs is devolved, and the relevant instruments are being made on a UK-wide basis with the consent of the devolved Administrations. Work is under way to put in place a common frame- work between the UK Government and the devolved Administrations, to support co-ordinated decision-making on the safety and quality of blood, organs, tissues and cells after the end of the transition period.

To conclude, these regulations are vital to the Government’s preparations for the end of the transition period. It is essential that they are made to allow the UK to fulfil its obligations under the Northern Ireland protocol. The UK already has high standards for the safety and quality of blood, organs, tissues and cells. These instruments ensure the UK will continue to work to these high standards after the transition period; that blood, organs, tissues and cells will continue to be able to be moved around the UK; and that we have a platform to build the regulatory regime even further. I beg to move.

14:39
Lord Hunt of Kings Heath Portrait Lord Hunt of Kings Heath (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I thank the Minister for introducing and explaining so carefully the statutory instruments. Clearly, as he said, they are very important. The key statement he made, which is repeated in paragraph 7.7 of the Explanatory Memorandum, is:

“Neither the 2019 SIs, nor the 2020 SIs make changes to the safety and quality standards, which will remain the same across the UK from 1 January 2021.”


However, for Northern Ireland, these standards are expressed by reference to EU legislation, whereas for Great Britain they are not; although, at the moment, the substance is the same in both cases. So I ask the Minister: what are the implications of any future change made in EU directives or in UK law? Since we may not stay aligned with the EU, there must be some inevitability, at that stage, of that arising. Will that not then lead to a confusing situation in future where UK regulators are responsible for overseeing different laws in separate parts of the UK? If that is the case, and given that this is a hugely sensitive area, will this inhibit the movement of tissues and organs between Ireland and Great Britain? The Minister mentioned such movement, but will he clarify how much movement there is at the moment?

I would also like to ask the Minister about the six-month transition period from exit day to allow establishments time to put the necessary arrangements into place for importing and exporting tissues and cells with the EU? Is he confident that that is sufficient time for those establishments?

I refer to our recent debate on the Human Tissue Act during the passage of the Medicines and Medical Devices Bill. As the Minister knows from our debate, it is our view at least that the Human Tissue Act does not require appropriate consent for imported human tissue, and, in addition, imported human tissue for use in medical research does not require traceability. Of course, this is very relevant in the case of China and the shocking use of organs of prisoners and minority groups for commercial exportation. I readily acknowledge that we are currently in discussion with the Minister’s department about a suitable amendment to deal with this, but will any such amendment agreed in the Medicines and Medical Devices Bill apply also to Northern Ireland?

I am sure the noble Lord, Lord Alton, will speak in some detail on this, but, as I have the opportunity, I would like also to talk about human tissue. As the Minister will know, we have been concerned about the view of the WHO on the practices in China, as it is based upon a self-assessment by China itself. This has been the subject of correspondence between the Government and the World Health Organization. The Minister, the noble Lord, Lord Ahmad, has now turned down a freedom of information request from the noble Lord, Lord Alton, and I want to express my disappointment. This is so important that the Government really ought to publish the correspondence. Having said that, I am very grateful for the opportunity to debate these regulations.

14:43
Lord Scriven Portrait Lord Scriven (LD)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I too thank the Minister for presenting the statutory instruments. I will speak in particular to the blood safety and quality regulations. These are clearly very important and, as we get closer to the date by which a deal was meant to have been arrived at and there is not one, they become even more important, particularly given the shelf life of blood.

I will follow on from what the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, said. Standards in Northern Ireland are linked to the EU and will continue to be linked to the EU under the agreement. For Great Britain, divergence can take place. I note that the Minister said it was a floor and not a ceiling, but sometimes the floor can fall in, even with small changes—for example, on the storage of blood. So how will the Government ensure that divergence does not mean that standards will change before they come before Parliament and are passed into law, which could mean that the supply of blood becomes slower than is operationally required?

I note that 6.5% of plasma is imported from the EU to the UK. Can the Minister confirm what arrangements have been made to ensure that that plasma will continue to be available to those in GB—and speedily? If we go to a no-deal arrangement, what arrangements are there and what discussions have been had with the EU with regard to our position on getting this supply of plasma? Will it change if we are a third country? I seek exactly the same assurances on the supply of blood for patients with rare diseases who require imported blood and blood components. What arrangements have been made to ensure that the supply and standards remain the same over a period of time?

If the EU brings in new technical updates, what processes for Great Britain will be in place and how will they be linked to future EU standards? What proactive work will take place, or will we have to reactively change if the EU changes its standards and is seen to diverge?

It is clear that the arrangements on this seem certain—but only if the GB Government decide not to diverge at any point. I want assurances in particular on that, but also with regard to supply. In the House of Commons debate at the time of the 2019 regulations, the Under-Secretary of State at the Department of Health and Social Care stated very clearly that the fast-tracking of shipments at ports and alternative routes were being prepared. Have those now been prepared and, if they have, what arrangements are in place for the fast-tracking of shipments at ports and alternative routes for the supply of blood into the UK, Northern Ireland and GB?

14:47
Lord Lansley Portrait Lord Lansley (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I am likewise very grateful to my noble friend the Minister for his very clear explanation of the purpose of these regulations. I wish to speak only to the first set, relating to blood safety and quality.

As the Minister quite rightly explained, the purpose of the regulations is to enable the protocol to be applied and therefore for the regulations in Northern Ireland to continue to be those prescribed by EU law, rather than those under UK law. So the issues, as noble Lords have already said, including the noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, are very much around what will happen if there is some degree of divergence in the future.

My point is that I do not regard this as an unlikely prospect: I fear that it is a quite likely—and perhaps even an imminent—prospect. I say this because it is just over a year since the European Commission published its working document, Evaluation of the Union Legislation on Blood, Tissues and Cells. My expectation is that, probably this month, an inception impact assessment will be published by the European Commission, and its working plan says that it expects to publish a legislative proposal in the third quarter of next year—so this is not a speculative prospect.

It may not occur because the United Kingdom chooses to have different regulations. Notwithstanding my noble friend’s optimistic scenario, it is not simply a question of whether the United Kingdom chooses to have higher standards of regulation. Divergence does not necessarily mean that one jurisdiction has high standards and one has low standards; they have different standards.

Let me give some examples of where this might arise. The first relates to advanced therapy medicinal products; here, I am talking about gene therapies and somatic cell therapies. It is clear from the European Commission’s work on what it terms “strategic value chains” that one of the nine areas it has identified is personalised medicines. We know from discussions in the European Parliament in relation to these matters, and from the way in which the Commission has responded to them, that it does not simply regard this as strategic but also regards Europe’s own legislation on the governance of gene therapies as potentially differing from where it is now—and it may well be different from the way in which we choose to govern gene therapies in this country. So we may diverge in that respect.

Secondly, the noble Lord, Lord Scriven, referred to plasma and plasma products. The European Union is dealing with substantial excess, and rising, demand for plasma and plasma products. There is a serious deficiency in supply in the European Union, much of which is presently met from the United States. It may well be that the European Union adopts measures the purpose of which is to increase supply within it. That may have implications for the supply of plasma products heading out of the EU to non-EU member states. Of course, for these purposes, the United Kingdom will become a non-EU member state, so we may have divergence in that respect.

This is not confined to the European Union. On 30 October, the US Food and Drug Administration published a list of 230 sensitive products in this area, five of which relate to plasma and plasma products. There are rising demands for products in this area and international constraints on supply. I will not repeat him but the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, asked a perfectly reasonable question about the ability of the HTA to be a competent authority for two different jurisdictions, and whether my noble friend the Minister is happy that the HTA can exercise both roles.

Finally, if I may be forgiven for this question, how are we at this moment discussing these regulations in this Committee to give effect to the protocol, while discussing a Bill this afternoon in the Chamber Clauses 43 and 44 of which seem on the face of it to give the Government the power—indeed, give Ministers the responsibility—potentially to disapply the protocol in relation to regulations in this area? This is an absurd proposition. Perhaps my noble friend would be kind enough to explain how we arrived at this place.

14:52
Lord Alton of Liverpool Portrait Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, in thanking the Minister for introducing these statutory instruments, I am conscious of two things. First, they are procedurally necessary because of the decision to leave the European Union, but inter alia, honour a commitment not to use such transitional arrangements to dilute our commitment to uphold the highest possible standards in relation to the use of organs, tissues, blood and cells. I think that the Government have honoured that commitment. Secondly, I am conscious that it is only a few days since we had a full-blown debate on an amendment to the Medicines and Medical Devices Bill, which is currently in Committee, relating to human organs. The noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, referred to this earlier. Like him, I would like further clarity on the one notable change in the regulations—also touched on by the noble Lord, Lord Lansley, a moment ago. It relates to Northern Ireland, where European Union law will continue to apply while not doing so in the rest of the United Kingdom.

The opportunity for confusion and inconsistency is therefore written into the very DNA of the statutory instruments. It reminds us of what is one of the most troubling and unresolved aspects of the withdrawal agreement. I would be interested to know who within the Northern Ireland Executive has been the point man or woman in discussing the implications of the SI; who has been consulted within the Northern Ireland Assembly and what response has been received; and whether these arrangements have been signed off by the Commission in Brussels and the relevant health authorities in Dublin.

When he comes to reply, I would also be grateful to the Minister if he would return to the questions that I put to him last week concerning the trade and exhibition of body parts. Given that the Human Tissue Act does not require traceability, how is that to be resolved in the context of these statutory instruments or in the legislation being taken through the House? Will that principle now be treated differently in Northern Ireland and Great Britain?

Yesterday I sent the Minister an 87-page report, with 270 footnotes, The Economics of Organ Harvesting in China, published by the Institute to Research the Crimes of Communism. It describes forced organ harvesting as

“one of the most inhumane crimes in the entire history of humanity”.

In harrowing detail, it describes what it calls “the business offer” and details an international spider’s web of companies—including some from the United Kingdom—which have aided and abetted what it describes as primitive barbaric practices. I am grateful to the Minister, whom I had a chance to speak to just before we came into this Committee, for already having had a glance at the report. I hope that he will commit to looking at the report further and say how he intends to take forward an investigation into the companies referred to in it. Will he agree to refer it to the World Health Organization for its consideration?

In that context, and further to the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, I might add that only today the information rights unit at the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office has written to me in response to the freedom of information request to which I referred during our debate last week, asking for the correspondence between it and the WHO to be made public. In its response, the unit says:

“Some of the information has been withheld using section 27(1)(b) on International Relations. Section 27 is a qualified exemption and is subject to a public interest test. The application of section 27(1)(b) requires us to consider the public interest test arguments in favour of releasing and withholding information.”


The letter also says:

“The disclosure of information could potentially damage the bilateral relationship between the UK and the World Health Organization. This would reduce the UK Government’s ability to protect and promote UK interests through its relations with the WHO, which would not be in the public interest.”


I would obviously contest that strongly, not least because of the vast amounts of public money that pour from the United Kingdom into the WHO. This sits very uncomfortably with our belief in transparency and open government. Elsewhere, the letter says:

“The disclosure of information detailing our relationship with China could potentially damage the bilateral relationship between the UK and China.”


Why should information pertaining to the forced harvesting of organs and their use in organ tourism be damaging to our relations with China?

Let me conclude. I would be grateful if the Minister could say how in further legislation, whether brought through SIs or within the current Bill, we can demonstrate our determination to stamp out organ tourism that relies on the killing of non-consenting victims, and which then trades in their remains in ways which the United Kingdom should demonstrate to the rest of the world that it will not tolerate.

14:58
Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth Portrait Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth (Con) [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank my noble friend Lord Bethell for setting out these regulations so clearly. I strongly support all four sets of regulations; as he has said, they are vital to honour the withdrawal agreement. Indeed, that withdrawal agreement is at the base of the regulations we are considering. They essentially ensure that for the purposes of the quality and safety of organs intended for transplant, human tissue, blood and blood products, gametes, embryos and reproductive cells, Northern Ireland is still treated as if it were part of the EU and still a member state. Great Britain—England, Wales and Scotland—is to be treated as a non-member state. Current EU law will therefore remain in place in Northern Ireland, and Great Britain is a third-party state as far as Northern Ireland is concerned.

Initially, this will perhaps not create any day-to-day problems because there will be no initial divergence. However, paragraph 7.13 of the Explanatory Memorandum to these regulations sets out clearly that Northern Ireland establishments will consider Great Britain the same as a non-EU member state, and that Northern Ireland will ensure that there are “equivalent standards” for blood and blood products—those words are used—and for organ issues. Again, it provides for equivalent safety and quality standards. That perhaps is the answer: the standards could be divergent, but they must be equivalent, so there cannot be too much divergence from the norm. That is reassuring.

I do not have an issue with the purpose of these recognitions—I have no problem with that at all; it is a matter of practical common sense. I was briefly a Minister in Northern Ireland, and I saw that the invisible border meant that in practice, ambulances from one side of the border that were near the border would help out when needed on the other side. That was very sensible—it was pragmatic, practical common sense and it happened on a daily basis. However, the withdrawal agreement provided for the situation that we are dealing with here. Like my noble friend Lord Lansley, I ask: why, then, it is then a problem in relation to the United Kingdom internal market legislation? It does not make sense. What we are doing here is sensible and was foreseen—indeed, it was foreseen elsewhere. So why is it a problem with, as it were, the “mothership” legislation? I do not know whether the Minister will feel able to answer that, but it is a real issue for me.

As I say, I have no problem with this legislation at all, which seems very sensible for these purposes. It is a matter of geographic reality rather than anything else. I suspect that the problem is the same in relation to energy regulations that may well be coming forward. For these purposes, once again, if there is a problem with supplying energy on one side of the border because of a failure of supply, the first place one looks is the other side of the border: that is geographic reality and common sense. These matters are being dealt with pragmatically and sensibly, so why are we proposing to breach international law in relation to a broader front? It does not make sense. So I will be very grateful if the Minister feels able to deal with that issue, and I hope that he will. However, the regulations themselves are sensible and I certainly support them.

15:01
Baroness Walmsley Portrait Baroness Walmsley (LD) [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I intend to focus my remarks on the human tissue and organ transplant regulations and, in particular, on the issues of timeliness and trust.

I have a particular interest in both of these issues. Back in 1995, I gave my consent in Brussels for organs from my deceased husband to be removed for transplantation. I was happy to do so and received considerable comfort from the fact that, even after his death, he could do some good for other human beings somewhere in Europe. I mention this because, at the time, we and Belgium were both members of the European Union, and the administration and procedure were expedited smoothly and professionally. Since the 2016 referendum, I have been anxious that no barriers should be put in the way of the continued smooth running of this process.

As we have heard, in 2019 a set of regulations was approved to ensure that EU standards would continue during the implementation period, and today we have regulations that take account of the unusual position of Northern Ireland following our exit from the EU. The regulations ensure that, as long as Northern Ireland takes certain steps which have little or no cost, the same standards will apply and no barriers will be put in the way. I am reassured about that—in theory.

However, there are many practical considerations when you are dealing with human tissues that must be delivered in a timely way. The numbers we are dealing with are significant. Between April 2019 and March 2020, 32 organs from deceased donors moved from GB to Northern Ireland, and 126 organs moved in the other direction. As the Minister said, there are two tissue establishments in Northern Ireland, and they will continue to be able to receive tissues and cells from GB, but they will treat GB as a non-EU member state for this purpose.

I understand that Northern Ireland must continue to meet the requirements of EU directives for as long as the protocol is in force. But, as other noble Lords have said, changes to these instruments may be needed if there are changes to the directives. Can the Minister confirm that the Northern Ireland Administration intend to make these changes if they happen, and, if that is the case, what is the British Government’s intention?

My interest in the human tissue regulation is both personal and general. I have a family member who is currently awaiting a bone marrow transplant and, fortunately, matches have been found in other countries, possibly Northern Ireland. Time is of the essence, so my concern is whether organs and tissues from abroad will reach UK patients in a timely way after the end of the transition phase. If the ports are blocked, the Government have suggested that tissue and medicines—and indeed pharmaceuticals—will be flown in. But look what has happened to the aerospace industry during the pandemic. Will there be enough resource? Will the military be used if there are blockages?

I am also concerned about UK bioscience research. There are about 5,000 imports of tissues and cells from the EU alone in a typical year, so it is essential for UK life sciences that there are no barriers to this work. Can the Minister reassure me?

These SIs are to bring EU regulation into UK law, whether or not we get a deal. It is looking as if we will not. When the 2019 SIs were debated in Grand Committee on 9 January 2019, in Hansard col. 201 the Minister said that such materials would be “prioritised”. However, the problem is that everything will need to be prioritised.

In that debate my noble friend Lady Barker raised the issue of inspection of premises, pointing out that the UK and the EU will each inspect their own premises. But what happens if there is a serious incident on one side or the other? Will this not destroy the trust that is needed for this system to work? It is also essential that the public trust the regulations since, in many cases, such as transplantation, their permission is needed. How will the Minister reassure any member of the public listening to this debate that they can have the confidence to give that consent once we are independently responsible for our own standards? As the noble Lord, Lord Alton, said, confusion and inconsistency can destroy trust.

15:06
Baroness Barker Portrait Baroness Barker (LD)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I thank the Minister for introducing these regulations. Indeed, I remember taking part in that debate in January 2019—I am looking at the noble Baroness, Lady Thornton, and clearly she does, too. Although much time has passed, little has changed. We are still facing a situation in which we live under the threat of leaving with no deal and therefore being a third country in terms of EU regulation. These matters are of immense importance. We are, as the noble Lord, Lord Lansley, said, talking about tissues and materials and so on which are in high demand and of which there is not a great surfeit.

It is important now to realise that we are talking in these regulations simply about the circumstances under which we would import such materials from the EU into Northern Ireland and into Great Britain. I will say one thing for Brexit: it has educated the British public in what the United Kingdom is and what Great Britain is and what the differences are between the two. Some of us who were brought up in Scotland have long known the difference.

I understand what the Minister says about these regulations being important in order to enable the current regime, or congruence of regimes, to continue. However, we are still talking about these regulations applying only for a transitional period of six months. The noble Lord, Lord Lansley, is absolutely right that we will face the prospect very shortly of having part of the United Kingdom under a regulatory environment into the terms of which the UK Government have had no input. I happen to think that that is an inevitable part of Brexit, and I am not surprised that that was never put on the side of a bus. None the less, it has important consequences for people in Northern Ireland and for the rest of us in the United Kingdom.

Can the Minister say who will have the responsibility for keeping under review the regulatory burden and costs of operating two different systems within the United Kingdom, and who will be responsible for the long-term monitoring of issues such as the availability of organs and tissues within Great Britain on a long-term basis? My noble friend Lady Walmsley is right: there is a degree of danger here to the supply of these necessary items.

When we debated these regulations in 2019, I did not get a satisfactory answer on inspection of premises and what would be the responsibility of both the British authorities and others to notify serious incidents within 24 hours. Perhaps in his response the Minister might take that up.

I also think that the noble Lord, Lord Lansley, is absolutely right that Clauses 42 and 43 of the United Kingdom Internal Market Bill have no place on our statute book. They certainly have no place in relation to the importation of these materials from the EU.

So politically we are no further on, but perhaps the Minister might be able to enlighten us with a bit more detail than was the case back in January 2019.

15:11
Baroness Thornton Portrait Baroness Thornton (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Like the noble Baroness, Lady Barker, and others in this Room, I have been involved in the legislation that is the subject of these regulations for, in my case, 20-odd years. I thank the Minister for his explanation of these regulations. If he looks back in the record to last year and the statutory instruments that we were discussing in Grand Committee—I think we might even be amending some of them today—he will see that his noble friend Lady Manzoor was given a particularly hard time by the Committee, because of course we were at the time putting on the statute book regulations just in case we crashed out of the European Union in March last year, and many of us resented the amount of legislative time that we wasted preparing for something which did not then happen.

It is of course important to acknowledge that these regulations are of vital and often life-saving importance, and concern literally matters of life and death.

The UK legislation for the safety and quality of blood, organs, tissue and cells, including reproductive cells, is of course based on European law. The European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 ensures that EU-derived domestic legislation will continue to have effect after the end of the transition period. In 2019, regulations were introduced to ensure that UK legislation in this area could function effectively after the transition period. However, Northern Ireland will remain subject to relevant EU laws as a result of the Ireland/Northern Ireland protocol. So today we are looking at four statutory instruments that would amend the 2019 regulations and enable Northern Ireland to continue to meet European law.

Like other noble Lords, I have two questions that flow from that. First, what effect will the United Kingdom Internal Market Bill have in this regard? Is it a complete waste of our time discussing these things? Secondly, as the noble Lord, Lord Lansley, and my noble friend Lord Hunt asked, what happens when there is divergence in the regulatory framework between the European Union and Great Britain?

As noble Lords have said, there is one blood establishment in Northern Ireland, and it will of course be able to continue receiving blood and blood components from Great Britain establishments. However, Northern Ireland establishments will treat Great Britain as a non-European Union member state—a third country—for this purpose. What does that mean? In practical language, will this delay or impede the use of blood products?

The provisions for importing blood or blood components from a non-EU member state are set out. The Northern Ireland blood establishment already has the required import authorisations in place, and GB blood establishments currently prepare blood and blood components to meet EU and UK standards, so Northern Ireland blood establishments can continue to receive blood or blood components from Great Britain. There are 10 hospital blood banks in Northern Ireland, which will not, I think, need to take any action as a result of this SI.

On organs for transplant, the NHS Blood and Transplant service will continue to be responsible for organ donation and retrieval in the UK. Between April 2019 and March 2020, as other noble Lords have said, 32 organs from deceased donors moved from Great Britain to Northern Ireland, and 126 organs moved from Northern Ireland to Great Britain. Organs will be able to continue moving from Great Britain to Northern Ireland. However, Northern Ireland-based establishments again will be treating Great Britain as a non-EU member state for these purposes. We are told that these are the same provisions that currently apply to organs moving within the UK, and so the changes made by the 2020 SI will make no difference. However, what of the future? What happens when and if the European Union changes the regulations in this area? How will this be impacted? For tissues and organs, as the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, said, time is absolutely of the essence in these matters.

The HFEA says on its website:

“As the regulator of the fertility sector we continue to support clinics during the transition period. We have been communicating regularly with clinics through our Clinic Focus publication and have developed an EU exit webpage for clinics. We believe that fertility clinics are minimising the possibility of disruption of patient treatment.”


Well, I wonder whether that is the case, actually, for fertility treatment between Ireland, Northern Ireland and Great Britain.

The Human Tissue Authority website says that

“establishments that are licensed under the Human Tissue (Quality and Safety for Human Application) Regulations 2007 (as amended) may require changes to their licence. This applies to establishments in the Human Application sector from 1 January 2021.”

So the HTA is saying that human tissue establishments will need to vary their licence in order to continue their activities post transition. This includes establishments that intend to import or export tissues and cells as the starting material for the manufacture of an advanced therapy medicinal product. That is extremely important. In what way will this take place? Will there be delays? How will it happen?

I will look briefly at sperm banks, and I asked this question last year. The UK currently imports sperm primarily from sperm banks in the USA and Denmark. How will that traffic in particular be affected by these new regulations and instruments? In the regime that we currently have, we will be a third country and no longer a member of the EEA. So I would like to have explained how that will affect the import of sperm from the sperm banks that we use in Denmark.

15:18
Lord Bethell Portrait Lord Bethell (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I start by saying a profound thank you for a lively, insightful and patient debate, because I recognise that these issues have been visited before—and the debate only improves in the retelling. I shall try to trot through a number of points in quick order, because the debate has been wide-ranging and taken on a number of issues.

I want to start on the most important one, divergence, which was raised by a number of noble Lords, including the noble Lord, Lord Scriven, my noble friend Lord Lansley and the noble Baroness, Lady Thornton. On the question of divergence and one regulator overseeing different territories, I reassure noble Lords that we are moving towards developing a common UK framework for blood, organs, tissues and cells with the devolved Administrations precisely in order to avoid this problem. This is the mechanism whereby the four nations can work together to ensure that they are all aligned and that companies and individuals in each nation can feel confident that they are in one common legislative framework. Policy issues will continue to be considered on a four-country basis going forward. I reassure noble Lords that officials and Ministers in Northern Ireland will continue to be involved in policy development, as they have been to date.

After 31 January, blood, organs and tissues will keep moving from the UK to Northern Ireland and from Northern Ireland to the UK, and they will keep moving from the UK to the EU and from the EU to the UK.

There may be at an appropriate point in the future an opportunity for the department to review whether the UK’s exit from the EU offers us opportunities to reappraise current regulations to ensure that we continue to protect the nation’s health. When that moment arrives, we will consult, analyse and assess. The regulations put in place the opportunity to do that—but that is for a moment in the future and it is not envisaged in the near future. To reassure the noble Lord, Lord Alton, who asked about the devolved Administrations, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have provided their consent to these statutory instruments and they continue to be closely involved in the development of policy.

The noble Lord, Lord Scriven, asked about the Medicines and Medical Devices Bill. I reassure him that the Bill as drafted would already allow us to strengthen the requirements governing the use of human tissues in the development of medicines, were it deemed necessary and appropriate to do so. For instance, powers under Clauses 1 and 2 would enable us to introduce new requirements to the Human Medicines Regulations 2012 for medicines manufactured using human tissues.

The noble Lord, Lord Scriven, and others asked about the movement of blood and blood components. This is a hugely important issue. Currently, the UK is largely self-sufficient in the supply of blood and blood components. It occasionally exports rare blood cells—fewer than 10 units per year—to the EU and to non-EU countries. However, as the noble Baroness, Lady Thornton, observed, blood components are frequently shared across the four nations, as needed to meet demand, and the regulations will ensure that that flow is not interrupted. The movement of blood, organs, tissues and cells around the UK is absolutely critical for patient treatment. That will continue as it is now. There will be some minor administrative changes for tissue establishments in Northern Ireland to receive tissues and cells from Great Britain, but there will be no change to the requirements for Northern Ireland establishments to send blood, organs and tissues to GB.

The noble Baroness, Lady Thornton, and my noble friend Lord Bourne asked about the United Kingdom Internal Market Bill. As they will know, the Bill has passed Second Reading. Amendments have been tabled to enable safety emergency exclusion functions as intended that can be applied, if required, to Northern Ireland qualifying goods. However, I absolutely reassure noble Lords that we are totally committed to upholding our long-standing track record of high standards on health and food, including in respect of the materials which are the subject of these statutory instruments. We have kept healthcare and social care services out of the scope of the services framework rules, ensuring that there is no disruption to the regulation of health and care services.

My noble friend Lord Lansley was right to point out that it is fast-changing world for blood plasma. This could not be more relevant than it is right now. Covid has shown the international constraints on supply and the potential for huge demand. I reassure him that this is uppermost in our minds and that we will put in place all the regulations necessary to ensure that British access to blood plasma from overseas remains as secure as it is today.

To the noble Lord, Lord Alton, I say personal thanks for the report which he sent me. It includes charges which we take very seriously. We are of course against organ tourism. I noted the powerful points that he made in Committee on the Medicines and Medical Devices Bill last month and look forward to further discussion on Report. I reassure him that my noble friend Lord Ahmad has written to the World Health Organization encouraging it to give careful consideration to the findings of the report of the International Coalition to End Transplant Abuse in China. The Government welcome any work that is rigorous and balanced, and that raises awareness of the human rights situation in China. We continue to monitor this issue closely and to consider carefully all the evidence presented to us.

I note the personal testimony of the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley. My family has been the beneficiary of organ transplantation, so I completely endorse her concerns. Traffic between Great Britain and Northern Ireland will remain, as it will between GB and the EU. I am glad to confirm that Northern Ireland will align with the EU, but we will find a way to work with Northern Ireland within the UK common framework to ensure that this trade continues. I am reminded that between April 2019 and March 2020, the UK exported 13 organs to the EU and imported 13 organs from it. While these numbers may seem low, they are extremely important to those concerned and it is a priority to ensure that those movements continue. With those thoughts, I commend the regulations.

Motion agreed.

Human Fertilisation and Embryology (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2020

Monday 2nd November 2020

(3 years, 8 months ago)

Grand Committee
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
Considered in Grand Committee
15:25
Moved by
Lord Bethell Portrait Lord Bethell
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

That the Grand Committee do consider the Human Fertilisation and Embryology (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2020.

Motion agreed.

Human Tissue (Quality and Safety for Human Application) (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2020

Monday 2nd November 2020

(3 years, 8 months ago)

Grand Committee
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
Considered in Grand Committee
Moved by
Lord Bethell Portrait Lord Bethell
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

That the Grand Committee do consider the Human Tissue (Quality and Safety for Human Application) (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2020.

Motion agreed.

Quality and Safety of Organs Intended for Transplantation (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2020

Monday 2nd November 2020

(3 years, 8 months ago)

Grand Committee
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
Considered in Grand Committee
Moved by
Lord Bethell Portrait Lord Bethell
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

That the Grand Committee do consider the Quality and Safety of Organs Intended for Transplantation (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2020.

Motion agreed.
Earl of Kinnoull Portrait The Deputy Chairman of Committees (The Earl of Kinnoull) (Non-Afl)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The Grand Committee stands adjourned until 3.45 pm. I remind Members to sanitise their desks and chairs before leaving the Room.

15:26
Sitting suspended.

Arrangement of Business

Monday 2nd November 2020

(3 years, 8 months ago)

Grand Committee
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text
Announcement
15:45
Earl of Kinnoull Portrait The Deputy Chairman of Committees (The Earl of Kinnoull) (Non-Afl)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, the hybrid Grand Committee will now resume. Some Members are here in person, respecting social distancing, others are participating remotely, but all Members will be treated equally. I must ask Members in the Room to wear a face covering except when seated at their desk, to speak sitting down, and to wipe down their desk, chair and any other touch points before and after use. If the capacity of the Committee Room is exceeded, or other safety requirements are breached, I will immediately adjourn the Committee. If there is a Division in the House, the Committee will adjourn for five minutes. The time limit for debate on the following statutory instrument is one hour.

Tobacco Products and Nicotine Inhaling Products (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2020

Monday 2nd November 2020

(3 years, 8 months ago)

Grand Committee
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text
Considered in Grand Committee
15:46
Moved by
Baroness Penn Portrait Baroness Penn
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

That the Grand Committee do consider the Tobacco Products and Nicotine Inhaling Products (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2020.

Baroness Penn Portrait Baroness Penn (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, thanks to the cross-party achievements on tobacco control legislation over the past two decades, smoking rates are at their lowest levels on record in the UK and extensive public health gains have been made. However, we cannot be complacent. Smoking still causes over 78,000 deaths each year and is one of the leading causes of preventable illness and premature death in England alone. That is why we have set out an ambition for England to be smoke-free by 2030. We are developing our plans here and will share them as soon as we can.

As noble Lords are aware, the United Kingdom is a global leader in tobacco control and the instrument we are debating today will ensure that we continue our strong commitment to robust levels of tobacco control legislation after the end of the transition period. Through these regulations, we are making the necessary arrangements to implement the terms of the withdrawal agreement and the Northern Ireland protocol in law for tobacco control. This will ensure that tobacco control functions effectively from 1 January.

The 2020 regulations will amend the existing 2019 regulations, which were made in preparation for our exit from the European Union. The amendments made by this instrument to the 2019 regulations will mean further amendments to the way in which the Tobacco and Related Products Regulations 2016 apply in Great Britain and Northern Ireland after the end of the transition period.

The 2020 regulations introduce four main changes. First, it is essential that tobacco and e-cigarette producers provide notification of their products. This ensures that companies comply with legislation on product standards and competent authorities are aware of all the products on the market. In accordance with the Northern Ireland protocol, the European Union’s tobacco products directive will apply to Northern Ireland after the end of the transition period. Therefore, this instrument requires that suppliers of tobacco and e-cigarette products wishing to place a product on the market in Northern Ireland will continue notifying via the EU common entry gate system. As legislated for in the 2019 regulations, those wishing to sell in Great Britain will be required to notify through a domestic system. The domestic system is already developed and will be hosted by Public Health England for tobacco products, and by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency for e-cigarette products. The format and information required for notifying on both systems will be very similar, to place as little burden on industry as possible.

Secondly, to limit the financial burden on industry, this instrument makes amendments to the Tobacco Products and Herbal Products for Smoking (Fees) Regulations 2017 and the Electronic Cigarettes Etc. (Fees) Regulations 2016. The amendments will reflect that, if a producer notifies via both the Northern Ireland and Great Britain systems, they are required to pay only one fee. If a producer wishes to notify in relation to placing products on just one of the markets, the same one fee will be payable. We will, however, keep the fee structure under review.

Thirdly, the instrument amends requirements for picture warnings, which are central to tobacco control. Due to the Northern Ireland protocol, the European Union’s library of picture warnings will continue to feature on tobacco products sold in Northern Ireland. However, our Government do not hold the copyright for the European Union’s pictures for use in a Great Britain market. We therefore require the industry to switch to the picture warnings as set out in Schedule A1 to the 2019 regulations, kindly licensed by the Australian Government free of cost. I would like to highlight to noble Lords that the tobacco industry is already accustomed to supplying different markets with varying packaging requirements across Europe and worldwide.

Lastly, the regulations will amend the sell-through period for existing stock that features the EU picture library on the Great British market, in accordance with the withdrawal agreement. This will allow stock first supplied before the end of the transition period to continue to circulate until it reaches its end user.

This instrument will allow goods to move freely between Great Britain and Northern Ireland, subject to the tobacco picture warning requirements.

Although this instrument will have some impact on industry, we have tried to minimise this as much as possible by communicating with stakeholders in August and making them aware of the legislative changes. We also circulated guidance in October regarding the specific requirements for picture warnings. Public Health England and the MHRA will be publishing detailed guidance on notification requirements for both notification systems later this autumn.

Officials at the Department of Health and Social Care have engaged with the devolved Administrations throughout the development of this instrument, and I am grateful for that positive collaboration.

This instrument is a necessary measure in order to ensure that the withdrawal agreement and Northern Ireland protocol are reflected in law for tobacco control. It is crucial that the robust level of tobacco control currently operating in the UK remains after the end of the transition period, ensuring that we continue to protect the nation’s health. I beg to move.

15:51
Lord Hunt of Kings Heath Portrait Lord Hunt of Kings Heath (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for introducing these regulations. I want to ask her two or three questions.

First, on notification, as the Minister said, the regulations provide that producers will be required to pay only one fee if they notify a new product on either or both of the notification systems. However, products which are required to carry picture warnings will not have mutual access to the two markets because of the different legal requirements that apply within each area. Can the Minister confirm that this approach will minimise the amount of additional work involved in the notification process if there were to be a no-deal Brexit, that products notified to the UK prior to the UK leaving the EU will not require renotification, that data will be accepted in the same XML format as currently submitted to the EU common entry gate, and that the UK will continue to recognise submitter IDs issued by the European Commission, including those issued after the UK exits the EU?

In the longer term, the Tobacco and Related Products Regulations 2016 require the Secretary of State to review the regulations and publish a report before 20 May 2021. The review needs to examine the objectives intended to be achieved by the regulatory provision made by the regulations, and assess how far they can be met and whether they remain appropriate. Can the Minister set out a timeline for that?

E-cigarettes continue to be the most popular aid to quitting for adult smokers. A recent international review by the Cochrane group found that evidence had grown that e-cigarettes are effective in helping smokers to quit and that they may be more effective than traditional medications such as nicotine patches and gum. However, recent research from ASH points to a slowing of use among adult smokers, which may be linked to deteriorating understanding that vaping is safer than smoking. This raises the concern that more smokers could be successfully switching if they correctly understood that it was safer than continuing to smoke. At the same time, data shared with me by ASH shows that over 80% of 11 to 18 year-olds have never tried an e-cigarette, with less than 2% vaping at least weekly. However, ASH has also raised concerns that the way e-cigarettes are marketed may be shaping young people’s choice of products, and hence influencing their behaviour. Given the importance of balancing the needs of smokers against any impact on young people, it seems important that a review of these regulations is undertaken. If the Minister could set out a timeline, I would be grateful.

On picture warnings, I understand from ASH that it considers that, for the purposes of providing an alternative to the current picture warnings in the event we leave the EU without a deal, switching to one set of pictures from Australia is a sensible but short-term quick fix for an emergency. Does the Minister agree that best practice, as is the case in both Australia and the UK at present, is to rotate and regularly review and update health warnings? It is essential in the longer term that the Government review the warnings, which I gather are currently being evaluated by the Australian Government, to find ways to increase the number to allow for rotation, as is currently the case.

On cropping, the Government have stated in the consultation that they will provide further guidance in relation to cropping and sizing the images to ensure that they can be easily adapted by industry and will conform to existing legislative requirements on images and pack size. This is obviously essential, as it ensures a smooth transition to the new picture library. Can the Minister say when the guidance will come?

Finally, the Minister opened with a very welcome statement about government intent towards a smoke-free nation by 2030. However, this is a challenging target, and it is time for a revitalised tobacco strategy which includes the new measures envisaged in the public health Green Paper. Those are essential if we are to achieve the smoke-free 2030 ambition. In her opening remarks the Minister mentioned the work that is being done, but can she tell me when we expect to see publication of a new tobacco control plan?

15:57
Lord Rennard Portrait Lord Rennard (LD)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I declare an interest as a vice-chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Smoking and Health. As an officer of that group, I was pleased to welcome the ambition set out in the Government’s prevention Green Paper last year, which sets out the aim for England to be smoke free by 2030.

The APPG has since endorsed the Roadmap to a Smokefree 2030, produced by Action on Smoking and Health and which was also endorsed by over 70 leading health organisations, including the Royal College of Physicians, the British Heart Foundation and Cancer Research UK. It sets out the actions needed to fulfil the Government’s ambition. The recommendations in the road map include measures that build on the regulations we are discussing today, including policies such as raising the age of sale for tobacco products and introducing what are called dissuasive cigarettes. The post-implementation review of the Tobacco and Related Products Regulations, which this instrument amends, provides an opportunity to take forward these policies.

Currently, 280 children take up smoking every day in England. This means that since the Government announced their ambition to be smoke-free by 2030, over 130,000 children have started smoking, risking a lifetime of addiction and premature death. Nearly 80% of smokers aged 16 to 24 say that they took up smoking before the age of 18. Raising the age of sale from 16 to 18 was associated with reductions in youth smoking, with a similar impact across different socioeconomic groups. Raising the age of sale further from 18 to 21 is a popular measure, with 62% of British adults reporting that they would support that move.

Similar evidence shows that dissuasive cigarettes, which have health warnings printed on the cigarette itself, could be effective. There is evidence that, to some extent, smokers become immune to the existing warnings on packets, and so new techniques are needed to gain their attention. Dissuasive cigarettes are under consideration in Canada, Australia and Scotland, and would provide a simple and effective means of reinforcing health messages such as “Smoking causes cancer”.

These actions are needed now more than ever. The coronavirus pandemic has exposed the impact of health inequalities on our society, with people in the most deprived communities twice as likely to die as a result of it. It is not a coincidence that these are also the communities worst affected by smoking. In Liverpool, where I grew up, 23% of people in routine and manual jobs still smoke. My mother was a nurse, but her life was undoubtedly shortened by smoking. It is clear that the poorest communities bear the brunt of smoking-related diseases, such as heart and lung disease, diabetes and hypertension, which worsen the impacts of coronavirus.

The Government’s manifesto last December committed to levelling up, to delivering five extra healthy life years by 2035 while narrowing inequalities. Reducing smoking is key to delivering those ambitions. However, we are still awaiting the Government’s response to the prevention Green Paper consultation and the promised further proposals to move us towards a smoke-free 2030 in England. Action is needed now, or our poorest communities will continue to be left behind and bear the brunt of smoking-related disease.

We are still awaiting the Government’s response to the prevention Green Paper consultation. I hope the Minister may also tell us what has happened to the Government’s response to the consultation on the Nicotine Inhaling Products (Age of Sale and Proxy Purchasing) Regulations 2015, covering England and Wales. That consultation closed in September last year and is referred to in these regulations. A response to that consultation was due last September but, almost a year on, there has been no word from the Government about when it will be published. We are waiting for the Government’s response to two consultations and for the launch of another, which needs to report before the end of the financial year. All three consultations are related to the regulations being amended by the statutory instrument before us, so can the Minister confirm when the Government will deliver on all three?

16:02
Lord Berkeley Portrait Lord Berkeley (Lab) [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, first, I apologise for arriving during the Minister’s introduction: I had some connection problems.

I welcome the regulations. They are necessary with Brexit imminent, but the complexity is well illustrated in the Explanatory Memorandum, which takes some reading. One thing that caught my eye was in paragraph 7.1.8, relating to Northern Ireland. Special regulations covering many issues relating to smoking and tobacco get tied up in the relationship between Northern Ireland and the rest of the EU. Has any thought been given to the reintroduction of smuggling across the border between the Republic and Northern Ireland? Cigarettes are wonderful things to smuggle—they very easy to hide. A lot of that will be going on unless some effort is made to discuss these and other regulations with the relevant people in the Republic, and with the European Union. I will be glad to hear what the Minister has to say on that.

My other question arose this morning when I got an email from the IBVTA, which represents vape stores. In response to the announcement on Saturday of the closing of all but essential shops, it terms a vape store as an essential shop. According to this organisation, and as we all know, more than 70,000 people across the UK die of smoking-related illnesses every year. It also says—which is relevant and which confirms the view of my noble friend Lord Hunt of Kings Heath—that more than 3 million vapers are ex-smokers or current smokers. If for the next month, vapers will not be allowed able to buy their vapes, I suggest that there is a really good chance that they will revert to buying cigarettes, assuming they can buy them. Perhaps the Minister can explain why or if this is happening and, if not, write to me, because that is a retrograde step if we are to get to the target of being smoke free by 2030.

In the same way, if we are to have that target and make some changes, we ought to set an example ourselves and completely ban any tobacco smoke within the Palace of Westminster. That may be above the Minister’s pay grade—it is certainly above mine—but we should not forget about it. I look forward to her comments.

Baroness Northover Portrait Baroness Northover (LD) [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I thank the Minister for introducing the regulations. The decline in smoking that we have seen in the United Kingdom is indeed a major public health achievement and has, as she said, commanded strong cross-party support. My noble friend Lord Clement-Jones, working with others, including the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, and the noble Baroness, Lady Thornton, was central in bringing about the ban on smoking in public places, and that was transformative.

I was very pleased that when I was in the Department of Health in the coalition Government, we were able to build on that progress, and I pay tribute here to the noble Lord, Lord Lansley, who was then Secretary of State. The draft instrument before us today must protect those achievements as we leave the EU, and I ask the Minister to ensure that it does with respect to warnings on tobacco packaging. I hope that we will continue to work with the EU: yet again, we maximised our influence by being in the EU.

I turn to the pictorial warnings. Evidence shows that one of the benefits of standardised tobacco packaging is that it makes the graphic health warnings on packs stand out. Research has consistently shown that pictorial warnings are more effective than text-only warnings at motivating smokers to quit. It is therefore welcome that the Government will be able to use the Australian Government’s library of graphic pictorial health warnings as an interim solution to ensure that tobacco packaging continues to warn smokers, following the end of the transition period. However, I emphasise the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Hunt: that it is best practice to change these health warnings around to ensure that they maintain their impact. The reduced number of warnings in the Australian picture library compared to the EU’s is therefore a concern, and that is why this can be only an interim solution. Will the Government conduct a review of the picture warnings to ensure that we can increase their number, allowing for the rotation of warnings, as is currently the case? It is also worth noting that Northern Ireland will continue to have access to the EU picture library, meaning that packs sold in Northern Ireland will continue to have a wider range of picture warnings.

As the Minister says, we cannot be complacent. Smoking prevalence remains the leading cause of preventable premature death, killing almost 100,000 people a year in the United Kingdom. It is striking that there has been a decline during the pandemic. People know that smoking kills and fear for their health, but while more than half of smokers report wanting to quit, many take 30 or more attempts to do so. More must be done to help smokers to quit if we are to achieve the Government’s ambition of a smoke-free England by 2030. Like my noble friend Lord Rennard, I very much welcome the Government’s intention that England is smoke free by 2030.

While health warnings on the outside of packs motivate smokers to quit, the Government could and should go further, introducing pack inserts, which provide evidence-based advice on how to quit successfully. In Canada, for example, pack inserts highlight the benefits of quitting and provide tips on how to do so. Research into their impact has shown that while reading on-pack health warnings significantly decreased over time, reading inserts significantly increased, with more frequent reading of inserts associated with quitting. Introducing pack inserts in the United Kingdom would require a simple amendment to the standardised packaging regulations.

The Government’s prevention Green Paper mentioned pack inserts but highlighted that they would wait until Brexit was completed to bring this forward. Now, as we approach the end of the transition period, and the review of the Tobacco and Related Products Regulations is due, could the Minister say what is being done to take forward this proposal as another step towards achieving a smoke-free 2030?

I also ask the Minister about her department’s engagement with the local government department over countering smoking. I expect she knows that the Government agreed that at least part of areas outside pubs and restaurants should be smoke-free. Is she aware that the Secretary of State for local government, Robert Jenrick, wrote to Manchester local government in effect warning against this, saying that jobs might be lost, even though there is no evidence of this? Can she tell me whether this letter of his received prior approval from the Department of Health and Social Care?

I look forward to the noble Baroness’s reply and, if she cannot answer the last point, to a letter from her clarifying the matter—not a letter saying that the regulations were jointly approved but a letter telling us whether the local government letter sent in August was jointly approved. I look forward to her response.

16:11
Baroness Jolly Portrait Baroness Jolly (LD) [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

[Inaudible]—necessitated this draft instrument. It also necessitates additional plans from the agencies responsible for the enforcement of the legislation under discussion, notably Public Health England, an agency that itself is facing an uncertain future.

Public Health England is currently the designated UK competent authority for the notification of novel tobacco products. The Government’s decision to close Public Health England mid-pandemic, and at a time when we are working through the complexity of leaving the EU, is astonishing. The lack of current detail on where key responsibilities discharged by PHE will go is extremely concerning. These regulations require the producers of products coming to the UK market to notify Public Health England against a mandated set of criteria, including information such as ingredients and emissions, as well as an obligation to share their existing research on the products. This is important information about novel tobacco products entering the UK market, yet it is unclear where these responsibilities will sit once Public Health England closes.

The lack of clarity around the responsibilities discharged by Public Health England with respect to the Tobacco and Related Products Regulations 2016 raises the risk of poor compliance by business and enforcement gaps in the Government’s response. I therefore ask the Minister to urgently provide clarity on where these functions will sit and provide assurances that public health experts will continue to have oversight of this process and that the population impacts of these products can be properly considered and effective advice provided to Ministers.

However, the current system is far from perfect and the change brought about by leaving the EU and reforming our public health system creates an opportunity to make improvements. In 2018, Philip Morris International reported that it had spent $4.5 billion since 2008 developing smokeless tobacco products. It currently costs producers £200 to submit a notification of a novel tobacco product. The low fees inevitably mean that the system is underresourced. Fees should be set that allow for products to be independently tested and assessed. Will the Minister consider making such changes to improve the effectiveness of the system?

But what of the role of Public Health England, which currently provides advice on tobacco and nicotine? Its role in these matters extends beyond the issue of novel tobacco products: it also played a key role in generating the evidence needed to effectively review these regulations.

In the House on 14 September 2016, the noble Lord, Lord Prior, said:

“The Government will continue to monitor and develop this evidence base, adapting policy accordingly, to ensure that policy on e-cigarettes best supports the protection and improvement of public health.”—[Official Report, 14/9/16; col. 1537.]


What steps have been taken? This work has been undertaken by Public Health England in the interim years through a series of world-class reports that were commissioned from experts. We have been provided with a solid foundation of evidence on which to review the impact of regulations, as well as policy advice for front-line staff on how to respond to this fast-moving area of public health. Again, I ask the Minister: where will these vital functions go in the future? Will there be evidence reviews into the impacts of e-cigarettes?

My key point on the impact of leaving the EU on these regulatory changes relates to flavoured tobacco. All characterising flavours for tobacco, bar menthol, were banned across the EU from May 2017, when menthol products were given a further three years to comply. Ahead of the ban for menthol coming into force in May, Imperial Tobacco launched a new green filter product range. Retailers were encouraged to stock this range, which allowed them to retain menthol customers. Accusations have been made that these products still have a characterising flavour of menthol. Japan Tobacco has similarly been accused of developing products that break the rule banning characterising flavours.

However, determining whether or not a flavour is characterising requires expert analysis. This is currently the responsibility of an independent advisory panel, set up by the EU to assist member states and the Commission in determining whether or not a tobacco product has a characterising flavour. Following our exit from the EU, it will be for Public Health England, as the competent authority, to take on this function. However, with Public Health England due to be abolished in spring 2021, which body will take over this function? I would be grateful if the Minister could provide further details on this.

Before we conclude this debate, it is worth taking a look at the effect of the legislation on Northern Ireland, which has been used to working with the Republic. Tobacco products came freely across the border, as did many other products. I sit on the environment Select Committee and we have spent many sessions looking at how the Republic and Northern Ireland will work next year. Much has been said about warning photographs in this debate, so I will not pursue that particular area. However, looking 10 or 20 years hence, I wonder what will be made of this decision, and others like it in all areas of trade in Northern Ireland. I also worry whether, in the end, Northern Ireland will acknowledge that the situation it finds itself in is untenable and decidej to leave the union. As a unionist, I would be hugely sad about that, but I really would understand. Time will tell.

16:18
Baroness Thornton Portrait Baroness Thornton (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

We have had a very good discussion. I thank the Minister for her introduction of the regulations and all Members who spoke, who have shown yet again the expertise, interest and commitment that there is in the House on this subject, and why tobacco regulation has always been close to the hearts of many noble Lords.

I think all the questions on picture warnings have been covered by noble Lords, so I do not intend to repeat those. I am, however, going to draw the Committee’s attention to what I think is a significant loophole in the legislation being amended by this statutory instrument—one which needs urgent consideration.

In effect, while it is illegal for e-cigarettes to be sold to children under 18, according to advice from trading standards, it is not illegal for them to be given out as free samples to anyone of any age. This is because e-cigarettes are not covered by Section 9 of the Tobacco Advertising and Promotion Act, “Prohibition of free distributions”, as they are not a tobacco product. Meanwhile, the age of sale regulations contained in Regulation 3 of the Nicotine Inhaling Products (Age of Sale and Proxy Purchasing) Regulations 2015 inhibit their sale only to those under 18. While the Tobacco and Related Products Regulations 2016 prohibit packaging or vouchers offering free or discounted products, they do not prohibit the handing out of free e-cigarettes in Regulation 38(4).

A recent article in the Observer highlighted that a supplier working on behalf of British American Tobacco had been caught handing out BAT’s popular e-cigarette brand Vype to a 17 year-old without carrying out any kind of age check. This clearly contravenes the spirit of the existing regulations, which set the age of sale at 18 to protect children from using e-cigarettes. While evidence shows that e-cigarettes are likely to be significantly less harmful than tobacco cigarettes and can be effective in supporting adult smokers to quit smoking, it is of course absolutely vital that children are prevented from taking up vaping because, while it is a lot less harmful than smoking, it is not risk free.

Allowing the tobacco industry to market its products to children not only undermines the Government’s ambition for a smoke-free 2030 but threatens the availability of e-cigarettes for use by adults who want to quit smoking. E-cigarettes clearly have a role to play in reducing the burden of death and disease from smoking, which falls on the poorest in society and still kills almost 100,000 people a year in the United Kingdom. The Government must commit to revising the regulations to remove this serious loophole in the law. I am sure that the Minister would agree that the UK does not want to go the way of the United States, where in 2019 12% of high-school students reported using e-cigarettes on a daily basis, compared with only 1.6% of 11 to 18 year-olds using them regularly in Great Britain.

BAT would no doubt argue that this was a one-off and that it is serious about preventing underage access to vaping products. However, I have to say that it is another example of big tobacco saying one thing and doing another. The tobacco industry, and BAT in particular, has a track record of trying to get around legislation designed to protect children across the world from tobacco company marketing. In 2019, BAT was investigated by the Advertising Standards Authority for promoting its Vype e-cigarettes to young people on social media. There, the company used Instagram hashtags completely unrelated to Vype or its product features to link Vype to significant cultural and popular current events. That meant that anyone, including children and young people, searching for things such as the 2019 Oscars, the best actor, the BAFTAs or London Fashion Week, would have seen promotions for Vype e-cigarettes.

One BAT Instagram post included the hashtag #LilyAllen, which includes nearly 83,000 Instagram posts and could be seen by anyone searching for #LilyAllen on the platform. This was described by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids as a concerted, consistent, systematic approach to BAT’s online promotion of its Vype nicotine e-cigarettes, outside the guidance and the Tobacco and Related Products Regulations 2016. The ASA subsequently ruled that BAT’s celebrity-driven ads

“clearly went beyond the provision of factual information and was promotional in nature”.

It has been proved beyond doubt that the tobacco industry, over many years, cannot be trusted to self-regulate and will inevitably exploit any loophole in the regulations, so can the Minister commit that the Government will revise the regulations to prevent tobacco companies marketing their addictive products to children and young people? I would appreciate the opportunity to meet her to discuss this in further detail, including what more can be done to protect children from big tobacco.

16:24
Baroness Penn Portrait Baroness Penn (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I thank all noble Lords for their participation today. This has been a really good debate on a really important issue. It is crucial that this legislation is in place to ensure that the UK meets its obligations under the withdrawal agreement and the Northern Ireland protocol. The changes will allow a continuation of the UK’s robust tobacco control legislation after the end of the transition period, ensuring that we remain committed to protecting the nation’s health and helping people to stop smoking. I would like to highlight that this instrument is being made under the withdrawal Act, meaning that it is limited to achieving its primary purpose and does not aim to make any significant changes to tobacco control legislation. Nevertheless, I reiterate that the Government remain committed to a smoke-free generation by 2030, and I would like to answer as many of the questions asked by noble Lords as possible in that spirit.

The noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, and the noble Baroness, Lady Northover, asked about picture warnings. We consulted international experts and it seems that creating our own picture library would require one to two years for us to produce new and original content that is evidence based. Subject to future proposals after the transition period, we may wish to reconsider this option in the future. For now, I reassure noble Lords that we will work with the Australian Government to look at the rotation of pictures, in line with best practice. I also reassure the noble Lord that guidance on cropping has been circulated to industry and was uploaded on 1 October.

I am afraid that I am going to have to disappoint the noble Baroness, Lady Jolly, in that the department will set out its plans regarding where Public Health England’s functions to provide the tobacco notification system will sit at a later date. She also raised the question of novel tobacco products; the DHSC currently holds responsibility for policy and legislation in that area. However, I reassure the noble Baroness that the changes coming to Public Health England in future, and the new body that will be established, in no way diminish our commitment to tobacco control and to delivering a smoke-free England.

I say to the noble Baroness, Lady Thornton, that I was surprised when I saw the detail of regulation in this area. We are aware of the issue that she raised about free samples, and it is our understanding that this was an isolated incident. The current regulatory framework for e-cigarettes aims to reduce the risk of harm to children and other young people—but I would happily meet her to discuss the regulation of this in further detail. We do not think that it is a widespread problem, but the DHSC will review the regulatory framework in future to see whether there is a public health concern that needs addressing.

The noble Lords, Lord Hunt and Lord Rennard, asked about the post-implementation review of the Tobacco and Related Products Regulations. I can confirm that this will take place by 20 May 2021. The response to the consultation on nicotine products will be published soon. I am afraid that I do not have more specific timings for the other reviews that we have undertaken or the Government’s response to them.

The noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, raised the risk of smuggling. There will be no difference from 1 January in tobacco duties. They cover the whole of the UK, so we do not see an increased risk of smuggling after the end of the transition period. The noble Lord is correct to say that vape stores will be closed during the coming lockdown as non-essential retail stores. However, products will be available in supermarkets and other shops that are classed as essential retail and stock these products. I agree with him that the banning of smoking in the Palace of Westminster is way above my pay grade.

The noble Baroness, Lady Northover, asked me about pack inserts and about a letter that went from the Secretary of State for MHCLG on smoke-free areas outside cafés and restaurants making use of table licensing. I remember that issue coming up in debate and discussion on the Business and Planning Bill. Perhaps I could write to her on those issues.

The noble Lord, Lord Hunt, asked some specific questions on notification. My understanding is that if a product was notified before the end of the transition period, it will not need to be notified again afterwards. I will write to him on a couple of the more detailed points that he raised.

To conclude, I reiterate that the Government remain committed to a smoke-free generation by 2030. We are exploring policy options to work towards this ambition, and we will announce more of these in due course at a later date.

Motion agreed.
Baroness Fookes Portrait The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Baroness Fookes) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, that completes the business before the Grand Committee this afternoon. I remind Members to sanitise their desks and chairs before leaving the Room.

Committee adjourned at 4.30 pm.

House of Lords

Monday 2nd November 2020

(3 years, 8 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text
Monday 2 November 2020
The House met in a hybrid proceeding.
13:00
Prayers—read by the Lord Bishop of Winchester.

Arrangement of Business

Monday 2nd November 2020

(3 years, 8 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text
Announcement
13:07
Lord Fowler Portrait The Lord Speaker (Lord Fowler)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, the Hybrid Sitting of the House will now begin. Some Members are here in the Chamber, respecting social distancing, while others are participating remotely, but all Members will be treated equally.

Death of a Member: Lord Shutt of Greetland

Monday 2nd November 2020

(3 years, 8 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text
Announcement
13:08
Lord Fowler Portrait The Lord Speaker (Lord Fowler)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I regret to inform the House of the death of the noble Lord, Lord Shutt of Greetland, on Friday 30 October. On behalf of the House, I extend our very sincere condolences to the noble Lord’s family and friends.

Arrangement of Business

Monday 2nd November 2020

(3 years, 8 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text
Announcement
13:08
Lord Fowler Portrait The Lord Speaker (Lord Fowler)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, Oral Questions will now commence. Please can those asking supplementary questions keep them short and confined to two points. I ask that Ministers’ answers are also brief.

Jammu and Kashmir: Human Rights

Monday 2nd November 2020

(3 years, 8 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
Question
13:08
Asked by
Lord Hussain Portrait Lord Hussain
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the human rights situation in Jammu and Kashmir.

Lord Hussain Portrait Lord Hussain (LD)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

In begging leave to ask the Question standing in my name on the Order Paper, I declare an interest as someone who was born in Kashmir and who has family and friends living on both sides of the line of control.

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait The Minister of State, Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, the Government recognise that there are human rights concerns in Indian-administered Kashmir. We encourage all states to ensure that domestic laws are in line with international standards. Any allegation must be investigated thoroughly, promptly and transparently. We also welcome reports that some restrictions are being relaxed and detainees released. We call on the Government of India to lift all other restrictions as soon as possible. We continue to raise our concerns with the Indian Government directly.

Lord Hussain Portrait Lord Hussain (LD)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank the Minister for that Answer. Have the British Government taken note of the four letters written recently to the Indian Government by UN rapporteurs on torture, arbitrary detentions, extradition and custodial killings in Indian-administered Jammu and Kashmir? Furthermore, do we know what the Indian Government’s response was? If there was no response, what course of action do our Government, as a P5 member of the UN Security Council and a defender of human rights, suggest that the Security Council takes?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, we are aware of these letters and reports that the Government of India have not yet responded. As I said, we recognise human rights concerns and encourage all states to ensure that their domestic laws are in line with international standards. Any allegation of human rights violations or abuse is deeply concerning and must be investigated thoroughly. Where we have such concerns, as I said, we raise them directly with the Government of India.

Lord Collins of Highbury Portrait Lord Collins of Highbury (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, Amnesty International raised particular concerns over the crackdown on civil society and journalists in Kashmir and Jammu. Can the Minister detail what steps the Government have taken to protect press freedom? Have they engaged with the International Federation of Journalists, which has consistently fought for reporting rights in Jammu and Kashmir, as well as globally?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I will write to the noble Lord on his final point about formal engagement. As he knows, media freedom and the protection of journalists is a priority for Her Majesty’s Government; we are leading on a coalition with Canada. On the specific issue of Amnesty International and its situation in India, I assure the noble Lord that I have raised that directly with the Government of India.

Baroness Northover Portrait Baroness Northover (LD)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, the former Chief Minister of Indian-administered Kashmir, Mrs Mufti, was detained in August last year when the Indian Government stripped the region of its partial autonomy. She was put under house arrest under a law that allows detention without charge for up to two years. She has only just been freed. Have the Government raised this and other arbitrary detentions in the region with the Government of India?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I assure the noble Baroness that we have; we raised that specific case.

Baroness Warsi Portrait Baroness Warsi (Con) [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, in Indian-administered Kashmir, Kashmiris enter their 16th month of lockdown, with curfews, a ban on communication access, closing of media outlets and widespread arrest of politicians and human rights activists. Will the Government press for a free and independent plebiscite for Kashmiris, as mandated by the United Nations? Does the Minister recognise the urgency of Kashmiris having their voice heard at a time when the BJP Indian Government are deliberately changing the population reality on the ground, in contravention of UN resolutions?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, as I have said, we welcome the lifting in recent weeks and months of some restrictions in Indian-administered Kashmir, including the restrictions on the internet; 2G and, in certain parts of Indian-administered Kashmir, 4G have been restored. However, we remain concerned, as my noble friend has said, at the ongoing detentions. While we welcome the recent release of the former Chief Minister, other detentions continue, and we continue to raise them. It is the long-standing position of Her Majesty’s Government on any dispute between India and Pakistan that it is for both countries to sit down and resolve their disputes and differences.

Lord Loomba Portrait Lord Loomba (CB) [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, the population of the Kashmir Valley is 95% Muslim. To allege that Muslims suffer human rights abuses cannot be true. It appears to be propaganda against India by troublemakers and terrorists. Even after the revocation of Article 370, cases of terrorism are sadly still being reported in the union territory of Jammu and Kashmir today. The terrorists are the worst violators of human rights. Does the Minister agree that we cannot accept continued religious hatred against a particular community in Jammu and Kashmir, or acts of terrorism, regardless of their motivation and where they take place?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, as I have already said, we raise concerns about human rights in Indian-administered Kashmir regularly and constructively with the Indian Government. I agree with the noble Lord—I am sure I speak for all noble Lords on this—that we condemn, without any hesitation, all forms of terrorism. Any targeting of a community because of its religious rights or beliefs is totally against the norms of any functioning democracy.

Lord Thomas of Gresford Portrait Lord Thomas of Gresford (LD) [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Is the Minister aware that hundreds of applications for habeas corpus have been lodged in the High Court of Jammu and Kashmir over a 15-month period, arising out of the arbitrary detention without trial of thousands of people —including, as we have heard, political and community leaders—under the public safety Act? The court rules specify a 14-day time limit from lodging an application to the hearing. They have not even been listed, let alone dealt with. This is especially urgent since the shocking wave of arrests on 28 October. Will Her Majesty’s Government join the Jammu and Kashmir High Court Bar Association in its strenuous protests to the Indian authorities against these breaches of the United Nations human rights convention?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, the United Kingdom Government are clear. We have a constructive and strong relationship with India which allows us to raise candidly and privately issues of human rights abuses, wherever they may occur, or human rights concerns we may have. As I have said, any allegation of human rights abuses must be investigated thoroughly, promptly and transparently. We make that point to the Indian authorities.

Baroness Tonge Portrait Baroness Tonge (Non-Afl) [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, will the Minister explain why we immediately supported sanctions against Russia when it annexed the Crimea, even though 97% of the people of Crimea regarded themselves as Russian and had supported Russia in its annexation, yet no action has been taken since India’s revocation of Jammu and Kashmir’s special status? It has imposed total lockdown on the majority Muslim population and thousands, as we have heard, have been taken prisoner and many tortured. Can the Minister please explain why we behaved differently?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The issue was raised by the noble Baroness herself; one is a revocation of a constitutional item and the other is an annexation of a territory. They are two very different legal positions. We continue to raise the situation in Indian-administered Kashmir with the Indian authorities.

Lord Ranger Portrait Lord Ranger (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The Minister will agree that India is the largest working democracy in the world. The rights of her 1.3 billion citizens are protected in the constitution regardless of race, religion or gender—I repeat, gender. India also has the world’s most diverse population, living side by side in perfect harmony for centuries. The rights of all are protected through the constitution, including those of over 200 million Muslims. The same is reflected in Jammu and Kashmir; the province benefits from all rights under the Indian constitution.

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, we of course support Indian democracy. My noble friend is right to raise the constitution of India, which protects the rights and freedoms of all communities.

Lord Singh of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Singh of Wimbledon (CB) [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, Britain’s partitioning of India on the fallacy of irreconcilable religious differences promoted active hostility between Pakistan and India, particularly in Jammu and Kashmir. Independent reports confirm a significant increase in human rights abuse since the Indian army takeover of the disputed region. Does the Minister agree that Britain has a moral responsibility to work for a greater measure of secular autonomy for the Hindu, Muslim and Sikh populations of one of the most beautiful places in the world?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I agree that Kashmir is one of the most beautiful places in the world. We continue to raise issues of concern with the Indian authorities, and indeed the Pakistani authorities, on ensuring rights and freedom for all.

Baroness Thornhill Portrait Baroness Thornhill (LD) [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

It is quite clear from the Minister’s words that both sides are not sitting down and resolving their issues, and nor is our Government’s raising of issues with the Indian Government working. There has been a demonstrable escalation in atrocities since the lockdown and split last year. It is clear that UN resolutions are being ignored with impunity. What do the Government believe has to happen before the international community responds, or is the UN to be ignored and regarded as a crocodile with rubber teeth?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, the Government are seeing progress. As I have already indicated, we are seeing some positive movements on easing the lockdown and the release of detainees in Indian-administered Kashmir, and continue to do so. We have a continuing, strong, progressive and constructive dialogue with the Indian Government which allows us to have very candid and frank exchanges on issues of concern. We raise these regularly and will continue to do so.

Lord Fowler Portrait The Lord Speaker (Lord Fowler)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, the time allowed for this Question has elapsed.

Home Secretary: Allegations of Bullying

Monday 2nd November 2020

(3 years, 8 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
Question
13:22
Asked by
Lord Tyler Portrait Lord Tyler
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

To ask Her Majesty’s Government when they expect to publish the report of their investigation into allegations of bullying of officials by the Home Secretary.

Lord True Portrait The Minister of State, Cabinet Office (Lord True) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, the Government take complaints relating to the Ministerial Code seriously. The Prime Minister asked the Cabinet Office to establish the facts in line with the code. To protect the interests of all involved, the Government do not comment on the specifics of this kind of ongoing process. The Prime Minister will make any decision on the matter public once the process has concluded.

Lord Tyler Portrait Lord Tyler (LD) [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, justice delayed is justice denied. Surely for civil servants in the Home Office, past and present, this long delay of eight months is intolerable. In accord with natural justice, can the Minister now confirm that no one with a personal or political interest will have had any involvement whatever in the independent investigation into the behaviour of the Home Secretary, the report or the timing of its publication, and that that will clearly rule out any involvement by the Prime Minister?

Lord True Portrait Lord True (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I can certainly confirm that the process is independent, but I can only repeat that, to protect the interests of all involved, the Government do not comment on the specifics of this kind of ongoing process. I repeat that the Prime Minister will make any decision on the matter public once the process has concluded.

Lord Young of Cookham Portrait Lord Young of Cookham (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, the last inquiry into the conduct of a Cabinet Minister in 2017 took one month. This has taken eight months so far, although at the beginning, Michael Gove said:

“It is vital that this investigation is concluded as quickly as possible.”


Does my noble friend agree that it is fair to neither the complainers nor the Home Secretary for this matter to last so long? Can he also confirm that the separate case being brought against the Home Office by Sir Philip Rutnam for constructive dismissal is not responsible for this delay as that case is not to be heard until September of next year?

Lord True Portrait Lord True (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I am sorry to disappoint my noble friend so far as the timing is concerned. However, it is not possible to comment on an ongoing process. What I can say in relation to the other matter he has raised is that he will know that they are separate legal proceedings and that, unfortunately, I cannot comment on ongoing legal proceedings either.

Lord Stirrup Portrait Lord Stirrup (CB)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, given the difference in their respective roles, it is not at all unusual for tensions to arise from time to time between Ministers and officials. Indeed, this is healthy if kept within reasonable bounds. Can the Minister assure the House that, whatever the outcome of the current case, the Government will foster between Ministers and officials a culture of robust debate carried out with courtesy and respect on both sides? Does he agree that such a culture is not advanced by the airing of differences in the media?

Lord True Portrait Lord True (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I agree with much of what the noble and gallant Lord has said, in particular that all civil servants must feel free to give independent and open advice, and that Ministers should respect all those who give such advice.

Baroness Quin Portrait Baroness Quin (Lab) [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, is it not the case that the Prime Minister has undermined this process by declaring his full confidence in the Home Secretary from the outset? Is it also not the case that the Prime Minister has form, as we saw with the Russia report, with delaying politically inconvenient reports? How can this process be independent if the Prime Minister is the final arbiter?

Lord True Portrait Lord True (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The process is independent. The Prime Minister asked the Cabinet Office to establish the facts, in line with the Ministerial Code, and the Independent Adviser on Ministers’ Interests, Sir Alex Allan, has a role through providing further independent advice to the Prime Minister. So far as the process is concerned, I regret that I must repeat that I cannot comment on that while it is continuing.

Lord Wallace of Saltaire Portrait Lord Wallace of Saltaire (LD) [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Young, in response to a previous answer from the Minister, said that the code is an honour code, implying that it is up to the Minister concerned to take responsibility and to resign in the case of a serious breach. Last month, the Cabinet Secretary said to a Commons committee that the Prime Minister is the ultimate arbiter. That seems deeply inappropriate in the current conditions. Does the Minister not think that there is merit in the First Division Association proposal that an independent arbiter, with status outside government, should be the final arbiter in these cases?

Lord True Portrait Lord True (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I stated just now that there is an Independent Adviser on Ministers’ Interests, and that is Sir Alex Allan, who has a role. I have also studied the Cabinet Secretary’s evidence to PACAC on 22 October. He said what I have said, which is that, in the interests of all those involved in the process,

“We are not giving a running commentary on the process.”


That is a quotation from the Cabinet Secretary and I agree with him.

Baroness Hayter of Kentish Town Portrait Baroness Hayter of Kentish Town (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The Minister keeps saying that this is an ongoing process. The review was completed eight months ago. I do not know whether the Prime Minister is a very slow reader or whether, as Laura Kuenssberg has said, this has simply been parked. If it is the latter, can we take it out of the underground garage, please?

Lord True Portrait Lord True (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I have nothing further to add to the replies I gave earlier about the ongoing process.

Lord Flight Portrait Lord Flight (Con) [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

What sort of behaviour is sufficiently aggressive to be described by the Government as bullying?

Lord True Portrait Lord True (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, the Government take bullying very seriously. In 2018, the Civil Service undertook a review of the arrangements for tackling harassment and misconduct within the service. The Ministerial Code is clear that

“harassing, bullying or other inappropriate or discriminating behaviour is not consistent with the Ministerial Code and will not be tolerated.”

That is the position of the Government.

Lord Browne of Ladyton Portrait Lord Browne of Ladyton (Lab) [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, no wonder trust in the Government is plummeting. In 2019, the Prime Minister updated the Ministerial Code and in the foreword he wrote:

“There must be no bullying and no harassment. The precious principles of public life enshrined in this document—integrity, objectivity, accountability, transparency, honesty and leadership in the public interest—must be honoured at all times.”


There are no qualifications; there should be transparency at all times. Those are his own words. Can the Minister explain in this case how those precious principles can be honoured in the absence of the publication of this report?

Lord True Portrait Lord True (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I refer again to what the Cabinet Secretary said about the process. On bullying, I underline again what I said earlier. The Civil Service helps those who wish to make complaints. In 2019, we ran a cross-departmental “speak up” campaign to encourage individuals to come forward and report poor behaviours. A further campaign is proposed for this year.

Lord Campbell of Pittenweem Portrait Lord Campbell of Pittenweem (LD)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, is not the irresistible inference both from the delay and from the answers that the Minister has given that the Government have something to hide? What is it?

Lord True Portrait Lord True (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I can resist the inference.

Lord Mackenzie of Framwellgate Portrait Lord Mackenzie of Framwellgate (Non-Afl) [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, one of the main deterrents to reporting workplace bullying is the fear of retribution by the perpetrator. One way of facilitating the reporting of such incidents is through an independent hotline outwith the normal line management structure of the organisation. Having just attended the excellent parliamentary webinar course on Valuing Everyone, in which an independent hotline is paramount, can the Minister say whether the great departments of state provide such independent whistleblowing hotlines?

Lord True Portrait Lord True (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, the noble Lord has made an important point. As I have indicated to the House, full assistance is provided to those who make complaints. There is also a facility to make complaints without the disclosure of names. I agree with what the noble Lord has about the Valuing Everyone training, and I confirm to the House that all Cabinet Ministers, including the Prime Minister, have either taken Parliament’s important Valuing Everyone training or have made arrangements to do so.

Lord Fowler Portrait The Lord Speaker (Lord Fowler)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, the time allowed for this Question has elapsed and we have dealt with all the supplementary questions.

Terrestrial and Freshwater Protected Sites

Monday 2nd November 2020

(3 years, 8 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
Question
13:30
Asked by
Lord Teverson Portrait Lord Teverson
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to A Green Future: Our 25 Year Plan to Improve the Environment, published on 11 January 2018, what plans they have to bring forward the 2042 target date for the restoration of 75 per cent of terrestrial and freshwater protected sites to a favourable condition.

Lord Teverson Portrait Lord Teverson (LD)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, in declaring my interest as chair of the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Local Nature Partnership, I ask the Question standing in my name on the Order Paper.

Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park Portrait The Minister of State, Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park) (Con) [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, the Environment Bill requires us to set at least one target in each of the four priority areas, including biodiversity. We will bring these targets forward by 31 October 2022. Our recent policy paper, Environment Bill—Environmental Targets, outlines our initial thinking on objectives for targets, which we will develop over the coming months, including on the condition of protected sites. Before committing to specific targets, we will gather further evidence, including by carrying out a public consultation.

Lord Teverson Portrait Lord Teverson (LD)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I thank the Minister for his Answer, and I recognise his great work on environmental concerns. But does he not agree with me that it is almost inexplicable that the appetite in an environment plan is so little as to have only three-quarters of sites of scientific interest ready and up to standard within 22 years? Is that not utterly lamentable, given the current biodiversity crisis, not just globally but in this country?

Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park Portrait Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park (Con) [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The noble Lord asks whether we will bring the target forward. The Environment Bill framework requires us to set targets by October 2022 for a minimum of 15 years, so a target set in 2022 would run until at least 2037. One of the targets we propose is on the condition of protected sites. Any targets, when agreed, would be set out in law through an SI by October. A goal of 75% is ambitious. Some cases, such as peat bog restoration, can take many years of hard conservation work before sites even come close to reaching a favourable condition.

Baroness Blackstone Portrait Baroness Blackstone (Ind Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, the Government recently said that nature-based solutions will be central to the negotiations at COP 26. What progress can the Minister report? What emphasis will there be on a global response in which other nations also restore soils and grasslands to act as carbon sinks?

Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park Portrait Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park (Con) [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Our nature strategy, which transcends the climate COP and has direct implications on the biodiversity COP being hosted in Kunming shortly before, is three things. The first is that we want more finance for nature. We are taking a lead in this country, having doubled our international climate finance to £11.6 billion. We have committed to spending a big proportion of that new money on nature-based solutions. We want other countries to do similarly and to mobilise private finance. A second area is targets. The Aichi targets are impressive, but they are ignored by pretty much every country. We want to include a means to hold individual countries to account on those targets. Thirdly, we want to tackle the drivers of environmental destruction, such as dodgy land-use subsidies that incentivise environmental destruction and by cleaning up our supply chains. The UK is showing real leadership in both those areas.

Baroness Ritchie of Downpatrick Portrait Baroness Ritchie of Downpatrick (Non-Afl) [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, could the Minister confirm whether the Government have co-ordinated their efforts with the devolved Administrations on the strong protection of our land and freshwater environment?

Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park Portrait Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park (Con) [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Many issues relating to biodiversity and nature are devolved. However, my department, Defra, is in routine negotiations and discussions with the DAs. In certain areas, we work particularly closely together. For instance, we have a target to plant 30,000 hectares of land a year by 2025. A great deal of that burden will be taken up by our friends in Scotland, so we are liaising closely on that and all issues relating to biodiversity and nature.

Baroness Redfern Portrait Baroness Redfern (Con) [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, the environmental performance report of 2 October shows that more action and investment is needed by several water companies, which are failing to protect. The Environment Agency has requested that all water companies develop, publish and implement specific plans to reduce the incidence of pollution by the end of this year. Will the Government request that additional monitoring or modelling is put in place if they find any data gaps?

Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park Portrait Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park (Con) [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Where water companies do not meet our expectations, we will toughen our regulation and push them to improve their performance. This will include the Environment Agency conducting in-depth audits and reviews of water company management systems and new technologies, such as continuous flow monitoring and event duration monitoring. The results of the Environment Agency’s audits and review will help it and us to target enforcement action appropriately.

Baroness Parminter Portrait Baroness Parminter (LD) [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, water pollution is a key cause of the decline in conditions of protected sites. All English rivers are currently failing to meet quality tests for pollution. Given that 40% of water pollution comes from agricultural run-offs, what specifically are the Government doing to get farmers to use fewer chemical inputs?

Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park Portrait Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park (Con) [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The principal tool we will use in the coming years is the transfer from the common agricultural policy subsidy system to the environmental land management system. Whereas farmers and landowners have, for decades, been incentivised to convert their land to make it farmable—in many respects grubbing out ecosystems and undermining nature—the new system will make those payments completely conditional on good environmental stewardship. It is probably the biggest bonus that nature and our environment more broadly will have experienced in the last century. Although that is not the only funding mechanism or tool at our disposal, it is undoubtedly the most powerful.

Earl of Caithness Portrait The Earl of Caithness (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, does my noble friend agree that it is all very well talking about new targets, but we cannot meet our existing targets? Surely enforcement of our existing targets is the thing that matters. As has already been mentioned, the water companies and some bad farmers are not meeting standards and are not being fined. Clearly, the Environment Agency is not up to the standard required to issue fines. Does he further agree that fines on big companies, such as water companies, are a waste of time, as the ultimate payer is us—the user? The directors should get fined.

Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park Portrait Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park (Con) [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I certainly agree that the department, the Government and the Environment Agency should be using every tool at their disposal to ensure that the water companies behave responsibly and with environmental care. My colleague in Defra, Rebecca Pow, has established a new working group with the water companies to better understand, in the quickest possible timeframe, what more government can do and what the water companies should do to improve the quality of our water. I just make the point that bringing sites, whether water or land, into favourable conditions is a big challenge and takes time. Many sites were in poor condition when they were designated as protected sites. Some, such as peat bogs, can take decades to be restored to a favourable condition. The same is true for our river systems, which have had years of interference.

Lord Berkeley of Knighton Portrait Lord Berkeley of Knighton (CB) [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I apologise to the noble Lord for returning once again to the question of polluted Welsh water running into English rivers. The farming rules for water in England have no counterpart in Wales. In his Written Answer to my Question on 27 October, the noble Lord said that his department had not been in touch with Wales and he cited devolution as the reason. I put it to him, respectfully, that we should cut through bureaucracy in the cause of common sense.

Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park Portrait Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park (Con) [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The noble Lord makes an extremely good point. I am afraid I am not in a position to update him on the letter I provided most recently. However, I will take his message back to the department with a view to making progress and, as he said, cutting through the red tape and bureaucracy.

Baroness Jones of Whitchurch Portrait Baroness Jones of Whitchurch (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, what hope do we have of being able to deliver what is an unacceptably distant and unambitious target, when we do not yet have a comprehensive baseline of natural capital assets against which we can measure progress? When can we expect to see those baselines, so that we know that progress is happening?

Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park Portrait Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park (Con) [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

A number of pieces of work will help us to better understand the economics of biodiversity. One, as the noble Baroness knows, is the Dasgupta review, which we commissioned some time ago and is due to be produced very soon. She is right that we also need a more comprehensive audit or inventory of our natural capital in order to understand best how to introduce policies tailored to improving biodiversity. That work is ongoing. It is an enormous undertaking, and my department has been in discussions with the Treasury about working together to ensure that we are able and resourced to fill the gaps.

Baroness Scott of Needham Market Portrait Baroness Scott of Needham Market (LD) [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, by any measure, biodiversity in this country is now falling, at least in part because protected nature areas tend to be in small pockets that lack the necessary food webs and resilience for proper biodiversity. Can the Minister assure us that the zoning proposals in the planning White Paper will not make this situation worse?

Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park Portrait Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park (Con) [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I can give that assurance. Our planning reforms are intended to speed up decisions that can and should be sped up. We are determined to maintain and improve on the high standards we have set for our environment. We recognise that our biodiversity has been in sharp decline for decades; this transcends any one Government. We have put the levers and funding in place to begin the painful but necessary process of reversing those trends.

Lord Fowler Portrait The Lord Speaker (Lord Fowler)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, the time allowed for this Question has elapsed.

Tax Avoidance: Base Erosion and Profit Shifting

Monday 2nd November 2020

(3 years, 8 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text
Question
13:42
Asked by
Lord Harries of Pentregarth Portrait Lord Harries of Pentregarth
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what steps they are taking in their discussions relating to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s Base Erosion and Profit Shifting 2.0 Project to prioritise a fairer settlement for those less economically developed countries who lose income as a result of tax avoidance by multinational corporations.

Baroness Penn Portrait Baroness Penn (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, the UK remains committed to the OECD’s base erosion and profit shifting 2.0 project. We robustly support the discussions being taken forward in the OECD’s inclusive framework group. That includes more than 100 jurisdictions and ensures that less economically developed countries have an equal say in developing international solutions. The UK continues to champion international initiatives that build capacity in developing countries.

Lord Harries of Pentregarth Portrait Lord Harries of Pentregarth (CB) [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank the Minister for her answer. As she will know, low-income countries lose more of their income than do middle-income ones—some 9% as opposed to 3%—as a result of profit shifting by multinational companies. In the light of this, will Her Majesty’s Government prioritise the needs of low-income countries with a view to finding a process that will help them better than those presently on offer? I note that the Tax Justice Network is equipped and ready to take on this task if commissioned to do so.

Baroness Penn Portrait Baroness Penn (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The UK is committed to BEPS 2.0 being an inclusive process. Capacity building and technical assistance remain key priorities for the UK as they empower developing countries to draw on more of their own resources as key enablers of the sustainable development goals. This includes a £47 million package from the UK to support developing countries’ tax and public finance systems, including the OECD’s work on international tax standards to tackle evasion and avoidance.

Lord Bishop of Winchester Portrait The Lord Bishop of Winchester [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I underline what the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Harries, has brought into focus. The loss of corporate tax—about 3% from high-income economies compared with 9% for low-income ones—further exacerbates the impact of coronavirus on trade and tourism. For example, sub-Saharan Africa currently faces its first recession in 25 years, with up to 14 million people driven into extreme poverty. Can the Minister assure the House that Her Majesty’s Government will urgently offer the OECD technical support in the form of revenue analysis along with support for legislative and policy measures so that countries that wish to implement unilateral tax reforms will have the wherewithal and advice to do so in the best way?

Baroness Penn Portrait Baroness Penn (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I can make that commitment. By their very nature, these proposals will benefit low-income countries by expanding their tax rights and reducing the incentive to shift profits away from such jurisdictions. As I outlined in my previous answer, the Government are also committed to putting resources behind capacity building to ensure that low-income countries can also benefit from these measures.

Lord Leigh of Hurley Portrait Lord Leigh of Hurley (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I welcome this extremely important Question. We have discussed pillar 1 before in this Chamber. My noble friend is aware of my views that the digital services tax is not working. The pillar 2 blueprint was published a few weeks ago. Although it is complex, it has four concrete proposals to ensure that international companies pay the minimum level of tax. One of these, the subject to tax rule, looks the most effective, as it encourages withholding tax. Can the Minister assure the House that the Government will support this?

Baroness Penn Portrait Baroness Penn (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I assure my noble friend that pillar 1 remains the UK’s number one focus, partly so that we can achieve a multilateral agreement to replace the digital services tax, which was intended to be only temporary. We also recognise that a global solution will need to include outputs on pillar 2. We are working to ensure that these proposals, including the one referred to by my noble friend, are balanced and appropriately targeted, and have the support of all those involved in the negotiations.

Lord Sikka Portrait Lord Sikka (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I draw attention to my entry in the register of interests: I am an unpaid senior adviser to the Tax Justice Network. The OECD has released aggregate country-by-country data from 26 countries including the US, China, Japan, France and India. This suggests that there is considerable international consensus around transparency. The UK has blocked the OECD from releasing its aggregate data. It would be helpful to know why. Furthermore, the analysis of the OECD’s data shows that Bermuda, a British Overseas Territory, is responsible for $10.9 billion of tax avoidance and evasion. This is particularly hitting low-income countries. Why do the UK Government continue to indulge these fiddle factories?

Baroness Penn Portrait Baroness Penn (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am not aware of the particular issue that the noble Lord raises, but I will look into it and write to him. The UK is committed to progress on this initiative, which we started back in 2013 when we hosted the G20.

Baroness Sheehan Portrait Baroness Sheehan (LD)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, the UN Conference on Trade and Development estimates that developing countries lose up to $200 billion every year in fiscal revenues due to a lack of in-country tax take. Why does CDC, the UK’s FDI, regularly use tax havens, which results in less money for health and education, the undermining of good governance and the consolidation of conditions in which corruption can flourish?

Baroness Penn Portrait Baroness Penn (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I do not recognise the picture that the noble Baroness painted. The UK stands behind the international action being undertaken through the OECD and the progress being made in tackling tax avoidance and evasion. Since 2010 the UK has invested more than £2 billion extra in HMRC to tackle evasion. This has brought dividends in narrowing the tax gap, which is at a near record low.

Lord Kirkhope of Harrogate Portrait Lord Kirkhope of Harrogate (Con) [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I suggest that there is a lack of consensus, especially relating to the new proposed OECD framework. In view of that, what progress has been made on action 14—the peer review process, which ends in 2021—to improve dispute resolution between jurisdictions?

Baroness Penn Portrait Baroness Penn (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My noble friend is right. These negotiations are complicated, and they involve more than 100 jurisdictions. Although it is difficult, I welcome the progress that we manage to make. My noble friend is also right about action 14: the peer review process is under way. More than 45 jurisdictions have been reviewed so far and around 990 recommendations issued as a result of that process.

Lord Collins of Highbury Portrait Lord Collins of Highbury (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The noble Lord, Lord Kirkhope, is right: there is no consensus. When we in this country condemn companies that do not pay tax—we even have the digital tax—everyone is supportive, but developing countries are a different kettle of fish. We must win the argument for ensuring that the “taxing country” principle applies to developing countries. Will the Government make sure that supportive measures are taken not only within the OECD but within the United Nations to ensure that developing countries get their fair share of tax?

Baroness Penn Portrait Baroness Penn (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The noble Lord is right that this is not only an issue for developed countries but is essential for developing countries and their tax take. The UK believes that the OECD should be the primary standard-setting body for international tax standards, but we are absolutely committed to ensuring that the voices of developing countries continue to be central to those discussions. This is why we have been keen to build on the progress the OECD has made in integrating the interests of developing countries. The inclusive framework has over 100 non-OECD member states and 66 from less economically developed countries, to ensure that those voices are front and centre of these discussions.

Baroness Altmann Portrait Baroness Altmann (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, can the Minister comment on the progress of any of the 15 actions that are aiming to tackle tax avoidance and improve international tax rule coherence, and to ensure that profits are taxed where economic activity and value creation occur? Are the Government focusing on any specific areas, and has the pandemic had an impact on global co-operation in this area?

Baroness Penn Portrait Baroness Penn (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am pleased to tell my noble friend that progress is still being made on these actions, despite the global pandemic. On 12 October, the OECD published its Reports on the Pillar One and Pillar Two Blueprints, regarding the new work going forward. The UK is working with the OECD to support multilateral implementation, having supported and implemented all the key components itself. The OECD published a progress report this year on actions taken.

Lord Fowler Portrait The Lord Speaker (Lord Fowler)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, the time allowed for this Question has elapsed.

13:53
Sitting suspended.

Nagorno-Karabakh: Genocide Emergency Alert

Monday 2nd November 2020

(3 years, 8 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
Private Notice Question
14:00
Asked by
Baroness Cox Portrait Baroness Cox
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the genocide emergency alert issued by Genocide Watch about the situation in the Nagorno-Karabakh region, what assessment they have made of their obligations as a signatory to the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.

Baroness Sugg Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (Baroness Sugg) (Con) [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, as a party to convention on the crime of genocide, the UK is fully committed to the prevention and punishment of genocide as appropriate under the convention. We remain deeply concerned about the impact on civilians of the conflict in the Nagorno-Karabakh region and continue to call for urgent de-escalation and a return to negotiations.

Baroness Cox Portrait Baroness Cox (CB) [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I thank the Minister. For weeks, Turkey and Azerbaijan were preparing to commit genocide, and Azerbaijan continues to target civilian settlements, including a maternity hospital, with heavy weapons, cluster bombs and drones. According to Genocide Watch’s 10 stages of the genocidal process, Azerbaijan has already reached stage 9, extermination, and stage 10, denial. Will Her Majesty’s Government fulfil their duty to protect and make urgent representations to the UN Security Council to impose an embargo on the sales of arms to Azerbaijan and demand that Azerbaijan immediately stops all offensive attacks?

Baroness Sugg Portrait Baroness Sugg (Con) [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, we remain deeply concerned about the conflict, regret the lack of progress towards a peaceful settlement and, of course, condemn any targeting of civilians. There is an OSCE arms embargo in place related to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and we believe that that is sufficient to ensure that the international community is not inadvertently party to attacks on civilians from either side. We will continue to make urgent representations to stop all offensive attacks, both directly to the parties and through the OSCE and the UN Security Council.

Lord Clark of Windermere Portrait Lord Clark of Windermere (Lab) [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, this is one of the frozen conflicts at the edge of Europe. The difficulty is that it could grow out of control as a number of other powers, such as Russia, Turkey, Iran and the rest, are interested in the south Caucasus. Will the Government show a little more activity in this respect and use their influence to ensure that the troublesome individuals and players in the field are reined in somewhat?

Baroness Sugg Portrait Baroness Sugg (Con) [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I agree with the noble Lord that this is a deeply complex and historic conflict and that it presents a risk to regional stability. We are absolutely trying to avoid any instability within the region. The UK is taking an active role. We are not co-chairs of the Minsk Group, but we fully support it, and we are working with our international partners bilaterally and multilaterally. We have regular contact with the Foreign Ministers of both countries and continue to urge the de-escalation of this conflict. We know that there will not be a military solution, and we need to see both parties return to the negotiating table. The UK will continue to press for that.

Lord Addington Portrait Lord Addington (LD)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, does the Minister agree that we have to look at this in the round, bearing in mind that there is a long history of distrust and a search for revenge in both parties? As the noble Baroness, Lady Cox, said, Genocide Watch gives Armenia a rating of eight and 10, so it is not without some blame or concern. Could the Minsk Group be kicked into life? Could the Government make sure that the US, this week or next week, takes this problem seriously and make sure that there is some activity there? At the least we need observation on the ground of what is going on, because knowing that if you commit crimes you pay a price might be a way of reining people in.

Baroness Sugg Portrait Baroness Sugg (Con) [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank the noble Lord for his question. I agree that we must see both sides come to the table and that both sides need to compromise. We fully support the Minsk Group, which has been working hard to make progress. We have seen meetings in Moscow, Paris and Washington but, sadly, despite these efforts there has not been a sustained ceasefire. However, significant efforts will continue and we will continue to support the co-chairs in their work to bring about a sustainable peace.

Lord Pickles Portrait Lord Pickles (Con) [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, the present Turkish Government are very sensitive to allegations of an Armenian genocide 100 years ago. Does this not underline the need for Turkey, a valued member of NATO, to be unambiguous in its dealings with the current conflict, not only by ensuring that arms are not supplied to those involved in the murder of women and children but by showing in the clearest possible way that it is urging the parties to seek peace? What discussions has my noble friend had with the Turkish Government?

Baroness Sugg Portrait Baroness Sugg (Con) [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, we agree with my noble friend that Turkey needs to be part of the solution. The Prime Minister discussed the situation in Nagorno-Karabakh with President Erdoğan on 28 September. We have had ongoing conversations with Turkey. Most recently our Foreign Secretary spoke to Turkey’s Foreign Minister. Turkey is a key NATO ally and sits on the front line of some of the most difficult and serious challenges we face. We encourage all external actors not to escalate the situation and to become involved in bringing about a peaceful solution.

Lord Alton of Liverpool Portrait Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, the noble Baroness has reminded us that we are signatories to the 1948 convention on the crime of genocide that places a duty on all its signatories to prevent, protect and punish. My noble friend Lady Cox reminded us that a maternity hospital has been bombed in Nagorno-Karabakh by Azeri forces. That is a war crime. What action are we taking to ensure that those responsible for war crimes are held to account? Important though it is to bring people back around the table, it must surely be a central objective of Her Majesty’s Government that those who are responsible for war crimes and genocide are appropriately held to account.

Baroness Sugg Portrait Baroness Sugg (Con) [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, the UK is fully committed to the principle that there must be no impunity for the most serious international crimes. We continue to voice our support for this principle and continue to support the work of International Criminal Court and the international tribunals to tackle impunity for these crimes. All allegations of war crimes or other atrocities must be investigated, prosecuted and, if appropriate, punished. We completely condemn any attack on civilians.

Lord Bishop of St Albans Portrait The Lord Bishop of St Albans [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Will the Minister comment on whether Her Majesty’s Government believe that the criteria used to recognise Kosovo and the principle of internal self-determination which protects minority rights equally applies to the Armenians and Nagorno-Karabakh and on whether recognition might, as in Kosovo, prevent the possible ethnic cleansing of Armenians, which has historically characterised territorial border conflicts in that part of the Caucasus?

Baroness Sugg Portrait Baroness Sugg (Con) [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, we support the Minsk principles which ensure that there is an interim status for Nagorno-Karabakh and provide guarantees for security and self-governance. However, ultimately, future determination of the final legal status of Nagorno-Karabakh will need to be done through a legally binding expression of will.

Lord Collins of Highbury Portrait Lord Collins of Highbury (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, despite my initial concerns about the role of the US in the Minsk process, I am pleased about what has been attempted in recent weeks—certainly the brokering of the ceasefires which, as the noble Baroness mentioned, have sadly so far failed. The international community has a responsibility to promote and facilitate peace. As the noble Lord, Lord Pickles, said, we cannot ignore the role which outside actors are playing. Will the Minister tell us a bit more about what we are doing within NATO diplomatically to ensure that our concerns about Turkey’s actions are properly and adequately conveyed?

Baroness Sugg Portrait Baroness Sugg (Con) [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I agree with the noble Lord that we have a responsibility to promote and facilitate peace. That is what we are trying to do in this conflict. I also agree that the US is playing an important role. I mentioned the talks that are happening in Washington and the strong statements from the both the heads of state and the co-chairs of the Minsk Group.

NATO does not have a direct role in the conflict, but the Secretary-General has expressed concern over the escalation of hostilities. NATO is calling for all sides to cease fighting immediately and to find a way towards a peaceful resolution. We strongly support that stance.

Lord Taylor of Goss Moor Portrait Lord Taylor of Goss Moor (LD) [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The Minister has just said that NATO does not have a role in the conflict. That is certainly true, as things stand, but clearly the position in the Caucasus could easily escalate, particularly given Turkey’s involvement. Can the Minister be a little more forthcoming about the activity that the Government are undertaking, in particular working to try to change Turkey’s position and to get it involved in seeking peace?

Baroness Sugg Portrait Baroness Sugg (Con) [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I mentioned that we are having regular conversations with Turkey at all levels to assist it in playing a constructive role in bringing about an end to this conflict. Of course, we are aware of its strong partnerships and military relations in the region but it is important that it plays a role in bringing both sides to the table and encouraging negotiation.

Baroness Eaton Portrait Baroness Eaton (Con) [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, the escalation of conflict is exacerbated by Azerbaijan’s constant use of hostile propaganda. This is not conducive to effective peace negotiations. Will the Minister support Genocide Watch’s call for world leaders to condemn such hate speech and promote an end to hostilities and the implementation of a new ceasefire?

Baroness Sugg Portrait Baroness Sugg (Con) [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, we fully support a new ceasefire—that is indeed what we are calling for. As I said, we regret that the ceasefire conversations have not brought about a sustained ceasefire, but we continue to encourage both parties to start a ceasefire.

On hate speech, the UK works to combat intolerance and hate globally and to promote tolerance and respect. I join my noble friend in her condemnation of hate speech.

Lord Green of Deddington Portrait Lord Green of Deddington (CB) [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, the noble Baroness mentioned civilians. Is the Minister aware of reports of the use of phosphorus by Azerbaijan in attacking woodlands in Karabakh? This is extremely dangerous for civilians as not only is it toxic but it would also ignite the very woodlands to which they have been forced to flee by Azerbaijani shelling of towns. Can the noble Baroness ascertain whether these reports are true? If they are, what actions might the Government take?

Baroness Sugg Portrait Baroness Sugg (Con) [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, we have seen a number of reports highlighting some terrible incidents affecting civilians. We will continue to monitor that carefully. Over the weekend, we announced new UK aid support, which is directly targeted to help thousands of people who have been affected by the conflict. That support includes urgent medical supplies, food and safer shelters. It is a £1 million aid package in response to an appeal through the International Committee of the Red Cross.

Baroness Goudie Portrait Baroness Goudie (Lab) [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I welcome the Government’s assistance for aid. Almost a month ago Canada halted arms sales to Azerbaijan’s backer and ally, Turkey, in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Will the UK do likewise?

Baroness Sugg Portrait Baroness Sugg (Con) [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, we continue to monitor developments in the region closely and consider all export applications thoroughly against a strict risk assessment framework. We keep all licences under careful review. The UK complies with the OSCE arms embargo relating to the Nagorno-Karabakh region. This is considered as part of our export licensing process.

Lord McColl of Dulwich Portrait Lord McColl of Dulwich (Con) [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, reliable reports suggest that Azerbaijan, supported by Turkey, continues to deploy illegal weapons against civilian settlements in breach of international humanitarian law and Geneva conventions. Will Her Majesty’s Government produce an urgent plan of protection, economic support and development for Nagorno-Karabakh?

Baroness Sugg Portrait Baroness Sugg (Con) [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, we will continue to do our utmost to end violations of international human rights law and, where appropriate, international humanitarian law. We are working to prevent the escalation of conflict and to help alleviate the suffering of those who are affected. I mentioned the new aid package to which the UK has contributed. We do not believe that there is a military solution. We think the best thing for the people of the region is for both parties to put aside any preconceived judgments and come to the negotiating table to bring about a peaceful settlement.

Baroness D'Souza Portrait Baroness D'Souza (CB) [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, the UK’s obligations are clear and binding—to prevent and suppress actions of genocide. Will Her Majesty’s Government refer the matter to the appropriate judicial authority in the UK or request a competent body of the UN to mandate the International Criminal Court to initiate investigations?

Baroness Sugg Portrait Baroness Sugg (Con) [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, we will continue to support the work of the International Criminal Court and international tribunals to tackle any war crimes that have been committed. We are looking carefully at Genocide Watch’s report and will continue to work with all our international partners to ensure that anybody who commits war crimes or other atrocities is properly investigated and prosecuted and, if appropriate, punished.

Lord Lexden Portrait The Deputy Speaker (Lord Lexden) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, all supplementary questions have now been asked.

14:17
Sitting suspended.

United Kingdom Internal Market Bill

Committee stage & Committee: 3rd sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 3rd sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
Monday 2nd November 2020

(3 years, 8 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate United Kingdom Internal Market Act 2020 View all United Kingdom Internal Market Act 2020 Debates Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts Amendment Paper: HL Bill 135-IV Revised fourth marshalled list for Committee - (2 Nov 2020)
Committee (3rd Day)
14:30
Relevant documents: 14th Report from the EU Select Committee, 24th and 26th Reports from the Delegated Powers Committee, 17th Report from the Constitution Committee, 8th Report from the Joint Committee on Human Rights
Lord Lexden Portrait The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Lexden) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, hybrid proceedings will now resume. Some Members are here in the Chamber respecting social distancing, others are participating remotely, but all Members will be treated equally. If the capacity of the Chamber is exceeded, I will immediately adjourn the House.

I will call Members to speak in the order listed in the annexe to today’s list. Members are not permitted to intervene spontaneously. The Chair calls each speaker. Interventions during speeches or “before the noble Lord sits down” are not permitted.

During the debate on each group I invite Members, including Members in the Chamber, to email the clerk if they wish to speak after the Minister. I will call Members to speak in order of request and will call the Minister to reply each time. The groupings are binding and it will not be possible to degroup an amendment for separate debate. A Member intending to press an amendment already debated to a Division should have given notice in the debate. Leave should be given to withdraw amendments. When putting the question, I will collect voices in the Chamber only. If a Member taking part remotely intends to trigger a Division, they should make this clear when speaking on the group. We will now begin.

Clause 25: Other exceptions from section 22

Amendment 107

Moved by
107: Clause 25, page 19, line 24, at end insert—
“(d) in relation to any part of the United Kingdom, the profession of patent attorney or trade mark attorney.”Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment would add patent attorney and trade mark attorney to the list of legal professions the regulation of which is excluded from Clause 22.
Lord Callanan Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (Lord Callanan) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, Amendments 107 and 108 in my name aim to clarify the scope and application of the professional qualification clauses of the Bill. Amendment 107 adds patent attorneys and trademark attorneys to the list of legal professions excluded from the application of the automatic recognition principle in Clause 22. As well as work related to trademarks and patents, trademark and patent attorneys may carry out broader regulated legal activities which require an understanding of the underpinning legal system in the part of the UK in which they practise. Accordingly, we are bringing them into line with the other legal professions to ensure that they are not caught by the automatic recognition provisions of the Bill. These exclusions ensure that access to these professions is not affected in any way by the recognition provisions of the Bill.  Part 3 will not affect how these professions are regulated, nor will it change what activities trademark and patent attorneys are able to perform.

Amendment 107A has been tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Bowles, in response to this government amendment and seeks to probe the effects of the amendment in respect of authorised reserved legal activities under the Legal Services Act 2007. In respect of this amendment, I reassure the noble Baroness, Lady Bowles, that nothing in the recognition provisions of the Bill, or in the government amendment, changes how reserved legal activities are authorised under the Legal Services Act 2007, and her amendment is therefore unnecessary.

Amendment 108 is a technical amendment to provide clarity on the type of qualifications and experience requirements to which Clause 22 applies. It ensures that where qualification requirements are attached to specific activities, those requirements are disapplied by automatic recognition only if they apply to activities that are essential to the practice of the profession in question—in other words, if they amount to a barrier to access to the profession as a whole. This will ensure that Clause 22 does not apply to qualifications or experience requirements for activities which are not essential to the practice of the profession, such as optional service activities which professionals may choose to offer.

I recommend that government Amendments 107 and 108 be accepted, as they provide clarity on the scope and application of automatic recognition principles. I regret, however, that I am unable to support Amendment 107A, for the reasons I gave earlier. I hope that the noble Baroness will feel able not to press her amendment. I beg to move.

Baroness Bowles of Berkhamsted Portrait Baroness Bowles of Berkhamsted (LD) [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I am a retired patent attorney, which is what made me curious about Amendment 107. I guess that is an interest of some kind, though no longer pecuniary.

In this group I have tabled Amendment 107A, which is intended to clarify what has become a confused situation. It can accurately cover all the legal professions named in Clause 25, although the confusion relates only to patent and trademark attorneys. Essentially, it says—as I think the Minister agreed—that there is no change to the status quo under the Legal Services Act 2007, which was the Government’s intention all along.

The background to this is that patent and trademark attorneys may be in the unique situation of being regulated and qualified on a UK-wide basis, while, through their sectoral professional qualifications, also engaging in four specific English and Welsh reserved legal activities, no matter where in the four nations of the UK they qualified, reside or practise. They do this as patent attorneys or trademark attorneys, not as lawyers.

The purpose of that unusual provision is, broadly, to enable conduct of litigation for all in the specialist England and Wales Patents Court, and for associated matters such as deeds and oaths to be dealt with. That unique construct does not fit within the definition of Clauses 22 and 23 for the professions when they are identified as patent attorneys or trademark attorneys because you cannot work it out so that there is a relevant part and the other part. Noble Lords are welcome to try—it takes quite a few pieces of paper. The point is that it is the same for all patent and trademark attorneys, wherever they are.

However, somewhere the niggling thought arose that perhaps it was confusing, or that the mutual recognition would apply notwithstanding that Clause 22 did not apply and would somehow extend the enjoyed England and Wales reserved activities to Scotland or Northern Ireland courts, deeds or oaths. Amendment 107 has, therefore, been proposed. It has the effect of defining patent and trademark attorneys as a legal profession in Clause 25, thereby putting them into Clauses 23 and 22 and simultaneously taking them out again. This hokey-cokey amendment was meant to stop confusion. It has, however, also created its own confusion, perhaps best illustrated in an explanation from the Ministry of Justice that said:

“If trademark and patent attorneys were not excluded from the UKIM bill, then one of your practitioners authorised to conduct litigation in Northern Ireland, for example, could potentially argue that under the automatic recognition principle IPReg must also allow them to conduct litigation in England and Wales without meeting the normal IPReg authorisation requirements for doing so”.


However, that does not fit the present circumstances that I have just explained. The patent or trademark attorney in Northern Ireland is qualified to conduct litigation in England and Wales but, actually, not to conduct litigation in Northern Ireland—and that is not the only wrong explanation that has been offered. Indeed, a few moments ago, the Minister referred to attorneys being qualified in respect of the part of the UK in which they practise. There is no such provision for patent and trademark attorneys. They just have that extra bit of add-on, no matter where they practise, which relates to being able to access the England and Wales Patents Court. That is quite fundamental, because that is where you would see appeals from the comptroller and so on.

I believe that a true analysis of the facts ends up as I have said, that these particular professions were not in the original construct, but some people might have been confused. Now they are defined as in and out again but, unfortunately, this leads to other confusions, suggesting divisions in the profession that do not exist but which have just been replicated in the words of the Minister. If the Minister and an MoJ official can get it wrong, who else might? A wrongful accusation, no matter that it can be refuted, is still damaging. My amendment clarifies that the status quo is maintained. It neither adds nor subtracts anything, other than giving clarity—something to point to on the same page as the confusing hokey-cokey.

Baroness Neville-Rolfe Portrait Baroness Neville-Rolfe (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I support the noble Baroness, Lady Bowles, in probing the effect of these two government amendments. As a well-known supporter of a well-functioning IP profession, right across the United Kingdom, I have to say that I am still confused. It seems to me that, in the UK single market, the rights of these various attorneys should be fully reciprocal. Can my noble friend confirm that that is the intention? Will he further kindly reflect on whether it is the effect and, if they are not reciprocal, whether that is justified? Indeed, is there any read-across to the problems that we have encountered on the lack of reciprocal rights for EU and UK attorneys? We have discussed this elsewhere. I know that the department has had a rethink, but are we quite there?

Lord Lexden Portrait The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Lexden) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, the next speaker on the list, the noble Lord, Lord Liddle, has withdrawn. I call the noble Lord, Lord Smith of Finsbury.

Lord Smith of Finsbury Portrait Lord Smith of Finsbury (Non-Afl) [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, first, I declare an interest as the chairman of the Intellectual Property Regulation Board—IPReg—which regulates all patent and trademark attorneys. It is fair to say that, when the Government’s amendment first appeared, there was considerable alarm among the profession as to what exactly the impact would be of including patent and trademark attorneys in the list in Clause 25. There had, sadly, been no prior consultation with the Chartered Institute of Patent Attorneys, the Chartered Institute of Trade Mark Attorneys or, indeed, IPReg.

Since the publication of the amendment, the Government have assured us that there is no intention to change the status quo. I hope that the Minister will be able to give us clear confirmation this afternoon, on the record, that this is indeed the case. There are two things to say. First, intellectual property, its protection and the facilitation of its creation are crucial for our nation’s economy. IP will be fundamental to our economic recovery in the years ahead and we should do nothing to damage it. Secondly, patent and trademark attorneys are not just any other lawyers. Many start off with a scientific background and skill set. Their legal training is bespoke and rigorous, and they are, rightly, regulated separately from the general mass of solicitors.

14:45
The current situation across the UK works well. No matter where someone is based or where they trained, they can secure the necessary qualifications, apply to IPReg to go on the recognised UK register, and thereafter practise generally across the UK and undertake specific reserved legal activities in England and Wales. The wording of Clauses 22 and 25 and the impact of the Government’s amendment are, I have to confess, a bit impenetrable. It is difficult to understand exactly what the impacts are. Will the Minister therefore please confirm that the current position as I have outlined it, for UK-wide regulation and applicability, for both reserved and unreserved activities, is endorsed by the proposed wording of the Bill and not in any way endangered?
Lord Clement-Jones Portrait Lord Clement-Jones (LD) [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I declare a possible interest as a solicitor qualified in England and Wales and I share all previous speakers’ support for IP professionals, who ensure that we have the necessary intellectual property protection in the UK. I strongly support my noble friend Lady Bowles’s Amendment 107A and share her confusion, not to say bafflement, at Amendment 107. She has drawn attention to the obscurity of the drafting. Why are patent and trademark attorneys included and then excluded?

My noble friend has been, if anything, very kind to the drafters of the government amendment. Not only is it obscure but, as we have heard from the noble Lord, Lord Smith, there seems to have been no proper consultation with the professional bodies and regulators such as CIPA, CITMA and IPReg before it was tabled. This is all compounded by the use by both officials and the Minister of the term “automatic recognition” in communication with my noble friend, when we should be talking about qualifications.

Why has automatic recognition, from which exemption is needed, been introduced? As an interloper on this Bill, perhaps I can ask the most fundamentally naive question: why do we need not just Clauses 22, 23 and 25 but Part 3 in the first place? Are these the emperor’s new clothes? Even the Explanatory Note is rather obscure in its rationale, saying:

“There is currently no overarching system or consistent approach for the recognition of professional qualifications between the nations making up the UK internal market. Therefore, if professional divergence increases across the UK, professionals could have greater limitations on their ability to practise across the UK than exists currently.”


What professional divergence is threatened or envisaged? There is the continuing need for professionals covered in this part to be suitably qualified, but why do we need a new piece of legislation simply to preserve the status quo? I am sure the Minister has the answer at his fingertips.

Lord Naseby Portrait Lord Naseby (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, it is a little disappointing that, in a Bill that is vital for the future of our country, there seems to have been some misunderstanding; somehow or other the key role of patent and trademark attorneys has been misunderstood. They are vital to the future of our country because, as it happens, we are quite good at producing ingenious new products, processes and systems of manufacture that are patentable. Equally, we are good at marketing products that require trademarks. Here is an area where we really are at the forefront of Europe’s activity—and, many would say, the world’s—so this is crucial, and we need to be clear that it is going to operate properly without any hiccups.

In my judgment, we need to defend some of our trademarks in particular. When we are marketing on our own outside the EU, I believe that we will get challenges. I have worked overseas and seen it happen there, and I do not see why it might well not happen here in the UK. As we move forward on that challenges dimension, I recall that, as I think one or two of my colleagues know, I worked in south Asia for two years. When I was in India, there was a system of mutual recognition for trademarks in certain categories of products. I wonder whether that is an element of the new deal we have done with Japan.

On my final point, I declare an interest in that I have a son, a lawyer, working in the Cayman Islands—in other words, the Overseas Territories. Given the confusion that we have had today, I am not entirely clear whether in the Overseas Territories a qualified patent lawyer or trademark attorney, who is a UK citizen qualified in the law and in whatever elements are needed for such attorneys, is able to operate although they are not actually in a part of the UK.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton Portrait Lord Falconer of Thoroton (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, intellectual property lawyers, patent agents and attorneys are incredibly important for the future. I thoroughly endorse the remarks made by the noble Baronesses, Lady Bowles and Lady Neville-Rolfe, and my noble friend Lord Smith of Finsbury.

Honestly, confidence in this Bill was weak to start with. That mess-up just then on patent attorneys was appalling, and it made me look at the rest of Part 3. Could the Minister first of all identify what the problem is that Part 3 is dealing with? We had a clue between 11.30 pm and 11.45 pm on Wednesday evening when the noble Baroness, Lady Scott of Bybrook, who sadly is not in her place, said the following:

“The purpose of the professional qualification provisions in the internal market Bill is to ensure that professionals can, in most cases, access their profession in all parts of the UK, by ensuring that there is an overarching system for recognition.”—[Official Report, 28/10/20; col. 375.]


Clause 22 says that where you are qualified in one place, you can be qualified in another, while Clause 25 says that Clause 22(2) does not apply to existing provisions. Let us be clear what is happening here: the Government are saying that we are not making any change to the existing position in relation to professional qualifications, and as far as I am aware—and this is nothing to do with the EU—there is absolutely no problem about the current position. The effect of Clause 25(3) is that these provisions do not apply to any change in the future. Am I right about that? They are making no change for the past but they are bringing in these provisions in relation to the future. Why is that, when there is no problem about the past or the future? The Government are causing problems everywhere with this. I ask them to explain to the House and the wider public why on earth they are doing it. They have messed up the one area that we have looked at so far. Why should anyone have any confidence in this Bill?

On a separate point, I refer the Minister to what the noble Lord, Lord Dunlop—on the government side—said on day one in relation to this matter:

“The timetable for the Bill appears to be predicated on the end of the transition period on 31 December this year, but what is the real risk of regulatory divergence between then and the completion of the common frameworks process in 2021? The House is aware that the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 already confers on Ministers so-called Section 12 powers to freeze devolved competence in relation to EU retained law.”—[Official Report, 26/10/20; col. 88.]


So, if there is any problem about this, it can be dealt with by the Government’s Section 12 powers. That applies not just to this but to wider issues.

Why are the Government bringing forward such an obviously unthought-out Bill that is doing damage to what—and I say this with respect to the noble Lord, Lord Naseby—even the noble Lord, Lord Naseby, thinks is a mess-up, and he is a supporter of the Government’s Bill? Why on earth are they messing everything up like this? Could they please give an answer to what the noble Lord, Lord Dunlop, said on day one? Is he right? If so, the urgency goes.

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank all noble Lords who have spoken in this short debate on this important subject. I shall start by replying directly to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer, and the noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, who spoke about Part 3 and why we felt the need to bring these proposals forward. The Bill is intended to ensure that divergence in professional regulation between the four nations of the UK does not increase barriers for professionals living and working in different parts of the UK. As our economy continues to develop and new sectors emerge, it is possible that new regulated professions will be created and there may be changes to existing qualification requirements that could make it more difficult to access the profession in another part of the UK. These new professions may well be crucial to the UK’s economic future. As in other areas, we do not want barriers to trade across the UK in these sectors. Internal market provisions will apply where part of the UK regulates a new profession, access to which is limited to those holding certain professional qualifications or experience. The provisions will also apply to existing professions where there are changes to the requirements for the qualifications or experience needed in order to access the profession concerned. Currently, while the recognition of professional qualifications between the four nations can and does occur, there is no overarching framework that ensures that it does. The Bill creates such an overarching framework to guarantee that recognition of qualifications between the four nations will be possible and barriers will be minimised.

I am happy to give the noble Lord, Lord Smith, and my noble friend Lady Neville-Rolfe the specific assurance they asked for: nothing in the recognition provisions of the Bill, including the exclusion, affects the current situation. IPReg will continue to be able to decide whether and how trademark and patent attorneys should be allowed to carry out the regulated legal activities that it is designated to regulate in all the different parts of the UK.

The government amendment aims to bring patent and trademark attorneys in line with other legal professions and to place them outside the scope of the recognition provisions of Clause 22 of the Bill. Legal professionals have been excluded from the scope of the provisions on the recognition of professional qualifications in acknowledgment of the different legal systems that exist in the UK. This will ensure that the regulation of and access to these professions, including trademark and patent attorneys, are not affected in any way by the mutual recognition provisions of the Bill and will be completely unaffected. That is why we need Amendments 107 and 108.

15:00
Lord Alderdice Portrait The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Alderdice) (LD)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I have received requests to speak after the Minister from the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer of Thoroton, and the noble Lord, Lord Fox.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton Portrait Lord Falconer of Thoroton (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The noble Lord, Lord Callanan, referred to the idea of new professions being invented. If this happened, there would be a professional body that would need government recognition in some form. Could he give us an example, perhaps, of a new profession emerging without a professional body in relation to which there is a substantial risk? If there is no such example or evidence, it is incredibly unconvincing. The second and separate example he gave was an existing profession giving rise to a particular requirement that would create a barrier to entry in one part of the United Kingdom for another. Could he give an example of when that has happened in the past?

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

By the very nature of it being a new profession or qualification, it is quite hard for me to give examples of what might happen in the future. There are all sorts of new technologies; even in the noble and learned Lord’s legal profession, there may be new technologies, ideas and proposals that will come forward. There is the whole world of artificial intelligence or gene editing—there is a massive range of new and potential professional areas, bodies and qualifications that may come forward. That is the point: we want the current situation in many of these professions to be unaffected, but, in the case of new professions, it is entirely possible that the individual nations of the UK might seek to regulate them differently, and we want no new barriers to trade to emerge.

Lord Alderdice Portrait The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Alderdice) (LD)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I have also received a request from the noble Lord, Lord Purvis of Tweed, but I first call the noble Lord, Lord Fox.

Lord Fox Portrait Lord Fox (LD)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, with all due respect to the Minister, I am sure he understands how unsatisfactory that answer was. My noble friend Lord Thomas of Gresford talked about the gobbledegook of future-proofing, and this is gobbledegook. First, could the Minister tell your Lordships’ House what past examples lead the Government today to this conclusion? Secondly, why is there a problem with bringing any future issues to the Government and your Lordships’ House bespoke in the event that the Minister proves correct and something turns up? To seek to produce a Bill that covers all of the unknown unknowns that are going to happen in the history of time seems overambitious.

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I think we are just going to have to differ on this one. We do not want to be returning to the House to create unnecessary difficulties and disagreements in the future; we want to ensure that, before any of these difficulties arise, we have put in place, as in the rest of the Bill, a framework that covers the whole of the United Kingdom to regulate how we will manage and control these issues in the future. That is all we are seeking to do. I understand the points that noble Lords are making. There are differently regulated professions in some parts of the UK already; we accept that and that the status quo is there, but we think that, in future, these things are best regulated on a UK-wide basis, and we want no new barriers to trade to emerge.

Lord Purvis of Tweed Portrait Lord Purvis of Tweed (LD)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, this has nothing to do with powers repatriated from the European Union; it has everything to do with our internal United Kingdom approach. When was the last time that a professional body regulated by law was established where the Government considered there to be major barriers across the United Kingdom?

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The noble Lord will be well aware that there is European directive on this subject, and mutual recognition of professional qualifications, so, even in the EU law space, it is accepted that the nations of the EU have different ways of recognising different professional qualifications. I commend Amendments 107 and 108 to the House.

Amendment 107 agreed.
Amendment 107A not moved.
Clause 25, as amended, agreed.
Clause 26 agreed.
Clause 27: Interpretation of Part 3
Amendment 108
Moved by
108: Clause 27, page 20, line 35, at end insert—
“(1A) Provision that limits the ability referred to in subsection (1)(a) to individuals with certain qualifications or experience falls within section 22(1) only if the activities affected by the provision are, in a significant number of cases, essential to the practice of the profession in question.” Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment would provide that provision imposing qualification requirements on particular professional activities falls within Clause 22 only if the activities are, in a significant number of cases, essential to the practice of the profession in question.
Amendment 108 agreed.
Clause 27, as amended, agreed.
Amendment 109 not moved.
Lord Alderdice Portrait The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Alderdice) (LD)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

We now come to the group beginning with Amendment 110. I remind noble Lords that anyone wishing to speak after the Minister should email the clerk during the debate. Anyone wishing to press this or anything else in this group to a Division should make that clear in the debate.

Clause 28: Functions of the CMA under Part 4: general provisions

Amendment 110

Moved by
110: Clause 28, leave out Clause 28 and insert—
“Office for the Internal Market
“(1) An Office for the Internal Market (“OIM”), which will report to the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, is established.(2) The functions of the OIM are as follows—(a) monitoring the health of the internal market, and(b) advising and reporting on proposals and regulations, and their actual and potential impact on the internal market.”Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment seeks to probe why the OIM is established within the CMA and instead attaches it to BEIS.
Baroness Neville-Rolfe Portrait Baroness Neville-Rolfe (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I rise to move Amendment 110 in my name and that of my noble friend Lady Noakes. My noble friend the Minister has been kind enough to write to me following the debate on where the new office for the internal market should sit. However, I remain to be convinced that the Competition and Markets Authority is its appropriate home. For this reason, I have tabled an amendment attaching it to BEIS. To make that effective, I am also supporting the noble Baroness, Lady Bowles of Berkhamsted, in opposing Clauses 28 and 29.

I will put it simply and bluntly: no case has been made for locating the new office in the CMA, except, I suppose, that it is already an independent agency and the department has some involvement in the appointment of its well-paid top brass. However, the CMA is generally highly sceptical of business, especially the bigger businesses that operate across the UK, which need to flourish if the economy is to recover. That is my past personal experience with various different hats on.

We need an office—call it what you will—that can do two things: it needs to be able to monitor objectively and to advise sensibly on difficult and developing internal border issues. These are highly politically charged, as we can see from experience during Covid. Therefore, we need an office that reports directly to BEIS and, arguably, we need a Minister for the Single Market, in the same way that we had a commissioner in Brussels when we were an EU member. Actually, I prefer the notion of a single market to that of an internal market. Most of us, including the devolved Administrations, had a great deal of time for the single market when we operated within it. Indeed, I devoted some of my career to advancing it because of its benefits to consumers, manufacturers, services, other businesses and, of course, GDP.

I am sure the Minister would agree that not everything done in Brussels is wrong, and I believe we need an in-house and a political dimension. Therefore, for me, the right model for this office is the Intellectual Property Office, which has a chair and a board from outside but also a strong CEO reporting to a BEIS Minister and advising on both policy and enforcement as well as negotiating internationally and across the UK. If BEIS, for some reason, cannot do all of those things in an in-house office, the monitoring role could go to the ONS, which is well regarded in statistical matters. However, above all, the office must be subject to ministerial direction. Recent experience with Ofqual, PHE and even the CMA itself does not persuade me that the approach in this Bill is right. It is not too late to make a change.

I note that Amendment 155 in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Hayter, has been added to this group. I have a great deal of respect for the noble Baroness and worked with her successfully on consumer legislation in the past. However, I am not convinced that a consumer duty makes sense here, certainly not without balancing provisions on business and the economy. Business stands to lose so much from this new legislation already and from the inappropriate appointment of the CMA as the office of the internal market, and this is at a time when business is more and more adversely affected by the never-ending Covid nightmare. I think we should reflect further, but, for now, I beg to move.

Baroness Bowles of Berkhamsted Portrait Baroness Bowles of Berkhamsted (LD) [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I have given notice of my intention to oppose Clauses 29, 30 and 41 standing part. This is part of a full set of not stand part notices that signals concerns, in principle and to specifics, throughout Part 4 and Schedule 3. I will also probe what has been left unsaid about what the CMA or the OIM will do in total regarding the internal market. I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Neville-Rolfe, for supporting my opposition to the clauses standing part. We have some common concerns, but we are not entirely in the same place. I will be interested to hear her response to some of the points I will make as the debate develops.

There are three parts to my concern. First, as I said at Second Reading, it seems odd to use the powerful investigatory might of the CMA—or a lookalike OIM—whose information-gathering powers, with accompanying enforcement and penalties for non-compliance, bear down on individuals and companies, but where the main purpose, from weighing up the clauses’ wording, is to advise administrations about their own and one another’s regulation, and not anything the companies themselves have caused. This is extraordinary.

Secondly, there are aspects in the Bill that relate to business activity. However, this is not articulated, except that businesses are presumably among those who could make a proposal to the CMA for it to undertake a review under Clause 31. I am left asking: what else is happening that has not been said? Thirdly, there is the matter of making the CMA or the OIM properly representative of the four nations.

Overall, this seems an authoritarian, unexplained and unfinished state of affairs. The use of the CMA is a hangover from when Mrs May envisaged a corresponding body to the European Commission for all competition and state aid matters. State aid considerations have now dropped away to WTO-type considerations of distortive and harmful subsidies that will not be looked at by anyone; the Trade Remedies Authority might have to respond on incoming international complaints, but the domestic side is bare. That still leaves the market access principles to be enforced somewhere.

The Government’s response to the internal market consultation says that the expansion of the CMA’s remit will not position it as an enforcer. In a letter to my noble friend Lord Purvis after last Monday’s debate, the Minister confirmed that the OIM will provide expertise in scenarios where the economic impacts of particular regulations lead to disagreement between one or more administration, and that the non-binding assessments will ensure a technical underpinning to otherwise political discussions. Under the heading:

“On the Office for the Internal Market, disputes and governance”,


the letter to my noble friend Lord Purvis says:

“The Bill does not introduce new enforcement bodies, but instead relies on enforcement of regulatory compliance provisions in existing goods regulation to ensure that enforcement of regulatory compliance takes account of the opportunities offered by the market access principles of mutual recognition and non-discrimination”.


Does that mean that the CMA or the OIM will take account of the opportunities offered by market access principles? Does the CMA enforce the regulatory compliance provisions in existing goods regulation?

The impact assessment also mentions businesses and stakeholders. Page 29 says that stakeholders can “raise complaints” on internal market matters. This could arise by way of Clause 31 and seeking a review. However, the word “complaints” smacks of adjudication. It would be helpful if the Minister could explain whether that will be the case. Is it related to the mentioned regulatory compliance? How will that work?

15:15
The impact assessment goes on to say:
“Any dispute resolution mechanism will be based on existing arrangements … However, these processes do not replace a potential court challenge; businesses and individuals might choose to enforce their rights in a court if a UKIM matter remains unresolved, potentially incurring substantial legal costs, time and effort.”
I do not dispute that the courts are a final point of recourse, but what is the implied prior process? Is it business disputes with national administrations, business on business, or both? Is this related to the CMA enforcing or underpinning compliance in goods regulation?
Those are some of the issues and questions that sit behind my opposition to the clauses, and behind my amendments. My Amendment 113 would delete the separate provision of the CMA being an adviser to the Secretary of State. Along with later amendments, this would avoid the suspicion that the body will become captured by the UK Government by both volume of work and physical location. If such a provision is kept in, it must be available on equal terms to all nations. Indeed, that is what was promised on page 9 of the response to the internal market consultation.
Amendment 111 says that the CMA
“must not engage in dispute resolution.”
I tabled the amendment because I want to probe on the business side of things, as I have explained, who is doing the regulatory compliance with the market access add-on and where. What, if anything, has been or will be agreed with the devolved Administrations to enable this?
A great deal needs explaining, without which the powers provided later in this part are disproportionate and unjustified. Although this is early in our debate on this part of the Bill, I am prepared to return to this matter on Report.
Baroness Noakes Portrait Baroness Noakes (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I have added my name to my noble friend Lady Neville-Rolfe’s amendment. Like her, I am concerned that the CMA has been chosen as the home for the office for the internal market with very little substantive discussion and certainly no proper consultation. The White Paper the Government consulted on in the summer did not even mention the CMA, and the best the Government could report in their September policy response was that

“a few respondents suggested that the UK Internal Market functions would be a natural fit with the CMA”.

When I say that I do not believe the CMA is the right home for the internal market functions, I hope that will not be taken as a criticism of the CMA. It has done good work over the years, building on that of its predecessor bodies, and its work is respected here and abroad. However, it is not a body that has won universal acclaim. The time it takes on some of its market studies and the lack of impact of some of its findings are often cited against it.

I have three main grounds for seeking a different solution, of which my noble friend’s amendment is one constructive suggestion. First, the CMA’s existing functions are adjacent to the issues that will arise in the UK’s internal market, but they are by no means coterminous. The CMA is fundamentally about competition impacts, whether through mergers and acquisitions or market behaviour. It is also about the protection of consumers. The UK’s internal market is about trade and the avoidance of unnecessary barriers to trade. These are quite different things. The danger is that the CMA could move from being a focused competition and consumer organisation to one that is more diffuse and less targeted. Many organisations have lost their way when they have sought to expand their footprint and have ended up as a jack of all trades but master of none. We cannot afford to take that risk.

While it is planned for there to be a separate panel for the office for the internal market within the CMA, it is inevitable that the functions of the office, and the resources to deliver them, will be intermingled with the CMA’s other functions. It is also clear from the Bill that it is the CMA, and not the office for the internal market itself, which will carry responsibility for the various functions set out in the Bill. We run a very serious risk of the office for the internal market disappearing into the CMA’s back room.

My second reason is that the CMA really has too much on its plate at the moment to contemplate adding such an important new area of responsibility as oversight of the UK’s internal market. There are aspects of its current workings that are not beyond criticism, as I have already mentioned. Importantly, it is about to take on a number of additional activities as we finally exit the EU at the end of the year. If anyone doubts the extent of these additional responsibilities, there are 50 pages of draft guidance on these new activities which the CMA is currently consulting on. These competition functions have already led to a very significant increase in the CMA’s resources and I believe that it was expected that overall staff numbers would increase by 40% as a result. Against that background, it would be crazy to add on significant additional responsibilities. There is only so much change that any organisation can safely accommodate in a given period.

A final reason for wanting to see the office for the internal market set up outside the CMA is to ensure that it has a real presence in our internal market as a respected source of impartial data, analysis and advice. These seem to be the things that the Government want, as set out in this Bill, but setting it up as a mere panel of a much larger, differently focused quango cannot be the right way to achieve that.

Lord Palmer of Childs Hill Portrait Lord Palmer of Childs Hill (LD) [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, my purpose in speaking today is to support Amendment 111, which I have signed, and the detailed comments made by my noble friend Lady Bowles. Amendment 111 aims to clarify that the role of the CMA and the office for the internal market is not the resolution of disputes. We already have common frameworks; we do not need a topdown resolver of disputes.

Last week, the Minister said clearly that the office for the internal market is to provide “monitoring, advice and reports”. He said that it will

“have no direct role in dispute resolution”—[Official Report, 26/0/20; col. 70.]

which will be discussed by the Joint Ministerial Committee. There is no reference to a dispute resolution in the Bill. I hope that, for clarity, the Government will accept Amendment 111, which states clearly that the CMA and, thus the new office for the internal market,

“must not engage in dispute resolution”.

The important role of dispute resolution can realistically be achieved only by discussions and compromises between the nation states of the UK. The amendment seeks to make clear what the OIM can and cannot do. In responding to this debate, will the Minister clarify these powers, or lack of them? Clarification, along with dealing with complaints and inconsistencies, is what is needed. That is what your Lordships’ House is set up for and does so well. The various explanatory documents only confuse even further and imply some resolution powers for the CMA and OIM.

Amendment 111, which puts the CMA and its plethora of civil servants back in the box, is necessary if the Bill is to be approved. The Bill is a mistake; the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer, summed it up when he said that it was “unthought-out”. I support the amendment.

Lord Alderdice Portrait The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Alderdice) (LD)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The noble Lord, Lord Liddle, has withdrawn, so I call the noble Lord, Lord Naseby.

Lord Naseby Portrait Lord Naseby (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, when I first read through the Bill, I had some reservations about the CMA, not least because of the number of its investigations that have not exactly gone smoothly, as my noble friend Lady Noakes referred to. As all noble Lords are aware, it arose from its antecedent, the old Monopolies and Mergers Commission. I voiced some of those reservations at Second Reading. I then had another look at the OIM and could not for the life of me understand why it did not have its own status. How could it be right for it to be almost subservient to the CMA? I could immediately see a clash of interests. As has just been said, its role is to monitor, advise and report. That may well clash with the basic element of the CMA. While this amendment may not be exactly right, there is a strong case for it.

I will give an example. I have recently been approached by some outside people because they know that I take an interest in the credit lending market, principally credit unions. It is a difficult market because there is the FCA, which does a good job on the whole, but there is also the ombudsman. People who are in difficulty with credit are prone to appeal to the ombudsman for better treatment, as it goes beyond the normal provisions under which the FCA works. That created a real problem for the genuine lenders—not the fly-by-night operators—because of a clash of interests.

I would not expect my noble friend on the Front Bench to respond in any detail today, but the OIM has to have its own status. It should not be in a position where it is embarrassed by the CMA going against what the OIM thinks is appropriate in any situation.

Baroness Hayter of Kentish Town Portrait Baroness Hayter of Kentish Town (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, the noble Baroness, Lady Bowles, referred to a letter to the noble Lord, Lord Purvis, following an earlier discussion. I have not received a copy of that. Could all the letters sent following these debates be circulated to all Members of the Committee?

Lord Purvis of Tweed Portrait Lord Purvis of Tweed (LD)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, had it.

Baroness Hayter of Kentish Town Portrait Baroness Hayter of Kentish Town (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I think all speakers in these debates ought to get them. Unless, of course, it is a very private letter to the noble Lord, Lord Purvis—in which case we will leave that between the two of them—all noble Lords should see all the letters that arise from these debates.

When I started thinking about this group, I thought that there were two divergent views, but they are not as divergent as I thought. It looked as if some amendments wanted the OIM, which is an observatory rather than an office, to be almost part of BEIS, with little independence. Our view is to the contrary. Amendment 113 in my name, which is obviously probing, signals that the CMA should not be advising the department but using its powers to intervene as necessary. That did not mean that it should not send messages to the Secretary of State, as the noble Lord, Lord Tyrie, did when, as its chair, he sought more powers for the CMA to intervene. He wanted a proper consumer duty adding to it. The amendment does not say that it should not advise the department but makes the point that it should not be subservient to it.

15:30
What we really wanted to emphasise—and here I feel the similarity with what everyone who has spoken has said—was that the CMA should not be subservient, which was the word used by the noble Lord, Lord Naseby. He said that the OIM should not be subservient to the CMA, but we also feel that it should not be subservient to BEIS, especially given that it is really important that the new Office for the Internal Market will not be beholden to any one of the four Governments. That is what is really important: there are four Governments trying to make this invigorated internal market work, not just one of the four Governments. In particular, although I agree with quite a lot of what the noble Baroness, Lady Neville-Rolfe, said, her suggestion that it was akin to—I think she said—the Intellectual Property Office is not right, because that does not have this very strong pull towards the other three Governments, whereas the OIM will have that. I can see why it looked as if it might fit in that model, but I do not think it is right, given that this has a four-nation remit.
My Amendment 155 would, in a sense, add in the consumer duty desired by the noble Lord, Lord Tyrie, into the CMA’s guiding principles. In truth, it is hard not to think—and I think it was the noble Baroness, Lady Neville-Rolfe, who said that the CMA was about consumer representation; I beg her pardon if it was not—that this is about consumer protection, but interestingly enough that is not written into its overarching objectives. I do not think there is much between us on that.
We will come to the exact status of the OIM in a later group with Amendment 115, in the name of my noble friend Lord Stevenson, but I agree with what the noble Baroness, Lady Neville-Rolfe, said that no case has been made for the OIM to be in the CMA. The noble Baroness, Lady Noakes, said there had been no consultation; it just sort of appeared. In fact, I share with her the view that it could disappear into the CMA’s back room. Even if our solution happens to be a different one, we share a diagnosis of that problem. We will discuss in a later group whether we want it to be outside of the CMA, but for now the important point that we are trying to signal is that the OIM should have some independence. We want to make sure that it is not in any way in hock to just one of the four Governments, who must work very closely together if we are to make this internal market work and thrive, as we all wish to see.
Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I thank everyone who has participated in this group. I will seek to take forward the suggestion of the noble Baroness, Lady Hayter, that letters be copied around—I have another batch on my desk to approve once we have finished this debate, many of which, I am sure, are to my Liberal Democrat colleagues. I will ensure that they are circulated to all the protagonists. They are not particularly secret; they just help to clarify and explain the Government’s role and answer the many questions that we have been asked. I hope that is helpful.

I will start with Amendment 110, which seeks to replace Clause 28 with a new clause on the establishment of the Office for the Internal Market. As noble Lords will know, this Bill will create an Office for the Internal Market within the Competition and Markets Authority to carry out a set of independent advisory, monitoring and reporting functions to support the effective operation of the UK internal market. The proposed new clause seeks to create a new and separate public body that reports to the BEIS Secretary of State. The effect would be not to establish the Office for the Internal Market within the Competition and Markets Authority.

Let me say in response to my noble friends Lady Neville-Rolfe and Lord Naseby and the noble Baroness, Lady Hayter, that the Government did consider a wide range of delivery options for the advisory, monitoring and reporting functions of the UK internal market, as set out in the Bill. We concluded that the Competition and Markets Authority is best suited to house the OIM to perform these functions. The CMA is an independent non-ministerial department that currently operates at arm’s length from the Government. It is sponsored by BEIS and Her Majesty’s Treasury and—to answer the question posed by my noble friend Lady Neville-Rolfe—Ministers will be responsible to Parliament in reporting on the work of the CMA and the Office for the Internal Market, even though they operate at arm’s length.

The Competition and Markets Authority has built up a wealth of expertise and experience that makes it a natural fit to take on these additional functions. It has a global reputation for promoting competition for the benefit of consumers and for ensuring that markets work well for consumers, businesses and the wider economy. It will also build on the CMA’s existing technical and economic expertise, which will now support further development of the UK internal market.

I should also explain that it is government policy that new arm’s-length public bodies should be only set up as a last resort and when consideration of all other delivery options has been exhausted. Other delivery options that should be considered include utilising existing bodies in order to deliver any new functions. New public bodies should be created only if there is a clear need for the state to provide the function or service through a public body and if there is no viable alternative—effectively establishing new public bodies as a very last resort. For the reasons that I have set out, we are not able to agree with this amendment. I hope that my noble friend Lady Neville-Rolfe will feel able to withdraw it.

Regarding Clause 28 stand part, this clause defines regulatory provisions on which the CMA, through the OIM, will monitor and provide reports and advice. The purpose is to set out the areas where the OIM will perform functions under the Bill, in order to ensure certainty and transparency for Administrations, businesses and the general public in connection with the effective operation of the UK internal market. Regulatory provisions are within scope if they set requirements for the purposes of the mutual recognition and non-discrimination principles of the Bill for the sale of goods and the equivalent for services. Moreover, regulatory provisions are within scope if they apply to one or more nations but not the whole of the United Kingdom. Clause 28 as it stands forms an integral part of the provisions for the OIM to carry out its independent, advisory and reporting duties in respect of the UK internal market. For these reasons, therefore, I am unable to accept the proposal that Clause 28 should not stand part of the Bill.

On Clause 29 stand part, removing Clause 29 would remove the Competition and Markets Authority’s objective when exercising its functions as the Office for the Internal Market. This clause designates the CMA, in its capacity as the OIM, as having a specific role in the operation of the UK internal market. It is additionally important to note that this clause establishes the statutory objectives of the CMA in its capacity as the OIM. This clause will ensure that the CMA in its OIM role is able to operate effectively as the monitoring body for the internal market, and will ensure there is no confusion between the pre-existing powers of the CMA and those newly conferred upon it as the OIM. Distinct objectives will prevent any operationally problematic blurring of functions. Clause 29 as it stands forms an integral part of the provisions for the OIM, and therefore we are unable to leave it out of the Bill.

Moving on to Clause 41 stand part, removing this clause would leave out vital definitional provisions. This clause provides key definitions for the purposes of this part of the Bill. This includes a definition of the Competition and Markets Authority itself and sets out how widely the operation of the internal market in the United Kingdom should be understood. This clause also defines “Relevant competence” in Part 4 as meaning both reserved and devolved competence so that executive and legislative competence in each territory is included. Clause 41 as it stands forms an integral part of the provisions for the CMA in its capacity as the Office for the Internal Market: it ensures legal clarity and certainty on technical terms used throughout this part. For all those reasons, therefore, I am unable to accept the removal of this clause.

Amendment 111 would require the CMA to not engage in any form of dispute resolution while fulfilling its responsibilities as outlined in Part 4. This addresses the points made by the noble Lord, Lord Palmer. In cases of disagreement between one or more Administrations, the OIM, within the CMA, could be called upon to provide a non-binding report to support intergovernmental discussion. An assessment of economic impacts will ensure a technical underpinning to an otherwise political discussion.

Ultimately, the OIM only supports the resolution of disputes among the Administrations politically, and it does not adjudicate. The Government believe that building upon existing intergovernmental arrangements is the best approach to resolving any potential disputes, and this includes mechanisms such as common frameworks and intergovernmental relations, according to a clear and agreed process. The OIM will have its role in disputes between individuals and businesses, but businesses can request that the OIM consider disputes as part of its regular reporting. It is under no obligation to do so, nor will it have the authority to adjudicate on the specific issues.

Amendment 113 would prevent the necessary flow of information from the Competition and Markets Authority to the Secretary of State as the policy’s sponsor. The clause in question allows the CMA to alert the Government when it thinks adjustments may be needed to the way it fulfils its statutory functions, or it wishes to raise issues of particular concern. This is in line with precedent for similar public bodies and mirrors provisions in the existing legislation underpinning the CMA. Removing this provision would hamper the necessary communication between the Government and the CMA across all the other provisions in Part 4. For that reason, we are unable to accept the amendment.

Amendment 155 would make it an explicit statutory duty of the CMA, under its existing duties within the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013, to protect and promote the interests of consumers in respect of the internal market. The clause in question establishes the statutory objective of the Competition and Markets Authority in its capacity as the OIM. It will ensure that the office is able to operate effectively as the monitoring body for the internal market and that there is no confusion between the pre-existing powers of the CMA and those newly conferred upon it. Distinct objectives will prevent any operationally problematic blurring of functions. The OIM will operate for the benefit of all those with an interest in a smoothly functioning internal market, be they regulators, businesses, professionals, the four legislatures or consumers. Explicitly narrowing its focus to consumers would, in our view, be to the detriment of all the other stakeholders I have listed. Therefore, I am unable to accept the amendment.

Lord Alderdice Portrait The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Alderdice) (LD)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I have received a request to speak after the Minister from the noble Lord, Lord Fox.

Lord Fox Portrait Lord Fox (LD)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I am grateful for the Minister’s response. In her speech, the noble Baroness, Lady Bowles, asked some very specific questions, particularly in the stand part bit of her speech. I listened hard but I could not hear any answers to them, so perhaps the Minister could review her speech and write a letter, promptly, making sure that I and the noble Baroness, Lady Hayter, get a copy.

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I see the request has the enthusiastic endorsement of the noble Lord, Lord Foulkes. Therefore, as his biggest fan in the House, I am obliged to follow the idea put forward. I will of course write to the noble Lord, Lord Fox, on that.

Baroness Neville-Rolfe Portrait Baroness Neville-Rolfe (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, this has been a good debate on an important group of amendments. We are not all agreed, but most of us are doubtful about the decision to allocate the office for the internal market to the CMA in the way the Bill proposes. I favour an office with ministerial leadership—there is a parallel with the EU’s single market commissioner, which has worked well in many ways.

The noble Baroness, Lady Bowles, made an expert and very strong case from a different perspective. She rightly pointed to the huge powers and penalties involved in giving this role to the CMA, and explained useful background as to why it ended up in the CMA, linked to an earlier time when state aid rules were going to be part of the portfolio. She also highlighted a concern about how the arrangements will work for the devolved Administrations, which the noble Lord, Lord Palmer of Childs Hill, developed in more detail and which was referred to by the noble Baroness, Lady Hayter.

15:45
My noble friend Lady Noakes, in an intervention full of wisdom and experience, underlined the lack of consultation, the time that tends to be taken by the CMA to decide things and the risk of it being a jack of all trades and master of none as its responsibilities and staffing grow following EU exit. My noble friend Lord Naseby reminded us of the impact of double regulation in the financial services sector, and favoured a self-standing office for the internal market. The noble Baroness, Lady Hayter, does not want the office to be lost in the CMA either, although she wants it to be independent of BEIS. The commissioner dealt with 28 member states satisfactorily, and they always used to fight for their own independence if I recall correctly.
I am grateful to the Minister for his summing up. He rightly emphasised the international reputation of the CMA, a point I would certainly concede, but that does not mean it is the right body for this task. In any event, there has not been a proper consultation and no published assessment of the pros and cons, which the Minister kindly referred to when he looked at the options. So, I look forward to reflecting further on any letters the Minister is kind enough to write to us and perhaps to further discussion across the House.
We want to get this right: it is a very important matter. We have had some answers on how the details of this quite complicated Bill will work, which I will certainly study, but I give notice that I am likely to return to this issue on Report. I beg leave to withdraw my amendment.
Amendment 110 withdrawn.
Clause 28 agreed.
Clause 29: Objective and general functions
Amendments 111 to 113 not moved.
Clause 29 agreed.
Lord Alderdice Portrait The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Alderdice) (LD)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

We now come to the group beginning with Amendment 114. I remind noble Lords that anyone wishing to speak after the Minister should email the clerk during the debate. Anyone wishing to press this or anything else in this group to a Division should make that clear in debate.

Clause 30: Office for the Internal Market panel and task groups

Amendment 114

Moved by
114: Clause 30, page 23, line 15, at end insert—
“(3) Before authorising a task group under subsection (1), the CMA must consult the Joint Ministerial Committee on European Negotiations.”
Lord Mackay of Clashfern Portrait Lord Mackay of Clashfern (Con) [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, the United Kingdom Parliament has a legislative competence to regulate the United Kingdom internal market, but the devolved Administrations have a fundamental interest also. In my view, it is wise to give them a voice in the way it is exercised. This group of amendments is entirely concerned with that. I am assuming that the structures in the Bill are kept as they are, as—as with the last set of amendments—fundamental changes would affect the effect of the amendments I am proposing.

Amendment 114, which I am moving, relates to the task force set up to examine an aspect of the internal market. I am saying that the devolved Administrations should be consulted on that through the Joint Ministerial Committee. Amendment 141 relates to the submission of CMA reports. It is important that this report from the authority looking into it should go to the Joint Ministerial Committee, which has responsibility for the common frameworks. That can include the Ministers from all the devolved Administrations, as well as the UK Minister, and it is extremely important that the report should go to that committee. Admittedly it goes to Parliament, and the members of course are Members of the Parliaments, but the committee as a whole should have the responsibility of having the report given to it.

The third amendment is Amendment 171. The joint committee is a committee which I think—or I understand —functions well; I hope my noble friend the Minister will comment on that when he replies. But, however well it functions, there is the possibility of disagreement. It is absolutely important that when a Minister of the UK Government uses powers to make statutory instruments and applies to Parliament for them, that should be a matter of thorough consultation with the Joint Ministerial Committee. It should come at a time when the formulation is not complete—in other words, at a time when a committee of this sort would be able to discuss the shape of the statutory instrument that would be laid before Parliament. This is a very good way of involving the devolved Administrations in the nitty-gritty, as it were, of the work that will flow from the Bill when it becomes law.

No matter how good a committee is, there is always a possibility of disagreement; I have tried to deal with that. A number of suggestions were made earlier in these debates about how disagreement should be resolved. In my view, the best way of doing it is by putting it to the United Kingdom Parliament, where all the devolved nations are represented constitutionally. If that is to be done, it is essential that it should be by full debate in both Houses of Parliament before a decision is taken. This is preferable to any kind of majority rule, or anything of that sort. It is important that Parliament, including those Members from the devolved Administration countries, has a responsibility in this matter. I think this is the way it should be resolved, and that is my suggestion.

I thoroughly believe that this proposal is fundamental to the smooth working of the internal market Bill in the future. There is always the possibility of misunderstanding unless there is a full discussion of the proposal quite early on. That is part of what I have in mind. I beg to move Amendment 114.

Lord Purvis of Tweed Portrait Lord Purvis of Tweed (LD)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, it is a pleasure to follow the noble and learned Lord, and to agree with the thrust of his comments. This is the last, relatively small, group on the general concept of the consultation, before we move specifically on to what we would expect to see of the OIM’s relationship with the devolved Administrations. It is important, I think, because of Amendment 171 in the name of the noble and learned Lord. The Government’s ability to make considerable changes, through regulation, to any part of this legislation—which could have far-reaching implications for the devolved Administrations—without any requirement for consulting is worrying.

We can look at what is currently under way with regard to consultation. I reflected on the Minister’s previous response to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer of Thoroton, and my noble friend on the regulation of professional services and consultation. I ask the question because the consultation on The Recognition of Professional Qualifications and Regulation of Professions: Call for Evidence, which closed on 23 October—so a very recent closure—was a call for evidence to ask for views on whether there should be a UK-wide system of regulation for professional services. On page 15, under “Future considerations” in the section on the internal market, it says:

“determine whether or not there would be merit in having a UK-wide, cross-sectoral strategy for the regulation of professions (potentially underpinned by regulatory principles).”

But in this Bill we are debating it, because the Government did not wait until the closure of that consultation process before bringing legislation forward and say that this is now absolutely necessary, whereas the consultation by the business department, which closed on 23 October, simply requested people’s views.

I would be grateful if the Government would publish the responses to that consultation and update the House on the consultations on the White Paper which had been requested. I understand that the Government indicated that they would publish those consultations by 9 October, so an update on the status of that would be helpful. The Government’s ability to make regulations without consulting the devolved Administrations, under the last schedule of the Bill, does require consultation. I very much support the thrust of the noble and learned Lord’s amendments.

Turning to Amendments 114 and 141, I note that the Government’s proposal, relating to the CMA and the OIM, in this Bill is that before an appointment to the CMA board, as a chair of an OIM panel, or as a member of a panel, there must be a consultation with the devolved Administrations—so far, so good. But there is no requirement for the CMA then to consult on the establishment of a task group or a panel, so I wonder what the Government’s thinking is on that. The Government will consult the devolved Administrations on an appointment to a panel, but then there is no requirement for that panel to consult before it starts its work.

On the point that the noble Baroness, Lady Neville-Rolfe, recognised in the previous group, some of the work of the OIM in these areas will touch on very sensitive issues, with regard to the devolved powers or the decisions. Given that under this legislation there will be the ability to disapply devolved legislation—legislation in the competence of any of the home nations—there being no requirement to consult before that work commences is highly problematic. The legislation goes further to say that the CMA, after a request, “may” provide a report on proposals by one of the Governments for legislation within the UK; but, of course, if it may, it may not. If it does not consult after a request has been made by one of the nations—one of the Governments—in the UK, there is no ability to know the reasons for the CMA’s decision. The necessity now for the CMA to consult is important, given that a request can be made to report on a specific proposed regulatory provision, without the requirement to consult the body proposing to make that regulatory provision, which is quite extraordinary in my view.

We do not even know, at the very least, what process the CMA would follow in the establishment of a task group to investigate a proposed regulatory provision; nor will that devolved Administration necessarily know the basis on which the task group will investigate. These are basic principles that the noble Lord is correct to highlight.

16:00
The area where I would question not necessarily the Minister but the Government is the status of the JMC, specifically its EU Negotiations sub-committee. Last week, in response to requests for clarity on the Government’s view about the correct place for intergovernmental relations, the Minister gave a slightly contradictory summation of how those relations are working in the JMC. In the first part of his speech, on the operations of the discussions on the frameworks, he said:
“It is regrettable that the Scottish Government walked away from discussions on the internal market”.
That is a very sharp view from the Minister, but he concluded his remarks in the very same speech by saying that,
“for all powers, UK Government officials will engage with the devolved Administrations in the spirit of the devolution memorandum of understanding. This system has worked well for 20 years and continues to do so.”—[Official Report, 28/10/20; cols. 306-07.]
Either it is working well or it is not—if some parts of it have walked away. What is the Government’s intention as to where the internal market will fit in as far as the JMC’s operations are concerned?
The JMC has its plenary, its Europe sub-committee and its EU Negotiations sub-committee. I am not sure when the JMC (EN) is meant to conclude, and it would be helpful if the Minister could state that. Then there is the Minister Forum and the domestic JMC, as well as the Finance Ministers, quadrilaterals, joint executive committees and three other areas. There is also a mechanism for dispute avoidance and resolution. What is the Government’s intention on the element of the JMC under which the internal market will be reviewed and overseen?
In a joint letter to me, my noble friend Lord Fox and the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson of Balmacara, the Government indicated that the existing JMC operations will be the mechanism for the operation of the internal market. There is no sub-committee of the JMC to consider that. If there is no sub-committee, only the JMC Plenary can do so and, surely, the JMC Plenary, chaired by the Prime Minister, cannot be the mechanism through which these elements of discussion about the internal market will be governed.
I wish to note something in passing, given the fact that the Minister said that it was the Scottish Government who walked away from considerations. With regard to the JMC Plenary, according to the Institute for Government:
“It met most recently on 19 December 2018. In July 2019, Prime Minister Boris Johnson committed to holding a JMC Plenary meeting but this had not yet happened as of the beginning of June 2020.”
An update on the status of the Prime Minister’s chairing of the JMC would be helpful. Under this legislation, where will the internal market fit in within the JMC mechanism if not under JMC (EN), which deals specifically with European negotiations?
The noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay, referred to dispute resolution mechanisms. I want to address a couple of comments there. The Minister indicated that it is not the Government’s intention to bring about a new dispute resolution mechanism for the operation of the internal market. However, the protocol on disputes, which dates back to devolution, and the mechanism that has been in place since 2010 cannot be a mechanism for the operation of the internal market.
First, it is up to the UK Government whether they recognise the triggering of a dispute under that mechanism. We saw an attempt by the Welsh and Scottish Governments to trigger a dispute when the previous Government made an agreement with the DUP to fund Northern Ireland specifically, without consequential funding for Wales and Scotland. The Government simply did not recognise that dispute—so it is at their discretion whether they consider something a dispute, which would trigger the mechanism. There is also no mechanism in any of the dispute resolution processes that could bring about the automatic annulment of a piece of devolved legislation, which is what the powers under this legislation would bring about. Currently, if there is a dispute, legislation must specifically repeal a measure; this Bill goes considerably beyond that. There is no mechanism in the JMC that I can identify through which we can resolve disputes, if there any.
On the operation of this legislation, if it is decided, as a result of either a request from a CMA investigation or the position taken by the UK Government, that a piece of devolved legislation is contrary to market access principles—and that would be extraordinary but is nevertheless theoretically possible under this Bill —or if the UK Government are asked by the CMA to annul a piece of legislation that they passed on behalf of England and which is against the market access principles, through what mechanism will that resolution be made? At the moment, the Government are proposing no mechanism for that; it is simply something for another piece of legislation. We come full circle to the Constitution Committee’s report, which said that this “needs to be clarified”.
I am grateful to the noble and learned Lord for proposing these amendments. We need much greater clarity on how intergovernmental relationships will work under a JMC mechanism, if that is indeed the Government’s position, and how disputes will be avoided in the first instance or there will be resolution at the end of them.
Lord Lexden Portrait The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Lexden) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The noble Lord, Lord Liddle, has withdrawn so I call the noble Baroness, Lady Humphreys.

Baroness Humphreys Portrait Baroness Humphreys (LD) [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I thank the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackey of Clashfern, for tabling the amendments in this group.

In what is becoming an extremely welcome defence of the devolved Administrations and their devolution settlements in debates on this Bill, these amendments point the way to involving a forum that already exists when discussing and agreeing to regulations under the Bill: the Joint Ministerial Committee on EU Negotiations. The amendments would require the Competition and Markets Authority to consult the JMC on EU negotiations; they would also ensure that regulations are brought before the committee and discussed by it before being laid before Parliament.

The amendments are entirely sensible. The JMC on EU Negotiations appears to be the ideal vehicle for such oversight and deliberations. The amendments also open up the opportunity to discuss the way in which the JMC operates, to examine whether it is fit for purpose and to envisage its future role. Of course, the Joint Ministerial Committee on European Negotiations is a sub-committee of the Joint Ministerial Committee—a committee made up of Ministers from all four national Governments. On looking at the memorandum of understanding that underpins the JMC’s operations, it seems an ideal candidate for this oversight role. It is worth examining its wording. According to the memorandum, the JMC should provide

“central co-ordination of the overall relationship”

between the UK and the devolved nations and, among other things,

“consider devolved matters if it is beneficial to discuss their respective treatment in the different parts of the United Kingdom”

and

“consider disputes between the administrations.”

It seems an ideal candidate indeed, as I am sure we all would agree. This is exactly the sort of forum that we need, not just to have oversight of regulations brought forward by the CMA but to consider all issues arising from the relationship between the four nations. But the reality is slightly different. The JMC has the potential to be a forum to guide devolution issues and resolve them, but the committee itself seems to operate on an almost ad hoc basis.

My noble friend has already pointed out the difficulties with the Joint Ministerial Committee (Plenary), which is supposed to meet at least once every year. Like him, I look forward to hearing when the Prime Minister will be willing to chair another of its meetings. The Joint Ministerial Committee on EU Negotiations, to which these amendments refer, was initially expected to meet monthly. It did so until February 2017 but then ceased to operate for eight months, and its meetings have been held on an irregular basis since then. It met five times in 2019 and, I believe, has met three times so far in 2020. I would be delighted if the Minister could prove me wrong and tell me that it has met more often.

Despite the obvious drawbacks in the way that the JMC and its sub-committees operate, I am extremely grateful to the noble and learned Lord for tabling these amendments, because they point a way forward. The JMC and its sub-committees, actual and potential, could have a vital role to play in resolving issues that arise in and around the operation of the UK internal market, but first we need to resolve the long-standing issues surrounding its constitution. The frequency of meetings and the question of who controls the agenda, for example, all have to be placed on a statutory footing. The JMC and its sub-committees, operating efficiently, regularly and fairly, have the potential to allay the fears of the devolved Administrations and allow for the consensual and co-operative government they seek. I support these amendments.

Lord Naseby Portrait Lord Naseby (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, when I read the Bill and the amendments to it that have been tabled, I asked myself, “Why?” Of course, my noble and learned friend Lord Mackay is a very experienced attorney and parliamentarian, but the whole purpose of the CMA is to be independent of government. It is not there to be dictated to because one of the devolved Administrations does not like the look of what the task group is going to be doing. That would be absolutely wrong. The whole basis of the CMA and OIM is that they are independent of government. They publish their results, monitor properly and advise, but the amendment would seem to put in another tier of management, like Europe in reverse. That is very wrong, and it would find no favour with me at all.