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Grand Committee

Monday 7th December 2020

(3 years, 7 months ago)

Grand Committee
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Monday 7 December 2020
The Grand Committee met in a hybrid proceeding.

Arrangement of Business

Monday 7th December 2020

(3 years, 7 months ago)

Grand Committee
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Announcement
14:30
Lord Alderdice Portrait The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Alderdice) (LD)
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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 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 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 remains the same.

The time limit for the following debate is one hour.

Plant Health (Amendment etc.) (EU Exit) Regulations 2020

Monday 7th December 2020

(3 years, 7 months ago)

Grand Committee
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Considered in Grand Committee
14:31
Moved by
Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait Lord Gardiner of Kimble
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That the Grand Committee do consider the Plant Health (Amendment etc.) (EU Exit) Regulations 2020.

Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Gardiner of Kimble) (Con)
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My Lords, I hope it will be helpful to your Lordships if I speak to both instruments, given that they are closely interrelated. Protecting biosecurity is of paramount importance, and the operability amendments in these instruments provide a strong basis for our future regime, including bringing the EU within the scope of our controls on third-country imports. While the overall policy does not change, there will inevitably be some adjustment for those businesses involved in importing plants from the EU. The devolved Administrations have given their consent to introduce these regulations on a GB basis.

The first instrument implements a new UK plant passport in place of the current EU plant passport. The UK plant passport will be used for movements of regulated plant material within GB and provides assurance that relevant phytosanitary regulations have been met. From the end of the transition period, GB will no longer use the EU protected zone arrangements, and will instead move to using pest-free areas and internationally recognised classification. GB will designate two pest-free areas: one for oak processionary moth, a pest which is concentrated around London while being absent from the rest of the country, and one for bark beetles, which are absent from an area in the west of Scotland. Other protected zones will not need to be carried forward to pest-free areas as the whole of GB is free of these pests, meaning that existing protections will be retained but specific geographic designations are unnecessary.

The transition provisions in this instrument require high-risk items from the EU—those assessed as presenting a significant risk of introducing harmful pests and diseases—to be subject to import checks and to be accompanied by phytosanitary certificates from 1 January 2021. This represents only a limited range of the plant material imported from the EU, but they are our immediate priority because they are linked to known threats or, in some cases, previous interceptions. These systematic checks will provide additional assurance about the status of these goods compared to what is currently achievable through targeted checks of goods arriving in GB from the EU. Import requirements for lower-risk plant material will be phased in from April, with physical checks of these goods from July. Import checks will be conducted on a risk basis, with the highest risk goods, such as hosts of Xylella, receiving the most intensive scrutiny. Products such as houseplants and bulbs for retail sale, for example, represent a lower threat, so the frequency of import checks will be less.

This instrument also makes operability amendments to correct references to EU legislation, remove redundant EU obligations and revoke previously laid EU exit legislation that is now redundant. It also makes consequential amendments to fees legislation, including amendments to allow charging for services related to exports to the EU.

The second instrument sets out four categories of regulated plant pests for Great Britain based on international standards. Each list provides for different situations. “Quarantine pests” are those where we have a comprehensive risk assessment to support permanent import requirements to maintain the whole country as free of those pests. Secondly, “provisional GB quarantine pests” provides such protection on a precautionary basis while the necessary evidence is developed and assessed. Thirdly, “pest-free areas” protects against the introduction of harmful pests into new areas. Lastly, while regulated, “non-quarantine pests” allows ongoing protection to prevent the further spread of pests via planting material.

The instrument also sets out measures in relation to the introduction of plants, plant products and other objects into GB, and the movement of plants, plant products and other objects within GB to reduce the risks in connection with those pests to an acceptable level. I would like to cover a few examples which I hope will be helpful to your Lordships. The GB quarantine pest list has been amended to focus on pests which pose a risk to Great Britain. This has included the deregulation of pests which pose a risk only to citrus, rice and other tropical fruits which are not grown in GB. The regulation of all non-European fruit flies has been removed, and requirements will now focus only on fruit flies which pose a risk to crops important to GB—for example, tomatoes, pepper and cucumbers. These deregulations will increase efficiency for the trade and movement of goods through the border by removing checks on produce which does not pose a risk to GB, also freeing up time of our official inspectors to focus on the more significant risks.

Amendments have also resulted in some strengthening of biosecurity protection against certain pests. There have been additions to the GB quarantine pest list, including Phomopsis canker, which causes dieback of blueberries, and apple proliferation phytoplasma, which can affect fruit quality and yield as well as tree vigour. These are present in the EU and are treated as regulated non-quarantine pests, which limits the level of control possible. The new category of provisional GB quarantine pests includes the two-lined chestnut borer, a pest of oak and chestnut in North America which has recently spread to Turkey, and the oak longhorn beetle, which is causing damage to oaks in China.

I think we would all agree that protecting biosecurity is not only of supreme interest to this Government but of supreme importance to our environment, the country and particularly—if I may say so—the horticultural sector and the businesses which we want to prosper, and which frankly give so much pleasure to so many people. I remind your Lordships that there are reputedly 3 million more gardeners this year because of the current health crisis; we want that to continue.

What we have brought forward here in these instruments is that we wish to facilitate import and movement of plant material, but I hope that your Lordships will agree that we need to do it on a risk-basis manner and in a biosecure manner. For these reasons, I recommend these instruments and I beg to move.

14:38
Lord Taylor of Holbeach Portrait Lord Taylor of Holbeach (Con)
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My Lords, I am delighted to follow my noble friend the Minister. Some eight years ago I was in his place. I thought I was busy, but none of us could have foreseen the workload that Defra has recently had to carry in this period of dramatic change. He knows of my interests, which are that of bulb growers and packers in my family business. We are very much affected in the import and export aspects of these new procedures. My son Adam—who now runs our bulb business—is a former president of the Horticultural Trades Association, and with it recognises the need to adapt our working methods to maintain, and indeed enhance, biosecurity following our departure from the European Union.

The Horticultural Trades Association realises that these regulations have to be in place by 1 January 2021—deal or no deal. I expect that my noble friend Lady Fookes will provide the Grand Committee an update from the HTA and its chairman, James Barnes. She and I were able to share in a briefing for the HTA by my noble friend the Minister and his senior team at Defra. It made clear the need for a continuing partnership. Good communication is needed if the industry is to deliver on these regulations. The Government must show a willingness to listen and act to avoid unnecessary burdens on business.

The Minister is right to take a risk-based approach. The development of a single-access customs and reporting computer program will be key. There are particular problems with the nurseries and packers which trade with Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic. At present, the Dutch can deliver by crossing GB without any extra paperwork or inspections. Let us hope this can be resolved. With a sizeable business on the island of Ireland, I am keen to see progress so as to avoid repeat inspections, documentation and delay.

As president of the Anglo-Netherlands Society, I am keen to see Defra, in conjunction with the FCDO, have a dialogue with key suppliers such as the Dutch. I know from what the newly installed ambassador, Karel van Oosterom, has said that the Dutch embassy has greatly added to its staff in London. We need to establish and maintain contact and dialogue, here and in Holland, so that we can make use of this important link, now that we are no longer a member of European institutions.

I support these regulations and hope we can make a success of them.

14:43
Duke of Montrose Portrait The Duke of Montrose (Con) [V]
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My Lords, it is a great privilege to be able to participate remotely and to follow my noble friend Lord Taylor of Holbeach. He is much more concerned with plant health. I declare an interest as somebody who owns a bit of forestry and a rural property.

It has proved extremely difficult to get hold of this statutory instrument. I had to be coached through a process involving 10 moves in order to find the full text. It is an enormous piece of work. No doubt the department has gone through everything with a fine-toothed comb. I was interested that the regulations draw up a contingency plan for pests and diseases before January 2023. My noble friend the Minister has just told us that they are accepting the details in the EU directive but leaving out the diseases that are not common to this country. Is what is left really adequate? Do the Government propose adding any new diseases to the list? When will they address these matters?

14:45
Lord Walney Portrait Lord Walney (Non-Afl)
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My Lords, it is somewhat intimidating to follow three noble Lords who have infinitely more knowledge and experience in this area. I will attempt to probe the Minister on this entirely necessary but—as the noble Duke, the Duke of Montrose, pointed out—highly complex and lengthy legislation.

In his response, will the Minister say more about the phasing of these regulations? He mentioned April for the less high-risk species and then a second date of July next year. Are the Government committed to a four-month phasing-in period? Will the system be fully operational by July, with all the new checks in place, or is July a less firm date, given its complexity?

In relation to the overall regulations, can the Minister say more about the help that his department is giving to the beleaguered industry? It is seeking to understand how it is supposed to fulfil its obligations on a number of wider import and export issues after Brexit. There is a great amount of detail involved. How are the Government going to help small businesses trying to make their way in this industry through this challenging period? They have no spare capacity beyond making and getting their products to market.

Can the Minister say more about the approach to Xylella fastidiosa? I hope he will forgive me if this is spelled out within the regulations in a way that I do not immediately comprehend. Many people will be interested in whether 1 January marks the divergence between the UK and the EU on this threat which the Minister was blocked from implementing earlier this year.

The Minister showed great forbearance last week when I attempted to ask a number of questions relating to this issue in the debate on the invasive species regulations. Now we are in the right regulatory setting, can he clarify the checks system which is being phased in from January and April through to July? Are the Government implementing routine checks on plants and plant material which were previously prohibited in the single market, or do these routine checks not fit with the risk-based approach which they are following?

Will the Minister allow a final question about the huge impact of the new system from 1 January which goes wider than these specific regulations? Will there be a fast-track, green lane for fruit and veg producers to prevent potentially hundreds of thousands of tonnes rotting in the queues, which we anticipate could happen from next month?

14:49
Baroness Fookes Portrait Baroness Fookes (Con)
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My Lords, first, I declare my interest as co-chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Gardening and Horticulture Group. Of course, I welcome warmly in principle any system which will better protect our country from imported plant diseases. We have all seen enough of Dutch elm disease, ash dieback and sundry other horrible pests and diseases to know that we want to prevent the import of more, notably Xylella, which affects so many garden plants. Nevertheless, the horticultural industry is worried about the adjustments that it will have to make from 1 January. My noble friend the Minister referred to “some” adjustments; I think that the trade would say that they are tremendously important and worrying adjustments.

The regulations are long, complex and, to me, barely comprehensible. It is important that those who will have to run with these regulations have full explanations in everyday language. I am told that these are not yet forthcoming. Perhaps my noble friend the Minister can say whether this is correct, because it is important that all traders, nurseries and so forth have access to them.

My noble friend Lord Taylor mentioned discussions with the Horticultural Trades Association, in which we were both engaged. Perhaps I may put to the Minister some of the worries that it has expressed, but I must make it clear that it, as much as anybody else, wants to prevent pests and diseases coming into this country and is anxious to work with the Government after 1 January as well as before it. It is concerned that border controls to check plant health will not yet be in place, meaning that checks will be made at plant destinations. According to the trades association, that means anything from 1,000 to possibly 2,000, which will be a considerable worry, especially for small nurseries or centres that sell plants. They will need to know whether and when an inspector is going to come and, in the meantime, they will not be free to sell the plants. The association is also worried as to whether there will be differences in the categorisation of plants—high-risk plants and others. I think that my noble friend the Minister has made it clear that the regime will not apply equally; inspectors will look to check high-risk plants, which is of some consolation.

Traders are also worried about the need to switch to, from their point of view, a brand new computer system in July. I believe that it is a system that already works for other organisations, but it would be brand new to the horticultural industry. If it is anything like my experience with computer systems, it is not a happy thing to which to look forward. I hope that my noble friend can explain a little more clearly how this will work, to make it easier for the industry as a whole.

My noble friend Lord Taylor has already explained the concerns in relation to Northern Ireland, so I shall not repeat them, but it is important to reassure the horticultural trades in their various forms that the department is understanding of their problems. Above all, I ask the Minister that he and his officials be prepared to work closely with the Horticultural Trades Association as the main representative of the industry to make certain that, as this thing rolls out and problems appear—some of which we may have discussed already and others that may come forward later—they are fully in touch and will adjust as the need arises. The concerns expressed hitherto reflect intense worry on the part of the various nurseries and garden centres. As I have said, they want a new system, but they do not want to be ruined by its implementation.

14:54
Baroness Altmann Portrait Baroness Altmann (Con)
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My Lords, I thank my noble friend the Minister for his clear explanation of the regulations and commend the Government on aiming to ensure effective phytosanitary controls to protect biosecurity. I welcome the strengthening of some controls, such as on apple proliferation phytoplasma and oak longhorn beetles. However, I share some of the concerns expressed by my noble friends Lord Taylor and Lady Fookes regarding the communication of these vast changes for the industry—I declare my interest as a keen gardener—which will require significant adjustment. On the changes particularly for Northern Ireland, but for the whole United Kingdom, clarification is required. As my noble friend Lady Fookes said, the industry fully supports the aims of the regulations and the Government’s policy to control pests and so on, but it wants to know clearly what it needs to do in a new regime.

Many of the issues have been relayed to me by Friends of the Earth, which has a number of concerns on which I ask my noble friend the Minister to comment. For example, Regulation 28(24)(c) changes the requirement in article 25(4) of regulation 2016/2031 such that the UK will establish priority pest plans for all limited pests with a deadline of 1 January 2023. That is in line with the previous deadline, but there are concerns that the omissions may cause some delay. Can my noble friend outline progress thus far on developing priority pest plans for the listed pests? Will he confirm that any future changes to the current list of priority pests will be subject to the same risk assessment processes as currently used by the EU?

On Regulation 30(7), why is it considered necessary to amend article 44(2) of regulation 2016/2031 to delete the reference to the European Commission’s ability to investigate third countries to see whether equivalence is properly achieved? Can my noble friend allay the fears of reduced democratic oversight expressed by Friends of the Earth and explain why the EU examination procedure for scrutiny and amendment of regulations is not fully replicated? I recognise and respect that we want and need our own regulations and our own system, but if my noble friend is able to address some of the concerns of Friends of the Earth, it will help ensure smoother passage and reassure the industry where currently there are significant concerns.

On scrutiny of secondary legislation with respect to environmental security or protection of plant, animal or human health and safety, there are concerns that these will be weakened by the changes. I am sure that my noble friend would not wish that, but it might be helpful to have it on record that it is the case. I am sure that colleagues in the Committee would also support those aims.

14:59
Lord Teverson Portrait Lord Teverson (LD)
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My Lords, I declare my interest as chair of the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Local Nature Partnership, which is obviously very concerned about biosecurity. I commend the Minister for his work on biosecurity. I know he champions it in government, which is very much to be recognised. I was also going to congratulate the officials who put all this together, as did the noble Baroness, Lady Fookes. If I suffer from insomnia later this week I shall reach for it next to my bed, I assure you.

This is a really serious subject because we know that lapses in biosecurity can cost us a huge amount of money. On the animal side, we still think back to foot and mouth, which cost some £8 billion or £9 billion. In the case of plants, lapses can have a major impact on biodiversity. This is a really important area.

I will bring up a few points with the Minister. First, “passport” sounds impressive, but is nothing at all like the passport we have at the moment while we are part of the single market, which allows us to transfer products within 28 nation states with security. This will allow plant materials to go between the devolved nations, but that is about it.

I will follow up on the important point that the noble Baroness, Lady Fookes, raised about IT systems. I would like to understand whether those systems are ready, whether they have been trialled and whether we are certain that they will work. I am not sure whether this is supposed to happen on 1 January or in July, but perhaps the Minister could reassure us on that.

Within the European Union we have the TRACES system, which I expect the Prime Minister might describe as world beating. It is a very serious system. I wonder whether there are plans to have some connection with TRACES in future—as long as negotiations are successful in the coming weeks, as we all hope they will be. There is real information and data in that system that would be of use to us, and I am sure that our data would still be of use to the EU for the point of increasing both sides’ biosecurity.

One of the most important areas is preventing these diseases getting to the border in the first place. Under the present system, the Commission has a number of officials worldwide who check out producers and growers before products are shipped or processed. We will no longer have access to those individuals and their recommendations, checking and audit. I would be interested to understand from the Minister where we are on replacing that capability. In some ways, preventing these risks at source is even more fundamental than stopping them at the border.

I understand the concept of risk-based enforcement and I welcome it in all sorts of ways. It is a most efficient way to do it, but I warn the Minister that I have too often seen “risk-based” being a euphemism for “budget cut”. I would like reassurance on where we are on personnel at the border, let alone out there in the rest of the world, to make sure that this system works.

Lastly, I ask the Minister to reassure us that we will not have an open gate for six months, where one gets the impression that anything goes. Although I understand entirely that most products come through the European Union, so it will be no riskier on 1 January then it will be on 31 December, I am aware that there tends to be a regulatory arbitrage among people who want to move on substandard product. I wonder whether less scrupulous people in this trade outside our national frontiers might try to use this open door policy to find a way to sell substandard product. That would be a risk.

15:04
Baroness Jones of Whitchurch Portrait Baroness Jones of Whitchurch (Lab)
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My Lords, I thank the Minister for his helpful introduction and for arranging a very useful briefing in advance of this debate. We know that he takes plant biosecurity extremely seriously and I pay tribute to his work on that issue. It is vital that we have effective biosecurity and phytosanitary controls in place when we end the transition on 31 December, so we do not object to the principles set out in these two SIs but, like other noble Lords, I have a few questions of clarification that it would be helpful for him to address.

First, paragraph 2.2 of the Explanatory Memorandum on the first SI talks about creating “operability amendments” through

“a ‘single market’ covering GB and the Crown Dependencies”,

but it then goes on to say that:

“Internal controls will also continue to apply to movement of goods”


within that GB single market. I am interested to know what these internal controls will consist of. Do they include, for example, checks on goods moving between England and Scotland? Paragraph 2.4 says that:

“Separate but parallel domestic legislation applies in Wales, Northern Ireland, and Scotland.”


Can I double check that those separate bits of legislation are exactly the same as the SI before us? There would otherwise be a challenge to businesses operating in that system.

Will the new plant passport reference codes referred to in paragraph 12.5 be the same throughout GB, whether the commodity originates in England, Wales or Scotland? Will all those plant passport numbers be compatible? Clearly there will be business implications for businesses moving plants passported within GB, so why has there not been an impact assessment of the regulations, given the inevitable business impact?

Also, in response to the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee, Defra says:

“Between January 2021 and July 2021, physical inspections … will take place at the point of destination for imports from the EU.”


I wanted more information on this, although the noble Baroness, Lady Fookes, has I think already given me part of the answer. I wanted to know what “point of destination” really meant. My question was whether it referred to ports and airports or whether it had a wider meaning. I understand from her that it does indeed have that wider meaning and that it refers to the nurseries and so on where the plants are ultimately destined. If that is the case, it seems that there is a biosecurity issue about those plants travelling to that point of destination before they are checked. How will the inspection process account for that?

Following on in terms of inspections, the whole emphasis of this new package is that it will be done on a risk basis, but will there also be some scope for routine or random inspections? As I think that the noble Lords, Lord Walney and Lord Teverson, said, the system we set up will be known globally to all and sundry. If we are not careful we will be rather open to unscrupulous people if we operate a checking system for only high-risk products. We need to ensure that the system we introduce is robust and has some element of random checking within it. Perhaps the Minister could clarify that.

Paragraph 7.4 refers to separate legislative arrangements needed for Northern Ireland to align with the EU regulations for GB goods entering Northern Ireland. What are those separate legislative arrangements? Is it intended that we will debate them before the new year?

I will follow up on the example from the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, who said that Dutch bulbs could pass through GB without the need for paperwork, presumably because it is, in effect, EU to EU. Again, I did not know this, so I have learned something. Would this apply even if the plants travelling were in a higher category of risk, rather than being just Dutch bulbs?

The noble Baroness, Lady Altmann, referred to the Friends of the Earth submission—the issue about investigations taking place in third countries to determine whether or not equivalence with UK standards is being properly achieved. I echo that; it was also mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Teverson. Regulation 30(7) removes that reference. Will investigations still take place in third countries? Where is that wording now that that reference, which seems to make perfect sense, has been taken out?

The second SI lists the animal and plant pests subject to quarantine. The Minister has made it clear to us that the list before us is a newly compiled list specific to GB. How does that compare with the EU list, given that EU countries are our nearest neighbours and therefore most likely to transfer existing or new pest threats? If the EU updates its list when it becomes aware of new risks, what will be the system for letting us know so that we can utilise its intelligence and update our risk-based plant controls to correspond? If there is an EU update, how does that impact on our list? How will our list be updated and how will we notify people if the list becomes a moveable feast and is constantly updated, as in many ways it makes sense to do?

Finally, Friends of the Earth says that a specific reference to an “examination procedure” for adopting amendments to regulations has been changed to applying a risk assessment. This seems a watering-down of the current arrangements and I would be grateful if the Minister could address that in his response.

15:11
Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait Lord Gardiner of Kimble (Con)
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My Lords, I am most grateful to all noble Lords for this really very absorbing debate. I say categorically to all noble Lords, particularly my noble friend Lady Altmann, that there is absolutely no weakening of our resolve on biosecurity—quite the reverse. In fact, in other quarters I may be accused of raising the bar and that is exactly what we are seeking to do in terms of immediate—from 1 January—requirements for high-risk plants coming in from the EU, precisely because we are concerned that there is a biosecurity risk. I emphasise that.

I say also to all noble Lords, but particularly my noble friends Lady Fookes and Lord Taylor of Holbeach and the noble Lord, Lord Walney, that it is absolutely imperative that we work in partnership with businesses engaged in this matter. I know that that is what all the officials I have been working with want to do, and everything that we are doing is on a risk basis, based on sound science, as to what is affecting this country. I should also say that given the time allocated and the number of questions, there may be some questions that I would like to respond to in rather more detail, but we have listened to the concerns of industry to ensure that the new requirements are as practical, proportionate and risk-based as they possibly can be.

Import controls on EU-regulated goods will be phased in over six months from 1 January. Regulated goods will not be held at the border for import checks during this initial period but will instead be inspected on a risk-targeted basis at places of destination. I say to the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, who made the legitimate point about whether there is a gap, that, in fact, we are ensuring that there is no gap with regard to high-risk goods that are coming here at the moment. We are using the opportunity from day one of ensuring that high-risk goods, where we have already had interceptions, will be inspected and checked. As I said, it is designed on the basis of risk. Our focus is on those goods from the EU which have been deemed to represent a significant plant health threat.

I say to my noble friends Lady Fookes and Lady Altmann that Defra has been engaged in numerous trade events and has distributed extensive guidance directly to around 2,200 businesses by email. All known trade associations have been involved in Defra events and have been provided with detailed guidance to circulate to their members. The APHA Defra helplines are actively responding to queries to support business readiness. The devolved Administrations have been involved in similar processes and activities to ensure business preparedness. This is a continuing matter, pre 1 January and post 1 January.

The noble Lord, Lord Walney, asked about what we are doing in the phasing. The purpose is to work with businesses so that we engage on the high-risk plants and plant products first, and from April 2021 all regulated goods will be pre-notified and accompanied by a phytosanitary certificate. We will be extending physical import checks to other regulated goods from July 2021. We will be continuing our risk-based programme of inland surveillance as a further check that requirements are being met.

I say also to the noble Lord that we are working closely with other departments and agencies to ensure that there is a good join-up. We have also listened to the concerns of industry to ensure that new requirements are practical and appropriate, and are working to ensure that there are not blockages of fresh produce.

In response to my noble friend Lady Fookes, I say that have been in regular engagement with industry. More particularly, day in, day out, there has been work between officials and the Horticultural Trades Association and others. Most recently, we have undertaken a series of feasibility sessions with more than 300 participants, and equivalent export sessions. Alongside these feasibility sessions, Defra is hosting a series of webinars, open to all, on the new plant health requirements.

Northern Ireland, mentioned by the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Whitchurch, and my noble friend Lord Taylor of Holbeach, will maintain alignment with EU regulations. These instruments focus on Great Britain’s biosecurity and the pests that threaten it. Northern Ireland will retain its own separate legislative arrangements in relation to the continued application of the EU’s sanitary and phytosanitary rules. A further instrument is under development to set out the arrangements for qualifying Northern Ireland goods which are regulated plants or plant products and can move from Northern Ireland to and within Great Britain under the Government’s unfettered access arrangements. We expect to lay this instrument before the end of the year.

My noble friend the Duke of Montrose and the noble Lord, Lord Walney, referred to the length of these SIs. I have considerable sympathy: combined they are 343 pages. They are simply amending the retained EU legislation to reflect risks to Great Britain so that measures against the introduction or spread of harmful organisms continue to remain effective and operable following the end of the transition period.

My noble friends the Duke of Montrose and Lady Altmann asked about pests. Of the 20 pests on the EU priority pest list, 11 already have UK contingency plans and five relate to tropical fruit flies and citrus pests; for the remaining four, contingency plans have been prioritised for development. I say to my noble friend Lady Altmann that our risk assessment is of the risk to Great Britain now and our responsibilities for biosecurity.

I say to the noble Lord, Lord Walney, that protecting against Xylella remains a priority. We have intensified our surveillance, inspection and testing regime for Xylella host plants because they present a considerable danger.

On IT, raised by the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, all essential deliverables are ready for 1 January, including essential IT system amendments, solutions for inland checks for transit material and UK passports, and all external content and guidance. Recruitment is under way in the APHA. On the resources point, the Government are investing £705 million to ensure that our border systems are fully operable by 1 January. The APHA is well on track to have in place more than 200 new inspectors and administrative staff by the end of the year, and we expect this number to increase to 250 full-time equivalents by July 2021. The Government in Scotland are also boosting resources.

On audits and the audit functions carried out by SANTE F, these have already been incorporated into the UK-wide plant health risk group arrangements. That includes a process on audits to scrutinise third countries exporting to the UK and manage the scrutiny from third countries to which we want to export.

On the other point from my noble friend Lady Altmann, the UK plant health risk group identifies, assesses and manages plant health risks. This working group will provide an equivalent level of technical scrutiny. On the question of general powers in the event of a significant plant health risk, general plant health powers are available.

On TRACES, although linking to TRACES remains an option, with third countries able to manually input data to the EU system, during 2021 we are aiming to use the International Plant Protection Convention hub as a single platform to exchange electronic phytosanitary certificates instead of unnecessarily doubling our own efforts by creating multiple interfaces for the rest of the world trade and the EU.

The noble Baroness, Lady Jones, asked about devolution. We are working closely with officials. Separate but parallel domestic legislation is being made in Scotland and Wales, which will ensure that plant health regulations are completely aligned in Great Britain, while respecting devolved arrangements. The plant passport numbers will be compatible. Our experts continue to enable horizon scanning, undertaken by the European and Mediterranean Plant Protection Organization and other organisations.

On the question of the basis of the review and further reviews of legislation, the UK intends to ensure that its SPS regime remains appropriate to address the risks that it faces. Defra has a dedicated team of specialist plant health risk analysts and managers working with the devolved Administrations, monitoring emerging and revised threats.

I am fully aware that, in a period of change, there will be businesses that are worried. I want to reassure all businesses that this is a very important task for Defra and the APHA. We are working on these matters daily and will continue to do so. This is a great opportunity for UK businesses. I understand the difficulties and we are working with them. But on the basis of these instruments being about UK and GB biosecurity, I beg to move.

Motion agreed.

Plant Health (Phytosanitary Conditions) (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2020

Monday 7th December 2020

(3 years, 7 months ago)

Grand Committee
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Considered in Grand Committee
15:22
Moved by
Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait Lord Gardiner of Kimble
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That the Grand Committee do consider the Plant Health (Phytosanitary Conditions) (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2020.

Motion agreed.
Lord Alderdice Portrait The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Alderdice) (LD)
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The Grand Committee stands adjourned until 3.45 pm. I remind noble Lords to sanitise their desks and chairs before leaving the Room.

15:22
Sitting suspended.

Arrangement of Business

Monday 7th December 2020

(3 years, 7 months ago)

Grand Committee
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Announcement
15:45
Lord Alderdice Portrait The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Alderdice) (LD)
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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 microphone system for physical participants has changed. To reduce the noise for remote participants, your microphones will no longer be turned on at all times. 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 remains the same. The time limit for debate on the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (Amendment) Order 2020 and the two other Motions is one hour.

15:46

Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (Amendment) Order 2020

Monday 7th December 2020

(3 years, 7 months ago)

Grand Committee
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Moved by
Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait Lord Gardiner of Kimble
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That the Grand Committee do consider the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (Amendment) Order 2020.

Relevant document: 35th Report from the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee

Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Gardiner of Kimble) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I declare my farming interests as set out in the register. The matters in these instruments are closely related, as they are the first produced using the powers of the Agriculture Act 2020. They lay the groundwork for our new agricultural policy.

First, the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (Amendment) Order 2020 assigns additional functions to the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board, or AHDB, enabling it to run the new livestock information service—LIS—effectively. The LIS will operate in England, while the AHDB will be able to collect, manage and make available information regarding the identification, movement and health of animals, and to allocate unique identification codes for the means of identifying animals.

Livestock are currently identified through three separate livestock traceability services: one for cattle, one covering sheep and goats, and one for pigs. As existing systems are species-specific, keepers with more than one species of livestock must switch between databases. The LIS replaces these separate systems with a single multi-species system. The existing sheep service in England is expected to transition to the new arrangements in spring 2021. Cattle and pig services are due to transition in 2022. The service will be more cost-effective and user-friendly; it will allow faster, more accurate livestock traceability, enabling us to manage disease and protect human health better, giving confidence to trading partners. The LIS will use cloud-based IT infrastructure, ensuring that the system has capacity to scale up response when user demand is high.

Although the LIS operates in England, an important part of the service is working with the devolved Administrations to ensure that we can share data, allowing seamless livestock movement and traceability throughout the UK. Defra and the devolved Administrations will enter into an agreement to control and share data. Each territory’s traceability systems will be able to communicate with each other, supporting day-to-day business operations such as cross-border moves. This is called the UK view. The ability for veterinary officials across the UK to be able to access the UK view is essential to ensuring a rapid, targeted response in disease-control situations.

The AHDB will also run a unique number identification service on behalf of England and Wales, controlling the issuing of official individual identification numbers to animals. The new system will also allow for value-added services where submitted data can be used to generate information in wider areas, such as livestock productivity and disease management.

The Direct Payments to Farmers (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2020 amend and update direct payments legislation as it applies in England. The legislation governing direct payment schemes contains financial ceilings to calculate direct payments to farmers. However, it only includes financial ceilings up to and including the 2020 claim year. This instrument specifies how the Secretary of State will set financial ceilings for England beyond 2020. Once these provisions on financial ceilings have come into force, 2021 ceilings for England can be set. This will be done by the end of this year. Ceilings for future years will be equivalent to England’s share of the 2020 UK national ceiling. This is because the ceilings are the starting point for payment calculations, before any reductions are applied to payments to phase them out.

The regulations also make minor changes to ensure that schemes continue to work effectively in England beyond 2020. This includes replacing dates specific to the 2020 scheme year with equivalent dates that are not year specific. The regulations also remove rules that are not applied in England, such as those relating to voluntary coupled support, which is operated in Scotland.

No substantive policy changes are made by these regulations. They ensure that direct payment schemes in England can continue beyond the end of the 2020 scheme and are largely technical. The Government remain committed to beginning to phase out direct payments from 2021 as part of their ambitious agricultural reforms in England. We will bring forward a separate instrument to apply reductions to the payments so that we can phase them out over a seven-year transition period. Devolved Administrations plan to make their own legislation in relation to their direct payment schemes.

The World Trade Organisation Agreement on Agriculture (Domestic Support) Regulations 2020 are UK-wide. The instrument ensures that after the end of the transition period, the UK continues to comply with its international obligations under the WTO Agreement on Agriculture in relation to classification and notification of domestic support and its commitment to reduce its aggregate measurement of support. Compliance with the agreement was previously managed by the EU on the UK’s behalf. This instrument is limited in scope to ensuring continued compliance with the agreement. This is a reserved issue because individual nations of the UK do not have legislative competence to act in these matters for other parts of the UK.

The Agreement on Agriculture divides domestic support into “green box”, “blue box” or “amber box”, depending on the potential to distort trade. Under the agreement, each country must limit the amount of trade-distorting amber box domestic support given to agricultural producers. The UK’s overall amber box spending limit remains unchanged after EU exit. These regulations specify the amounts of amber box payments that may be given in each UK nation. Limits have been set, following consultation with devolved Administrations, at a level not constraining policy choices, meaning that there will be no impact on farmers.

The regulations also outline the procedure for classifying such schemes and permit the Secretary of State to request information from devolved Administrations where needed to enable the UK to satisfy Agreement on Agriculture obligations. The regulations outline the transparent and objective process by which UK constituent nations will share information on proposed support schemes in order to establish their classification and ensure timely and accurate notification of domestic support to the WTO.

These instruments implement provisions provided for by the Agriculture Act 2020 and I beg to move.

15:53
Lord Naseby Portrait Lord Naseby (Con)
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My Lords, I declare an interest as the owner of 40 acres of woodland registered with the Forestry Commission, the owner of a small vineyard of 100 vines and a member of the winegrowers’ association.

I want to focus on the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board regulations. It is not immediately obvious from paragraph 7.1 of the Explanatory Memorandum what horticulture is doing here. Is there an equivalent measure for horticulture to the statements made about animal movement? Where does the arboreal dimension fit into this? Does the instrument cover poultry? Poultry is not mentioned. Does it cover bees? Both are important parts of livestock more broadly for people in the UK.

I do not yet read anywhere that we are picking up the opportunity that this country has with horticulture. One way or the other, things will change in a few weeks. We know the history of horticulture in the UK. We have lost out to Holland, principally because of the cost of energy. You only have to drive round Bedfordshire and associated counties that were big in horticulture to notice a substantial reduction. There is a huge, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for import substitution, so that we can see better performance from horticulture and pick up on the development work that was being done and may still be done on fruit trees and fruit bushes, as well as vegetables in general—all geared up to import substitution. While I am not clear where the horticulture sector is outlined in the document, it seems relevant, as horticulture is mentioned in the title.

The document talks about the Scottish Government and the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs. Having been deeply involved in the internal market Bill and the challenges for liaison between the centre and the devolved Governments, I would like to know what happens if the Scottish Government or the Northern Irish department of agriculture decide to disagree with the centre on their own unique identification codes. Is there a mechanism whereby difficulties in this area can be put to rest?

Broadly in this area, the department has put out a helpful leaflet. I refer in particular to the annexe summary of new schemes on page 22, which I studied over the weekend. On the Forestry Commission incentives, applications are apparently open all year. Are these the existing ones, which have been going for a long time? The leaflet says that they start in 2020. As a registered owner, I am not aware of having received any communication from the Forestry Commission about new incentives.

The tree health pilot, which the Minister has mentioned before, is important because of the problems with ash and elm. It starts in October next year. When will this be communicated fully? Are we sticking to April 2021, as the document says? On the tree health scheme, which is also important, I see that further information is not expected until 2024. It is difficult to understand why the delay should be so long.

The World Trade Organization regulations are important. There is not a lot to ask other than to pick up on one point. We are a founding member of the WTO, which I hope is to our benefit. On paragraph 6.1, what has been the reaction from the devolved assemblies to the amber box support? If there is a difference of opinion, who will make the decision? It is not entirely clear from the document. Finally, I would be grateful for an explanation in more depth of paragraph 6.4, which also refers to disagreements. That is all I want to say. I do not want to make any reference to the direct payments.

Baroness Barker Portrait The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Baroness Barker) (LD)
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I call the next speaker, the noble Lord, Lord Bhatia. Oh, Lord Bhatia, we cannot hear you. We will go to the next speaker and try to come back to you if we possibly can. I call the noble Baroness, Lady Bakewell of Hardington Mandeville.

15:59
Baroness Bakewell of Hardington Mandeville Portrait Baroness Bakewell of Hardington Mandeville (LD)
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My Lords, I thank the Minister for his introduction to these three statutory instruments and apologise for missing the briefing which he so kindly provided. The Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (Amendment) Order 2020 is very short and concise. It moves the functions of identification, movement and health of animals and allocating identification codes from the AHDB to a new livestock information service, the LIS.

It is essential that animals should be able to move around and be accurately tracked. The LIS will make it much easier to track animals as they will all be on one database, instead of three separate databases under the current AHDB. However, if there are 165,000 keepers of farmed livestock and nearly 60,000 keep more than one species, that is a lot of livestock being combined from three databases into one. Has this database been fully tested? In other words: does it work? While it is extremely advantageous for farmers to visit only one database to look at their cattle, pigs and sheep instead of one for each species, it will be necessary that the computer systems work. Is Livestock Information Ltd a private company, or does it operate under the auspices of Defra? Track and trace for animals is vital to prevent disease outbreaks and controlling disease once outbreaks have occurred. Like so many things in life, if the computer system fails then chaos results. I would be grateful for the Minister’s reassurance on this point.

The Direct Payments to Farmers (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2020 ensure that farmers will receive their direct payments from January 2021 and set out financial ceilings used to calculate farmers’ direct payments. However, I could find no information on what these ceilings were in the actual instrument. As with a lot of statutory instruments, unless you have the original legislation in front of you it is very difficult to interpret what is proposed. The devolved Administrations have their own legislation which deals with these issues, so this SI relates solely to England. Can the Minister say whether after January 2021 all four Administrations, including England, will pay their farmers at the same rate for the same activities? If not, I foresee difficulties with cross-border trade.

The direct payment covers basic payments, greening payments and young farmer payments. It is my understanding that the direct payments are on a sliding scale and reduce over the period of the transition from CAP to ELMS, but there is no mention of this in the instrument, which states that the seven-year transition information is not covered in this SI. Where will this sliding scale of support under the withdrawal from direct payments be covered?

The Government have committed to maintain the same financial support for farmers as they previously enjoyed, at £1.8 billion annually. I am pleased to note that in future payments will not be made in euros, so farmers will not be subject to the vagaries of exchange rates. However, in paragraph 7.7 of the Explanatory Memorandum, the text states that the SI

“removes the need for recipients of Direct Payments to meet ‘active farmer’ requirements”.

What is meant by “active farmer”? Does this mean that an inactive farmer—one who no longer manages land or livestock—will receive a direct payment?

The World Trade Organisation Agreement on Agriculture (Domestic Support) Regulations 2020 ensure that the UK continues to comply with its obligations under the WTO Agreement on Agriculture, the AoA. This ensures reductions in its aggregate measurement of support, a key measure used by the WTO to assess domestic support for agricultural commodities. This SI also deals with UK obligations on “amber box” payments with trade-distorting effects, to which the Minister has referred. Defra says that this instrument specifies the amounts of amber box payments that may be given in each country of the UK; they are limited under the AoA, and the aim is to reduce them over time. The Secondary Legislation and Scrutiny Committee has published a paragraph on this instrument, which allows for each UK Administration to design and implement their own agricultural support schemes within an amber box spending envelope set by this instrument.

I would like to ask the Minister about the limits of support at Paragraph 4 of the instrument, which refers to how the total sum is calculated but does not give any indication of what the total will be. However, it states that England will get 49.2%, Northern Ireland 7.49%, Scotland 12.6%, and Wales 6.83%. This does not include the reserve. Are these percentages permanent or will they change each year? I assume these percentages are for the year 2021, but can the Minister please confirm?

The instrument also indicated that spending from the reserve may be used on amber box domestic support in a Crown dependency. Does this include all Crown dependencies or only some? I look forward to the Minister’s response to my questions and those of other noble Lords taking part in this debate.

Baroness Barker Portrait The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Baroness Barker) (LD)
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My Lords, after the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Whitchurch, I shall call the noble Lord, Lord Bhatia, to speak.

16:06
Baroness Jones of Whitchurch Portrait Baroness Jones of Whitchurch (Lab)
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My Lords, I thank the Minister for his introduction to these SIs and the helpful briefing beforehand. I shall deal with the SI on the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board first.

It obviously makes sense to have a streamlined and digitalised system for recording the movement of animals around the UK. This is crucial to manage and control any outbreak of disease or the spread of invasive pests. We know from painful experiences of the past the devastation that diseases such as foot and mouth can cause. That can be exacerbated by the movement of animals around the country. On the face of it, setting up a separate body in England to provide a multi-species traceability system will be a welcome and progressive move, and I note that it is broadly supported by the stakeholder organisations and devolved Administrations that were consulted. However, I just have a few questions about the status and operation of the livestock information service being established as a subsidiary of the AHDB.

The estimated cost of delivering the new service is £32 million over three years, and the net benefit over 10 years is estimated to be £30 million. However, as it is a limited company, does this mean that it will also be a for-profit company? Will it have directors, and to whom will they report? Farmers currently pay a levy to use the ADHB service. Will they have to pay for the new LIS service, and how do the anticipated charges for farmers compare to the current costs?

If the new service is intended to begin in spring next year, can I echo the question asked by the noble Baroness, Lady Bakewell, about the state of the new IT system? Is it already functioning and has it been properly stress-tested? Has it been tested to deal with the quantity of data to which she referred? Will the existing and the new systems run in parallel for a period of time, or is it proposed to have a D-day switch from one to the other? If there subsequently prove to be errors in the data collection, who will be responsible? There could be catastrophic results, if that was the case.

I also ask about the devolved implications. This is an England-only scheme. As the EM points out, Scotland and Northern Ireland intend to operate their own schemes, issuing identification numbers for animals that would allow them to be traced. Are they all proposing their own digital services and, if so, will they be compatible with the English version? Will the data generated be shared across the four devolved nations? Obviously, animals can and do move across the borders quite frequently. Is it proposed that the English data system will be able to identify and track the unique identification codes issued by the devolved nations?

Turning to the second SI on direct payments to farmers, the Minister will know that when we were dealing with the direct payments to farmers Bill earlier this year, I and others pressed him on why that Bill had a sunset clause which allowed for the extension of the basic farm payment scheme for one year only. The Minister’s response at the time was that the provisions of the Agriculture Bill would then kick in. But I said then that we would need some persuading that the transitional arrangements envisaged in the Agriculture Bill would be ready to be implemented on 1 January next year—and so it has come to pass.

Since the SI was published, we have seen the Government’s plan for sustainable farming announced this week. It confirms a cut of 5% in the direct payments next year, with further cuts thereafter, so when will we see a separate set of regulations confirming the cuts in these payments? Will it be necessary before the end of the year? Has Defra undertaken an impact assessment on the impact on different sectors and farm sizes? What financial support will be made available for farmers whose livelihoods are threatened by these proposals? These proposals are for England only, so has Defra done an assessment of the impact of different levels of farm subsidies being paid across the four devolved nations and the consequences for prices and the internal market of any divergence from a standard set of prices?

Finally, I will just say a few words on the WTO SI. Again, these have significant implications for relations with the devolved nations, as we discussed during consideration of the Agriculture Bill. At that time, there were concerns that the Bill gave the Secretary of State too much power to decide how farm support payments anywhere in the UK should be classified in relation to WTO rules and to set limits on those payments.

The EM says that these regulations were drafted in consultation with the devolved Administrations and that the majority of their comments were accommodated. Can the Minister say a little more about the nature of these discussions and what areas of dispute remain with the devolved Administrations? Paragraph 6 of the EM says that any devolved nation which wants to make changes to a scheme must notify the others. But what happens if another devolved nation is unhappy with these actions, and what would be the consequences if it followed that through?

I look forward to the Minister’s response to these questions.

16:12
Lord Bhatia Portrait Lord Bhatia (Non-Afl) [V]
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This SI has been prepared by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. It amends the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board Order 2008 to assign additional functions to that board. These functions relate to collecting, managing and making available information regarding the identification, movement and health of animals and allocating unique identification codes to the means of identifying animals. This would provide a multi-species traceability system in England and facilitate the tracing of livestock movements across the UK.

The department has established a subsidiary company named Livestock Information Ltd. This company will be accountable to Defra. The company will provide services to six agricultural and horticultural sectors, including the beef, sheep and pig industries in England and the milk industry in Great Britain. Of the 165,000 people who farm livestock today, only 60,000 keep more than one species. The nature of this industry is such that the livestock move across the UK, and this service will provide a unique number for each animal, which will ensure disease management.

Food standards are extremely important, and this regulation will ensure that food quality is monitored on an ongoing basis. There has been a press report recently which said that science has now produced a man-made product that does not require animals, thereby having an impact on this industry. Can the Minister give some information on whether the department is making an impact assessment of this new product, as it is likely to affect the whole industry, thereby making thousands of people redundant?

16:14
Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait Lord Gardiner of Kimble (Con)
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My Lords, I thank all noble Lords for contributing to this debate. I think we all regret that my noble friend Lord Naseby was not in the earlier consideration debate on plant health and plant products. I agree with him that there is considerable opportunity for growing in Britain. What I would say is that this particular instrument relates to adding further functions for the AHDB, but of course the AHDB currently serves six agricultural and horticultural sectors. From that point of view, today’s work is about the livestock information service specifically. Bees and poultry are not engaged in this order, and in fact the existing AHDB order does not include bees or poultry.

I turn to some of the questions, particularly on the governance structure. The noble Baronesses, Lady Jones of Whitchurch and Lady Bakewell of Hardington Mandeville, raised this. The LIS will be run by Livestock Information Ltd—LI Ltd—a subsidiary body of the AHDB. LI Ltd is wholly separate from AHDB levy schemes, and it is not funded by them. LI Ltd is a not-for-profit company, limited by guarantee by the AHDB and Defra. It will not charge fees to keepers for providing livestock traceability services. Movement reporting is a statutory requirement, and the service will be fully paid for by Defra, as existing services are now. LI Ltd may in the future charge for offering value-added services above and beyond statutory requirements. Any such services would be agreed with industry. It could thus include services which could help reduce or eradicate endemic disease.

I absolutely understand the point the noble Baronesses made about a new system and its readiness. The underpinning information technology has been in development over a longer time period ahead of the new company launching in October 2019. Defra receives regular updates, and LI Ltd is currently on track to lead with live services in spring 2021. Defra actively monitors delivery and would not decommission existing traceability services until the new one was ready. Indeed, I say to both noble Baronesses that the transition to the new service will be incremental, so there will be periods with old and new systems running. All changes will be carefully managed so that keepers will have to enter their data only once; in other words, a pragmatic solution.

My noble friend Lord Naseby and the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Whitchurch, asked about the separation of traceability services for each Administration, and I absolutely agree: they need to be compatible, and I confirm that this is the case. Any livestock movement between UK nations should allow the full continuity of traceability. Defra is working closely with devolved Administrations and data-sharing agreements will govern information moving with the animals.

I turn to the direct payment instrument. The noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Whitchurch, asked about the direct payment legislation, the 2020 scheme and the earlier legislation. Indeed, the Direct Payments to Farmers (Legislative Continuity) Act 2020 provided continuity of payments for the 2020 scheme year. The Act was focused on providing direct payments for farmers as the UK left the EU, not on extending the scope of the regulations beyond 2020. This instrument uses powers in the Agriculture Act 2020, always designed as the vehicle for our agricultural reforms, including making substantive amendments to retained EU law. That allowed post-2020 changes, including the power to extend direct payments beyond 2020, to be debated together. To those who asked whether we will need new statutory instruments for direct payments each year, I say that the changes made via this instrument are not specific to 2021. It will not be necessary to lay further instruments to continue existing direct payment schemes for future years.

The noble Baroness, Lady Bakewell, and other noble Lords asked about the reductions in 2021 and thereafter. We intend to legislate for the reductions to 2021 direct payments in an affirmative statutory instrument early next year. Simplifications to the scheme will be made through a separate statutory instrument that was laid on 1 December.

The EU rules on active farmers have not been applied in England since 2017. They were thought to have added burdens and caused confusion for farmers. This statutory instrument does not change the requirement that you must be a farmer in order to claim direct payments.

Forgive me for being so punctilious about the impact assessment, but this statutory instrument allows existing direct payment schemes in England to continue beyond 2020. An impact assessment of this instrument is not necessary as the instrument does not introduce changes for farmers, make policy changes or set reductions for phasing out the payments for agricultural transition. I will take questions on this in a separate statutory instrument debate, but it is important to say it here.

The noble Baroness, Lady Jones, also asked about the UK internal market. We all know that agriculture is devolved. The approach to direct payments in each UK nation is a matter for each Administration. Direct payments are largely decoupled from production and should not, therefore, distort trade. There are already significant differences in the implementation of direct payment schemes within the United Kingdom.

On the WTO instrument, the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Whitchurch, and my noble friend Lord Naseby asked about disputes between any of the UK nations. These regulations set out a transparent and objective decision-making process for classifying schemes according to WTO definitions. The devolved Administrations will be able to design their own policies and schemes, propose WTO classifications for these schemes and provide evidence in support of the proposed classifications. All four UK Administrations will then discuss their proposed support schemes and how to reach agreement on their classification according to WTO criteria before they are introduced. The provisions allow for a dispute resolution process, but this would be used only in the unlikely event that agreement could not be reached on classification of a new and amended domestic support scheme. If agreement cannot be reached there is provision for the Secretary of State to make the final decision. I should emphasise that it is expected that the vast majority of issues will be agreed. The objective is that any disputes should be resolved through discussion and collaboration between the four Administrations.

The noble Baroness, Lady Bakewell, asked how limits are calculated. The “amber box” limits are equivalent to the average annual level of all domestic support—green, blue and amber—given to agricultural producers in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland between 2014 and 2017. The amber box limits therefore accommodate current levels of green, blue and amber box support, meaning that policy choices in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland are not constrained. The limits are expressed as a percentage of the current UK aggregate measurement of support, as set out in the UK goods schedule at the WTO.

The noble Baroness, Lady Bakewell, also asked about direct payments. The English share of the UK direct payments financial ceiling is €2.07 billion, which equates to £1.8 billion and will be used as the basis for setting the direct payment financial ceiling in future years. Since agriculture is devolved, it will be up to each devolved Administration to determine their own approach to the direct payment schemes.

I will look at Hansard in case there are other points which I have missed. The noble Lord, Lord Bhatia, made one or two other remarks to which I shall attend. In the meantime, these instruments are worthy of your Lordships’ support. I beg to move.

Motion agreed.

Direct Payments to Farmers (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2020

Monday 7th December 2020

(3 years, 7 months ago)

Grand Committee
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Considered in Grand Committee
16:25
Moved by
Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait Lord Gardiner of Kimble
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

That the Grand Committee do consider the Direct Payments to Farmers (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2020.

Relevant document: 35th Report from the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee

Motion agreed.

World Trade Organisation Agreement on Agriculture (Domestic Support) Regulations 2020

Monday 7th December 2020

(3 years, 7 months ago)

Grand Committee
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Considered in Grand Committee
16:25
Moved by
Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait Lord Gardiner of Kimble
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

That the Grand Committee do consider the World Trade Organisation Agreement on Agriculture (Domestic Support) Regulations 2020.

Relevant document: 36th Report from the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee

Motion agreed.
Baroness Barker Portrait The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Baroness Barker) (LD)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The Grand Committee stands adjourned until 5 pm. I remind Members to sanitise their desks and chairs before leaving the Room.

16:25
Sitting suspended.

Arrangement of Business

Monday 7th December 2020

(3 years, 7 months ago)

Grand Committee
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Announcement
17:00
Baroness Barker Portrait The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Baroness Barker) (LD)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, the hybrid Grand Committee will now resume. Some Members are here in person, respecting social distancing, while 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 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 remains the same. The time limit for debate on the following statutory instrument is one hour.

Unmanned Aircraft (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2020

Monday 7th December 2020

(3 years, 7 months ago)

Grand Committee
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Considered in Grand Committee
17:02
Moved by
Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton
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That the Grand Committee do consider the Unmanned Aircraft (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2020.

Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Transport (Baroness Vere of Norbiton) (Con)
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My Lords, these draft regulations will be made under the powers conferred by the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 and the European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Act 2020. The regulations amend EU Delegated Regulation 2019/945, which sets out new product standards for unmanned aircraft, and EU Implementing Regulation 2019/947, which sets out new requirements for the operation of unmanned aircraft. The regulations also make minor changes to the Air Navigation Order 2016 by removing references to the European Aviation Safety Agency—EASA—to ensure that flight restriction zones around protected aerodromes continue to function, and to Regulation 10 of the Operation of Air Services (Amendment etc.) (EU Exit) Regulations 2018 to ensure that the savings provision applies from 31 December 2020.

17:03
Sitting suspended for a Division in the House.
17:08
Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton (Con)
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My Lords, I will continue. I was just about to talk about the background to the EU regulation, and I will focus on the unmanned aircraft element of these regulations.

EU Regulation 2019/945 requires unmanned aircraft and associated accessories to be designed and manufactured in accordance with certain standards. It creates classes of unmanned aircraft and defines the characteristics of those classes. It imposes certain obligations on manufacturers, importers and distributors, such as ensuring that an unmanned aircraft is accompanied by the manufacturer’s instructions. It also defines those unmanned aircraft whose design, production and maintenance shall be subject to certification. This regulation entered into force and became applicable on 1 July 2019. However, transitional provisions mean that while most existing unmanned aircraft can continue to be sold for now, products placed on the market after 1 January 2023 must comply with the requirements of the delegated regulation.

EU Regulation 2019/947 requires unmanned aircraft to be operated in accordance with certain rules and procedures. It creates operational categories that unmanned aircraft can be flown in, proportionate to the level of risk posed by an operation. The open category, for the lowest-risk operations, requires operators and remote pilots to abide by certain requirements. If those requirements cannot be met, an authorisation must be obtained to fly in the specific category. The highest-risk operations, including the use of unmanned aircraft designed for carrying dangerous goods or transporting people, must occur in the certified category. This requires the certification of the unmanned aircraft and the operator, and, where applicable, the licensing of the remote pilot. This regulation also imposes requirements on operators and remote pilots to ensure that operations are carried out safely and securely. For example, remote pilots must meet any applicable competency requirements for the flights they undertake. The regulation entered into force on 1 July 2019, but it is not applicable until 31 December this year. Therefore, it will still be retained in UK law.

As civil aviation is a reserved policy area, both regulations apply to the whole of the United Kingdom. The withdrawal Act will retain both the delegated and implementing regulations in UK law after the end of the transition period. This draft instrument makes the changes necessary so that the regulations continue to function correctly. This is essential to ensuring the continuation of an effective regulatory regime for unmanned aircraft.

This instrument is subject to the affirmative procedure because it creates or amends a power to legislate. For example, it provides the Secretary of State with the power to make regulations designating geographical zones for safety, security, privacy or environmental reasons.

The most significant amendment being made to the delegated regulation is providing a new power for the Secretary of State to designate standards after the end of the transition period. Until that power is exercised, unmanned aircraft and associated accessories that conform to EU harmonised standards will continue to be considered compliant with EU requirements, and those requirements will be recognised in the UK. It is not possible for these harmonised standards to be recognised in UK law as yet as they are still under development.

Another significant amendment is replacing the term “notified body” with “approved body”, thereby enabling the Secretary of State to approve bodies to carry out conformity assessments without notifying the European Commission. Other changes being made to the regulation are mostly minor and technical in nature; for example, replacing the phrase

“a language which can be easily understood”

with “English”.

The amendments being made to the implementing regulation are minor but equally important. As well as providing the Secretary of State with the regulation-making power to designate geographical zones, this instrument amends various references to EU institutions and appoints the Civil Aviation Authority, the CAA, as the competent authority for the purposes of the implementing regulation.

This instrument demonstrates that the Government are committed to ensuring a fully functioning regulatory framework for unmanned aircraft after the transition period. While we are focused on securing the best arrangements for our future relationship with the EU, including in the aviation sector, this instrument will ensure that legitimate, safe unmanned aircraft operations can continue while ensuring effective oversight if we get to the end of the transition period without a deal. I commend the regulations to the Committee.

17:13
Lord Foulkes of Cumnock Portrait Lord Foulkes of Cumnock (Lab Co-op) [V]
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My Lords, I thank the Minister for her helpful introduction to our debate on unmanned aircraft—sometimes, of course, described as drones. They are very different from the drones of the Drones Club of PG Wodehouse, Bertie Wooster and Jeeves, which we know so well, although the way we keep hearing some Ministers—with the notable exception of course of the noble Baroness—going on about “taking back control”, I see some connection with drones. If taking back control means the House of Lords and the Commons dealing with hundreds and hundreds of these statutory instruments, there is surely some connection. With the outcome of the discussions on our exit from the European Union still poised between no deal and a very poor deal, it does not bode well either way for the future.

How does all this affect unmanned aircraft? First, as the Minister rightly said, the EU regulations deal with the product standard for unmanned aircraft—that is the present. Do Her Majesty’s Government have any plans to change these and, if they do, why? How would any change affect the export or the import of drones?

Secondly, we are going to take control of rules for the operation of third-country unmanned aircraft operators. Could the Minister tell us how far beyond our shores this will apply, particularly in relation to the channel? We have a lot of disputation about fish in different parts of the waters around us. We do not want that to apply also to unmanned aircraft.

Could the Minister also tell us whether there are any plans to alter the requirements on maximum take-off mass, speed, height, serial number, or the characteristic dimensions of three metres or more, and on whether the drones are designed for transporting people or dangerous goods? Also, do the Government plan to make any changes on the age limit for operating unmanned aircraft if we take back control on it? If so, in what direction and why? Equally, does she envisage any changes on licensing operators when we take back control? Are any changes planned on arrangements for insurance, or for the examination requirements for obtaining a licence? The Explanatory Memorandum tells us that there are “no immediate plans” for the Secretary of State to designate new standards, but it would be helpful to know whether there are plans beyond the immediate future, or we must wonder why it is so vital to take back control in this area.

As the Minister said, the territorial extent of the regulations is the United Kingdom, I am glad to say, but paragraph 6.2 of the Explanatory Memorandum says that the Act also contains powers for the devolved Administrations to make secondary legislation. As she will know, there has been a lot of controversy over the allocation of the powers being returned from the European Union, as I know only too well as a member of the Common Frameworks Scrutiny Committee, so it would be helpful if she could clarify the respective responsibilities. She said in her introduction that civil aviation is a reserved function, as we know, so why are the devolved authorities mentioned? I advised her of this query in advance, when she very kindly asked us the points that we might raise. I hope that she will be able to deal with it in her reply.

I also take this opportunity to ask the Minister—I warned her about this as well—what lessons have been learned from the incident in December 2018, when drones closed the whole of Gatwick Airport. Could she tell us what action the Government have taken, or propose to take, as a result of their investigations?

These unmanned aircraft can be useful in many ways, such as for delivering medicines urgently, for traffic surveillance or in other areas, but they can also be deployed by those wishing to cause harm. Can the Minister assure us that there is close co-operation with the police and intelligence services to prevent any such use, particularly by terrorists?

Finally, I sympathise with the Minister for having to deal with this and many other statutory instruments. Nevertheless, notwithstanding all this, I look forward to many more when we return to membership of the European Union, as we undoubtedly will one day, because it is the most successful multinational co-operative body in the world today. With that, I am sure other noble Lords will be glad to know that I am well within my time.

17:19
Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth Portrait Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth (Con) [V]
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My Lords, it is a great pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Foulkes of Cumnock, who, as always, displayed great insight and perception in his analysis of the current position. I found myself in agreement with many of his points.

I thank my noble friend the Minister for setting out clearly the effect of these important regulations. I appreciate that the intention is, broadly speaking, to carry on the existing law from the European Union and European Union Aviation Safety Agency, an approach with which I certainly agree. Too often we seem to be taking back control just for the sake of it, so it is good to see, in these regulations at least, inherent in our approach a degree of honesty, and that we are having consistency from 1 January 2021. I am also pleased to see a transition period provided for in the regulations—another transition period—until 1 January 2023, permitting unmarked, unmanned aircraft, legacy drones, to continue to be placed on the market in the United Kingdom. I am sure that that is a common-sense measure.

I have several questions for the Minister, some of which will echo what the noble Lord, Lord Foulkes, has already touched on. Are there any plans for divergence from the existing EU position? There are none in the immediate future, as we know, but is there any plan in the medium to long term and, if so, from what date and what form will that divergence take? I think we need to know that. Further, I ask for reassurance on whether there is a close working relationship with the EU so we are kept au fait with any future plans that we may wish to incorporate into United Kingdom standards from the EU—or, at least, be aware of what EU developments are in this area.

I appreciate that these regulations deal with reserved matters, as has been stated. However, clearly, as so often, whether matters are reserved or devolved, there is an interface with the devolved Administrations in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. I welcome the fact that that has been reflected in what the Minister said and, indeed, in the regulations themselves. I seek reassurance from the Minister that we are ensuring close liaison with the devolved authorities where appropriate.

One such area would be that there is a desirable nexus in the area of employment. In that regard, I ask my noble friend—and I have given her advance notice of this—about job prospects at the West Wales Airport in Aberporth, Ceredigion; and in Caernarfon, Gwynedd. I have no doubt that my good friend the noble Lord, Lord Wigley, will touch on that as well. In both areas, drones may well be used; I hope they are. There is clearly a key role for drones in maritime search and rescue, which would be reflected in both those areas. But also, as the noble Lord, Lord Foulkes, touched on, they can be used in counterpollution work, defence use and traffic surveillance, as well as having commercial possibilities, for videos of events such as weddings and other gatherings. It would be good to see the United Kingdom in the forefront of this—and, of course, I am particularly keen that Wales should be in general terms, and in both those sites. I hope that the Minister can comment on the feasibility of job prospects and enterprise in the United Kingdom generally, and certainly in relation to Thales and Bristow in the two sites to which I have referred. It would be good to see the UK lead the way in the unmanned sector of aerospace.

I certainly support these regulations, but overall I would like the Minister to give us an undertaking that, at the heart of government policy, there is a drive to ensure that the United Kingdom leads on the unmanned sector of aerospace, providing public facilities on search and rescue, as I have said, as well as in surveying for pollution and traffic surveillance, in defence interests and commercially, and that we seek to protect and enhance high-value jobs in Wales and throughout the United Kingdom in a safe and secure way.

17:24
Lord Naseby Portrait Lord Naseby (Con)
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My Lords, I too welcome the opportunity to ask a few questions. Paragraph 4 of the Explanatory Memorandum is on the extent and territorial application, which is obviously the UK. However, having sat through many sittings on the internal market Bill recently, I know that there is a sensitivity between the devolved nations and the centre. In what way will we ensure that there is clear linkage and working together on this important and developing issue? My noble friend Lord Bourne made the same point.

I understand why we are taking the approach of designated standards. My only question is: will the UK be informed of cases where there were difficulties in registering a new drone or drone variant? If we are not aware of where there are difficulties, somebody might try to register here at some point.

Paragraph 7.4 of the Explanatory Memorandum discusses the design and manufacture of unmanned aircraft. Are these requirements, and in particular the oversight mechanisms, now ready or are we still working on those for the near future?

On the implementing regulations, paragraph 7.11 refers to the current categories of “open”, “specific” and “certified”. Do we intend to change those at all, or do we think that they will remain for the foreseeable future? I hope that there is no suggestion in paragraph 7.12 that we will drop the minimum age of 16 for the control of remote pilots and that there would therefore be no exemptions at all. I hope that the Minister can confirm that that is the position.

Paragraph 7.13 says that:

“Rules for conducting an operational authorisation are also set out in Article 11”.


I admit that I have not read Article 11, and I apologise for that, but perhaps the Minister could mention whether there will be any significant changes there. On paragraph 7.15, as a matter of interest, are the clubs that allow any form of drone activity all registered with the department or some other body?

On paragraph 7.16, I put on my hat as a former Deputy Speaker in the other place. This is such a young and dangerous market, in terms of potential danger to life, that the negative procedure is not appropriate. Her Majesty’s Government need to think long and hard about using the negative procedure, as referred to paragraph 7.16(a) and (b), because those instruments will go through on the nod. Unless people have a particular knowledge of the market they will be unlikely to raise anything on them. I would have thought that it would be much better to use the affirmative procedure for a period of time in that situation, particularly as we are taking this over from Europe. It would be a great deal safer for everybody.

I initially thought when I looked at paragraph 7.8 that we should carry out a review after three or five years, but then we have the September 2021 situation. What is the Minister’s current thinking? Is it to carry out a review in September 2021, or will we do a complete review in 2023?

Lastly, I have four general questions. In the world we live in, we know that people do copycat actions. We know that what happened at one of our airports one Christmas was awful. Can we be reassured that actions have been taken to anticipate a possible copycat somewhere in the UK along the lines of what happened at Gatwick? That is a highly forecastable risk.

I apologise for not forewarning my noble friend on this, but I read it myself only in my catch-up reading. I draw her attention to an article in the Financial Times on 5 December, which says:

“Russia’s most notorious cyber security company, Kaspersky, is trying to diversify into anti-drone technology”.


I do not expect an answer from her this afternoon, but the principle behind these new systems is to help airports and private landowners to jam drone signals. Does that come under her area of responsibility? If it does, is this not an area that we should be cognisant of?

The noble Lord, Lord Foulkes, raised the question of exports and imports. That was a fair question, and one I was concerned about as well.

Finally, it is pretty clear to me that Amazon and maybe others are looking to produce delivery drones. That market will not stay static for two or three years. I just hope that Her Majesty’s Government are keeping a close watch on that and that they will, if necessary, produce our own requirements and not wait on the EU to produce its own.

17:31
Lord German Portrait Lord German (LD)
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My Lords, the main thrust of these regulations is to make changes to existing EU legislation on unmanned aircraft. They result from leaving the EU and, where references to bodies, organisations and powers have an EU context, they are to be replaced by a UK context.

In April, EU Regulation 2020/1058 made amendments to regulations 2019/947 and 2019/945, and it was passed by Parliament. Regulation 1058 has very detailed information within it on all sorts of measures, including conformity, badging and everything else. I am not certain whether those amendments have been carried forward into the regulations that we are debating. I would be grateful if the Minister could tell me whether the SI before us, which refers to the two earlier EU regulations, has included Regulation 2020/1058. In a mass of great detail, that regulation has put in place lots of information which goes behind those earlier regulations. Can the Minister confirm that?

Some aspects of the 2020 regulations do not now come into force until July 2021. We know that some do not come into play here fully until 2023. We have a start date of the last day of this year when the existing EU regulations come into force. We are being taken through those today, so I would like some clarity from the Minister on the precise timetable that is emerging from here as to when events happen as a result of these regulations and existing regulations. That information will very much be required by those who are manufacturers, sellers, importers or operators of drones from 1 January. That is just three weeks away and they need to know when to prepare and what to prepare for.

For those who need to register, the registration date is 31 December. Is that a start date by which registration becomes mandatory or is there a grace period? Over what period do we expect all registrations to take place? That goes back to the earlier question on a timetable. Are we fully prepared for that registration? Do we have staff trained in the considerable detail underpinning these regulations, including Regulation 2020/1058? For example, do they know which airspace is permissible for what categories of unmanned aircraft, what levels of registration are required, what categories drones fall into, and the distinction between uninvolved people and crowds? There is a lot there which we would expect staff to have been trained for.

Regulation 6 refers to designated standards. It provides direction and some description of what these standards are meant to achieve, and how, but at no point does it set a date when these designated standards are to be introduced. It is clearly welcome that there will be some time, otherwise people involved in manufacturing this equipment may not be given adequate notice and will not be prepared. Until that time, we are following the standards set out in EU regulations, but these technical standards are important, as they prescribe a large part of the protection that the people of this country need from failures in the products themselves, particularly as described in paragraph 2(a) and 2(b) of the new article in Regulation 6. This will have an impact on manufacturers and distributors of unmanned aircraft systems not only in construction and design terms, but in some of the safety aspects which arise.

Other noble Lords asked about insurance. I should be grateful to know whether this is required for those who operate and run these pieces of equipment.

I am also concerned about the definition of a toy. Clearly, if you can classify something as a toy, it rules out registration and the same level of regulation as for any of the other aspects. A toy is currently defined in European legislation as a device which could be attractive to a child. If we continue with that definition, it provides a great deal of freedom of use. The European Union suggests marking devices as being unsuitable and not for the use of children under 14 and thereby not a toy. Do the Government think this is sufficient? We have already seen what has happened to scooters—now a daily scene on our streets. They are definitely not toys, though many toy scooters exist.

On weddings, do we need to seek the written agreement of participants? This is part of the distinction between uninvolved people and crowds.

Finally, I turn to drone operator registration. Have the Government taken any steps to recognise the interoperability of registration between the UK and any other countries? This is a complex area in which technology has made rapid advances. In such an environment, the Government need to be fleet of foot and future-proof their legislation. For obvious reasons, these regulations do not touch on the speed of technological progress. I hope that the Government can keep ahead of the curve and make arrangements to introduce appropriate legislation at the right time.

17:37
Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, I will not be able to match other noble Lords who have spoken in the number of questions or points I want to raise. The answers that the Government give to the questions and points raised so far will highlight whether these regulations provide for significant changes in the months ahead or whether they keep largely to the status quo. We will all listen with interest to the Government’s response.

These regulations keep the effect of the policy framework established by the EU implementing and delegated regulations. They ensure that certain provisions relating to unmanned aircraft will be retained in UK law and will continue to apply after the end of the transition period in less than four weeks’ time. The EU implementing regulation applies from the end of this year and sets out the rules and procedures for the operation of unmanned aircraft. The delegated regulation sets out the requirements for unmanned aircraft and for third-country operators of these aircraft.

As we have already heard, the regulations enable the Secretary of State to designate standards after the end of the transition period. In the meantime, unmanned aircraft that conform to current EU harmonised standards, will be considered compliant with the EU requirements recognised by the UK. The main consequence of these regulations is that, since we will no longer be a part of the EU and of the European Union Aviation Safety Agency, the European Union standard CE marking will be replaced by an official marking recognised within the UK. The same product standards as currently apply will be maintained. As a result, unmanned aircraft that lawfully bear the CE marking can continue to be put on the UK market.

As I understand it, the implementing regulation provides for a transitional period until 1 January 2023 during which unmarked—that is, CE or UK—unmanned aircraft will continue to be placed on the market. The Government intend to use the powers under the regulations to designate standards by the end of the transitional period. Like other noble Lords, I ask whether the Government have any view on whether the designated standards from the end of the transitional period will vary to any significant degree and, if so, in what way from the current standards under the implementing regulation. Have these regulations been drawn up on the assumption that a deal will need to be agreed with the EU before the end of the transitional period at the end of 2022? If so, will any changes be necessary if one is not agreed?

Finally, the new UK mark will come into force from the beginning of next year—in a few weeks’ time—but there will be an overlap period with the CE mark, which I understand will be accepted until the beginning of 2023. What is the reasoning behind both the overlap and its length?

17:41
Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton (Con)
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My Lords, I thank all noble Lords for their consideration of these draft amendments. I shall endeavour to get through as many questions as possible. I am grateful to all noble Lords who gave me advance warning of what they were going to raise. In some circumstances, I have been able to get an answer; in others, I am afraid the system failed me and I did not. I am also conscious that there are questions that I will not be able to answer. I shall study Hansard and write if necessary.

As a number of noble Lords have recognised, the opportunities for unmanned aircraft are enormous. The purpose of the Government’s framework for the operation, manufacture and approval of unmanned aircraft is to provide certainty such that commercial, military and all sorts of operations can take place.

The noble Lord, Lord Foulkes, said that unmanned aircraft are drones. I remind noble Lords that, of course, they are also model aircraft—we have been round that loop before—and it is only fair and right that model aircraft as well as drones are included in the regulations.

My noble friend Lord Naseby asked whether clubs were signed up with the DfT. It is the individual who registers, but the DfT works closely with all sorts of clubs in the unmanned aircraft space to ensure that our framework is working effectively.

The noble Lord, Lord German, asked whether registration arrangements were in place. One has had to register a drone for more than a year now. That system is completely in place and is run by the CAA. It includes a competency test for remote pilots. The operators of a drone must register it with the CAA. I am not aware of any interoperability outside the UK at this time.

I reassure the noble Lord, Lord Foulkes, that we speak to the devolved Administrations relatively frequently—I have my next call with them on Thursday. We talk about all sorts of things, as do my officials. The devolved Administrations are aware of this legislation and have not raised any concerns. On paragraph 6.2 of the Explanatory Memorandum, referring to DAs’ powers to correct deficiencies in matters that are not reserved, we do not anticipate there being any such matters; this is just a standard line in EU withdrawal Act SIs.

The noble Lord, Lord Foulkes, had a number of questions, nearly all of which I picked up, but I am afraid that some have slipped me by. I will address one of them, because it was also mentioned by my noble friend Lord Naseby. I think that a difference of opinion on age limits will be coming down the track. I will talk about age limits, registration, licensing and insurance, which I know is of interest to many noble Lords. This instrument amends the delegated and implementing regulations to remove the deficiencies; that is absolutely clear. The powers, of course, do not allow us to amend the policy of the regulations through this instrument. Therefore we are dealing simply with the impact of EU withdrawal.

On age limits, Article 9 of the implementing regulation brings in a minimum age of 16 for remote pilots, with the option for member states to reduce that by up to four years for the “open” category, which is the lowest risk, and by up to two years for the “specific” category. This instrument provides the Secretary of State with the power to make regulations relating to Article 9 of the implementing regulation on age limits. It is the Government’s intention to lower the remote pilot minimum age by the maximum number of years and then to remove it as soon as we are able to in 2021. However, I reassure noble Lords that the minimum age of an operator of an unmanned aircraft will remain as 18 years old—we have had this discussion previously with the Air Traffic Management and Unmanned Aircraft Bill. To remind noble Lords, there is a difference between the operator of an unmanned aircraft and a remote pilot.

The implementing regulation contains provisions relating to registration and competency. As the CAA’s drone and model aircraft registration and education service—which is a rather long-winded way of describing the system you sign yourself up to—was originally created with these EU regulations in mind, they came as no surprise to anybody, so there are only some very small differences between the system we already operate and the new system. I hope that goes some way to reassuring the noble Lord, Lord German.

The implementing regulation requires operators in the “open” category to register if their unmanned aircraft is 250 grams or more, or if it has data capture capability. Remote pilots must also pass a competency test. There are a number of other requirements, but it is not worth going into great detail on the requirements of, for example, the “specified” and “certified” categories. As we noted before, the risk associated with those flights increases with each category.

On insurance, the implementing regulation does not require an operator of an unmanned aircraft to hold insurance unless required by other relevant legislation. It is the responsibility for every operator to ensure that they have appropriate insurance cover.

My noble friend Lord Naseby and the noble Lord, Lord Foulkes, talked about Gatwick, which really was a watershed in our understanding of the world of unmanned aircraft and the catastrophic events that can happen. In this case, the catastrophic event was actually an economic event, when Gatwick was essentially shut down. Since then we have made huge strides in understanding how we can respond to illegal unmanned aircraft activity. We accelerated our testing activity and we launched the counter-unmanned aircraft strategy, including unmanned aircraft remote pilot competency testing and operator registration, before we even had to under the regulations. We extended aerodrome flight restriction zones and we developed legislative proposals, which noble Lords will recall. The counter-unmanned aircraft strategy is an incredibly important Home Office strategy. It safeguards the benefits of unmanned aircraft, which is our goal, but also ensures that people are safe and that anybody using unmanned aircraft maliciously or negligently can be appropriately dealt with.

There are a number of things within that strategy. We recognise that there is no one silver bullet. My noble friend Lord Naseby talked about counter-drone technology. We are, of course, in touch with many of the operators and developers of that technology; the reality is that it remains a work in progress and probably always will do. However, great strides have happened in the world of counter-drone technology, and the Government are really at the heart of that.

The noble Lord, Lord Rosser, talked about divergence and the impact of 1 January 2023. The product standards set out in the delegated regulation do not have a substantial practical effect until 1 January 2023, and non-compliant unmanned aircraft can continue to be put on the market until that date. However, this instrument provides the Secretary of State with these new powers to designate standards for unmanned aircraft after the end of the EU exit transition period. Until that power is exercised, unmanned aircraft and associated accessories that conform to the EU harmonised standards will continue to be considered compliant with EU requirements, and those requirements will be recognised by the UK. However, those EU requirements and harmonised developments are still under development, so it is not possible for me to comment on the content of future designated standards.

Very briefly, on the UKCA mark that the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, mentioned, the mark can be used from 1 January 2021 but, prior to that, it is not required to be used. From 1 January 2023 will be when the mark is required.

Very briefly also on Wales, it is playing a cracking role in developing the drone sector, including at West Wales Airport and Snowdonia aerodrome in Caernarfon. The Government are providing support to develop the drone sector through the drone pathfinder programme and the future flight challenge. The first successful projects in the future flight challenge were announced in November and include the gold dragon project at Snowdonia aerodrome, which will develop sensor technology for drones working with public services such as police and mountain rescue.

That was a brief run-through of as many questions as I possibly could. I shall follow up with a letter. I commend these regulations to the Committee.

Motion agreed.
Baroness Fookes Portrait The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Baroness Fookes) (Con)
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My Lords, the Grand Committee stands adjourned until 6.15 pm. I remind Members to sanitise their desks and chairs before leaving the Room.

17:52
Sitting suspended.

Arrangement of Business

Monday 7th December 2020

(3 years, 7 months ago)

Grand Committee
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Announcement
18:15
Baroness Fookes Portrait The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Baroness Fookes) (Con)
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My Lords, the hybrid Grand Committee will now resume. Some Members are here in person, respecting social distancing, while others are participating remotely, but all Members will be treated equally. 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.

Renewable Transport Fuel Obligations (Amendment) Order 2020

Monday 7th December 2020

(3 years, 7 months ago)

Grand Committee
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Considered in Grand Committee
18:15
Moved by
Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton
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That the Grand Committee do consider the Renewable Transport Fuel Obligations (Amendment) Order 2020.

Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Transport (Baroness Vere of Norbiton) (Con)
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My Lords, this statutory instrument proposes an important change to the Renewable Transport Fuel Obligations Order 2007, or RTFO. Renewable transport fuels are more expensive than fossil fuels and rely on the RTFO support mechanism to create demand and incentivise their supply. This SI changes the price used to calculate any buy-out payment due under the renewable transport fuel obligation certificate trading scheme. It would increase that buy-out price from 30p per litre to 50p per litre. This change is necessary to ensure the continued supply of biofuels and other renewable fuels by increasing the potential level of support. It would also ensure continued delivery of carbon savings.

The 2007 order establishes targets driving the supply of renewable fuels in the UK. It does this by placing obligations on larger suppliers of fuel to ensure the supply of renewable fuels. The amount of renewable fuel that must be supplied is calculated as a percentage of the volume of fossil fuel supplied in a calendar year. This obligation level, or target, has increased over time and is currently 9.75%. These increases have supported the market for renewable fuels and were accompanied by improvements to their sustainability. The RTFO target gradually increases until 2032 at which point, without further legislative agreement, the yearly target would be 12.4% in each subsequent year.

The 2007 order also provides for a certificate trading scheme, which supports a market for suppliers of renewable fuels. Under the scheme, obligated fuel suppliers must acquire sufficient renewable transport fuel certificates, or RTFCs, to meet their obligations by either supplying renewable fuels or purchasing RTFCs. Alternatively, they can make a buy-out payment. This buy-out option, and increasing its price, is the focus of the statutory instrument.

Enabling suppliers to pay a buy-out rather than having to acquire RTFCs caps the cost of the RTFO scheme. It protects consumers of fuel from exceptional spikes in the price of renewable fuels. However, in normal market conditions, the continued success of the RTFO scheme relies on the supply of renewable fuels. Biofuels are the main type of renewable fuel supplied under the RTFO. Recent increases in the cost of biofuels relative to petrol and diesel mean there is a potential commercial incentive for suppliers to make a buy-out payment. Any reduction in biofuel supply will affect greenhouse gas emissions savings in transport, creating a gap in UK carbon budgets. It also could damage our biofuels industry and future investments needed to keep us on the path to net zero.

The RTFO applies UK wide and has been highly successful in reducing carbon emissions. Through it, we have seen the average greenhouse gas savings of renewable fuels increase from 46% in 2008-09 to 83% in 2019. The renewable fuels supplied under the RTFO saved almost 5.5 million tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions in 2019, equivalent to the emissions of 2.5 million combustion engine-powered cars. Indeed, renewable fuels currently contribute around a third of the savings required for the UK’s transport carbon budget. Clearly, we need to ensure that the RTFO continues to provide effective market support.

The amendment in this statutory instrument does just that and follows a consultation carried out over the summer. The consultation proposed two options: an increase in the buyout price from 30p per litre to either 40p per litre or 50p per litre. The vast majority of respondents, 56 out of 61, agreed with the Government’s assessment of the urgent need to increase the buyout price. Of these 56, 45 agreed with our preferred option: to increase the buyout price to 50p per litre.

In proposing this statutory instrument, the department has carefully considered a balance of interests, recognising that potential additional costs in meeting the RTFO would ultimately fall to the consumer and the need to maintain a competitive biofuels market which continues to deliver reductions in carbon emissions. I believe that the increase in the buyout proposed strikes the right balance. I commend this instrument to the Committee.

18:20
Lord Blunkett Portrait Lord Blunkett (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, I am very grateful to the Minister and particularly grateful to her for allowing us to forewarn her of questions that we might want to raise, not least because I think we are all exploring our way in terms of this order. There have been times, over the five years that I have been in your Lordships’ House, when I have come into the Chamber or Committee not to pontificate or provide pearls of wisdom but actually to learn something. That is why I signed up for this Grand Committee discussion this evening.

I confess that I was unaware of the technicalities and substantial impact that this programme has had since 2007 on carbon emissions and the way in which trade and the buy-out system works. So I have given notice to the Minister of my simple—or even simplistic—question: are we talking here about providing incentives to expand and develop this critical market for the future, or are we providing a balancing disincentive for market failure? Although I have read the Explanatory Note to which the Minister referred, I am still completely confused by it, and sometimes I do not mind admitting it.

18:22
Lord Bradshaw Portrait Lord Bradshaw (LD) [V]
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I support this Motion, but I believe that we have such a long way to go in meeting the strategic objective of zero emissions targets by 2050. I wanted to ask the Minister a question. I have been studying the Green Book review published last week, which enjoins government departments and those seeking to spend money to fix their minds on the strategic objective ahead. In this case, I select net zero by 2050 as the strategic objective. I wonder how you build a case of contributory objectives which help you to get to the strategic objective. I built an imaginary case, aimed at reducing the amount of diesel burned in this country by very large amounts, by various actions. It mostly concerns electrification of the railway and the substitution of HGVs by electric trains. My calculation shows that you would save a lot of diesel fuel—and I mean a lot.

I am not absolutely convinced yet of my figures, but I wanted to ask whether, in seeking a strategic objective, one is hamstrung by the different departmental objectives rather than looking at a problem in an overall fashion, which includes where the investments take place—for example, are less favoured parts of the country helped by this, or by the greater reduction in emissions in various places, or the reduction in traffic congestion? Does the work in the Green Book take us to a new place in terms of looking at investments on a broader rather than a narrow focus?

18:25
Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab) [V]
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Having listened to my noble friend Lord Blunkett, I feel a lot happier to know that I am not the only one who is not an expert on this SI. The purpose of the order, as the Minister said, is to increase the renewable transport fuel obligation buyout price for fuel suppliers to 50p per litre from 30p per litre for obligation periods beginning on or after 1 January 2021. Annual obligations for the supply of renewable fuels are set for fuel suppliers under a similarly named 2007 order that commenced in April 2008. The obligations can be met by supplying renewable fuel, by purchasing renewable transport fuel certificates from other suppliers, or by paying a sum—a buyout price—to the Secretary of State. As the Minister said, it is that sum that this order has the effect of increasing.

The Government have said that increasing the buyout price to 50p per litre will mitigate the risk of suppliers buying out of their obligations and the UK losing greenhouse gas savings. Renewable fuels supported under the RTFO order have reduced greenhouse gas emissions from transport over the last 12 years and, as we heard from the Minister, they are contributing a third of the greenhouse gas emissions required for the UK’s current transport carbon budget.

Further, the Government have said that the buyout price increase will help protect the renewable transport fuel obligation scheme against rising prices for biofuels and ensure that investment in UK biofuel facilities continues to have a market. As I understand it, in August 2019 the cost differential between renewable fuels and the fossil fuels for which they are a substitute was approaching a level at which it would cost less to buy out an obligation under the RTFO rather than continue to supply renewable fuels.

Fuel suppliers are likely to pay the buyout only if the cost of renewable transport fuel certificates regularly exceeds 30p per litre. In January this year, offers for renewable transport fuel certificates for the 2020 compliance year were 30.25p per litre and since the beginning of July offers have regularly been higher. Offers for 2021 RTFCs have been reported as high as 33p per litre in September this year. RTFCs are issued for every litre of sustainable and renewable fuels blended. Lifting the buyout to 50p per litre will result in a maximum additional cost of 2p per litre to the motorist.

The renewable transport fuel obligation is designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from transport fuel by setting annual biofuel blending obligations for fuel suppliers. As we heard from the Minister, the obligation is 9.75% this year and will increase incrementally to 12.4% by 2032. Could the Government say in their response on what basis that incremental increase is determined; what was the percentage figure fixed in 2008; and, in 2032, what proportion of greenhouse gas emissions required for the UK’s current transport carbon budget will be contributed by renewable fuels supported by the RTFO order?

I have just a few questions on the Explanatory Memorandum. Paragraph 7.6 refers to civil penalty provisions and states:

“It is planned to consider this matter as part of other changes to the RTFO Order that will be consulted on in due course.”


What are the

“other changes to the RTFO Order”,

and by when will they have been consulted on? Paragraph 10.4 of the Explanatory Memorandum refers to “obligated suppliers”. How many obligated suppliers are there in total who are covered by the terms of this order?

Paragraph 12.1 of the Explanatory Memorandum refers to a maximum cost for 2021 to 2030 that would be incurred if all suppliers opted to buy out of the main obligation in each obligation period. How much has been paid out under the buy-out provision option under the RTFO Order 2007 to date in total, and of that how much has been in the last two years for which figures are available? To what purpose has any such money been put?

Paragraph 13.2 of the Explanatory Memorandum refers to transport fuel suppliers who are exempt from the renewable fuel obligation and fuel suppliers for whom the obligation is reduced. What is the reduction for those in that category, and how many suppliers are in that category? Finally, is it felt that the case still exists for having that reduced rate, bearing in mind the Government’s desire to enable renewable fuels to contribute to the UK’s future carbon budgets?

18:31
Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton (Con)
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My Lords, I thank all noble Lords for their consideration of this statutory instrument. I join other noble Lords in declaring my previous lack of a full understanding of this very important area. It has been a very useful discussion and I am grateful for the questions raised, particularly those raised by noble Lords who were able to share them with me in advance. I will, of course, write where I do not cover everything.

To start with the question raised by the noble Lord, Lord Blunkett, when he asked if it is an incentive to maintain supply or a punishment to maintain the market, I am going to be very unhelpful and say that it is neither. The increase in buy-out price is simply necessary for the market to function. We need to make sure that there is a continued supply of biofuels and other renewable fuels under the RTFO and ensure the continued delivery of carbon savings. Obviously, a buy-out price set at the wrong amount would not allow that market to function, because suppliers would then pay a buy-out, rather than having to acquire the RTFCs which, as a whole, obviously cap the cost of the RTFO scheme and protect the consumer from the exceptional spikes. So, the buy out is one element of a very well-designed and successful scheme, and it serves as a release valve to make sure that the consumer is never forced to pay a very large amount for their fuel.

The noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, raised a number of issues not wholly related to the SI before us today. I would like to reassure him that the Department for Transport is studying very carefully the changes to the Green Book, and we will consider all the issues he raised, in terms of looking at where we are going to do our investment in transport infrastructure in the future. The noble Lord will also know that we have a transport decarbonisation strategy, which my department is working incredibly hard on at the moment, and which will serve as a path to net zero in the future.

On the questions raised by the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, in 2019 there were 19 obligated suppliers covered by the terms of this order, and these are obviously the ones that supply significant amounts of fuel, which I will come on to. Of course, there are exempted suppliers, which the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, also mentioned. These fuel suppliers supply less than 450,000 litres of transport fuel, and they are exempted from the obligations of RTFO. In these circumstances, 450,000 litres is not a very large amount. Furthermore, there is a second group of suppliers that supply less than 10 million litres of transport fuel, and they do not have an obligation on the first 450,000 litres of their supply—again, a few percentage points of their supply. This is basically to ensure that there is no cliff edge when you get to 450,000 litres.

In 2018 and 2019, there were not many fuel suppliers benefiting from this reduction in obligation—four and two respectively. To put that into context, those exemptions represented a very small fraction of the 52 billion litres of total fuel supply covered by the RTFO in 2019 and of the potential greenhouse gas emissions savings. We have no plans to review this.

The noble Lord, Lord Rosser, also asked about the amount of buyout incurred. To date, there has been no significant buyout under the main obligation in the 2007 RTFO order. Buyout amounts relate to a very small number of companies and are therefore considered commercially sensitive. In the last two years—2018 and 2019—all obligated suppliers have met their obligation. In 2019, two obligated suppliers used buyout to make up around 10% of their main obligations. That meant that less than 0.1% of the total main obligation was met through buyout—the sort of level we hoped for.

All money received from suppliers buying out is paid to the Treasury. It is Consolidated Fund and not ring-fenced for any particular purpose. I can reassure noble Lords that the Government take investment in biofuels and sustainable fuels very seriously. We have developed a target to incentivise specific advanced renewable fuels because they are of strategic importance for use in sectors which are difficult to electrify—for example, heavy goods vehicles and aviation. We have an advanced biofuels demonstration competition called the Future Fuels for Flight and Freight Competition, which provides up to £20 million of capital funding and offers real opportunities. As part of the Government’s 10-point plan, a new package of support for sustainable aviation fuels has been announced. This includes a further £15 million in competitive funding to support the production of sustainable aviation fuels in the UK. Although the money goes to the Treasury, sometimes it comes out again.

The noble Lord, Lord Rosser, mentioned how the RTF obligation level has changed over time. The level was set at 2.5% for 2008-09 and has been increased on several occasions since. Increases to the obligation level to 2032 were made in 2018, following an extensive consultation in 2017. These increases to targets were set on the basis of providing longer-term policy stability for industry, increasing the supply of waste-derived fuels and encouraging the production of advanced low-carbon fuels. The RFTO is expected to deliver greenhouse gas emissions savings of nearly 7 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent per year by 2032. As laid out in the Government’s energy and emissions projections 2019, this will make up around one-sixth of transport sector savings in 2032 as a result of policies implemented so far. The Government recognise that we have to do more to reduce emissions during the period to 2032. As I mentioned previously, the DfT will publish the transport decarbonisation plan very soon.

The noble Lord, Lord Rosser, mentioned a future consultation on the RTFO order. The final content of the consultation on further changes to the RTFO planned for next year is still being worked up. We are reviewing whether there is an opportunity to increase greenhouse gas savings from the scheme, in addition to technical and consequential changes, such as those to civil penalties. We anticipate that the consultation will also include measures in response to suggestions from industry as to how the RTFO might support, for example, recycled carbon fuels, and the rules relating to renewable hydrogen. We expect the consultation to be concluded next year.

This is a small and thankfully non-controversial amendment which has been subject to consultation. All noble Lords now understand a little more about RTFO than previously, which is all to the good because it is an important scheme which supports the renewable fuels industry. I hope that the Committee will join me in supporting this statutory instrument.

Motion agreed.
Baroness Fookes Portrait The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Baroness Fookes) (Con)
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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 6.40 pm.

House of Lords

Monday 7th December 2020

(3 years, 7 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Monday 7 December 2020

The House met in a hybrid proceeding.

Prayers—read by the Lord Bishop of Newcastle.

House of Lords

Monday 7th December 2020

(3 years, 7 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Monday 7 December 2020
The House met in a hybrid proceeding.
13:00
Prayers—read by the Lord Bishop of Newcastle.

Arrangement of Business

Monday 7th December 2020

(3 years, 7 months ago)

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Announcement
13:08
Lord Brougham and Vaux Portrait The Deputy Speaker (Lord Brougham and Vaux) (Con)
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My Lords, the Hybrid Sitting of the House will now begin. Some Members are here in the Chamber while others are participating remotely, but all Members will be treated equally. I ask Members to respect social distancing. If the capacity of the Chamber is exceeded, I will immediately adjourn the House.

Oral Questions will now commence. I ask those asking supplementaries to keep them to no longer than 30 seconds and confined to two points, and I ask for Ministers’ answers to be brief.

Trident Nuclear Programme

Monday 7th December 2020

(3 years, 7 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Question
13:08
Asked by
Lord West of Spithead Portrait Lord West of Spithead
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To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether a new United Kingdom warhead is required to extend the Trident nuclear programme to 2049; and if so, by when it will be required.

Baroness Goldie Portrait The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence (Baroness Goldie) (Con) [V]
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My Lords, in order to ensure that the Government maintain an effective deterrent throughout the commission of the Dreadnought class submarines and into the future, the Secretary of State for Defence formally announced to Parliament on 25 February 2020 that the UK will replace its nuclear warhead. The replacement warhead programme will be delivered to a schedule that ensures that our deterrence posture under Operation Relentless endures uninterrupted. I am withholding specific information about the in-service date to safeguard national security.

Lord West of Spithead Portrait Lord West of Spithead (Lab)
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I thank the Minister for her Answer. I am delighted that we are pressing ahead with this. It is a part of our armoury that is used every single day in deterring, so I am pleased about it. However, I have great concerns about AWE. Repeated ministerial deferrals post 2010 have resulted in decay of nuclear expertise and cost escalation within AWE, as has been noted by the NAO. Could the Minister confirm, after the failures of the MENSA, Hydrus and Pegasus projects to deliver on time and within budget, and the scathing assessment by the NAO earlier this year, that AWE as currently structured is able to deliver such a complex programme on time and at cost?

Baroness Goldie Portrait Baroness Goldie (Con) [V]
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The MoD routinely evaluates and reviews all major contracts as they near their end dates. It conducted a review of the governance model in place for the management of AWE plc, and it was following that review that the MoD decided that AWE should revert to a direct government-ownership model. We believe that will simplify and further strengthen the relationship between the MoD and AWE.

Baroness Bryan of Partick Portrait Baroness Bryan of Partick (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, will the Minister confirm that the Government’s defence priorities include cyber and space projects, and that they continue to recognise, as they said in the 2018 defence review, that security challenges involve non-state actors, migration, pandemics and environmental pressures? How will the Trident programme fit their own priorities or help to tackle any of those threats?

Baroness Goldie Portrait Baroness Goldie (Con) [V]
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I agree with the noble Baroness’s assessment of the threats of cyber. That is why the recent defence financial settlement reflects the importance that the Government attach to both cyber and space activity. The nuclear deterrent, which was overwhelmingly mandated by Parliament in 2016, is a very important but separate part of our capability. It is there to deter, and it has proved to be an effective deterrent.

Baroness Stuart of Edgbaston Portrait Baroness Stuart of Edgbaston (Non-Afl)
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The UK Trident nuclear programme is at the heart of our enduring and lasting relationship with the United States of America. Can the Minister undertake that any discussions on the future of that programme will articulate and take into account the enduring importance of Scotland’s contribution to the United Kingdom union, the union’s defence and the NATO alliance’s defence?

Baroness Goldie Portrait Baroness Goldie (Con) [V]
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I thank the noble Baroness for making a very important point. She is correct that the Trident missile system is essential to our deterrent. That is why we work closely with the United States in that respect. She is also correct to point out the significance of defence to the United Kingdom. Faslane, where the deterrent is located, is now the UK’s submarine headquarters. That is part of a general pattern of vital defence activity which is spread throughout the United Kingdom and which Scotland benefits from significantly.

Lord Lancaster of Kimbolton Portrait Lord Lancaster of Kimbolton (Con)
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My Lords, as a timely reminder, the House of Commons voted relatively recently by a majority of 355 to effectively renew Parliament’s commitment to the nuclear deterrent by authorising the Dreadnought programme. With that in mind, the announcement of some £24.1 billion of extra funding for the MoD is most welcome, but can my noble friend confirm that there has been no Treasury sleight of hand and a corresponding—or even any—reduction in the Dreadnought contingency fund?

Baroness Goldie Portrait Baroness Goldie (Con) [V]
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I reassure my noble friend that the Dreadnought programme continues to run to schedule. As he will be aware, an overall budget of £31 billion, with the £10 billion contingency fund, has been allocated to it. The remaining allocation of funding is still to be determined within the MoD following the recent settlement.

Baroness Smith of Newnham Portrait Baroness Smith of Newnham (LD)
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My Lords, the extension of the Trident programme is clear and, as the noble Lord, Lord Lancaster, pointed out, it has recently been reaffirmed by the other place. Could the noble Baroness tell us how Her Majesty’s Government view the extension of Trident in terms of their priorities for the RevCon of the NPT?

Baroness Goldie Portrait Baroness Goldie (Con) [V]
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I did not quite get the last bit of that question but, perhaps instead of the noble Baroness repeating it, I will undertake to look at Hansard and give her a full reply.

Baroness Smith of Newnham Portrait Baroness Smith of Newnham (LD)
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I asked about priorities for the NPT; if we are extending Trident, how do we fit that with the NPT commitments?

Baroness Goldie Portrait Baroness Goldie (Con) [V]
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I thank the noble Baroness for repeating the question. The Government take the view that, under the non-proliferation treaty, we remain compliant with international law and in compliance with Article VI of that treaty. We have a very good record of contributing to nuclear disarmament; we have managed to reduce stocks by about 50% from their Cold War peak and we are the only recognised nuclear weapons state to have reduced our deterrent capability to a single nuclear weapons system.

Lord Trefgarne Portrait Lord Trefgarne (Con)
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My Lords, the Minister confirmed to me only the other day that we have a policy of continuous at-sea deterrence, which we all very much welcome. Can she confirm that we now have sufficient submarines for that purpose and, no less importantly, sufficient crews to keep them at sea?

Baroness Goldie Portrait Baroness Goldie (Con) [V]
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I reassure my noble friend that, despite all challenges, we have maintained our essential defence operations, including the operation of our continuous at-sea deterrent.

Lord Ramsbotham Portrait Lord Ramsbotham (CB) [V]
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My Lords, I have mentioned several times in this House, in connection with Trident, the two definitions of affordable: first, can you afford it, and, secondly, can you afford to give up what you have to give up to be able to afford it? Can the Minister assure the House that the Government considered this second definition when assessing the recently announced increased resources for defence?

Baroness Goldie Portrait Baroness Goldie (Con) [V]
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I confirm that the Government reviewed all relevant issues in determining that settlement. Of primary and perhaps principal importance is the defence of the country and the safety of its citizens. That is why the defence settlement reflects these priorities.

Lord Touhig Portrait Lord Touhig (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, the recent announcement of an extra £16.5 billion for defence is welcome, but the £13 billion black hole in the defence budget is still there. In terms of the funding for the Trident replacement programme, for more than a decade the Ministry of Defence and the Treasury have disagreed about funding Trident, the former arguing it should be the Treasury’s responsibility as it was in the past. Will the forthcoming integrated review address this matter once and for all?

Baroness Goldie Portrait Baroness Goldie (Con) [V]
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As I have previously indicated to the noble Lord, I cannot pre-empt what the integrated review will say. However, a practice has clearly arisen whereby the MoD is considered responsible for the provision and management of the nuclear deterrent and the Treasury reflects that with funding. That is why the financial package for Dreadnought comprises an identified budget of £31 billion and a contingency fund of £10 billion. The other elements of the deterrent will be determined in due course by the MoD in the allocation of the budget settlement.

Lord Brougham and Vaux Portrait The Deputy Speaker (Lord Brougham and Vaux) (Con)
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The noble Lord, Lord Greaves, is not here, so I call the noble Lord, Lord Singh of Wimbledon.

Lord Singh of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Singh of Wimbledon (CB) [V]
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My Lords, nuclear deterrence may have made some sense during the Cold War of the 1950s. Today, there is no direct threat of invasion to our shores. In an inverted meaning of “defence”, we already have a military presence at 145 sites in 42 countries, a number second only to the United States. Does the Minister agree that this strutting of military might across the globe has nothing to do with defence?

Baroness Goldie Portrait Baroness Goldie (Con) [V]
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With respect to the noble Lord, I completely disagree. I feel that the measure and calibre of the effectiveness of a deterrent has been reflected over the years. I said once before that the perhaps paradoxical character of a deterrent is that its lack of use confirms its efficacy of purpose. The threats we face are becoming ever more complex and diverse and are increasing in scale. We have the deterrent to deter the most extreme threats to our national security and way of life which cannot be deterred by other means. That is why the Government are absolutely clear that we need the nuclear deterrent for the foreseeable future.

Lord Brougham and Vaux Portrait The Deputy Speaker (Lord Brougham and Vaux) (Con)
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My Lords, all the supplementary questions have been asked.

Convention on Biological Diversity

Monday 7th December 2020

(3 years, 7 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Question
13:20
Asked by
Lord Randall of Uxbridge Portrait Lord Randall of Uxbridge
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To ask Her Majesty’s Government what preparations they are making for participation in the fifteenth meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity.

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]
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My Lords, the UK has clear ambitions for the global biodiversity targets to be agreed at CBD COP 15. Despite delays to the international timetable due to Covid, we are engaging fully in the negotiation process. We are working internationally—including through the Leaders’ Pledge for Nature and the UK-led Global Ocean Alliance, and in our role as ocean co-chair of the High Ambition Coalition—to secure support for our objectives, and will continue to leverage opportunities at all levels as we approach COP 15.

Lord Randall of Uxbridge Portrait Lord Randall of Uxbridge (Con)
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I thank my noble friend for his answer and draw attention to my environmental interest as in the register. Next year’s CBD will be a crucial opportunity for the nations of the world to address the worsening biodiversity crisis. Can my noble friend assure me that Her Majesty’s Government will be as ambitious on this as they have been on climate measures, not least by setting robust targets to halt and reverse the decline in species and habitats by 2030, committing to protect what we already have and creating not just new woodlands but also wetlands and grasslands?

Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park Portrait Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park (Con) [V]
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The UK is absolutely committed to playing a leading role in developing the highest possible ambition in relation to the post-2020 global framework for biodiversity at the CBD. Our overarching ambition is targets that, as my noble friend says, will halt and reverse global biodiversity loss and, crucially, that will be underpinned by clear accountability and implementation mechanisms. Because we see no real distinction between climate change and our environmental obligations, we are committed to ensuring as clear a link as possible between those two conventions. Climate change represents perhaps the greatest threat that we face, and global biodiversity is being lost at an appalling and unprecedented rate. We cannot tackle one without a major focus on the other, and that is reflected in all our ambitions.

Earl of Caithness Portrait The Earl of Caithness (Con)
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My Lords, the delay that my noble friend has just mentioned has improved the chances of COP being a great success next year, added to by the result of the American election and the reshuffle of people in No. 10 Downing Street. What plans does he have to meet the American team, and can he update us on the discussions with India to get it to play a positive role?

Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park Portrait Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park (Con) [V]
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I am afraid I am not in a position to provide details about exchanges that have been happening between the UK and the incoming presidential team. However, I can say that the incoming President has made it very clear that climate change will be a priority issue. We have also heard that there will be an increased focus by the United States on nature, which we think is crucial. We in the UK have signed up to, and indeed are running, the campaign to protect 30% of the world’s oceans and land by 2030, and we have high hopes that the US will join us in that. Another core plank of our campaign is to ensure sufficient finance for nature recovery; again, we hope to be able to work very closely with the incoming Administration in that regard.

Baroness Boycott Portrait Baroness Boycott (CB)
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My Lords, at the COP meeting next year UK representatives will be signing pledges and agreements on behalf of all the four nations, yet at the moment there are still problems with peat and various biodiversity issues in the United Kingdom Internal Market Bill. What progress has been made on reaching an accord among our four nations, which can be taken to the meeting?

Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park Portrait Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park (Con) [V]
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We work very closely with the devolved Administrations on all biodiversity issues. It is a devolved area but there is very little to distinguish the positions held among the four nations on international policies. I therefore have absolute belief that we can speak very much as one in wanting to raise the ambition as high as we can at both conventions next year.

Lord Reid of Cardowan Portrait Lord Reid of Cardowan (Lab)
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My Lords, while I accept that modest progress has been made in some areas, will the Minister accept that the UK’s overall performance on biodiversity has been relatively poor? Public funding for conservation projects has fallen sharply in real terms over recent years, and the Government’s October 2020 publication of biodiversity indicators shows that the situation regarding a large proportion of the targets that the Minister mentioned remains the same or is deteriorating. How do the Government intend to address that apparent static position?

Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park Portrait Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park (Con) [V]
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First, I am happy—well, not happy, but willing—as a government Minister to acknowledge that in many areas there are ongoing declines in biodiversity. The numbers here in the UK are no better than those elsewhere around the world. We are in the midst of a biodiversity crisis. However, we are putting in place the mechanisms and resources needed to buck that trend, and we are absolutely committed to doing so: the first Environment Bill in 20 years; ambitious measures, including restoring and enhancing nature; a new £640 million Nature for Climate Fund to deliver woodland expansion and peatland restoration; most importantly of all, replacing the old common agricultural policy with a new system whereby payments are conditional on good environmental outcomes; and 25% of our waters being in marine protected areas. We have also announced the tripling of Darwin Plus to £10 million a year for our overseas territories.

I am very confident in saying that UK leadership on biodiversity internationally exceeds that of any other country that I am aware of. We are generally recognised to be world leaders in raising ambitions and taking meaningful action internationally to buck the biodiversity trends.

Lord Oates Portrait Lord Oates (LD)
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My Lords, would it not be easier for the Government to show leadership abroad if we were demonstrating it at home? How does the Minister square the statement he made just a moment ago—that we are putting the necessary resources in—with the fact that government spending on biodiversity has declined by well over a quarter since it reached its peak under the coalition Government? Can he tell us when it is going to get back to the funding levels required to effectively protect biodiversity?

Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park Portrait Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park (Con) [V]
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The key principle of the convention on biological diversity is that biodiversity should be mainstreamed. That means that every decision of every Government should be made on the basis of whether or not it contributes to bucking the trends or takes us in the wrong direction. That is essential. On that basis, the UK Government are organising in such a way that our decisions on a wide variety of issues are increasingly reconciled with nature. The new Nature for Climate Fund will help us buck those trends and turn the tide. As I said earlier, the single biggest financial mechanism—the one that will deliver the biggest change we have seen in my lifetime—is the shift from destructive land-use subsidies to subsidies that are conditional on good environmental outcomes. No other country in the world is doing this. If we persuaded other countries to do so, I believe the world would be set on a path towards restoration and recovery of the natural world. It is really big news.

Lord Lucas Portrait Lord Lucas (Con) [V]
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My Lords, the Ice Ages have left us with only 30-odd native trees of limited genetic variety, whereas a healthy temperate forest would have some 1,000 species. Does my noble friend agree that that is a fundamentally precarious position, as we have seen with recent tree diseases? Does he therefore support the Forestry Commission in its determination to increase biodiversity, in both species and provenance?

Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park Portrait Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park (Con) [V]
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I agree with my noble friend. We will be spending a lot of public money on meeting our ambitions and targets for planting or restoring 30,000 hectares a year by 2025. It is essential that we use public money in a way that delivers the maximum possible solution. We do not want to see trees as just carbon-absorbing sticks; they have a crucial role to play in biodiversity, public enjoyment, flood prevention and enabling land to hold water better throughout the year. So yes, we want to deliver the greatest possible biodiversity and the best possible solution.

Baroness Jones of Whitchurch Portrait Baroness Jones of Whitchurch (Lab)
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My Lords, given that the UK leadership team for COP 26 is an all-male affair, can the Minister assure us that the UK leadership team—not just the support staff—at the conference of biodiversity will properly represent the people of this country and will be gender balanced?

Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park Portrait Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park (Con) [V]
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I do not have the figures in front of me, but I would be willing to bet that the answer to the noble Baroness’s question is that simply on the basis of choosing the right people for the job, the gender balance as we prepare for CBD is as it should be and is balanced. I also take issue with her comments about COP 26. I cannot tell her that the team is entirely selected on the basis of the 50-50 gender balance that we aspire to, but the balance is a great deal more impressive than she may have read in the newspapers. I would be happy to provide those figures in writing in due course.

Lord Brougham and Vaux Portrait The Deputy Speaker (Lord Brougham and Vaux) (Con)
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My Lords, I regret that the time allowed for this question has elapsed. We now come to the third Oral Question.

Colombia

Monday 7th December 2020

(3 years, 7 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Question
13:31
Asked by
Baroness Blower Portrait Baroness Blower
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To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the impact of their support for (1) human rights, and (2) the peace process, in Colombia.

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait The Minister of State, Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon) (Con)
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My Lords, I welcome the noble Baroness and look to working with her on this important agenda. Colombia is an FCDO human rights priority country and we raise human rights with the Colombian Government’s representatives whenever possible. Indeed, I discussed the issue at length with Ministers, relevant institutions and civil society during my virtual visit to Colombia on 13 October. We are also proud to lead on Colombia’s peace process at the UN Security Council and have contributed £60 million in support of peace, stability and security since 2015.

Baroness Blower Portrait Baroness Blower (Lab) [V]
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I thank the Minister very much for his Answer, and refer to my interest as recorded in the register. The peace process is clearly vital. A recent newspaper report in Colombia, revealing details of an undercover operation by the Colombian Attorney-General’s office, apparently designed to entrap FARC peace negotiators and undermine the peace process, is alarming. The Attorney-General’s office, led by Néstor Humberto Martinez, reportedly provided five kilos of cocaine for the operation, but this and other relevant information was withheld from the courts. Was the British Ambassador—or other British authorities—made aware of those details at the time of the arrest of the FARC peace negotiator in 2018? What is the Government’s assessment of these revelations?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
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As the noble Baroness will appreciate, I am not going to comment specifically on press reports. In terms of the specifics of the case, she raises important challenges that Colombia continues to face. The issue of narcotics and drugs is a major one. Colombia remains one of the largest producers of cocaine in the world—among others. The violence that we currently see affects local communities and former FARC combatants, led by the issues we have seen around drugs. We remain committed to peace accords, which the current President and his team have assured us of. On the specific matter of the case the noble Baroness raises, if there is more information to share, I will write to her.

Baroness Anelay of St Johns Portrait Baroness Anelay of St Johns (Con)
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My Lords, I was privileged to meet brave journalists when I visited Colombia—people such as Jineth Bedoya. Can my noble friend say what support the Government now give to the Colombian Foundation for Press Freedom and how effective they assess that to be in the face of the continuous threats of rape, kidnap and death that journalists face?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon
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My Lords, I first pay tribute to my noble friend for her leadership, during her tenure as Minister of State at what was the FCO, on a broad range of human rights and for standing up for human rights defenders. Indeed, in my virtual visit, my first meeting was with journalists, to ascertain and understand more effectively the challenges they have. We are aware of allegations that members of the Colombian military have been illegally gathering surveillance on activists, including journalists and opposition politicians. We have raised this directly with the Colombian authorities. We are lending technical support and will be raising the issue of journalist freedom and press freedom across the piece in our leadership role on the coalition for media freedom.

Baroness Coussins Portrait Baroness Coussins (CB)
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My Lords, the UK has spoken up in the Security Council about the special jurisdiction for peace, but can the Minister say what public support has been given by the UK embassy in Bogotá to this war crimes tribunal, in light of attempts by President Duque to undermine its work?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon
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I pay tribute to the noble Baroness’s work in this area. The United Kingdom has provided, and continues to provide, support to help Colombia tackle, in particular, the legacy of sexual violence from its long conflict. The UK continues to support survivors and has now helped document 1,200 new cases that are now before the transitional justice system. Let me assure the noble Baroness, that in my visit to Colombia I made it absolutely clear that, while this is an independent judicial body, it should not be interfered with. We continue to stand up for the rights of all survivors of sexual violence during the period of conflict.

Lord Monks Portrait Lord Monks (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, I declare an interest as vice-president of Justice for Colombia. The transitional justice court, which was created in Colombia by the peace agreement, has been hailed by the International Criminal Court as a benchmark for the world. Is our Government aware that the Colombian Government are undermining the court’s mandate? Of course, this is in a country where there is still widespread violence. Does the Minister agree that ending the court’s ability to function fairly rather contradicts HMG’s funding to support the peace process? What steps can the UK take to protect the court’s autonomy?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
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My Lords, I assure the noble Lord that during my visit, and indeed in all engagements through our ambassador, we raise the importance of the very matters that he refers to. In terms of our commitment to the peace process, I think the UK can be proud of the fact that it has contributed to the importance of an inclusive peace process, and we will continue to do so.

Baroness Northover Portrait Baroness Northover (LD) [V]
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Global Witness has found that Colombia is the world’s most dangerous country for environmental activists, with more 60 murders in 2019. How are we engaging to help protect these activists, and combating climate change in Colombia generally?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
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My Lords, as I said in my opening Answer, Colombia remains a human rights priority country. I agree with the noble Baroness that the statistics are quite shocking. In the latest figures the UN has released, at least 45 human rights defenders have been killed this year alone. That said, we are working very closely with Colombia on the importance of protecting the environment and tackling climate change. Our climate programme in Colombia is designed with a conflict-sensitive approach. Much of its aims are to protect Colombia’s biodiversity, but also to protect those who are leading important roles within country.

Lord Collins of Highbury Portrait Lord Collins of Highbury (Lab)
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My Lords, Colombia’s supreme court has declared that state security forces systematically violate citizens’ democratic right to peaceful protest, and the Colombian army has this year been implicated in killings in rural areas. Given that the UK is providing funding to train Colombian police, are steps being taken to ensure that human rights concerns about the Colombian security forces are properly addressed?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
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My short answer to the noble Lord is that yes, they are, but the concerns he has raised are real and he is quite right to bring them to the Floor of the House. I can assure him that in all the exchanges we have, including our support, be that financial or technical, the issue of human rights obligations among those who are trained and are there to protect people is very much at the forefront of our discussions.

Baroness Hooper Portrait Baroness Hooper (Con) [V]
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My Lords, in aiming to help to strengthen and reinforce democratic principles and the rule of law in Colombia, can my noble friend say whether the British Council is playing a significant role? Is that part of the Government’s assessment process which he has already outlined?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
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My Lords, we have an extensive programme, but on the specific and ongoing engagement of the British Council, I will write to my noble friend.

Viscount Waverley Portrait Viscount Waverley (CB) [V]
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My Lords, keeping Colombia at centre stage and supported is much needed after long agony. The Minister has referred to the question of drugs. Could the Government assist by helping to provide essential access to markets for Colombian farmers as a substitution for the growing of coca and, if so, how might this be achieved? This would be in addition to encouraging that all FARC combatants stay engaged with the peace process and that the ELN comes to the table, along with supporting measures to ensure that human rights are respected, with the possible deployment of UK police, with their professionalism, to offer training and support to the Colombian authorities.

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
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My Lords, the noble Viscount has made some very practical suggestions that I will certainly take forward. On the general point of how we can shift those who are reliant on the drugs trade within Colombia to alternative means, that is again a very practical suggestion and I can assure him that through our work on the ground, in particular through the embassy, we are working on identifying appropriate measures that can be taken to ensure that we can act responsibly and move people away from narcotics and other drugs.

Lord Foulkes of Cumnock Portrait Lord Foulkes of Cumnock (Lab Co-op) [V]
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My Lords, as the Minister said earlier, we have an important role as a member of the UN Security Council. Will he go back to the council and ask for a new initiative via the United Nations to approach President Duque Márquez to persuade him to get the peace process moving again? If we could do that, as a result of this important Question, the United Kingdom would be making a very significant move in the right direction.

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
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I shall certainly be happy to take that back to the UN Security Council.

Lord Alderdice Portrait Lord Alderdice (LD) [V]
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My Lords, do Her Majesty’s Government accept the description of the head of the UN Mission in Colombia, Carlos Ruiz Massieu, of an

“epidemic of violence against social leaders, human rights defenders and former combatants”?

If so, what are they doing to address the situation, especially as regards the Colombian security forces?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
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My Lords, I have already spoken to this issue and I agree with the noble Lord that the situation for human rights defenders is dire. We remain deeply concerned about the continuing presence of illegal armed groups in Colombia and their violence and intimidation, particularly towards local people, let alone human rights defenders. However, as I have already said, I can assure the noble Lord that all our support is inclusive, particularly as we continue to press the existing Government and the president for a renewal and real vigour behind the peace talks. In all their actions, the important work of human rights groups and human rights defenders, and more generally the citizens of Colombia, should be totally and fully protected.

Lord Brougham and Vaux Portrait The Deputy Speaker (Lord Brougham and Vaux) (Con)
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My Lords, the time allowed for this Question has elapsed. We come to the fourth Oral Question in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Bird.

Covid-19: Social Mobility

Monday 7th December 2020

(3 years, 7 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Question
13:43
Asked by
Lord Bird Portrait Lord Bird
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To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the implications of their policies to address the COVID-19 pandemic for social mobility in England.

Baroness Berridge Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Education and Department for International Trade (Baroness Berridge) (Con)
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My Lords, social mobility is at the core of the department’s policies. The Government remain dedicated to ensuring that every child and young person will gain the opportunity to succeed and we are committed to providing them with the necessary skills and knowledge. That is why the Government have given unprecedented support, including the £1 billion catch-up fund, to help to tackle the attainment gap, along with an investment of over £195 million on technology to support remote education and access to online social care.

Lord Bird Portrait Lord Bird (CB)
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My Lords, I am glad to hear that we are trying to address the question of what is being called the potential lost generation, who may not get the chance of social mobility through education and work that others have had. But there is another lost generation and I would like the department to look at the possibility of addressing the 35% of children who we are already fail at school. Those are not my figures but those of the noble Baroness’s department. We fail those who leave school having had nothing that you could call an education. They fill our prisons and our A&E departments and join our long-term unemployed and working poor, and they die younger because they do not have any social mobility. May I suggest that this is the time for building back better so that we can address this lost generation that is already with us?

Baroness Berridge Portrait Baroness Berridge (Con)
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My Lords, the noble Lord is correct that we want to make sure to avoid this potential loss for young people, and education is of course a major protective factor in their lives. However, more disadvantaged students are in better schools than they were in 2010, with 86% of our schools being “good” or “outstanding”. During the pandemic, many school leaders have gone above and beyond the call of duty to ensure that disadvantaged students can catch up. Just one of the initiatives is that as of April, any adult who does not have a level 3 qualification can go to an FE college or other college or institution and get their first qualification at that level.

Baroness Andrews Portrait Baroness Andrews (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, I am sure that the Minister will have seen today the IPPR report on the state of the north, which again shows shocking levels of child poverty. It is obvious that Covid has pushed these children even further down the ladder. Levelling up will work only if the toxic link between child poverty and school failure is broken. Why is that long-term strategy not being prioritised in the spending review? When can we expect a long-term plan for children’s learning and welfare which is equal to the urgency and gravity of the situation?

Baroness Berridge Portrait Baroness Berridge (Con)
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My Lords, I can assure the noble Baroness that specific emergency help has been provided to ensure that children who needed a meal when their schools were closed were given support and that the early years sector in particular was given funding, as were schools, irrespective of the young people who were attending them. Vulnerable children with an EHC plan or those who were in need were offered a school place even during the lockdown. Enabling more disadvantaged students to do well is core to the Government’s strategy.

Lord Scriven Portrait Lord Scriven (LD)
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My Lords, the pandemic has exacerbated the lack of opportunities and inequalities for so many. We continue to witness the return on capital exceeding economic growth. Are the Government seriously considering implementing higher taxation on wealth and inheritance to help improve opportunities for those who are limited in them?

Baroness Berridge Portrait Baroness Berridge (Con)
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My Lords, social mobility, as the noble Lord has rightly outlined, is more than just for the Department for Education. It also impacts on the Department for Work and Pensions, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport. Unfortunately, I am not able to answer the noble Lord’s specific question, but I will write to him once I have a response from Her Majesty’s Treasury.

Lord Vaizey of Didcot Portrait Lord Vaizey of Didcot (Con)
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My Lords, as highlighted in a recent report by the Creative Industries Policy and Evidence Centre of NESTA, only 16% of people who work in the creative industries are from working-class social origins. Covid has had a devastating impact on the opportunities of people from that background and from black and minority-ethnic backgrounds. Will my noble friend look at the recommendations of the policy and evidence centre—including, for example, reforming the Kickstart programme—and work with it, as we come out of the pandemic, to increase life chances?

Baroness Berridge Portrait Baroness Berridge (Con)
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I am grateful to the noble Lord. I am sure he is aware that, through the Culture Recovery Fund, we have given £1.57 billion to support that sector. I hope he is aware of the educational aspects of cultural diversity that sit within the Department for Education, such as the music and dance scheme. I have yet to read of a scheme like that that is not pivoted towards disadvantaged children and children who have free school meals, or towards improving the diversity of those who access culture.

Lord Hastings of Scarisbrick Portrait Lord Hastings of Scarisbrick (CB)
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My Lords, we all know that social mobility relies not just on education but on work opportunities beyond education. What work will the Government undertake to bring together companies that have profited substantially during the pandemic—those that distribute to households, supermarkets, and pharmaceutical and alcohol companies—to make up the deficit of hundreds of thousands of internships and apprenticeships that have been cancelled by companies that have lost profit and business during the pandemic? Will the Government commit to the #10000BlackInterns programme launched by two City businessmen, three weeks ago?

Baroness Berridge Portrait Baroness Berridge (Con)
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My Lords, it is encouraging to see, even without being asked by the Government, the flurry of businesses returning their business rates relief. We all have to tackle this pandemic together and the effect on different employers has been disparate. I can assure the noble Lord that, on apprenticeships, we have offered employers £2,000 for anybody under the age of 25 they take on, and £1,500 for anybody over the age of 25. We are doing what we can to support them, as well as the £2 billion Kickstart scheme, which offers six-month jobs for those between 16 and 24 on universal credit to give them an entry into the workplace.

Lord Bassam of Brighton Portrait Lord Bassam of Brighton (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, women in low-paid insecure work have borne the triple threat of job losses, falling income and the explosion of unpaid care needs during the Covid pandemic. What work is being done by the Government now to address the structural barriers that women—working-class women in particular—face, including to combat low pay and secure further gains on shared childcare and caring responsibilities more generally?

Baroness Berridge Portrait Baroness Berridge (Con)
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My Lords, I also have the privilege of being the Minister for Women, and we are looking at the entitlement to flexible working. I am also pleased that we are focused on ensuring that the economic recovery is for women as well. We have been encouraged by how the digital skills boot camps have not only met targets for women’s participation but exceeded them. I am pleased to say that, in April 2021, the national living wage will be going up 2.2% to £8.91, so we are looking to help women in particular gain the advantages of the economy recovering.

Lord Addington Portrait Lord Addington (LD)
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Would the Minister give a thought to people who have failed in the examinations system, who will increasingly become unemployed and present themselves for benefits? Could some assessment be made of whether they have commonly occurring educational problems such as dyslexia and dyspraxia, so that they can have a form of assessment and thus start to implement at least basic coping strategies, if not educational programmes?

Baroness Berridge Portrait Baroness Berridge (Con)
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My Lords, as part of our response to the pandemic, the Government are investing £900 million in additional work coaches. We have also made £100 million available for high-value courses for 18 and 19 year-olds who might leave college when there are no employment opportunities. That is in addition to the digital skills boot camps and the online skills portal that we have set up, so we are providing opportunities and supporting more work coaches. We have invested more in the careers service, as well, to help with the issue that the noble Lord outlines.

Lord Bishop of Worcester Portrait The Lord Bishop of Worcester [V]
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My Lords, I speak today on behalf of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Newcastle, who has been delayed travelling to London. Like her, I am very aware of the relationship between child poverty and a lack of social mobility, but she has a special interest as independent chair of the North of Tyne Inclusive Economy Board. Child poverty is central to the Government’s levelling-up agenda. Since 35% of children in the north-east of England live in relative poverty, would the Minister tell us if Her Majesty’s Government will work with the Social Mobility Commission to develop a national child poverty strategy in response to the Covid-19 pandemic?

Baroness Berridge Portrait Baroness Berridge (Con)
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My Lords, the Social Mobility Commission is an arm’s-length body of the department. We monitor its reports carefully and take its recommendations into account. I will write to the right reverend Prelate on this specific request.

Lord McColl of Dulwich Portrait Lord McColl of Dulwich (Con) [V]
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My Lords, as far as social mobility policies are concerned, how much of the splendid proposed “biggest funding boost” for schools will be spent on teaching children how to buy and cook the right food, economically, to reduce the obesity epidemic and narrow the gap between rich and poor?

Baroness Berridge Portrait Baroness Berridge (Con)
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As I am sure the noble Lord is aware, we have a childhood obesity strategy. Part of the national curriculum is also about food and nutrition. That is compulsory in maintained schools, but can form part of education in academies. There is also now a food and nutrition GCSE, so this is provided for within the school system.

Lord Brougham and Vaux Portrait The Deputy Speaker (Lord Brougham and Vaux) (Con)
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My Lords, the time allowed for this Question has elapsed.

13:54
Sitting suspended.

Arrangement of Business

Monday 7th December 2020

(3 years, 7 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Announcement
14:01
Lord Fowler Portrait The Lord Speaker (Lord Fowler)
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My Lords, the Hybrid Sitting of the House will now resume. I ask Members to respect social distancing.

Conduct Committee Report

Monday 7th December 2020

(3 years, 7 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Motion to Agree
14:01
Moved by
Lord Mance Portrait Lord Mance
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That the Report from the Select Committee The conduct of Lord Maginnis of Drumglass be agreed to. (8th Report, HL Paper 185).

Lord Mance Portrait Lord Mance (CB) [V]
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I draw the House’s attention to Standing Order 68A, which states that Motions on the report resulting from an investigation under the Code of Conduct must be decided without debate because reports are highly sensitive and often involve vulnerable people. The House has established a system of decision-making and appeals on which, I hope noble Lords agree, it can rely. Therefore, the House’s procedures do not permit me to take questions today. However, a Member has given notice of his intention to divide the House on this report. I have received an email from that Member suggesting that, notwithstanding Standing Order 68A, Members should have a chance between publication and decision by the House to make representations to the committee, which would then meet and decide whether to confirm its initial report. However, that would represent a procedure quite different from what the House has instituted. The House has entrusted disciplinary matters in the first instance to the independent Commissioner for Standards and, on an appeal from her or in a case such as this, where she feels a sanction that is outside her powers is required, to the Conduct Committee.

I remind your Lordships that the Conduct Committee now consists of five Peers and four independent lay members. The latter bring to the committee a valuable range of experience, including in standards and disciplinary fields such as victim support, justice, professional legal and police discipline. All nine members of the committee sat on the present matter and I assure the House that it received very anxious and careful consideration. The upshot is that the present report upholds the Commissioner’s findings that the noble Lord, Lord Maginnis, breached the Code of Conduct by bullying a parliamentary security officer and harassing three Members of Parliament on the basis of sexual orientation, with homophobic comments on a number of different occasions spread over some two months. The first, in early January this year, involved offensive and bullying behaviour toward the security guard and then toward a Member of Parliament who happened to by passing by and intervened. This was compounded by further insults toward the security guard and homophobic comments, which were made later to the Huffington Post.

The other two incidents took place a month apart, in early February and early March. The first consisted of further homophobic comments about the chair of an APPG in an email sent by the noble Lord, Lord Maginnis, after a dinner at which the noble Lord had evidently wanted to ask a question but was not called. These remarks were joined gratuitously with further comments of a homophobic nature about the MP involved in the first instance. The incident in March involved further homophobic comments made at the same APPG—this time, at a breakfast event and to a previously uninvolved MP—regarding the chair of the APPG and the MP involved in the earlier instance. The entire tone of the noble Lord, Lord Maginnis, was described as

“unapologetically homophobic, aggressive and disrespectful”—

a description that he said sounded fairly accurate when asked about it by the Commissioner.

The Conduct Committee underlines in its report that

“the issue of concern was not his beliefs but his behaviour. Lord Maginnis is entitled to hold the beliefs he does and to express them freely in Parliament”—

or outside it—

“but in doing so he must treat others with courtesy and respect”

and must not engage in what, here, were repeated incidents of bullying and/or harassing misconduct.

The report recommends

“that Lord Maginnis of Drumglass be suspended from the service of the House for a period of at least 18 months and until he has successfully completed a designated course of bespoke behaviour change training and coaching. At the end of this period the Conduct Committee will consider whether it is appropriate to end the suspension”

and will take into account whether he shows that he has engaged with the training and has gained insight into why his behaviour was inappropriate.

The House may ask why the Conduct Committee increased the minimum recommended period of suspension from the nine months recommended by the commissioner to 18 months. As I said, we gave very careful consideration to the sanction. As we explained in our report at paragraph 21(a), we identified on the part of the noble Lord, Lord Maginnis, both an absence of any remorse and a complete lack of insight into the impact of his behaviour on, in particular, the victims of such behaviour. As the report states, he

“portrayed himself as a victim of a conspiracy by people who disapproved of his views, and insisted that all his conduct had been provoked. He also continued to refer to the complainants in a disobliging and sometimes offensive manner”

and said that he was not in fact minded to accept either any training course or suspension.

As I hope your Lordships will all agree, it is of paramount importance that all members of the parliamentary community—of all backgrounds, sexual orientation and beliefs, and of any status—should feel safe and respected when they come here to work. Bullying and harassment such as that demonstrated by the noble Lord, Lord Maginnis, must be subject to significant sanction to safeguard all members of the parliamentary community. Evidence is then required that the perpetrator understands why their behaviour was wrong and how it must change before they can be allowed back into Parliament. I beg to move.

Lord Fowler Portrait The Lord Speaker (Lord Fowler)
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My Lords, as the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mance, said, under Standing Order 68A, agreed earlier this year, no debate is permitted on this Motion. I must therefore now put the Question that this Motion be agreed to. As many as are of that opinion will say “Content”; to the contrary, “Not-Content”. Members have also given notice by email that they wish to see a Division on this Motion. I will therefore instruct the clerk to start a remote Division.

14:09

Division 1

Ayes: 408


Conservative: 147
Labour: 100
Liberal Democrat: 73
Crossbench: 68
Independent: 14
Green Party: 2
Bishops: 2
Plaid Cymru: 1

Noes: 24


Conservative: 12
Independent: 5
Crossbench: 3
Labour: 2
Democratic Unionist Party: 2

14:22
Motion
Moved by
Lord Ashton of Hyde Portrait Lord Ashton of Hyde
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That, in accordance with Standing Order 12, Lord Maginnis of Drumglass be suspended from the service of the House for a period of at least 18 months and until the Conduct Committee confirms that he has satisfactorily completed the other requirements of the sanction; and that, in accordance with section 1 of the House of Lords (Expulsion and Suspension) Act 2015, in the opinion of this House, the conduct giving rise to this resolution occurred after the coming into force of that Act.

Motion agreed.
14:24
Sitting suspended.

Import of, and Trade in, Animals and Animal Products (Miscellaneous Amendments) (EU Exit) Regulations 2020

Monday 7th December 2020

(3 years, 7 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Aquatic Animal Health and Alien Species in Aquaculture, Animals, and Marketing of Seed, Plant and Propagating Material (Legislative Functions and Miscellaneous Provisions) (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2020
Veterinary Medicines and Residues (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2020
Official Controls (Animals, Feed and Food, Plant Health etc.) (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2020
Common Fisheries Policy (Amendment etc.) (EU Exit) Regulations 2020
Common Fisheries Policy (Amendment etc.) (EU Exit) (No. 2) Regulations 2020
Motions to Approve
14:29
Moved by
Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay
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That the draft Regulations laid before the House on 14, 20, 22 October and 2 November be approved.

Relevant documents: 32nd, 33rd and 34th Reports from the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee. Considered in Grand Committee on 2 December.

Motions agreed.

Conflict Minerals (Compliance) (Northern Ireland) (EU Exit) Regulations 2020

Monday 7th December 2020

(3 years, 7 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Motion to Approve
14:30
Moved by
Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay
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That the draft Regulations laid before the House on 15 October be approved.

Relevant document: 31st Report from the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments (special attention drawn to the instrument). Considered in Grand Committee on 2 December.

Motion agreed.

Export Control (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2020

Monday 7th December 2020

(3 years, 7 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Motion to Approve
14:31
Moved by
Lord Grimstone of Boscobel Portrait Lord Grimstone of Boscobel
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That the draft Regulations laid before the House on 15 October be approved.

Relevant document: 32nd Report from the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments (special attention drawn to the instrument). Considered in Grand Committee on 2 December.

Motion agreed.

Trade Bill

Report stage & Report stage (Hansard): House of Lords & Report: 1st sitting & Report: 1st sitting: House of Lords
Monday 7th December 2020

(3 years, 7 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Trade Bill 2019-21 View all Trade Bill 2019-21 Debates Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts Amendment Paper: HL Bill 128-R-I Marshalled list for Report - (2 Dec 2020)
Report (1st Day)
14:32
Relevant document: 15th Report from the Constitution Committee
Lord Haskel Portrait The Deputy Speaker (Lord Haskel) (Lab)
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My Lords, I will call Members to speak in the order listed in the annexe to today’s list. Interventions during speeches, or “before the noble Lord sits down”, are not permitted and uncalled speakers will not be heard. Other than the mover of an amendment or the Minister, Members may speak only once in each group. Short questions of elucidation after the Minister’s response are permitted but discouraged. A Member wishing to ask such a question, including Members in the Chamber, must email the clerk. 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 the 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.

Clause 2: Implementation of international trade agreements

Amendment 1

Moved by
1: Clause 2, page 2, line 14, at end insert—
“(c) an international treaty or private law convention (including any amendment or protocol thereto) that facilitates trade or the financing thereof.”Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment, and the amendments in the name of Lord Berkeley to page 2, line 23 and page 2, line 33, will enable the ratification of international treaties which have the UK as a signatory and enable trade or the financing thereof.
Lord Berkeley Portrait Lord Berkeley (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, in moving Amendment 1 I shall also speak to Amendments 4 and 5. The purpose of these amendments is to provide a legal basis for the Government to bring forward a statutory instrument to ratify the Luxembourg Rail Protocol. Noble Lords will probably remember that I spoke about and explained the purpose of this protocol in Committee. Very briefly, I remind the House that the Luxembourg Rail Protocol is a protocol to the Cape Town convention to reduce the risk for creditors, which in turn will reduce the cost of financing for new and current rolling stock.

An Oxera study published this week showed, I think, a saving to the rail sector of about £130 million per year. However, it is particularly important for the British rolling stock manufacturing community looking to develop new markets outside the UK, which I believe is one of the purposes of the Trade Bill. This rail protocol follows an older protocol on aircraft leasing and financing, which I think most people believe has been very successful in financing aircraft.

In Committee, the Minister replied that the Government support the ratification of the protocol. I am very grateful for the support of the noble Lord, Lord Grimstone, and the noble Viscount, Lord Younger, on this. Since they felt it was more appropriate to get the necessary legal basis through the private international law Bill, I agreed that I would not move my amendment. We had discussions with Ministers on the private international law Bill. I am once again grateful to Alex Chalk MP, the Justice Minister, and to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Stewart, for their help in drafting the new amendment to the PIL Bill when it came back to your Lordships’ House for ping-pong. I am grateful to the Ministers for their discussion.

During the debate the noble and learned Lord, Lord Stewart of Dirleton, agreed how important the rail protocol is to the industry but suggested that the application of the protocol was narrower than I might have thought, saying:

“The Government consider this to be an important issue and are thinking about how best to implement the protocol in the United Kingdom. As we discussed last week, we consider that the power in this Bill”—


that is, the PIL Bill—

“is too narrow to fully implement the protocol, although the provisions in applicable law would be within its scope.”—[Official Report, 19/11/20; col. 1574.]

That is very good but all it did was allow half the protocol to be implemented, which noble Lords will probably agree is not a good situation.

The Government appear to support the ratification of this protocol and to consider it important for the rail industry. However, I feel that I have been sent round the houses, from the Trade Bill to the PIL Bill, and now the Ministers have discovered that it will allow only half the protocol to be ratified. I was grateful for further discussions with the noble Lord, Lord Grimstone, by email recently, in which he suggested that

“the Trade Bill should not be expanded beyond essential readiness for trading as an independent country outside the EU.”

I would argue that this protocol would allow the rail sector to do just that. I think it would be very useful if it could be included.

The Minister again suggests that the Trade Bill is not an appropriate vehicle for matters relating to finance and transport, which should be considered elsewhere. If it were a matter of motor manufacture or printing-press manufacture, surely those would be trade issues as well. For motor manufacture, is the Department of Transport involved or is it a trade matter? That question must be resolved. Government lawyers from probably three different departments are dancing around a pinhead. This merry-go-round must stop because it is wasting a lot of government time, as well as Parliament’s.

I have been sent around the houses: transport, trade and justice, and now we are back in trade. I am very pleased to be back in trade this afternoon. Ministers say that they support the protocol to help achieve better trade in railway equipment, so in order to stop this merry-go-round, will the Minister urgently arrange a meeting with myself, the Department of Transport, the Department for International Trade and the Ministry of Justice if necessary? Will he then bring forward an amendment at Third Reading, which I assume and hope would be agreed across government, to enable the Luxembourg Rail Protocol to be ratified? Surely the Government can get their lawyers to agree.

If the Minister could commit to arranging such a meeting with me to resolve these issues and bringing forward an amendment at Third Reading, I would be very content. If not—and I hope it does not go that way—I am minded to seek the opinion of the House, if only to demonstrate the strength of internecine warfare in this Government on an issue that they all support but cannot work out how to deal with. I beg to move.

Baroness Neville-Rolfe Portrait Baroness Neville-Rolfe (Con)
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My Lords, I rise primarily to support the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, as I did in Committee, in his efforts to get the Luxembourg Rail Protocol to the Cape Town Convention implemented in the UK. As we have heard, some steps have been taken, thanks to the good offices of the Minister and of Alex Chalk in the other place, but sadly they have not quite done the trick. I refer to my business interests in the register, including the UK-ASEAN Business Council, and a new role as chair of Crown Agents, which curiously, I find, did a great deal of work on rail and rolling stock during its long history.

I see two advantages to the protocol that was signed by the UK as long ago as 26 February 2016—obviously a very different world then. First, it will reduce the risk to creditors, which in turn will reduce the cost of financing new and current rolling stock—everything from engines to equipment and parts, data and manuals. Whether these are for a new line that is being built or for existing lines, by lowering creditor risk the protocol will assist in lowering the cost of new, more efficient, locomotives and wagons for freight and passenger transport. As the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, has just said, an Oxera study to be published this week suggests a saving to the rail sector of about £130 million a year. This is quite significant when rail funding is under pressure, and particularly desirable as part of a move to net zero as we seek to combat climate change.

Secondly, it would help British rolling stock manufacturers seeking to develop new markets outside of the UK. There is an urgent need, for example in Africa, for more railway equipment both for urban transport—light rail, metro and trams—and for intercity rolling stock. The markets are there for British exporters, but the Governments and their operating agencies do not have the resources. I am talking about countries such as Namibia, Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, Zambia and South Africa. The lack of resources has been a major constraint, and in a number of cases, operators have bought Chinese rolling stock instead, even when it is less suitable, because it comes with Chinese state-backed financing.

14:45
The answer is to bring in private capital through leasing or secured financing structures where UK-based manufacturers will draw on the considerable expertise of the UK financial services community to finance their sales of railway rolling stock and equipment around the world. Without this protocol, many of these sales will not happen or financing will be so expensive because of the risk involved as to make such projects uneconomic. With the protocol, operating both in the UK and in the export states, I understand that the export credit agencies will be able to offer better financial terms for exporters. Under an agreement at the OECD, export credit agencies reduce their risk premiums by 10% when the Aircraft Protocol to the Cape Town Convention applies, so British adoption of the Luxembourg Rail Protocol should cost the taxpayer nothing.
I am supporting this measure because it could make a real practical difference to skilled UK businesses and financiers and improve the lives of many people on new or improved railways and trains as we leave the EU. A way must be found, one way or another, to ensure that the protocol is not further delayed, and that the merry-go-round the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, referred to stops, so I look forward to hearing what the Minister has to say.
Finally, many of the proposed amendments do not offer a practical advantage for discernible UK interests, like the railway interests to which I refer, and I wonder whether this Bill is the place to include them all. This is a continuity Bill first introduced in 2017, and we need to get it on to the statute book.
Baroness Kramer Portrait Baroness Kramer (LD) [V]
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My Lords, I join the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, and the noble Baroness, Lady Neville-Rolfe, in utter frustration. The Luxembourg Rail Protocol was adopted at a diplomatic conference in 2007 and is due to come into force in 2021 because enough countries will have ratified it by then to create that effect. It creates a worldwide legal framework to support private-sector investment in railways and rolling stock, as the noble Baroness said, by establishing a new international registry for security interests, making it far more difficult for valuable rail equipment to be lost or stolen. These concerns have limited private investment in railway schemes across the globe, especially in the developing world.

Of course investment in rail matters, because it supports economic development and the battle against climate change. As others have suggested, the UK is a beneficiary both as a buyer of rolling stock—bringing down the price is therefore an advantage—and as a manufacturer, which will be able to market itself more effectively across the globe.

The UK is a signatory to the protocol, but it just cannot seem to get around to ratifying it. The noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, has introduced these amendments to try to achieve that ratification. I am very keen that ratification should happen, but I am concerned that the noble Lord is being forced by the Government to choose a route that adds even more unaccountable powers to the Government’s rapidly increasing range of widening and unchecked powers in this Bill and in others. I will be interested to hear the Minister address this issue because I hope that he will explain that I am wrong, that this could be construed as a narrow power simply to allow us to get the Luxembourg Rail Protocol done. I would like to be wrong, but I fear that I am not. We have already been through one shambles—the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, did not use this phrase, but I will—with the Private International Law Bill, which was supposed to enable ratification of this protocol but turned out to be inadequate.

Let me address the narrow purpose of the Trade Bill. The Long Title of the Bill makes it perfectly legitimate to include language that would enable the Luxembourg Rail Protocol to be ratified. Everyone who has spoken on this subject so far has been a Minister at some point or other. Many of us have seen Bills with a slightly broader purpose dealing with an urgent gap in legislation, so it is not unusual and it does not undermine the character of the Trade Bill at large.

So I really would urge the Government to come back at Third Reading with a clause that allows them to ratify a protocol that they, the Opposition, the industry and those who seek to buy rolling stock across the world want to see ratified. This is an outstanding opportunity; I very much hope that the Government seize it.

Lord Stevenson of Balmacara Portrait Lord Stevenson of Balmacara (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, on the substance of this amendment, I have very little to add to the excellent speeches that we have already heard from my noble friend Lord Berkeley and the noble Baroness, Lady Neville-Rolfe, with additional support from the noble Baroness, Lady Kramer. As my noble friend Lord Berkeley said, we have watched his progress from Bill to Bill, from department to department and from Minister to Minister almost with affection as he wends his way around, receiving much the same answer from everybody: they all agree that this is a terrifically important thing to do, but, of course, supporting it is not their job or that of their Bill or department. I do not think that he should divide the House on this issue because it is not something that we can progress by amendment or Division but, at the very least, when the Minister comes to respond, he should commit to come back to my noble friend with a clear plan of what he needs do to get this protocol agreed. Clearly there is willingness and there are lawyers and opportunities; we just need a plan.

Lord Grimstone of Boscobel Portrait Lord Grimstone of Boscobel (Con)
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My Lords, I turn to Amendments 1, 4 and 5, tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley. I acknowledge without reservation how much this topic means to him; no one could have worked more assiduously than he has on it.

The amendments before us would expand the scope of the Clause 2 power, creating a power to make regulations implementing private international law conventions as well as agreements that facilitate trade or trade financing. I thank the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, for his engagement on this matter with DIT, the Department for Transport and the Ministry of Justice in relation to the private international law Bill.

In Committee, the noble Lord outlined that this amendment would allow the UK to implement the provisions of the Luxembourg Rail Protocol; for those who were not present, this protocol relates to the financing of railway rolling stock. Noble Lords will be pleased to know that the Government recognise the competitive advantages of ratifying the Luxembourg Rail Protocol. We have identified the benefits that this could bring to both the UK rail sector and UK financial services. Thus the Government support the ratification of this protocol; the challenge has always been finding an appropriate parliamentary time and a suitable vehicle to implement it, given the very significant pressures on parliamentary time—as your Lordships will be all too aware.

Turning to the appropriateness of this amendment, as we argued in Committee, we believe that the scope of the Trade Bill

“should not expand beyond essential readiness”—[Official Report, 29/9/20; col. GC 40.]

for trading as an independent country outside the European Union. I am afraid that the Trade Bill is not a suitable vehicle to provide powers for the implementation of this agreement. As previously explained, the powers granted by this Bill are limited but vital for the delivery of the UK’s independent trade policy.

In Committee, we argued that technical matters relating to finance and transport should be considered outside the Trade Bill in a way that is suitable to matters related explicitly to finance and transport. I was pleased to see Peers support amendments to the private international law Bill that will help to support the implementation of the Luxembourg Rail Protocol, but it is obviously disappointing that this is not a final solution. I assure your Lordships that the Department for Transport will continue to explore all available options and vehicles to implement the protocol fully.

As I have made clear, the Government fully support the implementation of the Luxembourg Rail Protocol. However, I repeat: we do not believe that this Bill is the appropriate place to achieve this. We will therefore oppose this amendment on this occasion, but I would be happy to work with colleagues across government and facilitate further conversations between the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, and the Department for Transport to discuss our policy in this sector at greater length and see whether a plan can be put together.

Again, to be clear, we do not believe that this is the appropriate legislation for this amendment and we will not bring forward an amendment to the Trade Bill on this topic at Third Reading. I therefore ask the noble Lord to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Berkeley Portrait Lord Berkeley (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, I am very grateful to all noble Lords who spoke and to the noble Baronesses, Lady Neville-Rolfe and Lady Kramer, and my noble friend Lord Stevenson for their support. I am grateful to the Minister for his response, courtesy and offer of further support.

We have not moved very far from where we were in Committee and the Minister did not really answer the question about why it is inappropriate for a Trade Bill that is designed to encourage trading when we become a completely independent country at the end of the year to include a text that allows a trade in railway equipment to be ratified. As I said in my earlier remarks, if this had been the motor or printing trades, I am sure that the Department for International Trade would have been only too keen to do it.

The Minister is pushing me in the direction of the Department for Transport. The most useful way of achieving this would be to have an early meeting with Ministers there and the noble Lord, Lord Grimstone—I hope that he would be happy to join us—to see what we can do. It would be good, and it is important, to have this done before the end of the year for the same reason that so much other legislation is needed. I am doubtful about whether the Department for Transport will have a slot in its parliamentary programme, but we will have to see.

As my noble friend Lord Stevenson said, there is no point in dividing the House on this because it will not help to achieve the objective that I think we all want; on that basis, I look forward to further meetings but, in the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 1 withdrawn.
Lord Haskel Portrait The Deputy Speaker (Lord Haskel) (Lab)
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We now come to the group beginning with Amendment 2. I remind noble Lords that Members other than the mover and the Minister may speak only once and that short questions of elucidation are discouraged. Anyone wishing to press this or anything else in this group to a Division should make that clear in the debate.

Amendment 2

Moved by
2: Clause 2, page 2, line 18, at end insert “and where the new agreement is in wholly or substantially similar terms to that between the partner country and the EU.”
Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment would limit the application of delegated powers to the “roll-over” of existing agreements.
Baroness McIntosh of Pickering Portrait Baroness McIntosh of Pickering (Con) [V]
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My Lords, I am delighted to speak on Report and, in particular, to speak to and move Amendment 2 and speak to Amendment 3. I would like to think that the amendments are fairly self-explanatory but, effectively, they both seek to

“limit the application of delegated powers to the ‘roll-over’ of existing agreements”—

exactly as is set out in and is the intention of the Explanatory Notes. The reason for this is that the clause, as currently drafted, grants powers to implement agreements between the UK and our EU partner countries.

The Law Society of Scotland—to which I am grateful for briefing me and helping me to draft this amendment—has brought to my attention and alerted me about its concerns about the delegation of powers to implement a free trade or international agreement that relates mainly to trade. It believes, in relation to reassurances that have been given that these powers could be used only for continuity measures, that the Bill itself does not limit the use of these regulation-making powers to implementing continuity Bills.

15:00
Paragraph 5 of the Explanatory Notes states:
“The Government seeks continuity in the effects of these existing trade and investment relationships as far as possible. The Government has been discussing with the UK’s existing partner countries how best to achieve that aim and has been working to transition these agreements to make them apply to the UK after the end of the transition period. This is the Government’s continuity negotiations program, which is distinct from its future trade agreements program.”
The definition of a free trade agreement, or an international agreement that relates mainly to trade, could mean entirely new agreements. The limitations in Clause 2(3) and (4) should be clarified to ensure that they apply to the continuity negotiations programme and not future trade agreements.
If the Government’s intention is that the agreement should be restricted to continuity agreements, using regulations to implement them has more justification. If it were possible that future trade agreements could be negotiated with countries which are existing signatories under current arrangements, it should be clear that those agreements are not covered by the Bill and would be implemented by primary legislation which, of course, provides Parliament with more scrutiny.
I hope that Amendments 2 and 3 clearly limit the scope of the Bill to cover the intended circumstances. This is not entirely new. It was put to the House in the 15th report from the Constitution Committee on the Bill in September 2020 and I do not think that the position has changed since then. The Government’s response to an earlier report, quoted in paragraph 5 of the September report, was that,
“‘the delegated power within clause 2 of the Trade Bill is drafted in a way so that the presumption is that the power cannot be used to do certain things—such as impose taxes, create new criminal offences or establish new public bodies—unless there is an express provision allowing it to do so.’”
In the Committee’s view,
“The present version of the Bill and explanatory notes are unchanged in respect of the clause 2 power.”
I have not seen a change. The Committee concluded, in paragraph 7, that:
“We are not persuaded by the Government’s position that it is sufficient for the power in clause 2 to be constrained presumptively rather than explicitly. We recommend that the restrictions on the power be included in the text of the Bill.”
I entirely agree with the conclusions of the Constitution Committee. The purpose of these two amendments is to ask the Minister to explain, in his summing up, what the Government’s thinking is about why this is purely presumptive and what prevents them from putting this clearly on the face of the Bill. It may be appropriate to press this to a vote today. I would prefer that the Government agree with me, and the Constitution Committee of the House, and bring forward their own amendment at Third Reading. I beg to move.
Lord Purvis of Tweed Portrait Lord Purvis of Tweed (LD)
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My Lords, it is a pleasure, as always, to follow the noble Baroness. I have a great deal of sympathy with the intention behind these amendments, which also relate to the fact that, from January onwards, the Bill will have to operate for agreements it was never intended to implement. The House does not need reminding that it was the Government’s categorical position in the past that there was no doubt that all continuity agreements would be signed by March 2019, then summer 2019, then the end of 2019—it goes on. The reality is that there are currently 13 countries outside the EU with which we will be trading on terms less favourable than we did before, because those agreements have not been rolled over. The status of those agreements, with regard to this Bill, is now in a degree of limbo. For example, we know that our agreement with Canada is a temporary continuity agreement because we expect the negotiations to roll on regarding an almost immediate successor agreement. It is justifiable for the Government to clarify what status that has with regard to these powers.

Some of the agreements that we did reach have run out of time for full ratification, so they will have to be provisionally applied. That means that the Bill will be used for implementing agreements as well as adjusting ones that are made and ratified, ones that have been made but not yet ratified, and ones to be made and to be ratified. This is a very broad scope for these delegated regulatory powers. In Committee, the Government said that these delegated powers had a purpose. The Minister was quite clear that they are simply for technical adjustments to things, such as the names of quangos or certain terminology, that you would not wish to reopen a treaty for. That has a degree of sense; they should be limited. However, we are in a different position now, even from where we were at the beginning of Committee, with the full knowledge that there will be very many agreements that have not been successfully rolled over and will have to be implemented, some of which will be initiating new agreements at the same time.

I am, therefore, glad that the noble Baroness has again asked the Government to be clear what the intended purpose of these powers is. We want to avoid them being used to implement agreements. We also want to completely avoid them being used for implementing part of a border operating model that we know the Government are not ready for. We want the reassurance that any implementation of a response to questions for our export procedures which are still outstanding will not be used under the Bill. It would reassure the House if the Minister gave the assurance that the intended purpose of these delegated powers remains technical and limited.

Lord Stevenson of Balmacara Portrait Lord Stevenson of Balmacara (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh of Pickering, for raising this issue and, through her, to the Law Society of Scotland for reminding noble Lords of some of the detailed points which we often ignore when we put down amendments, particularly at this stage of a Bill’s progress. As the noble Baroness said, and as was picked up by the noble Lord, Lord Purvis of Tweed, some rather unforeseen issues are now arising, particularly in relation to the rollover agreements which were originally intended to be done and completed by 31 December but which, for a variety of reasons, are not going to be. Some of them are being done under emergency power provisions; some will not be done at all. We need to have on the record from the Minister where exactly these will fit in the structure of this Bill. I look forward to his response.

Viscount Younger of Leckie Portrait Viscount Younger of Leckie (Con)
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My Lords, I turn to Amendments 2 and 3, tabled by my noble friend Lady McIntosh of Pickering, which seek to restrict the Clause 2 power so that it can only be used to implement agreements which are “wholly or substantially similar” to previous EU agreements. I can assure noble Lords that all the continuity agreements that we have signed to date have stayed true to our mandate of replicating the predecessor EU agreements, and that will not change for those that we are yet to conclude.

As noble Lords know, we have voluntarily published parliamentary reports for your Lordships’ reference alongside every continuity agreement, which outline any differences required to make the agreements operable in a UK context. As those reports show, none of our continuity agreements have diverged significantly from previous EU agreements. None of the debates in which these agreements have been discussed has resulted in a negative resolution. During the passage of this Bill, we have heard suggestions that the Government are delivering agreements which go above and beyond continuity, and that a more extensive scrutiny process is therefore required for them. The evidence is clear that this is not the case. We are seeking only technical changes to make agreements function in a UK-specific context, meaning that the current scrutiny measures are fit for purpose. I know that noble Lords will point to the recent UK-Japan CEPA. It is correct that that agreement goes further than the EU-Japan EPA in areas including digital trade. However, as your Lordships are aware, as the Government knew that this agreement would go beyond continuity, we provided enhanced parliamentary scrutiny of it.

Setting the UK-Japan CEPA to one side, your Lordships will appreciate that technical changes are required in some areas to allow agreements to work in a UK bilateral context. In these circumstances, the Clause 2 power could be used to make technical changes to UK domestic law to ensure the obligations under the agreement are met. The power in Clause 2 is therefore essential to allow us to implement in domestic law the obligations that arise from continuity agreements. The substantially similar wording is unfortunately ambiguous and could lead to uncertainty as to whether a trade agreement could be implemented via the Clause 2 power. The effect of this could be a possible disruption to concluding and implementing continuity trade agreements, potentially resulting in a gap in preferential trading relationships after the end of the transition period.

To paraphrase what the noble Lord, Lord Purvis, and my noble friend Lady McIntosh, said, they asked: “Why not put this on the face of the Bill, and if the power is not needed to transition trade continuity agreements, why do we need it at all?” As stated in the impact assessment and Explanatory Notes, the Trade Bill is not needed to transition trade continuity agreements themselves. However, the power will provide the implementing powers necessary to fully implement trade continuity agreements over time and in all circumstances. The Clause 2 power is intended to be used only to ensure that a limited number of obligations in these trade continuity agreements, particularly in relation to procurement and mutual recognition, are fully implemented in domestic law via secondary legislation.

I hope that with those explanations, my noble friend Lady McIntosh is reassured that our use of this power will be limited to continuity agreements that faithfully replicate predecessor EU agreements. As a result, I ask my noble friend to withdraw her amendment.

Baroness McIntosh of Pickering Portrait Baroness McIntosh of Pickering (Con) [V]
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I am most grateful to my noble friend Lord Younger of Leckie. With the reassurance he has given me that any agreement will be a continuity agreement and will “faithfully replicate” its predecessor, and with the further reassurance—which I would like to write into the record if I have understood it correctly—that if any future continuity agreement, such as the Japan CEPA agreement, will go further, there will be “enhanced parliamentary scrutiny”, I beg leave to withdraw my amendment.

Amendment withdrawn.
Amendment 3 not moved.
Amendments 4 and 5 not moved.
Lord Brougham and Vaux Portrait The Deputy Speaker (Lord Brougham and Vaux) (Con)
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We now come to the group beginning with Amendment 6. I remind noble Lords that Members other than the mover and the Minister may only speak once and that short questions of elucidation are discouraged. Anyone wishing to press this amendment or anything else in this group to a Division should make that clear in the debate.

Amendment 6

Moved by
6: After Clause 2, insert the following new Clause—
“Parliamentary approval of trade agreements
(1) Nothing in this section restricts the power conferred by Her Majesty’s prerogative to commence, conduct negotiations towards and then conclude a trade agreement.(2) If a decision has been made by the Secretary of State to commence negotiations towards a free trade agreement, a statement must be made to both Houses of Parliament.(3) Negotiations for that trade agreement may not proceed until the Secretary of State has laid draft negotiating objectives in respect of that agreement before Parliament, and a motion endorsing draft negotiating objectives has been approved by a resolution of each House of Parliament.(4) Prior to the draft negotiating objectives being laid, the Secretary of State must—(a) consult each devolved authority on the content of the draft negotiating objectives, and(b) produce a sustainability impact assessment including, but not limited to, an assessment of the impact of the proposed negotiating objectives on human, animal or plant life or health, animal welfare, environmental protection, human rights and equalities, and employment and labour.(5) A sustainability impact assessment under subsection (4)(b) must include—(a) a statement on how the proposed trade agreement will advance the meeting of the Sustainable Development Goals; and(b) a plan to maintain UK levels of statutory protection on the protection of human, animal or plant life or health, animal welfare, environmental protection, human rights and equalities, and employment and labour.(6) The Secretary of State must inform both Houses of Parliament, and any Select Committee charged by the relevant House with scrutinising trade negotiations in a manner and to an extent agreed with the Committee, of developments in the negotiations, but this does not affect the power of the Secretary of State to conduct negotiations as the Secretary of State considers appropriate.(7) For the purposes of subsection (6), “developments” means—(a) a pause in negotiations;(b) an ending of negotiations;(c) the conclusion of a negotiated round of discussions;(d) the decision to agree in principle an agreement; or(e) other necessary aspects of the negotiations of which the Secretary of State considers it necessary to inform Parliament.(8) The United Kingdom may not become a signatory to a free trade agreement to which this section applies unless a draft of the agreement in the terms in which it is to be presented for signature by parties to the agreement has been laid before, and approved by, a resolution of each House of Parliament.(9) Before a Minister of the Crown moves a resolution to approve the text of a proposed free trade agreement in either House of Parliament, the Secretary of State must— (a) consult each devolved authority on the text of the proposed agreement, and(b) lay before Parliament an independent impact assessment of the agreement including, but not limited to, the requirements in subsection (4).(10) In this section—“devolved authority” has the meaning given in section 4(1) of this Act;“free trade agreement” means any agreement which is—(a) within the definition given in section 4(1) of this Act, and(b) an agreement between the United Kingdom and one or more partners that includes components that facilitate the trade of goods, services or intellectual property;“UK levels of statutory protection” means levels of protection provided for by or under any—(a) primary legislation,(b) subordinate legislation, or(c) retained direct EU legislation,which has effect in the United Kingdom, or the relevant part of the United Kingdom, on the date on which the sustainability impact assessment is produced.”
Lord Purvis of Tweed Portrait Lord Purvis of Tweed (LD)
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I rise to move Amendment 6, and I look forward to hearing the noble Lord, Lord Lansley, on Amendment 12, because these amendments concern an issue that has been a focus of Committee and a major part of today’s debate on Report. I listened carefully to the Minister’s response to the debates we had in Committee on scrutiny of agreements. There seemed to be some areas of agreement across the House, and I hope I am accurate in outlining what I consider them to be: it is the Government’s prerogative to make a decision to open, conduct and conclude negotiations; the Government believe the scrutiny powers of the European Parliament and the role of British MPs in agreements made by the European Union were effective; Parliament needed a greater role here at home; the Constitutional Reform and Governance Act process is insufficient in itself to allow for proper scrutiny and accountability. This last point has been agreed by everybody, including the Government, who have been at pains to say that they acted “above and beyond” the requirements of CRaG on the Japan EPA—in fact, the noble Viscount referred to that in an earlier group. It is fair to suggest that any Government who go above and beyond the legislative requirements they have to have regard to might point to those requirements being insufficient.

Outside groups as varied as the National Farmers’ Union and the BMA have been in touch with noble Lords asking them to support Amendment 6, and I am grateful for their support. It shows the breadth of interest in updating and improving parliamentary accountability for agreements that go far beyond tariffs and quotas, as we have stated repeatedly during the passage of the Bill.

15:15
My amendment—I am grateful for the support of the noble Lords, Lord Stevenson of Balmacara and Lord Curry of Kirkharle, and the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of St Albans, who all take a close interest in these issues—has been adjusted since Committee to take into consideration the remarks of the Minister and colleagues from across the House. The amendment does not restrict the Government’s use of the royal prerogative to commence, conduct and conclude trade agreements. The Government have indicated that this is a red line for them, and that would be fully acknowledged, in statute, in this amendment.
In proposed new subsection (2), a statutory underpinning would be created to the commitment the Government have themselves said they will carry out for future trade agreements, which is that they will inform both Houses of Parliament that they are commencing negotiations. That would now be a requirement.
Proposed new subsection (3) would put the United Kingdom on a par with the US and the EU, which provide for the endorsement of negotiating objectives. There is little doubt now that the European negotiations and the Office of the US Trade Representative believe this mechanism strengthens their hands in conducting negotiations rather than weakens them. I referred to the US legislation from Congress that provides, in statute, a framework for how the US TRO conducts negotiations.
Proposed new subsections (4) and (5) outline in simple terms that the Government must consult devolved authorities and be clear in the negotiating objectives about any impact on, for example, animal welfare, environmental protection, human rights and equalities and employment and labour, how they advance sustainable development goals and how they maintain UK levels of statutory protection on standards.
Proposed new subsections (6) and (7) reflect that there has been some progress from the Government, in that they have moved to develop further relationships with the respective committees in the Commons and here in this House. Discussions of a proposed protocol on those relationships are ongoing, and I welcome them. On the Written Ministerial Statement the Minister sent in advance of this debate, which I am grateful for seeing and on which I have reflected, I say to the Minister that it is not a substitute for other provisions, even though it is welcome that the Government have moved. I studied carefully the WMS, as I told the Minister I would. It repeats what the Minister said in Committee and outlines a little more about where the Government will provide information in a public domain. It also states a little more about the relationships with the committees. The subsections in this amendment would put such commitments on a statutory footing in addition to requiring the Government to inform the committees of developments in negotiations. This is not a considerable move from what the Government have indicated their intention is going forward. Proposed new subsection (6) makes clear that nothing in this will
“affect the power of the Secretary of State to conduct negotiations as the Secretary of State considers appropriate”.
Finally, proposed new subsection (9) requires an independent impact assessment of the agreement and consultation with each devolved authority on the text of the proposed agreement.
My final remarks will be on the update of the existing veto powers, as they have been termed, in the Constitutional Reform and Governance Act. I say “update” because in Committee, it was broadly accepted that the House of Commons currently has some form of veto power in the 2010 Act, which itself updated the parliamentary convention and the Ponsonby rule. The noble Baroness, Lady Noakes, referenced this clearly. I referenced how Jack Straw, in introducing the legislation, stated to the House of Commons that the veto power would be put on a statutory footing. Whether or not we wish to look at the semantics of what a veto is, the same power for a two-clause treaty with little consequence and a trade treaty of 25,000 pages with significant consequences, notably for domestic policy, clearly draws to attention the fact that we should consider whether that same power is relevant for both types of treaties. We now know, by definition, that we now have deep and comprehensive trade agreements that go far beyond tariffs and quotas.
The Minister would accept that during the existence of the European Union, major reforms have been taken of the scrutiny powers of the European Parliament to update its powers. I am seeking an update of our powers.
In response to a previous Written Parliamentary Question, the Government published a glossy diagram showing how we compare with other comparable countries in a statement of parliamentary transparency and scrutiny offering some international comparison snapshots. That covered the UK, Canada, New Zealand, Australia and Japan—so the UK, three Commonwealth countries and Japan. The Minister said that we should not look to the European Union as a basis for comparison, because that is a multi-nation entity, and we have a uniquely British approach.
However, in today’s Written Ministerial Statement, the Minister indicates that we should base it on a Westminster-style system—effectively a Commonwealth style. Can the Minister say why the Department for International Trade, in citing three Commonwealth countries, have chosen three predominantly white, northern hemisphere countries? Why not include, for example, South Africa? Our trade with South Africa is double that of our trade with New Zealand, and it affords its Parliament a full vote on the deal. Why not use South Africa as an example, rather than Australia and New Zealand?
With regards to Japan, the Written Ministerial Statement was very interesting, because I can only suggest that it was an omission that the Government did not mention that Japan has a final parliamentary vote on the deal. In fact, as required by law, on 24 November the House of Representatives in Japan voted to give its agreement to the Japan-UK EPA. There is no reference to that in anything that the Government have published, so the Government pick and choose their examples.
The House is now being asked to consider an updating of the CRaG power. The CRaG power provides, in effect, a degree of limbo: the House of Commons can place a trade agreement into a period of limbo, if it is not fit for purpose, but the Government can then ratify it anyway. The fact that Parliament cannot conclude that the agreement is not right and should be renegotiated or reopened—or that certain aspects should be done again—but only put it into a limbo that the Government can override is not sufficient for the 21st century.
I hope that there will be continuing cross-party consensus, and that the Government will consider that I have moved, in the drafting of this amendment, to recognise the Government’s stated position on the use of prerogative powers. What we are seeking is a degree of consensus that by updating and making clearer the power of Parliament over these agreements at the beginning of the process, during the codifying and at the end of it, we will have a trade policy that is fit for purpose for the 21st century.
During this process, I have got to know the Minister as an honourable man, but I suspect that he may not have a damascene conversion at the Dispatch Box over this matter. I give notice that, if that does not happen, I intend to seek the opinion of the House. I beg to move.
Lord Lansley Portrait Lord Lansley (Con)
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My Lords, I am glad to follow the noble Lord, Lord Purvis of Tweed, who set out the arguments for Amendment 6 with his customary clarity and precision, for which the House will be most grateful. In large measure, I agree that we have managed to secure quite a degree of consensus on many of these issues, and it is useful now, on Report, to see to what extent we want to put statutory backing behind that consensus. We have come to the right place at the right time.

I will in due course refer to Amendment 12, which is in my name, but I shall start with Amendment 6. Both amendments are concerned with the processes by which international trade agreements are scrutinised and approved by Parliament. I emphasise to those worried about the wider aspects of treaty making that this is about international trade agreements; we are not seeking to go beyond the scope of this Bill and impact on the Government’s treaty-making powers in general.

Amendments 6 and 12 seek to achieve different purposes. Amendment 6 would require prior approval, by each House of Parliament, of the draft negotiating objectives before the Government could proceed with negotiations. It also places a number of statutory obligations on the Government to report developments to Parliament, and it would require Parliament to approve a draft agreement before it is signed. I emphasise signed—not, in this case, ratified. In each of those three respects, Amendment 6 marks a significant change in the extent to which Parliament is not only engaged in, but to some extent potentially able to control, the process of making a free trade agreement. I say to the noble Lord, Lord Purvis of Tweed, that despite the assertion in the first subsection of his amendment that it would not restrict the prerogative power, it would in reality do so—by placing statutory limitations on the exercise of the prerogative power to proceed with negotiations.

Secondly, I share the view of the Constitution Committee of this House, which said in April 2019:

“We do not believe that Parliament should be required to endorse the Government’s mandate prior to commencing treaty negotiations.”


In that regard, I cannot support Amendment 6, because subsection (3) makes it very clear that parliamentary approval for such negotiating objectives is required.

However, I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Purvis of Tweed, that there is a degree of consensus, and I subscribe to much of what is implied in Amendment 6: that the Government should seek the views of Parliament, as well as conduct a public and stakeholder consultation, when setting negotiating objectives. Parliament should be directly involved in that process, and the Government should provide updates to Parliament when significant developments occur during negotiations. Speaking as a member of the EU International Agreements Sub-Committee, I should say that our experience over recent months has been that the Minister and colleagues in his department have engaged with us substantively and constructively in the way that we would wish.

Secondly, the text of the Written Ministerial Statement, which the Minister was kind enough to send me last night, gives some reassurance as to the way in which Ministers intend to engage in future. It does not extend the nature of that engagement or change its statutory force, but to some extent it helps to answer the question that we asked repeatedly, at Second Reading and in Committee, about the extent to which the Government reiterate what was in the Command Paper back in February 2019. I hope, therefore, that my noble friend the Minister, in not only laying the WMS but responding to this debate, will continue to reiterate the Government’s full intentions in those respects.

That brings me to Amendment 12, which is in my name. This does not seek to restrict the Government’s right to initiate and conduct international trade agreements. It is focused only on the procedures by which Parliament is able, under the Constitutional Reform and Governance Act—CRaG—to approve an agreement before ratification. Amendment 12 would strengthen the CRaG processes in relation to international trade agreements in three respects.

First, it would require Ministers to publish, with their agreement or before it, an analysis of how an agreement would need to be implemented into domestic legislation. As we have learnt repeatedly during debates on this Bill, Parliament’s principal constraint over the Government’s treaty-making power occurs when it requires changes to domestic legislation. Parliament has control over that. For example, there is no merit in a Government agreeing a treaty offering access to the UK market for a product that it would be unlawful to sell in this country, when they know that Parliament would not agree to change the law. We need to know if an agreement would require changes to domestic legislation, and that should be a key issue in deciding whether Parliament will approve ratification. Ministers should not ratify an agreement that Parliament would not implement.

15:30
That brings me to my second point. Amendment 12 would require that ratification of an international trade agreement should not take place before the identified changes to domestic legislation had been enacted, should they require primary legislation, or laid if in the form of regulations. I understand that this is now a convention, although not a formal one, but it should be a statutory requirement.
The third element is also about giving statutory force to a convention: Ministers would extend the 21-day period until any debate sought by a committee in either House had taken place. Ministers say, as they did in Committee, that they would endeavour to ensure that parliamentary time is found. However, if it is not, Ministers should have to extend the time under Section 21 of CRaG.
As I mentioned, this does not apply to all treaties but only to international trade agreements. It is also important to remember that it is not open to Ministers to say, “But this constrains us, because we may have to proceed for reasons of public policy and timing”; there will remain a power for Ministers to ratify a treaty as an exceptional case under Section 22 of CRaG, which enables Ministers—with a Statement to Parliament—to disapply Section 20. The ratification process can be dispensed with by Ministers in exceptional circumstances.
I ask my noble friend to accept Amendment 12, which gives statutory backing to what we regard as best practice. I suspect he may say that Ministers do not disagree that they would behave in this way and therefore we do not need the law to change for it to happen, but I am afraid it is a simple truth that conventions persist until they are dispensed with by a Government. It is clear that CRaG has a proper statutory mechanism for Ministers not to use its process for approval before ratification, but they should do so and use CRaG’s statutory proceeding for this purpose.
I do not regard Amendments 6 and 12 as mutually exclusive. I agree with a lot in Amendment 6, and I hope that those who support it will go on to support Amendment 12 so that the parliamentary approval process under CRaG is strengthened, as well as the processes by which Parliament is engaged in negotiating objectives during the course of negotiations.
I therefore give notice that, when Amendment 12 is reached, I wish to move it formally and, if necessary, test the opinion of the House.
Lord Bishop of St Albans Portrait The Lord Bishop of St Albans [V]
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My Lords, I support Amendment 6 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Purvis of Tweed, and the revision he has made as he has engaged with the Government. I am grateful for his very clear exposition and will be concise in my support.

Modern trade agreements affect huge swathes of public policy, including consumer and workers’ rights, environmental legislation, food standards, health, public services and international development. MPs, who represent constituencies and work with a variety of stakeholders, deserve the right to assess the consequences of an agreement, as does your Lordships’ House. It has been argued that Brexit is about the UK taking back power, but I fear the Government have perhaps not moved past the 2016 divide and view Parliament as a body waiting for a chance to take us back into the single market and intending to scupper any agreement. That is not the case. Colleagues only want the best for their constituencies and our nation. Any suggestion that the Government may be ruling through fiat will inevitably produce poorer outcomes.

What this amendment proposes is far from radical. As has already been alluded to, we are currently outliers on parliamentary scrutiny of trade deals. The UK lags behind on transparency and accountability compared to the US, the EU and Japan, among others. These are fair and reasonable measures that will protect the interests of local industries across the UK; this amendment will allow us to strike deals that benefit the entire economy. I hope that noble Lords will support Amendment 6.

Lord Curry of Kirkharle Portrait Lord Curry of Kirkharle (CB) [V]
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My Lords, it is a privilege to add my name to Amendment 6 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Purvis of Tweed, which he presented so articulately. This is a critically important Bill and I am concerned that, as with other Bills associated with leaving the European Union, we do not have much time. This new chapter in our history gives us a unique opportunity to make sure that we adopt best practice and put in place appropriate conditions and processes that reposition the UK as a global leading influence. I said during the debate on the Agriculture Bill that we should be ambitious and set the bar at a level that demonstrates our commitment to deliver on issues of deep concern. We will debate some of these later today.

The Trade Bill is an opportunity to make a statement about our intentions and ambitions as a nation. This principle also applies to the scrutiny process we put in place as a democracy to match the best of them, whether that of our former partners in the EU, the US or, as has been mentioned, Japan. We need to ensure that we have a transparent and robust process and that Parliament has the opportunity to be consulted and to debate the purpose, intention and outcome of trade deals. Government should see this amendment not as an attempt to slow down or thwart the negotiating process but as a helpful and positive contribution to give Ministers confidence in their negotiations. If this amendment is accepted, they will have the reassurance of having the backing and support of both Houses of Parliament. I hope that the Minister will accept this amendment.

Lord Wigley Portrait Lord Wigley (PC) [V]
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My Lords, I am delighted to support Amendment 6 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Purvis, and to follow the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Curry of Kirkharle, with whom I largely agree on this matter and on many similar matters we have debated in recent weeks.

The House is indebted to the noble Lord, Lord Purvis, for finding a way around the difficulties which were raised against amendments in these areas in Committee and for overcoming the hurdle imposed by the prerogative considerations relating to trade deals. I cannot agree with the reservations of the noble Lord, Lord Lansley, on this dimension. His Amendment 12 could have an application for devolved Parliaments, for reasons I will qualify, but I recognise the general reasons he has put forward and will support him if he presses his amendment to a vote in due course.

As noble Lords might well anticipate, I speak from the viewpoint of the devolved Governments and Parliaments. In the context of Wales, in Committee we addressed several of the issues which might arise in the negotiation of free trade agreements. In Amendment 6, particularly subsection (9) of its proposed new clause, the obvious issue is whether the implications of free trade agreements could have an adverse impact on the economies of Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland. The need for these devolved Governments to be drawn in at an early stage is twofold.

First, it is to enable them to alert the UK Government to any negative impact they might not have fully taken on board, not least negative effects on, say, farming, environmental dimensions or food safety considerations, which conflict with the devolved Governments’ policies on such devolved matters. Secondly, the beneficial provision of the proposed new clause in this amendment is to enable the devolved authorities to flag any special dimension that might help the devolved nations capitalise on new opportunities arising from trade negotiations, which would be beneficial for them and, possibly, the people of England.

I realise that trade treaties lie outside the ability of Parliament to amend as they progress, and that the devolved Governments will also have to work within parallel constraints. It is for another occasion for us to debate that principle, and I suggest that there are two sides to that argument. There can, however, be no doubt that the devolved Parliaments should have just as strong a voice on the impact of trade deals on matters within their competence as Westminster does on issues that impact policies that affect England only.

I would go further than this amendment provides, as we have in other legislation before Parliament, by requiring that, if the devolved Governments are not agreeable to the steps taken by the UK Government, there should be a requirement for ministerial explanation and a cooling-off period. That, however, is not before us today.

I have one last point. If Westminster is implacably opposed to the devolved Governments having their say in these matters, it will certainly only hasten the day when these Parliaments seek the powers to make international treaties for themselves to protect the interests of their people. Is that what noble Lords really want? I urge all sides to support this reasonable amendment and for the Government to accept it.

Lord Goldsmith Portrait Lord Goldsmith (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, I am happy to follow the noble Lord, Lord Wigley, and his underlining of the importance to be attached to the views of the devolved Administrations when dealing with trade agreements. I will speak to Amendments 6 and 12, on parliamentary scrutiny, with the experience I have gained as chair of your Lordships’ EU International Agreements Sub-Committee, but not on its behalf, save to the extent that I draw on reports already made by the committee. In any event, members of the committee are free to give their own views, and I note that some, including the noble Lord, Lord Lansley, are speaking in this debate.

There are two points I want to deal with. The first is to comment on the commitments made today by the Minister in the Written Ministerial Statement, to which attention has already been paid. I thank him for sending me a copy of that and I fully underline, support and agree with the noble Lord, Lord Lansley, that the Minister has been courteous, co-operative and helpful, so far, in his engagement with the committee on the trade agreements he is responsible for dealing with.

I welcome that the Government have put the commitments in the Written Ministerial Statement on the record today, and I look forward to hearing them repeated in this debate and to discussing and developing the detail to ensure that Parliament is able to scrutinise all future UK trade agreements meaningfully. As the noble Lord, Lord Lansley, has rightly underlined, these amendments deal with trade agreements only and not other international agreements. The committee that I chair is involved in those other agreements. The UK will be making many important new trade agreements, which can be just as crucial as the laws we make in Parliament. I will return to that point. Therefore, Parliament’s ability to scrutinise these agreements comprehensively will be of great importance.

I therefore commend the Government for their commitment to work with the International Trade Committee and the EU International Agreements Sub-Committee to ensure that we are briefed throughout the negotiations and have access to treaty texts and other related documents, to the extent necessary, on a confidential basis and at a reasonable time, before the start of the short 21-day scrutiny period set out in CRaG. This approach was introduced for the UK-Japan trade agreement, but will be particularly important for the upcoming US, Australia and New Zealand agreements, for which, unlike the Japan agreement, there will be no underlying EU agreements to refer to and make a comparison with.

Effective scrutiny, however, also requires that those who are affected by trade agreements, and experts, have the chance to comment on the consequences of any agreement. While “extensive stakeholder engagement”—I quote from the Government—on trade negotiations by the Government is welcome, it is imperative that specified stakeholders and experts also have early enough sight of the agreements to enable them to form a view and to feed into parliamentary scrutiny of the agreements. Again, this will be particularly relevant where there is no underlying EU agreement standing as a comparator and baseline.

15:45
The Written Ministerial Statement broadly reflects commitments previously made by the Government, notably in the February 2019 Command Paper to which attention has already been paid. But the Command Paper appears to contain a stronger commitment to the parliamentary scrutiny of negotiating objectives, stating that:
“At the start of negotiations the Government will publish its Outline Approach which, as described above, will include our negotiating objectives and be accompanied by a scoping assessment which will be informed by economic modelling, setting out the potential economic impacts of any agreement.”
Then there is this sentence:
“We will ensure that Parliament has a role in scrutinising these documents so that we can take its views into account before commencing negotiations.”
This last sentence is absent from the WMS and, in my capacity as chair of the EU International Agreements Sub-Committee, I would like to discuss with the Government how this commitment could be reinstated and the scrutiny of negotiating objectives strengthened.
I have previously referred the House to the statement by the great constitutionalist Walter Bagehot that:
“Treaties are quite as important as most laws, and to require the elaborate assent of representative assemblies to every word of the law, and not to consult them even as to the essence of the treaty, is prima facie ludicrous.”
I anticipate that, when the Minister replies, he will make some reference to Crown prerogative. In the Miller cases, the Supreme Court considered the relationship between Parliament and the Executive. In the Prorogation case, Miller No. 2, the court reviewed a number of cases where it had intervened to stop misuse of prerogative powers and considered the relationship with the principle of parliamentary scrutiny. It noted that
“the effect which the courts have given to Parliamentary sovereignty is not confined to recognising the status of the legislation enacted by the Crown in Parliament as our highest form of law. Time and again, in a series of cases since the 17th century, the courts have protected Parliamentary sovereignty from threats posed to it by the use of prerogative powers, and in doing so have demonstrated that prerogative powers are limited by the principle of Parliamentary sovereignty.”
As Lord Browne-Wilkinson said in the Fire Brigade Unions case, at page 552,
“The constitutional history of this country is the history of the prerogative powers of the Crown being made subject to the overriding powers of the democratically elected legislature as the sovereign body.”
I respectfully suggest that one should be wary of attributing too much sanctity to the position of Crown prerogative in today’s day and age. The question one should ask, when looking at the modest rights provided to Parliament under the CRaG Act, is whether they offer sufficient protection to Parliament. It might be argued that, while there may be few problems with a simple, straightforward agreement, where the answer as to whether Parliament consents is a binary yes or no, the answer should be different for complex trade agreements which may affect many facets of day-to-day life in the UK. In particular, the inability of Parliament to play a role until after an agreement has been signed is problematic, since it has no ability to press for its priorities to be included within the negotiating mandate or to amend the agreement once signed.
For that reason, Amendment 6, which seeks a greater role for Parliament, particularly in the discussion and determination of negotiating objectives, needs to be considered carefully. The noble Lord, Lord Purvis of Tweed, has clearly explained the purpose behind this amendment. It would give a greater role to Parliament in setting the negotiating objectives—not conducting the negotiations. That is difficult enough for a single body, such as the Cabinet of the country, but there is much to be said for setting the negotiating objectives. I therefore have much sympathy with this. As we noted, when we get to an agreement to be scrutinised by our committee or our fellow committee in the House of Commons, it comes with a take-it-or-leave-it question. For many, the answer is that it is better to have an agreement than not, but that does not mean it would not have been a good idea to have an opportunity to consider the negotiating objectives when they could have influenced the course of the negotiations.
As for Amendment 12, the noble Lord, Lord Lansley, who sits on the committee with me, has explained fully and, in my opinion, convincingly why his amendment would be valuable. It is of course much better to have commitments on the statute book than to have to depend upon oral commitments, so I agree with him about this amendment and have nothing to add in support of it.
Finally, I recognise that the process of scrutiny will be, to some extent, a partnership between government and Parliament. As I have said, I fully acknowledge the co-operative approach taken by the Minister and his colleagues in the department. As for practices, we will continue to look to improve those and I look forward, as I have said, to the further discussions envisaged by the Written Ministerial Statement to which I referred at the beginning of my remarks.
Baroness Hayman Portrait Baroness Hayman (CB)
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My Lords, I declare my interests as set out in the register.

I rise to support Amendment 6 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Purvis. I do so for two reasons. First, I believe that it provides a robust framework for the appropriate scrutiny of international trade agreements. The CRaG arrangements are not satisfactory. It is important that both civil society and Parliament have opportunities at the right time to scrutinise what is going through and what is being negotiated. I hope that the changes that have been made since we discussed these issues in Committee will convince the Government that they can agree to this amendment. I support it not just on the principle of parliamentary scrutiny but because the amendment sets out the areas to be covered in both the sustainability impact assessment in subsection (4) and the independent assessment in subsection (9).

In his contribution, the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of St Albans reminded us that trade agreements cover a huge swathe of public policy. As was suggested during earlier stages of the Bill, there is a temptation to consider that there is a simple economic impact that is the criterion by which we judge trade agreements. I do not believe that that is sustainable. We run the risk of importing into this country goods and services that diminish our stated—and, indeed, our statutory—responsibilities in areas such as climate change and environmental protection.

Equally, we run the risk of losing opportunities in the huge green economy that is coming. We have seen that the Government recognise this. There have been some welcome recent developments, such as the Prime Minister’s 10-point plan and our raised commitments on climate change and emissions, but it is really important that we go from these high-level aspirations to ensuring that we implement and integrate these commitments—particularly on the environment and climate change—into policy and legislation. That is not some soft, optimistic, rose-coloured view of the world; indeed, the Prime Minister himself said:

“Green and growth can go hand-in-hand.”


If that is so, we must look at what trade agreements we implement and how they fit in with our responsibilities and aspirations.

In Committee, I was critical of the fact that there was no mention anywhere in the Bill of the environment and climate change. I ought to pay tribute to the Minister and the Government for making clear in the Written Ministerial Statement and accepting the argument that a wide swathe of policies are affected by trade deals, saying that, when they publish the proposed independently verified impact assessment, it will cover the economic and environmental impacts of the deal. As I understand it, the legal advice is that “environmental” would cover climate change—I am delighted to see the Minister nodding on that—so I hope that we can move from that progress, which I very much welcome and am grateful for, to accepting this amendment and making this a statutory requirement.

Lord Tyler Portrait Lord Tyler (LD) [V]
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My Lords, I speak in support of Amendment 6 in the name of my noble friend Lord Purvis of Tweed. I will also refer briefly to Amendment 12 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Lansley.

I served on the Joint Committee that examined the draft legislation that eventually emerged as the Constitutional Reform and Governance Act 2010—usually referred to as CRaG, as it has been during the debates on this Bill. On that committee, we were quite clear that we sought to correct the previous anomaly, which enabled the Government of the day to push through very significant international treaties with minimal or non-existent parliamentary scrutiny. There was a great deal of pressure for extensive ratification rights for both Houses, not least from Conservative colleagues who were, of course, in opposition then. However, we eventually resolved—for the sake of unanimity on the committee—on a minimalist compromise. Part 2 of CRaG therefore provided only for both Houses to have a statutory right to scrutinise treaties, with the Commons given a theoretical power to delay ratification. Under that Act, neither House had an obligation to debate the terms of a proposed treaty, let alone vote on it, but both could seek assurances and explanations from the appropriate Minister before consenting to ratification.

It is important to remind your Lordships that, in 2010, we were all in a totally different political and diplomatic environment. The United Kingdom was involved—and bringing extensive experience to bear—in combined treaty negotiations with our EU partners. However, our Government, and therefore our Parliament, were not engaged in the intricate details and the much higher level of trade discussions that now face us, with unprecedented complexity and significance for the future of our nation. In its report from April 2019, Parliamentary Scrutiny of Treaties, the Constitution Committee of your Lordships’ House put the challenge very well, saying that

“the provisions of the Constitutional Reform and Governance Act 2010 were enacted in a time where leaving the EU had not been seriously contemplated.”

This was its primary conclusion:

“The current mechanisms available to Parliament to scrutinise treaties through CRAG are limited and flawed.”


That has obviously been repeated often this afternoon. I am sure that all members of that Joint Committee would join with me in accepting the wisdom of that contemporary view.

Moreover, it was endorsed by the EU Committee in its June 2019 report, Scrutiny of International Agreements: Lessons Learned, which stated:

“We therefore agree with the Constitution Committee that the CRAG Act is poorly designed to facilitate parliamentary scrutiny of treaties.”


In its following report, Treaty Scrutiny: Working Practices—dated July 2020—the committee went on to warn that cosmetic changes, with no statutory backing, would be unlikely to be sufficient. It said:

“If we cannot make treaty scrutiny work within the current framework, legislative change may prove the only means to ensure adequate scrutiny of international agreements.”


Ministerial Statements are not the same thing. Therefore, the first justification for my noble friend’s amendment—now supported by distinguished Members from many parts of the House—is that it carefully and comprehensively spells out the essential elements for detailed parliamentary scrutiny for all new international trade agreements. As my noble friend Lord Purvis stated earlier, in essence, this amendment updates CRaG to meet the dramatically different requirements of Brexit and establishes a critical, crucial constitutional principle.

In the debate on the committee report in your Lordships’ House, my noble friend Lady Bowles of Berkhamsted, drawing on her experience in EU negotiations, commented:

“The Government’s approach is overly biased towards maximising their secretive freedom, believing that that always enables playing their best hand. That is not my experience. The Government can be in a stronger negotiating position if Parliament is on their side on the journey.”—[Official Report, 7/9/20; col. GC 130.]


That view has been reiterated this afternoon.

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The second, very substantial justification for this amendment relates to the peculiarly significant scope of this Bill. First, it is a subject of unique importance to our fellow citizens. The trade it deals with could impact not just on the concerns of food producers and processors but of everybody who eats—you cannot get more universal than that. We will come back to these concerns when we consider the later clauses and amendments on the Trade and Agriculture Commission.
For now, we need only register the emphatic support for Amendment 6 from the farmers’ unions, also referred to earlier. When I was first elected, Conservative candidates and MPs were much more respectful of the views of the farming community and of the NFU than they appear to be now, but I trust that Ministers do not completely ignore their advice. In its excellent memorandum for this debate, the NFU is unequivocal in endorsing Amendment 6:
“Securing the backing of MPs and Peers for these deals through votes in Parliament not only improves democratic accountability for UK trade policy, but also strengthens the hand of negotiators in establishing red lines and legitimately stating what will and will not be negotiable if a deal is to be secured.”
Its support for Amendment 6 is summarised as follows:
“New and clear arrangements that improve Parliamentary oversight and democratic accountability are critical as we ‘take back control’ of our independent trade policy.”
It would be a sad day when a Conservative Government refused to listen to the NFU.
Secondly, the Bill strays into very controversial territory in its challenges to the devolution settlements. As other Members have emphasised at all stages of the Bill, the dangers could not be more dire. In the Committee debate on the Bill on 8 October, my noble friend Lord Bruce of Bennachie summarised the serious concerns expressed from all parts of the House:
“Far-reaching decisions under the Agriculture Bill, the Trade Bill and the forthcoming Internal Market Bill put the devolution settlements and the integrity of the United Kingdom under immense strain … Ministerial insensitivity and indifference are, frankly, turbocharging nationalism and separatism.”—[Official Report, 8/10/20; cols. GC 220-22.]
I hope that the Minister responding to this debate will accept the strength of concern on this issue and the need for the amendment to address it.
Finally, I turn to Amendment 12, tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Lansley, which has self-evident merit. It was always a weakness of the very limited procedure set out in CRaG that the timing and sequence of any parliamentary scrutiny could not guarantee a coherent process. For example, if the more rigorous role of the Commons preceded any detailed scrutiny in this House, by definition, the decision of MPs to ratify a treaty or to withhold ratification could be taken without the benefit of the views of your Lordships. That would clearly be farcical.
The improvement suggested here would ensure a more rational